originally published May 25, 2012
I attended my first PK party last week. I was thrilled to get the invite – it had been a three-month dry spell in my social schedule, ever since that unfortunate misunderstanding at Tony Pezsnecker’s key party. Honestly, the invitations should have been more clear, and once again, I am NOT giving Nancy Millman her Porsche back. Those were the rules as I understood them, and besides, she probably still has my Hyundai.
This time I did a little research. A PK party is a psychokinesis party. A group of people get together, and are guided through the process of tapping into their psychokinetic powers and bending silverware, Uri Geller style. This was a fad in the 1980s – apparently Tony Pezsnecker only throws parties with antiquated themes that no one uses anymore. Next week he’s having us over to watch the final episode of Seinfeld. It should be great.
My new Porsche was in the shop that night (actually, I totally don’t remember where I left it), so Tony arranged for me to share a cab with Masako Donota, our PK instructor. This was perfect; I’d get a chance to grill him about the evening so it doesn’t once again end in a misunderstanding and repeated visits by the police.
My first misunderstanding was revealed when I learned that Masako is a female name. So much for bonding with him over a shared love of wrestling in order to snag extra psychic potions, or whatever they use.
“Tell me about this PK party,” I started, after having engaged her in a complicated and mostly unsuccessful series of high, low, and randomly positioned fives.
“Have you ever been to a PK party?” she asked. She had a voice like baconnaise, which is to say I found it both delicious and slightly shameful.
“Are you kidding?” I asked, fully aware that she wasn’t. “I’m the king of PK parties! I’m freakin’ Louie P.K.! Your way right away – give me a Whopper!”
Her chiding gaze, and the way I could tell her fingers were twitching upon the mace canister in her purse told me that my mirthful jocularity was ill-timed. I confessed my ignorance and begged her to fill me in.
“At a PK party we harness the group’s energy, and use it to perform impressive feats of psychokinesis. Are you familiar with the work of Jack Houck?”
“I’ve heard some of his earlier albums, but he lost me when he guest-judged on Idol.”
“I think it best we finish this taxi ride in silence.”
Beneath those cold words was a sense of genuine heart. She didn’t care for my jokes, but her expression told me that she cared about me. She wanted to see me bend stuff.
“I’m sorry. I tend to make bad jokes when I’m a bit nervous. The idea of psychic energy freaks me out a little. So will we be sending objects flying around the room? Will the walls start bleeding? Will there be a Zuul in the refrigerator? Tell me about Jack Houck.”
“Jack Houck was an aeronautical engineer,” Masako explained. “He developed an interest in psychic abilities, and created the idea of a PK party. In 1981 he held a party for a group of people with a similar interest, as well as a handful of neutral friends from his tennis club. One of the guests was metallurgist Severin Dahlen, who knew how to teach people to bend metal with their minds.”
“And you’ll be teaching us to do this?” I reached in my pocket for a cigarette, but remembered I had quit smoking fifteen years earlier. This woman was already messing with my head!
“I will help the group build its energy, and demonstrate the techniques for proper psychokinetic channeling, yes.”
“But bending a spoon is fairly easy to do. I myself have bent numerous spoons for local heroin junkies who lacked the fine motor skills. How do you know it’s not the mind fooling itself?”
“Mr. Houck demonstrated that both with thick metal bars, and even with buckling the bowl of a spoon. Have you ever done that? Collapsed the actual bowl?”
“It’s not possible.”
“Exactly. Mr. Houck took a number of spoons with him to his tennis club, and even the big jocks there couldn’t buckle the bowls. Mr. Houck learned to do this with psychokinetic powers.”
“I bet Mr. Houck really got himself a reputation at that tennis club. Was he a good player?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did his racquet melt in his hands?”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“How big were these tennis jocks? Like, Stallone-in-Rocky big, or like those oily bodybuilders with all the visible veins?”
Masako didn’t answer. She was losing patience with me, and I was worried this was going to turn out like Tony’s key party all over again. I stayed a little closer to the subject.
“Does everybody learn how to do this?”
“Oh no. There are always a few skeptics who are unable to let go and channel their psychokinetic abilities. Some are quite vocal about it too.”
“So they’ll criticize you? Accuse you of bending the spoon with your hands?”
“What do you do?”
“I firmly tell them, ‘Shut up!’. It’s a technique that Mr. Houck taught me to shut the skeptics down.”
“That’s fiendishly clever,” I pointed out, even though it wasn’t.
“Most of the party guests tonight should achieve what we call kindergarten success.”
“What’s that?” I asked. “Will we start out bending plastic scissors? Shaping macaroni pictures with our minds?”
“Kindergarten level is simply allowing the metal to soften in your hands, to make the spoon that much more malleable. After that is high school level, when you bend something that is not possible with normal physical strength.”
“Like a Buick?”
“Any hard piece of steel, or a thick metal bar.”
“At the college level do we learn to bend space-time? Because I’d like to learn how to use that ability to stretch out a single box of girl scout cookies over an entire year. Can you teach me that?”
Masako refused to talk to me for the rest of the trip. When we arrived at the party, I spent roughly five minutes stuffing my face with appetizers and Tony’s homemade sparkling cider when Nancy Millman showed up and demanded the keys to her Porsche. I offered to trade back, but only if she’d honor the actual intent of the key party and have sex with me.
Alright, so I was asked to leave before the psychic stuff. But I know where Masako lives, and I’m sure if I drop by next week she’ll teach me how to bend space-time around so that I could try again with Nancy. Like when Bill Murray tried to woo Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day, I’m sure I’d figure out the right choice of words after a few hundred attempts.
And hey, at least I’m back in the party scene again.