Newphoria, the self-proclaimed “biggest New Year’s Eve party” in the Valley. The narrow hall between admission and the dance floor was lined with tables covered in swag—glowsticks, light rings, sunglasses with glow-in-the-dark frames.
“Don’t walk past here without grabbing something that glows,” the barker said, his own pair of glow-in-the-dark sunglasses perched on top of his flat-billed hat, skinny jeans tucked into his oversized sneakers. I blew past him with a scowl and he moved on to his target demographic—barely-legal Millenials with shirts that said “YOLO” in big, red letters.
In the vacuous expanse of the UCCU Center, the crowd looked small. And perhaps, it simply was just small. 10:30 at night and only a few hundred people—kids, really—packed themselves tightly around the DJ. They all looked entirely thrilled to be ringing in the new year having just finished their first semester of college. They wore the smug and knowing look that tonight, when the party went past midnight, they wouldn’t have to call mommy and daddy to let them know they’d be coming home late.
Girls dressed in leggings and sequins checked their phones and their hair, while boys dressed up to look like Bruno Mars did their best to grab those girls’ attention. They jumped and bobbed to whatever phat-beat the DJ would lay down, all of them on the prowl, dripping with the stink of frustrated lust.
A row of tables took up the back wall of the dance floor. The first, closest to the entrance, sold water and Rockstars—the power cocktail of the ready-to-party crowd that had still come up short of the legal drinking age. Next to them, bored employees manned recruitment booths. They had been sent dotingly by their bosses at Convergys and Alterra, hoping to capitalize on that rare party-hopper that seeks a good time and gainful, low-level employment.
This was the threshold of hell. European tradition holds that no kiss at midnight means the year ahead will be full of loneliness. In South America, the superstitious will say that the color of one’s unmentionables will determine what the new year will bring—yellow for prosperity, red for love, and all the other colors for everything else. For myself, I keep to the firmly-held belief that however someone spends New Year’s Eve will continue throughout the year to come.
Sick with regret of the choices I’d made, I knew I had to leave. I couldn’t be saddled with a year surrounded by the vapid excuse of youth, who used words I didn’t understand to encourage behavior I could no longer condone. I was, truthfully, too old for this. Even as I enjoy the downslope of my 20’s, I had no place in this scene. It was never really mine, but—surrounded by the young and the damned—I knew that whatever window I had once had at exploring this flavor of debauchery had shut.
Following a shaky transition from one of Usher’s club anthems, as House of Pain’s “Jump Around” came on I looked around me—the youngest of adults all obediently jumping around to a song released before any of them had been born—I recognized that perhaps all that is new and euphoric doesn’t have a place in my life.
Our greatest fears lie in anticipation, and with a year of uncertainty, I needed to start with a firmer foundation. Superstition or not, I couldn’t chance spending 2014 defined by meaninglessness and ignorance. It’s a younger man’s game—younger than me—to take the risk of a year spent in futility. Maybe it’ll get better, one might think. But I’ve long since learned that there are more worthwhile pursuits than the girl with a bedazzled G-string.
I exited fast, knowing full well I’d have to get my tweed jacket dry cleaned if I had any hope of removing the stink of all the sweat and saliva. I pushed my way past a chubby couple locking lips and hockeying tonsils on the dance floor. 45 minutes away, a dozen of my closest friends were in Salt Lake having a small party with finger food and conversation. I floored it and made it there in 30, just under the wire to spend the last fleeting moments of 2013 with the people I love.
And this is how the year begins, not with a bang, but with something better.