I've attended 32 house parties as Party Crasher for The Stranger, more than a month's worth of evenings spent in and around Seattle-area homes. At almost all of these parties, I've not just been "the guy from The Stranger," I've been a stranger, the guy over by the bowl of onion dip who nobody could place.
Outside of some performance-art boxing and harmless robot wrestling, here is the Full Accounting of Violence I've Witnessed at Parties: My first month on the column, I was at a malt-liquor-fueled blowout. One guy inexplicably became filled with rage—some men just get that way after drinking too much alcohol—and threw his beer bottle at the ground, shattering it. Somebody tried to calm the guy down, but he stormed away. One woman started crying because it was so out-of-the-blue. Soon enough, though, the party picked back up. In the almost-year that I've had this wonderful, weird job, that's the closest any party I've attended has ever come to violence.
The Saturday party shooting on Capitol Hill has broken my heart. I don't believe that I knew any of the victims, but this city is small enough that I know I'll recognize the faces. I spent Sunday night on the phone with one of my best friends, who lost one of her best friends, and what can you say? What can you possibly say to someone who's lost someone in that way? You have to just be quiet, and listen, and be there, and mourn with them.
But some people have to say something. Some people just can't shut the fuck up, and listen, and mourn. They have to take some kind of... action... no matter how idiotic. So the attacks on house parties have begun. People question whether inviting a stranger home from a dance to an afterparty in your home is an intelligent, War On Terror–era thing to do. People will demand that laws be passed because, as the Seattle Times editorialized on Monday, "Do you really know the people with whom you are attending a party?"
Listen: We throw parties to bring strangers together in the hopes that, maybe, by the end of the night we won't all be strangers. When you think about it, that's an inspiring act of hope, and that's why, regardless of some message-board screeching or a few fear-driven editorials and panicky government officials, we'll continue throwing house parties and, yes, inviting people we don't know into our homes. And I'm going to keep crashing them.
Party crashing has taught me this: Most people genuinely want everyone to have a good time, and it's too goddamn inexpressibly sad to consider what would happen to Seattle, and to ourselves, if we didn't greet the next unfamiliar face at the party with a smile. For every sideways glance I've gotten at the parties I've crashed, there've been 20 people asking me how I'm doing, am I cool, do I need anything, am I having fun.
There's no point to living in a city if we're not going to welcome strangers into our parties and say, "Welcome," and also, "There's a keg of PBR out on the back stoop," and also, "If you want to smoke anything, go do it on the front porch, but try to keep it down—we don't want to disturb the neighbors," and especially this: "Make yourself at home."