I had tumbled out of the movie theater far too soon, leading to a rather strong inclination to just eff it and head home. I don’t owe anybody anything, I thought. 4 hours is a LOT to kill.
For what it was worth, I was HERE, when I could easily have been curled up in blanket-y warmth, sipping large amounts of alcoholically-challenged sangria, jacked into myriad devices with the TV on mute… until I got sleepy or saw something at the corner of my eye that was worthy of restoring the volume. All my time-zones of interest were ahead of me and by dint of that past the big midnight. I’d gotten in and out of the relevant conversations. I was done for the night, and sleep was starting to sound good. But I wasn’t home, was I?
I was trudging around downtown, embroiled in thermal warfare against the elements and – for once – winning. I was toqued, fleeced and quilt-coated. I was knee-high in boots that would have been the envy of an entire khaganate army… if only because their designers might’ve been channeling a little too much Kubilai Khan. Leftover snow was no match: I stomped through slush-troughs and piled-highs indiscriminately. JUST BECAUSE I COULD.
About 10 years ago, I had been hoodwinked into checking out City TV’s New Years Eve event at Nathan Philips. It was a reminder of why Effort and Attainment have to be two separate grades. But that was then. This was 2012. SURELY things would have evolved, right? And anyhow my payoff for heading home *now* after an hour or so of rolling with the Nuit Blanche-esque herds (sans exhibits) was quickly diminishing. The window of opportunity for midnight revelries on the other hand, cracked wider by just a tiny bit. Hmm.
By the end, I’d been suckered again. And the second time is always your own fault, as the saying goes.
The CTV folks managed, as far as I could tell, to create two unifying moments for the crowd: 1) the booing of the mayor (wow – we’re a city that actually boos its mayor. Class-ay!). Though, that was a spontaneous, slightly hive mind thing that I don’t think the organizers get to take credit for. 2) The fireworks at midnight. Uhm. Yeah.
A painful if emblematic moment strung between those two points, was when an emcee (of some renown, we were told – though I wouldn’t know) came on stage and did EVERYTHING in his power to get the crowd going, even jumping up and down on stage with all his energy. Toronto? Unmoved. Before anyone is quick to conclude that ‘that’s just how we roll in this city‘, I should mention that the technics didn’t exactly help. Video was especially spartan (2 not-particularly-giant screens)… and as for the audio, it totally wimped out in the night air. The hosts/sponsors being of a journalistic bent also meant that they kept wanting to “present”, which really starts to compete with the DJ(s) hired for the night. The latter never really got a good stretch of time to work anybody up. Maybe too it was a funding thing, which should remind everyone that sometimes the best things in life really aren’t free.
So. By now the anatomically simple creature we call our subway system was being readied: its few hungry mouths held agape by extra security staff even before the last fireworks frizzled out. I set out along with everybody else, then, to be masticated into pulp at the Queen orifice, per chance to be spat out closer to home.
And then I saw this:
No-one knew when this motley crew had started up. But there they were, thumping something Bollywood-ish on a drum, with bells and tambourine and an accordion in the mix. The only electrically powered things in sight was a microphone and an amplifier hoisted upon the shoulders of a tall Black man tirelessly devoting the small soundscape not to Ras Tafari (as you might have been forgiven for suspecting) but to Krishna himself.
And that beat… seemed to just draw people in. The zombie march toward the subway subsequently faltered. We fell into the Haare Krishna ring of chaos. We started clapping and jumping. All kinds of people were drawn in. We came to understand that we had tumbled into a prayer… but it did not seem to matter to the original congregation. The two chanters at the center of the circle sang the same “lyrics” over and over again (the haare krishna mantra). People LOOKED at each other, made eye contact, clapped and hooted to the rhythm, and the message was there behind each pair of eyes:
“Where the F. have THESE people been all night?”
“I know, right? They know how to throw a party. These people have SOUL“.