Thursday, May 01, 2008

Chicago's South Side Irish Parade

I've been meaning to post about this for some time, but I have never gotten around to it because my pictures were on the Mac and I don't get online at home on a regular basis. Regardless of my constant excuses, here's the write-up and I'll add pictures later. It all came about during the lead-up to Bockfest. I called down to Alex to remind him earlier in February, and he sadly informed me that Lauren and he would not be able to make it. He did say, however, that the South Side Irish Parade would be happening a couple of weekends later and that I should make it a point to come on down. At Bockfest I told Randy about this and he was up for it - last year he had gone down and met up with Alex and Lauren and had a great time. The South Side Parade is always the weekend before the St. Patrick's day weekend, which is when the more well-known downtown Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade occurs. We made plans to head down Saturday afternoon and meet at Alex's condo on the north side. On Saturday, March 8th I met Randy and Emily at Randy's apartment and I drove down to Chicago. We were listening to the Badgers capture the Big 10 season championship with a win over Northwestern for the first part of the trip, and after the victory I offered Emily the choice of what to listen to on my well-stocked iPod. She couldn't find much that she knew, which I took as a compliment of course.

We met up with Alex and his co-worker Kien, who also had been on the Las Vegas trip last November (I never did post on that one, did I?). Alex and Kien had gone to the Adler Planetarium that afternoon and were a bit late coming back on the Red Line so Randy, Emily and I stopped off at a nearby bar, the Driftwood, and grabbed a drink. About 30 minutes passed before Alex and Kien stopped by, and we decided to go out and get Italian Beef sandwichs at Al's Beef. Now I've got to say, I had the Al's Combo with the homemade giardinera and it was incredibly good, but nothing on the face of this planet can touch my mother's Italian beef sandwiches, end of discussion. Anyhow, Alex and Kien had gone out Friday night to Delilah's, my absolute favorite bar in Chicago if not the world, so those two weren't exactly up for a full-blown night of debauchery. Plus we needed to get up relatively early to catch the train to the parade the next day, so we headed over to the Ole St. Andrew's Inn for a few drinks and then called it an early night.

The next morning we were a bit slow to get ready and we didn't quite have time to grab breakfast like planned. Alex loaded up his great flask with Crown Royal, since it was going to be a cold blustery day. We drove downtown and followed the green-clad crowd to the Metra trains at Union Station. There were hundreds and hundreds of younger-looking people waiting to board the trains, with various CPD officers stopping people carrying open containers. We climbed onto a train and took a row of seats on the upper level. The train was filled with revelers laughing, talking, and passing cans of cheap beer between themselves. Alex pulled out the flask and we all had a taste, including a couple of people across the aisle. It was good communal fun.
We got off mid-way down the parade route and made our way up to Western Avenue. The crowds were already large and it was not even noon. We found a way across since we didn't want to end up on east side of Western. The way the parade work is: the east side of Western Avenue is "dry" and is where the families and the older paradegoers congregate to watch the parade. The west side of Western is where all of the pubs are located, and this is where the younger folks such as myself gather to drink and generally ignore the parade. We made our way across and found a stand selling hot dogs - not the breakfast we had planned but tasty nonetheless. At this time we met up with the rest of Chicago contingent, including most of the Las Vegas tripgoers, consisting of Luke and Fran, Kelly and Chris, and Ashley and Scott. The only person that was not in attendance was Lauren, who had gone to a bachelorette party the night before with Ashley (who did manage to make it).
We made our way over to a pub (I'll remember the name once I upload the pictures - McNally's) and paid a fairly hefty cover to get in. The place was as packed as I've ever seen a bar. I was not enjoying myself at first, because of the crowds and the beer selection. Randy and Emily had bought these large "buckets" (like small ice cream pails with a lid and a small opening cut out!) of Bud Light from a stand on the side of the bar. I know I'm a beer snob, and I'm damn proud of it too, but the simple fact of the matter is that I can't stomach light beer, especially warm. Thankfully I found that I could get Budweiser and I arranged to split the bucket with Kien. After a few more nips on the Crown I was starting to feel better about the mosh pit atmosphere and the sloshed beer on my shoes. Around this time I looked out the singular window in the bar and what do you know, there's a parade going on! With my wristband I could leave the bar (thanks to IL's statewide smoking ban - hopefully we're next) so I managed to see a good deal of the floats and the ubiquitous kilt-wearing pipers and firemen.
After a couple of hours it was starting to wind down. Alex and several others had gone outside and found they could no longer get in. They kept telling us to stay inside and they would join us shortly, but after an hour we gave up and left the bar. We had missed the earlier train back downtown so we had to wait for the later one. By this time most of the crowd had dispersed and most of the bars were "closed," meaning only firemen and other parade marchers could get in. I had no desire to pay another cover since I had stopped drinking a couple hours beforehand - I had to drive back to Madison that night. We settled for a slice of pizza and made our way to the train. After about a 45 minute wait the train arrived, much less crowded this time. As we made our way back to Union Station the conversations around me started to drop off, as did many of the passengers. By the time we reached Union Station half the people were asleep. I had an excellent picture of Randy sleeping on the train, but he sneakily deleted it later on.
Before heading back to Madison, we all went out to dinner with Alex, Lauren and Kien at The Spot, just up Broadway from Alex's place. Alex highly recommended the place since one of the owners had Madison connections and We had a good meal and it made for a great ending to the weekend. There were a few singers playing solo on a small stage near the door, and as it turns out there was a half-price special on entrees on Sundays. The only "problem" I had was when I ordered the chicken sandwich everyone else at the table ordered the same thing. As I've mentioned before, I don't like to order the same thing as anyone else, but since I had gone first I just kept my mouth shut and dealt with it. Randy knew of my condition and in the car on the way back commended me on "conquering that demon." At the end of the meal I apparently filled out a comment card and provided my email address, something I normally don't do and that I didn't recall doing in this instance. However, about two weeks later I received an email announcing a comedy show at The Spot containing this picture, which just made my day. Randy, Emily and I left right after dinner and made our way back to Madison. Randy slept in the backseat of the Civic for most of the way, and Emily refused to listen to "those weird songs" on my iPod on the way back. Instead, we had to listed to the radio, namely country (mainstream country radio is anathema to me). Sufficed to say, I tried to drive out of the signal range of that particular station as quickly as possible, and by Rockford I had succeeded only to have Emily quickly find another one. It was a good weekend, notwithstanding the beer and country music situation, and I'm happy I went.

5 Comments:

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I'm surprised your first quirk hasn't necessitated a second one: that you always order last!

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