Nobody ever seems to know.

New Year’s Eve is the same day every go around, and yet, why is it nobody pulls the trigger on party plans until the last minute? Year after year, I find myself in this predicament, where I ask all month what everybody is up to for the ball drop. One-by-one they shrug their shoulders without a clue.

Once the roads became sketchy, I became familiar with the territory.

Ten years ago this week I left my native Upstate New York for my first journalism gig out of college in the tiny mountain town of Driggs, Idaho.

The crunching kept catching my attention.

After finding a scarce parking space, it was a short, careful stroll from the Montford neighborhood of downtown Asheville to the U.S. Cellular Center for the 29th annual Christmas Jam last Saturday evening.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing. As opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

— Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa)

It was right around the second beer when I began to settle in.

The warm sunshine and lingering foliage of metropolitan Charlotte was in stark contrast to the chilly air and empty trees of the mountains of Western North Carolina. But, with my aunt and cousin within arm’s reach, and my girlfriend beside me, I immersed myself into the Thanksgiving gathering last week.

That slow walk from the car.

When I was 16 years old, I entered the American workforce. I was the breakfast and lunch cook for McDonald’s in Champlain, New York. And it was that slow walk from my rusted out 1989 Toyota Camry to the side entrance under the bright yellow arches, into another morning and early afternoon amid the chaos of the fast food world.

It’s the carrot.

For the better part of the last 12 years, Rolling Stone magazine has been a carrot dangling in front of my eager, overzealous — and often restless — journalistic spirit.

Taken too soon.

It’s the three words one person — let alone one family or one community — never wants to here when it comes to a young person passing away before they could blossom and take over the world, usually with a signature smile or laugh (or both).

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