Been there, done that |

Been there, done that

Butch Mazzuca

I no longer attend New Year’s Eve parties because of a little bit too much dissolution during my youth.

Nowadays, I go out for a quiet (albeit overpriced) dinner or stay home and kick back. Besides, all too often New Year’s Eve is like Ted Mack’s 1950s TV show, it’s “The Amateur Hour.”

So why is it that many erstwhile adults who are teetotalers throughout the year suddenly become party animals on New Year’s Eve? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you about what I observed at the last New Year’s party I attended.

I was invited to a neighbor’s New Year’s party about three weeks ago.

I thanked my neighbor but declined her invitation because I knew I would be teaching skiing today and I have learned that after the age of 40, it’s an either-or proposition regarding partying at night or skiing the next day. Besides, I was pretty certain that it was going to be a repeat of the party she had last year.

Last year my neighbor Maxine called about 10:15 to wish me a happy new year. I reciprocated and was about to hang up the phone when she asked if I could come over (she lives two doors away) and help her with a problem she was having with her icemaker. I obliged.

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After entering her home and exchanging seasonal pleasantries with several guests, I couldn’t help but notice that quite a few of them were trying just a little bit too hard to have fun.

But then having fun at any cost is what New Year’s is all about, right?

After assisting Maxine with her ice bin, I decided to stay awhile and ensconced myself in a corner with a 7-Up and some chips and dip and watched the evening unfold.

The first thing I noticed was that some otherwise quiet neighbors had now become “witty and charming.” This is the rather harmless stage during a party when smiles, laughter and goodwill fill conversations. But this state of euphoria is usually short-lived and with the addition of another drink, the same people transformed themselves into what I call the “rich and powerful” stage of inebriation.

The ordinary folks who work in the offices and shops up and down the valley become a bit full of themselves and far too often let everyone at the party know about it. This type of behavior can be entertaining, unless of course you’re the wife of the individual who is holding court.

After another 30 minutes or so, a few guests were transitioning into, well how should I say it, let’s call it the insufferable stage. But I thought to myself, hell, it’s New Year’s Eve. Besides, these people were being counter-balanced by the newly ordained “benevolent.” That’s a mid-level stage of intoxication when people become so kind and sweet that it makes one start looking for insulin. I’ve always wondered why people never seem to have their checkbooks handy when they’re in this phase.

As the evening drew on, downright drunkenness had become apparent as a few in the crowd became curiously “clairvoyant.” The closet mystics and spiritualists began popping up out of the woodwork and I was hoping that just one of these seers would have been able to divine some information about the stock market or the NFL playoffs. But no such luck.

Maxine had prepared an impressive buffet for her guests, but one middle-aged man looked over the impeccably set table and shouted, “Who needs food, it’s New Years!” and proceeded to engage anyone within earshot in a conversation about Iraq and Afghanistan.

He had just hyper-linked into a quasi-dangerous stage of drunkenness and had become the “quintessential patriot!” He lectured anyone who would listen about the grit and individualism of real American heroes, like Douglas McArthur, George Patton and John Wayne. He lectured about how we should never allowed the Russians to build the Berlin Wall. He was really on a roll and as I recall, after another hefty scotch and water, I swear I thought he was going to call the Smithsonian Institute and ask them to crank up the Enola Gay.

I had been at Maxine’s house for about 45 minutes and would have bet the ranch that few if any of these people would admit to being the slightest bit inebriated. It was about that time that I realized my SO might be wondering what was taking me so long and I decided to head home, but not before pulling Maxine aside and advising her that it might be a prudent move if she asked some of her guests for their car keys now that a few of them were working the room as if they were “invisible” (the seventh stage of drunkenness).

We’ve all seen the “invisibles.” Their spouses or friends are trying to get him or her out the door while they wrestle them for their car keys or pull the husband away from that 24-year-old knockout in the strapless dress. Oh what fun New Year’s Eve is!

I’ll probably get the low-down about what happened at the party when I speak with Maxine sometime this week.

But regardless of what your New Year’s Eve party looked like and whether you were just “witty and charming” or took debauchery to the level of “bulletproof” last night, I would like to wish all the residents and guests of valley a happy and prosperous new year.

Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at