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A Taste of the Bitter Big Apple

This news story was published on January 10, 2012.
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Kelly Elbert, a fellow Mason City resident, spent her New Year’s Eve where most of us only dream about going: The Big Apple, New York City to watch the ball drop and listen to the count down to bring in the new year. The glamour, the lights, the music, the excitement that New York City brings to mind. Elbert got the total experience, the things that go on where the camera isn’t aiming. Maybe the saying “The Grass Isn’t always Greener” would apply here. The story was written by Kelly Elbert upon her return to Mason City and the video and pictures were taken by Kelly as she was building memories of her first experience of the big New Year’s Eve Party in New York City.


by Kelly Elbert of Mason City –

Watching my first episode of Sex and the City, I realized that Carrie Bradshaw and I have a few things in common. We have an avid love for prattling away on our laptops while chain smoking, going broke in search of designer labels (which is a hard feat in Iowa), and… shoes.

I also realized I shared many Midwesterners pipe dream: going to New York City. The big apple. The concrete jungle. The city that supposedly never sleeps. If you would have walked up to me last New Year’s Eve as I sat in a little dive bar In Waterloo (back then, I considered that going to a big city) and told me that next year at this exact moment I would be standing in Times Square, I would be concerned that maybe someone slipped something in your drink. Yet somehow, someway, a year later I’m running down 51st street towards Broadway and Times Square with my boyfriend running alongside me, after getting ahead of the suffocating mass of people, all vying to get a good spot in the square for New York City’s New Year’s Eve Ball.

Yes, I remember booking the hotel from the comfort of my bedroom In Mason City, the three airports, the four hour layover at Minneapolis/St. Paul, the lost luggage that, for some reason, never left St. Paul, Christmas with my boyfriend’s family in West Springfield Massachusetts, the three hour car ride to NYC during which the GPS froze and we ended up driving 20 miles out of our way. I remember the orange glow of the city that appeared in the sky an hour before we arrived to the Bronx, and me calling my mom saying “omigod the Bronx looks like West Des Moines only taller.” I remember getting to our room in Queens where we marveled over the idea that a person can order Indian curry at two in the morning, the ride on the air train, my first metro card, and the subway (which is even more disgusting than depicted in the movies).

It still didn’t sink in as I ran up the steps out of the subway and the only thing my eyes could feast on were man-sized letters announcing the New York Times building. It wasn’t until we somehow escaped the huge mob of people and were running in front of them under the lights of the Broadway theaters (nothing like a bit of cardio to jog the senses) that it finally hit me “omigod I’m running in New York.”

Watch video shot by Kelly:

We tried to arrive early, but we later learned that even the night before wasn’t quite early enough. Hundreds who suffered from a serious medical condition called “Bieber Fever” had camped out the night before for his appearance and the square was packed. We soon found ourselves encased in a barricade among thousands upon thousands of people some 7 blocks away from the ball that would start to descend in eight short hours. We were in a great place, too, as directly in front of us was Times Square and to our right was a big TOSHIBA screen with loud music and Carson Daly giving us an hourly count down.

As the crowd packed in tighter and tighter, I started to realize a few things. The first was: this is uncomfortable. I once made the mistake of wandering into Wal-Mart on Black Friday’s eve to buy a PowerAde and nearly had a mental breakdown. That was minuscule. The crowd of frantic shoppers was nothing compared to this. Second: we couldn’t get out. I had read that if you move, you lose your place, but the reality of that statement began sinking in after the fourth hour of standing in one spot.
Talking to the people around us to pass the time, we discovered that most everyone was from different regions of the world, and only one girl in our vicinity was American. We later learned via Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin’s New Year’s show that 8 out of 10 in Times Square were from a different country.

Soon after severe restlessness began to set in, the NYPD removed a section of the barricade in front of us and the whole crowd surged forward. We didn’t even have to walk. We were ‘crowd bullied’ even further towards the square where the we were packed in even tighter. There wasn’t even room to move or even turn around this time, and the whole crowd seemed angry. At some point we decided that this was far too uncomfortable and we managed to get pushed to a spot with no large screen. We couldn’t see the stage, nor could we hear anything over the noise of the ever pressing crowd.

I decided to take action against this injustice. It took so much for me to get here, and I wanted to enjoy it. With Emmett’s hand in mine, I made my way through the crowd. It took us half an hour to get to the barricade at the side of the street where I flagged down a couple police officers to see if we could go back to where we once stood by the big screen. The officers agreed to help and they escorted us through the barricade and on to the sidewalk but once we got to the barrier by the big screen the officer guarding refused to let us in. We were told to walk to the back of the crowd “some eight blocks back,” he guessed, putting us out of the sight of the ball.

