The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest "bar nights" of the year. I believe the biggest drinking night (day) is still July 4th, but that late autumn Wednesday evening, when everyone seems to be home for the next night's festivities, still wins out for bar hopping.
This year, we stayed in. Having a three year old is a contributing factor, though being 40 also plays into the decision. Kit had recently gotten over a cold, but still had a slight cough that was lingering. Hanging out in a bar was not in the cards.
So I turned off my cell phone and we went to bed on the earlier side.
Around midnight, Kit started coughing. She'll often ask to sip ginger ale to help her throat. But we were all out of ginger ale. I had used the last of it to make a drink earlier in the evening. Look, I said we didn't go to the bar, not that we didn't have a drink.
Feeling guilty for drinking the last of my kid's remedy, I ran out to the 24 hour CVS to grab some more.
As is always the case, there were no cars in the parking lot, but 2 people in front of me in line. How does that happen?
The first one was an older woman. Perhaps doing some late night Christmas shopping. She had a basket full of items, but if pressed I probably couldn't tell you one thing in it.
I do recall her asking for cigarettes to which the young guy behind the counter told her CVS no longer sells them.
The woman became kind of indignant, "Since when?"
This left the guy speechless, as if he was trying to remember when the Magna Carta was signed.
The woman left after a few more grumbles under her breath.
Next up was a kid in his late teens who was clearly stoned. His purchases were a bunch of little bags of potato chips (which he could have saved $ on by buying a bigger bag), and a random assortment of candy bars. Like it literally looked like he grabbed 4 candy bars without looking. One was a Zag-nut, which:
a. I didn't know they still made
b. I can't imagine anyone under 50 even wanting to eat.
As if his munchies weren't enough of an indication of his lack of sobriety, he was wearing an ICP hoodie and smelled like a skunk sprayed a skunk, while fucking another skunk.
He also laughed at random things anyone said. I think that's what kept the first woman from freaking out over the cigarettes.
I was next. And not to be full of myself, but I felt the guy was happy to have someone "normal" for a change. He charged me for the ginger ale and I walked out the door.
There idling in the parking lot, not in a parking spot but rather perpendicular with the store itself, was a very stylish blue pickup truck, with California tags. It was as if it was waiting for me.
The window was rolled down, manually I might add, and a familiar voice asked, "Tell me everything you know about Paddington Bear!"
"How the hell did you find me?" I asked.
He threw a brand new cell phone to me.
"What's this?" I asked, knowing it was a cell phone.
"I assume your phone is dead that's why it's not on." He smiled.
I can't tell if it was a smile as if to say, "what a great gift I got you," or "I know you turned off your phone, but here I am!"
This is a good time for me to update any new readers...
You see, I have long since been stalked by Scott Caan. He'd tell it differently. He might even say we're friends. But friends don't show up in the middle of the night and basically kidnap each other, dragging them 150 miles away.
For more backstory:
And of course THIS
There are probably more, but who can recall?
"Is this thing going to ring in the middle of the night, and then I'll have to babysit Kanye West again?" I ask realizing what an odd question this is.
"Not this year." Scott always has something up his sleeve. I feel like tonight is no different.
"Hey! I have to get home to Kit." I decide to cut him off before this goes any further.
"Of course. Katherine needs her ginger ale."
This doesn't shock me the way it might have in the past. Scott has a way of knowing things before they happen. But this time I can deduce that he took an educated guess. I'm out buying ginger ale at midnight. Odds are it's for my kid. Right?
In the time we've been apart, Scott has also had a daughter. My hope is this has mellowed him out and will see me back in bed in the time it takes for me to get from the CVS to my house.
"Let me just run in a get some smokes."
So fat chance on the getting back to bed anytime soon.
I then begin to laugh to myself as Scott goes in the CVS knowing they don't have cigarettes for sale.
The pothead teenager sitting in the parking lot digging into his 3rd candy bar laughs randomly as Scott comes out of the CVS with cigarettes in hand. I have no idea how he does it.
I assume Scott will follow me to the house, but I loose him almost immediately after pulling out of the parking lot. "Thank God!" I think to myself. Of course his brake lights are lighting up my street when I pull on to it 6 minutes later. "Jesus."
After squaring away Julie, Kit and Kit's cough, I find myself driving Scott's truck on the turnpike while he sits in his passenger seat heading to NYC. He never lights up one of his "smokes" of which I am grateful.
"So Paddington Bear?" He asks again.
"Is that a code of something?" I'm confused, as is my constant state with Scott.
"It's a character from a children's book. And a balloon in the parade this year." He informs me.
"A balloon or a falloon?" I ask as I shake my head knowing full well he's pulled me right back into the thick of it all.
"Haha! I knew you missed this shit!"
I make it from door to door in 99 minutes. A new personal best.
It's a little after 2am when we pull up and are greeted by John Piper, who oversees all of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
We have history. Mostly good. But I did crash one of his balloons 11 years back. I guess that memory seems to stick with you.
"So, what do you know about Paddington Bear?" Piper throws the familiar question my way.
"Umm...I guess what everyone knows about him?" I meekly reply.
"So you know Paddington Bear is a character created by Michael Bond on Christmas eve in 1956 after buying his wife a teddy bear in Paddington Station?"
"I mean...yeah?" I wasn't fooling anyone, least of all Piper.
Scott laughs. Pats me on my butt. And walks away.
It would be the last time I would see him.
"Leave him alone, John." I heard a familiar voice say. "He needs to sleep if he's going to wrangle the bear."
It was New York staple, Alec Baldwin. As always he had two cups in his hand.
