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110 in the big city, part 1
A personal account of the Marching 110's experience as lead band in the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Dec. 3, 2005
By Natalia Lavric

Tuesday, November 22nd

Monday was the Miami game -- a cold, dreary end to the season. Most of the fans left after halftime, and the crowd was small compared to the Pittsburgh game's turnout, which was a little disappointing. The Bobcats lost 34-7, and it was weird to think that it would be the last time I'd play in the stands with this year's seniors. We got home around 11:30 p.m. and frantically finished -- "started" is more accurate -- packing. Our apartment -- two trumpets, a clarinet and a flag -- arrived at Peden at 2 a.m. carrying our 10-piece uniforms, instruments, overnight bags and necessary snacks for the bus . . . it looked like we'd vacated the apartment early.

Photos courtesy of Natalia LavricThe bus was quiet until about 8 a.m. -- most of us were asleep or unusually subdued. We arrived in Waynesburg, Pa., around 8:30 and ate at local restaurants that had been warned in advance that 200 hungry band members were on the way. Plans are already underway for tonight's Manhattan excursion. We're looking for something to do after seeing "Avenue Q." I'm excited to see the show, which has been dubbed "'Sesame Street' for grownups" and deals with the issues a twenty-something puppet faces in the city.

It's raining when we cross the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border, which makes me cautiously pessimistic -- hopefully the weather will clear up before the parade. Although you'd think that a wool uniform could keep you warm in any type of weather, it's useless in the pouring rain, which doesn't do much for your spirits, either.

We visited Manhattan last year after we did the halftime show for the Giants game, but this year, it's more important. "It's more tangible," my roommate said yesterday. "When we said we did halftime at a pro game, people weren't really impressed, since they can't relate to it, but they know what the Macy's Parade is and what a big deal it is, too."

After eating at John's Pizzeria on 44th and shopping around the Fashion District, we stood in a winding line to see "Avenue Q." The show's cast comprises only seven players, although each is responsible for moving several puppets. It caters to the younger crowd, especially college kids, including songs like "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English (It Sucks to be Me)" and "The Internet (is for Porn.)" The two-hour show is filled with quick-witted quips and charmingly cynical songs; the half of the band that saw the show gave it a standing ovation -- the other half saw "The Producers" and enjoyed it, too.

New Yorkers I've encountered seem unusually cheerful. Although I left my band jacket in Athens, opting to go incognito for the week, people on the PATH train have asked the band jacket-clad passengers I ride with if we were taking part in the parade and wished us all good luck.

The Macy store's windows are intricately decorated; this year's theme has to do with storybooks, so giant pop-up books open and close, revealing Christmas scenes to groups of people five-deep who gape at the windows. A giant holiday Target ad screams over the Times Square hubbub, as does the USPS' "Shipping without schlepping!" billboard.

Wednesday, November 23rd

The PATH train rumbles through tunnels and plays dissonant ding-dongs at the stops between New Jersey and New York, its passengers bleary-eyed and awakening to coffee in Styrofoam cups and pastel-shellacked iPods. Even the businessmen carry them. I wonder what they listen to during their commutes. Subway regulars sway with the car's movement and don't blink an eye as we stare at the sights.

Photo by Natalia LavricThe Staten Island Ferry -- "the city's best freebie," my tour book says -- is a sort of above-ground subway, complete with the stunningly chic "really ugly green" and scuffed-up blue chairs. Tourists line the windows to catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and everyone's taking pictures of both with their shiny digital cameras. I hear Russian, and although my vocabulary is limited to "hello" and "thank you," I can understand "you have to move closer so you'll all fit in the picture." At times, I can barely even recognize my own language, which is coated with British, Irish and the occasional New Yawkah accent.

The Hudson, moving in murmuring waves, is the color of sludge, which only makes me cringe more when I think of Cosmo Kramer's brief flirtation with the idea of swimming in the river. When we get off the ferry, we are offered watches, sunglasses, DVDs -- Wow! I can already get the new Harry Potter movie on DVD? Cool.

In the West Village, we take part in a mini-college visit at NYU and drink coffee. We also visit bookstores, a deli off of Times Square that sells the best $2.25 cheesecake in the 212 area code, and stores displaying stuff I could never afford. You can instantly identify a person's wealth by the bags they carry; those "medium brown bags" from Bloomingdale's can hold thousands of dollars of merchandise, and if you see the minty green bags from Tiffany's . . . well. People ask us for directions, and sometimes we can help them. I can make my way around SoHo and the West Village now without getting confused.

9 p.m. is bedtime, unfortunately -- we've got to be up early tomorrow.

Read about the big day in part 2 of Natalia's journal

Natalia Lavric is a member of the Marching 110 and a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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Published: Dec 5, 2005 10:50:00 AM
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