For the past three years I've spent New Year's Eve in New York City. I wasn't there for the pan-ultimate New Year's experience of standing in Times Square as the ball drops, but rather to spend the holiday with my best friend, Mike Roman, his girlfriend and their families in Brooklyn and Queens.
But this year, my global location prevented me from making the two hour pilgrimage to NYC. Needless to say, New Year's wasn't the same.
Mike and I were roommates in college at Penn State University our freshman and sophomore years. I'd say we became friends out of necessity - we lived in supplemental housing with five other guys and the rest of our floor was predominantly girls - but how we became such good friends is somewhat of a mystery.
Mike - a Puerto Rican-Dominican who's lived in Brooklyn almost his whole life - always wore fitted hats and used terms like "Sup son" and "What's poppin yo" while I was from a small town in the Coal Region and apparently had a funny accent. Mike didn't know Penn State had a football team, let alone a good football team, while I'd been bleeding blue and white for some years. But we did share an unbreakable addiction to Jeopardy, watching the TV show almost every night and keeping score (last I checked, the score was 54-3 in my favor).
Somewhere along the line, I was invited to Brooklyn for New Year's, probably because Mike was too scared to come to Tamaqua, land of the white man.
The holiday has become something I looked forward to every year. I've been able to meet Mike's older brothers and his girlfriend's, Gianelle, family (the WHOLE family). Mike and Gianelle's families have always welcomed me into their homes for the annual event and I've always enjoyed the evening. The Hispanic food is always great, the music is lively and it's kind of nice being the minority for a change. Everyone always has an interest in my small town in the woodlands of Pennsylvania.
This year I had to break that tradition, spending New Year's with a new group of foreign friends: the French.
Through my former roommate, Alexia, I made quite a few French friends. And let me tell you, they know how to celebrate the holidays.
But as much as I enjoyed my Beijing New Year, part of me wished I were home with my friends, or that my friends from home were here in Beijing.
The food this year was good, but it wasn't the delicious plates of chicken and other Spanish-like assortments I was used to. The music was fun but it wasn't the same as Suavemente or the playlist at Gianelle's house.
New Year's in Beijing was full of fun and new friends, one of the best holiday's I've celebrated in a while. But it won't beat Brooklyn.
FILE PHOTO: Mike Roman (left) wearing one of his 6,000 hats (no joke)