If you go by the Greeks, this whole ambivalent spring season is the result of an archtypal menage a trois: teen-age seductress Persephone spending half the year with her fertility- goddess mother and half with Hades, lord of the underworld, who made her an offer she couldn't refuse.
So spring deserves a sensual, if not sensible, celebration, suitable to its simultaneous virtues of romanticism and flightiness.
But if you're at that awkward age -- too old for spring fever and too young for ho-hum afternoons -- announce a picnic and invite your friends. Skewer Mother Nature on her own shish kebab by throwing a rainy day picnic, safely indoors yet sophisticatedly spoofy.
First of all, proper outfits required: Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops or ragged sneakers, chewing gum and cheap sunglasses.
For the living room, get rid of the coffee table and spread the tackiest plastic tablecloth available (something with palm trees) or toss several garish beach towels together. Plastic-covered wire chairs are acceptable, but nothing with upholstery or non-stick pillows.
Musical suggestions: Slickee Boys ("When I Go to the Beach"), Go-Go's ("Vacation"), Springsteen ("Sherry Darling"), Philip Glass ("Einstein on the Beach"). We're talking psycho-surf here: no Easter Bunny, no Beach Boys.
Fill a child's plastic splash pool with ice for beer; rinse a bright beach pail and scoop and fill with light brown sugar -- set out as decoration but meant for dessert. Buy excruciatingly loud paper plates -- magenta or lime, for example -- and count out enough for all participants. On each plate draw three triangles, points to the the first triangle with insect tanning lotion on the second; and splash the third with charcoal- lighter fluid.
At appropriate moments play "name that odor," and watch the nostalgia flow.
To make the menu suitably outdoors-ish, lay out topless sliced chicken sandwiches sprinkled with ant-sized chocolate jimmies (yes, chocolate -- what do you think Mexican mole sauce is?), the tops to be supplied later.
Remember green-yolked hard- boiled eggs? The ones your mother didn't chill fast enough so the yolks turned yucky? Instead of classic deviled eggs, beat the cooked, cooled yolks in the food processor with chopped fresh coriander, parsley and saut,eed scallions or greens of leek, then stuff them back in the whites.
For that seaside smell, serve the potato salad hand-roll style -- scooped like ice cream into sheets of Japanese sushi seaweed twisted into cones. Or chop kelp into the pickles.
To obtain that charred kebab effect, very slowly roast a chunk of chuck steak or a loin leg of lamb in the oven until rare but cooked. Try not to brown the outside or trim off any scorched marks later. (This is a cinch if you have a microwave, since in most, browning meat is impossible.) Cut the meat into large cubes, stab both sides of each piece with a fork and soak the cubes in a red wine or teriyaki marinade overnight, or for at least six hours.
Blanch some whole onions in boiling water for four or five minutes, then peel and cut into wedges; red "sweet" onions are
the prettiest. Skewer the meat
and onions with tomatoes,
mushrooms and green peppers,
all of which should be semi-raw.
When the company comes, heat
up the hibachi on the back
porch and toss the skewers on
the grill while it's still too hot,
thus searing the outsides to
recreate that charred-on-the-
outside look known so well
Alternatively, marinate a
thick London broil, slice on
the bias and ribbon-thread the strips on wood skewers ,a la oriental satay. Remember to soak wood skewers for 30 minutes so they won't burn when you wave them over the fire.
(Or if someone brings kids at the last minute, you can create the same effect with parboiled hot dogs. Be sure you serve them with mustard and ketchup in plastic squeeze bottles. Accouterments are important.)
Dessert is strawberries and/or green grapes with sour cream and brown sugar. The strawberries taste best if hand-dipped first into the sour cream and then into a pile of sugar, but serve them in bowls and scoop brown sugar "sand" on top if you prefer.