Monday, December 30, 2013

Musings...My Most Memorable New Year's Eves

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I have spent a wide array of New Year's eves in all sorts of places, with different people, alone and in love.  I don't recall many that were memorable in a glitzy kind of way,  but I definitely remember one that was historic, another that was pretty tacky,  and yet another that was just downright embarrassing, all in a memorable way.

New Year's Eve has always been a bittersweet moment for me.  I don't ever recall looking forward to it.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that, many years ago, it was the day that my world, as I knew it, came to an end.  Little did I know then that, a little more than a year later, I would be living in another country where eventually I would embrace a different kind of life from the one I had anticipated for myself.

The Havana Country Club in the 1950's

On the evening of December 31, 1958, while  most Cubans were celebrating the coming of the new year, Cuba's dictator Fulgencio Batista had already made plans to leave the country.  Most of my parent's friends were enjoying the festivities at the Havana Country Club or the Havana Yacht Club, or at one of the famous nightclubs like the Sans Souci or the Tropicana.  A few people, like my parents, had decided to play it low key and were entertaining their friends at home.   One of my cousins and a group of friends of Batista's eldest son were at the Presidential Palace where a big bash was underway.

I was too young to be anywhere but old enough to know what was going on in the country.  Things were ready to explode and they did.  Shortly after midnight the phone started ringing at my parent's house and the party came to an abrupt end.  Guests began to depart in a big hurry.  It was the same everywhere, in the clubs and in the streets, everyone wanted to get back to the safety of their own homes.  News of Batista's departure were fast circulating and the whole city was in chaos. 

In less than 24 hours, our world went from this:

My cousin Margarita Sanchez (second from left in white) at the Havana Country Club on New Year's Eve. Photo Courtesy of J.P. Rathbone

To this:

And a week later to this:

 If you have seen the Godfather Part II that is as close as you will ever come to experiencing the moment.

It is tough to top New Year's Eve in Havana 1958 but, throughout the years, there have been many spent in my new country. ..fifty five to be exact!  Some have been memorable, many have been just another night.

 One I always remember is the one in New York City, at Times Square no less, when as a college student I was stuck with my roommate's nerdy brother for the night.  She took off with her boyfriend and left me alone at her parent's apartment with someone who had no idea of what the word fun meant. Desperate for something interesting to do, all he could come up with was walking to Times Square and watching the ball drop.  I was too stupid or too shy to say no.  The worst part was walking back from Times Square to Fifth Avenue in the bitter cold.  I have to give him credit, it was tacky but it was memorable and something I will never forget, in a bad kind of way.

Kathy Bates in About Schmmidt

Then there was the one in the late 70's, in the days of Andy Warhol and the Studio 54 gang.  My husband and I attended a small dinner party of  close friends and their friends, many of whom we did not know.  Beautiful people, beautiful table, great wines and plenty of Crystal.  Shortly after midnight the beautiful people began to disappear and soon I was the only one sitting in the living room.  Everybody, except for my husband and me, was in the big hot tub, stark naked, and having a great time.   My husband, fully clad and cocktail in hand,  kept going back and forth between the two groups.  He knew there was no way I would shed my little black dress and get into that tub but he wanted to be cool about it and pretend nothing out of the ordinary was going on. To say I was embarrassed, furious and distraught is an understatement.    We left shortly afterwards and didn't speak a word until the next day when we roared with laughter over coffee and scrambled eggs!

There have been many New Year's spent skiing in Vermont or sailing in the Caribbean.  Those were just delightful, especially the latter.  There have been some spent sick in bed, as last year's, and others spent with family and friends at parties big and small.  On the eve of the new millennium I gave a beautiful dinner for close friends, one of my best efforts and proudest moments.

All in all, good times but nothing to write a book about, although I think the top three more than make up for the rest, at least in originality.  And my plans for tomorrow night? A good movie, a good dinner and a good bottle of Champagne with my daughter, the Sous Chef and the Cleanup Crew.  Now that's what I call a memorable time!

I would love to hear about your most memorable New Year's Eve, good and bad.  Grab a cocktail and tell me all about it!

Have a Happy New Year!

For those of you who check in for the recipes don't despair....  I go back to those in the new year!


Top photo Pamela Hanson
Photo # 2 John Paul Rathbone, The Sugar King of Havana
Next to last photo Lindaraxa
The rest Google


  1. I cannot begin to comprehend what it must have been like for you and your parents in Cuba at that time. That is some story and quite frightening. You've lead an exciting life since then.

    If I had my wish, we would be in the islands away from any chance of being cold, celebrating a low-key evening with friends and watching fireworks on a neighboring cay around midnight. But south Florida will have to do and it will be low-key at home with my husband, a nice seafood dinner, and plenty of champagne. Perhaps I'll wear a LBD for fun.

    I'm so glad I've had the opportunity to know you & the sous chef this year. Happy New Year.

    1. Considering there was no precedent of this kind of revolution anywhere at the time, I too am surprised at how relatively calm everyone was after this night. I still can't believe I was in bed fast asleep when my world was in chaos. I guess you took each day at a time and rolled with the punches. By the way, this was only the beginning...

      The Sous Chef and I are also delighted at having you as a friend...particularly the former. She threatens to go on strike every once in awhile, particularly when we pay too much attention to you know who.

      Enjoy the seafood and have a good one, dear Sam. Sounds like a great plan!

  2. Dear Julietta
    Whe stay at home (hubby and me), with a movie, a glas with something nice, and hope that the cats are not to jumpy from all the firecrackers and firework. I close the door early for them so they stay in the house.Inside whe have oliebollen and appelflappen and much to eat.
    Wish you and your loveones from the Netherlands a good, healthy and creative new year.
    Enjoy the last day of the year.

    1. Dear Jeanne, one of my earliest subscribers,

      Coco and I wish you, hubby and your cats a Happy New Year. Your evening sounds delightful! Thank you for being such a good friend of Lindaraxa's.

  3. New Year's Eve or Hogmanay is a special celebration for a Scotsman. And it's a special celebration for a Japanese too. We usually spend it quietly and quite often a deux, but tonight we are meeting up with a friend I ran into last week and who invited us to share it with him and a few friends "from Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Bangkok", so I thought "why not?". We began today with a brisk 1200m in the pool, and really ought to be members of the Polar Bear Club. It has been unusually cool for a long period (of two weeks), so with low humidity the water feels icy, but the outside air temperature seemed a couple of degrees warmer, so we thought we'd risk it, and it was "invigorating" to say the least.

    I hope you'll have a delightful evening, and remember the good times of 2013. All the best for 2014!

    1. Dear Columnist,

      Why am I not surprised that your day would include something athletic and "invigorating"! Your evening plans sound very wordly. Hope it proves as interesting as it sounds and that you and your partner have a great time and the happiest of New Year's. Best wishes for a prosperous and :invigorating" 2014! J

  4. My most dramatic New Year was in 2000, when I was in charge of the Y2K computer conversion for a division of BP. Since everyone thought that the world (or at least the computer systems) would blow up on the stroke of midnight, I was definitely on call that evening. Luckily, the world survived, and my programs worked without a hitch.

    Today is dental appointments and work; the real celebration comes this weekend, when I will have a combination New Year's/Birthday party. The menu will feature Lindaraxa's Welsh Rabbit, which has made a hit in the past.

    I hope you have a relaxing New Year, to make up for some of the past excitement, as a beginning to a great 2014.

    1. Dear Jim,

      I remember all the hoopla about Y2K and the disappointment that followed, newswise. There is a saying in Spanish that is very true, "Guerra avisada no mata soldados" which roughly translates into "an announced war does not kill soldiers"!
      Dear Jim,

      You are a real trooper to have a dental appt. on such a day and my Welsh Rabbit sounds very appropriate in case it doesn't go well. You do like that recipe, don't you dear Jim?! I'm so glad to have something of mine bring such pleasure to you and friends in Taiwan!. I wish you a great 2014 and no cavities now or in the new year! Julieta

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. It's been overcast in Surfside but there will be fireworks on the beach, always better viewed when wearing shorts.

