Everyone knows the story of St. Patrick: he invented dark ale — no, stout ale! No, no, that’s not it. He invented Jameson’s Irish Whisky … no wait, that would be John Jameson. I’ve seen the commercials. Irish Cream? No? He put the corn in beef! No? He invented the shillelagh … that’s not it. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah — he drove the snakes out of Ireland.
Did he really drive the snakes from Ireland? Ah, who knows. Legend and mythology, people believe what they want to believe. The Catholic Church, the ecclesiastical body that appointed the old bishop Saint, doesn’t really believe that. The real story of Patrick is fantastic enough.
He was born in the 4th Century, 387 by most accounts, somewhere in England, then kidnapped and enslaved when he was 16 by Irish raiders and then escaped his captors and returned to his home, only to become a priest and then bishop, returning to Ireland to minister to the Irish Christians.
Somewhere after returning he drove the snakes from Ireland. Maybe it’s a reference to the Druids, who St. Patrick and the Church were trying to convert or drive from the island. Historically, Ireland hasn’t had any snakes since the glacial period.
Anyway, in devout Catholic homes today is a religious holiday — punctuated by beer and Irish whisky. And corned beef and cabbage. Where the hell did that come from? That came from New England, where the first Irish immigrants settled. All of a sudden, a rare luxury like beef was more common and for some reason corned beef and cabbage became the Irish meal of choice and celebration. So it isn’t even an Irish tradition.
And did you know corned beef isn’t beef from bovine that ate nothing but seed corn? It refers to how the beef is cured with corns of salt. So, if you suffer from hypertension — high blood pressure — corned beef might not be the food for you.
Unless you cook it like my Mom did: boil the shit out of it with the cabbage. Most people put it in a slow cooker: corned beef, cabbage, tube vegetables like turnips, parsnips, carrots, onions and potatoes. What would a pseudo-Irish meal be without spuds?
Okay, that’s the genteel, “My Mom would approve” version of Saint Patrick’s Day. And in our Catholic home that included Mass. Seriously, how many Catholics grew up in a home where Mom wanted, or even forced you, to attend Mas on St. Patrick’s Day?
The reason I ask is, the bigger deal about Saint Patrick’s Day is the drinking! The partying!
Most bars, taverns, nightclubs and speakeasies will ruin a perfectly good, but awful tasting, beer by making it green. And they sell it cheaper than any other beer in the place. Mainly because it tastes so bad and looks so nasty, they need to get it out of their tappers. And they sell all the Irish booze, from Harp and Guinness ale to Irish Whisky and Irish Cream.
So, people who normally wouldn’t get insanely drunk, at least not on a regular basis, go out and get insanely drunk. They drink to excess, laugh, shout and act crazy; then frown, groan, double over, finally spewing their guts all over … if possible a toilet bowl and literally, it’s all over the bowl, not just in it.
Often enough though, it’s all over their shoes, your shoes and the floor. There will be more vomit spewed over the landscape, inside and out, than on any other day of the year. Drinking to excess is a St. Patrick’s Day tradition.
“Why is that,” you ask? Let me tell you. Mainly, people like to have an excuse to party and drink like alcoholics. Except for alcoholics. They don’t need any excuses to get insanely drunk. They just do it … or did it. Some have stopped doing that, often for the right reasons. The bad reasons they stopped are: they ended up in prison or dead.
But let’s be real. The idea is to drink like an Irishman, as if Irishmen have some sort of corner on excessive drinking. They have the reputation, deservedly or not, but them effin’ Germans drink like madmen during Oktoberfest (which seems like a year-round affair in some German quarters) and the English, well they get drunk for most any occasion, at least if a soccer match is taking place, about to take place or has taken place. That’s like, every day.
And let’s not forget the Scots! They’re still drinking over their ongoing resentment of being subjugated by the English monarchy. And as any recovering alcoholic will tell you, resentment is a great fuel for drinking the fuel of resentment — alcohol! And in Scotland the preferred fuel is Scotch and McEwan’s.
- Yes, that’s circular logic that makes no sense: having a resentment, then drinking to fuel that resentment. And it isn’t just a Scottish thing! It’s universal! And, for alcoholics it makes perfect sense!
For some reason though, the Irish get the tag for being drunkards so St. Patrick’s Day is widely viewed and celebrated as a drinking holiday. Parades will parade up and down streets all over America, where St. Patrick’s Day is most celebrated, and while the paraders are parading many of them will be swilling green brew.
This is why, in the recovering alcoholic world, Saint Patrick’s Day is considered amateur night. In fact, many of them are downright snobbish about it. You see, during their drinking days true alcoholics didn’t need a reason to get insanely drunk, they just did it. “Shoot, it’s noon, Thursday, I missed work again. Time for a Jameson’s.”
In most respects Paddy’s Day is just another day — or night. Sure, they conform to some of the traditions, like the drinking of the Bailey’s and Jameson’s, but mainly it’s a day (and night) of excessive drinking and being wary of all the amateurs making a mess of the place with their puking and giving the local law enforcement reason to be more vigilant on the roads and highways.
The high point of course, for men anyway, are the young women who get so drunk, dancing on bars or tables seems like a great idea. I know there will be more than a few women who will bristle at this, but, for guys, it won’t be their bristles that get aroused.
So, as a professional male drunk you’re torn between staying at home and getting drunk, thereby avoiding the drunken, slovenly crowds and certain arrest while driving home, or putting up with all that to see women jump up on the bars and tables to dance.
Along with the people dressed as Leprechauns. Let’s not even get started on the myth of the Leprechauns. Let’s just say it’s a beloved tradition here in the States, especially for short people who are hired by bars, taverns, nightclubs and speakeasies to be … decoration? Who knows.
As a responsible adult let me say drinking to excess and dancing on bars and tables is not a good thing. It’s bad. Especially in this age when everyone has an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry (or other phone with camera).
“But Tim, no one who knows you thinks you’re a responsible adult.”
True … maybe that last bit is just a little insincere, but this I take seriously: drinking and driving. Every day it is proven than drinking and driving can kill. Over 17,000 people die every year as a result of drunk driving. So, take mass transit, get a cab or get a designated driver. Get home safely so you can puke all over your own bathroom … or kitchen, bed, carpet …
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality.