Written by Bwog Staff
From Hawaii to Times Square to the depths of suburbia, Bwoggers from across the country are writing in about their New Year’s Eve. Let Bwog know how you kicked off your year…be it naughty or nice!
Every year, my family and I fly up to my Grandma’s house in Honolulu for New Years. My friends back home in LA tell me how jealous they are of my Hawaiian islands vacation, but I always try to tell them (in my conscious effort to separate myself from your average-obsequious-holiday-tourist), that my Hawaii is equivalent to your Iowa, your Arizona, your upstate New York. We visit thousands of family members, eat food, give gifts, “talk story,” get in the car, and go back to Grandma’s house. On other days, we visit dead family members, give them flowers, “talk story” with their headstones, get in the car, and head back to Grandma’s house. This is not a Hawaii vacation of scuba diving, parasailing, hotel waterslides, and other “western” pamperings. It’s a pilgrimage that we take almost twice a year.
But it is on New Year’s Eve every year when I realize how much I’ve taken these islands for granted. As I sit in front of my computer, on an unofficial 15-minute “bathroom” break from setting up the tables, I can here the thousands of aunts and uncles and cousins (whose names I can’t recall) filing into the backyard. I can hear them cooing over my sister’s recent weight loss, pouring compliments over my mother’s new Hawaiian dress, laughing over my father’s infinite supply of wonderfully exaggerated stories, asking whether I will again be lighting the big noisy firecracker this year. And suddenly, I realize how wonderfully fulfilling it is to have such a supportive group of people genuinely interested in my happiness, my family’s happiness. Though Hawaii will still remain somewhat of a monotonous excursion, taking me away from the debauchery occurring back home in LA, every New Year’s Eve, listening to the commotion outside, I am reminded of what a blessing my family can be, what a blessing my family is. And so, here’s to you family. Happy 2008!
New Jerseyans, like me, just can’t seem to get enough of New York. It had been just over a week since I had come home, yet I was already back in the city for the second time–this time to ring in the new year. While most people were out partying with their heads tilted back to down shots of green liquid, I was in the third row of Avery Fisher Hall with my head tilted back to watch Joshua Bell play with the New York Philharmonic. The music, first and foremost, was spectacular–the highlight being his touching rendition of Manuel Ponce’s “Estrellita.” Bell, as usual, was looking lovely (some critics may debate his playing ability, but none can deny that he is indubitably good-looking). To celebrate the holiday, the NY Phil succumbed to a bit of cutesy kitsch with color-changing lights, arrangements of fake flowers, and players dressed in (sometimes embarrassing) evening-wear rather than their classic all-black staples. There was even an encore performance of “Auld Lang Syne” with the entire hall clapping in unison–except for my mom, who insisted on clapping off the beat as loudly as possible. When I got home to New Jersey, I watched Dick Clark’s Rockin New Years Eve (hosted by rockin Ryan Seacrest) on my couch, wished I had gotten a pair of 2008 glasses and made a New Year’s resolution to have a less lame New Years 2009.
The worst New Year’s Eves are spent at home, with family, but last night, a blanket of snow and a ridiculous cast of family friends elevated the evening to a sort of zany Sam Shepard play. The snow, which surrounded our rented vacation home, was novel to us temperate weather-loving San Francisco Bay Areans. The cast was: Bwoggish me; my loud father; my hip sister; our sweet not-blood-cousin from deep suburbia; her Mormon ex-Army Ranger quasi-fiance; her foul-mouthed, rat-tailed, and sage mother; and their Brazilian exchange student. Obviously, conversation flowed easily. The former soldier told the vegetarian foreigner about how he wants to exact revenge on the entire bear species (exact reasons are a long story) by killing a grizzly with a cross-bow. The suburban teenagers reported on their heroin-dealing neighbor and his popularity at their (prestigious) high school. My razor-gaydared sister told my flabbergasted father that at least two male family friends have crushes on him. Eventually, it got to be too much. We four adolescent girls withdrew to our snow fort for a respite. After some cathartic star-staring and snow angel-making, and after the Brazilian inadvisedly fell asleep in the snow, we trudged back to the house. It was an exhausting night. I was asleep by 11:30.
