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by J. D. Oxblood

After that fateful day in September, 2001, I was shocked by how many long-term New Yorkers told me, “I never went to the top.” It’s a common behavior. When you live in a town, you tend to eschew the “touristy” destinations and activities, unless family comes to town and you’re suddenly dragged along to some god-awful destination that usually fades off into the background of your own piddling, self-interested life. It’s easy, as a New Yorker, to get caught up in the unending drama of your friends’ love life, your hatred of your landlord and your apartment’s idiosyncrasies, your unending search for a better gig. In short, it’s easy to forget that tourists from all over the world come here to see the sights, and just as easy to forget that there are sights to be seen. The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Twin Towers (now no longer an option)—how many New Yorkers have never bothered?

I hate the Christmas season in New York. The European tourists on shopping sprees. The endless Christmas carols. The packed crowds on the subways. But if I may uncharacteristically lay aside my jaded, bitter worldview for just a moment, there is one Christmas-season touristic event I try not to miss: the Thanksgiving Parade.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving, J.D.?” “Well, in the morning I’m going to the parade.” “The parade? Isn’t that for kids? I’ve never been. What time does it start?” “Oh, I try to get there by ten.” “In the morning? Won’t you still be hungover?” That’s the conversation, and no, I don’t generally convince anyone else to come with me.

But I jump out of bed around nine, shake off my hangover, smoke a joint or pull a couple of bong hits, and get my ass into the subway. Herald Square is a nightmare, as is Times Square, so I head up into the 50s where the crowds are a little more manageable. Pushing through the crowd to get up to Broadway, I sometimes catch my first glimpse of majesty from halfway down the block: there, in the corridor created by the tall buildings, a ten-story tall cartoon character floating down Broadway. I am filled with a sense of wonder, reminded that there is still beauty in this twisted world, and sip my coffee and plunge into the crowd with a kind of childish glee. And, yes, it doesn’t hurt that I feel small.

buzz-lightyear

The buildings are big, the balloons are big. They are to scale, and it is the crowd that seems small. This year the wind corridor shooting up Broadway made Spongebob bounce back and forth between the buildings, waving his hands in a slow-motion manic dance. Kermit the Frog brushed his hand across the tops of people’s heads on the West side, as if petting them. And when Shrek appeared in the distance, I could only think, “There’s a giant monster roaming down Broadway!” I felt like a miniature toy in a set from an old Japanese monster movie, and the creatures were coming to stomp us all out.

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Add in tons of kids with their smart mouths and rampant excitement, and even the little kids perched on the shoulders of parents for a better view. The bridge-and-tunnel crowd who made the trek in to the city on this early morning, the Midwesterners visiting kin, the Europeans primed for Black Friday. Cue the sound of marching bands, drum lines rapping a sharp tattoo that echoes off the sides of buildings and encourages your freezing feet to stomp to the beat. Drink a little more coffee and tell yourself it isn’t cold. Bow to the majesty of Picachu as he rolls above you in crushing yellow splendor. And when you duck into a neighborhood deli and see that steak and eggs are $24.95, remember that you’re not a tourist; jump on the subway and ride downtown and get it for $12.

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Don’t take my word for it; come out next year and see for yourself. There’s still plenty of time to make a pie and get across town for turkey. And there’s more than enough time, tomorrow, maybe, to be bitter and jaded.

Kiss kiss,

JDX

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