A Blackout Ate My Party
It was the last day of the century, and I was looking forward to celebrating this night in a big tent with several bands entertaining the guests. The admission charge was a little on the expensive side, but this was a special day and I didn’t mind. I was dressed for the occasion, ready to rock-and-roll, and ready for a trip to the bank to get a couple of hundred bucks. It’s nice, when you can get your money 24/7 from an ATM machine, I thought. Happily, I put my card into the machine, selected $200, pushed the button, and within a second everything around me was dark. The ATM machine took my card and didn’t return it. We had a blackout. A few seconds later the light came on again and my card was still inside the ATM machine. I was banging and yelling at the machine, but no answer. A minute later a young man, also in need of money, put his card into the ATM machine next to mine, took his money, and left. I was standing there waiting for a miracle to happen. I had to wait until Monday to get my card back. A friend gave me $20, enough to take BART to San Francisco to celebrate in the street, among thousands of people, the switch-over into a new century. The fireworks were a beautiful sight. After all, I still had enough money left to buy myself a couple of drinks and get loud, like the other people around me, when the clock struck twelve. We had entered the 21st century. Wow!
Erich Bickel, Berkeley
Golden Boy Ain’t So Golden
There have never been that many “Worst New Year’s Eves” in my life because I figured I’d stop celebrating New Year’s Eve during my seventeenth year on this Earth. The year I turned seventeen was so traumatic, it cured me for life of participating in any celebrations. Well, maybe I did briefly in my nineteenth year. For exactly 33 minutes. Yes, 33 minutes and no more than that. That is the time it took to jam eleven people into an Austin Mini. It was snowing that night, and people did need a ride home. Canadians are good like that.
For approximately four years in high school, I loved a boy. He was no ordinary boy. He was THE Golden Boy of Cowansville High School. Blonde, French Canadian, and handsome as all getout. When he smiled, you could see the stars glimmer from his teeth, and when he walked down the hall girls melted into puddles. Of course I had no chance ever of snaring this magnificent creature, as I was about 102 pounds overweight. I smiled, I curled my hair, I used deodorant, and he would never, ever look my way. I was so huge, he probably thought I was a school corridor column and not the girl who loved him.
I left school at age sixteen and went to Fashion Design School, and all thoughts of Golden Boy left my head. I worked part-time in a fashion store and also lost about a zillion pounds. I had the wardrobe any Mod in the Sixties would have died for. That was probably one reason I lost so much weight. It was either food or clothes, and the clothes won out hands down.
So New Year’s Eve 1968 found me holding an invite to the coolest New Year’s Eve party around. It was held in the basement of an old A & P store in Granby, Quebec, and I knew my old school chums would be there. I was so excited to see them and dressed very carefully. Black velvet “Twiggy” minidress with a front zipper and a white collar. Black fishnets and black patent Cuban-heel shoes with big silver buckles on them.
I walked down the stairs and into the makeshift teen club. People’s mouths dropped and screamed when they saw me. I carefully took off my long black Dr. Zhivago-style midi coat and slowly walked up to the dance floor in all my glory. I happily danced my feet off to a half dozen Creedance Clearwater songs until I was a sweaty mess. To cool off, I went outside to get air, and of course icicles started forming on my hair in the cold frigid air.
I don’t smoke, so I tried to lean against the brick wall seductively while the icicles were quickly multiplying in my hair. Maybe, yes maybe just this once, I could snag a guy to dance with me. I prayed silently, “Just this once God, before I die, let me dance with a real boy.”
Through the haze of cigarette-smoke clouds and ice fog came this shadow approaching me. He was tall. He was lean. And boy was he was blonde. Yes, dear readers, it was Golden Boy. Golden Boy in all his glory was approaching me from 30 degrees north at approximately the same time the clock struck twelve.
The icicles in my hair suddenly started to melt. I became tongue-tied as he looked at me and then hugged me. I just couldn’t savor this moment I had yearned for as I was too busy worrying if I stunk from perspiration.
He spoke. Yes, he spoke. He spoke in a low sexy voice that made the Earth shatter and the heavens suddenly open and my heart was beating on overdrive.
