My Worst & Best New Year’s Eve Experiences

It was December 31, 1984. New Year’s Eve can be cursed – people can do weird things under the pressure to have a good time and make a great start to a new year – but I was optimistic. The plan was that my Jewish girlfriend Leslie and I were going to drive into Manhattan and bring in the new year with my friend Ed and his wife, also named Leslie.

We were going to meet at a bar. We got there, had a couple of drinks, laughed and enjoyed ourselves. Suddenly Ed blurts out, Oh, it’s 20 ’til midnight! He didn’t say it in a positive way. I said, Ed, why would this be bad news? He said that he and Leslie were due downtown to bring in the new year with Pete and his wife.

Say what?

But yes, that was the plan. The real plan. I just hadn’t known it. Obviously, I had missed something in translation.

Next thing you know, they’re out the door. And as I learned later, God punished them: their subway train stalled, and they brought in the new year sitting in a tunnel somewhere in midtown.

Well. This left Leslie and me at the bar. Things were decidedly more somber than they had been ten minutes earlier. Then Leslie says to me, Ray, look at these people.

She had a point. It was ten minutes until the ball would drop in Times Square. And at every table in that bar, there was just one person, each with one drink in front of them, each staring at the TV, waiting for it to be over.

Which it soon was, in more ways than one. The ball drops, we toast and cheer, we sing Auld Lang Syne, we hug. Then Leslie says, You know, Ray, I’ve been thinking. You’re a really nice guy. But I’ve just got to be with a Jewish man.

There are different ways to end a date. That would be one of them. It seemed I would be driving home alone that evening.

Which I did. When I got to my small apartment building and walked into the ground floor, I heard the neighbor fighting with his wife. I went upstairs. As I put the key in the lock, I heard the one-armed lady next door beating her kid.

I went to bed. Next morning, I got up, got dressed, and went out to my truck. Some intoxicated soul had smashed the rearview mirror.

I got in and drove to work. On New Year’s Day. To a law firm located in Newark, New Jersey.

* * * * *

It was December 31, 1980. My brother and his Mexican-American wife had been visiting me in New York City for the past couple of days. Tonight, we were going to party.

We started out at a restaurant on Sixth Avenue, down in the Village. I forget the name. But we ate, we drank champagne, we laughed. Then, by some miracle, at twenty ’til twelve, we were able to snag a cab headed uptown.

We walked over to Times Square from Sixth at 42nd. Most of the world was already there. They warned us: you have to watch out for pickpockets. This advice was ridiculous. If someone steals your wallet in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, he’s stuck. There are too many people to get away. You can’t even move. Fifteen minutes later, he’ll still be right next to you.

It was fantastic, being there. So many singing, yelling, screaming people. I suppose I should have been afraid of a stampede. But, really, I think it’s the same answer there: if everyone started stampeding, right away hundreds of people would fall down. Their bodies would form a wall. End of stampede.

After the ball dropped, the crowd slowly melted away. Our turn came. We ambled down Seventh Avenue. We walked a long time, my brother and his wife, me and my Jewish fiancée. We ended up at a club called Ones, at 111 Hudson Street.

We were the only nonblack people there. Everyone was very polite. The dancing was great. We danced and drank for hours. I don’t even remember how we got home.

Looking back, we hadn’t really done that much. But it felt like the whole evening was exotic and special. Everything went really well, and we had that once-in-a-lifetime experience in Times Square.

* * * * *

Points to Consider

1. Partying may be more fun before you’re married than after you’re divorced.

2. Hispanic girls are fun.

3. Have a backup plan.

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