slow down, little one; you can’t keep running away

I hadn’t planned to spend six hours drinking with Yelp people on Friday. I only knew one person there (the indubitable Emily G), so how long could I stay? You can’t approach any social engagement without a plan – at least not when you live in my head – and I had one. Stop in, have a beer, say hi, maybe make some introductions, and then retreat to the other side of the river where you actually know people.

Six hours, two beers and a shot of Jameson later, I caught the last train home.

Not the first time this has happened with Yelp people, either. To be fair, it happens in my other social circles too (friends, ImprovBoston people, jiu-jitsu students). But it always works this way with Yelp. Why is that?

Since I clearly can’t figure it out, I leave the answer to you:

  1. Since I don’t have any expectations for how the evening will turn out, I approach each event with an open mind.
  2. Yelp draws in people in similar straits: twenty- and early thirty-somethings who aren’t hanging with a crew that evening, and are therefore just as eager to make new friends as I am.
  3. We all drink a lot.
  4. Other (supply your own).
Show your work; partial credit will be awarded.


all of this makes me love you more

The older I get, the more I believe that the secret to staying young is finding excuses to party.

This Friday, I went to the Yelp Elite Event for January at Revolution Fitness, a gym within walking distance of my office. Revolution has done its best to combine the “basement gym” look with the “boutique gym” feel. The layout ranges from intimate studios for the de rigeur yoga and pilates classes to a row of fluorescent-lit weight racks in front of mirrors. And there’s a room off to the back with reinforced rubber walls and a mess of equipment that you can just play with. Like a 150-lb tire to flip end over end, or rings to hang on, or medicine balls that you can fling at the wall while screaming. You’re encouraged to experiment.

Saturday was the Snowflake Social, hosted in Arlington. Friends and locals threw a party to raise money for Haiti, dressing up in formal wear and dancing the night away. I posed for prom photos, slow-danced with several friends and drank at the Elks bar. We retired to a friend’s house afterward to have a few more drinks and chill out until the evening crept up on me.

As grown-ups, we look for reasons to put on nice attire and go out dancing: weddings, family affairs, holiday parties and school reunions. If we brought that same questing sense of experimentation to everything we did, how much quicker would it go, and with what energy? Crank up Shaimus and dance with your baby on your hip while you put away the laundry. Invite half a dozen friends over to write with you. Title the next work meeting that you’re responsible for “Awesome Fiscal Responsibility Fun Times 2010.” Smile at strangers. Adopt antiquarian politeness. Open your face to the world.

(This is more a reminder to myself than the rest of you, but let me know if it works)

my girl wants to party all the time, party all the time

I had some time off in the last week of December. Checking my calendar, I realized that I had a lot of social nights scheduled. Moreso than usual for me, even on a day off. So I decided to push it and go out drinking as many consecutive nights as I could.

How’d I do?

Sunday: Dinner and Christmas gifts with Fraley, Melissa, Hawver and Dea. We tried out The Local in Newton – decent plates of tasty food, but I don’t know that they put that much gastro in the gastropub.

Monday: Yelp Elite event at Teatro. After a few drinks to unwind and some catching up with Serpico, Kim and Sarah, I circulated and socialized. I made several new friends out of the evening, got a caricature drawn and took a shiny Yelp lunchbox home. I followed the Elites to the “afterparty” at a bar in the Theater District Alley and got progressively looser, though not ridiculous. I hope.

Tuesday: After jiu-jitsu, I drove into the city to meet Meghan O’ and friends for birthday cocktails at Drink. After kvetching over A Song of Ice and Fire plot developments with the birthday girl, I spent a while chatting up Michelle McN. and Ben S. I only had the one drink, since I was driving several folks home.

Wednesday: Met Rebecca M. for drinks at Flat Top Johnny’s in Kendall Square. We intended to play pool, but ended up shooting the shit for over an hour instead. Ducked into the Blue Room downstairs so we could hear ourselves talk. Good cocktails and good duck ravioli. I ended up at Asgard, like I do, and had maybe one more drink.

Thursday: New Year’s.

Friday: Saw Lisa F. off on one of her last visits to Boston (… sniff). Then I caught the train into Allston and rocked it out at 90s Night at Common Ground.

Six consecutive nights of drinking and staying out late. In an unrelated story, next week I caught a cold.

Here’s the scary part, though: I could see myself living like this.

For years I’ve operated under this assumption that I can’t go out too often, or I’ll get weird and crusty. I base this off of times that I’ve gone to bars or parties, felt out of place, and gone home disappointed. But now I wonder if those nights were nights I should have stayed in, or if it were the result of getting my hopes too high. “This is the party that’s going to make my week!”, I would think. “It’s gonna be off the hook!” And then I’d get there and the party would remain nestled comfortably on its hook, everybody nodding politely and drinking quietly.

