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An Irishman Bemoans St. Patrick’s Day

The Irish Renaissance? A terrible blather is born
March 23, 1972

This piece is dedicated to Frank McCourt who, with the wisdom of Solomon, spent the day lying on his bloody Irish arse.

Sweet sufferin’ Jesus, thank be it is over for another year.

I’m no good at these occasions of calendared merriment. I go mad with depression on holidays, and for good reason. At Christmas it is demanded I be gentle beyond my means, on New Year’s I’m called upon to be a lunatic with a monkey’s hat on my head, at Easter there is a suit to be bought I can’t afford, and on St. Patrick’s Day my consumption is expected to equal the reserves of the Grand Coulee Dam. As a man grows older, he longs to pass his life away in a rosary of innocuous Wednesdays.

Now as a race the Irish are no more mediocre than any other group in large numbers, but this year they were enraptured with their own purity. Since Northern Ireland began to dominate the headlines, there has been flap about an Irish Renaissance or what-have-you, and every paddy in sight has bored me wit the beauty of us all.

In point of fact every non-Irishman I met also mumbled leprechaun lyrics in my ear. Greeks quoted Yeats, Jews sang ballads, and Croatians gave me clenched fist salutes. Irishmen who had developed their biceps by throwing bricks at peace and civil rights marchers compared themselves to the Vietnamese and the blacks. A terrible blather is born.

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The whole experience kept me in a maudlin drunk for two weeks. The only green I sported was what I was hacking out of my lungs every morning, and by the end of it you could have written “Goodyear” across my liver. My mailbox was stuffed with pleas for every Irish cause from Derry to Harrisburg, and the Irish-American Cultural Society (that must be an elite group) demanded a contribution of $50, $100, or $150 from me, which was an insult beyond repair. I rationalized that if I was a trophy of their culture they should have been sending me checks.

Total strangers elbowed their way to the bar to discuss our “literary tradition.” I said fine, let’s talk about the Daily News and the Brooklyn Tablet and the Baltimore Catechism. But this didn’t seem to satisfy them, so I had to recite how we had starved O’Casey to death and turned Shaw and Wilde into the best bogus limeys since Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., how Joyce, soused in Paris, trembled over nightmares of hell for sins of self-abuse, and how Samuel Beckett has adopted a foreign tongue. But there was no stopping them. They mistook all this bile for vaunted Irish wit and hugged me, pronouncing I was a regular ould sod brother.

Radio and television shows beckoned me to take on the airways to extol my heritage. What in the name of hell did these people want to know? I had cauliflower ears courtesy of the nuns. Every time I get acid indigestion I check into a hospital for a biopsy, fall on my knees, and say an act of contrition, because of my esthetic concern over which band of angels I will end up singing with.

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Certainly they didn’t want to know about my early sex life, because if they did, all they would have had to do was air a minute of silence on their networks. I was terrified to leave my home in the morning for fear there would be a group of sociologists on my doorstep waiting to kidnap me off to the Smithsonian: “Authentic Ethnic Found in Wilds of Village.”

But when the day finally came, sanity returned. There was the parade in all its glory, with Jack McCarthy narrating on tv in a borrowed accent so heavy St. Christopher couldn’t have shouldered it. McCarthy was adorned in a white fireman’s hat, presented to him by one Raymond Gimmler (best remembered for staging the pro-war march of 1965).

As one women’s college group passed, Jack cooed, “Their proudest claim to fame is that they produce Catholic mothers,” a curriculum, one presumed, that started with a drop of holy water and ended with a splash of sperm.

But one has to admit Jack knows the nature of every Irishman’s dreams — to make a fortune in the new country and spend it in the old. He spouted blessings on Irish Airlines and various hotels and resorts in Ireland, and you knew old Jack was in for a grand summer.

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They came in legions: the sons of every county, those out-of-step high school bands (we reserve our rhythm for the sheets, not the streets), the good nurses, the good clergy, the good civil servants all paunches and pensions, and the Grand Marshal himself, proudly stating that that very evening 2500 Friendly Sons of St. Patrick would be attending a dinner at which Spiro would be the guest speaker. Agnew was to repeat his triumph on Sunday morning at a breakfast of the Holy Name Society of the Police Department before 3500 wildly cheering guests.

When our Renaissance came marching by, wearing black armbands and chanting at the pols in the grandstand, they were told to keep their arses moving; or else it was time for a commercial interruption. Jack put a final benediction on the whole affair with his patented tagline: “May ye be a half hour dead before the divil knows it.”

