Attic Salt for Dec. 30, 2012

By ED CULLEN

Advocate staff writer

Despite the best intentions of doing something memorable to start the new year, I’ll probably be awakened by the sounds of other people greeting 2013.

For me and millions of other non-participants, the stroke of 12 Monday night will be an anti climax, but I’m glad there are people who find it necessary to mark the arrival of a new year.

New Year’s Eve is for the young or resilient. Drinking’s not the thing, anymore. Staying up until midnight is what I find hard.

My generation, people born as World War II was ending, like to party but, if memory serves, we didn’t wait until 9 p.m. to start. If you don’t start New Year’s Eve until 9 or 10, midnight’s easily attainable.

Much of the generation that followed what television journalist Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” will be going to bed when the fireworks start going off Monday night.

New Year’s Eve 19 years ago, a photographer and I accompanied Martin Schreiber on the 73-year-old retired electrical engineer’s walk through the streets of Zeeland Place off Perkins Road.

For years, Schreiber had walked the streets of his neighborhood on New Year’s Eve playing the bagpipes.

The piper’s following grew to a couple of hundred people who greeted him from their front yards or followed him down the street.

“That last year, we probably should have had a parade permit,” he said in a telephone conversation the other night.

Listening to Schreiber had become such a tradition by the time I met him that some couples made it a point of being in bed to listen as Schreiber marched past, pipes blaring.

Other neighbors stepped away from parties to line the streets, saluting the midnight piper. Schreiber didn’t drink, but one New Year’s Eve he accepted a neighbor’s invitation to step inside to hear the man’s dog sing.

When Schreiber began marching to his own music in the mid-1970s, he liked playing at Halloween, too.

“See, he’s playing the bagpipes,” Schreiber heard a father tell a little girl one Halloween.

“She insisted it was the ice cream man,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber made his last Baton Rouge New Year’s Eve march three years ago at age 89. He turns 92 today in Silver City, N.M., where he lives with his daughter, Ramona, and son-in-law, Steve.

I asked Schreiber if he still plays the pipes.

“I’ve got them with me,” he said, “but we’re at 6,000 feet altitude here. I was running out of wind at 50 feet.”

Here’s to the people who make the holidays memorable and to the people who struggle at this time of year. Maybe, we make too much of Christmas and New Year’s, but I think not.

We shouldn’t have to set aside a time to celebrate living with one another in harmony, but we celebrate other things far less important.

Happy New Year. May you welcome the first day of the new year with hope and joy.