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Yes Virginia, There is a St. Patrick

We set-up camp just west of the fountains at the Gateway Mall. The streets of Rio Grande were filled with parade attendees all dressed in something green or attached with a cardboard shamrock cutout. Families lined the parade route sitting in folding camping chairs, drinking coffee or hot chocolate under overcast skies. I worked Keys On Main the night before and was tired from all of the hooey and applesauce of a Friday night.

My girlfriend and I were excited to be there. We have gone to five of the last six St. Patrick Day parades thereby making it a tradition for us. We both have Irish heritage. My mother’s family is the epitome of an Irish-American  family: very blue-collar people who value hard work, education, Catholicism and drinking. They love story telling, jokes and tragedy. We had a family reunion last summer in San Diego and it was a collection of people who scanned all parts of the American story: lawyers and doctors; plumbers and electricians; nurses and teachers; data processors and drug dealers.

Like most families that have immigrated to the United States, our connection to Ireland is purely traditional. With the exception of my grandmother, no one has been to the Emerald Isle (yet). I value my Irish side simply because I feel as if I identify with the modern Irish-American experience. I like the food, music and culture. Besides, when you have a red beard, pale skin and a hankering for tipping whiskeys and beers, it’s not hard to get on the Green Train.

Highlights from the parade were the Irish step dancers with their curly wigs and traditional dresses, SLPD Motorcycle Corps performing choreographed moves on their Harley Davidson Road Kings and anything with a bagpipe. Nothing gets my blood boiling like the sound of bagpipes. The haunting shrill of a troop of players harkens me back to a time when armies would meet on a field of battle and settle tribal matters with shillelaghs and axes. Today, the soundtrack for these fights is usually Insane Clown Posse. I really want to learn how to play the bagpipes. I think it would be great to participate in an upcoming parade, honor my Irish past and annoy the Hell out of my neighbors.

My two favorite moments from the parade were very simple pleasures. The first was watching some Civil Ware re-enactment soldiers. They were riding horses and waving swords around. The greatest crime of the day was the aforementioned SLPD not performing breathalyzers on these historical geezers. One of the horses took a massive poop right on the middle of Rio Grande Street and left it there for the rest of the parade to march around. Gross? Yes. Funny? Not yet. Three groups later, the Irish Setter dog organization came through and one of the dogs did a barrel roll through the horse manure to the disgust of 300 people. I hope this wasn’t a metaphor for the Irish experience.

The second favorite part of the parade were the group of people standing next to us throughout the parade. There were four couples pouring homemade coffee and tomato juice into their non-descript cups. They had their kids and dogs with them and they are having a great time. Man, was I jealous. If I didn’t have to work that night, I would have put on the charm to introduce myself to these people and happily accepted a little Jameson in my coffee. I imagined that they were on the first step of a long day of food and drinks. What I loved about this group is the fact that their wolfing down pickled asparagus and Spanish olives at 10 in the morning. They were treating the parade the way it is treated in every other city outside of Utah: booze, dogs, kids and fun. Moreover, they were not even trying to hide the fact that they were having cocktails. When I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Reno, it was Marte Gras with green beer and handcuffs. Salt Lake City always whiffs on holidays were alcohol is a key component.

There are two days in the year that are the bane of the bartender: New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day. I am already prepping myself for Thursday. Keys On Main is offering $3 Guinness and $3 Jameson shots all day long. We’ll be offering $3 aluminum bottle of Bud Light and a slew of other drink specials. I am planning on writing a post-St. Patrick’s Day blog about the 17th of March to be posted on Friday.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. For as much as I love St. Patrick’s Day, it is the one day of the year that I don’t drink. I have to get my Irish pride whiskeys in on Friday. So, tip one for me and Senn Fein.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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