Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week Twenty-Two: Treasure Hunt Party

Of all the parties that Cokesbury would have us throw, this may be the one that has lasted the test of time. But we probably don’t have the gosh-golly feeling Cokesbury does about some of the technology that makes a Treasure Hunt Party so fun to do, unless, of course, there’s an app for that.

Best hear it from Cokesbury:
In the days of the automobiles when it is a small matter to go places, a treasure hunt will be a good idea for an evening of fun. Let the treasure be a large box of candy, or the refreshments for the evening, or a handsome prize. Guests should be sent all over the city and even out in the country searching for it.
Of course, we’re not talking about some Anglo-Saxon gold hoard or something like that. If, in fact, the treasure is the refreshments for the evening, your guests will have to settle for a box of sandwiches and cocoa, or sandwiches and coffee – just go wild here for a moment – rather than 11 pounds of Latin-inscribed gold.

No invitation with this party, for some reason. But a lot of variations. You can have a map treasure hunt, in which searchers are provided a map “showing certain points to be visited and certain insructions on how to look for the treasure at each point.” Or you can have a letter hunt, in which a letter is read “giving full instructions as to where to look for the treasure and how it is likely to be found.” Or you can drip-drip the clues out one at a time, doling them out as each destination is reached.

Or – and this is the way I’d do it – go the Smiler Grogan Way, viz (fast-forward to 4:20 for the start of the film. It’s a great intro, but very, very long):

Yes, there’d be no better way to start off your treasure hunt than with the death of a mysterious, proboscisally-endowed old gentleman, especially if you’ve got friends who can mimic Phil Silvers or Buddy Hackett. (My introduction to this movie is something again I owe to Mr. Loertscher.)

But I digress. Once the treasure hunt is over – yes, it isn’t yet the highlight of the evening, and should be planned to it takes an hour and a half or less to complete – the guests are to reunite at your home or licking their lips under the Big Dubya for further entertainment, and the refreshments, that is if the finders actually remembered to dig them up and bring them with them.

So you’re done with the treasure hunt. Now do it again in miniature:
Hidden objects. Have objects hidden about the room and give to each guest a slip of paper on which is written some object that they are to find whenever the leader’s whistle is blown. These objects might be, for example, a spool of thread, a needle, a spoon, a pipe, a match, etc. No one must give information to anyone else, and anyone caught giving this information should be required to pay a forfeit.
Better yet, test the acuity of your guests as treasure hunters:
Are You A Good Treasure Hunter? Sense of Smell. Try out different individuals, blindfolded, to see who can name the largest number of a group of articles by the sense of smell. Use Vick’s Salve, an onion, limburger cheese, castor oil, smoking tobacco, etc.
Guests should, of course, make sure their onions are tied to their belts, which was the style at the time. There are other tests for hearing and sight, but the best one is this:
Can You See in the Dark? Blindfold about four or five persons for this stunt. Before they are blindfolded objects are placed on the floor, and they look at them. They are then told that after they are blindfolded they must walk the length of the room without stepping on any of the objects. When all have been blindfolded they must walk the length of the room without stepping on any of the objects. When all have been blindfolded and placed in position to walk one behind the other, noiselessly remove the objects from the floor. It will be amusing to see them trying to avoid these objects.

Especially if one of the objects was a baby and you lave a doll out on the floor and when a person steps on the doll, somebody pinches the baby and . . . oh, wait. This is supposed to be a fun party. Forget I said anything.

Now it’s on to refreshments. Pick the dirt, worms and pillbugs out of the buried box of foodstuffs and have at it. But be prepared, sinners, for the next Cokesbury party which is sure to bring about Armageddon, or at least an evening of tiresome arguments between the enraptured and the atheists. Behold the clouds parteth to reveal the Cokesbury Bible Party. Hope nobody turns into a pillar of salt . . .

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lego Day -- Party is Delayed

It's Lego Day at the International Headquarters of the Cokesbury Party Blog. I might be able to do an update later tonight, but it ain't gonna happen now. Got to build a fire truck.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Week Twenty-One: An Evening With the Gods

First things first. Let's get into the proper mood for An Evening with the Gods:

Thor, of course, plays no role in Cokesbury's party; they're stuck in the more familiar Greek and Roman theology, but this video does show you some Zeus costume possibilities and, perhaps, suggestions for a few lines of snappy dialogue.

