by Helene Stapinski
Every year it’s the same drill. Our family and friends ask, “So what are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” and we always answer, “Staying in our pajamas.”
It wasn’t always that way.
Years ago, back in the early 90s, we tried to go out. We really did.
There were the parties, where people either threw up or passed out, or both. We tried parties at our place, but people either threw up or passed out, or both.
There was the time I tried to go to Times Square, and had to maneuver through the underground subway tunnels to get by the police barricades and drunken fools lining the streets. There was the year we went for a fancy prix fixe dinner in SoHo. We got dressed up and drank champagne and blew noise makers and had a fun time. But when we got the bill, we felt like patsies.
There was the night we went out with my best friend Sara and had a good time. But on the way home, a belligerent drunk called my husband an asshole.
My husband, who never loses his temper, lost his temper. He grabbed the guy by the lapels and threw him on the hood of a car right there on Sixth Avenue, as I stood there screaming. All the guy really needed was a gentle push and he would have gone down; he was that plastered.
That was the last time we ever went out for New Year’s Eve. Sara still hasn’t recovered. And neither have I.
My husband and I like to drink. We consider ourselves professionals. Experts, if you will. We go to the oldest, most sophisticated bars and hotel lounges to sip $15 martinis. We love to make cocktails at home in Brooklyn — complicated creations involving absinthe and orange blossom water and maraschino cherries (not all inthe same drink usually).
But we know how to hold our liquor. We know when we’ve had enough, and we don’t pick fights with people on the street.
New Year’s Eve is amateur night. The streets and bars and restaurants and cabs are filled with people who don’t don’t know what they’re doing, and who don’t usually drink — or drink Schlitz out of a beer bong maybe. They’re the people who wear baseball caps instead of neckties to those sophisticated lounges and talk too loudly at the bar.
These people are not serious drinkers like we are. They don’t appreciate a finely made ice cube or a high-end, meaty olive. New Year’s Eve — much like St. Patrick’s Day — is their night. We leave it to them. Bottoms up. Cin-cin.
For the past two decades, we have refused to leave the house on New Year’s Eve. (Just as I refuse to go into Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day). We put on our flannels, turn on some cocktail music, then have a couple of Old Fashioneds. We make kid cocktails for our children – orange juice, ginger ale and maraschino cherries in tiki mugs. Then whip up a cheese fondue, followed by a chocolate fondue, then drink a little bit more. Some champagne or an after-dinner snort perhaps.
Dick Clark is too depressing. And Carson Daly? No thanks. We watch Woody’s Allen’s love letter to 1940s New York, “Radio Days,” which ends with a touching New Year’s Eve moment on the roof of one of our favorites, the King Cole Bar. The best scene, though, is when one of the characters runs out of the house in his boxers, terrorizing the neighborhood with a meat cleaver.
“That’s what Daddy is like when we go out on New Year’s Eve,” I tell the kids. They laugh and laugh.
We don’t wait for the ball to drop, and are in deep REM by midnight. I go to sleep slightly toasted and listen as the fireworks and horns in the harbor blend into my pleasant dreams, ushering in another new year.
Note: This post originally appeared in 2010.
Helene Stapinski is the author of the bestselling memoir Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History, and Baby Plays Around: A Love Affair, with Music. She has written articles for The New York Times, New York magazine, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure and Salon. To read other essays written by Helene Stapinski, click here.