After a lot of shrugging and failed attempts at negotiating, my boyfriend and I decided we had no choice but to head back to Queens. That was fine by me. By then, the electricity and excitement was gone, and we would have a better view from the comfort of our hotel room, anyway.

It was a somber experience, riding the subway back to our the hotel. We weren’t the only ones who decided to skip out early. A Lady Gaga fanatic decked out in glitter and light-up necklaces hoping to see her idol called the whole Times Square experience “ridiculous.”

We felt defeated and relieved the same time. When we got back to the hotel and turned on the television, we saw Dick Clark seated comfortably above the Square, Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper in front row seats and Times Square looking alive and glamorous. The television was portraying a Square we never got to meet. It was surreal seeing the place we had retreated from moments ago in such a light, full of excitement and energy and up close and personal. The T.V screen allowed me to see every sequin in Lady Gaga’s questionable choice for a hat. That too, was fine by me. We popped a bottle of champagne and had two countdowns, one for the East Coast and one for the Midwest.

As we left the city the next morning, I looked over at the Manhattan skyline and I was happy. I made Emmett promise me that we would return, and he was hesitant to agree. Just as long as it wasn’t New Year’s Eve, he told me. I made a promise to myself to return. I vowed to go back for another bite of the big apple.

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16 Responses to A Taste of the Bitter Big Apple

  1. Avatar

    mom Reply Report comment

    January 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I am sooo proud ! good job kid!

  2. Avatar

    mom Reply Report comment

    January 14, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I am soo proud! great story kid!

  3. Avatar

    Lala Reply Report comment

    January 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    First off let me say the photos and the video were well done. Secondly, the article painted a vivid portrait of your strife during the New Years Eve Time Square event. I enjoyed this article that started out with your hopes and dreams of a wonderful visit turning into somewhat of pain. Especially since at the end you vow to return, good job on not letting one bad experience break you down. Hope that your next visit will be much better and you have lots of fun.

  4. Avatar

    ummm Reply Report comment

    January 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    well, I thought it was good Kelly.

  5. Avatar

    sunshine Reply Report comment

    January 11, 2012 at 4:54 am

    Kelly you did always tell a great storie , You did a GREAT JOB at writting this and it is great that you got to have that experence in you life. Keep up the great work. 🙂

  6. Avatar

    Creamy Reply Report comment

    January 11, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Kelly, I’m so happy you were able to experience NY, some of us can only dream one day we can have an experience, even if it is sitting in the comfort of our hotel room on new years eve. 🙂

  7. Avatar

    Observer Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    BTW Kelly,nice use of Black and White in some of the photos. Good stuff.

  8. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    great perspective, nice pictures, and I have always wanted to go yo NYC!!!

  9. Avatar

    Grandma Ruth Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Great article, Kelly!

  10. Avatar

    Observer Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Outstanding article Kelly, what an experience. Been to NYC once, loved the food, hated the train stations. I supposed it is something you have to experience.

  11. Avatar

    Wow Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    This story was absolutely well written and I would like to read more stories from this lady. It definitely draws the reader in. Great Work!

  12. Avatar

    Carol K Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I loved your story Kelly! You are a gifted writter (and no your mom did not tell me to say that). I am so glad you experienced NYC but too bad the crowds were so bad. We visited the Big Apple in 2010 with temps almost 100° and that was no fun either! Great pix.

  13. Avatar

    Betty Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 8:20 am

    New York City is the best city on earth…..

  14. Avatar

    Jennifer Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Enjoyed the article – great writing!
    My son, who grew up in Chicago, Kansas, Utah, Ames and then Nora Springs from fourth grade through graduation, moved to NYC after college and loves it there!! He’s told me, however, he would never do the times square thing on New Year’s.

  15. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 6:14 am

    I love LOVE NYC but would never in a million years want to be there on New Years Eve!! You next experience will be better!!

  16. Avatar

    Patriot Reply Report comment

    January 10, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Been to NYC several times for work, never go again. To many people, most of the city is trashy and you just can’t get anywhere.

    The things worth seeing can be seen on tv from the comfort of your own living room. The one thing I enjoyed was eating at the various deli’s and such. They types of food you can’t find often in the midwest.

    Hope your next experience there is better.