in honor o' the day
Also I wish I could tell you the original source for this. I can’t. I found it on Tumblr and have always loved it. If you know the original source, drop me a line. Meanwhile —
What Denis Leary Thinks About St. Patrick’s Day
First thing’s first: There are many Irish-Americans in this country who
celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a quiet and sober manner, perhaps heading off to work with a muted-olive tie or a small emerald pin as their nod to the day’s events. There are also those who go to the 7 A.M. mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and consider the day a prayerful tribute to the patron saint of all things green. There are still others who awaken the morning of March 17 and carry on as if it were just another 24 hours — no drinking, no fighting, no puking.
I don’t know any of these people.
Therefore, this piece will be about the red-blooded, hard-boiled, hammer headed souls who patrol the St. Patrick’s Day arena as if it were life’s last call. If you consider the image of a working-class Mick named Fitzy caterwauling down Fifth Avenue wearing a kelly-green plastic derby, well oiled on whiskey and slurring his words, an offensive and demeaning stereotype, then call the Irish Anti-Defamation League (IDLE) right now. I think the number is 1-800-NO-FITZY.
I’ve spent several hundred official and unofficial St. Patrick’s Day
celebrations in New York City over the years, and the calm, bespectacled
intellectual Irishman clutching his copy of Finnegan’s Wake is a rare sight
indeed. Unless he’s passed out around 3:15 A.M. in the back booth at
No, March 17 is not for the squeamish. It’s for the thirsty masses. Those
young rebels willing to shout and scream about their Irish blood, the chosen few who will toss raw eggs into open cab windows, the banshees who only want (as House of Pain so eloquently put it) to “get off their feet and jump around.” That’s what St. Patrick’s Day is all about. Doing incredibly stupid things while under the influence of alcohol and wearing neon-green clothing.
Herewith, a guide to spending the day in the Big Apple. This is what I’ll
probably be doing this year.
Meet best friend Sully at Greek diner for traditional Irish-American
breakfast of wet toast, runny eggs, cold home fries, bitter black coffee,
three cigarettes, and the sports page. Curse the Knicks. Marvel at pat Riley’s hair.
Corner of Ninth and 39th. Ring Fitzy’s buzzer 23 times. On the
twenty-fourth try, he buzzes us up. Find him naked on the living-room floor surrounded by empty Bud Tall Boys and an open can of paint. His entire body, including his hair, is green.
Arrive at the corner of 51st and Fifth and take our places for the parade.
Sully steals three cans of Molson out of some Italian guy’s cooler. Fitzy
tosses a half-eaten green hot dog into the middle of the Staten Island
Marching Men’s Choir.
Fitzy gives Mayor Giuliani the finger. Mayor waves back. “Fuckin’ typical,”
Sully says. Fitzy steals three more beers from the Italian guy.
The Francis Mulcahy School of Irish Step Dancing pauses right in front of us and runs through a rigmarole of jigs and reels. Fitzy bops out into the street and joins them by doing a variation on the twist. Two cops promptly escort him back to the curb. Ends up one of them (Blaney) is Sully’s second cousin. All charges dropped. I steal a few more beers out of the cooler. We toast the NYPD.
The Italian guy accuses us of raiding his stash. Waves his fists in the
air. Sully punches him on the neck. Fitzy pulls out a lighter and starts to
melt the cooler. Two more cops show up. So happens, one of them (O’Keefe) is Fitzy’s dad’s old neighbor from Brooklyn. Tells the Italian guy to “Move it along, pal, this ain’t Columbus Day.” Brawl breaks out between Irish and Italian bystanders. We throw several punches, grab the cooler, and split.
Drop into St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a quick gander at the Lord. Crack
open a couple of beers. Sully and I debate the merits of a short confession. Sully’s argument — “In a half hour, at the bar at Paddy Reilly’s it’s gonna be standin’-room only” — wins out over mine, which involves Eternal Damnation. We opt for a fast Our Father, five bucks in the poor box, and a brief round of candle-lighting. Fitzy, meanwhile, steals a sip of Holy Water.
In the cab downtown, our driver, one Adjid Sakeel, expresses his opinion
that the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization should be allowed to march in
the parade. Fitzy — his large green mug plugged right into the pay slot — begs to differ: “They awready got their own parade downtown inna Village. We don’t go down there, so why should they come uptown ta ours?” Adjid says, “Because this is America.” “No it ain’t,” counters Fitzy. “This is New York City. It’s a whole different ball game.” The argument ends with Fitzy barking like a dog and Adjid veering all over Second Avenue. We get out at 29th Street. I give Adjid a $3 tip and the cooler.