As I walked into a saloon that night in my beret and shaggy locks, a fireman with the face of an uncooked roast beef looked up and snarled, “Hello, Pierre.” It was the first honest comment I had heard in weeks, and I was tempted to say it was grand to be back among my own.

I have lived as Irish-American for 35 years. I have endured it, and it is too late in the march for me to believe we are going to become champions of humanity. Which is not an insult, since I don’t believe any other race has a franchise on that claim either.

So I hope that by next year all the blather fades, and the cynical gilders of humanity spend their day in church with the saints and let the people have the street. If not, look for me to be marching in the middle of the parade, carrying a red, white, and blue banner, and loudly proclaiming: “Ireland, Get Out of America.”

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Albany Is A Dysfunctional Sewer But At Least Students Might Have St. Patrick’s Day Off Next Year

The state legislature has roughly a week to come up with a budget that sets New York’s legislative priorities. Raise the Age reform, which would prevent the state from charging 16 and 17-year-old kids as adults, passed in the Assembly but languishes in the Senate, where Republicans have blocked it. Substantive ethics reform, touted by Governor Cuomo in his state of the state speech, is a distant memory (a Republican state senator was charged with corruption on Thursday morning). Upstate Republicans are moving to punish New York by shifting Medicaid costs from the federal government to the state, all while “Trumpcare” is poised to leave millions uninsured and millions more with higher premiums. But the State Senate did manage to pass one bill this week: S6747A would make St. Patrick’s Day a holiday in New York City public schools.

The bill, sponsored by Queens Senator Tony Avella, a member of the controversial Independent Democratic Caucus, is tailored specifically to districts home to more than one million students; New York City is the only district in the state that qualifies.

Avella touted the holiday’s significance as a celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

“Two years ago when we passed the Lunar New Year school holiday…it occurred to me, all these years we have had St. Patrick’s Day in New York City, it’s a huge holiday not just for the Irish but for all New Yorkers. Why have we never given consideration to making that a school holiday?” Avella told the Voice. “If anyone deserved to have a holiday based on long standing tradition, it certainly is the Irish-American community.”

In February 2016, city teacher Frank Schorn filed a civil rights suit against the Department of Education, claiming that their scheduling of parent teacher conferences on St. Patrick’s Day violated his right to march in the massive parade up Fifth Avenue. City Council’s Irish Caucus had repeatedly asked the Department to reschedule, and they refused.

Mayor de Blasio refused to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade for two years after organizers banned gay and lesbian organizations from marching under their banners. The mayor ended his boycott this year.

De Blasio campaigned on promises to add three religious holidays to the school calendar, which has long observed Christian and Jewish holidays, and the sacred Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as well as the Lunar New Year, celebrated by many of the city’s Chinese families, were added in 2015.

Avella also sponsored a bill to add Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, to the school calendar. It has yet to make it out of committee.

“Once we did Lunar New Year, we set the precedent that if you’re going to celebrate holidays particular to one group or another you have to be fair to all, and that’s something the city of New York is going to have to look at,” said Avella.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade actually happened in colonial New York City, in 1762. Successive waves of Irish immigration to the city over the next 35 years brought several small-scale iterations of the parades organized by Irish groups and, in 1848, they merged.

Through the decades, the Americanized version of the holiday became associated with binge drinking and violence. In 1867, the New York Times described the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade as a “riot” where “swords and spears” were in use. In 1894, a headline read: “The Death Rate Increased By The St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” The St. Patrick’s Day parade eventually became emblematic of growing Irish political power. Today, the parade is mostly secular, attended by New Yorkers of many ethnicities and backgrounds.

Still, Avella insists that the religious focus of St. Patrick’s Day has emerged over the last decade as the predominant motivation for celebration, and insisted that a day off from school was not akin to condoning the sorts of behavior commonly associated with the holiday.

“It was a problem decades ago with St. Patrick’s Day being associated with drinking, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” said Avella. “Obviously school-aged drinking is illegal. I think it’s a party celebration and that doesn’t mean that because we give a school holiday that should encourage any sort of illegal drinking or drinking to excess…[the parade] is clearly not what it was like 10 or 20 years ago.”

He cited increased “education” on the holiday’s true meaning for what he calls a reduction in vice, though he didn’t provide examples of what kind of education, or where and when it happened. Avella insisted that St. Patrick’s Day is a holy day of obligation in which practicing Catholics are required to attend mass.

