Prodigious Phoenician Party
Phoenix, United States
I owed it to an old friend to take a layover in Arizona as I passed through the country—combine that rare occasion, with my birthday weekend and a man named Babak and you've got a powder keg of entertainment waiting to go off.
Indulging In Sacrificed Pleasures
What a feeling it is to drive a car. Remember back to those days when you had just received your driving license—you wanted to drive every chance you got. You were saturated in feelings of independence, empowerment, and control. Driving for the first time since 2005, I felt the rush of these things all over again, every time I got behind the wheel.
I'm fortunate to have a driver's license from the good state of Arizona, as it doesn't expire or need a bit of renewing until my 65th birthday—in the year 2045! This means I can drive legally in this country for what might as well be the rest of my life.
Babak (pronounced Bah-back) has not only given me full access to his vehicles, but to his excellent wardrobe. I'm wearing delicious designer threads at all hours of the day, regardless how casual the setting. I pack only one pair of tan, military-grade pants and shorts around with me; it's so exhilarating to slip a pair of jeans on—wow.
My bedroom in Babak's house is big enough to hold 12–16 bunked backpackers, the shower has three independent heads (mmm, excessive warm water on demand), and B even tossed me an extra cellphone to use while I'm in town. I feel like a rock star.
America, The Insouciant
It's fascinating to observe the behavioral differences between the nightlife in the United States versus that of Latin America. Bouncing around a dozen-plus popular nightclubs and bars in trendy Scottsdale with Babak, I can't help but note how carefree and unguarded everyone is.
The girls freely make eye contact with whomever, the guys are so wildly passive and non-aggressive (hardly any hand-grabbing or forceful, in-your-face machismo posturing), hands cover drinks only to keep them from spilling (and not for fear of drugging), purses are left unprotected in corners, and the idea of a pickpocket working the crowd is as distant a thought as someone waiting to follow and ambush them after they leave.
What a time it would be if a nightclub could combine the pick-up line free conversation starters of travelers abroad—saying hello and asking where someone is from is all you need—with the relaxed and unworried environment found here in the U.S.
An Offer Extended, A Hurt Forgiven, A Friendship Healed
It's been a few years since the friendship between my brother, Glenn, and Babak had a falling out. Glenn moved out of Arizona to work at a hospital in Oregon for a spell (while he applied to and selected a medical school); next to no communication has been had between them since.
It was the night of the 12th, my birthday, when Babak and I got to talking about Glenn. B had wanted to mend the damage done for some time, and made an offer that took me by surprise. He proposed to fly Glenn out from Omaha to Phoenix for 24 hours so that he could see me—something that sadly wasn't going to happen on this trip through the U.S.—and, of course, indulge in the party he throwing. Glenn couldn't afford to fly out on his own, and I wondered what he'd think of such an offer.
Ultimately Glenn's schedule was shuffled, a last-minute flight was booked, and a smile stretched across my face upon seeing my 'lil brother in Phoenix (and on pleasant terms with Babak). Things were indeed shaping up for one helluva weekend.
Babak, anxiously counting the days to my arrival in town, phoned me in Miami and spilled the beans on the extravagant birthday party he was organizing/throwing on my behalf. The last time he put something like this together was many years ago in Oregon, and with far fewer resources than he has available today. The Oregon party was massive, and as he listed off the arrangements I felt my jaw drop as I wondered what type of mania we'd be finding ourselves in the middle of.
A sampling of the multi-thousand dollar arrangements…
- An open bar stocked with premium liquors, complete with bartender
- A shot-luge (an ice sculpture of a woman, engineered to sip shots of booze from between her legs) and a girl to pour the shots
- Catering by a Persian restaurant
- A birthday cake created in the likeness of a passport
- A chauffeured party bus for 30 VIP's when the party relocated from his house to the nightclubs of Scottsdale
- Professional photographers
- Patio furniture rental
- Party planner
- And of course the indoor/outdoor sound system installation to compliment the ginormous flat screen television being mounted on a wall
Flashing forward a few days from that phone call finds both my brother and I reunited Babak's home—now growing with activity in a beautiful April evening. The crowd tended to shift back and forth between the backyard patio (where the bartender was serving up people's choice of poison), to the shot-luge (when enough people were wrangled up to collectively take a turn between the sculpture's icy legs).
