Me and Joyce had such a good time just by ourselves at her house last New Year’s Eve that she suggested we do it again this year. That sounded cool by me, especially as it would get me out of the craziness that goes with the Rose Parade up here in Pasadena. People camp out overnight for a good view of the parade, and y’all gotta see what some people bring along. I work on Colorado Boulevard, so I got a good view of the action after work. I made a little detour on my way to the garage to get my car, just to see up close the kinds of things people have just to spend one night outside. If you thought people just bring sleeping bags, you’re wrong. Some people brought what looked like all their patio furniture…one family even had one of those big outdoor space heaters with them. There were kids, grown-ups and even a few dogs, and, from what I could tell, there was a nice feeling of community among the people who were out there. Some people come to see the parade like this every year; it’s a local tradition. And by ‘local’ I don’t just mean folks who live in Pasadena. People come from all over Southern California and even farther away; it sure as heck ain’t like anything we got back home.
I’ve been camping plenty of times in my life – Great Smoky Mountain National Park isn’t far from where we live, and, yeah, I was a boy scout until it got in the way of baseball – but I’ve never camped out in the middle of a city. Seeing everyone out on Colorado for the parade made me wonder if it might be fun to try it out some year. Definitely not with Joyce, though. She barely even goes into her backyard, and she’s got a nice one. In fact, as part of the remodel, she built the back of the house further out into the yard, that’s how little she uses the outdoor space. She’d probably be good at gardening, since she’s so good with her hands and her crafting, but she says she doesn’t like touching dirt. She also said flowers attract bees, and she doesn’t like them, either. My girlfriend is not an outdoorswoman.
I wasn’t too worried about being able to get across Colorado and up to Joyce’s. She got all stressed last year about my maybe getting trapped on my side, but she really was exaggerating. We closed the store early (the people who had camped out for the parade weren’t there to buy Gap tshirts lol) and I was home before 6:30, even with my walk to check out the campers. Of course getting dressed was gonna take some time, as Joyce again wanted me to wear a tuxedo for the occasion. I was thinking about wearing my new Christmas suit, but I reckon a tuxedo is better for New Year’s Eve, and, unlike last year, I own my own now. It looks a lot better on me than the rented one did last year, too.
It took me longer than I expected to shower, get my hair right, and put on my tux. I reckon you get better at putting in studs and cufflinks with practice; I still need more practice then lol. Nevertheless, I was all dressed up and back on the road by 7:30. Joyce wanted me there by 8, and I made sure to leave a little extra time in case I did get stuck trying to get across the parade route.
I got a big surprise when Joyce opened the door: she had on a new evening gown, way hotter than the one she had last year. It was black and white, super elegant, and kinda looked like it was from an old movie. I think it was ‘bias cut’ like the nightgown Mrs. LaSalle had gotten for her, but, even if I know something about women’s clothes from where I work, we don’t have bias cut dresses at the Gap lol. She had on higher heels than she usually wears (there were even glittery crystals on the shoes) and, speaking of sparkly, she had on a big Swarovski necklace – one of their pieces you can’t wear at the office but which would look great at the Oscars. She had her hair up and special make up which even had a touch of glitter. (I know it sounds gayass for me to notice makeup, but one of the things me and Joyce do before going to bed is that I get to use the little ‘wipey’ things to take off her makeup. So I’ve gotten to noticing what I help take off.)
“Wow,” was all I could say when I saw her.
“Wow is right,” she said, looking at me. “You look even better than when you had your tuxedo on at Justen’s.” (Ok, I wasn’t gonna repeat the complement she gave me at Justen’s, but what the heck: it was that I looked like a “better looking Zac Efron”.)
The program for the evening was pretty much like we had last year: a big spread of all kinds of appetizers, some of which Joyce made and some of which she got from Bristol Farms and Whole Foods, where the food’s a lot better than the frozen shit we got as a joke for Christmas eve from Trader Joe’s. Now that she knows I love them, Joyce got in seven different kinds of olives from Whole Foods. She even bought us a little caviar, which I liked again, although I know I shouldn’t get used to it, even if I now have two baseball pupils. Joyce put by plenty of sparkling cider, some Mexican cokes for herself, and she got me a selection of imported beers carefully picked out at BevMo by a dude who worked there and (Joyce says) looked like he knew what he was doing. (He did. I had four of the six bottles Joyce bought and they were all great.)
