REALITY CHECK: I could be the Grinch who stole New Year’s Eve
I’ve attended some stellar New Year’s Eve parties in my time. A few were of the black tie-upscale-overpriced-aren’t-we-all-impressing-each-other variety; some were held in the sort of roadhouse dives that never really have bouncers who look even remotely like Patrick Swayze. Still others were held in the homes of friends.
Most of those parties I was working with my little weekend band, since New Year’s Eve is the season’s biggest payday. It’s hard to say no to the kind of green most clubs shell out for NYE entertainment.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve never really enjoyed the holiday. Maybe I did 20 years ago; to be honest, I don’t really remember. But I doubt it.
Why am I the New Year’s Grinch?
First off, New Year’s Eve is strictly amateur hour when it comes to alcohol consumption. Folks who don’t drink all year mysteriously succumb to an uncontrollable urge to familiarize themselves with the wonders of Jaegermeister and Patron, after which they are compelled to tell you — in an unintelligible, lengthy vowel movement — a) how much fun they’re having, b) exactly why you are their “best friend,” and c) how much they love you, man.
That’s not so bad, really. I’ve been dealing with, um, “overly-happy” customers since I played my first bar gig at the tender age of 16. In fact, I’ve been a little overly-happy myself on occasion. I’ve found that nodding, smiling and affirming that I love you too, man, is the simplest, wisest route to travel in these situations.
Also on my “why I hate NYE” list is the weather. I can count on one hand (and with my math skills, I have to) the number of times the weather wasn’t TERRIBLE on New Year’s Eve. Nine times out of 10 there’s a snowstorm, an ice storm, or some other act of God or nature that turns the late night drive home into an psychedelic roller-coaster ride through the mind of Salvador Dali.
I can only assume God hates New Year’s Eve as much as I do and He’s delivering a little Sodom and Gomorrah action on all those people overindulging in Jaegermeister and Patron. Oh, I suppose it could be nothing more than chance; I’m not theologically enlightened enough to say for sure. But I can state with some authority that the weather on New Year’s Eve is generally lousy.
The thing I dislike even more about New Year’s Eve, though, is the pressure to attain — and then maintain — a high level of excitement and joviality. The holiday comes but once a year, after all, and folks naturally feel the need to make the most of it.
That’s why (or so I believe) all those New Year’s Eve accoutrements were invented — the whistles, horns, funny hats, noise-makers, fentoozlers and wangdangdoozlers and whatever other ridiculous nonsense the novelty supply companies can cook up. If there’s enough racket happening, nobody notices the evening is in fact pretty much like any other — if you don’t count the balloons hanging in nets from the ceiling, waiting for the 12 o’clock chimes.
And speaking of 12 o’clock, that’s another thing I hate: Nobody seems to know exactly when it is. The guys in the band have their watches on, but they’re usually set to bar time and so are useless. Then there’s the one Poindexter in the audience who’s wearing a fancy, radio watch that’s wirelessly synched to the atomic clock in Zurich, Switzerland. He insists everyone do the countdown according to his Casio, no matter what Dick Clark is doing in Times Square.
So as midnight draws near, the inebriated debate over a second here or two seconds there rages until the drunkest, loudest, biggest Bubba in the crowd makes the call and we all start subtracting from 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 … ONE!! Happy New Year!!
Guys with girls kiss them while guys without girls look on enviously. Fentoozlers blow! Clapdanglers rattle! Very, very bad champagne is slurped from fragile, plastic stemware.
And then … and then comes the part the Grinch hates the most. It starts out low, then it starts to grow … a terrible sound … a terrible, terrible, unbearable sound. The sound of all those simi-sloshed Whos down in Whoville — lead by the Grinch himself (me!) — singing “Auld Lang Syne” in the key of G.
Quick! Who has any idea what “Auld Lang Syne” means? That’s right! Nobody! I have no idea what an “Auld” a “Lang” or a “Syne” even IS! And yet, there we stand, champagne in hand, every January first, stumbling through those familiar verses.
Sure, sure, the song is beautiful and touching at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “When Harry Met Sally.” But in real life, sung by a bunch of once-a-year drinkers whose common anthem in the morning will be, “Never again!” Well, let’s just say I’ve heard that song sung at least 50 times in my life, and never once has my heart grown three sizes.