    1. My kind of plan! I wish you and Hector a happy and prosperous 2014. Please say hello to him from me. He is such a talented guy! Julieta

  6. Never do you write with so much soulfulness than when you write of Cuba. I can't imagine leaving so much behind. My favorite New Year was 1975 when my boyfriend and I realized we never wanted to spend another holiday apart. I came back after two weeks away with my family and he was waiting for me with two bottles of champagne. He was so nervous he sprayed one bottle all over my kitchen as he opened it. We laughed so hard we were rolling on the floor. I'm spending this New Year's with that boyfriend. We've spent 39 of them together. When our son was young we used to spend New Years with another couple who had two sons. We'd pick a country and then spend the day and night cooking and eating. The year we chose China, my friend decided to do a Peking duck. She followed the instructions to sew up the cavities and then use a bicycle pump to fill it up with air. She hung it to "dry" in her fridge hanging up with an S hook from a rack. Her son (in kindergarten at the time) opened the fridge, saw the hanging "naked" duck, shut the door, and screamed, "My mother has hung a duck in there." For years "hanging a duck" was code for going nutsville.

    I hope the sous chef has a better year. Change can be a bitch. A very happy year to you and yours and I look forward to reading more of your great blog.

    1. I can imagine the horror in that child's face! The Sous Chef is coping, in her own way. Every time the cat comes near me and cuddles there is hell to pay. Her latest was peeing in my bed, "our bed" ,a couple of nights after the cat jumped up to cuddle with me. Last night the cat jumped on the sofa to cuddle and I'm dreading the consequences. Oy vey! Remember the photos of the cat under the tree? Three nights later the Sous Chef was sleeping under the tree, Kids!

      I wish you and you "boyfriend" a Happy New Year and 39 more of bliss and happiness. Sounds like a great guy! Julieta

  7. Happy New Year Julieta! Hope 2014 brings joy, good health & all things wonderful!!

  8. I have to confess that my heart lurched when I read this post and the part about what happened in Cuba. I live in Florida and have a number of friends who left after the Revolution, and their stories just tear at my heart. Some escaped as nuns. Some had nuns smuggle priceless art out under their habits in order to be able to live, etc. My godchildren's grandfather is Cuban. My inlaws spent a month of their honeymoon there. My grandmother's uncle lived there after the American Civil War. So Cuba is not some faraway place to me. It is very real and personal. The United States should have stopped Castro in his tracks, but that is another story for another day.

    My best New Year's Eve was spent in New Orleans at a wonderful party in the Garden District. My worst was a deb party where the champagne flowed freely for four hours at a friend's parents' gorgeous home, and drunken revelers spilled drinks on Scalamandre silk chairs. I will never forget seeing the hostess trying to mop up a Bloody Mary someone had spilled on the most gorgeous antique chair covered in exquisite silk. They unleashed a monster with an open bar and underage drinkers crowded into what under normal circumstances was a huge house, but with throngs of young people became difficult to navigate. I prefer quiet celebrations with close friends and/or family. A good dinner and good conversation. Maybe even a fun board game or cards. We just returned from a trip, so we are spending a quiet New Year's celebration together as my husband went into the office today and yesterday. People are particularly litigious at this time of year, and he is an attorney.

    Happy New Year to you and yours...



    1. Dear Sheila,

      For years, Cuba had a very close relationship with the United States and its citizens and many spent vacations and honeymoons there just like we do today in the Caribbean. That is why it's so incredible that this happened. I remember going to school with many American girls whose parents were living there and working for Esso, ATT etc.

      That party at the Garden D sounds wonderful, but the one terrible. What were those parents thinking!!!

      Thank you for sharing your stories and have a wonderful New Year's. Julieta

  9. In 1958 I was a freshman at a Catholic boarding school in New York state, where the student body included many girls from Spanish-speaking countries, several of them from Cuba. They all returned to school in January, somewhat later than the rest of us, with exciting tales, bullet casings they'd picked up from the marble floors of their houses, and no idea of how drastically their lives would be changing. Most of them have, of course, never been back to Cuba.

