Thursday, December 27, 2007

Amateur Night

Elizabeth Zelvin

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have a special name for New Year’s Eve. They call it Amateur Night. It’s the night when everybody else goes out and tries to behave like genuine drunks. Being amateurs, of course they fall short. They drink ghastly punch with sweet juices and chemical sodas and who knows what ill-conceived combination of hard liquor, cheap champagne, and cloying liqueurs thrown in. They throw up and pass out. No self-respecting alcoholic who values his or her sobriety would be caught dead out on Amateur Night. Who needs New Year’s Eve? As my protagonist Bruce says in Death Will Get You Sober, it’s a holiday with no traditions whatsoever, apart from getting blitzed and counting backwards from twelve. Glad to let everybody else make fools of themselves, they may stay home or drop in on one of the AA meeting marathons that offer round-the-clock support on major holidays to those who have chosen living over drinking.

Most working people get the holidays off, including Christmas and New Year’s. A friend of ours counted it as the busiest time of his working year. Was he a caterer? A salesman in a toy store? Nope. He was a blood tech in the emergency room of a hospital on Long Island. Around midnight, when his shift began, on Christmas Eve and again on New Year’s Eve, they would start wheeling in the bodies. An article that appeared on a few days before last New Year’s Eve says alcohol-related traffic deaths jump on New Year’s Eve and supports it with statistics.

Cars are not a big issue in Manhattan, where I live. But the noise on the streets long past midnight and the increased number of passengers being sick on the subway make New Year’s Eve a good time to stay home. Since the kids, now long grown up and moved out, started making their own plans for the evening, we’ve usually made ourselves an elegant dinner to eat by candlelight. Manhattan! you may say. Don’t you ever go to Times Square to watch the ball drop? Nope. Never. My son went once, I think it was his first year in college. Wisely, he neither asked my permission nor told me he’d gone till New Year’s Day. With typical city-kid aplomb, he reported: “It was one-third tourists, one-third college kids, and one-third muggers—and even the muggers were friendly.”

One reason to go out on New Year’s Eve in the past was that it was a rare opportunity to dress up, whether for a party or dinner in a fancy restaurant, in our increasingly dress-down culture. Since I became a mystery writer, I no longer need that excuse. The invitations to Mystery Writers of America’s annual holiday party and to the Edgars awards banquet in the spring, MWA’s answer to the Oscars, usually stipulate that we should “dress to kill.” And nobody even gets hurt.

So I’ve already attended my dress-up event for the season, and a few nights from now my husband and I will finish our delicious home-cooked meal, get into our jammies, and may or may not turn on the TV. And at midnight when the ball drops and all the frostbitten tourists (and college kids and muggers) sing Auld Lang Syne, we will probably be fast asleep.


Sandra Parshall said...

The only time of year that's more dangerous than New Year's Eve is the night following high school graduation. Since different school systems in a metro area have different grad days, the string of teenage accidents and deaths on the road due to drunk driving can stretch out for a week or more. It's sad to see anyone's life ended by such a stupid indulgence.

Joyce said...

This must be a popular topic. I just blogged on DUIs over at Working Stiffs.

I just typed four police reports for DUI arrests from Sunday. Our township isn't that big, either. Fortunately our teenage accidents seem to be going down since some new programs were instituted. Unfortunately, there will always be idiots who think they can drive anyway.

Darlene Ryan said...

Our New Year's Eve celebration is also low-key. Each of us picks a favorite food for dinner--which has lead to some very odd meals over the years.

I don't make New Year's resolutions--I make mine in the spring--but has anyone else set goals for the new year?

Ken said...

Sylvia and I are usually awake "when the ball drops"...but only because we've remembered to set the alarm for 11:55 p.m.!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

LOL, Ken--and if we're awake, it's because they set off fireworks in Central Park, one long block away, at midnight. And Darlene, my blog next Thursday will be on why I don't make New Year's resolutions.

Kim Smith said...

And we down here in the simmering south will be as well. Happy New Years anyway to ya Liz!

Janice said...

Love those NY Eve fireworks in Central Park! They begin just at midnight at the same moment the 4-mile run begins in the park, the runners visible in stroboscopic flashes of light from the fireworks. The walls of high-rise buildings on Central Park West and Fifth Avenue amplify the fireworks booms. Thanks for this blog. We also stay home on NY Eve, cook dinner and watch movies. Thank you for this blog. Janice

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It sounds perfect, actually that's something I do during whatever celebration because I like to get so drunk, I consider I'm not an amateur, I think I can give you some tips to become a perfect drunk.m10m