Posts Tagged With: Parade

St. Patrick’s Day 2012

I get stupid-happy about St. Patrick’s Day. To me, it’s a day to dress up,  remember my upbringing in an Irish-Catholic school, and now it’s become a day to pine for my hometown again. Nevertheless, I ran my reluctant roommate and boyfriend straight into the crowd with me. Homesickness was not going to best me on this fantastic feast day.

According to the Huffington Post, the St. Patrick’s Day parade dates back five decades and has grown to not only feature traditional bagpipes, marching bands, and floats, but politicians as well. At one point, I was handed a sticker saying that I supported “Thompson”. Who the heck is Thompson, I wondered, staring at the little sticker (that I was secretly glad was free because I love free things), I can’t wear this cool sticker unless I find out who he is. Turned out that the great and powerful “Thompson” is somehow in connected with the Chicago water supply. Sure I’ll support you, Thompson. *stick*

I don't quite agree with your definition of clever, sir, but I will give you props for gluing things to your head and being okay with it.

So there were several interesting costumes and dress-up ideas that fascinated me. One was a gentleman who had glued bottles to his bald head, which still puzzles me. Here are some other interesting pics:

                                          

The parade was what I expected from a typical St. Patty’s parade. Lots of floats, people waving and screaming “HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!”, and the occasional band (I’ve always had a soft spot of bagpipes and would be thrilled to learn how to play them). When the politicians started rolling in, however, I decided that it was time to head towards the river to see how green it really was.

I’ll admit that I thought the pictures of past river-dyeings were somehow doctored. That was just way too green. Radioactive, almost (which would be appropriate, considering what’s in it). And yet, we got there and I was stunned to see that the pictures were VERY true to the color! The dye is apparently environmentally friendly, created to trace pollution in water supplies. It was pretty neat to see, even if we kinda hurried past it in search for reprieve from the sweltering heat.

Was it the throngs of people that made it so uncomfortably hot? The fact that I hadn’t hydrated after the pre-gaming I’d done the previous night (Fact: 13 million pints of Guinness beer are consumed on St. Patrick’s Day)? Or was it just the fact that it was unseasonably warm? I don’t know, but I felt myself going a little faint and craving something iced from Caribou Coffee.

AND WE FOUGHT TO GET TO IT.

The streets, the buses, and the subway were all jam-packed with people. We pushed, shuffled, squeezed, tripped, inched, and slithered our ways to the Red Line where some guy with a green buzzcut nearly fell on top of and squished Renee. Down in the depths of the Lake station, people cheered when the trains of packed cars pulled up.

By the time we got to Caribou, I was fighting off sleepiness, so I chugged a medium-sized iced coffee…

…and fell asleep as soon as I got back to my room.

Overall, the parade was alright. I’ll have to say that the size of the crowd was almost overwhelming and I hated not being able to walk to places very easily what with all the people. But I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: Chicago knows  how to celebrate. The smiles on people’s faces, the diversity of people sporting green, and the fun-filled atmosphere make the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago worth experiencing.

[The night ended on a nice note, with a fun get-together in our apartment watching Robin Williams, having a few drinks, and me getting to practice my tribal-tattooing skills (Mama, I promise it’s only Sharpie marker.)]

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“Police Activity” on the Red Line + The Irish Oak

Last night, we bypassed the Grand stop on the Red Line due to “police activity”. I used my limited powers of tweet to ask what was going on. @CTAtweet sent me a link to the news story. It turns out someone was actually hit by the Red Line. They had to pull the victim out from under the train. *shivers and crosses herself* See, that’s why I’m afraid to be anywhere near those rumble-strips (the ones they put for passengers so that they don’t step unknowingly off the tracks). Within a week, I’ve heard about a woman getting raped on the Red Line (near my stop), and now someone’s gotten hit. I love me some public transit, but even I’ll have to admit that this stuff is pretty dark.

The blue paint here has raised dots that you would feel under your feet. Hopefully that brings you to attention when your spaced out and wandering about the platform. This just happens to be a picture from a story about a rooster who was stuck on the Blue Line tracks.

Unaware of the incident till much later, I went with a few good people to the Irish Oak. A quaint little Irish bar down on Clark Street, I was really impressed by the atmosphere of the Irish Oak. It’s cozy, lined with empty and signed Jameson whiskey bottles, and the staff is phenomenal. We sat down to the dulcet sounds of Switchfoot, and gave our orders to a busy but cordial waitress.

Now I am not a big fan of drinking in bars for several reasons:

  • I’m stingy.
  • I don’t like how I act when I’m tipsy or drunk. I form don’t words right.
  • I’m a lightweight. So if I order a drink, chances are I’m going to be acting funny halfway through.
  • I want to be keenly aware of my surroundings when I’m navigating the streets on the way back home. I am typically grasping my pepperspray in my pocket, so I don’t want to peg innocent people because I couldn’t aim right. If you’re gonna mess with me, I want to spray you.

She makes pepperspray look fun. Just look at that confident smile!

So while I can’t testify to how well the tenders mix their drinks, I can tell you how great the food was. A regular patron of the bar who was with us that night recommended the “Irish Oak Burger”. Guys, there was so much meat in that burger. The cheese melted over it just right, and the burger buns they use are somewhat sweet and just a little greasy (oh, my stomach just grumbled at the memory of it!) I was craving this reward for the horrible week (which involved a Thursday driven by a 5-Hour Energy shot, coffee, and tea). The fish and chips are also reportedly very good too 🙂

The flash of my phone camera makes the food look radioactive. But do you see that mound of tater-tots? Best tater-tots I've ever eaten. Time to move up a size in blue jeans.

