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12:42 p.m. - 2011-03-16
Chilly Willie

Oy, the temp is riding just above freezing and there's a needle thin rain coming down. I have many places to go today and all I want to do is stay here. Comfy in my hoodie and thick socks, the space heater deliciously defrosting the tips of my chilled fingers and icy nose. I just started another pot of coffee, my machine is a wee 2-cupper so it's not as though I've already sucked down the contents of the usual vat-like Mr Coffee carafe, I'm sure this third cup of coffee will taste as good as the first two.

Going out in this weather is especially icky because just the thought of that damp trickle down the back of my neck is causing flashbacks. As ugly as this miserable cold wet is, it's normal and seasonal. Of this I'm certain because tomorrow's St Patrick's Day. For many years my grandfather took my little sister and me into the city to watch the St Patrick's Day parade and if memory serves the weather was ALWAYS like this on parade day. A damp and cold proposition but do-able if dressed properly, but here's the rub- we were NOT dressed properly for the weather, we were dressed properly for my mother's nutty expectations. Meaning we were dressed in our school uniforms, they being pleated and plaid thus the only acceptable attire to watch a fucking Irish parade. The stupid things weren't even green, they were blue. As were our unlined poplin rain coats. Shivering and sniffling, soaked nearly through to the bone, my right shoulder and Gidget's left at first cramping and then going numb in the fierce clutch of our anxious grandfather who was terrified we'd be lost in the crowd so never let go for a second, jammed along the curb on 5th Avenue we watched the soggy bagpipers and goose pimpled baton twirlers and envied the marching gangs of firemen and police officers who, of course, had been allowed to don their heaviest uniform great coats and had plastic rain bonnets over their hats. Ditto the Teamsters and the Steam Fitters and the Dockworkers- all of them dressed warmly with their sashes and union badges pinned to their winter coats. Politicians and other bigwigs rode in convertibles with aides holding umbrellas over their VIP heads. The priests being smarter than anyone skipped riding in open cars altogether and waved through the steamed up windows of borrowed Cadillacs. Meanwhile Gidget and I with our frozen bare legs and chapped running noses just waited for the damn thing to be over so we'd be allowed to get back in the car and slowly thaw out on the long ride back to New Jersey and our waiting grandmother (the only wholly Irish person in the family) who'd claim she'd watched the whole thing on TV and had seen us waving.

Of all the dumb things my family did in the name of tradition, that idiot's journey to the city to watch the parade was the dopiest. It's a mercy that I left Catholic school in 5th grade and with the end of uniform wearing came the end of our frozen trek into the city for the parade. God forbid we go to the parade in jeans. And that year, March 17, 1974 I was at my desk gratefully warm and dry listening to my snide, very Italian teacher, Mr DeFillipe, extol the virtues of Christopher Columbus and how St Patrick was no big deal anyhow, the only snakes in Ireland were the ones hallucinated by those rotten Irish drunks with the DTs.

Education before the days of political correctness was…um…colorful at times. I don't know how it was elsewhere but around here ethnic loyalties and prejudices ran deep and fierce. Each kept to their own for their specific holiday parades, but once a year everybody came together as Americans. One of the most amusing things about the Fourth of July parade was listening to the Sons of Italy trying to out shout the Ancient Order of Hibernians and making bets amongst ourselves over who'd throw the first punch when the parade got to the end at the village park and everybody made a beeline for the kegs.

Okay, enough stalling. Out into the yuck I go.


Taking solace I don't have to run my errands in a Our Lady of Terrible Vengeance uniform. ~LA

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