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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Third Grade Liar

One cold blistery Maine winter morning, I climbed my way up the rickety stairs of my elementary school.
I joined the line of third grade girls on the left side of the staircase, as one the the teachers was heading down.
“Renee, how was your weekend?” She cheerfully asked me.
I thought for a moment before slowly and sadly reached up touching my throat. In the raspiest most pained whisper I could muster up said “I had my tonsils out.”

Maybe I was trying to test my acting ability. Maybe I was an eight year old chronic liar. Or maybe it was the earliest beginnings of me becoming the giant attention whore I am today. Any way you look at it, I had most definitely not had my tonsils taken out.

The teacher looked very surprised and shocked. She quickly told the other third grade teachers what I had said. The next thing I knew they were all surrounding me making a huge fuss and asking for details. Shocked at the big deal this was becoming,I answered the questions in my fake pained whispers. The sympathy for me was growing by the minute.
Some of my classmates asked what was going on, and the teacher announced to all of the kids that I had had my tonsils out. Then all of the kids started asking me questions. Did it hurt? Did I get presents?
After I told everyone how great it was to eat ice cream, and be put to sleep for surgery, I came dangerously close to getting busted by Mrs. Clark.
“I thought the hospital didn’t do surgery on weekends?” She asked.
My eight year old brain started to panic to provide an answer.
Fifty people now knew about my fake tonsil removal and I now had to maintain the lie. Racking my brain for an answer, I finally blurted out. “Well, someone in my family works there so they made special arrangements for me.” She believed me. Phew. Relieved I finally made my way in line up the stairs and into my classroom.

During my class's art period, it was announced that the class was going to make get well cards for me. Awesome!
I was starting to like school being all about me all day.
I got some cute cards.
As the class worked diligently with crayons and construction paper, I relayed them with tales of all of the gifts I got in the hospital. Flowers, a dream builders set and gummi bears.
It was the most successful and ballsy improv experiment I had ever attempted. I was on fire with my imaginary stories and it was going off without a hitch. I had made all of my peers want to go home and have there tonsils out asap.

When it came time for afternoon recess, I made my way to the coat rack, and put my coat and gloves on.
“Where is your hat?” Mrs. Clark asked me inquisitively.
I hadn’t worn a hat to school that day, and told her so.
“I cannot believe your mother would send you to school after having your tonsils out with no hat in this weather!” she exclaimed.
“Me either!” I said, totally throwing my mother under the bus without a second thought. Mrs. Clark found a hat for me to wear in the lost and found bag. It was a boy hat with orange foamy spikes. I put it on, knowing fully having to wear it was punishment from Jesus for lying.

After a half hour of recess things took a turn for the worst. The teachers had been chatting excitedly in a group and glancing at me angrily. “Oh shit!” I thought. “I’ve been found out.”
“Renee, can you come over here?”
I moved slowly toward the group of teachers knowing that my game was over and I was going to be in deep crap. My orange foamy spike hat bobbled in the wind, and I was never going to get that ice cream cake I was hoping for.
The teachers stared me down, as I did my slow walk of shame through towards them through the playground. I stopped in front of them and Mrs. Clark harshly began to oust me.
“We called your mother to find out why you didn’t have a hat to wear today.
She told us that you never had your tonsils out at all! Why did you lie to everyone!?”

I told them I didn’t know why, and then they made me apologize to everyone.
I was so humiliated, but all I could think was “how could I have forgotten my hat!?”

At the end of the school day my very angry mother stood waiting for me at the bus stop. With my hat.
“What is wrong with you?!” She yelled
“I don’t know what is wrong with you but I am taking you to the Dr. right now to get your brain looked at- you stupid ass.”
We got in a taxi (my mother had no drivers license) and before I knew it I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office getting interrogated. The Dr. actually seemed more amused than concerned, smirking as my mother made me tell my story.
My Mom even made her check my tonsils.
After a brief out of the room private conversation, the Dr told my Mom that I was fine and just testing my limits.
We made our way down the long dim hall and waited for our taxi to get back home.
After a few minutes I interrupted the thick awkward silence.

“Mom…..can we get some ice cream on the way home?”

Thursday, January 20, 2011

There's A Nickel In My Pantyhose?

This morning my alarm clock went off so early that it wasn't even light out yet.
After swearing allot and hitting snooze a couple of times, I dragged myself out of bed to get ready for my temp job interview in Midtown.
I quickly got dressed in my black business dress,blazer and nude pantyhose with classic black heels.

Going to job interviews in NYC during the winter is sucktastic, because you can't wear boots to change out of unless you want to look like a big bag lady.
So to counteract my practically bare legs, I bundled up from the legs up and headed to Times Square.
By the time I got on the crosstown shuttle I was still half asleep and reading my AM NY with my iphone headset on.

