Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where everybody knows your name

Last night Wendy and I went out to a bar for a birthday party for a friend.  His name in this blog comes from an incident years ago...

Full Throttle, Hobo, Wendy, this friend and myself were all sitting around a gaming table preparing to start a new campaign.  We were all starting up new characters and essentially introducing ourselves to one another.  This friend had a history of making up characters for games that had totally innocuous names to his mind, but to the dirty, dirty minds of his coplayers these names were ripe for mockery.  Always we ended up making fun of his characters names because they rhymed with something or sounded like something obscene and inevitably these references were sexual in nature.  This time though, things would be different, or so he thought.

So this friend says to us "I thought a long time about this character's name and spent hours trying to find any possible way you guys could twist it around to mock me and found nothing.  There is no way you guys can find any kind of sick reference to mock my name this time."  Then he says, "My name is Iolo Longstaff."


A look of stark, desperate terror comes over Iolo Longstaff's face and his mouth forms that O you see in movies when someone is saying "NOOOOOOOOOO!" in slow motion.  A look of "Oh, no, what have I done?" settles onto his face as the rest of us begin to giggle, to titter, to utterly collapse into gales of uncontrollable, hideous laughter.  (We failed our saving throws)

Occasionally punctuated by outbursts of "Longstaff?  No possible sexual reference? You spent a week coming up with that?" we sat on the floor with tears running down our cheeks, having fallen right out of our chairs.  It took us a good half hour to get back on track with the game, but I must say that it was one of the most magnificent breaks from the action we had ever taken.  Henceforth in this blog I dub you Iolo Longstaff.

Back in the bar, Iolo shows up and the party is getting started.  We sit around with friends, order some food and take in the atmosphere.  This is something people like, to be out at a bar with friends, drinking some high priced beer, eating some excellent (but not so cheap) food, and to engage in conversation.  It just doesn't have that much appeal to me though.  The problems of course are that 1.  The food and drink are expensive, to the point that our whole family could eat for a 3 days on the cost of 1 entree.  Also, I don't particularly like alcohol even when it is free, so pricey alcohol isn't so much my thing.  2.  The place is damn loud.  I can speak loudly to 5 people, but to speak to anyone else there including the birthday boy I have to first wave or shriek to get their attention and then shout just to be heard.

We stayed around for about an hour and a half and then wandered home.  I enjoyed going out, but I can't help but feel like the time we spent just could have been done better.  Going out to the bar is a traditional sort of thing to do for the birthday of someone who is a fan of alcohol and likes experimenting with it, but it just seems like the wrong way to go.  Could we not find a place to go where we could talk to one another?  Surely somewhere there is a place where we can gather to drink and eat and celebrate that does not set such strong requirements for spending and such limits on speaking distance.

This is not the first time I have internally raged at the limitations of a venue.  I recall many times throughout my life sitting in a bar next to random people from the group I was with and wondering why I was there.  Sure, I am happy to shout conversations at the 2 people who can hear me for awhile, but given that I was there for hours it would have been nice if we were in a place where talking with different people was easier.  I remember being frustrated at sitting alone with the people beside me both engaged in conversations I could not make out while I listened to the combination of overloud music and the babble of the crush.  If I wanted to be alone with incredibly loud meaningless noise I could sit in a box with an airhorn all night.

The bar we are at isn't bad.  The food is really, really good and the music isn't overloud, so this isn't a night where I am frustrated at being there at all.  It is a night where I think that there must be a better way though.  On my birthday people randomly showed up at my house and we sat around drinking juice and water from the fridge and eating cookies from the freezer.  It was an absolute blast for me because all I really wanted from my birthday party was to hang out with my friends and I am perfectly content with simple, cheap things to accommodate that.  It is true that the point of a birthday party is to do something the birthday person wants to do (hence why I was out at the beer bistro in the first place) but I wonder if people really consider all their options or just go out to the bar because that is what is expected.

If you have an opinion, please let me know.  I am always interested in anything people want to say about my posts and I am curious about the reactions my rants generate.


  1. Hey Sky,
    I've been enjoying your blog! The bits about gaming lose me from time to time, but everyone has their area of expertise I guess, and it's ok that that's not mine!

    I really really agree with you about this post. I have always hated going out to loud expensive places, where you can't connect or interact with the people you are with or share/learn with/from them. I have always felt underdressed, uncomfortable, out of place and awkward in that setting. It's not my scene, although I will, as you seem to, go when the person matters to me, and clearly it is what they DO like and I want to support them.
    I wonder if this comes from our upbringings? Think back to the birthday parties of yore among the group of us in OConnor. Oliver Lake, sprinklers in the back yard, homemade presents, pushing hay stacks around to make forts. Perhaps what we like down the road is shaped from happy memories from the past? I don't know. Just a thought. My 30th birthday this year sucked, b/c I worked, but I have big plans for an epic birthday party this summer. I tell this to people and they ask 'what will you do ... go to Vegas, rent out a bar, huge house party?'. They seem truly disappointed that the birthday party of my dreams is a bonfire night on the property by the river - and perhaps sleeping there in a tent! (You're invited by the way. I'll have juice and cookies ready for you!!)
    SOrry I didn't end up getting to see you guys again at xmas. Life got away on me and before i knew it i looked at the calendar and realized you were gone. I hope you'll be here this summer when my residency is over and I have time to kick it!
    Love to your ladies for me!

  2. I think that an awful lot of the things I do were influenced by the way our families operated, just as you say. I don't feel like going out someplace or spending money improves the experience of a get together as the main thing about a get together for me is the people I am getting together with. My current location doesn't much support stacking up haybales to make a fort unfortunately, but perhaps someday I can get back out to the country and have those things available again. I will be back up to TB this summer, though I do not know when at this point.