It is an uncomfortable sight, watching thousands of fireworks rocket into the sky from every crevice of the city blocks all around you. It’s kind of like watching a bunch of people snort cocaine: you kind of want to join them just for the thrill and the sake of being a part of something but, ugh: gross!
A friend who had been had told me before I went to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, that the city was “fucked,” but I did not think that could mean “fucked” in the sense that they were might themselves to the ground all around my boyfriend and me, who stopped here for the night of New Year’s Eve on our way from Argentinian wine country to Uruguayan beach country.
After watching a guy in a tuxedo tee-shirt and blazer on a Spanish television program
counting down to the year 2012 on the empty streets of somewhere, presumably in
Uruguay, acting as though there were a party all around him when actually the only
thing going on was him talking into a camera all by himself, with the illusion of
having company thanks to his friends, two more yammerers who appeared in a split screen from a TV studio somewhere, presumably Uruguay, and also wore tacky party outfits. The show felt not-ironic in that way that almost makes you feel bad for the people sitting home and watching it — like us.
We were weary from a day of traveling and our inability to speak fluent Spanish to the
staff downstairs, who, when we asked for a restaurant reservation, were about as helpful to us as a pair of wet socks on a snowy day. Once the countdown had been counted down, we headed up to what U.S. residents might regard as the Danger Zone, but, to everyone around us, was just the roof.
Either Uruguay is a country carefully attuned to trends on the runways of the Northern Hemisphere, or — and I have a hunch this is more likely — it’s one of those places that wears white on New Year’s to bring good luck. Everyone was wearing it head-to-toe or close to it, and honestly, if I lived in a place where fireworks could be set off with less regulation than office workers running for the free donuts in the kitchen, I’d probably go for that sartorial meme, too. Naturally no one told us that was A Thing there, though even if they did suggest we wear “blanco”, I probably would have misunderstood and replied, “Yes, I am quite white, but don’t worry, I’m pretty sure my sunburn awaits me on the beach.” (And in fact, it did, but as a year-round New York resident I can’t get mad at a January sunburn.)
Standing on the roof of our hotel, with a pretty expansive view of Montevideo, we
watched fireworks shoot from the earth from every visible point in the horizon, like anti-gravity exploding sprinkles. These were not organized fireworks sponsored by such great American companies as Macy’s as we’re used to in the States, but fireworks coming from the many Joe Bobs and Mary Sues who had bought them and felt like firing them off. We could see people lighting them in the sidewalk down below us, leading me to believe it wasn’t safe to peer over the balcony, lest a reveler blow your face off: Welcome to Montevideo, we’ll show you fucked!
My boyfriend and I have seen random, probably illegal fireworks go off here and there, but agreed that everything going on around us was totally strange. I am not the MOST well traveled individual, but I have been to a number of foreign countries, seen MC Hammer perform at the California State Fair to a half-empty pit of chairs, watched half a dozen people do more drugs in a few hours than many people do in their entire lives, and been to a lot of fashion shows and even Sister Act the Musical. But this — watching fireworks shoot into the sky with nothing but abandon, joy, and white clothes all around in the nostril of South America — this was a singular experience.
Yet, it was extremely valuable given that it was New Year’s Eve, and expecting great things on New Year’s Eve is like expecting to have a really fun time when you’re in the airport. At least this one was not only memorable, but worth remembering.
Just before the horizon quieted, a small clan of staff from the hotel restaurant, wearing chefs’ hats and whites, filed onto the balcony. I forgot about them until a thunderous CRACK emanated from about 15 yards away, in the corner of the patio that made a right angle with the building. Lest we roof revelers not be left out of the fun, they set off a few fireworks of their own, right there, harming no one in the process.