Let me tell you something about 2008. The first few seconds of 2008 I spent trudging through slush in an empty street in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Crown Heights, clutching a paper bag with a single unopened bottle of Heineken inside, swearing like a goddamn redneck as ten blocks away I could hear the bar I was trying to get to exploding into cheers and buzzing party favors and laughter and friends hugging and couples kissing and a drunken chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" dynamically emerging from the chaos, so faint that I could just barely tell I had spent the last two hours walking the wrong way. It wasn't even a good bar, just some trucker-and-divorcee hole in the wall, and I wasn't expecting anyone I knew. I just didn't want to spend the first few moments of 2008 the same way I spent most of 2007, wandering through the city aimless and alone--even the company of complete strangers would be better than nothing. And yet, as tiny sparkles of fireworks went up over the East River, distant and alien in the desolate Brooklyn sky, that was exactly how 2008 found me. Cold, lost, without camaraderie, without even the privilege of being drunk, walking in circles trying to find a bar less than five blocks from my apartment--a bar I passed by every day on the way home from work. It set the tone for the rest of the year; 2008 was the year of the recession, the year Xinhua Finance decided to be aggressive in using the company I worked for to dominate the Western financial market, the year I got busted trying to smuggle Bibles into China through a darknet node at work, the year Anna stopped talking to me. 2008 was not a good year. You know it's not going to be, when the first thing you think of when you wake up on Jan. 1 is not your New Year's resolutions, but of how glad you are that you never finished the paperwork for that gun license, because otherwise you'd be waking up that morning with the muzzle of a .357 Sig Sauer P226 down your throat. If you woke up at all.
My first moments of 2010 have been, incredibly, even worse.
So there was this big party in Williamsburg tonight. The biggest. It was called New Lost City and the hype for it was completely absurd. Three different email happenings-in-the-city newsletters I subscribe to mentioned it, and the trainful of twentysomethings who got on the F with me at Park Slope all ended up making the same transfer and getting off at the same L stop at Morgan. (The area around the Morgan L stop is a desolate industrial warehouse district; there were no other big parties going on in that area for miles.) The organizers rented out two entire factory/warehouse complexes as a venue, located out in the middle of nowhere so they could make as much noise as they wanted and not get shut down by the police. Virtually every local Brooklyn band I'd ever heard of was going to be performing there. Jon, Cal, Des, and Aries were all going. My high school buddy Steve and his girlfriend and some of their NEHS alumni buddies had expressed interest in coming too. It was going to be the biggest fucking party I had ever seen, maybe on par with the ball drop on Times Square that night, and there was no way in hell I was missing it. I spent a good part of the evening getting ready (and I never spend more than like ten minutes getting ready for a party). Mapped out my route in Google Maps. Picked out a black club shirt I had never worn in public before. Charged the batteries in my cell phone to 100%. Took a second shower. Had a high-carbohydrate dinner with lots of water, and downed a pint of orange juice to reduce the risk of catching the swine flu.
Well, it turns out the party met expectations. Exceeded them, even. By the time I got there, after getting lost and navigating my way through scary graffiti'd-over warehouse territory for about an hour, the line to get in was already growing halfway around the first warehouse. I met up with Cal and found out that he, Des, Jon, and Aries had all already been waiting in line for some time, and they had finally given up and were leaving for some goth/industrial party in the Lower East Side. By this point it was 11:40, and I wasn't looking forward to the prospect of greeting the new year on a subway train, so I chose to stick it out and stay in line. Terrible decision. Around 11:53 people started swarming out of the entrance complaining about the music and the crowds and the $30 entrance fee--it was apparently packed like a clown car in there, many times over the fire code limit--and it became increasingly clear from the growing numbers of cop cars and fire trucks circling the area that real soon either the organizers would shut the doors, or the city would. I wasn't even a quarter of the way in by that point (the line snaked through the entire first floor and up all the fire escapes), so I bolted, hoping to find my way to the line going into the second warehouse two blocks down, which I had heard was considerably shorter. Just as the line I had left was almost out of sight, two minutes sooner than my cell phone said it would be, SURPRISE MOTHERFUCKER IT'S 2010.
