Ryan Chartrand

I’m not much of a world traveler. I’ve been to New York and I once spent a couple of weeks in China, but I’ve never been to any of those incredible foreign cities that have the non-stop party atmosphere of say, Barcelona, Milan or Prague. But destined as those wonderfully hedonistic, debauchery-laden, foam-filled escapades are to come, I only had to travel a little ways north to experience that larger-than-life nightclub vibe, and I couldn’t have done it without some charitable connections. So put your hands up to the sky and holler, “Hip, hop, hooray,” as I whisk you away on a Velvet Rope journey to downtown San Jose.

My story begins in 2003 when I was a 19-year-old sophomore at San Jose State University. If you have ever been to SJSU, you would know that it borders the downtown sector-a rectangular maze of high-rise office buildings, plush condominiums, museums, theaters, parks and marble sidewalks dotted with maple trees every ten yards.

It’s very aesthetic, clean and quiet during the day-time, but during the midnight hours, downtown San Jose becomes just as alive and as vibrant as any party town I’ve witnessed. In between the maze of cozy boutique shops, dignified art museums and lazy corner-side caf‚s lays a sleeping giant of a nightclub scene, and after dark is when the thumping pulse of downtown comes to life.

Though I was underage, I tried my best to get into some of these clubs-I was two steps into the door at a nightclub called Pete Escovedo’s to watch the Living Legends live, but was caught by the hood of my sweatshirt as I tried to duck in. So, my friends and I were left to watch with envious eyes from outside my 6th story apartment after 2 a.m. as the legions of partiers funneled out of downtown San Jose in their low-riders and tricked out cars.

Everybody in those cars looked like they had one hell of a night, and I couldn’t wait to be a part of that convoy of clubbers, but before I could even get a taste, I transferred to Cal Poly in the winter of 2004. Yet when I left San Jose, I knew that sometime down the road I was going to make the trip back up there and live it up properly.

The opportunity presented itself last March, thanks to my good friends who work at a skate shop in Arroyo Grande. Through their connections, we were able to secure tickets to an industry-only screening of a new skateboarding film in downtown San Jose and free passes to a reserved nightclub with an open bar.

An industry-only screening and open bar in downtown San Jose? I jumped at the chance like a fat kid on the last Twinkie.

The screening was for a new skateboarding flick by San Jose’s own notorious skateboarding crew, Enjoi, and was befittingly entitled, “Bag of Suck.” Though the flick was shown in a very old and regal looking theater, the event went off the hook, with free Tecates by the bucket-load everywhere to accompany one hell of a skateboarding flick.

Buzzed on an insanely good show of skateboarding and a few brews, we then headed out to our industry-only reserved destination to hang out with the stars of the skate flick-on to the Sofa Lounge.

The entrance to the Sofa Lounge, no more than a hole in the wall, led upstairs over a restaurant into a stripped-down loft. With walls exposed bare to the brick and steel skeleton of the building, the place looked reminiscent of a ’20s style speakeasy, adorned with dim lights that filled the room with a faint haze, while the smell of aged wood and iron lingered in the air. And true to the name, every whichway you looked the placed was packed with an assortment of sofas and giant ottomans.

My friends and I were of the first to show up to the joint, so we made our way to the bar to take full advantage of the free liquor. No more than half an hour later I was already one Heineken and three jack and cokes deep.

The lounge was soon bumping and the house DJ was spinning some ultra-funkadelic Bay Area beats I had never heard before and have yet to find. As I spun around in my barstool to absorb the good show of music, skateboarding industry heads, professional skateboarders and some sexy sophisticate-type ladies, I happened to notice that the dude sitting to my left was none other than skateboarding legend Steve Caballero.

In that San Jose nightclub I got a chance to chat skateboarding jargon with the legendary Cab, chill with some of my greatest skateboarding idols, and converse with some seriously attractive witty kitties. Throughout the night I wandered from sofa to ottoman and dance floor to barstool. My mouth and my mind were running a mile a minute and my hands were never free of a cold beer and a vodka tonic. This was my Barcelona, my Prague, and my aspirations to be a part of the downtown San Jose scene were doubly fulfilled.

I was more than satisfied with this larger-than-life experience, but I wouldn’t have been as lucky to break into this scene in this fashion if it weren’t for the truly first-rate gents I call my best of friends that brought me along and shared in the excitement of the night.

And never mind that this was a tale about pursuing an epic nightclub adventure; if there is anything to take away from the experience, it’s that partying, no matter where you are, is no grander an experience than when you are wilding out among your best friends.

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