New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Evil?

New Year’s Eve — long known as amateur night for all its novice partiers (the ones who puke in the backseat of the Uber) — is a sloppy spectacle charged with debauchery, douchebaggery and, on occasion, responsible revelry. 

It’s tailored to the same people who get all giddy and bug-eyed over the very idea of a celebration, be it Mardi Gras, spring break or a bachelorette party. It’s all about skin-deep decadence, dude! Now put your tongue back in your face.

I’ve done my share of Jim Morrisonian indulgence on New Year’s Eve, long time ago when a frilly party hat and chintzy noisemaker didn’t mortify me. Now even streamers and confetti make me blush and I really sink into a sulfurous funk when I see giant eyeglasses with frames spelling “2023” in glitter. Outsized and clownish, they look fit for an orca at SeaWorld. 

But I’m not allergic to a robust get-together with wine, folks and song, even though I shy away from them year by year. Hell, tonight I’m begging off a gathering of five for drinks in a living room. And it’s a pretty safe bet that I won’t be watching Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen get hilariously-slash-obnoxiously tipsy for the Times Square ball drop on CNN. (The dropping ball — what does it all mean?)

My last NYE soiree was pre-Covid, naturally, and it was fine, fun, chill. Maybe 10 of us, imbibing, blabbing, noshing, each one getting visibly more exhausted as midnight ticked-tocked to blast off. I get bored just thinking about it.

The rest of you tear it up, safely, sagely. Wear the dumb glasses, hurl confetti, drink up. But don’t bother anyone, rankle your fellow revelers. Especially the hardworking, don’t-want-to-deal-wth-drunks Uber drivers, who’d also really appreciate it if you didn’t barf in the backseat. I’ve talked to these people, and believe me, tonight they are dreading you. Don’t be that guy.

A little help from my friends

Lying in bed last night, listening to music low on my AirPods, the lights as dim as can be, I somehow started thinking about my junior high school and high school years with an emotional lucidness that made me inexplicably misty-eyed. 

I mean, I didn’t give a crap about those school years, especially high school, which was a cliquish crucible of morons, meatheads and motley malcontents. Not to mention the perennially sunny, laughing, smiling ones, who only made the experience more of a four-year inferno.

But last night I was thinking about the good ones, the handful of cool, kind, thoughtful kids who were caring and courteous, interested and concerned. They were fonts of effortless empathy, tolerant of my long hair and penchant for metal, my love of books and Woody Allen, and my dark streak that could express itself as juvenile misanthropy. 

Simone, Susie, Ann, Todd, Jamie, Jennifer … I could name them all — about 15 total — but there’s no need. Yet I won’t leave out my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Condon, whose radical, rigorous teachings literally changed my life. 

These people moved me, gave me hope for my fellow humans. Like Leah, who brought me back a big, silly Mickey Mouse keychain from Disneyland. Or Todd, who saved me when I was about to get my ass kicked. Or Ann, who consoled me when I was suffering existential gloom. Or Susie, who wrote a lovely note on the back of a black-and-white Woody Allen postcard. And so forth. How great are they? 

I don’t know why this all came rushing back to me one random night. It was odd and overwhelming. Maybe a particular song on the AirPods triggered lightly buried memories. Maybe I was feeling sentimental. Maybe I took too much Clonazepam. 

It’s unusual but not uncharacteristic, such a mood. I can get sappy about people, as we all can. But I tend to view our species from a glass half-empty stance. My faith in us is shaky. I can be hopelessly pessimistic. Years ago, Apple offered free engravings on its iPods. I chose Sartre’s famous maxim: “Hell is other people.” I thought it was funny. Sort of.

Last night was eye-opening. It just reminded me: People are terrible. People are sublime.