Tag Archives: New Year’s Eve

essay introduction on my best friend

Have you ever read something that flicked a switch in your brain, that suddenly filled your head with a memory long forgotten or repressed?

Recently my good friend John recounted a story about a visit to Guatemala. You can read it make your own free dating website.

His memory of his first visit to a Central American country was of an official of the army or police pointing an automatic weapon at him.

I have a similar story.

During one of my parents’ trips to our mother country, Argentina, I learned a powerful lesson about not provoking the powerful in charge.

It was the summer of 1979. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere meant Christmas and New Year’s festivities.

Part of the traditional festivities, still observed in the middle and lower class neighborhoods of the Buenos Aires suburbs, was visiting house after house — and eating and drinking at each one — to celebrate the new year.

It was New Year’s Eve 1979, and together with my cousin and a mutual friend, we headed out to uphold old traditions.

We went from house to house and celebrated with people we barely knew. But we ate at every home, and more important to this story, we drank cider at every house.

At age 16 and without the tolerance I have today, I can say I was probably pretty plastered by the time we reached our fourth or fifth house.

All I can remember is that we left a house and started to walk along a main avenue of this depressed neighborhood.

As we walked in a bit of a stupor, I noticed flashing lights up ahead.

Uh-oh! Cops, or worse, I thought.

I told my cousin that we should cut through an alley or double back because we were drunk and under age.

Nah, he said, and gestured most drunkenly. He said that it was just repairs being done on a pharmacy sign on the main road.

Now If I hadn’t been drunk, 16 and stupid, I might have said: “Who the fu#& is gonna be fixing the pharmacy sign on New Year’s Day at 3 in the morning!?!?!?”

But I was 16 and drunk and proceeded on the path.

As we got closer to the flashing lights I felt dread as I could see that this was no sign repair crew. It WAS the cops. Or as they were known in the dictator days of Argentina, the para-police!

I could see multiple vehicles starting to pass us as and I hoped they would let us go because we were only a couple of harmless kids.

Nope.

Brakes squealed, jeeps and cars stopped and all manner of uniformed and non-uniformed authorities came out shouting out orders all at once.

Halt and up against the wall were the ones I heeded.

I slapped the wall and spread my legs.

“Turn around,” I heard a very authoritative voice say.

We all did.

A man in civilian clothes approached the three of us. He held a very large pistol in his hand.

He motioned with the gun and said, let’s see some documents.

In Argentina, at that time, all civilians had to carry a national ID called a Cedula de Identificacion. It was a picture ID with a current address (Lord help you if it wasn’t current) and a seven-digit number.

You better have it memorized too.

As I fumbled for my ID card, I spied the uniformed officers holding automatic weapons forming a perimeter around the man in charge asking for our papers.

My cousin produced his document and walked toward the man. I found mine too and also started to walk toward him.

At the sight of two scared teenagers moving toward him at the same time, documents in hand, this para police jerk must have felt his life was in danger because he leveled his pistol straight at my forehead and said, “I didn’t call you. Back against the wall.”

I got back on that wall like Spiderman! Facing it and back in a spread-eagle position, scared like I had never been before.

I was probably muttering to myself, or possibly crying, when I did not hear the first strongly worded request for me to turn around. At the second shout, I pivoted around and slammed my back up against the wall.

The non-uniformed man in charge beckoned me with his pistol.

I remember him calling me hot shot. I still don’t know why.

So I moved meekly towards him, document in hand straight out as a shield or religious artifact warding off evil.

He snatched it from my hand, glaring at me and still motioning at me with his pistol.

Next came a quick interrogation of name, address and ID number. I blurted everything out, all correctly. Then the question that caught me off guard: “What are you doing here?”

Thankfully I stammered, “Nothing…just visiting friends and family for the New Year.”

My meek response satisfied him because he handed me back my ID, gestured with his head rather than his pistol to disappear.

I ran away, rounded the corner and heard a “psssst” from my cousin huddled behind a car.

I fell in next to him and watched how our friend and another pedestrian who must have somehow been near us when the police descended on us were shuffled into the paddy wagon.

They didn’t have their IDs on them. Holy shit!! Now what?!

Together with my cousin and a clear head that was scared sober from the encounter, we went searching for our friend’s mother who was in one of the houses we had visited earlier.

Fortunately there was a very peaceful ending.

