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The Column

When, Praytell, Were The Days of Auld Lang Syne?
12/29/02

I'll admit it - I do not yet have plans for New Year's Eve. I'm sure I will be somewhere that will involve a ball and dropping and a hearty chorus of that forgetting your acquaintances song, but I can't yet tell you where that is.

Tuning in to watch the ball drop is perhaps the strangest of our New Year's traditions, mainly because the camera follows the ball down so it rarely looks like it's moving. And even if we could follow the movement, think about what this practice means metaphorically. To "drop the ball" means to screw up, so by dropping the ball on last year, we're admitting that it didn't go quite as well as we'd planned. But that's why we have a new year. And we can screw it up all over again until we're able to drop the ball on that one, too. Great message, huh?

I'm not spending New Year's Eve alone - I know better than that. I don't want to watch Dick Clark wading through balloons while he presents musical acts of which he's never heard. And I certainly don't want to do it alone. At least with other people there, I can make fun of the phrase "New Year's Rockin' Eve." But there's nothing sadder than making snide comments to your lamp. Especially if you've dressed it up to look like a person.

When Dick Clark finally does pass away in 50 or 60 years, no one will know what to do about New Year's. He's been the only New Year's Eve host for so long that television executives would be at a loss. "And now, some drunk we pulled off the street! He may not have TV credits, but there isn't anyone left in the world who has hosted a New Year's special, and all it cost us to get this guy was a bottle of Chivas."

And though there used to be other hosts, Dick Clark has obtained such a monopoly over crappy New Year's specials that other networks have given up. NBC and CBS have their usual lineups of Leno and Letterman, which are both taped much earlier than midnight. "3...2...1...Happy 5:30!" And Fox has a New Year's show, but it's filmed live in Las Vegas. It's airing from 11:00-12:30 Eastern Time, which means it will end at about 10:30 in Nevada. Happy 10:30!

There is a reason I'm not sure where I'm going for New Year's. It's the one night the entire year that you don't need to make definite plans; half the people you know are throwing parties. New Year's is not like a typical weekend, where it's hit or miss. New Year's is always hit. Every bar is full, there's a line for every club, and the crappiest restaurants are reserved months ahead of time. There's even a big space in New York where half a million people stand around in the cold for three hours, trying to catch a glimpse of Dick Clark rocking his eve.

I will probably go to one of two parties that my friends are having, or perhaps both since they're five blocks from each other. And it's quite possible that there are more parties in between those two that I just haven't heard about yet. But wherever I end up, someone is bound to wish me a happy and healthy new year. Which is nice, as long as I don't have a healthy New Year's Eve. That's not a night you want to be swimming laps and munching on lettuce.

I've never thrown my own New Year's Eve party and I don't think I ever will. The last activity with which I want to start my year is cleaning up my living room. But some people are obsessed with throwing New Year's parties, even if other friends of theirs have already been planning their own party for months. When you throw a New Year's party because your group of friends has nothing else to do, you're helping out. But if you're simply throwing a competing party, it's probably because you want to take the credit for people enjoying their New Year. But the party we go to has very little to do with whether or not we enjoy ourselves. The concept of a new year pleases everyone, regardless of his or her station in life. If you're successful at what you do, then the New Year is just another in a long line of happy times. And if you're unsuccessful, well, the New Year symbolizes a chance to turn things around. And when that doesn't work, you're allowed to drop the ball and wait for the New Year after that.

But no New Year's Eve would be complete without making a few resolutions that you break by the end of January. This year, however, I'm only making one, and I swear I'm going to stick to it. I'm going to outlive Dick Clark.

Happy New Year.

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