Friday, December 23, 2005

A Decade Comes To A Close

All right. This is the last installment of the project: A Decade of New Years. Thank you so much for enduring my memories.

Happy New Years, everyone.

Ann Arbor, MI

A decision I have never regretted: It’s the summer of 2003. I’ve just made my escape from New York and I’m waylaying back at home for a month. I called this woman at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Science in Greenwich, CT from a Greyhound bus to Chicago. I explained that although I was very flattered they were offering me a position in their education department, I would have to respectfully decline.

My dad gave me a ride to the bus station, his anger and disappointment condensing into an uncomfortable cloud of silence.
“Why would you pass up a job like this, Abby?” He finally asked, sighing, shaking his head.
“I can’t do it Dad. I think I would die if I did.”
“So you do it for a year or two, make connections, move on to something better, it’s an opportunity.”
I didn’t have any response. A rare occasion.
“I mean, what’s your plan?” He needled, growing more irritated, “Come back here and work in a liquor store?”
“It’ll be O.K dad. It’s just for a little while. It’s what I need.”

Poor dad. Imagine if he had known that I was going to the station to meet Tommy and we were embarking on a summer of hopping freight trains and hitchhiking around the country? I didn’t know where I’d end up. But I had a feeling that I’d be coming back to Ann Arbor. A few weeks before leaving on this grand adventure I’d met the sweetest, brown-eyed boy and unlike all the boys I’d met in New York, he liked me. He didn’t play games or lie or disappear. He called when he said he’d call. He told me I was beautiful. Not just now and then but every single morning. Seriously. Billy was the antidote for everything I’d suffered through the last few years. He was safe and kind and loving. So come September, sure enough, my beloved hometown opened up its arms. I moved in with Jorge and kept working at the store. I learned to cook. I learned how to drink wine. I read lots of books. I studied for the GRE. I applied to grad schools. I basked in the warmth of lazy, small town familiarity, the comfort of friends and family, and the love of an incredible boyfriend. There was no more anguish in my world.

New Years 2004 then, not surprisingly, passed pretty uneventfully. Jorge cooked an amazing dinner and then Billy and I went to a party at the Ghostly Records “pad” (Sam’s place was swanky enough to be a pad instead of a place) and the Blind Pig, of course. And then a couple parties I don’t remember too well. I got really drunk and threw up when we stumbled back to Billy’s house. I collapsed in his bed in my clothes. I came too (sort of) a few minutes later as Billy, forever the sweetheart, was trying to gently remove the humongous hoop earrings from my ears. “You trying to take advantage of me?” I slurred accusingly. “I’m trying to get these earrings out because they’re tangled in your hair and they’re gonna poke you if you sleep in them.” He reasoned perfectly. I let him help me and in the morning we had quite a laugh about it.

Chicago, IL

I willfully uproot myself from the bliss and ease of life in Ann Arbor. It’s like I know I’m not meant to be content. Time to move again. I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2004 to start grad school. By the eve of 2005, I have already dropped out of grad school. It’s around then that this blog began.

New Years eve and its freezing. I’m kind of in between jobs and experiencing a desperate sort of destitution. Heather and I were living off of pasta and butter for a couple weeks there. One night we found a bag of dried beans in the pantry and danced around the kitchen, singing about beans for our pasta.

Myles and I took the bus (free on New Years!) up to the Ukrainian village for a party. She was broke too. We stopped at the liquor store and pooled all our change to buy a pint of Jim Beam. We walked to the party briskly, shivering, thinking that getting a start on the whiskey would warm us up. I cracked the cap, took a pull and passed her the paper bag. She hit it and passed it back to me. Not breaking my stride, I stupidly grabbed the package by the lip of the bag instead of securely around the bottle. The bag ripped and our brand new pint of whiskey plummeted to the ground shattering on the sidewalk of a peaceful residential block. “Fuck!” Myles hollered, her voice carrying remarkably through the cold still night. Truly, my first instinct was to get down on all fours and lap it up. What were we going to drink now? “Sorry” I mumbled. “Fuckin’ whatever,” Myles shrugged “we’ll give people our sob story, they’ll share their drinks and drugs with us.” And that’s exactly what happened.

After a boring ball drop at that crowded party we migrated to the Buddy space where we met up with the rest of the texas/diamonds crew. As I recall, the music was pretty bad but everyone had a good time dancing. I got very drunk and made out with a good friend. I also made out with the 20-year-old boy from my “Visualized Communities” seminar. Our semester-long flirtation came to a head as he followed me out of the party, begging me to stay with him that night. For some reason I felt sort of old and tragic but oddly full of peace and ready to go home. I bid him farewell and headed for the bus.

