This is Good Night

I remember when I was young, the wire editor at the Cape Cod Times, an afternoon newspaper at the time, and it subscribed to the New York Times News Service. I’d rip the copy off the printer when I’d come in at 5 a.m. and read back, and several hours earlier there would be a note: “This is good night from the New York Times News Service.”

It meant that there was nothing more to come that night, that if you were putting your newspaper to bed, you could stand down as far as they were concerned. They had seen, and told you, all there was to tell — for today.

Tomorrow there would be more, but nothing more tonight, a comforting thing. This was before the 24-hour news cycle, before the cable and TV networks needed to get everyone wound up all the time. Thirty years ago we spent fewer of our hours on red alert, I think. Today we are all tense nearly all the time with the immediate and insurmountable problems of our world and our work.

Today my wife and I have have exchanged some of that anxiety to get wound up in a pretty pleasant way about our party tomorrow. It’s a big one for us, the biggest we’ve ever held, an event for which we enjoy planning almost an entire year. The problems it presents are more or less minor and generally logistical. It takes some planning to run 10 courses of slow-cooked barbecue on basically one Big Green Egg smoker, and for my wife to create the party she loves for our friends.

This year, in addition, there is the complication of the tree that collapsed in our front yard today and will have to be dealt with tomorrow, even as 80 or so guests arrive. And there was the freezer in the basement that gave up the ghost while we were on vacation with perhaps 100 pounds of meat inside, whose corpse we discovered upon returning home just three weeks ago. It was disgusting, believe me; a crime scene so obnoxious that the stout and wonderful men who took it to the curb gagged and struggled as they hauled it up the stairs.

There are the 30 pounds of brisket that smoke slowly now, overnight, that I hope our guests will enjoy tomorrow evening. I’ve never cooked that much at once, and even as I hope to sleep our chance for beef calamity is high because those briskets are fatty and if they drip beyond the pan underneath onto the hot coals, the flames that ensue will turn them acrid and inedible.

But these are small things. Tomorrow we will awaken and be busy — frantic at times, and “Never again!” I will probably swear to my lovely, understanding wife sometime in the early afternoon, forgetting it completely by early evening.

But now we have done as much as we can until morning.

And so, this is good night.

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