It's time for my first St. Patrick's Day Parade here in New York City -- except sadly, I'll be working and having to listen to the music echoing through the canyons of buildings from two blocks away.
No, everybody in the city of New York does not take off for St. Patrick's Day. That's one of the many misunderstandings I had about the event as a former outsider. Here's some others myths and observations:
- Yes, drinking starts early. A large number of establishments were advertising their St. Patrick's Day Breakfasts starting at 8 a.m. this morning. By "breakfast," they meant alcohol.
- The parade is one big drunken melee. Wrong. While public intoxication used to be required to watch the parade, Rudy Giuliani cracked down on it (like he did most crime) a decade ago, and now if you're planning to get plastered while wearing the green, you stay inside the pub and don't step out onto the sidewalk. There are more police out today than pigeons, and if you're weaving or making a spectacle of yourself, you're going to be celebrating in Riker's.
- Wearing green is important. My one green shirt is at the cleaners. Guess who looks out of place today?
- Don't wear orange. As a University of Tennessee alum, I often wear my school colors around town. This is not the day to do that. Protestants in Northern Ireland wear orange as a rebuttal to the "wearin' of the green." Wearing orange in NYC today is a sure way to a butt-kicking.
- They wear kilts and play bagpipes. Yes, I know. Both are Scottish, not Irish. But my Irish co-workers swear there's such as thing as "Irish bagpipes," and even go to extreme lengths to explain the difference from Scottish ones. Don't sweat it too much. Just have another beer.
- The Archbishop of New York does stand on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. But he doesn't bless everyone in the parade. When the gay and lesbian groups go by, he ducks inside. Apparently one year they mooned him.