Amateur night

Hey, we've been there. We've felt the tremendous social pressure to have a great time on a night when things often go horribly awry. Rushing out half-cocked, dealing with friends who've drank too deeply, being stranded somewhere tedious while the world is partying: New Year's Eve can be one rough night! We asked you to share your stories — and you shared some craptacular ones. And what better way to start anew than with a dose of catharsis?

Alissa Lincoln, Oak Park

A friend of mine vomited in the side pockets of my car. Scooping New Year's Eve vomit out of side pockets is a horrible way to ring in the new year.

Vagner Whitehead, Ferndale

This was in Southern Illinois, probably in 2004. My sister, my best friend, and I went to a local gay bar and got totally drunk. Not only did my sister hook up with two guys (my friend and I: zero score), but on the way back home I got pulled over because of a busted tail light. We were one block from my house, and the cop made me do the walk and say numbers, balance on one foot, etc. I only passed because I forewarned him about my dyslexia and bad back (both true).

Karysa Naeve, Warren

We got all dressed up for this $80-a-ticket New Year's Eve party in some schmaltzy hotel (which turned out to be less schmaltzy than a high-school prom), only to be chased around by a probable sex-offender (who suspiciously resembled Clark Kent) for hours, relentlessly attempting to buy us drinks. We were actually scared to leave the party for fear of being followed by this guy.

Elizabeth Hennessey, Hamtramck

We went to a terrible party in Clawson at the house of people I had never met before. They left their own party to go to another party … because theirs was awful. I promptly broke down crying uncontrollably (it was the year of 9/11). When I finally calmed down, and the new year had been rung in, we drove back home to Woodbridge only to be run into on Warren and Trumbull by an obviously drunk driver, who then told us we would be OK if we were just quiet. Police across the street did nothing to stop her, or us for that matter. Drove around the corner to home and realized we had no damage, but she had destroyed the hood of her car and probably wouldn't remember a thing. Interesting times. …

Tracie Mcmillan, New York, N.Y.

My New Year's Eve debacle started in West Bloomfield, where I went to the emergency room because I thought I needed antibiotics, and then they just gave me penicillin or something equally useless against mono. Feeling crappier, I drove back to New York with a guy I only barely knew other than he, too, was from Michigan and needed to travel back here for the holiday. So I couldn't even share driving. I drove back overnight, arriving New Year's Eve morning, to avoid a storm. Along the way, I started to feel sicker. The storm hit New York just as we got in, and, when I woke up New Year's Eve morning, there were two feet of snow on the ground. My tonsils were so swollen they were touching, so I walked two miles to the nearest emergency room where a resident took one look at my throat, and gave me a prescription for antibiotics. Unfortunately, the antibiotics were giant pills that had to be taken with food, but since the tonsils were swollen, I couldn't eat enough food and spent my New Year's Eve vomiting past swollen tonsils while my roommates partied in the apartment. When I finally got to my real doctor, on Jan. 2, she called me a poor baby and gave me a diagnosis of mono. Good times.

Lance Rosol, Dearborn Heights

I spent Dec. 31, 1990, at Nine Inch Nails at the Latin Quarter. There was way too much "ingestion of certain substances." So, right before the first encore starts, I feel like something hit the back of my head. All of a sudden, after the sharp pain, there were all these streaming, shimmering colors in front of me. I thought I was having a brain hemorrhage. Turns out it was just some future rocket scientist who threw a wad of confetti toward the stage, and my head just happened to get in the way!

Mary Fortuna, Royal Oak

I went on this epic, tragic, idiot winter road trip from Montreal to Windsor to Toronto to Trois Rivieres, Quebec, in 1976 with my friends Sharon and Claude from Montreal. The day before New Year's Eve, we arrived in Windsor, celebrating with a lavish Chinese dinner there. Some deranged thug watching us came over to join the party. He invited us to continue partying at his place, a little house a couple of miles out of town. Against our better judgment, we headed on over there and continued excessive drinking. He decided he wanted one of the girls for himself. Neither of us was willing to mess around with him. Long story short, he pulled out a gun and held it on us until he nodded off at the table and we gathered our wits and stopped pissing our pants long enough to grab our stuff and get the hell out of there. We made our way back to Windsor, then took the train to Toronto, our drunken folly continuing the duration of the train trip. We arrived in Toronto, met up with a guy who, weirdly enough, makes several subsequent appearances in my life in later years and in widely scattered locations; these appearances always end badly. Anyway, much blind drunkenness ensued; the new year was rung in with a sordid scene of debauchery — not the fun kind, the embarrassing kind — in a shitty hotel room in Toronto; an ill-conceived drug deal went horribly awry; a fatal outcome was narrowly averted. I woke up in the shitty hotel room feeling like the back end of a dying dog, dissipated and hung out to dry, trying not to think about the previous day and night. This was not looking like the start of a promising year. We stumbled to the airport, missed our first flight because we were trying to drink off the Worst Hangover in the History of Humankind in the airport bar; finally we made our flight to Montreal and took an $80 taxi to Trois Rivieres, where we holed up at a friend's place for as long as we were allowed to stay and dry out. The less said about all that the better. Let's just say those days are long, long behind me and I no longer drink anything more than an occasional Ghetto Blaster.

