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Dear Esteemed Readers,

We're often warned about assumption. Fair enough — not everything is as it appears. But you often can judge a book by its cover and your instincts exist for a reason. Also, I need a hook upon which to hang this column, so let us postulate for this week are that you, like most Americans, have experienced the recent holiday season under a certain amount of pressure — emotional, financial, work-related or all of the above — and developed concurrent reactions to that state. This is often a time of too much. Too much spending, too much drinking, too much eating, too much driving, too much expectation, too much visiting (too much revisiting — it's like you show up at your dad's house and you're 15 all over again). Or perhaps your celebrations were simple and perfect. In either case, what you need now is a breather, a reward, a night to toast your successful conquering of the holidays and to shake off the holidaze. You did it! And fortunately, Chris Parreira has just the show you need to get back on track.

Saturday sweetness

First of all, it's free! (Tipping appreciated, of course.) Second, it features four fine acoustic duos, including Parreira's own Lemon Lemon Cherry, whose flavor of experimental folk-blues-jazz is particularly tasty. Rounding out the bill is Hazel Ra, offering a sound both haunting and comforting, intimate and distant, The Curiosities, whose jazzy folk is a natural fit for the intimacy of the Palm Lounge, plus Stock the Rock. Music starts around 8 p.m., show is 21-and-over.

Wednesday, aka New Year's Eve

And now onward to the Big Event! The turning from one calendar year to another, a reminder that our planet has (despite our efforts) survived yet another turn around the sun and we along with it. As a person obsessed with bettering, I'm a fan of any marker that encourages us to take stock, express gratitude, embrace what we love and launch toward making ourselves and our short lives as amazing as possible. Sixteen years ago, on Jan. 1, 1998, my husband drove out of the desert in a Ryder van full of our possessions, arriving in Humboldt during the brunt of El Niño. The children and I followed a few days later via Amtrak. Best leap of faith we ever made. I love this place — and I love that despite being a million miles from obvious cultural hubs, we find ourselves rich in arts of all sorts. From local talent to visiting performers, every week (if not every night) offers something worth doing. Not going out to partake in these opportunities is akin to living in Manila and not walking out to the beach. Add "celebrate the place I live by actively engaging in it" to your list of resolutions.

That said, from north to south, here's a selection of ways to ring in 2015:

Blue Lake: Dance!

The one and only Matt n'Adam, your dance party hosts with the most, really want you to be surrounded by a roaring fire, good music and all your friends. Er, well, not surrounded by a roaring fire, but near one. One that's in a fireplace. Where it should be. Point being, get your groove on in the fine confines of the Logger Bar, where they will provide most excellent booty-shaking inspiration and a magical dropping of the golden ball. The action begins at 9 p.m., no cover, 21-and-over.

Arcata: Strings!

The predictably brilliant Absynth Quintet will enthrall the audience with that perfect blend of manic gypsy jazz bluegrass bliss at the Arcata Theatre Lounge. Soulsapiens open. Doors at 9 p.m., tickets are $15 advance at Wildberries and The Works, $18 at the door (this show will likely sell out), and the gig is 21-and-over.

Arcata: Funk!

At Humboldt Brews, the seriously skilled musicians making up Motherlode will bring the serious '70s-style percussive beats starting at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, show is 21-and-over.

Arcata: Ramped up!

Confession: I have never been to the indoor wonder that is RampArt Skatepark. I do, however, support the cause and heart the Instagram photos. Because coolness. The NYE benefit is a rare 21-and-over event (sorry, kids) featuring burlesque by Vava Voom Vixens, a performance by Lefty Lucy (Ms. Coney Island 2011), live bluegrass by Coyotes & Jackalopes, plus an aerial hoopist, stilt walkers, fire breathers, palm readers and more 1930s-inspired antics. This sounds amazing! Advance tickets are $15, door is $25. The fabulousness begins at 9 p.m.

Eureka: New (Year's Eve) Wave!

At the Palm Lounge, the retro sounds of The Mother Vines and The Fairy Rings complement The Monster Women, who will be doing a whole set of all Go-Go's and Blondie songs, plus Bobby T and the Slackers, sweet Los Angeles-based retro garage. So rad! Free, 21-and-over.

Fortuna: Hot steppin'

Perhaps your classiest option is to head down to the Fortuna River Lodge where the Fortuna Sunrise Rotary Club hosts classic American dance masters The Delta Nationals (known affectionately as "The 'Nats") from 8 p.m. to  12:30 a.m. Bonus fun includes ping pong, pool, air hockey and foosball games provided by the Loleta Boys and Girls Club, one of the beneficiaries of the evening's fundraising. Tickets are $50, available at Fortuna Chamber of Commerce, Redwood Capital Bank and by calling 725-3959. This is a 21-and-over event. Etc.

And hey! It's your turn to tell me what to do! Let me know what you'd like from this column in the future: [email protected].

See you next year!

xoxox — Jennifer

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