Here's the invitation:

This message comes from Jupiter
and is sent by Mercury with speed
to summon you next Friday night
bir a big party and a feed.
Wear the garb of a god or goddess
and take care lest you lose your heart
for Venus, the goddess of love, will be there,
and Dan Cupid with his bow and dart.

Yup, there's that Dan Cupid again. Honestly, can you take any god seriously if his first name is Dan?

And yes, this is a costume party. Cokesbury has a few suggestions:
Suitable Greek costumes bay be made of loose pieces of cheesecloth, draped around the body in various ways and fastened with pins or brooches. The boys might leave the left arm and shoulder exposed by fastening their material under the armpit. Girdles of various colors should be fastened around the waist and any superfluous material pulled up under the girdle and allowed to fall in a baggy fold over it. The girls should dress their hari in Greek style with fillet and psyche. Elaborate earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and hair ornaments should be worn by the goddesses.
Allow me to paint a picture here. Your guests may arrive thinking they look like this:

Well, perhaps a little happier. This Bluto is a bit somber. Instead, imagine Bluto here with a smile on his face, a bare arm and -- I can't put this delicately -- a hairy armpit. (Tip: Do NOT search for hairy armpit photos on the Internet. They are naturally there in legion.) Go for the original. Take advantage of the "baggy" portion of the description to arrive at the party looking like this:

You'll make much more of an impression. Trust me. Much more of an impression than Cokesbury's decorations, to wit:

The room should be decorated with streamers of crepe paper in pastel colors. Cardboard with Greek letters printed on them and hung on the wall would add to the effectiveness of the decorations.

Now honestly, what else could add to the effectiveness of pastel-colored crepe paper in evoking the worlds of the gods than Greek letters cut out of cardboard? Okay, someone could toilet paper the party and that might make it more festive . . .

On to the first game, which will tell you something about seed merchandising in the early 1930s:
Seeds from the Garden of Ceres. Secure as many kinds of seeds as possible, and put a small amount of each on separate saucers or small paper plates. Give each kind of seed a number. Any seed store would doubtless be glad to furnish samples of various kinds of seeds for this game. Give each contestant a pencil and paper, and ask them to write down all the seeds they know or can guess. The one who guesses the greatest number might be given a packet of seeds as a prize.
Huh? Unless folks in the 1930s were much more acute horticulturally, this game makes no sense whatsoever. Plan this kind of game today and you'd better limit yourself to popcorn and sunflower seeds, because that's all anybody's gonna get. And why Ceres? Here's why. She is the goddess of cereals and motherly love. Wonder what she'd think of that stupid Trix rabbit?

Then there's Atlas. What would the bearer of the Entire World, inspiration of Ayn Rand, think of this:
Atlas Relay Race. Secure three or four medicine balls. Divide the guests into a group for a relay race and have them line up in rows facing goals twenty or thirty feet away, if possible. Give a medicine ball to the leader of each group. The leader of the group must place the ball on his shoulder, holding it in place with his arm, in the way Atlas appears to be carrying the world on his shoulders. The leader runs to the goal and back, touches off the next player, who does the same, until all in the group have had a turn. The group to finish first wins.
Ensure your guests don't get too rambunctious, as medicine balls, being heavy, can cause considerable damage if thrown about. Entice the more unpopular guests to engage in a game of Atlas Shrugged by encouraging them to play dodge ball with the medicine balls.

If not enough aggression has been pumped from your guests by the preceding game, bring on the next one (Note: For the more timid host and hostess, I recommend arrows with rubber tips).

Cupid's Archery Contest. Secure bow and arrows from the five-and-ten-cent store. There should be about five arrows. Have the names of guests written on large red hearts mounted on a base so they will stand up. This could be done by writing a boy's name on one side and a girl's name on the other. Let the girls and boys shoot any heart they desire. Give candy hearts as a prize for those who it.

Watch the fun evolve as singles hunt singles, married individuals "miss" the names of their spouses, et cetera, leading to a free-for-all of unbridled hostility.

