From the Road with Alfie: New Year's Eve in Austin

I lined up the perfect double date for New Years, but this was before my brother decided to fall in love. Instead of getting sauced in downtown Austin he wanted to spend the evening with his new girlfriend's parents. Luckily I am such a charming fellow that our dates didn't mind going out with just me, or maybe they just didn't have time to come up with an alternate plan.

"You're like a man, only cuter," Penny said when she picked me up.

Suddenly I was having doubts about my top hat (that costume store hussy told me it looked fetching). Penny drove back to her parents' house so she could finish getting ready and so I could share a half hour on the couch with her father. Instead of attempting conversation, we shared a bowl of Gold Fish crackers and shots of Jack Daniels.

Penny's equally blonde friend Kristin picked us up (or rather her parents picked us up) in their minivan. There was a time when I would've considered this un-cool. But what could be more suave than having parents chauffeur you around town so you can do some serious drinking with their daughter?

Kristin's father dropped us off at his favorite bar. We promptly hiked down 4th Street in search of a rowdier setting. Whereas 6th Street is famed for dance clubs, wild bars, and music venues, 4th hosts the swankier side of the city's nightlife: horse drawn carriages, speakeasies with hidden entrances, and restaurant menus filled with foreign words and specialized martinis.

We ended up at P.F. Chang's. Having worked at the restaurant years ago, I was a bit apprehensive about running into old acquaintances and having to explain just what I've been doing. Right off I narrowly avoided an ex-girlfriend's ex-best friend and soon found a friendlier face at the bar. Josh had graduated from the ranks of waiter to manager. Another guy I used to work with was now an operating partner. I tried not to be rattled by the fact that these guys were making enough money to buy houses while I lived in a garage. Life's a series of tradeoffs, I assured myself. They were here working at well-paying jobs while I was out on New Year's Eve with two lovely ladies.

Having successful friends wasn't all bad. I discovered that it's infinitely cool to know someone who'll give your dates free drinks. Of course my cool was a bit compromised when I tried to introduce Penny and Josh only to discover they already knew each other. Apparently he had slipped her his phone number years ago when she came in to eat with her mom.

As we ventured toward 6th, I encouraged Kristin to call up a bouncer who I had pushed her to meet a few nights before. He was the perfect match for her. He was also the perfect guy to get us into Blind Pig Pub without paying the $50 cover.

"Making out is fun," Penny said to encourage Kristin to call the guy. "Except when you catch mono."

Suddenly Blind Pig Pub was not looking very promising. We searched for another bar. Every place had at least a $20 cover. It was incredible how much people would pay just to be somewhere when the ball dropped from the glorious construction crane that holds it over the street every year.

We ended up at Maggie Mae's, which was inundated with sequins, sport coats, and silly hats. As fate had it, one of my old friends (also a P.F. Chang's alumni) was bartending. My dates danced together among throngs of women booty dancing in nice black dresses. A lone wolf in an oversized shirt and a braided rattail was working hard at chasing women off the floor. Penny and I retreated to the roof moments before midnight, abandoning Kristin near a single guy by the stairs. But she was instantly intercepted by the guy's friend. Kristin didn't seem to mind - the guy wasn't half-bad looking (he kind of looked like me). 

"Just imagine," Penny said as the countdown neared zero, "how many people will be contracting cold viruses and mono at the same instant."

I cut her short with a long, sloppy kiss. You have to expect this kind of pillow talk when you date a biologist.

"I have a plan," Kristin's new friend said when the night's excitement finally started to subside. "I have a hotel room."

Somehow, it mustn't have struck Kristin as a particularly good plan because she decided to go home with us in her parent's minivan.

As we waited for our ride in near freezing temperature, we watched strings of girls in tiny black dresses jogging past, desperately clutching each other to keep from falling or being picked off by stray dudes. An inordinate number of partied-out people were huddled in closed entrances or crouched on curbs while their companions desperately tried to flag down cabs. One guy, whose date was sprawled on the sidewalk, even tried to wave down an ambulance.

“Life's a series of tradeoffs,” I thought, as I watched our minivan approach. Sure my New Year’s escapades were limited to a few contagious kisses and some frisky dancing, but to me this was preferable to waiting for a cab in the cold with a girl too drunk to keep from peeing on the curb or staying in a posh downtown hotel with a bunch of equally unlucky male friends.

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