New Years I Have Known

(My first selfie of 2020!)

1. When I was a child the high school in my aunt’s town would hold a First Night event on New Year’s Eve, filling the school with activities and performers. My aunt would bring my brothers and I over to check out a few acts before decamping to her apartment in the building across the street where we would enjoy junk food and struggle to stay up until midnight. I didn’t always make it, but on some of he years that I did the town set off fireworks as the year changed that we could see from the apartment building’s parking deck, the blasts sometimes setting off car alarms in the area, much to my amusement.

2. Most of my New Year’s Eves from the time I could drive have taken the same course: a simple get together with whoever of my friends is in town and available. These gatherings are much like our normal hangouts – video games, takeout, maybe a movie. But around midnight we find a feed of the ball dropping in Times Square and maybe pop open a bottle of sparkling cider or (rarely, we’re not big drinkers) having a little champagne or prosecco if someone has brought it, although it is usually far too dry and bitter for my taste. Low key hangouts like these with my friends are probably the thing I’ve missed the most during the pandemic.

3. I’m not sure what year it was, it was either while I was in college or just after, my friend B invited our group to a New Year’s party at his parents’ house that he and his brother were having. I was a little apprehensive because I knew there would be a bunch of people there that I didn’t know, but enough of my friends were going that I decided it would be fine. It was interesting to see someone else’s traditions. Despite the fact that B and his brother not being Hispanic, they insisted we had to find a Spanish language broadcast of the ball drop for midnight. (I forget the reasoning behind this.) Just past midnight we huddled together outside in the cold to smash a pinata that B’s brother and a friend had built that day. We didn’t have any place to hang it, so someone tall awkwardly held it while trying not to get hit in the process. There were a few little other party games and some good food. All in all, a good, memorable New Year’s Eve!

4. Last year, 2019, my younger brother and his girlfriend hosted a New Year’s Eve party at her parents’ house. I had already been to a game night they held earlier that year, so I already knew the other guests a little and I knew it would be a good time. I don’t often drink, but decided I was in the mood for it (only to be reminded after I sobered up and drove home, that while I love prosecco it does not love me). There was a lot of delicious garbage food to eat and we played Jackbox games and laughed until we cried. Also, the family’s dog was there and ready for attention and pets that I was only too willing and excited to provide. At midnight we found a ball drop on the tv and the party did continue, but I left shortly afterwards because I had sobered up, but was starting to get sleepy. I went home that night very content, having enjoyed myself thoroughly.

5. I thought that this year would be one in the series of New Year’s Eves that I have spent on my own, watching the clock tick past midnight and feeling lonely, but the universe has deemed that that should not be the case. Obviously I’m staying home, but I’ve somehow wound up with invitations to multiple virtual parties. One of them is a session of Red Dead Online that my younger brother plans to stream. The other invitees are members of the D&D group we became part of this year. We’ve had a lot of fun playing all kinds of games together this year. The other invite is to spend an evening with my Massachusetts/upstate New York/college friends playing Among Us (aka “sussin’ and stabbin’”) and chatting on Discord. Usually I’d have seen at least some of them at some point this year, but, again, the plague happened. I’m going to buy myself some good snacks and maybe some alcohol even though I’ve been a bit wary of booze since my ER trip for a kidney stone in September. I’m just going to try to relax and have a good time trying to drown out the dread in my head that 2021 will just be more of the same awfulness that 2020 was, because the calendar flipping over to the new year is not a reset button, but a continuation.

(My last selfie of 2020, snapped when I had to unfortunately go to a mall for the first time since March because I have emergency need of a new winter coat. I was unfortunately unsuccessful.)

An Autumn Hike

As I write this, I’m currently using up the last of my vacation time from work for the year. I had all sorts of grand plans about errands I needed to run and I thought maybe I would take a hike on one of the many trails in my area and then Mother Nature said, “no, screw you, I’m sending a huge blizzard.” So instead I’m just sitting here looking at the pictures I took on a hike I did last month and wishing I could go outside.

It was the week of Thanksgiving and I had taken off the three days before, as I usually do if I still have vacation time at that point of the year. I live in a pretty populated area, but I’m not far from a whole area of woodlands specially set aside for preservation and recreation. I’d been wanting to go into the woods for awhile, but because people can’t do indoor activities due to the pandemic the parking areas are often quite full. But on my second day off I had a very early doctor’s appointment so I knew I would have a good chance to get a spot at the area I wanted to explore, and I was right!

The area of the woods I went to has well defined trails, often covered by gravel, so I wasn’t too worried about getting lost or dealing with overly difficult footing. I meant to go to a waterfall that was nearby, but apparently can’t read simple maps so I wound up following the trail that snaked alongside a river, which was fine by me because if you’ve been following this blog for a long time you will know I love a water feature.

The trail was wide and easy to follow and while the weather was cool it wasn’t overly uncomfortable because I had my heavy coat and a pair of mittens. And also I’ve found that my mask is actually very nice to have in the cold! Even though I didn’t see many people, I wore it most of the time I was walking to protect me from the chilly breeze. The sky was mostly grey, but occasionally the sun came out. All in all, I thought it was a nice day for a hike, but maybe that’s just me!

The few people I did see had apparently gotten up even earlier than me because they were headed in the direction of the parking area. Pretty much everyone said good morning to me, which as someone aware of how curmudgeonly my fellow New Jerseyans can be made me feel kind of weird. Is it proof that being out in nature can life someone’s mood? Who can say?

I walked along for quite awhile, completely losing track of time, and then I came to kind of a weird clearing and finally thought to check the clock on my phone. I realized about an hour had passed and I figured that considering I hadn’t brought any water with me I should probably head back. The hike out was a little more challenging in some respects due to some parts of the path that had been downhill on the way in now being uphill, but it took me less time because I kept stopping to take pictures of neat trees and other things that caught my eye on the way in.

For instance, there was this tree that made me wonder: how much other foliage is here in the summer that it wound up growing like this?

I had a really good time on this hike, just getting to escape for awhile and enjoy being alone someplace different, as crazy as it probably is to take a hike like this by myself. It wasn’t my first time doing this kind of thing, and it definitely won’t be my last. Considering that this area is still quite close to civilization and I never lost cell service I didn’t really have a fear of getting into a bad situation. I definitely wouldn’t go on a hike in some unusual out of the way place alone, I’m not quite that stupid!

I do want to go back and actually take the path to the waterfall, though. Hopefully this massive pile of snow will melt away soon so I can go!