i like st. patrick's day. i like the fact that there is a holiday that celebrates celtic-ness and drunkeness at once (you could argue they were pretty close to begin with). in fact, it's probably second only to halloween as my favourite publicly recognised holiday.
so every year, i have to have my little ritual and that ritual involves visiting a pub and partaking of the cheer. i've made attempts at watching parades in various cities, but i've more recently given up that practice because a) eight out of ten times, it's freezing cold and/ or snowing in canada on march 17th and b) the parades seem to consist entirely of trucks carrying people who are as drunk as i would be, if i weren't freezing my tush off watching them. so i've backed off the parade in recent years.
however, a visit to the pub, the longer the better, is still an important thing for me.
next year, however, i'm going to have to plan things a little better.
first of all, i didn't get to go out to the pub until evening, whereas i have always fancied getting a head start in the late afternoon and languishing as the hours pass. second, i figured i would try a new place, which always carries some attendant risks, even with something as straightforward as a pub. with st. patrick's day so ubiquitous, you wouldn't think there'd be a lot of deviation from the theme. however, as soon as we arrived and got past the dollar-store cardboard leprechaun at the door, it was obvious that i was wrong (and i hate being wrong).
the pub was populated entirely by people who were probably paying for their drinks by signing over their old-age security cheques to the barmaid and one crew of college-age types determined to have fun. there was a distinct lack of any form of conversation, a situation which seems antithetical to the whole notion of st. paddy's. after all, the irish are the original b.s. artists. they are known for talking. witness the ritual of kissing the blarney stone.
those who were there were, for the most part, watching the hockey game. (again, not very irish, but i was also in the company of a fan whose only condition for going out was that we be somewhere that was showing the game. and watching some sort of sport seemed to be at least somewhat irish.) so it wasn't exactly the sort of social scene you associate with the culture. in fact, the crowd seemed downright depressed. (leafs fans)
also, the music playing was all wrong, although it didn't seem to bother any of the other patrons. there is nothing irish about "paradise city" or "cat's in the cradle". i'm not normally a huge fan of celtic folk music, but even i know when it suits the mood.
it didn't get any better with the food. we each ordered a drink, allowing me time to digest the loaf of bread packed into every glass of guinness. when we hailed the waitress to order our meals, she brought us the bill. we probably should have taken her suggestion and moved on, but we insisted on ordering. i got a fish and chips, which was about the only thing that looked even mildly like the food i'm used to seeing in pubs. well, i suppose there was also bangers and mash on the menu, which is what my sidekick ordered. the waitress came back a few minutes later to ask if we wanted fries or salad with our dinners. let me think. i ordered fish and chips, not fish and salad, so which do you think i'm expecting with my dinner, imbecile? and i need not mention that if she couldn't grasp that fish and chips should be served with chips, she was utterly lost on the bangers and mash. it went something like:
"do you want fries or salad?"
"neither. i just want the mashed potatoes."
"i think that's extra."
"that's what the 'mash' is. i just want the potatoes that come with the meal."
"so you want fries?"
"ok, you want salad."
i guess it was a st. patrick's miracle that his dinner arrived about twenty minutes later with mashed potato, but without either fries or salad. unfortunately, it also had those ratty little things known as "breakfast sausages" that come frozen and that were enough to turn me off sausage entirely when i was a child. and the beans that were served with it were heinz, straight from the can...
even more unfortunately, my own dinner didn't arrive until about a half hour later. a pile of freezer fries with a couple of decent pieces of fish. and to top it off, i was told, having had one guinness and one cider (i can't fit more than one guinness in me in a single sitting), that i had cleaned them out of cider and would have to change to plain, non-irish beer.
not a st. patrick's i'll remember with much fondness, but perhaps it's a lesson in being (very distantly) irish. after all, the irish are a people whose strength is always shown in their ability to get crapped on and find a way to shake it off and keep smiling. guinness makes it all better.