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A New Year’s story from AJM

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An anecdote from AJM’s younger days

Willie Nelson & Family New Year
This has nothing to do with the story, but it is an amusing picture
Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images

Its New Year’s Day, and the MLB lockout is going on, and so there’s no MLB or Rangers news.

So I shall share an anecdote from my younger days. It has no real point or anything. But it happened at a New Year’s Party, so it is apropos from a calendar standpoint.

This would have been, I believe, New Year’s Eve, 1998. I was living in Austin — I didn’t move to Houston until I started law school in the fall of 1999 — and Ben was living with me at that point as well.

I should note, for those of you who have heard stories from my younger days, that by this time I was a more grounded and responsible individual than I was in my early 20s. In retrospect, I’m still not entirely sure how I survived my early 20s, which I say not as a humble brag or as a “I was a wild man!” type thing, but as a “I did a bunch of really dumb stupid things that in retrospect I really really shouldn’t have done” acknowledgement of what a dipshit I was back then.

So this was the somewhat more mature AJM — I say somewhat because it isn’t as if I wasn’t prone to highly questionable decision-making, just that it was more occasional at this point and less of an actual lifestyle — that is the subject of the story.

A former co-worker of mine invited me to a New Year’s Party. She had been a receptionist where I had once worked, had moved to Houston to attend South Texas College of Law, dropped out, and moved back to Austin. For the purposes of this story, we shall call her Cassie.

Cassie lived in North Austin. As a general rule, when I lived in Austin, I didn’t ever want to venture north of campus — really, I preferred not to venture north of the portion of Colorado River known as Town Lake, but since UT was north of the river and my jobs my last few years in Austin were north of the river, that wasn’t an option. But for non-work purposes I didn’t ever want to go north of the river.

She also, if I recall correctly, lived off of Research Blvd. Research Blvd. was the street name for a portion of US Highway 183 at the time. There was also a part of it known as Ed Bluestein Blvd., and I think other sections had other names. But regardless, having to go somewhere off of 183 — especially Research — was a negative.

Now, I do not know if this is still the case, but when I lived in Austin, Highway 183 was a lengthy stretch of road that curved from southeast Austin up north and then to the west. Once it got to the north part of Austin it became a very heavily trafficked east-west thoroughfare in a city that lacked east-west interstates or freeways. Parts of it were always under construction, as the growth of Austin and lack of east-west freeways meant that there was more traffic on it than there was room for, and so it had to be expanded and elevated to alleviate the need for stoplights and whatever else one does to make more room for cars.

In any case, traversing Research Blvd./183 sucked, and was a not insignificant element of my desire not to go north of the river.

However. It was New Year’s Eve. I didn’t have anything else going on. I was single. I didn’t want to hang around the house all night with Ben. So I decided to go to Cassie’s New Year’s Party, and took Ben along with me.

I don’t know what time we got there, but we were among the early ones. Cassie let us in, and was being almost theatrically elaborate in her words and manners in welcoming us in her role of host, despite the fact that the event was in a one bedroom apartment. She introduced us to the two other people who were there, a pair of women in their mid-20s who she knew from some other job she had had.

This is where I should note that Cassie was...kind of nuts. She’s someone who, if her friend wanted to set you up with her, her friend would say, “She’s kind of kooky,” which isn’t entirely untrue. She was kooky, especially when sober.

But there were also some quirks that “kooky” didn’t quite capture. For example...when I first started working with her, I was going by the receptionist desk, and I heard her tell whoever had called in, “I’m sorry, so-and-so isn’t available right now, she’s in the potty.” I was nonplussed just hearing that. I decided to wait until she got off the phone with that person, and then said, “Can you do me a favor? If someone ever calls for me and I’m not available, can you please never tell them that I’m ‘in the potty’?” She laughed and said, “Oh, I guess that does sound strange, doesn’t it?”

So, that’s to give you an example of why “kooky” doesn’t quite cover it.

But again, that was when she was sober. When she had a few drinks, she was...

Okay, I know that “crazy” is an overused word to describe women. Guys use it so much to describe women who don’t necessarily fit within societal expectations that it is a cliche, something that carries no weight anymore. So I want say that, when she had a few drinks, she was crazy.

