20 January 2009

Party Girl

Feels like a long time since I went to A Party. A member of the New Orleans Couch Surf network extended an invitation to an inauguration party a few days ago and I thought "Why not?" My social circle is minuscule these days and it's not likely to revive or expand if I never go out.

I boarded the streetcar after my class at KIPP to make my way to the ferry and then to Algiers Point. As the car passed my usual stop a strong urge to get off struck. Habit? Yes. But also, I don't like parties, generally speaking, so passing the last exit sign produced an intense visceral panic.

"Party" is like "chili"--it doesn't smell or taste or look the same everywhere you go. Considering how infrequently I've attended a party and truly, deeply enjoyed myself, I would also say parties are like lovers or friends. A complex and somewhat unpredictable combination of factors determine where and/or when a mutual attraction will occur or which parties will turn out to be fun.

Historically, my favorite party experiences have been at parties I host. Probably a "control issue"...

I also had a great time at Dennis' Mardi Gras party last year where I spent more time in the streets near his apartment than inside it. I like open-door parties where coming and going is easy and surprises are likely. This is part of the reason I love Frenchman Street so much: it's like a party where all the doors are open.

Entering a party, I usually experience a combination of sensory overload and heightened self-consciousness that leave me disoriented and a little short of breath. Too many people or the lights are too bright or too dim. And what can I say to a stranger with the music so loud? Small talk exhausts me but most anything of depth is risky on first meeting.

Back in the day, I thought everybody else was comfortable. Drinking two cocktails in quick succession was usually a reliable anesthetic. It helped me feel "normal"--like everybody else--and eliminated worry about what to say.

Nowadays I know other people are uncomfortable too and more interesting to me than getting drunk is the possibility of meeting someone who is also feeling a little self-conscious or shy and having an unforgettable encounter with them.

The inauguration party was in its eighth hour and winding down by the time I arrived. Neither of the two people I'd invited to come were there. I stayed long enough to drink two glasses of cheap champagne and have my hand kissed. The ferry ride, over and back, was satisfying--out on the Mississippi after dark. And the host and I agreed to meet again for conversation.

Someone asked today, "Did you have fun at the party?"

"Uh.... I'm glad I went," I replied. "Fun is hard to come by."

**Party girl by Leandro Velasco Pardo

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