The morning after a party requires a bit of domestic forensic examination. There is a forgotten salad on the counter mixing it up with the microbes of the universe. Large bowls of Flaming Hot Cheetos and Fritos sit uncovered. A bit of Glad Cling Wrap solves that.
Cans of half-finished Coke and Miller High Life Lite perch on the counter. As a party wears on, the will to finish such things begins to thin. Full cans still sit in the coolers outside. You think to yourself, “Who’s going to drink that now?”
But it will happen.
Perhaps most humorous is the appearance of the Fannie May chocolate sampler on the kitchen counter. Those little brown candy holders look so violated while the few remaining bits of chocolate huddle beneath the wrappers as if they were victims of war trying to escape the inevitable.
So I pick one up and eat it with a chocolaty morning relish, because that’s what party hosts are supposed to do. You browse your way through the carnage and pick up bits of edible things without a trace of guilt. You are the master of your post-party domain.
Good reasons to party
The occasion was the 50th birthday of my companion Sue. Several weeks ago when I mentioned the idea of a party for her birthday her eyes brightened. That was enough
motivation to make it happen. She’s been in deep training for the Wisconsin Ironman and there have been a few nights when the light was barely showing in her eyes. That’s because her eyes were generally closed after the hour of 9 pm. A half glass of wine and a foot rub will do that when you’re engaged in hard training for an Ironman.
The race is just three weeks away now. So it’s time to taper and get ready.
So the party came on the heels of a pretty big weekend for Sue that included a 17-mile run on Saturday and a 5-hour bike ride on Sunday.
I ran with her for 11 miles of the 17 on Saturday. She looked comfortable and confident and felt good. She even ran the last two miles in the low-9:00 range, a good sign that her endurance is there. She also had two training buddies join her for the run.
We paused for a mid-run drink and a photo at the northern end of the run in St. Charles. With the Hotel Baker forming a backdrop, it looks like the girls are out for a run in some exotic foreign city. Turns out a party is wherever you make it.
In many respects every run and ride you do is a form of party. Rather than drinking booze and eating Cheetos, you’re downing salty sports drinks and gobbling Gu packs. But it’s a party nonetheless.
Are you going to try to tell me the gals in this picture don’t look like they’re in the middle of a party? It’s just a 17- mile party. And sure it hurts at times. You get tired. But I’ve also been to plenty of other parties where it actually hurts and you get tired. Yet you turn around and brag about it the next day.
Unfortunately, I missed the Sunday bike ride entirely. Sue joined up with a group of fellow Ironman athletes for a ride through the dank, misty morning. But the sun broke through at 10 a.m. and the day turned beautiful just like the weatherman said it would.
Knowing that there was still a bunch of prep to do for the party, I went to church early and then grabbed a guilty cinnamon roll on the way home. Then it was time to set about final cleanup and organization of the house and yard for the party.
The first thing that had to happen was the disassembly of the white party tent I’d left out in the elements since the 4th of July. See, I like to have at least a couple parties every summer. In summers past I’ve left the pop-up tent outside for weeks and it was fine. But this year the rain pummeled us in July, and that caused big dips in the nylon canvas that put a strain on the seams and from there it just got ugly.
So I took the thing apart one last time and it will go out to the curb for the metal gleaners to pick up and recycle. We’ve had that tent since the mid-1990s. It has lived a long and fruitful life and has seen everything from soccer tournaments to graduations. But it’s useful life is over.
Making things pretty
The rest of the party prep involved yard work and clipping the scraggly parts of the garden back. A few mums got planted and a big heap of phlox was harvested and placed in a vase under the Jose Cuervo umbrella.
These things matter, you see. Parties are all about making quiet little statements of greeting and love. But honestly, they’re also about cleaning the crap up that gathers around all the seams of domestic life. From toilet detritus and dust on the porcelain to sweeping up flecks of dog food that migrate around the kitchen, it’s all about showing that you’re neat enough to care.
Life is one long party
So much of life is like that. One of the toughest things you must learn in taking on the triathlon is how to be organized in transition. Otherwise you’ve got this crazy little party going on every time you return to change from one sport to the other.
By all reports the transition tents for women at the Ironman are a relatively organized affair. Most of the contestants have a plan and get naked only when they need to be. Then they move on and out for the ride or the run.
But many of the men, apparently, are balls out half the time and a major mess at that. “Oh, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a transition tent for men at an Ironman,” my friend Maxine, a leading triathlete and volunteer at the Madison race once told me. “It’s quite a scene.”
Good parties and bad
Of course bad parties can be really good too.
I recall a wild party following a LaCrosse Half Marathon in which most of the men and women at the party wound up wandering around the house drunk and naked or least half-naked and half drunk. That was a bad party that was really, really good. I woke up hung over to witness a comely young lass stepping over my sleeping position. She wore nothing under her oversized tee shirt and all I could think at the moment was some kind of weird pirate thoughts. “Yo ho!” I muttered.
Then we all got up and ran 10 miles nearly as fast as we’d raced the day before. Which for me was 1:10:50 for the half marathon on a hilly-assed course in Wisconsin. And that, my friends, was a party weekend not to forget.
We like to party
Athletes simply love to party when they get the chance. With all that training and dedication there is nothing like a party to release a little tension. And of course it often doesn’t take much to get a skinny, overtrained athlete drunk. A few glasses of wine or a bunch of beers and away we go.
People used to come to our college cross country party just to watch the skinny crazies go nuts. You never know what might happen. I’m pretty sure some of the anthropology students did some sort of dissertation on that annual event.
Partying with a purpose
Of course the degree to which parties do or do not get out of control are directly related to the purpose for the party. A birthday party for my girlfriend was more about sharing than daring. That made the group of thirty or so friends all the more interesting, because they came from all walks and elements of our lives.
There were triathlon teammates, friends and family. We introduced and shared these associations. Some just shook their heads at tales of the crazy training Sue has done this summer. But most told her that turning 50 was not all that bad. And it’s true.
The beer flowed and the wine poured. Then massive piles of pizza showed up and Portillo’s salads filled the bowls. A fresh breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay and people fairly enjoyed themselves in my happy little yard with a garden formed of care and serendipity. There could be no better use of a Sunday afternoon.
I stood back at one point and smiled. It makes me happy when people get together. And all I could think to myself was one simple thought: “There’s a party going on right here.”
And it was good.