Just say yes
This might come as news to my immediate family, but I’m usually pretty agreeable.
When my friends ask me to do stuff, I’m generally inclined to say yes, even if it’s not something I’m super interested in. I’ve always believed that when you extend an invitation to a friend, what you’re really saying is: “Let’s hang out and spend time together.” The activity itself is often inconsequential, because what matters is seeing your friend.
However, not everyone thinks this way.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve invited people to do stuff, only to get a reply denouncing the proposed activity. “I don’t really want to see that movie,” such people will write. Or: “I don’t like that band.” On a bad day, such replies really get on my nerves, and I have to restrain myself from writing something akin to: “I invited you to the movies because I want to hang out! We can do something else! Just offer a counter-proposal!”
Although you have to draw the line somewhere.
For instance, I’ve rejected proposals to do karaoke, play dungeons and dragons and see Morrissey in concert.
And I’d do it again.
Anyway, earlier this month I received an invitation that was somewhat unusual for a Christmas cynic such as myself: My friend Kim wanted to know if I had any interest in going to a Christmas concert at St. John the Evangelist Church in Schenectady.
My short answer, the one I kept to myself, was: Not particularly! But I wanted to hang out with Kim, and since Kim is a fun person, I figured we would have a decent time, even if I hated the music. (As I’ve mentioned before, my tolerance for Christmas music is quite low.)
There was also the possibility that I would enjoy the music — that the event would surpass my expectations. Because that’s the thing about rejecting activities in which you’re not already interested out-of-hand: You close yourself off to pleasant surprises. And the world is full of pleasant surprises.
For me, the Christmas concert qualified as a pleasant surprise.
I’d never been inside St. John the Evangelist before and the place is amazing — an architectural gem, well worth the price of admission to the concert ($10, which benefited the Schenectady Free Health Clinic) alone. I’ve driven past the church often and noticed its distinctive and elegant spire, which rises from the center of the building like some kind of heavenly beacon. But the inside is just as impressive — lined with carved stone angels and stained glass windows featuring intricately carved marble walls and topped by a lighted dome that provides the sensation of peering into the infinite.
The singing, by the Clifton Park Community Chorus and Choraliers, was also good and it was a treat to watch Kim and other audience members join them for a portion of Handel’s “Messiah.” After the concert, we returned to Kim’s house, where we talked for hours, and then drove out to Capital City Diner, near Crossgates Mall, for dinner. I had never been there before, but I suspected that it would be good, given the fact that Kim was willing to drive 20 minutes to eat there. Sure enough, the Capital City Diner was a real find, with a mouthwatering menu and great food. Because of its suburban location and distance from my home, it never would have occurred to me to go there.
But I’m really glad I did.
Later, it occurred to me that sometimes fun lies in the margins, away from the main event. I never would have predicted that visiting St. John the Evangelist would be one of the highlights of my weekend, or that I’d be raving about dinner at a local diner. But here I am.
Another unexpected treat occurred on a trip to Pauly’s Hotel, a bar in Albany I’d never been to before.
My friend Bruce had invited me to hear the Ramones tribute band Loud and Fast play there, and since I hadn’t seen him in a while I said yes, despite the fact that I generally don’t think much of tribute bands.
The band was fun, but the highlight of the trip was learning a little bit about Pauly’s Hotel, Albany’s oldest tavern. According to my friend Shannon who, unlike me, has read William Kennedy’s “O Albany!”, Pauly’s served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, which is the sort of disreputable piece of history I find absolutely irresistible. In fact, the whole evening has inspired me to read “O Albany!” next year.
My friend Hanna is a master at organizing outings to places and events that I would never think to go to.
On one of my trips South, I visited Hanna in Asheville, N.C., and when I called her up with my arrival time, she informed me that we had white-water rafting reservations, and that I shouldn’t be late. She later took me to a hotel that F. Scott Fitzgerald used to frequent, and brought me inside so I could see the 14-foot stone fireplaces in the lobby. My friend Heather has dragged me to corn mazes and convinced me to go watch amateur stand-up comedians perform for the first time. Trust me, I did not know I wanted to do any of these things.
Of course, what made all of these outings special was the company of friends.
And although I can’t predict what my friends will succeed in convincing me to do next, I’m already looking forward to it.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.