Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy 2007 to everyone! Of the 3 New Years Eves I've spent in New York City (2000, 2006, 2007) this one was the closest to what everyone watches on television. For those unaware, the Times Square crowd you see on TV is tightly managed, packaged and actually quite small. That's by New York standards of course.

Let me explain. On busy nights in Times Square the place is packed! Tourists overflow the sidewalks, street merchants offer their wares and people walk all around taking in one of the most dynamic pieces of real estate in the world. On New Years Eve though, the police fence off the entire area and only a lucky thousand or so are actually allowed in Time Square itself.

In past years I have gone downtown hoping to get into the action but never made it any closer that 4 or 5 blocks away. Great fun, of course but not what you see on TV. Only those diehards who arrive very early actually have a shot at getting into the heart of Times Square. They are the ones handed out freebie hats, noise makers and party favors (all corporately sponsored and color coordinated to look fantastic on television). By about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, when the most determined of revelers fill up the staged celebration areas, the place is sealed off. But somehow, even though I worked until 9:30pm and had to rush in from Brooklyn, I was able to break that seal.

All thanks to New York landmark and my home away from home - Jimmy’s Corner. You have to be a well liked regular to get the (free!) pass necessary to physically get to the bar on New Years Eve since it is located right in middle of Time Square, well inside all the police blockades. I got those passes.

It was great fun to work my way through the tourists squeezed up tight against barricades many blocks from the dropping ball, and flash my pass. The cops moved gates, yelled at people to get out of my way and pretty much rolled out the red carpet as they granted me access to the prized area. I liked that.

My first impression of the area was how empty it looked. Obviously, safety is #1 in the minds of the authorities and from what I can gather, the crowd control plan is designed to anticipate any worse possible scenarios. Avoiding stampedes, allowing emergency vehicle flow and leaving evacuation routes free clearly must have been the idea because there was so much free space there it was almost eerie. That’s right, Times Square on New Years Eve actually has fewer people in it than a typical weekend night. Now of course if you count the masses who are a block or two or five away, there are many, many more people there. But not in the Square itself.

Once inside the bar the festivities were on. Drinks flowed and old and new friends prepared to bring in 2007. At about 5 minutes to 12 we decided to see if we could see anything from outside the bar. We walked the half block to our own barricade - only yards away from the center of activity. Outside of arriving 12 hours early and getting a free hat , this seemed like the best possible scenario to view the countdown: Yards away from the Jumbo-tron and feet away from my barstool.

But it got better. At about 1 minute to 12, the cops, to our shocked delight, moved the barriers we were standing at and we were free to enter the heart of action. All that empty space must have been saved just for us! All of us from the bar (and neighboring hotels) quickly scooted into the middle of Times Square and were showered with the confetti you all see on TV. (The confetti had logos from Target stores - yes, even the confetti was corporately sponsored) It was really awesome! I never thought I could get that close and to be allowed in at the last minute was almost embarrassingly easy.

So 2007 started off well. I admit I’m not feeling like a million bucks this morning, but if you can’t be hung over on New Years Day … well how are you going to handle March 18th? While I know that a good start to a year does not guarantee anything about the twelve months ahead - either does a bad start. So I will just enjoy the memory of last night, rest up today and get back at it bright and early Wednesday morning.

1 comment:

Jeff Briscoe said...

New format looks good. Good luck with it!