Entertaining is an art onto itself. In other words, some people excel at it, while others really struggle. In fact, my wife and I have found that some people make excellent hosts, while others make excellent guests. Few other than my wife and I of course, excel at both.*
* I know you may think that my declaration of my wife and I being excellent at both hosting and guesting is arbitrary and capricious, but I actually did a survey in my house and 100% of the respondents were in agreement.
What are the qualities of a good guest? How does one gain the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it comes to their hosting skills? Sadly, people are rarely aware when they turn out to be poor at either endeavor. Why? Political correctness of course. Nobody has the caljones to pull people aside and say, “You know you are really being a little b**** about the fact that we took you to see Cohoes Falls and you had to walk in the mud, now man-up!” At the same time, who is going to tell somebody who has been nice enough to host them that, “Would it kill you to have Pop Tarts laid out for us when we wake from our afternoon nap?” Therefore, people blissfully stroll along, unaware that they are failing in either of these most important of human responsibilities, the ability to be a successful host or guest.
So, as a public service, here are some things to consider when you are preparing to show up as a guest at somebody’s abode in my humble opinion.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. – My brother-in-law who is wise beyond his years, (Which is impressive considering he’s already well into his 50s.) said it best. “Guests and garbage both begin to stink after three days.” Now that I think of it, he may have said “two days,” but you get the picture. I would also add that before you think he was talking about me, he stated this after he had been at my house after about three days. Perhaps he was concerned about a reciprocal visit by me to his hacienda, and he was firing a warning shot across my bow regarding how long I was planning to stay.
- Don’t bring any surprise guests – Don’t show up with any additional pets or children. Pets would include, but are not limited to, dogs, cats, lizards, tarantulas, or lice.
- Easy on the dietary restrictions – Look, I’m not saying you have to eat peanut butter if it forces your throat to close up upon contact, I’m just saying, I don’t want to hear about your issues regarding gluten, GMOs, farm-to-table, antibiotic and steroid free chickens, or self-sustaining salmon. We’re not going to make you eat our regular routine of Hamburger Helper or Chicken Tonight so try to be a little flexible. Although you should be so lucky.
- No trips to urgent care – Listen, suck it up. Unless you are vomiting blood or you swallow a cork or something, the itinerary we have planned for you is pretty packed. I simply haven’t built in sufficient time for a visit to the Ellis Hospital Urgent Care in Clifton Park, especially if it’s a holiday or the first warm day of spring. People lose their minds on those days and always end up needing medical attention.
- Proper attire – Look, if it’s summer, bring a bathing suit. If it’s winter, dress warmly, it’s cold up here from November through May. If you want to go out to eat somewhere decent, don’t start the dinner conversation once you arrive by stating, “Are we going out anywhere nice, all I brought was jeans.”
Just as being a good guest takes a little work, being a good host isn’t just a skill one is born with, or is it? Here are a few items to keep in mind when hosting out-of-town guests.
- Don’t monitor toilet paper usage – In other words, try not to announce every few minutes how much toilet paper you are going through all of a sudden. People are self-conscious as it is when it comes to pooping without their home-field advantage, you don’t need to keep statistics.
- Try to be careful about bed assignments – Don’t congratulate your guests after the first night that they’ve slept over that they are the first people to survive the night in that bed since your grandmother passed away in it.
- No empty cupboards or refrigerators – Nothing says you’re not really welcome like an empty refrigerator when guests arrive. When I was four we went to Florida to see my grandfather and his second wife. There was nothing in their condo in “Del-Boca Vista,” not even bread. My mother nearly had a cow, which was good since there was no beef or much of anything else to eat. She had to go out and shop for us. She complained about it until her dying day.
- Don’t sleep until noon – Listen, we all have habits, as well as our particular peccadillos. You’ve invited somebody to stay at your place. The least you can do is get out of bed at a reasonable time. You’re not Jim Morrison, and you haven’t been doing heroin in the bathtub all night. Get the hell up and entertain me!
- Show me the goods – If you live near a place that’s known for pizza, take me to get some pizza. The same if you have a good bagel place, or any local flavor that your hometown is known for. I can go to Applebees in Latham for goodness sake.
There’s definitely a built in advantage to hosting people when you come from a major metropolis with limitless museums, professional sports teams, parks, and dining venues. However, what if you live in a medium size urban center with a sprawling suburban landscape ? One might have to be a little more creative in figuring out the ways and means to entertain one’s guests.
Here in the Capital Region, there’s a big difference between hosting people in the winter versus the summer. During the winter, it can be so cold and/or nasty, your outside options may be fairly limited. Of course, if you are into winter sports, you’ve got numerous skiing options, everything from West Mountain in Glens Falls, to Whiteface Mountain, one of the most famous ski facilities in America. However, are there any good options to entertain your out of town guests that shield one from the elements?
For us, one place that we always took our out of town family and friends to, especially if they had children, was the New York State Museum in Albany. The museum incorporates a bit of culture, as well as the history of our state. It’s an enjoyable experience, but you always leave thinking there could and should be more to the collection. It feels like they short-shift New York City a little bit, and considering it’s the biggest city in the country, it should get a lot more play. There are also a couple of small planetariums in our area, and a variety of expos, festivals, and celebrations for everything from how to decorate your home to who has the best chowder depending on the season.
Of course during the summertime, we have a few more options. First and foremost would be one of the most popular and famous vacation spots in the United States, the village of Lake George. Lake George has an old-school charm to it that has become harder to find in today’s world of sophisticated and technologically driven entertainment venues. Lake George still has the wax museums, the arcades, the “fudgeries,” and a variety of drive-in burger joints, soft ice cream stands, and endless “crap-a-toriums,” or trinket shops with flags, hats, and toy Native American weaponry. Of course, if you prefer a little history, you can venture off to Fort William Henry and see a real British fort from the French and Indian War. When was the last time you saw a fake British soldier light off an 18th century grenade? However, probably the most popular tourist attraction in Lake George is Great Escape, which in addition to being a dynamic mix of classic and new fangled rides, also has an indoor waterslide attraction with accompanying hotel that attracts visitors all year round. Those old enough to remember might still prefer the days when Great Escape was known by its former name, Story Town. Story Town’s remnants are still visible within the confines of Great Escape, and just one look at its former majesty will remind you why it’s no longer a viable option as a vacation destination.
Saratoga Springs provides a great location for you to take your out of town guests, especially during the month of August. During the day you can travel up to the Saratoga racing track, and at night they can enjoy the Saratoga nightlife. The racing track in Saratoga has been celebrated on television nationally as well as in Sports Illustrated as perhaps the most historic venue for watching a sporting event in the United States. It’s as if you’ve walked into the 19th century. (If they charged 12 dollars for a can of beer in the 19th century.) If Saratoga Springs isn’t your scene, there is the new casino in Schenectady. If you are on a cold streak there, why not take a walk to the steel mill, it’s literally within Frizbee There’s always SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) if you want to take somebody to a concert, or of course the Times Union Center, or even The Egg. The Egg can be found right in Empire Plaza, and it’s an intimate spot to see a show. It actually looks more like a kidney, but nobody wants to go to a kidney for their entertainment needs. As for restaurants, in the summer we have our seasonal places and drive-ins, in the winter many good pubs and Italian restaurants. In fact, if you do a little research for your guests, you won’t even have to take them to a “chain” establishment.
So I would say that if you are worried about how to entertain your guests, remember, you’ve got Saratoga, you’ve got Lake George, and you’ve got parks, sports, museums, and even a few breweries for those so inclined. Just remember, you can’t do any of these things if your guests are waiting for you while you sleep till noon.