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New Year's Eve, 1993 – my first in the Bay Area.

I was going to spend it with a high-school friend of mine, Kristin, who had started studying at Berkeley some time before I got started at Stanford. Since most of my grad-school friends had plans Back East for the holidays, I tagged along with Kristin and her friends.

We started out at a friend-of-a-friend's apartment somewhere in North Beach. The plan was we'd all crash there after the festivities – all ten of us. Bottles of beer, gin and tonics, wine, pretzels, chips, little bits of cheese on sticks appeared. Soon a plate of jello shots appeared. Jello shots are dangerous. I think I had four or five.

We descended on a great Irish bar for New Year's Eve, and there was drinking and dancing. I don't remember much after midnight rolled round. More dancing amid '80s music and glitter. The next clear recollection I have is sitting in a taxi filled with balloons.

We got back to the friend-of-a-friend's apartment. I crashed on a mattress on the floor. Woke up the next morning together with the world's largest pink elephant and a pile of shoes. The pink elephant was no surprise, but the shoes were due to my sonorous snoring.

Everyone else was bright and cheerful, while I had apparently absorbed all their hangover demons. Off we trundled in the bright light of 1994 to a greasy spoon eatery. My head wanted a quick death. My stomach wanted a vacation. My friends wanted large OJs and large greasy burgers.

"I'll have a green salad and a glass of water, thank you," I mumbled. I nibbled at the salad. I took one sip of water. I couldn't take any more. Part of me (namely, the stomach part) wanted to throw up, get it out of my system. The other part (the lizard hindbrain, the part of the brain that keeps on tickin') thought this would be bad form, and an unforgiveable loss of face. I spent the rest of breakfast trying to keep my head from exploding. Kristin held my hand the rest of the day while I staggered from one cafe to the the next, looking for my sobriety.

Never again, I thought. Not till next year, at any rate.

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