Before the Lights Went Out

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Getty Images: NYC skyline, 7/13/77

A slightly amended (because I wasn’t limited to 1,000 words) version of my third round submission to the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. The assignment: historical fiction taking place at a book signing and mentioning a pumpkin. No prob, I got this. 

Twenty-two gritty blocks uptown then two more across. Walking from Penn Station in this suffocating heat was stupid. Now that Lori thought about it, so was her outfit – wedge sandals, cut-off denim shorts, black and gold tube top – and really, to be honest, this whole plan. Blisters lined her ankle, which she’d then twisted after tripping on a plastic pumpkin that had fallen off a homeless woman’s shopping cart by Herald Square. Somewhere between the squeegee guys and peep shows, the frosty blue eyeliner she’d expertly applied in New Jersey had melted off. Possibly worst of all, she couldn’t get the Bay City Rollers out of her head. But she deserved this fate, she reasoned, because she’d snuck into the city without telling her parents.

Next to her in walkable flat Dr. Scholls, her best friend sipped a can of Tab.

“This is it!” Carrie said as she pushed opened the door to Rizzoli Books. “We’re about to meet the hottest rock stars on the planet!”

Lori faked a smile, wishing she could feel excited. Lately, increasingly intrusive thoughts had plagued her and made it almost impossible to enjoy anything. That massive plane crash in Tenerife. A disturbing episode of “Emergency.” Those two girls Son of Sam shot in the Bronx last summer. And now, the epic disappointment she’d cause her parents. All fodder for a gnawing sense of imminent, undefined disaster.

A few weeks ago, she’d heard on the radio that Dr. Sartorius – a glam rock band she and Carrie adored – would be at Rizzoli signing copies of a new book documenting their 1976 world tour. Perhaps this would be the cure for her malaise. But the city – crumbling, graffiti-covered, and almost bankrupt – made her parents nervous. They had let Lori take the train in with Carrie before, but who knew if they’d go for it this time? It was too risky. Best to say nothing: an omission, not a lie. Normal kids did it all the time. But Lori wasn’t normal, she reminded herself. She was a big fat baby who obviously couldn’t handle teenage existence.

Under a notably ornate chandelier, a Rizzoli employee handed them copies of the book and directed them upstairs.

“There’s no way we’re making that 9:15 train,” Lori said when she saw the long line. Her chest tightened, and she envisioned them trapped in the steamy bowels of Penn Station, late at night, with a serial killer on the loose.

Carrie elbowed her. “So we’ll get the next one. Chill out, nut job!”

“Easy for you to say, Goldilocks. Son of Sam likes brunettes. And it is the 13th … ”

Always at ease, Carrie jumped right into conversation with the other girls on line. How many times had everyone seen the band live? Who was a bigger fox, the bass player or the drummer? Did anyone have tips for getting into Studio 54? A flask appeared. Copies of Tiger Beat and Rolling Stone circulated. One girl claimed she’d slept with the lead singer. Another girl said she’d heard he was gay. Someone pointed out a few zigzags of lightning in the sky above Fifth Avenue.

But all Lori could think about was her poor parents. Dinner would come and go, and the Wednesday night movie on channel 2. Eventually, fury and/or panic would set in. They’d sit up in the family room, heartbroken, waiting for the police to knock on the door with terrible news. God, she was a horrible daughter.

“I’ll be right back,” she said to Carrie. “Don’t run off with the band.”

Thunder rumbled in the distance as Lori found a payphone and called home. As it turned out, Wednesday was her mother’s encounter group night. Left to their own devices, her father and brother were off to the Ground Round and then a movie, completely unconcerned about Lori’s whereabouts.

Half insulted and half relieved, Lori headed back towards the line. Cheering broke out as Dr. Sartorius appeared on the scene, and she felt herself relax just the tiniest bit. This was a dream come true. Maybe they weren’t on the verge of a nightmare after all.

With each step closer to the front of the line, Lori’s heart beat faster. Finally, FINALLY, she and Carrie stood face to face with the rock stars who adorned their bedroom walls. They were gorgeous and smiling and felt like old friends.

“I’ve been practicing what I want to say for days,” Lori told the bass player. “And now all I can think of is, ‘HOLY. SHIT.’”

