For us - a trip to the Olive Garden for an early dinner, and then our annual battle to make it to midnight and the start of the new year. Tomorrow - early Mass, followed by HGTV's commercial-free presentation of the Rose Parade. After that, we'll see.
It wasn't always that uncertain, however. As you might have figured, in my misspent youth New Year's meant only one thing - football. (Well, two things actually - football, and the end of Christmas vacation.) Back then I'd spend New Year's Eve watching the Bluebonnet Bowl, then getting ready for the Big Day - the Cotton, Sugar, Rose and Orange Bowls. I'd map out my strategy, figuring out which games to concentrate on, almost always picking out one game in particular to concentrate on. Some years I'd bring my portable TV from my room and set it on top of the big TV in the living room, so I could watch two games at once. (For more affectionate reminiscences of New Year's football past, see this column from Michael Bradley at SI.com.
But times have changed, and as you all know, we have to change with them. As my interest in football has wained, I've had to look elsewhere for my New Year's jollies.
Perhaps my most memorable New Year's Eve was a couple of years ago, when I took my friend Gary out to lunch for his birthday. We drove down to Red Wing, to the Veranda at the St. James Hotel, for a half sandwich and soup. Gary never made a big deal out of his birthday, coming as it did on New Year's Eve, but I thought he might be planning something big for the following year, which would be the big five-oh, and I asked him about it.
"Nah," he said, "but we might do something in a couple of years for my 50th."
"What do you mean?" I said. "You're 50 next year."
"No I'm not. I'll only be 49."
"No," I said. "You're 49 now."
"I'm 48," he said.
"You were born in 1953," I pointed out.
"And that makes me 48," he insisted.
"Gary, trust me," I said. "I know how this works. You're 49 now, you're going to be 50 next year." At this point there wasn't much I could do other than diagram it for him. He looked at the evidence for a few moments and was silent. Finally he sighed.
"Ah, crap," he said. "You're right."
"I'm sorry," I said helpfully.
"I feel like I've just lost a whole year," he said.
"You always did say there was no such thing as a free lunch," I reminded him.
"Yeah," he grumbled. "All this one cost me was a year of my life."
It's to Gary's everlasting credit that he was able to see the humor in the situation, albeit not as quickly as I did, since I was cackling about it all the way home. As soon as he dropped me off, I called his wife, Judi.
"When your husband gets home," I said, "ask him how old he is today."
You might think she would have hesitated at a weird request like this coming out of nowhere, or at least asked what it was all about. But all she said was, "OK, I'll ask him." She'd had plenty of experience linking weird and Gary.
I remind him of this every couple of months, and it's always good for a laugh ("at my expense," he says ruefully). I've related the story to my co-workers, one of whom asked him, when he came up to the office for lunch one day, if he was the one who didn't know how old he was. You might think that Gary puts up with a lot having me for a friend, but it works both ways, trust me.
I just got off the phone with him a few minutes ago, wishing him a happy birthday. "I'll be 51 this year," he said. "I know how old I am this time." He assumed I'd be writing something about this for the blog. To tell you the truth, between you and me, the thought hadn't even occurred to me until he mentioned it.
But never let it be said that I don't take Gary's advice...
A Happy, Happy Birthday, my good friend! And Happy New Year to all of you from the Hadleys! We'll talk to you again next year!
UPDATE: I made it to midnight. My ailing wife, suffering from a virus of some type, only made it to midnight Eastern time - long enough to see the ball drop before she dropped into bed.