My New Year’s Resolution in 1995

I was never good with New Year’s Resolutions.

Every year I wanted things to change so drastically from the prior year that I couldn’t even imagine what resolutions would be required in order to make that dangerous and irrevocable leap.

New Year’s Eve 1994 I was completely lost and frustrated with jobs, relationships, family.

One girl had broken up with me long distance after three years of swearing love every day to each other, another job (HBO) was close to firing me because I hadn’t done anything there yet, and I owed some $70,000 for my education.

I was playing chess at the Chess Shop on Thompson St New Year’s Eve.

A girl who I thought was very pretty came in and sat watching my game. She then drew my picture on a napkin. “Five dollars,” she said to me, “and I’ll sell you this picture.” I gave her the $5 simply because a pretty girl had never drawn a picture of me before.

She signed it “Elena Van Gogh”. “I’m descended from Vincent Van Gogh,” she said, and then she left.

The guy I was playing chess with laughed. “That girl is crazy,” he said.

Nine years later I ran into him on the street on the other side of town. “We played chess on New Year’s Eve, 1994.”

“How the hell do you remember that?” he said, “I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning.”

I remember.

Later that night, New Year’s Eve, 1994, I was walking towards the Lower East Side.

Elias, my roommate (and I mean ROOMmate. The place was about 8 feet by 8 feet) had a “friend” over.

I couldn’t go home for awhile. I saw Elena was crossing the street. “Hey,” I said.

“HEY!” she was excited. “Lets hang out!”  So I was game. I had nothing else to do.

This was my New Year’s resolution. To do things different.

The first thing she wanted to do was get some crack.

I don’t smoke, drink, do anything. “Do you have $10?” she said. So we went to a donut shop on 14th and Second Avenue.

I waited in the cab while she went in. The cabdriver turned around to take a closer look at me. “Just don’t fuck her,” he said.

She ran out and slammed the car door.”GO ASSHOLE!” she yelled at the cab driver. We were driving towards the “Soho Motel” as far east on Grand Avenue that you can possibly go.

On the FDR drive, “that fucking guy just looked at me,” she said and crouched low into the back seat. She pointed to the car next to us. “Those guys are killers.”

We got to the Motel and I checked us in. I had a credit card despite my $70,000 in college debt.

That’s why America is great.

We get up to the room.

I don’t know what I wanted to happen.

I wasn’t crazy. But then again, maybe I was. “Fuck!” she said, when she opened up the paper bag and pulled out this white nugget and a pipe. “I can’t do this without heroin also.” She turned on the TV.

“You have to get out for a second!” she screamed at me. “My brother is on the TV screen and he’s crazy! Get out! Walk up and down the hallway. Just GET OUT! COME BACK IN TEN MINUTES!”

I walked outside the room and up and down the hallway, like I was told. Sometimes its important to just follow orders.

Other couples were walking around, mumbling to themselves. Everyone was whispering their New Year’s resolutions to each other at the Soho Motel.

Finally, I saw a staircase. Went downstairs and walked out of the building. I took a cab back to where I lived. Elias was there by himself.

When I told him what had  happened he sniffed my breath. Like maybe he thought I had crack breath or something. Now he’s a fisherman in Rhode Island.

God, thank god I survived being younger.


New Year’s Day, 1995, sixteen years ago.

It was coldest day in the history of mankind. In Port Authority at 7am old men were lying on the floor like it was the day after the Apocalypse and I had been the only one to survive.

I took the bus to New Jersey and my dad picked me up at the stop. He shook my hand like we were in business together and had just concluded a very successful deal.

I had dinner with my parents. “This is going to be a great year for you,” my mom said to me. And she was right.


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  • Argh! This is like one of those TV series with the cliff hanger endings. What happened in 1995?

  • Donna Dimke

    At New Years, i am struck by the passage of time. Personal experiences seem to be increasingly intertwined with macro cultural & economic forces. A fancy way of saying that the recession has affected not just my goals, but my everyday circumstances.

    Long ago & far away, i might have spent an hour or so on New Year’s regretting all the goals & achievements that have eluded me (yet again) during the last year. Seriously, I don’t think my desires have changed significantly for the last 5 yrs. What they seem to have in commom: they exist just outside my reach.

    It’s not even depressing to state that 2011 is going to be a lot like 2010, for me, except that MAYBE i really will lose the 12 pounds i’m always grousing about. i’ll still work mightily at being a smarter investor: shine up the crystal ball & sharpen my chart reading skills (oh that’s redundant. Hold the great stocks longer, foresee the macroeconomic trends…. or maybe i could just refrain from losing my life savings to Mr. Market!!

