Here we go again. The years may change, but every December 31, the questions remain the same. Do I splurge on an overpriced, underwhelming dinner at a restaurant where the criminal intent is to rob special-occasion thrill-seekers blind? Do I head to the most crowded spot in town — on foot, since the taxis are all taken — to countdown with throngs of drunken strangers? Or do I stand in line for an hour or two and pay double or triple the normal cover charge to muscle my way through the crowd in some over-hyped nightclub? Whoever invented the custom of celebrating New Year’s Eve by doing any of the above should be sentenced to spend eternity ringing in the new year in the middle of Times Square.
I hate saying goodbye in general — I’ve sneaked out of my own parties in order to skip that part — so why should bidding adieu to the old year be any different? I don’t know anyone who actually loves New Year’s Eve, yet so many people spend weeks planning the big night, only to be supremely disappointed by those few hours before and after the ball drops. Yours might not be as disastrous as it was for the folks in Strange Days, Poseidon and so many other New Year’s Eve-set movies, but at least those guys on the sinking SS Poseidon got Fergie for entertainment.
As for the rest of us, if you’re not kissing the wrong person, like Joey and Chandler in that first-season episode of Friends, you’re kissing no one at all. (Poor William H. Macy in Boogie Nights. Better luck next year — or, um, maybe not.) Come December 2011, there’ll be a sequel to the 2010 rom-com hit Valentine’s Day (another hateful holiday) called — what’s else? — New Year’s Eve. Haven’t we suffered enough? Characters on prime-time TV barely acknowledge it anymore, yet everyone else keeps coming back for more.
The other night I had dinner with a friend at Casa Cruz, one of Buenos Aires’s nicest restaurants. It’s also one of the priciest. The average entree costs about 100 pesos, which is the equivalent of $25. That’s nothing by New York City standards, but considering that in BA, you can get a two-course meal and share a bottle of wine for roughly the same amount, dining at Casa Cruz is what one would call culinary extravagance. But what made my eyes really pop when the bill arrived was the New Year’s Eve prix-fixe menu — a choice of appetizers, entrees, desserts and beverages — that was included with it. The fixed price: $120 for children, $240 for adults.
Strangely, the prices were quoted in U.S. dollars, presumably because someone realized that not even the biggest sucker in BA would fall for a four-digit price tag. But who would be willing to drop all that cash on a meal that will be prepared the same way that it is on any other night? People who are desperate to be anywhere but home? Then you can start the new year broke, with a massive hangover, wondering, “Why did I go there?”
One New Year’s Eve I almost had a good time. It was when 2000 was turning into 2001, and I went with a friend to an MTV party in New York City. Getting through Times Square was sort of a nightmare, but once we were past the velvet rope and inside the MTV studio, it was temporarily uphill. Reese Witherspoon was there. So was Ryan Phillipe. And Carson Daly, too. (This was pre-American Idol, when Daly, not Ryan Seacrest, was supposed to be the next Dick Clark.) Somehow someone must have slipped something into my friend’s drink. One moment she was perfectly normal, the next she was losing it. I ended up carrying her home, tucking her in and promising myself, “Never again!”
Of course, every year I break my own vow, only to be singing the same tune the next day. Speaking of tunes, have you noticed that New Year’s songs — from the classics like “Auld Lang Syne” and “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” to ABBA’s “Happy New Year” and U2’s “New Year’s Day” — are always anything but celebratory? Why so sad? Maybe because the people who wrote them realize what I’ve now known for years: New Year’s Eve sucks.
The key to a happy New Year: Treat December 31 like any other night. Ring in January 1 in the comfort of your own home or in the comfort of someone else’s within walking distance. Your bank account will be grateful the next day, and so will your head. You won’t end up possessed by the devil and impaled like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Y2K thriller End of Days, and best of all, when you get around to making your New Year’s resolutions, “Never again!” won’t have to be one of them.