Shivering on Ashland Avenue, I waited alongside a 6 foot something, disheveled 300 pound black man who was either drunk or crazy or both. “Gimme a kiss, darlin! It’s New Years!” He hollered jovially. I figured ‘what the fuck, he’s right.” So I gave him a big kiss on the lips. Love needs to go around on a shitty holiday like New Years.

Len called to see what I was up to. I’d only known him for the one week since he’d moved into our house but we were becoming fast friends. He was on his way home too and we convened in the kitchen around 3 or 4 am, both reasonably drunk and jolly. We sat around my room listening to records and telling each other about our lives for a good hour or two until we were both exhausted and he padded next door to his room and I collapsed in mine.

How was I to know that within a few months We’d be entangled in some sort of thing that didn’t make any sense and I’d be falling desperately in love with him, hoping that sense would make somehow make itself. It never did and that’s another story with an unhappy ending. Quite a lot can happen in a year actually. By New Years 2006, we would no longer be speaking.


My New Years anxiety is worse this year than perhaps it’s ever been. I don’t know where I’ll be or with whom. I will certainly be drunk. That’s for sure. Beyond that I’m not sure. Ask me about it next year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

When I Woke Up It Was Suddenly as if A Year Had Passed

Whoa doggie. This one got away from me a little bit. The Decade of New Years Continues...

New York, NY

I’m back in New York but things are different because this time around I live there. Through some miracle I’d managed to graduate from college in the spring of ’02. The best way I can describe achieving this milestone is through cinematic device. Imagine me staggering up to the finish line with a bottle of whiskey in my hand. The time slows down. I jog towards my goal, lungs heaving, muscles struggling. I drop to the ground amid a sweaty cloud of dust. People are chanting and cheering but the voices melt into far away echoes. A concerted heartbeat track kicks in. my arm uncurls from my exhausted, crippled frame. Zoom in on the hand as it flops onto the finish line and releases the bottle of whiskey. The bottle rolls in the dust. The crowd goes wild. I did it.

And then I did the thing that all Oberlin kids do upon graduating: I moved to New York. Unlike everyone else who was migrating there to work on his or her films or become a rock star, I really couldn’t care less about New York City. I only went because, ironically enough, I had somehow managed to land an amazing job. My life peaked that year in terms of navigating the path towards proper adulthood. I had a real grown up job, which involved very mature things like meetings and comp time and health insurance. I had friends in New York, sure, but ultimately it wasn’t a charming life at all. Rather isolated in fact. I felt poor and poorly connected. Overwhelmed, under whelmed. Everyone who has waxed poetic about crowded cities being the loneliest places on earth is absolutely right.

They say that if you can hack it in New York than you can hack it anywhere. Let’s pause for a wormy syllogism brewed up by my foremost philosophical mind: I couldn’t hack it in New York. Ergo, I can’t hack it anywhere. Which, if you think about it, is basically another way of saying there is nowhere that I can hack it. For anyone who has ever wondered why I move around so much, I’ll just say this: reductio ad absurdum, baby.

I quickly suspected that I would never be happy in New York, but to see this prophesy through to self-fulfilling fruition, I had to go and make a sort of art project out of my loneliness, throwing myself into the fray of the new (well, new at the time) world of internet dating. These (mis) adventures eventually became a “zine” called New York Boyfriend (which, again, I can send you if you like).

Around the winter holidays that year I was going on dates with two men, Bobby (who was married) and Adam, with whom I fell swiftly, deeply, madly, self-destructively in love.

I go into detail about Adam quite a bit in NYBF so I won’t repeat it all here, but he was a year or two older than I, a native New Yorker, Jewish (!!) and brilliant. He spoke several languages, had traveled the world, getting into scrapes with law in at least several countries. An authority on all heady matters from obscure punk to neo-plasticity, he was a writer, film theorist, architect and a hoodlum. He’d studied with Baudrillard. He had a phenomenally mysterious chipped tooth. He smoked cigarettes out of a silver case and drank Wild Turkey. And he was handsome- dark hair, scarily intense black eyes, slight (I might as well admit once and for all, I have some kind of thing for short men), and, well, impish in his bizarre wardrobe befitting a French gamin. Predictably, he was also very mean.

