I always seem to miss all the real fun. Perhaps it’s because I avoid the hordes. You’ll rarely catch me at a convention or convocation of any kind?the downside outweighs the benefits. Beware those who seek constant crowds: They are nothing alone.

But last night I accepted an invitation to the Kubert School’s graduation party because the soiree was being staged at the quasi-fraternity home of artist Pat Parnell, a young star-in-the-making whose work you’ll be seeing soon. Pat’s one of the talented co-designers on The Uncanny Dave Cockrum Tribute.

I was hoping to see a lot of old faces?particularly Joe Kubert and Irwin Hasen?but apparently these past masters knew what to expect and stayed home, leaving more shoulder room for younger folk, all that promising new talent bubbling over. And the extra room was appreciated?it was a hot summer night and at certain points, the shindig was wall-to-wall people, standing-room only, sardine-packed beneath a haze of smoke, the tell-tale aroma of sandalwood, with beer flowing from three kegs and loud music coming at you from various sources, including an impromptu guitar jam session. A noisy foosball game drew a huge crowd and created a startling mammary mecca in the middle of the mingle. Made you wish you had more hands. In all, a good party. Better than good, actually. Especially when two of the girls started making out.

“You don’t see that everyday,” I said to one of the young guys at the bar.

“Maybe you don’t,” he said.

As the evening progressed, the stars came out: Mike Kraiger, Darren Auck (former Marvel art director), caricaturist Brian Buniak, Fernando Ruiz of Archie?all instructors these days at the legendary Kubert dojang. The crowd parted for Adam Kubert, who walked in looking like Clark Kent, buff and cool.

I poured myself another Jack Daniels and found a comfortable cranny behind the bar with my host Pat, his housemate Howard, and “Rickman” Celano, the other designer on the Cockrum tribute. Could hardly peel my eyes off the brunette who’d kissed the blonde. All around us, this awful, painful, blaring, bass-heavy, machinegun-drum laden skinhead oi oi shit-track.

“What do you think of the music?” Pat screamed into my ear.

“Sounds like a pogrom,” I screamed back. “Forget the music?who’s the gorgeous brunette by the window?”

“Which one?”

“The one who sucked face with the blonde.”

“That’s Kate,” said Pat. “Howard’s ex-girlfriend.”

I looked over at Howard. The guy had a whole new aura. “Ex?” I asked him, impressed. “What in the world would possess you to dump that?”

“She had issues.”

“They’ve all got issues, pal.”

“She’s bulimic,” he shouted above the music.

“It’s not contagious,” I shouted back.

“Stop looking at my niece like that!” Adam Kubert suddenly yelled at someone.

And so forth. All night long, as the music grew louder, and the smoke grew thicker, and the crowd grew denser, and one fella collapsed inconveniently on the floor forcing the other party-dwellers to step over him. When I realized I’d somehow switched from Jack to Tequila, I figured it was time to go home.

Then Pat phoned this morning. I was surprised to get the call?figured his hangover was at least half mine.

“After you left, I got into a fight,” he said.

“No shit,” I said.

“Yeah, some guy said something out of line and the next thing I know, I have a black eye and he has a split lip. The whole place erupted into a brawl.”

Like I said, I always seem to miss all the real fun.

© 2004, Clifford Meth

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