According to Mercedes Lopez Blanco, who works in the communications office at the Archdiocese of New York, St. Patrick’s Day does appear on the Catholic liturgical calendar and attending daily mass is encouraged, but not required, even on St. Patrick’s Day.

“On certain days we honor certain saints and March 17 happens to be the day St. Patrick is honored on the liturgical calendar,” said Lopez Blanco. “A mention is made in that mass and that mass is said with him in mind.”


Where to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day weekend is once again upon us, which means toasting complete strangers and kissing people because they’re Irish is mostly acceptable (mostly — no sexual harassment, now, ya hear?). Get out your green accessories and start testing your Irish luck — here are 10 great ways to celebrate.

Black Irish Ball, Macao Trading Co., 311 Church Street, Monday, 9:30 p.m.

Enjoy a late night party without the threat of bridge-and-tunnel buffoons, even if drinks here are more representative of the Far East than Ireland. This TriBeCa haunt will celebrate the occasion with live jazz and a burlesque show; reservations are required for the complimentary performance and can be made by contacting the restaurant directly.

Fáilte, 531 Second Avenue

With over 40 Irish whiskeys and live music, this watering hole is a favorite for St. Patrick celebrants looking to save a buck at an Irish pub. The bar features a $20 beer bucket special, $3 brews, and $5 Irish coffees, all great accompaniment to the bagpipe performances that’ll be taking place come Monday afternoon.

Irish to the Core Tasting Event, Dead Rabbit, 30 Water Street, Sunday, 1 p.m.

If you need a quick history lesson on Irish spirits, look to Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, who will serve up a sampling of five Emerald Isle liquors, including a honey liqueur, Irish cream, and single malt whiskey. Learn to make cocktails over a few Irish bites. Tickets are $40. Can’t make the class? The bar will also host a variety specials on St. Patrick’s Day, making it a great location to visit throughout the weekend.

Patrick McMullan’s 31st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Party, BPM, 516 West 42nd Street, Monday, 9 p.m.

If you’re still standing at 9 p.m. come Monday night, head over to this nightclub for late night Irish dancing and a special pot of gold cake courtesy of Cake Boss. Those who are first to arrive receive a complimentary beer, wine, or soda, and a DJ will spin tunes well into the early morning hours.

Shamrock Fest, Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street, Saturday, noon
This massive Village dance hall is serving up four floors of debauchery. Starting at noon Saturday, guests will be able to grab a brew while ogling a live Irish band, leprechauns, and a live broadcast of the Ireland/France soccer match. Finger food and the sound of bagpipes should carry you through the afternoon. Additional information and ticket pricing can be found through the event’s website.

St. Paddy’s Pub Crawl, multiple locations, Friday, Saturday, Monday

If you’re looking to spend all day drinking with buddies, the Village Pourhouse and SideBar are two of many bars featured in a pub crawl centered around $2 drafts and $5 whiskey shots. The mobile drinking party will take place on Friday, Saturday, and Monday; additional information and the option to purchase pub crawl ticket packages can be found on the event’s website. - Let's make this a St. Patrick's Day to remember before we black out

The Lion, 62 West 9th Street

If you’re seeking a more refined celebration, check out John Delucie’s West Villager, where you’ll find the rock of cashel, a special cocktail to enjoy slowly. Named after an Irish castle, the drink is a mixture of Irish whiskey, Campari, amaro, and sweet vermouth.

The Windsor, 420 Park Avenue South/234 West 4th Street, Saturday, Monday

Both locations of this casual sports bar are extending their happy hour specials until 8 p.m. on Monday, which means $5 Guinness and Jameson shots for everyone. Chef Kristine Mana-ay’s menu also offers a twist on Irish classics, such as an Irish spring roll, along with traditional shepherd’s pie and corned beef. Saturday brings the Windsor’s annual St. Paddy’s Day party, with scads of food and drink specials.

Top O’ The Mornin’ Party, McFadden’s, 800 Second Avenue, Saturday

Wake up to the sweet smell of eggs and whiskey at this open bar, which runs from 8 a.m. until noon. Make your way through the breakfast buffet and then settle into a boozy weekend. Tickets are $35.

Zeppelin Hall, 88 Liberty View Drive, Jersey City, NJ, Friday through Monday

Starting Friday, this massive beer barn will play host to a weekend full of St. Paddy’s Day festivities, including live performances by the Irish band The Blarney Stones. The bar boasts over 50 beers on tap, while the kitchen is rolling out specials like an Irish reuben, bangers and mash, and a burger with Irish bacon, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.



