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“You couldn’t herd me into Times Square for New Year’s Eve at gunpoint,” Ray said.
He was surreptitiously checking himself out in the mirror behind the bar at the Vanderbilt. Ray and Clem were belly-up at the bar, nursing their first hangovers of the year with Ommegang Abbey Ale, blistered peppers and house-made jerky. Outside it was an unseasonably warm 55 degrees, but it was a winter wonderland of scarfs and knit hats in the nearly empty Brooklyn restaurant.
Ray had made a few mental notes from the Ommegang website just for a moment like this.
“Damn, 8.5%,” he said. “And you can really taste the licorice and fig notes. Anyway, no way on Times Square for New Year’s Eve. I hate mid-town enough as it is. Maps flying out of every pocket, gawkers clogging up the sidewalks…imagine being packed in with all those mouth-breathers? Getting pissed on, standing for fifteen hours? Hells no.”
Clem took a sip, hoping to taste the fig notes, and, failing that, dragged a pepper through the paprika and salt.
“Couldn’t agree more. What did you end up doing?”
“Well, it may have been even worse than that,” Ray said. He made sure to leave a nice big pause for Clem to jump in to.
“Do tell,” Clem said.
Ray was pleased to pique the curiosity of his band-mate.
“Y’know Dan and Jane, right? Well, Jane’s sister’s friend Dani just moved to town from Greenwich to study journalism at NYU. I didn’t have anything else planned, so I went with Dan and Jane to Dani’s apartment-warming party. Girl is, like, nineteen, and daddy is paying her rent on her one-bedroom on 44th and 9th.”
Clem was outraged at this little tidbit.
“Are you friggin’ shitting me?”
Ray was riding a wave of indignity.
“Yeah, and this place was mint. Pre-war building, hardwood floors, original fixtures, flat-screen. So not only am I mere blocks away from…” Ray scrunched up his nose like getting a whiff of a fart in an elevator “…Times Square, but I’m also surrounded by Dani’s journalism school friends, who are all rich, barely-legal assholes. Assholes blathering on about their bylines, and blathering about nothing, and actually WATCHing the goddamn ball dropping on TV! I was actually subjected to Ryan Seacrest, fachrissakes.”
“Jesus,” Clem said.
“Yeah, seriously,” Ray said. “I just stood in the corner all night, and kept going outside for smokes, over and over again. I got some good notes for a short story I’m working on, but c’mon, seriously? That shit gets old after a while.”
“You should have stayed home,” Clem said.
Ray thought about that for a second, before taking a pull of his ale.
“Yeah, but I didn’t want to come off like an asshole, you know?”
He grabbed a slab of jerky, tore into it like a shark devouring chum, and returned to his reflection in the mirror as the sun descended over Brooklyn for the first time in the new year.