Tag Archives: Mardi Gras

St Patrick’s Day 2015 – Seein’ a little green

This is always a busy week here in Savannah. St. Patrick’s Day is like a mini-Mardi Gras for this town. For 12 years, Mrs. P and I organized, set-up and hosted a parade-watching “tailgate party” in a downtown square. This was a very intense project. When we first started doing this in 2002, the idea hadn’t caught on yet. You could show up at six or seven in the morning and settle into a prime spot. By the mid-2000’s, that changed for the worse. In recent years, it has involved getting downtown before 3 a.m. and picking a spot. We were not allowed in the square until 6 a.m. so we and other early-risers would line the perimeter of the square and negotiate with each other about where we would all set up. In a perfect world, it would be “first-come, first-served,” but the world is not perfect. Negotiating with the early risers was usually very civilized. However, there were always some folks who would roll up at 5:45, drop their stuff in the street and start pointing to one of the prime spots (on the perimeter) that someone else had claimed four hours earlier. At 6 a.m. the police blow a whistle and the rush would begin. It was usually all over in about two minutes. Then we would sit around, waiting for the sun to come up and trying to stay warm for the parade started at 10:15.

This was our party in 2013.

This was our party in 2013.

Last year, Mrs. P fell and broke her knee a couple of weeks before the event, which ruled out our ability to organize a party. No one else picked up the baton. Our children were both working and none of our friends had any interest. This year, Mrs. P was ready to get back in the game, but, again, we had no help. One 60+ year-old couple is simply not enough of a team to compete in the pre-dawn madness.

So, instead, Mrs. P and Poolboy put their heads together and decided we should have a parade viewing party at our house. (There is no shortage of live coverage on the local TV stations.) So that we did.

We’re not used to hosting parties that start at 10 a.m. on a weekday, but it all worked out. Everyone brought something to contribute to the food table. We had Bloody Marys and beer to drink, and a breakfast casserole, ham, fried chicken, potato salad, pasta salad, squash casserole and even green grits (a Savannah tradition.)

When the parade coverage ended around two in the afternoon, most of our guests retired to the patio (where many had spent the day anyway). The temperature was 85 degrees, which made it feel almost like summer.

Almost like a summer Sunday afternoon.

Almost like a summer Sunday afternoon.

The pool water wasn’t so warm, but that didn’t stop some of the children who were there. More power to them.

A couple of crazy ones.

A couple of crazy ones.

Hey watch this!

Hey watch this!

Beats me.

Beats me.

Mrs. P was trying to talk up getting back into the game in 2016, but she wasn’t getting a lot of encouragement. Depending on our children’s work schedules next year, we may be able to field a force sufficient to compete in the zero-dark-thirty land rush, but we’ll just have to see how that goes.

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Another St. Patrick’s Day behind us

It’s Sunday evening of the actual St Patrick’s Day. We’ve had a good run, but Mrs. Poolman and I are a little pooped out.

For the uninitiated, St Patrick’s Day is to Savannah as Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. For the past 11 years, we have staked out a plot in one of the downtown squares and set up a “tailgate party.” The parade comes by, but more importantly, we spend a day visiting with friends, family, and sometimes friends’ and family’s friends. It is very much like a traditional football tailgate party, except it starts early in the morning and ends around mid-afternoon. Sometimes we actually get to watch some of the parade, like the visiting Clydesdales.

Where is the cute little guy from the Super Bowl commercials?

Where is the cute little guy from the Super Bowl commercials?

This year was a bit of a test for us. Last year, we had crowd issues. A number of their friends invited a bunch of their friends. The result was too many people and too little space. As I mentioned to Mrs. P, “It was a lot of work to give a party for a bunch of people I don’t even know.” This year, we consciously made a serious effort at crowd control. Essentially our message was this– “If you want to bring a gang of your friends to our party, then come on down and join us at oh-dark-30, and claim a spot next to us. Not surprisingly, no one took us up on the offer.