“Linda, you look just fabulous!”
Wait, was he talking to someone else? I looked around and saw no one, so, yes, he was talking to me. More icicles started to melt from my hair.
He grabbed my hand and we went inside, where we proceeded to slow dance. I could feel his heart beat and we were so close I could smell his Aqua Velva and his Gitanes. We danced the rest of the night away, and he rode home with me on the bus, holding my hand tightly. The heavy snow had turned into a deadly freezing rain, but he insisted on walking me home.
We walked up the short path to my house and up the handmade death-defying wobbling concrete steps that were now a skating rink. He took my head in his hands and kissed me. In fact, he kissed me a lot. Yes, he kissed me so much, he wanted more. Instead of being in lust, angry thoughts suddenly flooded my brain. Thoughts of how badly he had treated me in the past. I suddenly started to rage that if I weren’t 100 pounds thinner, he wouldn’t be kissing me right now. So I got mad. I got SO mad, I pushed him down the icy concrete steps. Yes, the same steps I had fallen down years ago and cracked my head open on. Golden Boy lay there, knocked out. Knocked out good and cold, like the freezing rain that was coming down quickly. I smiled a sinister smile and called my father to drive him to the hospital. He was fine, except he had one problem. He was having a hard time remembering anything. He had temporary amnesia. For hours he could not remember what had happened to him. He somehow could not remember that he had “slipped” and “somehow fallen” down the stairs. Everyone blamed the slippery conditions and no one even thought that a former chubby had given her “all” that night. Yes, she had given her all for every other high school and college girl who had loved a Golden Boy once in her life and was treated badly by him.
So after that I never really celebrated New Year’s Eve. I decided what happened that night was enough for me. I mean, you only get one chance in life, and that was it. So every New Year’s Eve I celebrate with Dick Clark, and when I see Golden Boy’s name on Classmates.com, I smile. Yes, smile. That same sinister smile I had the night Golden Boy became not so golden and “slipped” down the wobbily concrete stairs. Bet after forty years he isn’t Golden Boy anymore. I bet he is downright Tarnished Boy.
HAPPY NEW YEAR’S GOLDEN BOY
A Better Flight
Who even knew that the airport lands planes on New Year’s Eve? I didn’t, before an ex-roommate had arranged for me to pick him up at Oakland airport one year, late on December 31.
Somehow during the holiday festivities, my commitment had slipped my mind. In the interim, I had made my plans to go out for the night, only to get a phone call the day before, reminding me that I was due at the Terminal One around 11 p.m.
Aggravated at my good deed, I arrived at my party hours before the fun began and left just as the fun people were arriving. The airport, needless to say, was considerably less festive.
The airport was utterly deserted. There really weren’t flights coming or going. Somehow my roommate found the one flight zipping through multiple New Year’s Eve celebrations from Hartford, Connecticut. Naturally the flight turned out to be late. By 11:45 p.m., it was clear I would be celebrating the New Year with a custodian or two. Wasn’t anyone else stuck picking up anyone else on this flight? Fifteen minutes later, the clock probably struck midnight. No plane, and not even a wooop! The flight came in at about 12:10 a.m.; there must have been about six passengers, my roommate the last to deplane.
“What time is it?” he asked, rubbing his eyes. “Next year,” I told him while helping to lug a bag. “Last time I fly that airline,” he said.
“The One” Was Busy
Yes, it’s embarrassing. I was dating a married man. Okay, he had been separated from his wife for four years and she lived 700 miles away and they saw each other infrequently. But still. That winter, we had been dating for about six months. We were in love. He told me they were going to get a divorce, just not yet. He didn’t want to hurt her, but was working on convincing her to sign the papers. So here it was December, and the holidays were upon us. He told me she was coming up for a visit for a week at the end of the month. He would be unavailable to me. Having me around would just upset her.
New Year’s always makes me sentimental. It’s so pregnant with possibilities, and it gives me the chance, on some level, to let go of the heavy weight of the previous year. I always thought that someday I’d be with The One on New Year’s Eve, kissing amidst the screams, shouts, and cork-popping that accompany the “click” of that fated minute hand.
