Friday, January 06, 2006

New Year's in the Big Apple

New Years' this year was at a friend's place in Harlem. A friend of mine and his girlfriend, who is also a friend of mine got toether with old college classmates at his place on 125th Street. We had little in common except that since graduating from college, we've been drifting in and out of New York every couple of years.

Sitting in front of the TV with my gin 'n tonic, I thought about how we "New Yorkers" are all posers. Every year we turn our noses up at the tourists in Times Square yet insist on going somewhere where we can watch the ball drop on TV. So we watched. And when the ball dropped blew our noisemakers so loudly you would have thought there was a bus load of 10-year-old birthday boys in my friend's small living room.

"Wow, your place feels like home, RH," a couple of us said. "It's so comfortable here." It was a slippery story to tell ourselves. All of us could have spent New Years elsewhere. But we were getting a little older and maybe a little lazier, and there was some kind of collective feeling that we would rather spend the evening with a few loosely gathered friends in Harlem than to brave a crowd of strangers, or another city, or even the relatives' house in Long Island, for that matter. I sensed the settled feeling among us that it did not matter to any of us where we spent the first day of the year, so long as it was in a safe place, with the people who, for that night, we had chosen.

While in this comfort zone, I remembered all of the things that made this New Year's in New York novel. The glimpse of first snow in December, which left just as soon as it fell, before the cars had a chance to mash muddy tracks on to the streets. The memory of the strike, which brought out a person-to-person kindness that reminded me of September 11, but seemed filled with more comradery, more defiance. The stretch limo that got me and 15 other commuters back over the Brooklyn Bridge. The pictures of my mom's sixtieth birthday party in October. The two newborn babies of couples I know, one of whom is crying in the living room of the apartment next to mine right now.