On waking up bunny_hugger spent some time talking with my parents, and we thought some about what we would need for the Thursday night, which was New Year's Eve. The overwhelming consensus: food.
I would often have New Year's Eve with my parents, spent eating hors d'ouvres while watching Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve countdown, in one of those things that's our slightly odd tradition. That tradition's been in tatters the past decade --- to see in 2009, bunny_hugger and I were with my brother and his wife; in many of the years I was living in Singapore I spent New Year's there by myself; sometimes my parents themselves were just away for the weekend --- but there's still the feeling of it still being there. So we'd be dispatched to get the stuff we could eat while watching Dick Clark, or his appointed representative.
bunny_hugger is vegetarian, of course, and I try to keep vegetarian when with her, and this would frustrate buying stuff like pigs-in-blankets. But my mother knew of a vegetarian restaurant way off to the east side of the state where we could get a breakfast/lunch and also get frozen stuff ready for preparation later on. My mother had the address, and bunny_hugger had the satellite navigation system which could give my car its first digitally transmitted guidance other than what's printed out from Google Maps ahead of time. It would turn out, amusingly, that I actually knew roughly where the place was, although I didn't know it --- there was a get-together with various folks from online back in 2007 which tried to meet at a restaurant in that shopping center only to discover the restaurant had gone out of business so completely as to leave no traces.
Following the satellite navigation ought to have been straightforward enough but we managed to get lost anyway: the problem is we hit a traffic circle at a patch where the guide didn't want us to turn in any direction. One theory was this meant we should just carry on as we had been. One theory was that the shopping mall just before the circle was where we wanted to go. If there were more signs saying what road we were on we'd have a better chance of figuring it out, but there weren't any, so we gave in and went to the mall.
It was a weird and frustrating parking lot, with traffic spaces running about 45 degrees off of the outside road. And it was a weird mall, too, with a number of lot-facing stores yet also a door leading to what it promised were something like 17 stores inside. It wasn't just weird, though; it was also a dead mall, with shop after shop closed down and the detritus of post-economic life visible inside. On top of that the interior hallway avoided that ``long, routine geometric shape such as a line'' concept and instead was a set of Tetris blocks abutting one another, sometimes at arbitrary angles, with column posts in the middle of the walking area and sometimes the width of the storefront jumping out or receding several feet from the neighbor. It was maybe stranger in footprint even than the notoriously dead Latham Circle Mall, but much smaller.
Based on the wall color and the sometimes-present mock timber moulding I'd date the last renovation of the mall to about 1973, and based on the interior lighting the last light bulb replacement to about 1996, but boy was it a grand place to explore. We kept tumbling onto new avenues and corners and culs-de-sac, and strange artifacts like the art store which had its own paneled storefront and doors which were closed up tight. There was no vegetarian restaurant, or restaurant of any kind other than a closed countertop shop with the equipment ripped out and a generic enough blue tile pattern we couldn't guess what it might have been.
As a really grand dead mall, of course, it's festooned with signs warning it's to be closed down and replaced in 2010 with something that has a particular design. Pity.
So we set out again going through the traffic circle and finding, eventually, that the satellite navigator did know where we were and had some fresh directions for us and it took us almost to the shore and to the mall mentioned obliquely above.
While we found a vegetarian restaurant in the mall, it didn't look like the sort of place which sold food for taking away. We looked around a little, but found no clear alternatives, and figured that we should go in, and eat lunch at least, and maybe we'd be surprised by what came up. The restaurant was empty, rather strikingly so considering it wasn't that late in the early afternoon. Also the waiter seemed confused by the notion of buying something to be heated up at home later; the closest he could come to this notion was that we might order something to be cooked in the evening and have it ready for pickup then. I didn't much like the prospect of driving all this way out a second time and close to midnight, though.
So instead we just had lunch. The restaurant is entirely vegetarian, with a good number of vegan-friendly options too, making a simulation of many kinds of meat out of I don't know exactly what. I'm going to suppose it's wheat gluten, since I know that's used for these purposes some and it's just as easy to go with that. They tasted great. In some ways they're improvements over the meat-based versions of the dishes. Particularly, the synthetic Buffalo wings are much better than actual Buffalo wings, as these didn't have any bones in them. You just had the taste and physical form of the wings, without the sensation you might puncture the roof of your mouth.
