Friday, March 18, 2016

Pondering on St. Patrick’s Day

A meeting of the minds in Central Park. 3:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Friday, March 18, 2016. Mild and mainly overcast at 60 degrees yesterday in New York. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and I can’t imagine there is another place on the planet that celebrates Saint Patrick with quite as much enthusiasm, and the wearing of the green. And the bending of the elbow. It is a party time big time. On a business day in New York with its millions of citizens, it can be quite inconvenient getting around. But then, there are probably a million or more celebrants with a wee bit o’ the Irish in ‘em.
Post-St. Patrick's Day parade traffic jam along the 96th Street transverse.
Columbia is Irish which comes as a surprise to many, doubters too. Especially others who are Irish, probably because of the Latin sound. It never mattered to me but my father whose father and mother came over in the 19th century, always responded in what I came to regard in a typically Irish way (“... why that SOB, I’d like ta pound him ...”).

I had a mother-in-law with the name of O’Donnell who thought Columbia was Puerto Rican. I think she was kidding but it was her way of expressing her disbelief. My father would have fainted on the spot (I never told him).

Pride is the Irish gold that protected the fightin’ Irish through their early days as immigrants in this country. The Irish who came over at that time were escaping famine and desolation. They were regarded by those living here already as riff-raff at best, and not even good enough to be second class citizens.

It was that aforementioned Pride that is in the genes, that not only pulled them through but on to the heights, to the point where many adopted the stance of looking askance at the later immigrants who came from elsewhere.

By the early 20th century, the New York Irish were still pulling through but definitely on the rise politically and therefore in every other way. John F. Kennedy confirmed their distinction forever. A century later, most of that colorful and creative heritage has faded. We’re all Americans now. Except on St. Patrick’s Day, Irish or not.
Marching in the 1958 St. Patrick's Parade.
Wise ones not celebrating in New York but have business to take care of, figure it out and plan ahead. Others just go forth into the fray and take whatcha-get. I am one of the latter. I’m not into parades but so what, a lotta people are, and they like them. I did too when I was a little kid. St. Paddy’s is a fun one that is highly anticipated with pleasure by a lot of New Yorkers and its visitors, because it’s a party, a big get together.

I went down to Michael’s to lunch with Gerry Fabrikant who contributes to the NYSD. She called in the morning to see if I still wanted to go to Michael’s (midtown) under the circumstances. I hadn’t been to Michael’s this week so I thought why not.

The reality of this day is that traffic gets tied up all over the place, period. I got a cab in front of my apartment building and we calmly figured out the best route for my needs -- take the FDR Drive from 79th to 53rd Street (8 minutes) and then crosstown to Madison and 55th and walk the rest of the way. Actually good plan. Took no more than fifteen minutes to get to Mad and 55th.
I got out of my cab at 55th and Mad, but when I reached Fifth the parade was in full force with the marchers, the banners, the bands and the batons.  Crossing the avenue was limited. The NYPD did a masterful job in keeping everyone moving, as well as making ample space for the thousands watching on the sidewalks. There were metal barriers on the side streets set up curbside dividing the to’s and from’s. I got to Fifth only to find out that you could only cross the avenue at 54th or 57th. 
So I walked down a block and took in the parade with my camera. We’re looking northwest at the corner of 55th with the Peninsula Hotel on the left (with one of its commercial spaces being remodeled), and the church which is cover with netting and scaffolding refurbishing its exterior.
From the same spot looking southwest to 54th Street.
When I got to 54th, I had to walk east a half a block to get in line to wait to cross Fifth Avenue. We’re looking at the University Club and the Peninsula on the far right.
Finally crossing after a few minutes wait.
The view from the corner of 54th and Fifth. The building with the balconies and the flag on the third floor corner, is the St. Regis Hotel. On the corner across the street is the Coca-Cola Building which was originally the Columbia Pictures building with the address 711 Fifth Avenue. The number picked by its owner, movie mogul Harry Cohn, because it was lucky. The black glass tower just beyond it is Trump Tower and the residence of The Donald, and beyond that Tiffany, then Louis Vuitton and the Sherry Netherland at the end.
Michael’s was unusually quiet. Thursdays at this time of the year are chatter-clatter. There were empty tables; parade avoiders. Michael himself, along Steve Millington and Michael’s chef had just been on Fox in the morning with Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly. Steve had it on his Android to show us. The chef demonstrated one of their asparagus dishes. I never discuss food on the Diary or anywhere else, but one of the big draws of Michael’s is the menu.  It’s excellent, tasty, and top quality.
Michael McCarty, chef Kyung Up Lim, Steve Millington, Rosanna Scotto, and Greg Kelly on Fox 5.
I left Michael’s at 2:30 and went over to Sixth Avenue to get a taxi to go through the Park up to 72nd Street, thinking I’d avoid the parade. Couldn’t. Park closed. Taxi driver made the calculated guess that it would be faster to go up Central Park West and cross over to the East Side on 79th Street. CPW was bumper to bumper. We crossed west over to Amsterdam going north. Bumper to bumper. At 86th, we turned east to the transverse entrance on CPW. Bumper to bumper. On the East Side, the same thing. I got home at quarter to four, forty bucks later. As it happened, I had a good conversation with my cabbie, a man from Canada, a photographer in the media business who moonlights when jobs are slow.
When I got home after my hour’s ride through uptown and crosstown traffic, I took the dog for a walk down by the river which was so peaceful and serene with no sign of any gridlock, brass bands, marching officials, baton twirlers that were dominating the life of the center of the city at that very moment.  Just those beautiful storm clouds passing over on their way northeast.
 

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