There are ways one dyes a river. I don’t know what they are, but apparently, Chicago has gone through enough of them to come to a method that is safe, non-toxic, fine for ducks, and won’t bother the fish. That last part makes me roll my eyes hard enough to part my hair. I mean, imagine being a fish in the Chicago River when suddenly everything turns brilliant green. I know I’d freak out. But maybe the fish in Chicago are tough.
There are, also, ways to celebrate the dyeing of a river. One of the best ways is to place one’s corpus against the railing of one of the classic Chicago bridges, perhaps Columbus, or Michigan Ave or Wabash, consume a disproportionate quantity of green beer, and scream erin go bragh at the people on the water.
Which brings us to the very best way to experience the dying of the river and that is to make sure one is afloat upon that river and in close proximity to the barge full of people and a spiky bloom of nozzles hanging off the back spraying five kajillion gallons of whatever the heck it is they use to turn the river green into the river to turn it green. If that’s your river dying bailiwick, then row yourself down to the Streeterville Docks and join the Freedom Boat Club.
Stylistically, the best way to enjoy the dying of the river is to take umbrage, loudly, at the insane weirdoes playing bagpipes on the dying boat. Bagpipes are Scottish, you idiots. Dye the river plaid and leave us in peace! And whoever it is plowing the waves in a reticulated Loch Ness Monster boat needs to give up. #thisisireland
I joined Captain Roy Novak and the Freedom Boat Club Public Relations rep, Admiral Leanne Kosinski, on one of their pontoon rentals at an ungodly time of the morning on a day that was doing its best imitation of the Arctic with my photographer, Biscuit Haynes, and a bunch of FBC members who brought victuals and beverages to share. We anchored (not really but Capt. Novak kept us in one spot so I'm saying anchored) ourselves at the Columbus Bridge and proceeded to freeze to death while trying to dialogue with the nineteen thousand Irish people lining the river. I still don't know what they were saying but they were passionate about it and they were drunk so I believe them, whatever it was.
At precisely some time around 9am the barge with all the bagpipes and the dye pipes (why not just have the dye put into the bagpipe pipe bag and kill two birds with one stone?) launched into a passionate rendition of a thousand cats fighting in a thousand garbage cans (note: I hate bagpipes) while spewing a fine yellow plume into the river and, because this is the windy city, into the foam of my beer, the collar of my tuxedo (How do YOU dress when boating?) and everything else, including the underside of the bridge.
As I gazed at the magic of a green river turning even greener I realized I couldn't feel my feet and thought, you know, maybe I should recall that I live in Chicago where March is really just February with a hangover. Pro tip wear thermals.
Biscuit was smoking a pipe to fulfill his secret fantasy of being a sea captain from 1834 so I asked him politely, would he please use his lighter to set my feet on fire, which he politely declined to do. Fortunately, FBC had blankets and I disappeared inside of mine and didn't come back out until yesterday.
I commend Capt Novak for keeping his dignity as we cruised down to the fork then returned, our bow pushing gently through a flotilla of kayakers, crew rowers, tiny little motorboats, paddle boarders, tiki hut boats with slides, and way, way, way, WAY too many bagpipers (seriously, get your cultural appropriation on fleek) and Captain Jack Sparrow.
Despite the weather and our clothes slowly running Irish, Biscuit and I enjoyed the trip and maintained our mutual and lifelong hope to one day buy a boat, even though our wives have repeatedly questioned our sanity for it and have, repeatedly, pointed out that we can barely navigate our own living room without fracturing our shins, much less the open sea. They also mentioned the cost and the work of owning a boat which (I've done a lot of calculation here so I'm gonna skip ahead in class and give you the answer, but trust me, there's science behind this) are, respectively: all of it and never-ending.
Still, the lure of the open sea is in our blood and we are bound and determined to sail her; aye, that we are. However, FBC saw us coming years ago.
For an affordable annual membership and s few dollars a month, you can enjoy all the benefits of owning a boat with none of the worries. They have rental facilities all over North America and parts of Canada but most importantly right here in the windy city which will do you some good next year when you want to plop your stern into the emerald waters of the Chicago River on a cold March morning.