Not more than a minute or two had gone by when I noticed a man in his mid thirties out of the corner of my eye.
He was pointing down toward my right leg.
When men on the subway try to get my attention, I generally ignore it because 8 times out of 10 it is a pervert and I will get flashed some shlong.
Since this guy looked classy and not perverted,I popped out my headset to find out what he was motioning at.
I slowly looked down at my right leg expecting to see a gigantic rip in my hose, mud on my leg,gum or maybe dog crap on my shoe.

Through my pre caffeine morning grog, my eyes slowly gazed down to the outside of my right calf, where I saw the weirdest and most unexpected thing.

A Nickel.

The nickel was lodged between my leg and pantyhose for all the world to see.
I actually stared at it for a moment in disbelief, before wondering how the hell a nickel had become lodged in my nylons, let alone stay in place on my leg.
I was also trying to figure out how, without going to a public bathroom I would get it out.

I started laughing, and said thank you to the guy (hereon referred to as Mr. Nickel) who pointed it out.
When the train let out at Grand Central I decided the best time saving option was to let it drop down under my hose into my high heel, and keep it in my shoe until I got home to change.

As I walked up the staircase Mr Nickel was climbing the stairs near me and said "Sorry if I offended you, I just wasn't sure if you knew it was there. You have a beautiful smile by the way".
I thanked him and laughed again, sort of embarrassed-saying that I had no idea how it had gotten there but appreciated him letting me know.

I quickly made my way above ground and into the bright morning light. I finally reached the building several blocks later after walking with the very uncomfortable nickel in my heel.
As I entered the lobby and waited for my elevator several people heading up to work in the building joined me.
Suddenly the revolving doors swirled open again and guess who walked in?
Mr. Nickel.

The sun beamed in behind him as we both did a double take in disbelief.
"You're kidding me" he said "I cannot believe we are going to the same place."
I told Mr Nickel I was headed up to the temp agency for an interview, and he told me he worked on a lower floor at the Real Estate Co.
If he hadn't been wearing a wedding ring, I would have assumed he was a creepy stalker weirdo trying to hit on me.
We chatted a bit on the elevator and he told me that I had an amazing energy and he could tell I would make it big.
We laughed again about the nickel and he said it must be my good luck charm.

Upon finally getting home, I happily peeled off my hose to get the nickel dislodged from my foot.
As it dropped to the floor a bright silver light reflecting glow eerily bounced off of it.

I picked it up and looked closer, and noticed the date.

It was from 1984- the year I was born.

As my day progressed, oddly enough, good things kept happening.
I'm not sure how that nickel ended up in my pantyhose, but I am keeping it around for now on.
After all, I can use all the good luck I can get.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Diary of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade banner carrier

I love parades. When I was a child I would be in every local parade I could, dressing up to be on floats as Cinderella or with the local library.
I was always big attention whore, and that has not changed much.
After I moved to NYC I fell in love with the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade the first time I saw it. The following year and for the past seven I have work on it as a marshall. While working one Halloween, I met someone who loves parades even more than I. Jerry ("The Parade Guy") has worked on nearly every parade in the country and has a great website
He got me involved with staging the NYC Dance Parade and Coney Island's famous Mermaid Parade.
It is really fun to experience a parade from inside the barricades looking out vs looking in at it. It makes you appreciate all of the detail and work in staging areas that goes into making it seamless-or a hot mess in some cases.

Even with all those years of parading experience under my belt, I tried unsuccessfully every year to work on the king of all parades. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Since childhood I had watched the gigantic balloons and Tom Turkey on TV with awe
When I finally saw the parade for the first time in person, I loved how magical it was live.
But my yearly inquiry's to volunteer to be a part of this parade were met with rejection for seven years.
I finally found out that anyone who wants to volunteer to work on or be in Macy's parade must be a employee of the company or be sponsored by one and complete an application process with the entertainment department. 

That said, I finally found my "in" when working on The Mermaid Parade with a Macy's organizer last spring. He agreed to sponsor me, and I was assigned to be a "banner carrier" (which I chose over balloon handler). The float escort and costumed people seemed more coveted and already full.

The night before Thanksgiving I went to Central Park to watch the balloon blow up. It was a crazy mob scene of people and screaming kids, but worth drudging through.

The next morning, I would have to be up and checked into The New Yorker Hotel at 5am sharp.
Below is My Thanksgiving Day Parade diary. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Day 2010
4:00am. Alarm clock from hell goes off. It's still dark out, I have a wine hangover, I can't get out of bed this early. I want to die or kill myself but still get in the shower. I try to calculate how many layers of clothing I will need to stay warm on the parade route and decide on the following: socks, spanks, footless tights, leggings and leg-warmers. By the time I'm all dressed I can hardly move like the Christmas Story kid, and decide I may have over-layered.

