The next day, New Year's Eve, brought some company to come along with bunny_hugger.
This would be one of my aunts. Well, mother's-college-friends, at least, who's stayed close enough that we think of her as family, and whom I still think of as aunt even though she's given permission for me to just call her by name. This is the same aunt that bunny_hugger met before, when we went to Manhattan and saw Lend Me A Tenor, so while it's always nerve-inducing meeting family at least this wasn't meeting new family. I think the only nerve-wracking moment was when my aunt the world-traveller advanced the opinion that yes, the new security nonsense was inconvenient and was unlikely to have any significant benefit but, hey, if it keeps us safe she's for it. Neither bunny_hugger nor I screamed or sighed dramatically at this but, honestly, people. Sheesh.
We had plans for the evening so we took in our New Year's Eve snacking early, with trays of crackers and cheese and baked hors d'oeuvres that my parents were making instead of me; apparently, the myth that I'm the only person that knows how to cook pigs-in-blankets so they turn out has been defeated. And we were going to eat early, which resulted in one of those little meals that makes me wonder how much my parents pay attention to me.
The appetizer was shrimp cocktails, with a tray of hummus for bunny_hugger since she's vegetarian. I started to suspect trouble. I try to eat vegetarian around bunny_hugger, and increasingly in those decreasing times when I'm not around her. I've mentioned this to my parents several times, but I guess it wasn't noticed. Without a graceful way around it I did eat the shrimp, although I'm really not fond of shrimp --- there are some ways to cook it that I like, which cold and in sauce aren't --- and figured we'd move on to the meal soon enough.
The meal, my parents had decided, would be slabs of meat. Oh, not just meat, but mostly hunks of pork arranged on a tray. There was way too much for just my parents and aunt to eat; there was way too much for them even with me eating along, in fact. I think my parents still believe they're cooking for six starved meat-eating people at every meal. My parents had made a vegetarian chili for bunny_hugger which they'd expected to be her food for this meal, and possibly every meal: they offered it to her enough she worried she might be offending them whenever she didn't partake.
As we were organizing the plates I went to the crock-pot for the chili and my mother informed me that I was having pork. I informed her no, I'd rather not. She looked surprised (although not hurt). bunny_hugger pointed out she wasn't offended if I had pork in front of her, and I know she wouldn't have been. It's what I want to do.
Our New Year's Eve plans were to drive to the Count Basie Theater in Redbank, a nearly century-old reformed vaudeville hall/movie theater with fresh renovations so it's grandly attractive and faintly reminiscent of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, mostly from having similar architectural origins and revitalization stories. And to our surprise it even says taking of pictures and videos for personal use was permitted, teaching me a lesson about leaving my camera at home because you can never photograph these kinds of things. The event there was a concert from Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, one of those bands that I've kind of always known about but can't actually pin down a specific song they ought to be known for.
In trying to describe them to bunny_hugger weeks earlier, when she was first invited to the concert with no expectation that she would or wouldn't go, I suggested helpfully that they were in the SCTV episode ``Polynesiantown'', which would indeed help her if they had actually been in ``Polynesiantown''. That was Doctor John I was thinking there. It was the episode ``Southside Fracas'' they were in, which I was completely unable to find at the time even though one might have tracked it down by, say, having Google search for ``SCTV'' and ``Southside Johnny''.
I had thought, based on my mother's expectation, that the concert would be over around 11:00, giving us the somewhat unhappy prospect of driving back home when midnight struck. We should have known better, and we might have if I had any experience in going to concerts. For example, there's this warm-up that starts at the ticketed time of 9:00. In this case, it was a bunch of upwards of two dozen teenagers who were part of a state program supporting musically expert teenagers. Some of them were, yes, rather good; bunny_hugger was particularly taken by the keyboardist, and I thought the trumpeteer skilled. Some were maybe chosen for less obvious reasons; we both thought the first lead singer was more attractive physically than in singing ability. (I felt she needed to trust the microphone to amplify her voice rather than scream each syllable; the handful of times she did modulate her voice she was dramatically better.) My parents and aunt thought they were all fantastically talented kids.
After an hour we got to the designated intermission, and break between acts. bunny_hugger took the chance to go to the bathroom, and I considered it but found something which defies so many lazy jokes it's hard to imagine: the line for the women's room was maybe a dozen people deep, sure, but the line for the men's room went through the building, around the block, back through the building, downstairs, into the basement, down the steam tunnels, and came up in Staten Island, and kept growing. I've never seen anything like it. Fortunately I didn't need to go.
It's probably easier to just look for YouTube videos of Southside Johnny etc than it is for me to try describing them, but I'll try anyway. Take in mind 1970s Bruce Springsteen, particularly around ``Born To Run''. Now consider the sound of Conan O'Brien's house band, whether you know them as the Max Weinberg Seven or the Tonight Show Orchestra or the Basic Cable Band. Average them out. That's about what the performance sounds like, which should be no surprise as they're all outgrowths of the same music scene and quite a few of the same people were in multiple of these groups.
The concert didn't show any signs of stopping, ever, really, although neither did the signs of people getting up and exiting or entering our row. I had been expecting something on the order of a Broadway play, or at least a movie theater, where people mostly sit. Actually, the bubbling of the audience never stopped during the main show, although people were pretty sedentary during the warm-up. Also the audience in front of us stood through the first song and much of the second; I didn't want to contribute to the problem by standing up myself, so I was relieved when the standing finally gave way to turbulent but general seatedness.
It was a great show, strong and energetic, and was still going strong as midnight drew near and a screen dropped down to cut in for the last minute or so, showing ABC's coverage of Dick Clark looking really so very much better than he did a couple years ago. And now bunny_hugger and I have seen the new year in at a public venue, our first such example.
> As with all shows the end brought out calls for an encore which bid fair to just keep going on. My father left just after midnight, in order that he could fetch the car from whatever remote location he had parked it in; we left a few minutes later as performances continued and even then there was a long enough delay between when we got out and when my father pulled around in the car that we started worrying something serious had happened. But we did avoid the main rush of people leaving and drove home in light traffic.
There were some free gifts at the concert: a music CD, for one, which both my mother and father insisted on picking up separate copies of although that seems unnecessarily duplicated to me. And plastic trinkets too: I got a day-glo yellow hat from it, and my mother, aunt, and bunny_hugger got ``2011'' tiaras. My mother, embodying the kiasu spirit, also took another 2011 tiara on the way out, for my niece. I don't know that she's given it yet.
Trivia: In defining the boundaries of the Colony of New Jersey, James, Duke of York, defined the northern border as being the line from the point where the Hudson River crosses the 41st degree north latitude and ``the northernmost branch of the said bay or river of Delaware, which is 41 degrees 40 minutes latitude'', and is in reality well north of the 42nd parallel. Source: How The States Got Their Shapes, Mark Stein.
Currently Reading: Practicing History, Barbara W Tuchman.