the 8th birthday party

BY DAN INDANTE

When I was a kid, we played outside. Generally, I would come home when the street lights went on, when I had a bloody lip, or when I was about to pass out from hunger or heat stroke. The concept of requesting my parents to schedule a time I could play with friends would've been as foreign as carrying a video phone in your pocket. I mean, they only had those things at Disneyland, right? Besides, in the 18 years I lived with my parents, I don't think my father was ever home long enough for me to ask him a question. Maybe there was that time in 1976 when he had the flu.

Apparently, things have changed a bit since I was a kid. My daughter's schedule is more tightly controlled than Will and Princess Kate's weekend in Los Angeles. She's either in second grade or running NASA, I can't tell. Occasionally, I get to pencil myself in so she and I can have a hamburger together but the minimum donation for face time is about $25K. Throw in a picture, and I've gotta send an extra $10K to her favorite charity.

Because children need to schedule everything from a movie to taking a pee, their birthday parties become epic events, nearly biblical in scope because they only see their friends twice a year and both times better be good. When I turned 8, I think I got a handshake from my dad right before he made me wash the car. For my daughter's eighth birthday, we're currently in the process of obtaining a proclamation from the Governor, and the Department of Public Works is holding a hearing on whether we can shut down the streets for six miles in each direction. I'm certain my wife would have already received some kind of special dispensation from the Pope if we were Catholic. Thankfully, we're not, so I was also able to avoid the two-hour Mass right before her birthday festivities.

As for the guest list, it is roughly the size of a phone book (if anybody remembers what those look like), and I'm certain that we'll need to add two rooms on to the house to accommodate everybody. I did sack up and tell my daughter that the economy sucks and everybody she knows is going broke, so we should try to keep it low-key. In response, she cancelled one of the two bounce houses. I also got her to blow off the magician after I convinced her that she's already made all of my money disappear. Ba-dum-bum.

So, now we're left with a party the size of a Busby Berkeley film, and enough cake, ice cream, and assorted caloric explosions to feed the Sixth Fleet. And along with that come safety concerns. The kids are going to be swimming at our house, which requires us to employ half the lifeguards in LA County and procure enough life rafts to save the Titanic. Because these days, to get the pleasure of having a bunch of screaming, miscreant, 8-year-olds aon my property, I need to provide every parent in the school a 5-star crash rating on my house.

It's not enough that I'm going to be standing there in the blazing sun while their deviant children shoot me with 50-caliber water guns, I also have to make sure there's a "professional" around in case I don't have the basic human ability to notice a kid splitting his head open on one of our decorative rocks. Of course, the "professional" will be a stoned high school kid listening to rap music on his head phones and sneaking beer from our outdoor fridge. But, whatever, as long as his company provides me an insurance policy, I can avoid spending the rest of my natural life locked up in litigation when my daughter's BFF skins her knee.

In any event, the party is scheduled for next week and we've spent the equivalent of the gross national debt of Bolivia on plastic swim toys that the dogs will eat right after we finish the cake. Oh yeah, the cake? It will be dropped into our backyard by a crane.

What bus do I have to take to get me back to 1976?