GHOST WRITING FOR CHRISTMAS
Please find my Christmas post on Gallery Books'
XOXO After Dark website here.
MY TERRIFYING THANKSGIVING
I’d been living in New York for three years. I survived a slap in the face from a complete stranger on drugs, three years of school at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, the demise of a relationship, an attempted mugging and an unfriendly landlord. What next, I wondered.
I received a call from one of the executives at the Academy offering me the opportunity of an audition. I stifled a squeal and said yes of course thank you very much. The address was a bit odd; not the normal stage door, or even a West Side casting director’s office. All I knew is that the audition had something to do with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Yippee.
I arrived at a Mad Man’s office: Big desk, perfectly pressed shirt, gleaming hair, intimidating. He invited me to sit down to talk about Raggedy Ann. Did I know of her? What did I think of her? Yes, of course I knew of her and, “I think she’s just adorable, a gift to children the world over,” I say.
How would I like to be Raggedy Ann in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? $200 for my trouble. Why yes, I certainly would. Immediately I imagined myself glowing from a stellar makeup job revealing Raggedy Ann-ness, waving from a huge float, appearing child-friendly and adored by every toddler in Manhattan.
This was a far cry from my first ever paying job – playing the organ for funerals in my father’s funeral home.
I arrived at West 69th Street at awfully early o’clock on Thursday morning wearing my disappointingly just okay costume. Underneath I wore a pair of 80-year-old man longjohns. No fool I, there was sure to be a breeze on that float.
There was no Raggedy Ann float. I would be walking in the parade. There was no makeup artist. Instead, I went slack-jawed to see a representative making his way towards me carrying a massive head in his arms. My head. My Raggedy Ann papier-mâché head, the size of a city block. Just as I was adjusting to this remarkable change in circumstances, a wild-eyed young man staggers over reeking of the previous night’s alcohol binge and announces himself as Raggedy Andy. Another representative quickly hides his unshaven face in the Andy version of the papier-mâché monstrosity.
Suddenly the thumping drums of high school bands, the blaring noise of organized chaos is muted.
What had once been my view of hundreds of feet now became inches with no peripheral vision. It was like trying to function inside a tree trunk.
Off we go! Andy grabs my hand and jerks me along; on and on we skip down the streets of New York sandwiched between two floats filled with celebrities, comfortable in their special seats.
Children wave, parents point at us, or no, maybe they’re pointing at the dancers.
We turn the corners and our section hits the 40’s near Times Square. We enter the Blade Runner version of the parade. Suddenly the sun hides behind a dark sky. I’ve worked up a sweat inside the massive head by skipping half the length of Manhattan in longjohns, which are damp underneath the dress, pinafore and pantaloons.
There are three times as many people along this part of the route and most of them are young children herded by comparatively few fully stressed adults. When Raggedy Andy-with-the-hangover and I appear the children go absolutely wild.
They scream our names and scream some more. Then they break loose from their parents, scramble under the barriers and Good Great God they are on top of us! Andy and I are separated at once. Children tear at our clothes, they reach up to smack at our huge heads, they hold on to our legs. For one terrifying moment I thought I would be knocked down completely and right there on Thanksgiving morning die a death from child attack on 42nd street.
Say what you will about big burly intimidating New York City policemen, but thank the heavens they were alert to our distress. They pulled the children off us and performed human barrier technique in a very satisfying way.
I never saw Andy again. It took months to wrangle the $200 from the Mad Man.
Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the parade.