The Wearing of the Green
When I was a senior in high school I was in the marching band. I played the flag. You know those spangle-clad girls you see twirling flags at the Thanksgiving Day Parade? Yeah, I was one of them. Go figure.
Our band was quite a big thing. We went to, and won, state competitions and marched in a lot of big-time parades. Before my time the band from our high school played at the Kennedy inauguration. But my year we didn't do much except compete, do a few local events, and march in the San Francisco St. Patrick's Day Parade.
I suppose it was appropriate, as our uniforms were green. The flag girl uniforms were short leotard-y things, green spangles with white fringe. They were hideous, in retrospect. No. Not in retrospect. They were hideous back then too. And so uncomfortable. With them we wore white knee-high boots which made us all look like little hookers. Ah, those were the days.
For the SF parade we joined with dozens of other local bands and hundreds of floats, plus every pipe band in the universe, to march down Market Street under a typically gray San Francisco Day. The streets were lined with thousands of revelers, most of them drunk out of their gourds, happy for an excuse to be snockered at 11 am on a Sunday.
Most of the spectators were wearing green and there was a huge business in green cardboard top hats with gold shamrocks on them. There were adorable troops of red-headed Irish children step-dancing their way down the financial district. And a float from the local Irish-American Cultural Center that was tossing out green mardi gras beads. I can't tell you how many of those things I stepped on.
We discovered that the grates covering Market Street had squares the exact same size as the heels on our hooker boots and several of us got stuck along the parade route. We had to pull each other out and then dash to catch up to the rest of the band. Andy Landucci passed out in front of the Bank of America because he was hungover from Jessie Madell's 17th birthday party the night before and was dragged off the parade route by a cop and some guy in a McDonald's uniform. We were at the back of the band and had a hard time staying in step because the float behind us, playing a tinny version of McNamarra's Band, was louder than our own band in front of us. We heard McNamarra's Band 17 times during the course of the day. I hate McNamarra's Band. The float was from a local Irish pub named "Brennan's" and the guys on the float downed their first pint of Guinness at dawn and were well and truly cooked by the time the parade kicked off. Thoughtfully they had designed their float with a fake bar, with real stout. They kept up the drinking. One guy kept yelling inventive come-ons to us girls at the back. Another guy jumped off the float and started a fight with some hapless tourist who, unfortunately for him was wearing orange.
In keeping with the Irish theme, our band played Barry Manilow's Copa and the theme to the movie Rocky. Apparently we didn't know how to play McNamarra's Band.