NYC, Part 4

Thanksgiving Day

For Sarah, the day started at one in the morning. The kids had to be downtown at an unholy hour, with practice at four o’clock. If you want to see some of that, here you go. If you want to be surprised by the actual parade footage, you’ll find that down further down this post.

For us, the day started a little later. Actually, a lot later, since the alarm didn’t go off. The plan was to be downtown by six thirty so we’d be sure to get a spot by the nine o’clock start. Unfortunately, it was more like eight thirty when we finally arrived. Part of it was getting up a half hour late. Part of it was the ride into Manhattan. And part of it was gridlocked people. It took at least ten minutes to go fifty feet from the subway up to street level.

Once we made it to street level, we found ourselves swimming in a sea of spectators. Granted, this was not unexpected. Before leaving, I checked to see how many people usually showed up. The number was two and a half million. Using Google Earth, I made a quick measurement of the parade route. Roughly two and a half miles. Hmmm… that’s one million people per mile or nearly one hundred and ninety people per linear foot. Now I remember why I wanted to sit and watch this at home in my pajamas.

For the vast majority of humans, the Macy’s parade looks like this.

For us, it looked like this:

Worse, for Rachel, it looked like this:

I thought, “Man, do we really have to stand in this crowd, out in the cold, shoulder-to-shoulder, for three straight hours? Just to NOT see anything at all…?” Apparently, once you travel this far and spend this much money, the answer is, yes you do.

Eventually, the parade actually started. At least we could see the balloons go by:

Guess who was in the parade? Miley Cyrus. David Archuleta. Even Andy Willams. Think we saw any of that? Nope. But at least it proves my basic philosophy in life works: if you always expect the worst, you’re never going to be disappointed. Besides, who could have a bad day after seeing this go by?

As we stood about twenty or thirty people deep, we slowly inched our way forwards, averaging about one foot every two or three minutes. We didn’t know exactly where Sarah and the Bowie Band would be in the parade, except that it was more towards the end and they were the seventh of ten marching bands. My hope was that people would start clearing out as the parade went on, especially if all the famous people already went by. A few people did, but most, like us, were there for the duration.

After counting by ear six marching bands, plus a handful of subsequent floats, I figured we were near our goal. Months and months of training, thousands of miles of travel, billions of dollars spent were all coming to a head. I looked up, got on my tippy toes, and saw the familiar black, red, and white of the Bowie Band. This is it I shouted to Laura, a few yards a head of me. It’s them! “It’s who!?” someone asked me excitedly. “Nobody famous! Just my daughter!”

Laura, increasingly worried the moment might pass us by, asked folks, “My daughter’s coming! Can you let me through?” And what did those tough, unfriendly New Yorkers do? They parted like the Red Sea. “Go on up! Make way for mom! Her daughter’s coming!” Laura and Rachel headed right up to the street. I actually hung back to take pictures, since I wanted to get a good wide shot. “We traveled a long way for the next sixty seconds!” I told a woman standing nearby.

And just like that, there she was. Sarah holding her flag, walking by with a smile on her face and eyes frozen wide open. I actually saw her. And just like that, she was gone.

Now this is the part of the post where I had imagined I would show you all the great pictures I took or showcase some of the awesome video footage. Nope. I screwed up. Me, a pretty good amateur photographer. Me, a professional videographer for a number of years. Me, the guy who knows his cameras inside and out. I messed up the video and didn’t get a single photo.

Fortunately, others did, including NBC. Although you can barely make out Sarah, she’s in there. And this is what they looked (and sounded) like:

As soon as Bowie passed, we made our way back out of the crowd. We were rather tuckered out and sore from standing for so long. And given the fact we’d seen what we came to see, it was off to a Starbucks for something hot to drink and a wonderful thirty-minute bathroom line. Travel Tip: don’t pick the bathroom only one block away from two million people.

Thanksgiving Dinner

For our big meal of the day we headed toward the Hudson River for a two hour dinner cruise. We took the subway south and then walked the rest of the way. Here’s some sample scenery:

Eventually we found water and on the water we found a boat:

We arrived about forty minutes before boarding began so we had some time to kill. Not far down the pier was a bowling alley, the only thing open for at least a half mile. We weren’t exactly in the mood to bowl, but we did get to sit down and relax for a bit. (Not to mention it was warm. I was beginning to suspect that November in New York is colder than in Austin.)

Around 1:20 pm, we headed back to the boat, posed for the obligatory cruise photograph, then boarded. Remember Dinkleman? The little guy Rachel and I extracted from the reluctant claw game? He came along for the ride. Doesn’t he look happy?

The cruise began with some unnecessary entertainment. (Please, no show tunes.) But fortunately, we didn’t have to wait very long at all before getting down to business:

After eating, we got up to walk around deck and take some pictures:

I have to admit I’m mostly reluctant to post pictures of myself. I don’t have any rational reason behind this. It’s just the way it is. However, this is the rare mug shot that actually turned out pretty good. Yes, that’s actually me in front of the Statue of Liberty. I didn’t photoshop it.

While the Macy’s parade was certainly a big deal, the real reason we made this huge trip was on a plate drizzled with caramel and bedecked with whipped cream:

The pumpkin pie is what I live for each year. In fact, I’m pretty darn sure one of these Thanksgivings I’m going to fix, serve, and eat nothing but pumpkin pie. I don’t see anything wrong with that whatsoever.

