Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Ever since I was a small child I’ve wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square watching the ball drop. It was never something I wanted to do regularly, but rather just once to say that I had done it.
As I’ve gotten older and arguably wiser, I’ve dropped that dream like a bad habit (isn’t that a poor metaphor since bad habits are usually very difficult to drop?). I don’t like crowds, I don’t like aggressive cops and I don’t like cold. All three of which are impossible to avoid if one wants to see said ball descend.
This year was no different, I still had no childhood desire lingering to see the ball. However, since I found myself in Paris this New Year’s Eve what better place to ring in the New Year than the Eiffel Tower?
Every year fireworks explode from the top of the tower illuminating upturned faces of thousands of spectators below. This sounded like a fun time to me…well, that and because I have very few friends in Paris and knew of nothing else to do…so I made the decision to make Paris my NYC for the night.
Armed with a couple of bottles of Champagne, beer and my female companion I made my way to the subway. At the subway station we were quickly accosted by a drunken English speaker asking us if we too spoke English in what I can only assume was bad French. She was most excited to learn that we indeed did speak her native tongue and offered us a swig from her bottle of wine (which we accepted) in exchange for pointing her in the right direction. And with that we muscled our way onto the packed subway.
Let me cut to the chase; we arrived at the Eiffel Tower and everything that had kept me away from NYC on NYE as an adult was right in front of me: bitter cold, a crowd of 100,000+ people vying for the best spot to behold the heavenly explosions and a lot of extremely aggressive cops decked out in shoulder pads and riding horses or toting automatic weapons. But it was too late; we were here so the only option was to begin chugging champagne from the bottle (I never said this was I a classy blogger).
We rolled with that option until 11:59 came round. I was a bit concerned as I had yet learned to count forward, much less backwards, in French, but that did not play a part in the celebration. Midnight came and midnight went. There was no count down. There were no fireworks. There was nothing. Nothing at all.
This was not a good sign. For nothing on New Year’s Eve surely signified a year of nothing to come, I fretted. Dejectedly I began my trek home with nothingness bouncing around in my head.
To make matters worse the subway station was overflowing into the streets with all the other witnesses of nothing attempting to flee the scene. Not only would I now be forced to walk home, I would be forced to ask directions from someone in French.
I scanned the corner looking for an English speaker, if only the young wino from the subway was here, I thought. And that is when I saw it. It was an oasis in the gloomy Parisian streets. It was indeed the end of nothingness! Not any old end to nothingness, but the best kind of end one could imagine; somethingness!
I’m sure you saw this coming dear reader. For had there truly been nothing why would I be writing this blog?
What was this somethingness you ask?
The somethingness was merguez.
Merguez are sausages made of lamb, chili peppers, garlic, sumac and other spices. The sausages are stuffed in crusty bread (French bread, no less) and topped with onions, peppers and tomatoes (unfortunately my tomato fell to the mud covered asphalt and my companion refused to allow me to retrieve it and eat it). After topping this delicious treat with some spicy mustard, my New Year’s Eve was salvaged and I was off to wander the streets of Paris with a strong feeling that this indeed would be a fantastic year after all.