Cambrian: Opinion

Hillbilly-hippie hacks for happier gatherings

The Rough House Band, performing on the author’s “stage” at a previous party (and will be at this year’s party, as well!).
The Rough House Band, performing on the author’s “stage” at a previous party (and will be at this year’s party, as well!).

Even while growing up in Los Angeles, I concerned myself with the ways of the earth: living off it and with it. My best friend in grammar school was also from a family of Depression-era parents, so we learned to be practical. I think that’s a good thing.

Make things easier on yourself. Like when you have a party. A big one.

In that “other life,” my roommates and I had parties. Lots of parties. As any 18- to 25-year-old might. You get used to things. Like broken things, meeting new people by surprise and just — how to go with the flow. Fast forward a few years to Cambria. The tradition continues. Not so much in the style of 20-somethings.

Well, on some levels …

The best hack, but not really a hack at all, is to just go with the flow! First of all, why are you having a party in the first place? All your social obligations completed in one fell swoop? Not really, but you can think that. Really? To have fun, to meet new people and to share friends with friends and nurture happiness in those you love … I guess that’s the hippie love in me. Well, that’s my motive. Which leads me to my 28th annual summer party.

Recipe for an organic party: Just put the bones of it out there and watch it happen: potluck, BBQ pit, clothing exchange, live music, games — and my favorite part (well, I have to admit I like the food — well, and dancing; I love to dance), a creative project for all to take part in. Tie-dyes, masks, action figures and, yes, art cars.

You may have seen one or two of them over these years (four, to be exact). And now, my current car is about to get its second face lift. Art Car 4.2, as it were (what can I say, it’s still running!).

Hillbilly hack No. 1: If your car needs paint, throw a party and tell your friends it’s art. Truth be told, my paint is fine but …

Hillbilly hack No. 2: unsightly yard? Roots and rocks hard on the dancing bare feetsies? No budget for sod? Scrounge for some used carpet! No need to worry about stains, and it covers a multitude of deficiencies in your landscape! (Speaking of landscape, once your chickens have fully Rototilled your yard, keep them locked in their run for a couple days before the party to keep all that organic matter off the new rug.)

Hillbilly hack No. 3: You know those big galvanized tubs Jethro and Ellie May and Granny and all were partial to washing laundry in? Well, they are handy not only for that, but also for filling with soda ash solution to soak T-shirts in for tie-dye en masse, or for ice to keep your keg cool! Save the melted stuff to water whatever the chickens haven’t yet killed.

Hippie Love suggests that you give neighbors in at least a two-block radius a flier for the party to warn of the activity in their area (hope I got you all!). Hippie Love also dictates that recycling, garbage and compost are all clearly marked. Sometimes people will read your signage. Just do your best. And walk the streets to collect any “extras” that may have wandered away.

And Hippie Love suggests keeping lots of old blankets or sleeping bags on hand for stray overnight guests who may have had a little too much fun. Your chickens, if they are doing their job, will have provided some eggs for breakfast. Hey, an extra hand or two cleaning up in the morning is never a bad thing, right?

How do you know it was a good party? Never a bad word (well, disparaging words anyway; some of us swear like sailors), a full dance “floor/carpet,” people staying long into the night, a full tip jar for the band, the number of full trash/recycle bags, the memories people share from years long passed and kids who came as tots and are now bringing their own because it was “a happening” — and hey, how many “happenings” for young and old, really, do we get to take part in these days?

Happy summer, y’all!

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at, or visit her website at