The only thing I like better than observing tradition is creating a new one.
For the past several years I’ve spent New Year’s Eve in my long-forgotten hometown of Kansas City, though there hasn’t been much of a traditional observance to speak of. This, that and the other. A meal here, a drink there. This group, that group. How is one “supposed” to observe the turning of the year?
I organized nothing for 2014, found myself without any invitations, and had no rituals to fall back on, so I did what I do in most circumstances: look for the neighborhood French bistro and make friends with the bartender.
I arrived at Aixois a little before five and anticipated a straightforward night: a glass or two of wine, some steak frites or frog legs, and an early bedtime.
I ordered a Cotes du Rhone and met the bartender originally from the Czech Republic, very near Katowice.
I had another glass and met the other bartender who graduated from Trinity Dublin with a Masters in Interfaith studies.
I ordered the frog legs and met the guys from the shop “for men with taste” on the Plaza. They gave me a cigar.
I met some friends of the chef’s and ordered the lamb rack.
Another glass or two, a couple more introductions, and before I know it, I’m toasting 2014 with the French chef/owner.
I really had every intention of going to bed early. . .
On reflection, I realize I spent a good seven-hour work day perched at that bar and exercised some pretty advanced and fulfilling skills. Can one’s vocation be to be a barfly?
A couple nights in to the New Year, I stopped back in that neighborhood boite for an early dinner and said hello to some of the other regulars.
Did I know I’d been referenced in the local blog “dandysnuff”? “I doubt many people knew such a bird perched in a tree,” the blogger wrote about his new Boston friend.
I got home and found an email from another of my new New Year friends making plans for next year. “Same place, same time?” Pourquois pas?
One might see in this listing of events nothing more than excessive consumption, and there’s truth in the suggestion that a good customer is by default a good friend.
But I’d like to think there’s more at work here. That when you walk into a room with no expectations and a willingness to order the proverbial lamb rack anything happen.
And that, I think, is going to be my new New Year’s tradition.