Sunday, August 20, 2006

Grotto-of-Cool Party Diary

Sunday August 6th

Steve drafts the electronic invitations to be emailed out:

Come celebrate the Grand opening of the GROTTO OF COOL. Hosting this evening will be raucous Rich and the Amazing Stephen!

Got big plans already? Can't get a babysitter? No worries! Advance polls open all afternoon of the 19th. Rich will be home all day drinking iced coffees and crafting the finest hors'd'oerves from Steve's Jamie Oliver cookbooks. So come by. Bring the kids. We'll plug an onion!

Park in back of the building, or on the street. There's usually plenty of parking.

Deep Fried Mars Bars not provided.

House rules:
1) There's no talking about The Grotto of Cool
2) There's no talking about The Grotto of Cool
3) Don't spill shit on Rich's rug
4) The toilets are flush-challenged, and may require your assistance
5) Smoking permitted on the patio
6) Any potted plants found on the patio double as urinals
7) If the neighbours ask, you're with unit # 8
8) The David Hasselhoff impersonator will arrive at 9:00 sharp. Well, actually an impersonator was too expensive, so we invited the Hoff himself
9) Friends are welcome
10) Drink responsibly and plan a ride home if you're going to be boozing.

Sunday August 13th

One week ‘til the big house swarming bash. The TO-DO list reads:

Sunday: organize bedroom; install LR & DR blinds; hang remaining artwork

Monday: unpack & organize remaining books

Tuesday: get haircut; unpack all remaining boxes

Wednesday: purge unwanted books and belongings (Goodwill?); break down and recycle boxes; plan party menu; make ice

Thursday: buy beer & booze; clean windows, mirrors, glass tables, etc; clean bathrooms; make ice

Friday: duck work at 3; get big painting from Plonk & Vino’s; hang big painting; dust; vacuum; email map & directions to all YES and MAYBE guests; make ice; time permitting: organize den

Saturday: buy groceries; set up bar; prep food

No problem.

Friday August 18th

Ducked work at 2:55. Made the Etobicoke-Aldershot trip in just under an hour, loaded the painting into the banana boat. Enjoyed a Guinness with Cap’n Vino. Went home. Hung the painting over the couch.

Neighbors Yvonne and Suzanne from units 4 and 8 drop in since our back door is wide open, allowing a nice breeze to blow through. They help themselves to a tour, seeing what we’ve done with the place. They ooh and ahh over the living room.

“This place is way too nice for a couple of guys, don’t you think?” says Yvonne. Suzanne agrees.

“Well, Steve took a lot of interior decorating courses,” I say loudly, ensuring that Steve can hear me from the kitchen. “Back when he lived in San Francisco.”

They nod politely and leave.

Later Steve cooks up a pair of delicious hamburgers. We have a couple beers and kick back in the living room.

“Let’s plan the menu,” I say. Steve’s game. I play secretary. The resulting list has all the usual suspects: pumpernickel with spinach dip; Samosas; Nacho dip; bacon roll-ups; crab dip; meatballs; cold cuts; shrimp; cheese and crackers; veggie tray; oysters; pate…

“Hey, let’s go get the groceries tonight,” he suggests. I pull my revised up-to-date TO-DO list out of my shirt pocket. It reads:

Friday: unpack all remaining boxes; purge unwanted books and belongings (Goodwill?); break down and recycle boxes; plan party menu; organize bedroom; buy beer & booze; clean windows, mirrors, glass tables, etc; clean bathrooms; dust; vacuum; email map & directions to all YES and MAYBE guests; make ice; time permitting: organize den

“Um. What time is it?”

“Eight thirty,” says Steve. “If we leave now we can stop at the beer and liquor stores. Sobeys is open 24-hours.”

I take another dubious look at my to-do list. “Um. Okay.”

We pile 4 cases of beer empties into the trunk of the Mustang and fly.

At the liquor store I snatch 7 bottles of wine, 2 bottles of rum, 2 vodka and 1 Triple Sec. Steve has his own agenda.

We get to the beer store five minutes before closing and park in the middle of the empty lot. I start to open the passenger door but immediately close it again. Some woman is about to pull into the spot right next to ours. We’re surrounded by a sea of empty parking spots but this pea-brained bozo insists on parking immediately next to us. I wait patiently for her to settle her car into place then I jump out and take two steps toward the beer store before stopping and turning around. Steve is just opening the trunk.

“Aren’t you going to help?” he asks. But he’s already smiling. He knows exactly what I’m doing. By standing where I am I’m blocking Miss Peabrains from opening her door to get out.

“Oh. Yeah. Sure.” I take my time sauntering over in slow motion.

We leave with a 28 pack of Blue and twelves of Steam Whistle, Brahma and Alexander Kieths I.P.A. None of that omnipresent buck-a-beer vat-crap for us. Laker or whatever. I’d rather lick bird shit off a Cadillac than drink that swill. I'm not kidding. It's absolutely disgusting - that stuff.

At the Sobeys we grab a cart and start at the produce section. I pass on the fresh mint. It’s all spotty. I pick up a bag of organic pre-cut packaged carrots. They call those things baby carrots but I assure you that's untrue. They’re just big carrots cut up and whittled down.

“Real carrots or crazy carrots?” I ask.

“Crazy carrots. The less cutting we have to do, the better.” We move on. “Celery!”


