On Saturday, I participated in a Chicago tradition for the first time. No, I didn't shovel out a spot in which to park and designate my Spot For Life with a couple of old lawn chairs that look as if they were dragged behind a festering garbage truck the length of the city. I don't do that sort of thing and there wasn't any snow - thank goodness - anyway. Nor did I get my car towed from the Dominick's parking lot near Rush Street because I thought I could be clever and park there without paying - why didn't anyone else think to do this? Idiots! - so my friends and I could go to this cheesy bar because we knew it was the only one that didn't card. Nope, I'd already done that when I was seventeen or so and the sight of my parent's car chained to the back of that tow truck when I was a little tipsy with my first screwdriver is still scratched indelibly on my mind, another groove in my internal record album. I didn't do either of these things Saturday. I went to the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown instead, and sure and begorrah, I've got bright green glitter flashbacks I'll probably be dealing with all week.
I'm usually the one with the Dangerous But Potentially Fun ideas (e.g., from 1993 or so, "Let's go on the roof -- this party is way too hot and crowded but I'm still want to hang out,") or ones just lacking in any basic common sense (for example, walking down Humboldt Boulevard in lederhosen because my best friend from San Francisco and I thought it'd be funny to see how the local population would react, which was basically that we were Alps-climbing hookers that somehow got lost in Bavaria and ended up on the near west side). My husband has a great sense of adventure and fun, but, still, he is Minnesota born and bred. His innate pragmaticism, like his own personal Spider Sense, usually starts vibrating and glowing like a Panera buzzer with any ill-conceived plan that might sacrifice life or limb. The other day, though, his buzzer must have been a little off as he was the one who suggested checking out the St. Patrick's Day parade downtown.
I was a little stunned when he looked up from the newspaper Wednesday morning and suggested the parade but I tried to keep a poker face about it.
He pointed to the weather forecast and shrugged. "It's supposed to be nice out."
So we went. True to form, I added some components to maximize the potential of hijinks ensuing in the form of my crowd-confused mother and a six-year-old guest to accompany our very own six-year-old but we managed to survive it. Still, some observations and moments...
1. When the children decide on the train that they will point out every green thing they see, this game will get old quickly, even to them. ("Green sign!"; "Gre -!"; "Green scarf!"; "Hey, I saw that first!"; "No, you didn't!")
2. Word to the wise: Pack more snacks than you could possibly need. Like enough for the Vienna Boys' Choir after soccer practice. When you think you have enough, pack more. Bring a vending machine's worth of snacks if you don't want those children to follow through on their threat to up and revolt on you at some point.
3. Deciding to disregard the horde of green-clad, bewigged people walking to the parade route in the opposite direction can add an extra half-hour to your travel time. It turns out they are not all off on a Shamrock Shake run, no.
A. This adds to an extra half-hour of exposing my six-year-old fellow travelers to the various Irish-y tchockes peddled by street merchants with their arms outstretched like St. Francis, covered in three hundred green plastic necklaces.
4. "We're just going to smoosh in here if that's okay. Thanks. Ouch. Mom, come on. Come on. Get in here. Boys, be aware of your space. No, you can't sit. You can't! - okay, fine. Just don't move any more. Do you want to see the parade or not? Then sit still."
5. The group of ten students from Peoria standing next to me will discuss repeatedly how a block in their town is "like, from here to that tree over there," but in Chicago, "it's, like, miles long."
6. They will also talk nonstop about how drunk they were the night before.
7. And jostle me repeatedly.
8. They will compromise my short-term (and, possibly, long-term) hearing with their shrieks and hoots when the Guinness float drives past.
9. My mother will try to snatch up every last ugly freebie available and then get bored with it instantly, like a child.
10. Irish dance wigs are really weird. In fact, Irish dance itself is weirdly spastic looking. Creepy even.
11. People with bindis and dressed in saris with shamrock-themed hats make me do a double-take every time.
12. The guy across the street dressed head-to-toe in the kelly green suit is very distracting and I'm pretty sure he's the one who's always dancing on the Michigan Avenue bridge. What is his deal? I try to look away but I always return to him.
13. Ethnic pride is confusing.
14. Pink hearts, yellow moons, green clovers...What was that fourth marshmallow in Lucky Charms? Oh yeah: blue diamonds! Wikipedia says there were orange stars as well.
A. Wouldn't it be funny if there was a stereotypical cartoon Jew mascot for a kosher cereal with a Brooklyn accent and over-reliance on common Yiddish expressions? "You'd have to be a real putz to pass up a deal this good."
B. Remember when Cookie Crisp cereal came out and you were so psyched because you thought it'd be like eating mini-cookies for breakfast but it really wasn't?
14. "No one I am responsible for is using one of those disgusting Port-o-Potties. Hold it! No, Mom, there's no place to sit. Do you see a place to sit?"
15. Was getting that little sweatshop-crafted plastic shamrock doodad really worth nearly trampling my family? That so would not hold up in court.
16. Can we leave now. Haven't we experienced this thing yet?
17. Cool: bagpipes! Hey, they're wearing kilts, too. Isn't that a Scottish thing? Whatever.
18. "John, they really have to pee."
19. The group from Peoria is getting sloppy drunk. Oh, please stop making out before I vomit.
20. "John! The boys are ready to go. They're ready to go. Let's do it! Mom, move. Let's go. Excuse us. Boys, follow me. Hold hands. Everyone stay together. Yes, they're with me. They're with me. Come on, guys. Excuse me. Ouch! Pardon us. John, where - oh, there she is. Come on! Don't pick that up off the ground. Gross. Put that back down. Now! Keep moving. Mom, you don't need that necklace. Please don't. Sigh. Work with me, people. We're almost out. Excuse us!"
So that's it. We did it and survived. Would you believe that my mom actually suggested going to the southside parade, a.k.a, the one that makes the downtown one look like a church group organized it, the following day? Oh, no. I was too busy picking green glitter out of my hair.