Wednesday, December 6

A Recent Email Exchange

From: Julie [not her real name]
November 26

what do you do for new years?

From: Johnny
November 27

Charter a jet with a few friends and circle the globe, ringing in the New Year in all 24 time zones. Why?

From: Julie
November 28


From: Johnny
December 1

Yeah, but the whole "charter a jet and fly around the world" thing is a bit more complicated than I let on. You see, there are five of us in the so-called "Caroline Society," each of us members of the secretive Club Priapus, and all of us world-renowned for our fluency in the languages of love:

Sir Charles Mortdecai, a British art dealer who's worth is estimated in the billions of pounds sterling...but who once, to settle a wager, seduced a female member of Parliament while disguised as a common street tramp.

Pierre Des Esseintes, a legendary gourmand who killed his own brother in a duel, can make any woman fall in love with him with merely a glance.

Alejandro Martín DeLeon, the former Spanish Formula 1 racer, whose spectacular crash seven years ago left him with a limp and a faint scar that has--like all flaws in a thing otherwise perfectly beautiful--left him only that much more irresistible to the women of High Society.

Faustina Madalena Girolamo, the famous lesbian libertine, rumored cause of many of today's most scandalous divorces, who wears only shades of black in mourning for a tragedy she's never revealed.

Also: me.

Every year, we meet in the Republic of Kiribati, a small archipelago in the South Pacific. Kiribati's easternmost island, the uninhabited Caroline Atoll, is situated directly on the International Date Line and is therefore the first place on the planet to receive the New Year. That evening, after each member of our informal Society arrives at the small tattered airport, we take a water taxi to a yacht anchored just off the cost of the Caroline Atoll, where we enjoy a delicious feast with none other than Manchester Victorian, our mysterious benefactor.

Sea Holly salad
Bread served with dawamesk
Oysters sprinkled with the dust of rhinoceroses horn
Turtle eggs served raw with salt and lime juice
Pastilles Richelieu

Our meal finished, Manchester Victorian rises from his seat at the head of the table and offers us a toast: "Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green-sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes, let there come a tempest of provocation..." The words resonate heavily behind the chromed Cupid face mask he wears at all times.

For 24 hours straight, we travel to every time zone and celebrate the New Year two dozen times. Across all cultures and nations, there is one global tradition that unites humanity: kissing someone at midnight on New Year's Eve. The goal of the Caroline Society is simple...we must find the most attractive woman possible to kiss at the stroke of midnight, as our picture is secretly taken by one of our footmen, disguised as fellow partygoers.

The day of seduction completed, we gather at the false London storefront that hides the opulent Club Priapus, each of us falling into an exhausted sleep in one of the many boudoirs of the Club. Then, on the evening of January 2, the other 22 members of the Club arrive for a raucous meal. (Though the explanation is too lengthy to get into here, there are always only 27 members of the Club, or three to the third power.)

Manchester Victorian, via a large video screen, introduces the evening's main entertainment: the judging of the photographs. Time zone by time zone, photographs of whom each of us kissed on our around-the-world journey is presented to the club. One point is scored for each time zone we win, and the one with the most points at the end of the presentation is of course the winner of that year's contest.

The victor receives a small golden tie tack in the shape of a Cantharide, the right to be served first at all Club functions, and a personal note of congratulations from Victorian himself. These are all nice, of course, but the most important prize can't be named or held...namely, the respect and esteem of the legendary Club Priapus!