duck-shaped pain


28 January 2001
Real Live Celebrity Kegger!

One of the goals I set when starting this journal was to find new stories to tell. To expand the repertoire. To find different things to talk about when someone new and I are getting to know each other.

You see, I have a pretty decent selection of good stories. Not yarns or tall tales, mind you, but actual things that have happened to me – things that I thought were pretty routine and uninteresting until I started to tell people about them. [1] From the reactions I got, I discovered that they weren’t the kind of average Joe tale I thought they were, and started to tell them more and more.

Well, when you repeat something over and over again, it gets sort of old. Eventually, I got sick of my stories and put an inner moratorium on telling them or even thinking about them for awhile. I need to develop some new material, I thought, and have been living as randomly as possible ever since in an attempt to make this happen.

The other day, the topic of one of my stories came up. I was talking on the phone to someone and he reminded me of said story, one that I had told him years ago at a party. He had been thinking of it recently, and was bummed to find that the written version of it he had saved vanished somehow. [2]

He’s like, "You should totally tell that story again. Write it out and send it to me. Or put it on in that journal thing so I won’t lose it again. Besides, it could be more interesting than some of the things you’ve been coming up with lately." [3]

I can’t argue with logic like that. So anyway, as a disclaimer: some of you out there will have heard this story before. Feel free to skip it if you want. But most of you have not (like my mom). Enjoy, or whatever.

I’ve written a couple of times here about the fascinating weekend pursuits of Grand Valley teens. Drinking, drinking in the dirt, driving around drunk, going out for pancakes post-drinking, terrorizing other states, operating meth labs, things like that. Oh – I forgot one: forming little social groups that are bitterly opposed to all other little self-selected groups. Even though everyone shares the same limited repertoire of basic activities, social life in the Valley can be highly factionalized. You go out with your friends and your friends alone, and all others are suspect until sniffed out and approved of. [4]

However, every once in a great while, something happens to bring all the youth in valley together. Something big. Something exciting. Something like…

Ricky Schroeder’s Kegger

It doesn’t take much to get people excited where I live. Really, it doesn’t. New thrift store in town? Don’t even attempt to go in during its first week in business. Red Lobster [5] finally opens up a location nearby? Hundreds of people will line up the morning it opens just to have the honor of being one of the first people in the door. So you can probably imagine the kind of hubbub that a Real Live Celebrity moving to town would cause.

It was my junior year of high school – late 1989 to early 1990. My town had spent the better part of the previous decade in a serious economic slump, due to the collapse of the oil shale industry in the early 1980s. In the dark, even the dimmest of lights can be mistaken for the sun. So when teevee star Ricky [6] Schroeder and his family decided to buy a big-ass ranch on the outskirts of town, it was treated as something just several degrees less meaningful than the Second Coming. It's like the same thought flashed through everyone's head at once: hey, this place can't be too bad if even a minor celebrity [7] wants to live here, for whatever completely unknown reason.

So, during their first months in town, Mr. And Mrs. Schroeder were treated like the ex-sitcom royalty they were. They were wined and dined by what passes for cognoscenti in these parts, asked to appear at the openings of tire stores and pizza joints, and whispers and stares followed them wherever they went. Ricky even briefly attended classes at the local college. I later worked with someone who had a class with him. She confided in me that it was sometimes hard for her to concentrate in class, what with having a Real Live Celebrity sitting across the aisle from her.

This happened in the spring. Then spring turned into summer, and the mindless teen activities swung into full gear. People drove around aimlessly, went to parties, smoked and hooked up with each other, like usual. But somewhere in the midst of it all, a rumor started and spread rapidly in the guise of truth: that Ricky Schroeder was planning to host a kegger and every teen in the Grand Valley was invited. It seems improbable now, but at the time, everyone ferverently believed that this was true.

It was on a Friday in August of 1990. My friend J. gave me a call, wondering if I wanted to go see a movie with her. I gladly accepted, since I had been spending that summer so far in a near hermit-like state, relating much more to books and TV than to actual humans.

