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Tiny Bubbles

I consider New Years Eve to be the holiday of “forced fun”. The pressure to have a good time on the 31st of December is unlike any other day of the year. The idea of staying home alone or simply having another couple over for dinner sounds great, but it just doesn’t seem like enough. I mean it’s the night we celebrate the ending of a year while ushering in a new one, so we are supposed to have a night of debauchery, aren’t we?

My parents wedding anniversary was on December 31 so I grew up in a household that had double celebrations on the last day of the year. For me, New Years Eve consisted of eating pizza and French Fries with my brothers while my parents got all dolled up as we waited for the babysitter. As soon as she’d arrive, they were out the door and we were allowed to eat junk food, drink as much Coke as we wanted, and sit on the living room floor and watch TV. When it got close to midnight, we’d gather our new streamer embellished noise makers (which included paper horns, plastic rattles and this weird metal thing with a handle that twisted around and around and made a sound resembling a flooded engine on helium) and go onto the front porch dressed only in our P.J.’s and serenade the neighborhood as we welcomed in a new year in sub-freezing temperatures.

The bar was set pretty high and it wasn’t until December 31, 2001 that it was matched…

My friends, Roger, Paul, Bill and another Paul had decided to get out of town and usher in 2002 in Palm Springs. 2001 was quite a year; Anthony and I had discovered community theatre and had leads in La Cage Aux Folles, we had just finished remodeling one of our salons, went on a vacation of a lifetime in Africa and like the rest of the country, we mourned about September 11. So by the time the end of the year came we had much to reflect on and a lot to look forward to.

Bill, Paul, Anthony and I stayed in one of Palm Spring’s mid century modern hotels-turned gay guesthouse and Roger and Paul stayed in another one (only theirs was much nicer) right next door.

The holiday was shaping up to be one of my favorites of all time. We laughed, ate great food and partied like it was 1999. On New Years Eve we decided it would be fun to go to a restaurant called “Shame on the Moon”. After an “accidental button push” to On-Star (which in my defense was new at the time and I wanted to see what the button did), we arrived in full New Years Eve mode (tipsy).

After dinner, my friend Paul announced that he was going to scope out the restaurant, which usually means he was checking it out to see if there was a party we could crash. When he came back he told us about a “fun” couple he met that was sitting alone and we should “go meet them”. “Go meet them” in my group of friends doesn’t literally mean to “go and meet them”, it’s actually code for “there are some people that look like they’d be fun but for some reason they’re not, so let’s see if we can liven them up a bit”. In other words, we were obnoxious.

Paul was right, when we entered the room where they were seated, we saw two men in their 40’s with very colorful clothing, big hair and big glasses, and a decorated table with battery powered blinking Christmas lights, the only thing missing was FUN.

As we approached them, Paul announced to them that we were their entertainment for the evening and they looked like they believed us too. We introduced ourselves and began doing the whole “gay geography” thing; “Where are you from?” “Oh, you must know so and so”, “Didn’t we meet once in Provincetown”, and so on. We chatted for about ten minutes about surface stuff before the conversation took it’s usual turn to stage two of meeting people. The “what do you do for a living and how long have you been together” portion.

Things were going well until we got to the third stage of meeting new people-The “the comfort/discomfort level; As I mentioned earlier, this couple had on very colorful outfits that in my opinion, only people with total confidence could get away with wearing. One of them was wearing a velvet jacket patterned with giant scissors in an “Esher-like” design and the other one was so bad that I’ve blocked it out of my memory.  Even their shoes were decorated with over the top sparkles. It was quite confusing, and like driving by an accident scene, I couldn’t help but stare. “Um, where did you get your outfits?” I blurted out. Not that I wanted to shop there, I just felt I had to say something about them. “Oh, do you like them?” one of them asked, somehow mistaking my question with a compliment. I tried to reply, but all that would come out were three words, “There just very…” I couldn’t think of anything to finish my sentence. No matter what I said, I knew my face was going say something different and they’d see right through my desperate attempt at being polite. It felt like an eternity as they waited for me to continue, when my friend Paul stepped in to try and save the day. But he didn’t. In fact, he made it worse by telling them, in his drunken voice, “they look like the interior of my Volare’”.

Then there was nothing. We were all in such shock that we couldn’t even gasp. Finally one of the now insulted two-some broke the silence by saying “I’m sorry, did you just say that I look like the interior of an old Plymouth?”

Not knowing what to say, we just announced that it was time to go, that it was very nice meeting them and we hoped they had a Happy New Year.

On they way out, I couldn’t help but peek in on a party that was happening in one of the dining rooms. “Look, they have balloons”, I said to Paul (not the one that had the Volare’, but the other one), followed by “let’s take some”. And before you knew it, their party was void of color and the two of us were running out to the car with enough helium filled balloons to fly around the world.

This New Years was shaping up to be one for the record books, first we had a great meal, then we insulted people and now we stole a roomful of decorations, I never felt so alive!

With four-dozen balloons in tow, we made our way to the getaway car where we were faced with our next dilemma. How were we going to get the six of us, plus 48 balloons in the car? I told everyone to get in first and then I tried my best at squishing the balloons in around them. “There”, I said as I managed to squeeze in the first dozen, with just a few minor casualties. “But where are you going to sit”, asked Anthony. It was then that I realized either it was the balloons or me, unless I could convince Roger to make two trips and I could tell by the look on his face that that wasn’t going to happen. So, without hesitation, I let them go. They actually looked liberated as they danced their way to the heavens; it was almost like they appreciated being rescued from that party.  We all watched for a few minutes as they made their way first past the roof lines, then over the tree tops until eventually they were just little dots in the night sky. “Bye-bye my friends”.

With the memories from the evening’s events behind us, we decided it would be fun to have a little nightcap in the hot tub at Roger and Paul’s hotel. Bill and Paul were tired and decided to call it an evening, so Anthony and I changed into our swimsuits and snuck into their motel grounds to meet them in the Jacuzzi.

It was about to be the perfect ending to a perfect evening, until what happened next…

We were making our way down a long, outdoor corridor to the hot tub that Roger and Paul had already gotten into. They looked very comfortable and relaxed and I couldn’t wait to join them. Everyone else must have still been at the clubs partying because the grounds were empty and it seemed we were the only four people around. We were almost to them, when all of a sudden and without any warning; one of the motel room doors swung open in my face and stopped me dead in my tracks. And what came out of that room still haunts me to this day.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing (as a matter of fact, I still can’t); I watched in horror as twelve naked Asian midgets slowly emerged one by one and marched single file directly to that hot tub.

“What are we going to do?”, I asked as I began to shake. “I can’t go in there now”. “We have to Jeff, it would be very rude if we didn’t”, Anthony preached. “But, I can’t”, you know my phobia, now multiply it by twelve and add a thousand because they’re naked”. By now they were all in the hot tub looking at us as if to say “come on in, we don’t bite”. Anthony is much better than me when it comes to situations like this; he just jumps right in and faces his torturous reality. “Come on Jeff, it feels great”, he said as he climbed in the boiling water.

A small part of me wanted to just do it; it was New Years after all- a perfect time to face my fears and just get over it. But that didn’t happen, instead I walked over to Paul, leaned down into his ear and whispered, “I’m so not getting in that water”, then I turned and ran away as fast as I could to the safety of my own bed.

“Facing my fears” was just going to have to wait until 2003.

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