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A Tale of Two Parties

I am a very lucky little boy. Last week I was given the opportunity to attend two parties. Hooray for me.

The first one was thrown during work, in commemmoration for a stranger's retirement. It was a small party, held in an office. There was juice to drink, as well as flan cake and cookies to eat. Gifts were given to the retiring stranger. He looked appropriately pleased to receive them. People milled around and talked politely to each other. I suppose this party was pleasant enough, as far as parties go, but I was rather bored. Perhaps this celebration would have meant more to me if I knew the stranger whose retirement I was celebrating. Then again, I couldn't help but feel that perhaps the generosity was forced, that perhaps people were enjoying themselves because that's what one does at celebrations, that perhaps other people were enjoying themselves as much as I was, that if this party had never taken place nobody would have cared very much.

The second party I went to was attended by just me and a friend. There was no juice to drink or flan cake and cookies to eat, although I carried a small container of Life cereal mixed with Honey Nut Oatie-Os left over from lunch, which we occasionally nibbled on. This party consisted of walking to a bus stop. First we walked through the woods. Then we walked down a road, and sat on a bench and looked at the Big Dipper. Then we walked to the bus stop and wished each other a good night. I do not think that we were celebrating anything except the good fortune of being in each other's company. I cannot vouch for my friend, but my laughter was genuine and my happiness was true. We talked and walked and enjoyed ourselves, I think. Perhaps it was just because my friend was a friend and not a stranger, but I enjoyed myself immensely at this party, even though there was no obligation on my part.

Perhaps it is because I am an old fashioned coot, but I seem to enjoy small, simple gatherings much more than fancy get-togethers. Granted, I have never been to a party at which heavy drinking or drug-taking or writhing of bodies has taken place, so perhaps I do not know how to truly party, how to truly enjoy myself. But I cannot envision a big formal celebration being any more fun than a simple walk through the woods. I cannot envision how giving other people gifts is more worthwhile than giving people one's company. It boggles my mind to think that "real" celebrations are supposed to be an opportunity to eat fancy food and drink alcohol and exchange presents and network for job contacts and practice social politics and show off one's house and fine china, because I always thought that celebrations were meant to celebrate something. Call me a hick, but I will take the company of a few friends and some good conversation over the dressiest formal ball.

The other aspect of celebration that confuses me has to do with the nature of recreation. Why is there a time to work and a time to play, and why can the two never mix? Working hard and playing harder seem to be admirable qualities for a person to have, but I don't completely understand why. I personally like to bend the rules. Like the possibly mythical African peasant farmer who sings as she tills the earth, I find that I work better when I manage to make my work fun, and I work poorly when I see my work as just another uninteresting task that needs to be done. Similarly, I find that I enjoy myself more when I am somehow keeping some part of me active, whether it is my feet when I walk through the woods, or my mind when I am engaged in active conversation, or my eyes when I look for the Big Dipper in the sky. The idea of drinking alcohol to have fun is completely foreign to me, because alcohol destroys one's ability to observe, to act, to think. It destroys one's ability to see and interact with the fascinating messed-up world in which we live. I'm not completely sure how that can be fun. But again, perhaps I am just a hick. Stick-in-the-mud social outcasts like me certainly wouldn't know how to have a good time, would we?

What I really need is a definition of "fun," I suppose. But that will be another tirade for another time.