"No cream." He handed me a coffee. "You're a vegan now, right?" I am. I stopped asking how these people know these things.
I drank the coffee then slept for exact 3 hours. I guess you'd call it napping at such a short length, but it would be the only sleep I'd get for the next 18 hours or so.
"That's enough." I heard in an Austrian accent as I awoke.
I knew it was Leo before seeing him. Scott's right hand man.
I knew better than to put up a fight for 5 more minutes of sleep. So instead jumped up and was ready to go.
"Cool! So where's the Paddington Bear balloon?" I ask Leo.
I want to show him that I'm a leg up and ready to go this year.
"It's at the beginning of the parade route. But that has nothing to do with you." Leo, answered.
Always a step ahead of me. Literally. He was walking at a quick pace and I was almost running to keep up.
"What to do mean? Scott and Piper both asked me what I knew about Paddington Bear." I said slightly out of breath.
"What do you know about the Paddington Bear?" Leo echoed.
"Well...that Michael Buble..."
"Right, Michael Bond invented him on Christmas Eve."
It felt like we walked half of NYC in silence before Leo spoke again.
"Are you kidding me? That's all you know about him?"
"What am I going to be on a game show?"
"No. You're going to wrangle the bear."
"RIGHT! That's what Alec said too! So I AM going to be working the Paddington Bear balloon?"
Leo stopped walking.
"No. You're wrangling 'the bear.' And his favorite subject is Paddington Bear. We'll expect you to talk to him about Paddington Bear, and nothing else. Do you under stand? NOTHING ELSE!"
I definitely did NOT understand.
We started walking again at a fevered pace.
"Who is the bear?"
I have never heard, nor can I now find anywhere on the internet, that Tony Bennett is referred to as "the bear." But everyone seemed pretty damn serious about this.
Sure enough, when we got to his dressing room, there in gold on the door was the title "the bear." I mentally noted the all lower case letters.
"So do I just wait?" I asked Leo. I think he heard me as he closed the door leaving me alone in Tony Bennett's dressing room.
It wasn't quite a dressing room as much as it was a gigantic ballroom. Yet, it surprisingly had the warmth of a tiny little dressing room.
I waited alone for what seemed like hours as "the bear" had yet to appear.
Of course, I took this time to learn everything I could about Paddington Bear from wikipedia. I could only hope it was all accurate.
I wasn't sure how long I would be with Mr. Bennett, but I started wondering could a person really only discuss Paddington Bear?
"You have a cigarette?" I heard a smooth voice ask from behind me.
I jumped up out of the chair I was sitting on and saw the one and only Tony Bennett walking towards me.
"Errr....I..." I didn't know how to answer. This was clearly not PB related.
"I like to have a couple puffs after my morning sandwich."
"A Marmalade sandwich?" I asked with nothing but uncertainty in my voice.
"Hey! You a big Paddington Bear fan too?" Tony warmed up to me immediately.
"Well...of course!" Was my only response.
"So whadda ya say? Got a smoke?"
It was his use of the word "smoke" that made me feel my back pocket where Scott had patted me earlier. Sure enough there was a foreign bulge.
I pulled out a pack of Parliaments
"Hey! Blue, like Paddington's coat!" Tony said excitedly.
Jesus. Was this guy for real?
My phone started ringing. It was the phone Scott had given me.
"Kanye?" I asked uncertain.
Last time it was Kanye.
"Bring 'the bear' to the start of the parade route. There's a car outside waiting for you." Were the instructions shouted through an Austrian accent before a "click" indicated the call was already over.
"...call me 'the bear.'"
"Mr....the bear, there's a car waiting for us out front."
Outside there was a very expensive looking Rolls Royce. But no driver.
I looked around as we approached the car. I reached out for the driver's door and it was unlocked.
By this time "the bear" was already sliding into the back seat.
There were keys in the ignition.
Was I expected to drive it?
"You look like Mr. Brown up there." My Wikipedia crash course told me that this was a reference to a hapless character in Paddington Bear.
Obviously my cluelessness was shining through.
I got in and started the car. A GPS immediately started as well. It's destination seemed to be the parade route's beginning.
Maybe this wouldn't be so difficult.
Our Paddington Bear banter continued for the entire 17 minute drive.
"the bear" was much more skilled than I was.
Wisely, I mostly just listened, occasionally throwing in a word or two.
As we passed 32nd street I said, "Looks like there's some 'Goings-On At Number 32.'"
This got a huge laugh out of "the bear."
As we pulled up to our destination, John Piper opened the door to let "the bear" out.
There was a small gathering.
"Hello, 'the bear,'" Alec Baldwin said.
"John! This kid is great!" the bear said to Piper validating my entire existence.
"Today, he drives me everywhere? Got that? Everywhere!"
"Of course 'the bear.'" Piper stammered.
It was nice to see him nervous for a change.
I was pretty happy with accomplishing my bizarre task.
I started to walk away when Piper grabbed my arm.
"Where are you going?"
I pointed to where a bunch of the crowd had disburse once "the bear" got on his float with Miss Piggy.
"Oh no," Piper said, "You heard the man, you're driving him."
I looked around, "You mean on the float?!?"
"What 'the bear' wants, 'the bear' gets." Piper said animatedly.
"I can't drive this thing, John!" The thought of crashing a float was far worse than my balloon mishap from 2005.
"Kevin," I felt Alec's hand on my shoulder, "It's just like driving a car...if your car was the size of a football field and had 2 American icons along with a bunch of dancing kids as passengers."
This didn't help.
In the end, I drove the float.
All in all, I think I did OK...minus the part wear I almost killed "the bear."