The bass player laughed and signed her book: To Lori. Much Love, JT

“Thanks for coming. Get home safe,” the keyboardist said in what the girls later called a devastating British accent.

Really, Lori thought, this was by far the best thing that had ever happened in her 16 years.

It was 8:45 and still beastly hot when the girls left Rizzoli.

Carrie rolled her eyes.

“Jesus, it’s not even a little bit cooler. I can’t do that walk again – let’s take a cab.”

“My blisters thank you,” Lori said. She stuck out her arm until a Checker taxi pulled up.

“We might still make the 9:15.”

“Traffic bad,” the driver told them as he started the meter. “I do best, but I no sure.”

The next train didn’t get them in until after 11, which was still well before her midnight curfew, but made Lori uneasy for no specific reason. Carrie rolled up the windows and locked the doors, like they’d always been told to do in the city. The cab creeped down Seventh Avenue, the radio tuned to the news: the Son of Sam investigation. Abe Beame, Ed Koch, Bella Abzug, the mayoral race. The Mets and Cubs at Shea. The impending heatwave.

Lori looked at her watch. “Forget it. There’s no rush now. We missed it.”

Carrie tried to reassure her. “We’ll be fine! We’ll get a Coke, we’ll buy some magazines. You’ll be in your own bed by midnight. Don’t ruin a great day.”

But Lori wasn’t listening.

“Shit! That whole building just flickered. You saw that, right? It’s happening again, look!”

All the skyscrapers in their line of vision seemed to blink for a second.

They exchanged a concerned look, but when they arrived back at Penn Station a few minutes later, in time for the 10:15 train, everything seemed in working order.

“Come with me to that newsstand before we go down,” Carrie said. “I need Juicy Fruit.”

And then the entire city went black.

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Before the Lights Went Out

Creep It Real

rockFor Halloween, I decided to dress up as a short, neurotic Jewish girl. A brilliant disguise! No one will ever guess it’s me!

In reality, I love Halloween because it reminds me of simpler times and candy and fall and friends and childhood, but I’m too old and tired to participate in most of its supporting activities. Which is depressing, like almost everything.

But I did sport my amazeballs CREEP IT REAL tee, because when else can I legitimately wear such a thing in public? And I had the Munsters’ theme song stuck in my head all day. And I composed this brief and silly blog post after seeing Mama Kat’s Halloween-themed “This or That” questionnaire.

Candy: chocolate or fruit-flavored?
I take candy very seriously, so I need some additional information in order to properly answer this. Like, is said chocolate a Zagnut or Zero Bar? If so, gag me with a spoon and fork over the cherry-flavored shit. Also, is it basic American chocolate (good) or fancy ass 200% cacao dark chocolate flavored with saffron, sea salt, or anything else you’d buy at a Moroccan spice market (totally inappropriate)? Assuming it’s not one of these aforementioned confectionery abominations, I’d obviously go with chocolate. But I certainly wouldn’t kick a few Skittles or those cute little packs of two Starbursts out of bed.

Witches or vampires?
Given my Eastern European roots and love of a deep red / goth-adjacent lip, I generally feel more comfortable with vampires. Sure, a vampire will probably go in for the kill before the night is over, but some of them are pretty hot, and who doesn’t keep garlic and stakes lying around? Besides, broom flying would definitely give me motion sickness and I’d never be able to fit a cauldron in the apartment. Note: I stand with the Salem witches. #thecrucible

Trick or treat?
My friend told me about an office prank in which an employee sneaks into his boss’s office, hides a few raw shrimp in the base of the desk chair, then waits with bated breath for the untraceable stench of rotting shellfish to start driving the boss crazy. I find this hilarious, but I’d still go with treat.

Halloween party or scary movie?
This is a tough one. It really depends on the party’s location, host, and guest list, and on the movie. Please say “Human Centipede,” please say “Human Centipede …”

Skeletons or zombies?
Skeletons, because it’s always wise for someone who frequently dispenses medical advice to brush up on human anatomy.

Trick-or-treating or handing out candy?
Why would I give away candy when I could be given candy?

Hay ride or corn maze?
Hay ride, because I’m lazy and it’s less claustrophobic.

