Halloween party scene in Isla Vista has become overrated

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN


People come out of the darkness, babbling and holding each other up. Sirens go off in the distance. There are screams and people lying in the street. Smoke comes out of apartment windows. I counted three women at least half naked.

By 11 p.m., I’ve figured out that college Halloween parties are not my cup of tea. I want to spend my time right in a lively spot, not a dead one. And I try to make it worthwhile too.

This was made obvious when a tipsy fellow in a Hawaiian shirt couldn’t believe I don’t drink. “Duuuuuude,” he said. “Seriously?”

Twenty-something-year-olds want to have fun, blow off steam and create fantastic and memorable stories. They want to experience that funny thing called life. I get it.

But people are blacked out, having one-night hookups or getting so high they are having an existential experience. What does life have to do with downing one-sixth of a keg?

As Hawaiian Shirt Guy gets in on beer pong, I sit down at the smudged glass coffee table. I notice a guy beginning to roll a jazz cigarette. He tells me it is “a very exact science that requires experience.” At this point, my friends are busy drinking or in another room.

The smoke gets too strong, so I step on the balcony to catch some fresh air. More half-naked ladies in costumes walk toward the building. I bid them good evening, and ask what they are up to.

“Just partying,” one said. I asked how often and she giggles and responds, “Everyday.” Halloween is my glimpse into their world.

That’s why so many flock to Isla Vista on Oct. 31, or “everyday.”

For the party. To say they conquered it. As a badge of honor and maturity to their friends. It’s become a tradition, making Isla Vista a livable legend.

It makes for a good life story to some, like my Hawaiian Shirt Guy and to the lady who supposedly parties everyday. With the new friends they’ll never remember and the nights they’ll always forget.

I go back into the undecorated room as a “Y.O.L.O!” is slurred around and everybody goes bottoms up with red plastic cups.

I look at my phone, then my watch, and up and leave with my hands in my pockets, with “You Only Live Once” chants that go on behind me.

I feel my way through the party-goers and run into the apartment complex’s private security guard standing in the driveway. He’s a pudgy older man with greyed combed-over hair.

I comment to him that he must be pretty tired. He cracks a smile and says his graveyard shift is just starting. He lets out a long sigh and says he’s looking forward to a cup of coffee.

We agree it could be worse, but at least it was a nice night. I told him good luck, and hopped on my bicycle.

I rode through that siren-filled night, thinking of the guard and his coffee. Of the apartments and Hawaiian shirts, and of what we’re all trying to do with our time.

I don’t think it has to do with the Halloween party culture, beer pong or jazz cigarettes. It has to do with the grey haired man, the strong warmth of coffee and the chilled night. Or maybe it doesn’t, I’m not sure yet. I’m still a kid too.