Festively drunk at a house in the woods
New Year’s Eve, 2006
Classic rock is my first and truest musical love, and it’s where most of the overlap in my husband’s and my otherwise wildly disparate musical tastes lives, even if most of our favorites aren’t entirely aligned. One of the earliest memories I have of our relationship is getting acquainted with one of his favorite bands, The Doors, since most of what I knew about them prior was limited to errant snatches of lyrics and still being mystified as to why so many girls were suddenly smitten with Jim Morrison for a hot, inexplicable minute as eighth-graders in the late 1990s.
We had been dating for a whopping five weeks when our first New Year’s Eve rolled around; having known each other for nearly four years at that point helped us fast-forward through all the awkward getting-to-know-you motions so we could jump right in and start enjoying the novelty of our firsts together. I was fresh out of college and he was getting nearly a year of varsity-level drinking in, in the aftermath of a pretty ruinous break-up — which is to say that our early-20s selves were still at the near-peak partying condition that escalates raucous NYE parties into balls-to-the-wall celebrations of inebriated endurance.
His closest friends at the time were those people who excel at throwing those parties that spill out of an artist’s canvas of a house and should only exist as an amphetamine slideshow held together by ragged descriptions in Brett Easton Ellis novels whose breathless narratives stumble through college ragers and ageing yuppies’ frantic bids at eternal youth, right on down to the stuff-of-legends Halloween fete/fiasco I had just missed, which ended with costumed partygoers running into the darkness of the witching-hour Pine Barrens and risking a run-in with the storied Jersey Devil to avoid cops who were called to break up a rapidly uncontrollable, ear-ripping girl-fight.
And so the man I’d become engaged to within the year, his best friend and I drove up to a clearing in the woods, guided by a winding dirt path that unceremoniously deposited us in a makeshift, off-road parking area where the makings of an already-taller-than-me bonfire and a house that was less of a domicile and more like another medium of expression for its perennially paint-flecked owner rose up from the dense edges of winter woods to welcome us.
What ensued was a blur of drinking games, singalongs where not a one of us could keep the same time, trays and trays of half-dollar-sized stoner-snack pancakes, navigating optical-illusion stairs with every increasingly confusing trip to the bathroom, one very cuddly hound dog, a green haze that could have stupefied a herd of bison, and alternately staring into, and roasting marshmallows over, the blazing inferno of a year-end bonfire.
But moments of lucidity snuck in and stuck around, and one of those crystal-clear memories involve a sort of snaking conga line of drunk people picking up strays and making our way from the living room to the kitchen accompanied by the jangly instrumentals of Alabama Song cutting through the indoor fog, peals of laughter, and clinking glassware of shots, heavy pours, and bottle necks. It was a song everyone knew, and it felt significant even in an utterly carefree moment that a band I was getting to know in a whole new way was blaring through the din to nurture a shared moment among an affable assortment of happy drunks.
In the years since, The Doors and this song have had plenty of moments to shine as accidental soundtracks to all kinds of shenanigans and everydays (including an album of instrumental covers we played as guests filed into our pre-ceremony wedding venue almost three years later), but this song will always embody that first NYE when everything was novel and extra-special because it was all happening for the first time with the guy I knew I was going to marry.
(A modified version of this story first appeared on 12,700 Songs.)
Stereo Story #573