My New Year's Eve

I greeted the new Year 2000, (sort of) the new Century, and (sort of) the new Millennium in my own quiet way.

Last year I had spent it by the sea in Florida, which is where I would have liked to spend it this year, but for some misgivings about getting back to Chicago in time to go to work. Even the airlines cut back their schedules because of the uncertainty regarding the Y2K computer business.

For the previous four years though, I had actually been in New York City on New Year's Eve. The evening was spent Fledermausing at the Met and then, though I was praying inwardly that she was blithely unaware of the date, my opera companion steered me away from the door of our hotel to the corner of 7th avenue and 58th street. My feet moved as though bound in chains and headed for the gallows. Unbounded was my joy, standing on a frozen pavement, surrounded by drunken twenty-somethings blowing lustily into those kazoo-sounding party noisemakers which are the calling cards of these bon-vivants.

How my pulse raced as I stood peering down 7th avenue to where some bright TV lights were blazing.
"Hey! It's on t.v.- we could watch it in our cosy hotel room" was the phrase that fell on deaf ears. The ball would drop to much yelling and cries of "huzzah!"  Hap-Hap- Happy New Year!! We would join the throng of people whose chosen escape route was east down 58th street and after a few yards reach the sanctuary of the Essex House hotel.

I know I am a grumpy old geezer- but I can recall feeling similarly "ho-hum" about staged exhibitions of glee as a young whisp back in Ireland. Even Christmas ceased to be special once I found out that "Santa visiting" me (if I had been a good boy, otherwise tough-luck buster!) was just a sham. At some point it must have been decided that I was too old, or had blown the Santa myth, to leave wrapped cowboy guns and erector sets by my bed as I snoozed fitfully. I was probably around 26 years old when it happened and from then on it was just the promise of a big turkey dinner that kept Christmas alive until I found that turkeys grew year round and were just as tasty in May.  Maybe I am "no fun" and in fact, I don't respond well to being tickled or to being "given a wedgie" - but it takes all sorts of people to make up a world.

I indulged in my idea of "fun" on this New Year's Eve just past.
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It was spent with a friend in her new cottage in Michigan among the deer and the squirrels. The nearest occupied house was several hundred yards away. Snow lay upon the ground. A chill was in the air as we walked on the beach while the sun set for the last time this Year. To the sun I am sure it was just another day of exploding hydrogen. Blood red it was as it sank over the smokestacks from the steelmills of Gary, Indiana.

The cottage looked warm and inviting as we crunched home through the snow.  In the hearth I had quite a blaze of logs. We didn't listen to the Immolation Scene, however, but rather raised the temperature even higher with a recording of Tosca.  Callas and Di Stefano with Gobbi and Di Sabata.  I need say no more.

As the hours ticked away I slumped further into my rocking chair and drained a bottle of Michigan Chardonnay. My friend on the computer was surfing a site called "" which has remote cameras installed all over the globe so one can take a peek. Times Square in New York City was selected and a fuzzy video of a sea of people in a state of high excitement flickered on the screen.

The excitement was too much for me and I had to toss another log on the fire and dip into a deep bag of English toffees that Terri had baked with her own skillful hands.

As the clock above the mantlepiece inevitably told me it was midnight, I felt myself pass smoothly into a new Millennium (well, sort of) and into a new century. But for a chest littered with toffee crumbs I looked and felt the same as I had done just seconds before in the 20th Century.

Apart from the chilling fact that I will die in this new Century, I feel confident that it will be a darned good one. It is unlikely that there will be two world wars in this one: no Hitler, no Stalin. No Berlin Wall. No Pol Pot. No more Beatle assassinations. It could be a darned good century. I remain hopeful.

Operatically speaking, this month sees my favorite opera "Tristan und Isolde" take to the boards of the Lyric Opera House in Chicago, featuring Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen. I would hope that some of you have plans to attend and that if you were to spot me in the lobby, all that love and feeling for your fellow man that you showed on New Year's Eve would translate into a compelling urge to buy me a drink at the bar(?)

As I said, I remain hopeful!

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