Bats or black cats?
Black cats, because they’re awesome, I have one as an aunt, and also, everyone knows that bats=rabies.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, ALL! CHOOSE YOUR CANDY WISELY!

Creep It Real

The Three-Panel Mirror

 

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Behold, the short ghost story (set in a tuxedo rental shop and involving a wrench) that I composed for the first round of the 2016 Flash Fiction Challenge. It scored 12 out of 15 points, which means I ended up 4th in my group out of a few hundred, and get to move on to Round 2 in pretty good shape! I’m faklempt!  

Synopsis: A young woman with doubts about her impending marriage has a disturbing experience on a pre-wedding errand. Is it just her vivid imagination, or should she heed the warning only she can see?

***

The thought of Brett wearing a rented tux to our own wedding made me question my judgment all over again. Sure, buying one wouldn’t be cheap, but I didn’t want our future contaminated by the karma of the strangers who’d worn that tux first. Brett thought I was crazy. He couldn’t justify spending money on something he’d only be using for a few hours. I saw his point, but I also saw someone who clearly didn’t think the way I did.

So here we were in the sticks of New Jersey, on a day with a really weird vibe, checking out a tuxedo rental place my future in-laws had recommended. Like any place they’d ever recommended, this one – Drago’s – was close to their house and owned by the son of a third cousin twice removed or random neighbor from the old country who would “take care of us.”

I remained skeptical, and the unexpectedly rural roads started to seem increasingly “Deliverance”-esque.

“We’re about 10 minutes away,” Brett said as he noticed me looking out the window at what could only have been an abandoned mental hospital. Its sign read, “Mount Hope Manor.”

It was set back from the road but that didn’t matter. I could still make out the emaciated, terrified faces of patients forced to undergo bizarre and cruel psychiatric treatments that would one day be investigated by Detective Lilly Rush on “Cold Case.”

Shudder.

Drago’s turned out to be a tiny storefront attached to Ivanko’s Hardware on one side and an old- timey deli that still sold Tab on the other. The interior reminded me of Brett’s grandma’s apartment: wood paneled walls and cabinets; forest green carpet; ornate Eastern Orthodox crosses; gauzy curtains trimmed in deep red embroidery that I now recognized as rushnyk. Also, it smelled like 1945.

Drago himself was about 50, with wavy salt and pepper hair. He wore black pants, a tight, polyester striped button-down, and an onyx pinky ring. He wasn’t unattractive, but I sensed something sinister about him – which might have been what made him not unattractive.

He offered me water and coffee but I declined, knowing that any beverage he served would be spiked with a medieval roofie.

Brett explained what he wanted then disappeared into the dressing room. Drago said he’d pick out a few options, then winked at me as he headed into the “back.” I wondered what else he kept in the “back.” I wondered if I should cancel the wedding. I wondered if Brett would ever put together our new bookshelves. Suddenly this last point seemed extremely urgent.

“Brett! When are you doing the bookshelves?”

He stuck his head out. “I told you – we don’t have the right wrench. We’ll stop and get one from my dad on the way home. You know … you’d probably be a lot less stressed if you focused on one thing at a time.”

I rolled my eyes.

Drago returned with an armful of tuxes. Feeling uneasy, I made the executive decision to run next door to the hardware store while Brett changed. I bought the wrench so we didn’t need to stop at his parents’, thus hastening our exit from these parts. When I came back, wrench in hand, Brett was standing in front of the three-panel mirror in Tuxedo Option 1.

I looked at Brett and he was Brett, handsome as usual in a tux with a silly cummerbund. But when I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t Brett’s reflection. It was someone else entirely: a kid, 16 or 17, with red hair and freckles and a rather unfortunate nose, wearing the same tux Brett had on now. I blinked. The kid was still there. Brett was still there.

The wrench fell to the floor with a thud, narrowly missing my foot.

“What you think of tux? Ees beautiful, no?” Drago asked in his Eastern European accent, patting Brett on the shoulder.

Before I could open my mouth to respond, someone with a much younger voice said, “Car crash. Drunk driver.”

Shudder again.

“No cummerbund,” I told Brett. “It’s not a prom.”

Brett went back to the dressing room and the red-headed teenager vanished.

