Manifest Breast-iny

snow shovelin'.jpgThe snow would fall. My father would clear the driveway with a giant shovel, one with a huge blade that looked like a barrel sliced in half vertically. We always asked him why he hadn’t bought a snowblower like our neighbors and he’d just cough into his hand and shake his head.

“That’s not how a man does it,” he’d say.

Shit sounded crazy to me. The way he did it, I didn’t look at him throwing heaping piles of snow over his shoulder and think, ‘Wow, now there’s a man!’ Nope. I thought, ‘Wow, now there’s a masochist!’

My mom used to come home from work at K-Mart and tell me to shovel the driveway. I hated even thinking about it. Most of the time I’d tell her no. Or I’d lock my room and ignore her. So she’d usually end up going out there herself, taking that big ass shovel and adding to the giant mounds of snow that lined our driveway like the all the cookie-cutter houses lined our suburban street.

When he’d get home, my father would be furious. He’d yell and scream at me.

“You let your mother do all the work?” he’d rant, foam practically cascading down his chin. “What kind of a man are you? To let a woman shovel the driveway! What the hell did I raise? A sissy?”

The snow and I had a knack for making him angry. But sometimes, when he was tired and filled with regret and he didn’t feel like yelling anymore, he’d stare off into the distance and speak to me in a low monotone. He’d look off into the unholy western New York wasteland that surrounded us and repeat the same blip of advice that he’d been repeating for years.

“Get the hell out of here,” he’d say. “This place…there’s nothing here.”

I’d look at his face and I’d see exactly what he meant. He’d lived most of his life in Rochester, and he was stuck. He didn’t know what to do. This was his lot in life, and while he saw no escape for himself, he did for his sissy son.

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sunny vegasThere are only seven days left. Seven short days until I move back to the USA. I’ve got kind of a countdown going. When a day reaches its end and the number decreases, I can’t decided if I’m excited or filled with dread. It’s kind of like seeing the seconds counting down when you’re microwaving a Hungry Man dinner. On one hand, you can’t wait to eat that processed meat and desert brownie. But on the other hand, it’s hard to block out the potential for disaster.

“You going back home?” people keep asking me.

“I’m going back to the States,” I’ll say. “But not back to my hometown.”

To move back to Rochester sounds crazy. All I can remember is the snow and the wind and my father scraping off his windshield. I picture the aisles of the K-Mart my mother worked at. The place seems like hell.

“Oh? Not back to your hometown?”

“Nah.”

“Where you gonna go then?”

“Las Vegas.”

That’s right. Fuck it. I sat in the bedroom of my apartment for a few days and I just asked myself where I’d like to live. Anywhere. The place that seemed sort of fun and interesting. And after giving it some thought, I decided I wanted to move to Las Vegas.

“Wow! Vegas! Do you know anyone there?”

“No. Not really.”

“Do you have a job lined up?”

“Nope.”

“You don’t have a job or anything? Do you have a place to stay?”

“I do not.”

People seem surprised by my lack of a plan. Apparently, as I’ve gleaned from their facial expressions, it’s weird to just pick up and move to a place for no real reason whatsoever.

Even though there is a reason. The reason is that it isn’t Rochester. It’s the opposite, or at least I imagine it being so. I picture casinos and bright lights and maybe Barry Manilow making eye contact with me for just a second as he sings, “I Write the Songs.” I picture beautiful people. I picture Elizabeth Berkley’s breasts in Showgirls. And I picture sunshine. Lots of sunshine falling down over the wonderful dessert.

Some people say that there’s a certain allure to the West. A kind of promise that doesn’t exist anywhere else. I’m not really sold on that.

I, like my father, just don’t want to buy a fucking snowblower.

 

On Living Abroad: The A:R Ratio

ar ratioAs an American living in Asia, I’ve met tons of interesting expats over the last six years. There was Charlie, who was old as hell and had fought in the Vietnam War and could not for the life of him remember my name. I met a girl named Jalia who had somehow gotten cast in a Clint Eastwood movie and had one lengthy scene acting opposite Eastwood, although she refused to talk about the experience or give us any details. And then there was another guy named Bob who, as some Internet snooping would reveal, had gotten in trouble for having inappropriate relationships with several of his former students in Canada and had subsequently made his way to an international school in China, where he’s been teaching for the last ten years.

