Sunday, March 18
As in many urban centers, it’s a huge celebration. Chicago has a large Irish population and Irish is the heritage of its two longest serving mayors (father and son Daley). Thus, “St. Paddy’s Day” is serious business here with celebrations starting days before dye turns the Chicago River green. Weather is never a deterrent. Saturday was cold, clear and bright. People ambled along Michigan Avenue toward the parade route and by 10 a.m. many showed signs of the previous night’s celebration as they shouted with abandon. As I made my way on foot, I thought it better to skip riding today.
By 9:30 p.m., I couldn’t ignore the bike’s call. So, I planned a short ride, rationalizing that on such a cold night Queenie needed a firing up anyway. Queenie didn’t want to turnover the first time but she leaped alive on the second try. I dressed warmly but could feel the bite; I welcomed it. Night riding in downtown Chicago reveals a city always lit up. The “Magnificent Mile” always reminds one of Christmas with its brilliant nightly glow. As during Christmas, the streets were jammed with revelers except that on this day, most people donned anywhere from mild (tall green leprechaun hats and requisite green beads) to extreme dress (entire leprechaun outfits, clover-covered clothes, and kelly-green body paint) to convey their Celtic roots and support for the Emerald Isle.
Cars and cabs were ubiquitous! Lines to get into bars wrapped around corners, revelers literally poured into the streets. Lots of blowing horns and hoopla, sort of a mini Mardi Gras scene. The most eventful incident happened when a group of five young women, clearly inebriated, some of whom appeared to have difficulty keeping their pants above that spot where the “good Lord split ‘em,” were zipping in and out of the street. It looked like they were trying to hail a cab but had some commitment issues. I whispered an unkind word or two about “suburbanites” and immediately asked for forgiveness. After all, they could be Chicago’s finest!
In the cabbies’ desire to meet the needs of both sides of the street, it made one particular one-way street impossible to navigate in a straight line. Therefore, I remained stuck behind lurching cabs until the street calmed.
All but one of the seemingly drunken females managed to get inside a cab that stopped directly in front of them. One staggering and wildly giggling member spotted me. I think she assumed I was male (gear contributes to rider-anonymity). She ignored her friends as they piled into the cab. She sauntered back to me and coquettishly asked, “So where are you going?” She stood way too close to me and looked over the bike as if trying to figure out how to throw a leg over--getting around the hard cases will give one pause as it seems like an insurmountable task. I flipped open my helmet and said, “I’m going home.” With that, she mumbled something incoherent and staggered back to the cab where she planted herself next to the driver.
Fortunately, I arrived home safely. Perhaps last night was not the best time to venture out. Lesson learned: don’t allow my motorcyclia mania to put me in unnecessary danger. Riding under the best of circumstances is risk management enough.