We found our friend’s mom, we all went down to the precinct, getting there before the squad and paddy wagon. Our friend’s mom signed him out and the police asked her to sign out the other minors too.

Our friend recounted his trip to the station in the wagon. He witnessed a few more stops and saw a few individuals tossed into the wagon with bleeding heads.

I am so glad I had my ID — and that I was smart enough to not mouth off.

 

New Year’s Adventures at my Midtown Penthouse

You read that right. I once shared a “deeeluxe apartment in the sky” with my brother.

So what if it was technically a poorly constructed addition built across the roof of two tiny brick buildings with absolutely no heat in the winter and hallways so narrow we could never get adult-sized furniture up the stairs?

The mailbox read “PH.” It was a penthouse.

The flat was located exactly two blocks away from Times Square, Crossroads of the World, in a neighborhood dubbed Hell’s Kitchen.

Clinton — the area’s less colorful designation — was once a notorious Irish and Puerto Rican slum that slowly gentrified over the decades. The transformation dramatically picked up steam when Times Square shifted from a sleaze pit into a family-friendly tourist trap…um, attraction…in the 1990s.

The only thing “hellish” about the area these days is the traffic heading into New Jersey and the heart-stopping rents.

Of course back when I lived there, it was still a bit rough and tumble (just the way I like it) and never more so than on New Year’s Eve.

If you weren’t blessed with the opportunity to grow up in New York City I’ll let you in on a little secret: Most dyed-in-the-wool “New Yawkers” wouldn’t be caught dead in Times Square on a New Year’s Eve.

What you have in the area every 12/31 are tourists and the bridge-and-tunnel crowd freezing their asses off, acting like fools and getting blind-stinking drunk.

Not necessarily in that order.

My first New Year’s Eve at the penthouse was relatively uneventful— once we cleaned up the debris from the eight-foot copper pipe some drunken jackholes smashed through our skylight.

The next year my brother and a few of his more burly friends acted as sentries by the roof door while I toiled away at work. As I battled my way home through the revelers, I caught site of a guy in the small entranceway of our building.

I could only make out his top half since the door was one of those half-glass, half-metal jobs popular in the “iffier” areas of the Big Apple at the time.

He was bracing himself with his hands against the inner and outer doors in a half crouch, alternately looking down at the floor and staring at the ceiling. I made a quick dash toward the door thinking, “This putz is NOT gonna take a dump in my doorway.”

As I made my approach, ready to drag this slob into the gutter, an older woman, of shall we say “questionable morals” who plied her trade in the area, suddenly popped up from down below and gave me a wave and a wink through the glass.

She very casually walked out leaving mystery-man fumbling with his pants.

I’d see her work the corner of 43rd Street and Eighth Avenue most nights on my way home from work and she greeted me with her usual line.

“Honey, you are so cute, I’d do you for free.”

To which I gave my standard reply: “Coco, my heart couldn’t take it. You are too much woman for me.”


 

The Times Square revitalization continued unabated and as a result, the drunken year-end slobs became noticeably less shabby.

As I headed home from another late holiday shift, I was ready to party like it was 1999 (it was) and I was hoping the party my brother was hosting was still in full swing at 3 a.m. (It most DEFINITELY was.)

While the last stragglers stumbled home from the bacchanal, my brother and I made a quick garbage run to the basement where we found a guy passed out between two of the filthier pails down there.

This dude was not your run-of-the-mill wasted schmo.

He was wearing what appeared to be a $5,000 tuxedo, plus a real Rolex and gold and diamond cufflinks that probably equaled the Rosado brothers’ combined yearly salaries.

I’m proud to say we resisted the urge to roll him and, like the good Bronx boys we were, proceeded to poke him with a broom handle and yell obscenities until he woke from his slumber.

Richie Rich gave us a slight bow from the waist and stumbled out of the building. He never uttered a word.

Class and good breeding always shows.

The most memorable New Year’s Eve at the penthouse was actually the last one I spent there. The specter of massive Y2K computer meltdowns had most Americans fearing a global collapse of both the banking system and the electrical grids.

With true New York moxie,  my brother and I had a “Y2Chaos” celebration on the roof of our fabulous penthouse. The lights stayed on and our money didn’t go poof but the spectacular view of the fireworks going off directly over our heads is a memory I will carry with me forever. A real New York City moment.

I really do miss that place.  Hmmm…I wonder if I’m still cute enough to qualify for the Coco discount?