    1. Dear Margaret,

      You must have gone to one of the Sacred Heart boarding schools. I knew many girls who boarded there.

      I have not returned either. Over the years I have wanted to but I want to remember it the way it was. I know I will be very sad to see it now even though those who have been rave about it. They have no idea...

      Thank you for commenting and best wishes to you and your family in 2014. Julieta

  10. Running from Franco's civil war in Spain and making a new home in family
    tended all their enterprises. Many in Havana. The mansions they left behind
    with all their art pieces were taken by Castro and his henchmen. Today, i find on line
    the picture of this mansion and all the pieces of art displayed for all to see....It is now
    a museum.

    What a dreadful time slyly won by the regime that stole from those old and young.
    Never forgiven by memories....

    Way back when this Castro attended the University of Havana, those that were wise
    knew he was indeed a communist....many despised his arrogance and ideas. And
    he knew it.

    Loved your post, was not aware of your Cuban roots. Look forward to more.


    1. Thank you for your story. That is one of the reasons I do not want to return. I refuse to go to a hotel when my home is still there and enjoyed by others. Have a healthy and prosperous 2014!

    2. i can only imagine what could possibly happen after this regime finally comes
      to an end.....Could there be a remote idea of ownership of what was taken from
      them? Could this be another type of 'Jewish Holocost"??? Many were able to
      receive back partial or all of their rightful properties.

      What part of Cuba are you from? 'C'

  11. This was a heartfelt beautiful post for sure. I appreciate the fact that you shared your monumental history with all of us. Living through a revolution such as you experienced must have been daunting. My New Years have been much less exciting, but meaningful nonetheless. We share New Years with the same friends every year. Even though we have scattered to different locals, we always pick a place and rent a condo or a house. We cook, laugh, dance and celebrate. It is New Years Day today and I am getting ready to put the pork roast in the oven, to be accompanied by collard greens, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and cornbread. Everyone has their specialty. Looking forward to reading more of your posts in 2014. My best for a wonderful year. Penny

    1. Dear Penny,

      Now that is what I call memorable New Years! You have stamina. I haven't cooked since Christmas Day when I, like you, did the pork and all the fixings, Cuban style. We have been enjoying the leftovers of the holidays. Sick of Christmas bark, perhaps a steak tonight.

      My best to you and your family in 2014. Perhaps this is the year when I revamp my blog. Yours looks great. Julieta

  12. What an incredible life you've lead. I was fascinated by this post and would enjoy any other stories you have to share. Thanks so much for all your blogging efforts.

  13. Ahh...then there was Cumming. Every adversity has a benevolence and pâté.

  14. One of my most memorable NYEs was a party at my farmhouse on the Gulf Coast. I invited some old colleges buddies and they, in turn, brought their friends who were also in search of a party. They sheepishly atoned for this breach in ettiquette by bringing wonderful food and very good quality liquor. We had a great time getting a bit wild. Noticing my extensive cd and record collection, many had ideas for merriment: a men only Marlene Deitrich lip sync contest (a tubby bearded nuclear power plant operator won) and a soon to be ordained priest started giving everyone Latin dancing lessons while Herb Alpert blared on. We welcomed the New Year with sparklers on the wide front porch and later did the Virginia Reel to John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." That's how we saw 1997 come in. By the end of the next year, my 2 closest friends and I had beautiful new babies.

  15. What an amazing and fascinating New Year's Eve story. I had no idea of your background. I would love to know more, such as how your family escaped. Do you tell more of your history elsewhere on your blog. I so admire your perseverance, adaptability and class.

    I think the most exciting NYE I ever had (not!) was when I accidentally dropped a bottle of champagne, it exploded, and a shard of glass embedded itself above my left ankle. The scar still swells when I am unwell. My NYE's are always at home, low key and a bit glum, althhough I try to celebrate a bit for the children. Just do NOT like that holiday. I always feel melancholy over the end of another year.


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