Well, not really a rose. More of a paper flower, but who am I to say no to kisses from handsome (well, friendly and spirited, at least) Irish men?
I recently received an e-mail from someone who called New York's St. Patrick's Day parade "conservative," "militaristic," and "joyless."
I don't know why I always find myself comparing events in New York and New Orleans (they may as well be in different universes), but I do.
The Irish Channel parade last Saturday on Magazine Street was the polar opposite to "conservative," "militaristic," and "joyless." Even this neighborhood that is so prone to violence could not deny its party atmosphere and joviality. The very same neighborhood where I heard the gunshots from recent murders had no violent incidences or deaths that I recall seeing in the Times-Picayune. (The same cannot be said for our beloved Mardi Gras this year.)
After parking our car deep in the Channel near Tchoupitoulas (I just like spelling that name), my roommate and I were quickly offered a drink by the inhabitants of one little shotgun house. We declined after tasting the concoction, which they called "jungle juice," but their generosity in offering was to be a indicator of the entire day.
Walking past my old apartment on Magazine, we stopped to chat with the new inhabitants, who were outside enjoying the warm weather and the sunshine on the porch (the very same porch from which I blogged about my friend the gecko last time). Like my roommate and I, the new tenant was a writer too. There is definitely something about this place that draws us here.
Across the street from my old abode was a house party featuring a sign that said, "$5. Beer. Food. Potty." Where else can you get all that for five bucks?
Playing on the front porch of the house was my roommate Sally's lovechild, the New Orleans Rhythm Conspiracy, a band that she helped to create. A white bucket was strapped to the fence so that passers-by could contribute to tip the band.
And believe it or not, they did. They danced in the street and dropped money in the bucket. Someone passing by stuck a big green shamrock-laden hat on my head, which I eventually passed along to someone else.
Admittedly, this was my first time indulging in green beer. I try to avoid it, but for $5.00 I wasn't going to be particular. Green is my favorite color, after all.
The parade rolled eventually, led by groups of tuxedo-clad Irishmen carrying paper flowers to exchange for kisses from the ladies.
There is no better time to be a redhead than St. Patrick's Day, even when one is not Irish. I had accumulated at least five flowers before the floats ever came by.
Unlike parades in New York, spectators are not confined behind barriers like animals (except in the French Quarter). We run around like children, beg for beads and flowers, and generally maintain a certain level of genteel Southern courtesy that does not exist above the Mason-Dixon Line.
I am still trying to convince myself that I'm not a Yankee, so please just nod your head and play along.
The parade itself is very much in the spirit of Mardi Gras. In fact, I saw many of those same floats during the MG parades. Giant leprechaun heads and shamrocks and riders with green hair populated the floats. Men in kilts and tams marched along playing bagpipes and drums and passing out more flowers.
Imagine my glee when I learned that, much like Mardi Gras, the riders on the floats also toss loot. In addition to beads, flags, cups, and assorted undergarments, the floats toss vegetables, the most popular being, of course, cabbage. I caught one head of cabbage and countless bags of carrots. I missed all the potatoes, though. I just wasn't quick enough for a spud.
By the time the parade was over, my arms and neck were covered with beads, and I had accumulated seven flowers, two plastic Irish flags, two garters (though I gave one to a guy wearing green leotards and a green tutu), three plastic cups, and one pair of green panties, which I'm saving for a special occasion.
I wound up stringing most of my beads along the wrought-iron fence in front of the house. I already have too many Mardi Gras beads and no place for them. But I kept everything else.
Somewhere in the trip back to the car I lost one of my flowers, but I still have the memory of every sweaty, drunken kiss from a stranger.
After all, they're always after me lucky charms. . .