Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Julian and Natalie were at Columbus Circle at 06:30, ready for the 09:00 start for the Macy’s (a shopping centre) Thanksgiving Day Parade. We were in bed, asleep. By the time the parade started and we were walking up 6th Ave out of the nearest open subway station the crowds had swelled so much that we could only get about 30 metres from the corner of 57th Street and 6th Avenue, where Julian and Natalie had set up camp. The parade had begun and seas of people were trying to get closer. I don’t like crowds, being stuck in a street for an hour after New Year’s Eve fireworks in London a few years ago was the tipping point for me. We decided that we could just catch up on the parade on TV later and we walked off to find breakfast.
We ate an extremely expensive breakfast in an art deco furbished place that serviced the hotel it was underneath. The coffee was awful. We had backup plans to meet Julian and Natalie outside Carnegie Hall at 11:00 in case we couldn’t find them, but we searched for a Starbucks (for the free wifi) to message and see if they wanted to leave earlier. The Starbucks was a war zone. One of the staff broke the order of things by opening a second till, and yelling out, “I can serve the next customer here!” when I was second in queue, but not looking at me; he was focussed on whatever he was doing at the till, assuming that I’d spent my life waiting to hear his call. Consequently the five people behind me pushed past, and around the police officer who had almost finished with his order in front of me. I placed my order, with “Dan” written on both cups. The second staff member at his till didn’t bother to write any customer names down, and this what quickly caused a coffee war to break out. I must be the only person in North America to scan the number and faces of customers in front of me, already waiting for coffees and mentally noting that, until they get their orders, I’m not due to get mine. Everybody that was behind me or had pushed in front felt otherwise: that as soon as they’d placed their order, even if it was a pumpkin spiced latte that somebody else had ordered, it must be for them. People took others’ orders. Orders were missed. Coffees were discarded. I think I waited 15 minutes for Dan’s hot chocolate and my double espresso. I was handed two hot chocolates. I didn’t argue.
Julian and Nat got trapped in the crowds, only escaping by helping a woman who had a panic attack and collapsed. They were overjoyed to see us. We left the crowds behind and headed uptown, to the restaurant known for the appearance of its facade in Seinfeld. The chocolate milkshake was delicious. I wasn’t so keen on my hamburger but everybody else liked their food. It was crowded but warm. It was snowing outside, fat heavy snowflakes that either hit your between the eyes or landed and melted away. We were full and warm by the time we left and headed home for a nap.
Early for dinner (the website the restaurant used for bookings completely stuffed them up somehow by overbooking them so we were pushed back half an hour) we wandered around dark streets and only found souvenir stores, nothing resembling a cafe. We had to sit inside a Dunkin Donuts and sip hot sugary beverages while we waited for our reservation time. Dan rubbed his eye and folded his contact over his cornea and under his eyelid. I was distracted by cardboard cut out turkeys hanging from the ceiling.
Julian had booked us a table (for eight) at a small restaurant called Sanctuary T, as the food quality was recommended to him. It was packed and we were squeezed into our chairs. Four of us arrived first, Nat’s two Med School classmates and their boyfriends arrived 15 minutes later (on time for our booking). We were given menus but the girls had already decided what they wanted before arriving, having read the menu online. At 19:00 we were ready to order, or at least request a drink. It wasn’t until twenty past that the busy lone waitress, apologising to everybody for the overbooking, came to take out orders. I chose soup, fried rice, turkey dinner and chocolate pudding off the Prix Fix menu, with the wine pairing. Dan, Julian and Nat also chose the wine pairing. The meal was off to a slow start but from the food at the table next to us, my hopes were high.
Half an hour later, without anything to eat or drink other than a glass of water, one of the servers came out with the appetisers: a ricotta crostino for Julian and an armful of salads for… nobody ordered salad. Everybody else ordered soup! He took them back. We surmised that the waitress must have scrawled “soup” and it was misread as “salad”. Julian was left awkwardly with his plate while we all eagerly awaited something. And waited. After a long enough pause that Julian just started to eat the harangued waitress came out to explain, “There’s no more soup! The chef told me after I’d taken your orders. Sorry…” From there if it could go wrong for the restaurant, it did.
They ran out of ravioli. So our Primi courses were re-ordered for half the table. The half the table that ordered orecchiette had smaller volumes of food than previous neighbouring tables had been served for the same dish… they were running out of that too!
The wine pairing for our Primi course never came. Julian had already been promised a bottle of wine in compensation for the reservation time being delayed, which had never come, and after the second change of course, he made sure that it arrived. No glasses were brought out to drink the wine. I joked, “Maybe they’ve run out of glasses!” It was tempting fate; the waitress brought tall tumbler glasses out. For red wine. “We’ve run out of glasses…”
When the mains finally arrived (thankfully they hadn’t run out of turkey) we were all merry (having caught up on our paired wines) and there were smiles and cheers and we picked up our cutlery to eat. Except I had no cutlery. Mine had been taken away with my previous course (I didn’t know I had only one chance in life at cutlery). I started to laugh.
By the time the Dolce course came we were on to plastic cutlery and the digestif came in four different types of glasses, one half the size of the rest. Dan and Julian lost it, in a fit of hysterics. The masala chai ice cream that accompanied the warm chocolate bread pudding was a tiny island of ice cream in a sea of melted liquid. Our neighbouring tables were in the same boat and it made for the best atmosphere; facing adversity strangers banded together. Our waitress disappeared for a good half hour of the 3.5 hour meal. The non-paired wines weren’t charged, which was a bonus for the half of the table that hadn’t paired wines. I made the girls from Texas at the table next to us cringe when I explained, “Well I came to New York to experience the Macy’s Day Parade and a Thanksgiving dinner. It was different to what I expected!”