While it’s true that I fall in and out of love perhaps more often than most, it is also true that I felt something unprecedented for Adam. It was more than a powerful crush, or deep affection, or lust. He made me want to wake up everyday in a different city, to talk and talk and never shut up (this I do anyways, I guess), to braid my brain with his into some kind of rope to swing through the miserable concrete jungle that became so full of wonder when I was with him. In the beginning I had tried to play it cool but the façade crumbled away when I realized how happy I’d be to have him around all the time. I wanted him so desperately that ultimately, there was no way it could end but in disaster.

We talked on the phone as I got ready to go out that New Years Eve. I had stopped at my favorite fabric store by Fulton Mall on my way home from work and gotten a yard of something glittery and stretchy and hideous to make a special shirt for the holiday. He read me portions from his latest round of grad school applications asking me if they sounded O.K. I couldn’t understand a word he’d written and it thrilled me. I had several parties to attend and so did he, so we agreed to be in touch throughout the evening and meet up eventually.

It became the night of a thousand parties. I started at Radhika’s in Windsor Terrace where we climbed onto the roof to watch the midnight fireworks. After that, Kathy and I embarked together on a string of parties which led us all over the city: Daniela’s loft in DUMBO, an old college friends’ parents’ embarrasingly posh place in the west village, and eventually Kathy’s brother’s in the upper east side.

As the night wore on, I became drunker and increasingly disconsolate as the difficulty of getting in touch with Adam grew. He called me once from a noisy party, saying I wouldn’t like it very much because “everyone is talking in French,” adding that he’d call back later. It was after 2 am and I was sitting on Kathy’s brother’s sofa knocking back wine, nibbling at cheese and feeling miserable. The crowd there was swanky and dull and I felt horrifically out of place. I surveyed the scene vacantly, checking my phone every thirty seconds. I felt like a caged animal at the edge of extinction. One of the pretty, very made-up women hobbled by me in a pair of shoes, the heel of one having snapped. For some reason that did it. An unsuturable rift opened right then in my night, my New Years, my whole life. That woman limping with the broken heal was the saddest thing conceivable. I became convinced I was on the brink of death and worst of all I had to keep this secret from Kathy because she would think I was utterly nuts. Only someone crazy like Adam would understand-find poetic even-thoughts like that. Why hadn’t he called?

And right then, he did.

“Where are you?” he asked casually, oblivious (or not) to the bedlam his reticence was reeking upon my evening, fragile psyche.
I gave him my grid coordinates as nonchalantly as I could, trying not to betray the fact that his phone call had somehow restored order to a universe unhinged from its axis.
“Why don’t you take a cab downtown and meet me?” he suggested. I was already struggling into my coat and flying down the stairs. I was so crazed, such a stupid jerk, I forgot to even say goodbye and happy New Years to Kathy.

I was so anxious I sipped surreptitiously from my pint of Jameson’s as the cab sped south. I got out at Houston and Broadway (only several blocks from where I’d been staying the New Year’s before) and waited. I waited. And waited. And drank. And waited. I loved him. I hated him. I was drunk. It was 4 am. And cold. I started crying. A group of people walked by and asked if I was ok. “I’m fine.” I sniffled curtly. Then they invited me to “party” with them in a way that sounded very dirty. “No!” I barked viciously, my tenuous grip on humanity rapidly disintegrating. I don’t know how long I waited. It might have been 10 minutes or 20 but I couldn’t bring myself to give up. I imagined a million reasons why he was detained. I stared at the traffic and shivered and hated New York. All I could think about was death and the cold, sucking emptiness of existence, and the cold sucking emptiness of winter and New Years and everything and then I felt a hand on my ass. I whipped around ready to scream at a fresh crop of molesters but it was Adam, grinning in a green army coat, pink oxford shirt and felt legionnaire cap.

He put an arm around me and hailed a cab with the other. The warmth of the cab was so divine, the vinyl, the stale smoke all felt indescribably safe. “Do you want to go back to Brooklyn?” He asked (he lived in Chinatown and we always seemed to end up there and never at my place). I nodded silently like a little kid, summoning all my strength to drape myself over the seat and give the cabbie my address. I collapsed back in to Adam’s arms.
“Happy New Year.” He said giving me some kind of light kiss on the head. “How was your night?” I pulled out the Jameson and took a hard pull. “Fine,” I whispered and dozed off on his shoulder as we climbed the Williamsburg Bridge.

My apartment was particularly shitty, even by New York standards and I wasn’t in great hostess form by the time we arrived. Fuzzy, stumbling slightly, I showed him around, never putting down the whiskey for a moment. He pointed to the rows of scoliosis-spined notebooks on my bookshelf asking, “What are those?”
“That’s my writing.” I shrugged, rolling my eyes.

