Posts Tagged ‘parties’
May 2, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
You never really get over secret childish chauvinism about your birthday month. At least, I never did. In my mind, May will always be the best month of the year; emerald, the best birthstone; and lily-of-the-valley, the finest flower. (On the subject of Taurus, I am agnostic; I have always resented the fact that we are supposed to be stubbornly rolling around in velvet or something.)
Because my own birthday falls so early in the month, and because I was definitely on the “preciousness” spectrum, my eighth birthday had a May Day theme. I knew little of the day’s ancient roots or traditional practices, let alone its adoption by the labor movement. But I had a Tasha Tudor book called Around the Year that featured young girls, flower garlands, and a beribboned maypole, and I was sold.
For my birthday, we gathered flowers, made May baskets, and left them on neighbors’ doorsteps while we hid nearby. They must have been very confused. Although my parties were generally homespun affairs, on this occasion my mom hired a gentleman in Renaissance dress who played a hurdy-gurdy while we danced around a maypole that a friend’s dad had constructed from a birch trunk. We were all terrified of the hurdy-gurdy man, and kept our distance.
“The Merry Month of May” was written in 1599 by the prolific playwright and pamphleteer Thomas Dekker. Dekker was widely considered a wastrel and a hack—Ben Jonson dismissively called him a “dresser of plays about town”—and he spent seven years in debtors’ prison. But his pastoral is one of the most enduring paeans to the fifth month. Somehow I doubt it was in the hurdy-gurdy man’s repertoire. Read More »
March 5, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Once upon a time, a very nice couple whom I didn’t know very well threw some kind of party. I can’t remember what the occasion was, but I do know that they lived in a nice apartment near the Broadway-Lafayette F stop, and that I went to the party with a former boyfriend. It proved to be a memorable evening.
We made small talk with lots of nice people. At some point we found ourselves clustered together with two other couples; at least one component of each was an architect. Some public figure had just come out as gay, and one of the guests said something innocuous about the importance of being true to oneself.
“Oh, I agree,” said one of the women, blandly. “Take my father-in-law, for instance. It wasn’t until he got terminal cancer that he was able to tell the world who he really was.”
“What was that?” said my ex-boyfriend. Read More »
February 27, 2014 | by David Pablo Cohn
How many hotheaded academics does it take to solve a riddle?
I don’t know what the best thing was about Jim Propp’s parties. They were a crystalline picture of the specialized, rarefied company I kept when I lived in Cambridge in the midnineties, parked on Mass. Ave. halfway between Harvard and MIT. Profs, postdocs, and assorted academic keepsakes from the cream of Boston academia all piled into Jim’s Victorian four-square house in Somerville for an evening of … well, we never quite knew what the evening would bring.
Technically, these were “word game” parties. Each was planned around a series of intellectual challenges arranged around the house more or less like evil wizards, ax-wielding dwarves, or more mundane impediments in a typical game of Dungeons & Dragons. You’d team up with a couple friends (or the pretty redhead who was probably dating one of your professors, if you could), and make your way from room to room, solving bits and pieces of puzzles that—if you were lucky—you could string together for the grand solution. The prize was bragging rights until the next party, six months down the line.
In any case, it all began with the invitation. Twice a year, a mysterious envelope would appear. I remember the first one I received: a single sheet with nothing but a swirling Spirograph flower on one side, and the letters RSVP below it. Where, when, and how were left to the recipient, presumably after he or she had coaxed the secret out of the cryptic drawing. Read More »
August 27, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“I’m not club-able, you see. I don’t like literary parties and literary gatherings and literary identities. I’d hate to join anything, however loosely.” —Jeanette Winterson, the Art of Fiction No. 150
July 16, 2010 | by Lorin Stein
I'm looking for good books about New York to give as host/hostess gifts. What would you recommend? —Elizabeth P., New York City
There is always E. B. White's little classic Here Is New York. The old edition is the one to buy for its beautiful jacket. Ten years ago I gave a copy to my friend Matteo Pericoli, a native Italian in love with the plain style in American prose. Matteo then turned around and created an even more beautiful book: Manhattan Unfurled. This unique object, which unfolds like an accordion, consists of two thirty-seven-foot pen-and-ink drawings. One portrays the western shore of Manhattan, the other the east. Matteo also made a children's version, See the City, with pencilled annotations, e.g. "This is a power plant"; "United Nations (I drew more than 3000 little lines!)"; "This is a not-so-famous building, but I like it." I don't know which version I prefer, loving them both as I do. If your hosts lives downtown, you may also want to give them Luc Sante's Low Life, with its haunting history of the tenement city New York used to be. Then, if your hosts are unemployed, you can always give them Gotham. Once, as a house-sitter in Greenwich Village, I spent the better part of a week in a gigantic Adirondack chair reading Gotham from cover to cover. I mention the chair because you need a big sturdy comfortable one, or a book stand. There is no question of reading the book in bed.