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So I'm having dinner at this new hot spot somewhere in the city, not sure where, the industrial part of town. There are 14 of us, although only 7 or so have shown up. At the other end the chairs are filled. Fold-up white chairs, the kind they use at weddings. Avril Lavigne is there, and my high school buddy Pete. His hair is perfect, just like he used to wear it back in the day, stick straight and to the level of his jawline, like a surfer bob. I catch my reflection in the mirror. My hair is dyed black and slicked back. I look like a greasy Italian.

Two places are reserved at the other end for my parents who have yet to show up. Reservations were at 8, it's now 9, and the entrees are coming out. I think of calling them, am at the point of reaching for my phone, which is in my blazer pocket. I look around for my brother but he hasn't shown up either. My end of the table is pretty empty. On my right is Masees Mamikunian, the Armenian boy I went to grammar school with. We also went to high school together, not the one I attended with Pete, but Loyola. As he loads his plate with rich food I hand him the pasta dish. He declines it. I look at his plate and see there a biscuit and two halves of a sesame bagel smothered with butter. I think to myself, if you went easier on the carbs, you could have at least tried the spaghetti. But I say nothing.

Later Madonna stops by on her Harley. My back is to her and I don't turn to greet her. Figure I'll play this one close to the chest. Be cool. She approaches, addresses me by name, and tells me what we'd be having for the main course. Fancy dishes from some celebrated chef. She looks older in the face. It's not really her, I tell myself. Only a digitally enhanced version, her face projected from a flat-screen computer monitor and below it a cyborg's body with those insect like legs. Leave it to the material girl to take advantage of modern science. I hang out with Billy Joel Armstrong, the leader singer of the band Green Day. I'm running my fingers through his hair, close-cropped and curly. Only now we are in my garden overlooking the hillside with some dude. This is some party.

As the place gets hoppin' the drinks are flowing and the drugs get passed around. I don't touch my food and pass on the peace pipe. Avril look-alike leaves her boyfriend's side and begins to flirt with me, chatting me up all close and familiar. Then she does the hottest thing. She takes a hit off her crack pipe and kissing me on the lips blows the smoke in my mouth. Then she smiles at me real sexy and looks over to the other end of the table. And this is how I smoke crack for the first time. Like I said, it is some party.

"I see what you're doing," I tell her. I give her a lecture on how a proper woman should behave. Don't be so petty, so coy, I say. Don't think I'm not onto you. You're trying to make your man jealous by talking to me. I see you keep looking over at him, hoping he's noticing, wondering if he's jealous, or who he is talking to. I advise two things. First, if you have something to say, Avril, speak from fact not from opinion. Two, stand by your man. I mean sit by his side and listen to what he has to say, nod in support of his views. That's what a man wants. To feel looked up to, flattered. (That and a decent screw.)  That's how to keep your guy, in case you want to know. She nods. I feel we are getting somewhere.

Things get rowdy fast. I say hello to another high school chum, Charlie. The prior night we had gotten into a fist fight and I had beaten him into a bloody pulp, but now he looks OK. He's a fast healer. My parents never show up. A couple of guests want to know what these dishes of Madonnas are, because they are real tasty. They look to me to supply an answer. I have forgotten their names, I say, but the chef is one Mazzi. This seems to satisfy them.

A mosh pit has formed in the back yard (the restaurant has a yard, it seems) adjacent to our table. Partygoers thrashing about, going crazy. I see Scott Ian from the heavy metal band Athrax. He is wearing shorts and a flannel shirt, and he's convulsing. He falls to the ground, blood streaming from his mouth. I think he's bitten his tongue pretty bad. His teeth are chattering so.

I pull out my phone and dial 911. I tell the operator that my friend has had a seizure, and please come immediately. He is awake but not alert or oriented, I say. My medical school training coming in handy. And bleeding profusely. Has he taken any drugs or ingested any substance, the voice wants to know. Earlier I had witnessed Scott injecting something that Avril or another Avril look-alike had given him. My friends are pretty wild. Now they are my friends? I the sober one! I ask around and find out that it was crystal meth, the same thing I had just smoked with Avril. I think. By revealing this I'll also be implicating myself. Technically I am also high, though I feel fine. Better than fine. Really clear. Effect of the drugs maybe. Would the authorities come and run me in as well? Who cares. My man Ian is in dire need of assistance.

