They say you know that you are over the hill when you can go to bed on New Year's Eve after the 11 o'clock news but before the ball drops in Times Square. Well, I want to go on record as not being there quite yet.
I have never been a big party guy, understand, but I want to know when the year changes. Many, many times my personal New Year's celebration has occurred in the comfort of my own living room, but there have been times when I have been in places that offered a bit more festive atmosphere.
Last year, my family and I were in New Orleans, and Ray Nagin, the Chocolate Mayor himself, helped us count down the last few fleeting seconds of 2007. Mayor Nagin then announced to the crowd - and quite a crowd it was - that he intended to consume a bottle of Crown Royal before going to bed and encouraged the masses gathered near Jackson Square to do the same thing.
I didn't have any Crown Royal that night, but I think I did have a Royal Crown.
They go great with Moon Pies.
This year my family will be as far from Bourbon Street as one can get, figuratively speaking. We plan to be in front of Cinderella's castle at Walt Disney World when the clock strikes midnight tonight. I suppose Mickey Mouse will be the master of ceremonies. I doubt that he will be pushing the Crown Royal.
Actually, I have heard many hardcore partiers refer to New Year's Eve as amateur night, and a lot of people seem to think that you have to really party hard into the night just because the calendar says it is the 31st day of December. We all know that, too often, overly high expectations can lead to bitter disappointment, so I try not to set my goals too high. That's a good thing, too, because my lovely wife, Lisa, is even less of a party person than me.
Speaking of which, they say it is good luck to get a kiss from your true love at midnight. I started settling for a warm embrace about three years into our marriage and now consider myself lucky if Lisa acknowledges my presence with a cursory nod. In fact, lately I've begun to hope that when they start dropping things to count down the end of the year that Lisa doesn't decide to drop me.
Speaking of which, I wonder when dropping things to welcome the New Year came into vogue?
In New York, it's the big ball, but I've often wondered why they don't use an apple. In Atlanta they drop a peach, of course, and I have spent a few bone-chilling New Year's Eves standing in front of the now defunct Coca-Cola sign at Five Points. In New Orleans they drop a gumbo pot, of all things. I don't know what they will drop in the Magic Kingdom tonight, but I bet it won't be prices.
But as I thought of all the New Year's celebrations I have experienced I began to wonder what other symbolic icons are used to ring in the New Year across the land. To find out, I did what I always do when I need information fast. I called Roy Lee Wilkes, of the Baxter, Georgia, Wilkeses and put him to work on finding out.
Roy Lee discovered the Internet about a year ago, you see, and loves to look up stuff. He is so taken with the World Wide Web, in fact, that he changed his dog's name from Biscuit to Google and swears that if he has another kid he's going to name him Al Gore.
At any rate, about an hour after I put him to work, Roy Lee got back with me and I was amazed at what he learned in such a short time.
Roy Lee said that they drop a ball in Gatlinburg, just like they do in the Big Apple, but with about half-a-million less people in attendance, and that in Miami they drop a big orange - which is appropriate enough, I suppose. In Mount Olive, N.C., they drop a pickle - not an olive - but they do it at midnight, Greenwhich Mean Time - which is 7 p.m. in North Carolina - so the "older folks", (Roy Lee's words, not mine) can get home at a decent hour.
Roy Lee claimed they drop a possum in Tallapoosa, but I'm not sure I believe that. Of course, Tallapoosa is awfully close to Alabama, so who knows? He also said they drop an acorn in Raleigh, N.C., and a peanut in TyTy and a Lone Star in Austin, Texas.
I know what you're thinking and I did ask Roy Lee if he investigated what folks do outside the South. His response was, "No. Why should I?" which I thought was a pretty good response, so we just left it at that.
There was one more. In Key West, at the Schooner Warf Bar, they drop a pirate wench from the mast of a tall ship. Roy Lee told me what the pirate wench drops, but I think that she does that after my bedtime. And if I want to stay married another 26 years, I'd better just stick with Mickey Mouse.
Happy New Year. See y'all in 2009.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.