Life Goes to A Party It's a month and a half later, and I have thus far avoided all conversation about my birthday party here on the robot--not because of a persistent sence of shame or guilt, but simply because I've found it impossible to be self-deprecating about it--and the only two emotions I can express around others are self-deprecation or disdain directed outwardly.
You can see how this could be an issue when the only possible emotions I could have following my birthday are shock and abject awe. In fact, I'm now trying to figure out how best to improve myself to one day be worthy of all the love and affection that was showered upon me that distant weekend. I felt for a decent portion of the evening a sense that I should apologize to the party-goers...they couldn't possibly have been there for me, and the real reason they were there must invariably show up at any moment. That feeling came and went in waves until the last guest was shuttled out the door and I passed out on the couch still wearing my shoes, a big doopy grin on my face and an empty bottle of vodka in front of me.
It was a good party, which is surprising because I don't tend to be a good party thrower. I have, however, been to enough bad parties to pick up a little of what not to do to avoid having one of those parties that stays cliquey and which you wind up talking to that girl interning with the prostate specialist--because she's the most interesting person there!--while people plink out Charles Ives tunes on the piano.
You know the parties I'm talking about.
You may in fact have different standards as to what makes a good party--maybe for you a good party is one where people stumble to the subways at 4am, to ride home in a puddle of their own urine. Maybe it's those parties where the attendees eventually pass out on your floor in a puddle of someone else's urine. The important thing is for you to provide an atmosphere wherein passing out in micturition of indeterminate origin is a logical end to the evening.
Smoking. Have a place for smokers, please. This is vital. You don't have to allow smoking everywhere, but if you have a dozen people there, half of them will be smokers, another half will be people who only "smoke when they drink," and another half will be not very good with fractions. You don't want to alienate any of these people. Not only do they contribute to your party reaching critical mass, but smokers are cool. Not every single one--I'm case in point for that--but smokers are part of an international brotherhood of friendly talkative people forged out of the crucible of 10am smoke breaks and high school years spent congregating in the bathroom.
The worst party I ever attended had a hostess who, when asked where we should go to smoke, responded "Smokers go to hell!" to which I could only reply "I'm trying, I'm trying. But until then?" DOn't be that hostess (she's now my boss, incidentally).
Invite a couple of people who you know are going to be an issue. Drama is good, especially for those not directly involved. Friends who have had a recent falling out over minor things that hint at the fundamental rifts in their relationship, guys who are still hung up on the girl who will be attending with her fantastically handsome and charming new boyfriend, or mortal enemies--it makes no difference. Include one or two of these--they should, however, not exceed 10-15 percent of your total guests attending. Think of them as the gratuity on the cost of throwing a party.
Non-Profit status. Get yourself declared a non-profit organization. The process of getting yourself 501(c)(3) status can be tedious, but the benefits of being able to collect tax-deductible donations of alcohol are incalcuable and can be extended to your non-party life. Just a warning, though. 501(c)(3) status can be revolked if you engage in poltical advocacy during your party.
Don't invite poeple you hate. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we all know a person or two who's a friend or a friend of a friend who may be okay one on one, but has a preternatural gift for killing a party by insisting it revolve around their insipid anecdotes. Don't invite them. Take them out the next day if you feel guilty about this and make up a story about how dull your weekend has been. Be prepared to etherize them if they guess the truth.
However, a couple interesting and random people can spice up a boring party immeasurably. For instance, at my party, a professional clown was invited--a graduate of clown college who had since gone on to study for his masters in International Conflict Resolution. He didn't arrive until 10am the next morning, but by that point the dishes were as intractible a situation as the West Bank, so he was put to good use.
Have a musical instrument or two lying around and make sure you have a charismatic friend or two who will want to play it, whether it's a harpsicord, banjo, or guitar. You'd be surprised how fun singalongs can be after five or six drinks. At my particular party, the singalong wound up being Magnetic Fields, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Mountain Goats, and Joanna Newsom songs, but your mileage may vary, depending on how geeky your friends are. When in doubt, sing a Beatles song that's not "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (singing this song at a party is grounds for immediate expulsion--if they make it to the second chorus, a suitable punishment such as stabling their shirt to their ears may be enacted to dissuade others).
People will bring beer and wine, but never enough. Make sure you have vodka at the very least, as well as mixers. OJ, Tonic, coke, etc. These are the defaults, but Red Bull is good if your friends are soccer hoolligans or the local chapter of Fight Club. Jaegermeister is an acceptible substitute if you want your furniture to be broken and random eyes to be blackened. Fermented mare's milk is a good substitute if you want your party to eventually invade, rape, and pillage all the nearby apartments before moving on to rule all of Asia with a drunken iron fist. You can also use tis to liven up staff mixers.
Drugs. Definitely not a requirement, however drugs can be selectively applied to partygoers if you want to influence the direction of your party. Apply pot if you want everyone to be docile, friendly, and interested in really looking at their hands. Also, pot is useful if you really don't want to have to clean-up and store any leftovers. Caveat: make sure there are plenty of snacks and that you're prepared to talk at length about the moral implications of Thundercats and Go-Bots
Ecstasy can be applied if there's someone you really want to hug you a lot. Try to provide water, if you can, and be prepared for them to ask you the same question the entire night (they will really enjoy asking it, though).
If someone becomes unruly, cranky, or otherwise irritable, shoot 'em full of heroin--the gift that keeps on giving. They'll come away saying you throw the best parties ever. All you need handy for these people is more heroin.
If you're worried about your ability to stay awake for the length of your party, try to find an ADD friend to bum ritalin off. In extreme cases, or when you want the party to last for three days, liberal doses of crystal meth might be the only recourse. As an added benefit, the speed freaks can be used to clean your apartment, rearrange your furniture, and build an enclosed sundeck if motivated properly. On the downside, after four days without sleep, your guests might accuse you of conspiring with your TiVo to steal their brainwaves and broadcast their sexual fantasies on the internet. Make sure you have a good alibi if caught doing this, and don't hyperlink to people's brainwaves without their permission.
Finally, if you're in a particularly MK-ULTRA mood, you can always surreptitiously dose partygoers with acid. It's best not to do this at random (by, say, coating a random tortilla chip in the boat and letting fate decide who gets it); instead, reserve this gambit for your one reserved, charming, but very shy friend who is sitting quietly on the couch feeling social anxiety. He'll enjoy himself a lot more when he's sucking at the teets he'll see coming out of the wall.
Improvise. These aren't hard and fast rules--hard and fast rules don't exist. They're not kid-tested, your mother wouldn't approve, and I accept no responsibility if you put them into use and alienate your friends, break the fine china, and sustain several compound fractures to bones you happen to be more or less fond of. A good party is not a safe party, and if it's a safe party you're after, I can give you my parents' number and you can hang out with them and Pastor Ron. Get ahold of yourself!