New Years Eve, 1967: Prelude to the Last Time the World Ended
We’ve survived some pretty bad New Years. Dedicated to Al Hurley, who had predicted the coming of the last Armageddon and hosted the party.
I hate strobes. Even the way the light from the winter sun flashes in my eyes between the trees along the highway in winter drives me nuts. I always feel the flashing will throw me into a grand mal seizure (never mind this has never happened, even under clinical provocation). I just hate strobe lights.
Strobes are just 0ne more reason I have a pretty cold spot in my heart for what most of us think of as “the 60s” — basically 1967–1971 — when the world came to an end, pretty much everybody died (from Dr. Martin Luther King to Jimi Hendrix and lots of other significant people) for no good reason — if there ever is a good reason to die.
Nevertheless, when I think about New Years Eve, the one that came about at the end of 1967, just prior to the End of the World (1968, in case you weren’t watching the news that year) seems definitive and most memorable. And for a moment I even have to admit a certain appreciation for: a) strobe lights; b) affordable recreational drugs; c) booze; d) really cute little RNs; and e) d.
We’d all been enjoying our various drugs of choice along with America’s particular drug of choice, and the host had just come up to me and said Cute Little RN, as the stereo was blasting The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints”, which was really getting on my last nerve, and, a drink in each hand, said to us in a strange tone I can only describe as magisterial, “That song is called Incense and Peppermints. It’s by The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Do you know the words?” By this sign I discerned our guest was way more fucked up than usual, so simply nodded gravely in the affirmative. My little RN (still very cute) started laughing. Fried Host looked at her in puzzlement, shook his head, then moved on toward his mysterious destination.
At about half-past the monkey’s ass (time had no meaning after about 9:00 pm that night) a guy who’d been an audio-visual aide freak in high school, a guy with a really hot girlfriend named Dorothy (an enduring mystery, that bit of cognitive dissonance), brought a grey metal box out of a black cloth bag he’d left sitting next to the end of a sofa all evening, and announced in a loud voice, over Iron Butterfly’s…well, you know what song it was, that “If you aren’t fucked up already, you will be now” and pushed a button on the Doomsday Machine. The lights in the room were already down, so the sudden onset of brilliant, flashing strobedom was extremely unsettling to many, and there were heard cries of “Oh goddddddd” and “Waoooooow” and “Jesus Christ!” Little RN just looked at me (appearing now to be an actress in a silent movie) and said “It’s a strobe light!” I probably said “No shit,” and if I did she either didn’t hear me or didn’t find it offensive. I grabbed the front of the sofa cushions upon which I was seated, to keep from falling off the sofa. I don’t care what the doctors say, I got a brain lesion or something. I can’t handle flashing lights.
Little RN seemed strangely aroused by the sensory bashing, and draped herself, all 5' -0" of her, upon me. Normally I’d have been silently rejoicing at this turn of events, but instead I stiffened up — and I don’t mean that in a good way.
“What’s the matter?” she yelled in my ear.
“It’s this goddam light!” I said, not able to hear myself speak.
“Close your eyes, silly!” she chirped. I obeyed, and immediately felt better. I also felt her hands beginning to explore my upper body. This must be why they call it “fucked up” I thought, trying very hard to enjoy the moment without much luck.
I reciprocated as best I could. It must have been good enough.
In a bit my nurselet informed me she was going for another drink and did I want one too? Oh yes, I did. I opened my eyes and watched her walk away into the jerking, twitching dark/light/dark/light and just disappear.
I sat there a long time, cursing the strobe and trying to respond to attempts by friends to talk to me as though nothing strange was happening. Fried Host drifted past, his engineer’s brain aflame with useless information, and told me he thought the relative humidity in the room was pretty near perfect despite the unusual amount of body heat. This was because the patio door was open and it was very cold and dry outside (despite the snow on the ground). I nodded in agreement. It was perfect, I was sure of it. Our host (his name was Al) knew these things. In his sleep, even. Al drifted away, looking strangely like Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” due to the stroboscopic effect. That annoyed me even more, as I have never been able to bring myself to love Charlie Chaplin (except for that one speech in The Great Dictator. That made up for all the other stuff). I’m such a cold, evil bastard. But Jesus!
I don’t know how long Cutie was missing, but I began to realize it was taking a long time to collect those drinks, and had begun to fantasize some emasculating visions when suddenly she appeared out of the flashing, sat down next to me, her coral colored mini-minus dress somehow turning into a psychedelic T-shirt, so that she was all blonde bangs and legs. I was adjusting to the horror of the strobe, and actually began to leer at her in my more healthy, normal way. She handed me my drink. I took it and said “That took a long time!” She immediately filled me in:
“I know! I kept getting lost or something. I guess it was the lights. Then I walked into a wall.”
I chuckled about the wall thing, but she continued anyway:
“I walked into this wall and tried to turn in another direction but I kept running into the wall. So I tried to feel my way along the wall but I couldn’t seem to get away from it. So I pushed myself away, but I kept going right back to it.”
Fried I thought to myself, and smiled to myself. An evil smile.
“Then I realized,” she continued, “it wasn’t a wall! It was the floor! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!”
Jesus Christ! She fell on the floor and didn’t even know it! thought one’s reporter, who said out loud, instead, “Oh my god! Are you OK?” and began once again to remember why I hated strobe lights.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Ha ha ha! I was flat on my face on the floor!”
Suddenly the strobe stopped. There was a collective combination howl and sigh, and someone somewhere screamed “I can’t see!!” Someone switched on a lamp or two, and the blind had his sight restored. “Oh! That’s better,” said he who once was blind but now, well, you know.
I stared forward, sucking on my drink. It was strong and difficult to identify. There were several highly volatile things in that glass, that much I could tell. My brain took the jet fuel or whatever it was, gratefully, and began to work in three dimensions again. I looked at my nursely girlfriend. “You sure you’re OK?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just kinda tired” and with that she laid down, her head on my lap, her lower body kind of twisted into a left lateral recumbent position I found unbearably cute and sexy, her pale coral colored little tiny nothing of a dress almost totally disappearing, just all blonde hair, terribly cute butt and legs trailing part way along the rest of the sofa. I began to stroke her hair and she made a soft moaning sound.
Al, our host, at that moment came by yet again, this time as “Nights in White Satin” was playing and I was finding my real inner me again, and said “Why are you such a lucky bastard? It can’t be your looks and it’s obviously not money. What the hell makes this happen?”
I shook my head slowly and said “It’s a curse Al. It’s a goddam curse.”
Then I think the lights went out altogether, except where I was. There was some sort of unearthly golden glow right there, on that sofa and Shorty gently pushed me down and moved up onto me.
I wonder what ever happened to her. For that matter, I wonder whatever happened to me.
Oh yeah. Nineteen sixty-eight happened.