Sunday, September 15, 2002

     Jorge’s parties, according to Brian, include a text and a subtext. The subtext is to gather as many beautiful women in his house at one time as possible. The text is to get as fucked-up as possible. That’s a fair observation, but I think the reality of Jorge’s parties is more along the general lines of: Damn good, interesting, and always fun. Not to mention the beautiful women, engaging conversation, and free wine, beer, and food. To parallel Brian’s literary line, the context of Jorge’s parties, in my estimation, is to gather as many people as possible from every facet of his life — UT grad. students, coffeeshop friends and artists, co-workers from Sullivan’s, fellow wanderers along the winding romantic’s path in search of love — in his house and give them ample opportunity to network and mingle with or without the aid of gloriously large amounts of alcohol (and any other drugs individual attendees might bring and share with others on a personal basis). It’s really a beautiful thing.

For last night’s party, I invited Sarah, from Boston. The same day the invitation was extended, though, she was informed that her best friend back home’s mother had just passed away. Her presence as a friend and shoulder were sorely needed back East (some day I want to write about the connotations of “back East”). While dates are not a requirement at these parties (I think I’ve only taken a date once before) I felt I’d met at least one other girl at St. Ed’s that would be interested in the atmosphere and personages that populate Jorge’s gatherings.

I didn’t know much about Nikki. I remember the first time I noticed her was upon returning to campus after a night out drinking on the town. Somehow the smokers sitting around on the picnic tables outside became bored enough to start talking politics. I heard a guy say, “I’ll vote for Rick Perry. He’s our governor. He hasn’t been bad.” Now, I just can’t handle that. I simply said, “Rick Perry is a dumbfuck,” and a girl turned to look at me. That girl was Nikki. Since that time, we’ve spoken a bit at the same picnic tables while smoking and I’ve been switched to the same English class (Bro. John’s) that she and Sarah are in. I did know that she was some sort of art major (though I couldn’t remember exactly what her focus was on; I haven’t even begun to really try to remember names or majors around school unless I see the people and like them enough to muster the small amount of care it takes to use precious memory space for future recollection of their names and majors), and, as it turns out, she’s a photojournalism major. This is perfect as Jorge is a photographer (getting his Master’s in photography at UT) and many of the people at his parties are from the same program.

I ran into Nikki during dinner one night in the Ragsdale cafeteria a day or so after I learned Sarah wouldn’t be able to attend, informed her of the party, and invited her. She accepted, though I was surprised later to find out that she was actually really looking forward to it. I assumed she accepted just to have something to do.

Honestly, I worried a bit that I might have over-billed the party when describing it to her. I always love Jorge’s parties, but I’m a friend of his and my circle of friends are always in attendance, too. So even if I’m not in the mood to mingle, I’m still well-accompanied by friends and it’s a better place to be than buying $5 drinks downtown somewhere. Of course, I don’t think I’ve ever left one of the parties without having met someone new and interesting.

That said, I’ve been to one of Jorge’s parties where a girl a few years older than me but younger than the average age at the party didn’t care for it. But she wasn’t an artist and felt out-of-place among people who travel in somewhat similar professional/artistic/educational scenes. Obviously this is not in anyway an indictment of Jorge’s parties, but rather only one person’s feelings. She essentially felt too young and too inexperienced to be there.

So, anyway, the more I heard from St. Ed’s students who had heard through Nikki that I was taking her to a “photography party,” the more I realized how much she was looking forward to it and the more I hoped it would meet her expectations. I wasn’t really too worried — I just didn’t want to be guilty of building the party up into something that would be a disappointment to her. I did tell her that it was sort of semi-dressy. The party is always a good excuse for me to dress-up, and I didn’t want her to feel under-dressed. Prior warning was in order. She met that one small request admirably, but more on that later.

The night of the party, Brian and I watched the updated version of Romeo and Juliet with DiCaprio and Danes on television and, just as they finished committing suicide (to our glee and jests), it was time to head outside to meet Nikki. From there we split with Brian.

