Party On/Party Off: The Politics of Having a Good Time


Late Friday/early Saturday: It's a quarter to one, and I can't sleep. Not because I'm having a good time, but because somebody else is. House party music is thumping DJ-style somewhere slightly east and south of me...maybe on my block, maybe just behind it. Not heavy-duty rap but dance music, big on the bass and infectious really.

It doesn't exactly bother me. I used to throw parties myself more that went on until 2 a.m. or so, though I was quite a bit younger and I lived in an apartment on a main street, where the music and other joyful noise tended to blend in with the traffic on Olympic Boulevard, even into the wee hours. But what I did felt festive, not criminal. I was sure my neighbors felt the same way.

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I make up my mind and call the cops non-emergency department. I am instantly ridden with guilt. I'm shutting down some neighbors' good time, I'm racially profiling. What Inglewood needs is more good times, not paranoid homeowners eternally obsessed about property values and potential violence rather than trust and community. About 20 minutes later, the feel-good music falls to a whisper, then stops altogether. The silence feels almost sullen. I got what I wanted, but feel like I've cut a throat. I sleep, but not with any great satisfaction.

Saturday afternoon: I'm at a UCLA Black Alumni fundraiser reception at a very tony address in a neighborhood west of the university and east of Palisades. The kind of block that doesn't have too many sidewalks because residents frankly don't want folks who don't actually live there walking around. Beautiful but somewhat inhospitable. I'm leaving the reception, standing at the curb with the valets, one of whom is retrieving my car. Two police cruisers are inching up and down the street near this house, which is mansion-like. The vast majority of attendees of this reception are black, as are the valets. One of them is a philosophy major at UCLA who's in the middle of debating the benefits of law school with a fellow valet. The first valet says the cops have been cruising past the house for at least as long as the party's been going. True, the valet line slowed down street traffic a bit, but the reception is in full swing and that traffic is long over. The cruisers are keeping a watch on something else...potential violence, no doubt.

Saturday night: My husband and I gather with about a dozen other people for a surprise party at an apartment complex near LAX, on the border of El Segundo. It's a sweet 16 celebration for my neighbor, a girl who's been living in foster homes. Years ago she moved in on the block, quiet and tentative, and now she writes detailed poetry and runs track for her high school. The party is in the rec room of this complex, which is enormous; we all have to go through a warren of hallways to get there. I tell my husband I'm sure we'll never find our way back out. The complex is nice in that faux-luxe kind of way--capacious with all the amenities, but a bit sterile.

The party is a resounding success. Tycine is genuinely surprised. The DJ plays hip hop, funk and Caribbean music, not too loud but loud enough to signal to anybody walking by that a serious celebration is under way. Tenants who pass the rec room look through the plate glass curiously, drawn in by the music. They're not disapproving, but they look a bit removed, like they're seeing something displayed in a gallery. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I have to admit, we make a fine picture. A good time was had by all.

The photo used on this post is by Flickr usser MookieLuv. It was used under a Creative Commons License.

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