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The Party's Over

The Party's Over
By Tim Hurley
"You fucked up." Those are the words my father used on the morning of January 1, 2004, that succinctly summed up my worst New Year's Eve ever. I was on Christmas vacation during my freshman year in college, it was New Year's Eve, and I wanted to party. Early in the night I met up with four buddies, who each assured me that they knew of some parties that would do no less than blow my mind. As it turned out, however, these "parties" were actually just a few friends drinking in one of their parents' basements. This was hardly fitting to our vision of an epic new year, so we decided to throw our own party.

We immediately made a liquor-store run and bought a new year's worth of rum, vodka and Keystone LightŠdelicious. Now the only thing stopping our debauchery was finding a place to throw down. I knew that my father was taking his lady friend to dinner, and estimated (poorly) that there was a good chance they would end up back at her place for the night and not his. Problem solved, I thought, let's do this. At this point it was about 9 p.m., and we all started making phone calls to invite people to a proper New Year's Eve party that we were kicking off at my father's house while he was at dinner.

Now, I don't like those guys who somehow keep track of the drinks they consume for later bragging rights, so I will spare the details of what I drank and in what amounts. All I will say is that Captain Morgan and I set sail on a journey that really brought down the resale value of my liver.

The first hour or so, my New Year's Eve party was everything I hoped for. People were arriving, I was at a euphoric level of drunkenness and "Baba O'Riley" was on the box. Then the rum made its presence known. I knew I was in for it, so I went out on the front porch to save myself some cleaning up the next day. I then experienced something for which I have since coined the term "uncontrollable vomiting." Through concentration and prayer, I'm usually able to stave off hurling to a certain extent, but that night God didn't believe any of my false promises. I threw up everywhere, mostly on myself because I was hunched over on the front steps, but no one spot was spared. When party guests found out that the host was on the porch steeped in his own vomit, magically they all became experts on how to sober me up. Here are a couple of cures they thought would get me back to partying.

Cure number one: "He needs cookies and Pepsi." Good in theory, but due to my uncontrolled vomiting, the sugar cookies and soda did not stay down for long. Cure number two: "Buckets of cold water should sober him right up." In the already freezing temperature, guests formed a sort of old-timey fire line, filling pots with water in the kitchen, then handing them out to the porch, where the water was dumped on me. It soon became obvious that my condition was not improving; in fact, it had worsened, because now I was soaked with freezing cold water plus my own vomit. To cap it all off, my drunken friend Chris claimed that I didn't have a pulse, so I really started freaking out and demanding medical attention. It slipped my mind that if, in fact, I did not have a pulse, I probably would not be able to run around flailing my arms and yelling for an ambulance. My bad.

Instead of an ambulance, someone called Whitney, who was sober and willing to drive me to a hospital. When Whitney pulled up, a few drunkards had a hell of a time carrying me out and stuffing me into her 4Runner, because I was still freaking out about not having a pulse. The bright dome light was on in the 4Runner, which made me think that I was in an ambulance and thus snatched away from the cold grip of death. This enticed a feeling of euphoria and salvation so powerful that I threw up one last time, all over the 4Runner. The final purging sobered me up enough that I didn't need a hospital, I just needed my bed.

I went to bed, but the party was by no means over. The new year hadn't started yet, so guests raged on. Even though there was no one left to throw buckets of water on, they found other means to amuse themselves. One person thought it very entertaining to stick all of the steak knives into the wall, while another person had a great time rummaging through my father's vintage record collection. The party was at a point of chaos while I was still fighting off death. At this point, my dad returned home after dinner and dancing with his girlfriend. When he approached the house, one of my friends didn't let him in because he thought my dad was just some guy looking to party. Daddy wasn't happy, to say the least. Everyone was kicked out, and even my dad had to leave because he was so irate.  

Back to me. The more I sobered up, the more I realized how cold I was. I was still in my soaked clothes, and I needed to get warm. I got the idea that a hot bath would be quickest way to warm up and feel better. I turned on the faucet and climbed in, but the hot water felt so wonderful that I immediately passed out. I went into a deep, drunken sleep that I came out of much later -- only to find that I had passed out before shutting off the water. Wonderful. I'd used up all the hot water, so the bathtub was now overflowing with cold water and I was just as cold as before. And the bathroom was flooded, so I spent the next couple of hours dealing with that. After cleaning up the flash flood, I had to deal with the rest of the house before my father returned home. Happy new year.

