Something Different for St. Patrick's Day

Some people like the all out glitz and pomp of the traditional St. Patrick's Day celebrations, drinking green beer, kissing people you don't know, drinking green beer, turning the river green, drinking green beer, watching parades and of course, drinking green beer. Other people want to do something a little more sedate, more personal, something off the beaten track, something that won't leave them with a ginormous hangover the next day.

Chicago has something for both points of view. The Chicago River will be dyed green on the 11th, with the best viewing available from the upper level bridges at Madison Avenue or Columbus Drive. The 51st annual parade starts at noon and the office of tourism says there will be "trains, planes, boats, floats, big balloons and big bands among the more than 150 parade units." Trains? Planes? Boats? The logistics sound positively terrifying. If all this sounds a little too much like a John Hughes film you might want to repair to the Morton Arboretum on the 17th for some corned beef and cabbage or Guinness beef stew instead. While you're at the Arboretum be sure to check out the maze garden. It's about half a mile long, has seven plant rooms and is complex enough to make you wonder if you should have had that last Guinness.

Looking for something rather unusual? The Nashville Zoo suggests you celebrate by adopting a snake. They're offering a choice between an anaconda and an eyelash viper. (That sounds like an obscure joke, doesn't it? An anaconda and an eyelash viper walk into a bar…) The viper is one of the deadliest snakes around but on the other hand it can go for a year without eating. It's certainly a prettier color than the anaconda but as far as I know there are no B movies called Eyelash Viper. If you're trying decide which snake would allow you the most bragging rights it’s a tough choice, but poisonous might just win out.

Attention ladies who will be near Columbia, SC, look what I found, the strongman competition at St. Pat's in Five Points on the 18th. These men are described as massive athletes in kilts (!) who will be lifting enormous objects and just generally being all muscular and stuff. They'll also be pulling things, including a 32,000 lb trolley. Don't feel left out if you're not interested in this particular spectator sport, there are loads of other things going on including a children's carnival featuring pony rides and rock climbing. There is also a five-k run and a 1-mile walk, kind of an odd mixing of measurements if you ask me, with prizes including something for the Best Dressed Leprechaun. There are four different stages of live music with bands ranging from Saliva to King Hippo. Of course there is also a parade but as far as I can tell nothing in particular is being dyed green.

If you don't feel like going out at all I suggest you stay in and watch a film called Into the West. Mind you, you want the one from 1993 with Gabriel Bryne and a picture of a horse and two boys on the cover; you have to be careful because there's a new series out about settling the American west or something. You don't want that, you want the one about the two Irish boys and their father struggling to get by after the death of their mother. I know, I know, it sounds dreary but it's not. It's charming and funny and touching and beautiful. The family are Travelers (kind of like Gypsies) who aren't traveling anymore. They're trying to get along in a sort of projects but they're all unhappy until the day the boys find a horse they name Tir Na Nog. There are some hilarious moments as the kids manage to hide the horse in their wretched apartment, but not for long. The horse turns out to be a wonderful jumper and attracts the attention of a despicable horse thief who is determined to show the horse in his name. There is danger and courage and the kids decide to run away from Ireland and be cowboys in the American West, apparently believing they can ride the horse all the way there. Be warned, this is not a typical Disney film. it's not watered down and parts of it are very intense; perhaps too intense for very young viewers but just right for everyone else.