The Irish love nothing more than some communal suffering. It’s my theory that this is the spirit in which the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade was devised.I’ve never been a fan of this particular parade. I’m even less of a fan of Lincoln Park during the weeks leading up to St. Pat’s (or as I have taken to calling it, “Spring Awakening for Douchebags.”)
As is the case with so many things, my sentimental understanding of this holiday is totally incongruent with reality, and I present the argument that’s because this particular reality is, plainly, the worst. In my mind, St. Patrick’s day involves Bing Crosby singing things like “Two Shillelagh O’Sullivan” and “The Isle of Innisfree” from a cassette tape my mom played over and over in the car in the weeks leading up to March 17th, wool sweaters, Guinness, freckles, colcannon, soda bread, “The Quiet Man,” and the repurposing of brisket as a “treat.” For years my grandparents, whose various ancestors had arrived in New York during the previous century on coffin ships, hosted a St. Patrick’s Day party so festive that relatives flew in just for the occasion. The evening always degenerated into hours of singing, and in later years more and more neighbors were invited as the noise extended further and further down the block.
This year, my mother, sister, and friend Maureen and I braved the crowds together. My family hadn’t been to the parade in years (“GOOD LORD next year, when I say I want to do this, tie me up and don’t let me out until March 18th,” my mother would say every year as we fought the throngs.) Maureen, a Southsider who had grown up Irish dancing in the storied Southside St. Patrick’s Day parade, had never been to the downtown iteration.
Highlights from the parade included Mayor Rahm “He’s so tiny! Did I already miss him?” Emanuel marching down the street, immediately followed by a float featuring employees from a social services organization holding up signs that read “Mr. Mayor, Please Don’t Cut Our Funding,” as well as a float from “Illinois’ most popular speedboat bar.” Highlights from the sidelines included a man in a wheelchair who fought his way to the front of the crowd as confused (and confined) bystanders made way. He ended up standing through the whole three-hour ordeal. It was a St. Patrick’s Day miracle.
Or the genuinely sweet teenaged girls next to me, decked out in shirts that read, “I [shamrock] Drunk Sluts.” (Girls, my “You’re better than this!” offer to go to Marshall’s with you stands. Seriously, Chaps is doing not-at-all-frumpy things with blouses these days. Consider an animal print!)