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Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Time Event
New Year's in Times Square
For a few years I've wanted to celebrate New Year's in Times Square: to be there with nearly 1 million other people, to be at **Times Square** as **The** Ball drops, etc. I've also wanted to go to New York for Christmas and see the Christmas displays in the department store windows, see snow, see the Rockefeller Center Tree, etc. So, it was with some coaxing that I persuaded Melinda to humor me and spend December 31st in NYC a few weeks ago.

The planning worked out pretty well. I spent Christmas with my family in Seattle and flew to NYC on December 30th. Melinda and her mom picked me up from the airport and drove me back to Stamford, stopping in Flushing for dinner and some grocery shopping. Melinda, Edwin, Melinda's parents, and I had a nice visit Sunday night, and in the morning we all(!) took the train to NYC. (Melinda and I initially had planned to go on our own, but her parents decided they wanted to see NYC in Christmas, too.) We had a nice walk around mid-town, saw the Christmas display in Macy's, saw the ice skating rink and tree at Rockefeller center, and looked at the frescos inside the main Rockefeller building. We ate lunch just off Times Square, at the ESPN Zone (14 enormous screens each showing sporting events, plus a touch screen TV with these same options on every table!). By around 3p the rest of Melinda's family headed home and Melinda and I checked out the digs at our hotel.

We stayed at Hotel 41, which is just off 7th on 41st, but it doesn't have any views of Times Square. Worse, although it's less than a half-block to 7th, by the time Melinda and I headed out to join the masses waiting for the end of the year (ie, about 5:30p), the nearest entrance to "Times Square" was on 50th -- 9 blocks away. Ugh. So we trudged down to 50th, through a sea of people, and eventually pressed our way into a "pen" on 7th. Alrighty: it's 5:50p, 2007 comes to an end in about 6 hours. What do you want to do?

This was the big secret that no one mentions about New Years in Times Square: it's pretty boring for a long time. If you get there around 2p (10 hours before 2008!) you can probably find a spot within a block of Times Square itself, and so be close enough to see the live entertainment, get the free hats and stuff that get handed out, get showered with confetti, etc. But we weren't that prompt and were with the masses. How did we pass the time? Every hour there was a countdown to midnight somewhere: Paris (6p), London (7p), Cape Verde (8p), Chile (9p), Rio de Janeiro (10p), Newfoundland (10:30p), Bermuda (11p). Also, Melinda and I played 20 Questions and some variations ("Is it more like a breadbox or more like a X?"). Those games pass the time surprisingly well. It also helped that it was about 40F so our brains didn't need as much stimulation in order to be satisfied as time passed. 8)

Given the conditions, in fact, I was surprised at how civil everyone was. I mean, we really were all just standing around for *hours*, with no access to food, drink, bathrooms, or entertainment, yet everyone just accepted this. No one pushed or shoved because someone stood in front of them, no one started bickering, everyone was pretty happy to be out there on the streets taking part in the biggest party of the year.

Eventually it was 11p, then 11:30p, then 11:50p, and finally 11:59p. Everyone helped count down the final minute of 2007 and watched as a crystal and LED ball 10 blocks away slowly lowered from, like, 50 stories up to about 20 stories up. 30, ... 20, ... 10, 9, ... 3, 2, 1, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Confetti dumps from the tops of buildings 9 blocks away, fireworks shoot off in the distance behind us (ie, in Central Park), and ... that's it. Within about a minute everyone begins filing out of the road and towards home (or hotels or the Subway or wherever). We all have been standing in the cold for 6 hours waiting for this moment, the moment passes, and that's that. Humans are funny.

Apparently "as the Ball drops in Times Square" is a popular moment to pop the question, and, apparently, a guy next to us did just that. Just after midnight he yelled out "I'm getting married!" Heh.

I'm glad I went. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get there soon enough to get a better vantage point, I would have liked to have been more In to what was going on, but that's no big deal. I don't think it was a crazy and silly thing to do, as apparently anyone in NYC whom Melinda asked had said (in fact, 100,000s of New Yorkers joined us), and unlike those nay-sayers, _I_ now have actually done this. But I don't feel like I need to do it again. A smaller gathering, with more indoor heating, more availability of bathrooms, and a few more people whom I know, would be much better.

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