I feel like anyone who has ever known me for at least five minutes could pick up on my deep love for films that feature some small town girl (most likely some ambitious journalist who later finds love in the most unlikely of places) navigating her way through the Big Apple. Grant it, the story lines all begin to run together after a while, yet I never get tired of them because I someday want to be that girl.
You’d think that with such a deep fascination with NYC, I would’ve already made a point to visit this city. I’ve been to Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC–heck Alaska–but never to New York. I really can’t say what’s delayed my visit to The Capital of the World, but I am not going to lie when I say the syrupy anti-North rhetoric that exists south of the Mason-Dixon had me a little scared. My mom, who grew up in a town where the number of cows outnumbers the number of humans and where the Sweet Corn Festival is considered the premier social function every year, was once guilty of saying that New York is the place where you go to “get peed on, yelled at, and then mugged.” She made her first trip up there this fall and actually really enjoyed it.
While grabbing the usual Monday lunch with Jocelyn Burney and crew at UNC, I mentioned in passing how I wished to be there in person to witness the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve (#10 on the bucket list!). It was then that Jocelyn, proud New Jerseyan and lover of all that is Bruce Springsteen and authentic diner food, said “Okay, come visit me. I’ll show you around the city, and we’ll have a great time.” Gotta love that girl–so straightforward and always down for adventure. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse…so I booked my flight.
Prior to my trip into the city, I got familiarize myself with what locals colloquially refer to as the “Dirty Jerz”. While there, I learned several life lessons:
1) Going 70 mph in a posted 45 is not only acceptable but encouraged.
Otherwise, you might get run over. And die.
2) Do not ask to change the radio station to one that plays country music.
They don’t exist.
3) Disco fries (fries covered in beef gravy and slices of American cheese)
sound disgusting but are actually delicious.
4) Pizzerias in the South claim they make pizzas. They lie.
5) Do not try to pump your own gas. You will be yelled at and fined.
6) Authentic cannolis are God’s gift to earth.
Prior to departing for New York City, I received a series of mixed (and very humorous) thoughts on what my first trip to the city would be like. Some told me I would die–apparently my bubbly personality could not survive in a city many Southerners deem as an unfriendly. Others claimed that The City That Never Sleeps is the very essence of my being: crazy, ambitious, and unique. Jocelyn even commented that the second I took to the streets, I would scream “I’m here!” in sheer delight, prompting many New Yorkers peg me immediately as a newbie. I always thought that my first time in NYC would be somewhat reminiscent of that of the loveable, gullible Buddy the Elf (sans the whole picking-gum-off-city-railings thing).
Dec 31 quickly arrived, and I couldn’t have been any more excited. Jocelyn, Ashlynn, Alex, and I all woke up early to take a train into the city from Jersey. And, just like all my favorite NYC-based Rom-Coms, my first-ever day in the city had more than just a few humorous moments–the first one occurring before I even stepped foot in the city. You know how that aspiring journalist girl helplessly falls flat on her face just as a movie’s plot begins to thicken? Well, I think I took that part of the plot a little too literally in my own adventures. Shortly after we got of the train at Penn Station and as we were making our way up the steps onto 7th avenue, I tripped on the very last step and fell face first on the street of NYC. My first glimpse of the Empire City was the ground. Solid. I think that whole incident was just a friendly reminder that I, in fact, did not know what I was doing. At all.
After that comical mishap and without a New York minute to spare, we made our way to the Museum of Modern Art to cross off a very important bucket list item:
#89 See Van Gogh’s ”Starry Night” Painting in person. If I could conceptualize God’s love and protection and paint it on a canvas, it would look like this. Of course, my painting would not actually resemble a masterpiece at all–or even be worthy enough to be put up on the fridge. Seeing this painting in person was a spiritual experience. The colors are unimaginably rich, and Van Gogh’s intricate brush strokes serve as great proof as to how long he must have ruminated over this piece while painting it. It sent chills up my spine.
The remainder of our few hours at MoMA was spent looking at masterpieces created by the likes of Picasso and Kahlo and trying to make sense of some of the more abstract pieces in the building. It was delightful.
I wish we could’ve spent more time at the MoMA, but mid-afternoon was approaching, and we had to start making our way to Times Square. However, what’s a trip to NYC during the holidays without a trip to Rockefeller Center?! Despite being seasoned city slickers, Jocelyn, Alex, and Ashlynn humored my tourist-y whims by taking me to see the tree and landmark ice skating rink. The line to go ice skating was incredibly long, so that’ll just have to be something I do during my next winter visit to the city! Not going to lie–I thought it’d always be cute to be proposed at Rockefeller Center (again with the walking clichés–I know, I know).
It was after that when we headed to Così and fueled up on delicious wraps and melts in preparation for the long evening ahead. Prior to leaving the café, we all went to the bathroom for the last time in 2011. That’s right. You can’t go to the bathroom once your in Times Square due to security restrictions. Severe bladder pain? Leggo. We took bottles of water, one for each of us, and then made our way to the Mecca of unabashed advertising and all that’s glitzy.