Now wind down with a quieter game, one that's sure to bring a note of solemnity to the evening, as it involves infectious diseases.
Pandora Will Open Her Mysterious Cakset. Each player is given a sheet of paper at the to of which is written "Pandora will open her mysterious casket." Theya re told that out of Pandora's casket excaped all the passions, sorrows, and diseases of the world; that only hope remained in the casket. They are told to write all of the passions and sorrows and diseases that they can think of which can be made by using the letters given above. The one having the largest list is the winner, and his list should be read.
And, as this is the 1930s, most lists will resemble this:

the staggers
dum-dum fever
climactic buboe . . .

make sure every guest has an onion tied to their belt.

It's time now to move on to refreshments, and, perhaps, the most enigmatic phrase thusfar to be found in the Cokesbury Party Book:
For refreshments serve "Food for the gods" (angelfood cake). An ice course would also be suggestive of their immortal qualities. Another suggestion would be to have Bacchus preside over the punch bowl and serve punch and sandwiches to the mortals.
An ice course? I'm a bit confused. Ice cream? Ice cubes? And since when does iciness imply "immortal qualities?" Can anyone help out with this?

No matter. Sit back, watch Bacchus, imagine him at your punch bowl, and get ready for next week's party, the Treasure Hunt Party. Cheerio.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Week Twenty: Bride and Groom Party

Truly, the Wedding Madness is Only Beginning.

Thankfully, I've only had to live through one wedding. It was my own, and my principal responsibilities in preparing for the event were:

1) Popping the question.
2) Helping select the rings.
3) Being present when a tuxedo was chosen for me.
4) Keeping the baggy tuxedo trousers from falling to my ankles during the ceremony.

My bachelor party consisted of dinner with my brothers at a restaurant I've forgotten and a swing through the newly-opened Fred Meyers. We're not exactly party people, you see.

Had I been aware of the Cokesbury Party Book, however, we might have indulged in something akin to the Bride and Groom Party. I'd still reveal myself and my family as not exactly party people, but at least the party would have been more than strolling through the produce aisles.

So let's move on to the first party suggestion that shows how technology does indeed keep marching on:
Telegrams. The leader asked each one present to write a telegram of congratulations to the bride and groom on a telegraph blank that had been provided. Some of these will be serious and some humorous. The groom in this case asked the group not to send the telegrams collect. The bride was asked to read the messages, to which each had signed his name or initials. Instead of telegrams, a variation of this is to have the boys write advice to the bride and the girls advice to the groom, and have these ready by the bride and groom.
Somehow, I don't see this working with e-mail or text blanks.

The next game is, subtly, for the groom to use to test the worldiness and otherwise attachment of his wife to frippery. If it be kitchen frippery, so much the better. I know I will be beaten for that. In my defense, let me say: I do an awful lot of dishes in my house, and occasionally cook. IN fact, I cooked dinner two nights this weekend, so please, ladies, put the pitchforks and torches down. Maybe this attitude explains why this couple, pictures below, chose to have their wedding ceremony in a cemetery, of all places. "Mention a spatula to me once, Food Boy, and you'll be buried here alive."

But on with the game which, you'll note, involves your whistle:

Articles the Bride and Groom Will Need in the House. After the couples have been seated in a circle, each girl is provided with a paper and pencil. The leader tells the couples that when the whistle is blown they are to start writing the names of household articles (not food) on the girls' papers. They are to write only those articles that begin with the letter A. The boy is to do the writing and the girl offer suggestions. When this has been going on for about a minute, the whistle is blown again and the boys are asked to move to the next girl on their left in the circle. They are to write now the names of articles beginning with B. As the group advances through the alphabet the leader should shorten the time allowed so as to keep the moving fast. It is not necessary to go all through the alphabet; but when the boys get around to their original partners, the game should stop and the boys asked to count the number of words the girls have. The girl having the longest list wins a prize.

