As we approach the third and final weekend of our St. Patrick’s Day celebration, let’s take a quick look back to when it all started ” the parade on March 4. It was bigger and better than years past and the weather was just right. One of the big attractions for kids was the candy being thrown from passing floats.

At my age, I wasn’t expecting any treats to come my way. So, imagine my surprise, when I was presented with a piping hot pork chop. It had been freshly grilled atop one of the floats. I shared it with my wife and son, who immediately became obsessed with hitting the pork chop joint that night.

After the parade, a party broke out along Madison Street. We had seen people in Ireland enjoying a pint during the day but not the kind of pound-it-down drinking that is common in this country. That’s the educational value of traveling ” a chance to observe different drinking patterns.

Another difference between Americans and Irish is their reaction to terrorism. We were in Ireland at the time of the London bombings and the Irish didn’t pay any attention to it. I’m certain this calmness comes from decades of dealing with terrorist bombings and shootings.

By contrast, the fear of terrorism in America seems out-of-proportion to reality. It was tough enough before the attacks to get strangers to answer the door before 911. Now, it’s darn near impossible. Not long ago, I rang the doorbell of a home, where I could see two sweet-looking women sitting in the living room. They could see me, too but chose to close the curtains in my face, rather than answer some polite inquiries.

Politeness is one of the hallmarks of Irish society. I just finished reading a story called “The Majesty of the Law,” in which a policeman visits an old man’s cottage. The entire story consists of small talk between the cop and the man, as the officer is much too polite to mention the arrest warrant in his pocket.

Van Morrison sang of the air being “filled with poetry” in Ireland. Why, even their warning signs are poetic. “Mind the step,” “Please close gently” or “Traffic calming ahead.” There is poetry in their everyday language, not to mention in their profanity.

So, the Irish have some admirable qualities. Their pace of life is slower than ours. I didn’t realize how frantic the American lifestyle was until I came back and saw it with fresh eyes. They tend to be cooperative, while we’re more individualistic. However, a bartender once told me he saw the same level of helpfulness and friendliness in Forest Park as he had witnessed in his farming village in Ireland.

So, let’s toast the Irish spirit but not too many times. We can also emulate the Irish by walking home at the end of the festivities. And, lest anyone think, I’m praising the Irish at the expense of America ” there’s no way they cook better pork chops than the one I tasted at the parade.


John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.