Friday, January 05, 2007

Happy New Year Everybody!

Suly rubs on my laptop, the screen gently wiggles. People walk past my window on their way to work. The tea kettle begins to boil. Another familiar Brooklyn morning, yet it seems a little strange, knowing that in a few days I will be on a plane starting my long 17+ hr journey back to another reality. One deep in snow, freezing temperatures and bitter wind. No worries, after all these years of traveling and living in other places, I adapt.
So New Year’s Eve has come and gone and here we are already five days into 2007. For me it doesn’t feel like we made a transition into another year but we did. I have a slight feeling of starting anew but not the usual full gusto. What will this new year bring? Who knows, I have no resolutions to speak of. I’ll just let things unfold as the year progresses.
New Year’s Eve was spent at my traditional spot–Pete and Jackie’s (next door). Very convenient, I do all my drinking and passing out on my block.. Well, I don’t drink enough to pass out these days but if I did, all they need to do is roll me next door on the down slope. There was enough people there drinking, throwing up and passing out–ah youth, they’ll never learn will they ;). As usual, it was a fantastic party that went til all hours. P&J are the ultimate hosts and always throw a great party. They bring together a great group of people, make super dance mixes and create a fabulous party atmosphere. Never can you say they throw a dull party. Pete’s brother Dave was there all the way from China (yes we had Asia in the house–he and I), Jackie’s sibling who I haven’t seen in a long time: Jamie-the hot and sexy model (now a shirtless model at Abercrombie and Fitch on 5th Ave), Jeff-the chef at Bouchon and Julie-the student in Florida. My Brooklyn family. The piece de resistance of the party was the ball dropping at midnight. Pete wrapped a basketball in foil, then paper towels put it in a metal plant hanger, doused it with lighter fluid and slowly lowered it from his deck to the backyard into a waiting trash can full of water. This annual ball drop is always a little different each year and always rivals the big one in Times Square. We, all 100+ of us, stood in the backyard with our champagne counting down the seconds as Pete lowered the giant ball of fire. The was a brief gasp as the ball hit the side of the house but thank God the deck is all steel and the place didn’t go up in flames. As we yelled out "Happy New Year", there was a loud HISSSSSS of relief as the ball was diminished in the dark, cold waters of the trash can.
So there it was, another year over, a new year begun. But it didn’t feel like a new year for some reason. I sipped champagne with Bryn and Bill in the yard as the rain softly came down on this unusually warm December/January night. We discussed plans for the upcoming 9th annual Russian Old New Year’s party at the Natsional restaurant on Brighton Beach. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel like the new year happened, because there’s still another new year to come. For you rubes, Russian Orthodox has a different calendar and Christmas is January 7th and Old New Year’s is the 13th. We’re celebrating this year on Christmas Eve since I got to go back to Astana on the 11th. I’m sure I’ll be celebrating Old New Year’s there too. Oy! Will this year ever begin?? You know, there are so many new year’s celebrations that if you observe them all, the year never really ends. In the school I worked at here in NYC, we celebrated three: Yom Kippur, January 1st and Chinese New Year. There’s also Navruz (Muslim New Year in spring) and I’m sure there’s a few more in there somewhere.
As per tradition, New Year’s Day found me and many of the people from the party the night before heading to Coney Island for the annual Polar Bear Plunge. In various states of wooziness and bathing attire, we made our way down in the drizzling rain for this fun filled and eye opening event. With thermoses of coffee, flasks of whiskey and bourbon, doughnuts, we had a pre-swim warm up in front of Rubie’s on the Boardwalk. Rubie’s, now defunct, always opens for this event and gouges the public with $9 Bloody Mary’s. At least they make them strong in those small plastic cups. At 1pm when the big horn blew, we, and about two hundred others ran like lunatics into the bracing Atlantic screaming and yelling. There were waves that day so before a giant icy cold wave hit me in my most delicate parts, I dove under it, invigorated and numb all at the same time. Swam around for a minute or two then popped out. There was the obligatory round two, the one for taking pictures and posing in the ocean. It’s amazing what a little dip in freezing cold water will do for your hangover, sort of whisks it away really, zaps it out of your body. When I get back to Kazakhstan, Irina plans to take me to a Polar Bear Plunge. January 19th, "Kresheniye" (means baptism and is symbolizes the baptism of Christ). All those serious Russian Orthodox show their faith by dipping into the chilly waters of a river or pond, a large hole cut out from the ice. Maybe this will catapult me into 2007–wait and see.
Time in New York whizzes by and I’m taking advantage of it. Visiting friends, rebonding with the cats, home projects (a leak in the wall on the first floor, probably from the roof), gathering teaching materials for my workshops, some shopping and of course catching up on movies. The first film on the MUST SEE list was, you guessed it–"Borat". I must say to the Kazakhs, get over it! It’s funny yes but not really offensive to the Kazakhs. Any intelligent, global thinking person can see that a) he’s not at all Kazakh looking, b) speaks Polish and Czech(the fat guy sounds Turkish) c) filmed the beginning in Romania. Kazakhstan should be happy that finally someone has put them on the map and sparked interest in the country. Don’t be so morally outraged–it makes you look like bigger boobs (no pun intended). There are moments when yes, Americans are shown to be gullible geographically illiterate idiots that they are but overall, I thought the film was a wonderful piece of theatre of the absurd. Take an unreal person and put him into different realities and see what happens. It really doesn’t have anything to do with Kazakhstan or America for that matter. Can I just say, the NY subway and the naked wrestling scenes were the highlights for me. I was howling at those sequences. Bravo to Sasha to have the balls to do that kind of stuff. Nice to see a comeback of absurdism.
There’s more films to see as the week rolls by and I’ll give you a full report at the end of my stay. I would like to see "The Departed"again since I was distracted by annoying cell phone calls by audience members when I saw it in Astana. Anyways, there’s tons on my list and not a lot fo time so I better get out and get in the movie theatres now. Talk to you soon.

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