Who needs to burn tires when you’ve got rich friends?

Even with the beautiful weather, the county’s five-day ban on outdoor fires probably killed a lot of people’s weekend plans. Mine included.

If your back-up plan is to attend a formal spring-fling cocktail party – now that you can’t spend the evening tending to that burning pile of old mattresses and roof shingles – it’s good to be prepared with discussion topics you can throw out that’ll let the upper crust think you’re well within your league.

Below are some good party tips, along with conversation starters you can print off and use on flash cards.

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Tip #1: Obscure background information always sparks and holds people’s interest. Don’t worry if your history knowledge is a little rusty. Feel free to make stuff up (they’ll be so astounded they’ll probably never check). Not only will people never forget the conversation, they’ll never forget you.



Conversation starter: Did you know the phrase, “The Brain Drain,” which describes the epidemic of young, bright people leaving New York state, actually has its origins in Norwich? “Brain Drain” was the name of a powerful mixed drink that was served circa 2003 at the now-defunct Hands Inn nightclub. Patrons would get so drunk on “Brain Drains” that nobody cared if their debit cards got fraudulently overcharged, so long as on Fridays the “Young Grandmothers Wet T-Shirt Contest” wasn’t watered down with any age limitations. When the popular bar was closed after the owners were indicted for larceny, many 20-somethings in town had no other reason to stay, so they scattered. Hence “The Brain Drain.”

Believe it or not, “The Brain Drain” was also the name of state-of-the-art roller coaster in Indiana that malfunctioned in 1979 and killed 17 people.

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Tip #2: It’s important to show powerful people you speak their language. At a party, it’s equally important to show them you have a knee-slapping, corporate-style sense of humor, even if its painful.

Conversation starter: Recently I read the memo that Enron’s Board of Directors sent to its accounting division. It stated: “Per mounting concerns expressed by our shareholders, please note we need you, immediately, to cook those earnings statements and shred the last three quarters of financial records.” That made me wonder: Why do we only use the word ‘per’ at the office? Wouldn’t it be funny to use it in everyday conversations? I could tell my wife, “Per your terrible golf game, you’d be better off never leaving the 19th hole, where the only slices you have to worry about are the limes in your vodka tonics.”

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Tip #3: Always leave leaving people guessing.

Conversation starter: What a wonderful party. The Beluga caviar was most excellent, by the way. But we better shove off. Need to make sure the tire fire is under control before the entire hillside goes up.

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