One of my closer friends from high school, Antonia, came home for the holidays and told me that two of her law school buddies wished to experience New Year’s eve in Times Square–so I decided to tag along. Having lived on Long Island for 23 years, this would be my first time ringing in the new year in the heart of Manhattan.
We arrived at Penn Station at 1:09 PM and took our time walking up fashion avenue, pondering lunch options and avoiding the slush-filled puddles lining every street corner. Restaurants stop taking people in around 3 PM because the streets go on lock-down so we ended up eating at the Brooklyn Diner where the food was hilariously expensive. Twenty dollar burgers and ten dollar shakes, with enough alcohol to notice it. On a good note, the runners were right on the money, but our server, Brian, could not handle the rush. All in all, this “finer diner” makes an excellent tourist trap.
Below, we are seen making our way to 49th street, where we would supposedly be allowed to gain entrance to 7th avenue.
49th street was our “best bet” according to the police.
The crowd couldn’t see whether or not the NYPD was letting people in. We thought they were, or that eventually they would open their gates and we would flood in…We met nobody from America while waiting. Conversations between British, New Zealanders, Estonians, and Swiss were overheard and chimed in on. At one point, I had to defend my opinion when a woman turned around and claimed that “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds was not as bad as “Baby Geniuses,” but I insisted she was wrong, and that only my mother might agree with her.
Once an hour passed, two NYPD officers announced that the 49th street entrance was closed and that our “best bet” would be 52nd street.
We arrived at 52nd and were promptly told to head up further. Our “best bet” would be getting in through 53rd or higher, another officer chimed in.
Take that Bloomberg
Since I could only handle so much of the subdued pandemonium of people jogging uptown and giggling the whole way, I decided to take the girls through the Hilton’s lobby to try and bypass some security, and it surprisingly worked. We actually found an area that wasn’t blocked off from Times Square.
This would be the only time I would be checked by the wand–after this point, we would be situated in view of the crystal ball for the next six hours. There were two bottlenecks created by police barricades here. Police shouted that backpacks would not be allowed, but while on line, I saw four people being escorted out of the area by police because they wouldn’t relinquish their backpacks. These four people had families accompanying them that were also escorted out.
Read ’em and weep, aspiring citizen journalists.
There were two major problems here:
1. Police were shouting this rule every so often, without realizing their voices were not carrying very far and that quite a few in the crowd didn’t understand English. After witnessing the finality of people being refused admittance, I started to suggest to those being escorted out to remove all the contents of their backpack and put them in another bag, if they had one. Police heard me make this suggestion, and conceded to the idea. By this time, I had started to feel like Stallone in Daylight, so New Years was really off to a good start. Clearly, the issue here was the explosive nature of backpack fibers–and so just like that, the misinformed all of a sudden had an option.
2. The bottlenecks were giant and obtuse V’s with a small opening that would allow only one person to pass through at a time. When I was nearing the opening, I noticed only one side of the crowd pushing to get through while the other stood patiently still. The two policemen letting people through didn’t realize this trend until I made it known to them and suggested they alternated the sides from which those entered from. And just like that, the situation became that much more “fair” in facilitation.
Crowd pushes through security barricade
As I was waiting for the other members of my group to filter through the bottleneck, the crowd got rowdy and started to push through. The police lost control of this barrier momentarily, letting a few go by without scanning them. Does this all sound like a lie?
7th avenue was closed off in sections. This image was taken to give you an idea of the “roaming space” we had between 51st and 52nd street. I assumed that 7th would be crammed in like straws in a world record mouth, but it was only that way after 46th street, I imagine. These filled sections went all the way back to 59th.
Actually, we were cold. I thought I had bundled up quite adequately for the event, but my body told me otherwise.
Some tips on braving the evening “comfortably”:
Snacks are good–those surrounding us were eying our provisions with side-glances and hyena-like snarls.
Bring a blanket! We didn’t, but a nice wool blanket to cut the wind and share would have been da backpack
Tawni, one of Antonia’s friends was about to call it a night because her feet were too cold (wet boots) (boohoo, I’m TAWNI) but the adhesive foot warmers I had brought, just in case, kept her going strong
Comfortable shoes–I was impressed by how much my body ached after just standing around for a while
As noted before, you can’t bring backpacks, but you can certainly bring liquor inside plastic bottles
There are strict rules regarding bathroom usage on this night, but Tawni managed to charm a female NYPD detective into escorting her to a nearby Subway (sandwich joint) to relieve herself, but I wouldn’t bank on such luck
Don’t bring a book. You’ll look like I did, like a big, snot-nosed, anti-socializing loser. Bring something fun that encourages or rouses your neighbors–a book of jokes, some chalk to get a game of hopscotch going, Bop-it, I don’t know.
I wish I could tell you exactly how the crowd made it closer than we did. The most crowded area, (41st-48th), was cleared out by 3PM so that everyone entering could be searched. I imagine lurking around these streets at around 1:30-2 PM would be your best bet.
On my way to W Houston, I took the express train by mistake and missed my stop by around twenty blocks. Two gentlemen on the train suffered a similar fate, and seemed amused by their predicament. One of them laughed and asked:
Why can’t everything just be totally perfect?
Think about that for a moment.
On the local train back to my stop, I had a pleasant conversation with a man who had come from South Africa to visit his family. It was also his first new year’s eve in Manhattan.
Here I am glorifying myself between Lyndsey and Carolina at the Pegu club on W Houston–had an amazingly tasty rosemary infused gin and pear something. They update their menu more often than I take hot showers.
With the girls again (and the boys out of frame) on St. Marks at Yaffa cafe for some early morning breakfast. The decor is outrageously loud, and music surprisingly resilient, but my dead grandmother, (whose hands were severed at death,) can probably still scramble eggs and toast toast better than the cooks at this place can.
And lastly, the wonders of Penn station! If I weren’t such an amateur photographer, I would have captured this goon along with his Jersey-shore partner before he ran off to scrutinize the tape-up. I hate to generalize and rag on the NYPD, especially since two of my high school acquaintances recently graduated from the academy, but they really disappointed me New Year’s eve. I just wish the cops that I had encountered could have thought a little more for themselves instead of relying on the broken messages crackling through their walkie talkies–some courtesy, or altruism would have been nice to witness as well.
Twenty feet to the right of the picture above was a man leaning against a ticket booth, vomiting on himself. Watching an MTA worker sweep up some of it with her plastic broom left a real good taste in my mouth.
I understand the police are supposed to fraternize with the townsfolk and get a feel for the commotion, but when I ask one of them what exactly the protocol is for public intoxication on a night like this one, especially when someone’s vomiting in full view of the public, and the answer I get is: “We kick their fucking heads in,” I’m left unamused, and feeling violent like Stallone.
The train ride home was the greatest part of the night and morning. It made me regret not bringing my voice recorder a hundred times over–similar to the time I didn’t have a camera in Manhattan when I came across Dave Chappelle. I happened to sit in the same train car as six of Massapequa’s loudest, brightest, and bromancing bros I’ve ever come across. Of course, I could have moved to another car, but I didn’t want to miss out on the soul-annihilating discussions on dick-size, brew-dogs, pussy, fishing, and tattoos.
I like to think that, however much I lost in soul that night, I made up for with hair grease I had gleaned from leaning my head against the window.