Jeff Sudakin, Los Angeles, Calif.

Not a Detroit story, but: My first New Year's Eve in Los Angeles, age 20, two months after moving. I had spent the entire time at my new job in a recording studio (no sunshine, no free time, nothing but work, sleep, work, sleep). Didn't know anyone in town yet, and spent New Year's Eve alone in my bachelor apartment … with the TV broken. I think I read a book quietly.

Lindsey Wojcik, New York, N.Y.

I've always liked to plan things out in advance. So when I went to Chicago last New Year's Eve on a whim, I was really apprehensive about not knowing what we would do for the big night. My fears were justified when it came time to get ready to go out. We had a spotty Internet connection so we couldn't research awesome bars. We decided to walk the streets until we found a bar. We were reassured by the person we were staying with that there were great bars all over his neighborhood, but upon leaving the apartment we discovered that wasn't the case.

We walked around Chicago for nearly two hours looking for a bar. It was about 30 degrees. I was wearing a short dress and brand-new high heels and I could feel the blisters forming on my feet. I was really annoyed because it was almost midnight and we were still wandering the streets.

We finally ended up at a gay bar in Boystown. It was fun. The bar played great music and had a drag show. However, my friend — who I later discovered was mad at me — abandoned me right before midnight. I stood alone in front of a man dressed in sequins as the new year was rung in. I had never felt so lonely.

Jen Lumpkin, Rochester

One New Year's Eve, I was a "Kiss Sandwich" — it's true and tragic! I thought a guy was coming up to give me a New Year's Eve kiss and the clock was counting down. This gorgeous 6-foot-tall man was walking my way. I thought it was my moment, until I felt something touch my back. When I looked up I saw that an equally gorgeous 6-foot-tall girl was receiving my kiss. I am only 4-foot-10. So right above my head, lingered two tall pretty people kissing with me in the middle. Kiss sandwiched!

Jimmy Doom, Pleasant Ridge

I was 15 years old at a friend's parents' basement party with a 21-year-old older brother "chaperone," mixing Don Q 151 and Champagne, because that's what the discerning 15-year-old does. I spotted the host making out with the object of my jet-fueled post-pubescent desire. I decided that the obvious tonic to my heartbreak was to double my consumption rate and shotgun some Goebels, in a vain attempt to prove that I actually possessed testicles.

Someone spilled Champagne on the pink sweater of the girl who left me in agony for the lips of the host-suitor. The sweater was thrown in the washing machine. My 151 ran out. I shotgunned another Goebels, to the delight of everyone, then dashed backstage (the laundry room) to puke violently into the machine that had just finished cleansing a half-dollar-sized Champagne stain from a pink cable-knit sweater. The ass-beating was not as severe as it could have been.

The host and I went on to attend college together. He came out of the closet freshman year, to which my only negative reaction was: "Goddammit! Then why did you make out with ________ and force me to puke in your washing machine?"

W. Kim Heron, Detroit

I was back in Detroit after most of eight years away, and here it was the holiday season. As a low-on-the-totem-pole rookie, I pulled the New Year's Eve shift. I hadn't renewed scads of old contacts, but S. called me at work and wondered what I was doing when I got off, and suggested a party in northwest Detroit. No, she didn't recall the name of the host. But whoever had told her had assured her it'd be a lot of fun, fabulous even. And I even got off early and got there by 11. Knocked on the door and was ushered in. A friend of S., I explained. My greeter seemed no more sure of who she was than of the distance to Mars. But, sure, come in, he said, and promptly disappeared into the mostly dark house. Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" probably wasn't playing, but it's the soundtrack that I've filled in to the memories: something discofied. There was chatting in the living room and a wall-to-wall dancing in the basement rec room. Folks heading up to and coming down the stairs from upstairs — presumably the bedrooms. And I quickly realized I had something in common with everyone there: They were pretty much all guys, like me. But guys who probably hadn't been invited by S. Now, in this long-ago age of disconnect one didn't reach into a pocket for a cell phone and shout over the din: "Where are you? Why the hell am I here?" No, one grabbed a beer, leaned against the fridge in the kitchen and made small talk. Know S.? No, eh? And bobbed one's head to the music, and pulled one's sleeve back over one's wristwatch every … oh, 45 seconds or so. And just before midnight I was headed back to my apartment near Palmer Park, soon seated in front of the TV watching The Greatest Show on Earth, Cecile B. DeMille's lowdown on the big top. Charlton Heston and Cornel Wilde competing for the affections of Betty Hutton, Jimmy Stewart hiding dark secrets under a clown's makeup, a detective on his trail, roustabouts, horses, elephants, chimps, etc. Some time the next day when S. called — did I call her? did she call me? — she apologized. She'd been at another party and had forgotten about the one she'd sent me to. But the party she was really at? Now that one was fabulous.