Something else that impressed me about the place was that they had a drink size called “Fishbowls”. For those of you who don’t know what a fishbowl is, it’s typically a really, really large serving of a drink. The ones I’ve seen are usually put in a comically large snifter. This was the first time that I actually saw the drink put into a real fishbowl.

Well-sized, $20 fishbowls for those of you who can actually HOLD your liquor. (I'd probably fall over a quarter of the way through).

If you’re looking for a place to go for St. Patrick’s Day, you may want to look into this place (if there’s room, of course). Check out the food and drink menus to see if prices and drinks appeal to you. As for me, I plan to be at the parade downtown. I’m really excited to see how Chicago’s celebrations compare to Savannah’s! Does anyone have any specific St. Patrick’s Day plans?

The Irish Oak
3511 North Clark Street  

Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 935-6669

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Why Lettuce Hangs from the Ceiling, and Why I’ll be returning to Chinatown next Lunar New Year

Today we went to Chinatown for the Lunar New Year celebration. Apparently, this marks the 100th anniversary of Chicago’s Chinatown. After the transcontinental railroads were completed, many of the Chinese who had immigrated to the US ventured out from the West coast and came to places like Chicago and New York, thus leading to a concentration of Chinese in the city.

All history aside, I’ve avoided Chinatown like the plague, if not for the dubious conditions of the streets, then the scarcity of people I’ve seen as I pass on the train. However, because I’ve been hearing about this parade for a while, I was willing to give it a shot.

Where's Waldo?

It turns out that Chicago adores the celebration of the Lunar New Year! There were so many people that it was hard to find a spot to watch from. The parade began with a slow trickle of old men in military garb, a disarmingly long dry spell, and suddenly, the party was on.

As expected, there were a lot of parade dragons bobbing up and down the street!

What I loved best about the parade was not the taste of Chinese culture, but the school bands! Never before have I been to a parade where the school bands played so well, with such attitude and enthusiasm, blaring out a really neat version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”.  Now, some of the floats were…

Haaaaaaaaaa... nice try.

…subpar.

But overall, the enthusiasm from the people in the parade energized the crowds and made the parade worth seeing.

BEHOLD THESE FRAMED GLOSSY PRINTS!

Well, Renee was starting to get hungry, so we fought through the crowds, which were tight and frustrating. Sometimes we would stand still for several minutes before the lines moved again. People from many walks of life, many ethnic backgrounds, and many stories squished us against walls and nearly ran us over as we scrambled to find a restaurant that wasn’t teeming with people. SUDDENLY–

Random woman in the crowd: "WHAT THE HELL?!"

Yeah, that nearly ran us over too. Well, most of the restaurants were packed, but when I saw one that looked relatively empty, I all but shoved my poor roommate in there.

The waitress came up to us and stammered in broken English that she had no English menus to give us. I asked her if she would give us recommendations. “I can try,” she said warily. We sat down, and when Renee asked what there was to order, the lady gave her two choices: beef or fish.

“Er…beef?”

“Spicy. Hot. That okay?”

“Yeah, yeah!” Renee chirped back.

“And come with vegetable. That okay?”

“Yeah!”

So we sat and sat and sat. Then I looked up and saw something odd and green.

It was a head of lettuce hanging from the ceiling. I stared at it, making sure I was actually seeing what I thought I was. Then Renee and I were both staring at it. When our waitress came and delivered some delicious dumplings to our table, I asked her: “Why is there a head of lettuce hanging from the ceiling?”

“Lettuce,” the woman said gruffly, looking at us like we were idiots.

“Yes,” I replied, “But why is it hanging there?”

“Dunno,” she said curtly, turning on her heel and walking off to the kitchens. So I tried asking a second waitress, who offered a good explanation: in one of the Chinese languages, “lettuce” and “get a lot of money” sound the same. Thus, this head of lettuce was a wish for wealth.

We STILL don't know what's in it.

So “beef” came. It was for the most part delicious. The beef was cooked with incredible skill, unafraid to be a little greasy and deliciously seasoned. The dish, as the waitress promised, was spicy and littered with red pepper flakes. We really enjoyed the meat, especially mixed with the well-cooked rice. There was, however, one vegetable that numbed the insides of our mouths.

“Renee, the inside of my mouth is numb. Not from spiciness. Just…numb.”

“Oh thank goodness. I wasn’t gonna say anything.”

“Yours too?”

“Yeah.”

Despite the numbness in our mouths, the food was of very good quality and very different from the takeout that we were used to at home. It was not slathered in sweet or spicy sauce, but relied on a spicy soup to keep the food moist. While I wouldn’t recommend this for people on strict diets (some items were shamelessly greasy), I recommend it for people who want to find that “hole in the wall” restaurant that stays open because of the quality of its entrees.

Unfortunately, I forgot to get the name of this restaurant, but if you get off the Red Line at Cermak-Chinatown, pass under the red Chinatown gate, and look for a small restaurant with bakery items in the front and seating in the back, you’ve found it.

Enjoying some yummy...whatever it actually was.

After a series of awkward pointings from the credit card to the cash register, we finally paid the bill and left.

We did some shopping in the deliciously low-priced shops, we came home in a hurry because unlike real adults, I don’t use restroom facilities before going out on an adventure. But once we got home, I got to add to my Asian decor with a wall scroll (with a picture of a dragon and tiger snarling at each other) and some awesome lantern lights. Eee, so pretty!! ❤

I've always wanted strings of lantern lights!!

I’m really glad I went to Chinatown. I got to watch a great parade, hear great music, eat some amazing food, and have some hilarious experiences.

Happy Lunar New Year,
and Happy Year of the Dragon!

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