Five Years Ago, I Invented a Party
I was standing at a backyard barbecue with random people I didn’t really know when I half-drunkenly joked about an idea.
What if we created an event that started with thirty-two pairs of people, and then each pair would meet with another pair, and each foursome would become eight, then sixteen, then 32 and half the party would meet with other half of the party, becoming one. Kind of like the NCAA Tournament of parties.
As many things do, the idea began as a joke (though also loosely inspired by the Snowball dance I learned at Bar Mitzvah’s in Chicago in the 1990s). But I later realized that the idea was also rooted in something greater.
I live in Los Angeles, a city whose disconnectedness often frustrates me. Many, including myself, are out to make a name for themselves. It’s an individualist city, whose effortless flow oftentimes takes a backseat to flow-less “effort.”
As I joked about the idea, the positive response at the inconceivability/radicalness of the thing infused in me a responsibility to execute. I was supposed to give birth to this baby.
So with a strong crew of six, we planned the first Snowball Party. The final location would be my front yard with a square dance to follow (for similar reasons I was drawn square dancing at the time), with the idea that you would reunite with your original partner.
The night was an epic success. There was a crazy sexual energy in the air (a lot of people got laid). Everyone had an incredible experience, except me.
My night was a yard-sale on life. I had placed myself neck-deep in a self-prescribed logistical nightmare. I lost my keys, wallet, the girl that I invited to the party went home with another guy, and to top it all off, my dog bolted into the LA night at 7:30 p.m., at the peak the of the event. While my phone was blowing up with “where should I go” text messages, I chased my dear animal through the hills of LA, the life of my dog vs. the life of the party. Eventually after a good 20 minute chase, a stranger gave Maggie a hot dog and grabbed her. I carried her home in my arms.
As a Taurus, I can be very stubborn and refuse to delegate. I also choose to punish myself and had been irresponsible with the workload of this crazy thing. I wanted to take it all on. And in doing so, I almost lost something I loved. But alas, I lived to joke about it.
Yet as the Snowball raged, I could see the thing I created taking shape. The instinct — to create an event where synergy reigned — was happening. A friend of mine insulted another by forgetting her name (after having met her 5 times) and I was irate. The square dance was a mess as it started to drizzle, but it didn’t matter. People had lost it, in the best way. And at some point, I tried to give a speech but nobody listened.
That was 2010.
In 2011, we did it again. Friends came in from Chicago and San Francisco. I was determined not to suffer the PTSD as I had the previous year so I brought on more people.
We sent people ice skating, to make posters at Occupy Wall Street Movement, and to Auto Zone. We had a song battle in Pershing Square, and smashed piñatas in MacArthur Park.
What I noticed is at the end of the night, people were talking to each other, taking each other in. There was a groundedness, a feeling of Chicago (my hometown) in the air. You could feel people listening. And it was also a killer experience.
There’s a book I like called the Trickster Makes the World by Lewis Hyde and he talks about the trickster figure as the artus-worker, who works in the joints of humanity, at the crossroads, the points of conflict. The elbow joint is called the articulation, and it’s at these points of conflict that we make art. Oftentimes this “articulation” is first expressed as humor (humorous bone).
In retrospect, I can see that I created something that lay at the juxtaposition of my idea of what an evening was and what it should be. And I guess it resonated, because I when I tell people it’s happening again, they are really fucking excited about it.
With that said, below is the invite for the 2015 Snowball. (Credit Josh Kalven). Click the “Explainer” for more information and to buy your ticket.
It is the first live event for my company The Bew, whose mission is to synergize the virtual community with the actual community. We will have interactive activities and performance from our familiar websites (Facebook, Yelp, Reddit, OkCupid). There will be craziness and it will all “Snowball” together. Please join us.
Thank you for reading.
John and the rest of The Bew