“You’re very smart, Abby,” He said after taking a moment to consider it. Coming from him, there were no more beautiful words in the world. Drunk, overwhelmed, unsure how to accept the compliment I decided for some reason to read him one of my favorite poems, Six Significant Landscapes by Wallace Stevens, whose work he was, surprisingly enough, not terribly familiar with. If I’m reading poetry to a boy I’m usually gone. Far gone. In crazy deep. When I closed the book he plucked the whiskey from my hand as if he needed to do something dramatic to get my attention. “ I think I love you,” He murmured. There were more beautiful words after all. The curtain fell on the night.

I woke up early in the morning and watched him sleep. I remember feeling so desperately lonely without him even though he was right there beside me. That’s the kind of stuff Adam made me feel. I loved him too much in a scary kind of way.

New Years day we sat around the house eating Chinese food and watching the Sound of Music on T.V. He eventually left saying he had to get back to work on his applications. He kissed me goodbye and said he’d call me.

It was the last time we’d see each other in person.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Drinking the Champagne of the Dead (A Decade of New Years Continued)


I was trying to redo this blog, however, predictably it got messy and the fiasco has now turned into a project more along the lines of "rebuilding" this blog. Thanks for your patience. Hopefully, in a few days it will be redesigned: pretty looking and full of all sorts of new stuff.

In the meantime...

A little catch up for anyone just visiting: I'm heart-deep in a project chronicalling the last decade of New Years Celebrations (See :It's New Years So Save Those Loving Arms For Me). I'm not sure that "Enjoy!" is the exactly the right word but here it goes...

A Decade of New Years
(a memoir of remembering quite a bit and not a whole lot, Part II)

(Ann Arbor, MI)

I’m back in Ann Arbor because in the spring of 1999 my world fell apart. I had managed, only through the boundless love and assistance of my mother, to complete my transfer applications to Oberlin and Reed Colleges from the Psych ward at UofM medical centers. I was accepted and offered a full ride a Reed, a mostly full ride at Oberlin. For anyone who has ever wondered how I decided between the two it simply came down to this: I chose Oberlin because it was only 2 hours away, and could drive home whenever I needed to, even in the middle of the night (which I did do on a couple of occasions).

By fall I wasn’t ready to go back to school. After all, I had only recently remastered the little things like eating food and not staring at walls for hours on end. I was working at the same mom and pop party store I had been working at for a while and living in a house with 6 guy friends. I drank heavily, my boyfriend drank heavily.

It was the end of the century and I was a ghost. People were making a big fuss about Y2K, stocking up on water and batteries and expecting every computer in the world to crash. We knew it was all hype and yet, that New Years Eve there was a tinge of something apocalyptic in the air. It was thrilling and dangerous like it could be our last night on earth.

My boyfriend and I went to a party at the RAW house, an institutional Ann Arbor punk house which back then was in a particularly ripe moment in its crusty history, stocked with filthy traveling kids, vermin, broken down bikes, and on one occasion, a take-out container in the fridge full of bloody tampons. We showed up just in time for the ball drop (not like there was a T.V in the house). The band had just finished playing and the house was sweaty, stinky and packed. I knew virtually everyone there, many of them Ann Arbor kids I’d known since I was 15 years old. At midnight, the hugging and kissing lasted for a good 10 or 15 minutes solid. On no new years before or since have I experienced such family, such camaraderie. Everyone was wasted. Everyone was glad to be alive.

For some reason I had chosen Southern Comfort as my flask for the night. Later, I’d learn a valuable lesson regarding the unholiness of mixing that SoCo, with beer and champagne. I shared my liquor with my friend Dave upstairs in the keg room. I didn’t like the stuff much but he was excited to see it. When he died two years later I kept remembering for some reason, his big shit-eating happy fucking new years grin as I passed him the bottle and he took a mighty pull while filling my beer cup with his other hand.

My boyfriend and I walked the whole way back, a mighty long walk in the deep Michigan winter. We were wasted and along the way I started to cry for reasons I didn’t even understand. I was recovering from a traumatic experience earlier in December I couldn’t make sense of at the time in any way besides drinking. The portent of New Years Eve, feeling like the world was coming to an end just heightened everything. We stopped for a pizza on Packard St. and ate some of it on the way home. The steam from the pizza and our breaths cheered me somewhat. When we got home, Sara (who had just moved in to the basement) was up studying on one of the sofas. “Happy New years” I cried with slurry, forced gaiety. I stumbled toward the sofa opposite her and tried to sit down but somehow ended up flipping over the back of it onto the floor.

