Of Thanksgiving Day Parades and Friends in Exile
FlaglerLive | November 28, 2013
We made the mistake of watching the Macy’s Day Parade from (since we couldn’t be in) Manhattan this morning, which none of us in my house had attempted since becoming old enough to know better. I’m sure the parade itself was irresistible: colossal balloons ambling down Sixth Avenue’s glass and steel canyons, floats the size of small Great Plains towns, clowns the size of childhood frights, marching bands performing in the only place in the world where marching bands actually sound good, even a few fractional Indians (from Upstate’s Oneida Indian Nation), whose claim on this day–as on this land–was once at least half theirs.
But that’s not what we were allowed to see. The mistake was CBS’s coverage, an intolerable format that reduced the actual parade to a footnote. Even by banking up time on the DVR to skip through epic commercial breaks, promos, teasers and catastrophic puns, what we saw the majority of the time were two imbecilic hosts: a pasty-faced white woman in red gloves and Alfred E. Neuman dentures and a generically dapper black guy who sounded more bleached than the pasty-faced woman. It was one of the few bits of magic that CBS managed to make those two look, sound and taste as identical as two Splenda-laced Pillsbury dough puffs, both of whose names I thankfully don’t know since I’m allergic to television news in any format.
The twins proceeded to hemorrhage over the screen with verbal Prozac at the expense of street-level scenes in one of the most remarkable displays of narcissism since Donald Trump began cluttering neighboring avenues with his phallic high-rises. We could tell that parade creations were passing by from real or imagined glimpses of color in the background, but the biggest balloons we kept seeing were the mugs of those twins, their lips flapping no less mechanically than if they’d been strung up by handlers below. When they weren’t talking over each other, the twins were interviewing one CBS TV actor after another, plugging their shows and indulging in the kind of third-rate talk-show chatter that makes sports radio sound like NPR. And when they weren’t all plugs and lithium, the twins cut to the Ed Sullivan Theater, sans Letterman, for equally discrepant performances by a properly jean-torn rock band or to a studio for culinary tips or to a Broadway stage for more corks up the publicity ass of one show or another. Janis Joplin must’ve barfed up Nixon-era heroin in her grave when her Bobby McGee was so shamelessly adulterated. Playing Janis Joplin sober and before noon is like reading St. Paul’s epistles at Lilith Fair. You just don’t do it.
And on it went while somewhere not far the rumor of a parade furled on.
The three miles of the parade route are glitter enough if we’d been allowed to see them: starting at 77th Street along Central Park West, five blocks north of the Dakota apartments (on whose sidewalk John Lennon was assassinated in 1980), then down 6th Avenue (in whose corporate towers “Imagine” is assassinated every day), all the way to 34th Street, within awing distance of the Empire State Building (the true king of Manhattan skyscrapers, now that the so-called Freedom Tower at Ground Zero has proved to be such runt of a replacement for the Twin Towers), hanging a left to Herald Square, in front of the old Macy’s. Manhattan holds more beauty and energy and meaningful history, so much of it current, in the space of a few blocks than all of Paris and Prague put together, if you care to see, if you let it speak to you. But those two drones on CBS wouldn’t allow it.
I was dreaming of a C-Span sort of parade coverage: three or four cameras, just the route, just the acts, no goddamn commentators, no commercial interruptions. Let New York be New York. By the third hour we figured out the next best thing. NBC had by far the better vantage point and the better approach. Matt Lauer’s pretentious scruff and Al Roker’s skeletal showiness aside, the hosts inflicted their mugs on us only at rare intervals and the cameras remained trained on the parade grounds’ final stop in front of Macy’s. The DVR came in handy, passing through the commercials and the odd Lauer whisker. There was little else to skip, if it’s the parade we wanted to watch. No shameless plugs, no idiotic cut-aways to plastic studios. The sun rose for the second time today.
By then too I was smelling aromas of sweet potato soup gurgling from downstairs, with hints of bacon, Cheryl’s prelude to our own Thanksgiving Day parade of good eats. Third sunrise, with more to come before dusk. For the first time in–what, ever?–we vetoed devouring a turkey for the occasion. We were in the habit of spending our Thanksgiving in Ormond Beach, at the home of good friends whose Jewish nebulas, mixed with my Arab ones, made for a perfect reenactment of the first Thanksgiving (if Woody Allen had directed it), or the pre-enactment of a Thanksgiving yet to come in that bedraggled Holy Land of ours, assuming our ancestral idiots–Arabs and Jews both—finally figure out that all the spilled blood from here to Masada and back isn’t worth a matza spread of cranberry jam.
But our friends left. They decided to reenact Mose’s years in the wilderness by mistaking Pennsylvania for a latter-day Promised Land. No Java Joint. No ocean. No Arab interludes. Just Tom Corbett. Since they’re still in their Sinai and we’re not yet over the sorrow of losing our own Promised Mom a few days ago–or the temporary loss of a daughter who self-abducted to a weird breed of Midwestern aliens for an indeterminate spell–we figured we’d skip incinerating a turkey and have Chinese and Beaujolais Nouveau instead. It’ll take us at least a couple of bottles to recover from this morning’s waterboarding at the hands of the CBS twins. Besides, we’re in the habit of reenacting Thanksgiving in one way or another on most of the remaining 364 days of the year.