Stairs, stairs, and more stairs are what I find at every turn of this party. The host house sits at the midpoint of one of those ass-improving concrete stairways linking north Capitol Hill to Lakeview/I-5, while the party proper is reached only by ascending a tight spiral staircase. Guests arrive slightly flushed and short of breath, with eyes brightened by the cardio; it's a good look.

At the top of the stairs, I find an enclosed deck with floor-to-ceiling windows and an amazing view of downtown, filled with a classic scene of urban revelry: beautiful girls gussied up in consignment-store treasures with guys who look like hoods. One of these guys sports a button on his jacket, featuring what looks like the face of Mick Mars, the guitarist and ugliest member of Mötley Crüe. "Is that Mick Mars?" I ask the owner, who responds in the affirmative. He's in a band—Ivory in Ice World—and wears the button to honor his status as "the Mick Mars of the group." I ask him if this means he's the guitarist or the ugliest member. "Both!" he replies.

Around us swirls a party entering its latter stages, when booze and time conspire to push conversation beyond the personal to the abstract. I overhear an impassioned treatise on the visual poetry of old wallpaper from a lovely lady—the hostess and birthday girl—who wasn't above posing for a photo with a Notorious B.I.G.–eyed dog in a hula skirt.

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