Last night, I made the biggest mistake of my life: I watched Open House, a Netflix original movie in which nothing happens for 80 minutes, and then in the last 10 minutes, everyone dies. You never find out who did it. It's literally just some random killer who is in no way connected to the characters or plot (except for when he kills them).
The movie was awful -- to the point that it is actually kind of offensive. But worse is the fact that I can never have that Monday night back. It's gone.
So, yeah. I'm mad at Netflix for hardcore promoting such a terrible movie. As I wrote on my Twitter, "If I were actually paying for my Netflix account, I would cancel it in protest."
But I'm also annoyed at myself for watching it.
There were so many better things I could have been doing. There is so much free or cheap live entertainment tht would have been so much more fulfilling -- and could have led to new friendships, new professional connections, or just an experience worth having.
For example, last month, I attended a free improv show, put on by SImps, the Stanford Improv group. Yeah, it was "amateur" -- it was a bunch of college students, not, like, professional improvisers. But it was still super hilarious. The students were incredibly imaginative, generating chemistry, complex characters, and elaborate love stories out of thin air.
Even though everything was made up on the spot, I felt it more than any given thing on Netflix. Every awkward scene was soooo painful -- and one of the storylines was a first date between two teenagers, one of whom had been asking the other out for two years before she accepted this date. And then, somehow, the whole show went out on this huge crescendo, where two amusement park employees realize they're in love with each other, and bring down the house with basically the sweetest (but still somehow hilarious) dialogue I've ever heard.
So, yeah. A lot of feelz.
Also worth noting: I went by myself. Sometimes, you think something won't be fun if you go by yourself. But the fear is always worse than the reality; I had a super memorable night.
Photo: Stanford Improv
Later that month, I attended a Hot Sardines concert -- I hadn't heard of the band, but when I heard there was going to be a dance floor, I thought I would at least check them out on Youtube.
That night ended up going more amazingly than I ever could have anticipated. First of all, I was soon sweating from dancing so hard in a gorgeous concert hall. Second, everything is always better and more energizing when it's live. Anything can happen -- including your date getting heckled!
It's true -- lead singer Elizabeth Bougerol made fun of my date's shirt, in front of a thousand people! All in good fun, of course.
And then! After the show was over, I ran into one of the band members in the hall. "Where's the bar?" he asked.
"I don't think there is one... but we're going to the Rose and Crown, if you want to join."
Next thing I knew, my date and I were hanging out with the band!
So, yeah. That made me feel pretty cool. But what was even cooler was hearing these guys' stories. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to spend your whole life training to be a musician -- and then making it?
(Fun fact, though: while most of the band is classically trained, one member is entirely self-taught. That was another entirely different perspective I loved hearing about!)
I loved hearing about their crazy (and exhausting) lives on the road and sharing stories about life in Silicon Valley -- from ridiculous startup parties to when the bubble is going to pop.
I even got some advice about my own songwriting. They said they're going to check out the songs I've posted on Youtube and get back to me with some brutal and honest feedback... which is actual an incredible opportunity.
I had so much fun at that event that I bought tickets to another, similar concert. "A Holiday Stomp," they called it, "with a dance floor."
I'll admit: it was a total bust. There was no dance floor. It was basically just a high school gymnasium filled with folding chairs and old people. So I used my words and asked for a refund... then started looking for something else to do. I mean, I'd already dressed up in a ridiculous, Christmas-y, swing dance-y outfit and driven half an hour...
We ended up finding an old western bar, the River City Saloon, in Old Town Sacramento -- someplace I'd never been before -- that was doing karaoke night. So we went in and immediately signed up to sing! It was unlike other karaoke I've done. There was no "stage" or "DJ". There was just a wireless mic and some bartenders!
At other karaoke places, the DJ sings the first song. But, lacking a DJ, I was up first. The bartender/DJ announced that the first person to get up on the bar and sing got a free shot -- and there was no was I was letting anyone beat me.
