Tag Archives: St Patrick’s Day

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.

Everything is relative

As we get closer to Christmas, you hear many people complaining about the holiday pressure, crowds in the stores, traffic on the streets or difficult family issues.  Just the other day, I was talking with someone and expressed my belief that troubles and inconveniences are all relative.  It seems whenever I have something to complain about, it is very easy to find someone who has difficulties much, much worse. In perspective, my worst problems and lowest days are much better than many people’s best.

I was so reminded of that today.

I have a work-related friend I got to know at my previous job. We were not all that close, but we did a fair amount of work together. He helped run a meeting center in Savannah, and would reserve me a parking spot there on St. Patrick’s Day. One year, he, his wife and two young sons joined us for our St Patrick’s Day tailgate party. We haven’t been that tight, but we’ve stayed in touch.

Via Facebook, I had heard that his two young sons had been in an automobile accident early in December. One son was in rehab and recovering well. The younger son was “making progress.” Today, I learned the sad truth. The younger son has a severe brain injury, from which he is not expected to recover. This afternoon, the family is transferring him from peds ICU to a hospice to spend his last hours or days.

Don’t you know those parents wish all they had to worry about was last minute shopping or crazy traffic?

Count your blessings.

A great St Patrick’s Day in Savannah

We had a very good St Patrick’s Day celebration yesterday. I was so tired when we got back home in the late afternoon, I could barely move. It was a good day.

As always, we started very early. Mrs. Poolman and I arrived at 5:30 am for the 6 o’clock opening of the squares. After a few minutes of negotiating with the people who had arrived earlier, we settled on our site and awaited the 6 am hour. Our site was good, but not great. We were on the perimeter of the square,  but just a few yards off that one-half of the square where the parade actually passes.

Our tailgate site, just before the sun came up.

Our tailgating neighbors in the early morning.

Most of the other people arrived between 8 am and 10 am. By the time the parade started passing by around 10:20 am, we had a full house. We spent the next several hours eating, drinking and, as they say in the South, “visiting.”

Some people actually watched...

... the parade.

We had a diverse group, ranging from Mrs. Poolman’s co-workers, to my children’s friends and various other friends and neighbors.

As always, “Mrs. Poolman’s Personal Pick-Up Porta Potty” was a tremendous hit.

Mrs. Poolman's Personal Pick-Up Porta-Potty 2011

In fact, it was a little too much of a hit. Some of our friends had a separate tailgate party set up for their family in the same square. They made a contribution towards the porta-potty fund for their group of — they said — around six people. Actually that group of six was closer to sixty. Oops! The result was sometimes the lines at our porta-potty were longer than those at the public stalls. Poolboy became annoyed when one of their guests challenged his right to use the potty. “Hey, this is MY mother’s potty!” (Aren’t those words t0 make a parent fell proud?)  Next year, they say, they will get their own. That’s a good idea.

Erin go braugh, y’all!

Prepping for St Patrick’s Day

It’s been a busy week, and it’s just getting busier.

Tomorrow, St. Patrick’s Day, is a major holiday here in Savannah. It is also one of the Poolman’s big social events. Since 2002, we have gone down to one of the downtown squares well before dawn and set up a tailgate party in one of the squares along the parade route. We plan to do the same tomorrow.

The day will start around 3:45 am when the alarm goes off. We will need to be downtown by around 5:30 am. The police and park service keep everyone out of the squares until 6 am. Then they blow a whistle and the stampede to get to the choice spots starts. Initially, we were in Chippewa Square (where bus-bench scenes from the movie Forest Gump were filmed). However, it just got to be too much of a madhouse, especially after the parade. We moved a few blocks away to a square very early on the parade route. There are still plenty of people, but it’s not crazy.

Mrs. Poolman and I will set up our canopy, tables and chairs and await the sunrise and our guests.

Our site in Chippewa Square before the parade 2008.

A couple of years ago, Mrs. P became disgusted with the condition of the public porta-potties that are placed around the historic district. She came up with Mrs. Poolman’s Personal Pick-Up Porta-Potty. She rents a port-potty and has it placed in the back of a pick up truck.

Mrs. Poolman's Personal Pick Up Porta-Potty

We park it on the street near our square and it remains a fairly clean source of relief for our family and friends. Mrs. P is famous and well appreciated in our limited circle for this concept.

The parade will run from a little after 10 am until around 1:00 or 1:30 pm.

Watching the parade in 2008.

We hang out and socialize for awhile, but we are usually home and recovering by around 3 or 3:30 pm.

All told, it is a good day. We see a bunch of friends and neighbors who stop by for either a short visit or the entire day. Our two grown children are usually part of the crowd (if they are not working) with some of their friends.

It should be fun. I’ll report on the outcome later.

An ugly break-up and an empty house

We lost our across-the-street neighbors this week. Actually, they have been lost for awhile. The couple is in the process of getting a divorce; the wife and daughter moved out several months ago. Apparently neither party paid the mortgage so the bank stepped in and foreclosed. What a mess!

This was not a pretty, amicable split. This was more of a “Come around here again and I’ll call the police” break-up.

I remember a St Patrick’s Day evening about two years ago. A storm had knocked out power in our section of town, so we were sitting around the candle-lit house. There was a knock at the door and the wife, “Joan”, practically fell through the door. She was quite drunk and her clothes were askew. She said that her husband, “Sam,” had hit her.

Mrs. Poolman tended to Joan, while I went to find Sam, who was also quite drunk. He denied hitting Joan and said she was the one hitting him until he pushed her away and she fell down.

The “discussion” flowed back and forth across the street. Eventually, Sam’s mom and step-dad showed up, along with Sam and Joan’s 11-year old daughter. We all tried to get Sam to go home with his Mom, just to get the fighting couple separated until they sobered up. Sam went back to his bedroom; got into bed; and refused to budge while his mother screamed at him.

In the middle of all this, a major thunderstorm broke out. I have jokingly described the entire episode as a Jerry Springer Show stuck in the middle of a Stephen King novel.

I don’t feel terribly sorry for the couple. They made their own bed. However, I do feel for their now-13 year old daughter. She deserves better than that.

Our hope now is the house moves quickly, and we get a good set of neighbors across the street. Fingers crossed.