written by: John Shuff
Two New Year’s parties we’ll never forget. Unfortunately.
When we wake up on Monday, January 1, 2018, it will be the beginning of a new 365-day cycle: a New Year. Usually, it begins with a rollicking New Year’s Eve culminating in watching the ball drop on Times Square to the count of 5-4-3-2-1. Bingo! We’re in a New Year; one replete with resolutions, most of which will be trashed within a month. (I once resolved not to drink alcohol for a year. I made it. However, my wife asked me to start drinking again as she said I’d become “quite boring.”)
We all know the New Year’s Eve party animal is often a New Year’s Day zombie. Many will roll out of bed, cotton-mouthed, head pounding and groggy, wondering what hit them. Time for the Tums, Alka Seltzer, Mylanta or an old family elixir for hangovers—anything to help face the challenges of New Year’s Day, like watching 12 hours of football.
My wife Margaret Mary and I have had our share of memorable (and not so memorable) New Year’s Eve parties, but I think it’s the train wrecks we remember the most, like two in the late 1960s.
The first was in the winter of 1967 when we went to the ski resort Holiday Valley outside of Buffalo to celebrate New Year’s. We were guests of our insurance agent, whom we had known for a year. I remember our walking into the party and being introduced to the guests when I was approached by a petite brunette who asked for a drink and then to dance. Toward the end of the set, she looked up at me with goo-goo eyes and said, “You are all mine tonight.”
I honestly don’t remember what I said. I am not sure words came out as much as a helpless stutter, and I looked frantically for Margaret Mary who had about then just received the same proposition from her husband.
My insurance guy had invited us to welcome in 1968 with a group
We left the party and went to our room to check out—only to find a drunk passed out in our bed. I literally threw him into the hallway, tossed a blanket over his sorry ass and drove back to Buffalo.
It was a year later in 1969 when a coworker I did not know especially well invited us to Garden City, Long Island, for New Year’s. We lived in Westchester County, New York, which meant it was a two-train trip, one to Grand Central Station in Manhattan and then one to Penn Station for the Long Island leg. But that was just the beginning. We arrived at the host’s home, knowing not one soul—until my friend shows up, 45 minutes late, with his wife in tow.
We make small talk. I steal a glance at Margaret Mary who is looking straight ahead, her face frozen in the kind of profound boredom that borders on a trance. I know she is wondering why we are there and how we can make a stealthy but rapid exit. That is just about when a fight erupts in the kitchen and then cascades into the dining room. Alarmingly, the main event, unfolding before our eyes, featured my friend’s wife sans wig and a cat woman, both screeching. There was no fight announcer, no ring and no referee: just a lot of wild swinging, hair pulling, choice words and, finally, two exhausted, drunk women sitting in opposite corners.
It was riveting.
The story behind this was my friend’s wife thought something was going on between cat woman and her husband. I never asked my friend the true cause.
That night, we arrived home at 5 a.m. after riding the vomit comet from Grand Central to suburban Hartsdale. Margaret Mary never said a word about that evening or the one two years before, which was either deeply kind or the result of shell shock at my colorful cast of friends.
Most New Year’s Eves begin with a kiss, handshakes, toasts, fireworks, the playing of “Auld Lang Syne” plus all the ceremony that typifies this time-honored evening. For most of us, it represents a new beginning. And, like anything new, it also invites uncertainty and apprehension—which is exactly how I feel when I look back on the people who invited us to join them in ringing in 1968 and 1970.
Happy New Year. May your hopes for 2018 exceed your expectations.