New Year

Smoky Bars and a Derailed Train

It was New Year’s Eve in our small hilltown’s only bar and everybody in the joint seemed to be planning to quit smoking at the stroke of midnight. So naturally, they were all smoking heavily until then. 

That was before Massachusetts officially banned smoking in bars and nightclubs in July 2004. I was a non-smoker, but that night I couldn’t stop inhaling the cigarette smoke that hung in a thick cloud over our heads.

The man in the next table chain-smoked. “Quitting for the new year?” I asked. Yup, he said, although as I recall he ended up sticking with the habit.

Here’s another memorable New Year’s Eve: getting stuck on a train from Boston to Philly to meet my future in-laws because another train had derailed. Most of the passengers on our train were headed to Times Square in New York City and keenly disappointed they weren’t going to make it. People got drunk. Really drunk. And pissed. A fight broke out and the cops had to come on board somewhere in Connecticut to remove them.

Over the years, we’ve gone to friends’ houses, First Nights, bars, and many years, when the kids were little, stayed home where it was quiet. As I write this on New Year’s Eve, our plans are to spend the evening at the taproom of Floodwater Brewing, owned by our son, Zack — a great gathering spot for people in our village and beyond who like handcrafted beer, conversation, and local music. I probably will raise a glass of Cyborg Joan, my namesake brew, to the new year. (Yes, there’s a story behind that name.) That’s it in a can in the photo above.

Resolutions? I make them year round when I’m inspired, so I won’t bother tonight. 

Reflections? Personally, it was a pretty good year. My family is thriving. I am grateful for the health care I’ve received. I relish the amount of time I get to spend writing creatively now that I no longer have a job. Two books were published — thank you to my new and loyal readers. I ran unopposed for the Select Board (similar to a town council) in my town of Buckland. Now I am immersed in local politics, certainly an educational experience. The only blight has been the loss of a person close to me. 

For the past few days, I’ve been saying “Happy New Year” to strangers such as grocery store cashiers and post office clerks. Everyone has been receptive. I wish the same for you. To a Happy New Year. I like the sound of it myself.