New Year’s Day


So MMXIX begins.

I’ve been disenchanted with this holiday for many years.

A few years ago, I posted a New Year’s Day meditation that, oddly, I partly replicated and partly contradicted in the first version of the present post.  Perhaps I’m human after all; every story has multiple angles; still, I’ve edited for consistency.

I began 2015 commenting on my early memories of televised NYE programs, switching between the Waldorf Astoria and Times Square.  The entire sound track was the Royal Canadians, led by Guy Lombardo.

But on re-reading those thoughts four years later, I find that big band music–which I probably did ignore in my wait for the ball drop, as I wrote–has grown on me.  The images of stout men and their matronly wives “jiggling around the dance floor to the strains of ‘Boo Hoo'” sticks with me, but the music itself has stolen its way into my holidays.  It’s really the only New Year’s Eve I know.

As a child I watched the ball drop when old enough to stay up that late–I have early memories of being told “when you wake up it’ll be the new year!” as mom and dad went off to a party.

Lombardo ruled the festivities and always did the countdown.  Eventually, midnight became the cutoff time or witching hour, and the rock-and-roll after-party started.  I clearly recall watching the Times Square and Waldorf Astoria scene give way to a loud blast of the “now” scene.  That was the bedtime signal.

Now, it’s all the “now” scene, and there’s no black tie option, at least on TV.  Perhaps, when the Waldorf Astoria is reopened in a few years, I can finally make the scene in a tuxedo and shiny paper hat.

I’m definitely not going to be in the Times Square crowd, ever.  I’ve done some “First Night” kind of NYEs, too, but somehow they haven’t appealed to me either.  My harpsichord teacher in Chicago used to stride out at midnight and play the Goldberg Variations for a thrilled audience at his super-high Anglican church.  A great event, I’m sure, but it’s not my kind of party on that night.  (Neither were the “watchnight” services I was stuck with myself.)

I want to be with friends at a quiet, somewhat elegant celebration, listening to music and then watching the iconic ball drop.  Either that or in that vanished world of roast beef and “Boo Hoo.”

As far as TV coverage, this year it was disgusting, ugly.  I had to mute my set after one young woman too many bragged about the diaper she was wearing.  Worst moment:  a commentator with a microphone, at a party in Miami, accosting two inebriated young women.  “What’s your new year’s resolution?”  “To be a little bit less of a bitch,” one answered.  Actually, that may have been the best moment:  one twinkle of honesty amidst the bullshit.

The NBC idiots couldn’t even show us the ball at the last moments, as their camera angle was all wrong and we saw mostly smoke from fireworks.  They did make sure we heard all about “vaginal steaming” from one of the reporters.

The Dick Clark show that replaced Lombardo is awful, one overdone, oversexualized number after another, with Ryan Seacrest trying to keep up and look ageless.  (Lombardo didn’t have to try.)

The big idea of generational change–Lombardo giving way to Clark–is an old, failed idea.  Time for a return to civility, not to mention civilization.

It’s been forty years, and nothing has yet replaced Guy “Lumbago” for the holiday.  Of course, there’s no a priori reason he should define New Year’s Eve forever; but I’m quite certain that nothing worthwhile has replaced him.

At midnight, they now play one half of “Auld Lang Syne” and nobody sings along.  They go into a medley of other tunes–“New York, New York,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in a calypso version.  A few giddy kids may do mock kick-lines and sing Noooo Yorrrrrrk out of tune, but nobody sings together.

As to parties, my journey has included only a few.  I remember one–only one–in Port Washington, a few in Chicago, one fine evening in Bloomington as 2000 began.  In New Jersey, there were quite a few delightful get-togethers with the upstairs neighbors.  I have pictures of paper hats and noisemakers and streamers.  The conversation and late supper allowed us to dim the TV volume and exclude the crassness.

Since those days, there has been another dull stretch.  But I made last evening special, all the same.  A dinner of homemade crab cakes and a crisp salad and lobster dip, a dessert gathering with some neighbors, and then channel surfing till the moment of the ball drop.  Shortly thereafter, the first sleep of the new year.

About Jonathan B. Hall

Keyboard artist, sacred musician, teacher, writer, working in New York City and State. Many interests include music theory and history, literature, astronomy, genealogy, philosophy and theology, gardening, and good food. Cat lover, too.
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