Unfortunately, the ceiling was not quite high enough to accommodate a woman of my size -- but I made due!
The bar also had pool, Pac-Man (super sticky Pac-Man -- which is great for the microbiome! :P), and air hockey.
Long story short: the night didn't go as planned -- but instead of getting frustrated or giving up, I found a way to make it exciting and memorable, anyway.
Other things I did that month that were all better than watching horrible shows (and even good ones) on Netflix:
Christmas Lights Walk.
Not like one or two times total -- but like two or three times per week. It's a great way to not only help your dog meet her FitBark goals:
But also to improve your own health and fitness (did you know that walking for just 15 minutes after eating will literally half the spike in your blood sugar?) -- so that instead of gaining weight during the holidays, you might actually lose some?
Wind Chime Walk.
Just because the Christmas lights are down, doesn't mean you can't still have amazing, dream-like walks around your neighborhood at night. As I wrote in a previous post:
It sounds weird... but walking around in the dark, listening for wind chimes, is actualy super fun. If your neighborhood is anything like mine, there are way more wind chimes than you'd expect -- way more varieties of sounds surrounding you each night than you realize.
It doesn't have to be wind chimes. It can be anything that makes you more aware of your surroundings. Anything that keeps your head here, in the present, instead of back at the office, back in that argument you had with your boyfriend earlier, back into worries about that thing you've been dreading.
I know it sounds dumb -- but, seriously. Just try it.
Performing at Open Mic Nights.
I've been attending songwriting competitions through West Coast Songwriters. Those are always... interesting. I mean, I could sit there all night and never perform a single song, and be totally entertained by these incredible songwriters.
But open mic nights are a bit more chill. Typically, you'll get to play 2-3 songs (or spend 10-15 minutes sharing poetry, jokes, etc.) -- and, depending on the turnout, you might get to play two or three mini-sets.
Hands down, the best three possible places to play an open mic -- all three of which I attended in the last month -- are:
1. The Acoustic Den Cafe, in Roseville, CA. The whole point of this cafe (which also serves food, beer, and wine) is for acoustic music. If you're in the area -- GO. There is no better place to play than here. Even if you're a first-timer. Even if you're super nervous. The people are not only super talented, but also super supportive.
Don't play a string instrument? No worries. They've got a keyboard. Not a songwriter? No worries. Most people play covers! I did an original, "Behind a Mercedes":
2. Back Yard Coffee, in Redwood City, CA -- which also hosts regular Paint Nites, Magic The Gathering nights, and Philosophy Throwdown. I love the vibe at their monthly open mic. They've got a great organizer, and a super creative and talented group of musicians.
3. The Freewheel Brewing Company, in... "unincorporated Redwood City"? (I think it's definitely in Palo Alto... but everyone else, including Google, seems to disagree.) They brew their own beers (including a special Peanut Butter Cup Porter last October), have amazing fish and chips, and offer a casual atmosphere to perform. Or even just listen, and have way more fun than you would watching Netflix.
This month, I played six songs at Freewheel -- including "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan, "Kathleen," by Josh Ritter, and three of my own originals, including:
Learning to Cook a New Dish.
I'm really comfortable with sports and music... but I don't know anything about cooking. But I'm learning! I am lucky enough to have two friends who are basically food experts. When we cook together, they always explain the science, the art, and the nifty little hacks behind cooking. For example, I learned why people use wooden spoons, even though you can't really put them in the dishwasher. I learned that spinning your lettuce with cold water and leaving it in the fridge for a bit will make your salad crisper.
And I learned how to make coq au vin, a delicious French dish that was beyond anything I thought I could ever make.
I'm a regular on the basketball court. Most nights, there is nothing I would rather do than play ball.
But it's also fun to mix it up sometimes. The other night, I took a friend to the gym to work out. He'd been feeling fat and out of shape, and I was willing to go to the weight room if it would help him get into a new routine...
