For these first few posts I’m going to detail my wilder days. This is not a nostalgia trip. It is an instruction manual.

I used to be a part of a creative community in San Jose based around a crappy little Victorian house called Biohazard. (No relation to the band — the house <ahem> predated them, I’m afraid.) The only thing this community consistently created was a really good party.

In the early days, throwing parties was simple: Make a flyer so cool that people would leave them stuck on their wall.  Make sure there was booze, food and music and a few unusual elements and the party could go really well. The only trick was making sure that the right sort of people came. What we did not want were people who just hung around the keg making the women uncomfortable. Getting rid of the keg took a lot of that away but made the party more expensive. There had to be a better way to not attract the kind of people who went to parties.

Eventually we settled on advertising.

Our local free weekly Metro Magazine had a personals section wherein you could place some 99 words or something for a very reasonable US$5. Then we would advertise the party without using the word “party,” typically with some grandiose, cryptic wording like so:

Saturday night we gather to worship the almighty gecko… Dial ATOMICS for the required litanies…

ATOMICS was the word our phone number spelled, and anyone who could decrypt these and call got invited to the party. When callers asked what Biohazard was, we treated them to some extemporaneous bullshit; it was a religious cult, or an industrial band, or an insurgency, or a comedy troupe, or a nonprofit organization advocating some absurd thing, or if they didn’t sound right we didn’t know what they were talking about or how they got this number. Sometimes we’d throw ’em mixed messages: “Why does this keep happening?! Every third Saturday a hundred or so of you people show up at 366 West Julian at around 10pm and take over my home and by the time it’s over at 3 or 4 am I’m left to pick up the pieces! I don’t know how much longer I can take this!”

This was an amazingly reliable filter. Starting with the amused Metro staff itself, we enjoyed a steady stream of people who could enjoy ironic pretentiousness with the appropriate dose of humor. The next week’s issue invariably included some of the guests’ oblique responses to the party, which just built up intrigue for the next one.

The house itself eventually got leveled to make way for a park, but the Biohazard parties simply became mobile, moving from house to house.

The parties evolved and new themes emerged. I had a new agenda. I enjoyed creating a space where people could step outside of what they normally think of as themselves. I got a rush seeing people discover sides of themselves of which they had been previously unaware. The parties took on a distinctly different timbre, which I will discuss in part 2.