Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day the river turns greener than usual

The holiday proper may be Monday, but Saturday's the day that the explorer who allegedly "discovered" America becomes Christopher O'Columbus for a day.

On Friday, it was the fountain outside Daley Center that was dyed green. On Saturday, it will be entirety of the Chicago River. Come Sunday, it will be the garbage from the parade that has a green residue. Photograph by Gregory Tejeda

It's the St. Patrick's Day parade, which in Chicago used to be an overbloated, pompous display of political might from the politicos of Irish ethnic origins.

IT'S NOT WHAT it used to be, though. I recall the old days of parades down Dearborn Street (and perhaps we ought to be fortunate that one of them wound up being integrated into the 1994 film "The Fugitive" so we can get a glimpse of what they used to be.

Now, those parades travel down about a four-block stretch of Columbus Drive. Which allows for the city skyline to be in the background. But which also gives them a generic parade feel.

Who can tell the difference between the Irish parade or the Mexican Independence Day event or any other group that has their annual parade along the same strip?

Gov. Pat Quinn will be on hand for the Saturday parade. But what will it say when an authentic Irish-American pol will likely be overshadowed by a Jewish guy?

RAHM EMANUEL IS, after all, Da Mayor. Quinn is just a political schnook who has to go to Springfield to be considered important (and even there doesn't get a whole lot of respect).

If anything, it is the events such as the South Side Irish parade out in the Beverly neighborhood that takes on more character, or the events that will be held in various suburban communities.

One of those in Elmhurst took place a week ago, and it resulted in a man having spent the past week in the DuPage County Jail, where charges are pending against him for comments he posted on a website hinting he might set off explosives during the event.

Definitely not someone in the holiday spirit.

PERSONALLY, I DON'T get all that excited about St. Patrick's Day. Although it is encouraging to see that Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Chicago are not the only ethnic-inspired events that result in way too much alcoholic consumption. (Just for what it's worth, the Census Bureau says 34.1 million U.S. residents claim Irish ethnic background, compared to 53.03 million who are Latino).

But it does say something about the ethnic character of Chicago that the people still try to do something to maintain an awareness of who they are and where they came from.

Which is something I find dismaying about visiting other places, where the white people have become so generic that they don't have a clue what they are (and anybody who tries to retort "They're American!" is missing the point of what our nation truly is).

I also find it amusing to see the annual tradition in Chicago that will be carried out this morning -- where the Chicago River is dyed green.

A NICE, BRIGHT shade of kelly green that looks like something the Lucky Charms leprechaun would wear before you took a bite of that overly-sugary mass that no one above the age of six ought to eat.

Which is different from the dull shade of greyish-green tha the Chicago River has become every other day of the year -- on account of the century's worth of pollution that has accumulated ever since the river flow's direction was altered to keep pollution out of Lake Michigan.

That makes me wonder about all those people who claim that the alteration is to blame for the possibility of Asian Carp getting into Lake Michigan. They'd have the engineering miracle undone.

Which could mean the residue of St. Patrick's Day could wind up in the lake. How many decades worth would it take before the lake turned green -- and we'd have to hear a batch of political dweebs from Michigan and Wisconsin complain about that!

SO FOR THOSE of you who feel compelled to show up at the Columbus Drive parade, here's hoping you enjoy yourself. Although I couldn't help but notice that the commuter trains I rode on Friday made a point of of mentioning that no alcohol would be permitted this weekend.

Although from my past years' experiences, I'm sure there will be those who get themselves "loaded" before catching a train, while also finding a way to smuggle a few bottles on themselves.

Is that the "Chicago Way" when it comes to parades?


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