New Year’s Eve seems to be a great time for parents to leave their homes and allow their offspring to reign free. Because of this, my night began at my friend’s beach house. I arrived to the sound of a blender and a few of my high school friends drinking to every oral sex reference made in the movie Clerks. I cursed the California urban sprawl that mandated me to be sober enough to drive home. I could only pass on so many fresh margaritas before I felt the need to find someone else who was sharing my driving responsibility.
By eleven I had texted around and found my friend Ryan. Together we moved on to Spudnuts, the 24-hour doughnut shop, and eventually ended up at a small birthday shindig with some other high school acquaintances. We rang in the New Year with sparkling apple cider and tape-delayed and somewhat frightening footage of Dick Clark in Times Square.
Post-midnight, I ended up at the local roller skating rink. I always end up at Skating Plus on New Year’s, though usually in the signature referee stripes of an employee. After an hour of catching up with former co-workers, I tired of watching twelve-year-olds grinding with one another in the “dancing corner” and drove home to the comforting warmth of my larger-than-twin-sized bed.
I used to think Cranium was just another crappy board game. Although Cranium’s slogan “the game for your whole brain” kind of rhymed, I have been cynical of “educational” board games ever since Battleship was inadequate in preparing me for naval combat.
But everything changed when I played Cranium for the first time last night with five other awkward Asian-American youths in a lodge cabin in Woodstock, Maine. The story of how we all arrived there is uninteresting, but just take as fact that when four first-generation Chinese families living in the Boston area begin eating dumplings and taking ski trips together, their kids are going to play Cranium someday.
The brilliance of Cranium lies in its ability to draw powerful emotional investments from its players. Cranium achieves this in two ways. For one, you play on teams. When your personal performance determines the success or failure of others, you fear mockery. You fear rejection. You fear death. With all these factors, our well-behaved group of Asian students quickly degenerated into a bunch of cheating, arrogant jingoists. You just don’t get that kind of shit with Connect Four.
The other reason Cranium guarantees an emotional game is its variety of game play. Between Pictionary, trivia questions, charades, and dictionary smarts, there are many causes for mental anguishes in Cranium. Like, four. And trust me, few things are more frustrating in life than failing a challenge because your teammates couldn’t guess Dances with Wolves from your wolf impression. It was a great wolf impression.
As one of the last civilized places to ring in the new year and lacking other wild occasions like Mardi Gras, Seattle takes on a kind of giddiness as December comes to a close–even crunchy non-profiteers trade in their Birks for high heels and find themselves crawling the streets in paper hats. My own night began with a self-guided tour through downtown, observing tipsy parties of three or four stumbling from bar to bar through the darkness. Belltown’s new crop of clubs overflowed, with Goths and girls with highly impractical amounts of clothing spilling onto the sidewalk. As the hours ticked towards midnight, stragglers migrated to the Space Needle, that iconic relic of World Fairs past, which draws people in like a magnet.
My childhood largely missed this part. Curious and seeking warmth, I entered the Fun Forest, a warehouse full of rides and the most diverse crowd I’ve seen in this superficially diverse but really quite segregated city: kids and parents, gaggles of teens, older couples, people of every ethnicity and tax bracket, hugging, fighting, lost, ecstatic. Less than a half hour before midnight, the merrymakers filtered out under the broad sky, waiting for it to explode.
If you manage to resist the gravitational pull of the Needle, you flee instead to the highest ground available, usually a roof, a bridge, in the case of my small band, a perch on the top of Queen Anne hill almost at the same elevation as the Needle’s UFO-like tip, with the sweep of downtown laid out below. The fireworks themselves, late on account of technical difficulties, were underwhelming by all accounts. Predictably, already sodden with celebratory champagne and swigs from an assortment of smaller bottles, no one seemed to mind.
Seattle, despite liking to think of itself as the young hip thing on the West Coast, is no New York. Walking home through my own neighborhood of Fremont, the bars had all closed and expelled their revelers, leaving only the dregs of the night to weave home at 3 AM. Leaving the commercial strip, I passed one man sitting swathed in blankets at the base of a sidewalk tree, playing a bongo drum with soft pats in sync with whatever he was listening to on headphones. For him, New Years was just another night, perhaps a little more eventful than most.
Photo stolen from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer