Monday, March 12, 2012
Patrick was a Saint, I Ain't
Luck is with the Irish-Americans and all groups, types, and shapes of peoples who enjoy drinking vehemently and proudly during daylight hours in the great northeast, for here, the celebration for Saint Patrick and his heroics instilling a Catholic institution in Ireland is not one day, rather, three entire weekends. After a generally tumultuous and violent winter, the reward is the almost inappropriate extension of this traditional holiday, a period when the wind still bites but the sun begins to emerge as the community unites in green glory.
This past Saturday, my town organized their annual Saint Patrick Parade, an event that draws nearly 70,000 people to the streets to cheer and gaze on in awe at the hordes of people across this state who have learned how to play the bagpipes, to indulge in corned beef and hoppy libations, and to don some very ridiculous shamrock and leprechaun inspired outfits. The physical march of the parade is down the main street and around the town square, a not impressive distance; however, the number of participating groups was astounding. The filmmaker and I attended for about two hours to watch the parading marvels, then retreated from the cold for a bit to get some sustenance and energy, then headed out and braved the crowds once more to imbibe the appropriate beer. Enjoy a Guinness I certainly did, though, unlike most of the university students and other young adults in my area, I was able to contain my zeal for the occasion and remained comparatively stone sober for the afternoon. Favoring my clear-headed thinking and my steady step aside, I am glad I did, as I was better able to soak in the experience.
Apparently, being the Grand Marshall of this small town parade is a very big ordeal; later that afternoon, while in local pub sipping our beers, the filmmaker and I saw the Grand Marshall enter, much to the delight of every aged man in the crowd. He was adorned, along with his entourage, with a jaunty sash and a top hat.
As some photographs later in my chronology of this event will illustrate, dogs play a fairly prominent role in the frivolities of the parade; these Irish wolf hounds were stunning and majestic specimens. The breed never ceases to amaze me with their size and grand strut.
The first of many, many pipe and drum ensembles; from my untrained ear and unrefined auditory recognition, all groups were seemingly playing the exact same tune, with a loud bagpipe melody and a reverberating drum rhythm. Mostly, I was impressed with the volume of trained players this state boasts, especially among the younger generations; it was refreshing to see so many take a genuine interest in their heritage. Or, perhaps, manage to look regal in a plaid skirt and tall socks despite their disdain for perpetually obeying the ordinances of their parents.
There were fewer Irish dancing troupes than pipe and drum ensembles; their vibrant and stiffly starched triangular dresses were a beautiful and bright sight, though, again, I can imagine the resistance from younger generations to the overly teased and curled pompous hair. My facetious mocking aside, again, it was a pleasure to see people practicing an art could easily be lost in a realm of mechanized, technological delights, practicing this art and allowing it to thrive and propagate.
More bagpipes and more drums, this time, with tall furry caps that evoked my memories of my dear friend Rebecca's monkey hair muff from college; it was a grotesque piece. Never again have I seen a creature that so closely resembles human hair.
Old men in beautiful cream Irish knit sweaters promenaded and carried this large Irish flag; generally, I need my quarters for laundry, and can usually find a use for nickels and dimes, though, at the time, had no loose change on me so did not contribute to their funds. I trust that the aim of all in the crowds was steady and accurate, without the effects of beer causing deviations to the trajectory, because getting clunked in the head over and over again with change cannot be pleasant.
Besides the actual parade, the street was lined with so many peddlers, mostly pushing festive wares that were glittering green, though many also had lots of plastic cartoon character balloons and a general arsenal of crap. I admired their fortitude and, in a sense, the honoring of another type of tradition, inherent in street market and celebrations: trying to make a buck, hawking what can.
Unfortunately, my trip to Dublin last December did not afford me any time to shop for one of these beautiful cream sweaters, much to my dismay; I am still bitter and hurt now. I felt sorely left out.
This group of elderly musicians in their patchwork colored costumes left me quite perplexed, but still impressed at the intricacy of pattern and the highfalutin display of feathers.
A few days prior, while doing some research into the parade, as far as timing and anticipated crowds were concerned, the filmmaker and I stumbled upon an online video from last year, exalting a self-proclaimed thunderous herd of wieners: the South Jersey Dachshund Club. Jokingly, we promised to attend the parade purely to see this spectacle of cylindrical, short-legged dogs, flaunting their hotdog movements with pride and ease.
As a writer and a disciple of the varied texture of the English lexicon, I am not certain that I would use the word "thunderous" to describe the stampede of dachshunds, but it surely was something.
As opposed to the typical and ubiquitous verdant display, I opted for orange to show my unity with the Irish for the day; I paired a sun burnt orange cowl neck sleeveless dress with a light oatmeal cable cord sweater and some plain black leggings. My tall ombre riding boots were ideal with all the standing and maneuvering through swaggering drunkards later in the afternoon.
Large gold and orange dangling earrings to display my cheer for the festive occasion.
I did manage to slip in some green, though rather subtly: my deep emerald bakelite bangles, which complement my leopard cuff very well.