Cheering! Hugging! Crying! Airhorns! Fireworks! Thousands of people my age, perhaps half of my entire Brooklyn cohort, unexpectedly greeting the new year together, in community, outside a warehouse on a sleet-slick December--sorry, January evening, kissing strangers, smashing bottles, shouting obscenities at the misfortunes of 2009, drunk and happy to be young and alive and in good company. And me? I was five blocks down, walking in the wrong direction, memorizing gang signs on the wall of an empty warehouse for use as landmarks, just far enough away to see them waving their umbrellas in celebration.
Ten minutes later, I arrived at the other warehouse to find out the party was closed--not because of the risk of a fire code violation but because it was physically impossible to fit even one more person inside. Missing the party didn't hurt half as much as the realization that I was in exactly the same place as I was in 2008. All this effort, all these changes in attitude and attempts to reach out and all these second chances and false hopes, and two years later I was still spending New Year's Eve wading through ankle-deep piles of slush sober, cold, and alone, out in the middle of fucking nowhere.
Remember when you were in your mid-twenties, you'll ask yourself ten years from now? Remember all the adventures you had? All the people you dated, all the parties you went to, all that optimism and energy and camaraderie? All the vigor and life of youth? I sure as hell fucking won't.
That was actually the least terrible part of the night. And it was, as always, all my own damn fault.
Would have been bad enough if I had just gone home at that point, but oh no. I was not going to go home and brood and feel sorry for myself like I did in 2008. I was not going to let 2009 take me down, even in its death throes, without a fight. Yeah, so fortune had played a cruel joke on me. Fuck fortune. I had left the house looking for a good time tonight, and by God, I was going to have one. Even if it meant kicking my wallet in the balls.
So I dug out another $20 and hit up the only other party in Williamsburg I knew about, the New Year's bash for a Surreal Estate, an anarchist-commune sort of place where people apparently live and feed homeless people and turn art and music into social justice. It was, not surprisingly, small and hard to find--the doorknob was missing so I had to wait for someone to come by and let me in--and full of stoners. Mostly college-age stoners, to be exact; a small crowd of kids in T-shirts from various New York schools sipping Pabst and lounging around to Fatboy Slim and making out with each other very slowly, with the occasional fortysomething couple dancing amongst them in a vain attempt to not look self-consciously old. Upstairs, folks made fruit shish-kebabs in a kitchen lit with Christmas lights and debated what Bob Dylan meant, you know, man, like what he really meant, and on the top floor a bitchin' distortion-electronica band improvised some of the most bizarre music I've ever heard. Fire-poi dancers, a collection of lanterns made from dyed water cooler bottles, a bar made from plywood, and an omnipresent cloud of marijuana smoke completed the illusion that I was at Oberlin. It was a very chill environment, one that I perhaps would have enjoyed under different circumstances. But standing there, a twenty-four-year-old man in club attire surrounded by making-out nineteen-year-olds, just made me feel out of place. Certainly the other partygoers didn't think so--it was a pleasant surprise to find myself turning heads, as apparently I was that sexy older Asian guy a desperate vegan college freshman finds herself gossiping to her friends about--but, you know. Two years has never felt like such a long time. I mean, it wasn't nearly this bad when I visited Oberlin for commencement, but this was something else. It didn't get really awful until this one song came on--some indie-dance-rock tune I've never heard before whose lyrics consist entirely of a female voice saying "fuck you" over and over in a flirtatious manner--and this tiny girl, maybe four feet tall and not a day over seventeen, started following me around the dance floor awkwardly trying to grind against me. That was it. I'd only been there for maybe half an hour but I just got up and left. I am sorry if I ruined that poor girl's New Year but I am fucking done with that place, professionally. I am officially too old for that shit.
And with this revelation, too, came despair. That kind of laid-back Oberlin-like environment is something I have been looking for ever since I first came to New York. If I can't feel at home at Surreal Estate, then where?
The moment I got out of the party I got a call from Steve, who was out drinking with his buddies at a bar in the Lower East Side and wanted me to come along. I asked him if they were willing to wait an hour for me to get to them from Brooklyn and he told me they weren't sure.