As we headed to the car she asked me if she was dressed well enough. I said, “Sure. I was going to comment on that later.”
She stopped. “Wait, I’m not?”
“No, no. You’re fine. I meant, ‘I was going to compliment you on that later.'”
“Oh, okay. I didn’t want you to comment on it after we get there.”
“No, don’t worry.”
I unlocked and held the passenger-side door of my car for her, unlocked the rest of the doors by the button on the inside panel, closed the door, and got in. We headed to H-E-B to buy wine. (I should mention that I held the door out of simple gentlemanly nature (go ahead, laugh) and hoped she didn’t take it as some kind of “move” — I know she has a boyfriend back home and didn’t intend to offend her loyal sensibilities. I can’t knock tenacity.)

We spent a good deal of time in the wine section at H-E-B in search of a bottle of Geyser Peak merlot. Unfortunately they only had the whites from that vineyard. We ended up eeny-meeny-miny-moeing between two other bottles (one from Argentina and one from Italy) before standing in the express check-out line for fifteen minutes.
“I love coming to grocery stores,” I said as we waited. “It’s like watching an episode of Ricki Lake.” That got laughs from the guy ahead of us in line. The lady behind us in line commented about how the quick line wasn’t so fast. I told her they put the slowest cashiers in the 10-item-or-less lines because they take so long to scan each individual product. It all evens out in the end.
Finally I got to pay and we got to head toward the party.

At the party, Brian had already been there for fifteen minutes or so and struck up a conversation with a co-ed from UT majoring in art. Nikki and I went inside to drop off the wine. I introduced her to Jorge, who poured us each a glass of wine, and then we headed back outside for a smoke and conversation.
Usually I arrive at Jorge’s early. Brian and I help him light candles and set-up and usually end up waiting around for hours for the party to start. This time we didn’t go until around ten o’clock. It was the perfect time. When we arrived the party wasn’t yet in full-swing but it wasn’t dead either. It quickly filled with people.
We stood around talking to various people for a while — the UT art student, a girl who’d just moved from Seattle to Austin and met one of Jorge’s housemates on her flight down, and others — and Nikki got the opportunity to get to know Brian better than she had earlier in the day when he’d joined us at his brother’s pet shop. (Earlier in the afternoon I’d taken Nikki to see sugar gliders at ZooKeeper, the pet store Daniel Keeper, Brian’s brother, owns in town. One of his managers told us they didn’t have any, but today Daniel told us that they actually did; his manager just didn’t want to mess with them. I’ll have to take Nikki back to see them when Daniel’s there.)
We drank and drank and Mike showed up and we drank and talked some more. Mike entertained Nikki with some of his West Texas stories, Brian talked of his travels painting in Europe, and I considered the notion that I may be the most boring in our circle of friends. Jorge played a great host, as usual, and continued to fill our wine glasses throughout the evening. JoAnna and Ben, who both work at Halcyon (formerly Ruta Maya), showed up as did JoAnna’s boyfriend, Kyle. I turned to Nikki at one point in the evening and said, “So, you look very nice tonight.” She laughed and replied, “So do you.” (Even without wearing a belt.)

As is usual with us, it was mostly a night of good conversation and laughter. The cold front hadn’t yet hit and so it was still quite warm outside, but we dulled that with wine and jokes. We talked about school and families, movies and artists, books and other drunken evenings. It was nice. I held Nikki’s cigarettes throughout the evening so she could leave her purse in the car and, one time while giving her one, she said, “I’m so glad I came.”
“Good,” I answered. “I was worried you may not like it too much.”

We left shortly after Brian — probably 45 minutes later — arriving back on campus around 3 AM. Nikki and I sat outside smoking one last Swiss cigarette before retiring for the evening. Earlier in the day she’d told me how many people assumed I was out to get something from her by inviting her to this party. One guy had posed the question, “So, what did you have to do to get him to take you to that?” It completely wasn’t like that, and I think she understood. I ended the night with a “I’m glad you came and enjoyed it. Sleep well.”

I know I’m leaving out some great one-liners and twists in conversation from the evening, but I’m tired and have class tomorrow. All in all, it was another successful party thanks to Jorge.

A brief comment on dorm life: It’s really Life With Your Shoes On. Think about it: One doesn’t want to enter the communal bathrooms without some sort of footwear on that prevents the soak-through of various liquids. It’s rather pointless to even bother taking off your shoes at any time before you get in bed because you’ll just spend a bunch of time putting them back on whenever you want to leave the room. Also, apparently the standard operating procedure is to not flush the toilets after use. I regularly flush all three urinals when I leave the bathroom just to rid the place of the stink and radioactive yellow coloration of the water.

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