Saturday, January 19, 2019

Sirens Ease LA into Yet Another New Year

by mattjosh (writer), Albuquerque, January 03, 2007


A few nights ago, Los Angeles heralded in a New Year in typical urban fashion. I’m sure there were side-street fireworks in some neighborhoods. I’m sure that there was at least one champagne flute broken by an errant chunk of cork-based shrapnel. I’m even sure that someone shared that special midnight kiss with a complete stranger (if you’re reading this, Girl-in-the-black-dress, write me?).

But for me, it wasn’t a new year until several hours after the ball had dropped on our pre-recorded, PST-friendly Times Square footage. Not until my twenty-minute drive home crossed the paths of four or more convoys of fire trucks, police cruisers, and/or ambulances, all zooming off in each their own direction, did the spirit of the holiday begin to enter my heart.

When I parked my car in front of my home and stepped out, the sirens seemed even louder and more enveloping. Curious to see how long this bedlam could go on, I lit up a cigarette and opted to loiter outside a while longer before turning in. Long after the cigarette, long after the cold air had begun nipping at my buds, and shortly after I had become annoyed with the incessantly blaring sirens shifting and cycling all around me, I finally gave up and went inside.

If I could have slept, I’m sure I would have done so blissfully content with electric vibe of the city’s soundscape ringing in the New Year. But instead, I was kept awake by that accursed ambiance for another hour, thinking all the while that it had never been quite so bad.

I instead ended up wondering why there was such mayhem this year. Was there a terrorist attack somewhere? Was this a public service announcement to inform homebodies that it had, in fact, passed midnight and they should accordingly flip the page on their “Cute Kitties” 2006 wall calendars? Or was I just missing out on the most raucous party ever to hit SoCal streets?

Then it occurred to me that I had probably never before been in bed so early on New Year’s Eve, so it was equally likely I simply had never noticed before that it was always this bad.

My optimistic soul would love to think that those sirens were all just zipping out to tell party-goers to turn down the stereo and to not have too good a time, but that seems a bit naïve, doesn’t it? My inner realist knows that those sirens were running around napping villains, retrieving victims, and extinguishing conflicts. As often happens, people find ways to make times of celebration downright lamentable.

I realized, during that hour of attempted sleep, why this is so rampant during New Year’s in particular. And, no, it doesn’t have as much to do with Mikhail Bakhtin’s ideas of the carnivalesque as you might at first think. It has more to do with my brother, Shawnn’s, eagerness to see 2006 come to an end.

2006 was a terrible year for Shawnn, and he wanted a societally-instituted break from it so he could put it behind him in a tangible way. The problem is that, at the end of any given year, most people have not had a terrible year, so they have no reason to yearn for a new one. The violence, irresponsibility, and licentiousness of New Year’s Eve give them a reason to regret the old and to look forward to the new. People develop notions of change and renewal, and they make resolutions that they feel will better their lives.

Why is this desire to enter into a fresh, new year as a fresh, new person important? The short answer is capitalism, but the short answer isn’t as fun as the long answer, so let’s dive deeper.

First we blow huge amounts of money on New Year’s Eve parties, dinners, and concerts. By then, Thanksgiving and Christmas have helped ramp us up to this consumerist fervor. After becoming fat and hungover, the holiday season passes, and we become regretful of our previous six weeks of excess. So we buy exercise equipment to go with our new plasma TV’s, and gym memberships to help us look good in all those new sweaters.

And the more people spend before New Year’s, the more people will spend afterwards, making up for it. The centrifugal cycle feeds itself year after year, and what’s more, we love it. We let loose for a month and then pat ourselves on the back when we decide to be good again - better than ever, in fact - because we know that this will finally be the year we won’t screw up. It’s good for the economy, and maybe even for our mental health in a cathartic sort of way.

I, however, am comforted by the thought that we all probably will screw up this year to varying degrees, just in new and interesting ways. Who would I be to criticize this tradition, anyway? After all, I resolved to write more this year, and here I am.

About the Writer

mattjosh is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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1 comments on Sirens Ease LA into Yet Another New Year

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By E Jo on January 18, 2007 at 10:40 pm
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