hesitated to write a millennium column; I assumed
everyone else would be writing one, so why bother.
But Net Listing's webmaster pointed out that mine
would be the only millennium column to appear
on this web site (which is all that really mattered
to him) so I "volunteered." And I'm glad he was
so persuasive, really, because it gave me the opportunity
to reflect a bit on what it all meant to me.
It felt, really, like being a voyeur at the world's
biggest party, and what a party it was. In this
century of technology, we all witnessed technology
stride triumphantly into the new millennium, as
television and computers brought the entire world
together in one masterfully orchestrated celebration.
On seven continents, and in 200 countries, people
of every race, creed, and ethnicity put aside all
that separates them to revel in one spectacularly
bright shining midnight.
And except for the fireworks, which seemed to be
everywhere (except at the Hollywood sign) each celebration
held some new surprise, some magical moment. From
the heady exuberance of the dancers on the walls
of the Sydney Opera House in Australia, to the celebrants
basking in the splendor of St. Basil's cathedral
in Red Square, everyone seemed to be having a wonderful
time. Over the course of the day and night, through
technology Jules Verne could only have dreamed about,
we had the extraordinary privilege of visiting the
temple at Angkor Wat, Tienamen Square, the Acropolis,
the pyramids of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben,
and the Washington Monument. We were in New Zealand,
Taiwan, on the Ginza, in Bangkok, Cambodia, India,
the Czech Republic, Greece, South Africa, Ireland,
Bethlehem, Berlin, Italy, Newfoundland, New York,
Brazil, and Las Vegas. And that's only a few
of the places we were, as the cameras worked
their wonders and the faces of couples kissing and
strangers hugging filled our screens.
And perhaps the most fascinating spectacle of all
was that in so many cases, but for the unique backdrops
reflecting the pride and essence of each country,
everyone looked the same. No, not the same, because
that was the beauty of it; everyone looked like
they could have been from anywhere, because to a
large extent, they were. There were Americans in
Tokyo, and Bulgarians in Times Square; there were
Koreans in England, Norwegians in Mexico City, Japanese
on the Copacabana beach. Everyone was everywhere,
and it looked just right.
Some of my favorite moments? Well, the doves in
Bethlehem brought an unmistakable lump to my throat,
and although I didn't see them, the notion of a
German choir performing in Israel strikes a chord.
Charlotte Church's remarkable fourteen year old
voice, Bono's touching tribute to Clinton's role
in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, the strains
of Lennon's "Imagine" (which I'm sure he did) echoing
around the world, and that climactic dropping of
the ball in Times Square, which for as long as I
can remember was the only way I celebrated
the passing of another year; they were all favorites.
But there were other moments, ones that made my
mind wander a bit, or made me smile, or think, and
I want to mention some of them too. The brilliant
fireworks display on the Thames, excessive perhaps,
until one thinks about the bombing raids over the
same river endured by that country a brief sixty
years ago. And the Queen, looking the same as she
has always looked, reminding me of my grandmother,
who looked the same when she was thirty-five as
when she was sixty: dowdy, matronly, older than
my mother of seventy-six looks now. What would she
have thought of all this.
The celebration on the mall in our nation's capitol
made me proud; I can't help it. It was elegant and
dignified, but still joyous, tremendously entertaining,
and full of all the hope and excitement of the new
millennium. "America the Beautiful," sung in the
shadow of the Lincoln Memorial was, indeed, beautiful.
And watching Chelsea's adoring look every time she
glanced at her father reminded me of how enduring
our children's love is, and how astounding their
capacity to forgive.
Maybe the most amusing moment for me came when gifted
magician David Blain engaged Peter Jennings, Charlie
Gibson, and Barbara Walters, all stationed in different
parts of the world, in the same card trick. It was
brilliant and mystifying as always, at least for
Jennings and Gibson who followed Blain's instructions
to the letter. But Barbara Walters, notwithstanding
her sophistication, intelligence, glamour, and hundreds
of interviews with heads-of-state and world-renowned
celebrities, could not get it right. She shuffled
wrong, she put the cards face up instead of down,
and she counted incorrectly, looking as puzzled
as my mother does when attempting to program her
answering machine. It was a funny moment.
It all seemed so flawless, so filled with peace
and love. For one day, it made us forget; it gave
us hope. It was the fulfillment of all our technological
visions, made more so by the fact that the highly
touted Y2K problems never happened. In a moment
of cynicism, I mentioned that the whole Y2K threat
was probably dreamt up by the water bottlers, battery
manufacturers, and Y2K software producers for the
purposes of lining their wallets. But maybe not.
Maybe everyone just did what they were supposed
to do, and did it extremely well. In the year 2000,
I guess anything is possible.