Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Heyday


As a youth in New York, St. Patrick’s Day was the best. You got to dress up and paint a shamrock on your face and cut school and go to the parade. My mother is Irish and that whole side of the family celebrated the holiday in a massive way. My older cousin’s were my idols, they were teenagers who hung out around me and acknowledged me. I knew all of their friends and I still to this day remember each friend’s name. These people made a great impact on me and I just thought they were the coolest.

I would go to the parade with them and be included in all of the revelries. There was drinking and dancing and singing and yelling and they brought blankets to wrap us up in and keep us warm on the years when the temperatures were brutal. I was part of the gang, included. I got to not be shy and participate and I got attention, which was lacking in my life, because I was little and cute. These folk knew how to have fun and I was allowed to be part of it. The parade was a vacation from my scary life.

At some point the Catholic school’s got strict about attendance on St. Patrick’s Day because it was known that teenager’s went to the parade and drank in the streets with everyone else. Back in the late 70’s and early eighties when we would go, New York City was loose and free and people could drink out of a brown paper bag without any issues. The streets were full of drinker’s, which was a drag to the rest of the people, but super fun to us. Avoiding stepping in vomit was part of the day.

The last time I went to the parade I was a freshman in high school and my mother let us cut school and wrote me and my sister sick notes. We went with my sister’s boyfriend and his friend and my friend who I’ll call Sue (Sue can come forward if she wants to, wink). It was freezing and we were not with my cousins, although I think we ran into them and hung out for a while. 

We were running around and having fun and enjoying the day and drinking. I was never a big drinker, alcohol ever really worked that great for me, but I took sips to be cool. It was freezing that year. I think we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to pee. Sue had been making out with my sister’s boyfriend’s friend. I think his name was Billy. I was jealous because Billy was cute and older and part of the adventure, and thus desirable. Then at some point she was vomiting and then crying out for Billy and trying to kiss him with her post-throw-up mouth. It might have been one of her first times drinking. Even if it wasn’t her first time, I am pretty sure it was her first time getting throw-up-drunk. We knew it was time to go and took her home.

I cannot remember how we got away with everything. Did we drive home or take the subway? Did the guys carry her? Did they carry me (I remember I wore boots with heels and my feet hurt a lot)? Did Sue come back to our house, where we would not get in trouble, where that was what happened on Saint Patrick’s Day? Did she sleep over or did she go home smelling of alcohol? I cannot remember the end of the story. I had had my first throw up drunk a few months before, on New Year’s Eve. That’s probably why it was her and not me on Saint Patrick’s day. We stuck together and took care of each other, even if that meant getting throw up on our coats. It all sounds horrendous to me now, but that is what our rite of passage looked like. We were not original my any stretch of the imagination, but we had a great day.

So today I honor Saint Patrick and the Irish, my Nanny from County Cork, who came to America alone at 14, the Skehills, and all the Inwood folk. You are all part of me. Erin Go Bragh.
and what better of a song could i possibly add...

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