The next game, a mock wedding ceremony, is entertaining in its own right and is a bit of cultural anthropology, as a lot of 1930s slang comes out of the suggested script. Cokesbury suggests that the ten participants practice the ceremony beforehand. Make sure to find a "preacher" who is loquacious and capable of memorizing a lot of material, as the whole ceremony goes on for two pages in small print. I'll reproduce choice bits here:
Friends and fellow-citizens, lend me your ears. We are not here to bury this couple but to marry them. This occasion is very solemn, yea, almost tragic; for we have gathered together to join this man and this woman into the state of wedlock, from whose bourne no traveler ever returns -- except by way of alimony. This event is tragic in that after years of fishing a sucker has been caught. This should teach us all that those who nibble must look out for the hook. This couple comes before me today believing that two can live as cheaply as one -- which they can as long as one of them does not eat or buy new clothes. Amen.
Those who know their Shakespeare will recognize the quoted material. Those who don't can click on the links. All should click on the final link in this excerpt, which will bring you to Will Rogers, another of the world's great writers, according to Cokesbury. It is fun to see the cultural references in this bit, and it kind of shows off the classical education folks got in the 1930s. Try saying this today and you might get a few who will say, yeah, that sounds vaguely familiar, but there'll be damn few who'll know what you're talking about. And they're all dead.

Here's another bit:

(Just after rings are exchanged; they're joke rings, really brass curtain rings)
Since time immoral brass has been a symbol of wedded love. The bride from the day of the wedding begins to display brass. The groom is found to have plenty of brass. The display of brass will never end, so this brass ring is made in an unbroken circle. Take it, sir, and place it on her thumb and repeat after me these words: "With this ring I thee wed, and with all my earthly possessions I do thee endow, payable in a weekly allowance of four dollars, out of which you must buy the groceries and your clothes, pay for the milk and ice, laundry and gas." Amen.
Yeah, lots of chuckles, and a bit of slang: Brass. It was dashing then. Sounds kinda cute today.

Now it's on to refreshments. If you didn't ask a guest to bake a wedding cake, get one from a bakery (again, "bakery" sounds kinda cute today. I'm not sure a tray of Starbucks biscotti would be the same). Let the bride-to-be cut the cake. Then ask where the real party is.

Kinda tame this week, yes. But wait until next wee, when you'll spend an Evening With the Gods. Shazbot.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Week Nineteen: Shipwreck Party

A few costume ideas . . .

A big part of me really thinks that Cokesbury’s Shipwreck Party came a few decades too early. Back in 1932, about the only shipwreck reference common in popular culture was that of Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe’s fictional tale, while compelling, hardly has the panache of today’s shipwreck ethos. No Gilligan running around getting chased by cannibals or giant spiders, or eating bowls full of glow-goo. No Captain Jack Sparrow fixating on why the rum is gone or schizophrenically chatting to doppelgangers as eerie rock crabs scuttle about his ship, marooned in the salt flats.

Sinclair Lewis-themed segue: Alan Hale, Jr., who played Capt. Jonas Grumby in Gilligan’s Island, is the son of Alan Hale, Sr., who played Miles Bjornstam in a 1923 adaptation of Lewis’ Main Street novel.

But what Cokesbury lacks in overall shipwreckery panache, it more than makes up for it by the sheer weight of the recommended decorations and sheer pointlessness of party activities, as you’ll soon see.

But first, the obligatory invitation, accompanied by a reminder that this is a costume party:

It is the good ship – Friendship –
That sails in our social sea.
But on Friday night we’ll make believe
That the ship no more shall be.
For we’re having a Shipwreck Party,
And you are just to wear
What you salvaged from a shipwreck,
What that is we do not care.
The ship, of course, met this disaster
In the still hours of the night.
So wear what you would first pick up
Were you forced to sudden flight.

Now, on to the decorations. In the past, Cokesbury has recommended you find your more obscure decorations (remember those hatchet-shaped cards) at your local five-and-dime. This time, they offer no suggestions, but, perhaps, intimate that such a party is better hosted in a locale such as Palm Beach, where such frippery is readily available:

Decorations. A few old anchors, ropes, life-preservers, boats, and yacht chairs would make good decorations and furnishings. Also have some steamer chairs or some beach chairs. The hose and the hostess may be dressed in sailor suits, as the idea might be that a party of shipwrecked persons was picked up by another boat. Even the social committee, the judges of the costumes, and those planning the party may be dressed as sailors or in a yachting suit.
Gee. Here I am in landlocked Idaho. Anchors aren’t all that common around here, even in the best ship's chandlers offices. Life preservers I’ve got. And a canoe. A few paddles. That inflatable raft with the hole in it. Maybe I can make this work. Just as soon as I can find a sailor suit. Don’t some sailors wear bib overalls?

