IT’S ALMOST NEW YEAR’S – ARE YOU EXCITED? Biggest party night of the year! Let’s go to

Vegas! Maybe Paris! New Year’s! Crushed together with thousands, oh yeah! Surrounded by ecstatic celebrants, in the same joyous, noisy mood you’re in, probably pretty intoxicated, reaching a delirious crescendo as the seconds tick off to momentousmidnight.

I know not everyone celebrates the new year this way, but many do, every year. I don’t get it, and I never did. I’m not some grumpy curmudgeon who tells everyone to KEEP IT DOWN. I love a good party and have even thrown a few, and I do understand the fun of looking forward to one. So, seriously, have a good time tonight, y’all.

But there has always seemed to me a dark and kind of sad side to New Year’s Eve. What’s with the manic reveling for losing the old year and celebrating the unknown new one coming? Goodbye 2014 and good rid- dance! Welcome 2015, it’ll be a great one! But wait. You said that exactly one year ago about 2013/2014. And 2012, and on back, perhaps to the year the calendar was invented. I wonder if Julius Caesar celebrated his new invention, the Year One, only to have a pretty lousy Year Two, sharp daggers and all.

But we still do it. I say, be honest. If you want to get manure-faced drunk and have a really great, laughing, screaming time (that you probably won’t remember in the morning), do it, just because it’s fun, without pre- tending there’s a good reason.

Will next year be great? Aren’t the social agenda ultra conservative crazy Republicans running the country come ‘15, shouldn’t women and the poor and middle class and people of color be running for the bomb shelters?

And was 2014 that bad, really? Oh, lots of bad news, maybe more than in recent memory. The country divided and marched in the streets. But maybe that made maligned 2014 a watershed year in our history, and we’ll look back on it with respect, even some fondness.

Locally, same thing. I’m not happy that Pam O’Connor and her partners in paving over Santa Monica, O’Day and Davis, are still on the City Council, but she’s not the mayor anymore, a symbolic shift. Kevin McKeown is, and he’s now got Sue Himmelrich to swing votes. Santa Monica real estate continues to skyrocket, making reasonable heights and density even more endangered, but a lot of people woke up in 2014 and organized to keep Santa Monica as much Santa Monica as possible, in the wake of inevitable change and powerful outside forces.

My son is here for the holidays from New Mexico, a gorgeous place. You couldn’t pay him to live in L.A. but he still appreciates the Santa Monica he has known for nearly 30 years. He went for an early morning run on the beach and came back all smiles. My daughter finished two years at our invaluable resource SMC and transferred to UCLA and is doing well, has her first apartment nearby with five housemates and none of them seem to be psychotic. She still regards our place as home, and still declares Santa Monica her home for life. My wife still gets

voice over work, and I’m back to playing basketball, after heart surgery and a freak bowling injury.

Callahan’s is disappearing but Vidiots is still there, for now so is the bowling alley, and people organized to save historic out- door art they treasured, like Chain Reaction and the Muir Woods mural. Alex is still there at the end of Main Street to fix my boots and shoes. Personally, I’m giving 2014 a pass and a thank you. Could’ve been worse, and I believe in the healing power of being grateful.

MY JOE COCKER STORY. We didn’t lose just another rocker last week when Joe Cocker died at 70. He was something special to a lot of people. As unlikely a star as you could imagine, this bad haired homely as an English bulldog air guitar, keyboards and drums playing singer of other people’s songs made a unique and powerful impact on popular music. Take very well known Beatles, Dylan, Ray Charles songs and make them completely your own? He made a career of that kind of nerve. In 1969 at Woodstock, America discovered this amazing performer and crowned him immediately. I saw him a year before that, in London.

Stationed finally in Stuttgart, a very reluctant draftee who tried to bend every Army rule I could, on the plane ride over I disobeyed direct orders and opened my sealed file. Seemed easy enough to alter the number of leave days I had already taken (all of them),to give myself a few more. It worked and I was off for London, 1968. Carnaby Street. The Apple Store (when that meant Beatles not Jobs). Dancing in literally an underground disco with a cute blonde girl from Iceland. And the famed Marquee Club.

No big names playing the Marquee during my short visit so I bought a ticket for the one I knew slightly, Marmalade. Good band. I remember two things distinctly. I loved and was used to rock and roll at the highest volume, but as soon as I opened the door to the club, still a couple of turns away from the stage, I was nearly knocked to the floor by the overwhelming sonic blast. I’ll never for- get the demure English kids sitting in folding metal chairs in the front rows, only a few feet from the screaming amps, comfortably at home with it. Or already half deaf.

The other thing I’ll never forget is Cocker. He let his incredible Grease Band run through quite a few numbers without him, and I thought, this is a great band, I’m lucky I caught them. Then they announced, “For the first time in London, from Sheffield – Joe Cocker.” It took me about 10 minutes to process how weird this guy looked and acted, with how incredible he sounded. Then I spent the rest of the set picking my jaw up off the floor. What an experience.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein

CHARLES ANDREWS has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him

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