The basement files: A Holidazzle blackout triggers memories


Christmas has come, the goose and my butt have gotten fat, and a seemingly popular parade has come to an end. Yes, the Holidazzle Parade has marched its last (allegedly, it’s too popular for someone not to do something with it, you know, like Lumberjack Days …) and writers and newscasters statewide have used silly puns to tell us all how the “lights have gone out” and so forth.

This news doesn’t faze me a bit however. I haven’t gone to the parade since I was a child — I’m talking back in the 90s — and the memories I made on those fateful evenings are something that, for better or worse, I’ll always hold on to. In fact, I remember them like they were yesterday.

The year was 199X, or somewhere in there, and I was a young chap brimming with life, mainly because I was drinking nothing but Jolt Cola, which may explain my caffeine addiction to this day. I was full of energy and excited to go see this new thing that was happening in the cities, “The Holidazzle Parade!” This night, my aunt was taking me, along with my little brother and her son, which if you are keeping track, is my cousin.

The story starts innocently enough. They always do, but there is one thing you should know, dear reader, about my aunt. While she is awesome, while I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world, when she and I go places together, chaos ensues. It’s why I keep going places with her to this day — you simply never know what you are going to get.

So we trek off into the wilderness of the city and end up in a parking ramp. Once out of the car, all of us kids get bundled back up in layers of winter wear, as it was rather cold, even by Minnesota standards that night. We were packed in tight, to the point where it was hard even to bend your extremities. This lasted all of five minutes until we got inside, at which point my aunt says the one thing that nobody wants to hear after spending the last 10 minutes putting on multiple layers of clothing: “Who has to go to the bathroom?”

You couldn’t have asked that while I could still move? But, now that you mention it …

OK, so we take off everything we just put on, or at least that was the idea. You see, I was packed so tight and in so many layers that my zipper, specifically my snow-pants zipper, jammed, and kept getting clogged up with layer upon layer of who knows what.

This was a problem. The “bathroom timer” is counting down, and this zipper is going nowhere. So I do what any kid does and ask for help. This was a mistake. Being the good aunt she is, she attempts to help, first with “finesse” and then with brute strength. By our powers combined we managed to get me free, and just in the nick of time too. But we had wasted valuable minutes on this issue, so as soon as I came out of the bathroom, it was time to suit up again.

We then strode forth into the tundra of the avenue, and watched the parade. I don’t really remember it that much. It didn’t really stick out. So, long story short, it ended, we went inside, and now the rest of the crew had to use the “facilities.” But now it was on to Macy’s and its big Christmas display!

There was a line, but it was short … or so we thought. The display, which is still going on today, is on the top floor, which we didn’t realize at the time, and here we were currently at street level, in line, in now-ragged clothing, and getting tired fast.

Our first glimmer of hope comes as we make it up the staircase. “Oh, glory be, we must be almost there!”

But lo, once we reached the top of the staircase, we were greeted with more people, hundreds more, winding continuously up and down the isles, snaking past housewares, cookware, bedding, until finally ending at yet another staircase. “This must be the end right?” Sure, it has to be, we saw the entire floor, even the break room!

Alas, once we climbed the next staircase, we were met with the exact same sight. A seemingly never ending line of people, ending at a staircase. Each new floor it was the same thing, over and over, the only difference being the looks on the faces of the folks in line, their chipper and jolly demeanor souring more and more after each climb. The jovial chatter changed to grunts and sighs, and that “pep” in their step quickly turned to a lumbering shuffle. Leaning left, right, left, right, slowly but surely, with every step taken, more fell victim to the zombification.

Then, a ray of hope! “I hear music? We made it!” Yes, high atop mount Macy’s we came across a display that had been painstakingly planned and put together … and we couldn’t care less about it. Exhaustion had set in, we were thirsty, we were hungry, blisters were forming on our feet, and we were greeted by a song that I cannot listen to, even to this day, without getting angry: “It’s a Small World.” Not small enough! We made it, we saw it, let’s get the heck outta here!

Looking back, it was one of our tamer trips. No one broke a bone or took an ambulance home, as would happen in subsequent trips, but it was memorable and fun nonetheless.