The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

We are really lucky to live on the shore of a lake. It’s beautiful most of the time and the wildlife is amazing. For 20 years or so, we held an annual event we dubbed Jam at the CAM.

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

A two- or three-day party in my backyard with a stage, lights, sound system, we frequently had live cameras to the big screen and "lasers'n'shit." We often had four or five bands in the latter years and some of those memories will last a lifetime. From our yard you have a perfect view of the our town's fireworks show on the opposite lakeshore with four other city shows playing on the horizon in the background. It’s pretty cool. We always had musicians from an astounding variety of genres and styles mixing and matching and playing mostly great music for the whole neighborhood.

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

Otter pops with the kids, strangers jamming with strangers and becoming lifelong friends. Happy families coming together to eat, drink and be merry over BBQ on the beach. We often jammed for days, camping out, swimming, laughing and getting sunburned. Campfire jams at night and, on a holiday weekend, we could play all night long down by the lake and usually shut down well after 2 in the morning.

Twenty years. We might have missed one or two but we also didn’t count a few so… ya know. I could tell a hundred great stories. One in particular is especially poignant this year. My friend, who I met at one of those parties, moved in down the street. He just bought his first house: The American Dream.

Let me back up a little. The party that year, 2009, was off the hook. It seemed all my neighbors had huge parties that year. Counting those folks and our own, our stage could be heard clearly by roughly 3,000 people and as background for 1,000 more out in boats on the lake and in yards farther away. You could see the show on the big screen from the parties on both sides of mine. This is rural Lake Elsinore, Lakeland Village to be more specific. An unincorporated slice of heaven and the west shore of Lake Elsinore. Far enough out of town to have to pay double for an annual launch permit and close enough to run for beers.

We had 5 full bands and something like 60 musicians total to accommodate on the stage and we had a video truck and crew, a sound truck and crew and a huge diesel generator. On July 4th, there was a blues jam early, acoustic hours to close, and - in prime time - we had bands playing rock, reggae, blues, country and an 8-piece mariachi band (in 3-piece suits at 103 in the shade, 109 under the lights). It was one of those things. Everything kinda worked, all the people were cool, very little drama, no one got hurt and the cops only came once.

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

I think it was July 3 and the Jam at the Cam was on! Mixing and matching strangers and styles on stage as bands blended and reblended throughout the day as we sound-checked and worked out the bugs of combining two sound systems. I was down at the shore, I think, as this boat full of misfits hit the beach. Smiling 20-somethings in board shorts with cans of beer, they had seen and heard the show from the boat out in the middle of the lake and came to see what was up. I told them it was a jam and they revealed that they were jammers and wondered if they could hang out. I remember that I asked them “Are you cool?” They paused for only a second before claiming to be "Very cool!" They left to park the boat and came back with amps, guitars, drums and stuff.

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

I found room in the staging area for their stuff and cut them loose. I promised them a slot for their band that night and again on the 4th for a late set after the fireworks. They hung out and jammed and their band kicked ass and we instantly became fast friends. They have been welcome at every party since then on the 4th and on any other holiday weekend or whim. Responsible guests, they helped in the setup and cleanup afterwards. As we have gotten to know them, we have embraced much of their family and circle of friends into our fold. It has been delightful watching them grow! (That is grow up, not tall, for they are a vertically challenged pair of brothers and I tower over them to this day.) I count the children as nieces and nephews and they call me Unca Dan.

They have grown into very responsible men and it was one of them who just bought a house down the street. He had a little party yesterday and I went to see the place and officially welcome them to the neighborhood. We'd met Mom at other Jams and she was there as a bonus. She knows exactly how proud I am of “our boys.”

Marshall has three little ones and this house is just perfect, not just for them but for their lifestyle. He’s a great dad. They already have fences moved and a chicken coop that he and the kids built together. He loves to BBQ and have a fire in their firepit; there is a koi pond and fruit trees, a laundry room and a big shed and enough parking for all the toys. He got a great deal on his first offer and he could not be happier. The schools are pretty good and nearby and they can hit another longtime good friend’s house with an apple if they throw it over the house next door. Did I mention I live down the street and have lake access? Mom lives a few streets over. Built-in babysitter! He’s got big plans for his little family and now they have captured home base. How cool is that?

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

I couldn’t be more proud of my young friends who have their 20s in the rear view and 40s on the horizon. Music has done a lot of good things in my life. Bringing cool people into it is one of the best. We played music again together yesterday. We have all been busy with life's demands and we all had to admit it had been a little while since we played those songs. We laughed and played anyway and had a few winners and a few losers. Then it was time to eat and enjoy the evening.

When the BBQ fired up I lagged behind inside; I’m allergic to the lighter fluid. I fiddled around on the guitar and then found a six-string fat body Carvin acoustic by the couch. I grabbed it and a beer and went out and sat on the back stoop, lit a cigarette and looked around.

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

Here he was, surrounded by his family and friends, putting food on the grill while we drank his beers. Friends had brought their puppy and his dog was chasing it and his kids were chasing them and his girl was chasing the kids. Everybody there was talking and laughing and the yard looked so nice. The lights on, the sound of the fountain, it really felt like a Home. The smell of food on the grill, the sound of the chickens and the laughter of the kids... neighbors with hotdogs and beers, it was an idyllic portrait of The American Dream, and the home of a really good boy that, as it turned out, really is pretty cool.

The American Dream: The unintended consequence of a 3-day drunken 4th of July party at my house

So, as I do, I sat on the stoop and played some of our favorite songs and they’d wander over and sing a verse or dance with Daisy (the little one) and, as I faded into the background and watched this little family embracing their new home, I knew one thing.

The unintended consequences of a drunken Fourth of July party, nearly ten years ago, turned out better than I could have imagined. We will be friends for life. I will dance at his daughter's wedding and she wasn't yet born in 2009. From "Are you cool?" to the American Dream. It's alive and well and I got to be there to see it.

God bless America,



Live, Antell, my friends, live and tell.

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