When Brooke laid out the concept for the party we were attending this weekend, I was intrigued. The event, thrown by
First, you arrive at a cocktail party held in the museum. There you receive an envelope containing an address, where you’ll be going for dinner. Apparently, ten wealthy art collectors had volunteered to open their homes (and their impressive art collections) to twenty or so random guests. (Think of it like a pot luck dinner, except you couldn’t afford to bring anything even if you wanted to.) After the dinner parties are over, everyone reconvenes at a club in
“So it’s a sex party,” I say to Brooke.
“It’s not a sex party,” she replies. “Just because we’re getting dressed up and going to some strangers mansion for dinner with a group of random people we’ve never met doesn’t mean it’s a sex party.”
“Actually, I think it does.”
We arrive at the cocktail party fashionably late, having spent the previous few hours at a wine tasting event. (Note to readers: I’m fancy!) Already tipsy, we walk in and survey the crowd. Three facts jump out immediately: 1. We know no one here. 2. Everyone else knows everyone there. 3. The only other people there in our tax bracket are the waitresses, the bathroom attendants, and an old, shifty looking security guard who is keeping a rack of free magazines under constant surveillance.
Brooke: “I’m going to need to be drunk for this.”
We approach the bar and Brooke orders a vodka and soda. Even the bartender looks rich, and I’m pretty sure he is flirting with Brooke using only his eyes.
Bartender: “I don’t have soda. Only tonic.”
Brooke: “Fine, I’ll just have the vodka.”
Me: (internally) This is gonna be awesome.
A few minutes later, Brooke runs into the girl who invited us to the party. Earlier in the day, Brooke had reminded me that we would be meeting two girls, both of whom were named Valerie. “So it’ll be easy: They’re all named Valerie. If you can’t remember someone’s name, just call them Valerie. Valerie. Valerie. Valerie.”
“Hey, Vanessa!” she shouts as the girl approaches. (This embarrassing moment is sponsored by Vodka.)
The girl is wearing a cute, 1920’s style flapper hat. Brooke comments on how much she likes it and asks the girl where she got it.
“It’s vintage,” the girl replies.
“No, vintage!” the girl repeats.
The conversation is so awkward that I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I come back to find the two of them standing in the same spot, except now Brooke has a mouth full of food, so no one is talking. Awesome.
I pull Brooke aside, telling Valerie that I have to borrow my girlfriend for a moment, and immediately Brooke thanks me. “I don’t know what happened,” she says while taking another swig of her vodka. “I think I complimented her hat like five times.”
We decide the best course of action is to stand off to the side, taking up a posture of cool nonchalance (i.e. like on “The Hills”), the only problem being neither of us really gets the concept, so we end up standing in a corner next to what I thought was a table for drinks, but turned out to be a waiter’s stand for clearing trays. Classy.
Brooke (clearly fed up with the situation) hands me her drink and goes off to the bathroom. So now I’m the weird guy standing next to the clearing tray with two drinks and no one to talk to. Except now the waiter has taken the tray, so all that’s left is some sort of makeshift table with a white table cloth draped over it. Feeling the need to at least look busy by checking my cell phone, I attempt to put Brooke’s drink down on the table, not realizing that there isn’t any sort of hard surface underneath the cloth – simply a glorified luggage rack. Not wanting others to catch on to my mistake, I place the heavy tumbler on the cloth anyway and the material promptly begins to sag, balancing the drink in an off-kilter pocket of cloth. I attempt to play it off as though I knew that would happen, even though doing so makes me look even more retarded, as every few minutes I have to check back in on the glass as it slowly sinks deeper and deeper into the fabric. It’s then that I get a text message from Brooke:
“I left. WILDCARD!”
(Of course she didn’t really leave, because if she had this post would be titled “And They’ll Never Find The Body, Either” and have a much more macabre tone. Still, classic Brooke moment there.)
Twenty minutes later, it’s almost time to head over to our second destination. As everyone is mingling near the exit, we run into Valerie again. Brooke proceeds to have a nearly verbatim version of the conversation she previously had with her.
Brooke: “I love your hat!”
Valerie: “Thanks. It’s vintage?”
I shoot Brooke a look that says, “Really? The hat again?” then throw my drink back and head for the door.
As we are leaving, a woman is standing near the magazine rack trying to convince the old, shifty security guard that the magazines are in fact free. She is showing him her driver’s license and a copy of the magazine’s masthead to prove that she is the publisher.
“See? That’s me. These magazines are free. For the guests.”