This year, since the actual date of the holiday falls on a Sunday, the local parade and celebration is held on Saturday. We had a gang of our Jacksonville side of the family arrive Friday evening, but, for the most part, they had to fend for themselves. Mrs. P and I went to bed early to grab a few hours of sleep.

We were up at 1:30 am and downtown by 2:30 am. Joining us were our daughter (Writer Princes) and Son-in-Law (SIL). We were very surprised to see our target corner of Calhoun square was unoccupied when we arrived. Actually, the police don’t let you in the actual square until 6 am. But early arrivals, stake out their claims by placing chair and coolers around the edge and negotiating with competing groups. The local custom is “first-come, first-served.” By working with the other groups, you can avoid conflicts when the “land-rush” starts at 6 am.  We worked things out with our later-arriving neighbors, and actually “donated” some of our plot to a neighbor before the rush began. It worked out well. We worked together to stake out our plots rather than competing with each other.

The problem isn’t with the early arrivals. The issues arise with the people who show up a few minutes before the square is opened. They want to claim a prime spot and push out the groups who have been there for several hours. We have absolutely no sympathy for them.

So we ended with a nice piece of parade frontage and plenty of room to set up our canopies, food tables and chairs. Things went so well with our neighboring groups, that we exchanged contact information and plan to work together again next year. An alliance! What a radical thought! We’ll be the NATO of Calhoun Square.

Our square at 6:30am

Our square at 6:30am

The same spot in the late morning.

The same spot in the late morning.

The rest of the day was a nice, but busy party. Friends came by and visited. Others came and stayed. People brought food and their own drinks. Our age range spread from children to Social Security. Good time had by all. By around three in the afternoon, the “dawn patrol” packed up and headed back to the island.

After a debrief, we declared it a victory. The Poolman St Patrick’s Party will continue next year. Good time. Good weekend. Back to work tomorrow.

Livin’ the green in Savannah

The weekend was a whirlwind here at Casa Poolman. St Patrick’s Day is a major holiday in Savannah, roughly a one-day equivalent to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, without the nudity. (Green beads don’t get you a show here.)

Our weekend started on Thursday, when my sister and brother-in-law arrived for a visit from California. They have retired and are taking their time, moving across the country, stopping to visit everyone they know from Redondo Beach to Maine. They picked a Savannah’s most interesting weekend to stop here.

For the past ten years, Mrs. Poolman and I have hosted a party of sorts on St. Patrick’s Day. We stake out a piece of one of the downtown squares on the parade route and set up a parade version of a football tailgate party. We have food. We have drink. And we have lots of people. I think we are going to have to reevaluate our plan before next year. The event in general and our little piece of it have grown so large and crowded that it wasn’t that much fun.

In the past, Mrs. Poolman has rented a porta-potty, mounted it on the back of a pick-up truck and reserved it for the use of our group.

The 2010 version of Mrs. Poolman's Personal Pick Up Porta-Potty

This year, our problems started on Thursday, when Mrs. P got a call from the porta-potty company saying that the city was going to enforce an ordinance against the placement of the potties, either on trucks, or on public property. Mrs. P was extremely upset and began plotting a scheme for next year.

Saturday morning started nice and early, 3 am to be exact. Mrs. Poolman and I were downtown by 4 am to lay a claim to a precious piece of real estate. There were already quite a few people standing around the perimeter of the square awaiting the go-ahead to actually move in and set up a party spot. We negotiated with some of the earlier arrivals, and discouraged some later arrivals from poaching on our claim.  When the police finally allowed people into the square at 6 am, we ended up with a plot that included about 15 feet of parade frontage on the perimeter of the square. We had only one minor hassle, when a woman with the group next to us tried to push my friend, Birdie (of our Europe trip last year), out of the way. Pushing Birdie is not a good idea. He stood his ground and they exchanged a few words, but no one came to blows.

Here is the "early crew" around 7 am.

As the sun started to come up between 7:30 and 8 am, other people, invited and not, started to show up. By the time the parade started around 10:30 am, we had entirely too many people squeezed into a relatively small area.

