The Incredible Lightness of Being with Options

This year, I finally figured out that the key to being content on New Years Eve, as in life, is all about having options, even if you choose not to take them.

I have never been a fan of New Year’s Eve. I don’t love really crowded rooms, especially when they’re crowded with really drunk people. And I find there to be something sad and misguided about over-priced menus that pile all the usual suspects—foie gras, caviar, champagne—into one liver-taxing meal in a desperate stab at making the meal stand out. Mostly, though, I don’t like New Year’s because I rarely have anything to do. These days, the majority of my friends either leave town on New Year’s eve or they are in bed before midnight. New Year’s eve, for me, has become a night to survive, to get past. I took it as a good sign, then that this year as of Monday, New Year’s Eve eve, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that I didn’t have anything to do—or any one to do it with.

The first time I realized my potentially sorry situation was when the situation was remedied. My friend Jonathan, who owns a restaurant, Barbuto, around the corner from my New York apartment emailed me to tell me that if I was in the neighborhood, to come around the corner and have a drink. This was perfect. I could stay home and write resolutions and otherwise plot a sort of personal comeback for 2009, resting assured that I was insured against that dreaded reality of Midnight Alone.

As it happened, I didn’t go to Barbuto because I didn’t need to. My friends Steven and Lisa stopped by at four o’clock yesterday afternoon, we walked around the corner to Pastis, and plotted our Perfect Evening spending New Year’s Eve together. (The kind of misery that New Year’s eve has the tendency to bring on is the kind easily cured by finding someone else in the exact frame of mind you are in. There turned out to be four of us.)

We thought we wanted to go to a restaurant, Charles, in the neighborhood, but that turned out to be just because we couldn’t get in. When they emailed us over our late lunch to say they had an opening, we decided it would be more fun to cook at home and then go out rather than spend three hours looking at each other waiting for midnight to roll around. We decided to cook and then go out before midnight to join the party.

We started with a lobster salad and for dinner, we made the Snow Salad we invented on Christmas Day, roasted brussels sprouts, and baked halibut—a big ol’ slab of it, caked in fresh herbs, cooked so that it was still moist. Nothing fancy. Nothing special. That’s what made it so great. We didn’t end up going out to ring in the New Year. Why? Because we were content. All dressed up and no place we would rather be than exactly where we were.

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