January 1st, 2006



I rang in the new year half asleep listening to the countdown on 1010 WINS. I went to the terrace door and stood there listening to all the noise outside. A friend called just after midnight.

That's about as exciting as it needs to be these days. Not that New Year's Eve was ever a huge deal. There have been lots of parties over the years, but travel can be a zoo and it's easier to stay put.

Earlier in the evening I washed my hair. I was reminded of a Crawfordsville, Indiana paper Will showed us with a salon advertising "haircut and blow job" ("Do I have to have the haircut?" asked our friend S). That same paper had an ad for a New Year's Eve bash, Crawfordsville-style: "The fun starts at 6 and goes until 9!" About as far from Times Square as you can get.

My mother went to Times Square once in her life and said that every sleazy character you didn't want to see on the subway was there. I had my first chance to go in 1975, when a group at my party in the West 80s decided to head down. I decided to stay at the party, and didn't regret it. "Yuck, some guy tried to grope me!" reported one girl when they returned. They saw lots of drunk people.

In 1993, I was invited to a party at a large office overlooking Times Square. Here was a chance to be in the center of things yet avoid the "standing outside for hours with a bunch of perverted drunks in the freezing cold" aspect. I took the bus down 9th Avenue, but found on arriving at 42nd Street around 10pm that I would not be allowed east. I had to walk up into the 50s, over to Sixth, and then back down. It was cold, and there was snow and ice on the ground. Walking and walking amid loud boisterous people, I seriously considered forgetting the party and just going back home.

I finally got to 43rd and Sixth, showed the invitation to the police, and was let onto a strangely empty block. I immediately tripped on some ice, and a policewoman helped me up. It was a relief to get to the building and up to the party. I knew only the host and a handful of others but it was interesting to watch the crowds out windows looking directly onto Times Square from our low floor. The Howard Stern pay-per-view was playing, so I got to watch that, too (it was unnerving to hear unfiltered cursing). At midnight the crowd went wild, and confetti streamed past the windows. Janet Jackson (nearby in Madison Square Garden) was on the Jumbotron. It felt like the center of the universe. I will never forget it.

One room was devoted to dancing. Since the guys we knew did not want to dance, one of the other women and I just started dancing in a group. Soon a woman brought over 2 guys probably half our age, and asked us to dance with them since she was going home. No problem! "What I like about you, you really know how to dance," went the song as we sang along. We danced for the rest of the evening, and I have no idea who my partner was.

I helped clean up around 2am, and ventured back out into Times Square. Most of the revelers were gone, but the confetti remained. Cleanup crews were already working. No cabs were to be found, so I took a bus for a while, and then got a cab further up.

I was in that building again to appear on "Good Morning America" the morning after winning the tournament in 2001. This time, I was taken by car and driver.

And for 9 months last year (or, now, the year before last), I worked in that same building, directly below where the party was. Only our office had only a sliver of a window. I walked out into a deserted, empty Times Square many times after working late into the night. It still felt like the center of the universe.