First and foremost, I’d like to deeply and sincerely apologize for my recent absence. I was under the weather and unable to write. I’ll do my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year. The beauty of a new year is that everyone gets a fresh start and a clean slate regardless of how your previous year went. 2011 was one of the best years of my life and I anticipate 2012 being even better.

I had been working on a multi-part piece on stories from my first summer in town and how it all began. I decided to take a break from that in December just for a change of pace. Well now I’m going to pick up where I left off with part five of the first summer antics. The parties were epic, and the stories abundant, so this series may be revisited off and on over the coming year.

One such party was intended to be a surprise birthday party for one of my roommates who was, and still is, my best friend in the world—though there have been occasions over the years when I’m not sure he considers that role an honor. Since the seven of us each worked in different places, we had adopted different circles of friends. What started as a small birthday party, quickly escalated to a full fledged blow out. Short of a Ferris wheel, human sacrifice, and a Texas A&M style bonfire (what, too soon?) I don’t know how this party could have been any more out of control. Everyone was having a blast. Until…

A few hours into the fiesta, there was a loud knock at the door. O.C.’s Finest had arrived as the result of a call from some vacationers. All things considered, the cops were relatively cool that night. They asked to speak to someone whose name was on the lease. They didn’t want to come inside any more than we wanted them to. Upon a quick cursory glance through the 80 or so people assembled in this 1200 square foot condo, it became glaringly apparent that I would be the unwilling representative. One of my roommates was already passed out in a pool of his own urine. One was entertaining a “new friend” in one of the bedrooms. One looked and smelled like an extra in a Cheech and Chong movie. One was out of town. And two were not yet home from work. That left me. I became the spokesman for the simpletons by default.

I made a brief announcement and made my way to the front door. It’s amazing how saying one word: “COPS!” can immediately silence eighty or so party goers simultaneously as if they were in one of those old E.F. Hutton commercials. I put on the best sober face I could muster and walked out to the front porch where I was greeted and flanked by four uniformed officers. The senior of whom probably only had me by about five or six years. I explained that we were having a surprise party for one of my roommates who would be home shortly. Much to my surprise and delight, they never asked to come in. As I stated earlier, they were really cool. (This was the 80’s). They suggested that I close all the windows, turn on the AC, and keep it down. They wrote me the obligatory citation for a noise ordinance violation, instructed me to make sure that no one was drinking under age (I was 18), and went on their way.

I reentered the party like a conquering hero. All eyes were upon me with the exception of those who had climbed out the back windows and fled. They looked at me as if I had just single handedly slain an army and emerged unscathed. I closed all the windows and the party was back on. I don’t know just how many lies I told that night about how I had sweet talked my way out of things with the police. Truth is, I spewed forth an arsenal of “yes sirs” and “no sirs” while trembling and fighting back tears. But no one else needed to know that.

Shortly thereafter, the birthday boy arrived home from work. In the excitement, it had slipped my mind to mention to all of our guests to yell “SURPRISE” when he walked in. I was in the kitchen and didn’t see him enter. He had just finished a double shift and had an awful day at work and now he was walking in to Syd-A-Palooza. He was furious! He fought his way through the crowd, found me and told me to get my ass in our bedroom. He had been my best friend for years and this was the first time I’d ever seen him this angry. And his ire was solely directed at me, though I had him by about 4 inches in height, I was genuinely concerned for my own safety. He was not really a big partier. He was the most level headed and straight edged one of the 7 roommates. That dubious distinction however, is the equivalent of having the highest G.P.A. in Special-Ed. He ripped me up and down about throwing a party without his knowledge. At this point, I very timidly said, “surprise, happy birthday buddy”.

Once he realized that my intentions were uncharacteristically pure, genuine, and good-natured, he let me off the hook. He apologized and quickly got into the partying spirit as well. I’d venture to say that night was the most I’d ever seen him let his hair down.  Once I made it known to everyone in attendance that he was the guest of honor, he had his pick of the litter as far as companionship went. (By the way B., you’re welcome.) A great time was had by all, and though I don’t have much recollection of it, my guess would be the party wound down sometime around sunrise.

A few hours later I was awakened from my brief alcohol-induced coma by the sound of pounding on the front door. I ignored it at first, but the pounding ensued. Make no mistake, this was pounding, not knocking. Eventually I gathered as much of my senses as I could and made my way toward the awful noise. I walked out to the living room and weaved my way through a maze of unconscious bodies, full ash trays, and empty beer cups. I couldn’t help but think that this is what the morning after must have looked and smelled like at Jonestown. As I got to the front door and looked through the peep hole my heart sank.

I had grossly underestimated the swiftness and thoroughness of the grape vine between O.C.P.D. and the property managers’ office, for on the other side of that door stood our realtor holding a copy of the police report. She was a short woman with a stocky build. She was not what one would refer to as attractive. The present furious scowl on her face made her even less so. She possessed slightly more facial hair then my 18 year old face had yet to produce. Now, once again I was forced to be the unwilling spokesman for our dysfunctional group during a time of crisis. I opened the door to greet her and she wasted no time telling me that we were “OUT!” She shook her head in disappointment while perusing the police report, handed me a notice of eviction stating that we had until the end of the week to vacate the property, and went on her stout little way.

I was mortified to say the least. We had two months left on our lease that we had paid in full, in advance, and we were getting kicked out. I had a great job, a good fake I.D., and a brand new beer tap. How could I go home with my tail between my legs? As my roommates slowly emerged one at a time from their sarcophagi of party-induced slumber, I called a house meeting. Not that stupid crap you see on M.T.V.s “The Real World”, this was REAL. We assembled and had a formal round table discussion over a hearty breakfast of lukewarm stale draft beer and pop tarts. We bounced ideas off of each other for quite awhile over what to do. Eventually, one of the roommates—it doesn’t matter which one—hatched a plan. He would go alone to the realtor’s office later that day and “work his charms” on her.

A few hours later, he did just that. He showered, put on nice clothes, and went to visit the Evictor. He was not exactly greeted with a warm welcome. To make a long story VERY short, a little while later, the “out to lunch” sign was placed on the front door; it was locked, and negotiations ensued. A few hours later, this particular roommate arrived back at the apartment with the great news delivered with an unmistakable look of shame and degradation. No one could understand his lack of enthusiasm over this news that had everyone else elated. We didn’t have to move out! For reasons unbeknownst, he refused to divulge any of the specifics of that meeting, simply that we had been given a stay of eviction.

Few, if any of the roommates ever knew exactly what happened that day, at least prior to reading this article. “He” would agonize over, and be emotionally plagued by the events of that day for more than 20 years, but knowing all the while that he did what had to be done for the greater good. He took one for the team. He dove on the grenade. His selfless, demoralizing act single handedly salvaged what may have been the greatest summer of their lives for seven individuals. It was a true act of bravery, full of thoughtfulness, courage, and sacrifice—the likes of which I’ve never seen. Though it still haunts him, he knows in his heart that there was no other way and he did what had to be done. I for one, commend him for his deed. Thank you for one of the most memorable summers of our lives.

Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

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