Unblinkingly, the security guard takes the magazine from her hand and puts it back on the shelf.
The alter-ego I have chosen for the night (because obviously being myself amongst the hoi polloi isn’t an option) is a non-fiction writer specializing in urban youth. After sending out text messages to some people for suggestions, Brooke’s brother came back with the best: “You’re currently working on a book called Legit: The Urban Youth’s Struggle for Identity.” Personally, I preferred his other suggestion, Harrowing Home Invasions: The Unfathomable Crime, but Brooke thought it might be “too dark” for dinner conversation. (Though I still beg to differ: Who doesn’t love a good home invasion story?)
We also decide that we need an escape plan just in case the event turns out to be even more awkward than anticipated.
“Let’s say we have a kid, and the babysitter called with an emergency,” I suggest.
“We can’t do that,” Brooke retorts. “Vanessa knows I don’t have a kid.”
“You mean Valerie?”
“OK, then how about we’re babysitting someone else’s kid. And it called with an emergency.”
We roll into the gated
Still, as Brooke and I approach the oversized front door, a sense of calm comes over us. “This is no big deal,” we say. “They’re just people and this is just another house and we’re going to go in there and have a few drinks just like we would do anywhere else. Piece of cake.”
As soon as we step through the door, I lose Brooke. The house is immense – perhaps bigger on the inside than on the outside. Apparently, I veered right (looking for a bathroom) and Brooke veered left (looking for the bar).
I approach a man who seems to know his way around to ask where the nearest bathroom is, but before I can open my mouth he yells, “Watch out behind you!” Not yet aware that there are works of art everywhere, apparently I’ve nearly backed into a sculpture. Not just any sculpture, though, but a cube of toothpicks held together by nothing more than the magic of art.
In other words “if you bump into it, it will fall apart.” I make a joke about thinking it was for the hor d'oeuvres, and the man introduces himself as the owner of the home and directs me to the commode. (Awkwardness: 1. Flying Under The Radar: 0.)
While I am admiring the bathroom’s pillowed walls (seriously, they were like couch cushions) Brooke is pulling her best Lucille Ball impersonation out in the great room. After locating the bar, Brooke ordered some champagne, which was served in a pop-sized bottle with a straw.
She then decides to buck up and mingle with the rest of the party. As she absentmindedly tours the great room admiring the art, her champagne bottle suddenly begins bubbling over. Desperately trying to suck up the overflow before it can spill on the floor, she rushes off, mouth over champagne bottle top, to a different bathroom just as I exit mine and begin looking for her. It’s “Laurel and Hardy Go to a Dinner Party.”
A few minutes later, Brooke finds me at the bar. “Where were you?” I ask.
“In the bathroom. My champagne bottle exploded. Check out this sculpture in the bathroom though.”
Me: “You took pictures in the bathroom?”
Brooke: “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
Me: “So many reasons?”
Brooke: (blank stare)
Regrouping, we decide to join the other guests on a tour of the mansion’s many works of art. The sheer diversity of the pieces alone is enough to make your head spin. Their philosophy as collectors was that art can be made out of anything:
It’s not enough to admire a painting for its aesthetic quality, you have to wonder What the fuck? And to their credit, you do. You may say to yourself, “I could do that, but I would never think of doing that at least not without a big, fat Quaalude.” It got to the point where Brooke and I were paranoid that everything in the house was a work of art; no table was safe to put down your drink, no chair was safe to sit on. Even while I was in the ridiculously oversized bathroom, I thought, “What if I am peeing on a piece of art right now.”
In the end, though, the night proved to be an enjoyable experience. We met a plastic surgeon (Brooke: “Like Nip/Tuck?” Him: “Ha! No.”), an art dealer who had recently married his estranged secretary who he first fell in love with 26 years ago, and an Israel guy who repeatedly brushed off his mega-hot girlfriend while talking with me and Brooke, presumably to hear more about my harrowing writing career (Him: “What do you write about?” Me: “Lots of stuff. Mostly social sciences. You know, urban youth.”)
Plus the problem of when it was polite to leave was solved for us when a drunk woman spilled her bottle of champagne on the pool table (OR IS IT ART?) and Brooke and I looked at each other like, That’s our cue, stopping only to shake the hosts’ hands and grab a few bags of homemade donut balls on the way out the door.
“Do you want to go to the afterparty?” Brooke asks as we get in the car.
“No, we should be getting home to our imaginary baby. Plus there’s still the sex party portion of the night.” (Wink.)