New Year’s Eve in Northern Minnesota

PHOTO: Candid Characters, Flickr CC

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Can I tell you a secret? I’ve always really wanted to host a live New Year’s Eve show.

It has to do with how I typically spend New Year’s Eve. That is, sitting inside of my home watching television.

All those years Dick Clark performed a vital community service. He brought the energy and excitement of New York’s Times Square to a home audience, sparing them the unseen groping and public urination. And his dream lives on today in the dead shark-like eyes of Ryan Seacrest.

Here in Northern Minnesota, new year’s eve is fraught with danger. Never mind that late night revelers often make poor choices behind the wheel of a car. Even if they’re sober they have to navigate roads as slick as a hockey rink with the ever present threat of a blizzard. 

Why on earth would we celebrate new beginnings this time of year?

We celebrate the New Year in January because that’s when Julius Caesar thought it should start. January was when the two consuls of the old Roman Republic would take office. 

Of course, Rome features an entirely different climate than the Sax-Zim peat bog. Have some grapes, Gaius Marius. Let the Mediterranean air swell up into that toga, Marc Antony. 

Why not, if you’re in Rome?

In Northern Minnesota you’re lucky to survive the night. That’s not a shrimp cocktail. It’s probably just a bunch of fingers that fell off people’s hands. 

There’s a reason no one wears a strapless dress on the ice planet of Hoth. You haven’t lived until you’ve carved your way into the still warm body cavity of a road kill deer. And you thought they smelled bad on the outside.

The tux rental places never seem to stock formal parkas. Champagne freezes at 20 degrees and whiskey at 27 below, which are facts you need to know. Drunks who can’t walk nevertheless intuit how to dig a quinsy shelter into the side of a snowbank.

Every new year, people make resolutions. It’s an old tradition, dating back to the creation of carbs. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the worst time to make a resolution is midnight on a holiday known for barf-soaked evening gowns.

You’ll say anything when you’ve just eaten a cubic foot of Dill Havarti cheese and enough sausage to alter your heart rate. It’s easy to quit smoking when your hands are too frozen to grip your Pall Mall. Reading more important works of literature sounds great when you’re too soused to read the number for the cab company on your smartphone screen. Even if you remember these goals your chances of including them on a long list of regrets remains high.

We still do it though. We’ll make resolutions again this year. Perhaps we just enjoy the way winter gives us time to think. A cold night on the precipice of a new year opens the mind like the pores of our skin after a hot sauna.

When I was growing up, WDIO in Duluth would hold a live new year’s eve show. It was great. And by great, I mean it was awful.

Awkward. Hyper local. Bands playing songs in between stilted interviews and lame attempts at comedy. The crowd was populated by nervous introverts afraid of cameras. The hosts didn’t get paid enough to dress up, so most of them wore sale items from J.C. Penney.

And … I just realized that pretty well describes my New Year’s Eve plans. Maybe I’m closer to my dream than I thought I was.

Happy New Year! If we’re lucky, 2019 will be one of those boring years that everyone forgets. But only if we’re lucky.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece appeared on the Nov. 17, 2018 Great Northern Radio Show in Hibbing.

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