My journey around old city hall has consisted of about five meters, four of which have thus far been spent in regrettable company.
Not more than a step further, I find myself with a raised eyebrow, arched in the direction of an encircled, chanting muddle of the local Krishna chapter . They’ve positioned themselves in an awkwardly dark and inaccessible point just a bit further along the embankment.
I’ve only basked in the live Krishna experience in what seemed to be ad hoc processions around Dundas Square or Bloor and Yonge. Today, donning coats that resemble puffed-up pigeons, they’ve festively interjected “Happy New Year” with every other “Hare Krishna”. They seem like a nice, warm little community. Don’t you think?
I mean, is that copy of the Bhagavad Gita really free or what? What do they mean by “join” them in “conversation”? Money? What does Lord Krishna need my money for? Twenty bucks?! That’s the suggested donation?!
Shifty with a capital “S”.
This is especially true tonight as the entire group of twenty or so people huddle close, doing a slow shuffle around the bald guy in the center. That must be the head honcho.
When I try to get closer to see what’s happening one of the group, a woman over numero uno’s shoulder, flashes me an undeniably dirty look. Something to the effect of, “fuck you and the horse you rode in on.” Maybe I’m misreading her expression, or maybe it’s because I’m sporting a camera, but you’d think I’d just fried her young into an omelette. So, for a 50/50 chance at a display of mutual spite, I take a hasty and poorly lit picture, and promptly leave.
So far the photographic record of the evening is piss-poor. I revert back to my original plan and stare across the intersection at the south side of Queen street, trying to find a spot from which to watch the light show.
I spend the next five minutes (it’s ten to midnight now) wandering around the south side of the street looking for somewhere to stop. Unfortunately, the emptiness I saw from the chanting circle isn’t really empty at all. The space is filled with photographers and they, along with their equipment, are donned in ninja-black, camouflaging them in the cavernous darkness of the buildings behind them. Only from behind can you see how many there are, and there are many. The space is packed with rows of neatly aligned, manned telephoto lenses. Only a narrow fjord-like foot path strings along between them and the building. Someone has managed to create, using nearby-discarded Timmy’s cups, a miniature river of hot chocolate on the ground to complete the effect. Fresh and sticky.
If I hadn’t smoked that joint before coming out, I would probably be disheartened by now. Instead I start feeling the coldness of the night working its way through my coat’s layers,. As I wander off slowly into Nathan Phillips Square, I hope that the huddle of people will provide some warmth.
Alas, this proves equally ineffective as the crowd is impassable. Staring at the teeming wall of flesh I remind myself that there are two sides to even this coin: Heads – when the riot begins, at least I’ll be clear of the whole mangled mess; Tails – no way am I getting near the stage and definitely not by midnight.
The location isn’t stellar. Even if I stand on my toes and hold the tripod above my head, the best I can hope for is a completely blurry picture of the lights. With a resolute sigh I set up my trusty Powershot and start snapping some long exposures of the crowd just as the countdown begins.
Dot dot dot.
As the crowd screams “one”, the square explodes into colour. An air cannon at the foot of the stage peppers the crowd with confetti. The whole scene is ablaze in action, and my camera is picking up exactly none of it.
In between expletives, I poke my head up and realize that every lens around me is pointing up at city hall instead of the stage.
I swivel my tripod in the same direction just in time to see the first fireworks bursting in the air perilously close to the building. I quickly re-adjust and start taking pictures.
I could blame the camera, which is, after all, just a simple point-and-shoot. I could blame the fact that I have no real experience with photography. I could blame the crowd for being so fidgety. Hell, I could even blame the itch in the crack of my ass for making me impatient. But all of these things completely fail to explain why now, when the clock has struck midnight and this fairly arbitrary segmentation of time has elapsed, the pictures are coming out good.
The last moments of 2008 seemed like one doomed attempt after another. Now it’s 2009 and it’s looking like a one-hundred and eighty degree reversal.
As the fireworks subside and the mildly toxic mists descend on the crowd, I pick up the tripod and decide to test my newfound luck. At the southern end of the square I set up again and start shooting.
I’m no more than two pictures in when random people start to walk in front of the camera, posing. Some even hang around for multiple pictures. And by people, I mean young people. And by young people, I mean teenage girls.
As I’m quickly discovering, they will jump in front of a camera at the drop of a hat with nary a worry. Sadly, they all seem to lack understanding of long exposures and, frankly, they’re all quite tipsy anyway.
I didn’t realize the tripod carried such…power.
With effort (and mental note to *always* carry equipment), I turn my attention to the receding crowd. It’s barely twelve-fifteen and already half of them is leaving. With everyone moving so fast, only a few suckers would be standing still long enough for an interesting picture.
And it’s at this point that I have to stop dead and switch your focus onto the web page. This is not a photoblog. It just includes photos.
After coming to the realization that someone probably took a good, long crisp snap of my ass much as I did to these folks, I also realized that this series of pictures have no story behind them. They’re just photos of people standing. Period.
What sucks most about this is that I really wanted to have something to say at the end of all of it. I wanted the story to go out with something, produce a narrative with deep, meaningful ambiance. Instead, I have to really reach here.
There are a few classical considerations for the ending. One is that I’ve learned my lesson and grown one year older. Another is that the story of our lives is the ultimate enigma, unknowable, perhaps, even beyond this mere breath. Yet another is the lesson of stopping to smell the roses, or in my case, the alcohol fumes emanating from the numerous friends I made along the way.
But really. Doesn’t that sound like the loudest dick smack you ever heard? It does to me too. I’m going to propose that some shit happened and I took a few pictures. I hope I’ve presented it accurately.