Rhian had a really good idea a couple of months back--she would throw me a 40th birthday party, and insist that people bring, in lieu of gifts, a short anecdote to tell. The party was last night, and the stories were great. And luckily people brought booze, too.
The interesting thing was, only a handful of the people invited were writers, and all but two of them left before the stories got started. Almost everybody was a Narrative Nonprofessional. And the story hour was easily as riveting as a good episode of The Moth or This American Life. We had a guy hanging on for dear life all night on a sheer rock face while standing on one foot. We had an ornithologist lost in Alaska, mistaken for a lesbian, and reeking of gasoline. We had a summer job at a junkyard, a harrowing visit to Palestine, a rock star forgetting all his songs, and a Hungarian epistolary lunatic. Some of these people, you would ordinarily have to twist their arm to get three words out of them--yet, given the opportunity to tell a great story, they had no trouble at all.
I'm not going to make a case here for the universality of narrative, yada yada yada. Maybe I'm only attracted to potential friends who are good entertainment. But I am shocked at how much more interesting everyone is than they think they are.
Of course, it was a special occasion--asked to do this weekly, a lot of people would probably balk. But maybe this is something everyone ought to do every few years--go over somebody's house, get a little drunk, and testify. We recommend you try it.
Photo: Rhian cooked all the food, out of Andrew Sean Greer's guerilla party guide Cooking For The Criminally Insane. You can count on a future favorite-obscure-cookbook post from one of us.