She tasted like cigarettes.

That’s how Forrest Gump described the young lady to Lieutenant Dan. She’d been trying to make out with Forrest on New Year’s Eve, and he’d pushed her away because what she represented wasn’t in line with his own values…kissing somebody he didn’t love wasn’t in his blood. And he knew what love what was. Love was Jenny.

They’d been in Lieutenant Dan’s run-down apartment, after watching the Times Square ball drop on TV. I did the same thing last night, minus the woman who tased like cigarettes, and saw the crowds milling around, absorbing lip-synced performances and wearing the same branded hats and swag. Felt kind of forced, as if everyone had been told where to stand and when to smile and how to cheer, at just the right moments, so the world could see what passing into a new calendar year was supposed to look like.

The last time I remember making it to midnight was over two decades ago, when my band was playing a NYE show in a converted warehouse loft in Seattle. Our guitar player ripped into Auld Lang Syne, which I didn’t know the words to, and then straight into ‘American Girl’ by Tom Petty, which I definitely knew the words to. That song reminds me of Forrest Gump… specifically Jenny, his true love. If ever a character was a song, Jenny was ‘American Girl.’

I’d play that song at shows here and there, one of them with Lieutenant Dan himself. We opened for Gary Sinise’s band here in town, and after our set, Sinise came backstage and said how much he loved that song. He laughed and punched me in the shoulder when I said that it definitely didn’t taste like cigarettes.

This new year doesn’t have to, either.

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