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New York New Year News

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Shake off the dust of the old year and gather no moss in the new. Two clichés are better than one -- cliché supersets.

We have broken things to fix and weak things to strengthen, bad habits to eliminate and good habits to establish. Apathy must be replaced with motivation and aimlessness with direction. Purpose and achievement fueled by desire and determination will transport us day by day of this new year in this, our wonderful life.

Life is a continuum we have come to define by time. This man-made bracketing of life’s ongoing process enables us to refer to happenings, the past, present and future. Let’s take advantage of man’s cleverness. We now have the opportunity to delineate our past from our present, put that which is undesirable behind us and go forward with good and right, the rich and the admirable.

As for me, I’m gonna kick back and cruise. Que sera, sera. What will be, will be. I also speak some pig-Latin and a little East Coast.

Laree and I spent our Christmas in New York City. Yes, the isle of Manhattan, a serene setting where man and nature merge, where night is as dark as Arabian oil and soundless as the ocean depths. During the day you can walk for miles without encountering a soul, only stray buffalo and wild horses inhabiting the river-dense landscape. Fruit trees and vineyards and lush natural gardens dot the granite island, and sandy river beaches soften its rugged shorelines.

Well, not exactly. Spongy from jetlag I sat with my head out the window of our 11th-story room at 3 AM, listened to the dull, ever-present turbine-like sound of the world around me and watched straggles of netherworlders making their way in the darkness. Sirens and the howls of night accented the drone -- cymbals and tambourines of a strange ritual song. Daylight brings the mobs.

Residents of New York are as permanent as indelible ink. Born city-dwellers, they will die in the city and live to tell about it. Their roots are thick, strong and deep -- concrete and steel. Their accents are like mud, but their insight is as clear as spring water. Opinions come in monster truckloads like coal ore from strip-mines. That’s not attitude, anger or rudeness you detect, its personality, expression and possibly affection. Them New Yorkers, they’s different.

What the heck were we Californians doing in the Big Apple over the Christmas holidays, you ask? Good question. The experience is the first answer, a test of courage and endurance is next. Times Square’s mad magic, those tall, sky-scraping buildings, Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall, brightly decorated 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center with its tree and skaters and tourists wearing hooded jackets and clutching digital cameras with frozen fingers. It’s the subways, Central Park and pastrami sandwiches at the Roxy Deli on Broadway; it’s TriBeCa, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, the Statue of Liberty and the bridges like tentacles reaching in all directions at once. There was a train out of Penn Station to an old friend’s house on Long Island, city transportation from Grand Central, barbeque at Virgil’s, off-Broadway’s “The Stomp” and brisk walks shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow -- everywhere, all day long. And never forget Ground Zero.

We were on a mission, setting the groundwork for the Bomber’s Bash in September of 2004. Wearing party hats and carrying notebooks and pens, we scouted the terrain for things to do and places to do them: where to stay, where to train, where to play and where to convene for a seminar, breakfast, lunch and dinner. We recorded explicit directions when traveling by foot or subway to a variety of cool, must-see fun-spots, intending to eliminate any hesitation one might have to move about a city so packed, exciting and overwhelming. When in NY one must step out, take a risk, engage, zigzag, absorb like a napkin and keep going forward. Waste no time while wasting it all.

Life in Manhattan isn’t cheap and being impecunious (broke) since birth, I took this factor into consideration. There are ways a frugal person can survive. There are four-star hotels on Times Square that are affordable for a special vacation and there are real decent hotels a block away for $50 a day less. There are hot-spot restaurants and NY delis for indulgence and lesser mini-takeout buffets for half the price. Of course, there’s tuna and water and Bomber Blend for cheapo die-hards like me. You can walk darn near everywhere or catch a subway with economical day passes. Or you can take a cab and watch the meter swell and the blur of traffic as it goes by.

We walked till our legs ached and took a gazillion subway rides to points beyond ten blocks away. Our necks cramped from looking up. I once counted nine airborne aircraft from my limited tall-city viewpoint: two jets (one landing at Newark and one departing from LaGuardia), two blinking lights far overhead like slow-moving stars, one private craft over the Jersey coast and four helicopters making their way in various directions above the Hudson. About the same time I stumbled over a lone foot sticking from a heap of raggedy blankets and a tarpaulin pressed tightly against the edge of a high-rise reaching for the cold black sky. Excuse me, I thought to say. Do not disturb was the unspoken message I heard.

Times Square is for me the highlight, the centerpiece, the magic, the grand and spectacular show; the city revealed in a brilliant, pulsating, vibrating and exciting spot all at once, a splendid corridor of America exulting its energy, imagination, resourcefulness, ingenuity and sassiness. Times Square is big and beautiful.

It oozes and drips and overflows; it buzzes and roars, rumbles and honks. Blinking, flooding, dazzling, the lights tell stories and give messages, stimulate and astound, hypnotize and confound. Nothing is small upon its walls, no space is wasted, every light is lit and not an eye is in a shadow. Traffic moves like blocks of a giant cubit; the tour bus gives way to the stretch-limo and jalopy from Jersey; the bikes slip past the cabs and the people walk in some accidental harmony even the tourist attunes to within the first cacophonous hour. Delivery trucks nudge their way through the intersections where enormous animated billboards collide and a 16-wheeler from Idaho like a battleship floats atop a sea of misting subway vents, steaming manhole covers and fluttering pigeons bathing in leftover rain puddles.

We pooled our collective notes and listed them on the clean and clear, yet impersonal computer. In review, spontaneous and subject to change, we outlined a plan to determine the logistics of an event still nine months away. In the rough it looks something like this:

~Two places to stay, the Crowne Plaza in the middle of Times Square or the Best Western down 45th Street

~The venue for the seminar, the Mid-City Gym in the basement of a non-descript building at 49th Street and 8th Avenue

~The Friday night reception at Roxy Deli’s third floor next to the Plaza on Times Square.

~The Bomber’s Bash feeding at Planet Hollywood’s second-floor atrium above Times Square, on Broadway.

~A Sunday farewell brunch at the café in the Crowne.

The rest is up to y’all, in smaller or larger groups, as they are organized in advance by e-mail and telephone or in the last minutes, as paths cross and urges arise. Laree and I have a bunch of surefire adventures for the brave or sleepy or bored or timid or time- and money-conscious. Where to go, how to get there, why, how much... we have suggestions for those who need them.

There you have New York and the New Year. I just wanted to toss out the last of the confetti before we get down to business and get huge, ripped, lean, shapely, mighty, thick, thin, dense, defined, fast, awesome and stuff like that. We’ve got weights to lift, routines to follow, exercises to perfect, personal records to set, protein to devour and we have, always, fat to lose. We have a body and its soul to build, one rep at a time, set after set, day by day, this week, next week, each month and forever. We have the rest of our lives and there’s no rush, only the joy.

God’s speed, strength and courage through the year, 2004.

Dave Draper, the Bomber

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