on not going gently


I’ve learned several things whilst throwing these several-day parties, and one of them is: I never have a camera. I know several of you attendees did, however, so if there’s any place they can be uploaded, I’d be much obliged.

In the interests of public service, or in case any of you would like to host your own bacchanalia, I’ll write down a few more things that such a gathering might teach you:

1. Outsourcin’! – Yes, Port-a-Potties are ugly, but they don’t all come in “I Smell Like Poop” Blue, and it’s better than a septic explosion. Also, we hired a local Smith grad who acted as a Production Assistant, doing all the little things that would have destroyed the day. Oh yeah, and get a dumpster. I can’t tell you how emotionally liberating a dumpster can be. You can put anything in it. It’s a repository for all of your angst.

2. Don’t get sick – You know that blog I wrote before the weekend, about how Tessa was barfing and wouldn’t stop? Well, while you were writing your comments, I joined Tessa on the bathroom floor, and spent two days limping around the Chronicles of Nausea. Thus I was 48 hours behind in preparing, which means – AGAIN! – I was doing all this prep shit like writing quiz show questions when I could have been actually hanging out with my unbelievably awesome peer group.

3. Ruth Buzzers – Speaking of the quiz show, I moved it from Sunday to Saturday to make sure all the people from far-flung lands could attend (Kabul, London, Scarborough, Los Angeles) but one of the categories – Our Idiosyncratic Friends – has a tradition of including every single person playing. If you’re in the game, there’s a question about you. With almost fifty participants, however, it meant a long show, even with Tessa speeding through them like Wink Martindale. Next year, we might have to combine people, or even have another cool category that I just thought of while writing that sentence.

By the way, have any of you tried to get quiz show buzzers lately? I was lucky to find my guy when I did, back in 2004. The advent of Krazy Christian Quiz Show Weekends has put those things at a premium!

4. Pre-production – I used to make fun of Tessa for being a little Josephine Front Row, but years of her flawless programming – combined with my constant flummoxing – have convinced me that pre-production is the only way to do these things. I lost the buzzers; I lost the cords that hook up the sound to project the movie on the side of the barn; I didn’t realize it’d take a full hour to funnel rare scotch into Erlenmeyer flasks; I was in Albany buying a coffee machine when the actual people who drink coffee had already flown in from England and were waiting for me. This is crap. No more. Next year I’m going to have EVERYTHING DONE so I can just play hoops with the boyz and talk shit with Salem.

Anything that was good? Tessa made it happen, and that, my friends, is the best present anyone could have wanted.

5. Keep the days free and nights packed – Two points on young American character: everybody wants to know what they’re doing that evening, but nobody wants to have anything to do during the day. This is almost belligerently true of me, and when you are locked in Fun mode, this is true of you. The answer to “what are we doing tonight?” should be “this, this, and this.” The answer to “what’s going on today?” should be “whatever the fuck you want.”

6. P.A. System – Oh, P.A. System, how I love you! You were relatively inexpensive at Guitar Center, yet gat forth so much pleasure. You made the talent show come alive, you rocked Chaircrusher and my nephew Sam’s DJ’ing into the wee hours in a packed barn, you burst forth sound for a TV pilot never before seen, you even allowed my wife to bark orders to the herd of cats I call my friends! P.A. System, as you delicately wafted Dave Brubeck over the barbecue, I thought, “how did we ever do this without you?”

7. Decide once and for all you are not going to lose your friends – There is a reason the Jartacular exists, and it’s not an exercise in my narcissism, although that was a good guess. It is because friendship is meat that requires the refrigeration of regular contact. I spent a long, long time making my friends, and they all spent a long, long time making each other – they have kissed, roomed together, danced in New Orleans, worked at shitty jobs and come back to the group house to vent; many of them had kids and swapped advice as their wee ones shrieked in the background.

The Man would have you believe that group gatherings and New Memories™ aren’t fit for people of a certain age, and damn near irresponsible for those who have started families. Some people begin to believe it, and they decide to miss one get-together, then two, and before you know it, they’ve forgotten what they’re forgetting. They drop off email lists, they move and don’t tell anybody. After ten years, they accidentally hear of another get-together, and they might even go – but it’s been so long that they no longer speak the language, and they’re mostly horrified at how their old friends seemed to have filled with water.

We, and I mean that collectively, have decided that wasn’t acceptable. Sure, some people come because I guilt them into it, some people may have been more piqued at the idea of tasting a 1940 Macallan than some frickin’ love-in, and others have decided they have slept in the barn fully-dressed and holding a bottle of Sambuca FOR THE LAST TIME. But it does feel like it adds up to something, yes?

I know these recaps can smell like yearbook signatures, but everyone who shows up brings with them such meaning. Me, I could not do without the following: seeing Bax and Annie, with her Da Vinci body, hoop in front of my daughter; my brother Steve answering questions at the quiz show; Kent bouncing up and down to the music; convincing Zia to take a suppository for her hangover; Lars hovering like a smiling wasp with a black camera; Jiffer’s feet still caky after all these years; Jamie singing “Mozambique” even better; the Rizzos throwing perfect spirals; Chip standing up and telling us how honored he was to have a category solely about him; Sean and Jordi emerging, sunny, from Barno’s fourth trimester; Kaz’s haikus; Scotty’s insatiable speed into tastelessness with Salem riding shotgun; Katie’s perfect skin on a perfect day. Oh, and the Budster!