Sara just looked at my boyfriend in horror and said, “What did you do to her?” We were in bed shortly thereafter but no sooner had I gotten settled and the world began to swirl, I had to run to the bathroom and throw up all my pizza.

(Pittsburgh, PA)

I’m back in Pittsburgh, this time visiting my friend Alicia. She’d moved into a new place on Penn Ave, which was quite an improvement over her last apartment in Friendship, a roach infested dump outside of which her car had been stolen (count them) 3 times and the previous tenant had been a pimp who’d been found murdered on the premises.

I was having a fantastic visit. The night before New Years we went to a show at the (now defunct) Millvale Industrial theatre. Alicia was working as an assistant to a potter whose studio was right across the parking lot in a blustery old warehouse. Alicia took me on a tour of the building, chilly and expansive and scary at night. The entire first floor was filled with junked cars, the overflow of which extended out into the lot. Some of them were ancient and beautiful, big bench seats, skinny wheels and converted push-button starters. We climbed up onto the roof and drank a bottle of MD 20/20 and smoked cigarettes and watched all the lights twinkling on all the bridges.

At the show I met Paul the famous rock star. He was good looking and the kind of drunk and raucous crazy I tend to find brilliantly attractive. When Alicia and I tired of dancing around atop a field of snow-covered, junked Pepsi machines outside, he and I started breaking into the old fancy cars, pretending we were going on trips. “Let’s go to Toronto” he suggested, flashing the most charming, mischievously boyish grin, “I’ll take you to Toronto, seriously.”

Back inside the show we talked a little about our New Years plans. “I’m going wherever Steve and Alicia take me,” I shrugged. “What about New Years Resolutions?” he asked quite earnestly. “Fuck ‘em,” I said, bumming him another cigarette, “Who really keeps them?”
“You should make just one resolution and see if you can keep it for the year.” He insisted.
“Fine,” I said, not one to back away from a challenge. “What should I resolve to do?”
“Or not do…” He mused, face getting all mischievous again. “How about this? How about for the entire year of 2001 you won’t eat any grapes? Not a single grape.”
“Red or Green?”
“What about wine?”
“Wine’s ok, just no actual grapes.”

Gawd I liked this boy.

“Deal.” I said. And we shook on it before ten of us piled into cars and drove to Ritters where Alicia and I rolled our eyes and conspiratorially tried to discuss worldly matters while the boys argued vociferously about their favorite Van Halen albums.

The next night, New Years, Alicia, her boyfriend and I went to a party at the Don Caballero house. I remember lots of framed pictures of betty Page on the wall and Alicia and I getting into a friendly, smack-down wrestling match in the living room. The night wore on and eventually I meandered down to the basement where I ran into Paul the famous rock star. Someone had given me a tube of smarties and I was consuming them with voracious, drunken relish. “Can I have one?” he asked, looking so handsome in his beatle boots and tweed jacket and crocheted scarf. I didn’t stop to think it over I just did what seemed natural, which was prying a smartie out of the plastic and slipping it coyly into his mouth. The next moment we were kissing.

I brought him home with me to Alicia’s house and we made out all night on the sofa. He was surprisingly gentlemanly and although not exactly smart, very good company nonetheless.

I went back to school in Ohio with a monster crush on a worthless rockstar. Needless to say there wasn’t a happy ending. I tried to get in touch, he blew me off. I had trouble taking the hint but eventually got it. A month or two later I was back in Pittsburgh visiting Alicia again. We were sitting at the Eat N’ Park on Murray avenue having a meal that was somewhere between lunch and dinner. “He’s a total dick, Abby.” She offered, trying to console me. “Everyone knows it. At their last show, they had a chick take her shirt off and dance topless while they played.” It was a small comfort. When you like a guy, after all, they could do just about anything--murder your mom even-- and you’d find a way to explain it.

It was gloomy and wintery outside. I pulled out the creased crossword I'd been working on for two days and asked Alicia for help until our meal arrived. The waitress gave me a strange look as she set down our food.

All I had ordered was a bowl of grapes.

(New York, NY)

This year I have a boyfriend and he’s from New York. He invited me to spend New Years with him at his parents’ house. I was thrilled. It was to be my first trip to New York since visiting with my grandparents as a kid.

