New Year’s Balls

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We all have our own way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Over the years my celebrations have pretty much covered the waterfront — from tame to lame to mighty peculiar. In Frobisher Bay, we would gather for a party and at midnight would brave the -40 temperatures to go watch the aurora borealis. On years there was none, we compensated by lighting sparklers and waving them around. See, grand and lame in the same memory.

Then there was the year I bought tickets, months in advance, for a medieval feast to be held in a downtown bar in Calgary. When we showed up in full costume, we discovered the management had changed and the only sign of the middle ages were a few cardboard sets scattered around. We were the only ones in costume (unless you count little black dresses and tuxes as costumes) and everyone thought we were the floor show. We ate our meal and took off long before midnight arrived.

However, the strangest way I ever ushered in the new year was in 1991/2. We were new to Calgary and didn’t really know anyone yet so my wife and I decided to spend 8 days in California. Our last night was in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve and we had scoured the papers for something fun and typically Californian to do.

What we found was the Exotic Erotic Ball, (you can Google more explicit links yourself) held at a large conference centre well out of downtown. We got some fancy clothes and fancier masks and joined 8000 other people for an evening of… well, adult entertainment, I suppose you might call it.

Run by the local — not to put too fine a point on it — porn industry, the Ball was a combination of trade show, concert, frenzy of eating and drinking and more than anything else, voyeurism.

There were two bands playing at opposite ends of the facility — emceed by porn stars in various states of undress. There were also about 30 places scattered around the place where you could eat and drink.

I recall when we came in we were asked to leave our weapons at the door — but cameras were perfectly welcome. It was strange. Not the professional shows but the participatory audience.

There were half-naked women leading nearly naked men around on leashes. There was a guy in a ski-mask and sneakers who honestly had the smallest penis I’ve ever seen. There was another guy in spats, a bow-tie and a great big grin. It was quite the night — though as the evening progressed we found ourselves trying to find quiet spaces away from the crowds. When the New Year came, we toasted each other with champagne and had a quiet kiss before loading ourselves back in the shuttle to return to the comfort and privacy of our hotel.

It was exotic all right — but erotic? I’m not so sure. Tonight, I’ll gather with old friends and, if it’s not too cold, will sit in a hot tub outdoors to toast the new year under the stars. Of course, these days, soaking in a hot tub is not erotic — just therapeutic.

And that’s ten minutes.

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