RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: March 2017

St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day

What if I proposed a certain holiday where we celebrated Africans by dressing up in plastic clothes that were the colors of their flags, eating chicken and waffles, wearing things that said “Kiss Me I’m African,” and basically turning the day into a giant frat party where we celebrate the worst of the Hollywood stereotypes about African-Americans? Maybe the answer to that question depends on your political leanings: If you’re a liberal, you’re probably already calling me a racist because this idea IS as racist as all fucking hell. If you’re a conservative, maybe you’re saying that if we’re going to do that with African-Americans, we should be doing it with people of every race.

Here’s a news flash: We’re already doing it with at least one other ethnicity. (My hypothetical liberal up there might argue that we’re doing it with two, since there’s a strong case to be made that Thanksgiving is the same thing.) The Irish are dragged into the spotlight on St. Patrick’s Day for such a holiday for such a thing. St. Patrick’s Day is considered a minor holiday in Ireland. Although the Irish who immigrated to the United States brought it with them as a way of holding on to their home, America has turned it into the ultimate excuse for public drunkenness and debauchery.

I don’t think it was my parents’ intent to instill me with any sense of pride in my lineage, but it’s something that happened. I’m not sure it could have been helped: Buffalo is a VERY Irish city, and I was raised in the most Irish part of it. The South Buffalo Irish District served as the city’s Irish ghetto during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the influence of the old Irish guard there was still very powerful when I was born. A lot of the residents were from the Motherland straight or first-generation born in the United States. There are several Irish dance troupes, Irish flags line a section of Abbott Road, and the street names are written in both English and Gaelic. Although St. Patrick’s Day in Buffalo is stretched out into a season and everyone has a lot of fun, there’s a traceable solemnity underneath all the festivities. The Irish population in South Buffalo knew its past well and everything during St. Patrick’s Day took place in honor and recognition of our history, in both Ireland and America.

At one of the first Irish festivals I ever attended, I stood staring at a wooden door sign, trying to decipher it. It said, “now hiring – Irish need not apply.” My Mother spotted me looking at it and whispered into my ear, “See, it happened to your people too.” It hammered home the point that America’s playing field was never quite as level as it was supposed to be, and told me there was a lot my school history books were leaving out. As I got to learn a little bit of the history of Ireland, it started to create a sense of real ethnic pride. I had been taught by my school system that all people were of some color. But it was learning what I did about Irish history that I started to identify as an Irish-American. I even have a few subtle ways of showing my pride – wearing subtle hints of orange and green, telling people how much I love salt potatoes and soda bread, trying to stay up to date on old Celtic gods, and learning the origins of several well-known St. Patrick’s Day traditions. Even though I have an English surname, grew up as a practicing Protestant, and am the first to say what a huge asshole the real St. Patrick was (really, we’re talking Columbus-level assholery here), I always held true to my Irish lineage.

I was excited to move to Chicago and celebrate my first St. Patrick’s Day in my new home. I had heard all the stories about the parade in Chicago and the way the Chicago River was dyed green every year. So as I left work at the Symphony that Saturday, I made a zipline path right to the Michigan Avenue bridge, where everything was taking place. Now, I’m not a dummy – I’ve seen all the ridiculous hats and loud horns and novelty t-shirts in stores. I also thought, who buys this crap? I had never seen anything like them being worn around in Buffalo.

In Chicago, they were everywhere, and my heart just sank as the realization hit me: The people around me saw St. Patrick’s Day as nothing but a reason to have their heads in the bar at the top of the morning. I was finally wearing the moccasins of all the Native Americans I had once denounced. What they felt during Thanksgiving was now what I was thinking of St. Patrick’s Day. Hell, I even have my own version of the people telling me that I should just suck it up and get over it because it was supposed to be an honor that celebrated something good. All the liberals who were jumping on people about Thanksgiving being a bastardization of real history were now telling me to kiss their blarney stones over St. Patrick’s Day.

Maybe it’s the Catholic guilt present everywhere in my home neighborhood eating at me, but I never forgot that. As I walked along the Chicago River watching the drunken revelers, I couldn’t help but feel like there was something very wrong with the whole scene. Were these people even Irish? Did they have any kind of lineage to call their own? Why did they feel the need to claim mine, and why did they just want to hold the Hollywood version of it?

I’m not sure how many of the old Irish stereotypes I live up to, but I do identify as an Irish-American. I think one of the most important things I got out of that St. Patrick’s Day was the fact that I see it as my duty to tell people about Irish history and the origins of many of the Irish traditions they’ve come to know, and correct their perceptions of them when I can. Fortunately, I’ve found that most people are pretty receptive.

