Listening to the fireworks outside reminds me of my daughter's senior year trip to Times Square for the New Year a couple years ago... It was on her bucket list - and it should have been on mine! If you have a minute and are curious - here's what happened...
That picture is so awesome! I loved the experience - and for those who aren't aware, it is a flat-out mess!! For anyone interested... here's our tale of Times Square New Year's Eve.
No alcohol allowed - and it is not a good idea anyway with the length of time outside like that... not really a horrible thing but the first NYE since I was in High School that didn't include it!
No getting back in if you have to go to the bathroom - so plan your fluids well!! Also not a big deal - until you look at the next steps!
They basically set up holding pens like you would for cattle going to slaughter - and they close them at 3pm - so you have to get from 3 to after midnight without going to the bathroom - yikes!
No backpacks or bags... not a bad thing except that means you only have what fits in your pockets in terms of sustenance.
And, since Faryn had done all the research, she knew that if they close them at 3 we should be there earlier to be able to not be stuck at the back... so we got to the gates at 1 to start an 11 hour vigil.
They funnel you thru the checkpoints where they screen you - and at that point, I lost my daughter and her friend, McCall... of course, we were all going into the same block-long pen that was still mostly empty so I figured it was ok.
For some weird reason at 1pm there was this herd mentality to push thru the gate to get into the pen as fast as possible - and the police had to keep backing up the nuts in the crowd - glad I will never actually be cattle going to slaughter!!
The good news was on the walk down it was a balmy 34 in the sunshine so we felt warm and great. Turns out the warmth was from the walk and sunshine. On actual Times Square the sun was blocked and if you haven't been, the wind is funneled between the buildings so that it literally blows from every direction simultaneously! Instead of the warm sunbaked smile of just above freezing on a sunny day (I LOVE THAT FEELING!) it was a bone-chilling feeling exactly like walking into the walk-in freezer with the wrong clothes on. For eleven hours.
But we figured we could make it happen. Until about 1:45. That's when Faryn's best friend, McCall, said that we only had to make it until 6:30. She made several deals along the way - only until 6, 6:30, only until after all the warmups because we will have heard the bands best songs for the evening and so the actual performance will be a repeat anyway, you know what, forget it - let's go now... There were others but because of the cold-slowed synapses, I can't remember them. Faryn also said she was done a couple times and we could leave but it never lined up with McCall being done - so we stayed. For the record, I was ready at any point all day!
We tried everything to keep warm and none of it really worked, but the biting cold wasn't as bad as not being able to move - my calves started to tighten up like they wanted to cramp. They never actually cramped - that might have been better because it's all-consuming when it happens - but they didn't - they just messed with my head - gonna cramp... gonna cramp... gonna cramp... This started at 2:00. It was so packed in that if you jumped straight up in the air then before you could land, the crowd would have absorbed the space you had occupied and you would have been lodged in the air with your feet dangling free...
I don't quite get why but when the bands were warming up on the stage across the street from us, the massive Chinese contingent needed to see OAR or whomever it was - and they pushed - and pushed - and pushed... One guy was pushing against me so hard that I had to lock my legs to not squash into the couple little kids in front of me. For five straight minutes. At least it was some sort of physical exercise - but it was insane - I quickly ducked out of the way and he started to fall, but was caught by the density of the crowd and so ended up just pushing again. Then he lined up on Faryn. I said several times to stop but my Chinese sounds exactly like my English so he didn't know what I meant. Faryn was literally about to turn around and punch him. Glad she didn't... Then he quit. Never happened again. From him anyway. That was the low point for Faryn. She was ready to walk away from the thing she was most excited to do since we decided to go to NYC for the New Year.
I think McCall's was more about her fear of losing her toes to frostbite. It was only about 30 degrees at this point so no real danger of losing body parts to the elements - but it sure felt like it might happen!! They were at the point where they are just about to go numb. Wish it was a touch colder - numb would have been better! McCall tried everything - even texted her mom to verify that I was right that she wouldn't actually lose any toes. I think she was texting for a corroboration that we should leave! She pulled her shoes off and stuffed her feet into her gloves - and then stuffed her feet and socks and gloves all back into her shoes. For like 30 minutes and realized that didn't help - so pulled them out and tried with her gloves on the outside of her shoes. That must have been worse because she switched back and at the end of the night when we finally got to shelter (well, my sister's apartment on 62nd so it's not like we were actually lost on a frozen tundra looking for an igloo) she pulled off her shoes and there were her wool gloves! That can't have been comfortable!!
