Shorebilly’s Swill: A Bartender’s View of St. Patrick’s Day
The article you’re about to read is one I’ve actually had in the vault for about a year. It’s the piece I wrote that was to post right after St. Patrick’s Day of 2012. It’s also the piece that unfortunately got lost in cyber space. I remember thinking, (at least at that time), that it was one of my favorite pieces I had written to that point. So I sat on it for a year, and I’m laying it on you now. I hope you enjoy.
To many people worldwide, St. Patrick’s Day is the greatest day of the year. I guess it all depends on which side of the bar you’re standing on. Ocean City, MD, like many other towns, has its own traditions for this holiday, the most notable of which, is the annual parade, held every year on the Saturday closest to the holiday. Last year, the holiday actually fell on a Saturday, which many people feel is the best-case scenario. I personally feel that this is the absolute worst possible scenario for a multitude of reasons. The first of which is that when the holiday happens to fall say, mid-week, we get two days out of it. We get St. Patrick’s Day itself, and also parade day to celebrate. With a few days in between, everyone has not only time to recover, but an excuse to do it up twice.
On parade day, throngs of people tend to start their celebrating much, much earlier than they normally would. Many have already started drinking by 9 or 10am and hit their full stride soon thereafter. While on St. Pat’s Day, people who celebrate feel compelled to drink for the duration until the holiday is over, or the bars are all closed. Are you starting to see how combining the two days can be a potential recipe for disaster? When this perfect storm of hardcore celebratory days both collide on a Saturday, the party folk start really early, go really hard, and go (or at least attempt to) really late—many of these folks stay out far beyond when they should have. I’ll now attempt to walk you through my day using things I saw last year, and some examples from years past.
Saturday is the one day of the week that I don’t start my work shift until 6:00 pm. I still close like every other night; I just come in a couple hours later than usual. As I’ve stated in previous articles, I now live in Ocean Pines so I have to come in on the route 90 bridge to get to work. As I neared the end of the bridge and slowed down for the red light, I witnessed a scene that was both frightening, and hysterical. A massive group of people, who had obviously attended the parade earlier in the day, were now attempting to cross Coastal Highway at one of its most major intersections. To their credit, they did in fact all wait for the light to change and the cross walk signal. And then, right on cue, about a hundred Kelly green clad buffoons began their trek across the street all doing what I like to call the Bella Lugosi walk.
It looked as if they were shooting a movie scene for a combined sequel of two different cinematic gems, Night of The Living Dead, and The Leprechaun. The first, a cute little movie about flesh eating zombies walking the earth; the second, a film about a mischievous, diminutive, pipe smoking, green suited mythical sprite who now, instead of leading you toward his pot of gold has turned murderous and now wreaks havoc wherever he goes, even “The Hood”. Both movies, for reasons unbeknownst to me have already been sequelized (yes, I made up a word). Equally perplexing, is that neither has ever been given any Oscar considerations. Yup, the guys responsible for these pieces of cinematic genius live in mansions while I struggle to figure out how I’m going to make my next payment on a second-hand minivan. What a country! I’m sorry, my ADD kicked in and I went off on one of my tangents.
Another possibility for what I was witnessing that raced through my twisted mind as I sat at this stop light for about a minute was that perhaps they were filming an anniversary remake of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Only this time, it was being shot on location in Killarney right at the end of happy hour. In any event, here it was, almost two hours before sunset, my shift hadn’t even started yet, and THIS was what I was witnessing. Gonna be a great night to be a bartender.
As I arrived at work, my first thought was that this year, instead of putting green food coloring into beer, they were inserting a chemical that dulls peoples’ sense of hearing. I heard the crowd before I saw them—a massive group of people, who no longer could control the volume, or inflection of their own voices and were completely unaware of the concept of acoustics. It seemed as if everyone was yelling, and yet they were just engaged in conversations. As I stepped behind the bar to begin one of my least favorite shifts of the year, I immediately began to witness the familiar scenes, only viewed on this day or perhaps New Year’s Eve.
The first thing I observed was a pair of young ladies in their early twenties seated at the end of the bar. I could instinctively tell that 364 days a year they were both probably very attractive, sweet, demure girls, but today…not so much. Both were now completely cross-eyed and drooling. Their heads bobbed and weaved like those of a newborn baby who’s neck muscles have not yet developed being held by the stupid, childless uncle who doesn’t have enough sense to cup the back of its head. The now rosy cheeks of each girl were adorned by temporary tattoos of shamrocks, and they were both of course, clad in green from head to toe. Each had multiple strings of shiny green plastic beads draped around their necks looking much like the love children of the Lucky Charms guy and Mr. T. I can only assume that these neck accessories were attained by incorporating a tradition from another festive holiday, Mardi Gras. I believe this because both of these girls who were taking a temporary break from being cute were pretty well endowed.
This pair had already “hit their walls” for the day. They were both tightly clutching glasses of ice water and attempting to drink it through a straw with little success. The dreaded combination of gravity, and rapidly failing motor skills was working against them as a large portion of each sip found its way back out of their mouths and onto the bar. Both had their feet tightly intertwined in the rungs of the bar stools and they had their knees pressed very firmly against the bar. This I believe was in a desperate attempt to keep them from falling off of the Earth. Both of these poor girls had been out with their boyfriends and a large group of people drinking heavy since the early morning. The two boyfriends who respectively had about nine inches and 150 pounds each on their partners had essentially forced their reluctantly obliging girlfriends to match them shot for shot, and beer for beer. The two girls were now paying the price, while the two guys were standing in a crowd about eight feet from the bar still going strong and completely unconcerned with what their potential future spouses were going through just to appease them.
The two girlfriends, who if I were a more decent human being would be worthy of my sympathy, were now being sent a series of messages from their own bodies. Both now had a severe case of the hiccups and were rethinking all the decisions they’d made today up to this point. Both of them, now filled to capacity with green beer topped with the three gallons of water they’ve drank on my watch were about due for an ill fated trip to the bathroom. The first girl got up from her seat at the bar to walk toward the facilities and immediately looked like a marionette who’s strings were being worked by someone in the midst of a full blown epileptic seizure. She eventually made her way across the room with a stride not at all unlike that of giraffe born just a few minutes ago.
The second girl realized that she would need assistance all of the way, so she waited patiently for her man to eventually check on her. She was now just a few sips away from peeing herself right in front of all of the big guys buddies. He had spent the morning showing off for his boys and trying to show them how cool and what a great partier his girl was. Now he’s perilously close to having to explain to these same guys the massive urine stain in her sparkly, skin tight, emerald pants which thankfully for all are only worn once a year. I’m by no means the voice of experience, but I’m guessing that would be difficult to camouflage. I now feel a little bad knowing that each of these girls has the potential for a stomach pumping and a break up in their very near futures. Ahhhh, the luck of the Irish.
I could write so much more about this, but I’ll wrap it up. St. Patty’s Day is a treasure trove for a guy who both tends bar, and writes about it. And I wanted to leave just enough room for the finish I wanted. It just so happens that this column will post on March 12th which is unequivocally my favorite day of the year. On this day, two years ago I married the most wonderful woman in the world. And by no accident, it also would have been my Mom’s birthday. So I celebrate the two greatest and most influential women to me ever on this day. Both of whom I love dearly, one of whom I miss terribly. Thanks for playing along.
Until next week,