The energy in the house was so overwhelmingly positive, and my close friend John and his wife stepped through the door to the house just as Babak quickly ad-libbed an entertaining little speech. The candles on the likewise amusing passport cake were blown out, and the festivities kicked into high gear.
Drink, laugh, drink. Flirt, chat, flirt. —Strike a pose for the camera— Pose, chat, drink, flirt, pose.
At some point people starting coming up to me, asking to get let on the booze bus (which was apparently at capacity). Babak had been running around, marking the hands of those that matched whatever criteria he was working off of. What could I do but tell them to try and go talk to the man. The departure of the party bus from the house marked the start of a lot of unnecessary stress for Babak, and the end of his good time. As for me, this is when the fun little devil horns I brought back from Carnival in Brazil made their grand re-appearance.
GET OFF THE BUS—Babak's exclaimed words that soon became synonymous with my seeming inability to exit the booze bus when it was mere moments away from being ticketed for loitering in front of the nightclubs. People vacated the vehicle while I kept drinking and chatting to folks —unaware that the bus (and consequently Babak) would be issued a fine. None were given, but the tension was building for B.
Imagine the chaos of unloading 40 (intoxicated) people in front of a busy nightclub. Babak was designated the go-to guy for problems by default, and there were plenty.
The party scattered when we hit the first club; even the photographers were having a hard time locating people from our group to shoot. People weren't issued VIP bracelets, and didn't understand what upstairs entrance was admitting our group (including me). B decided to cut our losses, recalled the booze bus, and rounded up as many as he could. Looking around the bus as we jumped to the next club, it was apparent there were a lot stowaways on board that didn't belong.
Humm, was it at this point in the night that the televisions in the vehicle switched off of music videos and Scarface and started playing pornography?
The bus emptied for a second time into Devil's Martini, an old haunt (and still personal favorite) of mine. Bottles service and a private cabana were arranged (unbeknownst to a wandering me, for some time), and the evening rocketed forward.
Devil's was shutting down as the remains of our party loaded back into the bus. A rowdy bunch by this point—pole tricks, some unnecessary nudity, and a lot of smiles.
Back at Babak's house, a Mongolian hoard would have been impressed with the way the Persian food from hours earlier was ruthlessly devoured by the remaining guests—I can't ever remember seeing such a thing, en mass.
Some folks drove or took taxis home, others slept over. Lots of smiles, laughs, and stories of pleasure and frustration filled the house the following morning. Sorry 'bout that whole bus thing B—and thank you for enabling an unforgettable birthday experience.
Familiar Faces, Big Hugs
I had considered keeping my travels through Phoenix as discreet as possible—I'd already said so many goodbyes, and didn't enjoy the thought of going through that again. But at the same time I knew some would be particularly miffed if they found out I was in town for a week and didn't tell them, so I casually leaked word that I was nearby.
My days in Phoenix were totally filled (funny how that happens), but the smiling faces of those who I surprised (or arranged to make time for me in their schedules) were wonderful to see again. So many well wishes; so much love.
The Generosity of Babak
Who needs a big group of friends, when I have one Babak—words spoken as B dropped me off at the airport curb this afternoon.
I'm a firm believer that out of the core of close friends you keep, each person embodies different attributes of your own personality. When you look at your friends as a whole, you might see yourself reflected back. Time spent with just one can be radically different than time spent with another, as different parts of your personality are accentuated with each.
This past week I've felt like a playboy, and over the next few days I'll feel like a little kid again. Cocktails will be replaced with video game controllers; mayhem with movies. I'm off to visit with a close friend from my undergraduate years, now living in Los Angeles.