New Year’s Eve, 2016, in Atlanta
February 12, 2017
New Year’s Eve 2016 was in Atlanta. We first popped a Champagne cork with Margaret and Scotty Greene on the 31st of December more than twenty years ago. We’ve repeated this every year since with few exceptions. The venue has varied, Birmingham, San Juan Island, and Atlanta.
Friday, December 30th
With bottles of Dom Pérignon snugly wrapped on the floor of the back seat, we drove eastward on I-20 passing Chula Vista and Anniston, Alabama, across the state line and past Bremen and Douglasville, Georgia. The iconic Atlanta skyline appeared, and soon we passed the state house’s gold dome and the stadium.
When we turned into the Greene’s steep, curving driveway, Scotty was on the balcony directing us to our parking space like one of those airport employees with reflective vests guiding a plane to the gate.
He was eager to show us his new toy, a gray 2017 Audi convertible. Volkswagen’s offer to buy back their Audi at an inflated price as part of the their settlement for cheating on emissions made the convertible irresistible.
Our luggage stowed in the sumptuous guest house, we went inside and sat with Scotty and Margaret at the unique wood table, identified sculpture and paintings we remembered from the house in San Juan, caught up on our adult children, and Margaret’s most recent adventure in purchasing and planning renovation of another house. Upon careful study and evaluation, its renovation was aborted and the house was about to be sold or, at least, Scotty and Margaret hoped that was the case. We applauded the decision to retain the current house we know and love.
We settled into the guest house and headed to dinner at Sotto-Sotto in Inman Park. A hostess escorted us through a warm, bustling dining room through the chilly garden, back inside, and up the stairs to a mezzanine overlooking a pizza place. Veal, acorn squash, and ravioli pleased our palates.
We retired early to our comfortable accommodations. I read a couple of chapters of Hillbilly Elegy, an autobiography that sheds light on the voters who elected Donald Trump—much to our surprise and dismay.
Saturday, December 31st
I was up early on New Year’s Eve and joined the noble Joni and Scotty, a perennial early riser, reading news from the Huffington Post and other sources.
A fire warmed the living room that overlooks the pool. After we had a couple cups of coffee, Susan and Margaret joined us. We shared our distress at the president-elect’s latest tweets.
Scotty and I took the new Audi convertible, windows up and heater blasting, to the Atlanta Fish Market to pick up the lobsters, salmon, and tuna. It was surprisingly comfortable. The writhing lobsters with waving antennae were packed in tin pans and covered with tin foil. The salmon was wrapped, but the 100-pound tuna had yet to be carved. We agreed to return for our cut of the big fish later.
After naps, Scotty and I went next door to Ed and Ellen’s for the Alabama Tide’s semi-final championship game with the Washington Huskies. We marveled at their huge Christmas tree, suitably decorated with crimson lights, and heard about the difficulties bringing it in and the anticipated challenge of removing it from the house. Scotty played Steely Dan’s line, “They call Alabama the Crimson Tide…” and led several rousing choruses as he pumped his fist in the air to muster enthusiasm for Alabama, ours that is—his enthusiasm was flowing.
We met Ed’s brother, Jacques, who recently emigrated to Lisbon, Portugal. Appropriately for an accountant, he researched cities where he might retire and choose Lisbon on the basis of cost of living and other criteria. He knew no one there when he made this move earlier in the year. Ellen and Ed were most gracious hosts. Fifi and her smaller canine sister were good little dogs.
Disaster struck in the last minute of the first half of the Alabama game. Ed’s TV went dark. Uverse failed. Scotty and Margaret’s was also dead. Horrors!
Ever resourceful, Scotty discovered neighbors Jim and Jan Harrelson had a picture. They generously invited us to come across the park to watch the second half. What else could they do? Jan was cataloging bottles in the wine cellar, and Jim poured a glass for us—red of course. The Crimson Tide rolled over Washington, and we found a slippery, leaf-covered path across the park back to the Greene’s. Jan and Jim joined us a few minutes later.
