When did St. Patrick’s Day turn into a celebration of debauchery? When I was growing up in Northeast Philly, St. Patrick’s Day usually meant someone’s mom would make Irish potatoes and we’d be allowed to add green accessories to our Catholic school uniforms. Now that I am an adult, St. Patrick’s Day means hopping over puddles of puke on Spring Garden Street, dodging stumbling girls on too-high heels dressed in neon green spandex short shorts, and defending myself against drunken frat guys (or former frat guys) in kelly green polo shirts and flip flops who think that calling each other “bitch” will somehow entice women to make out with them.
For the first three weekends in March, the Erin Express runs pub crawls through Center City and the Northeast. (See also: The Shamrock Shuttle.) And for the fifth year in a row, Philly was home to the world’s only Running of the Micks which includes a pub crawl followed by a dash up the steps of the Art Museum. This year’s Running of Micks included stops at the very-Irish Raw Sushi and Sake Bar and Club Risque, Philadelphia’s premier gentlemen’s club.
These drink-’til-you-pass-out events facilitate bad behavior by creating a environment where the only goal is intoxication. This isn’t about teetotaling—anyone who has met me can attest to my own drinking habits—but when hundreds of people are thrown together with the sole purpose of imbibing all day long, bad things are bound to—and do—happen.
Observing Erin Expresses of years past, I’ve seen girls vomiting into sewer grates at 15th and Spring Garden at 1 p.m. I’ve also seen drunken men peeing on the street in broad daylight and verbally and physically provoking female passersby in Center City. (Never before has the phrase “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” seemed so threatening.) I swung by the Art Museum on Saturday afternoon to check out the Running of the Micks. Six buses pulled up and from each vehicle, a handful of drunks in varying stages of green dress (or undress, in the case of most college-aged girls) emerged. (Including this guy decked out in drag.) Some of the inebriated dashed up the steps, tripping and shrieking the until they reached the top. Most stayed on the buses and shouted obscenities at gawking tourists. (“Fuck Rocky, biiiiiiiitches!” one group of gentlemen repeatedly yelled to a line of people waiting to take photos with the famous statue.)
These actions are disgusting but Philly’s not alone. This year, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer canceled the town’s beloved parade after last year’s event led to 34 arrested, 136 people being transported by ambulance and two reported incidents of sexual assault. Deeper in Pennsylvania, Penn State’s yearly State Patty’s Day caused so much destruction to one on-campus apartment complex that building managers have outlawed all parties on the premises for the rest of the semester.
What is the solution to this ongoing problem? I’m not sure. Barring catastrophic crime, I don’t foresee these profitable, well-attended events being canceled or downsized, as in Hoboken or Happy Valley. And surely the events’ organizers cannot be held responsible for the legal idiocy of their patrons. (While puking in the street is gross and ill-advised, it’s not illegal.) All I—and others offended by these events—can do is seek refuge in the least Irish part of Philadelphia—Chinatown.