Every year I hear the stories, watch the scenes from movies, and read about the grand parade that marches down the old city streets. Like nearly every major city in the United States, celebrating Ireland’s greatest saint and patriarch is a day full of drunken giddiness, all the imaginable hues of green, and enough beer consumed to fill the Grand Canyon. It is a day many don’t full recall the following morning. Perhaps we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day in this country. After all, the Irish celebrate the day as they always have with an early a.m. Catholic mass and the subsequent company of friends and family (ironically without much alcohol). The bottom line is that they have the opportunity to celebrate the day. For me, I’ve missed the chance to join in the Gaelic festivities almost every year. That’s right. Almost every fucking year. Except one.
The St. Patrick’s Day of 2008 was and still is the best time I ever had on the holiest of Irish days. Yes, I lost the best friend I ever and will ever have only a few weeks later ((I’m referring to my dog Miller). At the time I had no idea of the tragedy that would fall upon me. What I did know was that I, for once, was off St. Patrick’s Day. It just so happened that the day fell on a Saturday that year (it is on a Saturday next year, 2012, as well). I, between jobs and having saved a nice chunk of change from my previous situation, had the means to indulge in all of the debauchery that had somehow avoided me in all the St. Patty’s past.
The day had begun like all days prior. I woke up and got out of bed. The night before I’d finished Frank McCourt’s memoir “Angela’s Ashes.” I’d watched a dozen or so movies and documentaries with Irish themes over a span of three or four weeks consuming my water weight in Guiness and other fine imported ales and lagers. Irish tunes, both modern and classic, played like a Celtic jukebox in my head. My $250 authentic Irish kilt hung like a majestic trophy among my scraps of clothing. Yes boyos, I was ready. Saint Patrick’s Day had arrived.
I can’t recall exactly what time I opened my first beer but it was early. Being the bad Catholic that I am I skipped any masses going on that day. Who could even think of going to mass with so much drinking to be had? I’d also skipped the parade the previous weekend. Never liked parades. After walking Miller I plopped my increasingly widening ass on the sofa…wait did I really just say that? I meant couch goddammit! So, there I was on the couch with a beer in my hand and watching a documentary about that lush, little island of eight million in the northern Atlantic (did you know that during England’s 700-year occupation of Ireland the country’s Catholics, which made up about 90% of the population, were practically reduced to the status of slaves stripped of the right to vote, hold public office, speak their native Gaelic tongue, and attend Protestant schools?). Time to call Dave, my buddy and fellow borderline alcoholic.
After a brief and to-the-point conversation (that’s how us men do it ladies) with Dave, it was decided that the night would begin early. Come to think of it I also can’t recall what time we hit our first bar. Six o’clock maybe? Whatever the time, I took Miller for one last walk, this time donning my kilt, before heading out for what I hoped would be a night to remember. Or not.
I met Dave, who also donned a kilt, at Hooters. Why Hooters? Who the hell knows. It was a mistake let’s just say that and say no more. While at the ultimate teasefest tavern Dave and I downed a couple of Guinesses and were joined, briefly, by our black, antisocial friend Dewitt. After finishing a beer, Dewitt went home stating he might come back out later. We knew the truth though. From Hooters we found our way to TGI Friday’s (I think). Remember, we’re two crazy fuckers with kilts. Our reception at Hooters had been a cold one. Nothing but perverted middle-aged trucker types in that place. TGI Friday’s was a slight improvement. Again, two more beers and we were out the door. Next stop, Primanti Brothers. The only authentic Irish bars were down in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Neither one of us felt like driving that far or driving at all. Monroeville would be our main hangout for the night.
At Primanti’s we consumed several brews and met a few interesting people, one of which knew a thing or two about Ireland and Irish culture. He explained the difference between our kilts. Apparently Dave’s kilt was more tradtional whereas mine was more formal wear. For $250 it better be fuckin’ formal! Three beers or so later Dave and I headed for what would be our final and most exciting destination of the night, a little bar/restaurant called Tolerico’s. By some miracle we found a booth and quickly snatched it up (not like anyone was going to fight us for it; remember, two crazy fuckers in kilts). We ordered a round of brews and got right to it. Shortly after our arrival we were joined by several of our friends. Five of us now crowded that booth (I was the only one with any kind of Irish heritage). We drank and talked. We met a few young ladies impressed by our kilts. Dave and I removed our boxer shorts for them. I put mine back on a few minutes later. Dave, for reasons only known to Dave, left his folded up in one of his front pockets. Dave’s hidden nakedness aside, the night went on. At some point we decided to go old school by playing the House of Pain’s “Jump Around” on the jukebox. We sang (rapped actually) along and jumped up and down at the necessary parts. In between songs we struck up conversations with some of the patrons about such things as Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day, and so on. I think at some point I may have drunkenly told a girl I loved her and that she was beautiful. I don’t think she understood me though because I said it in a thick Irish accent. The highlight of the night was my friends and I, now drunk to the point where we needed to either lean on one another for support or else do a group face plant on the hard, dirty floor beneath our unstable feet, singing “Kiss Me I’m Shit-faced” by the Dropkick Murphys (favorite Irish band next to U2). Not all of us knew all the lyrics but we gave it our best. When the song was finished we raised our glasses to an Irish toast. Slainte!
We left Tolerico’s at closing time, 2 a.m. What happened after that I honestly don’t remember. I think I went home to my apartment, to Miller. Or maybe I crashed at Dave’s house for a few hours then went home. Whatever the conclusion, I ended up home after what had been the best time I’d ever had on Saint Patrick’s Day, home in time to walk Miller, kilt and all.