What a Blast

Normally, I'm a pretty boring motherfucker when it comes to New Year's celebrations. Having an extreme aversion to the sort of massive crowds that congregate at Tempe's Fiesta Bowl Block Party and Scottsdale's stepsister copycat event, I usually like to park myself in front of CNN and watch the hourly explosions of fireworks and celebrations around the world (Dubai is always a good one; they spend a lot on pyrotechnics). Shit, January 1 didn't even used to be New Year's Day; back when humanity used the Julian calendar, it was celebrated on March 25 (Annunciation Day, when it was supposedly revealed to Mary that she would give birth to the son of God).

You'd think that even a cynic like me would have gone all out for the Y2K transition. But after watching the millennial celebrations across the globe on CNN, when it was finally the countdown for our time zone, all my roommate Chris and I could manage was a celebratory shot of Maker's Mark bourbon before we walked out to the driveway of our Tempe house and watched the Block Party fireworks from a distance.

My friend who lives across the road from me, a street fighter we'll call Rick James at his request, because of the nature of his story, had an entirely different Y2K experience. He was locked up in Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, serving a one-year sentence for credit fraud. Rick had been in prison before, for longer stretches, but on those previous imprisoned New Years', it had been a celebratory occasion. At Mountain View State Prison in Annandale, New Jersey, it was actually a good day: "It was a moment when everyone stopped being dicks, and was like giving people hugs." Not so at Bayside when Y2K was about to hit.

"Prison sucks already, let alone not knowing if the world's gonna end, computers are gonna fuck up, I thought maybe the gates could fuckin' open, who knows? Everybody was kind of like, 'Wow, this is 2000, we could end our lives in fuckin' prison.' The prison locked people down, they were extra secure, put extra officers on, just the day before and the day after. Everything turned out smooth as fuck, no problems at all. They weren't sure what would happen, computers fuck up, people get released, anything. Everybody's locked in your cells, so we made some noise and acted a little crazy."

In a similar vein, locally based and internationally renowned DJ Emile, an Iranian immigrant born in Kuwait, found himself trying to return to the U.S. from a show in Toronto on New Year's Day in 2001. Unfortunately, when American customs officers swabbed his record crates and equipment to check for explosive residue, the results were off the charts. "I figured out that the gunpowder residue came from the pyrotechnic explosions on the fuckin' stage. It was on my body, my records, everything," he remembers. His Iranian ethnicity wasn't helping matters, either, and by the time he'd secured release papers (with the help of the Kuwaiti embassy), he was permanently red-flagged, and not allowed to travel to more than three major American cities in one weekend. As for now? "Oh, yeah, I'm still red-flagged."

My friend Kaper, widely respected as the Godfather of graffiti in the Valley, had a problem with the authorities himself back on New Year's Eve, 1987. Partying with a bunch of friends at South Mountain Park, they were raided mere moments after 1988 had been rung in. Kaper hid in a paloverde bush, being underage at the time, and still clutching a 40-ouncer of Old English 800. "They totally caught me like some illegal alien sneaking across the border, and I still was hanging onto my beer." He and other underagers were hauled to the park's guardhouse, where they ran everyone's names. Kaper's rung a bell with the cops' database, fingering him as the leader of the infamous party crew Bomb Squad Posse. "When they found out who I was, they made a huge fiasco out of it; they thought they had something on me but they didn't. They made it out like they caught Sammy the Bull or something." They had nothing on him except for the underage consumption and open container charges, though, and at 8:30 on New Year's Day, he was let out -- less one shoe than he'd had when he came in. Luckily, he had two shirts on, so he wrapped one of them around his naked foot, and walked from Madison Street Jail in downtown Phoenix to 67th Avenue and Glendale.

Not everyone I know has shitty or boring New Year's stories to tell. My friend Barry Goldwater III has been kicking it cool-style for the last 15 years down in Nassau, Bahamas, for the annual Jonkonnu, a festival similar to Rio's Carnival. "The party starts about 3 or 4 in the morning, and goes to 10 or 11. You sit there and listen to all the tribal music. It's a two-mile circle, with competing bands of roughly about a minimum of 250 in a band up to 1,600 drummers and musicians, costumes, floats, stuff like that."

Now, I can't afford to go to Nassau for New Year's, and you probably can't, either. Actually, I'll probably repeat my own long-standing CNN-watching tradition, and hope to maybe get a New Year's kiss from this girl I'm fond of. But, as you'll find in this guide, there's plenty to do outside of celebrating in prison, being detained at an international border, or getting arrested and losing a shoe. Blow it up this year, and have a fucking great 2005.

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Brendan Joel Kelley