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This tradition does not involve Turkeys nor Politicians. I've lived in New England for over 20 years, and this year, for the 1st time, my wife and my granddaughter took the train to New York City, and watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In person.

We are staying in a hotel downtown. Way downtown. Close to Wall Street. So, we had to decide where we wanted to be during the parade - which has a two and a half mile route. We decided that Times Square, or close to it, would be the place. This is a mile or more from where it starts.

We arrived the night before, and thought that we might enjoy the spectacle of the balloons being filled, which takes place on 77th west of Central Park. It was a bust. We got on a bus, which we found didn't take paper money (the fare is $2), you had to have an MTA Metro Card - which works for the bus and the subway, or correct change. Well, we didn't, but the bus driver was unwilling to fight that battle, so we rode. The trip was only 20 blocks, but since many streets were blocked off AND since it was the day before The Big Family Holiday, it took a long time. Traffic was, well, undescribable. Anyway, we finally got close, we and 1/2 million other people. Bottom line, it was a bust. We should have had a better game plan, it might have worked out better. Better luck, we hoped, on Thursday - the actual parade.

Since we wanted to watch from Times Square, we got up at 6, found the right train uptown, and got in place just after 7. But, of course, there had to be Starbucks, trips to the bathroom, etc. By 8, we were settled on 41st St and Broadway, and we were ready.

I was struck by the human mini-dramas that were going on around me. We were up against a police barrier with 1000s of others. We engaged casual conversation with a police officer allowed herself to be photographed with others. She was a hoot, she seriously loved her job - at least, this aspect of it. It was nice to see. We struck up conversations, and vice verse, with several groups. One, a group of 3 30-ish sisters from California who, like us, had never seen the parade. We saw a family of 4, one of which was a teething and screaming infant. Why bring him to the parade? He clearly wasn't enjoying it, and neither was his mother, nor about 30 people close by. We saw a man about 25 trying to cross the street (it was closed where we were) twice, that nice officer told him the 2nd time that she was becoming irritated... and he showed up a 3rd time 5 minutes later wearing a different hoody and without his glasses. She wasn't fooled, and said something I couldn't make out that made him disappear. A magician!

The parade started at 9:00 am, right on the money. Of course, televised events almost always start right on time. I don't know which networks covered it, but I wasn't watching TV. Since we were more than a mile from the start, we didn't see the 1st balloons for 45 more minutes. It was getting cold. Actually it was about 45F, but my feet weren't buying it.

And then! Balloons! Macy's stars and decorations! Floats! Horses! followed by the special horse clean up crew. How do you get that job?? I wondered. More Balloons. They were so big! Gi-normous! one native shouted. Snoopy. A bright blue Smurf, all the balloon handlers had blue tunics and were wearing Smurf style knit caps. Marching bands, from the Dakotas, Arkansas, and beyond. The Eveready Bunny. Kermit the Frog. BIG groups, several hundred. Pretty girls with batons. Horton. A group of 'Second Time Arounders' with batons - these girls were in their 40s, 50s, beyond...

The cop had been tasked to maintain an lane down 41st Street wide enough to allow a vehicle - Fire Marshall rules. It was a continuous struggle as the crowd pushed forward. 1st, she told 'em. Then, there was 'Police Line' yellow tape. Then, the steel barriers. Nothing worked. So, about half way through, she winked and nodded, and the gap filled up. It was amazing. I've read of crowd psychology, but had never before been a part of it. She hadn't told her partner. He turned slowly to view the parade, the gap filled in, he turned back around - the look on his face was priceless. 'You'll have to move back!' he gave in his best cop voice, but knew it was useless. There was no moving back.

And still, the floats, the bands, the balloons came. It got to be 10... 10:30... 11... Helicopters were hovering. The sun came and went and came back - but of course, never down to the street.

And finally, Santa Claus! The arrival of Santa and Mrs Claus signaled the end of the parade. We turned to go... with 10s of 1000s of others. Getting back on the subway was another ritual, but we faked it, and made it on. Our only mistake was taking the local instead of the express... and that meant we'd be squeezed in that tin can for longer. Still, we made it.

I can't say enough for the people around us! There as a New York native, she was perhaps late 20s, her 1st parade since she was six, and she was acting like she was six! She was so excited. People offered the experience of their native-ness by telling us the best way to get from here to there, where the best restaurants were, suggestions about what to do in the evening and next day.

