After I turned 21, I noticed a marked difference in everyone’s expectations for New Year’s Eve. When you were underage, you really had no choice but to hang out at someone’s house, so there were no real plans that had to be made. However, after you turn 21, the bar is raised. You’re more or less expected to go out and get super drunk to ring in the new year.
This raises a number of problems in my book. First of all, this is right after Christmas when everyone is incredibly broke from buying presents. You don’t need a huge bar tab to plunge you further into the hole. Secondly, my New Year’s Eves have always been spent in the Midwest, where the new year is most likely to arrive in subzero temperatures with a foot of snow and ice on the ground. The inclement weather can always put a damper on your plans, especially if you were planning to drive someplace. Thirdly, depending on where you live, there might not even BE anybody to celebrate with you.
Before we could drive, my friend Sarah and I alternated New Year’s Eves at each other’s houses. The years spent at my house usually involved watching some kind of goofy movie with my parents: I’m certain we celebrated a few years in the late 90s watching Tommy Boy and Down Periscope. Of course, we’d all sit around the TV and wait for the ball to drop. Sarah and I even would go so far as to make our own confetti.
Whenever it was Sarah’s year to host New Year’s Eve, her parents would take us out to a movie. To celebrate the upcoming year 2000, we went to Watertown and ate at the Drake, which was just unbelievable to my twelve-year-old eyes. The Drake was probably the fanciest restaurant in Watertown at the time, and I felt incredibly important. We spent our time at the Drake watching the year 2000 arrive across the world, and we went to see Anna and the King. The movie was pretty forgettable; I think the excitement of a new millennium was too much for us. We got back to Sarah’s house in time to watch Dick Clark tell us that the 90s were officially over.
The following year, we really went big: Sarah’s parents took us ALL THE WAY TO SIOUX FALLS. That was a huge deal: it was a three-hour round-trip for just the one night, and we were thrilled. We ate at TGI Friday’s, and Sarah and I were enamored with the fancy vodka drinks that we (as thirteen-year-olds) could not have. Sarah and I decided that as soon as we were both 21, we would go to a TGI Friday’s and order one of those fancy blue vodka drinks. (Note: we have yet to do so.)
We planned to go to a movie in Sioux Falls, which was also a big event. The Sioux Falls theatre was way nicer than the Brookings or Watertown theatres to which we were accustomed. And there were so many choices! We had to plan carefully: we wanted to get home before midnight for our annual date with Dick Clark, so our movie should be done by 10, just to be safe. We had gotten there early, and we were sitting in the lobby waiting for our movie of choice (Castaway) to begin seating. There was an announcement that several of the movies would begin seating, including Jim Carrey’s version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After the message was over, the usher must’ve realized that he made a mistake and announced that The Grinch was seating when it actually wasn’t. He got right back on the intercom and said, “Whoops, hold The Grinch,” which Sarah and I proceeded to repeat all night long (“burger and fries, hold the Grinch!”). We finally made it into Castaway, which Sarah and I thought was hilarious (for all the wrong reasons).
|We loved Wilson.|
If I didn’t spend New Year’s Eve with my friends, I spent with my parents and neighbors. They also switched between houses, and we spent all of our time either eating or playing board games. Catchphrase, Pit, Pictionary… we played ‘em all. Sometimes, we got so involved in our board games that we missed the ball dropping all together! Someone would look and the clock and say, “Uh… it’s 12.30.” We’d give a quick “happy new year” and get right back to our games.
I’ve had a few less-than-wonderful New Year’s Eves in South Dakota. There was the year that Dad ran over our cat on the way over to our neighbors’ house. Then there was the time my friend Meagan and I came back to my house from a house party (where we, as 19 year-olds, were on our best behavior, believe it or not). I somehow slammed my finger in the trunk of my car, and it immediately got all weird and swollen. My parents were waiting up for us, and they saw my crazy finger. Dad wanted to heat up a needle and poke it to relieve the pressure, but as soon as he got near my finger, I thought I was going to pass out. Why? I have no idea. I’m normally fine with that kind of thing, but I about fell off my chair. Mom and Dad were convinced that I was drunk, but a quick talk with Meagan and some sniffing of my breath (yes, that happened) convinced them otherwise.
As I got older, I started spending more New Year’s Eves in Minnesota. After all, it’s one of those holidays that you’re supposed to spend with your significant other, right? Unfortunately, my significant other (James) was in a band (yes, really) throughout most of college. And they ALWAYS played somewhere on New Year’s Eve.
The band is called Funky Gumbo, and it consists of one middle-aged drummer who lives near Morris and continually recruits young college students to fill in the rest of the instruments. James was their trumpet player for a handful of years, and I faithfully went to quite a few of their gigs right after James and I started dating. It was fun with the other Gumbo girlfriends were along, but it totally sucked when they weren’t. I soon grew tired of hearing “Mustang Sally” over and over and OVER, and I started bringing homework to gigs. The Funky Gumbo honeymoon was definitely over.
|My first New Year's Eve with Funky Gumbo. I look|
happy because I didn't know I'd be stuck with
Funky Gumbo for YEARS to come.
“Funky Gumbo ruins everything” became a common phrase during college. They played on most weekends, and they played on Valentine’s Day. Any time there was something fun to do, Funky Gumbo was playing. Case in point: New Year’s Eve. I spent two New Year’s Eves at Funky Gumbo gigs. The first year (when it was almost 2008) was fine because there were other people from Morris to keep me company. The second year (almost 2009), James’s brother Jesse and our friend Nate agreed to come with me. It was in a different location than it was the year before, and James promised it would be a blast. When Nate, Jesse, and I walked in the ballroom at 9 o’clock, we were the youngest people there by at least four decades. We confronted James, who just shrugged and said, “I THOUGHT it would be fun!” We ended up driving to the next town over, eating at Perkins, and coming back in time for midnight fireworks over the frozen lake (which actually was pretty cool).
|Three of the four people in this picture just had Perkins.|
Hint: they're the ones with big smiles.
My first (and to date, ONLY) New Year’s Eve spent in a bar was to ring in 2010. I had just returned from my unpaid internship in New Orleans and was about to dive headfirst into another unpaid internship in Minneapolis, so I couldn’t afford to do much that year. I drove to Morris to see a few of my friends who hadn’t yet graduated. James, of course, was playing with Funky Gumbo in the same ballroom as last year. Nate and Jesse were present for this New Year’s, as well, and James tried his very best to convince us to come and hear Funky Gumbo. We politely declined, making our lack of confidence in Funky Gumbo well known. Instead, we spent the evening in “downtown” Morris, and it was fantastic. Poor James came back from Funky Gumbo and heard about all the fun we had, and that was his last New Year’s Eve with Funky Gumbo.
|It was my first New Year's with hats, too!|
So now that 2012 is quickly approaching, it’s time to scrape together a New Year’s Eve plan. Now that I live in Sioux Falls, I’ve got a whole new set of opportunities. At the same time, it’s Sioux Falls, so I’m not sure how much it has to offer. Whatever I end up doing, I’m ready for 2012. I don’t feel like I accomplished too much in 2011: the only major event was getting a new job and moving back to South Dakota. I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be much more exciting. After all, I’ll be turning 25 in 2012, so it’s time to get down to business. Bring on the new year!