With no hyperbole, I love the Saint Patrick's day parade, for reasons other than our shared name. It is a day when I get to watch amateurs perform what I do professionally: Get drunk while wearing idiotic clothing, and make questionable, regrettable decisions in public.
I go annually, which is a nice coincidence, since they hold it annually. There's a bit of tradition, of course, about Hal and Malcom White, various Big City illuminaries, and lore that has spun this one-time event into one of the biggest things that Jackson does.
I do not participate in the parade. My wife, and many of my more respectable friends, participate - either marching or riding on floats or bikes. There is a sort of hierarchy of crews and positions, a less intense version of the Mardi Gras high society game.
Therefore, I am not allowed in. This is a thing for people who are not currently stewing in swamp juices. I skit about the edges, egging on the drunk and disrespectable, wielding my shillelagh, handing out beers and whiskey, and behaving as though this is a perfectly normal day for me, which has been intruded upon by tens of thousands of idiots.
This is A: Fairly true about the parade, and B: An approximation of how I generally feel. This year, I decided to get some pictures. Not of the parade - none of my readers (we have no readers) would want to see pictures of - shudder - PEOPLE. No, I got the aftermath.
NO PARKING - this is the unofficial name of the Hal and Mal's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The other one is "NO BATHROOMS," two slogans we share with Mardi Gras. Traffic becomes a true clusterfuck, and not the kind that's fun to watch on anything other than a Russian dashboard cam. Plus, when everyone's done, they're drunk, and driving. I hear that's bad. I wouldn't know. I don't drive anything I don't plan on wrecking.
Seriously, since no one lets anyone park anywhere, everyone parks everywhere else, which leads to a considerable amount of confusion. This is good. This is the sort of thing I like.
The parade is concentrated. Distilled. It has a small area that it occupies entirely. To move a few blocks away is to enter something entirely different. Normal Jackson. There may be a scrap, here or there, that lets you know, you may catch a glimmer of sound, or a hint of booze vomit on the wind.
Yet you see the beads. Tiny, glimmering in the rain or sun. Plastic pieces. They're made of plastic, I can't stress this enough.
What is plastic? It is not just some modern miracle, conjured by wizards, that returns to wafts of mystic smoke once it's job is done. Oh, no.
Plastic, I think the one in beads is primarily polyethylene terephthalate - is formed from fossil fuels. These fuels are made from the ancient remains of sealife, mostly plankton, concentrated for hundreds of millions of years by the immense pressures of the Earth. They are then pumped from the Earth, up through miles of rock, usually into some politically unstable region rife with human rights abuses.
Once the oil goes from a poverty or wartorn hellhole to an industrial hellscape, it is pumped into a unit called a Steam Cracker, which is not a thing people use to hack free video games. It is a miracle of modern industrial engineering, heating and cooling chemicals so quickly that the snapping chains of polymer travel at speeds beyond the speed of sound, at temperatures high enough to melt lead, created in sub-microsecond instants. The controls and machinery used to do this are the size of cities, their failures among the most spectacular disasters humanity has to offer.
The created materials are mixed, poured, and molded into sheets the size of ships. These are then pressed into molds, threaded bead molds, by people who live at their jobs over in China. There's a lot of toxic chemicals there. Lead, cadmium, all that good stuff that would suck if it just wound up in the gutters headed for the river.
Then these huge mile-long beadstrings are cut into manageable chunks and threaded together in a process I doubt I am capable of understanding. It's probably done by children, though. Then, it's put onto huge cargo ships, manned by crews who spend months at sea in order to bring you these goddamn beads, you drunk monster.
Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked.
So, this chemical wastepile arrives at an American port, and fossil-fuel guzzling trucks bring them the last few miles to our garbage-strewn shores. I hate all of it.
Wait. Is that... is that a plastic cabbage on a chain? Can I...
This stage belongs to the secretive and cultish "Bucketheads." They have no relationship to the infamous musician "Buckethead," other than the part where they wear buckets on their heads to maintain their anonymity. They are the anonymous judges of the parade, bethroned in an austere plastic dais, giving their judgement from behind their masks. The judgement is supposed to be honest, anonymous, with no favor given to those loved ones marching in front of the crowd.
Supposedly, I knew one of the first. My connections to this event are deep. I will find the beads left behind as they seek the River. You will see that, as it happens.
Some may say "This is not very Irish."
Fuck those people. We have Celtic Fest if you need your faux Irish fix with your log throwing and your reasonable amounts of drinking.
Also, fuck you if you ever said "Well, if we had a white pride day, people would wig out!" because this? This over-commericalized bowdlerized piece of shit? That's white people, baby. Shit tons of deadly beads thrown about with not a care in the world, a river that has to eat it, and a city that suffers drunks.
...though, I suppose there's a reason I like the parade. There may be trash and personal disasters, but - at the end of the day, garbage and booze is... kinda my thing.