THAT NOSTALGIC HOLIDAY: Peppy top ten lists may recommend how we approach a new year, what with the resolutions and the high hopes and the starting-over promises we make, but the end of the year, any year, is strongly about nostalgia. Yes, Christmas plays a large part in that, but so does New Year's Eve, which, try though some of us might, is still very much about streamers, paper top hats, and "Auld Lang Syne," a heart-tugger of a ditty that's threaded through and through with past longings and wayback wistfulness. And if ever there was a building that possessed wayback-a-tude in its very pillars and pilings, at least 'round California, it is Catalina Island's Casino Building. It opened in 1929, the heyday of starlets and swells making for Avalon's fair harbor for a little off-the-SoCal-mainland whooping-it-up. And it has kept that late-'20s air to it, making it the perfect wistful setting for a holiday steeped in yesteryear. The Casino has marked New Year's Eve for 42 years running this year, and its dress-it-up bash is once again scheduled for, you guessed it, Dec. 31.
HEADING FOR NYE... on Catalina Island, however, isn't like going to a wingding on this side of the Pacific; planning is involved, and getting there, and spending the night. Which you'll want to do, after the Champagne split you share with your date, after the dancing to the live tunes, and after the balloon drop. The balloon drop! Sights don't get more yesteryear, hoo boy. Once you mix in hats, noisemakers, and a buffet dinner, you've had a grand night in a grand building. Plus, you get to stroll out onto the Casino's upper balcony, the one that overlooks the harbor and lights of Avalon, and if you don't break into song, or get dipped, dance-style, by your date, you're not fully in the ye-olde-1920s spirit of the night. Tempted to time-travel, and across some ocean water, no less? Best book your passage, hotel, and New Year's Eve Ball tickets at once, dapper ladies and romantic gentlemen.