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Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Auld Ang *Sigh*
I've got to admit, I've never been a big fan of New Years Eve. The intricacies of dancing remain a mystery, I don't like to dress up or pay for year-shapped novelty glasses and I hate cover charges. Around dusk on the December 31st I think to myself, "Oh, yeah. It's New Years. Probably should have made plans." By midnight I've usually wound up at a party uninvited or I and sometimes a few other lay-abouts fly downtown at the last minute to stand on the edges of Pioneer Courthouse Square, watch the fireworks and get yelled at by drunks. Last year I didn't make it to the square in time and spent the first few minutes of 2005 watching a tipsy war vet scream at a cop.
This year I and small crew headed downtown at a 11:30 expecting something in the way of a celebration. We drove past a few scattered clubhoppers tripping over their high heels and to the top of a Smart Park garage. We blazed on foot down Alder and up to the square to find...a big white tent (see below) with a dozen marathon runners sitting in folding chairs sipping Gatorade. A few hundred others had gathered on the square's brick steps to stare in disbelief at the tent and mutter "WTF?" Where was the stage? The local jazz acts no ones heard of? And, more importantly, the friggin' fireworks?!!
Around midnight random pockets of the crowd began cheering only to pipe down quickly. Some were going off the time on their watches and cell phones while others were staring up at the clock overlooking the square. None of us could agree on when to begin yelling, let alone begin a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne."
Around 12:01 everyone cheered for roughly thirty seconds. Up on Morrison someone thoughtfully began lighting firecrackers. Eager to find out why the square had been shut down to make way for an empty marathon tent, we headed up to Broadway. Around a quarter after, the first runner rounded the corner to find us and about four other people half-heartedly cheering him on as he crossed the finish line.
While all the bars were no doubt full, the streets of downtown Portland were unusually vacant of the usual cavalcade of bellowing drunks and blaring car horns. But around 12:30 there was still standing room only at the Virginia Cafe, probably the only place downtown that was serving booze without a cover.
In past years, the annual marathon has been held down near the waterfront with a wrap-up party in the World Trade Center's foyer. This year, City Hall opted to shell out $3,000 for the marathon and move it to the "city's living room" instead of throwing down the usual $50,000 for a more proper celebration. While the gala of past years has proven to be admittedly lame, no gala at all is even lamer.
No one leaned out a window to scream incoherently at us, not one mortar shell filled the night sky and we only spotted a single person puking on the sidewalks. The last time the city pulled the plug like this, a small group of irked revelers rioted and smashed in various store front windows. That was back in 2001.
Unwilling to express our indignation by tossing a Portland Mercury box through the window of Abercrombie and Finch, we sulked on over to the east side. In search of something remotely festive, we buzzed down Peacock Lane where only two houses were still lit up. Near the one with the teddy bears in the front window, a drunk girl nearly hit our car. She was dancing in the driveway and would have crashed into the bumper if she hadn't been pulled to safety at the last second by her boyfriend. We were going roughly 3 MPH an hour but there's no telling what the damages might have been.
Things were unusually quiet over at the Horse Brass when we got there around 1. After a few pints and a shared pastie, we headed back through an empty downtown and onwards towards home. Maybe the city's usual army of drunks in party hats decided to keep inside the bars this year or at home in front of a tape-delayed broadcast of footage from Times Square.
Despite the vacant streets and boring evening, I did learn a valuable life lesson. Never chase gravy-covered potato chips with a Black and Tan. While 2006 may have have begun with a whimper in our neck of PDX, my gut was hollering something fierce around 3 AM, just in time for midnight in the Hawaii's time zone.