Stop in at Paddy Reilly’s for a few pops. Several rounds of green beer and
whiskey. Rogues March — a local band made up of guys who used to know
members of the Pogues — bash through a loud, boisterous show. The lead
singer — Joe Hurley — stretches his voice to the point of aneurysm. We toast the IRA. We toast the cease-fire. We toast the pope. Fitzy pukes.
Stop in at Molly Malone’s Pub for a few more pops. Eat several slices of
green pizza made by Sweeney the Bartender’s wife. She’s Italian. We drink
green champagne and vodka. Sweeney calls JFK the greatest man who ever lived. Fitzy calls Mario Cuomo a fag. Mrs. Sweeney kicks Fitzy. Sully
About a Quarter Past Eight
Over at the Emerald Inn, we drink green Guinness and recite dialogue from The Quiet Man verbatim. The Stogues — a local band made up of guys who
used to know the mother of one of the guys in the Pogues — play “Danny
Boy,” and Fitzy starts to cry, green tears streaming down his puffy green
cheeks. As Sully and I pat Fitzy on the back, the lead singer passes out.
Sometime After Ten
Head over to A Blarney Stone, where we order a drink called the Shane
MacGowan — three ounces of vodka, four ounces of gin, six ounces of Irish
whiskey, a teaspoon of something that smells like turpentine, and half a beer. You gotta down it in two slugs. Makes you spout poetic musings with a tongue so thick only Shane could understand. The Problem is — he ain’t here. Fitzy stuffs an entire green bagel in his mouth, swallows it almost whole, downs his MacGowan, and says, “Now this is the life!”
That Same Night
Stop in at Sin-é. Place holds only 75 people, 72 of whom look like they just stepped off the boat. People without green cards drinking green beer. We’re in time to see another local band (really local, since they live in the
cellar) take the stage. Call themselves the Fogues. Made up of guys who used to be friends with guys who once bought a round for the guys who used to roadie for the Stogues. During “Thousands Are Sailing,” the guitar player leaps up into the air and stays there. For what seems like a long time. His head is stuck in the ceiling; he gets a standing ovation. The lead singer asks if there’s a carpenter in the house. There is. Thirty-three of them, to be exact.
The fact that we’re in the Dublin House is news to all three of us. But it’s
printed right there on the matches. And the wall. And the back of the
bouncer’s T-shirt. As my old man used to say: “Wherever the hell you go,
there you fuckin’ are.”
The thing about painting yourself green is this: It’s a great symbolic way to show your support of the Old Country and your family tree, but it’s a terrible way to go out drinking. Mostly because your friends can’t tell when you’re about to puke. The point is, we didn’t see it coming when Fitzy leaned over an Englishman named Trevor — who was explaining his support of the peace process in Ireland — and let blow. The hot dog, the pizza, the bagel — they made a comeback even Travolta woulda been proud of. And set off a brawl the likes of which we may never see again. Seventeen Englishmen, 27 Micks, and a side order of Hispanic, African-American, and Polish guys. When the
cops show up (Carelli, Tiveiros, Jackson, etc.) none of them is related to
Fitzy or Sully, so they just pack the whole melting pot in the back of a
couple of paddy wagons (just for the sake of historical irony, I guess) and
drop us off downtown. I share a cell with Fitzy and a Puerto Rican plumber named Bob. He says the cell gives him “déja-vu” because he had the same
one after the Puerto Rican Day Parade last year.
The Next Morning
I wake up to the sound of Mickey Mantle repeatedly pounding a Louisville
Slugger across the side of my face. I make a count of my few remaining
brain cells — eight and holding. Bob’s droning on about pipe wrenches and
putty knives when they come to take us to court. Ends up the judge
(McSwiggin) is not only a fifth cousin of Fitzy’s mom but also happened to be in Dublin House last night when the hot dog hit the fan. He thinks the
Englishman, the Queen, and the United Kingdom had it coming. All charges dropped. (That should be the motto above the entrance to the Irish Embassy.) We tell the judge about Sully, and fifteen minutes later, me, Sully, Fitzy, and Bob are sitting in P.J. Clarke’s chugging Bloody Marys and discussing the merits of indoor plumbing — copper pipe vs. plastic. Fitzy says he likes plastic: “It’s more modern. And it don’t look shiny.” Sully and I make our minds. Bob turning a light shade of burnt sienna — pukes.