It turned out the problem was not really in the number of people we had invited. Our real issue was that many of our invitees had turned around and invited a goodly number of their friends too. A couple of extras would not have been a problem. But when some of our guests showed up with an additional five or six of their family or friends, it added up quickly. I found myself standing in the middle of our extremely crowded picnic site and asking, “Who the heck are all these people?”

Our site before it got totally crazy.

We did have a nice street-side plot to watch the parade.

It was a very good time.  One bright side was the appearance of our friends Sam and Lynn and their two 19-month old twins, Helen and Brittany. Very cute!

Brittany and Helen

It was still a lot of work, mostly for people who I don’t even know. If we do it again next year, we are going to have to seriously cut back on the “extra guests.” If you have a group of five or six people, then you are welcome to come on down at 0-dark-30 and get a site of your own next to ours.

The issue of the crowds that seem to grow geometrically ever year is a more difficult problem. There is talk about changing the rules for claiming a party site, maybe even doing a lottery or an auction. I don’t have a good answer. Next year’s party will also be on a Saturday, which means it will be as crazy as this year was. (March 17 will be a Sunday, but the parade will be held on Saturday.) If the rules remain the same, we may have to start posting people on the street adjacent to the square the evening before and work in shifts. At the very least, it now appears that 2 or 3 am will be the latest one can show up and get a good site.

This is going to require some thought and discussion.

Big weekend coming up

Around our house, this coming weekend is one of the big ones of the year. It is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, New Years in Time Square, or the opening of deer hunting season in Pennsylvania.  It is the Florida-Georgia weekend. In this part of the world, this is more then a football game. It is a social and cultural event. As should be obvious, we are big Florida fans, but we live here “behind enemy lines” in Georgia.

There is a lot of history here. My first Florida game was in 1971. For the next 19 years, Georgia pretty much dominated the series. Vince Dooley, Buck Belue, Hershal Walker and the like “schooled” the Gators on a fairly regular basis. In 1990 the field shifted. Steve Spurrier came to Florida and since then the Gators have one 16 of the last 19 games.

Fla Ga 2

In recent years, the rivalry has intensified somewhat. In 2007, a group of UGA players stormed the field to celebrate their first touchdown. UGA fans credit that incident for psyching the Bulldogs to win that game. Last year, Florida had the game won when Urban Meyer called two time-outs in the final minute of the game to prolong Georgia’s agony. Payback is hell.

I have noticed a significant change in attitude among UGA fans this year. For most of the 17 years we have lived in Georgia, the UGA fans have been delightfully obnoxious before the game. They have never lacked for overconfidence.

“This year you are going down! Down, down down!”

In all but a handful of years, those boasts and predictions turned into muttered excuses and threats of ritual sepaku as the actual game progressed. However, this year, Georgia fans are acting humble, actually sounding defeatist.

My Bulldog friend, Sean, told me last night, “For the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t think we have any chance in this game.”

That worries me. I much prefer the obnoxious, in-your-face Bulldog, who later walks away from the game with his stubby little tail between his legs.

On the other hand, I am not cocky about the game at all. There are too many games in this series when the favored team is sent home embarrassed. The Gators are ranked #1 and are unbeaten, but they aren’t hitting on all cylinders. The Poolman isn’t making any grand predictions. Crow is not one of my favorite foods.

Meanwhile, at the Poolman’s house, this has become one of our major party weekends of the year. We used to have tickets to the game, but lost our priority about ten years ago under circumstances too complicated to explain. So instead, Mrs. Poolman’s family comes to Savannah for a “house party.”  They are joined by a bunch of our friends, friends of friends, children’s friends, friends’ children, etc.

We’ll set up at least three TVs, inside and out. (Here is praying the prediction of dry weather continues to hold.)  The group is a good mixture of fans of both teams, and a ton of food and drink. Typically the Florida fans are in the family room and the Georgia fans out in the courtyard. The casual fans set up “beer pong” on the basketball court.  Mrs. Poolman is much more ecumenical than she has any need to be. She buys red and black napkins and paper plates to go along with the orange and blue.

This should be an interesting weekend. Go Gators!