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Saturday, January 01, 2005

 

It's the most blunder-ful time of the year

My first memory of the year 2005:

It's 12:01 and fireworks are going off over Pioneer Courthouse Square. On Morrison, a chain link fence and three PPD officers are blocking access, presumably because the square is filled to capacity. A man in a wheelchair, maybe a war vet, is screaming and shaking his fist. He's wearing a black beret, his legs are covered in a red quilt and he's mighty angry that he'll be spending these first of 2005 next to Meier and Frank's. The cops are ignoring him and barely take notice when someone nearby pulls out a firecracker. It explodes. They don't even flinch.

The plan had been to see The Life Aquatic and then duck over to Washington Street. I figured the movie would end around 11:30, allowing ample time to make an appearance at a party and do the whole New Years thing. Instead, the credits started rolling around 11:55, putting me on this street corner instead.

The guy had no shortage of insults tucked up his sleeves and unloaded them on the police. I stood and watched for a few minutes before heading off. People in dresses and suits were mingling outside the door of the party and I was dressed in jeans. So much for that idea.

Now in a lousy mood, I headed off to Voodoo Doughnut to drown my sorrows in deep fried pastries (hey, all the bars were packed). As they are every year, the streets of downtown Portland were overflowing with revelers and teens laying on their horns while shouting at everything moving. Instead of joining in, I decided, like the cops, to ignore the whole thing.

Two blocks later, a drunk guy appeared out of nowhere and shouted "HAPPY NEW YEARS!" at the back of my head. Perturbed that I only responded with a slight nod instead of equally booze-soaked good cheer, he followed me. He attempted a second shot. "Hey, HAPPY NEW YEARS! What the fuck?!! HAPPY NEW YEARS!" The conversation that followed:




ME: "Oh, sorry. Is it New Years?"
HIM: "Naw, it's St. Patrick's Day. All these people screaming are just screwin' with you."
ME: "Hey, I'm from Australia. I'm stuck here on a 12 hour layover, trying to get back home. I came down here on the light rail to kill time."
HIM: "No shit?"
ME: "Yeah, this is pretty weird. Over there, we celebrate New Years on February 1st. You Yanks do it on January 1st? Incredible!"
HIM: "Woah, really?"
ME: "Yeah. See these shoes I'm wearing? They're made out of geunine kangaroo leather."
HIM: "Oh, those are tight. Hey, you wanna sell me them? I'll give you 200 dollars."
ME: "I would but then I'd have to head back to the airport barefoot."
HIM: "I'll give you my shoes AND the 200 bucks. You a size 11?"


OK, that didn't happen, mostly because I knew I wouldn't be able to pull off a convincing Paul Hogan impersonation. Plus, even the drunk wouldn't fall for the shoe scam. My Converse high tops are definitely not made out of kangaroos. Instead, his second "HAPPY NEW YEARS" was deflected by a crowd coming up the sidewalk.

I made it inside the doughnut shop without further incident. "Elvis" was singing Perry Como songs with an old karaoke machine. He dedicated one to two women in line. I bought a glazed with Captain Crunchberries on the top. I headed back to the car along 2nd Avenue, avoiding the crowd screaming their lungs a few blocks away.

Around 3 AM, this message from a colleague popped up on my cell phone:

"Got drunk. Took a spill. Fuck 2005!"

I agree but, at least locally, this year is getting off to a better start than 2004.

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