Tonight is the night before Thanksgiving. And if you're a New Yorker, it's the night they blow up the balloons for the Macy's Day Parade. It's an event, seeing the balloons being inflated, and since my daughters were small enough to perch on my shoulders, I've been taking them to the spectacle.
Macy's takes over two wide blocks--two two-way streets on the north and south sides of the Museum of Natural History, as staging areas. Here's where they park their equipment and begin the long, slow inflation process. The crowds teem through heavily guarded police iron saw-horses to get a glimpse of Charlie Brown or Sponge Bob. Pokemon or Spiderman. And probably a dozen or two more.
As a lifelong New Yorker, I refuse to wait among the crowds. I pick out a cop, walk over to him and say, "This is the worst day of the year if you live here." Then I tell him I live in 25 W. 81st or 40 W. 77th, and they shoo me in ahead of the masses.
Unfair, I know.
But there have to be some perks in being a native. I guess brass balls is one of them.
Tonight my kids are in town for the holiday and we got them tickets to see "The Book of Mormon" on Broadway. After the show we all met up at a Starbucks on 75th and Broadway and walked over to 77th Street to see the balloons.
The noise of the crowds, the flashing bulbs, the police lights, the kids screaming, the kleigs illuminating whole blocks was intense.
New York as the world's playground. Stormed by a million tourists. The crush. The vibrancy.
And then, my wife and I headed east, toward home.
The streets were barricaded off and no traffic was running. We walked across an empty Central Park cushioned by a billion fallen leaves.
There was quiet. And there was more.
It was a cool, vividly clear night and the lit skyscrapers looked like towers out of a 1930s silver gelatin print.
It was noisy in New York tonight. It was all pushing and shoving and laughing and gaping.
It was quiet in New York tonight. The quiet of emptiness accentuated by a million people just a block or two away. The quiet of hooves on cobblestones. The quiet of footsteps in the park.
Both New Yorks were my New York.