Saturday, January 1, 2011

Same Old Lang Syne

If the title sounds as if I'm being dismissive of New Year's Eve, I'm not. I'm a fan of the changing of the years and frankly, I was more than ready to welcome this new year and put last year to bed. 2010 was a challenging year and that's an understatement. This time last year, New Year's Eve was spent watching the wedding of my dear friend Charlotte and before the stroke of midnight, Keith and I headed home to enjoy the moment in relative calm. We were hoping the peacefulness of that moment would spark a theme that would define 2010; despite the fact that I knew that in a few days, I would head home to care for my ailing parents. Life doesn't always operate thematically and despite our best efforts, "peaceful" is not a description I would attach to 2010. Given the opportunity, I would have chosen to enjoy a quite evening at home for this year's New Years, but duty beckoned, and so Keith worked 15 hours at the hotel and I would spend another day in retail madness before heading out to the hotel in the evening to join Keith.

I suppose the title is more a wistful look back on New Year's Eves past as I watched the party unfold. I channeled a little Dan Fogelberg for the theme song for said look back. This year, I enjoyed being able to photograph the great New Year's Hootenanny as opposed to participating in it. Lord knows, I spent many a year dressing to the nines and attending some party or another and generally having a blast. I remember the club in Columbus, Ohio that offered the lobster dinner with the package and it probably speaks volumes about that meal that I remember nothing about it but instead my memory centers on dancing the night away. As I watched the parade of generally well-dressed guests(seriously, did I miss a memo about leopard prints being the hot fashion trend this year?)pass by, I realized that there was a time when I might have envied their evening of fun but this year, I was happy to be a bystander. Sure, it would have been fun to have a partner-in-snark to engage in some mild-mannered fashion bashing (Kristy? Ronnie? Ashley and Jeff? Where were you when I needed you?) as Keith's cattiness gene isn't as, shall we say, refined as mine. Still, the night made for some eye-popping people watching, so I settled in for the show. Unfortunately, the ever-changing lighting played merry havoc with my PowerShot, so my pics sadly suffered a bit.

The Elms really put on the dog this year, as it were. Russ, the personable owner of the Changing Seasons Gallery in Independence, created the decor once again and for this event, he really brought it. The centerpieces and table decorations were divine and the look, in all, was beautifully done. I was particularly fond of the tall pieces in the Regent Ballroom with the floating candles. Keith was in charge of everyone getting their "prom photo" taken and that scenario can provide its own comedy. As people line up for this photo on the way to dinner, there is no time to waste and people are quickly posed in front of the fireplace. After one quick set-up, one man looked at Keith and said, "That's it? No foreplay?" Of course, for sheer WTF moments, there was the couple embracing and smiling for the camera when an artificial pine branch fell out of the gentleman's pants. He seemed as surprised as we were. You just can't make this stuff up. On the flip side of the coin, Troy Snelling, his beguiling fiancée Sarah and the rest of his charming entourage always bring a welcome infusion of class(and fun) to any event and this one was no different. Every year that I attend this function, I anticipate Troy making his Grand Entrance, as he is always dressed in dapper fashion...vintage black tux with tails, white tie and black top hat. On entering, he doffs a red velvet cape. Sarah was the very vision of total glam at his side and Troy's friends matched him in sartorial splendor. I was also duly impressed with the lovely redhead in their group....she's a stunner. My pics didn't do this group justice but I had to include them so you could get an idea. Same for the charming couple in front of Keith's Dad's car.....too blurry but you get the idea. I need to work on my photography skills.....the PowerShot is aces with still life but seems to be confounded with people, movement and low light.

The event was split between the two ballrooms of the hotel. A dinner buffet was provided for those on the New Year's Eve packages and a separate five-course meal was offered in the main dining room for Club Level guests or as an upgrade. A special martini menu was also offered this year featuring various martini flights. These flights proved so popular that the bar staff were nearly overwhelmed. We got to sample the buffet offerings: the melt-in-your-mouth Panko-breaded Shrimp Scampi and the delicious Florentine-stuffed chicken breast....yum. Both ballrooms worked well simultaneously for dinner but the evening's entertainment was a tad more challenging. Every year, one ballroom features a DJ and the other a band. This year, the band was the very popular Four Fried Chickens and A Coke. I knew the rep this 11-member party band had as I'd helped get them for a wedding I'd booked a couple of years back. Responsibilities back home prevented me from coordinating those nuptials, so I'd missed that performance. On this night, I watched their raucous showmanship and realized that they were worth their weight in gold. The horn section alone was amazing, they are total high energy and they truly brought the good times. At various times, the trumpet player ran to one side of the room, climbed on a chair and just wailed. Unfortunately, this boisterous band had EVERYONE wanting to be in the Grand Ballroom and despite the DJ's best efforts, the Regent Ballroom spent an inordinate amount of time half-empty. Eventually, the rooms balanced out and everyone got their chill on.

Guests partied on as the night wore on and soon we closed in on the big moment. The digital clock ticked away on the flat-screen over the front desk. Keith loaded and prepared the confetti cannons and the frosted Champagne flutes were lined on the table and carefully filled. The crowds flowed out of both ballrooms and filled the lobby. The DJ announced the countdown....

5...4..3...2..1. The crowds cheered, the cannons shot off, the glasses clinked, the couples kissed. I watched and photographed the ensuing celebratory chaos. One of the horn players sounded off a solo and the partying resumed. K and I soon began the long drive home. During the drive, I was pensive; thinking back on the past year. Tempted to write 2010 off, I instead remembered that while the past year was often a tough road to hoe, it was also a profound journey that was necessary to take. I remembered that this time last year, as I was preparing to travel to my hometown; my friend Linda told me that this would be a very important time for me and my parents and indeed it was; in ways I hadn't imagined. I realized that instead of looking at 2010 as a write-off, perhaps it was a watershed.....a pivotal year of change. We'll see.

Happy New Year, folks. My wish for you is that 2011 be like the perfect meal....comforting and delicious with no regrets.


Kristy said...

Hey you! Thanks for letting me "participate" in NYE vicariously through your texts. And yes, no regrets for 2010. P.S. Don't forget New Years Eve in Charleston many moons ago at The Edge. If you can't recall I have pictures BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! LOVE YOU!

Lisa Mandina said...

I hope you have a great 2011 as well. I refuse to say it can't get any worse anymore, as whenever I say that, it's like fate or God or something is out to prove me wrong.

Robin said...

Beautiful. I hope that we both have a better year this year. We deserve it, especially you. Oh, and thank you, Gregory. Now I'm

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