It’s the 2nd annual ManfStets Oscar Party! I have most certainly mentioned this before but I think it every time so I have to say it again – annual is the first thing I learned when working at the Gloucester County Times. Sean (my boss) told me, “There’s no such thing as first annual. It can’t be annual until it happens again.” I remember it so clearly because I wrote it in one of my first articles and Sean told me – in front of everyone – how stupid I am. Just kidding, he never made me feel stupid. I do that on my own. But when he said it, it was one of those aha moments for me, like, oh yea, that totally makes sense. And he said, “Let’s just mark this as the first thing I ever taught you.” And I did. He went on to say how knowledgeable he was, in so many words, and how this was only the beginning of all the things he would teach me. I rolled my eyes at him, as per usual, but he did teach me a lot. So, last year was my first, and this year it’s the second annual! Woohoo!
I’ve been planning this for a while. Having an actual refrigerator makes the possibilities seem endless (last year we had a mini fridge, so we had to fill coolers with ice). I also made hot hor d’ouevres last year and the apartment got so hot, so I decide not to use the oven while people are here. As far as guests, I know it will be more than last year, when we barely knew anyone. It was Rich, Tara, Troy, and Jason. This year I invite a bunch more people, but as it goes with throwing parties, a lot of people don’t end up coming. Which is fine. It’s not like we have a lot of space. But as the day drew nearer, and I kept telling Mike another person I invited, he got more and more worried. I didn’t care. I told people up front the one problem with coming over is that it’s small and you might have to sit on the floor. Anyone I invite is cool – obviously – so they understand. Also, this is the one party I throw. I don’t have people over for anything else, ever. If I get to throw one party a year, I’m going to invite as many people as I want. (Again, none of this matters because it’s not so much a party as it is a small gathering.)
Saturday, I drive to Brick+Mortar in the afternoon to buy a bottle of spicy tequila from Sean and Juan. This will be the prize for whoever gets the most right on the Oscar ballot (last year it was Limoncello because apparently, it’s George Clooney’s favorite). This year it’s spicy tequila because….just because. It’s delicious. But later in the night I find out that George (I call him that sometimes) makes his own tequila. So I guess we’ll have to do some sort of George Clooney themed prize every year.
Sunday morning I wake up and make Chex Mix. I use the original recipe but throw in cayenne pepper (because Mom does) and add my own little twist – Cheetos. I know, as if it’s not already unhealthy enough. I never even buy them, but I knew I couldn’t go wrong by adding Cheetos. I was in the chip aisle, and there was a young Mom and Dad with their child sitting in the grocery cart. He wanted something delicious/bad for you. The parents kept trying to convince him otherwise. “Do you want the Pop Chips?? You like those. Or we can do the veggie chips. Those are good.” I felt guilty as I reached in front of them, kid staring, and grab a big bag of Cheetos. I almost wanted to tell the parents, I never buy these, really. Instead I sneak away quickly, waiting for the child to yell out, “I want Cheetos!”
Earlier in the week, I baked cookies. I make really good cookies. I try to act like they’re all different but I always just use the classic Tollhouse recipe and the only thing I change is the chips. I use Reese’s chips for these. It’s really just following a simple recipe, but when you don’t have too many tricks up your sleeve, you do what you can.
Two days earlier (Friday), I made black bean and corn salsa. The last time I made it was for the Oscar party last year. Mom gave me the recipe. I didn’t think it would taste as good as it does – but it’s really simple, fresh, and tasty. The longer it sits, the better it tastes, so it was nice to be able to make it in advance. Tostitos Scoops for dipping.
While I’m baking Chex Mix Sunday, Mike runs out to print the Oscar ballots. I ask him to pick up another bag of chips – just in case. He doesn’t think we need another bag, but what if we finish the one bag we have?? There has to be backup. He walks in the door. “Mm it smells good in here.” That’s the Chex Mix. He shows me the ballots. Oh my goodness, he printed them in color and on good paper. They look amazing. I tell him so. He knows I appreciate this. It’s all the little things when your hosting a party. It really is.
I bought red and green grapes from Trader Joe’s (the greatest place I know), and my favorite, Harry’s Strawberries from the Venice Market on Friday. You’d think putting out fruit is easy. It is, but you have to wash them and dry them and cut the strawberries. It’s just time consuming. Everything takes time. I eventually put everything out on the coffee table, including some peanut M&M’s for those who need a chocolate fix.
It’s a beautiful day. I think there is a misconception that it’s always nice in LA. It’s not. I mean it is, but the sun isn’t always shining and it’s not always 70 degrees or higher. OK, I know it’s nice compared to Jersey no matter what, but… forget it. It’s always nice in California. I’ve adjusted too quickly. Troy is the first to arrive. It’s good to see him. You’d think we’d hang out more but I think that’s where our personalities are very similar. When we have a night off, all we want to do is lay around at our own place and do nothing. Sure, we all want to hang out, but none of us feels like putting in the effort. We should.
