NEW Year's Eve's can be pretty over-rated. In my experience, there's only two kinds you get: you're either stuck at home, huddled on a couch, eating stale Cobs popcorn, watching the fireworks on telly and wishing you were in the city watching them live. Or you're in the city watching the fireworks live, huddled in garbage, trying to avoid a drunken bloke in a rasta-wig doing a 360-degree pee, wishing you were home eating stale Cobs popcorn.
But once in a lifetime, you might get a New Year's Eve that's a bit different, a bit special, and I got mine when I was 17. I was at home with my parents, planning my traditional New Year's celebration: a bit of telly, a bit of creaming soda, then staring at my digital watch to see the year-number tick over at midnight - that's a pretty exciting night for a morose, intense teenager with nowhere to go, nothing to do. But that year, we had a visitor staying in our house: a 41-year-old woman named Karen, who was my mum's friend from Canada, and she wanted to do something. She kept saying, ''Come on, Danny, let's go oot somewhere, let's go oot and aboot!'' She had an adorable perky Canadian exuberance about her that made you want to hug her, and while you were hugging her, slap her in the back of the head.
She dragged me into the city and bought me a beer in a pub: I said, ''I don't drink beer, it gives me zits and I hate the taste,'' but she got the beer topped up with cordial so it tasted like creaming soda. She dragged me to McDonalds: I said, ''I don't eat in exploitive, multi-national corporations,'' but she bought our burgers as takeout and we ate under a tree, which somehow made it non-exploitative and nurturing. She dragged me into the city centre to see the midnight fireworks: I said, ''I don't want to see the fireworks. I hate all the people and the noise and how everyone tries to kiss you at midnight,'' but she tore two eye-holes in her empty McDonalds paper bag and put it on her head then told me to do the same. We stood there with paper bags on our heads, then midnight came and nobody kissed us, nobody would come anywhere near us. And we watched the fireworks through out little eye-holes, globs of special sauce trickling down the sides of our faces.
Karen took my hand and led me around town, found a church down a laneway where an Italian wedding was going on, then dragged me inside. She pretended she was an Italian guest by talking like a character from The Godfather, walking up to the bride's parents and saying: ''I am honoured and grateful that you have invited me to the wedding of your daughter! And may their first child be a masculine child!''
The wedding band started playing and Karen said, ''C'mon let's go to Funkytown'' and I said, ''I don't want to go to Funkytown, I don't like dancing,'' but she dragged me onto the dance floor and taught me to moon-walk and we moon-walked until three in the morning, then headed home with two flower centre-pieces we'd nicked.
The next morning I woke up and my entire lower-chin had transformed into an enormous beer-zit, it pulsated and hummed and had it's own respiratory system. But I wore that zit proudly: it was a badge of honour for a morose, intense teenager who had nowhere to go, nothing to do.