Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009

As the dense fog began to roll in mid-afternoon, we knew our sailing plans had changed. We’d be spending the evening at Channel Islands Harbor instead of Santa Cruz Island. We arrived at the harbor and settled our gear on the Varekai, a 36 foot Hunter. The tide was low. The harbor was peacefully quiet. The only noise in area was the lively music coming from the nearby Lookout Grill. The English Pub was lit up with brightly colored Christmas lights that gave a cheery glow in the fog. It was only 5 pm and we had some time to pass before we rang in the New Year. As you get older, this is the challenge… staying awake until midnight. So we had brought along some DVDs to watch on the LCD screen onboard the yacht. You hope that the movie you select for a special evening doesn’t turn out to be a dud. We brought out the Dubliner Cheddar, multigrain crackers and, since it was a special evening, Green Label Johnny Walker. This was a satisfying accompaniment to what turned out to be a satisfying film, “Traitor.”
After the movie, we walked over to the Marina restaurants. The Sushi restaurant is “out” of the selection options for me, so we continued walking along to the Persian Restaurant. The Persian Restaurant was dark. There was a single sheet of paper taped to the door that read: “Due to the economy we have had to close our doors. We are sorry.” It was a sad omen for the New Year. We realized that the Lookout Grill was quiet and wondered if they had closed for the night. We hoped we were not going to be out of luck for dinner. When we were relieved when we came around the corner and saw the front door of the Pub invitingly propped open.
As we reached the top of the stairs, I noticed that the place was half filled with middle aged folks like us. Or maybe I should say boomers like us? Or even empty-nesters like us? A transplanted Brit had diligently created a bit of home on the California central coast and the ambiance was warm and appealing. We sat at a tall table and were quickly greeted by a smiling waitress in a black paper top hat with Happy New Year around the band. Randy ordered another JW with a Cornish pasty while I decided upon a Bass Ale with my Cottage Pie. Basically they were the same thing, ground beef with veggies in a pastry or under mashed potatoes. Guinness gravy made them both tasty.
So there we were…without kids, our first Holiday as empty nesters. No teenaged angst. We had had a great Christmas with our adult kids of 20 and 23 years of age. Now they were back to their own homes and lives and New Year’s without their parents. It was weird. It was cool.
Being on our own and in a British Pub brought back memories of a New Year’s Eve spent in London’s Trafalgar Square in 1976. I was attending the University of Lund, Sweden, as part of a junior year abroad with the University of California’s Education Abroad Program (EAP). Randy had come to spend the holiday break with me in Europe. A bunch of EAP students for programs all over Europe had converged on the London EAP students since London was the Times Square equivalent. I think there were about 20 people staying in the cold water walk up without any heat. Man, was it cold and damp. I think this was where I really learned what “chilled to the bone” really meant.
The flat was about 5 Km from downtown so we took the tube to Trafalgar Square. In the crowed throng we were soon separated from the other students and found ourselves on our own. We enjoyed the revelry. Everyone was passing the drink and even the Bobbies were joining in. The crowds dispersed quickly after 1977 was welcomed in.
We headed for the subway where we discovered it closed until morning. Crazy! We never imagined that the tube would close at midnight. We were a long way from the flat and we really didn’t know how to get there. This was quite a dilemma. No GPS. No map. We decided to follow the tube maps from station to station. It was the only directions we had at hand. There were some interesting private cars who were offering taxi service at high prices. They seemed to be more than a little questionable and definitely out of our price range as poor students.
So we started to walk. We had no idea what kind of neighborhoods we would be walking through. At least we were together. There were fewer and fewer people as the blocks passed. I vividly recall a gentleman in his late 30’s leaning back against a tall grey stone office building. He was looking straight ahead without focusing on anything. He was wearing a white dress shirt and a loosened black tie. He held his right arm out like a waiter, but instead of a towel, his trousers were neatly folded and hanging over his arm. His polished black leather shoes were presented in his left hand. Blue and white strip boxers and black ankle socks completed his ensemble. We arrived at the flat about 4 am, very tired and definitely chilled to the bone.
Reminiscing about that London New Year’s thirty years ago was interrupted when the Pub’s late night performer miked up and started belting out Ricky Nelson tunes. A Hawaiian shirt, blazing’ pink tennis shoes, a guitar, laminated song lists passed out amongst the guests, and the party was on. The Eagles lead to the Beach Boys. He really got the crowd going with audience participation on Ba Ba Ba, Ba Bar-baran, Barbara Ann. You could imagine that you were still in The 70’s if it weren’t for the many flat screens overhead. The crazy Red Bull Motor cross rider was preparing to jump the Arch de Triumph in Vegas. Simulations repeatedly showed every imaginable manner of failing a successful jump.
It was very quiet during the walk back to the Varekai. I wondered what other boats in the harbor had occupants. Certainly there weren’t many.
We watched another DVD and spent the last hour before midnight flipping between Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest and the other TV offerings. We wanted to see the Red Bull rider jump the Arch. Instead we got Robby Kneivel jumping the fake volcano at the Mirage in Vegas. The Clinton’s dropped the crystal ball in New York Times Square. Watching a post-stroke Dick Clark was hard at first, but the courage and the “realness” the effort Dick was putting forth was endearing. It was noble to see a celebrity be accepted in main stream media, even though he is no longer “perfect.”
We’d made it to midnight! We shared a “just-us” New Year’s kiss. Then we texted “Happy New Year!” to the kids and friends. After a flurry of text replies, we went to sleep.
Welcome 2009!

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