Like last year, she decorated the den for New Year’s Eve, since the living room was still done up for Christmas. She’d done it up in silver last year; this year, the color scheme was white. (Adam and Allan redid the den in ‘earth tones’; when I first saw it, I thought it was kinda Zen-looking.) Joyce must have spent a lot of money getting everything for the all-white décor. There were two big glass bowls of white Christmas balls on the coffee table, each ball tied with a white bow. Everything was white practically, along with plenty of white balloons. (Did I ever tell y’all that one of the things Joyce has in the crafting room is a helium tank? That’s why she always does balloons.) The whole thing looked incredible…just like…I won’t tell y’all just yet, since it has to do with the movie she picked for us. The room wasn’t blinding, though: there were rose-colored diffusers on the track lights that Joyce had requested from Adam and Allan, with this New Year’s Eve in mind. That’s how long she’s been planning it.
Oh yeah…she also had a white flower for me to pin on my lapel. Not a carnation or even a rose, but a gardenia. She said she had to call 6 florists before she found one that could do a gardenia boutonnière, or even knew what one was. But she says that Robert Taylor wears one in a movie in which she says he’s ‘absolutely gorgeous’ (I’ve seen the movie; even I can tell he’s very good-looking in it), so she wanted me to have one. And then came the compliment: “you remind me of a young Robert Taylor.” Ok…that blew the Zac Efron compliment out of the water lol. Maybe it’s gayass to like compliments like that, but, hey, I’m only human. And I’m not as conceited as y’all might think I am. I mean…I know I’m good-looking…I usually like what I see in the mirror…but what’s the saying? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It feels dang good to be beheld the way Joyce was beholding me.
Like last year, Joyce wanted to dance, and I’m glad to say that I made less of a fool of myself than I had last year, when I really didn’t know what I was doing. I mean, I still can’t dance, but I did ok enough for Joyce to enjoy herself. I told y’all that she’s taken lessons, so she was kinda ‘leading’ and helping me not step on her. (I didn’t step on her once. That’s at least some kind of an achievement lol.) I think she’d really like for us to take ballroom dancing lessons together; she’s kinda hinted it a few times during the past year. It’s not that I can’t make the time…but y’all know my history dancing and how badly I suck at it because I have absolutely no sense of rhythm. I don’t want to be a disappointment to Joyce in case she’s imagining that I can ever be a partner like Fred Astaire.
Y’all know that movie I was just writing about – the one with the young Robert Taylor where he’s so good-looking? It’s a musical, and there’s some amazing dancing in it…but he does none of it. I don’t think he dances one step. We pretty boys are better off when you let us look pretty and not try to make us dance lol.
I’ll admit the dancing part of the evening wasn’t my favorite, but what I did like about it was that it made Joyce happy. I know she loves those old movies and it’s cool imagining you’re in a movie you like so much. (I mean c’mon…wouldn’t it be cool to be a total badass like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?) And she really did look glamorous in her new evening gown. I reckon part of being in a relationship, especially after over a year, is doing some stuff the other person likes more than you do. That’s how I was feeling about our dancing together on New Year’s Eve.
Then Joyce brought out this warm brie in a crust thing that was so bomb we finished every last crumb of it. That she followed with the popcorn with the rosemary and parmesan cheese that she makes when we watch a movie together. I’ve gotten so used to it that, when I go to the movies and have plain popcorn, I feel like something’s missing.
When I found out what the movie was going to be, I got why Joyce made the place look like a big white movie set. The movie she’d chosen was Top Hat, and dang is there a big white movie set in that one. They built a whole mini version of Venice, with water in the canals and everything. Joyce says its her favorite Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, and, while I don’t know them as well as Joyce does, I did like it a lot. It’s really pretty funny once you get used to old movie humor (the dude who plays the butler or whatever he is is hilarious), and anyone should be able to tell how good the dancing is. The dance Astaire and Rogers do where she’s in the gown with the feathers (“Cheek to Cheek” is the name of the song) is even pretty dang hot. Joyce admitted that she wanted to get an evening gown with feathers like that, but she couldn’t find one. She looked so good in the one that she did buy that I’m not sure that she’d have looked better in feathers.
