You Couldn't Pay Me To Do It....Again
Twelve years ago tonight, when I was but a wee Freshman in college (Jesus, has it really been that long?), I did something utterly stupid and yet, incredible. A once in a lifetime kind of thing. As in, no way in hell would I ever do it again.
I 'did' Times Square on New Years Eve.
Normally I avoid that stretch of the city like The Plague. Unless there's orchestra seats involved, you won't find me within a ten block radius of Dante's eighth layer of inferno. Back then though, my love affair with New York was still in it's courting phase and I seized upon any opportunity to discover more about where I would come to call home.
From the moment we stepped outside Penn Station and pushed our way through the throngs of tripping Phisheads (Phish used to have a lock on the annual Madison Square Garden New Year's Eve show. FYI, Chris Rock is this year's headlining act.), I knew we were in for a wild ride. Realizing there was no better way to make it to the ball dropping than by hoofing it, we stocked up on 40s purchased with fake IDs and claimed our spot in the street just outside the barricade that surrounded the 'official' Times Square Rocking New Year's Eve.
Back then, I had no idea where I was. I'm pretty sure it must have been between Broadway and Sixth Avenue around 40th Street. When we first got there, our group spread out on the pavement like we were at a picnic. There were drinking games and all the usual college festivities (read: drugs). We made friends with newcomers and counted down the hours until the real fun was to begin.
Fast forward to about 11:15 or so. Our group is now crammed up against one another and swaying with the crowd. People are pissing where they are standing or against any building or semblance of cover they can find (damn those 40s) as all the surrounding businesses smartly shuttered their doors and pulled down the metal guards. Bottles were flying through the air and what cops were visible were trying, in vain, to coax a couple of jerk offs down from the roof of some poor fool's car.
It was chaos. Insanity. Incredible. I loved every minute of it.
I wasn't even sure we'd know when the ball itself was dropping as we didn't have a clear vantage point of the main area. In fact, at that point, I didn't even know WHERE Time's Square was. But all of a sudden, the chaos transitioned into elation. The sway of the crowd began moving in tempo with Auld Lang Syne which thousands and thousands of people were now singing along to. Total strangers were hugging and kissing. Everyone was ecstatic. I've never felt a surge of kinship like that.
Not even a minute later, chaos returned. Angrier, uglier and more brutal this time. Now, you had thousands and thousands of pissed off people trying to get out of a tiny space. People were drunk, had to pee, didn't know where they were going. Cops were suddenly everywhere and pretty briskly going about their business.
We ended up dancing the night away at Phoebe's in the Village.
Every year since, I cringe when I see the shots of Times Square. Well, cringe then smile. But no. You couldn't pay me to do it again.