Friday, March 17, 2006

Kermit wasn’t kidding

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Kermit the Frog once opined that “it ain’t easy being green,” or something to that effect. Never were those words more true on this, the dumbest of all holidays: St. Patrick’s Day.
Green beer. Green bagels. Green plastic hats with cheap rubber bands to hold them in place. Green sweaters dragged out of the closet for their once-a-year appearance. Green signs saying, “Erin Go Bragh,” even though nobody knows who Erin was or what Bragh is. Someone, somewhere, at some point today will make the joke, “too bad Erin doesn’t go bra-less,” and everybody will laugh, except for those unfortunate souls named Erin.

The only thing worse than all this nonsense are the whiny opinion pieces suggesting that St. Patrick’s Day would be better spent if the nation as a whole celebrated true Irish Culture and hosted poetry readings and song and dance recitals. That ain’t going to happen, of course, and even if it did I wouldn’t go.

The fact is I enjoy a party as much as the next person and, truth be told, I have had my fair share of fun on St. Patrick’s Day. There were the two St. Patrick’s Day (1982 and 1983), for instance, where I got to experience the day as a recent college grad working in Manhattan. In 1982 my friend Larry and I hooked up with a busload of our former fellow University of Scrantonites who were in New York City for the day. One of them, a walking talking Irish stereotype named Brendan who had a mop of flaming red hair and cream-cheese-white skin flecked with freckles, assured Larry and me that he “discovered” this great bar along the parade route where we would get the best Irish food and drink. We met him at the appointed intersection and he directed us toward a Blarney Stone that was on one of the corners.
Larry and I laughed our “been out of college almost a whole year and therefore much wiser to the ways of the world” Irish butts off at his college-student naiveté. Saying you “discovered” a Blarney Stone in Manhattan in those days would be like saying you “discovered” a McDonald’s in a food court in a shopping mall, and is just as rewarding from a culinary and quaffing point of view. Nonetheless, we parked ourselves at the corner of the bar and spent the better part of the day right there, with the rest of our former classmates. If memory serves, when it was time for the bus to go back to Scranton it was all they could do to get me off the vehicle. I was a little boy trying to crawl back into the womb of college living.

Things were definitely much more sporting the following year, 1983. Forsaking my Scranton compadres for newly-minted New York friends, I found myself in a party in a loft apartment somewhere in Manhattan. To this day if you put a gun to my head and said, “Take us to where this party was,” I would not even know which direction to head in, other than remembering it was south of 34th Street (oh yeah, that narrows it down). The party was hosted by “somebody somebody knew,” and it was wall-to-wall sweaty drunk people. But it was in a loft in Manhattan and therefore cooler than any party I had ever been to, before or since. I don’t know how we got in. I do know that we showed up empty handed.

At least I did not make a complete ass of myself at the party, as far as I can remember.
I can’t say as much for my St. Patrick’s Day performance a few years prior, 1978 in fact. During the spring semester of my freshman year at the aforementioned University of Scranton I decided to give up drinking for Lent, neglecting to consult a calendar and therefore realize that St. Patty’s Day fell on the weekend just prior to Easter. I was dry for a month or so leading up to the day, a very, very long stretch if I recall. So despite my desire to abstain – or perhaps because of same - I was quite eager to participate when someone in my social circle suggested that the lot of us head to Binghamton – where the drinking age was 18 at the time - to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

We went to this place called “The Downtown,” I think. It was an abandoned warehouse that was converted into a nightclub because, quite frankly, there is not a whole lot you can do with abandoned buildings in Binghamton. Not only did I fall off the wagon that night, I fell off and rolled around as if I were tossed out of a speeding Astin-Martin by James Bond himself and went rolling down an embankment. At some point I staggered back to my friend’s car and decided to sleep it off in the back seat. Of course I neglected to tell anyone this, leaving my friends to form a drunken search posse of sorts. Most of the guys were perturbed that they spent so much of their big night out looking for me – especially when I was in the car the whole time – but one of the savvier posse members used my milk-carton status as pick-up line. “Have you seen my friend?” he would ask the more attractive female members of the crowd. “He’s about six-four, 180 pounds and has enough acne on his face to pass for a war-room map.” Somehow this worked – my friend said he made the acquaintance of a number of young lovelies, all of whom were quite touched by his concern (and, apparently, oblivious to the fact that he was so “concerned” that he took the time to conduct extended conversations with total strangers while I was still “missing.”)

We made it back to Scranton in one piece, although you might say I woke up green with guilt for not making it through the Lenten season sans alcohol. The only consolation, I suppose – given my drunken condition the night before – is the fact that I did not wake up next to Miss Piggy.
Thank you for reading this column.

No comments: