(Check out Part 1, which focuses on love while Part 2 is more about, well, meatballs.)
By the time she had left me for good – 1999 – I had moved out of my hovel in Beacon Hill (though people paid a lot of money for said hovels) and to Brookline. I still had 4 roommates, though different ones. This time, the folks were much more normal and none were actually Emerson students: two brothers – Mike and John Fader – as well as Mike’s girlfriend Stephanie. And their friend Ralph. And Ralph’s cat. I got along really well with everyone except the cat.
To be clear, my roommate turnover wasn’t because I had zero close friends at Emerson or was a terrible roommate (other than sleeping with one). I did have a couple friends but for various reasons never lived with any of them. And of course the aforementioned disastrous relationship kept me busy for most of the time anyways.
I did have a very good core group of friends that I developed earlier while at Bowling Green State University. And one in particular, Jared, I became close with only after graduation. Jared had attended a rival school a half hour away – the University of Toledo*. We had mutual friends but didn’t hang out too much while in school. But after graduation, as it was harder to pin me down as I bounced around to other cities, Jared was one of the friends who visited me the most. With Boston being the most notable and early example.
(*As an aside, Toledo’s mascot – the “Rocket” – literally carried a whiffle ball bat to football games. At one particularly heated game at Bowling Green, the Rocket attacked and beat my poor, helpless mascot – Freddie Falcon – while his co-mascot Frieda looked on in what I imagine was horror. Though her expression externally never actually changed (it was the outfit), she eventually threw herself on top of Freddy in an attempt to stop the attack.)
So it was that Jared came to visit as 1999 came to a close, as real and potential pandemonium was predicted to occur on New Year’s Eve.
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, Jared and I along with a few roommates spent most the day playing video games and watching football. The Playstation was particularly utlized – and especially a certain WWF (this was pre-WWE name change) game. Then like today, the thrill of hitting your friend over the head with a virtual chair brought a warm feeling. And the ability to customize your wrestlers – my 400 pound wrestler was named “Cow Patty” – made it even better. I was more of a Sega Hockey player, and arguably one of the best ever at that game and nearly unstoppable with the Detroit Red Wings and Jeremy Roenick. So this was a nice break into something different, and it allowed me to be on equal footing with all comers and not call on my Fred Savage, “The Wizard” level of video game prowess.
At some point we flipped on CNN – which was the biggest news channel at the time – who were dutifully covering the worldwide New Years Eve celebrations as they rolled from Syndey to London and progressively across the globe. And of course the newscaster waited anxiously, and dare I say hopefully, with cameras planted everywhere, for something truly terrible to happen related to Y2K.
As we watched, there was a sudden “Breaking News” graphic that flashed followed by a breathless report on a suspected terrorist plot that had been thwarted. The camera showed two Algerians being escorted into police cars, and I noticed something familiar about the buildings and the neighborhood. Jared walked to the windows and put his head out one and said something along the lines of “what the hell” and sure enough – they were being arrested down the street. Only then did I notice the flashing lights from the street that reflected onto our wall. I was living directly across from a large Jewish temple in Brookline – the Kehillath Israel – and hadn’t thought twice about it until that day.
Unperturbed, we seamlessly went back to playing our video games, and eventually Jared and I took off for our New Years Eve bar where we were going to spend the evening: The Last Drop located in the Back Bay. There wasn’t a whole lot to the bar itself, and it had the inglorious nickname of “The Last Stop” due to the fact that it was regarded as the place you went at the end of the night after hitting up the other, cooler bars (with classier ladies) in the area. But I loved the place.
They were offering all you could drink and eat for like seventy-five U.S. dollars. And this was the late 90s, so seventy-five dollars would be like a thousand dollars today!
He and I actually dressed up a bit – khakis, buttoned up shirt and sweaters – which was normal for Jared but was essentially at the tux level for me. After a cab dropped us off we posed for a picture out front before we entered The Last Drop. We had this great concept to take a picture every hour that night of ourselves as a sort of time-lapsed chronicle of the evening. The first one captured was straightforward, as we were dead sober, smiling, buttoned up and feeling great.
We walked in and began to drink, eat, and have the expected wonderful time. The bar wasn’t overly crowded which was a great sign to me but also could have been an indication that we had chosen the lower end of the entertainment options that evening. But considering I was paying my own way through graduate school, there weren’t many other choices. It was also the reason we were one of the first people there: we wanted to get value for every penny of that seventy five dollar entry fee. Jared and I were quite convinced that the establishment would be taking a big financial loss on our entry fee that night.
The food was the normal, bar food sitting over heating lamp variety – potato skins, chicken fingers but also some frankly extraordinary meatballs. It was if they were somehow lost while being transported from a 5 star restaurant and ended up at The Last Stop instead. Think of a delicious meteorite landing on a bland Earth from some foreign (probably French) corner of a more edible cosmos.
One minus of the bar was that it had one bathroom with a single toilet for both men and women. That wasn’t an issue at first when the bar was mostly empty but once the night got going, the drinks got flowing and we “broke the seal” it definitely became problematic. So it was that Jared and I found ourselves in line a few hours in, and having to pee quite badly but doing our best to be patient while we waited for folks to rotate in and out of the bathroom.
At some point as we waited, a cute, yet sloppy drunk girl in a tight dress started walking to the front and butted ahead of everyone. Her looks allowed her to get away with a fairly onerous party foul since everyone behind us in line was primarily dudes. She reached Jared and I – we were at that point the next two to go – and asked to go ahead of us. Being gentlemen we of course told her to go fuck herself, and to wait in line like everyone else. A wave of obscenities began to pour from her mouth, and they continued as I went to the bathroom, did my business and then opened the door to let Jared take the next turn. The chick shot me a glare as I walked by her and again dropped some nasty words from admittedly lovely lips in my general direction. I just smiled and waited for Jared.
