newyorksubalien has evolved. New city, new life, new blog

newyorksubalien has evolved. New city, new life, new blog.

Yes, I’m still socially-insecure and still deemed too primitive a life form for a bank account. I still can’t say ‘water’ correctly and voice-recognition software still doesn’t understand my number 8.

Meanwhile Superalien is still as super (at least in my eyes), Male Mini-Me is taller than all of us and Mini-Mum has returned to the home of the Mini, only popping back from London to sleep, be fed and help balance out testosterone levels.

But in my new home of Chicago, I can at least lay claim to my own subgroup. I’m now Chi-rish as in Chicago Irish. Apparently the hyphen is important so as not to be confused with Chinese Irish or the town in Armenia. But I’m trusting my readers not to be churlish and to forgive these, my (hyphen-less) Chirish chatters…..

Friday, March 21, 2014

You know it's Spring when the cigarette buds start to appear...

Yesterday officially was the first day of spring and we awoke to a light covering of fresh snow and a lovely Google Doodle of a little man (who bears an uncanny resemblance to my other “Super” half) making flowers magically appear from what, to snow-weary Chirish eyes, looks like our backyard until a few days ago.

To be fair, a more realistic doodle of things sprouting from the Chicago snow banks would be cigarette trees, going by the huge number of cigarette butts which have emerged from the melting ice packs on the streets.

So far the only fields of green I’ve seen were the hordes of be-hatted, be-scarfed and be-jewelled St Patrick’s Day revelers who filled the streets last weekend. And yes, the river did look like a psychedelic bed of clover.

But the city is definitely emerging from its winter chrysalis. Along the lake shore, the runners are back, stretching their wings after several months literally spent on a treadmill. And if I, in any way, doubted the Irish heritage of our new home town, the swiftness with which the locals are donning shorts and bareing their legs the minute the temperatures rise above freezing has convinced me that I truly am in Chirish-land.

Perhaps one of the biggest signs for me that Spring is here was a solitary male member of the 'metallus detectoris" species that I spotted yesterday amongst the trees in Lincoln Park. Known for its distinctive high shrieking call, this elusive creature emerges when the snow has finally melted, spending its days wandering the grasslands in the search of materials with which to feather its nest.

This particular specimen may have been a little premature as while the snow may be gone, it would take a metal grinder not a detector to break up the ground. And while this is not a huge issue for those of us with only a small backyard and in no rush to unearth the garden trowels,  for the maintenance teams at the city’s baseball fields, drastic measures are being adopted.

At the US Cellular Field, home to the White Sox, the crew is facing 30 inches of permafrost. If that sounds like some hairdressing salon disaster, the remedy does even more so. Essentially the ground staff are using something akin to a giant hairdryer under a tarpaulin to blow hot air on the frozen pitch in an effort to thaw it out before the season opener on March 31.

From an energy-saving point of view, where are the city's infamous long-winded, full-of-promises politicans when you need 'em! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Chirish guide to being Irish

As the great day approaches, the many suggestions on offer as to how to celebrate the wearing of the green never cease to amaze me, mainly because many of them are about as Irish as Barack O’Bama. So here are a few guidelines to show your green credentials are more emerald than limey.

Don’t eat corned beef and cabbage

A favourite beef of mine (sorry). This most un-Irish of dishes came to my attention in our first year living in the Big Apple and I assumed it was simply because corned beef was readily available as a stalwart in Jewish cuisine. However the Big Onion, in all its Chirish-ness, is no different which got me wondering.

A few google searches later and I discover the most traditionally Irish thing about corned beef was the beef itself. Back in the 17th to 19th centuries, it was a big industry in Ireland, either traded via the Atlantic or used by the British armed forces. But, as you can probably guess, Irish people themselves couldn’t afford it - until they emigrated to America, that is. So it really is an O'Bama-style traditional Irish dish.

The true culinary companion to cabbage (and not to found in Jewish cuisine)  has to be ham, either boiled or baked. But then we're back to the old American bacon versus Irish bacon dilemma. Except we've solved that one by getting Male Mini-Me a DIY curing kit for Christmas so now there are two males bringing home the bacon in this household.

And then there’s lamb. You really can’t get more Irish than Irish stew but trying to track down some reasonably-priced lamb is like trying to catch a haggis on a Scottish mountain (you know, the creatures with one set of legs shorter than the other so it can run quickly around the hillsides).

If that seems like a tall story to you, I’m seriously beginning to wonder if all the sheep here only comprise of legs as a) that’s all I seem to be able to buy in the shops and b) it would account for why it costs an arm and a leg to buy them.

