Yesterday, A went to Film Club in the far, far away land that is Riverdale. He would be gone for several hours. I had business in the City around the same time. I had heard bagpipes before the meeting around 38th Street, and the business meeting had gone well. I found myself alone in Bryant Park with nothing to do.
So I walked toward the sound of the pipes.
As I got closer to the sound, I noticed an ambulance to my right parked in front of the great grey lions of the New York Public Library. A man and woman stood on the asphalt, before the ambulance. The woman had long wavy red hair, shiny and shampooed for the day's occasion. They hugged each other and the man cried, that body-tremor sort of crying that men do so well. The ambulance doors had not yet closed. From where I stood, there were feet visible in brown Oxford leather shoes on a stretcher. It was an old man. I looked at his hand. It was colorless. "He was blue when they got here," said an African-American woman who stood beside me, to no one.
I continued to walk toward the sound of the pipes.
It is funny how midtown Manhattan suddenly looms so large from the lower blocks, like a child whose puberty you've missed entirely. Out of the front doors of a Very Tall Building exited an African-American woman who laughed, declared she was leaving work for the day, "Because I'm Black Irish! So there! Hah hah hah." I couldn't help but smile at her.
There were Serbs, Koreans, blacks, hispanics, and everybody else, wearing shamrocked clothing. They seemed to have the same goosebumps that I did when I heard the drumming and pipes.
I recalled my upstairs neighbor, who is British, earlier complain that he had to wear a kilt for this weekend's performances. He is a harpsichord player. Damn heavy piece of fabric. Damned Irish-Americans.
The signs read St. Patrick's Day Parade: 11 am - 4 pm.
It was now 5:30 p.m. The Irish finish their celebrations when they're good and ready. Some of the car barricades were lifted by the police. This was not wise. It left cars waiting at Madison Avenue indefinitely and directly before the parade marchers.
The drums and pipes moved ahead of me until they reached a distance where I could not hear, and no longer seemed to command and paralyze me; the wail was reduced to a modest suggestion. I noticed a long-faced man with red hair and a green hat on a corner selling pins. One read "Kiss My Irish Ass" another "Kiss Me I'm Irish" and yet another "God Bless the Irish." I gave him a dollar. I picked "God Bless the Irish."