Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cocktail Party: The Stuff of Nightmares

You have no idea how much anxiety this image produces in me.
I’m going to a cocktail party tonight. This is not my thing. These make me seize up like an engine without oil. But I have had some good moments, some victories at these type of things a time or two.

I once talked with a conductor of a local orchestra.

At cocktail parties, this is how it works for me. Get to the party. Grab a drink right away. I squeeze this drink way too tight, and take a sip about every 8 to 11 seconds. I scan the crowd for someone who looks as sadsack as me. I never find them; I am the worst. I am the party’s sole loser. I am the only one with issues. Everyone else is talking, look, they’re talking. But I can’t do it. Oh, I can’t do it. I can talk, but once I get out past word 8 or 9 . . . things start to get pretty dicey.

By this time I’ve finished my drink, so I go back for drink two. Going back for drink two is awesome because you get to stand in line. I have a task! I’m DOING something! I’ve legitimized myself! I pick the longest line. I notice other people trying to catch my eye. They want to talk while standing in line. I refuse. I’ve EARNED this, dammit. The whole point of these parties is to talk to other people--you can’t force me to talk when I’m already so engaged in my task.

So anyway, I strike up a conversation with a conductor. I don’t remember who approached who. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that most likely it was he who started the conversation. Anyway, it was an interesting conversation. I asked him all about what it was like to be a conductor. I was surprised to find out that there were a lot of similarities to the way I think about writing. I asked him question after question, kept him talking--that is how I survive cocktail parties--keep your mark talking. The more flapping they do, the less psychological hyperventilating I do. The conversation ended with him giving me two tickets to an upcoming performance. I felt very validated as a conversational partner.

Speaking of conductors. I took my wife to the Seattle Symphony once (I know I sound amazing, but it was only once, never again, and it was only because I was worrying she might think about leaving me if I didn’t do something fancy now and again). We saw Rachmaninoff. Is that how you talk about a symphony, does that work? Anyway, it was occasionally pleasant, but it was also interminable. Once you have heard ten minutes or so, I am not really sure why anyone would need more. Obviously they didn’t agree, because it had to have gone on for over an hour. But at the end, right after it crescendoed into its climax, a guy from one of the first rows yelled out, “YES!”

I had to think that made the conductor feel pretty damn good.

So that is how I do cocktail parties. And that is all I know about orchestra conductors.

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