One meets a lot of colorful characters living abroad, some colored in hues perhaps a bit darker than others. But with every person that one meets, there is always one question that, also rarely asked or answered directly, is generally present:

What is it that brought you here?

A few years ago, I had a memorable conversation with my friend Trinity. We were talking about all the people we knew, and what we thought had lead to their decisions to leave their home countries and live abroad. During that initial conversation, we decided that every expat could be grouped into one of two categories.

Category One: Adventure – These are the young people fresh out of college. Maybe their degrees were in highly competitive fields, or maybe they just always wanted to live in another country and as soon as that diploma was secured it was off to Beijing. The adventure people are here to experience the culture, to gain work experience, to party and hook up a lot. On the same spectrum are the older people, some retired, who had gotten bored with the usual routines and had thus jaunted off to Asia in the hopes of breaking fifty years of monotony.

Category Two: Running – While true that there are some older adventurers, most of the middle aged people living abroad seem to fit into this category better. Running. Maybe there was a divorce. A death in the family. Maybe there were problems with alcoholism. Maybe they just didn’t fit in back home. Depression. A criminal background. Children that didn’t want to have anything to do with them. There are many reasons why one might be running from something. And young people aren’t completely exempt from this either. They just seem to have the skeletons in their closets hidden better.

Trinity and I would shout out names of people we knew and then try to put them in their correct category. It was pretty fun. When we got to ourselves, Trinity quickly identified herself as “adventure.” I sank down in my seat. I knew what was coming.

“You’re obviously running,” she said.

“What? Me? Why?”

“Well, for one, you’re divorced. You have problems with your parents. You talk about being depressed in the States. And you drink too much.”

All of these things were very true. Still, I wanted to be there for adventure. I didn’t want to be a runner. I argued that I’d traveled to over twenty countries after leaving the USA, which was pretty adventurous. I was a big fan of Chinese cuisine and enjoyed throwing back some baiju with the locals. And I’d dated Chinese women, which meant that I could include ‘romance’ in my pull factors. As opposed to only having the push factor of ‘sexual frustration.’

Our conversation ended without a conclusion. But a few days later, Trinity had changed the way she looked at things. She told me that the idea of having two categories had been the wrong way of going about it.

“Part of me is running too, I guess,” she said. “It’s more of a ratio, you know? Everyone is looking for adventure and they’re also running from something. There’s just a different balance for all of us.”

“We can call it ‘The A:R Ratio,'” I proposed. “The degree to which someone is looking for adventure compared with the degree that they’re running away from their own personal demons.”

“I’m 70:30,” she said.

“What about me?”

She thought for a moment. “30:70?”

Fine. I thought that maybe there was a nobility in running. I mean, if you think about it, running is actually an act filled with hope. It’s not giving up. It’s continuing a search. It’s believing that life does indeed offer an escape that isn’t death.

Now as I prepare to move back to the USA, I wonder if I’ll have a new ratio. Or if I’ll have a ratio at all. I think that maybe this is the reason that people decide to spend years living in other countries. Because when they return home, they know that the running has stopped.

 

20 Years Ago, A Story of Freedom (For OJ and Me)

the juice is looseI sat on the bleachers during gym class, listening to the radio on my Walkman. A few other kids, maybe four or five, stood around me. I had my headphones on, and every twenty or thirty seconds I would tell everyone what I was hearing. I’d give them updates. The other students were playing basketball, I think, although I’m not sure because I wasn’t paying them any attention. It was impossible to.

The “Trial of the Century” was about to finally reach its conclusion.

Our gym teacher was a short blue-eyed man with a white beard and a whistle that hung around his neck at all times. He walked over to the little group assembled around me and asked what we were doing. His voice was more irritated than it was curious.

“I’m listening to the OJ trial,” I told him. “The jury’s about to give the verdict.”

He was quiet for a moment and then he nodded his head. “How long?” he asked.

“Any minute now.”

The gym teacher walked away and went into some backroom, some place where they presumably kept soccer balls and the school mascot costume and things like that. When he came back out, he was holding a small silver boom box. He placed it on the floor and called me over.

“Find the channel,” he instructed me. I knelt down and turned the knob until I located the AM news station that was broadcasting the verdict. Pretty soon more students wandered over and, upon realizing what was happening, stopped playing basketball (or whatever) and sat down by the radio. It only took another minute or so for the gym to go completely silent with the exception of the voices coming from the radio. Every single student had now gathered by that small silver boom box, their heads tilted slightly towards its speakers like a flower moves ever so slightly towards the sun.

I’ve been thinking back to that day a lot recently, for a couple of reasons. First, my 20 year high school reunion was this past weekend. I wasn’t able to go, but I must admit that I poured over the pictures posted on Facebook with great regard. I wanted to see what had become of everyone. The second reason, the other thing that’s transported me back in time, was the fantastic ESPN documentary “OJ: Made in America,” which I’d binge watched over the last few evenings. Seeing the footage from the courtroom was, in some ways, a lot like looking at the pictures on Facebook. I saw faces and my brain immediately dredged up names that I haven’t thought about in decades.

Oh, there’s Kim and that dude Jon that I used to get into lame fistfights with. And there’s that girl Becky that sat next to me in science class and never talked to me, ever.

And hey, there’s F. Lee Bailey and Judge Lance Ito! Shit, man, it’s like I’m reliving 1995 all over again!

Anyways, back to the verdict. I should mention that I went to an almost all white, middle class, suburban high school in western New York. Everyone wore Umbro shorts and all the boys looked like Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The girls typically went heavy on the hairspray so that their hair stood up like Kelly Kapowski. Mostly everyone was on the honor roll, had a short list of colleges they wanted to attend, worked at Wegmans, and dated someone who was also on the honor roll and had a list of SUNY schools and got their pay-checks signed by Mr. Wegman too.

Which is to say it was a decidedly anti-OJ crowd. These weren’t the people that cared about police corruption or if one of the detectives had used the N-word. Hell, I’d personally heard about half the kids in my graduating class use the N-word themselves. In all the discussions leading up to that day, it was obvious that the vast majority of my high school was pulling for a “guilty” verdict. Even though we lived only an hour or so from Buffalo – where OJ had played for years and was revered like a God – if the jury was composed of my classmates, they almost certainly would’ve found him guilty without even having to deliberate and then immediately sentenced him to be executed.

That wasn’t where my head was at, though. Not at all. I loved OJ, and really, legitimately believed that he was innocent. And at the same time, I hated most of the people I went to high school with. I don’t hate them anymore, as time heals all wounds made during puberty, but back then I surely hated them. If they were on the side of the prosecution, then I would proudly be siding with the defense. Really, to some degree, it didn’t even matter if OJ had actually murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. I wanted to be on OJ’s side because that’s where I felt I belonged. I didn’t own any Umbro shorts, hadn’t even thought about college, was jobless, and had less of a chance finding a girlfriend in that school than OJ would’ve had if he enrolled the following week.

Judge Ito had the bailiff pass an envelope to the jury foreperson. Her voice cracked a little as she read the name ‘Orenthal James Simpson.’ It was even and clear, though, when she said those two words that mattered most.

“Not Guilty.”

My entire class groaned. People stared off in disbelief. Some of the boys yelled until their faces were red. The gym teacher furrowed his brow and tugged at his beard. When the bell rang, I walked into the hallway and saw more faces contorted in rage. My classmates were visibly upset, practically unable to handle the idea that the Juice, despite all the evidence, had been turned loose.

I was delighted. I practically floated down the hallway. Never before had I felt so happy walking to class. It was October 3, 1995, and I would be graduating in June. Thinking ahead to that graduation ceremony, I couldn’t muster much excitement. No,this day, the day of OJ’s victory, would be the high point in my high school experience. That would be the day I would feel free too. Free from being weird and wrong and different. All the anger coming from my classmates couldn’t change what had just happened. The establishment had just lost. They had not been on the winning side.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call OJ Simpson an inspiration or anything like that. But I would say that, if for only one day and for better or for worse, it was an acquitted murderer who made me feel like the future did indeed exist.

 

From How Close Up Does Mr. Trump Start to Look Good?

donald-trump-chinaRight now, nearly 7,000 miles separate me and one Donald Trump. I’d really have to squint to see him, to make out the golden waves of hair-like substance that sit matted on his head like a pile of lint might sit on my kitchen floor after I’ve swept. From this distance, the Donald looks small. He seems strange and pathetic and the tiny little fingers on his baby hands look like cocktail wienies.

This is the view from my porch in Beijing, China. Mr. Trump as viewed by an American liberal living abroad. From over here, it’s hard to make out any positive attributes that Trumpy might have. By the time his tweets and his self-congratulatory boasts of being able to “call” really bad things before they happen, by the time those reach my small expat community in Beijing, they sound ridiculous. We laugh at Trump. We criticise him. But all of our condemnations are done from a safe distance. There’s an ocean between us, and viewed from a space that great, it’s difficult for the detached onlooker to see Mr. Trump as anything more than comical and frightening.

Question #1: Would Trump become more, er, attractive, if viewed from closer up.

This is what I wonder. Maybe being in China keeps me away from the sheer magnetism of the man. Perhaps if I was back in America (as I will be two weeks from now), I could get caught up. The Trump Wave would pick me up and pull me out to the Trump Sea like a riptide.

Is that what Trump has? Momentum? Is he like the Grand Canyon, where one has to be there in person to truly grasp the greatness of it? I try to imagine that. I try to picture myself at a rally, with his crowds of enthusiastic supporters all chanting his name. Then he walks out. I’m almost shaking, putting myself in this scene. Once he starts talking, I imagine how charmed I become. I nod along with everything he says as though I’m in a trance. Because that must be it. Up close, he must weave a magical spell.

Nah. I can’t imagine that’s true. Back in the safety of my Beijing apartment, I tell myself that Trump is more like war, where one can only grasp the true horror of it by being there oneself.

Question #2: Seeing that I’ve been okay with the oppressive Chinese government, why am I so frightened of Donald Trump?

It’s a good question. Here in China, things aren’t so hot. The Internet is terribly censored, human and animal rights violations happen constantly, the gap between the rich and the poor is even larger than it is in America, and the levels of government corruption are mind blowing. The RMB – China’s currency – is in a consistent state of flux, its value seemingly sinking down lower and lower every couple of months. They don’t elect their presidents in China and if you were to ask me to cite one good thing that appointed leader Xi Jinping has done – ever – I don’t think that I could do it. He has a nice peaceful countenance, I guess. That must count for something.

Still, I’ve been pretty happy here. Yeah, I’ve complained about a few things in China, but life here is sweet. It’s easy. And so I ask myself how Donald Trump could run a government worse than the current one in China, and I’m not really sure. I mean, this is the original country of walls and foreign exclusion. If I enjoy living here, what makes me think Trump’s America would be that much worse?

Sipping on my instant coffee, it’s a question that I don’t have an immediate answer to. I just know it would suck. That’s all. I think about the president of China again. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard him speak. His voice is a mystery to me.

So that can be my quick answer. If I’m going to live under an all-powerful dictator, at the very least, he could be quiet.

Crawling Back to the USA

The last time I was in America, things were different. It was before Sandy Hook and before horror struck the Boston Marathon; television audiences had not yet been introduced to Honey Boo Boo and moviegoers were still hotly debating the ending of Inception. Gay marriage hadn’t been legalised, no one had heard of George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin, LeBron James had no rings on his fingers, and “Like a G6” by Far East Movement was the top song on the charts.

It was the fall of 2010. I got on a plane and flew to South Korea, and I haven’t been back in the States since.

Which isn’t to say I totally lost interest. No, far from it. I would often read about my home country, sometimes discussing the current state of affairs with the other ex-pats in my little community of misplaced westerners. We’d talk about drones and the NSA and the Tea Party and of course recently all we talk about is Trump. It didn’t really matter where I was living – during my 3 years in Korea and then my 3 years in China – there was always one very apparent fact:

The USA, for better or for worse, was always the most interesting person in the room.

Sure, I found it intriguing when South Korea elected Park Geun-Hye as its first ever female president and then the older men in the country started having all kinds of mental breakdowns. And I found it noteworthy when Hong Kong protested against mainland China in what was called the “Umbrella Movement.” But none of those stories had nearly the same kind of visceral, emotional impact on me as, say, Ferguson did. Heck, if I’m being totally honest, in the last three years I’ve probably spent less time reading about Chinese president Xi Jinping than I have about Josh Duggar.

Because, you know, those are my people. Flawed and trying to figure things out. In the country I spent the first thirty years of my life thinking I’d never leave. And as I hopped around Asia and hung out in Europe, they had to deal with those last six years. While I watched Ferguson unfold on the screen of my laptop, they watched it happen in their backyards. It’s one thing to discuss Trump with a group of Brits over drinks in a pub in downtown Beijing; I can imagine it’s something else entirely to discuss Trump with a person who actually plans on voting for him.

