Last summer, I briefly heralded my family’s new found normality (after lo, these many years of my husband’s reign as a local independent impresario) in a post called “What we do on a Friday night these days.” It wasn’t a very exciting read, but posting it was sort of… illuminating.
To this day, handfuls to dozens of people still visit that post every week, and it’s not because they think my Cosmic playlist is brilliant. It’s because, come Friday, a number of people from all over the world apparently go to the search engine of their choice and type “things to do on a Friday night,” hoping the bots will show them the way to a good time. Somehow, they end up here instead, tripping the light fantastic through my domestic burbles.
If you are one of those souls meandering through cyberspace, looking for weekend inspiration, I actually can help you. It just so happens that despite of the fact that I am kind of a shut-in these days, I am still something of an expert about things that people can do on a Friday or Saturday night. Over the course of my career, the two jobs I actually had to go into an office to complete involved localizing a well-known national chain of websites and writing for a local alternative weekly – both publications were deeply involved in informing people about the myriad ways they might spend their free time.
I also waited until my mid-30s to become a parent, so that I could enjoy many years of going out on Friday and Saturday nights before giving them up to drool and intergalactic renditions of “The Farmer in the Dell.” I’ve seen enough that I’m not so worried about what I might be missing these days.
My unsolicited advice
For starters, if you are one of those people who lives in a mid-sized-to-major city and scrunches up their nose in confusion or non-recognition when I mention the name of a local free alternative weekly newspaper, you probably aren’t well-enough informed about what your city has to offer to viably complain that there isn’t anything to do. Start there – look for the free rags in the foyers of restaurants, coffee shops, libraries and bookstores, or search for “free weekly + (name of your town)” online. Hunt through their calendar listings and see what you’ve been missing, then consider going someplace you’ve never heard of. If the unknown scares you, pack hand sanitizer and low expectations.
Otherwise, here is my all-purpose, non-geographically specific list of suggestions about things you can do on a Friday or Saturday night.
Part One – Going Out
I weep when I consider the uneaten cheese cubes cast into garbage cans when an artist loads up a snack table, hangs his or her work for all to see and no one comes.
Actually, in my town, I’ve found that it’s rare that no one comes, even if it’s just people questing for free cheese cubes. Whatever your motivation, it would behoove you to become one of those people. Don’t think that you have to know what you’re looking at. It’s better that you come with questions.
See live, original music in a smaller venue
I obviously have my biases when it comes to this one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t evangelize a little about live music. The fact is, if you love music, and haven’t ever seen it live, in an intimate venue, your relationship with it is effectively stuck at second base.
While it’s true that if you are anywhere between 35 and 65 years old, you can probably have a fairly intimate experience with some band that specializes in covering all the music you sang in the shower when you were twelve, that is not the same as seeing an original act. Connecting with a bunch of people through drunken nostalgia can be fun, but connecting with something new and stirring can actually be transcendent. (Don’t expect that at your first show, but believe me, it happens.) It also makes you smarter and better looking.
I haven’t gone to them as often, but all the same concepts may apply to theater, dance and other live performances.
Go to the drive-in or an independent movie theater
I’ve found the cost of mainstream Hollywood movies offensive in recent years, especially given their soggy quality. I don’t know if exorbitant numbers of writers, directors or film editors are snorting bleach these days, but an awful lot of big-budget films seem to be about 20 minutes longer than they should be. This makes entertaining movies mediocre and mediocre movies excruciating.
The fact that my city still has a drive-in has made many a burdensome movie almost bearable. (I’m talking to you, Titanic.) I can sit there and groan over the scenes that ought to be deleted and only annoy my husband. Because drive-ins now send audio through your car radio signal instead of on those old window speakers, you can still be moderately awed by the actions of magical creatures and things blowing up on the screen, and also have the steering wheel conveniently handy to bang your head against during inexplicable jumps in plot and/or dialog.
And yes, supporting independent films (or at least independent theaters) is healthy for you and me. Although I’ve been disappointed in several indie movies lately because they too often seem like shallow vanity projects for award-seeking stars, when they are good, they are really good. And worth seeing on the big screen.
Do guerrilla theater
Why are you hellbent on being entertained when you could be the one doing the entertaining? You don’t have to have an agent or a cause. Join or look to these people for inspiration. (I’m especially fond of their freeze series. Another great one is Look Up More.) Going to public places in full costume when it’s nowhere near Halloween is also a good idea. Consider it an anthropological investigation.
My brother had a few of these inspired moments in his youth. Like the time he and a friend made up fake fliers in support of building a canal in the center of Broad Street here in Columbus. The kicker was the suggestion that our city’s replica of the Santa
Maria be floated down the middle of the canal as an innovative form of public transportation.
To be continued next week, with suggestions about what to do if you’re staying in.