It’s late on Friday night. When we check into the Fairmont Hotel at Millennium Park, I tell the guy behind the desk we’re in town for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. His hair is black and his eyes are bright blue; I think he looks a bit Irish himself. I assume he’ll know the rundown of tomorrow’s events, and apparently he does: Chicago River turns green at 10:45 am, parade starts on Columbus Drive at noon, and then, all the drunken crazies come out. I thank him, grab the keys and steer my fellas to our room.
Our view is quite nice. We can see the river. I wonder aloud if we’ll be able to watch the greening of the water from the comfort of the 22nd floor. This turns out to be the case, because when I happen by the window at 9:45 am on Saturday, I see a pool of green dye flowing downstream in a rush.
“Wait! We’re missing the greening!” I exclaim. At once, the guys run to the windows to see for themselves. They start throwing on shoes and coats, and in five minutes, we rush out onto the street.
It’s 40 degrees and overcast. It’s not frigid, thankfully, but let’s face it, it could be warmer. After making that basic observation, we remember we left our hats and gloves in our car, which is parked a long city block away in the dregs of public parking, and in the opposite direction of our path to the river.
We press on, and at the end of the stretch, we see this.
It really that green.
The mobile cameras of the city are working overtime. Couples smooch before the green water hoping a little luck will rub off on their relationships. My boys are equal parts grossed out and stealthily curious. We decide to keep moving, but not without first buying hats. (Geebus. The wind in this town.)
We walk for an hour, killing time before the parade. O is in full complain mode, uttering under his breath that he’s cold and hates parades and wants to go to the toy store. I feel for him and his four-year-old legs walking all over this windy, cold snap of town. I suspect I’m asking too much from him, so I pick him up and together we shuffle through the crowd. I get happy, unlimited hugs for the next 10 minutes until he grows drowsy and his little arms go slack. At first, I think he’s asleep. Then he mutters that the city has too many people and his fingers are cold and he’s tired.
We find a spot among the green and teeming masses of Irish men and women who have dug in their heels along Columbus Drive. A stranger hands the boys a sleeve of shamrock stickers; they peel them off the backing and slap them against our lapels until all four of us are covered in clovers and saucy Irish sayings. My guys are rosy-cheeked and happy now; they stay that way until two of our party suddenly realize that nature is calling.
So what should one do? The parade is 10 minutes from starting, bathrooms are four blocks away, everyone is cold and none of us really likes a parade much anyway. We wait long enough for the Color Guard to pass, stay for the bag pipes then turn on our heels to go.
It sounds like a waste, but it’s not. Here’s why:
On the way back to the hotel, GB carries a sleeping O while H and I swing hands and lead through the crowd. Eventually we find the hotel, step into the elevators, troll through the hallways and burst into the still of our cozy room. O sacks out cold on the bed and stays there in a steady snooze for the next two hours. GB and H decide to watch a little March Madness, so I crawl under the covers to try to get warm. It doesn’t take long to find a little nap for myself, too.
See? Does that sound like a waste to you? We could have done all of this at home, but the point is, we wouldn’t have.
When I said we’d attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade, that’s what I meant, and so that’s what we did. I never said we’d have to stay for the whole thing. By my book, mission accomplished.
It occurred to me Friday that we stumbled upon another 36×37 assignment this weekend, which is nice, especially now that I’m so close to the April 17 cut-off date. I’ll write all about it tomorrow.
In the meantime, as promised, I’ll leave you with a wee Irish tune to gear you up for this Thursday’s official St. Patrick’s Day’s festivities. I’ve decided not to post a traditional Irish tune today. Instead, I think I’ll stick to something a little more contemporary—Van Morrison—not only because he’s great and hails from Northern Ireland, but also because I know the artist choice will make my friend Sunshine happy.
Van Morrison – Gloria
More tomorrow. Top o’ the mornin’ (or evenin’) to all ye Irish at heart, and to all the rest of ye, too.
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