The Secret Behind the Black-and-Tan

A standard Black-and-Tan is made in a pint glass, filled halfway with a pale ale, then layered with Guinness. In bars that take extra care in the draw of the draught, like Swift Hibernian Lounge, a small silver spoon, provided by Guinness, hangs from the tap. After drawing the pale ale, a bartender will place the spoon over the glass, and pour Guinness over the spoon to disperse the beer — a direct pour over the ale would ruin a clean flow.

The bartenders at Swift pour a Bayou Teche Pale Ale from Louisiana as the base. It’s a smooth light beer with a tinge of caramel malt. Guinness sits on top, like dark-beer royalty. The drink originated in the late 1800’s in Britain, but quickly became popular in America. Yuengling started making a pre-mixed canned Black and Tan in 1986, and a few other breweries followed suit.

Even though it’s popular at Irish pubs here, the Black-and-Tan is actually a very American drink. One of the Irish bartenders at Swift told Fork that he wouldn’t be caught dead drinking a Black-and-Tan, and not just because he’s a Guinness purist. In the 1920’s, the Royal Irish Constabulary, nicknamed “Black and Tan,” was sent to fight the Irish Republican Army, and terrorized the the country. Ouch. That’s why you would never walk into a bar in Dublin and order one. You can get it at some bars there, but it’s best to call it a “half and half.” Who knew that ordering this delicious drink could cause a fight with your bartender?

Swift Hibernian Lounge, 34 E 4th St.; 212-227-9438



Madame Rosebud, Nasty Canasta, and Foxy Vermouth don’t sound like especially Irish names to us. But given that they’re all talented, good-looking red-haired performers, we don’t think anyone will want to stop them from putting on Wasabassco’s St. Patrick’s Day for Sinners, a night of scantily-clad burlesque stars shimmying and tassel twirling in nothing more than their green lingerie (or a well-placed four-leaf clover or two). Enjoy Irish whiskey and beer while the performers, including magician Albert Cadabra and Hula-Hoop Harlot Melissa-Anne, wow you with their, er, special skills. Are you a redhead? If so, you’re 
extra lucky because you’ll get in for free.

Sun., March 17, 8 p.m., 2013


Dropkick Murphys

St. Patrick’s Day, or in this case the week leading up to the day, is incomplete without a round of shows headlined by everyone’s favorite Boston-based Celtic Punk band, the Dropkick Murphys. Like another Irish-American brood in the media, the Gallagher family of Showtime’s Shameless, the Dropkick Murphys keep things lightheartedly aggressive and endearingly real. The band is bringing their brazen brand of sing-along friendly hardcore chanteys to Terminal 5 for two straight nights. Don’t forget to wear green.

Tue., March 12, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., March 13, 7:30 p.m., 2013


St. Patrick’s Day, Columbia County

The St. Patick’s Day feast at St. Peter’s in Spencertown, New York

As I drove down the meandering highways and country lanes of Columbia County — just southeast of Albany, sandwiched between the Hudson River and the Massachusetts border — I passed sign after sign advertising corned beef and cabbage. Every rickety roadside bar, rustic country inn, and white-spired church seemed to be advertising a saint’s day feast.

St. Peter’s Church, as seen in the gloaming

My pal and I picked one at a church in Spencertown, just southeast of Chatham. Hidden among rolling, heavily wooded hills, the town is arranged around a crossroads. Of the three churches, the only one that seemed to still be operating was St. Pete’s. A plaque on the front of the white frame structure with a steeple that could be seen for miles said the house of worship was built in 1771, and remodeled once or twice before it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. The church is ringed with a horseshoe-shaped cemetery filled with 19th-century graves, mainly German, Dutch, and English.

I immediately assumed it was a Catholic Church, mainly on the basis of the sign outside that offered a St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef and cabbage, from 5 to 7 p.m. But when I peeked into the sanctuary, with its spare interior, total lack of religious art, white paint job, and cross behind the altar with no Jesus hanging from it, I realized that it was a Protestant church, and more specifically, a Presbyterian one.

The austere Protestant interior of St. Peter’s


In Columbia County, we stumbled upon a half-dozen signs advertising corned beef dinners on St. Patrick’s Day.

