It’s Not Easy Being Green
A St. Patrick's Day reflection
It’s not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky
But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be…
When I lived in San Francisco in my twenties, I attended a St. Patrick’s party at a flat in the Mission District, a party hosted by someone I did not know. (This was not unlike most parties one winds up at in San Francisco when one is a twentysomething and open to random adventures. My friend Carmaig, a happy-go-lucky Irish musician, had dragged a few of us to this place, and I wanted to go home the minute we were asked what the “secret password” was at the door. This party reeked of hipster, and I would be damned if I was going to stand there trying to figure out the password into a party I wasn’t invited to in the first place.
“‘Leprechaun.’ Is it ‘leprechaun’?” Carmaig got the password right, and the gates were opened. I remember standing alone on the back porch when someone handed me a glass of undefined green punch. This wasn’t a plastic cup or even a random cocktail glass; I recognized myself in this glass. Oh, the exhilaration I felt when realizing that Fozzie Bear and Rowlf the Dog were smiling up at me! I hadn’t seen these faithful friends in years, and I was immediately brought back to my childhood, a time when happiness was simple and easy to define.
Two of my favorite childhood pastimes began with the letter “M”: Muppets and McDonald’s. What could be better than the merging of these two, especially in the mid-1980’s when my so-called “nightlife” meant The Muppet Show, replete with its resplendent cast of crazy characters and creatures that came together for one joyous half hour in time and rocked my small and impressionable world. At the time, the collaboration of human beings with four-leggeds and puppets was nothing short of a glimpse of divinity.
My feelings for McDonald’s were lesser, but nevertheless significant, because a Happy Meal was just about as close to heaven as I could get. McDonald’s wasn’t allowed at home, so it was with my grandparents that I would get to indulge in this colored cardboard box of bliss, with a strawberry milkshake and, the icing on the cake, a toy! — which I always emptied the box immediately to get at as soon as possible.
In the summer of 1981 when The Great Muppet Caper was released, McDonalds decided to build on the success of The Muppet Movie and advertise its Happy Meals (which inevitably left me and every other pre-pubescent in the theatre longing for one.) This time the “toy” was a water glass featuring a scene from The Great Muppet Caper; by the end of the movie trilogy, one could collect an entire set.
Back then, I didn’t realize it was blatant product placement and corporate greed at work. I just thought it was the merging of two of my most favorite things, and that life would always work out that way: synergistically and sweet. I knew what made me happy and where to find it. At McDonalds. At the movies. At my grandparents’ house. Life was indeed green. I didn’t know that I would lose the two people I loved most in the world before the third Muppets movie — The Muppets Take Manhattan — would even arrive.
Twenty years had passed between that green summer of 1981 and the grey St. Patrick’s Night in 2001 in San Francisco, when I was handed the glorious green drink in a glass that represented the brightest and most innocent moments of my youth. Beyond the horizon of fog on that bittersweet San Francisco St. Patrick’s night, I could see my grandparents dancing in their living room to Frank Sinatra, my grandmother singing in Italian, my grandfather’s worn Levi’s overalls more glamorous than an Armani double-breasted suit. Maybe I drank too much of that undefined green punch, and maybe my visions were just that — visions and illusions, like those Kermit sang of in The Muppet Movie.
Robert Frost stated, “All that is gold cannot stay.” But on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s green that shines forth. And I think that’s what I want to be…