There was a running countdown on one of the buildings so we could see that we only had 11 hours left. Then two hours later we had 10 hours left. Then 3 hours after that we only had 9 hours left... The girls were doing the math - we had enough time left for us to fly to Vegas and be back... Faryn could go to school for 3 days and have some time left over... McCall could go to Vball practice and hit her classes on any given day and still have time left to fill (she plays volleyball for University of Utah) and all I was thinking was that if the first 2 hours were this long, how far do we have to get to make it to the point where it was ok to be here!! Well, for me that was at about 10:30 - so nine and a half hours of thinking I'm nuts - but it did turn finally!!
Along the way, an enterprising dominoes delivery guy showed up - and since we were at about 3 hours in the walk-in freezer, it was none too early!! For $20 I got a small plain Dominoes cheese pizza. It was just as bad as any Dominoes cheese pizza you have ever had, but this particular one felt like a bridge to life! It was still hot (well, relative to us anything was - but this was actually hot I think) and when you feel the box it was like putting your hands over a blazing bonfire... That first bite of the gooey cheese and the warm full-flavored sauce... it was incredible! The crust is thick and held the warmth too - it was the best pizza experience I think I have ever had! Not that it was good pizza - it was still Dominoes - but it was something altogether different too. I think had we not had the pizza we wouldn't have made the stretch...
Most of the time was endless waiting - and standing - and standing - and waiting... but what was weird was there must have been some kind of movement in the crowd because every time you looked around you, all the people around you were slightly different. The same people were close all night, but behind us and off the rail it kept churning over to be different faces... some nice - some not - many spoke English - but many didn't... and probably not a single one lived in NYC! Luckily as the police kept shifting the railing for things to happen a tiny space opened up where the crowd had been trained was off limits - so no one filled it - until Faryn and McCall squeezed through.
We ended up on the rail - and right where the VIP section was - and right where the traffic between the two stages and for the bands happened to be... Once the show started, that's where we stayed One blessing was the boom camera operator - Faryn and McCall had long since crossed the line of sanity and were keeping themselves busy by dancing and being goofy and he found them. We had a little room to maneuver so they kept stretching their legs like ballerinas on the rail... and then would dance from the stretch - and were feeding off of each other and having a blast. Well, I think they were building up to a blast - at this point, it was still survival mode.
But the bands were great and they did make the time festive and helped us forget how cold we were. Not really. They passed out mittens from Planet Fitness - the yellow and purple that everyone had... then later the pink top hats... and long balloons. Thousands upon thousands of balloons. And since we had a way to occupy ourselves, time seemed to finally start going by at a normal pace. The boom camera guy played with them all night - with the camera. Kept coming back and filming them - and let them take a selfie with the camera - he moved it so that they could catch it in the background... it was almost like the camera was alive like a little puppy - playing and a part of the evening. Nodding yes at them having fun... it panned from one girl to the other and was literally 8 inches from their faces... Then the camera crews came by - and the girls got interviewed by 4 different reporters. The first several were all about resolutions - and they don't really have any but it was funny to hear them try to interact with another human outside the pen for the first time in hours. For sure the people outside the pen have an advantage!! The questions seemed to come too fast and the girls stammered through their answers - but then the first human interaction with someone who was warm and thinking straight in what seemed like weeks... it was akin to Tom Hanks and his volleyball Wilson. But as time wore on and the actual event heated up, they finally got that down - and then the Fox reporter spotted them.
She was an attractive and young reporter who was standing there shivering and as miserable as anyone with the long waits between the action. Then when Taylor Swift sang the Shake It Off song, it was an opportunity! She saw the girls dancing and she came over and started dancing with them - partly survival - partly because they looked like the only english speaking people at the rail - and as pretty as the girls are, they would make a good visual piece - but this reporter got herself all warmed up again tearing it up dancing to Taylor Swift (who, by the way, must have a major bite issue - her #6 is a mess! broken veneer or major bite issue - or both! At any rate, she looks like she has a bite problem so if anyone can reach her!) and then the reporter moved in for the interview. This surprised the girls but I knew they would be ok - their answers had gotten better each time they had been interviewed. Of course the Shake it Off is about letting go - so for the first time the girls were asked about regrets from 2014 instead of resolutions for 2015. Well - two things - one is they are 17 and 18 years old - Senior in High School and Freshman at Utah - and they really don't see themselves as anything but invincible and on top of the world - we probably all remember that feeling! The other is they happen to be really really good kids. Like really good - they are insightful and purposeful and probably don't have any real regrets. But then the thing is IF you did have some major regret, would you tell the entire world here's what I most regret?!
Well, they were stumped - but they were also high as a kite - the power of the group dynamics - the electricity of the crowd - the confetti floating up (not entirely unlike how bubbles in a pint of Guinness float down) and the cheers and lights and all the screens on the buildings and even the cold all fed to such a powerful event - you couldn't help but enjoy it! After almost 10 hours of pure torture and the minutes creeping by like hours - and hours like days - all of the sudden it was almost 11. One hour left. Then 30 minutes. Then 15. Then it was the countdown! And then it erupted!! It was so much cooler than any New Years countdown I have ever experienced - and I think from this point on, the 2015 New Year will be a part of every other one for the rest of my life - to feed off of and feel... The confetti is designed to catch the updraft and float for hours - so it weighs absolutely nothing - and they had over 2 tons of it! Literally. four thousand pounds of stuff that weighs nothing! The balloons were everywhere... little GoPro cameras were everywhere floating above the crowd on sticks looked like stubble on the face of the Square... The cheers and screams... And then they started playing those New Year's Eve songs that bring out memories of every other New Year you have ever been awake and with people to enjoy... The power and majesty of it was spectacular! And the funny thing about it is across the world people watch the Times Square New Years to watch that ball drop - Waterford crystal and the colors and lights and the 'ball drop' that we all watch on tv... well, none of us actually saw it!! From Times Square we could clearly see the ball - but when it actually dropped we were swept up by all the other things - and we missed the ball itself! What?!
Then is the first 15 minutes of the New Year of music and smiles and "I can't believe we did this" until we finally start to realize it's time to leave. That's also when we realize that our legs have forgotten how to walk! Seriously - couldn't feel the feet anyway - but there was some weird disconnect between my brain and most of my legs, like my knees were all of the sudden backwards. Too many hours since I had asked them to do anything and they were not wanting to listen! As we sort of ambled/staggered our way off of Times Square we were recounting the evening and how our phones blew up when the Fox report aired - and then again with the images from the boom camera on the NYE coverage...
Then we walked past a hole in the wall pizza place and knew what was next. It was the kind of New York City pizza place that you feel like you are doing it wrong because they are all on a mission - and you just can't get in sync with them. Or you don't know the right way to order it. Like you are bothering them a little bit by not knowing the rules. Like the Soup Nazi - but we also knew there was no better way to start the year at this point than to have a slice of actual New York Pizza. On a greasy white paper plate. Slightly burned on the crust. The big slice so that when you pick it up you have to fold the crust in two - and even then the tip droops so you have to duck under the pizza to get the first bite. And then the second. That amazing mozzarella and tomato sauce in perfect balance and the crust is there for support in the background but not really a part of the pizza - it's all about the sauce and cheese... So McCall got us all slices and we walked through the crowd of a million people while we were happily munching on pizza - and it was just then sinking in that it was all worth it. Every bit of the misery all day long - even though our parts still weren't working yet - and we hadn't eaten or had a drink in forever - hadn't been inside and out of the 30-degree weather in what was now almost 12 hours... it was all worth it.
And I will never do it again!! Next time I do New Years in Times Square it will be from the other side of the window. Happily toasting my friends and the strangers I just met - waiting to share that kiss with the person who counts most - and going to the bathroom whenever I feel like it! Next time at Times Square will be as much fun - but next time I won't be wearing a coat!
I hope you all had an amazing New Year! I know that 2015 will be a powerful year for me - many things that are monumental and life-changing - it will be a year of massive action - and a year of making an impact on the world. 2015 will be one of my favorite years of my journey - and I hope that you all have that same thing happen!! Not every moment will be grand - but at the end of the day we really only have two choices - take action and make your life worthwhile in every way you can - or don't. I've done both over the years. I like making my life count much more!!
Happy New Year to each of you! (Even those who had other things to do and didn't read to this point!) Anyone this reaches has had a powerful impact on my life - many directly - many indirectly - but thank you to each of you - and I hope that you have started an amazing year of opportunity and happiness!! I know I have!
Here's to 2015!