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I once spent part of New Year's Eve with an astrologically-inclined hedgehog.

Now, before the smutty-minded among us get the wrong idea, please be assured that I didn't do anything contrary to the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the dictates of any known religion including the Unitarian Universalist Association even though we don't actually have dictates, or the Girl Scout Law.  I wasn't drunk, no hedgehogs were harmed, and even though I think astrology is incredibly silly, neither were any astrologers.  I wasn't even indoors, and nothing that could be construed as untoward took place.

No, it was First Night in 1982, and the hedgehog in question wasn't even alive.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of First Night, it's basically the Best Way Ever to Ring In the New Year.  Beginning in Boston in 1975 with a bunch of artists who wanted to show off their stuff on New Year's Eve, the typical First Night is a citywide party with concerts, theater performances, kid's events, public art, food vendors, son et lumiere shows, live music, dancing, and more fun than seems legal without the use of startling quantities of classified substances and/or alcohol, all culminating in a fireworks display (or the equivalent) at midnight.  It's quite common in New England, and several dozen other cities across the United States have similar celebrations to welcome the transition from one year to another.

First Night Boston has fallen on hard times thanks to the recession (the 2013 edition nearly didn't take place due to funding issues, and no one is quite sure if 2014 is going to happen at all), but back in 1982 there was no hint of any such horror.  My boyfriend, who had gone to a previous First Night while he was in college, was determined to show me a good time Boston-style, and to say that he succeeded is to understate the situation by a factor of ten or possibly twenty.

We started out with dinner somewhere (possibly the Brigham's on Tremont Street), then worked our way through Back Bay hitting all the classical concerts.  We spent an hour at the Pru seeing a Morris dancing side kill the Winter King and resurrect him, had a snack, saw another early music concert, and finally headed over to Government Center so we'd be close enough to the harbor to stake out a good position where we could watch the waterfront fireworks at midnight.  

The fireworks were gorgeous, even better than the Grucci display on the Esplanade for the 4th of July, and I remember being enchanted by a small tugboat that kept chugging about in circles near the wharf as the brilliant colors exploded in the sky.  Love was abloom, I'd had a great time, and life was very, very good.

There was only one thing that didn't fit, and that was the hedgehog.

A local artist had set up a series of inflatable creatures at various points in town as part of the overall festivities.  I'm not much for modern art and had ignored most of them, but the hedgehog, large and spiky and bright red, took up so much of the brick plaza outside Government Center that it was impossible to ignore.  Add in the strobe lights flashing on and off at random intervals near what was basically a giant balloon that made Spiny Norman look small, and I think you can see why my boyfriend and I emerged from the subway entrance, stopped dead in our respective tracks, and stared.

And stared.

And stared.

So did my boyfriend.  He wasn't nearly the art lover that I am, but seriously, the sight of this alleged piece of public adornment was enough to make everyone but Jeff Koonswonder if its creator was sitting somewhere in the corner snickering like Snidely Whiplash about how stupid the average culture maven was if s/he thought that this was really anything other than a colossal goof on the public.  There was a little explanatory note somewhere in the plaza that supposedly explained what was going on, but it was about as useful as Pedro Carolino's guide to Englishfor the citizens of Brazil.

"That's really - "  I stopped.  What do you say about an hedgehog twice the size of a commuter bus?  

"Yeah," supplied my boyfriend.  His breath was white in the cold December air.  "It really is."

Neither of us spoke for a moment or two.  I was just about to suggest that we head over to the waterfront when the hedgehog, which was all but vibrating as spotlights and strobe lights and lasers played across its rubber surface, did.

"AQUARIUS!!!!!" it roared, and I damn near fell over on the spot.

We spent the next two or three minutes howling with laughter as the hedgehog, which now had some sort of electronic soundtrack that sounded like the bastard child of Led Zeppelin and a thrash metal punk band from a dingy little club in Kenmore Square, continued to shout the names of astrological signs.  A crowd gathered, many of whom were drunk, and it's quite probable that the revelers had a better grasp on what this all meant that those of us who'd stayed sober.  

I wouldn't know about that.  All I do know is that of all the acts I saw at the First Nights I attended, that is the one that has stayed with me for over thirty years.  What this says about me is not clear, but it's probably not good.

It was also unquestionably the most unusual way I've ever welcomed the New Year.

This year I have no hedgehogs, inflatable or not, but I do have quite a year to look back upon.  I sold another story, lost an organ and my beloved Malfoy-the-cat, and ended the year with money in my pocket, a roof over my head, food on the table, and friends gathered 'round.  It's not a perfect life, but it's mine, and I have it lucky compared to so many.  No complaints, my friends, none, and plenty to look forward to in the year that's just begun.

It's hard to believe, but next month will see the third anniversary of this series.  To celebrate that august event, I'll be eviscerating some of the Very Bad Economic Theories that have plagued our land of late.  It's going to be a fun spring as we glide down the great green greasy Limpopo River through darkest Badbookistan, and since I only had but one gallbladder to sacrifice in the service of my muse, God willing the following will be the real, true, and actual schedule for the first quarter of of this year of grace 2014.

Also, please note that I'll be following the same format that I did last year, with a monthly diary on something good rather than something bad.  Sometimes this will be books, other times music or movies or television, and still others it may be a place.  All shall be revealed in due time:

January 11 - Phrases and Fables -

January 18 - The Germans Are Coming!  The Germans Are Coming!

January 25 - The Vikings of Rhode Island

February 1 - Go Ask Anonymous

February 8 - Ten Books I Love About the Past

February 15 - Misogynists with Laffer Curves

February 22 - Austrian Idiocies and Other Economic Disasters

March 1 - His Plagiarized Materials

March 8 - Where Are the Used Bookstores of Yesteryear?

March 15 - The Chevalier of Schlock

March 22 - Fifty Shades of Sparkliness, Part I

March 29 - Fifty Shades of Sparkliness, Part II

April 5 will reveal my diaries for the second quarter of the year, and all I can say about the next baker's dozen is that it might just possibly, perhaps, involve a diary that I've been teasing people about for nearly two years finally becoming more than a joke.

Further, deponent saith not.


So...what say you, my friends?  Have you suggestions for the second quarter of the year?  Have you read a truly terrible book you'd like to see shredded and mutilated on a fine Saturday night?  Is there a subject you'd like me to revisit?  An author you particularly loathe?  Tonight is the first Saturday of the new year, so what better time to let it all hang out?


Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
4:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays (on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
alternate Fridays 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 06:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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