Saturday, January 1, 2011


You get the feeling that January 1 would just as soon be what it is, just another pirouette of the planet along the big orbit, taking its turn between 12/31 and 1/2, instead of being feted as The One Millionth Customer with vuvuzelas and shiny tophats and stiltwalkers on Boylston Street. On the other hand, somebody's got to be the first, the one after the last, because we based the calendar on a loop, with a finish immediately followed by another go (don't forget to collect your $200), so why not give it to this hapless fellow who's standing around with his hands in his pockets, surveying the half-melted snow from last Sunday's blizzard: Excuse me, sir? Sir, will you please put on this button? "It says 2011. What's that mean?" That's you, sir! Happy New Year, sir! And everyone lines up behind this poor mook, Jan the First, who always wanted to be at the head of the conga line, and now he is, for one night anyway, the King of the Conga; the next morning he wakes up in a sumptuous bed, with the sun streaming in, and a manservant holding out a robe and a tray with shaving supplies. Breakfast is served in the orangerie. A fresh suit of clothes, the Saturday Times puzzle, a walk through the park, and the conga is over, but everyone seems to know him—Good morning! Happy New Year!—and a few people laughingly pantomime a dance step, to remind him of the night before. It lasts a day, and by nightfall, he's already nostalgic; yet tonight they won't let him back in the townhouse, despite his protestations that he's The King of the Conga, don't you remember? They do, and someone gives him a rose for a boutonniere, for auld lang syne, but the fact is that someone else has a reservation for his suite. But he gets to keep the suit, the button, the rose, and the knowledge that he was the First and no one can take that away. Someone escorts him to the Blue Train, the uptown line. Someone shakes his hand and wishes him a Happy New Year, and it dawns on him that after all, it's time to go.

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