Thank you, Mama, and Happy New Year to you, too. But would you mind if I called you back, like, tomorrow?
(This is one of the fenced-in rectangular area described in the notes below ... which the police have not yet allowed any visitors to venture into ... the view is looking north from approximately 43rd Street.
Note: this photo was published in an undated (Jan 3, 2011) Everyblock NYC zipcodes blog titled "10036." It was also published in a Nov 23, 2011 "Mother Jones" blog titled "Glossary: Decoding the Police Jargon Overheard at Occupy."
Moving into 2012, the photo was published in a Apr 3, 2012 blog titled "Documents show cops making up the rules on mobile surveillance."
As I noted in this Flickr set a year ago, no New Yorker in his right mind goes to Times Square on New Year's Eve. Nobody from Manhattan, anyway -- you can never tell about those crazy people in the remote boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, or the Bronx (and we won't even try to imagine what those crazy folks in New Jersey might do). Actually, even some residents of Manhattan have experienced the New Year's Eve count-down once in their lives, if only so they can speak with some authority about the subject. In my case, it was back in 1969; and it was only because I had had a pleasant dinner at a fancy restaurant a couple blocks from Times Square, and had to walk to the subway when no taxis could be found. There I was, in the midst of it all ... and once was more than enough.
Why do New Yorkers do their best to stay away from Times Square on New Year's Eve? Well, have you ever looked at a TV report from Times Square in the midst of all that mayhem? There are a gazillion other people out there, jammed against each other, shoulder to shoulder — and they're all drunk (or at least they look that way), and they're all screaming at the top of their lungs. You can't just drive to a nearby corner and park your car, with a plan of getting back in your car and fleeing after you've seen what a crazy idea it was. And you can't take a taxi right to the middle of Times Square — at least, not after mid-afternoon on New Year's Eve. Even worse, there are no public bathrooms anywhere to be found, so you're in trouble if you drink too much beer ... except that the cops do their best, quite understandably, to make sure nobody in the Times Square area (which, on this special night, is broadly defined to cover the area from 34th Street to 59th Street, and from Sixth Avenue to Eighth Avenue) is drinking or doing anything that might look dangerous. Or carrying a backpack that might contain dangerous things.
Consequently, it often seems that most of the crowd has chosen to get roaring drunk before they arrive on the scene. All of which might be great fun if the weather is clear, and the temperature is somewhere above the freezing mark. But if it's 30 degrees or lower, and it's drizzling or raining or snowing, this is not a place where you want to spend six or eight hours standing around with two million of your best (drunken) friends...
Thus, it should not surprise you to hear that I was not in Times Square to watch the ball drop at midnight on New Year's Eve of 2010 (or, for that matter, any other year going back to 1969). However, I remembered that my visit to Times Square in the early afternoon of Dec 31, 2009 had been somewhat interesting, and since the weather forecasters were predicting mild, mostly-sunny skies this year, I thought it might be interesting to try it again.
I took the IRT subway down to Times Square, and then spent the next two hours wandering north up Broadway to about 49th Street, and then back toward 42nd St. again. Even at 1:30 PM, the streets were already crowded with families and tourists, and what seemed to be an even larger number of police. It also seemed like almost everyone was wearing a party hat, or a set of "2011" fake eyeglasses, or some other kind of celebratory costume or adornment. There were also gazillions of digital cameras, and an equal number of Blackberries and cellphones. I wonder how many millions and millions of digital images and video clips were shot during the course of the afternoon.
Perhaps the funniest sight during the afternoon was the frequent appearance of delivery guys wearing bright, colorful, and instantly recognizable Domino's Pizza uniforms, wandering through the crowds with large, insulated "thermal" bags that probably carried half a dozen pizzas. In a couple cases, they were peering anxiously at individuals at a specific street corner; my assumption was that someone had called Domino's from their cell phone, requesting delivery to that exact spot. But in other cases, it looked far more likely that the delivery guys were just wandering around, looking for hungry people that were probably willing to pay a premium price for a good hot slice of pizza ... or the whole darn pie.
Around 2:45 PM, I was wandering south on Broadway once again, but when I got as far as 44th Street, I could see that the cops had completely closed off the next two blocks, and that even the sidewalks were impassable. I knew that they were cordoning the crowd into fenced-in rectangular areas, and that (a) each person allowed into such a rectangular area was first searched by a cop for booze, weapons or other contraband, and (b) once inside the fenced-in area, you weren't allowed out unless you left for good.
As more people arrived, the cops kept moving northwards, filling up one rectangular area after another. The obvious strategy for me, then, was to turn around and head north -- toward the local IRT subway stop at Broadway and 50th Street. But I got no further than 46th Street before everything stopped, and I could make no further progress along the sidewalk, even though I had been hugging the sides of the buildings along the way to avoid the throngs everywhere else. Fortunately, I was only about 10 feet from the corner of Broadway and 46th; but it took a good, solid 15 minutes to actually reach the corner -- at which point I heard the cops yelling to the crowd that they were closing everything down, and that anyone who wanted to go elsewhere would have to take the "side street" (i.e., 46th Street) over to 8th Avenue, in order to navigate further northward.
There were more barricades at 8th Avenue and 46th Street, and the narrow passageways onto 8th Avenue itself were being closed down. I managed to squeeze through, got onto 8th Avenue, and then easily walked up to 50th Street. Back over to Broadway, and I could look down the avenue all the way to the tower on 42nd Street where the ball would drop later tonight. And turning around, I could look several blocks north up Broadway, and see that (a) they were all empty, and (b) the cops had cordoned them off, too. By now, it was about 3:15 PM, and I got the sense that it wouldn't be long before the fenced-in crowds would be all the way up to where I was, and then further north, perhaps all the way up to Central Park at 59th Street.
In any case, it was clearly time to go home. I uploaded the 800+ photos that I had taken during the afternoon, enjoyed a delicious New Year's Eve dinner at home, and then settled down to watch the revelry on television as the countdown came to an end. As I noted at the end of last year's Flickr set of Times Square images, the TV coverage was obviously far more extensive than what I could accomplish with just one DSLR camera; and it was also infinitely more sophisticated, with high-end TV cameras located on strategic vantage points all around the square. On the other hand, the TV images appear, and then disappear, often leaving no lasting impression. By contrast, these still images will hopefully be interesting to look at months, if not years, from now. For better or worse, they'll be here whenever you'd like to see them...