Fourteen years ago, I moved to Portland with my spouse, during the Great Wisconsin Migration of 2003, as did a good friend from college—the host of this week’s party. In those 14 years, I had seen this “good” friend exactly zero times, which made being invited to their birthday party that much more interesting. To her credit, she came clean in record time that the reason she’d never contacted me was because I was married with a child, and in her 20s, she just wasn’t fucking with all that. I agree with any parents who just read that and thought, “That’s some trifling-ass bullshit,” but them’s the breaks out here in these streets.
Luckily, I’m no longer married and only see my kid on a legally negotiated schedule. My old friend, on the other hand, now lives in a modest house with her partner, who’s made entirely of condensed hipster trends, including collecting old organs, accordions, and similar keyboard instruments to dismantle and refurbish as handcrafted, boutique keytars.
Being Portland-generous, they invited me and a few other audiophiles to pick out vinyl records kept in milk crates, in a basement populated by cats. We all agreed that European orchestral music is hack, but were equal parts disgusted and amused by Mario Lanza’s The Desert Song album, from back in the days when racist misappropriation was dope and could sell an album. Needless to say, no records were taken.
From within the basement, I could smell the lit fire pit no one was enjoying in the backyard, which had been transformed into a bog by the ubiquitous Portland rain. Instead, I returned to the living room to take necessary notes from a plush, blue chaise with a charming view of felted paintings of chickens, a flamenco dancer, and silk flowers. I suspect doilies play some role in their décor when company isn’t present.
The date I brought along was clearly dismayed by how this column gets produced, because some people seem to think it’s rude to attend a party and take frequent breaks to sit alone in a corner texting jokes and observations to oneself. We in the business call those people “amateurs.”
In a self-serving effort to alleviate my date’s discomfort, I gave them permission to make us a pair of gin-and-LaCroix cocktails. My cup appeared to have been slightly used, but I figured gin is a good enough disinfectant, and I haven’t been [unknowingly] drugged yet, so it was probably safe. My date, however, managed to mix their beverage in a cup containing a reasonable amount of cigarette ash and, despite my medical credentials, didn’t trust my claim that cigarette ash is good for healthy gut flora.
After a couple of hours of listening to young, upwardly mobile professionals discuss their unrelatable lives in one ear and my date’s sweet words of judgment in the other, I gave the party a score of 6 out of 10, dropped off my date, and returned home.