The Night They Killed the 60’s
I have to admit I’ve given no thought at all about how to celebrate turning the calendar to another cold month. There was a time when this was important to me, but even then I had no capacity to plan for it because there’s never a surprise involved. December, and therefore the current year, ends and January, and a new year begins.
The surprise comes with a certain degree of spontaneity, such as what happened to me and a few of my friends when we were home from college for the holidays.
It was December 31, 1969. We couldn’t bear the fact that the swingin’ 60’s were about to come to an end.
We were mainly 11 and 12 years old when the Beatles led the British Invasion, a year or two later our voices changed, the girls we knew grew things the boys, um, noticed, and we graduated high school vowing to make an impact on whatever college campuses were lucky enough to welcome us.
In my case, it was whatever college was desperate enough to let me in since I spent most of high school screwing off, majoring in hanging out at Lorenzo’s pizza on Union Turnpike in Queens.
So it was hard to let go of the 60’s, but we HAD to do something.
There it was, 11p.m. that New Year’s Eve and six of us were feeding our pimply faces with Chicken Delight, a Long Island delicacy. I forget who piped up, “this sucks, let’s go to Times Square!”
We immediately licked our fingers, got in my ’63 Rambler my father had bought for $35 and beelined it for the subway and grabbed the E train bound for 42nd Street. Halfway to Times Square all the lights went out in our car and we were sure we’d made a bad mistake and we’d end up on the front page of the New York Daily News with the headline, “New Year’s Shivved!”
Didn’t happen. We got to Times Square by 11:45 and were immediately sucked into the crowd. There was no security back then, just a few dozen NYPD blues unfortunate to get stuck with that duty.
Our bodies moved on the wave of the crowd as we circumvented the famous crossroads. A guy said he was Puerto Rican stuck a joint in my mouth, smiled and wished me the happiest of new year. Good start! Then he yanked it out and gave it to someone else. You don’t bogart even on New Years Eve!
Someone else poured beer down our throats and another just laughed at us.
Then a million heads tilted up at the Allied Tower, as it was known back then. The ball slowly descended until the giant “1970” lit up. 60 seconds to kill the 60’s.
The crowd got quiet. There was nothing left to do but descend into the subway and take the E train home knowing there was no turning back. It was time to grow up. Ha! Not a chance.