Parade Of Lights

“I just wanted a chicken sandwich…”

Your order will be ready at 7 pm said the text from our fave local bar/venue where the Korean lady Annie cooks five nights a week. There aren’t a lot of takeout choices in this little town. Delivery? You’re joking. This is the country—doesn’t matter how many city folks have moved up here in the last few years.

Usually I love living in the country. But sometimes, like after working an arduous Black Friday bookstore/bar shift — where I served so many customers buying books and beer I was a book/booze automaton: “Would you like your receipt?” “Do you want to keep it open?” Pour beer, coaster on bar;”Do you need a bag for those?”; bookmark in bag…— I just want to come home and lay on the couch. Dial a number and have food magically appear in front of me. You might say “well isn’t that why you’re married?” but it sadly doesn’t work that way. Eric had landed in England the day before Thanksgiving and I would follow him soon but for the moment, I was on my own and just…felt…so…tired.

I can do this I thought! I’ll just pop down when my order’s ready in ten minutes, bring my sandwich home and wolf it down, then I’ll collapse. Then it hit me: the annual Parade of Lights.

Hadn’t I seen somewhere that it was this night? Oh God no. But surely it would have happened just as dusk fell, a cozy 5 pm or so?

I found a link online that took me to a Facebook page informing me they would be parading down Main Street beginning at 7 PM. Not exactly sure who “they” are but I started worrying they were going to interfere with me getting my sandwich.

But the place is on a side street, tucked away from all the action surely? It really shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. I’ll just pop down there at seven and if I catch a glimpse of some parade action happening a block away, great.

As I went to get in my car (Main Street is a mile from our house so retrieving a sandwich meant to be enjoyed hot and crispy on foot wouldn’t work…besides, there are no sidewalks in the country so walking anywhere after dark is generally not an option) I heard sirens. Gosh, I thought, I hope everything’s okay down there. The Walmart shooting in Virginia had deeply disturbed me. Like every shooting this past week. And the week before that.

I approached Bridge Street that would take me across the creek but there was a police car with his lights flashing, blocking traffic. Fine, I thought, I’ll just turn in the opposite direction, park my car and get across the creek via the foot bridge. It’ll be dark but I can just shine my phone light. 

A policeman approached my car and shooed me in the opposite direction, AWAY from my sandwich. FINE, I’ll swing up and around past Walgreen’s, Dunkin Donuts and the car dealership, then under the railway trestle where I can come at the sandwich from the opposite direction.

The cop with the flashing light’s twin brother was directing traffic away from the top of Main Street. Oh hell. So I parked my car under the railway trestle and took off on foot. And then I was in a crazy dream. When had Catskill turned into a Greene County version of Marakkech? There were people clopping along on horses and leading Shetland ponies. Firetrucks with horns blasting, flat bed trucks with entire families clinging to ropes and fake snow bouncing along up the hill. The gathering point was clearly RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE BAR/VENUE WITH KOREAN FOOD. Tractors, teams of rather large elves yoked together with Christmas lights, all coming up the hill towards me as I tried to navigate across the road.

Many years ago I lived in Brooklyn along the New York City Marathon route. The race came up Bedford Avenue, a major artery of the neighborhood, and without fail anything you wanted on race day was on the other side of that street tightly packed for hours with people running as if their lives depended on it. I’d learned the only way across was to act for a few seconds like you were in the marathon yourself, move with the herd and work your way across.

I can now claim to be a Parade of Lights alumnae. I ducked and dived, do si do’ed with some inebriated reindeer and landed right in front of the bar. It was seven twenty. 

“Are you here for the show?” asked Punk Rock Joe who works the door. I suddenly felt really happy that I was only weary and hungry from working retail on Black Friday and wasn’t trying to load in and play a gig during Parade of Lights. It’s like the joke about which version of hell you prefer. I collected my sandwich from the empty bar (the staff were all outside watching the horses and fire trucks ), ran back up the hill alongside the elves and reindeers, air horns blaring all around, and split off away from the madness to my car. The couch was waiting.

A week later I’m with Eric over in Cromer, a small town on the North Norfolk coast. There are cordons and barricades up everywhere. “What’s going on?” we ask the young woman at the local coffee shop.

“Oh, it’s the annual Christmas lights ceremony. People come from all over!” she said. “I don’t think they even enjoy themselves, they just come because it’s what they’ve always done.” I can see how standing in the cold and damp, with wind and rain slashing through at frequent intervals, might not exactly be fun. But it’s the season dammit and face it, you haven’t fully celebrated until you’ve made life inconvenient for someone else.

Waiting for the lights to come on…

I’m trying out Substack for my writing (yeah I know, a year ago I said I couldn’t do it, now that people are most likely on to something else I cave) so if you want to try subscribing there, please do!

6 thoughts on “Parade Of Lights

  1. Sharon Liveten

    My little weird town in Southern California (Chatworth)is having it’s Xmas Parade today. We are still a bit of a horse property, and every rodeo rider, trail rider and dozens of mini horses march down the main street which is at the foot of my street. We have “celebrities” that I never recognize riding down the street waving in convertibles and Girl Scouts tossing hard candies. I love it!

  2. Jack Hill

    A fun read…Vicki and I can relate, living in Bismarck, AR. There is a pizza joint, but it doesn’t deliver. We are in a dry county, also, but there’s hope as we voted it wet last month, and it won!


  3. Patrick Erwin

    Can totally sympathize with turning into a book automaton. During peak holiday season I would answer my home phone “Thank you for calling Barnes & Noble!”

    Palm Springs had a parade a few weeks back that was filled with all the mid century kitsch you’d imagine.

    Not always a gung ho booster of our shared hometown – but I do kinda miss Light Up Night, the Kaufmann’s windows and the Horne’s tree.

    It’s always nice to be somewhere where people are getting into the spirit, no matter what time zone that might be!

    1. amyrigby

      I think the Palm Springs holiday parade sounds like fun Patrick! I have very faint memories of Pittsburgh Christmases, but I do remember Kaufman’s, Horne’s and Gimbels!

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