I'm alone in Terrence's apartment in eastern Japan, listening to Times Square celebrate the New Year on the other side of the world. It's just after two o'clock in the afternoon here. Beyond the shoji screens of the floor-to-ceiling windows, the morning snow that topped the oriental bushes is gone. The space heater is warming my bare feet on the tatami mats. I can't decide what to eat. Terrence has a jam-packed first day of 2009 with game film sessions and basketball practice. My mom and I talked via Skype for her last 30 minutes of 2008 while I watched live streaming video of Times Square on boxingvid.com.
The video is still playing in another web window, and Louis Armstrong's magnetic voice is crooning What a Wonderful World over the horns and screams in Times Square. I know it sounds more savvy as a New Yorker to announce that I hate the tourist trap in the Crossroads of the World, but I don't. I can't say I'm always happy squashed between a family from Minnesota decked out in the latest and greatest tourist gear and a homeless man pushing a shopping cart filled with trash bags of unwashed clothes, a broken coffee maker, a Scooby Doo plastic dining set, and a step ladder, but I do love living within five blocks of Times Square on a narrow street tucked away in Hell's Kitchen with Broadway in my "backyard." I love that magical moments can actually happen outside the gaudy souvenir shops, below the neon lights and oversized billboards. I love that my intimacy with the streets edifies me to avoid the crowds when I want to and provides solace in familiarity.
I imagine this is how a jealous lover would feel, watching someone else dance with the object of their affection. Or maybe it's more envy of not being able to join them because I would gladly allow others to cut in if only for the chance to share that beautiful, dirty, wonderful, grimy, charming, smelly city. New York moments are, after all, best when shared.
Ringing in 2009 in Japan roughly 14 hours ago wasn't too shabby, however. I joined Terrence and his American teammates outside a Japanese castle in the city square, which was haloed in a gorgeous fireworks display at the stroke of midnight. But I still thought of New York.
Last year, I gathered for the 2008 countdown with my New York friends in an apartment on Bleecker Street in the West Village, continued to celebrate at after-hours on the Lower East Side ... and somehow ended up in Jersey.
Three years ago, I brought in 2006 working in a smoky casino in North Carolina holding a tray full of drinks and watching the guests around me jump up and down, blow horns, and kiss and hug each other. It's weird how you can feel completely alone in a sea of people. I quietly consoled myself among the masses with images of what my night could be like a year later somewhere in New York City. It would have to be in Times Square. My next New Year's Eve had to be better. For me.
So for 2007, I found myself again in a sea of people, but for a few brief moments, I felt like I was one with everybody in the new city that I called home. It's so cliché but the sheer, non-alcohol influenced happiness was absolutely surreal. For the first few minutes of 2007 - despite what hardships may follow - we were at peace with ourselves, our lives and the world.
Immediately after "Auld Lang Syne," Frank Sinatra's voice floated over Times Square as confetti drifted in loops and swirls to the jubilant bodies below.
Start spreading the news
I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it,
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes
Are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it -
New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap
These little town blues
Are melting away
I'll make a brand new start of it
In old New York
If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you,
New York, New York.
I sang along at the top of my lungs, completely off key, and half swaying off beat and half jumping up and down, waving my long, red balloon, and thanking my lucky stars for that first night of '07.
"Things I Love" Thursdays are inspired by "I Love New York" (BNY, February 14, 2007).
A Year Ago Today:
On the Brink of 2000-Great
Two Years Ago Today:
Rockin' New Year's Eve
Phone Photo Ops - First of 2007