Traditions: The New Year's Eve Riot You Didn't Hear About | A Considerable Town | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Traditions: The New Year's Eve Riot You Didn't Hear About 

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"SO, THIS IS WHAT IT'S LIKE TO PARTY IN L.A.," SAID MY FRIEND JAMES AS the first dollop of shaving cream splatted against the passenger side of my car windows. We spotted a cackling blond boy with a second foam-covered paper plate in his hand, cocked and ready to hurl it like a Frisbee. And he had friends.

"Close the sunroof! Oh, oh, please close the sunroof," said James' girlfriend Julia. Just in time, in fact. Right as the roof cinched shut, my Volvo got nailed with gunk that appeared to be egg yolk and water. At least I hope it was egg yolk and water.

We'd entered the New Year's Eve gauntlet by accident. Following a late dinner with a bunch of friends in Laurel Canyon, we were headed in a two-car convoy to a party thrown by some CalArts kids in Pasadena.

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"We'll get there by midnight no problem," I'd said when we started out. "It takes about 30 minutes to get from any one place in L.A. to any other place. It's a rule."

Julia's friend Christine led our caravan. I would describe Christine's driving style as overzealous. Or at least zealous. Perhaps she was overcompensating because she was driving her parents' car, a sparkly green Beemer. Unfortunately, in Christine's excitement to get to the party, she got off the 210 one exit early, letting us off in downtown Pasadena, and providing us a preview of that city's annual display of civic pride. Hip-hip-hooray for the Rose Bowl Parade!

"Wait, don't people start assembling for that thing really early?" I thought. Then, I figured, how bad could it be? At least I'd get the chance to point out downtown Pasadena's fine array of Gap stores, authentic Starbucks cafés, and Jamba Juiceries.

But then . . . Oh, look guys, that stumbling dude sure got an early start on the evening's festivities. How cute! Hey, there's a row of fire trucks blocking off every street leading off of Orange Grove Boulevard. How weird! Hmmm . . . a half-conscious lady being propped up against a street light by her boyfriend and/or assailant, either being raped, resuscitated or sharing an affectionate moment. Hey now, that's not cool. Wow, a row of 20 CHiPs motorcycles lined up in front of a restaurant like Hell's Angels. Very orderly Hell's Angels. How come, amid all the week's media coverage, no one ever talks about how the Rose Parade is preceded by a riot the night before?

Julia answered her cell phone.

"Christine says to follow her and that we'll be through this in a second," she said. The dashboard clock hit 11:35.

Twenty minutes later we had traveled about a mile and were for all intents and purposes parked in the middle of Colorado Boulevard, at best mimicking the parade's leisurely 2.5-mph pace. The single-file line of traffic was surrounded by riot weather: Lots of beige Winnebegos. Hundreds of bored and drunk onlookers camped out in the street and covered in blankets. Smoke from grills and hibachis swirling in the air. Dozens of enthusiastic teenagers with Silly String and a license to use it. The whole scene had a very Beverly-Hillbillies-take-to-the-streets-of-Pasadena-after-a-Guns-N'-Roses-concert kind of feel. Was Banana Republic having a big New Year's sale at 6 a.m.?

"What the fuck!" I said, striking the steering wheel with the heel of my hand.

"I'm really not convinced about partying in L.A.," said James.

"Why are they throwing mini-marshmallows at us?" asked Julia. "They should be eating the marshmallows."

"You know, Volvos have a very low center of gravity," I said. "This thing is totally tip-proof." To our left, at the stroke of midnight, a Toyota Cressida was stopped in the middle of the street, heading in the opposite direction, most assuredly the wrong way. A spectator stood in front of the car with his sweatpants around his upper thighs and his ass cheeks spread. Happy New Year! Oh what a feeling! It doesn't take much to stop a Toyota.

"Tell you what," I said. "If someone tries to get in our way, I'm going to charge the crowd." I revved the car and raced ahead of Christine's Beemer until it was out of sight. Julia began to get agitated.

"Oh, don't do that!" she said in a considering-the-purchase-of-a-sea-green-Lexus tone of voice. I turned toward the back seat.

"I'm joking. I promise not to hit anybody. I'll just scare them."

"Oh no!"

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to freak you out."

"Oh, don't worry," said Julia. Suddenly, her voice was rock steady. "If James were driving, people would already be dead by now." Good show, Julia, I bet the next car you purchase will be painted cherry red.

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