The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I DON'T LIKE GREEN BEER AND HAM: St. Patrick’s Day is upon us, a common occurrence at this time of year, and once again all or us potential celebrants here in our happy little burg are shining our patent leather shoes to a high sheen, and I think I deserve some small credit for not inflicting the obvious pun upon the reader. We are shining our shoes so that they we may see them in the semi-lit conditions one finds in so many Irish and faux Irish drinking establishments and have something to aim for when in celebration of the great day we throw up the truly massive amounts of green beer we’ve been drinking. This is an ancient and honorable Irish tradition, or so I am told by those who know about such things, although it seems odd to me that a Christian saint would countenance the celebration of his feast day with a drunken bacchanal, especially during the penitential season of Lent, but then I’m not much of a theologian or a party animal.

Of course, St. Patrick’s Day was never as big in Ireland as it became in America; one assumes that’s due to the people in Ireland not needing someone to remind them that they are Irish, seeing as how they already live there, unlike the ethnic Irish who inhabit the dark places of the Earth like Boston or the Antipodes and need their memories jogged once a year about who they are and from whence they originally came. The Irish in America need reminding every so often, I think, seeing as how we’ve been so successful here. How do I know that the Irish have been successful? I know because the greeting card industry tells me so. When you go to buy a St. Patrick’s Day card you will, in all likelihood, see a series of bright green cards with ethnic slurs, slanders, and stereotypes printed upon them that would cause a more sensitive ethnic group to scream like a stuck pig. Since in this politically correct age, when all cultures are equal but some are more equal than others, the ability to egregiously insult an ethnic group and its culture means that the members of that culture have successfully merged into the American mainstream. No one complains, after all, when white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, poor Southern whites, and Midwestern Republicans are publicly mocked, so by any definition available it is clear the Irish are an American success story and we will kick the ass and then upchuck green beer all over anyone who says otherwise.

But what of the founder of the day, you ask, and even if you’re not, here we go. Most people don’t know much about St. Patrick, except that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. This is not really true; the snakes left Ireland years before Patrick arrived, having received a better offer from the New York Yankees. Patrick actually drove all of the leeches out of Ireland and into my living room, where they sit eating me out of house and home until I get home from work to hit me up for some money. As you might imagine, St. Patrick is not on my list of most popular saints because of this.

Another myth about St. Patrick is that he enjoyed marching down the middle of broad avenues surrounded by hordes of political hacks, peculators, and other less felonious grafters while accompanied by massed phalanxes of bagpipers and high school marching band. This is a purely American tradition, unknown in other lands, and reflects the American love of industrial strength cacophony in all its myriad forms. St. Patrick disliked loud noises and walking down the middle of the street when it was just as easy to take the bus to work.

And while historians, theologians, and archaeologists may debate the finer points of the role of green beer in the conversion of the pagan Irish to Christianity, it is safe to say that St. Patrick himself loathed green beer. There is a passage in his surviving writings about a young man who offered him a green beer at Murphy’s Bar & Grill, whereupon the saint, incensed at this blasphemy when what he really wanted was a cup of tea and a buttered scone, smote the transgressor hip and thew with his bishop’s crozier, and then, in a spirit of Christian charity tempered with firmness, whacked him again for good measure. This may seem disproportionate to the untrained eye, but green beer is a loathsome brew, bringing discredit and dishonor to all shades of green and to beer everywhere, and those who peddle this shameful slop are the lowest of the low, and the authorities must deal with them forcefully.


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