Then a week before New Year’s, on a cold and rainy evening, I made myself a cup of tea and put it on the back of the sofa while I arranged myself with a blanket and my book. The cup toppled, spilled all over me, and scalded my arm to the point where the skin peeled off. You could see the ribbing from my chenille turtleneck sweater actually seared into my skin.
So on New Year’s Eve, I had a bandage wrapped around my left arm in two places where I had burned off the top layer of skin, and the man I was in love with was with another woman. Trying as hard as I could to salvage the evening, I invited two friends over and we settled in for some drinking and raclette. Dinner was fine, but throughout the evening I got more and more upset about not being with my love. I tried to get over it but couldn’t, so I just drank.
We all drank, and eventually, as midnight drew near, I was in my Chinese red silk dress, my best friend had on a nun’s wimple left over from my Halloween costume, and we were taking turns photographing each other playing with a nonfunctioning BB gun an ex had given me, that looked eerily like a real gun. There’s a photo of my friend and me giving fake gang signs, holding the gun, I in a red dress with a bandaged arm, and she in her nun’s headress.
Eventually, that got boring, so we turned on the TV, and that was my introduction to the Jonas Brothers. Oh lord, please spare me. So there we were, the clock ticking away, watching Dick Clark cavorting in Times Square, me upset, sad, and drunk, my friends pretending to be into the music show on TV.
As the clock struck midnight, I was overcome with my usual New Year’s Eve sentimentality. I just couldn’t not talk to him at midnight. My friend and I both got on our cell phones. She called her mom, I called my boyfriend, who was, it turns out, having a knock-down-drag-out fight with his wife at that exact minute. I said “Happy New Year” and I hung up. She never forgave him for that. And they’re still married.
A Loyal Drone
It was 1977, maybe 1978. I was a Kelly Services temp working at a huge waterbed store in Fremont. The anticipation of NYE revelry was in the air, and in the sales office, Cheetos and alcohol started to appear. Late that afternoon, I was told to drive out to Stockton to make a delivery and pick up some wooden waterbed platforms. They walked me out to an old, rusty Chevy van with a flat tire and missing side windows, told me to get out to Stockton and hurry back, because, after all, it was New Year’s Eve and people wanted to party. I inflated the tire and headed out, the roar from the windowless old van was deafening on that cold, gray last day of December. On the way back, the van made it to the top of Altamont Pass, then totally died. I hiked down the hill to the Livermore truck scales to find a pay phone. (Waterbeds, pay phones, it was a long time ago!) I called the store and explained my plight; they were incredulous, angry, and already had been drinking, but said someone would come out to get me, just hold on. I crossed the freeway to wait for my ride, too much of a loyal temp drone back then to consider calling friends or family for a ride and blowing the whole sorry situation off. I was determined to see that those planks of particleboard made it to their destination despite great personal hardship! I waited for several hours in a phone booth that reeked of piss, only slightly protected from the howling, frigid Altamont winds. My ride finally came, but first we had to go back to the disabled van to transfer the precious cargo, then went back to the store. I finally arrived home, barely speaking to my folks, who were watching the ball drop and shocked that I really didn’t care to watch it. I ate some lukewarm Jeno’s Pizza Rolls and went to bed.
Kent Kavasch, San Lorenzo
Positioning yourself for the ultimate NYE experience can be a daunting task. In an effort to keep my options open (and avoid making a decision) I planned a pre-party with close friends at my house. Fancy cheese and crackers. I called it a pre-party because all of my friends had separate plans for the actual dropping of the ball. I suppose my subversive plan was to entertain while scanning the crowd for options — figure out who had the most exciting plans that would lead to a drunken orgy. Then I would latch onto them for the rest of the night. Pathetic. Anyhow, after the last piece of brie was smeared on the last cracker, I found that everyone had plans a little too far away or with people who wouldn’t share my desire for debauchery. So by 10:30 I was left alone. I dropped the ball on making a decision and consequently ended up watching the ball drop all by myself.
