>Welcome back to the second edition of the chronicle of adventures carried out by me and my friends in New York City (NYC) during the Thanks Giving Weekend (TGW) of 2008. In this narration, I will tell you all about the wonderful experience at Thanks Giving day Parade, my visit to Status of Liberty and the time when I rode a Bull for the first time!!
Disclaimer: All names, places, accounts and events mentioned in the narration can be partially or entirely false. Reading this narrative can cause jealousy towards oneself and sitting ducks syndrome. Other Side effects include loss of time, increased knowledge, read rage and erectile dysfunction.
November 28: A New Beginning
First Day at the magical city of New York was marked by tardiness. We woke up later than what we had planned and had to rush up to get to the Macy’s Day Parade, which has been essentially the most significant highlight of Thanks Giving day since its inception way back in 1924. It was started by the employees of Macy’s Department Store who were largely immigrants from Europe who crowded the streets of early 90s New York, when they wanted to celebrate thanks giving similar to their elders back home. In New York, the employees marched to Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street dressed in vibrant costumes. There were floats, professional bands and live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. With an audience of over a quarter of a million people, the parade was such a success that Macy’s declared it would become an annual event and has continued until now, suspended only during World War II. Large animal-shaped balloons produced by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Ohio replaced the live animals in 1927 and the first animal to be featured was Felix- the Cat. Air was replaced by helium for inflating the balloons as more animals, cartoons and other pop culture figures were added in subsequent years – more than 10000 characters have featured in the parade so far- the whole parade is broadcast by NBC throughout US of A and the rest of the world through affiliated networks. The parade starts at about 9 am and we learned that the best spots would be gone as early as 7 am. Like I said, we woke up late and the time was after 8 when finally started. We stopped for some coffee at Dunkin Donuts (which totally rocks) and then took the train at Journal Square. The trains were packed and by the time we got to Columbus Circle, as predicted by the ‘tour guide’ website, the best spots were taken already. Crammed between multinational tourists we would barely be able to see anything that’s not 6 feet tall. But then again, the balloons that feature in the parade are huge ones that float up high in the air, so I was upbeat. The morning was pretty cold and the coffee didn’t help as much as we thought. Grownups held their kids, on their shoulders, who didn’t seem to mind the freezing wind as long as they got to see their giant floating friends. And then the Parade got under way. It was just phenomenal to see all those super-sized balloons gliding in the air, carefully guided by handlers with the strings which were barely visible from where we were standing. There were a wide variety of characters; from McDonald to Mickey to the Smirfs to Hello Kitty it seemed like a never ending line-up of all the childhood characters in giant rubberized form carefully choreographed so as to not hit anything on their way through the crowded streets of New York. Over the years, there have been many incidents during the parade that caused injuries to citizens and public officials due to a balloon hitting light pole or a traffic light but every year the number of people who show up to watch this spectacle never seem to ebb. Other than the balloons and live character artists, there were also performers from various bands and troops who merrily sang, danced and did more as the parade continued through its path. Unfortunately, these performers were real, meaning they were not tall enough for us see them. We could hear there drums beating and trumpets blaring and had to be content with it. Anyhow, it was the first time I was in the Macy’s day Parade and that by itself is huge feat.
The morning weather was frigid. Some of us could hardly stop shivering and our stomachs started to growl for breakfast. We headed out to a diner and after more than half an hour of searching we finally entered a relatively less crowded eatery. Oh… the hot coffee and warm sandwich!! I can still taste it in my mouth. I am not sure if it was the establishment or the weather, but the food tasted divine. We didn’t have much time so, once the food was in our stomach, we booted.
The idea was to go to the American Museum of Natural History and then decide the next spot, but after traveling on foot and by train for more than an hour, we found out it was closed for Thanks Giving Day. Seriously, on a day when tourism is almost at its highest, they shutter down the Museum of Natural History, which Wikipedia calls one of the largest and most celebrated ones. And just outside such a museum, right at the Museum’s entrance, featured prominently, is the large statue of former president T.Roosevelt (26th) regally seated on a horse and, here is the kicker- with an Indian (Native American) man holding his drape on one side, while a Black man holding his foot on the other side.It sounds spectacular, doesn’t it?. What a statue to have in front of one of the most visited Museums in America. Anyway they were closed, so we had to decide what to do next.
The answer came to us via phone. We called the offices of some of the places we were planning to visit and apparently all of the attractions are closed on Thanks giving day. Then we figured, how can you close Statue of Liberty? That’s like closing freedom itself. And that’s where we went.
Actually, its nothing like freedom. It is just a copper statue that holds an iconic place in American history and pop culture owing its fame to its brilliant location and the TV and film media’s obsessive love affair with it. Up until the age of affordable commercial jet-liners Lady Liberty was the first thing visible to travelers arriving at the east coast. She became the symbol of the promised prosperity in the land of the free, as immigrants from nations far and wide poured into the major part of 19th century America and she has never relinquished that title until today.
