For some reason this year I found myself reflecting on how I celebrate New Year’s. I guess I should say we, since Mary and I have pretty much celebrated it together for about 50 years. The event has undergone considerable reshaping, and I think it has for much of the population.
When I was growing up, the idea of a New Year’s Eve Party was to come as close as possible to what my parents did to celebrate the occasion. Fancy dress, lots of festive food and drink, close friends and even some sense of celebrity. I remember crashing one of my parent’s parties when I was in high school and hearing Harry James, in a city of 30,000 in north central Iowa. I remember, almost the same time, calling my mother from a family party, where I was with a girl I was trying to impress asking what the quotation was from Winnie the Pooh about sitting on a stair (Christopher Milne, actually: “ A bear, no matter how hard he tries, gets chubby without exercise.”… She was VERY impressed).
I remember in our early married years, travelling to Tijuana to have a late super and go to a Hai Lai match. I remember once, trapped by no-drink duty at an Officers Club in Subic Bay, having my uniform pocket blown off by a cherry bomb, stuck in it, and feeling very little empathy for people who could drink themselves silly on a festive night.
I remember later, again on duty when a Sailor’s wife came in to have a tooth treated because she never had the courage to visit a dentist except on New Year’s Eve. Mostly when not on duty, I was one of the festive people.
Sometime about 20 years ago, we slipped into a different pattern. I forget the precise time, but I remember it was either the first Superman movie or maybe the second James Bond movie. Whatever, it was very poplar and at the time, people were being turned away from theaters because of over selling capacity. We decided that we would celebrate by going to a popular movie, then finding a nice place to eat and finally, coming home to “beat pots and pans in the street”. We continue that tradition to this day.
This year we were perfectly fitted to continue our tradition. The movie, “The King Speaks” was hot, in limited distribution. fit our desires, and was showing at the right time. The restaurant, The Crush, was within a mile of our house, offering comfort for a bottle of wine, and they took a 9:00 PM reservation with no questions asked or extra charges expected. That’s not how things turned out.
When we arrived at the theater, we were told the performance was sold out. Petitions that past experience allowed us to “split” and find seats were met with new policy that disallowed that option. So, we returned home and watched “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” a film that inspired a musical of the same name, which we had recently seen in New York. Then, off to the restaurant for a nice dinner, jazz, blues music, peasant conversation and a chance to share the evening with our recently divorced son. Not all bad.
Still, I kept coming back to why the movie was sold out. Could it be that it was that popular? More likely is that in our down-turn economy, people are finding less extravagant ways to celebrate; taking advantage of the lower cost, lower risk (of law infractions), and greater intimacy of an evening spent with family and friends than in the spaces of Time Square, Central Park, or the Washington DC Post Office (all of which I’ve done). Again, not all bad.
How do you spend New Year’s?