Louis Hernandez Jr. – Icebreakers
It’s a way of breaking ice at a dinner party or in a social situation where you need to connect with other people in a short space of time. Some kind of family event or a stag-do often involves a certain amount of awkward ´getting to know you´ before settling into the occasion. A few beers and something of a common denominator like a mutual acquaintance often helps to settle this awkwardness.
But whilst on a dry January spell, something I reluctantly took on whilst drunk at a Christmas party, I found myself nervously accepting an invitation to a birthday party without the social support of a few beers. Luckily my trusted and socially adept friend Louis Hernandez Jr was available to offer his pearly words of wisdom.
Louis writes part time for Time Out Magazine. Specifically, about music. He does it on the side when he’s not selling online advertisement space to some other agent trying to sell online advertisement space.
Under this circumstance, writing about music satisfies his creative urges and more importantly allows him to connect to his fellow man in a tangible and familiar way.
¨It’s about shared experiences and finding words that best exemplify them ¨ he once described. I thought this was a nice way of putting it. Like a trained language coded to connect to people over a shared subject. This is how I understood his journalism. So, it wasn’t at all surprising that I would consider him before attending a birthday party where I only knew one other person who happened to be the birthday boy. Undoubtedly I´d need to make friends quickly and without the confidence of a beer and its comforting haze, I was a little nervous heading to the party.
Desert Island Discs.
¨Which of your records would you take to a desert island? ¨ It’s a familiar query, after all the BBC has held onto Desert Island Discs as a programme fixture for over 70 years. It’s become a broadcast institution that manages to provide a certain level of comfort whilst allowing for a curiosity of what records ´the castaway´ would consider for their lonely abode.
Obviously, I couldn’t just show up and start asking randomly to people what their all-time favourite records were. That would just be weird and fuel my own social awkwardness. There had to be some segue into it, but considering I was there to enjoy myself, I allowed myself to feel that I had some kind of topic I could introduce in event of conversation going astray.
Dry January is not a solo pursuit despite its focus on self-betterment. It’s a club where you don’t realise you are already and as such I quickly found myself greeted by other weary sober revellers anxiously clutching their soft drinks.
¨So how’s the non-drinking going?¨ would be the common conversation starter. A series of groans and moans ensued, peppered with moments of optimism and a revitalised verve for the outdoors. Although slightly tedious in their repetitive responses, I felt comforted by knowing I had something to talk about which related to a common experience. My social awkwardness soon dissipated and I had a pleasant time.
On the night bus home, I put on my headphones and scanned through Spotify to see what I should play to accompany my journey. It was then that I realised I had no idea what albums I would take to a desert island and as such would render my conversation as a non-starter. Just be yourself I assured myself. And sober.