Sarah was hooking up with Ricardo in Edwin’s Tercel, which was really lame because it was Maite’s party — not just her party but her birthday, and Maite’d had a crush on Ricardo since freshman year. Lame or not, Maite didn’t seem to care — the DJ had just put on salsa and she was dancing her ass off to it, along with just about everyone else except me, because I didn’t know how to dance to salsa and wasn’t drunk enough to try. I went to the bar, but the vodka had run out awhile ago. I struck up a conversation with the metal heads who had played here earlier until Marlynne stumbled up to me and said she needed a ride home. The party was in full swing and I really didn’t want to leave now, but I grudgingly agreed. With my boyfriend passed out in the back seat of my Volvo, I drove Marlynne the short distance from Frogtown (Elysian Park) to Atwater. By the time I got back to Maite’s there were red and blue lights flashing outside her house, so I did a sloppy U-turn and headed home. Turned out there had been a stabbing, and someone had almost gotten his head crushed by a black SUV. After that the party erupted into complete chaos, and everyone just started kicking everyone else’s asses.
Why did I always miss the good parts?
It wasn’t until I left Los Angeles that I realized these parties weren’t exactly standard for high school kids everywhere, mostly because in other cities there simply are no back yards. In New York people partied on rooftops, inside apartments, or at “high school bars” (bars that were known for not carding — rare in Los Angeles). You aren’t going to find rows of skyscrapers here or towering brick housing projects (thank you, San Andreas faultline). Instead, our urban residential areas are sprawls of one- to two-story houses with room in the back for barbecues or pools. This, along with L.A.’s mild weather, makes for the perfect party ecology, with no worries about the inside of one’s house getting trashed (though landscaping can be another matter).
My high school party scene did not consist of the “Can’t Hardly Wait” type of blasts, unless you replaced all the white kids with partygoers from every ethnic demographic in L.A., threw in some 40-ouncers, put some salsa or merengue on along with generic rap and pop dance jams, and bumped the rating up to NC-17. Marshall High’s 4,500 students come from all over the city. Cram that many kids and hormones together in one space, and you go a little nuts. So where does all this tension and anxiety that’s built up during the school week get released? The weekend — which begins on whatever day you and your friends choose to start it. Take a look at the crowd of people walking down Hollywood Boulevard, and that’s how random these parties were — and are. Here’s an idea of what to expect.
What: Celebrating anything from graduation to birthdays to Fridays. Expect lots of dancing, underage drinking and more drama than a Degrassi episode. Oh, and if there’s no DJ, count on a live band or two. These yards are hotbeds for high school musicians who are just starting out their careers. Punk or metal groups haul equipment to their friends’ houses and set up wherever they can find an outlet. Sometimes violent mosh pits break out only inches away from where the lead singer roars into the mike. If I were alive during the early days of punk rock, that’s probably what I would compare these gigs to. Other times, the bands are ignored and the party goes on around them.
Where: Most likely someone’s low-income back yard. L.A.’s hottest night spots aren’t hidden away in Hollywood Hills mansions or behind velvet ropes. Think Frogtown, Atwater, Echo Park or Highland Park. Two or three are probably going on in the same neighborhood. This comes in handy when the cops show up. The pattern: Go to one party, dance, wait for the cops to show up, go to the next, slamdance to some live punk rock, wait for the cops to show up, etc., etc., until your feet hurt and your cell phone is blowing up with calls from your poor worried mother.
Who: Everyone. The invitations are open — don’t call the police next time you can’t sleep because a bass line from next door is pounding through your walls; put on your coolest outfit and stop by. Count on making friends with some people you did not expect to make friends with, like the scary gangster guys who just walked in the gate. They’re probably really fun to talk to, plus you can always count on them for good bud. These parties aren’t just restricted to high school–age kids, either. I went to one last night and chatted with a USC graduate.
What To Bring: Something to drink. If you are underage and haven’t figured out what liquor stores sell to minors yet, or if you are stingy and don’t feel like buying your own alcohol, you might get lucky and find some bottles for guests at the party. However, these usually run out halfway through the night, and I’ve been to places where they’ve charged up to $2 per shot. If you aren’t a drinker, all you need are comfortable dancing shoes, a jacket and maybe a Taser in case there’s a brawl or someone’s dancing too close.
R.S.V.P.: Definitely not. This isn’t a wedding reception. Show up and you
will be welcomed — crash or be crashed.