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When Jan came home and saw the invitation for The Counter Party on the counter, she picked it up and came into the living room.
-When did we get this ?
-Three days ago.
-And you didn’t tell me ?
-We aren’t going.
She looks at me like I jumped into bed with her mother. She goes
-It’s a bunch of college radicals getting high and drunk…
-What difference would that be from other parties we go to ?
-…and to complain about how consumerism is the devil…
-I recall a certain someone being one of those…
-I’ve grown up.
I got up from the couch and took the card.
-And there are some messed up people that go to this thing.
-When was the last time you went ?
-Three years ago, that summer you went to Turin ? I couldn’t get the smell of grass out of my clothes for a month.
-Well, I want to go. I haven’t seen Roger for a long time.
She took the card back and went to the bathroom. She says over her shoulder that it’s decided.
It had started off as an after class thing, held at Roger’s because he had the biggest house. The group called themselves The Prolies. The original members were the ones that vandalized the mall with spray paint, toilet paper, and dirty diapers in protest against the norm. That was ten years ago.
They stood for freedom from consumerism, and the destruction of society and humanity from the greedy sons of bitches that ruled us. According to Roger.
The Prolies got their name from the word Proletariat. They believed they fought the parts of the machine that kept the poor and working people down and dependent on consumerism.
I wondered why Roger kept holding these parties. He had gotten married. I wondered if it counted that he had married a radical, just like himself, and maybe it was something she liked too. I could only imagine their children. I should’ve been afraid of how the party would turn out.
-Ernie and Jan, so very kick ass that you made it !
Roger and his wife, Gretchen answered the door. They each hug and kiss us. I give Roger his favorite scotch.
-You found the place alright ?
-New address so it took a bit of looking.
-I’m really sorry that we didn’t tell you earlier, we’ve just been so busy.
And Jan goes
-We’re just glad that you didn’t forget to send the invite.
Roger throws an arm around me and we head to the kitchen for drinks.
This wasn’t the party I remembered. Everybody was drinking cocktails and martinis while listening to lounge music, instead of beer and shots and listening to Fish or Burning Man. They were dressed in suits and skirts. They were young professionals, with pink dyed hair, piercings, tattoos on hands, legs, and ankles. I caught snatches of conversation about stocks, interest rates, government policy, and religious influences.
We get to the kitchen and Roger pulls out a pair of Ikea glasses. I tell him that we had the same set at home.
-Yeah. They were on special. And they look great, don’t they ?
He opens the scotch and pours it over water.
-To The Prolies. Long may they continue.
We take a drink.
-Can’t believe you’re still doing these.
-Hey, man. It would be wrong and a betrayal of the group if I didn’t.
-Not exactly the same type of crowd, though…
-How you mean ?
-They look like yuppies more than revolutionists.
-Can’t judge a book…
We take a drink.
-So how’s you and Gretchen ?
-You kidding, me ? Congratulations !
We clink glasses. He goes into the cabinet and pulls out a bottle of Grey Goose vodka, and makes us screwdrivers. I rejoin Jan in the living room. She’s sitting on the couch.
-This couch is a Brenton. I think it’s designed by Poltrona Frau.
-That coffee table ? A genuine Cattelan Italia
-Roger bought this ?
-Gretchen said they went to Los Angeles. Had it custom made.
-Gretchen showed me the baby’s room. The clothes are from Gap.
-Every single one of them.
That’s when the screaming started.
A young woman had walked in with a few of her friends. They couldn’t have been any older than juniors in college. One of them was wearing a bright red jacket with the letters CCCP on the front.
A woman in a black dress with purple hair started yelling.
-Why would you wear something like that ?
-What’s your problem ?
-My problem is that you’re wearing a fucking advertisement for cruelty and dictatorship.
-This jacket cost more than your shitty little purse did.
Another woman wearing a navy business suit, eyebrow ring and chin stud joined in.
-What’s cost got to do with anything ? You’re here for the wrong reasons.
-The former Soviet Union is counter-culture.
A man wearing a suit and a blue Mohawk on his head calls out.
-It was counter culture at a cost of millions of lives. You should keep up with the times. Communism isn’t on the list of what we’re about.
As he says this, I glance at the coffee table and remember the last time I was here I had seen copies of the Communism Manifesto, What Is To Be Done and Essential Writings by Lenin, and that little red book that Mao Tse-Tsung wrote. Now there were only design magazines, Wallpaper, Ready-Made, Architectural Digest.
The girl wearing the Soviet jacket goes
-I’m just here to have fun, until this bitch got in my face.
She shoves her finger at the woman with the purple hair, who throws a punch that connects on the side of the faux communist’s head. Her two friends react by grabbing purple hair, but the woman with the piercings and the Mowhawk-dude with the Armani suit, jump in and a brawl starts.
Roger and Gretchen come running. He’s yelling at the brawling crowd, and she’s yelling at everybody because somebody broke the Catellan Italia coffee table. For a moment I watch as Roger gives up on trying to stop the fighting, and instead tries to help out his wife as she grabs all of the valuables, the Royal Dolton figurines, the Swarovski crystal, the vintage Barcalounger recliner designed by Raymond Loewry.
Things break and crack. Smacking sounds are coming from the pile of fighting bodies spread out all over the living room. There’s blood on the cherry wood hardwood floor.
Jan sits there stunned. A guy whose tie has been pulled apart, comes at her and I punch him. He goes down and I grab Jan. On our way out, I step on something that makes me slip, but I catch my balance and pull Jan behind me.
Jan and I say nothing in the car. At home I take off my shoe and find out that I had stepped on a tooth. It had imbedded itself into my sole. When we’re settling into bed, Jan says
-They have a nice place.
-They aren’t even supposed to have all of that designer stuff.
-Isn’t that the opposite of what they’re supposed to be ?
-The party should’ve been everybody wrecking the high-end furniture instead of each other.
-Was it always like that ?
One year later, I find the invitation dumped through our mail slot. Roger’s holding it at a hall he rented out. Jan comes home and we almost bump each other in the doorway.
-What’s that ?
-Invitation from Roger.
She grabs the card and tears it in two and hands it back to me. Then goes
-Is it at his place again ?
-He rented a hall.
-Did he ban all Communist clothing this time ?
-Of course not, that would be against counter culture, wouldn’t it ?
-Wouldn’t be as fun either.
Jan looked at me with the meanest stare. I quickly tossed the card in the trash.