While we ate a woman did come in and order something for take-away, but we figured that while the place was a great restaurant it wouldn't solve the Rocking Eve Food problem. We looked around the shopping center but there wasn't another such restaurant. bunny_hugger tried looking up other vegetarian restaurants or health food stores in the area, and we followed the path to one, where we discovered an area of the Shore territory which had never experienced any kind of economic development ever. We gave up on that and tried heading back for home and trusting we'd put something together through the local supermarkets. The path from this spot took us through roads I didn't recognize at all but which turned out to lead wonderfully conveniently close to home and which might be a good alternate way home from the barber's. Go figure.
The first supermarket we went to was the Stop And Shop, unless I have the name wrong, to which we went the previous New Year's stretch, when bunny_hugger first met my parents and we discovered they carried some British candies. We figured if we could pick up enough things like pre-sliced cheese or pizza rolls or so on, we'd have a satisfactory selection. This proved to be a very good approach. Plates of cheeses, plates of fruit cubes, appetizers that happened to have no meat in them, and even some specifically vegetarian imitation-meat snacks came together to make a basket with plenty to eat.
With that done we figured we'd actually finished food shopping, but we did go to a liquor store in order to pick up creme de cassis which my mother had requested to go along with the wine for New Year's. We weren't sure exactly where to find it, and wandered briefly through the aisles realizing we had no idea how liquor stores organized their wares or just what genre of bottle we should be looking for. But then an employee wandered by and asked what we were looking for, and it turned out we had gone to the right aisle and right location; we just had to turn around.
We had a little time alone as my parents were out at church, and we were able to exchange Christmas presents without stormy weather making the lights briefly go out the way it happened last New Year's Eve. Coming together on New Year's Eve to exchange gifts is a wonderfully sweet little thing we do together. While I do look forward to the years when we'll spend Christmas Day with each other, I also feel a sad twinge that we'll then lose the New Year's Eve exchange. Even if we keep up an echo of our little tradition, it will lose something by becoming vestigial.
Dinner was at home, with my parents, if I remember correctly a vegetarian lasagna that didn't involve too much eggplant (my mother's go-to vegetable for lasagnas) with a bit of wine shared by bunny_hugger and my parents. I'm not so much a wine drinker, but I do make exceptions. Afterwards, my parents went to their bedroom, with my mother leaving a wakeup call for about 11:20, and my father coming to more or less the same conclusion. bunny_hugger and I actually ended up spending some of the evening playing the WiiFit, including her scoring a Perfect March in the challenging Rhythm March exercise.
We started heating up food a little before 11:00 in that wonderfully subtle challenge of scheduling where no two boxes of frozen hors d'ouvres want to be cooked for about the same time or at the same temperature. But we figured it to be approximately divisible into three different cooking times for the things that needed heating and we were able to get hot snacks on plates, and the cheeses and the fruits opened up, pretty near a half-hour before midnight. (My parents had also got another tray of sliced fruits, too, so we were overstocked on that.) Initially I brought these into my parents' bedroom, but my parents wanted to get out of bed to see the new year in and we relocated things to the living room and to the infinite confusion of the cats. They don't know what to make of schedule abnormalities like all this.
As the year clocked out, my mother asked who'd like the wine with creme de cassis, and I thought to try it out and said so. This brought aggravated eye-rolling from my father, which lead me to conclude that there were probably six wine glasses in the set of glasses he'd taken out, and with three of them from dinner not yet cleaned ... Well, I thought about changing my mind, but also knew this wouldn't fix anything as my father had found he could martyr himself by Not Having Wine For New Year's and there wasn't any getting him out of that. Still, the creme made for a sweet and tasty drink.
We discovered happily that bunny_hugger and my father have similar tastes in just when to make fun of the silly things on the Rocking New Year's Eve, and were all stunned by some hilariously bad outfit that one of the singers was wearing. (I could probably look up the name, but does it matter, really?) we also shared shocked looks at how Dick Clark looks, even though he seemed to be in better shape than previous years. My parents went to bed a little after midnight, and we finished off the hot snacks --- although we found a couple weeks later that half the pizza rolls were still in the fridge --- and left the fruit and cheese to be nibbled on over the rest of the week.
And so, with a different set of relatives, bunny_hugger and I finished the year together as we had begun it, and began a second year in person together.
Trivia: For his 1802 volume of the Annuaires Météorologiqus, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck attempted to divide all the kinds of clouds into five initial categories: en forme de voile (hazy clouds), attroupés (massed clouds); pommelés (dappled clouds); en balayers (broomlike clouds); and groupés (grouped clouds). Source: The Invention of Clouds: How An Amateur Meteorologist Forged The Language Of The Skies, Richard Hamblyn.
Currently Reading: Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story, David Hitt, Owen K Garriott, Joseph P Kerwin.