New Year's Eve
For me, New Year's Eve without Dick Clark is like late night television without Johnny Carson—it's just not right. Just wait. When you're as old as I am you'll be lamenting Jimmy Kimmel, and your kids will say “Who?”
When I was younger I looked forward to the ball dropping in Times Square because it meant I got a really nice kiss from my wife. Now she's my ex-wife, so the kissing thing doesn't happen anymore—at least with her. The problem I have now is waiting until midnight—it’s a very long wait.
I no longer have to do that. The Lovely Louise is British, so we now watch the BBC on television and celebrate the tolling of the new year by Big Ben. That means that here it's only 7:00 and I can have another cocktail before hitting the sack. At this point it just seems far more civilized.
We never went to parties on New Years Eve. The problem with parties is that there are too many people at parties. I'm really good with people, but it takes a lot out of me, since I'm basically an introvert. After a couple of hours my eyes start to cross, and the Lovely Louise says that I turn into Mr. Grumpy Pants. I don't want to be Mr. Grumpy Pants, so I try to avoid parties. On the other hand, Louise will party with tons of people until she's the last one standing. I really don't know how she does it, but being around people energizes her, while the same thing drains me like a clogged sink after a good dose of Liquid Plumber. Okay, even I'm not sure about that metaphor, but you know what I mean.
The one time I remember going out to a New Year's Eve party was December 31, 1989. I had arrived in London two days earlier to take a consulting assignment, and I didn't know anyone. Someone at work felt pity for me and invited me to a massive party to celebrate the coming of 1990. I wasn't used to hearing the English accent, so people would speak to me, and having no idea what they’d just said, I would nod sagely and take a sip of my drink. Most of the people were from East London, where they don't speak English anyway. They speak Cockney, and even a lot of English people can't understand them. I didn't have a prayer. I spent most of the night nodding my head and pouring myself another scotch because they didn't have bourbon in England. As midnight approached I had a pretty good buzz going, and I watched the Brits preparing to celebrate.
I'm sure its probably very similar at a lot of American parties, but I didn't know because I didn't go to American parties. Now I was stuck at a British party. The voices got louder, the drinks got larger, the dancing got more frenetic, and couples were pairing off … and not necessarily with the partners they’d come with. At midnight the hooting, hollering, kissing, and fondling began in earnest, and I stayed in my corner, well out of the way of the drunken bacchanalia. I was seeing things that would make Harvey Weinstein and Louis CK look like amateurs, so I decided it was time to make my escape.
As I stumbled to the street below I knew I had to try and find a cab to get home. I had no idea where I was or how to get to my apartment. Eventually one of the black London cabs pulled over for me, and I fell into the back seat. The cab driver asked where I wanted to go and I couldn't remember the address. I told him it was near Kensington Palace and to just head there. I thought I might recognize some landmarks to guide him in. I did, and soon I was in the cab outside my apartment.
The cabbie told me the fare, and I stared at him blankly. I was newly arrived, and British money isn't like ours. The bills are different sizes and colors, and the coins looked completely foreign to me—probably because they were. I didn't know how to pay him, so I held out my hand with a bunch of what looked to me like Monopoly money and told him to take what he needed. I never did figure out how much money he took, but I was grateful to be home and didn't care. I had just survived another New Year's Eve—and in a foreign country, no less.
Now my New Years aren't quite as adventurous: A quiet night at home, a few adult beverages, cook up something special for dinner, and wait for Big Ben to tell us it's over. The only thing I truly miss is that TV 38 in Boston always had a Three Stooges marathon on New Year's Day. I'll be in Florida this year, and I don't think they have that down here, so I'll just have to survive on college football.
I can do that.