Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Wearing (and drinking) of The Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day to the Irish and want-to-be Irish among us! I've a few Irish forebears and while I mean no disrespect to my German, Norwegian, Welsh and French ancestors, I've always been more than happy to celebrate the Irish branches of my family tree.

I've taken part in MANY wonderful and enjoyable St. Patrick's Day celebrations. As a child I remember a few times my mother--who isn't even a drop Irish--making corned beef or our having soda bread on the day. If you'll indulge me...a few favorite memories of the day:

While going to school in Chicago one of my roomies was also more than happy to celebrate her Irish heritage so there was rather a lot of Irish coffee, Jameson and other potables on hand. One particularly memorable St. Patty's day we went to see the Boston Celtics play against the Chicago Bulls. We were a sheet or two to the wind and had nosebleed seats, but it was such a brilliant night. We cheered on the Celts loudly and proudly and even were booed by the Bulls fans around us. A good time was had by all.

And then there's St. Pat's in NYC. I don't love crowds, but one year when I was living on the UES I did meet friends and attend the big parade and had a wonderful time. After dinner at The Pig and Whistle and then a concert by the Clancy Brothers et. al. at Carnegie Hall we of course adjourned to a few civilized toasts and poems. A similar wonderful St. Patrick's night was spent with many old publishing colleagues at the Old Town bar on E 18th Street. I've passed many a memorable evening there with friends--and some are much foggier than others--but that was a poignant night as we'd all be going our separate ways in the weeks to come.

And finally, what I think is my favorite St. Patrick's Day ever. It was 10 years ago and I was in England and France for a few weeks...but happened to be in France on the day. I'd been traipsing around Le Mont Saint Michel--my spiritual home for all intents and purposes--and was spending a day and night in St. Malo (the old walled and ramparted part of the city.) I was traveling alone, which never really bothers me, but I didn't really plan to go out and celebrate that night. At the little bistro where I ate dinner there was a group of very lively Brits at the table next to me, all in their 50s or 60s, and they were arguing about football (soccer, for you Americans, hee hee) teams and the subject of my team, Chelsea, arose. Well, never one to step away from a good discussion, I added my two cents worth. They were amused by a young lady (an American, no less) who had such strong and informed opinions on football and I loved hearing their stories. Their wives had given them a cycling tour of France for their birthdays and they had hysterically funny tales of the woes and pains that are part of, I'm quite certain, any cycling tour. We all finished eating and I started to bid them good evening when they suggested I join them at a nearby Irish pub to celebrate. I initially declined and then later, after a short nap and a shower, I decided to join them. The pub was rocking by the time I got there, Sinead O'Conner, The Pogues, The Dubliners, U2, everything even remotely Irish was playing on the stereo. Honestly, I'd never felt so immediately at home anywhere in my life. The trio was bellied up to the bar and when I walked in I was greeted like a long lost relative--and never paid for a drink all night despite offers to buy rounds, etc. The Guinness was even better than I'd had in Ireland (I think that was because I was having SUCH a good time) and the Jameson's was flowing freely. The story behind the pub itself was that an Irish boy had fallen for a French naturally they opened an Irish pub in France. It was so homely and warm, I could practically smell the peaty aroma of the Liffey there. In retrospect, the aroma was more likely the sea crashing against the ramparts, but it makes for a wonderful memory, in any event. I left there with a very charming little half pint glass courtesy of my compatriot trio, which I still have and always reminds me of time happily passed in an Irish pub in France.

Thanks for indulging me in my little reverie, and for your trouble I will leave you with a little Yeats and a little Irish musical pleasure.

The Lover Pleads With His Friends For Old Friends
Though you are in your shining days,
Voices among the crowd,
And new friends busy with your praise,
Be not unkind or proud, 
But think about old friends the most:
Time's bitter flood will rise,
Your beauty perish and be lost
For all eyes but these eyes. 

Slainte and may you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you're gone!

1 comment:

sid fernando said...

great tale made me taste the Guinness!