To start things off, someone who obviously had more fun than we Monday. Or maybe not. Pay close attention to the girl in the red sweater.
As holidays go, St. Patrick’s Day rates up there with the best of them for me. It comes at a great time of year here in the Southeast. The trees are starting to bud out and it’s warm enough for shorts yet cool enough for long sleeves. The dreaded humidity tends to stay away for a little while longer. It usually is around tournament time, so there is a steady stream of entertainment. Also there is no preparation involved usually (although last year two of my friends and I bought matching green track suits) other than putting on my kelly green Chuck T’s and doing a little preparatory hydration. St. Patrick’s Day is basically a day to sit and drink all day. And in the past that’s what I have done. Usually to oblivion.
This year it was a little different. St. Patrick’s Day was on a Monday and with the much whined-about work load there was no way I could justify a day off with the sole purpose of drinking. I did however, put on my All-Stars and a Red Sox tee before I left the house that morning ( a vastly different outfit than I normally wear to the office) prompting my wife to comment that I must not have any meetings scheduled for the day. “Only with a pint of Guinness,” I replied as I walked out the door.
I got to work in a good mood vowing only to listen to Irish music all morning. That worked out well for about two hours as I had listened to all the Van Morrison, Dropkick Murphy’s, Chieftain’s, and what few traditional Irish song I had on my iPod. Twice. I even opened it up to U2 and stretched it another hour.
By lunch time, the beautiful spring weather had me ready to be outside, so I took the opportunity to go downtown and complete an errand I had been needing to finish for several days. Halfway there the phone rings and I good friend of mine who had taken the day off was calling me from the bar.
“Have you already started,” I asked.
“Just finishing my first pint,” he replied.
It was 11:30. Which is tame by Fall Saturday standards but this is a Monday and the beginning of Holy Week on top of that.
“I’ll be there in a minute, ” I said and steered my car over the bridge and into a parking spot about half of a block from the only Irish pub in Tuscaloosa. I think calling it an Irish pub is a misnomer. It has the words “Irish Pub” in its title and there are certainly artifacts in it that would make you think of Ireland but like most mildly successful bars in this town it has started attracting the college crowd. While I am sure that is good for business it isn’t all that good if you’re looking for a true pub experience. I’ll get a little more into that later.
The first pint went down smooth. I don’t normally drink Guinness but since it was St. Patrick’s Day and I am probably at least a quarter Irish (the other fractions consisting of Scot, English and the mark of a true southerner, Indian, in my case Creek, ancestry) I vowed to imbibe only Guinness. One of the other bad things about this “Irish pub” is that they have never bought or repaired the cooler they have to adequately chill Guinness so the beer is a little warmer than ideal. But I pushed through none-the-less and after my second pint decided I needed to finish the errand I had started out to complete and return to the office to finish up what I had started the day hoping to do. My friend assured me that he was going to leave as well to finish some chores and that we would reconvene at the bar later that afternoon.
I had the good sense to grab a hamburger on the way back to the office to soak up some of the alcohol, the combination of which made the battle to fight off a nap a tough one. I struggled through and by 3:30 I was thinking about calling it a day. The phone rang again.
“Are you on your way back,” my friend asks when I answer. I can hear loud music in the background.
“Are you back already,” I ask.
“Never left,” is the response.
“I was thinking about heading back that way,” I said.
“Would you mind picking up some chicken fingers for me on the way,” he says, sure that I won’t say no.
“Absolutely”, I say, “because nothing screams Irish like chicken fingers.”
“Don’t even get me started on that,” he replies and before I can ask what he means he has ended the call.
Twenty minutes later I find myself walking up the sun-drenched sidewalk, bag of chicken fingers in hand. I have to fight through the few bouncers and regular patrons I know from my frequent visits to the place who attack the food but I arrive at my seat with the greasy strips of poultry still intact.
It’s kind of quiet I think as my first (well third) pint arrives at the open space of polyurethane covered wood in front of me. I find that odd because there are at least three dozen more patrons than the two that were in here when I left. Momentarily the relative silence is shattered by the acoustic cover band that has set up in the corner. “Tiny Dancer” is the first song of the play list.
“Nothing say St. Patrick’s Day like Elton John,” shouts my buddy over the din.
“This must have been what you were referring to,” I say.
“All – fucking – afternoon,” he shouts disgustedly.
To list the play set would only piss me off again but I do remember it getting worse the more that I drank and I distinctly recall clapping when the set was done. Not out of appreciation for their talent mind you but appreciation that they had stopped. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad it’s just that the choices were inappropriate for the occasion as was the selection of that particular act. Set lists of Elton John, John Denver, Van Morrison, and Toto (yes Toto – and Africa of all songs) cranked at capacity on the ample PA system might be fine late at night when the average age of the patrons is 21 and the most uttered phrase is “Oh my God!” but at 4:00 in the afternoon on St. Patrick’s Day when the average patron is a professional who has left work early for the good excuse to hoist a glass with friends it is ridiculous.
“Nothing screams St. Patrick’s Day like (insert crappy pop song here)” became the catch phrase and battle cry of the afternoon.
There were moments of respite when the band would stop and the PA would play some recorded Irish music. You good see the mood visibly lift when “Drunken Sailor”, “Whiskey in the Jar”, or a bagpipe melody would float through the crowded room. But by around dark that gave way, along with with the higher age of the crowd, to hip hop music. Now I like hip hop. The name of this blog should tell you that I am at least a little fluent in the genre but once again, there is a time and place for everything.
“That’s it. I’m out,” I exclaimed as I waved to the bartender to tab me out.
I pulled my wife, who joined us late in the afternoon, away from friends and headed for home.
All in all it was a fun time. I got to steal away from work a little early on a Monday, drink several beers, visit with lots of friends that I don’t often see, and generally have a good time. To top it off I was in bed at a decent hour and didn’t fell absolutely wretched the next day. A lot has changed. It wasn’t too long ago that I would be hammered drunk by 2:00 in the afternoon and have to call several folks the next day and apologize for what I might have done or said. I think a big part of that is shots or absence of to be more exact, but that’s another post for another day.
The sad thing is though that I can’t be sure if it is the bar changing, because it certainly has, or if it’s me. We have often said that we want to go to one of the big celebrations in a bigger city but truth be told our little pub has always been enough.
Oh well, I’ve got almost a year to figure it out. Something tells me though that I’ll be in the same seat drinking the same warm beer and complaining about the same inappropriate music next March 17th.
Some days it just good to drink. Wherever you happen to be.