It was a simple plan. Richard and Chris would meet us at the airport with an uber. We’d drop our stuff off at their apartment in Queens before we took the subway to 34th Street to connect with the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It sounded good in theory. We knew our arrival time was an hour later than last year. If we got to the area near Macy’s where the parade ends, we might be able to see at least a few of the balloons hover above the floats and marching bands. What we didn’t factor into the equations were the wind and sprawling crowd.
Our plane landed a half-hour early because of the strong tailwinds. It didn’t take long for us to travel to my son’s place from LaGuardia. The aroma of Thanksgiving cooking filled his small one-bedroom third-floor apartment with an eye-level view of the subway. I didn’t eat before I got on the plane. I was afraid I might get airsick because of the predicted turbulence. The aroma made me want to linger between his four walls and grab a bite to eat, but I didn’t cave in to the temptation. There was a parade adventure waiting for me to experience. We walked a block before we got to the stairs, which would take us to the elevated subway. Rooster bought each of us a seven-day pass. We talked with Richard and Chris, catching up on the events that happened in our lives over the past year, while we waited for the train. It wasn’t long before a familiar rumble echoed in the distance, seconds before the first car came into view.
It has been a year since we rode these silver trains. There is certain subway etiquette you must know before you climb onto one of these cars. The first important piece of information is to swipe your card from bottom to top, with the metallic strip facing in your direction. It took me forever to get in the habit of not placing it at the top and swiping it downward. It’s important to know not to enter an empty car or one with only one occupant. There is a critical reason other passengers are avoiding traveling in an abandoned car. Once the doors close, you are trapped inside until you reach the next stop. Avoid eye contact as much as possible. Bring something with you to read or play a game on your phone. Adult New Yorkers play candy crush more than anyone I’ve ever met. Lastly, if you are exiting the subway at 34th Street the morning of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, don’t stop and take pictures of the balloons. Keep moving because people behind you need to climb the stairs also. If you decide to block the exit, one of New York’s finest will be sure to tell you to move along.
There was a thick crowd of people already gathered at 34th Street. The police informed us we needed to move over to the next block. We lingered as long as we could, but we had to attempt to move through the thick crowd to leave the area. The only thing I can compare the experience to would be to swimming upstream against the current in roaring rapids. The sidewalks were so packed it was almost impossible to move. The only people with a decent view were the early arrivers who climbed the scaffolding outside buildings on both corners. We got into place in time to watch Santa Clause and his reindeers cruise down the street. I should say Rooster, Richard, and Chris had a great view of the jolly man in the red suit and his wife. I was too short to see anything through the crowd. Things got a little intense after Santa’s sleigh glided past our corner. People in the throng were jammed together so tight like sardines in a tin can. You could feel someone toughing you on every side. Rooster placed his thumb over his wallet to prevent it from coming up missing. Everyone attempted to move in opposite directions when they fought to leave the area. There was a verbal confrontation as one woman called another lady a bitch. I prayed under my breath fists wouldn’t start flying. It wasn’t a perfect spot for a fistfight to break out. One lady was pushing a stroller with a toddler riding inside. We finally made it out of the crushing mob. We moved to the side of the walkway, so we could wait until the people thinned out.
We encountered a different sort of problem when we attempted to cross the street. The barriers weren’t removed, so the light crews could replace the traffic signals and streetlights at the corners. We needed to cross the road to get to the shop where Richard wanted to pick up something to go with dinner. We had to walk four blocks out of our way and then back only to discover the store was closed because of the parade. Hooters was a short distance from the store we made such an effort to go to. Richard suggested we stop at the restaurant and grab a snack before we climbed on the subway for the ride back to Queens. I had never eaten at Hooters before. I wasn’t sure why people made such a big deal about the establishment. A nice young woman, with a low cut top showing a lot of cleavage, and artistic eye makeup, took our wing order. We enjoyed a warm snack while we unwound from the excitement of nearly being crushed by the mob at the parade. We made a group decision that if Rooster and I ever flew in again on Thanksgiving Day, we’d watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. We didn’t finish all the wings. We wanted to leave room for Thanksgiving Dinner.
Once we got back to our son’s apartment, the cooking started in earnest. Richard put on his new Hooters apron and got down to business. He performed all the prep work over the past two days before the big meal. He told me he now understood what it took to put on a traditional Thanksgiving feast. He even went to the extreme of making the piecrust from scratch. He used Vodka instead of lard. I’d never heard of making it that way, but the end result was fantastic. Chris made Brussel sprouts with bosonic vinegar. They did a ham instead of a turkey, which came out perfect. I was impressed with their culinary skills. I was also glad I wasn’t the one doing the cooking. Mary stopped by. We had a delightful evening talking about books and writing, relishing a wonderful feast, and listening to the subway run right outside my son’s apartment window. Our visits to New York City are becoming one of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions.
My foot was hurting by the time I climbed in bed that night from the bathroom cady for shampoo, conditioner, and body washing falling on it the night before at the hotel. It was nothing a couple Tylenol couldn’t help. The middle toes turned shades of black and blue from bruising, but I wasn’t experiencing trouble walking. New York City is a place that is propelled by foot power. If you’re going to get anywhere, you must be able to amble down the street at a fast gate. New Yorkers hate it when you don’t move at the rapid clip they use when they travel the sidewalks. I was satisfied I could keep the pace without causing an unnecessary roadblock. Stopping to take pictures when something caught my eye was another question. I am a tourist, after all. That’s what we do.