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NYC, New York
Lat: 40.7142° N Lon: 74.0064° W
NYC - Some months before the big countdown with Dick Clark (God Rest His Soul), I’m counting the stairs to the top of One Times Square. I have access inside Times Square’s longest-standing building to visit the belle of New Year’s celebrations: The Ball--the one that drops at midnight.

Inside this fabled structure, there’s scant evidence that the building is even in use, much less once the publishing plant for a major newspaper. I’d certainly never have guessed that I was inside the epicenter of a holiday street party that packs in millions of revelers, broadcasting to billions more. Aside from a ground-level retail space and several control rooms for electronic media like the giant Toshiba Vision, the 25-story skyscraper is virtually an empty shell. Real estate worth millions in billboard space, of course, but otherwise just dark, cavernous floors once a-buzz with business and now eerily quiet.

In 1904, this building went up as the New York Times headquarters in a seedy part of town known as Longacre Square. When The Gray Lady’s publisher, Adolph Ochs, persuaded the mayor to rename the area Times Square, he threw a New Year’s Eve party to celebrate. More than a century later, the annual bash continues, making this building an indispensible NYC icon. That’s the reason that One Times Square still stands, perhaps the only real estate left from that early period.

The first edition of the ball – an iron-and-wood sphere weighing 400 pounds – rang in the New Year, 1908. Five iterations later, the ball’s grown into the glittering, five-ton-and-change Waterford crystal ornament I greeted on the rooftop. Quite impressive and a lot more lavender than you can see on TV, she’s a stunner, a real statement in as to what Times Square means to the world every December 31st.

But I wanted to see more; I needed to go higher. I wanted to hang over those numbers. To the dismay of my guides from Toshiba (hey, I signed the release form), I grabbed a GoPro and headed solo up the half-dozen metal flights to the very top, eventually peering directly through the “0”of 2011. Ah, success.

In 1984, I’d moved to New York straight out of college. I lived in the Big Apple for the next twenty years. I cannot tell you the countless times I strode through Times Square, staring up at these incandescent numbers…and here I was now, gazing down. Down at the taxicabs jockeying for position through the intersections, at the tourists vying for show tickets, at the young hopefuls trying to find their careers. It was the usual sense of awe, high above a city I love so much, but it was different, too. No matter what might happen in the year to come, this would be exhilaration hard to match.

Sidebar: my old roommate, John, from my first apartment back in the day works for Conde Nast in the building directly next to One Times Square. When I was on top of the 2011, to his utter shock and surprise, I waved to him at his desk. He told me later, he didn’t know anyone ever got up there. I told him it only took me 27 years.

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