Monday, March 31, 2014
COLUMN: St. Paddy's
First off, let's get one thing straight. What gives me the right to talk about St. Patrick's Day? Absolutely nothing. There isn't a drop of Irish blood in my body. I have no affinity for the color green, I've never found a four-leaf clover, and I stand by my affirmation that "Lord of the Dance" is the single silliest thing ever to be passed off as entertainment.
I suppose I have a bit of an Irish first name, but that owes more to my mom seeing a movie poster and thinking that the name Shane sounded "neat." I have no ties to the Irish community whatsoever, so I really have no idea what I'm talking about. And where do people who have no idea what they're talking about go to pass themselves off as intellectual? Wikipedia.
Wikipedia informs me that March 17th is the death date of St. Patrick, the most commonly-recognized patron saint of Ireland. When he was 16, St. Patrick (or, as he was known back then, Patrick) was kidnapped by raiders, taken to Gaelic Ireland, and forced to perform slave labor for six years. During this time, St. Patrick found God.
Eventually becoming a priest, St. Patrick returned to Ireland and converted thousands of pagans to Christianity. Then he rolled out some kegs of Guinness and everybody got wasted listening to "Jump Around" by House of Pain until closing time.
Oh, wait, no. That's what happens NOW.
PLEASE note that I'm not remotely slamming the Emerald Isle or anyone of Irish descent. You guys are awesome, and you should be proud that your heritage is embraced and celebrated annually all over the world. Not many cultures get such an accolade. I'm sure the proud peoples of Uzbekistan or Iceland would kill to have such appreciation of their way of life. You're on a mighty short list of globally recognized holidays, Ireland: There's you, Cinco De Mayo, Oktoberfest, Carnival, Mardi Gras... and that's about it.
But therein lies the problem. Look at that list again. What started out as exceptional celebrations have nowadays been reduced to an excuse for idiots to binge drink like morons all the live-long day. I might not be qualified to discuss the Irish way of life, but I sure get to witness the bastardized American version of it year after year.
I've been moonlighting as a DJ at bars and clubs for over 20 years now, and I've had a front-row seat for many a St. Paddy's weekend. I can tell you with absolute certainty that no other holiday fills bar workers with as much simultaneous joy and dread. It's a lucrative weekend, that's for sure -- if you can survive it without bashing your head against a wall.
Let's look at last weekend for example. A long day of revelry, parades, and shenanigans had long been underway before I even took to the DJ booth at a top-notch local watering hole Saturday night. There was dancing, singing, and green liquor a-flowing, whilst yours truly had his eye on a cute girl shimmying on the dancefloor. Okay, so maybe she was young enough to be my daughter -- but hey, there's only so many directions a person can look while DJing, and this particular direction happened to offer the nicest view.
Eventually she headed up to the DJ booth to make a request. Finally, a chance for some harmless flirting. She strolled up, moved just seductively inside my personal space, leaned over, and whispered in my ear:
"HAAAAAY MISSSUR DEEJAY YOU GOTSAA PLAY ME THAT NEW BEEYONSAY JAM SOSH I CAN SHAKE MY BOOTAY!! WHOOOoOoOoO! (BURP.)"
Not pictured: the sea of Coors-flavored spittle now covering my face, ear, and neck. On the grand list of all things sexy, this fell somewhere between "Bea Arthur" and "naked grandma." Still, I played her song, and true to her word, she shook her booty -- for about 30 seconds before falling flat on it and eventually getting kicked out.
I just can't help but think St. Patrick wouldn't be too excited to know his holiday was being used as an excuse to get sloshed out of your mind. I couldn't help but wonder what the holiday is like in Ireland. Good thing, then, that I have an Irish friend recently relocated to the States. I asked him what he thought of our version of St. Pat's, and he immediately clued me in to a few vital differences. Among them:
• Leprechauns. "We invented them," he told me, "but you Americans just took it and ran with it." The classic Irish leprechauns of lore were more like cranky shoemakers who played mean-spirited practical jokes on the innocent. Oh, and they wore RED outfits. Our modernized version of green-suited beardies with pots of gold and rainbows are usually met with Irish eye-rolls.
• "Pinching someone because they don't wear green is a clear sign of mental illness," he told me with a smile. "I had NEVER heard that one until I came over here."
• "No one in Ireland eats corned beef and cabbage. Ever." This modern tradition blows my friend's mind. "Our people didn't eat corned beef and cabbage because they WANTED to. They ate it because there was a famine and it's all they had. It's not a delicacy, it was a matter of survival."
• But the most offensive thing of all? I saw it a kajillion times last weekend. Guinness + Bailey's + Jameson, chugged like a shot, and never more popular than on St. Pat's. Bartenders know it as an Irish Car Bomb. "There are no words to how offensive that is," my friend says. "It would be along the lines of me walking into your bar and ordering a drink called 'The 9/11' or 'The Twin Towers.'" Point taken.
Look, I'm not a no-fun-nik. I understand the need for occasional revelry. I'm pretty good at it myself. If you're the revelling type, I hope I'm the one providing the soundtrack. But maybe we should stop dumbing down a time-honored and cherished holiday just because we want to drink ourselves stupid. Honor and enjoy St. Patrick's Day for what it is, not what you want it to be. And above all, if you go up to the DJ and drunkenly insist that he kill his flow by playing "Shipping Off To Boston" by the Dropkick Murphys, tip him well for putting up with the likes of you.