My provincial mid-western ways clearly pained my boyfriend, the son of two artists, who fancied himself very hip and tough and sophisticated, having grown up in a So Ho loft all his life. (There is more about him in a book I wrote entitled “New York Boyfriend” if you are interested, just holler and I can send you a copy). Fortunately his parent were very warm and welcoming and sweet and enjoyed proudly showing off their city. On my first morning there, his dad led me to a coat closet with a New York transit map pinned to the inside. “Ok, “ He began using a pencil like a school marm’s pointer, “These are the boroughs…” and he had me recite the names as he moved the pen across the map. I nodded studiously. I was on my way to untangling the mystery of New York.

“Its like John Updike once said,” his dad beamed at me from across the breakfast table, “There’s two places in this world, New York…and everywhere else.” I laughed uncomfortably. His mom rolled her eyes. After all, she was a Michigan girl like me. She used to party in Ann Arbor with Iggy Pop and the Ashton brothers. “Those were crazy times,” she’d say with a rueful laugh, still totally fucking gorgeous on the cusp of 50, “too bad I don’t remember too much of it!”

On New Years, his parents hosted a dinner party. My boyfriend’s mother made delicious lasagna for everyone. The younger set sat in Boyfriend’s room smoking Marlboros out on his fire escape and blowing coke and drinking whiskey. I had plans to go with Avi to Darren’s party way uptown and then take a cab out to Brooklyn and meet up with the boyfriend. I know it’s embarrassing (and I could never tell my New York Boyfriend because he’d roll his eyes) but I really wanted to see the ball drop in Madison Square. Avi and I galloped through the train station, the bottle of champagne I’d stuffed in my coat bruising my ribs, only to emerge five seconds after midnight. I was somewhat crestfallen.

I drank a lot of vodka and orange juice at Darren’s party. Avi walked me out and hailed me a cab. I didn’t know shit about New York. Recalling Ric’s lesson, I knew that Manhattan was a borough and that Brooklyn was another borough and I was in one and needed to get to the other but that’s about it. All I had was the mystical codex of a post-it note on which the boyfriend had scrawled the address of the loft party. It was a letter street that’s all I remember. My cabby nodded confidently and we sped off, chatting about terrorism, racism and the newly minted post-9/11 New York. Right by the bridge a limo wiped out in front of us, swerving and clipping a fire hydrant with a violent crunch. It was very scary but I was so drunk and ecstatic to be in New York on New Years I started bouncing around in my seat and clapping. The scenery went by in a blur until we were in some industrial looking neighborhood. The cab had slowed to a crawl.

“This is your address?” the cabby asked skeptically in a thick Pakistani accent. Truly, there was nothing going on. He checked my paper again and nodded like he’d suddenly got a brilliant idea. He rammed the cab in reverse and we tore through three full blocks going backwards. He peeled out and wove through a grey labyrinth of streets before eventually arriving in front of a loft, bearing an address similar to the one I’d handed him, and looking mighty populated. “This is it!” I cried thanking him profusely and handing him a ten-dollar tip. I teetered out of the cab and bounded up the stairs. The party was throbbing but amazingly enough the first person I saw when I walked through the door was my boyfriend. He caught me up in a tremendous hug, telling me how worried he was because he realized he’d given me the wrong address and didn’t know how to get in touch with me. Now that we have cell phones we might get lost less frequently but we are also deprived of that joy of being found.

I can’t even remember how many parties and bars we went to after that. We shared a very crowded cab back to the city and still ended up with a bit of a walk back to his parents’ house. It was about 4 or 5 in the morning and no one was around. Through my drunken haze I realized that I was squinting in the glow of brilliant electric lights. “What’s all the light?” I asked squeezing his hand. “That,” he said, gesturing with his free hand, breath escaping from him mouth in a way that suddenly struck me as utterly exquisite, “is ground zero.” And that’s the closest I ever got to it.

Back at home we stumbled into Boyfriend’s room, spent, cashed, exhausted. We were just starting to disrobe when there was a knock on the door. It was his dad. He was always so friendly and accommodating but this was a little odd. “Hey guys, Happy New Years.” He grinned brightly. We were drunk, on drugs, reeking of a thousand cigarettes and it was the middle of the night. “Hi.” We mustered weakly, eyes blood-shot and weary. “I brought you this blow up mattress,” He continued, presenting us with a glossy box. “Thought it might be more comfortable that that little bed.” My boyfriend raised his head and I watched his face slowly form into a look at once totally quizzical and withering. It was very surreal. “We’ll be fine, dad, goodnight.” And that was that. Then we got in bed and made the sweet, sweet love until the sun dawned over Manhattan and the year 2002.