Unexpectedly, there was a volleyball open gym starting. We contemplated for a moment. We both wanted to play, but he knew he wasn't as experienced of a player as the rest of us, and I knew that I hadn't really touched a volleyball since my shoulder surgery, three years ago.
But we decided to go for it -- after all, you're a lot more likely to stick to a new gym routine if you actually, intrinsically enjoy it.
I had a lot of fun getting back into a game I once played at every opportunity. He had fun playing a ball sport (even though he was probably the worst player on the court, he wasn't making any more mistakes than anyone else -- in fact, sometimes total noobs score more points than they should, simply because their decisions and body movements are so unpredictable).
Volleyball open gym was super fun -- and I'm now looking for opportunities to join an adult league. Possibly even a women's league (it would be kind of awesome to spike on a women's net again)!
But even if I only ever go to informal open gyms... sports is always more fun than Netflix.
Whatever it is you do, you can spend an evening rehearsing it. I've spent two evenings in the past month practicing a song I wrote with my friend Charles. We met up at the lake near my house, spend an hour working on the song, and then concluded with a walk around the lake -- meaning that Ruby met her FitBark goals, and we got some time to chat and catch up after our hardcore, serious rehearsing. (Just kidding -- it was fun!)
But you can also try out for a play or choir, as my two cooking friends recently did.
Or, if you're into dancing, you can take a dance class (the best one in the Bay Area is Richard Powers' Tuesday Night Dance Class, a six-week series where you can learn tango, swing, Latin dances, waltzes, and more).
Or self-teach. I saw a dance move I really liked when I was watching White Christmas this year.
Actually, I saw several. And I was like, "I can learn those!" So I went out to a local tennis court one night and learned the between-the-legs-dip-into-pivots move (3:20) and the swing-out-into-free-spin-into-showy-dip-into-inside-dip-into-swing-out-into-crazy-around-the-back-ending-dip move (3:28).
Way more fun than Netflix. And all I had to do was go outside.
Checking Out A Local Band.
One Saturday night, after a long day of surfing:
I was so ready to go home and eat food and chill in front of a show for the rest of the night...
But a friend invited me out to see his new 80s band play their first ever gig. I'll be honest: the 80s is my least favorite decade of music. But I figured, it's only an 11-minute drive from my house. I can check it out for 15 minutes and then leave. (After all: everything's always worth it, and 15 minutes is a lot of time!)
I ended up staying for almost the entire show! Stealing 3rd was amazing! There was one classically trained NYU guitarist, backed by another amazing young musician -- and a drummer, singer and keyboard player who were actually alive during the 80s. They played Journey, Bon Jovi, and other 80s classics -- including, of course, Final Countdown! I met ("met" -- it was way too loud for us to actually speak) the coolest dance partner a girl who showed up alone at a bar could have asked for, and had a fantastic time watching my friend do his thing.
My one piece of advice, though: bring ear plugs. I think you can hear the music better when it's a few decibels quieter, and small bars tend to have the loudest music.
Other nighttime activities I've indulged in this month include skateboarding, night hiking (when you go at night, you can totally go naked and no one will ever know -- I mean, assuming there aren't any game cams in the park), moon gazing, restorative yoga with live piano (it was like a shortcut to achieving the benefits of meditation), watching NBA games over Mountain Mike's pizza buffet (it's like a superhero movie, but better), and attending a First Aid Kit concert.
Each and every one of these activities was way better than watching Netflix. Even if Netflix shows weren't offensively bad, leaving viewers bewildered and angry, with a profound sense of self-loathing...
Doing things in the real world is always better.
Your body will feel better. After all, your health and BMI are much less affected by exercise than non-exercise calorie burn -- like dancing in a bar, practicing a new dance move, strolling through your neighborhood, or playing a pickup game.
Your mind will feel better. After all, research shows that more screen time always makes you less happy, and less screen time always makes you happier. No exceptions.
You will have and make more friends.
And when you look back on your day, week, month, or life, you will feel nostalgia, not regret.
Now go do something.
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About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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