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Thursday, October 30, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 34.0° F  
CITIZEN DAVE: Thoughts and ideas about city building from Madison's former mayor
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Citizen Dave: Our Thanksgiving family tradition
<i>The Godfather</i> is all about "family business."
The Godfather is all about "family business."
Credit:Paramount Pictures

Thanksgiving is the day we settle all family business.

A few years ago, Dianne and I went to New York to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was one of the coldest parades in memory. We arrived a couple hours before the start and shivered among New Yorkers.

Now, here's the thing about real New Yorkers. They're actually very nice people. I've found them to be more than happy to offer directions or their opinions about what plays to see or restaurants to eat at. But they are also influenced by their environment, which is tight on space. If you want to see the bad side of a New Yorker, put him in a competition for a square of asphalt at a parade on a cold morning.

We took our positions four rows behind the front line of spectators on 81st Street and Central Park West. Just then a woman, with kid in tow, screamed past us to the front, shoving people aside and shouting that her son needed to go to the bathroom and she was now returning to her rightful spot so get the heck out of her way!

We loved it. This kind of thing does not happen in Stoughton at the Syttende Mai parade. It was like street theater. If these kinds of people didn't really exist, we'd want Michael Bloomberg (or make that Bill de Blasio now) or some "Greater New York Visitor's Bureau" to hire actors to play them so that Midwesterners could feel as if they had gotten the full New Yawk experience.

Anyway, if you're watching the Macy's parade over your shoulder on television while making cranberry relish or setting the table, that's one thing. If you're watching it in person, jostling for space in 20°F weather, it's not the same. You'd think it would be better, and in some ways it is. The balloons really are big and they really are hard to handle. But after you've seen a dozen really big balloons and their struggling handlers, your mind tends to go to your frozen feet.

So, after a couple hours of this, somebody in our group said what was on everybody else's mind. "Want to go?"

Yes, we did want to go. So my brother and a chunk of his family and Dianne and I caught a train to Brooklyn where my niece was living in fashionable young artist Brooklyn squalor. Dinner was planned for later, but the elders had rooms in at the Brooklyn Marriott where fashionable squalor can be seen from the 17th floor, and where you can order room service and watch flat-screen television sets and enjoy good heating.

We could have caught the end of the parade on one of those sets, but instead we channel surfed and found a Godfather marathon. We settled under the warm covers and watched as Sonny met his end at a toll booth, as the Godfather himself succumbed amidst his tomato plants, and as Michael settled "all family business" on the day his nephew was christened. We agreed that for some reason these were the best possible movies to watch on Thanksgiving. After all, this holiday is all about family.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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