My team had more volunteers than lines to steer Pikachu. So I thought I would be on the sidelines, getting the crowd energized. By some accident of fate — I often describe myself the Forrest Gump of The New York Times thanks to my random career opportunities — I was near the front of the balloon when we got the signal to get ready.
I ended up steering the giant cartoon character until its final destination: the deflation station on 40th Street and Seventh Avenue. (Pro tip: Consider watching the parade from there! From 36th Street up, it felt like an abandoned amusement park.)
The journey was like an intense workout. Towing the line requires some strength and coordination as you respond to shouts to lower or raise the balloon. We also sometimes had to quicken our pace to close the gap between us and the float ahead. I can’t imagine doing this in windy weather.
I’ve done the NYC marathon and that day strikes me as New York at its best. People cheering strangers on. And it is the only day in the city when someone could hand me a cup of water, a piece of candy or a slice of fruit and I would take it and not think twice about eating it. Today was similar. This will be something I look back on with fondness.