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[whitespace] Grin and Bare It

How will you welcome in 2003? Metro's guide to the parties, concerts, and--yes, recovery programs

By Traci Vogel

TO PARAPHRASE John Waters: If you're not going to have a happy New Year's Eve, you might as well kill yourself. The night of Dec. 31 stands as the biggest hoedown of the year. Forget the 364 boring nights that came before it--New Year's Eve is the only party that matters.

Regular people actually drink champagne, crooking their sparkly-nail-polished pinkies out as if they have class; people who otherwise never get drunk quaff cocktails until they're actually fun to hang out with; people who sport Dockers all year long squeeze into sequined dresses and feather boas and actually look nice.

What's more, the bore in the cubicle next to you turns into Prince Charming at the office party; you can spank your boss and tell her it was all in fun; and even the traditional dunce cap is temporarily transformed into festive party fashion. Yes sir, it's a magical night.

Unless, that is, you're like me, and you have never once had a good New Year's Eve. For certain people, New Year's Eve perpetually sucks, like a cursed piece of hard candy you find in your grandma's cupboard and decide to eat because you're really hungry, and it turns out to be a prune-flavored laxative.

I am one of those people. I'm the girl you see hunched over in the corner at 11:59pm staring at Dick Clark on the boob tube with a glazed expression and driblets of pre-vomit glossing the corners of her mouth. I am the girl whose dress is inevitably ripped because it got caught on the corner of the pool table when its wearer attempted to do a three-point dismount to win two cheese puffs on a dare. Every year, it takes me at least a week to recover from the incredibly stupid, tortuous, money-wasting, insensitive holiday known as New Year's Eve.

It was different when I was a little kid and couldn't possibly stay awake long enough to see Dick Clark perform his preprogrammed East Coast midnight countdown. Back then, you went to sleep at 10pm and woke up to a brand-new year, refreshed, ready to roll and innocent of confetti in your underpants.

Then came fifth grade, when my friend Sarah and I found some apple cider that had gone bad (or gone good, if you know what I mean) and spent all evening drinking it and eating saltines slathered with butter and discovering just how hee-larious it was to prank call our old elementary-school music teacher at 2am. ("Hey, is that a tuba in your pants?"; "Can you tell me where the sax section is located?"; "Pardon me, do you know how the French horn?" Man, those were the days.)

As everyone knows, it's all downhill after prank calls. Forget "gateway drugs"--youth advocates should really be keeping an eagle eye out for "gateway pranks." If it involves monkeys, tinfoil and a fast-moving car, you know you've gone too far, and you should ask for help.

Mr. Cute Hair

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first time I recognized the curse of New Year's Eve was during my second year of college, the first time around--that is, my second year of college before I dropped out and subsequently went back and started over again. So, my first second year. That year, I somehow hooked up with my old high school crush, the one who hadn't come out of the closet yet. He invited me to his fraternity's New Year's Eve party, and I in my foolish heterosexual naiveté thought I would be there as his date.

Looking back on the evening, it was not unlike being stuck in some repeat episode of Three's Company, if you imagine that Jack is gay (don't strain yourself), you're Suzanne Somers and that other girl is some bitch from some sorority you've never heard of who decides to feed you a pot brownie.

The moral of that evening? Fluffy sorority hair can absorb an amazing amount of vomit. That, and screaming "Sore-oral-tee girl!" is only really funny the first time.

If that.

For some reason (shut up), I never seem to have a real date for New Year's Eve. Either (a) my boyfriend and I have just broken up, (b) my boyfriend comes down with the monster flu that night or (c) I've just met some super guy, but he's already promised his ex-girlfriend (they're just friends!) that he'll be her date for the evening, at a party across town.

Like the year I met a guy a month before New Year's Eve. He seemed nice and had adorable hair, so when he invited me to spend New Year's Eve at an island resort with 30 of his closest friends, I said, "Great!"

At midnight, Mr. Cute Hair--who, along with 30 of his closest friends, which excluded me, had taken ecstasy--found the time to profess his heretofore hidden love for his second cousin while her date and I stood to the side waving our hands in front of Mr. Cute Hair's face and saying, "Hello? Anybody in there?"

One year--I think it was 1997-into-1998--I actually had a date and a fantastic '40s-era dress with shoes to match and a three-story art party to go to--and a freak winter storm knocked out all the power. Nobody's watch matched up with anybody else's watch, so we ended up having about 12 different candle-lit countdowns, which was kind of fun the first five times. I'm not sure who I was kissing those five times, but it was still the best New Year's Eve I've ever had.

This year, if it takes a power outage, I'm going to make sure New Year's Eve rocks hard, and I suggest you do the same. Todd Inoue has compiled this obsessively comprehensive list of fun things to do all over the Bay Area. Some of them involve dressing up, some of them involve not dressing at all, but there's sure to be something here to suit everyone's fancy for New Year's Eve.

Leather Vest and Stoner Boots: Start the new year with a ringing sound--not the sound of the chiming bells of St. Mary, but the onset of tinnitus.

Suspenders and Red Nose: Enough reflection already--soak up someone else's misery and laugh your head off. Careful: champagne hurts when it's flowing through your nose.

High Heels and Dinner Jackets: Some restaurants use New Year's Eve to highlight special menu items. Diners are only happy to oblige.

Zoot Suits and Hoop Skirts: That whole retro-swing thing had its day, but there are still people who want to put those expensive swing lessons to use. And what better night than when Benny Goodman sounds the best?

Tuxedos and Control-Top Pantyhose: Those in the mood to splurge will be seen at these, the swankiest soirees in the Bay Area.

Black Leather and Spaghetti Straps: You don't need a platinum card or deep knowledge of outer Siberian two-step techno to get into these spots, especially when all you want to do is hang out with your friends, listen to tunes you know, and find someone to tongue box with at midnight.

Guatemalan Vests and Birkenstocks: The Grateful Dead began a Bay Area New Year's Eve tradition, one that's passed to a new generation of jam rockers and bluegrass fiddlers.

Stank Shirt with Tight Jeans: Work up a sweat dancing to blues, funk and zydeco, then quench your thirst with a cold bottle of Miller--the champagne of beers.

Iridescent Shirt and Skirt Up to There: J-Lo might just be "Jenny from the block," but for one night, you can be the superstar salsa dancer of your dreams, careening across the floor when the ball drops.

Glowsticks and Sleeveless Undershirts: Any excuse is a good excuse to rave on into the night, but New Year's Eve traditionally expands the possibilities and the parameters. Along with the massives, check for the smaller, more intimate parties and show them some love.

Collapsible Stroller and Nice Sweats: Staying in with the family and watching DVDs again? This year, start a new tradition and get in before bedtime.

Use Your Imagination!: Safe harbor for couples of all sexual orientations. Embrace your lover at midnight without worry of judgmental eyes.

Hooded Sweatshirts and Tennis Shoes: Although the Bay Area lacks the pageantry of South Bend, two college football bowl games bring hearty gridiron action and attract busloads of out of town fans. Go team!

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From the December 26, 2002-January 1, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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