One New Year’s Eve in the dwindling remnants of the late 20th century, my friend Catherine and I were sitting around my apartment, feeling profoundly bored.
Bored doesn’t fully capture it— we were stagnant. Watching a leaf blow onto my windowsill would’ve been more exciting than whatever we were doing—which was nothing.
“Wanna take the subway to Times Square and watch the ball drop?” I asked.
“I guess,” she conceded.
I am a lifelong New Yorker. I’d always thought going to Times Square as the clock struck midnight while a bunch of bohunks and jamokes from the Midwest, Jersey, and Brooklyn screamed, “YEAHHHHH!!! WAHOOOO!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! AH, FUCK! HOW’M I GONNA GET HOME?”
…was observably dumb.
I don’t mean every citizen of Nebraska, Jersey or the outer boroughs is a bohunk or a jamoke. There are bohunks and jamokes worldwide, which means there have to be bohunks and jamokes in Manhattan. It just seems that six bazillion of these bohunks and jamokes cram into Times Square on December 31st and head back home, leaving tons of detritus and vomit behind. And driving from Bumfuck, Idaho to shred your vocal cords and watch the ball drop doesn’t seem like a good reason to hang out with thousands of inebriated, screeching madmen when they celebrate the new year.
My traditional idea of a happy New Year’s was getting a good night’s sleep after watching an uplifting triple feature of Darkman, Saw 2 and I Spit on Your Grave. But this year, driven temporarily insane by my own boredom, I decided instead to give tourism a try.
So Catherine and I took the elevator downstairs and boarded the C train, which is complimentary on New Year’s Eve. The MTA figures nine trillion caterwauling, red-faced louts will try to jump the turnstiles; without enough cops to arrest every one of these brazen outlaws, just let ‘em in for free and save the battle for another day.
We got off at 42nd Street around 11:45 pm, fifteen minutes before the scheduled ball drop. Sweaty blobs of humanity blocked our way. We couldn’t even see the building where the ball was dangling. The best we could do was wriggle our way to 40th Street, two full blocks behind One Times Square.
“Why are we doing this?” I thought.
A few feet away from us were six guys wearing flashing green and blue five dollar sunglasses. Two of them were holding up by her armpits a girl who was about to puke. The crowd was squished together and we were globs of Play-Doh, mushed together in a ten block by two block container.
The night sky was filled with shouts of anticipation waiting for that dumbass ball to drop. I imagined Dick Clark on his inane New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show, babbling about midnight sneaking up on us in that creepy, weirdly intimate voice of his.
“Only a few minutes ‘til midnight,” I imagined Dick saying. “The crowd’s excitement is at a ten! A washed-up rock star trying to rejuvenate his flagging career will be singing Auld Lang Syne as the ball drops!”
Maybe this was why I came here… to avoid looking at Dick Clark, the macabre creature from beyond the grave, staring at me with his six thousand facelifts, his eye sockets stretched so wide you could pilot the M104 bus through them.
100,000 lunatics were poised to obliterate their lungs in a collective drunken fury.
One minute left.
Soiled pieces of newspaper and gobs of confetti, streamers and broken balloons fluttered around us. Inhuman howls pierced the air. I didn’t know if I should be petrified, excited or numb.
The midnight maniacs began the ten second countdown. Catherine was standing right behind me, a smile on her face. Was she enjoying this?
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, twoooooo…one!
The steaming, cold, pulsating, inebriated, throbbing morass of armpits, breath reeking of sweat and six-cans-for-a-dollar beer crowd shouted in unison: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Horns blasted, piercing our eardrums. Multi-colored streamers descended from heaven, as Auld Lang Syne blared out from car radios and open windows, with masses of malodorous, inebriated sots singing along.
Catherine was shouting. And then, to my surprise, I found myself screaming, too…three times. With unironic glee. It was official: I’d gotten caught up in the madness.
NOOOO!!! The depths of my soul cried out in an empty plea. I’m a bohunk! And Catherine’s a jamoke!
After working our way through the staggering crowd, we boarded the C train back home, where we returned to our natural state of New Yorker aloofness.
I swore to myself I’d never do that again—even if I did enjoy it for twenty seconds. But several years later, with nothing to do on New Year’s Eve and unable to find a triumvirate of horror movies, I succumbed to the siren song of the night and tried to hustle my way to Times Square again. I couldn’t get past 55th Street. The crowd was even thicker this time, so I gave up. Though on my way home, I randomly encountered Liam Neeson walking around Central Park South. Unlike Times Square on New Year’s, this is one of the more pleasant iconic New Yorker experiences—coming across famous people who’re just living life, and avoiding crowds. I told him I liked his work, and he said thanks. It felt like a karmic reward for going back home.
So while I haven’t relived my Times Square night since, I can confess: I was a jamoke for one night in the late 20th Century.
And I enjoyed it. Just don’t tell anybody.