Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year

Although I typically do not celebrate the holiday that occurs in the ten seconds following 11:59.50 pm on the 31st of December (three years ago I was swimming laps in a pool, two years ago I was sleeping, and last year I was on a plane), this year, inspired by Musa’s open-minded view of Christmas, I decided to mix it up and give the holiday a chance.

During the days leading up to the New Year, I was on the west coast of Florida visiting my parents. I was scheduled to head back to the northeast on the night of the 31st, but when I found out a recently-single friend of mine who was staying on the east coast of Florida was going to head down to Miami to try to pick up women at a New Year’s day party of a friend of a friend of his, I changed my flight and agreed to meet him there and be his wingman.

The party was full of men who were about to start balding but were putting up a good fight. Gel, it seemed, was the weapon of choice; apparently a palmful of gel and some delicate fingers can carefully coif hair in such a way that minimizes the visual effect of thinning hair. It is a spiky look that allows for direct viewing of the scalp, but in a sort of abnormal way that is unlike thinning.

Since I am usually cut off from society, spending the majority of my time pursuing the solitary activities of writing and running, I sometimes struggle to communicate with others. To make it easier for me to relate this story to you, from here on out I will describe everything about this New Year's day party using running analogies / metaphors.

After entering the party, it didn't take long for to me to size up the women's field:

There was the race-grizzled veteran, battle-scarred and embittered, although still quite competitive, especially in the early going. She made an early move before fading badly at the finish.

There was the inexperienced, greyhound-bodied youngster who made bold moves and then looked around for approval.

There was the out-of-shape superstar, a freak of genetics that could compete even when not at her best, but ultimately her lack a love for the sport would be her undoing.

There was the hardworking over-achiever, but she chose not to race; she showed no interest in my friend--her moves were being saved for a future race with higher stakes and more to gain.

To help my friend win out over the other men at the party, we had a plan. The goal was for me to rabbit the race, to run the first half at a fast clip and then to drop off the track. When the gun went off, my friend went out so hard that he passed me, and I struggled to keep up. I was a little annoyed at his fast start--it wasn’t part of the plan--but then I thought to myself that perhaps it was a good sign, a sign that he was committed to getting over his ex-girlfriend, committed to a night of fun. Soon he fell into line behind me and settled into his pace and conserved some energy by drafting. I went through the halfway point at even splits but began to tire. My friend took the lead, and I stepped off the track and at that point I became his head cheerleader / coach, shouting splits to him as he breezed by. He put on a series of smaller moves, and then at the critical moment, he put in a huge surge that put the other racers into difficulty.

His winning move involved his piano playing ability. My friend is a classically trained pianist and there happened to be a dusty electronic keyboard sitting on the top of the bookcase. A few hours after midnight, with the night winding down, he pulled the keyboard down, plugged it in, turned the volume to its highest setting, and played a very stylish version of the Gnarles Barkley song “Crazy.” He had everyone at the party singing at the top of their lungs. Smiles were on their faces. He stood over the keyboard in a half-crouch and banged away at the keys. I was exhausted, sitting in the corner nursing a diet root beer, contemplating the two-hour drive I had ahead of me. Even in my exhausted state, I found I was tapping my foot to the music. My friend was sprinting to an easy victory.

And then something strange happened. When he finished playing the song, he did one of those piano hand-sweeps from the lowest key to the highest. The air was buzzing. The other men looked awed by him and the women that could still stand up began to swarm. The greyhound-girl had a hand on his shoulder. The grizzled-girl was staring at him intently from across the room. Even the hardworking-girl stood hesitatingly in the middle of the room, seemingly considering if she should enter the fray. Only the genetic-freak-girl didn't move towards him: she was passed out on the couch next to me, drooling.

My friend beamed--grinned liked he had his lips around a frisbee--and then he walked straight out the door. I sat up, spilled some diet root beer on my jeans, awkwardly said goodbyes for the both of us, and then followed him out. I didn’t catch up with him until we were nearly at our cars. “What the heck was that?” I asked.

“I’m still not ready,” he said. He had a strange look on his face: he was grimacing and smiling at the same time. A grimile.

We said our goodbyes and agreed to meet up again soon. I drove back across Alligator Alley to my parents’ home, intermittently slapping my face to keep myself awake.

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