But if I set my expectations lower – just get there and have drinks – I do fine.

And even if six nights a week are excessive, it wouldn’t be hard to go out boozing three or four nights a week. Even for someone as antisocial, cranky and stubborn as I am. Facebook, e-mail and text messaging have made gathering a posse – or finding a posse mid-hunt and riding up alongside them – easier than ever. All I’d need to do is give up writing, cut back on jiu-jitsu, and maybe put this directing thing on hold for a bit.

How hard could that be?

drinking santana cham ’cause it’s so crisp

Saturday, after shooting under hot lights for eight hours, I did not trust myself behind the wheel of a car. As such, I couldn’t make it to Melissa and Fraley’s farewell party for Jon Walton. I did stumble to the end of my block and into the basement of Redbones, to say goodbye to ImprovBoston’s own Paul K. and Melissa H.

Paul and Melissa are moving out west, so they’re driving across the country and seeing a wide range of tourist sites: the Grand Tetons; Mt. Rushmore; Casper. Wyoming. They couldn’t work their schedule to include the world’s largest ball of twine (the Kansas one), and this filled them with regret.

“How do you decide to make the world’s largest ball of twine?” Melissa asked.

“You commit to the bit,” I explained, “a staple of improv. Once you collect enough twine to make a four-foot ball, why stop there?”

I’ve worked with Paul before in Neutrino and always found him a talented, responsive partner on stage. But he’s also a genuinely good human being – kind and fun to be around. I told him and Melissa I’d miss them as I said my goodbyes.

“We’ll miss you too,” Melissa said. “But I still read your blog.”

“You read my blog?” I asked, mouth open.

“All the time,” she said. “I think it’s the only blog I read.”

This makes Melissa Holman the greatest American hero.

# # #

The short girl in the black coat darted past me almost before I could react. “Emily!” I yelled. She stopped, and a three-year online friendship culminated in its first face-to-face meeting.

I introduced Emily to Victoria while we waited in line for our tickets. Vickie talked about living in Davis Square. Emily reminisced about her high school prom – right here, on Rowes Wharf on the Boston waterfront. Though the weather threatened rain tomorrow and had been muggy all weekend, Monday evening greeted us with cool water breezes.

“This is awesome!” Emily squealed, sipping at her complimentary Maker’s Mark mojito.

“This is Yelp,” I told her.

The Odyssey disembarked at 7:00, taking us out past the Harborwalk and the Korean War Memorial. We drank cocktails and ate peppercorn sirloin, talking about:

  • contemporary music: Emily: “I can’t handle any musician who was born after 1990”;
  • work: Vickie: “I’ve seen The Thighs, and yes – they’re real and their spectacular”;
  • And the best way to kill a mouse: Me: “Any sharp trauma to the crown of the head should do it.”
The party spread over every deck of the boat and practically every Boston Yelper had brought guests, so I only got to say Hi to each person I knew once. But we found Leighann, and my coworker Allison H., and the entertaining Lauren R., and the chocolate fountain with strawberries, and the sun setting over the Boston skyline on the top deck, and a Johnny Depp impersonator with a bottled tan swaggering about in leather and lace and a fake sword. The DJ closed the night with “P.Y.T.” as we settled back into dock.

“Thank you so much for inviting me to this,” Vickie said, moments after embracing Emily and sending her to the Ashmont line.

I shrugged. “That’s what friends do.”

I got something to tell you, far outside the black and white

If you’re young and want to socialize with strangers in your major metropolitan area, do whatever you can to become a Yelp Elite.

Yelp has figured out a business plan designed to funnel free appetizers and liquor into the gullets of 21- to 38-year-olds, somehow at a profit to everyone involved. Monthly Yelp events involve taking over a bar or restaurant, supplying snacks to everyone they invite, and not charging a dime. I suppose the establishments get some publicity out of it; as a marketer, I remain skeptical.

The big Yelp Elite event for June, this past Tuesday, was a toga party at Ivy. It felt a little too loud and stuffed for me, cramming three hundred people into a space better suited for two hundred. You could only acquire the free drink of the evening – miniature St. Germain cocktails – at one corner of the bar, leading to a traffic jam of Gallic proportions. But I met plenty of new people and chatted up older friends as well. My toga – two mismatched towels, slung around my waist and torso – caused talk.

I much preferred the smaller event the following evening – a free screening of 500 Days of Summer at the Loews Harvard Square. Marie C., Lauren R. and I (along with Boston’s Yelp hostess Leighann F. and several dozen other people) saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel schmoop around on screen, then repaired to Charlie’s for burgers and beer. The TVs on the second floor alternated between the Red Sox game and Ghost Hunters on Sci-Fi.