We took the ferry from Battery Park in NYC after waiting in a long line of multinational tourists and going through a make believe airport-style security check (I had about ten quarters in my pocket, but metal detecter never complained!! ). As you approach the Liberty Island you slowly understand the enormity of the copper woman. Slowly she became bigger and just before the ferry makes a roundabout to dock to the rear of the island, you get the complete view of the statue towering over everything near by with its scale clearly unmasked. The view is exactly as it is shown all those movies. Yup, we all got goose bumps.
Due to security reasons, visitors were not allowed to the observatory in the crown of the statue (recently reopened), and since we were not important, we were not allowed into the 89 feet of granite pedestal. Once you get close to the statue you notice all the little things you didn’t see before. She is not actually standing straight, but slightly moving forward, caught in the frame as she is lifting the heel of her back leg. She is not lean and curvy, but she is more like a strong, middle aged women, like a judge, who can knock down a relatively sized man with ease. Finally she has got a lot of scars throughout her face and her body as result of years of weather treatment.To her side was the inimitable Manhattan skyline, Empire Statue Building to the far left and the Brooklyn Bridge to the extreme right. Its hard not to wonder at works of creativity of this land, as the sun sets in the evening splashing the Liberty Statue with pristine gold shades, the calm ocean mildly splashing the walls as the night lights come up far visible through the hundreds of windows that skin every single sky scraper of Manhattan. I guarantee you, you have never something like that until you have actually seen it.
We kept taking pictures until our hands started to ache and the night began to freeze. Fulfilled, we caught the ferry back to the land and started wandering into the NY streets as the night and street lamps set in.We stopped by the American Stock Exchange, Trinity Church, Wall Street and the WTC construction Site where the freedom tower is in its infant stage and kept walking until we got blinded at a street corner. Apparently we had just reached Time Square.
Yup, The Times Square. It’s called ‘Crossroads of the world’ not without reasons. A staggering 26 million tourists visit the place every year and it is one of the most crowded intersections – 1.7 million people pass through the Times Square every day. It is one of the iconic spots that represent the abundance of technology and wealth of American cities. Once you are there, it doesn’t take a long time to the reason for the hype. It’s hard to find street lights in Times Square and if you have seen any of its pictures, you will know why.Huge LED billboards, called jumbotrons, fixed to the walls the surrounding offices and other establishments pour copious amounts of light of dizzying arrays of colors and intensity. The corporate part of corporate America spared no expense when it came to making this place unique. Officially, signs in Times Square are called “spectaculars”, and the largest of them are called “jumbotrons.” In 1992, the Times Square Alliance (formerly the Times Square Business Improvement District, or “BID” for short), a coalition of city government and local businesses dedicated to improving the quality of commerce and cleanliness in the district, started operations in the area. With a large NYPD presence, Times Square is also very safe. There were marquees for news, movies, restaurants, and everything else you can think of. We stayed there mesmerized for a long time and finally when the spell was broken by our hungry stomachs, we hailed a cab for our dinner reservation.
Wouldn’t you love the sight of whole chicken roasted nicely and placed warm in front of you? I do too. Since turkey is traditionally cooked on Thanksgiving Day, prior to our trip, we had made a reservation on an upscale and relatively pricey (for our financial status) restaurant for a special Thanksgiving Dinner. We hailed a cab and I could almost taste the juicy garlic roasted turkey as we reached the Atlantic Grill. I have to admit, this wasn’t like any of the restaurants I’ve been to. The people inside seemed relatively rich and more importantly behaved upper class. This was new for me since I am more used to , shall we say, lot less upper class food joints. Once we entered a nice looking waitress clad in super white shirt took our jackets (Classy!!) and took us to our table and I enthusiastically ordered the ‘Special Turkey Thanks Giving Dinner’.
I was disappointed. No, let me correct it. I was highly disappointed. The special Turkey thanks Giving Dinner did not feature a whole turkey. In fact it did not even feature a whole of half the turkey. The dish was served with the Turkey neatly sliced and toasted to perfection. I’ll admit the food was impeccable, but no FULL TURKEY!!! Well, at least the ambiance was great and food was awesome.
With filled stomach and heart, we took a cab to Grand Central Station and hailed the train to Nat’s Home. As the train rocked sideways as it moved forward with its distinctive noise, I drifted to rewind mode and soon realized that this was an incredible day. When I first boarded the plane to the US of A three years ago, all that was running my mind was the things that they show on TV about the great places in America. For three years I been to places and done stuff, but this is the holy of hollies filling me with a sense of fulfillment. Today I have, for real, been to the Thanks Giving Parade, Statue of Liberty, Time Square, Grand Central Station and, I almost forgot, I also climbed up the Wall Street Bull.
And this was just day one of this trip. I can’t wait for Tomorrow.
Coming Up: Day two and we head out to Changeville where the newly elected Barack Obama was about to open a can of Hope Syrup. (Yes, I watch ‘The Daily Show’). Make sure to check back soon.