Rachel was presented with her slice of pie, at which point she claimed she’d never eaten pumpkin pie before. I was a bit taken aback by this unexpected news and was wondering what the exact procedure might be to disown a child, when she said she’d try it. The first forkful hit her nose. (She claimed she was trying to smell it.) The next one was better aimed and I believe she actually tasted more than three pumpkin molecules. But alas, she didn’t like it, which tore me in two. On the one hand, I felt like we lost a real bond between us. But on the other hand, I got a second slice of pie.

You want to know the real miracle, though? I only ate half her slice. I kept thinking to myself, “Whether you eat one, two, or six slices, tomorrow you won’t be able to tell the difference. (Except on a scale.) So just try that stupid moderation thing you keep hearing about. You know, just for once give it a shot and see what happens.”

And golly jeepers, it worked!

After the pie, more scenery:

When we got off the boat we were tired. And although it was starting to get dark, it still felt like it was too early to call it a night. I looked at the map and suggested we head to Greenwich Village. It seemed like the right thing to do.

First stop? The apartment building from Friends. It looks different in real life. And it’s too bad the show’s over. I would have next headed down the block to Central Perk just to meet them.

The streets are pretty, though. I could actually live here.

If you have your own twelve to fourteen year old daughters, you may be familiar with The Wizards of Waverly Place on the Disney Channel. Sure enough, we ran across the real Waverly Place. It doesn’t look like the Disney set. I mean, not that I’ve actually ever seen that stupid show.

By this time we realized it wasn’t going to get any lighter or any warmer out. That, plus the fact that we’d been at it since six this morning, we decided to call it a night. Bus time!

I took a very long, very hot shower and crawled into bed feeling pretty good—mostly because the long-awaited day was finally behind us. I felt like I could finally RELAX. I drifted off dreaming about that New York pizza I still hadn’t gotten my mitts on.

12 Responses to “NYC, Part 4”

Christy said
December 4, 2008 at 12:50 am

Wow. It sounds like you had an amazing day. Congrats to your daughter for making it onto TV. I noticed the appartment building from friends before I had even read the caption you wrote below it. I miss that show too…

Mara said
December 4, 2008 at 4:54 am

What an incredible thing you and your family got to experience!! I can’t say I’d ever do it, but its still cool!

Biz said
December 4, 2008 at 6:29 am

What a great day! I love the pic of you Charlie with the Statue of Liberty!

Glad you got your pumpkin pie too! Um, but I notice there were no veggies on your plate! 😀

Deborah said
December 4, 2008 at 6:42 am

You are turly a brave man. I would have had an anxiety attack in that crowd.

What gorgeous pics of the city. It’s not as dirty as I thought it would be.

Rachael said
December 4, 2008 at 6:48 am

My dad feels pretty strongly about pumpkin pie too, Charlie. He even says it in a weird way to emphasize its importance. Haha. I love the pics. I’ve never been to NYC (since almost all of my vacations include sand and water), but I would like to go there sometime. Even the streets looked really pretty. I’m surprised.

Oh, and congrats to your daughter. That is something that she will always remember. 🙂

Charlie said
December 4, 2008 at 7:00 am

Biz: Laura said the exact same thing when she looked at my plate. I simply replied, “I didn’t go on vacation to eat vegetables.”

Besides, doesn’t the salad count?

Deborah: Yeah, stick to the television viewing. I highly recommend it.

Kath said
December 4, 2008 at 7:02 am

Hahaha – love the bear at the table!!!!

Becca said
December 4, 2008 at 7:35 am

I love when people talk about their visit to NYC and they describe the natives as “tough and unfriendly”, only to have them do a nice thing. I live here, and I have seen more acts of kindness on the subway than I can remember…one of my favorites…a woman was running into the subway car, when she tripped and fell into the car, leaving her purse, shopping bag and shoe on the platform. A wave of people exited the car, someone held the door open while others picked up all the belongings, others helped the woman up and made sure she was ok. After the woman was situated, everyone returned to their seats, opened their newspapers, turned on their ipods and acted like nothing had happened. Typical NYC act of kindness.
I’m glad you had a nice time and your daughter got to be in the parade. What a memory! I’ve got some restaurant suggestions for you next time you come. You don’t have to spend $80 for a charcoal burger. Love your blog btw, its got the coolest homepage ever.

Tom Rooney said
December 4, 2008 at 9:42 am

This is a great tale told by a very good story teller. Thanks Charlie you made me laugh with you photo shot of what you actually see when you’re at the parade.

Dinah Soar said
December 4, 2008 at 9:42 am

Great band performance by your daughter’s band. Sounds like you made some good memories too.

My sister lived in Manhattan down near the statue of liberty for a few years–right after 911–made it very handy to visit NYC. She’s since moved to Chicago. I too think I”d like living in Manhattan –but only if I was rich–which I’m not.

When my kids go to visit they stay at the Hilton not too far from Central Park. They get some good deals there. You might want to check that out if you go back.

Helen said
December 4, 2008 at 1:30 pm

This one made me LOL Charlie. Great descriptions of exactly why we’ve never actually gone to the parade even though we live just 2 hrs. away. And the pumpkin pie thing? Well, this year my sister, mother and I were doing all the cooking and we decided not to have pumpkin pie but have a pumpkin roll instead (plus 2 other pies that I was making). Imagine my surprise when I arrived Thanksgiving Day to a pumpkin roll AND pumpkin pie. My sister proceeds to tell me that her husband threw an actually hissy fit at 10 p.m. when he discovered she had made a pumpkin roll in lieu of pie, so at 10:10 p.m she made one. Charlie, we had 8 adults and 4 desserts. My brother in law could have used you to help with the pie as the one and only slice that was eaten was the one he ate.

Megan said
December 4, 2008 at 8:11 pm

I enjoyed every minute of this post! I feel like I took a little trip myself!