Sunday, December 16, 2007

What The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Is REALLY Like

So, after arriving an hour early for the parade (yeah, you really DO have to get there at 6:30am to get a front row spot!), this was our view. We were in perhaps the 10th row of people, and somehow managed to preserve a small air pocket in the crowd for those times when the girls got too heavy for our shoulders and we simply had to put them down.

We got off the subway at 72nd and Central Park West and at first just gravitated toward the crowd right there, like plaque in a carotid artery. Almost right away we realized it might be wise to go up a block or two. Indeed, it was a bit better. We were walking toward the parade route when JieJie blurted out "Potty!" Oh, no. I told John I would take her, and of course MeiMei wanted to go too, so instead of waiting for the parade, the three of us wound up walking in the opposite direction, trying to find a merciful shop owner who would let us use the bathroom.

You need to know something about Starbucks Coffee. They are pretty lax about letting non-customers use their bathrooms in most of New York City. I guess they figure the majority of people who are able to will buy at least a cup of is it generous or mercenary of them to share their facilities? Anyway, even though there was a Starbucks right on that very corner, the line was so long we wouldn't have gotten JieJie in there in time. I headed for a Korean grocery across the street, figuring even if they didn't let us use the bathroom, we could get food, since the girls hadn't had breakfast yet either (such a great mom am I, let me tell ya). But they said "no bathroom." I'm going COME ON, where do YOU go when nature calls? But I thought ok, we'll keep looking. NOTHING was open (except the aforementioned Starbucks) so finally I went back to the little grocery and looked around for a small door of some kind. Indeed, there was a tiny, Alice-in-Wonderland door by the freezer case. A grandmotherly woman came around the corner who looked like she worked there, and I said "can she please use the bathroom? She really has to go." The grandmotherly woman showed JieJie the way in...sweet relief! So we took our bag of snacks and went back to the parade route.

The parade itself was really short, compared to the three-hour yakathon you're used to seeing on tv. The balloons don't look as big, the Broadway and tv and flavor-of-the-month stars either go by too fast to see or don't deign to ride in the parade, just waiting at the Herald Square site for their big moment. Still, I'm a people-watcher and I was not disappointed. One balloon came by, for some Disney show, and JieJie said really loudly "Look! It's the girl from that show we don't watch anymore!" and everyone around us laughed. Then a Pierrot doll balloon came by and some other guy said "Look! It's that balloon that people used to be able to identify, but now it's just kind of creepy!"

But the best moment by far was when this random guy just started saying "Excuse me...pardon me...can I get through...Excuse me..." and everyone around me parted to allow this soft-spoken twentysomething man in coveralls to walk right past us. He got all the way to the front row! Those of us who instinctively moved aside looked at one another and immediately just went "WAIT A SECOND...Why didn't WE think of that?!" Incredulity. Oh well, sometimes the most devious plan is the most obvious.

So look at this picture of Shrek (see how it's not as big as you'd expect it to be?) And notice in the upper left corner the lucky son of a gun standing on his second floor balcony, observing the unwashed masses below. Not only does he live in an apartment on Central Park West, he has on-demand access to a bathroom during the Macy's Parade.

So of course the moment everyone waits for is Santa. Some old-timers told us that the best thing for the girls to do is to yell what they want most, so Santa is sure to hear them. JieJie got up on shoulders and yelled "I want LOTS OF CANDY!" and MeiMei yelled "Bring me a TEDDY BEAAAARRRR!" John and I looked at each other, thinking there's no way it could be that easy!

After the parade was the best of all. Most people go to relatives' or go home and get ready for guests, so you can go all over New York and there are very few crowds! We walked a bit through Central Park (gorgeous--wait, you need this picture), and then over to Columbus Circle. It was still closed to traffic. How many times do you get to see one of the busiest traffic circles in the country totally empty of traffic? And then we noticed that the municipal workers were swinging the traffic lights back out over the road way. Who knew that they were built to swing away from the parade route? How cool. We sat on the reviewing stands and watched the guys do their work, before continuing down Broadway to Times Square...where we ducked into a Starbucks to use the bathroom.

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