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Of Thanksgiving Day Parades and Friends in Exile

| November 28, 2013

You had to be there. (Selby B.)

You had to be there. (Selby B.)

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.

pierre tristam flaglerlive editor's blogBut 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.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here.

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6 Responses for “Of Thanksgiving Day Parades and Friends in Exile”

  1. Rocky Mac says:

    This is so funny. mom just came for dinner and she went on and on about the lousy parade this morning because of the commercials and the commentators and Victoria Secret model fom outer space.

  2. Gobstopped says:

    I had the privilege of marching in the 1987 parade with my high school band. COMPLETELY different vantage point than what is shown on the boob tube (it’s called that for a reason). We were the first marching unit so we had no one holding us back. We got to Macy’s about 15 minutes ahead of schedule and had to just stand there while some lip-synching star or Broadway cast finished up. Weirdest part of the parade? The end. You turn right past Macy’s and the thing just fizzles out. Kind of anti-climatic.

  3. orphan says:

    I have had some serious issues with your philosophy regarding MANY issues, Pierre, but because of this article I have to stand strong with you.
    I have dropped cable tv in favor of an antenna that allows me to watch about 1 hour of “ME” tv when I want to (I can watch as much as I want)
    What you are bitching about now is something that I have bitched about for years! Why do those idiots in production think that I need to hear/watch two people talking over the top of each other when ONE person can tell me what they are trying to tell me? I don’t need to hear giggles or see pretty faces. Just show me or tell me what you think I need to know and STFU!

  4. Indian Jewish Princess chef says:

    The once-a-year Tristam pilgrimage to our humble abode was always considered one of the highlights of our year. The jury is still out on the success of our Promised Land experience. But one thing is for certain, our day of thanks is not the same nor will it be ever without the Arab-Jewish camaraderie. Turkey was foregone for us as well, er, well for me as the Jewish princes never partake due to their strange eating habits. As always, you, Cheryl and the kids are not far from our thoughts as your family is among those things for which we are thankful most.

  5. Joe E says:

    Really! It was on NBC too. You could have changed the channel.

  6. Liana G says:

    Last year when we moved to NY we did all the NYC must do – the Macy’s Parade thing along with the Annual Tree Lighting and the Time Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. This year we we couldn’t even be bothered to watch the Macy’s Parade on tv. The live experience was too traumatizing with all the people squished together like sardines, whining kids, rude adults, and the whole set up cordoned off like a military base with all the defense/enforcement presence. We also do not plan on repeating the other two, either. Instead, we’re heading for a cabin in the woods away from the all the people, loudness, cage like environment, and this dirty and smelly city. People are nasty and have no manners whatsoever, always hawking up and spitting their disgusting grime in public anywhere, everywhere, and in front of everyone.

    One of the things that my kids like about living in NY is that they are always complimented on their nice manners. And this was surprising to them since they always thought they were rude. They say now they act even more southern since they feel like ambassadors of their states and cultures – being born and raised (so far) in both the south and west.

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