Times Square on New Year's Eve is for tourists. Most New Yorkers participate in the annual revelry in their fair city by watching it on TV, like the rest of America. That's what my family did when I was growing up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. We ate popcorn and watched as the revelers, bundled up against the cold, jumped up and down as the ball inched its way down the pole toward midnight. It was hard to tell whether they were excited, or trying to get the blood to return to their frozen feet, or fending off a strong desire to pee after holding it for six hours.
My mom would stand on the front porch and ring a brass bell. It was one of those Early American, town crier, "here ye, here ye" type of bells, with a long wooden handle, the perfect length for waving a bell around in the air and alerting nearby Patriots of the oncoming British soldiers.
Off in the distance, there was often the tat-tat-tat of firecrackers. Someone in the subdivision would set off a string of Lady Fingers. There'd usually be a few scattered whistles and pops, too, from Screaming Eagles launched from an empty beer can or Champagne bottle. And that was the extent of New Year's Eve whoo-hoo in Brunswick, Ohio in the 1970s.
While I yearned to escape such suburban doldrums, and experience instead the super-sized, amped-up, muscular energy of New York City, New Year's Eve in Times Square was never on my bucket list. My fantasies of New York were shaped by the opening montage of Saturday Night Live, not New Year's Rockin' Eve.
That's not to say I never spent a New Year's Eve in Times Square. I was there in 2000, as a reporter covering the start of the new millennium, not a member of the teeming throngs trapped behind metal police barricades. I was able to come and go as I pleased and duck into nearby restaurants to keep warm. Did I sit at an orange booth at the Howard Johnson's at 46th and Broadway, drinking hot chocolate and logging the audio I'd recorded on my Marantz cassette player? I don't remember, but it was still there, then. It wasn't torn down until 2005.
Tonight, I'm in my PJs, sitting on a couch in Brooklyn, watching ABC's coverage, which is alternating between shots of singer Taylor Swift in a glittering, sequined bustier, her midriff showing, and some dude in the crowd wearing a heavy coat and a thick grey fur hat with the earflaps pulled down.
Next year at this time, I'll be watching the teev in Ada. The Christmas tree will still be up, because I don't believe in taking it down until after Epiphany. The big old ceramic Christmas lights will be glowing red, blue, green and yellow through the front windows. Otherwise, everything will be dark and quiet, I imagine, unless someone in Ada sets off a few firecrackers and bottle rockets.
I've got a year to find a bell that I can ring while standing outside in the cold on my front porch.
Happy New Year, all. May your 2015 be blessed with health, wealth and happy times.