Last year, after a tedious New Year’s Eve party, I nearly ended up in a fistfight over a taxi.
The year before that, I stood on a cold, rainy beach in Da Nang, enduring hours of Vietpop for what turned out to be one small firework. The highlight of the evening was hearing my Vietnamese girlfriend declare that “Vietnam has the most beautiful bitches in the world,” by which she meant beaches.
In past years, I’ve been to countless forgettable parties, paid too much for mediocre dinners, wasted a grim evening at Menahata Bulgarian Bar that was not at all like the video for Start Wearing Purple. I welcomed the millennium at my cousin’s house in Washington, DC, where she had forgotten to throw the party she’d invited me to because she’d just had a baby. About the only really fun thing I can ever remember doing for New Year’s Eve is going to concerts for bands I would’ve loved seeing any night of the year. Mostly Primus. Although it was after one of those concerts that my car caught on fire.
Because New Year’s Eve is so artificial and forced, it’s pretty much the opposite of spontaneous or interesting fun. It’s fitting that the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration involves plastic celebrities in a fake place full of revelers who endure hours of frozen huddling without access to toilets. It’s like a North Korean performance of fun. If the Times Square revelers were refugees, Amnesty would complain about the conditions. And then Jenny McCarthy would try to stop Doctors Without Borders from vaccinating the children.
Because New Year’s Eve is so overhyped, everyone tries way too hard. Because so many people are trying so hard, there are too many events and parties, and the energy gets diffused. You end up at a bar or a party where the hosts are freaking out all night that not enough people have shown up, and everyone attending is worried that something way better is happening somewhere else without them, and the people working hate that they’re working on New Year’s Eve. If you’re with a date, there’s way too much pressure, and the people without dates are all setting the bar way too high. Then it’s midnight and nobody knows what to do, and then the party is over.
No uniformed personnel
My family has had some terrible luck with New Year’s Eve. My grandfather had more than one New Year’s Eve heart attack that landed him in the emergency room. Once my mom got a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop, and the paramedic apologetically asked her if she’d been putting anything interesting up there (she hadn’t).
One year my brother got his car stuck in the mud. A cop saw the car and called my parents. When my parents asked if anyone was in the car, the cop said he didn’t know because he didn’t want to get his boots muddy checking the car. Turns out my brother was fine and had just decided to sleep there until morning, but since then my parents have considered it a good New Year’s Eve if they’ve avoided speaking with any uniformed personnel.
A quiet new year
This year — during my year of no particular ambition — I spent New Year’s Eve at home, by myself. I ordered in. I binge-watched Parks & Rec. I took a nap, and later I took another nap. I had a bath, listened to some jazz, and then I watched the ringing of the Bosingak bell on Korean TV. For a while at midnight I could see some fireworks in the distance from my balcony. My New Year’s Eve was quiet and relaxing, cost very little, and exceeded my expectations.
This morning I woke up, made myself a cup of coffee, and watched the first sunrise of 2018.
Happy new year.