Sandwiched in between my life phases of intellectual pursuits and personal betterment was the phase that shall be referred to as: The After Party.
My friend Aimee & I moved to Seattle from San Francisco on New Years day 1996. Neither of us really knew anyone who lived here, so in the hunt for friends and entertainment, we began frequenting a neighborhood bar called Ileen’s. By day Ileen’s was home to old time bar flies and alcoholics with one foot in the grave. By night it turned into a singles haven for the Seattle youth. The décor was typical sports bar and due to the constant smoking of almost every patron every single day for decades, the walls oozed with greasy gray brown tar and nicotine. The bathroom was disgusting and smelled of Lysol and vomit. It was covered in graffiti; my favorite was a quote from Tropic of Capricorn: Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.
The first person we met was named John. He was a small man dressed in a suit with a bow tie and was clearly insane, but he was harmless and a lot of fun. He was standing at the pull tab machine near our table, so we called him over to join us and the friendship had begun.
One night we met up with John at Ileen’s. A seat at a booth was a coveted spot, but we managed to grab one. Not long after we got there, a strange young man began yelling obscenities at John and tried to throw a beer on him for no reason, so we decided to leave. We walked downtown to another bar called The Rendezvous. This place has since been renovated, but back in the day it was pretty sketchy. They did make the stiffest drinks in town, however. The 3 of us sat in the back of the bar and noticed an old man asleep in a nearby booth. After a little while the man woke up and came over to our table. He mumbled something incoherent, so John asked him to repeat himself, and the old timer hauled off and punched John square in the face.
On one Saturday, we met some people and stayed at Ileen’s until the 2:00 am closing. We continued our conversation outside of the bar where some other patrons had gathered, and then it happened: we were invited to our first “After Hours Party”. Turns out, the night does not have to end on bar time. A tradition with Ileen frequenters was for a designated person to invite all the remaining stragglers, most of them strangers, back to their house for a party. Over the months, we met a lot of people, some we could call friends, but only the kind of friends you see at night, because seeing them in the light of day would be too freaky.
We now enjoyed what we called: Hangover Sunday, where Aimee & I, dressed in nothing but our robes, would lay on our respective couches in our shared living room, eat pizza and try to piece together the events of the weekend. Hanging at a bar for hours every Friday and Saturday night followed by more partying required the intake of very much alcohol. This combination always created interesting events peppered with blackouts, so we had to compare accounts to see what we may have missed.
We met many different characters and got to know the regulars. Two guys in particular who were well known in the area were a staple to our weekend nights. They went by the names Dean and Sal, although that was not their real names. Each person seemed to have deep psychological issues that they would try to mask with the constant alcohol consumption. Sometimes it was the alcohol itself that brought it all to the surface.
One person we met was a Greaser named Nicky. He looked just like Danny Zuko from the movie Grease, except 80 % of his body was covered in Tattoos. He had a gang of about 5 other Greaser’s and he seemed to be the leader. Nicky told us the story about how his girlfriend who had cancer had died in his arms a few years earlier. He cried when he told the story. Then he told the story about his brother who was shot by police who had also died in his arms when Nicky was just a young boy. He cried at this tale, too. And in ultimate story telling fashion, Nicky told us that a few months after his brother’s death, Nicky went after the cop who killed him and managed to shoot the cop in the face with a 22. He said the cop lived, but that Nicky took great satisfaction in knowing that every time that cop looked in the mirror he was reminded of Nicky and his brother.
We saw Nicky around at various parties and at one gathering he showed us a trick he could do with his penis. Right there in the front yard, he took down his pants and gyrated in such a way, that his penis swirled around in an entire circle. He then changed direction and swirled his penis around counter clockwise.
One summer night, instead of heading to a house party, a large group of us headed to the lake for a swim. There was about 20 or so drunken people in their underwear jumping into the black waters of Lake Washington at 3am. Some were jumping and falling off of the diving board that was attached to a nearby dock. I remember swimming out as far as I could by myself, system full of gin. I could hear the laughter and camaraderie on the shore as I tread water late into the night. I realized I could sink right then and there and just disappear. Instead I floated back to shore and, goose-bumpy and cold, we all headed back to Aimee & my apartment to party until the sun rose.
We began hosting more and more after parties at our place. You could not just have a regular party, because no one would show up until after 2:00 am. We tried having a birthday party once for one of the friends we met at the bar, but that turned into a drunken cake fight. One girl tried to dance atop our Ikea table and it collapsed beneath her in a busted heap. That was the extent of the trouble we ran into, despite the many strangers we invited to our home in the wee hours every other weekend.
I have to admit that these parties did lead to some nakedness and early morning walks of shame, but nothing I regret.
Many years have passed and now Aimee & I are both married to men we did NOT meet at Ileen’s, live in the suburbs and our weekend nights end round about midnight.