In Defense of the Erin Express

Whether you love them or want to snap their shamrock headbands in half, you can't deny one thing: This crowd is having a damned good time.

2009 Erin Express at West Tavern. Photo by Kevin Burkett, used under a creative commons license.

2009 Erin Express at West Tavern. Photo by Kevin Burkett, cropped and used under a Creative Commons license.

Last year, the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day was absolutely gorgeous. Unseasonably warm and impossibly sunny, it was the kind of day that Philadelphia occasionally hands over just when you threaten to pack your bags — right around the time you start counting the number of Februarys you’ve barely survived here.

On that glorious day, I headed into Center City to run errands, so excited by the weather that I forgot the date. Entire streets were closed down for parties, including the block of Sansom where I needed to pick up my dry-cleaning. I wound through the green sea spilling out of the bars and jumped over a puddle as I made my way to the other side of the street.

Only it wasn’t a regular puddle. And I didn’t so much jump over it as I clumsily half-stepped into it, flicking liquid up the back of my bare legs.

It’s possible that I stepped in beer. But I knew it then and I know it now: St. Patrick’s Day peed on me. It peed on me and it peed on my new flip-flops during their first — and last — venture out into the world.

It can be easy to hate St. Patrick’s Day in this city, where the green Miller Lite starts flowing on March 1st. It’s even easier to hate when you’re standing in a puddle of what you wish were green Miller Lite. I wanted to go on my usual grumpy rant about fake holidays and drunk bros, but then it all clicked for me: These people were out having a good time — a great time – on the first beautiful weekend of the year. I was whining about traffic, picking up dry-cleaning and trying to sniff the back of my calves.

Say what you will about the Erin Express crowd — and plenty do, they’re perhaps even more vilified than the Wing Bowlers — but they’re having fun. A lot of it. Are some of them too drunk? Yes. Is it cool to treat the street like a bathroom? No. Does continuing to play that goddamn Mumford & Sons album in 2015 qualify as terrorism? Perhaps. But nothing in this world is for free, and fun – pure, non-ironic, unadulterated fun for the sake of fun – is a rare and beautiful thing.

Five years ago I was definitely too cool for the Erin Express. I would never have considered joining its sloppy sister event, the Running of the Santas. I thought I was too evolved for the Mummers’ afterparty.

But I spent the past decade attempting to have cultured fun, and I don’t think I can stomach one more serving of truffle-drizzled popcorn (guys, it tastes like feet dipped in feet). I can no longer pretend that I want to go to your First Friday show exploring the dichotomy of the paradigm of the whatever. There is a reason I didn’t RSVP to your so-twee-it-hurts roller skating party. Are you kidding me with this hipster summer camp’s candle-making workshops and silent hikes? I am a divorced 30-year-old woman with too many dogs and a phone full of happiness apps – don’t you fucking look me in the eye and tell me that terrarium building and friendship bracelets are the answer. Don’t you dare.

No, this year, I’m officially joining the happy people. I’m wearing green, I’m practicing my “Woo!” and I’m drinking my way through the Twisted Tea list. Judge all you want, for I will be protected by the Basic Bitch’s Cloak of Cluelessness.

I deserve this. We all do. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Philadelphia.

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