So it’s that time of year again. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and I, proud Mick-American that I am, will be spending it the same way I have for the past decade: locked up in my house, pretending to be German.
Or Italian. Or Vietnamese. Or whatever is required to assuage my weird guilt over not spending the day hanging out in one of Philadelphia’s hundred Irish-y pubs, drinking watery green-tinted Budweiser and getting arrested for assaulting a police horse.
Now, I have been known to enjoy a drink or two. Or seven. My natural habitat is the dim confines of a bar, my elbows up on the long oak, a pint at hand. I can remember happy St. Patrick’s Days past when I whiled away entire weekends in this manner, drinking my fill and laughing myself hoarse among friends and strangers.
But lately, St. Patrick’s Day has become a bit darker and a lot uglier. Always a drinker’s holiday, it’s morphed from a slightly debauched celebration of all things (vaguely) Irish to something more akin to a localized public disaster. When your holiday reflexively comes with a line item in the city budget for riot police, you know that something has gone very wrong.
My colleague Erica Palan wrote about this last year in a blog post about the “Erin Express”—the mid-March pub crawl that has become little more than a “drink-till-you-pass-out” event, during which she saw girls vomiting into sewer grates and “drunken men peeing on the street in broad daylight and verbally and physically provoking female passersby. (Never before has the phrase ‘Kiss Me, I’m Irish’ seemed so threatening.)”
What’s worse, the local news media have chosen to bank on this last-days-of-Caligula vibe by gleefully rolling up on any dump in the city with an Irish-sounding name and filming the mobs of drunk frat boys drooling green beer onto their flip-flops. Frankly, this is tantamount to filming at Church’s Chicken on Martin Luther King Day and hoping crowds of black people show up to buy fried chicken. Who would stand for that? No one, and rightly not. But portraying the Irish as a horde of drunken losers who’ll gladly debase themselves for plastic shamrock necklaces and dollar drafts is apparently just fine.
I mean, if we’re so bound to turn the day into a festival of bad stereotypes, why not just hire a bunch of midgets, dress them in green tailcoats, and have them chase people around the bar trying to recover their stolen breakfast cereal? Now, that would make for some great television, right?
Too bad I’ll miss all the fun as I spend this St. Patrick’s Day at home, sipping a couple of quiet whiskeys and keeping off the streets. And if for some reason I get a little out of hand and overindulge, I’ll throw up in my own bathroom, thank you very much, out of view of any crowds or prying cameras.
You know, like a proper Irish gentleman. Sláinte.
Illustration by Kagan McLeod