Remembering the Year

Remembering the Year

A Guest-Post by Scott Burtness, author of the horror-comedy novel, “Wisconsin Vamp.”

New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays, but I also think it loses something when you turn twenty-one. While it can be a helluva good time, New Year’s Eve after turning 21 tends to be pretty myopic in focus. Forgotten are the experiences of the past year and the hopes and plans for the new one. Suddenly, it’s all about the amount of alcohol you can pack away in one night to justify the exorbitant cover charge you paid to get in the door and, if you stay just the right amount of not-too-drunk, that midnight kiss from a pretty (you hope) stranger. As goals go, those two aren’t particularly lofty and really do a disservice to what celebrating the new year should be about. What good is a New Year’s celebration if all you think about is that one single, solitary night?

After college, I moved from Minneapolis, MN to Chicago, IL. My first New Year’s in Chicago was about what you’d expect. I drank, danced, laughed, spent way too much money, cavorted on the train, threw up in an alley, and woke up with a massive hangover and cheap champagne stains on my shirt. The next year, I had landed a gig tending bar at a trendy joint in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and was more than happy to work on New Year’s Eve. It kept me on the sane side of the bar, away from the craziness happening just a few feet away. For the next four consecutive New Year’s Eves, I watched people party 1999 style, kicked them out at bar close, cleaned up, restocked, counted my tips, grabbed a late-night gyro or burrito, headed home and passed out on my futon. I never spent much time thinking about the night itself. Rather, the thought that would go through my mind before slipping into sleep was, “I can’t wait until tomorrow.”

See, growing up, my family had a tradition. On the first day of the new year, we’d go out for dinner as a family. My parents were, um… Hmmm. I think ‘frugal’ is the polite way of stating it. We didn’t eat out much, but January 1st merited a meal on the town. That alone made January 1st a noteworthy occurrence. Some years, it was pure Americana – a Perkins or Denny’s or Embers. Other years, we’d go crazy-exotic like La Casita Mexican or the Dragon House for Chinese. Hey, cut us some slack. We’re talking about suburban Minnesota in the eighties and early-nineties, not the East Village in New York or San Fran’s Mission District. We did the best we could with the tools at hand.

We would enjoy a good meal, but any conversation was restricted to the meal at hand. There was no discussion of the previous night, the previous week, or any time prior to arriving at the restaurant. Only after we’d packed away our dinner would my dad let the real event begin.

“So…,” he’d say. “What happened this year?”

And that was all it took. My sister and I would climb all over each other trying to see who could remember more things – what grade we’d received in what class, the best school event or some particularly spectacular shenanigans with the neighborhood kids the previous summer. Meanwhile, my parents would chime in with memories of grown-up things. My dad starting his own business, my mom getting a job at the local elementary school. One year, it was the new car. Another year (the one in which I’d turned sixteen), it was the car I had crashed. If it was one of the rare years that’d we’d been able to take a family vacation, memories and stories from the trip would dominate the conversation. Yellowstone the year it was on fire. St. Petersburg, FL when I was thirteen. Tucson, AZ one Christmas when I was in high school and my parents were fed up with winter.

We’d go around the table, sharing memories, some big, some small, but all important or meaningful in their own way. If someone remembered something that the others had forgotten, the rest would oooh and aaah and then start to pepper in their own recollections as they came back. One-upping was highly encouraged and richly rewarded with approving nods and smiles, or even an, “I’m impressed you remembered that!” golf clap. Those New Year’s Day dinners and remembrances are some of my fondest memories from my childhood.

Years later in Chicago, I’d kick-out the drunks, close down the bar, grab my late night dinner, head back to my crummy little studio apartment, collapse onto my futon, and think, “I can’t wait until tomorrow.” See, I usually didn’t have enough money to travel home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years. There were more than a few years when I could barely afford to make it down the street on a city bus, much less make it back home, even for a holiday. But on January 1st, I’d call home. Dad would answer, we’d trade pleasantries about how crummy winter was, how my jobs were going. Mom would usually chime in from the background, asking if I was getting enough to eat. And then my dad would say,

“So, what happened this year?”

And that was all it took.


Wisconsin VampScott Burtness lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife, Liz and their boxer-pitt, Frank. When he isn’t writing horror-comedy novels about a vampire that likes to drink beer, bowl and sing karaoke, Scott enjoys drinking beer, bowling and singing karaoke.

His novel, “Wisconsin Vamp” is available on

For random randomness and updates on the soon-to-be-release second book in the Monsters in the Midwest series,

Follow Scott on Twitter: @SWBauthor
Find Scott on Facebook:
Read his “Not Even Remotely Helpful for Authors” blog on Goodreads: www.goodreads.coom/SWBauthor

… or drop by some bowling alleys or karaoke bars in the Midwest.


Scott is going to be the final participant in series of Winter Holiday-themed guest posts I’m sharing on my blog this year… not just because the year is up at midnight, but that’s a pretty good reason all by itself 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!

So, what happened this year?

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