How I spent my New Year’s Eves

Once upon a time, New Year’s Eve was the most important, and often traumatic, night of the year.

As a young kid, it was a turning point when I was allowed to stay up to see — or hear, before TV — the countdown from Times Square, followed by the gooey sounds of the Guy Lombardo orchestra.

In my teens, I was desperate to find a party to crash attend.

In my later teens and 20s, it was important to get a date for that night because if you didn’t, “loser” was stenciled on your forehead.

In good years, when I was dating more than one woman, the approach of Dec. 31 was a crisis. The girls you did not ask out figured there was someone else you did ask out, which demoted them to also-rans and most chicks women don’t like being also-runs.

Neither do most men.

Then came marriage which resolved one problem, but created another. Shall we have a party, or wait to see if we will be invited to a party by someone who can do it better? 

And if we got more than one invite, which one to attend — and why?

Then there was the babysitter, whose rates jumped on that night, just like Uber would do decades later.

Then I’m single again and I wanted to be seen at the “right” party. When I was a columnist, I got a lot of invites. When I ceased to be a columnist, that number shrank like a machine-washed wool sweater.

Not just babysitters hiked their prices. Restaurants and night clubs gouged you with high prices, and because of the crowds, the quality of the food and services was often dreadful.

I interrupt the narrative for a quick memory, the New Year’s Eve I spent at Times Square, with my Bronx friends. We took the IRT to 42nd Street and tried to push our way close to the New York Times tower for the countdown.

The crowds were massive and difficult to navigate, but we were stupid strapping teenagers and we didn’t mind pushing and squeezing.

The countdown was anticlimactic. Everyone was kissing each other, no one was kissing 6 teen males.

My major memory?

Getting on the IRT to get back to The Bronx, the car floor was awash in vomit.

When the subway stopped, the revolting, brownish pink liquid flowed forward in the car. When the train pulled out of the station — whoops — the mess flowed to the rear of the car. Swish, swosh.

It took a lot of will power not to add to the stinking mess.

Maybe the 10 best New Year’s Eves were when I was a Mummer with the King Kazoo Comic club, matching with the Landi mother club.

Those New Year’s Eves were spent at the Overbrook home of Ron Goodwyn and Carol Towarnicky, Daily News colleagues, who gave birth to the club, which had Philadelphia members (mostly journalists) plus out-of-town friends and relatives. 

New Year’s Eve was devoted to finishing up costumes, and our first rehearsal, combining music and choreography.

Not to brag, I was the musical director and choreographer, which may explain why we were in Comics, and not String Bands. 

Since Comics went up the (Broad) street first — then starting then from deep in South Philly — we had to leave home before daybreak to be out the street a little after dawn. 

Naturally, that meant that most of us were in bed before the midnight hour.

Then, for a few years after that, I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party at Garden State Race Track, but I was then covering the Mummers and had to be in bed sort of early.

Most years I left the party before midnight so I could catch the fireworks from the Ben Franklin Bridge, where traffic stopped to watch.

That was true for many years — then New Year’s Eve would be spent at home, or with a few friends, because I had to hit the street early enough to see the start of the parade.

That ended in 2016, when I busted my quadriceps on Election Night, and was still on a walker on New Year’s Day.

Hobbled ever since, Half Pint and I watch from home. Zero desire to go out.

I can see some of the fireworks from my balcony, and she likes seeing the ball descend in Times Square (if she can stay up that late).

So that’s what it will be tonight — probably in bed early, but if it is raining in the morning, I won’t get to City Hall to cheer on my beloved Comics.

Too dangerous for a guy on a cane.

I hope to be able to file a report on the parade, America’s greatest outdoor folklore tradition.

10 thoughts on “How I spent my New Year’s Eves”

  1. Great story Stu. It brings back a few of my own memories from my younger days.

    To you Stu, and the rest of you here, I hope the coming year will be the best you have ever had, but not the best you will ever have.

  2. Your comments of the younger years are dead on. I never went to Times Square as there was enough crime in Philly. I differ in one respect as I’ve only been married once (54yrs and counting). I’ll try to watch the events on TV but will probably be asleep well before the new year begins. Send our regards for a Happy and Healthy New Year to your family and we hope the Healthy is there

  3. Married once (still am, 56 years and counting), and our standing joke in the past 25 years or so is our struggle to make it to midnight to watch the ball/apple drop. We fail almost every year; oddly enough, the new year happens anyway! Thanks for a nice trip down mammary — er, memory lane. May 2023 be everything 2022 wasn’t. Happy New Year, Stu, from San Antonio this year.

  4. I never went to Times Square but once when I was 21 and living in Manhattan. Once was enough for that (as well as Mardi Gras). We’ve had family since the middle of December and today is the last day for them. Like Steve, I will probably be asleep well before the new year begins. Have a lovely New Year celebration and a very happy new year Stu. 2022 was better than the last two, but still a shit show. Hoping for better in 2023.

  5. Being from South Philly my early adventures pretty much equaled yours.A New Years Eve date was more important than a prom date.I was surprised to hear you were a mummer for ten years.I have been one for 25 years and am in my mid seventies.I am still involved with a fancy brigade. It is one of the greatest traditions in the country.

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