A plastic mustache dangled drunkenly from his glasses as he dangled drunkenly along the sidewalk, his green top hat askew.
He leaned over as he turned back to call to his friend, who leaned forward as she called to him. He was wearing white jams with pinstripes of green held by suspenders over a green T-shirt. He wore sandals meant not to cover his neon lime socks.
She wore a green T-shirt, green sunglasses and shamrock deely boppers. It was noon on a Sunday and they were drunk as hell in the business district.
Alongside a river of Brawndo (It’s got electrolytes!), we walked Chicago. We weren’t just the young and rowdy, starting the day’s booze or continuing the last night’s one. We weren’t just the tourists taking in a cold day’s boat ride or walking tour because, weather be damned, we’re in Chicago for one weekend and we’re not going to sit in the goddamned hotel the whole time. We weren’t just the casual walkers there to see the river, a day after the thousands came to revel and party and whoop whoop whoop as the strait went emerald.
We walked Chicago for all and none of those reasons. We walked Chicago by a river dyed green, some nursing hangovers some just there for coffee and shopping, just because it was there.
It was a revel of a weekend for the once Irish fest of St. Patrick’s Day, co-opted into a megaculture’s drinking day along with the French folks’ Mardi Gras, the Mexican Cinco de Mayo and the Puerto Rican Puerto Rican Day. (You’re next, Juneteenth.)
On Saturday, the town drank or talked loudly about not drinking.
On Sunday, we walked the wreckage in the Loop, by a river slowly flushing the green away, by ducks swimming toward garbage they think is bread, by a browned and dead Christmas tree slowly bobbing in a kelly green waterway.
There is a more authentic, truer St. Patrick’s than boozy youngsters in skewed top hats in the Loop at noon. There’s an authentic Chicago Irish that’s never used the phrase “Chi-rish” and that drinks and sings Ireland for a greater cause than “Kiss Me” kelly buttons and shamrock-shaped Mardi Gras beads.
I’ve seen it, but I’m not part of it. So I just walk by a green-dyed river the day after the party, wondering what they feel that I don’t.