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)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It’s like time is a beach and New Years is like leaving prints higher up, further from the tide..."


8:10 AM  
Blogger mar-mar said...

for some reason i feel embarrassed about most of the New Year Eves that i can recall. especially the adult ones. my fave remains the one (age 22 or 23) with Martha and her mom in Columbia, SC when we played such an intense game of Dark Tower that we forgot to watch the Times Square ball drop, got reasonably drunk early, did Yoga for Asthmatics in front of the TV and went to bed in the attic.
despite the extreme tameness (see above) of nearly all my adult experiences, i don't feel like an adult much. maybe 12% of the time.

1:31 PM  

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