I’m Back…in the New York Groove. Part 3 of a Holiday Travel Tale

Apologies, dear readers, for these long absences. As Hemingway once said, “In order to write about life you must first live it,” and that is what I have been doing. As I promised, this post will regale you with the story of my first New Year’s Eve in Times Square while I’ll dedicate later posts to the subsequent drive to Montreal.

My travel companion and I arose on New Year’s Eve, once more dehydrated and blistered. We are vigorous travelers and frequently keep a pace and energy during our trips that must have some divine upkeep; for seeing cities like Paris in one day and New York in three should be impossible. We often joke about bringing along a “Subject C” to experiment with whether or not a person with lesser wanderlust could keep up.

So, fatigued but not faltering, we prepared for our frigid day in the pens. We had read online about the No Backpacks rule, and we also knew that once you were in the pen there was no access to bathrooms. Agreeing that we hadn’t come this far to be turned away from the Main Event for bringing along an impermissible item, we left our hotel for the city with empty stomachs and bladders and nothing but our cell phones, some money, and the four layers of clothing on each of our bodies.

It was only a quarter past ten o’clock by the time we reached Penn Station, and our plan was to hike up to Times Square and access the crowd. If the good pens were starting to fill up, we would jump in line. If it was still relatively empty, we would meander around the shops for awhile. We paused momentarily to snap a picture with the famous Naked Cowboy, wish him luck against frostbite, and continue with our mission. As fate would have it, there were already a number of groups beginning to fill the decent pens, so with over twelve hours to go until the ball dropped, we entered. As we assumed our superb spot just north of 44th and 7th, the realization that we were in for a long day finally hit us.

Ever the troopers, though, we ignored the biting cold and dragging time by killing two hours with a game of “I Spy.” If you’re wondering how two grown women can play “I Spy” for hours, I encourage you to play in Times Square. It is a challenge not meant for lesser individuals.

In the meantime, my stomach was singing the song of hunger.Various groups of Asians and one group of Germans had set up a small Hooverville-like structure in our pen. They came fully equipped with camping chairs, electronic entertainment devices, box after box of Dunkin Donuts, and several Thermoses full of an enticingly aromatic warm liquid. My companion and I looked on hour after freezing hour, slowly losing spirit and strength, as the visitors to our country nestled together under Space Blankets and laughed as they shared their meals.

By 6 o’clock, when the bands began their sounds check and the Revealers started passing out the free souvenirs, we were near to giving up. A near-trampeling incident when a free foam hat was passed out was nearly the breaking point.

“I can’t do this,” my companion said in a weary voice.

“We d-didn’t come all this way for nothing. It w-will be worth it,” I replied through chattering teeth.

Her retort was drown out by one of Taylor Swift’s backup singers performing “Shake It Off” for the leading lady’s sound check. Shaking from both exhaustion and hunger, we managed to join the crowd in dance. As the hours ticked down, the numbness took over and we were able to enjoy ourselves more. We made friends with two kind girls from Connecticut and another pair from Scotland. When Ryan Seacrest came by our pen to introduce a performance for Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, we even got on TV!

By 11:59:45, I no longer cared that I was cold, hungry, and the muscles of my legs were barely supporting me. My voice proudly rang out with millions of other voices in the countdown to bring in 2015. I felt so ridiculous as I choked up singing “New York, New York” as confetti rained down all around me. My friend and I embraced, feeling both entirely alive and near death at the same time. We reveled with the crowd and took in the moment for awhile before leaping the barricade and joining the surge of people headed to after parties or bed. The next day would see us on our trek upstate to Canada, so we forced on way onto the train and grinned sleepily the whole way back to Clifton, knowing we had just checked something pretty incredible of our Bucket Lists.

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