Jared exited a few minutes later, held the door for the girl, cavalierly waved her in, smiled and walked over to me. He then pulled me quickly to a spot at the bar as far away as possible from the bathroom and began to laugh hysterically.
“What did you do?” I asked Jared both wanting and not wanting to know the answer.
“I pissed on the seat,” he replied.
“Ha! Nice!” I said. That girl probably deserved it. Sadly it didn’t end there.
“And then I pissed on the sink. On the wall. On the floor. Basically there isn’t a single dry spot left in that bathroom!” And then he ordered us both a beer and laughed.
Nervously glancing over my shoulder I eventually noticed the girl who suffered from Jared’s bladder’s tirade walk by us at the bar, give us both the finger, and without a word walk out the door with the rest of her friends.
We found someone to take another picture of ourselves to celebrate our urinal victory. The picture showed two smiling guys, but both of whose shirts were hanging out. I also had meatball stains on my sweater.
We drank more and as the evening wore on I tried to keep to myself and my friend for the most part. That wasn’t easy when hanging out with Jared, who was far more extroverted than me and engaged anyone who would or wouldn’t listen to him in conversation. He thrived on being the center of attention, and would have made a great stage actor if he hadn’t been miscast as an auditor. Still, he tended to be funny, obnoxious and prone to do about anything. Perfect company for a New Years Eve binge.
On yet another trip to the single stall restroom, I literally bumped into a girl wearing a white dress. Luckily I didn’t get any meatball stains on her. Her white dress really stood out. And not in a good way. It wasn’t a smart cocktail-type, white dress. It was more of a “princess at the ball” dress which made her look silly considering where we were. And I told her so.
“You have prom tonight?” I asked, in a not quite inebriated but quickly getting there manner.
“I’m an assistant to the mayor of Boston – Mr. Menino. I just came from a banquet attended by some of the biggest politicians from town. I’m meeting a friend here. Who the fuck do you think you are?”
“Just some asshole,” I said honesty. “Got anyone to kiss when the ball drops?”
“Yes, and it ain’t you buddy, that’s for sure. Piss off.”
Boston girls were pretty awesome.
We didn’t make a ton of friends that night, though we certainly had a number of folks we didn’t piss off (or on) as the night got later and everyone got more and more drunk. But we also didn’t make any additional mortal enemies. And it became pretty obvious to both of us that there would be no female companionship to kick off the millennium. But with Jared sleeping on the couch and the amount of fun we were consuming, it really didn’t matter.
New Years Eve counted down live on a small, mostly green colored television in the corner.
Dick Clark stared into my eyes like a soulless vampire. He was telling me to do something for him. I just wasn’t quite sure what. I assumed there would be a subliminal code word involved that would activate his plan.
Some girls poured champagne into a party hat like a funnel, which at the end contained my mouth.
We took another picture to celebrate. This one showed Jared and I both drenched in sweat and alcohol, my glasses were on crooked and both our shirts were out and unbuttoned showing t-shirt underneath. I had lost my sweater completely at that point.
Later, we decided to catch a cab back to my place and I took an entire container of meatballs off the table nearest the exit with me. It probably weighed twenty pounds and my hands actually got burned a bit as I held the tin catering receptacle. I was beyond fear at that point and didn’t try to hide them (not that I could have) or run. I simply walked outside, strode calmly past the bouncer and the line of folks waiting to get in and straight into the cab.
The perfect crime. And a victimless one at that.
A confession: for some reason when I was younger I had a habit of stealing food at the end of heavy, holiday-related drinking nights. At another New Years party a few years prior, at complete stranger’s house, I actually placed an entire honey baked ham under my arm and ran out the door yelling “Out of my way! Ham!” I’m not sure if it was the theft or the fact I had also fallen into the (covered) pool earlier in the night that caused me to never be invited back. I’d like to think the culinary thefts were because I didn’t have a lot of money in those days. But on reflection I was being less “Robin Hood” and more “really drunk guy who had uninhibited decision making.” I’m happy to report though that it was just a phase, and after a certain point I stopped stealing food and instead just went through a late night Taco Bell or White Castle drive-thru.
Anyways, Jared, I and the still heavenly pan of meatballs all returned to my place in Brookline. Mike, his girlfriend and Ralph were all back as well – and everyone was in similar, late night New Years Eve shape. In fact, as we walked in the door Mike was banging on his bedroom door and yelling through it to Stephanie, who had somehow locked herself in the room.
Acting purely on survival instincts, since, she could probably only survive in there for a week, tops – I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. I then proceeded to chip away at the wood around the door latch. This, surprisingly, did nothing but eventually remove a few hundred dollars from our security deposit. Luckily, Jared had a similarly well devised plan and ran full board from the adjacent bathroom and slammed his shoulder into the door in an attempt to unhinge it.
The door was unimpressed. And Jared crumpled to the ground writhing in pain.
The incident did have a happy ending, as Stephanie eventually simply found the lock that was miraculously attached to her side of the door and unlocked it, thereby setting her free.
When all was said and done, the terrifying Y2K bug ended up not really resulting in mass blackouts, electronic failures or really anything at all. It certainly didn’t effect the Playstation, which we fired back up and played till the sun came up.
Jared’s shoulder ended being only badly bruised. And truth be told the only really horrific injury that occurred on New Years 1999 occurred to Jared’s custom wrestler, who was beaten senseless by Cow Patty with a virtual chair to the head at least a hundred times that early morning.