All in all, it was a great experience.

Originally posted to JohnMac on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:16 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    Have you ever been to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City?

    picking off right-wingnuts at the ballot box, one vote at a time

    by JohnMac on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:17:45 PM PST

    •  Yes. It's fun. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eeff, SoCalJayhawk, JohnMac, kyril

      As long as the weather's OK, that is.  Course, if it's really bad, they cancel anyhow.  Only so much those balloons can take!

      That parade started to launch the Christmas shopping season by that big department store.  I've been there, too, with the escalators and the "seventh floor lingerie" elevators.  They start Christmas too soon these days.  After Thanksgiving was always soon enough.

      "The river always wins" - Mark Twain

      by Land of Enchantment on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:45:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  For me, the signal is (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        eeff, Land of Enchantment, kyril

        Santa showing up in that parade! Before, no. After, yes. But I'm an old fashioned shopper.

        picking off right-wingnuts at the ballot box, one vote at a time

        by JohnMac on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:51:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I got to march in it (5+ / 0-)

        Miserable experience, freezing cold. I left chunks of frozen skin and blood on my trombone mouthpiece, and blood all inside my horrible fake-leather marching band shoes from blisters. But I hear we sounded good. I'll never again volunteer to participate in an outdoor activity involving putting my mouth on a metal object in November north of the Mason-Dixon line.

        •  Well, in spite of all that.. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hazey, kyril

          Thanks! Don't know which marching band you were in, but you were great! I know that because they were all great.

          Seriously, I did wonder about that. Many, but not all, the parade participants seemed warmly dressed. Still, no way to keep a trombone mouthpiece warmed up! I wonder how the reed players managed.

          And the jump rope team! Yeah, that's what I'd like to do... jump rope for 2 and 1/2 miles... I'd lose a few lbs, maybe - but it didn't look like any of them needed it.

          OTOH, there were some, er, shall we say BIG folk in some of the marching groups, groups in which you don't ordinarily think have large folk. Actually, it was nice to see - both from the point of view that overweight folk are not discriminated against in this venue, and that they possess enough self confidence to join in. Nice to see in a culture in which the overweight are amongst the WORST of the discriminated against, and no one ever mentions it.

          Still, you'd think they could manage comfortable marching shoes...

          picking off right-wingnuts at the ballot box, one vote at a time

          by JohnMac on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 04:57:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, I accidentally misled, it wasn't this year (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            it was all the way back in 2000. I was with the University of Maryland :)

            You're right, there are a fair number of larger people in the bands - it's actually pretty common, as band folk are among the only groups that are generally accepting of non-standard looks/personalities (goes back to high school clique formation patterns). We skinny nerdy types tend to gravitate to band as well.

            The shoes are normally pretty OK for the usual football field performances - it's just that the Macy's parade is long!!

  •  The Macy's parade is great fun (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hazey, eeff, JohnMac, kyril

    If you think those balloons are big now, you should have seen them back in the 90's. Superman and Spiderman were just massive. Did you know about the balloon infation last night. That's a hoot too.

  •  Thanks for sharing. That was fun to read. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eeff, Neon Mama, kyril, Maverick80229

    I'm glad you had a great Thanksgiving.

    "That's my job, to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure then that my team is implementing [that vision]." ~Obama on "Change"

    by WeBetterWinThisTime on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:27:23 PM PST

  •  Been to the St. Patrick's Day Parade (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I imagine they're pretty much the same.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 03:52:53 PM PST

  •  That the buses don't take bills is a huge pain. (0+ / 0-)

    It's ridiculous.

    We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

    by burrow owl on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 05:23:20 PM PST

    •  Oyes! (0+ / 0-)

      You are speaking to the converted! I only mentioned it for any thinking of traveling to NYC in the future. You get the MTA MetroCard downstairs, at the subway stations.

      picking off right-wingnuts at the ballot box, one vote at a time

      by JohnMac on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 05:58:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Glad you had a good time, though. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's a little known part of the city that it's great for being chatty.  It's pretty darn easy to fall into casual conversation with people around you.  Sometimes that's great, other times less so, but it's kinda neat either way.

        We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

        by burrow owl on Thu Nov 27, 2008 at 06:49:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Macy's Parade in the Morning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And Alice's Restaurant on the Way Home...

    Happy Thanksgiving to All.

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