Last night my wife Danusia and I went to The Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the annual New Year’s Eve “Concert for Peace,” and had an amazing time.
At first, when we were planning to go I was surprised and more than a little disappointed that it started at 7 PM and ended at 8:30, I could swear it went on later than that. What else could we do till midnight, I thought?
The first time we went together, we walked down Central Park West afterwards and caught the fireworks and beginning of the midnight run in Central Park. But that was in 2007 I think, and we were much younger then. Last night I could only think of getting home before midnight and avoiding the crazies on the subway.
Danusia had gone to the first concert for peace there when Leonard Bernstein conducted the orchestra in in 1984, and saw Philippe Pettit do a tightrope walk in the Cathedral at the 1996 Concert for peace.
Last night I got to sing along with Judy Collins for the fourth time.
Usually she just sings Amazing Grace a cappella and everyone sings along, but last night she started with Both Sides Now, the Joni Mitchell song Judy made her own.
I sang along the best I could, not knowing all the lyrics. But singing along made me tear up with joy, love, and gratitude.
I was singing with Judy Collins! Where else could I do that?
I have to say, her voice is still amazing, no raspy aged whisper here.
Judy told a joke her doctor told her when she was still smoking.
“Every time you light a cigarette god takes an hour of your life and gives it to Keith Richards.” We all laughed, and I’m grateful I haven’t made a contribution to Keith’s life fund in 16 years.
This year I paid off two credit cards, celebrated 18 years clean, 11 years of marriage to Danusia, and the publication of a story in an anthology!
Not to mention starting our second year in our wonderful apartment in Washington Heights, and being relatively healthy for my age. That’s a lot to be grateful for.
I no longer feel sad that when I turn on the news in the morning there is no breaking news flash that a certain someone choked to death on a hamburger and a certain someone else died of a heart attack trying to save him.
Or that some publisher isn’t breaking down the door with a book contract.
Whatever will be will be.
We even made a new friend last night, Luisa. She was alone, standing in the very long line to get in with us.
When we go to the front of the Cathedral the end of the line was just feet from 110th Street, and Danusia wondered aloud if we were getting in. Knowing that it can hold 6,000 people I thought we had a pretty good chance.
We were waiting for a friend; a young polish woman Danusia befriended a couple of years ago. She was coming from Brooklyn and was cutting it close. She texted Danusia that she was on the C train at 72nd Street just as the line started to move.
I kept looking for her as she kept updating us of her location.
“She’s on Morningside?” Danusia said.
“Two blocks away. Tell her to run.”
We weren’t the only ones waiting for someone. In front of us a group of 5 or 6 people joined a group already in line.
Behind us a woman spoke loudly into her cellphone. “ Make a right onto Amsterdam Avenue! Run!”
Danusia was on the phone with our friend Justyna, and I saw a young woman running up Amsterdam Avenue with a cellphone to one ear. It was Justyna, and she almost ran past us as I grabbed her arm.
The four of us sat together and basked in the love and gratitude, and at the end we lit our candles and sang along to O-o-h Child (things are gonna get better) and the standard finale of This Little Light of Mine with Jamet Pittman.
Afterwards we raced across the street to the Hungarian Pastry Shop, another tradition in our years together. I knew we had to get there fast because a good percentage of the people who attend the concert include it in their New Year’s tradition. We had hot drinks a pastry before heading home to ring in the New Year in our warm comfortable home, far away from noise and crowds of Times Square. That’s a New Year’s celebration I’ve never indulged in, and have no regrets in missing.
Like my alcoholic 11th grade English teacher Mr. Kerrigan used to say, “Going to Time Square and getting drunk on New Years Eve is for amateurs.”
But that’s just his opinion, and if that’s what you did last night, I envy your bladder’s staying power.
Happy New Year, friends!