The rest of the evening, apparently, will be spent faithfully recreating the drudgery of either being stranded on some desert isle or in the company of sailors who are too busy staving off homosexuality to do anything more constructive or interesting. Behold the eye-matching activity:

Matching Partners: Eyes. Have the women find a partner by finding a man that has the same color eyes as herself. In case there is an argument about the proper matching, the leader must decide the case.
I’m sure you’re waiting for the rest of the activity. I know I am. But that’s it. I even checked to make sure a page wasn’t missing from the book, or that two pages were stuck together by cocktail sauce or something. But that’s it. Ladies, find someone with matching eyes. Wasn’t that entertaining?

But there’s more:

Making the Best of a Shipwreck. Give the guests papers and pencils and sheets of paper on which has been written at the top the word “shipwreck.” Let the couples work together at this and see which couple can make the most words in a given time. Give a prize for the longest list and have this list read.

Damn, that Professor's Good

Now, the Professor from Gilligan’s Island knew how to make the best of a shipwreck. Give him a little time, some bamboo and a few coconuts and he’ll have you sitting in a Bamboo-Lounger listening to hi-fi recordings of Gilligan being chased by cannibals through the coconut earphones. He did not, however, gather the other castaways about and insist they find out how many words they could make out of “shipwreck.” Even Gilligan would have beaten him if he’d suggested such a thing.

So let’s do something entertaining, yeah? How about this:

Quiots. Get rubber quoits from the five-and-ten-cent store. Have a quiot tournament. Divide into groups of eight and match two players against the other two, letting them play four at a time. The winners in the first game play the winners in the second game. The two players who win in each of the groups of eight can then play off the tournament. Give a prize to the couple that wins the tournament.

Now really, such games are entertaining, especially when played by those who really think tey know what they’re doing. A few years ago, I played a few rounds of petanque – we know that game in America as bocce – with a few swells in France. The older gentleman wanted his ability to measure distances between the balls and the goal to be precise and unquestioned, so he removed his with which he made the measurements. Much amusement was had, as Cokesbury would say, watching this fellow play and make his measurements while at the same time trying to keep his pants up. Make sure to include such guests among those playing quoits, to keep the others chuckling.

Next we move on to a game that will absolutely stun your guests into wanting it to pass quickly, yet enthrall those of an anal retentive bent who are able to not only grasp the game’s core but also enthusiastically wish for it to continue round after round because they’re so damn good at it.

Excuse Me. The leader asks the first player a question which demands an excuse. The excuse must be given in words beginning with the player’s initials. As an illustration – the leader might ask, “Where were you last night?” The player, whose initials are IMC, replies, “Excuse me, I was ironing my clothes.” The leader asks another player whose initials are AMC, “Where were you yesterday?” He replies: “Excuse me, I was airing my cat.” And so eth leader goes around the circle. Anyone making a mistake must take the leader’s place and ask the questions.

Why aren’t you playing?

Excuse me, boring jerk dementor.

Now on to a game that could result in nuclear-explosion level double-entendres, which should be kept until the end of the party so the guests will remember it the most and forget how boring the rest of the evening was.

Guessing Words Representing Things Done on A Ship. In this game one player is sent out of the room. The other player agree upon some word ending in "ing” which represents something done on board a ship, such as sleeping, eating, talking, sailing, commanding, laughing, scrubbing, cooking, washing, bathing, shaving, playing, etc. When the player comes back into the room, he may ask questions about his word, for example, “Where is it done?” “How often is it done?” “When did you last do it?” “Is it done in the kitchen?” etc. When the person who has been sent out guesses the word, the one who gave it away must next go out and so the game continues.

The more juvenile members of your guest roll ought to be able to keep this one going for hours.

That’s it, aside from refreshments, which should be “canned goods, such as might be salvaged from a wreck. For example, each one, or each couple, might be given a small can of sardines with opener, a box of soda crackers, a bottle of soda water, a jar of pickles or olives Another suggestion would be to serve canned baked beans, buns, pickles, and coffee in tin cups.” Remember to have your guests sing or hum the Gilligan’s Island theme as they eat, to add to the authenticity.

Bon Voyage. And bon app├ętit. This might be a good time to get rid of the canned hominy and beets you have in your pantry. Remember, shipwrecked people will eat anything. Just ask Gilligan. Tune in next week for the Bride and Groom Party, which Cokesbury describes as “very clever,” a sure sign of hilarity.