Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

New Year Noodling

First post of the new year, and I’m in rather familiar territory: not knowing what to write! So, we’ll ramble.

-We did not watch the ball drop–it’s just not the same without Dick Clark (though the last time I saw Dick Clark, that wasn’t the same, either). We did do a countdown, complete with New Year’s hugs and kisses, and I ran outside for a few seconds to bang a wooden spoon against the bottom of a pot. It’s something we used to do when I was a kid, part of an old tradition that may have been for good luck, or to chase away bad luck or spirits or something. A lot of people on the block used to do it; here in rural New York, where the neighbors are a little more spread out, I’m the only one who does it.

-The first time I ever came across or heard of “First Night” was when my not-then-wife and I were in Boston for her brother’s wedding back in the 90s and we kind of stumbled across it. We had a sort of magical night, which included lucking into a table at a restaurant in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace (New Year’s Eve dining without a reservation? Don’t try this at home). When we got done with dinner (around 11:30), we walked out of the door and right into the countdown, fireworks, all of it. It was incredible (even more incredible was how fast the place emptied out when it was over).

Since then, First Nights are all over the place, but this weekend, I found myself wondering: shouldn’t it really be called Last Night? Or First Morning? Just wondering.

-This weekend we had visits from a couple of the Magpie’s friends, and while I know these kids don’t want to hear it, I couldn’t help but ask them how they were feeling about impending college graduations (I recognize these poor kids have to answer the same questions every time they run into someone they know, but I can’t help myself; I’m curious). The consensus seems to be ‘Quite Nervous.’ I don’t remember if I was quite as terrified when I was staring down graduation or not, but I think this is a scarier world than the one I came of age in. These are good kids, smart kids, and they’ll be all right. It will be interesting to see where they’re at a year from now.

-Yesterday, I did something I haven’t done since April: I went to the writers’ circle I’m a part of. I have no good explanation for having been away so long, except things started getting crazy toward the end of the Catbird’s senior year; there always seemed to be something to do, even on Sundays, and then I got to the point where it was habit not to go.

It was a small group, a number of people missing, and the room we worked in was cold, but it was fun. It was fun to write something that was not part of my current manuscript, a one-off bit about a woman watching her boyfriend get dressed. Good fun, and even if it leads to nothing (and this, I’m pretty sure, is exactly that), it was nice to spend the time and get those creative juices flowing in a slightly different direction. Now, to make going a habit again!

-Finally, this song has been stuck in my head for the better part of a week. Maybe it’s the goofy title. Maybe its that pedal steel guitar. Maybe it’s that jaunty piano. I don’t know. It’s catchy, even if it’s kind of dark, lyrically.


That’s all for me for this week–hope your new year is off to a great start!

13 Responses

  1. Keeping my fingers crossed that this year I don't come to hate my new laptop. And that my current aches and pains go away and don't return. I'm wishing for too much, aren't I? Glad you had fun at your writer's meeting. I miss going to mine. One of these days I won't have a conflict!! 🙂

  2. I don't have a 'live' writing group – one of these days I might be brave enough to search one out – when I know I'll be able to commit to going fairly regularly.
    I've never heard the expression First Night before – but I agree it should be last night (although that sounds too depressing)! 🙂

  3. I don't have a life group either. I did a few years back for a few months, but it fell apart. Even my online group has been struggling, especially since we lost our online forum. Facebook just isn't cutting it.

    Loved the story about your First Night experience. Seems the stars were shining on you that night. 😉

  4. -Stacy–hopefully, crossing your fingers won't lead to more aches and pains! In all seriousness, I hope that clears up and that you have much success with the new laptop!
    -Jemi–I hadn't thought of the depressing tone to Last Night. Unfortunately, New Year's Eve turns into 'last nights' for a lot of people, which was part of the point of First Night in the first place!
    -Donna–I wouldn't think Facebook would be the best way to go about that, but you never know! Stars were definitely in alignment that night, it was fantastic! Happy New Year, all!

  5. I never heard of pot banging or the "First Night" despite the fact I lived in MA, NY & CT, but it sounds like a lot of fun! Yay for going to your writers group! I remember graduating both HS and college and was definitely nervous about the future – and it's worse now with the economy – but I think everyone fears big changes in their lives.

    (Thanks for commenting on my blog. I love the analogy of the shark to writing. I always find it so HARD in the beginning, but once I start and take that first bite, it gets much easier and I really get going.)

  6. Ah, First Night… I went to one of those when I was 17 with my best friend. I LOVED the energy. Being crammed into the city square so tightly we could barely breath? That was a bit crazy, especially when someone gave my rear a squeeze and I couldn't figure out who to slug. Ah, good times, eh?

  7. Hey Jeff – I've never heard of the pot banging routine either… although I'm pretty sure at least one of my New Years celebrations back in the day involved the wearing of said pot on my head, and singing slurred songs in the street.

  8. -Lexa–The key to pot banging is to do it just enough to make people say, "WTF?" but not enough to call the cops! Glad you liked the analogy!
    -Crystal–It certainly makes you wonder what idiot says, "Hey, this would be a great thing to do!" doesn't it? Thanks for coming by!
    -Dan–Yeah, I've done that, too. Thank goodness it was in the days before cell phones and Instant Share With the World!
    -Blogoratti–Thank you, and the same to you!

  9. Never heard of the pot-banging tradition or First Night. In Scotland we have fist footing – it's good luck for someone to cross your threshold just after midnight. I just used to run out and come back in again, but I haven't done it for a while. Yay for reconnecting with your writer's group!

  10. Thanks for commenting on my cement-strewn kitchen post. (It's been cleaned up now.) Cement may seem like an odd ceiling material until you remember that Egypt is desert. No trees for building, so no stud boards and no drywall. There's a reason those pyramids were made of stone – no other choice! Now most buildings combine brick and cement. The cement has iron rods running through it for the walls and every floor/ceiling, and brick with a coating of cement makes up the inside room walls. The good news is marble and ceramic tiles are very inexpensive, so all the floors and the walls of the kitchen and bath completely tiles, are beautiful, and easy to clean! 🙂

  11. This is the post that keeps on giving!
    -Nick–I had always assumed the tradition came from some "Old Country" or other in my heritage–maybe it's something people in Brooklyn invented!
    -Lexa–I thought maybe the cement thing was about temperature and keeping things relatively cool, it hadn't occurred to me that the relative lack of wood would be a factor, but it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the clarification!

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