I will say she was fucking insane, though. And I say that as someone who has a lot of experience in fucking insanity. Drunk Cassie was a six sigma wackadoo.

She was also drop dead gorgeous, incidentally. And I am not going to pretend that that wasn’t a factor in my decision to head up north of the river for a New Year’s Party at her place, or a factor in my decision to spend time with her outside of work in past instances that had exposed me to some of her wackadoo behavior.

One particular night I recall a group of us from work had gone out drinking, and I’d ended up back at her place. She invited me in, then invited me out on the porch to have another beer with her. We were out there, I was spitting my game, and out of nowhere she looked me dead in the eyes with a really serious expression and said, “I bet your weiner is really hard right now, isn’t it?”

I did not have a good response to that. And gentle reader, I had planned to shoot my shot that night. After that, I do not believe that I did, in fact, shoot my shot. I think the best way to describe what transpired was dribbling the ball off my foot. I was so thrown off by that I never quite recovered.

Which, in retrospect, maybe is why she said it.

In any case...Cassie informed us when we arrived at her apartment that she had already had a couple of drinks, and she was so excited we were there, and was so excited Ben could join us, and she just knew that we were going to enjoy talking to her friends who were already there, and she was excited for us to meet her boyfriend, who would be there later that evening, which, you know, I filed away.

I do not remember the names of the former co-workers. One was blonde, and I don’t really remember her. The other was a brunette who was pretty — she looked like a cross between Kelly Clarkson and Allie Haze — and had a bit of a country accent. They were sitting on a couch by a coffee table. I sat at a chair at one end of the coffee table, and Ben stood across from them and decided to hold court.

In particular, Ben started going through some of his bits with him. At the time, Ben was a very angry young man in his early 20s, and so most of his bits were about being angry about things. And so he hijacked their conversation and for about 15 minutes or so did his routine and his bits and talked about things that made him super angry. And it was funny, and the girls liked it and laughed and thought he was amusing.

I was thinking to myself, huh, look at Ben do his thing. Then, when the girls on the sofa were talking between themselves for a bit, at one point the Kelly Clarkson country girl said, “So my PeePaw...”

And Ben interrupted and, with his outside voice, said, “PEE-PAW??? Are you from the country???”

She whipped her head around at him, scowled, and said, “No I’m not, Mister Little Angry Man, so go mind your own business and be angry somewhere else.”

Poor Ben. He looked like he had been struck. I went outside, he followed, and I said, “You were doing well there until you made fun of her for saying ‘Pee-paw’.”

More people arrived, things moved into typical apartment party mode where there are a couple of dozen people mixing and mingling. Everyone consumed alcohol, there was a pleasant vibe. When midnight arrived, I got a kiss from a tipsy young lady, though she wouldn’t give me her number. It may have been a pity kiss.

Cassie was floating around, mixing and mingling, and getting drunker and drunker. Her boyfriend arrived at some point in the evening, but he wouldn’t talk to anybody, and basically moped around. At one point he and Cassie disappeared into the bedroom, and then she came out without him. She came up to me and said, “He’s upset because I’m not paying enough attention to him. Now he’s in there crying. I told him if he was going to cry he had to stay in there because I don’t want him ruining my party.”

Not long after midnight, Cassie announced to everyone, “Hey, I just remembered, I got fireworks to shoot off for the New Year!” She disappeared for a moment then came back with...I don’t know what, exactly. I think there were a couple of bottle rockets, and this small model tank-like thing that apparently you would light and sparks shot out of the gun barrel sticking out of the turret.

Someone said, you’re going to go outside and shoot them off on the apartment lawn? She said no, the complex would get upset with her if she did that, so she would just light them inside.

Which is what she did. Starting with a bottle rocket. Which went off and hit a curtain to the window.

Ben was watching this, intoxicated, and turned to me and said, “Hey, man, is she setting off fireworks in her own apartment?” I said yes, that appeared to be the case. Ben said, well, that’s probably a sign that it is time to leave. I agreed, and without saying anything to anyone still there we left and went home.

I am pretty sure that is the last time I ever saw Cassie.

I will note that this is a story that Ben and I relate from time to time, and when Ben tells it, he always ends it with, “You know, when Ben Morris says, ‘I think this party is getting out of hand,’ you know the party is really out of hand.”