Friday, November 8, 2013

New Years in November

Since living in New York the last few years, I've sought out a lot of classic New York tourist experiences. However, one thing I've never had any interest in doing is Times Square on New Years Eve. Tales of rivers of urine from people being trapped in pens for hours in preparation for the party and the mind-numbing coldness that always takes place around January have always kept that pretty far down on my list of ways to celebrate the coming of a new year. When a friend invited me to an event organized by the Obscura Society where you could learn about and even touch the famous Times Square ball, it seemed like the next best thing.

View (through a dirty window) at One Times Square.
The ball is kept at the top of the building One Times Square that it drops on year round. As it turns out, this building is accessible by elevators inside a Walgreens. It's visible from a number of rooftop and office buildings in the surrounding area since it's really only about 25 stories up. It would be interesting to work across from it, I should think, but then I suppose like everything else it would stop being noteworthy after a couple of days. They do apparently light it up for different days though, much like the Empire State Building. Apparently it becomes a pumpkin at Halloween and a globe for Earth Day.

The ball alit.
The event included champagne and a talk by one of the guys who works there year round. Apparently there isn't a lot of turnover in the News Years Eve ball dropping business, as he'd been working there since the mid-1980s. In fact, he was working there when the countdown switched from union guys with a stopwatch to the computer system (which apparently was the one time the ball was ever actually late). He was a fount of information about the history of the ball drop. Apparently, the first one in the early 1900s was a ploy by the New York Times to get people to come uptown to their new headquarters. They came up with the idea of having a ball that dropped based on a maritime tradition of dropping an iron ball at a predetermined time so ships could manage their timekeeping. They combined this not-so-exciting event with fun new technology (the original ball was 5 feet wide and made of wood and iron with 125-watt light bulbs) to create something noteworthy.

The reason you can't see it from Times Square usually is because it's behind this billboard.
While I was sipping my champagne and listening to his spiel about the over a million people who come to Times Square every New Years Eve from all over the world, it almost made me consider doing it for the first time. I thought about how I'd made it to the inauguration in 2008 which, really, involved just as much waiting around in huge crowds in the bitter crowd for hours on end, so why not this? However, then we actually made it up to the roof. It was about 40 degrees (according to Wikipedia the average temperature in NYC on New Years Eve since 1907 has been 33 degrees...and the coldest was in 1917 when it was 1 degree) and we were outside for maybe twenty minutes taking pictures, and I was pretty uncomfortable. Granted, we were on a windy rooftop and I wasn't wearing any heavy winter gear, but still.
Here's me with the ball. You can also note my new hair cut, albeit mostly obscured by hat.

I don't know where I'll be for New Years Eve, but I do know it will probably be inside somewhere. But for now, I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store, as so far 2013 has been a pretty good one.

One final shot. 

1 comment:

  1. We saw the ball in Macy's Herrold Square some years back. I think at the time it was the "new" ball.