Dusty Bottles and Scratchy Vinyl: My First New Year’s Eve
Hard liquor was hard to come by. My friend Shane (not his real name) couldn’t get his hands on any, despite the fact that he was an entire year older than me at 16 — an enlightened age, I steadfastly believed, at which point everything from girls to government would suddenly make sense. And it would be another two years before I was blessed (or cursed) with the ability to grow a convincing mustache, so a trip to the liquor store was out.
That left the bottles that my parents still had socked away, which didn’t amount to much. They had sold the leather-padded, mid-century modern dry bar that had sat in the living room for several years before this needful New Years’ Eve, and very little of its contents still remained in the house — mostly half-empty bottles of Frangelico, Grand Mariner and Beefeater Gin.
Shane and I settled upon the dustiest bottle in the back of the cabinet above the refrigerator, some dreadful brand of peppermint schnapps. We figured — correctly — that the amount of sediment on the bottle was directly proportional to how much my parents cared about it. They never noticed it was missing, and my good luck held for two years — when, inexplicably, a pair of panties appeared in my laundry, and I was accused of having sex with my girlfriend “under this roof” – which somehow magnified the severity of the act. (I was always too scared to do anything with her at my house. Instead, we messed around at her house, where there were locks on the bedroom doors.)
Anyway, they weren’t her panties, nor my mother’s or my sister’s or even mine (you were thinkin’ that). To this day, I have no earthly idea where they came from. But after a solid half-hour of arguing my innocence to my mother, I finally broke down and confessed: “I took that bottle of peppermint schnapps out of the closet on New Year’s a couple of years back.” This confession didn’t get didn’t get me off the hook for the panties, but in the confusion, it did buy me enough time to run to my room and wedge a chair against the door.
On that long-ago New Year’s Eve, Shane and I took turns pulling at the bottle until we were very minty indeed. My parents were partying in Las Vegas, and the babysitter — my sister and I had one until I turned 17 — was asleep in the family room with the television blaring. And she trusted Shane. He was a Jehovah’s Witness, like us, and both his parents were Pioneers, which practically made Shane a made man. He was, in fact, a foul-mouthed skate punk with more than a few vices, including but not limited to cold beers, stinky weed, and Black Flag’s “Damaged.” Shane led an extraordinary double life — going out on service with his parents during the day, and then hitting the punk gigs with his brother at night. When he went deeper into the Witnesses a few years later, he abandoned a fast-developing gig as a punk poster artist. But this piece isn’t about him, even if it should be.
At the time I had no punk records, because until I met Shane, punk scared the hell out of me. (The Witnesses, like so many religions of the time, made punk out to be some sort of enabler.) Shane leafed through my records and politely refrained from commenting on all the Boston and Supertramp, though he did linger at Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” He opened his mouth to say something, but changed his mind and kept going.
Finally, he pulled out the Rolling Stones’ “Hot Rocks.” I thought for sure he’d crank up “Sympathy for the Devil” or “19th Nervous Breakdown,” but he didn’t. Instead, he cued up “Time is On My Side,” sat on my windowsill, and sang into the suburban night:
Now you always say
That you want to be free
But you’ll come running back
You’ll come running back
You’ll come running back to me
And I joined him for the chorus:
Yeah, time, time time is on my side
Yes it is
I said, time, time, time is on my side
Yes it is
We sang the song five times to prolong the feeling of immortality. At that moment, we envied no one. We felt invincible. There was nothing but promise ahead of us.
That was my first New Year’s Eve celebration. And though I’ve had better New Years Eve celebrations since then — I can mix drinks from my own bar, have a killer selection of punk records, and don’t have to explain to anyone where those knickers on the bedroom floor came from – I think of “Time Is On My Side” every December 31, because no matter how old we get, the future is always about promise. Yes, it is.