“My sister’s ex-boyfriend convinced my entire family,” Leighann explained, “that the specks of light you see in photos when a flash goes off are ghosts. They still believe it, even though none of us can stand him now.”

“Maybe he should have used his powers of persuasion,” I suggested, “convincing them he wasn’t a douche.”

A micro media blow of 500 Days of Summer:

__________, an attractive but gloomy male between the ages of 21 and 59, meets __________, an energetic pixie with an anachronistic haircut between the ages of 18 and 26. After a whirlwind courtship which involves late night conversations, sprints through __________’s landmarks and a soundtrack featuring indie pop stars __________, __________ and __________, the two fall into bed together. __________ is happier than he’s ever been! But __________ refuses to commit to the extent he wants, for reasons she won’t get into. After several fights, a few walks in the rain, and a gloomy song by __________, the two of them realize that __________. Credits fade on an artsy cartoon cityscape.

it doesn’t take a lot to get a lot of us to talk this way

I’ve got a post up on Overthinking It that I’m particularly proud of: Toward a Grand Unified Theory of Schwarzenegger. Critics accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger of always playing the same type in his 80s action roles. But what if that’s deliberate? What if he’s actually playing the same person?

# # #

My answers to yesterday’s questions:

1) Find some activity where you’ll meet more girls. Not to date, just to learn how to talk to.

2) Take a few computer classes.

3) Nothing in your life is as important as you’re making high school out to be. If you can’t handle something, tell your parents. If you can’t tell them, tell a counselor. If you can’t tell her, tell a priest (while you’re still talking to them). But letting the pressure build until it breaks you will accomplish just that.

# # #

Monthly Yelp Elite event at Nile Lounge in Allston last night. Free drinks and snacks courtesy of Kick for Nick, a charity that distributes soccer balls to Iraqi children. The easy, cynical response would be to laugh – what good are soccer balls in a civil war? – but don’t forget that futbol is the most popular sport everywhere in the world except for the U.S.

Nile Lounge is a hookah bar, and I indulged in many fragrant incenses. You’d fit a little plastic mouthpiece over the tip of the hookah, draw in a deep draught and exhale gently. Wash your palate out with a little Naragansett and try another. Personal favorites: White Peach Apple (light and sweet) and Blue Nile (tastes like Powerade).

# # #

I couldn’t stay at Nile long, though, as I had an Atmosphere concert to hit up at the House of Blues.

First, some words about the venue: the line for admission stretched to the end of the block. Red-shirted guards rousted drunks and rowdies from the queue; I saw one poor stumbler get cuffed and paddywagon’ed while I was still one hundred yards from the front door.

The inside tiers like a stadium: open ground floor, balconies ringing the second and third levels, and even some theater seating in the way back. They closed off the first floor by the time I arrived, but I got a killer view from the second floor: balcony corner closest to stage right.

slugThe artist: this was my second time seeing Slug and Ant live. I’d immersed myself deeper in their foreign language in the past year, picking up not only God Loves Ugly and Seven’s Travels but even some of the sad clown bad dub tracks. This was fortunate, as 90% of the set came from God Loves Ugly and When Life Gives You Lemons …, with a rare mixtape track thrown in.

As with last year, Slug eschewed that fake-ass encore shit to take us out on a high energy set. “Now, the smart thing to do would be not even mention the encore and just play the set,” he admitted. “But I’m not that smart.”

But the following changed between this year and last:

Size of the venue: Roxy had about a thousand fans; House of Blues holds over 2400. “This is some Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome shit,” Slug observed. “Ant was comparing it to the Los Angeles crowd. I was comparing it to home.”

No pushing: Slug pointed out a vortex of moshing humanity ten feet back from the stage. “I ain’t down with that shoving. No crowd-surfing, neither. I’m serious: I’m getting too old for that. You keep up that shoving, I will politely ask security to put you in a chokehold and take you to the fucking sidewalk.”

goes to my head

Two quick shout-outs:

  • The Second Glass, who host a regular crash course in wine appreciation at Downtown Wine & Spirits in Somerville. The Second Glass is a handful of guys and girls near my age who have an encyclopedic knowledge of wine without any of the pretension. They can reel off the vineyard characteristics and aging variables of a particular Bordeaux at the drop of a hat, but they’ll close with, “Now your typical wine douchebag would say this wine has good ‘legs’ to it …”

  • The Yelp Elite crew, for putting together this kickass wine-tasting and lecture. It was 20 of us crowded into the back corner of the liquor store, swirling wine and sniffing it like pros. I met some new people in the community and walked away with three cheap but phenomenal bottles of red: a 2007 Evodia Garnacha, a 2006 Andeluna malbec and a 2004 Knick Knack Ozzie red.