Back in the Day: The Pit, The Pot, and the Party Girl

As long as I can remember, I have been the Party Girl, organizing social events to entertain myself and my friends.  In high school (class of ’78), I hosted parties at “the Pit,” the totally un-intuitive name for the attic of my home.  The Pit was the place where… …a coupla people would randomly show up on any given afternoon after school, to smoke doobie and listen to music — Kansas, Floyd, Alan Parsons: mostly mainstream, what’s now known as “classic” rock…

Oh gawd, Steve Miller Band.  For some reason, at my high school, Book of Dreams was THE soundtrack of my senior year.  I mean, sure, it was okay, but why that album, I can’t tell you.  I also can’t tell you how many kids used lyrics as their Yearbook Quote.  Seriously, one guy’s quote, to commemorate his high school experience, was “really love your peaches, want to shake your tree“!  wtHHH?  I, on the other hand, was a pretentious little shit: I pored over Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, tried to find some Tolkien or C.S.Lewis that fit (nerd alert!), and ended up with this dilly from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:

Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you…
and if our hands should meet in another dream,
we shall build another tower in the sky…

Pure teen stoner gold.

Anyway, along with the weed and classic rock, there was lots of killer late-70s pop (ahh, Dream Weaver!), and the occasional Disco or Dr.Demento hit — we’d get our groove on and engage in conversations both frivolous and deep.

You know those stereotypical stoner ramblings, “what if there’s, like, a Universe in my atoms, man?” “Duuuude! Heavy!”  We had those conversations, and others not so silly. I ran with a diverse crowd: Theatre geeks, Student Government/National Honor Society preppy types, always the Exchange Students (I made it a habit to date the foreign guys, which may say a lot for my choice to engage in relationships that were doomed to failure when they inevitably returned abroad), a fair number of Jock types — The Pit was a sort of melting pot, with pot.  But the core was my inner circle of Misfit Geniuses, those kids with the high IQ’s and awkward social skills.

The Pit was where the stoner set hung out during the every-so-often Big Bashes (usually around Halloween, the Holidays, Spring Break and end-of-year, give or take). These parties ranged from 20-30 to upwards of 50 teenagers sprawled from the first-floor common areas, to conversation groups in the second-floor bedrooms, to the Pit itself, on high (so to speak): we smoked, and made out, and the kids who boozed would generally hang-out on the lower floors with their not-so-surreptitious beers (bouncer training for a few, no doubt).

Mom was always there, ensconced in her room, and amazingly, the crew was a mellow one.  Never once did we have any sort of fighting, nor any other sort of overt mayhem that’d draw negative attention from the neighborhood, and intoxicants harder than beer and bongs were quickly quashed by the attendees themselves.  It was amazing how people treated my Mom’s home with respect, and treated each other with respect and responsibility (yes! responsible stoner kids!).

I remember that near the end of these events, one of us would start going from room to room, turning all the lights on, announcing to the cringing, blinky-eyed attendees, “SUBTLE HINT NUMBER ONE!  Time to GO HOME!”  As folks dispersed, there’d be a group of self-appointed kids, led by the fabulous “Mister Frank,” who would clean-up.  They bustled dishes, cups, trash; they did dishes and wiped-down surfaces, even dusted and ran the vacuum on occasion. Hell, half the time the house was in better shape after a party!  Despite the ganja, we were Good Kids at heart.

In an odd way, even though we were stoner kids, we were also a pretty square bunch.  We were smart — almost everyone I knew maintained solid grades, participated in extracurricular activities, and went on to college — many of us had been Scouts, held teenager jobs (like working at McDonalds or Dairy Queen, the local grocer or retail place), and most of us had fair-to-middlin’ relationships with our families. The truly tough kids, the problem cases, occasionally fringed our group, but likely found us too nerdy and uncool.

Hosting the Pit Parties made me “famous” in its own way.  People knew that this was the Party Place, that there were rules and you’d better play by’em if you wanted to attend, and that given an assumption of good behavior, practically anyone was welcome.  It was an introduction to being a Socialite of a sort, famous for being a partyer in a way that these latter-day Paris Hiltons can’t touch.  I was a Nerd, definitely, and a Nice Girl (usually), lucky enough to move fluidly through the social strata and cliques that are the hallmarks of high school society. And i revelled in it, working the spaces, going upstairs and down, and up again numerous times in an evening to meet, greet, schmooze and just plain have fun with a disparate but congenial crowd.

The Pit Parties were frequently mentioned when I returned to my 5th, 10th and 20th reunions (I let those go after that), in tones of fond and somewhat smug nostalgia for those Glory Day get-togethers: “Man, can you believe we got away with that shit?”  Being a fledgling event planner (though I didn’t know then that that was what I was doing), gave me a place in the social circles of my youth.  It is a point of special pride with me that, out of a class of over 800, I was voted “Most Friendly” — to me, there aren’t many better accolades than to be liked!


Yah, these were pretty much my people…




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