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— Say "millennium" real fast as many times as you can before you puke. For me, I can't get past the first pronunciation of the word. I'm not sure why that is. It's a perfectly functional word to describe a fairly vast passage of time (in human terms) demarcated on the -- let's face it -- arbitrary construct of Pope Gregory, a savvy politician among the Romans and the burgeoning population of Christians in the Empire. Now I can't think of the word without hearing my nutty friend, a quiet genius among us, singing, to the tune of Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond's duet, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers."

She croons,

Please don't say millennium

1999 is not the end

If you could only learn to count to ten

You wouldn't say millennium

Don't have to say millennium

Please don't say millennium...

any...more

Somehow, she has made this a more pithy song than the original atrocity had any hope for. (Although I admit to weeping once in the dentist's office when I heard it...but I did have an abscessed tooth, and I don't deal with pain all that well.)

On New Year's Eve, I cowered in bed with a novel by Michael Crichton, but on New Year's Day I awoke at the crack of doom and sought out the devastation that I hoped had ensued the night before.

First thing I found was the U-T with a spread on the front page of section B headlined, "FOR SOME, 2000 IS NO BIG DEAL." This was penned by Dong Phuong Ngyuen, and he was absolutely right. The evidence of this was apparent when I hit the Gaslamp Quarter, the Convention Center, the U.S. Grant Hotel, the band shell at Balboa Park's Organ Pavilion. Perhaps at 9:30 a.m. I was too late for the interesting garbage, but I think not. Our city may be a disappointment as a party town.

At Patrick's II, a real bar if ever there was such a thing, a survivor from the night before is nursing a cup of coffee; he prefers to remain nameless. "Yeah, we had the Zydeco Rockers in here last night. It was a good scene. It doesn't look too messy now, but it took seven hours to clean up." Great. "So it was a real mess?"

"No, not really. It was mostly confetti and stuff."

On Fifth Avenue a city cleanup detachment has pretty well done its job. "We've been at this since 6:00," says John Tulley. "Fourth Avenue was pretty hammered, littered. We needed push brooms, shovels, leaf blowers." My pride in San Diego was returning.

At the Grant Hotel, Tony Johnson is cleaning up and mentions "poppers, confetti, beer bottles."

"Wow! Poppers? Really?" I was thinking of the drug amyl nitrate, which increases your heart rate and, they say, enhances orgasm. Tony just looked at me with puzzlement and said, "Poppers. Right." He was, of course, talking about Christmas crackers...harmless little fireworks.

"How about vomit?"

"Um, no, no. Look, I've got to finish up here."

"Okay. Sure. Thanks."

Looking for revelry elsewhere, I discovered that San Diegans like me are cowardly, retiring, hardly party animals at all. This embarrasses me and makes me wonder about the lack of anarchy in the souls of my fellow denizens.

Johnny, the bartender at both the Coaster Saloon in Mission Beach and Croce's in the Gaslamp, says, "It was quite slow [in Mission Beach], especially after it was raining."

"That's a wild bar."

"Yeah, but it was pretty mellow. It was a bust."

At the U.S. Grant, Tony Johnson is vacuuming and confesses to only schlepping up confetti and beer bottles. "This has been a pretty easy deal for me, though I've been at it for six hours."

On the streets of the Gaslamp, the city is busy with hoses and cones, signs and devices to cleanse debris that mostly is not there. The spokesman and honcho did not clearly leave his name, but my tape recorder was laboring, undoubtedly, under the Y2K bug. He said, "It's been tough. We've been at this for hours. A lot of confetti."

In front of the Star Bar, a woman was blowing bubbles with what appeared to be a buzz maintained for hours. And I applaud this; one must, I think. If for no other reason than she wore a tight-fitting, shimmery green dress that delineated her thighs wonderfully.

Cab drivers were surprised: "Very well-behaved people, for the most part."

On the 902 bus to Coronado and the Navy base, the driver said, "Yeah, I got the nuts, but no more than usual."

Balboa Park was messy, but compared to, say, Sheeps Meadow in Manhattan -- no big deal.

Perhaps we should be proud of this, our good behavior, our restraint, but as Jim Crumley (a lunatic, but a genius novelist nonetheless) once said, "No matter how they tell it, this country was neither founded nor freed by the well behaved."

Maybe San Diegans should look into a bit more madness. Just a thought.

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