(Donna says I should end this story on a happy note so I’ll save the part about our miserable breakup for another time.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Eve of Eternity (or) It's New Years so Save Those Loving Arms for Me (part 1)

Those who know me have probably heard my deep conviction in this simple cosmic truth:

There are two days in the year that everyone (provided you’re, well into this kind of thing) should get laid: One’s birthday and New Years Eve. I’m not sure how and when I came to believe in this so fiercely but I do. It’s also a known fact that I’m not very fond of either New Years or my birthday for that matter so it might necessarily follow that I’m not a fan of sex. This is not exactly true.

After absorbing this wacko adage, a friend once pointed out to me the obvious relationship between these two days, which has helped me, in turn, explain their connection to “Intimate Company” (I’m not a purist after all; for all intents and purposes a simple makeout sleepover on these days would, in my book, more than suffice). In some ways New Years and birthdays are celebrations: we celebrate our accomplishments and look forward to good things to come. But they are dark holidays too. They are both mile markers in that what they chart is the passage of time. Now I don’t know about you, and I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom here but I don’t find the passage of time to be an exclusively happy phenomena. I’m not really at peace with the idea that I’m growing older and that one-day I’m going to die. This unsettling subtext haunts our celebrations, sweeps us through the nights with melancholy undercurrents. I would venture to say that in the whole history of humanity, there has been no singular motivator as successful at driving us to the comforts of alcohol and the pleasures of the flesh as the throbbing existential anxiety over our own mortality.

The other night I tried (and failed dismally), to explain my new years anxiety over Instant Messenger to one potential date. I felt like a morose teenager. I hated giving this guy the impression that all I do on New Years is sit weeping wrapped around a bottle of whiskey. Well, to set the record straight, that’s not ALL I do.

I know I’m not alone and in reality New Years in the number one holiday people love to hate. Perhaps the reason I cling to the hope of creating momentous New Years celebrations is a form of parasitical fabrication of memory. Is there any other holiday for which you can recall with such consistency, what you did and with whom you did it every year for the last ten years? Go on. I challenge you. I bet your new years memories are more easily summoned that most other special days. And more vivid. As I struggle to imprint myself on the world and the world upon my existence, like a conniving gene I’ll attach to worthy carriers. It’s like time is a beach and New Years is like leaving prints higher up, further from the tide. Eventually they will erode, but perhaps not as quickly. So I want to make it good.

As I prepare for yet another New Year Holiday It occurred to me that this New Years Eve, 2006 marks a curious anniversary. It signals 10 years that I’ve been “celebrating” New Years as an adult (read: going out and misbehaving). How successful I've been in securing that Intimate Company is clearly up for debate.

Like it or not, what follows is a walking tour through the New Years of my life beginning in 1996. So as to neither skimp on all the details nor overwhelm you I’m going to take a cue from Mariya and split it up in a couple installments. Take my hand and stumble with me as I lead you through...

A Decade of New Years
(a memoir of remembering quite a bit and not a whole lot)

(Ann Arbor, MI)

I am a sullen but fiery and mischievous teenager who is just starting to get into a lot of trouble. “Fuck New Years,” I decided. I was actually in my room in my pajamas when the doorbell rang. It was Sam and Jenny and Jesse who had come to drag me out. I obliged. As soon as we were outside I got excited and somehow this night turned into the first time I dropped acid. What better occasion could I have been saving it for really? We went to a party at this girl Laura’s house; all the theatre kids and a bunch of punks were there. No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl” was really big at that time and to this day I associate that song with residual chemical-tinged memories of sitting under a ping-pong table in a dimly lit basement convinced the world was completely and utterly full of wonder. It was a very snowy night.

After the party we went to the Arb and rolled through the snow. Everything shimmered. We wandered in to town and somewhere around 1 am, right outside the bagel deli where I worked my friend Ron (A coworker, quite a bit older than me but one of my best friends none-theless) stumbled by with some friends, incoherently drunk. He had keys to the deli so we went inside. Sam hung out with us for a while and then Ron and I sat smoking cigarettes and drinking Italian sodas and coffee until the sun came up and he was more or less sober and I was more or less off my trip. We lay on the floor under the luncheon counter stools and decided that the mysteries of the universe were wholly encoded in some weird paint markings under one stool seat, which looked like characters from a strange Asian alphabet. I lumbered home around 7 am and curled up on the sofa in the den watching Howard the Duck on network television, hoping that when my family came downstairs it would simply look like I’d slept there all night. It must have because no one ever said a thing.