In two weeks, I’m going to come back. Yeah, it’s about time. The six years that I spent overseas will likely be the greatest years of my life…but while I was living them, I was always pretty certain that they came with an expiration date. An end time when I’d nod my head in appreciation and go back home.

Not to my apartment in Seoul or my room in Chang Ping.

Nope. Home. To the States.

So this is what my blog – completely and totally ignored for the last four months – is going to turn into. The story of a guy who left America six years ago, and now returns. Feeling older, wiser, and a tad bit unsure of what the hell he’s getting himself into.

 

 

 

 

Romance & Coupons

1.pic_hdToday marks the one year anniversary of my current relationship. Yes, time has gone by fast as a Ramones record, and I have now been dating the same woman for 365 days. But, since today is a Sunday, we celebrated our anniversary yesterday and she’s back at her apartment now. I mean, really, who wants to celebrate anything on a Sunday? Personally, I can’t be truly happy unless the prospect of going to work is at least one full day away.

So, how does a couple in Beijing celebrate their one year anniversary? We decided to book a table at one of Beijing’s most well-known fancy restaurants – Temple Restaurant Beijing. When we arrived, I realized that the restaurant actually is in an old temple. One would think the name would give that away, but I didn’t connect the dots.

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See, it’s one of a great maze of temples and there are monk statues outside. One of the things I found weird was that our reservation came with a coupon. Yes, a coupon. Maybe this is a sign of my age, because a coupon just has such bad connotations for me. One uses a coupon to get thirty cents off a box of cereal, not to dine at an upscale restaurant. The coupon would go on to dictate our meal and, although I was apprehensive about it, that turned out just fine.

Now, I’ve noticed that there isn’t a lot of content on the Internet regarding Beijing’s restaurants (not very in-depth at least), so I thought I’d do a little run down of what we experienced at Temple. Here’s how our night went:

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The coupon got us both three course meals with wine pairings. First course was pumpkin soup for her and a caramelised onion for me. Both were nice and the wine pairings were excellent.

4.pic_hd9.pic5.pic_hdCourse Two. The restaurant surprised us with free salmon. Then I got the white tuna with a sweet fruity sauce and she got crab wrapped in carpaccio. All three dishes were excellent and better than the appetizers. The coupon was kicking ass!

6.pic_hd7.pic_hdMain Courses. She got the sea bass (good but not great) and I got the steak (fantastic). We had exhausted the coupon but were not ready to call it a night, and so we ordered chocolate melting cake for desert.

8.pic_hdI have to say, I was highly impressed with Temple Restaurant Beijing. We’ve gone to a lot of the nicer restaurants in Beijing and our experience here was one of the best. And, to be honest, also one of the most modestly priced, due to the ridiculously helpful coupon. The service was good, although the wait staff don’t all speak English (which was a little surprising) and my girlfriend (who is Chinese) had to do most of the ordering. We both left stuffed and slightly boozy, which is exactly how I want to feel leaving a place.

Tomorrow our relationship begins its second year. So hooray for us.

In Which Time, Like a Common Person, Gets Sidetracked by Wine and Sex (A New Year’s Eve Post)

Somewhere. People stand in a room where loud music plays and the lights are low. Drinks are poured. Dance moves are put on display. All talking is done in shouts and yells. Men and women look around longingly, trying to spot their person. The one, the special one, who might be willing to kiss them at midnight. The room is filled with hope and tension and the vague promises of the upcoming new year. Yes, there is sadness and desperation, but all of that is in the background, made insignificant by the excitement and the energy and the wonderful idea that there is an ending to be made, and all one has to do is write it.

New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite in-theory-but-not-in-practice holiday. I mean, in theory, New Year’s Eve is awesome. It’s about the passing of time – but not in a bad way, not like a birthday. A birthday is an unsexy passing of time, filled with the subtext that you’re getting older and closer to becoming senile. New Year’s Eve is seductive. It’s like foreplay. It puts time in a g-string. New Year’s Eve is the only holiday that’s supposed to end in drunken sex. Easter doesn’t end like that. There’s no one drunk or having sex at the end of Easter. At the end of Easter, you’re sober and saying goodbye to your grandparents. And New Year’s Eve is also awesome because it’s all about erasing the slate, too. Whatever dumb shit you did the previous year is okay, because now that year is over, and all your mistakes are forgotten, even if they just happened the night before.

