The following events took place on March 15 and 16, 1996, in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
Because St. Patrick's Day would fall on Sunday in 1996, my friends of the Arlington Irish Circle (hereafter AIC) and I decided that we would party on Friday and Saturday, then repent at Mass on Sunday, March 17th. We figured that Patrick was more than deserving of an entire weekend of praise. By the way, the AIC is a group of great friends who were all of Irish blood to some degree. They all lived in Arlington, Va., during the 1990s, but most of them are transplants from the south side of Buffalo, NY. This is a story of partying hard on the first day, praying for death on the second, then passing on a chance for forgiveness on the third.
I'm used to REAL St. Patrick's Day celebrations in my hometown of Savannah, Ga.: big parades, lots of pipe bands, lots of green beer, etc. Such festivities do not exist in the Washington, D.C. area that I know of. DC opts for convenience of a parade a weekend ahead of the actual day. I find this pointless and stupid …but I'll save that for my "Why I hate St. Patrick's Day in Washington, D.C." for another blog contest.
To make up for lame DC St. Pat's celebrations, I convinced the AIC that we should camp at Ireland's Four Provinces (now known as the Four Green Fields) on Connecticut Ave. The Four P's would be a good starting point for drinking, dancing, singing Irish songs, and drinking … wait, I already listed drinking. I took off work 3 hours early that afternoon and headed up to the Four P's to hold some tables. When I told my boss I was taking off early to go to an Irish pub he gave me a funny look. He's wasn't Irish, so he didn't understand.
Well, everyone else in DC clearly had the same idea. I arrived by Metro and found a line of people a block long coming out of the Four P's. I was disappointed by this, but I would not be deterred! I saw Nanny O'Brien's Pub just across Connecticut Ave., so just a slight change in plans. Had I known the events to unfold at Nanny's, I might have just taken the Metro back to Arlington and spent the evening crying into pint of Guinness.
With a quick call to my friends from the nearest pay phone (It was 1996 and none of us had cell phones back then.) our meeting place changed to Nanny O'Brien's and the celebration was back on track. I stepped into Nanny's at about 4 p.m. and there was not a soul in the place. Nanny's management had wisely cleared the entire bar of tables and chairs … hoping to save a fortune on replacing broken furniture no doubt.
My friend Robert arrived first to join me. "Let's have a Harp to get the party started!" Robert said. "Sure, why not," I responded. It was my first Harp ever, and I now shudder just a little when I see the Harp emblem on a pint glass or a neon beer sign. So I had my first Harp to toast St. Patrick, then my second to toast Ireland, then another to toast the color green, then another, then another. I lost count quickly. Other members of the AIC showed up to find Robert and me already tanked by 7 p.m.
An Irish band started playing at 7, and that's when the promotional reps for Bailey's Irish Cream showed up. They were a swell bunch, and brought with them little green, plastic shot cups in the shape of shamrocks. The shot cups were conveniently hung on long strings, so the drunken masses could keep them around their necks. The first round was free, so how could we refuse. I tasted my first Bailey's that day, and I've never had a single drop since. We pounded countless Bailey's shots, dances, sang and stole pretzels from the bar. There was no other food to be had, but it wasn't like I was in any condition to eat a plate of corned beef and cabbage at that point.
We danced for a while, and that’s when Ann fell onto the bandstand after Robert gave her a good spin from a fast Irish jig. She took out the Irish piper, a microphone stand and one speaker. They were idiots for bringing expensive instruments and sound equipment into an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day anyway. Stick with a few Chieftan's CDs and the drunks don't know the difference. When the dancing calmed, I noticed Robert was missing. I checked the bar, but no sign of him. I went to the bathrooms, but the line was a few people long, so I decided to lean against the wall for a while and wait my turn. The next guy to come out said, "Dudes, do not go in the last stall. There is some guy in their painting the walls." Of course, it was my friend Robert.