Margaret was dressed for dinner in her Japanese silk pajamas overseeing preparation of an elaborate dinner gleaned from Japanese cookbooks. Scotty found a link to the Ohio State-Clemson game on his laptop for me. Clemson scored first.
Ed and Ellen brought a bottle to add to Margaret’s “saki flight.” After a brief description of the varieties, we critiqued the saki and shared our judgments. Some tasted of vanilla, and another featured an aroma of licorice. Some admitted they were not enthusiastic about saki, but they were converted after sampling the saki.
Uverse revived, but the Buckeyes didn’t. Jacques and I watched from the kitchen as Clemson built a lead. Rain fell as the lights of Buckhead’s office towers shone brightly through the bare tree branches in the fading light.
I held a golf umbrella for Ed as he opened oysters, pried them loose, and placed them in the shells on the Green Egg. He seasoned them on grill. Ellen arranged red caviar in small potato caps with sour cream, a bowl of shrimp, and a dish of Asian flavored cubes on the table while Ed grilled the oysters. With the oysters added, the spread was a splendid sight.
Scotty huddled over the lobsters on the patio, murdering them by pounding an ice pick between their eyes with a mallet—ironically, a tenderizing mallot. Jacques held an umbrella over this scene of mayhem. Some continued to wave their antennae and bound claws for a while, but finally succumbed. Then we dismembered the lobsters, and an unskilled crew including Scotty, Jacques, and me put on aprons and learned how to extract meat from the claws. For me, it was on-the-job training.
In keeping with the biblical guidance from the wedding at Canna, we served the best wine first, our Dom Perignon. Margaret prepared the lobsters as prescribed by a recipe from the Gotham Bar and Grill where we shared a meal in New York the day after Luke and Taylor’s wedding. Another crew rolled tuna, eel, and rice with seaweed. Margaret made a rich fish soup with chicken, salmon, prawns, and vegetables, and traditionally served on New Year’s in Japan.
The dining room table was a work of art. A runner with lush bamboo leaves, candles within luminous cylinders, sushi, petite bowls of sauce, eggplant, and a cold carrot salad adorned the table. We sat down to a wonderful dinner an hour before the end of 2016. We began with a Champagne toast a great 2017. From soup to dessert, Susan’s famous carrot cake, the food was superb.
We all counted down the last seconds of 2016 and found our spouses for a new year’s kiss. We lingered for a while in the warm ambience of a great celebration with such fine friends. A final Happy New Year wish at 2 am before retiring. On to 2017!
Sunday, January 1st
Incredibly, Scotty rose a very few hours later to assist with communion at the 7:45 am service. God bless him, I thought before going back to sleep at dawn. When I came to the house at 9:30 am, he had coffee and the Sunday New York Times—a great combination, one that made me feel at home. Susan appeared at 11:30 am. We reviewed the food, drink, and conversation of the prior evening and early morning.
We drove a couple of blocks to brunch in an attractive home, and parked in the drive of Margaret’s former “next house” project, now on the market. We enjoyed meeting a few people, particularly the doyenne of Ainsley Park realtors. We also assured ourselves of luck and money in 2017 by having greens and black-eyed peas. A good start on the first day of the new year.
We drove past some interesting houses by local architects, some designed for their own homes. We also saw the development that the Beltway concept had stimulated or channeled into these corridors. The investment may be more important than the Beltway itself.
We saw the highly touted movie, Moonlight, at an art theater. Opinion was varied. I gave it high marks; others gave it a middling grade. The unexplained adoption of the boy by a drug dealer was distracting, but it was a powerful film.
More NYT prompted conversation that tried to stop short of total exasperation about our President-Elect. Then some excellent pea soup that hit the spot on a dank, rainy day. We went to bed early to supplement our limited hours of sleep in 2017.
Monday, January 2nd
The early risers, Scotty and I, chatted in the living room before the fire. After a fine breakfast of steel-cut oats flavored with brown sugar and berries, Susan and I stripped the sheets in the guest room, packed our few things, and we thanked Scotty and Margaret for their outstanding food and hospitality as we welcomed yet another new year. Susan negotiated the driveway and we were soon on I-20 headed home like a horse going to the barn.