But that’s all in theory. The hooking up and the resolutions. The sloppy sex and the forgiveness. In practice, I’ve usually ended up in some club, striking out with the ladies and getting wasted with my friends, and then feeling hopeless and like a loser the next day. In reality, New Year’s Eve is pretty much a tease. It’s like a plan you make when you’re drunk, like when you go ‘Hey, maybe if I call my ex right now, we can get back together.’ It all seems brilliant and filled with possibility at the time, but in the end you wind up alone, wondering what you did wrong and peeling the labels off your beer bottles.

This year, at age 37, I wanted to do something different. No bars. No electronic music. No…young people. That ‘somewhere’ at the beginning, that was my memory, and the last thing I wanted was to repeat that scene yet again, regret and rejection being my New Year’s traditions just like a birthday has cake and presents.

So my girlfriend and I concocted a plan that seemed both fun and age appropriate. We booked a night in a fancy-pants hotel in downtown Beijing, and decided we would spend our New Year’s Eve pretending to be rich people. Because really, in a vacuum, a person can be anything. Put into the context of one isolated night, the money I have in my bank account indeed makes me wealthy. It’s when one elongates the time frame, when that same amount of money becomes not for one night but for an entire lifetime, it’s only then that I become economically disadvantaged. In the vacuum of a single night, we could be rich and successful and in love and everything else, and so that was our New Year’s theory. It’s harder to be all of those things over the longer haul, next to impossible, and so to ease that looming truth, we stocked up on wine.

By five o’clock on New Year’s Eve, we had checked into our five-star hotel and were busy figuring out how to turn the lights on. The room was big and spacious and dimly lit. It had a hot tub and everything was elegantly painted in hues of dark browns and creamy off-whites. There was a large television and a huge desk with a phone on it. I wondered briefly if the room also came with a secretary. Outside we could see the Beijing cityscape, all the tall buildings wrapped in the romantic soft-focused haze of heavy smog.

Dinner. Fettuccine with sea bass and a bottle of Chardonnay. We left the restaurant happy and light headed. The time was 7:30 pm.

“Wow, it’s earlier than I thought,” I said. “We’re really going to need to drink a lot to stay awake.”

Back to the hotel room. A bottle of Riesling. My girlfriend put on some music, a strange mix of pop tunes that began with lots of club music and eventually transformed into a long Juliana Hatfield playlist. I sat on the bed and watched basketball highlights. We finished the bottle. Time – 9:15 pm.

“We’re never going to make it,” I said. We’d started too early. The rich don’t eat dinner at six and they certainly don’t get bored before ten. We decided a change of scenery would be good and we went down to the hotel bar. The place was dead, about nine people lingering around and having cocktails while a DJ spun dance music. Balloons were everywhere and we sat at the bar and drank Cuba Libres that were cut with so much lemon juice they tasted like Hooch (which in turn sparked memories of New Year’s Eves from the late ’90s).

Back into the elevator. We inserted our key and hit the button. Drunk and exhausted. Time – 11:00.

It was then that I started thinking about time, right then as the elevator went higher and higher. Because time, I decided, is a lot like the floors in a big hotel. The numbers keep going up and up and getting larger, and it feels like you’re really going someplace. Like there’s this progression happening. I thought that the next year isn’t much different from the next floor, a step along the way to the top. But really, if you get off on any floor, you’d find that they’re basically all the same. Floor 5 looks a lot like Floor 15 and they both get mirrored by Floor 25. And that’s what I decided time is like too. That all these floors, all these years, it isn’t really a progression as much as it’s going from one thing to another thing that’s almost identical. Sure I’d gone from clubs and house parties to a swanky hotel, but I was still the same guy, and New Year’s Eve still felt like a tease to me.

Where was my fucking optimism? Where was my hope? I looked at the beautiful girl standing next to me. I could marry this girl and start a new life with her. I could begin a family and name my kid after a cocktail. Harvey Wallbanger Panara or something. I could do any of that. The elevator got to our floor and the doors dinged open.

We got back into the room and my girlfriend started up the hot tub. I stumbled over to the big desk with the purpose of opening up the champagne. I listened to the water running and I went over to the bed and laid down. I was beat. The time was 11:30.

I was ready for the new year, and I didn’t really care to wait for it. The new year would get here. They always do.

I closed my eyes and fell asleep.