A Response to Seattle Met: Why I am Buying a Car

A Response to Seattle Met: Why I am Buying a Car

The Seattle Met recently wrote an article about how more and more Seattleites are forgoing the follies of the local public transit to move themselves around in their own cars. It was a whine that didn’t feel like a whine, but they weren’t totally off. Traffic here is a capillary jam. They did, however, choose to conveniently ignore a few things about the Seattle area public transit which might help them understand what’s going on.

Seattle’s transit goes through about nine agencies in some three or four counties, and the Met decided to focus strictly on the King County transit. It makes you wonder if the Met thinks Seattle exists in some sort of little capsule. What, is everyone in the general area a vampire, they can’t get into Seattle proper without invitation? Because last time I checked, there were a lot of people living in various places outside Seattle who venture in and out of the city for work. Back when I was working my night shift, I made friends with a co-worker who made a nightly commute from Olympia. That means Tacoma wasn’t out of the question.

Seattleites voted to expand their public transit system. I give them all the credit in the world for that – its been at my attention for some time that Nashville recently voted down a railway expansion for its MTA because it would bring “the wrong sorts of people.” (Read: Minorities would be able to, you know, go places.) But I’ve also made the recent decision to end years of being a holdout radical to go out and buy a car of my own. Why? Because I have an hours-long commute in both directions which the I-5 is only partially responsible for.

Okay, it’s only the second-longest commute I’ve had to get to a job since I moved to Seattle, but the longest and most difficult commute I had took me into Bellevue for my night shift. But that one can be easily hand-waved; I live in Everett, and no one would expect a half-hour drive from Everett to Bellevue no matter how they’re going about it. My current commute, however, only goes into the U-District. Not only is that a lot closer, but the way there is just a straight shot down the I-5… Yet it gets drawn out to over two hours – not much quicker than my old transport to Bellevue – because two transit systems in the area have randomly decided to emasculate themselves!

What’s more is that there is a perfectly normal bus run that makes a dash right across the part of the U-District I need to be in. The problem is that the bus line that takes me straight the way there only starts up at 9 AM. Think about that – I don’t work weekends, and the easiest, smartest bus route in the King County/Snohomish County transit plays dummy. It goes straight to Downtown Seattle, hitting a handful of the big hot stops on the way in, including the place I need, and it starts making the runs well after workers need it. You would think the problem would be solved when I leave work and make my way back to Everett, but it actually gets worse. That great route I just told you about only runs until about 2:30 PM, when it just stops… And starts back up again an hour and a half after my shift ends!

Going in and out of Seattle requires navigation of a transit labyrinth. In the morning, I have to make jumps from Everett to Ash Way before hitting the bus that gets me to 45th. You would think going back would be a run of that same route in the other direction, but here’s the thing: My transit source for the main leg of the journey, Community Transit, runs about half of their intercounty busses in the morning. The other half only runs in the evening, and none of the evening routes put me anywhere near my station n Everett. So I have to get on the first bus to Lynnwood, hop a second bus for a five-minute ride to 99, then catch the Swift to get to my cross-street. The way back is made even more of a pain by the fact that my bus options for the short stretch along 200th don’t synch up with the Swift times and there not being a stop right on 99. I get to 99 just in time to miss the Swift, and since the Swift chooses THAT time to switch to its non-business schedule, I get left with 20 minutes to kill while I get soaked.

Review that ride home: The Swift switches to its non-business schedule a half hour to an hour later, I get home at a more reasonable time. Community Transit places a stop on 99, I get home at a more reasonable time. The bus I take on 200th leaves three minutes earlier, I get home at a more reasonable time! Got all that? I didn’t even have to bring Everett Transit into it, because – despite its circulator runs being sore spots – they don’t really have anything to do with this.

The tipping point came on one of our “esteemed folks” bank holidays earlier this year. Now, on normal holidays, damn near every system running around Puget Sound switches to a Sunday schedule. But Martin Luther King Day and Presidents’ Day are, for whatever bullshit reason, not normal holidays. And Sunday schedules usually offer all-day service. But here, we can’t have that, because it would only make sense. Therefore, the transit gets to avoid switching to a Sunday schedule and just make service cutbacks. And by “cutbacks,” I mean they just plump STOP a handful of the routes I need. The morning proved to not be much of a problem; I was able to find an alternate way through Lynnwood. The evening run, though, forced me to stand for the full 90 minutes waiting for the Soundtransit bus to finally arrive and take me straight to Everett.

That sound like fun?

Yes, I’m glad to see that while a lot of cities are cutting transit, Seattle and the areas surrounding it are willingly voting to add to it. But those Link extensions will be years in the making, the Sounder is the most useless train on the planet, and the Swift is only working on one extra route at the moment. In the meantime, I can go crazy or get a set of wheels so I can roll out of bed at a reasonable hour.