March 18, 2004

St. Patrick's Day

So, I was sitting at my desk yesterday, feeling a mite stumped about today’s entry. Nothing was coming to me. Moving stuff, Ireland stuff, random other stuff…bored and barren, that was me.

Then I remembered what day it was.

And that I was sitting literally two blocks from one of the largest ethnic pride parades in the world.

So I went, on my lunch hour. You imaginary people shall never know what I suffered for you. It was snowing. In the middle of March. Those two blocks were long, avenue blocks. And Little Miss Was Already Running Late couldn’t find her scarf this morning, so I was forced to endure a few sharp gusts on wind right down the center of my décolletage. Pity me yet? No? Moving on.

I came out on Fifth right by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so I first I thought I’d try and scam my way on to the reserved area by the steps with the killer view, but the NYPD had thought of people like me, and cleverly erected a wall of sawhorse barricades, caulking the seams with burly beat cops. I thought about trying to cut through the cathedral and sneak out the front, but I figured my Nana would never forgive me for being in St. Patrick’s and not lighting a candle for somebody, and I hate those fake-ass electric candles. Were the wax bills really killing you, guys?

So I navigated my way back 'round Madison and down a bit, weaving though the variously-greened and funky-hatted crowd (Viking hats? With green and orange horns? What are you, the Minnesota delegation?) until I managed to pop out around 49th and grab a fairly good spot.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing like a passel of grim-faced, chap-kneed majorettes to make you feel a surge of ethnic pride. (The German tourists beside me certainly dug ‘em. “Woo-hoo!” is the same in every language, apparently.) I sympathized with the majorettes. The group I remeber best were led by a phlanex of rifle bearers followed by a line of flutes, and were working the traditional Twiggy bottom/Tin soldier top majorette outfit.* They were playing, "It's a Grand Old Flag," which I thought was odd at first. Upon reflection, I realized that there's probably not a lot of compositions suitable for adaptation to a flute, hand xylophone and marching drum combo. "It’s Grand Old Flag," was probably a one of the better, more spirited numbers of the choices on offer. Loved their flag array: U.S. flag, Pope Flag, School Flag, N.Y. State flag, Irish flag.

There was the one team of baton twirlers that stood out ---- their leader wasn’t half bad, managed a nice twenty-foot flippy toss with a one-handed grab that came off well, although the majority of the group was looking a little half hearted, with eyes all squinted into the wind and their lushly applied fake blush entirely outshone by the natural flush that wind burn will give you. But it was their banner bearers that stood out --- they had a pair of mini-majorettes, skinny little things about nine years old, holding up their banner at either end, and the one on the left was clutching on to her end with a white knuckle death-grip, a cold-formed rictus on her face like she was marching down the Trail of Tears… oh, the humanity. Oh, the hilarity. I amused myself by playing “Count the Visibly Shivering,” as each little group pit-stopped to do their thing in front of my section of the sidewalk.

I had a good time, though. What warmed the cockles of my heart was the civic-ness of it all --- all the green, white, and orange sashes dug out of the back of various dusty closets, faded from use on a hundred like occasions. The cheerleading team from the girl’s Catholic school which seemed to be from someplace on Staten Island that maybe was once an Irish enclave but was now largely black and Latino, but there were there, raising their frigid pompoms. The totally weird civic groups that seem to pop out of the woodwork just to be in these things, the Mechanist’s Unions and the Woman’s Auxiliary to Hibernian Association of Greater Poughkeepsie, the Orange County (CA.) Brotherhood of Police and Firefighters, all that stuff. There was something so cheerfully municipal about it all.

It’s weird, I’ve always felt a bit disassociated from St. Patrick’s day. When I was at home my family used to get together at my grandmother’s for corned beef an cabbage (and thus, I learned to appreciate what my people had suffered) but other than the menu, it was really no different that what we did a couple time a month for birthdays and whatnot. I almost never remember to wear green. In fact, when I was a kid I kind of made a point of it; my given name is Irish to a Smuckersian degree --- as soon as you meet me, you figure with a name like that I’ve got to be Irish --- and as a snotty pre-teen, I was all, “Listen, I walk around named Erin McFaithnBegorrah all year, I don’t think I need to change my sweater in order to represent.” I only really began to actively celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday when I was in college, and that was really more in the spirit of, “All right, St. Patrick’s Day! An excuse to drink!”

But that’s kind of really all it is, isn’t it? I mean, on the one that’s all all holidays are to a certain extent, but somehow I’ve never felt obligated to plunk on a pair of Shamrock antennae and get plastered on the 17th of March.

I do kind of want a "Fuck me I'm Irish" t-shirt, though.

*Go-go boots and a miniskirt below, satin tunic and chin-strapped top hat with poof above. Like this.

Posted by Diablevert at March 18, 2004 05:42 PM

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