Sunday, December 31, 2006

Fu-Ki Sake

Time to turn the page on another year. We began ushering out 2006 on a sad note, attending the memorial service for a family friend who passed away a few days after Christmas after a year-long battle with cancer. To her own dismay, she hung on for four weeks after doctors first gave her the "any day now" diagnosis. In the end, it was a moment of relief that the suffering was finally over. After James Brown and Gerald Ford died, I wondered aloud, "Who will the third one be?" because celebrities tend to pass on in threes.

As such ceremonies tend to be, the service was a surreal mix of smiles and laughter and, "It's so good to see you" mixed with frowns and tears and, "So sorry it's under these circumstances." But Casey and I got to catch up with Matt and Denise, who flew in from Seattle with their daughter, before gathering my sister and making good time from Red Bank to Braintree in just about five hours flat, including the initial fill-up at the gas station and a 15- or 20-minute break for dinner on the way.

We knocked on Bryan's back door on the deck just after 10 p.m., thoroughly startling Michael, Cathy and him as they sat in the dark watching a movie. First order of business was to test combinations for the sake for tonight's New Year's party, but after one bottle had been kicked, three or four variations yielded one unanimous composition that will be reconstructed tonight, no doubt to the guests' high praise.

The sake must have energized us, the sugar and the sweetness outweighing the alcohol, because after finishing Little Miss Sunshine and watching various Saturday Night Live sketches online and conducting other YouTube searches, the background music became dance music, the six of us jumping around the living room and singing along -- shouting along, perhaps -- with songs from, as they might say on the radio, the 70s, 80s, 90s and today. A few rounds of Name That Tune later, and it was 2 a.m., and though not tired, I made the first move in calling it a night and trudged upstairs.

Awake and alert at 10 a.m. today, we've now kicked the party prep into full gear with a good two hours down and about three more to go before we break out the drinks and start toasting new years around the world. We've already missed Kamchatka, Australia, Japan, Singapore, China and half of Russia (not to mention everything in between the aforementioned locales), but we've got India, the Middle East, Moscow, Europe and Africa ahead of us.

And so, in whatever language best suits you, Happy New Year.

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