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The Best Entertainment I’ve Ever Had

November 15th, 2009 by Alison · No Comments · community, entertainment, food & drink, health & well being, simplicity

Pretend we were all alive together 300 years ago, or 300,000 years ago. What would we do for fun, in the absence of  internet, movies, television, and everything else made possible by cheap fossil fuels? I think we’d do  what my friends did with me last night to celebrate my birthday: entertain each other without those things. One friend burst out at one point: “Why don’t we do this more often? This is so much fun.” The word that came to my mind was: community.

My close friend Jean Baumann (of Go Green With Jean fame)  masterminded my birthday party and MC’ed our group’s grassroots entertainment. Among many other things, she came over Friday morning and led me in decluttering and rearranging furniture so that 14 people could have dinner together and also have room to dance, all in a small house. Jean’s organizational gifts amaze me, and I chalk the evening’s success up to her.

I wanted nobody to buy anything on account of  my birthday party, so I stipulated no cards or gifts — and actually got compliance! My philosophy is that birthdays mean you are queen or king for a day. (A week is even better, if you have the persuasive gifts with which to pull this off.) If you are thinking I am maybe a little bit bossy, please know that on your birthday, I support your being queen or king for a day, and will cheerfully comply with your quirky wishes, too.) Everyone knew their job was to bring a few minutes’ entertainment to share.

Comfort food on a cold autumn night: my husband Thor made his justly famous wild mushroom risotto, a labor-intensive vegetarian dish that brings new meaning to the term ‘labor of love’. Everyone else brought an appetizer, side dish or dessert to share. After dinner, I got the entertainment rolling with my guitar and familiar songs: Ring of Fire; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; Put Your Hand In The Hand. People sang along with me on the choruses, delighting me with their enthusiasm: this group could sing!

David, quiet and almost withdrawn prior to the entertainment, delivered a William Stafford poem with a firm-voiced presence and conviction that commanded the room. I was fascinated to witness that side of him.  His partner Sue read us a Navajo chant about walking in beauty, and then sent us into gales of laughter with a spontaneous, spirited reading of  I’m In Love! His Name Is Wes. Steve and Linda, a married couple who are each professors of science, did a joint reading of the Billy Collins poem “Forgetfulness” . They nailed it with such artful timing that I was riveted — again, witnessing friends’ talents that went unnoticed in everyday life — until those friends were specifically invited to provide a few minutes’ entertainment at a gathering.

We danced at intermission and after the readings in our opened-up living room. We women threw ourselves into the dancing with glee, with the men mostly declining to join us, but happy to watch. The 80′s CD was surprisingly inspiring here, with Addicted To Love being my own favorite, and Jessie’s Girl revealing that Colleen is a closet rock star, complete with memorized lyrics, air guitar and synchronized dance steps.

In some cases, a person simply shared something significant to them while we all listened closely. Ken’s 90 year old mother passed over a month ago after a full and adventurous life, and Thad is in his second season of dog-sledding, learning, he believes, some of the patience it will take to eventually raise children. We witnessed each others’ lives in a way that doesn’t happen in the random, fragmented conversations of most parties I’ve attended. My low-technology birthday party built community, bringing me closer to each of my friends and bringing them closer to each other.

One of my all-time favorite birthday gifts ever is this haiku that Colleen read aloud last night, written when we were at Opal Creek together last weekend. She upped the ante of  haiku’s 5-7-5 syllable requirement by being 100% alliterative as well. Such a high achiever. :)

Alison by Colleen Kaleda

Sunny skyward smile

Sociable, smart, singing songs

Spunky soul sister.


This morning, I sit in my marvelously decluttered living room, full-hearted, shot through with joy, vibrating with the energy of my community. I’m hiring Jean to plan and coordinate my 50th birthday party, exactly a year away. We will entertain each other royally, using our hearts, bodies and spirits and not too much technology, in the ways that people did prior to cheap, abundant fossil fuels . . . . and the ways people will need to do after those are gone.

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