Wednesday, December 23, 2009

trying for a better decade

December 23

I have a feeling I’m not going to have much to report to you for the rest of the year. I’m lying low for Christmas and still waiting to see what materializes for New Year's Eve.

I rarely plan in advance for New Year's Eve, because that inevitably raises expectations and usually results in disappointment. Last minute invitations generally find their way to me around December 28, and if they don't, well, I’m happy to spend the holiday quietly at home, avoiding the amateurs who crowd the restaurants and bars that night — people who don’t go out much and don’t know how to drink properly or, really, behave in public generally. You see them in restaurants on Valentine’s Day, too.

The last time I tried to make plans in advance for New Year’s Eve was in 1999, because, you know, that was kind of a big deal, it being the end of the millennium and all (I know, technically the millennium ended in December of 2000, but you know what I mean).

I failed. My friends, turned off by all the hype, were mostly planning quiet affairs at home. So I made myself prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and asparagus and planned to enjoy myself that way, when I got phone calls from two friends, separately, who had suddenly popped up in the city, and, after I finished my dinner, I ended up party hopping with them. They were Thomas Crampton, who if memory serves was working for The International Herald Tribune and doing a stint at a sister publication called The New York Times, and Craig Stuart, who at the time was in business school at Yale and dating Susan Kim, who is now Susan Kim-Stuart, and Craig is a vice president at Wells Fargo Bank. I’m so proud.

It was a good evening.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember that New Year's Eve of 1999 was a big bust for the hospitality industry, which had, for the most part, jacked up prices in anticipation of revelers feeling obligated to pull out the stops for this once-in-a-lifetime celebration opportunity.

Well, the American public quietly and non-confrontationally rebelled. Instead of doing what was expected, like they do on most Valentine’s Days and New Year's Eves, they said, “Screw you, we are not paying $1,000 per person for dinner,” and stayed home.

I’d never seen a consumer rebellion like that before, and I haven’t seen one since.

Some restaurant operators I spoke to afterwards blamed all the hype about Y2K (remember that?) for people staying home, but I think they were just fed up with the obvious greed of the restaurants, hotels and bars where they otherwise would have celebrated. It was just too much.

That was ten years ago, and since then, well, I, personally, have had a great decade, but from 9/11 to the economic collapse and every lousy piece of garbage in between — war, hurricanes, tsunamis — so far the 21st Century has been lousy.

And here’s something weird: We have yet to pick a name for this decade. I think we all figured that some name would emerge. The leading candidate seems to be “the aughts,” or possibly “the naughts,” although both of those seem so early 20th Century. “The naughties” has been suggested, and “the oughties,” and we'll see if either one of those takes.

The TV show Futurama refers to this period, broadly, as The Stupid Ages, and, frankly, that works for me.

Let's hope the teens are better.


ThomasCrampton said...

Bret: That was one of my favorite New Years celebrations! I think the rule for New Years is that you DO NOT make plans. Just let it happen and things will all work out. Elaborately planned New Years celebrations - or for that matter elaborately planned years - seldom live up to expectations.

Bret Thorn said...

or elaborately planned lives...