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.