When he came out in Tuxedo Option 2, I took a very quick glance at his back, hoping to avoid anyone who wasn’t physically in the store, then tried to engross myself in a text message.

Brett turned around. “Are you even looking?”

Reflexively, I lifted my head. This time, instead of the correct reflection, I saw a beefy, very athletic man in Tuxedo 2 – mid 20s, with a crew cut.

I waited and then heard, “Last day of second tour in Afghanistan, IED.”

Third shudder of the day and we weren’t done yet.

“The lapels are cheesy,” I said quickly. “Just pick a really plain one, put it on, and we’ll get out of here.”

Brett was starting to get annoyed, understandably, and Drago didn’t look too thrilled either.

I braced myself for Option 3.

This one had ridiculous tails. I just shook my head, but not before I saw, in the mirror, a wholesome-looking suburban dad-type in the tux.

“Kidnapped. Tortured. Hung.”

Shudder 4, bordering on convulsion.

“It’s the tails, right?” Brett asked. “I agree – over the top. Let me try the next one.”

Let me just get OUT of here.

Brett modeled the fourth tux – which would have been perfect under any other circumstances.

“I like that one. But we should think about it for a little bit,” I said, practically walking out the door. “Get dressed. We have time to decide.”

“If you like it and I like it, why don’t we just take care of it now?” Brett wanted to know. “Why are you being weird?”

It had taken me a split second to process that when I looked at the mirror now, Brett’s reflection was in it.

 

 

The Three-Panel Mirror

Imperfect 10

TheWorst

There’s nothing to get excited about anymore. Except Liz Lemon.

When I was young and stoopid(er than I am now), it seemed daily life was full of poignant things to write about. By hand, in college-ruled notebooks. Would I barf from eating those Pringles so soon after returning from Friendly’s? Was I the only person on earth whose hair was immune to Elnett? What would happen when Jan and Lew noticed I had added a third hole to my left earlobe? Did Doc Martens come in size 5 1/2? Whhhhhhhhhy did that douche who sat behind me in English class not love me, and why did I care? You see. Material a-plenty.

Now it’s not so easy. I don’t even know why, because I basically worry about the adult version of the same things. But this blog is dusty. The novel I’ll never finish has been 40 mediocre pages long for two years. I keep reminding myself that the actors I’ve mentally cast in the big screen adaptation are about to age out of their theoretical roles, but I’m still mentally paralyzed. Besides, now that I’ve moved from notebooks to bloggery, it’s all public – and anything I’d logically think to write about would cause a hefty number of people to file restraining orders and/or stop speaking to me. So in desperation, as you may know, I sometimes turn to the interweb and the array of writing prompts it offers, from places like Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

Among her latest batch of prompts was this one: “List 10 things that make you feel excited.”

What is this word, “excited?” You mean excited like, “agitated?” Excited like, “I’m so excited with rage that Imma* punch you in the balls?” What else COULD it mean?

What’s that? Some people actually get excited about GOOD things?!  Come on. You don’t expect me to believe that load of crap do you? I mean please. That’s absurd. Clearly I need to move on to the next prompt. 

That one turned out to be, “You know you’re a mom when …”

Okay then. 

My eyes went back to the first prompt and suddenly the bold words of one Barney Stinson came into my head: “Challenge accepted.”

So can I do it?