Don’t imagine it’s always been a big parade day in the Emerald Isle

The first St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was only held in 1931. Given the man himself died on March 17, 461, it has taken a while for the whole green-shamrock-beads-in-the-shops thing to catch on.

In my wee corner of Ireland (where the great man is actually thought to be buried), it took us even longer to jump on the parade bandwagon, with our first parade in Belfast only taking place In 1998. Support at that time was, shall we say, mixed, despite it trying to be very much a cross-community event - which in Norn Iron usually just means one or other of the two communities is cross.

Today, I am proud to say, the Belfast “carnival parade” is very much cross-community, with this year’s line-up including a "Manchester-born winner of the UK X-Factor", the Tir na N’Og Irish dancers and the South Asian Dance Academy

Don’t wear green but blue instead

Only kidding on that one although apparently St Patrick was originally associated with the colour blue.  Even today, St Patrick’s blue is a sky blue used by the Order of St Patrick in the UK or a dark blue in Ireland as seen in the Irish Presidential Standard

Don’t expect to be served a drink in a pub on St Patrick’s Day

Again, only kidding although in Ireland, it was true for over 30 years last century. That was because the very nice man who made St Patrick’s Day a national holiday in 1903 also instigated a law closing pubs for the day in 1927 for fear of excessive alcohol consumption on a religious holiday. The law was repealed in 1961 but during that time, the only place to drink legally in Dublin was the Royal Dublin Society Dog show. Surprisingly attendance shot up. No doubt they all needed the hair of the dog come March 18.

Don’t go on the go unless you want to be fined up to $1,000

And here I’m not joking! We all know that what goes in has to come out sometime and there is a fair amount of imbibing of many dubious liquids on March 17. In order to avoid dubious liquids of another sort, Chicago’s City Council last April doubled the maximum fines for both drinking and tinkling in public to $1,000.

Given this will be the first St Patrick's Day under the new ruling, it brings a whole new meaning to the traditional pot of gold!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chirish-land shows its true colour - all 40 shades of it....

If we’ve been feeling the effects of global warming over the past few months, at last we’re about to embark on a period of global greening, even if we can’t quite yet see the grass through the snow!

St Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and Chicago is participating in Tourism Ireland’s annual "Global Greening" campaign which sees iconic monuments such as the Sydney Opera House and the Pyramids in Egypt all given the green light. 

Buildings and skyscrapers all over Chirish-land will adopt several of the 40 famous shades (as opposed to 50 infamous ones) in the week running up to next Saturday’s parade and the celebrated dyeing of the Chicago river.

The first thing that pops into your head when you see the Chicago river is that it is green already. Honest, it is. A nice murky, soggy welly-boot, moss-covered-wood-‘cos-it’s been-raining-non-stop-for-two-weeks green. But apparently it gets greener.

The story goes that in 1961 the Business Manager of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers encountered a workman in Irish green-splattered overalls. He discovered the plumber had been using a green dye to test for waste leakages in the river and the idea for turning the river into an apparent field of clover was born.

The first year, around 100 lbs of dye were used and the "clover" hung around for a week. More recently, worries about possible pollution caused the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers to rethink their dousing and today around 40 lbs of vegetable dye are used, the recipe for which is as closely guarded a secret as Coca Cola. 

The powder dye is actually orange so you just need some white in there and there's the Irish tricolour. Which could be provided this year by floating blocks of ice as we'll only be seeing daytime temperatures climb above freezing in the week before the big event.

Having lived through a few St Paddy’s Days in New York, I’m almost immune now to the luminous-green hats, beads and flashing sunglasses that invade the shops this time of year. The Shamrock Shakes are back at McDonald’s and the supermarkets are pushing corned beef and cabbage (don’t ask). I did have to look up the ingredients for an Irish Car Bomb cocktail as it was a new one on me. Needless to say, it sounds as if it should taste as awful as its tasteless name.

I’ve been warned that the top of our wee road is a no-go area the day of the parade because the rest of the city will have been on the go there since 8am. In particular we’ve been told our go-to local Irish pub, the nicest I’ve been in outside of the Emerald Isle and provider of real Irish bacon, sausages and tea during early morning Premier League football matches, is a very definite no-go-to. 

So we’re planning to give it a miss parade-day and instead slip over there for a quiet dinner and wee drink the following Monday night when all the shenanigans have died down. Why that Monday? Only because it’s actually St Patrick’s Day!