This is where I live and how we celebrate the welcoming in of the New Year. The scenes are taken on Pacific Avenue considered the heart of town for many generations.
The college students, street musicians and strangely dressed people are a common sight in this popular area known as Downtown Santa Cruz. Actually, it looks a lot like this to me on any given day except not quite so many. The only thing missing from this video are the homeless, often seen quietly sitting in a doorway on a sleeping bag and maybe a dog, with a sign propped in front. "Please Help". It is against the law for homeless to approach anyone and verbally ask for help. It's called panhandling. So that is why the signs are used.
Wandering up and down the middle of the street with large groups of people dancing only occur at important events like Halloween and New Years. The streets are cordoned of to prevent traffic and people can enjoy the atmosphere. These events are heavily policed, not to put a damper on the big party, but to help make it a reasonably enjoyable time for everyone. Anyone not behaving respectably, carrying alcoholic beverages on their person or is obviously intoxicated are asked to leave, or arrested.
The most emotional part of any public gathering, whether it is to demonstrate a protest, celebrate an election, hold a vigil for someone, or in this case, welcome in the New Year, we meet at the heart and soul of the town, our most precious, Clock Tower.
You may ask, "Why a clock tower?" What's so important about that? It doesn't even look like a unique piece of architecture or work of art."
I cannot pass by the clock tower any time, day or night, without at least glancing at it. Inevitably a sad swallow comes to my throat and unavoidably teary eyes. I'm sure this is not only my reaction. Anyone who has lived in Santa Cruz a long time surely has the same. Newcomers catch it like a virus. They cannot know the story without it opening their heart. Strangers may be in the crowds, but how can they be surrounded with such charged energy of emotion without feeling the specialness of the place?
The clock tower has been of historical significance since Santa Cruz existed, having first been erected about 1860. It has a checkered history of it's own. But, suffice it to say that the townspeople have cherished it enough to save it many times over the century and a half it has been in existence.
It's not just the history that creates the nostalgia and empathy of the people. It is something the clock did on October 17, 1989. It stopped running, its hands stuck at 5:04 p.m. Some say that with the automatic workings of the clock, that should not have happened. Some say the clock could not help but to stop to mark the occasion.
There was a massive earthquake that day, the epicenter just a couple miles away. Most people outside the area remember the news programs showing views of San Francisco and Oakland. There was no way for news people to take videos here, as all the main roads were damaged and closed. There was no way in and no way out.
Downtown Santa Cruz, the street where the revelers are shown in this video, was covered with debris from the buildings razed by the earthquake.
What the clock tower represents is tragedy overcome by humanity. It represents loss, and recovery. It signifies an act of God, traumatic destruction, and intensely driven human cooperation in rebuilding that which was destroyed.
The clock tower is a beloved symbol. It represents our phoenix raised from the dead, our precious downtown resurrected. It is a sign of our joyous and grateful continuation. That's a good reason to gather there at midnight to celebrate. Don't you think?
I hope you will enjoy watching the video until after the countdown. If so, you will be rewarded with a very good view of the people dancing in the streets including the very happy, naked woman.
Take a good look because that's me!
Happy New Year!
May your blessings be many and your troubles, few.