A not-so-new new year
So here we are with a brand new year spread out before us … like a patient etherized upon a table. (Hmmm. Nice phrase. Have I heard that somewhere before?)Anyway, December is almost over and then comes that nifty new year, a clean slate.Except, pardon me for asking, what’s so new about it? I mean, almost for sure, Jan. 1, 2 and 3 are going to be more or less exactly the same as Dec. 29, 30 and 31. Except, of course, for the hangover.Nothing “new” is going to come along any time soon.This so-called “new year” is no more “new” than yesterday’s underwear turned inside out so you can wear it one more day without doing the laundry. If we started the new year in the spring, when things really are new, when the world is reborn after the winter, that would make sense.But, no, we celebrate the new year by getting stinking drunk at a time – in this part of the world anyway – when getting drunk and passing out can be a fatal mistake.How many people have died, frozen to death in a gutter, who would have lived to drink another day if we celebrated New Year’s in mid-July?The ancient Romans used to celebrate the beginning of the year in March, when things were beginning to warm up. (And given the kind of booze they were drinking, that was a good idea.) They used to end the year with a 60-day period that didn’t even have a name. It wasn’t an official month, it was the middle of winter and the heck with it.Then they renamed that midwinter stretch January and February and made January the beginning of the year.January (since we’re into the educational part of the column) is named after the Roman god Janus, who has two faces – which reminds me of one New Year’s Eve and a certain two-faced cocktail waitress who … never mind, I’m not going to tell that story. Not now. Not ever.I remember another New Year’s Eve here in Aspen when, at some ungodly hour, I was walking home. I was walking because I was way too drunk to drive – too drunk to remember where I’d left my car, actually.I stopped at a corner and paused to find the courage, strength and balance to make across the street. A guy on a motorcycle stopped next to me. I waited for him to go, figuring I might pass out halfway across the street and he’d run me over.He waited for me. I waited for him. We both stood there for what seemed like eternity and then, apparently every bit as drunk as I was, he toppled over onto the pavement and his motorcycle fell on top of him with a crash.It seemed safe for me to cross the street and stagger the rest of the way home.The police didn’t report any fatalities that night, so I guess he managed to make his way – with or without his motorcycle – to someplace warm.For me, that wraps up the essence of New Year’s. Two drunks standing on a corner, stupefied, too drunk to know where they are or where they’re going. Standing there ’til one of them falls down in the gutter and the other one steps across his unconscious body and staggers on. Remember the old hippie declaration: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”? That was supposed to get you all excited and make you race out into the world, arms outspread in ecstasy, determined to do great things with your “new life.”Except eventually you realized that “first day of the rest of your life” stuff was going to be true tomorrow too. So, you know, screw it. I’ll start the rest of my life tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.And, well, New Year’s is like that. It’s the first day of … um … January. It’s the first day of the rest of your winter. Wow.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is email@example.com
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