Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Clan Rince Floate

Clan Rince Float

My wife is Irish-Catholic on both sides: Reilly and Lawrence. Her great grand-uncle was Dave Lawrence, a machine politician who was mayor of Pittsburgh and became Governor of Pennsylvania.

The Lawrence line had some Scotch-Irish members that could have suppressed the faith, though that didn’t prevent my mother-in-law from being baptized while an infant by the Roman church when her Presbyterian mother wasn’t paying close attention. It was a blended family with a mixed history, when it came to the sacraments.

That’s the story leading up to St. Patrick’s Day in San Diego, 2013, in which my daughter Sophie (mother is Karen Reilly) rode on the float of Clan Rince, her Irish dance school. Mind you, in the U.S. the celebration of the patron saint doesn’t have a lot to do with being Catholic. It’s mostly an opportunity to drink and be a fool.

I started the day building the float by stapling a skirt to a long truck trailer and decorating the edges with Styrofoam rocks. All around me, people wore green wigs and T-shirts saying things like “Kiss my Irish ass.” The parade was too long, for one thing. It must have taken an hour and a half for the whole thing to process along 6th Avenue.

Some things were great. Navy brass band? Great! Shriners in their silly little cars? Great! Irish dancers and floats with rock bands? Great! Carlsbad Fire Department, whose fire truck carried five sexy women wearing tartan miniskirts and halter tops? Great!

But you’ve got to put a limit on the number of influence peddlers riding in Corvette convertibles waving to people on the curb who have absolutely no idea who they are. There also needs to be a quota for beauty queens.

The night before I took Sophie to the American Legion Hall in Chula Vista, where she danced in the bar with the other girls from Clan Rince. The place was filled with men and women over 50 who sat at tables in the full light while the bartender served cheap drinks. The room had a small stage. It was filled with good spirit and the people clapped and hooted.

Maybe it was just the music but it seemed Irish. It looked like a center of working-class loyalty and gratitude for ending up in a better place where you can have a drink and know your grandkids are safe and fed and going to school. You’d go to war and risk death to end up somewhere like that.

At the end a waitress passed a hat saying, “Come on. Pony up!” The money was supposed to go to the girls. It was the day before the St. Patrick’s Day so what the hell.

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