Despite having no navegational knowledge of the city, or in general for that matter, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out how to get to Times Square - I just had to follow the thousands of people heading in the same direction! I was so giddy – it was ridiculous. So giddy, in fact, I may have skipped and ran in the streets, and it was beautiful, and I was enchanted.
When we finally made it to Times Square at 3 PM, we were quickly packed in like sardines. I mean, you could’ve let your knees buckle out from underneath you, but you still wouldn’t have fallen because there were so many bodys around to hold you up. I couldn’t move my arms. That hour we were standing there before the police broke up the group into sections was probably the most difficult. I personally found it hilarious. It was just like mosh pit…with one million people in it. I was actually hot in that crowd. The weather was very mild that entire day, but not knowing what to expect, I wore so many layers of clothing that it was quite toasty.
Once we finally got a little breathing room (well, enough breathing room to move our arms 90 degrees), the fun began. We began to talk to other revelers who were in our vicinity - our barracade buddies for the next 8 hours! It was like a mini-United Nations! Just the people next to me were from Mexico, Canada, Norway, and Germany! I also met many people from the states, from California to South Carolina.
Apparently, it was many other people’s first-ever day in the Big Apple too! Those were the kind of people I wanted to be around – gotta love the “go big or go home” mentality. They must’ve enjoyed our company too because they invited us to be honorary members of their cool club and to be in their pictures. BAM! That’s what ya get for breaking out the karaoke skills on the spot to entertain people. Choice song? Gunpowder and Lead – Miranda Lambert
. Get on my level.
We also danced, took ridiculous pictures of ourselves, philosophized, and did the wave to pass time. I’d say we did a pretty awesome job of entertaining ourselves because once we reached that 6 PM point, time went by quickly. Since we had to ration the amount of water we drank, we began to take shots of it on the hour as a way of celebrating the ringing in of the New Year in each subsequent time zone.
Adventures of a Photo Bomber
As those time zones became closer and closer to the eastern one, the excitement in the crowd began to build. This was partially due to the different musical acts making their way to the stage (Drake, Pitbull, Justin Bieber, etc.), but I think it had more to do with those iconic blue Nivea hats brand representatives were handing out. People would fight to the death for those things. All my years of watching the ball drop on TV, I never thought I’d actually want one of those hats; I always thought I was above advertising ploys. Boy, was I wrong. Maybe it was the gleam of the bright
Broadway and M&M World signs that made me act in the way that I did, but suddenly commercialization was my friend. I tried to snatch one of those hats up as best and as instrumentally I could, but after one overzealous German woman with multiple eyebrow piercings practically threatened to punch me in the face if I didn’t let go of the last hat in the pile, I sorely resigned from the hat-grabbing madness. Luckily, Alex, who managed to claim a hat for himself, was kind enough to give me his.
A few more rounds of water shots and one very strange Lady Gaga performance later, we arrived at the final hour of 2011. I couldn’t help but reminisce on all my favorite (and not so favorite) moments from the year. On the whole, it was a beautiful one. It’s funny to think that when I was ringing in 2011 with my family back at home, I didn’t have the slightest idea of what my life would turn into this year. It was the biggest year of my life, and looking back, there wasn’t a single thing I would’ve changed about 2011. Sure, I made plenty of mistakes, got hurt, and failed more than a couple of times, but I am happy with the year, and that’s the best thing you can ask for. So, here’s to 2011: The Year of No Regrets.
Before we knew it, a giant “60″ appeared on the central screen. The countdown started and the light-up ball began its descent. 60…59…58…57…It’s difficult to explain all the emotions and energy that ran through crowd in that final minute. Of course, the screaming and cheering among all the revelers was loud, but something in that crowd was much louder. 45…44…43… Maybe it was all the thoughts, regrets, hopes, wishes, and dreams that resounded among those one million people and within the confines of Times Square that made the loudest sound of all. 20…19… A million crazy, optimistic forward-thinkers all in one place on one night celebrating the magic new promises a new year brings. 3…2… Beautiful. 1… Happy New Year.
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon…
Strangers hugged strangers and all delighted in one another’s company. We made it for 9 hours without going to the bathroom (Score!). I overheard quite a few people saying that they were so caught up in the moment that they forgot to keep a constant eye on the ball. I must admit–I did the same thing. The whole experience was so euphoric, and in case you had forgotten, there was over a ton of confetti falling from the sky to remind you of the magnitude of what you were witnessing.
Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” began to play overhead – a kiss goodnight from the Big Apple. With that, we all began to shuffle out of Times Square to return to our separate lives in different places all around the world, but I think the emotion from that night will carry on in our hearts forever. Until next time, New York City. Until next time.
#10) See the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s off the bucket list.
2012, what’s good?