The Frolic On Fifth

photo, Flags on parade, Saint Patrick's Day on 5th Avenue. Flags parade on 5th Avenue on Saint Patrick's Day.

No Puke To Avoid

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 17. March:–  A day I always remember is Saint Patrick's Day because it is the anniversary of my first online report, which also marks the beginning of my descent into Internet Hell.

In early 1995 I gave up the idea of becoming a multimedia producer – mainly because it didn't exist yet – and when Apple dropped the price of their ridiculous QuickTake digital camera by 50 percent, I grabbed one and started to shoot. Those were the glorious days long before megapixels.

I chose that year's book salon in Paris for my first reportage because I saw the posters for it on the way to buy the camera, at a place that closed for noon. After they fed they opened up the new shipment and discovered that they indeed had the cameras advertised. Just amazing!

photo, parade, skyscrapers, 5th avenue 5th Avenue, parade route.

Online that night I found a Web site to take my reportage. Then I went around taking photos – testing the thing – and whaddya know? it worked. Yeah, well, really cheesy, tiny, blurry, full auto everything, push the button like a Brownie and it could hold eight shots in its miniscule onboard memory. I was ready to roll on to fame and fortune.

On that day, Friday March 17, 1995, I rode over to Paris Expo from my distant suburb and covered the book salon, which featured everything about the French publishing world. I got six kilos of brochures and nicknacks and my eight photos and headed back to the outer boonies.

Did I say it was Saint Patrick's Day? Did I say my wife was Irish? Did I say she invited all the Irish she knew, all the wannabe Irish, the pretenders, and all the outright lushes? I guess I must have forgotten, just like I did in 1995. Didn't I say I am Irish?

I served drinks. I passed around peanuts and crackers. I opened beers and poured wines. I was useful. I even got out the new digital camera and took some shots of folks who were too plastered to care how plastered they looked. They even loved the photos – same day photos of themselves, plastered. If they don't remember I probably still have them.

Some folks passed out. The polite way to put it, is they became overtired. Saint Patrick's after all. So there I was, with 35 dirty glasses and peanut plates, ashtrays fulla butts, wads of confetti and fading shamrocks, you know one–thirty going for two am, when I got to do the book salon photos and write my report. A job is a job I thought and got to it.

The photos had been transferred to the computer's harddisk. The Saint Patrick photos were there too, ready to be used for blackmail. The book salon photos – opened – totally black. What? Like tar. What?

photo, army plays the tuba Army music complements bagpipes.

Photoshop to the rescue. You take a photo, looks like tar, and you bend it as far as it will go, until just before it begins to look like three–week old guacamole with lumpy stuff in it. Sometimes I went too far and had to start over. It took hours. Four o'clock came and went. I got three or four photos, finally, looking like they were taken with a Crudomat with the film in backwards. Except they were worse.

After that I started writing. My report. Followed by the book salon program, three or for days of it, special events, names of authors appearing, just endless and spelling the damn names correctly harder and harder. Finally, I boosted it all off to California and went to bed about six–thirty just as the local birds began their breakfast tweets.

Now today, Saint Paddy's again, there I was on Fifth Avenue behind the police barricades, looking for a good spot after all the first row seats were taken. It wasn't raining, forecast for sun, best day of the week, and the only sour ointment flying around was the wind pumping out of freezing Central Park, to slot into the funnel formed by Fifth Avenue. Ohhh, lordy my skinny little fingers!

I took refuge in the Apple Store. A clean, semi–lit place, underground, full of intent kids playing with iPods and AirBooks, totally ignoring the Paddys and ersatz–Paddys passing above ground, their skirts flying in the wind.

photo, interior of the apple store, 5th avenue Out of the wind in the Apple Store.

Those poor, knobby, Gaelic knees! As I understand it, the parade on Saint Patrick's in New York is always up Fifth Avenue, rain, sleet, sun, hail, shine or snow notwithstanding. I was warned to avoid drunks and pukers. If you ask me, no self–respecting drunk would be out in the wind on Fifth Avenue before noon, not for Saint Paddys, not for Madonna herself. In the bar in the brassy Trump thing maybe, if the glitter wasn't too bright. Pulling nips from a pint o'Paddy in the Apple basement, I doubt it.

So, yeah. I could have stayed there on Fifth Avenue until every real and honorary Irish man and woman in New York passed, with my fingers feeling like ungloved icicles, but my times of putting a lot of heart into Paddy's Day are over, were over a long time ago. Still, I have my memories, and they aren't all pukey. Like Cork, Connemara, Dublin, and at Dingle on the mellow sands, watching the porpoises frolic in their parade.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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