Mom Loved NYE
My mom passed on NYE 2000. She had been diagnosed suddenly and unexpectedly with metastasized cancer (lung and bone) on Oct. 15, 2000. I was living in Miami, came out immediately to the bay; doc told her six months to two years. But she, a sharp-minded woman, was sending me mail with my name misspelled and making odd mistakes writing checks, numbers reversed and so on. THEN she got diagnosed brain cancer, which is evidently more devastating in seniors. On the upside, she was pain free.
On Xmas Eve 2000 I got a call saying she had had some sort of attack and was on the downhill slide. I got a ticket out Xmas Day. The airlines were super nice and gave me a big discount. I had bronchitis at the time. Cold snap in Cali and I wasn’t looking forward to that. Walking into the hospital room and saw my mom naked and covered in blood. She was ripping out her IVs, evidently thinking she could go home if she got ’em out. She smiled at me and said “Hi honey, you have a cough, poor thing,” which was one of the last intelligible things she said. Her language faculty was impaired, but she didn’t know it so she spoke a lot in a sort of gibberish. She was a very animated person, so you could still understand most of what she said, and we acted like we understood. She had no idea she was dying.
My bronchitis turned into pneumonia, but I drug myself around and neighbors looked after my dad while I was at the hospital. He only came once and couldn’t stand to see her like that so didn’t come again. One cold night I realized I would never be able to give my mom flowers (she LOVED cut flowers) again so I went across the street to Longs and got every bunch of flowers they had. The clerk felt bad for me when she found out why I was buying them and gave them to me free and some vases also. I put them all around the room and my mom was grinning at them trying to say “beautiful” over and over.
At 10 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2000, the hospital called and told me to rush down there. She had started the final breathing rasp and was gonna go. My mom’s fav holiday was NYE, she was quite a partyer. It was quite bleak and drizzly, which I found appropriate. My mom was high as a kite on a morphine drip which they gave her to ease her way. It was weird, the change on people’s face when they are on their last. Her mouth was oddly gaping and there was really a death rattle, it is a real thing. I held her hand and told her it was okay to go, that everything was fine and we would miss her. Don’t know if she heard it but I was there about an hour and her breathing stopped.
For the first time since I came back to Cali I let my calm face down and screamed and wailed and beat things. The nurses were great. Helped me dress her in clothes and turban she liked and put roses in her hand. We waited for Neptune Society who were nice. I just couldn’t believe my mom was gone … still can’t sometimes. It is like a big hole in your heart. I spoke to my husband on the phone just after and he started making jokes trying to divert me. Kind of him but it didn’t work. Then I had to drive back to my folks’ house and see to my dad. I was pretty dazed. The neighbor ladies with my dad started screaming at me about where had I been my dad was worried. I just said, “I am an only child who just lost my mother, could you be just a tad more sensitive.” My dad just hugged me.
Nutjobs Seeking Destruction
My friends and I didn’t know what to expect as we planned our night. It was the dawn of a new millennium, and alarmists were predicting that a seemingly benign error in the way dates were programmed in computers could set off a global catastrophe. It was said that we would see a cascade of crashing computers and technological disruptions that would deprive us of our ability to maintain a functioning society. My sober prognosticators dismissed the problem. They said the problem had already been fixed. But my friends and I didn’t listen to them. We were young and drunk and wanted to see some damage. We had spent years engaging in one of Arizona’s favorite past times: shooting garbage in the desert. So we feared nothing. We knew that if things got really desperate, nutjobs like us would come out on top.
Naturally, we chose the location that offered the most bang for the buck: downtown. The Gin Blossoms were playing there. Although their star had long since fallen, they could still draw a crowd. And, according to the TV, mobs and riots might form at the slightest hint of danger.
We got there and everything was disappointingly normal. The Gin Blossoms sucked as always and the crowds were tame. We waited for the moment of the apocalypse expectantly. The countdown ensured — “ten, nine, eight … (we tensed) … two, one.” What the fuck? Sure, there was a lot of noise and fireworks, but where was the death and destruction they had promised? We were thoroughly disappointed. We drank.