By Jim Balloonsman
When I first got into this game, our only focus was the balloons.
I was young when I started working on balloons, some would say too young. My mother certainly would. But 9-year-olds can be stubborn, and nothing was going to keep me from making balloons. If I had to do it in the garage with nothing but trashbags and a Bic lighter, I would. At 9 I tried to convince my parents to take a trip to New York to see the parade in person, but they refused, claiming not to have enough money. I stole their credit cards, took out as much cash as I could and took a bus three thousand miles to New York city. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving, I accidentally stepped on a cop’s foot and woke up in the hospital with an open skull and my parents standing over me. It’d been weeks. I’d missed the parade.
For awhile it looked like I wasn’t going to live, having my brain all exposed to the air like that and all. While I was fading in and out of consciousness, I made my parents promise that, if I lived, they’d move the family to New York city so that I could see the parade next year and many years after it. When I started to get better, I held them to it. They wanted to go back on it at first, but then I threatened to die and they gave in again. Suckers. When the next year came I was there, front and center. I saw Woody Woodpecker, Bart Simpson, the one that was just an apple that represented New York or something. I loved them all. Even the dumb apple. It was the greatest day of my entire life. I’m just glad I got the see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade before it went all corporate.
Back when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was just a pure expression of Balloonitry without Big Business sticking it’s nose into it. When Old Man Macy, a man who had attained wealth well beyond his wildest dreams, decided to give something back to the world. He may have never given to charity, and there was that time he didn’t stop to help that woman he saw bleeding out in the street, but his heart, at least on that day, was in the right place. He knew children loved balloons and he knew parents loved free shit for those children to love. He gave it to them, no catch. He didn’t even want credit other than throwing his store’s name on half the balloons, all the advertising materials and forever hammering the Macy’s name into people just a single day before the biggest shopping period of the year. These days, those in charge aren’t quite so giving.
They’ve been put in a position of great power with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and it’s hard to blame them for abusing it. Old Man Macy was a cut above the rest of us. He knew that if you tried to trick people into associating his store with something as gorgeous, wholesome and just plain fun as the parade, it would be abundantly transparent, and would instantly pervert everything he’d worked for. He was right. Anyone older than fourteen can see right through the kind of shit they try to pull these days, with their Adventure Times and their Spongebobs. Just corporate shills. We used to have cartoon characters that weren’t owned by The Man, like Scooby Doo and Rugrats.
This year I didn’t make balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The hierarchy there is fucked, and I told them as much when I gave them my resignation. Or at least I would have if anyone higher than an assistant would even talk to me. I put it down on a napkin and left it in a trashcan Jeremiah Macy Jr’s assistant assured me he checks and I left the building of my own accord, no matter what the security guards may tell you. You can’t trust security guards because they protect Big Business, and you can’t trust someone that’s on Big Business’ side. You can’t trust anyone these days. Not even other Balloonists, and Balloonists used to be the most trustworthy people in the world.
At least until Big Balloon got to ‘em.