We got there about 10 minutes into the parade. About 40 minutes after my anticipated arrival time, but still typical for us, and not missing much. Liam desperately wanted to wear his roller blades to the parade. I wasn’t keen on the idea at first, knowing Michigan Avenue is brick paved and bumpy, and fearing skinned knees or a bumped head marring the experience. I eventually acquiesced, and I’m glad I did. He’s apparently got this roller blading thing down pat. It sped up our movement from the car to the parade, and he spent the whole time zooming up and down within about ½ block on either side of our spot, laughing, cheering, meeting other kids, and snatching up candy and beads without a single scratch or bruise. We met up first with my sister Val’s old flame Stephan and his girlfriend, and later with Val, and eventually my best friend Lou and his fiancé.
Though I forgot to borrow the camera from work, Val got a few great shots. You can see them on her Flickr page here: Val's Flickr Page
As the parade was wrapping up, I spotted a guy in a leather jacket with “Teen Angels” emblazoned on the back. They being my favorite local A Cappella/Doo-Wop group, I stroll over and ask if he’s in the group. After chatting him up a bit, discussing barbershop and A cappella music, I find out he’s the brother of a good friend of mine in another quartet! We have a few laughs as the parade comes to a close, and the small mob of us that had coalesced head to Sonya’s parents’ place to gather and decompress.
The rest of the evening was spent between watching the Balduck Mountain Ramblers at Nemo’s, chatting at the house, drinking, and munching on take-out Botana from Xochimilco’s. I passed out in a chair, letting Sonya take the kids home and figuring on a short nap before heading home. I woke up about midnight (MUCH later than I had planed), and drove home, with a quick stop by AJ’s Café in Ferndale to participate in their world record attempt to sing “Danny Boy” non-stop for 50 hours.
St. Patty’s Day proper was spent at work, then home to watch the kids while Sonya took some much needed time out to hang with her family at Nemo’s to watch the Ramblers some more and have a beer. That’s about where the fun and supposed “Luck O’ The Irish” ran out…
Just where the hell did that phrase come from anyway? Snakes, famine, and religious oppression at home, hatred, bigotry, indentured servitude, and deplorable living conditions here. Where in the hell did ANYONE get the idea that the Irish were lucky?
Well, even only being about ¼ Irish, it seems that sour brand of “Irish Luck” is coursing through my blood again. The car I bought for such a deal about a month ago is fast becoming a giant mutant albatross around my neck. First the heater core doesn’t work – a $400 repair I haven’t done yet. Then I notice the stereo has a few glitches, which, having no garage, I can’t get to until this interminable cold weather breaks. I still have to find a bed liner for the hatchback area. The front driver’s tire has a very slow leak. Then, most recently, it had been running a bit rough and the “check coolant” light came on. No biggie – probably just needed a top off on the radiator fluid, right? That took care of it for about a week, then the light came on again. This time my car’s thirst was quenched for all of a day before the hood started to steam. The temperature gauge was still within the realm of “normal”, but I figured I’d take it in for it’s first oil change under my care and get $15 worth of free advice from the grease monkeys there.
I drive in with a pleasant smile, hoping they’ll say it’s a slipped hose or something. Well, faith ‘n begorah, if it wasn’t the water pump. On top of that, my serpentine belt is in tatters and on the verge of disintegration. Great. I head to the local discount auto parts store for a $45 water pump, $20 serpentine belt, and a $15 timing belt (which you may as well replace if you’re doing the water pump), and I take it to my trusted mechanic, Tony, at BYOP (Bring Your Own Parts) Auto Repair.
I left it with him first thing yesterday, knowing he probably wouldn’t be able to get to it that day. He usually encourages appointments so he can plan his schedule better. I hop a bus to work from there and wait…and wait…and wait. About 3:30 he calls me with a grim tone in his voice. He knows I ain’t Rockefeller and try to do the minimum needed to get from point A to B. Apparently my thermostat wasn’t reading correctly and sometime (probably Saturday) I had blown a head gasket.
This can often be a death sentence for a car, depending on how the engine’s built. While my Mercury Tracer (basically a Ford Escort) has a good rep and being a Ford product, parts are relatively cheap, it wasn’t exactly designed for durability. It’s the kind of domestic Econo-Box you buy in a six-pack and hope to take good care of to get to about 150k miles. Mine's at about 102k. He runs down the litany of procedures for the work and as my heart beats faster in my chest, having assumed I just dumped $1500 down the drain buying this overrated go-kart, he gives me the total…$500 (give or take $100).
That’s it? I was figuring on about $300 for the water pump anyway. Was I happy? Hell no, but at least that repair brings my total cost of the car to around the Blue Book value (so far – I still have to get to the heater core before next winter). While it’s not a repair I was financially prepared for and will suck my account down to the dregs, it’s not a panic-inducing situation (knock wood).
So I’ll be without a car…AGAIN…for about a week or so while I get the necessary work done. God willing, this will be the last mandatory repair I’ll have to do for a while.
Spring barbershop convention is looking less and less likely…