Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another year up in flames

I know a lot of people hate New Year's Eve, but I've always liked it, possibly because I've never been to any of those awful expensive bar parties (well, once, but it was an unmitigated disaster & I never did it again). I like the suspended-time feeling you get in the week leading up to it, and I like staying out late, and I always like a good house party with friends and interesting new people.

This year, there didn't seem to be much planned. Jim and Susan were throwing a party, which would be fun, but would be wrapping up early, in deference to their three-month-old daughter Sidney's bedtime.

I thought about it. What would be a good way to see out 2007? The last few months of the year had been really hard on a lot of my friends: marriages had ended, loved ones had died, jobs had been suddenly and unfairly terminated. Nobody would be sorry to see the year end. In fact, what if we burned it in effigy?

I sent out a message: "I want to make a paper effigy of 2007 and burn it in the park at midnight. Anyone with me?" It is a testament to how great my friends are that the response was an immediate, "Setting fires in the park in the middle of the night? OH HELL YES I AM SO THERE."

So, I made a paper doll to represent the old year. Here is what it looked like in my kitchen, early on the 31st:

Ready to go

I like to think of the expression on its face as kind of smirkingly half-apologetic, as if it is thinking, "Yeah, so, I kinda sucked. But what are ya gonna do?"

I went to Jim and Susan's, admired Sidney in her tiny party dress, and met up with Jude and Guy, and at around 11:30, the three of us walked over to Christie Station. Others soon gathered. I got out the doll and a Sharpie, and suggested that people write on the doll the names of all the things they wanted to see go up in flames. Alison, who really had a shitstorm of a year, particularly in December, scribbled frantically all over its back & then wrote "GENERAL FUCKWITTERY" across its front. Hilary was missing. We called her on a cellphone and discovered that she was working on her neurophilosophy paper & had lost track of time. She promised to hurry over.

We trekked into Christie Pits. It was about fifteen minutes to midnight, and snowing heavily, though it wasn't too cold. There were a few people tobogganing down the steep hill at the end of the park (another great way to spend New Year's, I thought), but other than that the park was deserted. Near the swings and the monkey bars we found a wading pool -- a broad circle of concrete, all covered in snow -- which seemed like a good safe place to set a small fire. The nozzle of the fountain in the centre made a perfect support for the effigy.

Midnight drew nearer, and still no Hilary! I worried that she'd miss the big moment. The someone saw her, alone at the top of the hill. She came skidding down in the snow, in her boots, parka and a full skirt. When she reached our lamplit playground, she yanked open the parka and flashed her satin ballgown at us:

Hilary knows how to make an entrance

What an entrance! And just in time! I distributed the sparklers, and got out a box of matches. At first the wind kept blowing them out as soon as I lit them, and I worried that this wasn't going to work. Then 2007's jaunty tissue-paper trousers caught fire, and up he went:

Sparklers alight!

Everyone lit their sparklers on him, and waved them around. "Happy New Year!"

And a happy New Year to YOU, albeit a bit belatedly.

All my photos here.

Alison's photos here.


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