East Meets West: Drink ‘till You’re Green In the Face: Paddy’s Day On the Rock

My Nana’s name was Elaine, but always went by her middle name, Patricia, Pat. Nana’s birthday landed on the day of Shamrocks it’s self, Paddy’s Day, March 17. My parents and brother, uncles, aunts and cousins (it was always a party with that many O’s around!) would head over to Nana’s fav Chinese food restaurant to celebrate.

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Complete with a Hawaiian banquet, and a party room, this place was so kitsch and amazing that my cousin and I still miss it! Among the bottomless buffet we’d toast to Nana Pat and celebrate. Throw on listening to “C’est La Vie” by B*Witched on repeat while wearing green and you have the perfect summation of my Patrick’s Day celebrations. Oh little Shamrock’d eyed bitty Steens, you have no idea the ruckus and shenanigans in store a few decades down the road. Or a Street rather- George Street.

Paddy’s Day in St. John’s-can you say even better than the real thing (c’mon, like I’m going to write about an Irish holiday and not pepper in lyrics by Irish musicians)? Aside from my Regatta Day, this is THE celebration. Who are we kidding, a Saturday night is still a celebration in St. John’s, those beautiful people taught me so much about joy, kicking up your heals and living in the moment.

On that fateful Paddy’s Day, that moment commenced with me being the epicenter of George Street, O’Reilly’s for 11 in the morning, drink in hand by 11;03, and non-stop for hours. No lineup, no cover, thank you, Tash (my homegirl best pal who worked there)! 

O’Reilly’s was BUMPING. The pub’s Christmas decorations are pale in comparison to Paddy’s, green, glitter, gold and smiles hanging from the rafters. The dance floor wasn’t restricted to the dance floor, the bar was the dance floor- even at the tables, (I think a few people were even on the tables?) the stairway, the flippin' bathroom. 

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Stevie Lane, the fabled wee gent who goes around to the various pubs and clears the dance floor as he taps his way infamously to the delight of locals and tourists on any given night was in fine form that day. (When I first visited Newfoundland, I remember seeing him and all my drunk brain could think was “holy shit, an actual Leprechaun!” He loved posing with me and my cousins, all tall woman with a big shit-eating grin.)

I sang and cheered, toasted and laughed, bought shots and uproariously laughed some more. I wasn’t, a spectator, or a Come From Away, I had become part of the community. I was included and welcomed in a way that was so completely and distinctly Newfoundland, even remembering these times makes my heart ache and swell.

I’d love to give you more details, but with that much Jameson’s and Guinness in me, I’m surprised I even had this much to recall. I was blackout drunk by 7:00 pm I know, I know, amateur hour. Don’t @ me bruh; weak liver, and low iron- I’m surprised I even lasted that long, thank you very much. And it was glorious.

How do I describe all other Paddy’s after the fabled George Street endeavor? To paraphrase Sinead O’ Connor “Nothing compares to you”. How could subsequent events? I had an old boyfriend who would host bangarang Paddy’s parties. Yah I swilled a lot of Guinness and it was great being in a hot tub on a desperately snowy March day, but…

I think perhaps the worst thing about Paddy’s Day for me now, is that I dread it. I’m in the service industry and drunk people are a whole other ball of wax. Even more maddening are people who don’t normally frequent bars/pubs and are unapologetic raging assholes who have no concept that they are a GUEST in an establishment and that I’m a PERSON, not a robot butler programmed to do their bidding.

(I’m not bitter, just frustrated.)

Paddy’s falls on a Sunday this year, my day off. I haven’t drank since Christmas, so I don’t know if going to a pub would be the best thing for me. Maybe the day would best be spent thinking about Nana, who passed a half a decade ago, singing Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral while dreaming of my friend’s on the Rock and one day dancing with them again?