You know the cycle. The eating, the drinking, the family-ing, the partying, the spending. It’s a fun time while it lasts, but it’s not sustainable. By New Year’s Eve, the hyper-social debauchery spirals out of control and the old year goes supernova. Then the character of the city changes. As the temperature drops, the streets and sidewalks plug up with snow and our world gets quiet. Inhabitants build blanket nests in their burrows and begin to hibernate. While this brave new year may come as a relief for while, eventually it gets a little too quiet.
So how do you warm things up at this time of year without the pressure of your night being a barnburner? One way is to open your home for a weekly evening hang-out. No high stakes conversation, no dinner party, not much booze, just a hang out.
Last January I hosted something like this and dubbed it WednesdayLite. Here are some things we did.
Illustrations by Ricky King
This is the entry level variety of WednesdayLite. It’s a low impact hang-out, which is why it’s great.
Someone you know has Twister, Pictionary, Settlers of Catan, or even just a deck of cards kicking around. Dust those suckers off, then maybe round up a little prize (FREE BAG OF CHIPS!) for the winner to up the ante. It’s guaranteed to activate a competitive streak or two.
My favourite game these days is Cards Against Humanity. It’s like a terribly crude version of Balderdash that is actually fun. The rules are very simple, and you can get the gist of the game in a single round. The makers tout it “as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.” The best part is you can download a set for free at www.cardsagainsthumanity.com.
Karaoke can be magical, it can be terrible, and it can be both at the same time. At a bar the stakes are higher and the necessary amount of alcohol to get up the nerve to do it is a little too high. So why not try it at home?
The bare bones minimum for gear is a computer with some speakers, while a mixer and mic plugged into a stereo would turn your living room into a real karaoke bar.
You can search YouTube for karaoke versions of your favourite songs. You never know what you’ll find, but if classic rock is your thing, you’re probably in luck.
If you’re looking for alternatives, there’s a free and easy site with a nicely curated list of songs by Arcade Fire, Belle and Sebastian, Blur, Of Montreal, and even a drop of Johnny Cash. I have no idea where that site came from, but it’s great.
Yes, singing in front of strangers can be terrifying. But if you don’t have the guts to belt out a song or two with your friends in the safety of someone’s living room, you are doomed. So do it!
Big Screen YouTube
You probably already do this with your friends, but why not make it a real event, or even a game? Find the biggest computer screen or video projector you can and tell your guests to come with their best internet video suggestions. Maybe ask for them to follow a theme, like “cutest animal videos ever” or “unintentionally funny” or “amazing feats of humanity.” The sky’s the limit, because it’s the internet.
The internet: check it out sometime.
Sure, this one is a little weird, but whatever. This brings the joy of jamming without the pesky requirement of making it sound good. Now is your chance to discover what musical genius and/or sonic atrocities you and your friends are capable of. Round up some instruments, or things that make noise from around your house. Your kitchen might be a good place to start. Bowls, ice cubes, wine glasses, water can all be coaxed into making sound. Clang!
Storytelling can be a lot of fun, but not everyone thinks they have one to tell. One way around that is to talk about scars. Every person has a story of how they got their marks, and they are often pretty exciting and/or terrifying. This is show-and-tell for adults. No special equipment or preparation required, although it might be good to warn people that you want to do this ahead of time, in case anyone is squeamish, or shy about their scars.
Intrigued? Ahem. Let me put my lab coat on. Okay, miracle fruit is a plant native to West Africa that temporarily causes your taste buds to perceive sour things, like lemons, as sweet. It is not a psychoactive drug. It contains a certain molecule that temporarily binds with the sweet receptors on your tongue, and as a result sensations of sour are perceived as being insanely sweet. SERIOUSLY.
Serve up a platter of fruit — lemons, grapes, rhubarb, grapefruit, pineapple, lime, and, for the more adventurous, maybe some pickles, sauerkraut and other weird sour things. The effects last about an hour. We ordered the Frooties brand off the web, and it arrived in a few weeks.
The New York Times did a great feature on flavour-tripping with miracle fruit a few years ago, if you want to read more.
People enjoy arm wrestling. Even the people who say they don’t like arm wrestling like arm wrestling. Especially when they win.
An important part of hosting an arm-wrestling gathering is hype. First send out a message for each invitee to submit their arm-wrestling handle for their would-be arm-wrestling character (or threaten to run an online wrestling name generator). This gets them thinking, their arms flexing, and their alter-egos start to take shape.
Using these names we put together an old-timey-looking wrestling poster with pictures of our friends’ heads on wrestler bodies. We called it Arm Fight Club.
You’ll need an announcer and a ref, and maybe some good intro music for wrestlers as the strut onto the battlefield. The rest is history.
For the serious among you, check out this website for actual arm wrestling rules.