Then, a little less than a year ago, she suggested that we make that dream a reality and commit to going, this year.
So we committed...and we went. The other night we got back, and let me say this: New York City is an astonishing, amazing place. I loved it so much that I really hate the fact that I'm not still there, right now. But hey: it's not going anywhere, right? So we'll be back. Meantime, I've got pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I'll break these up over a few posts, but I'm also putting them below the fold. Onward!
First, I bought a new camera. It's really nice, but I haven't figured out all of its various bells-and-whistles yet.
In particular, I need to study its shooting modes, because there were places where I didn't have the right mode selected, so the photos didn't turn out so well. For the most part, though, the photos turned out very well, so I'm happy.
We took the Amtrak train from Buffalo to NYC. It took eight hours, but the Amtrak ride is more pleasant than an airplane, and you get to take more luggage on board. And you can bring food from outside on board, too, which was nice. I really prefer rail travel to air travel, but I'll spare you all for now a rant about my ongoing frustration with our country's failure to embrace high-speed rail. [shakes fist at sky]
We arrived at Penn Station in Manhattan in the middle of the afternoon, and then we had to get on the PATH Train to Jersey City. The PATH Train is a separate subway system, independent of the New York City subways, which runs between a few stops in Manhattan and a few on the Jersey side of the Hudson -- mainly it's a commuter rail. The PATH station is two blocks east of Penn Station, so I was nervous about dragging all our luggage through Manhattan. Turns out I needn't have worried at all. People in NYC pull luggage and stuff with them all the time. I doubt we stood out in any way whatsoever.
So onto the PATH Train we went, crossing to Jersey City and checking into our hotel. We didn't go into the city at all that first night, choosing instead to explore the shopping mall next door to the hotel and eat before retiring, because the next morning was Thanksgiving, and we had to be up really early to get a good spot on the parade route. Which we did: we were almost in the front row (inasmuch as there were 'rows'), right there on 6th Avenue, just up the street from Macy's and Herald Square. In fact, we were a little too close: we were in the "Quiet Zone", where bands and music groups weren't allowed to perform because the sound would bleed through the microphones at the area where the parade telecast was produced. I tried not to reflect on the fact that I was only a few blocks away from Matt Lauer, and I was mostly successful.
Off I went in search of coffee, and as I crossed the street to a little market, I discovered that the sun was rising:
That was the first in a series of "Hey, look at that!" moments that livened our entire trip as we discovered one cool thing after another.
We waited two hours for the parade to start. This sounds like torture, but oddly...it wasn't. We were still dumbstruck by the sheer size of the city and its buildings (I mean, it's not like we haven't been in really big cities before, but we don't get to them very often), and just listening to the crowd around us was interesting. There was a British family discussing James Bond movies with a clan from Pennsylvania, and I waited for an opportunity to interject some good words on George Lazenby's behalf, but the subject didn't come up. The conversation wasn't helped by the American guy's habit of getting names wrong (Mary Redgrave, Edward Attenborough). I do like people-watching, and there was two hours of good people-watching and building-admiring before the parade. And helicopters above us. And lots of police, including the happiest police dog I've ever seen. That dog was thrilled to be working.
(BELOW: I'm surprised my camera isolated the helicopter's rotor blades like that!)
Then the parade got underway.
(ABOVE: The first of a lot of marching bands. It's too bad we only got to hear them from a distance. I always had a love-hate relationship with marching in school; I personally hated doing it, but a good marching band is cool to watch. Maybe I'd have liked it better if my high school wasn't so half-assed about it. My music teachers clearly didn't give two shits about marching and only did it because of civic expectation or some such thing.)
(ABOVE: Scrat from Ice Age, still chasing his acorn. This balloon is really cool.)
(ABOVE: The approach of Hello Kitty. I always think Hello Kitty is a neat icon.)
(ABOVE: The Goldieblox float. No idea what Goldieblox is? Me either!)
(BELOW: Lots of celebrities in the parade, as always...and I didn't know who most of them were! Like this fellow. No idea whatsoever.
(BELOW: From a distance, Spongebob looks cool. Up close, he's a tad creepy.)
(BELOW: African costume. I would have loved to see a lot more of this.)
(BELOW: This balloon is magnificent. Easily my favorite; I love the look of this thing. I did have to ask The Daughter who it is, though. It's something from the Skylanders videogame.)
(ABOVE: I honestly have no idea what this was representing, but it looks neat!)
(BELOW: Jump-ropers...or is that rope-jumpers? Anyway, they were impressive, even if you really need video footage to get the effect. Hard to capture it in a photo.)
BELOW: This turtle's face put me in mind of the two-headed dragon in Willow.)
(ABOVE: The Circus World Museum float. They stopped in front of us for a couple minutes -- the parade does a lot of stop-and-start as performing groups do their thing in front of Macy's for the teevee folks. There was a juggler on the float who gave a brief display of his skill; this interested me, as juggling is actually a plot point in the book I'm currently writing!
BELOW: The approach of Toothless the Dragon!)
(BELOW: This band, the Lewis Cass High School Marching Band from Indiana, had my favorite costuming of all the bands in the parade. Note the color guard, dressed in Army drab-colored dresses and helmets. This was very creative.)
(BELOW: Sofia Carson. No, I don't know who Sofia Carson is, but I took a really nice photo of her, didn't I?)
(BELOW: Toothless the Dragon, in all his impressive glory. My second-favorite balloon!)
(ABOVE: As we were in the Quiet Zone, we only got to hear the bagpipers from a distance. Next time, we grab a spot farther up! Viva la bagpipes!)
(BELOW: Here comes Pikachu!)
(BELOW: Christian band Mercy Me was on this float. How they tie into Mt. Rushmore, I'm not sure. At the moment of shutter-snap, it looks like Teddy is smacking Old Abe in the jaw.)
(ABOVE: That's Pat Benatar! One of my 80s rock music icons. Her float was actually fantastic, a rendition of the famous stone bridge in Central Park, but I screwed up my photography at this point and didn't get a great shot of the entire float, alas.)
(ABOVE: A balloon of Virginia, the girl who wrote the letter to the editor asking if Santa was real.
BELOW: The Macy's locomotive, run by young women in overalls and a fellow who looks suspiciously like George RR Martin. YOU SHOULD BE WRITING, GEORGE!!!)
(BELOW: During a lull in the action, a University of Illinois Marching Band trumpet player opens her water key, even though she hasn't played in a while. This is something that trumpet players do, almost absent-mindedly, when sitting there doing nothing. I'm glad to see this is still true of this generation of trumpet players!
There was a guy to my right, incidentally, who must have been a saxophone player, because every time a band went by, at the precise moment the sax players marched by, he'd give a lusty cry of "SAXOPHONE!" Which is kind of weird, but hey, solidarity comes in all forms.)
(BELOW: Snoopy! Although I don't really care for his balloon. He looks like a flying white whale, to be honest.)
(BELOW: And then, OMG IT'S MARIAH CAREY! And my god, she is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Not like that's a news flash, but...well, wow. She was also clearly a bit rattled in the nerves by being so high up. The second photo gives and idea of how far up she was perched, and I have to think that float rattled and wobbled back and forth a bit.)
(BELOW: Finally, The Man himself arrives! And oddly, in each of my shots of him, either Mrs. Claus's head was in front of his, or he was leaning the other way, alas! Still, what a great float.)
And with Santa's ride-by, the parade ended. But Thanksgiving did not! More to come in another post.