Monday, January 5, 2009

For Auld Lang Syne: New Year's Eve 2008

I’ve made my living as a musician for the last 10 years and have usually had to work on New Year’s Eve. Plans for that evening would be laid out months in advance. I wouldn’t have to worry about it; what clubs to go to, their cover charges, who would drive. I would just have to sit up there and play, collect my dough at the end of the night and go home. It was great.

This year was different. No gig. My plans for New Year’s Eve came down to either spending a quiet evening with one sister-in-law, her husband and a couple of their friends, drinking wine in their warm living room near the fireplace, watching the ball drop on T.V., or go out with the other Sister-in-Law, The Sister-in-Law’s BFF, The Brother-in-Law , The Cousin and two of her buddies from college.

My wife looked at me and said, “Honey, what do you want to do? I could go either way.”

Oh no, I thought, don’t make me decide! It’s the dreaded, “Do-these-jeans-make-me-look-fat?” decision. On one hand I know my wife likes to go out dancing with her sister, but on the other I think she would probably enjoy a quiet evening just as much.

So I tried to outsmart her. I restated both ideas in slightly different ways and laid out a few other details hoping that she would make the decision because, honestly, I couldn’t care less.

Here’s the thing: I don’t care that much about New Year’s Eve. In my opinion, many people use holidays like New Year's Eve as an excuse to get even more hammered out of their minds than they usually do on a normal Friday and Saturday night. They hold New Year's Eve up on a grand pedestal, one that they engraved the night before with the words, “Greatest Night of My Life.” They expect so much out of their New Year's Eve that if the insane events they’ve built in the minds don’t actually come to fruition they look back at their etched pedestal with regret and disappointment; even though they’ll be going out the following weekend and doing the same thing, just without the ball dropping in Times Square.

We finally decided on going uptown.

Here now, is a log of the events that took place during my New Year's Eve. Enjoy:

We began the evening at The Sister-in-Law’s house. My Brother-in-Law had already started on a bottle of Jameson.

Said hey to The Cousin and introduced myself to her college buddies Beef and Wheezy.

The Sister-in-Law's BFF passed out party horns.

Pestered Sister-in-Law’s precious cats until it was time to go.

The cab arrived right on time, driven by a very nice, courteous and friendly man from Africa named Raphael. We packed 8 people into 6 seats in his mini-van taxi and headed downtown or uptown, whatever. On the way, one of The Cousin’s buddies, Wheezy, told a joke about a dog licking his privates. Raphael laughed, but not that much. I stared out the window hoping the night would be over soon.

We eventually arrived at Connolly’s, a nice little pub downtown, and squirmed out of the taxi like a bunch of circus clowns busting out of a VW bug. We stood on the sidewalk getting our ID’s out, bright eyed, so full of hope and excitement for a great New Year's Eve.

I liked Connolly’s. It was dark and not too busy and the Guinness tasted great. The music was good and we were still able to chat without screaming at each other. Wheezy and Beef left early because one had met a girl who was going over to a club called Dixie’s. We stayed at Connolly’s a little over an hour and then it was decided that it was time move on to a place called Alley Cats for dancing. I downed the last bit of what would be my only beer the entire night and headed out the door.

10:45 pm
The walk to Alley Cats was freezing!

Along the way we passed a large number of police officers scattered throughout the uptown area. They were like action figures with an assortment of cool accessories. Some were up on mechanical lifts looking down over the drunken pedestrians. Some were on foot, some on bicycles, others on those two-wheeled Segways that Mall cops ride. I even saw a couple of officers holding what looked to be paintball guns.

10:50 pm
Stood in line at Alley Cats trying to get closer to the heat lamp near the entrance. We stayed about 10 or 15 minutes and then members of our party started changing their minds again because they wanted to dance and they didn’t like the band that was playing and the DJ wasn’t coming on until midnight.

As a musician, I usually always take the side of live music and scowl at the DJ who takes all the work away from the musicians, but I have to admit that even I was disappointed in the band. It sounded like a teenage, indie-rock, garage band. Sorry fellas. So we ducked back under the line divider and into the street again.

The Cousin decided she wanted to go to Dixie’s because she and Beef, had agreed to make-out at midnight and she didn’t want to miss it.

The Cousin split off and the rest of us decided on going over to a place called “Home” which is really where I wanted to be at this point, at home in my living room having a glass of wine, watching a movie with my moccasins on.

11:10 pm
The walk to “Home” was excruciatingly cold. Bitter cold, cold that freezes your jaw and makes you talk funny and slow.

