Last night was probably the first time in more than four-and-a-half decades that I was not awake as the New Year began. My daughter was at a friend’s party, and I knew she wouldn’t be back until quite late. My wife worked all day Tuesday — and rarely makes it past 10pm regardless of the date. I was wiped out, too, after being up early, playing poker all afternoon, and still fighting off a cold that saps my energy, will not go away, and is about to enter its third mucus-filled week.
So, my 2013 ended a couple of hours before 2014 began.
Even in the years when I was awake as the calendar changed, I rarely ventured out into the world. I worked too many New Year’s Eve promotions in bars and clubs in the first half of my radio career, which caused me to lose all interest in being around a large group of drunk people. I’ve been invited to a few smaller parties at friends’ houses, but since I don’t drink any alcohol, I usually feel like the odd man out.
Back in 1985, my wife and I decided to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends Bill and Sheryl at our apartment, and thought it would be fun to make Chinese food from scratch in the new wok we’d just bought. Each couple bought enough ingredients for us to make wonton soup, a pork dish, a chicken dish, vegetables, and rice. They arrived at our place around 9pm.
We started out having fun talking and laughing as we chopped, boiled, and prepared everything, but since none of us had ever made Chinese food before (consumed, sure, but not cooked), we had no idea how intricate everything was. The preparations took much longer than we estimated. To make a long story short, when the ball dropped at midnight, we still hadn’t eaten anything except the soup. By the time we finally had the rest of the meal at 1am, we were starving, tempers were short, and there was nothing left to say to each other.
My only observation at the time was the hope that someday we’d look back at that New Year’s Eve and laugh. I was wrong. After more than a quarter-century, it’s still not funny. I wonder if there are any Chinese people who had a similar bad experience trying to cook American food on their New Year’s Eve (“we could not get the buffalo wings and pork steaks ready at the same time!”).
I’m pretty sure we never used that wok again — and though we’ve eaten a lot of Chinese food since then, it has always been in a restaurant where professionals know what they’re doing and can have it on our plates in much less time.
As for New Year’s Eve, I still leave it to the amateurs.