by Rick Blue - After the astounding financial meltdown of the last year we are finally getting the melt down of which we can approve – the annual melting of the snow and the coming of spring. And with it the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The color green is everywhere. The green flags, the green shamrocks, the green beer…the green faces the morning after.
I realize that originally that color is the symbol of Ireland, but for me, and so many others, the wearing of the green is a symbol of spring. But although it might be spring in Ireland this week St. Patrick’s Day ain’t spring quite yet in Montreal.
I have taken part in many St. Patrick Day parades in the past. But I can’t remember one in which I felt warm. I was always poised on the CBC float in a down-filled Kanuk coat with my guitar two feet away from my body. My fingers would be frozen and my guitar going out of tune because of the cold. The wagon would always be jerking to a start or a stop. This made for some very strange versions of the twelve St. Patrick Day songs George and I had learned so that we could be employed in the clubs at least one night each year.
(I remember one St. Patrick Day gig long ago in the old Yackety Yack club on Drummond Street when we played from noon until three that morning. I think we performed “The Unicorn” every single set. Once it was requested right after we just had finished playing it.)
The parade would crawl along St Catherine Street from Atwater to St. Urbain. We would finally dismount from the floats, after three hours of singing “The Unicorn” and drinking hot coffee (sweetened with a wee dram of whiskey) desperately needing to find a latrine. I would usually make a bee line down to Chinatown for some relief and a nice Irish Dim Sum.
For Montrealers it has become the anti-nationalist parade. Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s an antidote to the competing separatist and federalist political parades we have at the summer solstice called Fete Nationale and Canada Day. St. Patrick’s in Montreal has become a non political event in which all the ethnic groups can celebrate together.
I believe that is the way it should be. It’s like the fact that you don’t have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas. I look no further than the songs I sing on those days for proof of this. After all, like the best Christmas songs most of the best Irish songs were written by Hebrews.
Does that sound politically incorrect? Here’s more -
I remember a few years ago there was a hubbub because a Gay group wanted to join the fun and March in the parade. The Boston parade denied them but I believe they were not shunned here. I think the Bostonians were afraid to see a float (ala Gey Pride day) replete with gyrating semi naked men with tight leather bikini briefs pass the reviewing stand. But in Montreal they knew they didn’t have to worry. It’s too cold for anything like that. They might be Gay but they’re not crazy.
Which reminds me of the old one about the two Gay Irish guys: Gerald Fitzpatrick and Patrick Fitzgerald…
Another politically incorrect stereotype is that the Irish are known for drinking a bit.
In his will O’Leary had stated that he wanted a bottle of Bushmill’s whiskey poured over his newly minted grave. His best friend O’Reilly was to do the honors. O’Reilly said: “I hope he doesn’t mind if I strain it through me kidneys first.”
Each year near the end of our cold Montreal winter we finally get a parade that we can all support - a parade that celebrates music, laughter and beer.