11:15 pm
We got into the club and actually found a table! It was warm! They were serving food! I wanted some scotch to warm up my insides. It was perfect! Right? Wrong.

We sat down and The BFF wanted to go to their favorite neighborhood bar, The Thomas St. Tavern, instead. The Sister-in-Law, who was starting to feel the pressure of the evening settle in around us, said that that would be a good idea. At this point, my wife and I looked at each other. I could see it in her face. A look of, first, disappointment in herself because there was a time when she loved going out with the girls and dancing and having a couple of drinks, and second, a look of I’m-sick-of-this-of-crap. She said, “I would’ve been fine anywhere we went. But if we’re going to go somewhere else we might as well just call it a night.” I concurred. I said, “You know what, why don’t we just go home. You guys can go and have fun at Thomas St. and we’ll just head home and relax.”

Of course this made The Sister-in-Law feel worse. She had now taken all of our New Year’s Eve pedestals onto her shoulders, trying to balance them to keep them from falling and shattering all over the street. She laid out her argument for Thomas St. Tavern and finally I turned to my wife and said, “Ok, honey, let’s just go to T St.” It was nearing 11:30 and I figured we could at least get in on the countdown with family and friends.

11:25 pm
So back into the taxi. Drive across town to get to T st. The BFF had run into other friends sitting around a fire pit outside and invited us to sit out there with them. “Are you kidding?” I thought. “It’s freezing out here!” Maybe if you created a ring of bonfires and let us sit the center then maybe, but one little gas fueled boy scout campfire wasn’t gonna cut it.

My wife and I found a table inside with The Brother-in-Law. The Sister-in-Law and The BFF eventually followed. At this point I was starving, and had to pee somewhere back around the time we left Connolly’s. I went to the men’s room. We ordered food. I had the most amazing Reuben sandwich, maybe because my stomach was eating itself. My wife ordered another beer but eventually just gave it to drunk Brother-in-Law. We got some free champagne.

11:59:50 pm
Countdown. Watched the ball drop in Times Square. It felt strange to me to actually be on the east coast when the ball dropped. Being from the west coast the T.V. networks always had to rebroadcast the countdown so it would line up with Pacific time.

12 am
I kissed my wife and took a sip of champagne. Didn’t finish it.

12:15 am
A fight broke out. A huge tangle of bodies almost like a rugby scrim or a ball of mating snakes bumped into our table. A big bald guy was angry about something, pointing back at another guy and shouting obscenities as other people tried to keep them separated and moving toward the door. We snapped pictures.

12:30 pm
Wife and I decided to leave and believing that cabs would be showing up every five minutes ended up having to call three cabs before we could get one. I had been waiting outside in the cold for about 15 minutes when a group of patrons in their late 30’s came out holding up one of their intoxicated friends who looked like a punch-drunk prize fighter that just competed in a beauty pageant. They helped her walk out to the curb, her eyes half-closed and glassy, her sparkly “Happy New Year” tiara hanging crooked on the side of her head.

To my surprise, one of The Prize Fighter’s friends jumped out in the street and stopped a cab just pulling up. I couldn’t believe it.

I had been standing out in the cold waiting for a taxi and this guy thinks he can just jump out in the street ahead of me and “steal” my cab? I said, “Hey buddy, I was waiting for that cab.” He ignores me, opens the sliding door and rushes back to his group of friends. And in the second it takes him to get back to the curb the beauty queen prize fighter squats down into the gutter and vomits all over her fancy new New Year’s Eve pants and the street.

Now with all the attention drawn to her, I see my chance. I looked back through the front window of the tavern and motioned to my wife. She raced out and as the group was helping their friend finish her vomit session we jumped into the already opened door of their cab and drove off.

1 am
The drive home was quiet, so good and quiet. One of the first things I said was, “Next year we’re staying at home.” My wife agreed with me before I even finished my sentence.


  1. I hear you brother. Lots of pedestals out there, not many warm, relaxing places with good sandwiches.

  2. A great description of an awful night. For some folks though this is a typical weekend night; traveling from one crowded bar to another, each with it's share of fights and vomiting / publicly urinating drunks. I don't see the attraction other than you have every one's attention on Monday while you tell your weekend war stories.

  3. Happy New Year, Ben!

    While I'm sad you're no longer here in San Diego (and playing in local establishments), I'm really glad you're getting settled in NC. I heard your big send off bash on 11/2 went off well (Kinsman filled me in while I was in the hospital) and hope that you'll have more than a few trips back here to perform on the calendar soon.

    Be well and enjoy all the new opportunities coming your way!