Then the line cuts out and I can't get a signal. Ian comes to enough to say no ambulance and fights me on my urge to call back. So we help him into the back, where there are these hot water baths. He takes a plunge and then his friends put him in a full-body plaster cast. They say it helps with the shakes. Then, sirens coming from the front of the house. (We are now somehow at a house party.) I knew it. The authorities have traced my call. I can see the flashing lights from the front as I go in back and help Ian to his feet. He has plaster on his face, and his head is so heavy from it he almost topples over. We arrive at the front, which is actually the back of the house, looking out onto a dirty alley, to find not an ambulance but a red van with its top sliced off. The driver, who I instantly recognize as that Korean guy from the TV show, spots me and starts driving around like a maniac, darting and dashing around me, and with a dexterity I can't believe. Man that truck can handle. Talk about stopping on a dime, and spinning around? It was like from some cartoon. I never fear for my life, but he could have killed me! He drives off.

So false alarm. No ambulance, and Ian goes back to the hot baths. He looks much better. But we'll have to be on alert, since the cops could come at any time. I look at my watch. 7:59 am. The sun has risen. Have we been here all night? Is it time to go home? Someone wants to pop in a DVD. A crowd has gathered around me as I tell them about what went down. Close call. Glad Ian is all right. For now. Where are my people? My girlfriend? Who did I come with anyway? And I hope my parents are all right. Why did they never show up? I must find my people. A guy I went to med school with, Michael, looks at me and says, "Man this sure is some party." Before I can reply I feel the urge to urinate so I wake up and the dream ends.

But it was so real! All generated from my mind. This happened just last night, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I had to play over all my experiences. But really, they weren't experiences at all. Just thoughts projected by the mind. But isn't that what life is? Just a thought masquerading as reality. Like the dream that in its time shines as real only when awakening to be seen as fantasy. The only constant between waking and sleep? This I. The consciousness which perceives. Which witnesses.

Now I could analyze the contents of the dream and identify it as an amalgamation of people and events I've experienced in my waking hours. How I'm a part-time fan of Anthrax, having seen them on MTV and browsed YouTube videos though I've never met the band members but I've actually met Madonna and with all her surgery she is becoming as plastic as a cyborg is metal and how yesterday I was listening to Green Day's 2004 album American Idiot, and Avril has been my secret crush since about 2007 so there's some wish fulfillment there and the table set-up was very much like my friend Steve's birthday at that hip place in Hollywood back in 1998 and the back yard house party was just like the bashes my friends and I used to throw just out of college. And there was the part of the dream, I forgot to mention it, when we got ready at a hotel, a scene I borrowed from a real-life trip to Vegas I took with my fellow interns six years ago. And I have been to parties that last till the sun comes up. And how just the other day I saw a dead squirrel lying in the road, blood oozing from its head.

I could go on, about how my friend Pete was really my brother, GT, and my worrying about the seating arrangement was some concealed concern over who was more popular, and . . . but why bother with these details! So what if the whole scenario was merely a mental construct, a figment of my imagination with me thrust in the center of the action, all as insubstantial as thin air though at the time as heavy as the plaster on Ian's head. Because damn if it wasn't some party!

And yet there is no party without the one to perceive it. Focus on that. My friends and I (including Pete with the great hair who is now bald - by choice) used to say that wherever we went, we brought the party with us, so we were always sure of having a good time. And it's true. There's no festivity without the one to experience it. Be fixed as the experiencer. Never forget yourself. Be that and you bring the party with you wherever you go. Without you there is no party. Because you are the party.

Now excuse me while I go find Avril. I hope she takes my advice about how to keep a man. Because if she does, we'll be getting along just fine.


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