Saturday, November 29, 2008


There's a scene in a Woody Allen movie - Zelig maybe? Definitely black and white - at  any rate it's a chase scene, staged amongst  inflated, monolithic balloons as they wait for the Macy's Parade. 

I (clearly) don't quite remember the details, or how this particular moment fit into the undoubtedly neurosis-filled plot, but I do have a vivid memory of men racing around these giant, alien, globs, casting bizarre shadows as they hid behind one bulge and scurried to another.

History has not stayed true to Woody Allen's vision. At all.

In a move similar to hitting Time's Square on New Year's Eve, hubby and I decided to take the boys to see the balloons being inflated for the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Actually - it was worse than Times Square. We never would have attempted to push a double-stroller down 42nd street at midnight.

Thousands - what felt like hundreds of thousands - had the same idea.  

We made it to 79th street, and even across Columbus avenue (which itself took about 30 minutes.) But as we turned the corner, caught in the swell of the inexorably moving crowd, the boys seeing nothing but a sea of denim-clad knees, we opted to cut and run. The chaos. The crowd. The cold. The schlep. It just wasn't worth it. We turned a sharp left, pushing our way past the barricade to the relative calm of the crosswalk.

That's when she stopped me.  40s(50s?).  Nice coat (fur?). Nice hair.  ($400 cut and color).  
"You have kids, right?" I must have looked at her blankly. "Your kids? These yours?" She gestured to the stroller. I nodded.

"You look miserable. You should come with me. Otherwise this is a waste."  She waved a piece of paper -  cream, card stock, embossed, red ink.   Then she turned to a cop on the far side of the street.  "They're with me. Let them through."

With a magic worthy of Ali Baba, the 'private viewing,' 'residents only' barricade opened, and we were shuttled through as our savior disappeared down the block (to her apartment? a party?)

It was a different world on the other side of the street. 

Instead of throngs, there were neighbors. Instead of kids perched on teetering shoulders, straining to see something, anything, there were a few leaning against a fence while others dashed up and down the sidewalk shouting "I see Dora! I see the Energizer Bunny!"

We let the boys out of their stroller and they, too, raced up and down - pointing at the balloons, eyes widening as they saw a giant Smurf rise up from the blacktop.

It was New York magic, of the oh-my-god-I-can't- believe-how-lucky-we-were, variety.  The kind of thing that lets karma circulate, from the taxi driver who drops off a lost wallet, to the no-fee apartment real estate tip that truly pans out. 

Of course, we're not going to press our luck. We know better now, and karma is a fleeting friend. We will never, ever, try to go to that place on that night, ever, ever again. 

(Unless, of course, we move to 79th street.)

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