New Year’s Alarums + Excursions

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I made noise some time ago about whooping it up in Miami for New Year’s Eve. If “whooping it up” means “nursing the same glass of wine for several hours” and “”Miami” is “my condo,” that’s just what I did.

No, there was no bacchanal in a Cuban mafia-run nightclub this year; my party pal had a project at work that interfered. I can’t say I was horribly bummed not to go, however. The trouble with going to a nightclub, Miamian or otherwise, is that you have to actually enter the thing (see:┬ábouncers, loud girls who are twenty-two, cover charge) and eventually you have to exit it (see: bouncers, puking girls who are twenty-two, empty wallets.) My friend and I stayed in Chicago and just plain stayed in. He had a slight fever and I had a quilt top to finish. Party. Animals.

But being in a quiet place meant that I heard the sounds of Chicago when the clock struck midnight and was reminded of a cultural meme that has died: the sporadic midnight cheer across the city.

Now that most of America has smartphones, we’re all on the same clock. When my phone clicks from 11:59pm to 12:00am, so does yours, regardless of the operating system or the service provider. Midnight is midnight is midnight. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, my phone clicked to 12:00, Jan. 1, 2014 and the moment it did, the city outside my window erupted in fireworks, hollering, whooping, cheering, noisemaking — all from various condo balconies and down in the streets, at exactly the same moment. The city felt the moment together because we were all together in time.

But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, it’s only recently changed.

It used to be that you’d get a bunch of “Yeah! Hap-ee Nuuu-yeeer!” cheers from over here; a few seconds later, another crop from across the street. Then, falling over each other, in a kind of round, the alarums would fall over each other and you would reach a kind of critical mass of celebration. There might even be a few stragglers, sending cheers up a minute or two late, which only prolonged the moment for everyone, which was fine. More kissing.

That’s over, now. I’m not the sort of person who thinks “the good old days” were that terribly good; I’m a fan of science and progress. But we do lose things in the march. While it’s nice to hear everyone hosanna-ing on cue, it was also nice to hear a collection of hosannas, all a little different, all a little off.