For the past couple of years, my New Year's Eve has begun with a small dinner party at my apartment. Usually, my roommate Christa and I are frantically cooking dinner (I mean heating up the gourmet dishes her mother makes us). Then we rush out to wherever, standing elbow to elbow with near-strangers. I always end up having no one to share the traditional New Year's kiss.
This year, I figured we'd skip the nerve-wracking food preparation, the fears we weren't being entertaining enough and the resulting over-compensation drinking. Christa and her boyfriend, Fuzz, were going to a party of mostly people they didn't know on the West side. I was going to Dylan and Heather's and then The Comet.
At Dylan and Heather's, an intimate gathering had ensued. I finally met my Manfriend's ex-girlfriend. I'd formed an image of her something akin to Karen on Will and Grace. Instead, she turned out to be a petite blonde of elfin nature and, to top it off, was sweet as a candy cane. Rather than jealousy, this prompted a dire question that wracked my brain -- why the hell did they break up? Oh yeah, she cheated on him. Nevermind.
I opened my Christmas gifts from Heather -- a lovely pair of earrings, handmade soap and a scarf she'd crocheted. The scarf was beautiful, and yet it was curious that all my friends had given me the same present. Did I tell everyone I needed a scarf and gloves?
When I got to The Comet, I showed Shawn my scarf and he laughed. He'd bought me a cute pair of gloves and a scarf from Urban Outfitters. Brian had gotten me a pair of black leather gloves, and my Manfriend had almost bought me a pair of Isotoners. At this point, I had enough for a museum.
"I guess we knew you needed to be warm," Shawn said. It was touching.
When the frigid air from an open vent started shivering us, Shawn asked David Cunningham, Comet owner and local beefcake, to close the vent. He graciously did so and then came over to wrap my coat around my legs. Why would I want to be anywhere else on New Year's?
At a nearby table, two guys invited me to sit with them. One of them, a long-haired sculptor named Dennis who was almost too pretty to take seriously, asked for my number. He planned to record it without pen and paper. In a few days I'll know whether his mental Rolodex works or not.
When it was nearly midnight, the Rockabilly band stopped playing and the countdown began: "Five, four, three, two..."
I realized a group of my friends were in the opposite room.
Giddily, I sprinted into the other room for the first friend I could find. It was Shannon and, in our spirited state, we hugged each other.
"Right on the lips!" she demanded. So I got my kiss after all.
Ripe with alcohol and lack of inhibition, I embraced everyone one I knew, including a bartender I'd never been particularly friendly with.
The previous September, I was busy being crushed by a guy who left his girlfriend for me, then left me for Chicago. It all seemed so trivial now. This New Year's was different. This year, we all needed to be kept warm.
New Year's at Carol's
Having had soirees at home the past few years, I wanted to go out this New Year's Eve. Bill and I decided to take in some scenery over dinner and chose our old favorite, Carol's On Main. It was a good excuse for me to dust off my leather pants, patent leather shoes, break out my new ribbed turtleneck (sans the "L L L L L" sticker!) and prove that all the gym time was worth it.
We arrived at 8:45, and the place was packed. The hostess told us it would be a while for a table because they'd taken reservations. I was a bit surprised.
"I didn't know you ever took reservations," I said.
"Neither did I," she replied with a frazzled smile.
We went to the bar to wait and have a carbonated courtesy drink (translation: the cheapest possible entitlement to a barstool). It's extremely difficult to nurse a club soda and a ginger ale, so the hour and 15 minutes we ended up waiting became a bit tedious. But the hostess was doing her best to keep people happy, and we were in no real hurry except for Bill's declining blood sugar level.
When our table was ready, we left the crowded bar and made the promenade down the middle of the restaurant (aka "the Runway") to a cozy corner table in the front window. I've always loved the atmosphere at Carol's because it's warm, intimate (usually packed to the gills with people) and the staff and mixed crowd are friendly.
The meal was great, though we were quite full, so there was no room for cinnamon ice cream. Our waiter, Andrew, was cute and had gorgeous teeth (I don't know why, but I always notice that) so that was dessert enough.
By the time we left, it was after 11. The timing ended up perfect because we got home just in time to turn on the TV and watch the ball drop in Times Square. Unfortunately, the last thing I remember was seeing "11:46" on the screen until I woke up again at 12:02. But it was nothing I hadn't seen before, and the night was great anyway.
There was much to celebrate from 2001, including the fact that it was over! And, best of all, the old acquaintances who should be forgot and never brought to mind gave a cup of kindness yet and stayed in "auld lang syne."
My best friend, Ericka, used to live in Milwaukee with a roommate who's part legend. The roommate once told Ericka she wasn't welcome to join her on a Friday night because "she was going to sleep with the guy who woke her up everyday." Yes, you guessed it, her morning radio disc jockey. Mission accomplished.
The same roommate coined the phrase "newspaper boys." She would dress in her silky stuff and when the newspaper boy came to the door of their apartment, she would yell, "Come on in!" The poor kid would respond, "My mother won't let me."
The origin of the term makes me laugh, but it fits the bill in describing younger men. Yes, we admire them, we sometimes seek them, we occasionally date them, but we don't like saying, "He's younger." I suppose among friends we could say "boy toy," but that sounds disrespectful. Ah heck, everyone knowingly smiles but rarely admits that part of the appeal is that they deliver all night, but don't tell anyone -- it's our little secret, girls.
It's now the semester/quarter break for all those college boys, plus everyone is home for the holidays. The city is crawling with newspaper boys! Mount Adams' Thursday nights were always a good spot when the girls and I wanted a fresh look at youth. "Big Ass Beer Night" often provided the scenery that we were seeking.
But in search of new frontiers, we wandered down to Main Street's BAR Cincinnati. I think in general most of my friends agreed that Main Street is younger in general, but the college boys are in mass at BAR. In fact, it reminded me of college -- it's all about the longnecks and the casual hanging out.
Burned out on the Santa scene and looking forward to the traditional shower on New Year's Eve to wash off the old and welcome the new, I leaned on the rail, pushed up my sleeves and drank a cold one. Suddenly, it was spring break, except for the Nordic breeze blowing in.
Lots of choices drifted in, and one landed his Bud next to my Icehouse. I melted when he leaned down to ask if I'd like his sweater. Even though I was cold, he shrugged it off before I could say no -- not that I would have said no to the 6-foot-2 version of Enrique in Cincinnati.
Instead I said thanks, and he put it around my shoulders. Luckily his buddy was entertaining Ericka further down the bar, and so my newspaper boy eagerly told me he was visiting his dad for the Christmas break. He studied architecture, liked classical music and missed the beach. Hmm.
Where was his other home? Chicago. "Ever get there?" he asked. Yeah.
"Will you look me up?" OK.
"Want to go hang out and listen to music?" Sure, let me tell Ericka. Just then, she breezed up and winked. We both smiled, grabbed our sweaters and headed backwards in time!
We're not in Milwaukee anymore, are we?