So I texted Cal and Des--lots of my friends were in the LES tonight, what the hell, might as well go there--who were hard to reach because they were ostensibly busy dancing, and after an arduous and confusing two hours of wandering through NoHo in the sleet I finally made it there. (I greeted about a dozen strangers by shouting, "Fuck 2009!" The response was unanimously enthusiastic.) By the time I arrived Steve and his friends had already left and gone to bed, Des and Cal were nowhere to be found and I had paid to get into an '80s/industrial/punk/goth/gay shindig (they hadn't told me about the gay part) without my two goth bisexual friends to show me around. It is probably the most depressing imaginable confirmation of my heterosexuality (Kinsey scale zero, at present) that I spent thirty minutes in a gay bar and was bored out of my mind. (You'd think I'd find this reassuring on some level, but I am sometimes turned down by attractive bisexual women for being too straight, and for that reason alone being not gay at all can actually a social disadvantage. I have weird friends.) There were some cute goth girls doing some sort of weird thrashy Marilyn Manson death cult dance downstairs but even that just wasn't right without Des. The only good thing about that entire excursion was that, since I was dressed in all black and rather pissed off at that point, people took me as going for the dark and brooding look and I fit right in. If only I had wanted to.
On the way back to the F train a drunk guy tried to persuade me to be part of a human pyramid. It took me a while to realize he was talking not about the acrobatic stunt but some obscure multi-partner gay sexual position, and he was very insistent on my participation. (It was hard to suppress the urge to rip off his balls off with the hooked handle of my umbrella. I opted instead to open the umbrella in his face and poke him in the eye with the cap.) Later another dude tried to talk to me in Chinese, and confessed he was trying to pick me up. It was very difficult not to attack him also. By the end of the night I was so paranoid that I almost clobbered a dude in the face for asking for directions.
Gays of New York, you know I have nothing against you but I am not going to put up with this shit. I have not been sexually harrassed by so many gay men in one night since the last time I made the mistake of taking the bus down Geary Avenue in San Francisco. It is a holiday, you are drunk and you are lonely, I understand, but next time you lose your fucking genitalia. And not just the outer bits. Understand?
(Fuck, if this is what I have to go through in the LES, I can't imagine what you ladies have to go through everywhere. My condolences.)
You know what? I could have avoided all this--I could have had a really good night--if I had just stuck with my friends. What the hell. I didn't need to go to the most awesome party ever. I didn't intend to go party hopping. I would have settled for not spending tonight alone. Even if we had gone to all or any of the same places together and had the same experiences I probably could have laughed all this shit off, whatever, it's New Year's, whoooooo. But no, I just had to fucking ditch everybody, and scramble and fail to find another opportunity for us to cross paths. And maybe there was a chance I could have met some cool new people, people on my wavelength the same way you guys are. But that didn't happen, did it. It never does.
What is the purpose of New Year's? To reflect? To party? To celebrate the ticking of the odometer? Wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. The purpose of New Year's is to remind yourself that you do not have to go through life alone.
It has been many years since I have been this angry. Not at anyone in particular. Not even myself. Just at life. Just at everything, and at this one awful night, and at 2010 for sucking ass already and at 2009 for also sucking and 2008 and goodness sakes how long is this going to be a linear progression. I went Palahniuk at the end of the night. So mad I just wanted to break shit. Not drunk enough to be inconsiderate to the people whose shit I'd be breaking so I just swung my umbrella at shit. Really hard. Telephone poles, mailboxes, rows and rows of unbroken windows. Did more damage to the umbrella than to anything else but I didn't care, the sleet was down to a drizzle and it was an already half-broken piece of shit umbrella anyway. The last strike, at a pillar in a subway station, was forceful enough that the umbrella shattered into a dozen metal pieces and went flying into the tracks, where a V train mauled and disintegrated it in a shower of sparks. It was very satisfying. Folks didn't even stare; they must have thought I was just another drunk fuck taking out his anger on the world. I wonder how they would have felt if they knew I was dead sober, that all I had to drink all night was a single can of Miller Light and that that was three hours ago. Thank God I was sober. If my judgment had been any more impaired I'd have gone looking for a lead pipe, and I'd be calling you guys for bail for wanton destruction of property instead of spending the first morning of 2010 typing up this bullshit.
I've had enough. I am just so sick of everything. Just sick and fucking tired of it.