River City Jules: New Year's, 'Punk'd-style

Last New Year’s Eve my husband and I, with our friend Michelle, visited our college pal, Ron, in Palm Springs. We had not been out on New Year’s Eve in many, many years and looked forward to getting dressed up and counting down to the New Year — with no kids in sight — at a big bash at a nearby resort.

Our first clue should have been the lack of a velvet rope.

Our second clue should have been the lack of a cover charge.

Too excited to notice, however, we made our way to the entrance ready to hob-knob with the beautiful at the posh resort as loud music blared from behind the front doors.

With one last primp of the hair, we made our grand entrance to…

A bunch of families in T-shirts surrounded by people my parents’ age.

“It looks like a family reunion,” my husband said, as a flock of pre-teen boys in sideways baseball caps came sliding to the dance floor on their knees.

Michelle and I doubled over in laughter. As dressed up as we were, we looked like Oscar nominees next to the all-American families cutting a rug to, at this point, “Hey, Mickey!”

We looked outside for Ashton Kutcher, certain we were being “Punk’d,” but he was nowhere in sight. Just a Spanish Beatles cover band singing “Quiero Tener la Mano.”

Fast-forward to 11:58 p.m.

Having unanimously voted for a change of venue (and given up on glamour), we settled in at the Agua Caliente Casino where my husband sat in the poker room trying to take pension money from retirees, while Michelle, Ron and I sat at the casino bar explaining to our bartender how to make cheese fries and wondering where the poker room was.

Looking fabulous sipping our drinks out of disposable cups the three of us counted down to midnight together (sans my husband) in a joyous celebration that abruptly and awkwardly ended 30 seconds later with the announcement of last call. So we obediently finished our drinks and set out to find my husband (whom we would eventually find beefing up the pensions of retirees).

While making our way through the packed casino, we spied a frail elderly woman in a wheelchair, inching across the floor with her feet.

Ron sweetly leaned down and asked her if she needed any help.

“Why, yes I do!” she shouted in a voice best described as a cross between Marge Simpson and Dick Cheney. “We’re going to Pai Gow!” she instructed, thrusting her arm to the left, “You an go as fast as you want!”

Obviously we will never top a New Year’s Eve like that one, though I’m sure game night with my siblings this Friday will come close. But regardless of how we spend New Year’s Eve, this woman’s parting words will forever ring true at the stroke of midnight each New Year…

Pai Gow! May the coming year bring you everything you need, as fast as you want.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at go@ljworld.com.


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