Sunday, May 17, 2009
I Love A Parade
Happy Norwegian Day.
The annual Norwegian Day parade is going on in Bay Ridge today and from what I saw the turnout was pretty good.
The parade is one my favorite signs of spring and it usually means my birthday is not far behind.
That used to be a good thing but as my birth year becomes more and more distant, I’m finding fewer and fewer reasons to be cheerful. But I do love a parade.
I was coming home from a night away and I had no idea what all the noise was about until I saw the people in plastic Viking helmets. Oh, yeah...
I was holding two bags of groceries and I had to wait for a gap in the parade before I could dash...lurch...across the street.
I had dinner at a Thai restaurant in Manhattan with my best bud Hank on Thursday—the day before his birthday—and as I walked into the place I had this feeling of deja vu. Then it came to me.
I had eaten lunch here in 1997, my first day on the job at Adweek, where I first met Hank. I had just moved back to New York from Waterbury, Conn. and had recently turned 40 and was still clinging to a few strands of my hair.
“That’s right,” Hank said when I reminded him. “I didn’t know what to make of you back then.”
I remember talking briefly with Hank at that lunch and then we sat at different ends of the table.
I was starting a new job in my old town a dozen years ago and I felt like a cross between the streetwise kid from Brooklyn and Gomer Pyle gawking at all the tall buildings and purty woman.
I remember coming out of that restaurant and turning on to Broadway for the walk back to the office through Times Square.
I couldn’t believe the mobs of people swirling around—yes, I know Times Square, crossroads of the world and all that stuff, but still, there were a hell of a lot of people walking around.
My last gig at my paper in Waterbury had been at the bureau in Naugatuck, Conn., where my lunchtime routine consisted of walking down the main street (Was it actually called Main Street? I forget now.) to a local deli and walking back, during which I saw about three people, two moving cars, and the occasional stray dog.
Usually I saw the mailman driving by in his truck, blasting Rush Limbaugh’s drug addled perjury as if we all needed to hear this bilge. I also saw where the town actually ended. Now that I was back in New York, all I saw was people and skyscrapers.
My parents were still alive back then, still reasonably healthy. I had big plans, of course. I was going to get an apartment in Manhattan, publish my novel, and make a film that would bring me worldwide attention and untold wealth.
You’ll probably be shocked to learn that none of those things came to pass, at least not yet anyway.
The World Trade Center was still visible in the New York skyline back then and I wouldn’t hear the name Osama bin Laden for several more years yet.
The economy was booming then, rents were skyrocketing and Wall Street executives ruled. I didn't know about credit default swaps, or derivatives, or "complex financial products."
The city had become a much friendlier place, quite different from the one I had left 10 years earlier.
I visited New York nearly every weekend during my time in Pennsylvania and Connecticut, but I wasn't living there and so I didn't appreciate the change until I was actually back in the New York groove.
My parents are gone now, along with the trade center and all the hair on my head. We all know what happened to the economy. I didn’t last long at Adweek, but I got my friendship with Hank out of it so things worked out just fine.
Bay Ridge has changed a lot since then as the Muslim population here has grown to a point where mosques and signs in Arabic are common.
My block is mostly Chinese now and as I was heading to the train station Friday morning, a woman stepped out of her front door with a handful of burning incense and began waving it in front of her.
I suppose this is intended to bring good luck and I found it rather comforting even though I’m not a Buddhist. I’m not Norwegian, but I still enjoy the parade.
I walked by an empty storefront on Fifth Avenue last week—too many of those around here for my taste—and I saw a sign that said “Psychic Reader Coming Sone.” I hope the psychic’s readings are better than her spelling.
I think that place used to be a typewriter repair store many years ago, back when people used typewriters. And read newspapers. And they didn’t email, Twitter, IM or blog.
Cell phones were around—not for me yet—but if you said “Ipod” to anyone back then they would have thought you were talking about a garden or a science fiction movie.
I went by the store yesterday and saw the place had been painted and there were signs advertising “Face Readings” and “Love Readings.”
Being a terminal smart-ass, I thought of a reading that went “With a face like that you can forget about love.” I probably won’t be opening a psychic reading parlor any time sone.
Things have changed and many of them not for the better, and it can be depressing to look back over all those years and think about how I haven't reached so many of my goals.
That's why I love a parade.