Hecho en Mexico

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they shop. This evening, I was rushing through Costco, trying to get all the requisite items before they closed. For some reason, this is hard for me in Costco. Stick me in a Wal-mart or Target, and by the time I leave, I usually have a headache. But let me wander aimlessly through aisles of merchandise basking on pallets under warehouse light, and I feel completely at ease, and I seriously consider buying things that I wouldn't normally.

Take tonight as an example. Even though I was in a serious hurry, I stopped for several minutes in front of the Mexican Coke. You know, the stuff made from cane sugar instead of that miscarriage of culinary science that is high fructose corn syrup. And, if that wasn't enough, it comes in GLASS BOTTLES. And not just glass bottles, but glass bottles with REAL CAPS, not the twist off kind.

Immediately, I have foggy memories of drinking an soda out of a similar bottle at a barber shop as a child. I remember my dad taking me to get my hair cut on a summer Saturday and marveling over what was probably one of the last bottled soda machines in existence. Totally mechanical. Two quarters in, turn the knob, and out rolls an ice cold bottle of hyperactivity. And to be completely honest, I don't if that's a real memory or several different ones spliced together with perhaps a little bit of the American collective unconscious. Regardless, the pallet of Mexican coke is really a mountain of bottled nostalgia.

And that explains why I'm drinking a Coke at midnight.


The Anti-Holiday

I'm pretty ambivalent about New Year's. For a holiday with so much promise, it ends up being awfully anti-climatic. You gather people together, you play games, you eat unhealthy food, and then at midnight you watch a ball drop while Carson Daly freezes to death and inebriated couples kiss awkwardly on national television. If you're lucky, you might have someone to smooch with, or be drunk enough not to care, but if you're a single Mormon, it's more likely that you'll have your annual glass of sparkling cider, mumble some words of Auld Lang Syne, and then switch back to the Wii to finish a song on Guitar Hero.

Basically, New Year's Eve is like much any other party evening, except you make a bunch of noise at midnight and drink carbonated apple juice even though you'd really prefer a less pretentious soft drink. In general, I think it's safe to say that the best New Year's Eve you've ever celebrated wasn't that much better than the worst New Year's Eve you've ever celebrated.

I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's because of how we celebrate New Years as children ... anxiously waiting until the age when we're old enough to stay up with the adults until 12:01, only to become teenagers with bedtimes routinely later than that so that the idea of a party that climaxes at midnight seems ludicrous. Or maybe it's because we put so much pressure on the New Years kiss, hoping to not be single on the 31st and that you make it count.

New Year's ball, or harbinger of party awkwardness?

For me, though, I think my disenchantment with New Years has a lot to do with resolutions. Instead of celebrating and being excited that we have a whole new year to look forward to, we muck it up with a list of things that we want to change or need to be better at. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but it means that you have to look back at the past year and honestly evaluate your life. And seriously, how does that level of personal introspection get anyone into a party mood?? I know I can't think of anything that makes me happier than ticking off a list of all the personal faults I'd like to correct in the next year ... which are often faults that rolled over from the previous year.

When we were kids, our New Year's tradition (along with the Martinelli's and almond slivered cheese ball) was to write down resolutions for the next year on a piece of paper and then share them with the family. Those were simpler times, and I think my list primarily consisted of things like "get over 200 lines on Tetris", "stop hitting my sister so much", and the obligatory goals related to adequate school performance. And then, for some reason that made sense to us all at the time, we would seal our goals up in an envelope, to be left undisturbed until the next year

Needless to say, the "time capsule" method of goal making is probably not recommended by self help gurus, but it was always interesting to open up last year's goals. More often than not, you realized that: 1) you totally forgot about a goal because it was totally unimportant, or 2) you knocked the goal out of the park, but it didn't really matter because you had moved on in life. Of course, there were those rare instances where you wrote something down and genuinely thought, "ouch, I could have done better with that."

In hindsight, I wonder if unconsciously we new what we were doing in writing down our goals and squirreling them away. That way, they didn't pester us in the new year, and we were free to make the best of whatever life had to offer. We wasted very little guilt on the things we hadn't done, and left everything to look forward to. That in itself is something certainly worth celebrating. Regardless of what we been through, we get a new year: a new chance to live, to be together, discover ourselves, and shape the future.

Now I've just got to find a place to hide my envelope...