Happy New Year!

Sheryl and I wanted to spend New Year’s Eve downtown - both to get out of Joan’s hair for awhile and so that we could come and go as we pleased without worrying about disturbing anyone. We found a cheap hotel room in the Green Point area of town, at the north shore. They’re building a giant stadium for the 2010 World Cup here, and its skeletal roller-coaster shape dominates the view everywhere you turn. The walk from downtown to Green Point isn’t so great - it’s just along a main road with a lot of construction. It’s funny, really. Smells change everywhere you go. Every city smells different, all the food smells different. The people, the plants, the air - every place has it’s own special smell. But the smell of concrete dust is the same wherever you go. It’s these little touchstones you cling to, that you don’t really realize until they come on you all unexpected.

The hotel room was… neat. The place was called the Check Inn (such wit) and was brand new. The halls were lit with this weird blue light and had pipes and girders running along the ceiling - it made me think we were on a submarine. The room only heightened this impression - everything was modular and bolted to the floor or walls, and covered in dense grey carpet. There was a bed attached to the wall above our heads, for that inconvenient child, I suppose. The overall effect was somehow cool and charming, though, instead of cramped and depressing.

We went down to the waterfront to see in the New Year. It had been weird having Christmas in warm weather, but it was just as weird having New Year’s. The waterfront was crawling with more people than I’d ever seen in one place, but the crowds, strangely, thinned out as we got closer to the water itself. We gambled on the fireworks being set off from a barge in the water the way they are in Toronto, so we staked out a place on the breakwater. We were the only people on the breakwater itself, actually - the rest of the crowd had stopped at the retaining wall or on a bridge that arched out over the docks. This suggested that the breakwater was off-limits, but we reckoned that the likelihood of anyone calling us on it was minimal and if they did we could always play the Dumb Tourists card.

It was the perfect place to watch the fireworks from. They started exactly at midnight. We’re both used to carefully staged computer-launched fireworks displays choreographed to music, and to our eyes these fireworks were delightfully messy and incoherent. They were just set off all willy-nilly with no apparent thought given to colour combinations or anything. We loved it. There were two kinds of fireworks I’d never seen before - a bright white one that frothed like a million bubbles, and a long, thin red one that drifted down so slowly I’d swear it was attached to a parachute. They seemed to last forever, as fireworks do, but really it was only ten minutes or so. Afterward everyone milled around, reluctant to leave, and I thought to myself that they looked like nothing so much as a crowd at a concert waiting for the band to come out for an encore. No sooner had I thought that than, five minutes too late, one last firework went up over the water, startling all the seagulls into wheeling ghostly flocks. I had to laugh.

In no hurry to make our way back to the hotel, we hung around the waterfront. All the vendors and bars and the fairground were still running, so we watched the people in the giant plastic bubbles and the people on the flying elastic bands, and rode the ferris wheel. It was the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had, marking the end of the best year I’ve ever had. I’ve sworn that next year will be even better. Why shouldn’t we be perpetual children, wandering the world in wide-eyed enchantment? Why not? Second star to the right, and straight on ’till morning.

Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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