Happy New Beer!

The clock ticks down, and we count along. As if we as a people needed another reason to drink ourselves into oblivion, we celebrate the passing of a year full of joy, regrets, milestones, and set backs. There is happiness all around because we believe, in our own heads at least, that once the clock hits midnight the slate is wiped clean, and we get to make new mistakes, or try like hell just to make it to the next countdown with some good stories to tell. This, is New Year’s Eve. 

I’ve had my share of celebratory binges at years end. I’ve had a couple other people’s shares as well. Some of my favorite experiences were only made so by the people around me, the direct moments following the last breath of the previous year, and the beers we consumed to salute it’s inevitable passing. If there is anything I’ve learned from these experiences its this… I am a big fan of a hot stove for which to put my hand, or in most cases, both hands. Here are some of my favorite blister inducers…

As we get older the need to be around the legions of the damned at New Years starts to diminish, and we start to yearn for more intimate settings amongst friends, family, a curiously friendly ficus, whatever. The party in your soul looks at this moment and decides a nap is more appropriate, so at 12 midnight you wish everyone a happy New Year and at 12:01 your head hits the pillow. But every now and again (and I mean again, remember the stove that I adore so) you get the following day off and the urge to relive your yute (say it like Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny”) dominates. We decided to go where the people were. The drunk, surprisingly well dressed, broken high heeled, sparkly hat wearing people. Like adults we researched where the best celebration would be and made plans with timelines and expectations but as the night progressed at Gordon Biersch at Hawaii’s Aloha Tower on Oahu the plan evaporated. Now it is about how many Winterbock’s can be had before the fireworks signal the years first clicks, and let me tell you, I was bocked up. So after great food, a decent barrels worth of beer later, the newest of years is here and amidst the hordes I am able to celebrate with a select few, the ones who mean the most. Sporting a party hat, token annoying sound making horn, and of course another beer, I kissed my girl and blew my horn in celebration. Happy New Year…

Its been awhile since I’ve seen snow. I love snow, and I hate it. I don’t do cold. However I do drink copious amounts of beer at years end. On a trip to Tahoe the decision of what to drink was that of nostalgia. We are heading to South Lake Tahoe locked and loaded with 32oz. bottles of Tecate, and boy is everyone in for an Upright treat. After making short work of the cervezas our group made their way out to the main strip of South Lake Tahoe where the hordes of the tumbling masses packed the streets from casino to casino. I felt pretty good. Like uncharacteristically outreaching of strangers for warm embraces. Like the engine of a locomotive I surged through the crowd with my crew in tow shouting at the top of my lungs, “Happy New Year!!” Any person who responded with equal enthusiasm got a squeeze from yours truly. My cousin kept asking me, “Do you know that guy?” Nope. Keep it moving. We reached one end of the blocked off party and went back the other way in a Groundhog Day sort of repetitive way, spreading New Years cheer once again. Finally its time. But wait, everyone is partying too hard and no one is paying attention to the countdown! It is my duty to bring it home. I glance at the nearest time telling apparatus and shout the beginning of the end. 5, 4, 3, next thing I know the crowd starts surging together and people are being lifted up to a point like a mountain top. At the top of the peak the largest bottle of champagne I have ever seen emerges and at the stroke of midnight the top is popped off and a rain of bubbly comes showering down over everyone within a 20 foot radius. I then hugged more people. We made our way back to the cabin where the rest of our celebration would happen and eventually end. As the night winds down I escape the small crowd and take some time for myself on the deck where the night was quiet as the grave and the air was still and crisp. Watching the vapors of my exhales in the cold Tahoe night I glance up and see a single flake of snow fall right in front of me, followed by another, and another. I immediately rush inside and tell everyone what is going on and like me their eyes twinkled as a child’s would and stampeded towards the deck where we all stood in awe of the falling snow. We stood together smiling and wished each other another Happy New Year for good measure before heading back inside. 

Finally, it was 1999. They said it was going to be the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, or because of some computer apocalypse, or something else that made an equal amount of sense. If its going to be the end then we are going to do it right. Everyone get on the BART train and make your way to San Francisco for what promises to be something epic, or the end, which ever comes first. All attempts to acquire alcohol have failed and I am getting grumpy. The city is host to every kind of person imaginable. Gutter punks all the way up to the distinguished suit wearing snob. After roaming the streets for hours, losing 90% of our group, me losing $20, we somehow all ended up at Union Square for the countdown to the end of the world. We stood shoulder to shoulder, building to building as the countdown commenced. All around us people were smoking copious amounts of weed, to my left there were some guys snorting cocaine, to my right another couple of guys were shooting up, and the drunks rounded out the rest of the crowd. These were the believers. The world was ending and they were ready for it. The clock ticked past 12 and the world continued to spin, and I was sober for the whole thing. If I wasn’t then maybe I wouldn’t remember the people hanging from the street signs, or my friend Jenny walking up to one of the riot police and ask him for directions, or been coherent enough to see those same riot police prepare their squad for genocide. Its time to go guys. We wandered the city for a a bite to eat and ended up at a 24 hour pizza place on Haight Street that in all honesty wasn’t that good but at 2am was gourmet delight. Now wondering how we were going to get back the Market Street BART station in time for the last train out of the city we started walking in a general direction. A short bus pulls up and opens its doors, and a voice comes out asking if we need a ride. Why, yes, yes we do. It was a drunk bus. A sober guy driving a bus, picking up drunk people and making sure they got to where they needed to be safely. Faith in humanity restored. We make it to the BART station and in a mad rush we get to the terminal only to find the last train pulling out. Looks like we are staying in the city for the night. So what does one do in San Francisco throughout the night until morning when the next train comes in? Walk. F@#$ing walk. For hours we wandered until one of our friends suggested we go to a hotel that he stayed at one time. We followed without hesitation because hell, what else are we going to do? We found the hotel and walked in like nothing was suspicious. At the mercy of a drunk and high tour guide we let him pick the floor and guide us to what ended up being some random door that led to a small railing overlooking the city. Buildings, bridges, the bay, a full panoramic view of what, until that moment, I never realized was such beautiful city. The sky started to lighten up and and the famous SF fog rolled in. Little by little the flickering lights started to turn on and the city was waking up for a new year. With the horizon on fire I took a mental picture and realized that all the happenings of the night before had to happen for me to experience what was without question the most impactful, not only New Years moment, but singular humbling, beautiful moment of my life. 

Celebrate New Years. You may not buy in to the whole resolution thing, or it may just be another day to you, but the world is on one clock, and its the only day that we as a planet are one. Raise a glass, light some fireworks, give a stranger a hug, kiss your special someone and welcome another 365 days of f@#%ing things up! Cheers…

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