Janus—for whom our month of January is named—was a two-faced God who faced both forwards and backwards. Roman households often placed an image of Janus beside doorways. New Year’s Day is just such a doorway, and as we pass through it we often reflect on the past while speculating about the future.
After rising at a prudently late hour (considering the excesses of the night before), Markus, Betsy, Karen, and I decided that it was fit and proper that we go on a used-book hunt. You should understand that we never need much of an excuse, but why not invoke the holiday spirit? So, the Four Bibliophiles of the Apocalypse sped from the Valley of the Hudson to the Hills of the Berkshires. I don’t need to tell you that we found—and purchased—bulging cartons of wondrous things.
We always do.
Book-hunting is intense, and it provokes an equally intense thirst and hunger—so we headed for Hudson, NY, where we knew good restaurants existed in pleasing numbers. Hudson, not coincidentally, also has a lovely used book store. We chose a restaurant in which we’ve eaten many times, and ordered a variety of soups, appetizers, and desserts that we could share.
Markus and I ate savory slices of chorizo, rolled into tortillas, smeared with guacamole, and festooned with jalapeños. Completely satisfied, we went out into the night and started for home with our treasures.
A little way out of town, on one of the winter’s darkest nights, I suddenly realized that New Year’s Day was over—and that we had not eaten Hoppin’ John. This is an election year, and a slip-up like that could deprive us of not just one year without luck, but perhaps four grim years. Markus exclaimed that he, too, was risking bad luck by imprudently ignoring his family's traditional herring and lentils on this most important of days.
Of course, we don’t really believe in all this hocus pocus—but flauting tradition can’t be good, can it?
Sometime around five AM, on January second, we—at least Markus and I—learned the cost of our hubris. Unmistakable signs of food poisoning racked our bodies. Karen and Betsy were unscathed. We can’t be sure it was the chorizo, or the fact that Karen and Betsy were never as committed to the New Year’s Day rituals as we were, so were not judged as harshly.
We do know that there is one door in Hudson that we will not pass through again.