02 January 2007

Whistle Stop

Well, things do get away from you during the holidays. I've been meaning to post any number of items over the past two weeks, but somehow something always distracted me. My New Year's resolution: to stop doing that. Look, it's already working!

Though my lovely other half hit the hay around 9 PM New Year's Eve, I was determined to do something interesting to celebrate the turning of the year, even though I think New Year's is a pretty damn empty proposition as a holiday. So, I hopped the G train, rode a few stops and walked over to the Pratt Institute campus, where they honor the new year in a singularly odd way: by dragging out a collection of old steam whistles, installing them in the quad and then letting them rip, sometimes tunefully, more often not.

The whistles are roped off at first, I guess to keep the openly boozing students from blasting themselves with a cloud of hot steam in the face. Prior to midnight, some Christmas tunes are played; the effect is like carousel music. After midnight, each whistle gets its say. Some pipe low, some high, all pretty much rattle your chest. I suppose they were loud. Didn't bother me too much though. The stream, beautifully white, billows up into the trees some thirty feet.

All the whistles are manned by a rangy fellow in a blue striped engineer hat and muttonchops. Looked like just the fellow who would spend his year shining up steam whistles for their big moment. At the end, he handed over the strings that released the steam into the whistles to spectators, and they yanked for all they were worth.

I was glad to have seen it. Better than the inane goings-on in Times Square. But, let me tell you, a little steam whistle goes a long way. By 12:15 AM, I was back on the G.

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