Don't Balk

At the Balkan Café NYE party

WED 12/31

2004. It doesn't quite have the ring of "2000," does it? Something about those round numbers just makes you want to party like it's 1999 (interestingly, the only non-round-numbered party year, other than 1759. Go figure.). If you, like so many others, are having difficulty getting fired up to par-tay this year, there is but one remedy: the Balkan Café.

Not a new restaurant, the Balkan Café is a new, monthly event at the Focal Point (2720 Sutton Boulevard, 314-781-4200, $25) that combines the music of Eastern Europe with Balkan delicacies and a cash bar, and this month it falls on New Year's Eve. Bonus.

Granted, Eastern Europe is a big place with many peoples and cultures. Kolorit, the band performing for this New Year's Eve party, does not dumb down or homogenize those cultures; rather, it celebrates the differences in musical form. Using traditional instruments (the kaval, the gaida) and modern instruments (the keyboard), the members of Kolorit bring the ancient, dynamic sounds of their homeland to the new millennium. In their songs are Bulgarian, Greek, Serbian and Romanian melodies, all of them combined into a glorious sound with a glorious purpose: to get your butt on the dance floor and shake it all about. Even if your holiday doldrums are so powerful that the maniacally danceable rhythms of Kolorit are not enough to get you moving, after you've partaken of some of those Bulgarian delicacies (so spicy! so sumptuous!) and tossed back a few cups of slivo (that's potent Bosnian plum brandy), you'll be ready to cut any rug. The party commences at 8 p.m. and runs through 1 a.m. -- Paul Friswold

Drunk on Responsibility

WED 12/31

If you're the unlucky sap who has to be the designated driver this year, don't let it get you down. The DD is more than just an angry, sober chauffeur; you're also the caretaker and guide for your drunken, stumblebum friends. Take full advantage of that responsibility. Crank the Johnny Cash whilst driving so your tipsy friends cry. Plant incriminating phone numbers in their wallets while they're passed out. Drop them off at the wrong home and turf the yard. Then sleep like a baby, knowing that when they wake up with pounding headaches and wet sheets, they owe you their lives. And don't let them forget it for at least two weeks worth of free rounds. -- Paul Friswold

Shop When They Drop

Feeling that shoppers' burnout from the holiday insanity? Get back that refreshing thrill of finding an excellent bargain at weekend estate sales.

According to, "while garage sales tend to be full of unwanted junk, estate sales are held when people need to purge ALL their belongings (like when they die or move away)."

Consider these recently snagged items: a whole box of Christmas decorations for $1 and a complete bag of unused golf clubs for $20. Not bad, eh?

Check out the classified section of your local newspaper for times and locations, and be prepared to wake up early for the best selection. -- Tom R. Arterburn

Guilt-Free START

THUR 1/1

A hair of the dog that bit you -- and, possibly, doggy bags -- will be the only animal products on the menu at the fourth annual New Year's Day Vegan Brunch held by the St. Louis Animal Rights Team (START). Featuring Champagne and vegan (that's no-meat, no-fish, no-egg, no-milk -- you get the idea) breakfast and lunch foods, the brunch benefits START's efforts to help area critters and lets you start 2004 with both good karma and a diminished hangover -- all for the bargain price of $10. The brunch is on at the Hi-Pointe Café (1001 McCausland Avenue) from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information or tickets, call START at 314-851-0928. -- Niles Baranowski

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