Unlike many (most?) Americans of Irish heritage, I have a love-hate relationship with St. Patrick’s Day.
How is it possible to hate everybody’s favorite beer-drinking holiday? Easy… I spent three years working at an Irish-owned bar that was pretty much Albany’s #1 St. Patty’s Day destination. Eamonn’s was hard-core on March 17: we opened at 7 a.m. for breakfast and even had a local priest come in and say Mass in the back room before lunch, so that no one had to make a choice between praying and drinking. There were no “shifts” — we all worked the full 20+ hours the bar was open. I’m pretty sure I’ve never worked harder, and I am entirely sure I never want to work that hard again. To this day, it pains me to see bartenders and wait staff slogging through the endless hours.
And that’s really what the “hate” is about. It’s not the insane levels of drunken bad behavior, or the “more Irish than thou” attitudes that cause normal people to paint shamrocks on their faces and dress like leprechauns; it’s not even the atrocious butchering given to Irish songs… No, it’s that I have too much empathy for the staff to make them deal with even one more person.
Which is a shame, really, because I used to really love being that one more person. I have many fond — if slightly hazy — memories of St. Patrick’s Days at Eammon’s from before I got a job there. Those of us who could would take the afternoon off so we could arrive in time for lunch and to stake out a table large enough to accommodate everyone who would get there by happy hour. I’m not going to share the stories (saving those for my Great American Bar Novel), but I will say that there are certain catchphrases — “I’m keeping myself warm with my breath,” for example, or, perhaps, “vacuum boy” — that bring some of those past Patty’s Days back into focus pretty quickly, and I think will always crack me up. I sometimes wish I was still up for those crazy afternoons of drinking much more Guinness than anyone would recommend, and I regret just a little that my otherwise-fun experience working at Eamonn’s ended that for me.
I don’t know what (if anything) I’ll be doing with my St. Patrick’s Day evening. The past few years I’ve acquiesced to going out to non-Irish establishments, so that’s a possibility. I’m sure at some point, whether in a bar or riding home on the Metro, I’ll hear some drunken goof trying his (or her) luck with the all-time worst Irish song, Danny Boy. As a preventative measure, I’ve located and posted a few of my favorite non-traditional* Irish tunes below.
The Saw Doctors, I Useta Lover
Christy Moore, Ride On
The Pogues, Fairytale of New York
* I said non-traditional. You thought I was kidding?