Tag Archives: tradition

Old Acquaintance

The wind barraged his face and his neck lamented his aversion to scarves, but his feet suffered the most. Despite the alleged water-proofing done to these boots, the gray slush of the 28th’s snowstorm had seeped in to soak his socks. No amount of toe-flexes or tap-dancing generated any warmth, the cold of the city refusing to be denied.

The Columbus Park tradition had remained for years, through heartaches, cross-country moves, and minor animosities. All seven of them had gathered to ring out the year together from the days when their parents had to drop them off at the T. Sneaking nips had been replaced with bar-hopping, with only the apathetic teetotaler remaining sober.

A general din bounced around the park, off the swanky hotels and out across the water, punctured by the occasional blare of five-dollar plastic horns. Two of the guys in the group reminded the lone girl about the time they saw a naked woman in one of the windows. Jill, once again, said that she remembered.

As the hour approached, everyone turned to look back at the skyline. For a while, the countdown had been projected via laser onto the face of the Custom House Tower. After a few years, they added in awkward, vector graphic-level images of sponsors, bank logos and cartons of orange juice. After someone in the tower complained, they shifted it over a building off to the left. Less iconic, but still functional. Where would it be this year, they wondered?

Another gust came up off the water and crept through the crowd, somehow seeming to jump through his layers of wool and fleece to settle right in his shoes. He clapped his hands and rubbed his mittens together, as if that would offset it.

“Time check?” Ben asked, not taking his eyes off the buildings.

“Midnight-ish,” Rick replied. No one took out their phones.

A timid pop came from over their shoulders. He turned around, slightly nervous (though not as much as he would have been at the end of ’99, when everyone joked about Y2K but secretly believed the world would end). Across the old Harbor, the first fluttering embers of the initial salvo of fireworks settled toward the water. As he scrunched his eyes in confusion, a bright green burst popped in the sky. The display had begun.


They all turned, his group and the rest of the crowd. Over the course of the following few minutes, a succession of sparkles and pops and bursts unfolded in relatively rote fashion. When it ended, the applause seemed muted by more than thick gloves. The display had been fine, but the lack of a countdown had hindered the celebration. And, by extension, the tradition. Trudging with the swaying crowd to the Green Line, no one wanted to say that, without a clear demarcation between the old and the new, none of them knew how exactly to exult.

And They’re Off!

“Alright folks, it looks like we’re just a few moments away from the main event. We got the last of our contestants lining up on the raised portable dance floor. Jerry, what’s the competition looking like?”

“Well, Bob, as always, we’ve got tons of beautiful talent out there, but it looks like the real matchup’s going to come down to Aunt Vivian, Cassie, and Cousin Beth. Now Aunt Vivian is an established veteran of the bouquet toss, having just gone through her third divorce, so she’s especially anxious to get in there and give it a go. Now, that being said, Aunt Viv has already pounded about seven glasses of wine so far today, so her reaction time might be a little off. Of course, being the Maid of Honor, Cassie is looking to be the crowd favorite tonight, everyone’s really pulling for her. But my money’s on cousin Beth. The girl’s got a reach on her, not to mention some bony elbows, and she’s small enough to slip between the competition and really get herself in there.”

“Not to mention, she’s better dressed for the occasion. Her dress flows enough so it won’t restrict her leg span. Not to mention, she’s the only girl smart enough to change into a pair of flights.”

“Right you are, Bob. It looks like the bride’s getting ready for the toss —”

“See, right there. Cousin Beth’s already getting down low, ready for the pounce, well before the whistle’s blown. She’s effectively boxed out all of the girls from Table 12 already.”

“She’s not messing around, Bob. Wait — looks the bride’s getting ready — she’s squatting down to give the toss more height — and they’re off!

“Now you see, Jerry, poor Aunt Vivian’s overeagerness is gonna cost her this time. She didn’t expect the bride to get that extra leverage in the toss, and now she’s too far up front and — OH! Did you see that? Cassie, our Maid of Honor, digs her bony elbow right into Sarah Jones, the Best Man’s amicable college Ex. Oooh, that’s gotta hurt!”

“Cassie pivots on the end of her stiletto heels and —”

“Oh no! A surprise from the front as Aunt Vivian recovers and launches her ape-like arms through the air and right towards that bouquet. She might get it after all!”

“Don’t speak too soon there, Bob. Looks like Beth has already snaked her way around the Girls from Table 12 and —”

“Wait, it’s looking like Aunt Viv might —”

Oh! Boxed out by Cassie!”

“Beth takes the lead as Cassie plays defensive. She throws her arms up and —”

“Whoa! Do you see what I’m seeing, Bob?”

“I think so, Jerry! Interception! Who was that —”

“I think she came with one of the cousin’s on the groom’s mother side, Bob. Bam! Outta nowhere!”

“That was an impressive snag from a total wildcard.”

“I’ll say. Well, folks, there you have it. Another successful bouquet toss.”

“Which means that lucky lady and some other gentlemen are heading into the next round. And that’s where the real competition begins.”

“Heh, you said it, Bob!”

Roud 1173

a toast of jameson at the grave
plastic cups a quarter full of
brilliantine amber all around me
as we sing the wild rover and
for the briefest of seconds I forget
that I’m supposed to refuse the cup

we usher our dead through
with tears and poitín
and my hand grasps at air
as I stare at blanched ground
thinking I’ve betrayed my own

an old man next to me
elbows my arm
and whispers

sometimes it’s better NOT to drink

and he hoists his empty hand
to the sky – sláinte – and beams