Once I was in the car with her, she told me that we should forget about going to the movie. According to her, the long-rumored celebrity kegger was set to go down that night and she was not going to miss it for the world. I need to add there that I was apparently the only person in town between the ages of 13 and 18 who had not heard about this party, so I gaped incredulously at J. while she filled me in on the details.

J. didn't want to drive, though. She had a lot of partying pent up in her and wanted to be free to let it go that night. I didn't want to drive, either, because I was smart (and because people laughed at my car). J. thought about it for a bit, and decided we should pay a visit to another friend of hers, one who also wanted to go.

"She'll drive," J. said. "She's a good driver."

I had never met this friend before. J. and I had been friends for two years and she had never even mentioned her before. So we drove around on windy roads, making our way to East Orchard Mesa to meet her friend.

I am a big proponent of using initials for names. But I won't here, because I'm writing about someone named Bambi. The irony of her name will be revealed later.

We get to Bambi's house, and she's standing outside, looking all gruff and disgruntled. Banish from your mind any image you have of what someone named Bambi might look like, for this one was about six feet tall, muy muscular and wore her hair in a mullet. She chewed. She wore only a pair of dingy hospital scrubs with the pants cut off at the knee. She wore a tragic pair of those horrible puffy white mid-1980s tennis shoes, the ones with contrasting laces and enormous tongues. Bambi looked like a out-of-work-steelworker-turned-liquor-store-clerk on her break. She disliked me instantly.

She greeted us. "Hey, J. Who's your wussy friend?" (Note: I was a wuss, at least comparatively) We all went inside to meet the fam, at least those members of the fam who were not passed out. The aroma of hot dogs and bongwater filled the air. The décor was Early Dorm Room, with posters of nekkid women straddling beers and/or automobiles tacked up everywhere. We hung out a bit. I got near-visibly uncomfortable, then we decided to head out for the vaunted kegger.

We would arrive at the party in style, for Bambi drove a mid-1970s blue Camaro. We also came prepared, because she grabbed a sixer of Schlitz on the way out of the house. Even then, I had good taste in beer, and refused to drink the stuff. I raised the ire of Bambi and for the first and probably last time in my life, got referred to as a beer-hating pussy. The ride out just went downhill from there, for I had to listen to Journey and Journey-related solo projects on the way. "Oh Sherri," to be precise. Bambi and J. were singing along. I, too, knew the words, but could not make them pass through my lips. Onward we drove.

The area where the Schroeder ranch was located was fairly remote. Driving there took awhile. First you had to leave town and drive up through the national monument on the outskirts of town, up through these cliffs and plateaus. One you got to the top, you took another road out to this tiny desert community, and then you would be sort of near where the ranch was. Even without the promise of a kegger, this area was popular with the youth: plenty of dirt and open space around where one could drink to oblivion in peace.

We drove up there through winding roads and with darkening skies above us. To me, who was timing the drive up there by how many times I had to listen to Steve Perry take it up another octave, it seemed like the longest drive in the world. When we finally arrived, there were kids and trucks and cars and noise everywhere.

But these were not happy people. They did not look like they had a party to look forward to. Bambi rolled down the window and asked some guys smoking by the side of the road what was happening.

"Oh, dude," one replied. He looked sad. "I don't think there is a party. I think he changed his mind."

The other guy had a brief moment of clarity and interrupted his friend. "No way, man, there was no party. Someone lied to us. Someone made it up."

This, of course, should have come as a surprise to no one. But hope can make people believe the strangest things. Like, yes, some random TV star is going to open up his ranch to hundreds of teens he doesn't even know and give them all unlimited amounts of beer and who knows what else. It's a powerful idea.

We sat there for a bit, watching all these people realize (in waves, not all at once) that there was to be no party. People started leaving, some looked like they were making other plans. A truck pulled up and its occupants asked us if we wanted to go hang out with them at some even more distant desert location. Bambi and J. thought it was a good idea, but by this point, I had Had Enough and demanded to go home or at least back to town. This sent a few more rounds of beer-hating pussy by way, but in the end, I won out. We headed back in the direction we came.

