I don't like New Year's Eve.
By the time the end of the year rolls around, I'm all partied out. I'm an introvert and, on occasion, I've been referred to as a grouch. On December 31st my attitude is pretty much: Nobody's gonna make me have fun.
I used to book my flight back to Munich from California on New Year's Eve just to avoid the entire rigamarole. My husband, who is always up for a party, was agog when I explained. 'This is one thing I will never do with you', he said solemnly.
I still say it was great. I would take the practically empty Lufthansa SFO-MUC direct flight at 9 p.m., get the 'Happy New Year' announcement on the flight PA somewhere over Nebraska, enjoy a complimentary glass of Sekt and go back to snoozing across the five empty seats in coach. Now that's a party.
I've gotten a little better over the years and am willing to venture out on Sylvester, and we've even hosted a couple of very fun parties. Our apartment is conveniently situated on the Isar right near the Boschbrücke that leads into the Deutsches Museum. It's a perfect spot to partake in, and witness the madness that happens in the streets of München on New Year's Eve.
And it is madness. Somehow the normally reserved, law and order public goes completely NUTS firing off rockets and heavy-duty fire crackers all over the streets, with zero regard to the safety of themselves or others.
The first time I experienced it I was horrified. These kinds of fire crackers have long since been outlawed in California. People were casually setting huge rockets in empty champagne bottles and lighting them in the middle of a huddled crowd. Screeching fire-crackers blazed by, inches away from my head.
In most pictures of me outdoors on New Year's eve I'm wearing wrap around shades that serve as protective eye wear.
Of course (of course!) everyone is also totally loaded. A good friend and ex-New Yorker was lamenting this state of affairs on a walk along the Isar yesterday. 'They're selling those things right in the middle of Motorama, next to rows and rows of gin and vodka, the whole thing is nuts!'
And finally, there's the litter. By 12:04 a.m. on January first this pristine city, world-renowned for it's cleanliness and order is a trash-scape of empty and broken bottles, streamers, party cups, vomit and firecracker debris.
This year my husband cajoled me into going to some close friends for dinner. It was just us, their two young kids and a nephew visiting from Norway. We had a great dinner and then it was time to go down to the river to witness all the 'fun'.
Our friend Sonja decided it was too much and too dangerous for their four year old daughter, so I leapt at the chance to stay behind (to keep them both company of course). Their apartment is at Roecklplatz so we could see a lot from their fourth floor window, as well as the people on the street below, carelessly tossing off fireworks every which way.
We toasted our two proseccos and one johannisbeere schorle at midnight, watched a bit more and then all promptly fell asleep on their big comfortable sofa.
The guys showed up a couple of hours later, awake and exhilarated from the mayhem. We stayed and chatted a bit longer and then it was time to go home.
I dressed comfortably, with one nod to the occasion; a pair of heeled red ankle boots. The prospect of making the 25 minute trek home, tired and long since ready for bed in these uncomfortable shoes at 2:30 a.m. seemed unbearable.
Luckily, five minutes on our way we found an abandoned shopping cart. Without a second thought I hopped in and begged my husband to just push me the rest of the way home. We walked with a couple of friends, me in my coach surveying the disaster zone, warning my husband to watch out for this or that bottle or a pile of vomit and steeling myself against the bumpy bits across cobble stoned streets.
The whole thing was so ridiculous and absurd we found ourselves laughing most of the way home. We stopped to take a picture, our friend insisted we look lovingly together at the camera. 'Romantik in Armageddon!' he exclaimed. That's also my kind of party.
My husband being the good citizen that he is (and a German) insisted we drop off the cart at the Tengelmann near our apartment (it had a Tengelmann sign on it). It's a block away so I agreed. He lifted the back of the cart up so the front gently dumped me out, and we made our way home through the smoky street.
At the intersection up ahead I could see the orange AMW garbage trucks start to busily clean up the streets. It was about 3:00 a.m.
When I went out for a walk this afternoon, you'd never know it was the same city.