The dinner was in the church basement, which was like something out of Garrison Keillor. The white, low-ceilinged room — outfitted with trestle tables — was about three-quarters full when we arrived at 5:30, mainly with parishioners in their seventies. An affable, heavy-set guy greeted us, and took the $12 apiece tariff for the all-in dinner. We were served from a steam table in the rear of the room: a generous portion of long-boiled corned beef, cubed potatoes, steamed carrots, and fleecy cabbage.

Mustard could be had on the side (it was the only condiment avialable), and there was a selection of desserts at the end of the line: yellow cakes with various frostings, brownies, Bundt cakes, cookies, and carrot cake — though the last piece of carrot cake disappeared as we stepped up. “It was really good,” one snowy-haired lady in a green dress told another in a green sweater — nearly everyone had dressed in green.

The beverages were self-serve, and included coffee, apple juice, cranberry juice, and lemonade. “Hey, where’s the beer?” whispered my companion, who had been raised a Catholic. I had to explain to her that Protestants generally take a dim view of alcohol on the church premises, as being an invitation to sin. Which I guess it is.

So why would a Protestant church celebrate a Catholic saint? We got something of an answer the next day when we toured painter Frederic Church’s crazy Persian fantasy of a house called Olana, perched above the Rip Van Winkle Bridge just south of Hudson, New York. The tour guide told us that Irish immigrants were the main serving people hired late in the 19th century at estates up and down the Hudson River. They often didn’t stay long, because the isolation of the county was not to their liking. But somehow, they may have inculcated the local population with an appreciation of St. Paddy’s Day as a holiday, including various observances — but not including alchohol. And that appreciation of the holiday extended to Protestant churches like St. Peter’s. Compared with the drunken revelry of the holiday in the city, Spencertown’s method of celebration seemed vastly preferable.

The church basement was decorated for the holiday, and filled up as we sat there.

For dessert: a selection of cakes and cookies, including this green-frosted cake made from scratch

See the Voice‘s St. Patrick’s Day slideshow.


5 Ways to Party on St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t have to be filled with leprechauns and cheap whiskey. Here are five different ways to celebrate this Irish fest.

Head to Alcoholiday, going on this Saturday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. at Loreley Williamsburg, where you can get unlimited draft beer and White Pike whiskey for $35. Ulysses, in the Financial District, is serving a free Irish breakfast, and will host a live Irish-American jam band at 6 p.m. Char No. 4 and Spike Hill in Brooklyn are featuring some serious drink specials this weekend, as well as Irish-themed menu additions (via Time Out). If all else fails, there are always the city’s trusty Blarney Stones.

The Pub Crawl
Yes, of course there’s a pub crawl, from 12 p.m. to 4 a.m. on March 16 and 17. See here for details. If you’re going to do this, though, we suggest consulting Grub Street’s primer for drinking your way through St. Patrick’s Day so that you don’t pass out by the second stop.

PH-D at Dream Downtown is hosting a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. with a live performance by a six-piece bagpipe and drum band, and fancy cocktails.

Culturally Conscious
If heavy boozing isn’t on your St. Patrick’s Day agenda, head over to Ger-Nis Culinary Center, where you can learn all about traditional Irish cooking, and eat a multi-course dinner with beer and whiskey tastings.

Catch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday at 11 a.m., starting at 44th Street, then grab a Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s or some free fries with green ketchup at Burger King.



Does the thought of green beer, pubs packed to capacity, and bad Celtic cover bands make you want to curl up in a ball and not leave your house all weekend? If you’ve grown weary of the tired Irish pub crawl and want to try something a bit more risqué this St. Patty’s Day, come to the Bell House for St. Patrick’s Day for Sinners, an all-redhead edition of Wasabassco Burlesque, with spirited, sassy performances from Bettina May, Madame Rosebud, Stormy Leather, and musical guests Amour Obscur. All redheads get in for free, and you can even score a round of free drinks in the “Show Us Your Best Emerald Underwear” contest. Whoever said blondes have more fun was clearly out of the loop.

Sat., March 17, 8 p.m., 2012


The Chieftans

For this hearty St. Patrick’s Day feast, the elder statesmen of Irish folk celebrate the 50th anniversary of their founding not with a meal in a glass but with what Shakespeare called the food of love. They’ll be joined by the Low Anthem, featured on their recent release, Voice of Ages, with lead singer Ben Knox Miller channeling Dubliner Luke Kelly on “School Days Over.”

Sat., March 17, 8 p.m., 2012