10 Non-Everyday Things That Fill Me With a Faint Hint of Excitement

  1. The first hot day of summer and the first cold day of winter, because they mean a new season and a new atmosphere are upon us, and that today will be at least a tiny bit different from yesterday.
  2. Similarly, the promise of a massive blizzard that may result in the office closing, for its novelty and reminder of youth. And because junk food eaten in extreme weather conditions doesn’t count. Nor does junk food eaten after extreme weather conditions because it would be a terrible travesty to let it go to waste. Or, for that matter, junk food eaten before extreme weather conditions to make sure it’s safe for consumption.
  3. A jam-packed schedule of urban adventures with the Communettes (or as millennials might say, “my squad”), to destinations including but not limited to Russian nightclubs (whence comes the name “Communettes”); burlesque supper clubs (my burlesque name, in case you were wondering, is Andromeda Muscle Strain); ancient bath houses; nail art emporia; Tim Burton-themed bars; circus side shows (see Item 5); and other not-as-sordid-as-they-sound locales. You know who you are, Communettes. Come back to me!
  4. Duran Duran concerts, because nothing is more life-affirming than singing and dancing like an asshole to Rio live while you ogle an aging but gorgeous bass player.
  5. The Coney Island Circus Sideshow, because one of the snakes there makes me feel real loved and I myself love the smell of lighter fluid in the morning. (That’s a fire eating/Apocalypse Now joke and I find it hilarious.) Also, very few things compare to the sight of stomach slime glistening on a freshly swallowed sword.
  6. The virgin wear of new boots, lipstick, or jeans, all of which will be perfect for approximately 36 hours, at which point someone else will walk by wearing a version that is “better” in some way that can’t be articulated
  7. Canine hugs
  8. Reunions/visits/trips with people I love but haven’t seen in eons (most notably my lil sis, my Texans, my aforementioned Communettes)
  9. A completely empty New York Times crossword puzzle on a page that’s in pristine condition, paired with Wite-Out and a satisfying rollerball pen. Similarly, a brand new pack of multi-colored Sharpies/Flair pens/smelly markers.
  10. The exact moment of touch down on the runway at a new airport. But only that one moment, because a nanosecond later, panic sets in about whether or not it’s safe to drink the water wherever I’ve just landed.
  11. AND A BONUS NUMBER 11 … FINISHING THIS BLOG POST!

*Please note first-ever use of “Imma,” perhaps incorrectly. 

 

 

Imperfect 10

My Tragic Micro Fiction Challenge

Mag Glass
This shit is tiny.

I don’t usually have the attention span or intellect for any of the fiction (or non-fiction, for that matter) in the New Yorker. Plus, I’m threatened by the success of its writers. Plus, I have Netflix. But over the summer I did find this “tragic micro fiction” column quite chuckle-worthy.  Now, I may be too stoopid to understand what the term really means, but I personally interpret “tragic micro fiction” as shrunken stories – written with dramatic flair – about day-to-day annoyances that are minor on the scale of things but can still drive you bat shit crazy. Someone posted about the column this week and reminded me of its greatness. So, unable to think of anything else to write about here, I attempted to craft my own tragic micro fiction, based on “micro tragedies” that have befallen my friends and me over the years. Note: names have been changed to protect the guilty. 

He was very cute and they seemed to hit it off. Then he ordered kale.

Lynn was intrigued to see seven missed calls from the same number. It was a telemarketer.

The injury was too severe; there was nothing more they could do. Nicky Rabbit was going to lose his leg.

A local family reported him missing after he failed to return home. Last seen at show-and-tell, the pink teddy bear’s body was never recovered.

The boots were on sale, but came only in whole sizes.

Was it really melasma, she wondered? Or did she need to start tweezing in better light?

She attempted to show off her Spanish skills by asking the delivery man his name. Pedro was startled to hear her profess her love for him.

Aileen noticed too late that her new glasses were adorned with a tiny Peanuts logo at the left temple.

In reality, only certain LensCrafters could actually custom craft your eyeglasses in about an hour.

It was all starting to make sense: the green jelly bean was spearmint, not lime.

Evidence suggested someone had eaten corn the night before.

Karen couldn’t see out of her left eye, and the stabbing pain was unbearable. The side of her face was covered in a black soot-like substance. If only she hadn’t poked herself with the mascara wand.

The office candy bowl was filled to the top with grape Jolly Ranchers and three fun-sized Twix wrappers.

And Susan knew at that moment she would never eat creamy Italian dressing again.

Melanie asked for a trim. The hairstylist heard “chin-length bob.”

She had wanted her name, in German class, to be “Sabine.” Frau Schickelheimer assigned her “Hildegard.”

For Thanksgiving, Stacey asked her mother to bring cheese and crackers. Later, she wrapped the untouched seven-layer bean dip in tin foil.

Suddenly, she remembered that Chicago was an hour behind New York.

Outerwear was the one category not eligible for free two-day shipping.

Liz smiled at the famous screenwriter who was settling into his airplane seat, then made her way back to the last row in Coach.

Unbeknownst to them, Uber did not serve suburban Trenton.

VIP tickets were still available, but only for American Express cardholders.

