Ah, Thanksgiving morning. The smell of onions and celery and sage hanging in the air from the kitchen. The newspaper. The coffee. The day off. The sounds of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, coming from the TV in the living room.
As a kid, I thought it’d be the coolest thing to be curbside in Herald Square in Manhattan, watching Snoopy, the Sinclair Oil Dino and Felix the Cat balloons rock past me in the breeze, towering high over my head.
Like a lot of these kinds of signature events, being there isn’t necessarily better.
I played parade host for my sister, my brother-in-law and their oldest daughter one year. My niece was 6, old enough to understand the enormity of the event and young enough to get bored with it in short order. It didn’t help that we were relegated to a side street, about three car lengths’ away from Broadway, the parade route at the time. Worse still, we were positioned under a construction scaffold. If we craned our necks just so, we could catch glimpses of the balloon handlers, but very little of the balloons themselves beyond big, brightly-colored polyurethane feet or paws or bulging tummies.
Same niece, different event: Fourth of July fireworks. I had purchased tickets for a special seating section sponsored by the public/private entity that managed Roosevelt Island, in the middle of the East River that separates Manhattan from Queens and Brooklyn. Most of the fireworks were launched from barges on the East River. Our seats gave us unobstructed views and put us tantalizingly close to the dazzle and boom.
Too close, as it turned out. My niece covered her ears and buried her face in my sister’s neck for most of the show.
I was helping to make memories, all right: the “remember how miserable we were?” kind.
Most big events don’t live up to the hype. My recall of the first — and last — time I attended the St. Patrick’s Day Parade along Fifth Avenue includes the sight of medics attending to a guy who had gotten into a brawl and of eating an overpriced shepherd’s pie at an Irish pub in Midtown, pinned into a corner by a crush of people dressed in various shades of green.
The B-52s, Ric Ocasek of the Cars and Hall and Oates performed in the 20th anniversary of Earth Day concert on Central Park’s Great Lawn in 1990, but I don’t remember them at all. I remember the turf wars over where to spread our blanket, and of the arguments that flared up whenever someone stepped on someone else’s bedspread or beach towel. Which was often, since most people didn’t have feet the width of a razor blade’s edge.
Speaking of massive crowds, I still don’t understand the allure of standing in the cold for 10 hours, penned in like sheep, no backpacks, no alcohol and no bathrooms, to herald the New Year in Times Square. I was there for the dawn of the 21st century, waiting with other reporters to see if the city would go dark, its subways grind to a halt and ATMs lock up at the stroke of midnight, when their computers had to grapple with the existential mystery of 01/01/00. It was fun, I admit, to stand in the middle of a confetti storm, fireworks pounding, computer crisis averted. For about two minutes. And then it was all about fighting the crowds for a seat on the subway home.
Thanksgiving Day in Herald Square? New Year’s Eve in Times Square? Christmas in London, like something out of Dickens?
No thanks. I’ve got the best views right in front of my TV set. Or on my smart phone, with 360-degree views livestreamed on YouTube. And my memories will be of good smells, the luxurious feel of an unrushed holiday morning, and taking pleasure in other people’s curbside moment with Snoopy. All without getting cold feet and neck sprain.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or on Twitter, @lima_eddings.