I rang in the new year at the Pirate House, site of the Mustache Party last month. The concept was "Party Behind the Iron Curtain," but the best I could do was bring (and flash) my International Publishers copy of The Communist Manifesto. I had a beard trim on Thursday, which pretty much ruined my chances to try to pass as Fidel Castro or Karl Marx.
I never cease to marvel at how childhood toys continue to hold fascination for people even as they cross to adulthood. A woman came to the party with a crossbow that shot marshmallows, a toy that cost her $2 at a thrift store. Out on the rear deck, this became a very popular toy, with the added allure of a small gnome statue sitting at the base of a tree. Everyone wanted a turn with this thing, and the weather was hospitable for such an activity. The temperature in Columbus was in the upper 50s-low 60s for most of the day, even after the sun set, and I almost skipped wearing a hoodie when I left for the party.
This is where my prior experience as a postal
worker came in handy.
I even took a few pot shots at the gnome, and my unfamiliarity with weapons became glaringly obvious. I don't think I even came close to target at any of my three attempts. (I am definitely not in the league of Hunter S. Thompson, who had an elaborate setup of targets and gongs for his shooting pleasure at Owl Farm in Colorado. I thank God I don't resemble William Burroughs, who killed his wife while bragging about his skills as a marksman and demonstrated by trying to shoot a glass off his wife's head with a pistol. He wasn't as good a shot as he boasted.) When everyone exhausted the bag of marshmallows, we went out to the base of the tree and recycled the marshmallows. There will be some squirrels in that yard who will be on horrendous sugar highs for the next 1-2 days.
There were three hula hoops sitting on the back deck, and they received a lot of attention and mileage. They require marginally more skill than the crossbow, so not as many people used them. One person managed one, two, or three hoops at a time, twirling them around her waist and/or wrists, or using the hoop like a jump rope.
Administering the coup de grace to the gnome.
Notice all the "spent ammunition" at the base
of the tree.
I was probably the oldest person at the party. I'm not 100% positive, but I am dead certain who the youngest person was. My friend Ramona, aged 21, proudly brought her daughter Kiley, who will be six months old next week, to the party. It's a cliché to wring your hands about "where have the years gone?", but I can remember when Ramona, a mere eight or nine years old, would fawn very lovingly over infant Susie. (Susie, I think, even wore some of Ramona's old baby clothes.)
We all watched the ball drop on Times Square at midnight, loudly starting the countdown "50! 49! 48! 47!" The pictures came from CNN's live feed, although earlier we were looking (why, I don't know) at a live feed of the front of the White House. The only exciting thing that happened with that was when the exterior lights all shut off at once. (It didn't look like anyone was home, because there were no lights in the windows. I think President Obama and family are in Hawaii, so the family quarters were probably deserted.)
All eyes are on the live feed from Manhattan as
the ball begins its annual descent from the top
of One Times Square.
Leaving the party around 4 a.m., I walked the nine long blocks back to Weinland Park. Police seemed to be everywhere, either making arrests or patrolling loud party areas. I saw just as many taxis as I did squad cars. "Be careful, they're arresting everybody!" one guy cautioned me as I was walking south. I didn't have anything to worry about, since I hadn't drunk alcohol. (I brought Diet Pepsi, but since there was at least one recovering alcoholic at the party, the "buffet" had plenty of Coke and store-brand cola.)
One New Year's Eve I remember from my childhood was when I was five. I wasn't awake at midnight, but my parents held a small party around the dinner hour at our small house on Third St. Dad opened a bottle of red bubbly, and I don't know what he did, but once the cork was out of the bottle, all of the champagne sprayed out of the bottle. None of the adults had a drop of it, since it all ended up on the kitchen ceiling. I was doubled over laughing so hard (it didn't take much to amuse me at that age) that I was choking and coughing. My dad's sister moved into the house the following summer, and she immediately had to get on a ladder and wipe the remaining champagne from the ceiling.
When I lived in Boston, I went back to Ohio for the Christmas holidays, and saw in 1983 at a party in Rocky River, a Cleveland suburb. About four of us, friends from the Ohio-Meadville District UU youth groups, went to the party of a friend of one of theirs. The parents were gone, so everyone picked the liquor cabinets bare, and those with forged IDs made pilgrimages to the carry-outs whenever the beer ran low. All pretty standard fare, but the party made me realize the importance of carrying a notebook and pen at all times. I overheard several memorable lines that somehow never made their way into my fiction, although I remember them as if I heard them yesterday, and not almost 30 years ago.
One came from a guy who sounded very happy. The tone almost suggested that he was going to be seeing an old and dear friend for the first time in ages. "Great! Rudy's here--I'm going to beat the shit out of him!" I overheard the second in an upstairs hallway, while I was waiting for the bathroom. A guy and a girl were trying for minimal privacy in another section of the hall. "I'm really starting to like you," the guy said, in a very confessional tone, "and it's really bothering me." That's not an opening line I highly recommend to any potential suitor.
The third exchange was, "Where's Matt?" (I forget whether this voice was male or female.) "Who's Matt?" One guy said, "Oh, Matt's my 14-year-old brother. He's a penis."
The New Year's Eve that I always loved to hear about took place two years before I was born. (I've mentioned this in the LiveJournal blog, so caveat lector.) My maternal grandmother, Lucie McKee, died near Asheville, N.C. on December 30, 1960. (My grandfather was teaching at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa at the time.) The family spent all of New Year's Eve on the train bringing her body back to Ohio for burial in Caldwell at Olive Cemetery, and, according to my mother, two drunken sailors burst into the coach just after midnight, waving whiskey bottles over their heads and shouting, "Happy New Year! Hey, everybody, they've got a stiff in the luggage car!" I have never heard anyone else tell this story, and the only person who was there at the time who is still alive is my cousin Karen, who was a toddler when this happened.
As for so far this year, I didn't get out of bed until after 1 p.m., and I only ventured out of the house to go to Family Dollar. Today, the temperature has hovered in the low 40s, and it has been gray and drizzly all day. A light rain was falling at 4 a.m. during my walk home from the party, so I was grateful to get out of my wet clothes once I made it home.