He got back just after I finished hosing off the porch but before I had a chance to excavate all of the steak knives from the wall. He then said what had been known for quite a while: "You fucked up."

Party Like It's 1999
By Laura Rayle
Growing up, my best friend and I would spend every New Year's Eve together. We made a vow that no matter where in the world we were at the turn of the millennium, we would do anything possible to spend it together.

That's when the real world set in. Both of us went away to college and started very successful careers. Kim became the associate producer of a news channel, and I had a job supporting the computer servers at a large national bank. As you can imagine, neither of those careers really allowed us to take the evening off from work.

As Kim was busy making sure that she could cover any Y2K disaster that should happen, I was reporting to work at 10:30 p.m. Although it was not my normal shift, since I had seniority on the team, my manager had decided it would be better for me to be at work than her. They'd also told everyone to pack a suitcase in the trunk of the car "just in case" we had to be flown to an alternate site to keep the servers running.

I'd been told that spouses would be allowed to attend the office party, and sparkling apple juice and appetizers would be served. My spouse decided that a friend's New Year's Eve party would be more exciting, so I was left to myself to "celebrate" with my co-workers and their families. It was no wonder to anyone when we divorced two years later.

With the tension building toward midnight, I started holding my breath at 11:59 p.m. Then I heard a noise that sounded like we were being bombed. The city fireworks were being set off from the top of the parking deck next door. They were magnificent, the best the city had ever displayed. Or so I'm told. My building was too close and too short to be able to see any of the fireworks that went off that night -- although I was able to see a few stray explosions that hit our building. The vibrations were so violent that the building's exit alarms went off. There were at least a dozen cars on the parking deck that were also making my headache worse.

After the fireworks stopped and building maintenance was able to silence the alarms still ringing in everyone's ears, I sat down quietly at my desk and sent an e-mail to my friend. "Happy New Year" was all I wrote. She responded, "You too." It was a far cry from spending the evening together in Times Square or at the pyramids in Egypt or even on the same couch watching Dick Clark.

I was able to leave work about 7 a.m. New Year's Day. I couldn't complain too much; the servers didn't crash, and all of the testing and planning we'd gone through before that evening paid off. But the term "Party like it's 1999" just doesn't mean the same thing to me anymore.  

Wed Alert
By Michael Goodner
My worst New Year's Eve was the millennium. I was in a two-year relationship with my first love, and we made plans to go to different parties and meet at a third party by eleven so that we could be together for a midnight kiss. She did not know that I had bought her an engagement ring and had her father's blessing.

As it got closer to midnight and she had not shown up or returned my calls, I knew something was wrong. After midnight, I got a call from a friend who told me that she was having sex with my best friend. I was drunk and upset, and I ended up throwing the ring into the desert.

I spent the next three days looking for the ring, but I never found it. Her new lover attacked me with a bottle and cut me badly the next day, and now they are married.

Keep the Bar Low
By Anna Mitchael
My war with New Year's Eve is an ongoing, brutal and utterly exhaustive display of the only type of masochism (I know of) that can be performed in public.

Every year I vow to emerge from the ashes of New Year's Eve past like a phoenix. This year, I decide, this will be the year I start January on the right foot. No regret for the overpriced and over-sequined high heels purchased just for the evening. No woulda, coulda, shoulda chosen a different venue, a different party hat, a different hemisphere.

Whether it's naiveté, noble intentions gone awry, or just because I'm a hopeless romantic for the holiday, somehow I always end up greeting January with a mild headache, too much money missing from my checking account, and a firm resolution that next year I'll do it all differently -- a movie, a quiet dinner at home, perhaps a game of Jenga. I'll set expectations so low that you'd have to lie flat as a pancake to get beneath the bar. But fast-forward 364 days and you'll find me falling into the comfort of old habits. Because really, what is there to do on those six days after Christmas besides buy into the New Year's Eve hype? I'm like the Iowa housewife who waits in negative temperatures on the day after Thanksgiving for Wal-Mart to open its doors, only to realize one case of frostbite too late that the 5 percent discount on a My Little Pony wasn't worth the amputated thumb.

