My father doesn't like to wait. It was the Saturday before the Super Bowl and it seems I had missed his text. He was letting me know it was time to meet him outside the Maxim party. The good news was, we weren't too far away.
"Ok. We're leaving now. Be there in 10," I texted back.
"Ok but it is 1018," he scolded without punctuation.
My boyfriend and I rushed as fast as possible to Espace, the large event space at the end of 42nd Street that was hosting the magazine's annual soiree. We were greeted by a series of large white tents, the kind reserved to protect celebrities from the elements. Around them lines of eager men attempted to gain entry.
It didn't take long to find my father and his new wife. Despite the implications of his urgent "we r here" text, we had arrived at the same time.
My 60-year-old father had texted late the previous night to ask if me and my boyfriend wanted to join them at the Maxim Super Bowl party. Though I have an enviable relationship with my father (for a gay man) and hang out with him and his wife occasionally at their home in New Jersey, I was taken aback by the randomness of his request. We don't often go to exclusive nightlife events together.
After reading his text a few more times, I began to visualize his excitement over the idea of us hanging out. He had eloped to Vegas two months before and we had hardly had time to celebrate.
Plus, he had requested my boyfriend by name and not as "your friend." There was no way we could say no. I downed a liter of water and a Monster in anticipation of all the drinking that would take place.
A phone call was placed to the broker who had given my father the $900 tickets (apparently to cover a debt he could not pay in cash). The man was working the party and told us he would escort us in. No line for us! But he could only take us as far as the door, where we waited patiently while bouncers and cops made increasingly desperate threats: You can't stand here. No standing! Sir, please move!
I thought I spotted Adam Levine, but my boyfriend insisted it was just a tattooed male model.
We made it inside around 10:30 p.m. It was early but the party was already pretty packed. We checked our coats and made a beeline for the first photo booth we saw. We sat on a stationary chair lift while two ski bunnies posed behind us. ("She's flexible!" someone remarked.) I immediately posted the image to Twitter.
We took our Patrons to the main room and parked ourselves next to an unused VIP area covered in more Patron, pistachios (another sponsor), and a handful of chocolate quinoa bars, presumably for the hungry Paleo dieters in attendance.
From there we had a great view of the entire party: up front DJ Sinatra played the kind of hip-hop white people like under a chandelier made entirely of Patron bottles; around the room female go-go dancers gyrated enthusiastically next to giant concrete columns painted with colorful graffiti; and throughout scantily clad women -- or "Hometown hotties," in Maxim speak -- offered Red Bull to the older, greying male crowd. Despite earlier trepidation, my father was by no means out of place. I was.
The party began to fill. Someone noticed Joey Fatone from 'N Sync in one corner. And we tried to identity a tall, handsome black man in front of us. Someone said Bow Wow, but he was way too big to be Bow Wow. The pungent odor of marijuana wafted from their corner.
In fact the whole party soon smelled of weed. And, strangely, farts.
At first we made small talk. I inquired about my new stepmother's young children and she informed me her son just celebrated his 13th birthday. She had bought him the new Xbox game he wanted but she couldn't remember what it was called. My boyfriend complemented her FMPs.
Then my father brought up the recent Grammy Awards.
My whole life my father showed little interest in anything but sports; both the kind he and his sons participated in (him: D1 football; me: high school cross country) and the kind he watched feverishly on TV. But he developed a sudden interest in country music and celebrity gossip in the years since meeting his new wife. Now he was talking about Beyonce.
"When Beyonce does it it's sexy. When Miley does it it's slutty," he offered as neither a statement or a question. My boyfriend shot me a pair of arched eyebrows. I was speechless. And oddly proud.
All four of us had attempted to make our way to the bathroom at least once by now. It was a bit of an arduous affair that involved pushing your way down a small alley filled with people who had no interest in moving -- which could have explained why the fart smell seemed more intense over there.
My father's wife requested an escort on her second trip, and I offered, leaving my father and my boyfriend alone. They spoke about football -- my boyfriend's attempt to flatter my father, no doubt. And he did, keeping up with my father's unnecessary knowledge of his Texas alma mater's team. I was assured it had been painless.
DJ Sinatra sounded the first of many air horns, a noise that seemed to signal it was time to take this party up a notch.
A commotion came from the corner of the room and we quickly realized it belonged to Steven Tyler. Despite his diminutive stature and John Waters-esque mustache, there was no doubt it was him. Thinking I was cool, I kept my excitement blase. But not my father. Without hesitation, he made his way toward the aging rocker and intercepted him with perfect timing, extending his hand for a shake. "I was at your UConn concert in 1972," my father boasted before Tyler mistook his handshake for a high five. The entire exchange was captured on about 50 cell phones.
My father returned to us with a sly grin on his face, reveling in my disbelief. "It was actually your mother," my father whispered, proudly revealing his embellishment. "She went, but I was studying. Bruce Springsteen opened for them." And that was that.
The event passed midnight the crowd swelled. I thought I spotted Bryan Greenberg and then attempted to explain to my father who Bryan Greenberg was. He excused himself to take some up-close shots of the go-go dancers. ("You know, for the guys at the office.")
A writer from Bloomberg News news asked me who I was rooting for in the Super Bowl. "Like anyone here cares?" I retorted, trying to sound clever. She asked if she could quote me for her article. She didn't.
My father had officially moved on to the shot-taking part of the evening. I brought him a Cafe Patron from the bar and suggested we check out the ice luge. I was disappointed to learn it wasn't the kind you put your mouth directly on, but my father was a good sport and took two more shots anyway.
Eventually, it was decided that we should try to get as close to the stage as possible. Special guest Kendrick Lamar would be coming out soon. I tried my best to explain to my father who Kendrick Lamar was but couldn't get much farther than "rapper."
We found a spot about 20 feet from to the stage next to an elderly couple. Despite it being after 1 a.m., the older woman seemed to be having a great time, even joking with me that I was standing in her "area." We performed a few dance moves together.
My father made lively conversation over the now louder music (and more frequent air horns) with an attractive black man. Apparently he was only 25, lived in Connecticut, and knew the DJ. My boyfriend chatted with a woman he assumed was this man's girlfriend (she was not) and complimented her on her beauty. ("Maybe the guy was gay?" he later remarked.)
Around 2:45 a.m. Lamar took the stage and performed three songs. My father and I were drunk enough that we pretended to know all of them, mouthing imaginary words discreetly.
After his performance a new, more aggressive DJ took over and the whole party seemed to go into overdrive. The crowd was younger and sloppier. My father almost got into a fight with two 20-something frat boys. I found a $10 bill on the floor, but immediately lost it when some drunk bro snatched it out of my hand.
Then it was time to go.
While we waited for our coats my boyfriend insisted that my clearly intoxicated father spend the night at his apartment. "You shouldn't drive home," I chimed in. Their compromise was a late-night snack at the nearest diner. My father and I both instinctively ordered Challah French Toast. I forced him to let me pay the bill.
After food we walked them to their parking garage. I ordered them to get home safe and we all traded hugs.
Before parting my father shifted his feet and, avoiding eye contact so as not to get sentimental, reminded me that he loved me.
"I love you, too, Dad."