Brian Wine is the second to arrive. This kid. He works with Mike. I met him once, at their Christmas staff party at Rob’s place. I’m not really sure how I feel about him. At one point, Mike left me alone with him at said party and we talked for a while. In the beginning it was fine; sure we disagreed on things but that’s normal with me. But then, he started to say just really dumb shit. Like, actors don’t really know how to act. And they’re all the same and they’re all doing…I don’t even know what he said because he’s not an actor and he’s basically telling me that acting is dumb. It was infuriating and pointless. But somehow, I didn’t think he was trying to be a dick. Like, he seemed like a nice guy. And we were able to talk easily. So now he’s here, in my apartment. I bought all these good beers to drink (already mentioned them before – Allagash White, Anderson Valley Winter Solstice, Dogfish Head Saison, Racer 5 IPA) and Mike had Bud Light cans left over from some night. Brian grabs the last can. OK, maybe I’m a jerk, but I say, Oh yea? Bud Light? All that beer in there and you pick Bud Light. That’s cool.
I think it’s funny. I think I’m messing around. He turns to Mike. “She’s such an asshole.” Wait, what? I make fun of you for drinking shit beer and I’m an asshole? He says it again, moments later. I forget the context of it, but I say it out loud this time. Dude, you’re in my apartment. You just got here, and you’re calling me an asshole. He’s just dumb. I don’t think he’s trying to be a jerk. He just is.
Tara texts me that they’re on their way back from Palm Springs and might be a little late. AND THEY HAVE BIRDIE. Oh my God, I’m so excited! Birdie is coming over! She’ll actually be in my apartment! I just love this dog. I wanted Rich and Tara to bring her, but I figured they wouldn’t. After they arrive and quickly take Birdie for a walk, Dane is at my door. So, basically, Dane is the only addition from last year. Because I don’t count Brian Wine.
I order pizza. I wanted to get something good, and a customer recommended Joe’s in Santa Monica. Her name is Sharon and I’ve only waited on her twice, but we made a connection because she’s from Philly. She’s awesome. A little older. Mom-ish. She and her friend order the parmesan truffle fries. Sharon has a few and describes them as crack fries. This reminds me of Mom’s crack potatoes. She makes these roasted potatoes with parmesan and they’re crunchy and delicious and the things is, when she made them, she acted like they were nothing. It was something she just “threw together.” But they were so good, we called them crack potatoes. I’ve never heard anyone else refer to food as crack, so I greatly appreciate this even though her friend gasps at the comment. We get to talking about the Oscars and I tell her that I’m going to order pizza and she tells me about Joe’s. I’m a little nervous ordering from a place I’ve never had, but I trust her judgment, and boy was I right. This pizza is so amazing, I wish I took a picture of it. It’s expensive, as many places are, but totally worth it, especially in a place where it’s hard to find good pizza.
Birdie is basically the highlight of my evening. I’d like to say it’s the Oscars, but when hosting a party, it’s difficult to focus on anything besides food, drink, and everyone’s comfort. Is everyone having a good time? Is there enough food/drink? I can’t be competitive because I never win this game. Because I always vote with my heart. Or I just have no idea because I don’t research enough. Birdie keeps my attention. She’s fine with everyone in the beginning, but later something happens and decides she doesn’t like Dane or Troy. She growls at them. Mike is Mike and stares her down until she wants to attack him. And then he says the thing that always makes me crack up. “I’m a cat person.” I mean, who says that? Especially a guy? I get saying I’m not a dog person. But he says that he’s a cat person. I find it hilarious. The more Birdie doesn’t like everyone else the more I feel like she loves me. So stupid, but I love that she likes me. I show her my stuffed animal Mom got me – Lamby. A little stuffed lamb. I can tell Birdie wants Lamby. She wants to rip her apart. How can I deny her a toy? She ends up biting off both Lamby’s ears. I have fun watching her.
The only award I end up really, really caring about is for Best Live Action Short. I saw them all in theatres with Mike. It’s tradition now, to see them every year, and this was the first time I loved one of them. The American short film called Curfew. Shawn Christensen wrote, directed, and starred. It was so good. And he won. And I was so happy. This guy is amazing. If you can download this short on itunes I highly recommend it. Maybe part of me loved it so much because it inspired me, because you watch it and you think, this is so good, and I could actually make this. And I want to make things.
In a close race, Dane ends up winning the whole thing. It’s fun to have this many people in a room so passionate about the Oscars and movies in general (except for Brian Wine – he left right after eating the delicious pizza).