St. Patrick's Day at the Chicago River

Sunrise. At 26 floors above the Chicago River, you wouldn't think it would be so easy to hear drunks. My Saturday morning wake-up call from the comfort of our kids' Marina City apartment was a very loud hooting from below.

Chicago River

Chicago River turns green March 17 for St. Patrick's Day

I need to admit that I can count the times in my life I've been drunk on less than ten fingers, and never since my somewhat reckless early twenties. There is a difference between a social drink or two and a definition of drunk: out of control.
So, as I photographed the greening of the Chicago River Saturday morning from a safe distance above and posted it to my facebook wall, I remained a bit startled that the sounds coming from below throughout the morning resembled a good Bears game. Although I came of age in the Chicago-area, this was first time I absorbed the full morning as a social and media event.

Some people drink for bonding. Others drink to ease the pain, as they say. An event such as St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, though, resembles a desire to go with the unruly crowd. Drinking with the masses is never a pretty sight for the sober along the sidelines, but I sense that for some it has become an extreme sport.

On Saturday night, my daughter-in-law and I were heading to meet my son for his dinner break. We were near Trump Tower. Two burly guys were carrying along a drunk woman by each supporting an arm. She, nearly passed out, swinging her head backward to the sky. Then, they were gone to who-knows-where?

The walk to Water Tower place was a bit treacherous. At some taverns, the line ran outside blocking the narrow sidewalks along North Wabash Avenue. At the intersections, a bird flip was in order numerous times. Neither a light nor a crosswalk seemed to grant us safe passage across Chicago's streets.

By Sunday morning, the area was quiet and serene. The Chicago River still glistened its unnatural, bright green. Nature had silenced the drunks. They either had left downtown for home, or they were hung-over somewhere.

As city traffic returned in the hours following the earliest Sunday morning church services, normalcy seemed to retake River North. Overcast skies offered an especially sober feel to this Sunday morning. While the river's hue still implied party, the fading waters to the grey and blue lake reminded me about the constancy of March in Chicago, work to be done and generations that made this city home.

My hometown, even with its St. Patrick's Day drunks, holds a special place in my heart. Chicago, you see, is the kind of town that sticks with you -- even when living hundreds of miles away. The streets that my dad drove as a shoe salesman, the busses my grandfather rode downtown and the view of Lake Michigan have not changed. We have our smartphones, our facebook and our blogs, but the content of our Chicago is still defined by a unique sense of place.

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