Of course I got suckered into the granddaddy of all New Year's Eve sizzle and (almost immediate) fizzle: the madness that only the Millennium could demand. After studying my options, I doled out a hundred bucks for an all-you-can-eat-and-drink soiree. Roughly eight million people made the same decision. Looking back, I'd say the party planners expected closer to eighty. I spent most of the evening staring at the back of people's heads while I waited for a drink. When the new century arrived, I was sipping off a flask in the women's restroom, searching for any hint of a buzz to quiet the thud of that evening falling flat.

New Year's Eve '03 was the year my boyfriend at the time got so drunk he fell over on the dance floor. I countered in '04 by getting so drunk that I was the one falling over. In '05 I decided to try my luck in the Big Apple. What I didn't understand is that more Starbucks per square inch of city equals more over-caffeinated buzz throughout the day; more people per square inch of breathing room only means more crowds. I couldn't even get lucky when it came to catching a cab.

Here we are on the eve of 2007. And I wish I were a better person. I wish I could say with any semblance of confidence that this will be the year I keep the only resolution from last year that's still standing. But alas, I know myself. I always end up sneaking at least one cigarette by February. Slowly the gym visits fade from five a week to three and then, ultimately, to black.

It's only the beginning of December, and already I feel my resolve fading. How long has it been since I gussied myself up and had a big night on the town? Maybe New Year's Eve is the occasion I need to really put myself out there and show Denver how it's done. Perhaps I shouldn't even limit myself to the city limits. I hear Vegas puts on a good party. Star-gazing in Santa Monica wouldn't be bad. Fuck it, I'm going to Disneyland!  

My willpower is weak, and chances are strong that I'll end up in some city of the world, trying with all my might to make New Year's into the holiday I believe in my heart of hearts that it really should be. Every person on the globe, celebrating clean slates. The one night you can hug and kiss strangers without feeling like a baby boomer on a bad acid flashback to Woodstock. Why is it the rule and not the exception that the night will not deliver on the promise of one world, one party, one life when it's one need in the night?

If I'm not going to change my execution, maybe what I need to alter is my strategy. Maybe it's all about psychology. More specifically, a little reverse psychology. Instead of starting high and finishing low, I'll do the opposite. My hopes will be dashed from the get-go. Game face on -- blue eye shadow, red lipstick, thick black mascara -- I'll stare New Year's Eve 2006 straight in the face and call the evening for what it is: crap.

The night will begin at a friend's house. Music a little too loud, drinks a little too strong for the good of the get-together. The frantic energy in the room won't be energizing or uplifting -- it will feel like a boa (constrictor, not feather) around my neck. Instead of setting my sights on the George Clooney-esque character by the punch bowl, I'll acknowledge the majority of men to be slightly lame and accept that any relationship started on New Year's Eve is doomed to go straight downhill after the hooking up.

Conversation will run on fumes. Eventually I'll resort to discussing other friends' plans for the night. "So-and-so rented a house in the mountains; a mutual acquaintance opted for a Blockbuster night; did you hear about X, Y and Z, who traveled to Alaska to whoop it up with the Eskimos?"

When the pre-party winds down, our group will call taxis. The operator will say it could take anywhere between one and 100 minutes for the cabs to arrive. We'll wait for 99. I'll get stuck in the cab with the Guy Who's Already Wasted. Once we arrive at the party, I'll realize it's good that I've already met the Guy Who's Already Wasted because he's also the Only Guy at the Party Who's Single -- and so that one flickering ember of hope will effectively be extinguished.

Everyone at the party will, by all appearances, be having a great time. I'll walk through the room wondering why I feel like a freshman girl stuck at a senior prom -- wondering how everybody else knows all the dance steps and I'm stuck with fifteen toes. As the clock inches closer to twelve, I'll keep an eye on the television, watching the nations that go before us celebrate their new dawn.