Keith Kalinowski, Ann Arbor

It was a New Year's Eve party given by somebody I didn't know very well, so I wasn't as much in my comfort zone as I usually am. That might explain why I tried to ease the awkwardness by gravitating toward the food-and-drink table right off the bat, which, in my foggy memory, consisted of nothing more than tortilla chips, refried beans, and sparkling wine. I hadn't eaten anything all day, so my stomach was crying out for relief.  After plying my pie-hole with fizzy drinks and creamy legumes, the bubbly concoction began to ferment. 

I remember going into the bathroom and being relieved that the bathtub and toilet were right next to each other, just in case I had to multitask.

To this day, I cannot drink sparkling wine. The very thought of its bubbly effervescence brewing in my stomach is enough to get me dry-heaving.

Michael Jackman, Detroit

One New Year's Eve, probably around 1980 or 1981, my parents went out to dinner with a close group of family and friends they used to hang out with at the "boat club." At almost a dozen couples, they made up a large party at the old Chambertin restaurant in Dearborn, where they had a lovely New Year's Eve dinner. Then, after the meal, at about 8 o'clock, they all drove back to our house. My mom had set out all this food and snacks, and everybody arrived and sat in the living room, ready for a night of celebration. But it became obvious my dad had been drinking — even my mom had no idea how much. He could be pretty unpredictable when he was really drinking. Shortly after he had joined everybody in the living room, after they were settled in and having fun, Dad told everybody to "get the hell out." At first, everybody thought he was kidding. They started laughing. But he stood up and started hollering at them to go. They were pretty upset, but not more than my mom, watching her guests put on their coats and leave the house. Years later, laughing a bit, my mom said, "We were lucky to have such good friends because they all forgave us."

Lindsay Allen, East Lansing

Freshman year of college, my parents decided that it would be a good idea to spend Christmas break in Florida, in the retirement community that we had inherited from my grandpa. The greatest part was that we had to drive back from Florida on New Year's Eve! So, I spent my New Year's Eve getting gas at some hick station in West Virginia, while my boyfriend was off celebrating New Year's Eve in El Salvador. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

D.S. Handy, Mount Clemens

Frightful New Year's Eves have been commonplace with me. The absolute worst one, however, was when 1976 turned into 1977. A friend, whom I'll call "Sam," got me to take a pinhead size crystal of what he claimed was synthesized THC that his chemist friend, whom I'll call "Gerald," had made. Gerald didn't even smoke pot, which should have made a giant red stop light flash in my brain, but some wisdom is acquired, and I was still young. The crystal, so pure that it was clear, was PCP.

Hallucination-wise, LSD is to PCP what beer is to moonshine liquor. I went home where, to my horror, I found that my mother expected me to eat the dinner she'd saved. I saved the green beans for last, as they looked to me like writhing lizards. All the while I tried my best to behave nonchalantly, as mask-like faces laughingly jeered at me from the walls. It was a good thing that I ate, however, as it helped to bring me down. I then went to a house I had just moved out of, just off Jefferson, to recuperate with friends.

In 1977 I read in one of the local dailies that, in 1976, there had been more murders on Manistique, the street I lived on, than any other street in America. At the midnight hour, when every cop car in Detroit scurries for cover, it seemed as though the local residents were trying to get an early start on topping 1976's total. As I lay on the couch, frozen in terror, I could swear that I could hear bullets whizzing-past, on their return to earth. "Calib," the friend who had replaced me as a roommate, had hung blankets on the walls because the house was so drafty. He should have hung them from the ceilings instead.

