Good year’s eve

Nothing says Wilton like an exploding ladder.

Nothing says Wilton like an exploding ladder.

Photo By TED COX

New Year’s Eve starts the same as every night since we met six years ago: alcohol and science talk.

“Basically, if this thing works, we’ll be able to tell if Einstein was right about the speed of light being a constant,” my friend Brian explains over our second round of beers. Brian is a rocket scientist. No, really: He designs stuff that goes into space. Remember that experiment to detect water on the moon? He researched the rocket valves.

It’s 4 p.m. on NYE and River City Brewing Company’s beer warms us up for the night ahead. Brian and I have spent several strange NYEs together. Once, we trekked to a Salt Lake City house party where, at midnight, our fellow ex-Mormons all made out with each other. (Yes, I’ve been tested since.)

After a few hours at the brewery, we drive to rural Wilton, an unofficial Elk Grove suburb where horses outnumber people 4-to-1. A high-school friend’s parents have opened their bi-level home for the evening’s festivities. There are enough snacks to feed Uzbekistan for a month. After hugs and introductions, I head outside for the pony keg of Fat Tire Amber Ale.

Most of the group has been friends since high school, and most of us were band geeks or groupies; I played clarinet. Since graduation, the crew’s had six weddings, four mortgages, two divorces and, most recently, a pregnancy. Years ago, we blabbed about homework and The Ren and Stimpy Show. Now, we discuss refinancing options.

Rocket-scientist Brian makes a splash with the group; I overhear him explaining a speed-of-light project. At one point, Jason climbs a wooden tower to touch the glowing star sitting atop. Why did someone construct a wooden star-topped tower on this property? Beats me; it’s Wilton.

Ryan, a squat woman who for years bragged that her Italian heritage gifted higher alcohol tolerance, stumbles around the party slurring Johnny Depp’s lament about the rum being gone. In one of the night’s high points, Tom unveils his latest home brew: a beer so smooth it tastes like Tinker Bell sneezed fairy dust into a bottle of Newcastle.

At midnight, we cheer and hug and clap and kiss and blow on those godawful noisemakers that sound like asthmatic ducks. Two guys set up a couple of tubs that look more like military-grade mortars than fireworks. They light the fuses and run for cover, but the weak spray from the canisters, like Obama’s presidency, are a letdown.

Brian and I end up at the house of the pregnant friend and her husband. Brian negotiates the couch and I take a spare bedroom’s floor. I fall asleep certain that 2010 will be a good year.