The tradition of New Year's Day

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 1, 2016 6:00 PM

I'm not entirely sure when it started but I remember a New Year's Eve many years ago, maybe as long ago as 1998 or 1999. In those days we sort of celebrated New Year's. I say sort of because we'd always did lobster and we'd always had at least one couple over. Often times it was Roy and Bobbi. We'd buy the lobsters locally. Kevin would cook them. I used to cook lobster by the crate when I was in college and it never bothered me. It started bothering me when Justin came into my life.

It always freaked Bobbi out, having an entire lobster on her plate. She didn't like the eyes. Kevin used to fabricate tiny paper sunglasses and put them on her lobster. I'm not sure it mitigated the issue but it sure made it funnier. 

On that particular New Year's Eve day, we woke up to pouring rain. Torrential. It was lovely even though we knew we had to go out to get the lobster as well as other stuff. I remember that we also needed to go to Costco; I don't remember why. I do remember that we were in no hurry to go out so we grabbed the remote, snuggled down under the covers and watched The Twilight Zone.

Every year, SyFy runs a marathon of the quintessential science fiction series, one I had never watched until that morning. I had seen snippets over the years; it was often running on late night. For some reason, the sound of the rain, the dark gray of the day, the warm of the covers made watching episode after episode after episode of the creepy, moralistic black and white show the perfect way to wile away the morning. Eventually we had to get up and go out into the wet cold, but a tradition was born. 

Every New Year's Day I de-Christmas the house. The Byers Choice Carolers, my beautiful collection, get carefully put away for the year. I take them all down from where they are in the great room and put them on the coffee table. I pull out the cases I keep them in throughout the year and I pack them according to height (some are taller and need the taller case). This takes a surprisingly long time. Once they're done, I tackle the tree. As it's artificial it comes apart in sections and requires two big boxes. I take off the lights. This year I put two birds at the top so naturally I'll remove those; also the ribbon I wrapped around it because I didn’t know where my ornaments were. Everything will get boxed and carted out to the garage. 

This year we had a wreath that I need to de-light. The wreath is fresh so it will get tossed. There is also a small lighted tree on the hearth. Justin sent it last year. That will get collapsed and boxed, as will the big Santa my mom and sister bought me years ago, and the Karen Didion wine Santa that Kevin bought. All boxed and put into the storage unit in the garage (except the Carolers - they stay in a closet in the house) 

Then I clean. Then I put back the various objects I had to move to other places to make room for the Christmas stuff. The house will once again be back to normal, ready for the next 11 months before I re-Christmas the house.

All day, as I go about my task, I'll have The Twilight Zone marathon on. I'll mostly listen and occasionally glance up to see what star who wasn't yet a star is starring. I love the juxtaposition and the symbolism. Christmas meets Rod Serling. I bet there's at least one episode of weirdness that will show just how odd and strange it is to have the pseudo horror of The Twilight Zone and the complete magic of Christmas in the same room. That's a celebration I'd watch, and will, all this New Year's Day. 

In the twilight zone

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 5, 2012 11:56 PM

Picture this: a happy couple going about their daily business, working, playing, enjoying their mundane lives for the very regular nature of it all. In a heartbeat, it all changes. They are transported to another dimension, their daily lives filled with uncertainty and doubt. They are in … the twilight zone.

I was never a fan of The Twilight Zone, probably because it was on before I was born. I know movies were made more recently, and by recently, I mean the 1980s, but I wasn’t a fan of those either. Then came the Spielberg version called Amazing Stories. Didn’t like those either. And I like science fiction; The X-Files remains one of my all-time favorite shows. Then one rainy New Year’s Eve day a number of years ago, as we lounged in bed and flipped on the TV to surf a bit, we came upon a Twilight Zone marathon on the SciFi channel. I think they’ve recently changed to SyFy. They were running the show back to back, its half hour segments starring some very well known people, actors who probably weren’t well known when they starred in these little parables of life in another dimension. I suppose that in those days, The Twilight Zone was the equivalent of soap operas in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Soap operas were the launching pad of a number of fairly well known actors including Kevin Bacon, Meg Ryan, John Stamos, and more.

As the rain beat down on the cement patio outside our bedroom, splashing up on the slider, we propped ourselves up with extra pillows while snuggling down for a long winter’s watch. I don’t know why but after not ever watching the show, I was suddenly hooked. We watched episode after episode after episode, seeing people like Robert Redford stumble through a supernatural tale, always with the iconic close by the host, writer and producer, Rod Serling. The show, which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964, explored hope, despair, pride and prejudice by using metaphors. In addition to Redford other notable actors getting their start on the Zone include Dennis Hopper, Carol Burnett, James Coburn and Lee Marvin. Even some established stars like Buster Keaton, Art Carney, Mickey Rooney and John Carradine appeared. Not a lot of women starred in Twilight Zone episodes.

But in the twilight zone of real life, women are often the biggest stars. I need look only to myself. There are many episodes where I feel like my life has been a parable exploring hope and despair, sometimes simultaneously. I’ve had odd clients who have played me for a fool and I’ve let them, though thankfully not recently. I was young and inexperienced and the clients were celebrities.

My first true twilight zone happened when I got divorced; I hadn’t expected to get divorced but it ended up being a good thing. My second twilight episode happened when my dad died unexpectedly. I stumbled around for several days in a complete daze. I didn’t get it; I still don’t. He was here one day and gone the next.

My newest twilight zone experience is happening right now. Kevin and I are both dazed and confused, trying to make sense of something that makes no sense other than that it’s life and it happened and we deal with it. I speak of our beloved vintage puppy and his current fight to re-enter reality.

Maguire is in his own kind of twilight zone. It’s not a bad place to be, actually. If memory serves, the episodes I saw were transportive. Suddenly, you could be in a world where there were no people; or you could age backwards. There was an episode I remember where a wealthy older man, married to a younger woman, became ever more exhausted by her lifestyle. He finds a youth serum, takes it and becomes younger by the hour, finally regressing to the age of a toddler. It might have been the precursor to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The Twilight Zone episode was called A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain and it starred Patrick O’Neal. I remember being a little creeped out by it then but now, as I sit here, I’m thinking that this wouldn’t be a bad thing for Maguire. If we could get a hold of a youth serum, we could sneak it into his IV and see him become younger, and thus less sick. Eventually he’d be a puppy again, romping and healthy, alert and full of life, and definitely not in another dimension, not in the hospital. Not in the twilight zone.

Where’s Rod Serling when you need him.

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