It's the morning of St Patrick's Day 1995. A bright and sunny good to be alive day. Or it would be if I didn't have the hangover to end all hangovers. The result of a three day tear taking in most of the bars in the Bowery and the
Anyway so now I'm shaved and showered and shining like a new dime as I walk towards
The streets are already a mess of kelly, emerald, and all hues Johnny Cash. 40 shades, more like 400. Anything that will pass for green or shamrock-shaped will do. Beer is sucked from brown bags by boys and girls in kiss me I'm Irish t-shirts, plastic bowler hats of an eye-stabbing hue only achievable at a high cost to the ozone layer, bawneen caps, blue jeans and plaid kilts.
I keep my distance from all this viridiana. I'm in black. A leather jacket I bought off a street corner Pakistani in
The subway is crowded with
Off the train at
At a side altar a black woman prostrates herself before an enormous marble crucifix. She looks like she just stepped of the streets of Port au Prince. Cotton headscarf, so white it hurts my eyes, long skirt with a Gitanes-blue and white floral pattern. She is face down, arms out-stretched mimicking the man on the cross. The skirt spreads like a discarded opera fan. The lace curtain Micks step around her with eyes averted as if her devotions shame their noisy impiety.
I leave the cathedral by a side exit and try to slip under the NYPD barriers to claim a spot in the space reserved for the VII(rish)Ps . Rumour has it that Gerry Adams will be making an appearance after he's been and shown solidarity with the ILGO protest. I have a ticket in a sweep and I'm banking on 22 arrests at this year's demo. Sod ideology this means pints.
I almost make it into the Hibernian equivalent of the Royal enclosure when I'm stopped by a short female Hispanic cop. She asks for my invitation. I pull out my passport. It's green with a big gold harp on it. Worth a try.
No dice. No invitation no way in. I've come all the way from
Eventually I hook up with my mate Mike on the corner of
The marching bands and school girl majorettes are limbering up, getting ready for their part in the big day. There's a crew of hard core republicans wearing T-Shirts with slogans that would get them arrested on the other side of the
A group of fireman pipers entertain each other by revealing what is worn under an Irish-American's kilt. I look at Mike, he looks at me. No comment but the grin gives it all away it all. The Majorettes of Mother Cabrini’s Marching Band do stretches while
Grrrrr! says Finn the fireman
In the next street a drunken
In our zig-zag, leap frog from side street to side street we stop from time to time and engage in loud and nonsensical conversations as gaeilge. ‘Cad é an focail gaeilge 'dialysis machine'?’ as we witness one more kid drunk at 11.30 am. People look at us as if we're speaking Latvian. We keep it up trying to provoke a response or at least a word or two of Irish from someone else on the streets on this very Irish day. After five minutes we move on and try it again another street corner. In an attempt at guerilla street theatre Mike asks directions to Carnegie Hall in Irish from the leader of a Republican flute band. The man looks at him blankly, scratches an Aran clad armpit and points towards a cop standing on the opposite corner. Shona lá le Padraig tu féin, a chara. We move on.
Our zig-zag progress starts to take its toll and my hangover returns like a line from a House of Pain rap tune. We look around and realise that we're the only ones not drinking or marching or both. Our frantic pace slows and then slows again. Somewhere in the mid-70s I realise that this Bloom like sojourn cannot be sustained without pints and more pints. I emerge onto 5th Avenue heading east and realise that the parade has overtaken us. The last bands are passing and it's like the final scene from State of Grace without the carnage.
Zen and the art of piping NYC
Don't worry New York City, this child of migrants gets it. And loves you all the more for it.
A smiling black cop puts his hand on my shoulder and points me east. He wears a small tricolour in his lapel. 'Time to move along now, sir.'
Could be continued if there's enough interest....
The photo of St Patrick's Cathedral above was purloined from Griotphoto
These guys do good camera. Joe-Bob says 4 stars, check 'em out