Joyce had the whole evening timed out just right, so that we wouldn’t miss midnight. The first movie was over close to 11, then Joyce went and got the ice cream and bananas and toppings for me to make us banana splits. (I’m not sure whether I prefer banana splits to Moo-on Pie sundaes…they’re so different from one another. Yeah, you get a Moon Pie in a Moo-on Pie sundae (duh)…but banana splits let you have strawberry ice cream and the secret I learned last year, sweetened condensed milk as a topping.) We were done with the ice cream at around 11:55, which was Joyce’s cue to break out the sparkling apple cider. We had a toast to the new year…and of course our midnight kiss.
Then I got an idea.
“Do you have a recording of ‘Cheek to Cheek’?”
“I think so,” Joyce said. “Why?”
“Let’s dance to it.”
I knew that was going to make Joyce real, real happy…but the truth is I was starting to get the hang of her kind of dancing (well…kinda) and I wanted to try it out again to a song I was getting to know. She found a CD with the song – it was a woman singing (Joyce said it was an opera singer, but she didn’t sound like an opera singer) – and I took Joyce in my arms and I think we did a pretty good job. I think I was ‘leading’ most of the time, too…but I hoped she wasn’t expecting Fred Astaire. Still…I saw Astaire only a couple hours earlier, and I reckon he gave me a few ideas. Anyway, it was really cool…and this time not just because Joyce enjoyed it so much.
Last year, Joyce chose a Disney movie for the second half of our New Year’s Eve double feature. She did the same thing this year: The Lion King, a movie I watched over and over when I was a little kid. Whenever Mom wanted me and Melanie Kate to sit down and get out from under her feet, she would put on the Lion King DVD and me and Melanie Kate would watch it quietly together. So it’s a movie that has great memories…and it would be that way even if it weren’t such an awesome movie. I’m not much of a singer, but you don’t have to be much of a singer to sing ‘Hakuna Matata’ anyway…and Joyce thought it was hilarious the way I do both Timon and Pumbaa’s parts. She thought it was so hilarious that she made me stand up in front of the TV and do an encore lol. I don’t know why, since it’s a pretty lameass joke, but “what’s a motto with you?” always makes me laugh.
We were both tired by the end of the movie, so tired that Joyce said she was gonna leave the dishes in the sink until the morning. I told her a Block family rule: never go to sleep angry or with dirty dishes in the sink. So I told her I’d help, even if it wasn’t the most romantic thing we did that night. And I must have looked super gayass in the apron Joyce lent me, but I didn’t want to splash water all over my tuxedo.
So it was about 3 when we got to bed, but, since we were planning to skip the parade on TV, I had nothing to do on New Year’s Day before heading over to watch the Rose Bowl with Keaton. I did get to wear my new pajamas (well…the bottoms) and Joyce wore the nightgown Mrs. LaSalle gave her for Christmas. We even did see some of the parade on TV after we woke up: one channel here plays it over and over again all day.
Joyce didn’t tell me she was going to make chocolate gravy for breakfast like we used to have on New Year’s Day back home, but I was definitely hoping she would. And she did. It was delicious and took me back to when I was a kid and chocolate gravy used to be something we’d all look forward to, since Mom only made it on special occasions. (I better remind you Yankees that chocolate gravy is like a very thick cocoa or a warm chocolate pudding and you pour it over biscuits. It doesn’t have any meat gravy in it. That would be gross…even if there is that Mexican chicken dish made with the chocolate I still gotta try one of these days.) So we had a nice quiet breakfast, then I put on my rumpled tuxedo and drove home.
The parade route was all clear, although the city hadn’t cleared away a lot of the mess the campers left behind them. When he came over (his place is still a mess), Keaton told me he had a rough ‘Night of the Living Yahoos’ (like he calls it) keeping the peace. He said he got the feeling that only the assholes of the world go out on New Year’s Eve, and that they all stopped off at the Volcano. He told me he had to knock a few heads together. I’m not sure whether I was supposed to take that literally lol. We watched the Rose Bowl and then the Sugar Bowl together. Keaton had money on both Oregon and Georgia, so he’s starting out the 2020 a few hundred bucks richer than he’d ended 2019. Let’s hope 2020 stays that prosperous for all of us.