By 11:30 I'll be stifling yawns.

At 11:59 I'll be wishing for Calgon to take me away.

When the clock strikes twelve, the Guy Who Is Now Really, Really Wasted will approach, and because I am resigned to my fate as someone whose New Year's Eve holidays are hopeless, I'll allow him to attempt a New Year's kiss. Due to a horrid angle miscalculation, this kiss will result in more of a chin bump.

When I circle the room to say goodbye to the people I came with, I'll find that no one understands why I want to go home. They, it seems, are just about to start tap-dancing on the ceiling. I'll stand on a street corner by myself, waiting for a cab. When none appear, I'll end up hitchhiking with a brace-faced indie-music wunderkind named Peter who spent the evening jamming with his band and drinking Mountain Dew. He will be the articulation of every aspiration I had at the age of eighteen -- aspirations that, a decade later, have largely gone unrealized. This larger truth will depress me.

When I get home, I'll realize that one of my earrings has gone missing. Instead of taking the other out, I'll slide into the sheets fully dressed and wait for sleep. Before I drift off, the last thing I will think is that next year -- next year -- I'll do it all differently.

New Year's Eve 2006, you will be my worst yet. It would take something flatter than a pancake -- a crepe, perhaps, or maybe a piece of notebook paper -- to slide underneath your bar.

Identity Crisis
By Alexander I. Katz
I rushed out of work on New Year's Eve 2004 to get ready for the Pinback show at the Adam's Mark hotel. The eight o'clock start time for the all-ages sausage-fest was a bit early for my taste on New Year's Eve, but when I finally escaped from work, I didn't have time to worry about that. I just threw on some clothes and met up with my friends. I was ready to get the party going, ready to see the final festivities of 2004 and the first ones of 2005.  

I wasn't ready, however, to end the last night of the year in jail.

By the time we got to the show, my buddies and I were just getting warmed up on whiskey. I knew the Adam's Mark wasn't the best venue in town to see one of my favorite bands, but I had no idea just how bad it could be. Besides being ridiculously expensive, the whole building was smoke-free, and the acoustics in the place were terrible -- as in, my-eardrums-are-bleeding-make-it-stop terrible. By ten o'clock, we were verging on miserable, and with no cigarettes or women to help ease the tension, we proceeded to do what any group of self-respecting single men would do on New Year's Eve: We got ripped out of our minds.

The whiskey flowed like water, and suddenly we were back on our game. Then, no more than an hour into our blissful binge, tragedy struck: We were told that Pinback would not be playing a set that night -- or any other, for that matter. As we would find out later, the band was on the fritz, with no guarantee of reconciliation. We were stunned.

The next two hours were a blur. After a few more whiskey shots, we spilled out of the hotel in a drunken daze, laughing, crying and spitting cheap champagne on each other without a care in the world. I didn't mind that I'd just dropped forty bucks on a show that didn't happen. I was trashed, and all was right with the world. Then the ball dropped. I faded away, and my alter ego, Cancun Corey, took the stage.

His name is Corey and he is quite charming

If he gets too close, it's rather alarming

He won't back down, not for a moment

If you're wise, you won't condone it

Yes, my alter-ego not only has his own personality, he has his own theme song. I rang in 2005 singing the chorus of Cancun Corey, and my friends drunkenly sang along. The infectious jingle stayed with us all the way onto the light rail. We soon realized that this train was one bound for nowhere and for no good, and that boarding it was the second-worst decision made by Cancun Corey that night. The worst was smashing one of the train's windows with his fist.

I could make excuses for Cancun Corey. I could say he punched a window for political reasons, or that he simply wanted to feel the wind rushing through his hair. But I'd be lying. Cancun Corey went Mike Tyson on a light-rail window because it was New Year's Eve and he was drunk off his ass.

As he disembarked from the train, Corey was thrown to the ground by a cadre of cops, handcuffed, arrested and hauled off to jail. He spent the next ten hours incarcerated, sobering up and fading away.

On the morning of the first day of 2005, I awoke on the cold concrete floor with handcuffs on my wrists, gauze on my hand, and the echoes of a familiar jingle in my throbbing head.

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