Wonder (ing)

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Wow! Another new year is upon us and by now I’ve had this experience quite a few times. I was trying to remember among all those previous celebrations of this change from old to new which of them stood out to me and why. Surprisingly few did. I wondered why. Maybe it was the alcohol.

I’ve only been drunk a very few times. It was an experience I didn’t want to repeat and though I crossed over the line from high to a little tipsy a time or two, drunk was truly a rarity.

The first of them by chance was a New Year’s Eve in Boulder in the early Sixties and I was having a great time, at least for a while. When I woke up the next morning on the sofa of the host’s apartment, nicely wrapped in  a blanket and not so nicely in considerable pain, monster headache, bleary, nauseous, and without any recollection whatsoever of anything past maybe 10 p.m. the night before.

The first thought that penetrated my miserable brainpan was that I apparently neglected to pick up my wife when her shift slinging drinks at a local tavern wrapped up at midnight. Should old acquaintance be forgot, and so forth. Neither that New Year’s day nor the marriage itself went well.

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There were a couple of New Year’s Eve celebrations I recall in Denver in the Nineties, when champagne and cocaine were the fuel of choice. They’re memorable not for that, because surely there were many in the Seventies powered just so. Rather, they emerge from all the others for two reasons: twice in a row the temperature on December 31 was well below zero, and both years the gathering was hosted by my banker friend and his very beautiful spouse.

They were raucous affairs to be sure but what stands out in my recollection is how the males in the room as the clock neared the witching hour began casually but with purpose to ease their way through the crowd toward our hostess so that when the celebratory well wishes, hugs and kisses were exchanged she was certain to be in your immediate circle. Was it uncouth? Perhaps, but it was noticeable and pretty ubiquitous.

credit: nationalgeographic.org

One very remarkable New Year’s Eve was the last day of both the century and the millennium in 1999, when people stayed home in droves, awaiting the chaos to occur at the stoke of midnight when all the world’s computers suffered Y2K and failed. There simply weren’t enough chips, we were told, to replace those required. Apparently the geniuses who built those clever machines didn’t anticipate the time very soon arriving when One must turn into Two.

Married for barely a year, Lucretia and I were amused when my recently minted stepmother-in-law arrived earlier that week with a large box of emergency provisions with which we might survive the coming social collapse. We were polite when she handed us a slim book that spelled out in detail why there was no way to avoid the catastrophe. We were unsure where on the family farm she and her husband were hiding that night, but they were far from the only ones similarly hunkered down.

We instead went out on the town, had a great meal at a nearly empty restaurant that usually was packed, and then headed downtown to a favorite club to spend the evening with the great vocalist Mark Murphy and his band. Iconoclasts that they tend to be, the jazz fans filled the room. Otherwise, the town was empty. We parked ten feet from the door to the club.

credit: Rahav Segev for The New York Times

This New Year’s Eve, as we have the past few years, my daughters, their SO’s, and our extraordinary grandchildren gathered for a long weekend. As always, it was great. Good laughs, stories serious or funny, lots of great food and wine, and a magnum of Pierre Peters courtesy of Deva and Ryan. One of my daughters wasn’t feeling especially well, and shortly after the weekend closed and all of us were back into our respective abodes, we realized all of us have Covid. Oops! As Lucretia said: it’s better when you get it from someone you love. I expect this will be one of those transitions from one year to the next we remember.

My life is full of wonder and wondering. Always has been and hopefully will continue to be. We’re curious as each new year dawns what the days ahead will hold for us and what we’ll make of them. My wish is always pretty much the same: that wonder and wondering will make me curious and curiosity will lead me to interesting places, even if some of them like this one are not especially pleasant.

credit: cdc.gov









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