THE LAST FIVE ...
Closing up shop
It may be time for a change
Entry in the air
Music of the moment
Or ... BE RANDOM!
2000-12-31 - 11:59:59 (not really)
I went to Phoenix, Arizona
Waking up at 3:30 a.m. after four hours of sleep, I showered and shaved before Walker came to pick me up for the ride to Newark Airport. Walker was taking his parents and then heading back up to Massachusetts himself. His folks were flying to Yellowstone for a week of cross-country skiing and their flight left at 7:30. Mine was 10:45, but I figured I could use the extra time at the airport. I'd planned on trying to fly standby on one of the two earlier flights that morning, but after the storm had shut the airport on Saturday, I figured there was no point. There wasn't.
Inside the terminal, the line stretched maybe 50 yards just from the winding roped off area standard at check-in counters in every airport I've ever been to. It was so long it went the length of the terminal, then wrapped around an escalator at the end and doubled back on itself another 20 yards. I stood in the line for about 25 minutes when a woman asked if the small rolling suitcase was the only thing I was checking in -- the kind that many people will stuff into the overhead compartments. Since it was, she told me I could just check it at the gate, and although nobody is at the gate until an hour before takeoff, I went anyway because it beat standing in that line. While killing time I got breakfast and listened to the glorious sound of airline employees announcing flights to Raleigh-Durham, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando. It appeared that the delays would be few.
While waiting at my gate, I talked with two guys who had been stuck in New Jersey since Friday. One had arrived from Maine and missed his connection to Phoenix by four minutes. The other was down from Boston and been on a plane Saturday morning, sitting on the runway, minutes from departing ... and then they closed the airport. "Notre Dame just better win after all this," he said.
The last dawn of the millennium broke beyond the sliver skyline of New York City sometime before 7 a.m., and the sun rose at 7:18 (according to the paper). I looked out beyond the tails of Continental planes at the golden reflection off the Empire State Building and was glad the skies were clear. I spent some time watching a front-end loaded scoop up snow from a mountain near the terminal and dump it into a large contraption that melted it into water and steam.
When we finally boarded the plane, I had a window seat 18 rows back where I eagerly settled, ready for a nap after just four hours of sleep the night before. With the two seats beside me open, a young, dark-haired woman walked on and put a bag down on the aisle seat while she placed another in the compartment above. Then she sat in the row in front of me and immediately began talking with the guy in the middle seat, who was a sophomore at Notre Dame. I overlistened to their conversation: She graduated in 1997 after living in Lyons Hall -- where my sister is now. He's a sophomore in Knott now. She lives and works in New York City, but her parents are still down the Shore in Sea Girt. He lives in Spring Lake and went to CBA (a local boys' Catholic school that sends several grads a year to South Bend); she graduated from St. Rose. Rather than standing up and eagerly announcing I was from Little Silver, I figured I'd introduce myself to them when we landed. Only a woman with two young boys boarded, holding tickets to the two open seats next to me and another for an aisle seat three rows back. So I moved back and never got to talk to the other Domers from the Jersey Shore.
But I enjoyed my flight from 21D, reading Edward Abbey and watching the end of "What Lies Beneath" without the headphones, because I know how it goes. As we approach the 70-degree Phoenix weather, I look across the people next to me and see the red-dirt mountains of northern Arizona stretching off to the hazy horizon. Out the other window, near the people on the left, I see the snow-patched pine forests of Coconino National Forest -- at least, I figure we're north of Phoenix, up near Flagstaff and the Canyon.
We land on time at 2:30 Mountain Time, and Bryan is already there, having arrived on schedule at 2 p.m. from his changeover in Kansas City. The weather wouldn't keep us away from this one.
Our fathers were there to pick us up, and on the way back to their hotel in Scottsdale, we drove through the hotel/condo/golf course resort of the Phoenecian, where the Notre Dame Alumni Association established its bowl game headquarters.
Back in the hotel room, we watched the Eagles football playoff game, drinking beer and munching on Tostitos (had to -- Tostitos Fiesta Bowl) with Bryan's brother Patrick while we waited for the ladies to return from their shopping trip.
Meeting us was Mom's cousin Jeff, who drove out from Los Angeles to spend time with us. For New Year's Eve, the nine of us went into Tempe, which closes down the central area for a block party bash. The celebration has intensified exponentially since Tostitos came in to sponsor the Fiesta Bowl, and the small streets were jammed. Parking lots held carnival rides and games, each school -- Notre Dame and Oregon State -- set up official parties had alumni and students take over bars and restaurants. The two school bands marched down Main St. and it felt like a carnival. Local bands performed on scattered stages, and Hootie and the Blowfish highlighted the show somewhere. Inside an Irish pub -- Rula Bula -- designated the official Notre Dame Alumni Bar, we saw the snowstorm in Shreveport, Louisiana and realized we were much better off in Tempe than New Orleans.
After an enjoyable Irish dinner to close out 2000, Bryan and I left to drive out to Mesa to visit Courtenay and Cande Jauregui, friends of ours from ND who would so kindly put us up for three nights. We were driving east on the Superstition Freeway at 10 p.m., when the ball dropped back East and it was the new year in New York. It was then that we got our two bonus hours in the Year 2000.
Just after that, we arrived at Courtenay's and CJ's and immediately joined them in a raucous game of Cranium that we put on hold at 11:58 p.m. in order to turn on the TV. Now, nothing against those of you from and in other time zones, and certainly not you in particular, Courtenay and Cande, but it's just not New Year's if it's not on the East Coast. This was the first time I'd spent Dec. 31 in another time zone, and it wasn't right. We turned on ABC and saw the ball dropping in Times Square. It was, of course, a tape, and knowing that it wasn't live was weird. I didn't have any of that excitement in my stomach that I usually get just before midnight. The ball fell, we drank champagne and watched the Bangles kickin' it on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. I kind of forget everything that happened after the champagne -- I vaguely remember talking with CJ about being football managers at ND and then saying goodbye to those guests who weren't staying the night. Before bed, the five of us who stayed -- Courtenay, CJ, Bryan, Courtenay's friend Kelli and myself -- sat up at the kitchen table until about 2:30 and then turned in.
Next page: New Year's in shorts
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