Saturday, March 17, 2007


In a little while I’m headed off to Central Square’s The Field to be in the presence of people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I do this because a friend is visiting, but being at a funeral would otherwise be preferable, if only because funerals tend to be legitimate expressions of emotion relating to a real event, while St. Patrick’s Day in the Boston area is about getting drunk. Few of the drunkards know they’re honoring the death of a guy who converted a lot of Celts to Christianity.

Boston has no shortage of Irish bars or people who go to them year-round to get drunk, so seeing bar lines stretch along the block March 17 is irritating and hard to justify. Imagine if we had a Driving Day, when people who drove did so for greater distances at greater speeds for no reason and people who didn’t joined in the fun by renting cars or jubilantly carpooling to nowhere.

The boast that on this day everyone is Irish, meaning they have license to drink excessively, should be abhorrent to the true Irish, especially because some still consider this a religious holiday (a what?) and their government sees the day as a chance to “Project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country.” Only if green vomit is as creative, professional and sophisticated as celebrators here seem to believe.

To me, the day will always be colored, so to speak, by two things:

Simone, who came to visit briefly from Ohio long ago one March weekend. I wanted to show off Chinatown, but either she or her other Cambridge friend balked at eating Chinese food on St. Patrick’s Day. In retrospect, Simone may have flown in for St. Patrick’s Day, not for me, but either way it explains a fair amount about why the relationship failed.

Five years of coming into work at the Boston Herald on the Sunday of the St. Patrick’s Day parade and finding, each time, scads of skankily clad Southie girl attendees, underage and overexcited, kept warm in the lingering winter by the knowledge they’d be sucking down countless illicit beers over the course of the day. This came to betoken the true start of spring, like the arrival of a certain breed of drunken bird or the spotting of a budding drunken flower, and the cheesy and somewhat grating auguring of winter’s end.

The outfit of the holiday is green, which is a pretty challenging color to wear seriously but on St. Patrick’s Day slides wholly into the absurd. Since the non-Irish who become Irish for the day think their adopted nation is populated by leprechauns rather than Samuel Beckett, their green clothing tend toward stockings and silly hats, often ones that look irrelevantly like the oversized buckled top hat of Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter. This is the dramatic last gasp of the silliness of winter wear — the toques, earmuffs and such — that makes the season so objectionably dorky.

As the last stage of our transition into warm weather, this is just that green vomit again. The true symbolism of the day is that, after several months of cold, we dress even more stupidly than we were and drink even more than we have been, throw up our green beer and bagels, stagger home and wake up saying: Enough of that. Too much of that.

Bring on the summer.

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