4:30 am:The subway really smells like fresh homeless man pee this early doesn't it? I wait and wait for the train that I am convinced will never arrive. 25 minutes later it does, and it's surprisingly full of other people-mainly tourists heading to watch the parade.

5:15am: The fact that I'm a bit late to the hotel doesn't seem to matter. Huge lines of parade participants are outside the hotel and we are grouped by our assignments. Everyone is super friendly and cheerful for 5 am. I am grouchy, tired and want some coffee or I might put a pin in the kermit balloon.

5:45am:After having checked in with four people, I was led into the bright hotel lobby. Hundreds of people in crazy clown, princess, cheese, teddy bear and bird costumes milled around excitedly. I was led up to the third floor where the banner carriers had a specific wardrobe area. The costume racks were well organized with our names on our pre sized costumes, hats, earmuffs and gloves. After getting into my Macy's garb I looked over the balcony at everyone below getting into fun outrageous costumes and felt excited for the first time.

6:30 am With some downtime I finally get my coffee and breakfast at a deli across the street, which perks me up a bit. My urge to stab the happy Thanksgiving people subsides slightly. I chill for about 40 minutes before we are all led onto yellow school buses to take us up to the parade starting point. It was surreal getting on this bus with costumed Macy's parade characters. I sat next to a giant block, and we took off to the start point uptown.

7:15am: After sitting in traffic a bit we are all dumped off uptown and walk through the balloon holding area, to a staging area. Since I was on one of the late busses when I got to the banner carrier area there were not many banner options left. I got to choose from the remaining ones and decide if I would rather walk toward the front or back of the parade. I went with someone I had never heard of toward the front: Takashi Murakami who was float #13A.

7:45am:Every ten minutes or so the balloons above and next to me launch with an exciting countdown and cheer, as a voice booms "KERMIT THE FROG, YOU MAY NOW JOIN THE PARADE!" taking them into the parade route. I felt like a five year old again as Kermit, Elf's, Spiderman and Panda floated around high above me.

8:30am: All of the banner carriers are lined up in order of our floats. We chat and exchange glove hot packs to keep warm. The excitement starts to build up ahead as t.v. segments start to film live, and the parade starting line ribbon is rolled out to be cut. The floats in the staging area move foreword and Tom Turkey pulls up directly in front of me. Between this and the balloons up above I feel like I am in a surreal Thanksgiving dream.

9:30am: After having a front row seat inches away from the parade going by, it is finally my turn to join. I get a bit nervous as I take my solo banner onto the street and face the thousands of people and cameras ahead. Takashi waves to me and his float drivers say hi. They are all super excited to see his banner for the first time. His camera crews take a ton of video and photos of us all together. The NBC announcer broadcasts "Takashi, welcome to the parade!" and we start down the route.

10:15 It is amazing to walk inside the Macy's parade and see the families with babies to 95 year old grandmas making holiday memories. Everyone waves and wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving from the crowd. By this point I am ear to ear smiles and having so much fun. No one knows who the heck Takashi is but the audience cheers to be polite. He has some really cool giant balloons of his design floating behind us, and I have to look back very often to make sure I stop for the spinning balloon choreography. Keeping a correct parade pace is harder than it seems, but I have a great marching band ahead, and will hear jingle bells played 300 times in a row. Over forty blocks later I realize I have really over layered and am sweating. The only thing freezing were my toes.

10:45am: We approach the mecca of the parade area: Macy's Herald Square.
Because of the tv performances on the green, we are held for at least twenty minutes here and prepared by the producers as to what to do when we reach the prime broadcast area.
When I approach I am instructed on where to stop and for how long as they announce Takashi for tv. Over ten boom cameras rise overhead, and paparazzi surrounds us. Afterward we head toward 8th Avenue and are herded quickly forward, as the floats are instructed turn off and head back uptown. Takashi and his crew wave goodbye to me and wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. I drop my banner in the banner pile and walk back toward the New Yorker Hotel. My job is finished.

11:30am: After exiting in costume, a huge crown of public is on 9th avenue waiting for a last chance view of the parade, and cheering wildly as we exit the route. For ten minutes I take photos with children and public before heading back into the hotel. I could have seen the rest of the parade from a front row view but my toes were so frozen, I just wanted to get inside and out of my spanks and pee.

11:45am: After being welcomed back with water bottles and snacks, I change out of my banner carrier costume, return it to its hanger and get comfy. I am given a couple of gifts before heading out including an official 84th year participant pin. Through all the craziness and the parade still going on, I hop on the downtown train and head back home to Brooklyn for a nice nap.

Later in the afternoon, as I put my bird in the oven, I watched the parade on DVR. Unfortunately I didn't end up on the broadcast but could see myself in a few quick snippets.
Overall being a participant in the Macy's parade was a childhood dream come true, and a very, very surreal dreamlike experience which I will never forget. If you ever have the opportunity to be in the parade, do it! It is magical:)