Snooping through her boyfriend’s medicine cabinet, Leigh discovered a small bottle of Just for Blondes shampoo. Her hair was brown.

The “special surprise” promised on the children’s menu turned out to be a side of fruit.

One had to be very careful, she reminded herself, to type in the SEARCH field and not the STATUS field when stalking on Facebook.

The lipstick color did not, in fact, look good on everyone.

Some dogs, they learned the hard way, simply could not be trusted on the bed.

Beneath the absurdly cute, fuzzy exterior lurked the dark soul of a canine chew toy serial killer.

But “ankle-length” meant different things to different people.

It became obvious, after a few sips, that this was anything but Diet Coke.

An unsettling crunch in the molar region indicated that the Bit o’Honey was not as fresh as Erica had initially thought.

Perhaps, in the end, she could not do anything she put her mind to.

My Tragic Micro Fiction Challenge

My Archnemesis

Rocky Horror
Dr. Frank N. Furter wears them well, but I  do not.

I recognize this will come as a huge shock to you, but my personality might lean eeeeeeever so slightly towards the obsessive. Just a teeny bit. Really, it’s sometimes alarming hardly a thing at all.

Over the years, I have oft turned that obsessiveness inward (or outward, as the case may be), honing in on one or more physical attribute and then losing sleep over the flaws I perceived said attribute to possess. (I maintain that I am an excellent assessor of attributes, but others may disagree.) Pre-braces, it was my overbite, which earned me the nickname “Bucky.” Starting in 7th grade and still in certain jeans, it was the pear shape of my short legs and their uncanny resemblance to riding jodhpurs like those pictured here.

In high school, college, my 20s, and still on a humid day, it was my hair, aka “the Jewfro” aka the “Rat’s Nest” aka the “Chia Head” aka “Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich.” Let me assure you: there are few first world problems more agonizing than being a teenager in New Jersey in the 80s and having hair so thick and Brillo-esque that no hairspray known to man could hold or tame it (see The Hand of Oz).

There was also my nose of illusion – round from the front, rhinoplasty-worthy from the side. The mismatched shape of my eyes, which made them looked slightly crossed. The melasma moustache that caused manicurists all over Manhattan to ask if I might also need a lip wax then mutter something in Korean. The list goes on.

Most recently,  it was my eyebrows. I obsessed over their shape (non-existant); the eight different directions in which they grew; their uneven density from 30+ years of overzealous plucking. I tried tweezing in varied lighting. I tried waxing, threading, brow gel, clear mascara, lip balm, and Vaseline. Once, in a weak moment, I tried black pencil. And it turns out I’m pretty good at recreating Tim Curry’s Rocky Horror look.

Then my savvy friend Carrie told me about a mythical figure who runs a “brow bar” near our office. The woman – let’s call her Olga – styles the brows of many a celebrity, exclusively via old school tweezer. She is known for identifying the exact shape your personal brows are meant to have, and for tending to each patron herself.  Granted, there was some risk involved – most notably, ending up with a 1998 micro-brow or, even worse, half a brow. But still, if a pair of wine-lovin’ morning talk show hosts trusted Olga, how bad could she be? Besides, the obsession was starting to become painful. I could no longer sit back (with my magnifying mirror) and do nothing.

And so, I headed cautiously to the “bar,” a bright, appealing, and surprisingly un-menacing studio with a shabby chic feel. Olga was pleasant, with an indeterminate Eastern European accent and pretty damn good brows. Immediately, she identified exactly the problems I listed above, validating my belief that I am in fact an excellent attribute assessor. I felt virtually nothing as she tweezed strategically – no pain, no twitching, nothing. It was quite remarkable actually.

When she was done, I couldn’t believe what I saw in the mirror. I had significantly less cash, but I had an arch, goddamnit! My brows were fabulous!

For about 18 hours.

Olga had neglected to mention that one needed to remain awake for the entire four-to-six weeks between visits, and it had certainly not occurred to me that sleep would undo her masterpiece. But alas, it did. And no matter how I moved the brow brush, tried to flatten my eyebrows into place, or followed the directions in a series of YouTube videos, I could not get them to look even remotely close to how they’d looked the day before.

Le sigh.

