As New Year's Eve approached, I realized that I had learned something over the course of December. My place is really dirty. Cleaning like mad in preparation for a few friends I had coming over for a gathering that night left me with one big question: “Was that big ball of grey fluff dust, cat hair, or both?” I had been slightly coerced into hosting a New Year's Party. It's not that I mind them, I just sometimes feel awkward at them. Everyone around me is sloshed, looking for an acceptable mouth to ram their tongue into at midnight. While I sit in the corner with a diet coke, and try to get a game of “Clue” going.
This was going to be a far more scaled back version of that. The eight friends who were coming would be providing their own booze, there would be party games, and one was bringing a karaoke machine. The sight of booze and a karaoke machine could only mean one thing, that shortly after 12:01, someone would try to get everyone singing a very off key version of “Hey Jude.” I found it silly as I spent most of the early afternoon mopping my kitchen floor to a sparkling shine, knowing that I would have to do it all over again tomorrow.
I made some party mix and set it out. Then I did a quick run to a deli and picked up some party trays I had ordered for the night. I didn't feel like putting too much effort into it. Back home around five I began setting some games out for the night. A small group of our favorites, and this year I had managed to track down a copy of the old “Double Dare” home game. We'd all been talking lately about how awesome that show was, and how we should try to find a copy of the home game. I was excited, even though the idea of a number of moderately intoxicated people playing “Double Dare” in my living room frightened me.
I realized at this juncture some of you might be asking “What is 'Double Dare', and why is it pertinent to this story funny man!?” Glad you asked! “Double Dare” was a game show that used to be on Nickelodeon in the 80s and 90s, it was a show in which kids would answer questions to win money, or they if they couldn't answer the question, they could take a physical challenge to get the money, and make a mess of themselves in the process. Whoever won would go on to the obstacle course, which was a crazy messy thing and gave away Nintendos and sometimes cars. It was awesome, and a lot of the shows from Nickelodeon in the 90s are part of a generational touchstone for people my age.
I'm not saying that “Double Dare” informed my world view, or anything like that, though “The Adventures of Pete and Pete” totally did. What I am saying, is that my generation likes looking back on these shows and the lovely memories they make, yes, we're nostalgic. The hour of watching “Pete and Pete” and “Double Dare” together was a lovely thing, in the same sense that the hour of Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross on PBS was the most zen hour ever in the history of television. OK, back to the party.
As the clock clicked around to seven, folks began to show up. Everyone remarked on how clean my kitchen was, which made me feel awfully good about pondering cat dust fluff earlier in the day. Music was playing, we were eating pizza and sandwiches, it was a lovely time and the games hadn't even been glanced at. After much food had been enjoyed, my friend Casey made his way over towards the stack of games. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, and I knew he had found “Double Dare” when I heard him exclaim, “dude!!”
After a short group geek out over “Double Dare” we set the game up, and there was much rejoicing from our inner seven year olds. We divided into two teams of four, with one person sitting out, and Casey taking the role of Marc Summers (host of “Double Dare” for those of you who don't know). My team was losing badly, but if we could pull off just one physical challenge, we were gonna take the lead and have a shot at the obstacle course.
I had twenty seconds to get three foam balls into a cup on the top of the head of one of my team mates, I was anxious to get this one right, as it was the gonna determine if I was gonna get to stick my head up the giant nose or not, metaphorically speaking. It was a true Cinderella story, I missed the first few times, landed one ball in the cup. A few more seconds passed, and I landed a second ball in the cup, ten seconds were left, and just as I tossed my next to last ball, I missed. I took my final ball, heard the music from Chariots of Fire in my brain, and right as the clock ticked down with two seconds left, the third ball went in. We won the fake money, we were going to the low rent obstacle course.
A small celebration broke out. My teammate and I hugged each other, and it was lovely. Casey kept screaming “down to the wire!” he was VERY into it. I leaped up on my couch and began jumping up and down on it. Now I am not the most lightweight person in the world, and what I didn't realize is that my jumping up and down had jostled loose the framed portrait of dogs playing poker that rests above my couch. I jumped back down and sat on the couch, and right as I did so, the portrait came a tumbling down. Tumbling down, directly onto my head.
The glass, thin as it was, shattered right on top of my head. I sat calmly as everyone came to check to see if I was bleeding. I was in pain, but I didn't think I was in harms way. Casey, who by now was well into the wind, freaked out. Casey ran over to me, and in some type of primetime medical drama fantasy, started to shout “You're not gonna die on me, Ross! Live, damn you, live!” Casey then began to very weakly beat on my chest, as if he was administering some type of aid. I was fine, and everyone helped pick the glass off the couch, and we changed to a different game.
What we hadn't realized, was that it was past midnight. There wasn't the “Hey Jude” sing a long yet, but we did notice that it was highly possible the picture fell on me right at that stroke of midnight. I wasn't a ball dropping, but I did see what looked like time square all a glow for a little bit afterward. It was a gathering that has yet to have been topped, because I'm making it an active practice to not almost knock myself cold while playing “Double Dare.”