    My time spent on Planet Wishful Thinking gets shorter each New Year’s as i become more realistic about myself: while i yearn for a slimmer, younger, richer self whose problems with intimacy are viewed only in the rear view mirror, I will settle for the self who takes delight in her dreams & passions as proof that vibrancy and optimism still defines her core. Incremental advances/improvements in any area give me real & meaningful pleasure.

    I’m sure many surprises await all of us- & this gives New Year’s its poignancy.

    • Rog

      Meh – if all else fails you could try working…

  • Steven Goff

    “HEY!” she was excited. “Lets hang out!” So I was game. I had nothing else to do. This was my New Year’s resolution. To do things different.

    The first thing she wanted to do was get some crack.

    lol lol lol Oh my god….I am laughing so hard!

    This is a funny read

    • Rog

      Sounds like a more realistic plot for “Yes Man” – glad you got out in one piece James :)

  • pjc

    Wow nice post James.

    My life was very similar in the mid nineties. Except I was in Chicago, not NYC. And I had a military service obligation hanging over my head, not $70K of debt. (A military obligation is probably easier to escape in peacetime. If you’re incompetent, what are they going to do, force you to be competent? They kick you out for being incompetent, which is exactly what you want after their done paying your tuition)

    Although the environmental movement is overall quite crazy, it’s a good vehicle for nerdy young guys with no money to meet chicks. Just learn all the nonsense propaganda, learn how to make bread from scratch (which is fun anyway) and you’ll probably hook up with some reasonably cute non-puritanical girls. Who don’t smoke crack and think their brother is on TV.

    Happy New Years to you James. Good luck with the yogi wife and no drama.

  • Kasey

    …but did you win the chess match?

    • Yes. But he didn’t remember that part either.

      • Rog

        How convenient ;-)

  • Did you ever find out what happened to Elena Van Gogh? Is she still available? I could use a napkin portrait.

    Do you have the napkin portrait still? eBay?

    Great story

    • i ran into her three years later. She remembered me. She said, “hey, where’d you go?”

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  • cj

    Loved it ….thanks .

  • Mike

    LOL! Great post. How you spend the Holidays really sums up your year!
    I’m happy to say mine was spent with my wife, her family and us talking about the coming baby.
    Cheers, –Mike

  • Thank you, this was great.

    Two words though: “Crack Breath”


  • moeape

    damn, i thought that 1996 sucked for me.

    • Rog

      Why? Because you couldn’t tell what year it was? ;-)

  • Chuck

    Your night was teetering on the brink of the mayhem Griffin Dunne experienced in “After Hours.”

  • Xiaoyuexin

    Somehow your writing of this post reminded me of the book, “The Catcher in the Rye.”

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, it’s the same story, right? Wandering lonely around NYC, get a room with a woman of questionable morals, leave her there after very little interaction…

  • Xiaoyuexin

    Somehow your writing of this post reminded me of the book, “The Catcher in the Rye.”

  • This sounds pretty Denis Johnson. People on drugs can be crazy.

  • RJohnstonAZ

    New Years day 1995, was a Miraculous day for me.  Had PTSD from three tours in Korea.  Had been to hell and back.  Due to a lot of trauma, had seperated from a wife and five children, and a mother who disowned me.  It would take a several books to tell that story.  Worked for 16 years for an education in Psychology.  Discovered ways to “heal” that are much easier than anyone allows us to believe.  It took about ten years after earning my PhD, to heal enough.  But, in 1995 after 32 years of separation from my family, got in touch with my sister and brother.

    To make a long story short, we had a Family Reunion on Mothers Day 1995.  My mother said, “How could you forgive me, after everything that Ive done to you?”  Said,”It was easy, have always loved you.”  Now reunited with my five children, and Happily married to a fantastic woman who stood by me for years, through all the trauma and period of healing.

    HOW do we heal?  Stop focusing on the bad experiences in life.  When you catch yourself, switch to a Blessing or Happy memory.  They do not have to be the best memories, even simple ones help. Times we enjoyed eating something, times someone thought we did something good. Times we enjoyed nature or the feelings we experience in a favorite place.  Go out and DO something, which is memorable.  Create good feelings if you cant remember one.  Go to Disneyland or a National Park and the nicest Beaches.  Then focus on those memories or switch to it when feeling bad.  Switch back and forth between bad feelings and good ones, ten or more times.  Watch for how your feelings change, before long.  There is a book “Fourteen Thousand Things to be Happy about.”  Available used from Amazon.  One client said, “nothing good happened to me in 25 years.”  Asked her if she ever drank a cold glass of juice on a hot day.  If she ever ate ice cream,  If she liked chocolate cake.  Two weeks later she called and said, “Ive just had the best day ever in my life.”  She did it all from remembering simple good memories…

  • This article is a bit chaotic – first 194, then you move 2011, then 2010. At the end you mention 1995. I got lost a bit in time.
    Hilarious event with the girl in the chess shop.