It was dark, and the road back was narrow and windy. It would have been slow-going had we been alone on the road, but at this moment, we were joined by hundreds of other sullen, party-deprived teens also driving back to town. We inched along, with Bambi cursing right and left at out situation. All of a sudden, though, something darted in front of the Camaro from the side of the road and then there was a big noise.

It was a deer. It made the mistake of running in front of Bambi's car and we hit it. Now it was laying in the middle of the road. Bambi stopped and turned off the car, which caused all the automobiles behind us to stop. Out of curiosity, people started getting out of their vehicles and gathering around the deer.

Did I mention that the deer was still alive, making dying-deer noises?

J. and Bambi got out of the car. I stayed inside. No one knew what to do about the deer. The assembled crowd threw out the most helpful suggestions they could, which ranged from "You should throw it over the cliff" to "Put it in the trunk and drive it home."

Finally, the consensus was reached that the deer should probably be put out of its misery. I mean, it was more or less already there. Surprisingly enough, no one was armed – odd for rural Colorado teenagers, I know. There were no other official weapons around, so Bambi just decided to make do. She rummaged around in the front seat of the Camaro and came out with a long piece of old metal car detailing.

This is where it gets ugly. And weird.

Bambi started to stab the deer with the detailing. Over and over. Blood went everywhere. On the car. On the windshield. Finally, the deed was done and the deer died and someone drug it over to the bushes. Bambi got back in the car, started it up and found that it won't go. The deer got its revenge, ultimately: the front axle of the Camaro was so dented from the collision that it would no longer go forward. Yay deer. We all got out of the car and pushed it to the side of the road so others can get through. But -- we still had to get back to town.

The truck behind us stopped, and two teen cowboys got out. "Hey," one of them said, "you can ride back to town with us. However, there's only room for one of you up in the cab. The other two will have to ride in the back." This was better than nothing, so we agreed. I was already hated by the other two, so I made sure to volunteer to ride in the front.

J. and Bambi climbed in the back, and I started to open the door of the truck. "Hold on," the other said to me. "I have to get my sister out first."

All I can think of is What?

He reaches in the truck, fiddles around in there for awhile, and drags out…this girl.

From the waist up, she looks like your average sister of a rural teen cowboy. Big hat, stringy permed hair, fringes shirt. But from the waist down, something is missing. She has no legs. Nothing beyond the pelvis. But what derriere there was clad in pale pink Rockies, a really heinous brand of jeans favored by the female members of the local cowboy subculture, distinguished by their non-blue colors, front pleats, lack of rear pockets and one big seam that ran right up the middle of the butt, between the cheeks. A less-flattering style of pants you have never seen.

"Hi," she said to me, waving. Her brother was holding her nearly over his head.

I got in the cab. Sister was placed next to me. Cowboy 1 and Cowboy 2 got in and we started the long drive towards town. It was a very unpleasant drive. Sure, my cabmates were pleasant enough, and once they figured out that me and J. were from the rival high school, their mood turned cordial yet icy. We listened to country music, Sister kept leaning on me and all I could think was please let me get out of here soon.

Finally, we got back to Bambi's house. J. drove me home, and I was glad to arrive, finally. People didn't really talk about the party that never was after that. It was sort of mutually disacknowledged among everyone, and paled in comparison (for most) to parties that actually took place. Life went on.

Most never did run into Ricky Schroeder. I did, once, on a flight to my hometown. I resisted the urge to go over to him and tell him that his kegger was the best I'd ever been to. I swear.

[1] Or, rather, until I started to tell people outside of my hometown (once I left) about them. Anyone living here would regard them as utterly normal, ordinary stories.

[2] I wrote it out about four years ago, stray copies found its way to people, mysteriously.

[3] I had been complaining about this earlier in the conversation, so this comment did not come out of the blue, completely uninvited.

[4] I’m sure this happens everywhere, really.

[5] Ick.

[6] Oops. Sorry. Rick.

[7] During this time, Silver Spoons had long been off the air, and NYPD Blue was a long way off, so Mr. Schroeder was not doing much at all with his career.

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