This year, the Jartacular featured an explosion of language from Lucy, who was feted by Annie and Molly Regis, Isabelle Alexander, Oscar and Alexandra Kelleran, even Hank, Nora, Jack and Ben! By today, she was using sentence structures, adding little flourishes to her language, fully in command of her talking world. We have conversations now, and they are simply fantastic.

I have always said I will keep the Jartacular going as long as I can, then hand over the reins to Lucy. When I asked her what she did this weekend, she looked outside, smiled to herself and said “I played with my friends.” So did I.

0 thoughts on “on not going gently

  1. GFWD

    I love the first paragraph after #7. Truer words have never been written about folks who endeavor to keep getting together every year. Other than what I read here, I know nothing about the Jartacular. But I have been part of a group that goes camping every year since 1993 and each year it means more and more to me.
    Keep it going.

  2. Bud

    Ian and Tessa (and Lucy!),
    THANKS for a fantastic weekend. I know it was a lot of work and I’m glad to hear you had as much fun as I did. I only wish we could have hung around longer. It was great to see so many old friends and to make some new ones, too (Hi Kaz!).
    I’m totally with you on the PA system (among other things). Two word suggestion for next year’s spectacular: Jam Band. Or should that be Band Jam? With so much musical talent, we should be able to pull off something good. Next time, I’ll bring my Les Paul, so just be advised….

  3. gina

    Your party sounds awesome!
    I turn 40 in a couple of weeks, and my husband is throwing a pirate-themed party for me. My roomates from Carolina are coming in (yes, I lived in the same triple with the same ladies for three years in Ruffin Dorm) and we’re having a moon bounce! It will pale in comparison to your production as ours will be held a local park in the afternoon to accomodate the little ones and the moon bounce…., but I am exicted that we are getting together. Your blog may have just sparked me to be the one who pesters us to get together on a regular basis.
    (During the party planning, I found out that I have cancer — so the whole shebang is going to be more emotional than it might have been already. I’m glad that people had already said they were coming before my diagnosis — so I know that it’s not just out of pity that they’re coming in. :))
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Ehren

    I’ve been to 5 Jartaculars now, and there hasn’t been one yet that hasn’t been kickalicious. I deeply appreciate the effort that you guys go to host these beasts.

  5. CPizzy

    happy 40th, a few days late. granted, I don’t know you or any of these other people, but for the record I’m still interested in what you have to say! glad your party was awesome.

  6. CP

    also, am I making this up or when I was a kid didn’t they also used to be called port-a-san’s? if anyone can shed some light, don’t be shy. gracias.

  7. Annie

    I love you so much, Ian. Goddamn. What is the date? Are these tears merely hormonal?
    But seriously. I love you, Tessa, and Lucy so much, and the Jartacular is absolutely essential to my well-being. I do not think I would survive without it. We are all just plain blessed to have The-Most-Motivated-and-Fun Magnet-of-Brilliant-and-Amazing-People Friend Ever.
    Even though I made about the worst faux pax of my life–for which I am still suffering pangs of disbelief and regret–it was my favorite Jartacular ever. (No, my faux pax was NOT EVEN my near-wordless attempt during the scotch tasting at explaining my joy at having Bax there…no, no…not that).
    Gina, I’m terribly sorry to hear your news–hope your party is everything you want it to be.
    CP, that rings a bell, but I can’t claim to be an authority on this one.
    More memories: Jackson “behind the kit,” SALEM HOOPING, Vince Rizzo becoming our team’s secret weapon in the quiz show, and finally–simply–Barnaby.

  8. CP

    annie — thanks. (and keep hooping!)
    gina — just read your comment. have an amazing party, a blast on the moon, a fabulous birthday. wishing you nothing but well from this little corner of the internet.

  9. salem's little sister

    My brother hooping??? That’s as crazy as me moving to Durham. We’re here in the city of the crazies and James has already taught Ben to say he’s a Dukie!! And he has a 7 foot sail fish being stuffed and mounted from a trip to Mexico and it’s on it’s way to my new house right now! AARRGGHH . . .Get me to Chapel Hill!

  10. emma

    The weekend sounds like it was a blast. Just curious – where does everyone sleep, if anyone sleeps at all? Do you set up tents on the farm or is the farmhouse just that big?
    Gina – enjoy your party and know that all the xtcianers are behind you!

  11. Ian

    The farmhouse is able to sleep 22 assuming all of the mattresses, beds and other solutions are in full dander. We also had three tents on the hill, one person in the barn, and the rest filled the various B&B’s and country motels surrounding the village.
    Gina, I am SO SORRY for what you’re going through – can you please keep us updated as to your recovery?

  12. Greg T.

    If Gina isn’t up to posting updates then I will. Thanks to everyone for the positive thoughts and well wishes. Though we tend to lurk on this comments section without posting, we both read this site almost religiously and feel part of the community.
    Greg (from Stacy dorm – albeit breifly)

  13. xuxE

    dang i missed that one, that is a definite doozie.
    don’t go too crazy at your party and spend all your money, tons and tons of people get right through a bout with cancer, and you don’t want to be broke for the next 40 years… :)

  14. Gina

    Thank you all for your kind comments! Since I am at home recuperating from surgery, I have no excuse for being a lurker and will try to chime in to the conversation more often.
    This community is the best.

  15. Zia

    I would like to make clear that at no point was I convinced to use a suppository!
    Absolutely great party though – thank you to you, Tessa and Lucy. Lots of love, Zxxx


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