“Red and green peppers!”


“Old goat testicles!”

I check off radishes.

“Shrooms. Wee tomatoes.”

“Check, check.” We scoop a variety of fresh fruits for Steve-o’s sangria and his Orange-You-Glad-I’m-Not-A-Banana Rum Punch, then we drift into the bakery section. “We need punkernipple and buns for the cold cuts.” Hmm. We look around.

“I don’t see any punkernipples.”

“Nor any buns for cold cuts.”

“Norwegian Blue?”

“Venezuelan Beaver cheese?”

All the shelves of the bakery section are in fact entirely empty. We find a rolling bargain rack laden with assorted bread-like drudgeries.

“This stuff blows,” says Steve. “Let’s get the bread tomorrow.”

“Agreed. And the mint.”

“What mint?”

“For mojitos.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Next stop - the deli. We go nuts on meats and cheeses.

Frozen section. We snap up a few boxes of frozen jalapino poppers and cheese sticks as contingency - in case we run out of the other stuff. Then we inspect the frozen meatballs. There are two varieties. Same brand.

"Italian or Swedish meatballs?" Steve asks.

"I dunno. Whatever's better for a sweet sauce. I'm thinkin' teriyake."

"Teriyake sounds good." He holds a box of each - Italian and Swedish. He shrugs.

"Read the ingredients."

"Beef, water, mono-something-or-other, gluco-something-or-other, artificial flavor, random carcinogens, onion, garlic. That's the Italian."

"And the Swedish?"

"Beef, water, mono-something-or-other, gluco-something-or-other, artificial flavor, random carcinogens, onion, garlic."

"What the fuck's the difference?"

"I dunno, man. I guess one has Italian garlic and one has Swedish garlic."

"Hmm. Take the Swedish garlic. The Swedes were less annoying during the World Cup."

"Good point."

We're off and running now, building momentum. Two bricks of cream cheese. Three tubs of sour cream, a package of mock crab, a pack of Pillars pepperettes. Mmm. I loves those things. The cart is filling up fast. Cases of pop. Frozen and bottled juices, a couple shrimp rings. I'm getting hungry just looking at all this stuff.

"Let's make our own cocktail sauce," I say.

"For sure."

"Horseradish and ketchup."

"I got extra spicy ketchup at home."

"I'll get some regular ketchup then."

"Okay," says Steve, "If you want everyone to know you're a pussy and you can't handle the spicy stuff."

"Um. Okay then."

Onion soup mix, frozen spinach, teriyake marinade, assorted crackers, garlic-stuffed olives, feta-stuffed hot peppers. The list goes on and on. We've got a serious heaping effect growing out of this shopping cart. I'm getting seriously hungry.

"Where the hell's the horseradish?"

"I dunno. Every grocery store keeps it somewhere different. It's the bane of every grocery shopper."

We split up to go looking for the elusive horseradish. Alone at last I rip into the pepperettes and mow down. We wander all over the store catching glimpses of each other and trading shrugs. I finally discover the horseradish hiding among the eggs in an isolated eggs-and-horseradish end-cap section. Very creative, you Sobey folks. Bravo.

We meet up at the checkout. The cashier is young and cute. She raises her eyebrows at the state of our cart. She looks mildly alarmed.

"I'll warn you - it's my first week on the job," she says. Steve shifts into prowling gear on instinct. He saunters down to the debit machine area and chats her up while I load up the belt.

"Keep an eye on the total," I say. "Make sure we don't go over ten dollars!" They laugh. Steve-o nods as he laughs - very sauve-like. I try to stay organized. Frozen stuff, then chilled, then cans and bottles. I save the produce for last. Everything goes on with the barcode facing the cashier. "Oops!" I hear her say.

"Hey Rich," says Steve. "You lost a couple sausages!" I turn to look. The girl has two of my pepperettes in her hand.

"The bag was open," she says. "These ones fell out. Should I throw them away or put them back in the package?"

"Where did they land?"

"Right here on the scanner."

"Oh. Uh. What else has been on the scanner?"

"Pretty much everything in the store, I guess."

"Oh. That's fine. Put them back in the package." She does.

"Sorry about that," says Steve. "Nothing gets in the way of my friend here when he's hungry. It was either that or he'd have eaten some of your customers." They laugh. Steve grins wolfishly. His teeth sparkle.

The total is $275. I offer to pay by debit. While I wrestle with the debit machine the youngsters continue their oral exchange.

"So, um - do you guys live together?" There's something unmistakable in the tone of her voice. She thinks we're a couple. Steve detects it too of course. He panics just a bit. Slips out of cool mode.

"Well - we work together so - we thought we should move in together."

This strikes me as absolutely absurd. And Steve knows at once that he's blown it.

I want to immediately add: 'Yeah, because - you know - we couldn't get enough of each other!' But this strikes me as so uproariously funny that I can't get the words out. I'm literally laughing so hard at my own joke that I can't say the joke. I'm utterly incapacitated. Steve's right there with me. We're both laughing so hard we're crying. I'm trying to put my debit card back in my wallet but I can barely see it through the tears. We finally squeeze the last of the shopping bags onto the cart and we stumble out the door and into the parking lot and we're still doubled over in fits of giggles. People are staring at us. They clearly think we're on drugs.

Oh well. We had a good time.

More on the party later.


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