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New Years and NoDa 

Big fees and extra cheese, please

An admission: New Year's Eve has never been my favorite "holiday," if one may afford it such status. Now, New Year's Day I'm perfectly fine with -- a day off work, plus home cookin' and bowl games. New Year's Eve? Amateur night, mostly. (It should be mentioned that most of the people I've heard call it this could be termed "professionals" where the party arts are concerned.)

Yes, it's nice to ring in this symbolic holiday with an adult beverage, toasting friends and family, and reflecting on the previous year and the one yet to come. What rankles is the nerve of bars that charge 30 dollars or more for an experience that wouldn't even merit a cover charge a week later. One local bar, touting a "reunion show" of a local band, charged $50 for admission. Of course, "domestic bottles" were on the house. Figuring that your average Budweiser will run you $2, that means you'd have to put back a Herculean 25 beers to get your money's worth. Granted, you probably got some potato skins and noisemakers, but who needs noisemakers after 25 beers?

Downtown, folks got into the spirit(s) early, milling about and dipping into bars from time to time, as cover charges allowed. Most people were nattily attired in their weekend finest -- whether Fubu, furs or Fendi -- finished off with one of those too-small children's party hats that resemble little dunce caps.

After careful consideration (and a check of my measly bank account, which, in a nod to William Faulkner, ought to be dubbed Account No-Count), I decided to head back to my home neighborhood, Plaza-Midwood. That way, I reasoned, I wouldn't have to worry about any police roadblocks, and if things got a little out of hand with the oat sodas, I could just stumble home.

As it was nearing the magical hour, I decided I best settle somewhere, and headed for the popular Penguin Drive-In. And a good call it was -- a hamburger, fries and pitcher of Yuengling for a little under $10, plus the timeless Dick Clark on the bar television. The Penguin is sort of the Dick Clark of local restaurants -- celebrating 50 years at midnight, in fact -- so it seemed like a perfect fit. A couple of minutes before midnight, the lights were dimmed, the AC/DC turned down, and everyone counted down along with the clock on the TV.

When the New Year finally began, people raised their glasses and lovers kissed. A few short minutes later, everything was pretty much back to normal. Which figures. As the noted philosopher Bono once sagely commented, nothing changes on New Year's Day.

Friday evening, I decided I'd go check out what used to be a happening affair: the North Davidson Gallery Crawl. Back in my formative years, the Gallery Crawl was a pretty big deal. You had the whole Z-Axis art collective going on, and music at Fat City, and amateur drummers providing the heartbeat to the whole crazy thing via impromptu drum circles.Friday, the only gallery that came to mind was a rogue's gallery, with the only "crawl" amounting to a few guys bumming money and slowly making their way to nowhere in particular.

There were a few folks heading in and out of the Mellow Mushroom, which has been seen by many folks as a potential cornerstone to the "New NoDa." Unfortunately, thanks to gentrification, many of the buildings around the Mellow Mushroom stand vacated, and seem to have taken much of the foot traffic the neighborhood boasted along with them.

The Mellow Mushroom, I'm happy to report, does serve a mean slice of pizza, along with an impressive 50+ beers on tap. It's also about the size of a Navy destroyer. Upon entering the behemoth, a friend ventured the idea that the huge basement of the building must hold some sort of secret, James Bond-ian casino, which one could enter only if he or she placed a "special" pizza order, such as "triple anchovies."

Figuring no casino could be worth that kind of sacrifice, I bought another beer instead, doing my part to stimulate the North Davidson economy the only way I knew how. Hopefully others will join me -- the NoDa I know ought never require a No-Doz.

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