By Forest Riggs

Welcome, 2017! Once again it is time to “ ring out the old and ring in the new.” After a long, and at times, very disappointing 2016, revelers are ready to celebrate and get down with welcoming the New Year, 2017. Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, AND even though post-election blahs put a damper on things, we survived. The LGBT community in Galveston did not miss a beat, however, when it came to house parties, clubbing, World AIDS Day celebrations, holiday-themed shows in the bars, a few fun runs raising monies for various causes and even a parade or two to warm up for Mardi Gras!

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

New Year’s Eve and the celebration of the arrival of a new year is one of those oddball holidays that you either get into or you don’t. Some people prefer a quiet gathering with special friends, a nice meal, perhaps, and later lounging around the television to watch the festivities around the world for ball-dropping time. There is nothing like being in New York City, watching the big ball come down in Times Square. Having been there a couple of times for the event, I can attest that it is truly a wild and crazy experience.

Never passing an opportunity to gather and go un-hinged, the LGBT crowd seems to really pull out all stops when it comes to this time of celebration. Galvestonions, like all Americans, start early with having friends over, cocktails (way too many), and if you or your crowd is part of the “ scene” , you migrate to Rumors, 23rd Street or Lafitte’s to drink even more, share some customary cheerful words and good wishes with friends and foes, as well as gather under huge nets filled with loaded balloons! Every year the bars have a balloon drop and every year those colorful orbs are filled with more than just hot air—they’re also filled with money!

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘ It will be happier.’”
—Alfred Lord Tennyson

There is always great hope that the New Year will bring many new and happy things for all. The previous year has faded and the canvas of life is once again clean and bright, just waiting to be painted for the next 365 days. Some folks seek new opportunities and hope in the joy that a New Year brings. Old things are cast off and newness begins. This is how it has been since the days of ol’ Janus and Roman mythology.

Everything is new and fresh again. This is the time when people (at least, those who participate) make resolutions that, in thought and hope, will bring about great changes in their lives. Some stop drinking alcohol or smoking, some start a health regimen, some vow to get over someone or something and many just make a plan to live healthier and happier. Everyone makes some sort of resolution and for a while, do their best to stick with it. Depending on the goal, it can be quite a task to hang in there and make it happen.

All of us every single year, we’ re a different person. I don’ t think we’ re the same person all our lives.”
—Steven Spielberg

Regardless of the resolution or the degree to which one will go to make the desired changes, the thing to remember is that a New Year is an excellent time to start or try something new in your life.

We southerners love our lucky meal of cabbage and black-eyed peas, maybe some cornbread and a pork chop or two. These foods have special meanings and each stands for some desired wish in the New Year, be it coins, paper money, luck or other forms of prosperity. Over the years, other patrons and I have eaten some mighty great “ luck” food meals at the local watering holes. The best I ever had was at Lafitte’s; you just can’t beat their cabbage and black-eyed peas!

Then there is the customary New Year’s Day hangover. “ Who wants a shot?” is the question of the night. The devil’s juice flows wildly, mixing all sort of libations. With each swallow, the partier inches closer to their morning from Hell! Those who don’t drink are the wise ones and can spend the next day(s) laughing at their sick friends. There are a zillion “ cures” and remedies for hangovers. Probably the best, based on all my personal research, is simply a few more drinks!

“Sometimes too much drink is barely enough.”
—Mark Twain

In the past I have written and listed how various New Year’s celebrations are handled in different places around the world. No matter what or where, it all boils down to having fun. We drunkenly gather and sing Auld Lang Syne—barely knowing the words—and suck face at the stroke of midnight with whomever we can grab. Sometimes, if you position yourself just right, it can be some hottie you have been lusting over all night! And we scramble for the falling balloons while balls are dropping all over the world (no comment).

Actually, it is not always a ball that drops. In Dillsberg, Pennsylvania, they drop pickles. Over in Tallapoosa, Georgia, partiers drop live opossums. Otherwise, some people just drop a hint. I wonder if they ever drop blue balls?

Wherever and however you choose to celebrate this year, make it a good time and one that creates positive and happy memories. Think about 2016—what was good and what could stand improving—then make a resolution that 2017 will be the year to get it right! Happy New Year!

A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.