Robert won the award for "losing it" first that day. He looked pretty bad, so I volunteered to escort him to Elaine's car. She had parked two blocks away from Nanny's so I figured we'd have a little rest and rejoin the party later. I poured him in to the back seat, and I took the wheel … to sleep, not to drive. As we rested there, I asked Robert if it made him feel any better to have puked in the bathroom. He replied, "Oh, hell yes!"
And that was all the convincing I needed. I quickly opened the car door and puked onto the sidewalk right in front of Adas Israel Congregation on Quebec St., N.W. Right there in front of God and untold numbers of worshipers leaving the synagogue after Friday night services. I've always felt guilty about the spectacle I created, and thought at times I should visit the temple to apologize to the congregation. No one should have to see that kind of a display while leaving a house of worship! Then things calmed down and Robert and I passed out.
At about midnight, we came to, and realized how late it was, and that Elaine and the rest were still at Nanny's. With a second wind, we returned to the bar … it was time to pee again. By midnight Nanny's was packed and we had to push our way back in. We still had the Bailey's shamrock shot glasses around our necks, so they let us back in. To avoid a longer wait in the future, we decided to get two more Harps on the way to the bathrooms figuring that if we had puked up all the earlier beers and Baileys, we might get thirsty again. With new beers in hand, we headed for the back of the pub to the restrooms … remembering that Robert had ruined the very back stall and that we should avoid that one on this potty stop.
We couldn't get near the bathrooms, so we stumbled out Nanny's back alley door to relieve ourselves in the alley. There was a big hedge along the alley, so we had some privacy. Then, through the hedge, we heard a woman's voice calling, "Peaches! Peaches! Here, Peaches!" We zipped up as fast as possible and ducked through the hedge to see who was calling for Peaches. It was some woman whose black lab, named Peaches, had broken her leash and run down the alley. We didn't wait for an invitation and just joined in the search for Peaches. The woman was frantic to find her dog, so she wasn't bothered that two strange drunk guys were following her screaming, "Here, Peaches!" We walked for a couple of blocks calling for the lost dog, but then realized we were back at Elaine's car at Adas Israel. We decided to leave the woman to find Peaches on her own and we returned to the car for another lie-down … remembering to get in on the passenger side as to avoid the mess I left on the sidewalk earlier.
It was well after midnight by then, and we thought for sure that Elaine, Ann and the others would meet us at the car soon and drive us back to Arlington. We woke up to the sound of worshipers returning to Adas Israel and with bleary eyes, could see that it was 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and we were still in Elaine's car. Not only did Elaine not drive her own car home, she just left us in there, unconscious and smelling like two Irishmen on payday! Elaine had left the keys under the floor mat, so we dug them out and Robert drove us back to my place in Alexandria. We tried to sponge the booze from our bodies with b-b-q from the Dixie Pig in Alexandria, but we found out the hard way that Asians make really, really, really bad southern b-b-q. That worsened the situation, of course.
Still driving Elaine's car, we made it to Elaine's house in Arlington where we found her and other AIC folks preparing a meal of corned beef and fixins. As usual, the ladies of the AIC had behaved like ladies and drank responsibly at Nanny's. I was so wrecked that I couldn't stand the smell of anything, so I admitted defeat, excused myself. I took the Metro back to Alexandria where I closed out the weekend by "sleeping it off." On my way out, the AIC reminded me that we were all going to mass at the Dahlgren Chapel at Georgetown Univ. the next morning. I just said, "I think I'll pass, but do ask St. Patrick to intercede on my behalf for a short hangover."
Twelve years later I can't hear the words "Bailey's Irish Cream" without cringing. I still drink Harp, but only one or two in an evening. I've never set foot inside Nanny O'Brien's since that night. I'll never know if that poor woman found Peaches, and I'll never be able to show my face at Adas Israel Congregation again! But I do know that is was the greatest St. Patrick's Day ever!
These events can be confirmed by Robert if need be. -OSG