The first sign that I had done my job properly came when a woman on the Upper West Side recognized me as a balloon handler at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
Wearing a white jumpsuit with Pokemon on the front and two letters on the back, I went to meet my fellow fighters for the Picasso balloon.
The costume felt fun. My housemate did not move when I walked in on Thursday morning. What does he think about my daily fashion choices?
The woman stopped me at 81st Street, west, on her way to catch a glimpse.
“I thought you were a balloon handler based on your outfit,” he said. Baby Yoda said she was excited to see the balloon. (“And yours,” he added, probably dishonest).
My team had more volunteers than the lines that lead to Picasso. So to cheer up the crowd, I thought I would be on the sidelines. By some accident of fate – I often describe myself as the Forest Comp of the New York Times, thanks to my random career opportunities – I was at the front of the balloon when we got the signal ready.
I ended up driving the giant cartoon character of the bankruptcy station at 40th Street and Seventh Avenue until its final destination. (Pro Tip: See the parade from there! From 36th Street, it felt like an abandoned amusement park.)
The trip was like intense training. When you respond to a shout to lower or raise the balloon, it takes some strength and coordination to pull the line. Sometimes we also had to increase the speed to close the gap floating forward. I can not imagine doing this in windy weather.
I did the NYC Marathon and that day hit me for New York. People who cheer on strangers. If someone in town gives me a cup of water, a piece of candy or a piece of fruit in a single day, I will take it and eat it, not thinking twice about eating. It was the same today. This will be something I will lovingly look back on.