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Wednesday, 03 January 2018 15:16

This must be the place: ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot…’

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Nobody ever seems to know.

New Year’s Eve is the same day every go around, and yet, why is it nobody pulls the trigger on party plans until the last minute? Year after year, I find myself in this predicament, where I ask all month what everybody is up to for the ball drop. One-by-one they shrug their shoulders without a clue.

So, as this Dec. 31 rolls around, here I sit, in a coffee shop in the frozen depths of Albany, New York. The temperature is a balmy 1 degree outside (wind chill of -15). This time last year I was hanging out with my old college buddies in Brooklyn, running around the Big Apple without a care in the world, the singular mischief and sense of adventure found only at the center of the universe — New York City.

As a kid, I remember running around the living room of my parents’ or grandparents’ home in the North Country, watching the ball drop in Times Square on the TV. But, it wasn’t until I was 16 years old in 2001 that New Year’s Eve really stood out for me, at least in terms of being somewhere specific to celebrate. My riffraff friends and I piled into my father’s minivan, heading across Lake Champlain for “First Night” in Burlington, Vermont. It was teenage shenanigans, where a stubby joint would be passed around the minivan in some icy parking lot, onward to the countdown to midnight in a huge sea of people on Church Street.

Other New Year’s Eve celebrations came and went. One with my high school sweetheart in Saranac Lake, New York, only to spend the following one by myself in my hometown as a freshman in college and trying to get over my recent breakup with that high school sweetheart.

Then there was New Year’s Eve 2005 in Montreal, Quebec, where a whole crew of my old high school buddies and I tore into our friend’s tiny downtown apartment, about 30 or so in a studio space the size of a shoebox. A grocery cart filled to the brim with cheap domestic Canadian beer, flip cup and spilling drinks on the floor, dimly-lit late night strip clubs and real deal poutine (gravy fries). I woke up the next morning in the hallway of the apartment building, the same corridor about a dozen of us had sought out for our slumber (one in the elevator, too).

In 2007, en route to Eastern Idaho/Western Wyoming for my first journalism gig out of college, I ended up spending New Year’s Eve in Boulder, Colorado, running up and down Pearl Street, hooting and hollering in pure delight, wondering just what this upcoming adventure into the West would hold as time went along. Back home in 2009, New Year’s Eve was a blurry haze of snow and craft beer at the Lake Placid Pub & Brew, my girlfriend at the time being the head bartender.

From 2010 to 2016, I spent six out the seven New Year’s Eve in New York City. My two best friends from college both lived in the city throughout most of those years. One in Queens, one in Brooklyn. Those times in the city meant the most to me, seeing as I was always on the road and gone most of the year, and to see those familiar and beloved faces, who truly support and encourage you, brought footing to the haphazard nature of those early years as an underemployed writer.

It was tough knowing that last year’s gathering would be our final New Year’s Eve together, at least for a while. Both friends got married in recent years, with one couple moving to Seattle, the other couple relocating to Sydney, Australia (and now expecting their first child).

Sure, New Year’s Eve is just another day on the calendar. But, it’s also that one day where seemingly the entire world puts everything aside to take a moment and reflect on another trip around the sun.

Within the whirlwind day-in-day-out industry that is journalism, you sometimes forget how time flies, especially when you compartmentalize each week when deadlines come and go to get the newspaper out. So, when Dec. 31 appears, you shake your head in disbelief as to how does another year come to an end when it felt like it was just getting started?

And when that brightly-lit ball drops in the mayhem of Times Square, I find myself watching it unfold on live TV and being mesmerized, thinking about all those friends and family members, all scattered around the world, who are looking at the same image as I am, and if they’re happy, if they’re safe and sound, and if maybe they might be thinking of the same about me. The sheer wonder of it all, eh?

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

 

Hot picks

1 Australian bluegrass sensation Kristy Cox will host the “Tuesday Bluegrass Sessions” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Isis Music Hall in West Asheville.

2 Atlanta’s Most Wanted will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin.

3 The Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will host an “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” four-course dinner with Dulci Ellenberger & Kevin Williams (Americana/folk) at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13.

4 A community jam will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4 and 18, at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City.

5 Blue Ridge Beer Hub (Waynesville) will host an acoustic jam with Main St. NoTones from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11.

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