So now, on top of having to obsess about my eyebrows themselves, I have to also obsess about how stupid I was to think I could have normal eyebrows. I think it may be time to move on to my bulbous big toes.

 

 

 

My Archnemesis

A Baller New Year’s

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Hi there, Parachute Jump.

A quote from the comedic goddess Janeane Garofalo: “I prefer to see the dark side of things. The glass is always half empty. And cracked. And I just cut my lip on it. And chipped a tooth.” Preach. That pretty much sums up my view of life in general, but New Year’s Eve in particular.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of New Year’s or its accoutrements. I hate the pressure it brings to do “something” big. I hate most of the options that define “something.” I hate revelers and being reminded of the fact that, due to faulty wiring, I myself am incapable of reveling in anything but my own snark. But most of all, I hate staring time in the face.

Those last 10 seconds of the year – the tortuous downward slide of the crystal ball – kill me. I find it physically and mentally uncomfortable to just stare helplessly as another year disintegrates. For me, it’s like a “my-whole-life-flashed-before-me” experience, and all I want to do is reach into my head, grab a few memories, and make them the now.

What, I ask you, is so mesmerizing about a ginormous crystal-covered sphere that, at any other time, would be mistaken for a light fixture in the kind of uber-tacky suburban wedding venue that advertises on TV? Why is it appealing to watch the present slip away and know you can’t stop it? I can only assume that normal people get caught up in the excitement. That they feel hope for the future and the amazing things it might have in store for them. And I guess I can understand how, if a given year dealt you a particularly shitty hand, you might welcome its demise. But still. I, not being normal, feel dread for the future and the horrible things it might have in store. I feel sadness and loss about all the things I said I would do, didn’t do, and probably never will do. About every New Year’s Eve of yore. About getting older, and getting further away from childhood and the point in life at which there were still good possibilities. For all my failures and weaknesses. For all the things I wish were different but can’t be. The glass is always half empty. Sometimes I’m not even sure there IS a glass. But there’s always a fucking ball. And it’s horrible.

So whenever it’s remotely feasible, I stay home on New Year’s Eve and avert my eyes from the torture of the evil orb. And I do my absolute best to suck in any would-be reveler who’s part of my immediate circle to this December 31st miasma.

But 2015 saw the birth of one of my favorite obsessions (see Angels, Demons and Bloodsuckers): Coney Island, a magical land of benevolent creepiness at the end of the subway line. It is a piece of old New York whose quirky goodness I try to support however I can. A few weeks ago, it came to my attention that an official New Year’s Eve soiree was taking place at the very home of my beloved Circus Sideshow.  Going would mean helping a great cause, and the evening promised performance art, a laser light show, fire-breathing, Mermaid Pilsner a-plenty, relatively clean bathrooms, and a certain destined-for-greatness (and also possibly esophageal rupture) sword swallower. Plus, Marie, a local artist, neighborhood expert, and all-around great person I know from my days as a cub reporter, would be there. But wait! There’s more! There would be NO. BALL. Repeat. There would be NO BALL.

Sword swallower NO BALL, you say? A ball-less New Year’s Eve?! Tell me more, I’m intrigued. The call of the 11224 wild overpowered my hatred of New Year’s Eve and my ridonculously understanding husband obliged. The shows were amazing and exactly the way they should be: packed with F-bombs, lighter fluid, tattoos, 8-pound swords, jokes about dirty underwear and ecstasy, and the perfect amount of camp. Hashtag #creeptastic. The backdrop at midnight was epic – fireworks on one of the world’s most famous boardwalks; the illuminated Parachute Jump, North Star of southern Brooklyn; the smell of popcorn and cold air; the ladies Marie introduced us to so we didn’t look like friendless looz-airs.

Please don’t spread this around. I have a rep to maintain. But I think I accidentally reveled a little bit.

Behind us on the boardwalk were Coney Island’s historic rides, the landmarked Deno’s Wonder Wheel and the iconic wooden roller coaster known to most as the Cyclone and to me as the Certain-Puke-o-Rama. I was 100% confident I would never experience either of them, because I hate roller coasters and rides and pretty much everything. But I said that about New Year’s Eve too, so now … I’m only 90% sure.

 

 

 

A Baller New Year’s