The trouble with Auld Lang Syne is that it is sung at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Probably not the optimum time to comprehend the meaning of a song. I used to think that Auld Lang Syne championed the idea of forgetting the past and those that made up the past. But no.
(The notion of acquaintances may have changed over the years as a more modern comprehension of the term implies that these acquaintances are not close friends at all but merely people you come across in life with no hint of a deep connection.)
The questions sung at the beginning are, of course, rhetorical in nature and certainly do not encourage us to forget the friends and family that comprise our history on the planet.
I am not sure I ever understood that, having often imbibed just enough holiday cheer to make understanding a moving target. To be fair, however, until recently, I misunderstood I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus with not so much of a sip of hot chocolate on my breath.
So, that settled, I will look back (as I often do) on a New Year’s Eve spent with old acquaintances.
The old acquaintances go back over fifty years. The particular New Year’s Eve I choose to remember occurred in 1969.
I have found that the happiest, if not the most significant, of events happened when no one was looking. No plans were made in advance, and not a second thought was wasted on what we later endeavored to do.
The night began, as most happy nights of that particular time began, in PJ’s basement.
This in itself would have qualified as a party, except that it happened so frequently that it served as our usual start to any weekend evening.
There were cocktails to be had, and a punch of dubious origins was served. In any event, the Boys were well on their way to bidding adieu to 1969.
I have no memory of whose idea it was or even how the suggestion entered the conversation, but someone spoke of going to Times Square to watch the ball drop.
The modern reader must understand that in 1969 going to Times Square on New Year’s Eve was not the ordeal it is today. There was no heightened security to navigate. You could freely roam the streets, meaning you could go to any bar for a drink and a pee. Therefore showing up at noon for an event twelve hours in the future in which your access to a toilet was so limited as to require wearing adult diapers was not a challenge we had to endure.
So, it was decided that we would go to Times Square.
The trio, comprised of Lou, PJ, and yours, truly set out on the Six train and headed to 42nd street.
There was one concern that was serious.
The MTA Union (Subway and Bus drivers) threatened a New Year’s Day strike. Of course, they did.
We were on notice that all transportation would stop at 2 AM on New Year’s Day. Therefore, our plans had to escape a relatively early escape from New York City, which, in fairness, was just as well.
In the meantime, we adjusted our schedule and set out for the west side to join the festivities.
Times Square was crowded as, of course, you would expect, but navigating the area was rather easy. Right on 42nd Street, there were spotlights, the kind you see at Hollywood premiers. I thought it would be a good idea to put my hand in front of one light giving the crowd the peace sign (it was 1969, remember), much as Commissioner Gordon flashed the Bat Signal to get Bruce Wayne to get into his Bat Suit.
Fortunately, PJ grabbed my hand in the nick of time, preventing me from coming too close to the heat of the powerful light.
I remember later that evening, before the ball had fallen, the three of us crowded into one of those picture booths that were often situated in amusement parks and places like Times Square. As PJ has often noted, “Thank God we didn’t have smartphones back then.” I carried one of those photos for quite a while before it disintegrated in my wallet.
Eventually, the ball fell, and after we noshed a late (or would you call it early) breakfast at Childs, we made our way back to the subway.
We happened to be at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue waiting for the Six train when the clock struck 2 AM.
There was a bit of a crowd waiting nervously with us, but soon the rumble of the Six relieved us of our anxiety. The MTA and the Unions reached an agreement that forestalled the strike.
Before we knew it, we were getting off the train at Parkchester, making our way to the warm bed awaiting each of us.
Here’s hoping your New Year’s Eve will be as joyous.