The Ghost of New Year’s Past

I remember when New Year’s Eve was a big holiday for me. I also remember when I could stay up until midnight to actually celebrate it, but those days are long gone. Probably the biggest was when it switched from 1999 to 2000.

My best friend and I were stationed in Charleston, SC. We were sitting around the office on December 30th talking about what a huge milestone it was going to be. We decided that we should definitely go somewhere cool to celebrate. I’m not talking a nice restaurant cool. I’m talking like a major party city type of cool. As awesome as Times Square would have been, New York City just didn’t feel right. Savannah, GA was only about 90 minutes away, and it’s one of my favorite places on the planet, but it was just too close. We decided that New Orleans was the place for us that year. The next morning, we jumped in my 1975 Camaro and began one of the greatest road trips in the history of mankind.

Now, Google Maps will tell you that’s it a 12.5 hour drive from Charleston to The Big Easy. We made it a bit quicker than that. Part of this was due to the fact that the speedometer was actually broken in my car. It put up a good fight in the beginning. It would at least show a number that was within 25 mph of our actual speed. By the time we entered Georgia, however, it gave up and just lied there. At one point, we were curious to see how fast we were going because we seemed to be passing quite a few cars. We decided that we would see how long it took to go from one mile marker to the next and figure it out from there. If I remember correctly, it took us 36 seconds. I’ll let you do the math, but suffice it to say that we were moving. It’s probably worth mentioning that my friend was actually scared to drive the Camaro, so I was the sole driver for this trip.

About 9 hours later, we arrived in New Orleans speeding ticket free. This was the first time either one of us had been there, so we had no idea where to go. We decided that the best thing to was park at the airport and then take a cab to Bourbon Street, which actually turned out to be a great idea. The driver dropped us off around 6:00, and we wandered the streets until after midnight. I’ve been to a couple Mardi Gras since then, and while the parties were entirely different, I think there were actually more people there on the New Year’s. When we were watching to ball drop, it was so packed that someone could have robbed me blind. If anyone had decided to take my wallet out of my back pocket, I might have been able to yell at them over my shoulder, but that was about it. I couldn’t even get my arm behind me, much less turn around.

After midnight the crowd started to disperse (and by disperse, I mean pass out), so we decided to head back to the car. Two miraculous things happened. First, we were actually able to find an open taxi. Second, that driver was actually willing to take us all the way out to the airport and miss out on all the Bourbon Street fares. We got back in my car and took off. Please be assured that while this was an incredibly crazy day, we weren’t stupid, and neither one of us had drank a drop of alcohol.

After crossing that huge bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, we found a Holiday Inn that actually had an open room. The problem was that they were going to charge us $225 for said room. Therefore, I decided that it would be a better idea to sleep in the car in the Holiday Inn parking lot. If you’ve never seen a Camaro from the mid-70s, the back seat is really more of an extra glove box. Therefore, after about an hour of trying to sleep in the non-reclining driver’s seat with the non-adjustable steering wheel poking me in the gut (did I mention that this car is the only reason my wife went out with me at first?), I gave it up for a lost cause and just started driving again. Thankfully, my friend’s parents lived in Augusta, GA, so we were able to cut about 3 hours off the trip by crashing there. We were back at work the next day and none the worse for wear.

Now let’s compare that experience to how we celebrate New Year’s Eve 12 years later. My wife and I will normally go a little crazy and have an extra glass of wine with dinner. Sometimes, we’ll even break out the $12 vintage. We’ll try to stay up late enough to watch the ball drop in Times Square (keep in mind that we live in California, so that happens at 9:00). Then we’ll shut the TV off and discuss whether we should go in and give the kids a kiss to celebrate the new year. We normally decide not to because the risk of waking them up is just too great. We’ll crawl into bed, and if we have the energy, we’ll… for about 20 minutes before falling asleep.

So, yeah, I would say that we still rock it out pretty hard when it comes to New Year’s Eve. There’s not really that much of a difference between a 18 hour round trip in the car with a New Orleans party sandwiched in the middle and falling asleep by 10:00. Right? Right?

Oy, I’m getting old. Pass me another glass of that Two Buck Chuck Pinot.

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