The Ghost of New Year’s Eves Past
New Year’s Eve 2013 will pass quietly in my household tonight. What has often been a chance for raucous celebrations and even more raucous inebriations, will happen with a whimper. This year I decided to go it alone, sitting at home, without a drop of alcohol in my bloodstream. No fireworks, no booze, no Rockin’ New Year’s Eve (I can’t watch it without Dick Clark). Just me, my dog, and the remnants of a bag of Christmas treats one of my co-workers gave me. While some might think I’d be bored or sad, I’m quite thrilled with my decision. After all, I need to be up and sans-hangover for the NHL Winter Classic.
Of course, while sitting here in my apartment, as I copy files from an old hard drive over to my new computer (which desperately needs a new keyboard – these Dell ones are crap and I’m spending way too much time with the backspace), I was remembering some New Year’s Eves from the past. Some were fun, some were frightful, and some I barely remember. Herein lies an account of some memorable ones.
Woxall – Woxall is a nowhere town that nobody knows in Pennsylvania. It was, however, where future Bloodhound Gang bass player Evil Jared lived. They had this old farm house they lived in and every year they threw a party. It was 1993, so I wasn’t in the band yet, but I was friends with them, so I decided to make the trek to go see them play. The party was something straight out of Animal House. Kegs, kegs, and more kegs. The entire house was cleared out – other than a room upstairs, there was absolutely no furniture. All the bedrooms were locked shut, all the phones had been pulled from their outlets, and every cabinet in the kitchen had a padlock. Two things struck me about this party outside of seeing Bloodhound Gang play; there were giant bowls filled with cigarettes instead of the usual chips or snacks and there was a TV in every room playing Howard Stern. I also learned how to play Whiz Hunter, which I’ll have to write a post about someday.
Times Square I – Living in Philadelphia (somewhere around 1994 or 1995), my roommate and I got it in our heads that we should go to New York and watch the ball drop. Neither of us had ever been, so after packing a backpack full of vodka and beer, off we went with another friend in tow. We decided to take the cheap route and used a combination of PA and NJ public transit to get there. The ride was actually a lot of fun as most of our fellow travelers were doing the exact same thing. Everyone was half-bombed by the time we got to New York.
The thing that blew my mind about Times Square on New Year’s Eve was how far we actually were from Times Square. When we arrived, we were ushered along by policemen who directed us to a specific block to cut across to Broadway where we were then cordoned off. Once you’re on the block, you’re not leaving. Standing in the middle of the road, drinks being shared by strangers, a strange feeling passes over, kind of like claustrophobia, but not quite the same. Need to take a bathroom break? Two choices: the street (and don’t get caught) or leave your safe zone and risk being pushed back a few blocks when the police determine the block is full. I peed in a lot of beer bottles that night. Overall, this was an excellent New Year’s Eve. I made out with more than a few strangers at the stroke of midnight. Pure, unadulterated fun. I don’t remember the ride home, but I do remember we wound up going to a peepshow and a woman who was nearly as old as my mom kept telling me she really liked me. Yeah, weird thing to remember, I know.
Times Square II – I can’t remember if this was a year or two later, but at this point, I was in Bloodhound Gang. We had played some radio shows after getting signed to Geffen and at one of them I had met a girl from Michigan that I stayed in contact with (for the life of me I can’t remember her name). I was out at my parent’s in Pittsburgh and we wound up talking a few days before New Year’s Eve and she said she had never been. I told her the story of having been there my first time and she really wanted to go, so we made a plan. She would drive from Michigan to Pittsburgh, pick me up, and then we’d drive to New York for New Year’s Eve. This of course sounded like a great plan to me. Cute girl, road trip, fun in New York. Instead, the trip was a total nightmare. Within the first hour it was obvious that she wasn’t all that into me. Whatever, we can still have fun right? Not so. Our hotel was horrid and the temperatures on the big day dropped well below freezing.
This year, the cops were out in much greater numbers than the prior time I had come to Times Square. I don’t know if it was the sub-zero cold or too many drunks before me, but the cops were downright assholes. Instead of pleasant directions and helpful advice, they more or less shoved you along and told you to be quiet. Once we were locked into our one block area, people began to get rowdy. As the cops sensed this, they brought in more troops – on foot and on horseback. We could hear the whispers of the crowd behind us talking about rushing the barricade, something I was definitely not interested in, but with a 3-2-1 countdown the crowd behind us surged forward propelling us at the front directly into the barricade and the line of police. The noise and commotion startled the horses who immediately reared up on their hind legs as their mounts tried to control them. I found myself very close to receiving a hoof to the head as the horse in front of me was brought back under control. Several policemen grabbed me and the girl I was with and as they pushed us toward the sidewalks, the cop told me he would hit me with his club if I tried anything. Did I mention she wasn’t much of a drinker? Frozen cold (my feet were numb), threatened by police, and not a drop of alcohol to even help me forget the shit sandwich I was in. Ugh.
Y2K – Living in LA, I had returned once again to Pittsburgh for the holidays. Of course, we all though we were going to die this year, so it didn’t really matter where I was. I spent the night on the couch in my parent’s basement, watching as the clocks changing timezone by timezone around the world. My dad is a computer programmer and actually spent a good portion of 1999 fixing programs so that the world wouldn’t break. Funny though, since he was one of the guys who wrote the code years prior and said “ah, who needs a four digit date, these computers will never run these same programs in 2000.” No bunkers, no food stockpiles, no panic. Just me and my dad talking geek stuff and eating popcorn.
London at The Akash – I have to mention this one, just because it was so epicly different. We were in London, hanging with the band A and my girlfriend at the time (who I later married and divorced and you’ll probably read about on these pages more than once) and decided to rent out our favorite Indian restaurant on Brick Lane. It was quite the bash and The Akash pulled out all the stops, including an Indian Champagne (I know, it’s not technically Champagne) toast at midnight. The next day I had to cook a New Year’s Day dinner for a bunch of really hungover Brits, so I opted for a little PA Dutch style – roast pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes. I tried to teach them to put it all in the same bowl, but I think they thought I was nuts.
Las Vegas – Now married and still in LA, we decided to head out to Vegas to meet up with some friends. It was crowded and fueled by Jägermeister (duh!). I’ll always remember this one because shitty-husband-of-the-year me decided I wanted to party with my friends and didn’t spend much time with my wife. As you can imagine, that didn’t go down well. I give my wife a lot of credit, she put up with me at my worst more than once when others would have kicked me to the curb in a heartbeat.
Los Angeles – I did the whole party on New Year’s Eve thing in LA, but one year, the wife and I decided we were done with paying $50 just to get into a sardine-tin bar with overpriced drinks, only to stand 5 deep trying to get the bartender’s attention. This typically ended in having about 4 beers for nearly $100 and hating everyone in the city. The year we stayed home was probably the coolest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had. We had bought a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (her favorite, I’m not much for Champagne really) to celebrate in style and for whatever reason, we were craving grilled cheese sandwiches. So, we pulled out the sofa bed, tuned into Dick Clark, and had grilled cheese and Champagne. Talk about high-class white trash. It still is one of my favorites for its simplicity.
There you have it, a handful of off the cuff memories of New Year’s Eves past. Whatever you’re doing (and I hope it’s not sitting at home reading this blog), I hope you have a blast and come home in one piece without a headache tomorrow. I’m looking forward to 2014. This past year has been good to me and the path I’m on looks to continue that same trajectory, so I can’t wait. Only 30 minutes to go…
image courtesy of Natesh Ramasamy