Any bar on St. Patrick's Day is loud. Too loud for casual conversation, too loud for relaxed chat across a table. Instead, the talk consists of "Yeah!" and "I know!" and "I'm doing GREAT! I said GREAT!" while the Irish music blares and the green-shirted sea of drunks sloshes back and forth across the floor. In my case the noise was compounded by a troupe of pipers and drummers who, every 30 minutes until the schedule dissolved into a brown chaotic soup, would march through the bar. How the Scottish landed a chance to horn in on St. Patrick's Day I don't know, but this is Canada. We may be multicultural, but the bagpipes are mandatory.
My neighbourhood bar is run by an actual Irishman, so on St. Patrick's it becomes Celt Central in a city starved for a vernacular of wanton drink. I hit the lineup around six, but apparently the place had been packed since two. Already I could hear the sounds of breaking pint glasses with attendant whoops, and I could smell the interwoven tang of draught and puke. Boy, I thought, Hope there's a cover charge at the end of this line. Because that would be so worth it.
Inside the place was crowded with people who had an imperfect understanding of their capacity for drink. I found Schmutzie right away. We entered the crowd and eventually washed up in a safe spot. Girls in green tank tops with Kiss Me I'm Irish written on their chests wandered by, followed by packs of guys in green sparkly hats. What makes you think that wearing a green sparkly hat - even on St. Patrick's Day - is going to get you laid? This seems to me the deadliest of delusions. I'm sure that hordes of future business managers and engineers stumbled home alone that night, only realizing the next day: damn, it was the hat. I looked like an idiot.
Amazingly enough, the crowd started to dwindle around 11:30, leaving actual empty seats and a lull in the noise.** By then we were too invested in the standing and screaming dynamic, and most of us remained clustered on the floor, shouting at each other. I ended up talking with a friend who's 6'8", so the conversation turned into a funny sort of see-saw, with all my contributions delivered on tip-toes and him bending at the waist to hear. I'm sure he looked like a gangly drinking bird trying to catch my words. It turned out that he had free tickets to an Imax concert film of Motley Crue.
"Do you and Schmutzie want to come with us?" he shouted.
"To Motley Crue?"
He stared at me for a moment.
"I can't tell if you're being ironic," he said.
"I'm not," I said. "That honestly sounds like fun".
He kept staring.
"Okay," he said, "I really can't tell. Do you want to come to a Motley Crue film with us?" He said it slowly and clearly, as if I hadn't really understood what I was consenting to.
"Yes! I really do!"
He scanned my face a moment more, then turned to Schmutzie.
"Is your husband being serious?" he asked.
This went on for a while.
But the upshot is: next Friday, eight thirty, it's time for a five-story tall Nikki Sixx.
*Without fail I forget St. Patrick's Day. I forget pretty much everything else as well - Mother's Day I keep in mind by dint of having my father phone me up and suggest that remembering Mother's Day would be a good thing - but St. Patrick's Day falls under a special category of ignored celebrations. Every St. P's D. I show up at work to find everyone in green. Someone says "Where's your green, Aidan? Did you forget to wear your green?" And I snark back "My name's Aidan. Isn't that enough green already?" On St. Patrick's Day I prefer to come off as a self-satisfied descendant of Irish immigrants. Really I'm just forgetful and not organized enough to plan out a green shirt on a given day of the week.
**The crowds were going to a cabaret of Irish entertainment at the local stadium venue. The word cabaret exerts a magical pull on people in this city that will pull them away from their dying mother's bedside. Why this is I don't know, because every time I say to someone "So how was the cabaret?" they always say "It sucked, dude". This one was no exception, the organizers having booked a Cajun band for the big St. Patrick's event.