Melissa Draughn, Detroit

I came home at about 3 in the morning from a Metalocalypse with my friend. When I went to say good night to my parents, they told me look in my room and come speak them. Earlier that night, they found my stash of vodka and emptied it down the drain. They left the empty bottles in the middle of my bedroom floor. This led to an hour-long argument in which they yelled at me for not only drinking but also not closing my underwear drawer correctly, which was what led them to find the alcohol in the first place. I was 22 years old at the time.

LaToya Atterberry, Detroit

Last year as we brought in 2009, I brought it in alone. To start, I was unemployed, had just gotten fired a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, and my unemployment hadn't kicked in yet. Determined to not be totally down for the holidays, I went to a local retailer and purchased tickets to a New Year's Eve party at the Fisher Building.

The plan was for me and all of my friends to meet up there and ring in the new year together. Long story short, another friend of mine showed up from out of town and my best friend decided to go to a party with her instead, and my other friend decided to go to a party with her cousin, leaving me (with no boyfriend either) to attend the party alone. Still determined, I dressed up and went to the Fisher Building. I never felt more alone; I didn't know anyone there and it was super crowded. About time the clock struck 12, I was almost in tears and left immediately afterward. After that, I drove around downtown Detroit looking to see if any other party was going on and didn't see anything. I went home, and, if I remember, probably cried myself to sleep!

Elizabeth Parker, Walled Lake

New Year's Eve 2005, I sat at home with my parents and finished off an entire half-gallon of Ben and Jerry's ice cream by myself.  For entertainment, I went outside in my pajamas near midnight to get that day's mail.

Ric Stiles, Royal Oak

It was a last-minute invitation. I grabbed my guitar, threw on my party pants and headed to my friend's. We packed up their car and I followed them out to the party. On the way, it struck me as odd that Brenda, now 8-plus months pregnant, would be joining us for the big millennium New Year's Eve bash. She had said she felt fine and wouldn't have missed it for the world. It wasn't until we walked into the party and started setting up the gear to jam that I noticed how nice everyone looked. Everyone was very excited and, after a few cocktails, no one seemed to notice how underdressed I was. The party was at the home of my buddy's drummer, who I'd only met a time or two. We limped our way through some tunes and were rocking out an ad-lib version of "Million Dollars" when I noticed Brenda sitting right next to the speakers. We finished the song and as I followed Brenda struggling upstairs for the big moment, I asked if the music was loud enough for her. She just smiled and said, "What?"

The clock ticked down with the falling of the ball and all was right with the world. The power didn't go out, the bombs didn't fall and the world didn't end as predicted. We took this as a good sign, and the festivities continued long into the night. When it came time to go, I decided to leave my car there and ride home with my friends and crash at their place.

I hardly remember getting in or passing out, but the next morning was as bright and cheerful as the music still rang in my ears. I got myself as together as I could with the supplies available in the guest bathroom and headed upstairs. It seemed unusually quiet, even for a hungover morning, so I looked around a bit. Tim and Brenda's bedroom was in a sort of loft, with no door. I hadn't found anyone else stirring, so I finished making coffee and peeked into their room to offer them some. I'm not sure how long it took for my mind to accept what I saw, but it was long enough for me to remember the horror. Nothing! Nada. No one was there. I checked the bathroom, the deck and finally I looked up the driveway only to find their car gone! WTF!? They must have gotten up early to go to breakfast and left me behind.

Needless to say, I was a little hurt. Had they really forgotten about me? I knew they weren't embarrassed to take me with them. After all, these are the same people who have seen me streak at a garden party. I waited around all morning and finally left a rather disdainful note that I was going to steal their unregistered Saab to drive back to the party and get my wheels. A few minutes of hot-wiring and another cup of coffee later, I was on the road.

Despite the car's lack of a third gear, I made it to the house and knocked on the door. Their surprise at my unannounced arrival in the same clothes as the night before could have been measured in the dark. I gave a brief recap of my morning only to receive giggles. My scorn quickly turned to embarrassment when they told me the big news: The baby had come in the middle of the night and in the rush to get to the hospital, I was simply overlooked!

To this day, there is no funnier story to tell at one of little Timmy's birthday parties than the night he was brought into this world as a millennium baby who wanted nothing more than to get out of that one-room sauna and party with the rest of us. And as far as I know, the Saab is still sitting there, waiting for the next traumatic resolution.

Not very scary, I know. But it's a good story and 100 percent true.

Shuler Harmon, Livonia

My worst one turned out to be my best. I was living in Rural Mountainous Middle of Nowhere, Kentucky. Nothing to do. Wife and I got bored and went to bed. Suddenly, it was the best New Year's Eve I've ever had.

Compiled by Michael Jackman. Thanks to everybody who contributed, and Happy New Year! Send comments to [email protected]
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