(Ann Arbor, MI)

Alex, my high school sweetheart, the love of my life, and I have, at this point been dating for over half a year. His band, the Butler, was slated to play a house show over on Fifth Avenue. I wasn’t a big drinker in high school (oh just you wait!) but it seemed like the appropriate, and very adult thing to do on New Years. I was still working at the same Bagel Deli (there is some major work forthcoming about that place but its still percolating) and as I was sweeping up the store I handed a crinkly 10-dollar bill to one of my older coworkers. I asked him to go to the liquor store right next door and buy me the biggest bottle of red wine that would get me. That seemed like a sophisticated choice. How he managed to screw up something that simple I’ll never know but he returned 5 minutes later with a magnum of rose zinfandel.

Quite the high school oenologist, I looked at him in disgust.
“This is pink, not red.”
“Red, pink, whatever, I can’t tell the difference." Sighing, I thought about making him exchange it but then remembered that I was 16 and in no position to be terribly picky.

I don’t remember much about the show but afterwards Jenny and Alex came home with me. We drank most of the disgusting wine but not all of it. I gave jenny my bed and Alex and I, in the tender, virginal kind of intimacy that characterized our 2 and a half-year romance, curled up under a blanket on the floor. I remember waking up in the early morning clinging to Alex, shivering so intensely my body ached. Never in my life before or since have I experienced being that cold.

(Ann Arbor, MI)

Alex and I are in one of our broken up phases. I don’t know where he is and I’m dying. But I’m acting like I’m getting along so I go to a party on S. Forest at Dan’s apartment. It’s all the old gang from highschool only they are off in college now and I’m still stuck in Ann Arbor. Feeling very uncomfortable I leave the party and walk down the street to my friend Jeff’s house. It was the house I would move into a month later. Jeff and todd were there just the two of them drinking Tequilla. They welcomed me in, rolled me cigarettes and poured me shots. We blew all the coke their boss at the record store had given them as a Christmas bonus and then pulled out the instruments: My electric guitar that I’d passed along to Jeff, Todd’s bass and a whole bunch of assorted little tikes musical toys. Eventually I went home to my parent’s house. A pretty forgettable New Years really.

(Pittsburgh, PA)

Though there are a million things I can’t stand about him, I find myself falling in love with my friend Nathaniel who was home visiting his family on winter break. Though I have a few friends in Pittsburgh, I am lonely, fragile, applying myself rigorously to my studies, writing lots of poetry and given to crying on the bus for no particular reason. We were spending nearly every day and evening together meandering around suburban strip malls, drinking coffee at Ritter’s diner and taking chaste but portentous naps in his bed. In the evenings I’d stay at his house for dinner eating around the table while Frank Sinatra wafted in from the Bose stereo in the T.V room. Nathaniel was brilliant and sullen and when his dad asked him a simple question like “how are you feeling today” he’d say something hysterical like “eviscerated.”

I invited him to come with me to my friend Jessica’s New Years party in Squirrel hill, a fancy dress up affair. Nathaniel and I went shopping at a thrift store for our outfits. I bought a beautiful red satin and chiffon cocktail dress. Nathaniel got a very pimp-looking pinstriped suit and matched it with a white feathered had that resembled a fedora but was clearly designed for women.

We modeled our outfits for his mother who disapproved of us prancing around ironically in “what had once been someone’s best clothing.” Nathaniel got irritated and barked something like “Can’t you just let me live?” adding to me with an exasperated sigh “come on let’s get out of here.” We retreated to his room decorated with all sorts of Jazz records and art museum postcards for another one of our famous naps during which we would almost kiss but never quite.

I picked up Nathaniel that night my legs shivering in the cold against the unforgiving vinyl of my car interior. The understanding being that he was to sleep over at my apartment after the party. The party was not terribly memorable. Someone took a picture of us that I wish I had now but somehow got lost. We drove back to my place and sat around my room listening to records. He didn’t have any pajamas so I lent him a pair of sweatpants which was funny since he’s about 6 feet tall and I’m really rather small. It was around 3 am and we were getting ready for bed when Nathaniel suddenly said, “I feel like going home. Could you take me home?” What could I do? We got dressed and trudged out to the car. The night was freezing cold. I schlepped him all the way back to his parents’ house and watched him disappear through the front door.

I whipped my car around the snowy cul-de-sac with reckless ferocity. By the time I’d reached the mouth I had to wait to make my turn onto the street. I was crying so uncontrollably I couldn't see a thing.

Coming soon…I become a drinker, fin-du-siecle Y2K madness, the undying quest for adventure, whiskey and of course, Intimate Company (does it get juicier? uh-huh you bet)