Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick: The Patron Saint of Hygiene

I never thought that soap could be at the forefront of a political discussion. At least, I didn't think that until I witnessed a conversation on St Patrick's Day. As is the case on March 17th each year, there were more than a gaggle of drunken Irish and non-Irish alike, gallivanting along the main thoroughfare. As is also the case, many of these people are what I categorize as “amateur alcoholics.” You know, the kind of people who culminate most of their weekend nights by going to bed by 11:00 pm. Their idea of a rowdy night out involves a nice dinner at a restaurant, where they may even order a bottle of wine (to be split betwixt the table of four). If they are feeling extra saucy, they may even go out for ice cream afterward (oh boy!). But on this day every year, those people arrange for a babysitter, and guzzle down green beer with the rest of the part time partiers until they pass out in the car, or regurgitate the contents of their stomachs into the nearest receptacle.

Along with such an onslaught of amateurs comes the wondrous verbal diarrhea that emits from their slurring faces at every table. It is generally too much for my voyeuristic ears to absorb. I have to hone in on a few, and hope I choose wisely. In this case, I did just that.

It was only 10:30 pm, but this table of wobbling babblers was fully intoxicated, and having a discussion that encompassed both of the cardinal sins of drunken conversation. They were vehemently covering the topics of religion and politics. Rarely does that conversation end well for any of the participants. This was not an exception to that rule. Luckily for me, I was not a participant, but rather just a smiling bystander.

The table was occupied by two couples that looked like they were in their early thirties. The women had the shape of those who had experienced the wonder of childbirth, and had the hips to prove it. The men had the streaks of gray hair and the pre-wrinkles associated with a consistent furrowed brow. These were obviously two sets of parents out on the town for one of their very few opportunities to “let loose.” They were taking full advantage of the occasion.

On the table sat two glasses of green beer, one pint of Guinness stout, and what could only be described as the fruitiest drink I have ever seen. The green beer and Guinness fell right in line with what you would expect to see on a St. Patty's Day high-top table. The super fruit drink did not. Further confusing my sensory observation skills, the super fruit concoction sat directly in front of one of the male occupants. I assumed that this was simply just misaligned on their tablescape, and one of the women would soon reach for it to enjoy the sugary mixture. My assumption was inaccurate. No sooner had I cemented my analysis of these people, that one of the gray-haired gentlemen grasped the stem of the martini glass, and took a sip of it. My mind was officially blown.

Drink selection aside, he was as manly as one would expect a patriarch to be. He spoke with a deep booming voice without any hint of a lisp, and not once did he utter a “fabulous” or “fierce” phrase. I guess he just liked fruit. He also was the most adamant (a.k.a. inebriated) one at the table, and he tended to be the leader of most of their conversations.

He would say things like, “Did you know that St. Patrick's Day is actually supposed to be a religious holiday? Yeah, it was to celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and was later used to mark the end of Lent. I read that on Wikipedia.”

I looked it up, and he was right. Or at least that is what it says on Wikipedia.

The people at the table would chime in, and offer their points. I saw their mouths moving, so I assume their was some sort of language emitting from their faces. It was loud in the bar, and Gray Fruit was the only one I could really hear. It made for an interesting half conversation to overhear. They would stop talking, and he would resume. But rarely was it in line with what I anticipated to hear next.

In my mind, I was expecting something like, “That's true, but just as time passes and the meaning of holidays must evolve, we too must not forget about the true purpose of these traditions.” What I heard was straight out of left field.

He said, “In the Middle East, they refer to it as the 'Arab Spring.' I'm wondering if the origin of this was ever called the 'Irish Spring.' Furthermore, is that where the name of that soap came from?”

How did he get there from where they started? Only in an alcoholic stupor could anyone logically get to the naming of a soap from a Christian insurgence in the 5th Century. I was amazed, and quite frankly dumbfounded by the leap this conversation had taken in just a few short minutes. My mind tried to fill in the gaps of the conversation I had missed. I was saddened by the fact that I didn't hear their exact points and logic.

The other man at the table was a quiet sort, who was much more apt to smirk and nod than to contribute to the conversation. The two heavy-hipped woman were the ones providing additional conversation and counterpoints.

I imagined the woman sitting to his immediate right was his wife. She had a more sheepish demeanor. I originally suspected that just was just her normal disposition. After hearing the nonsense her man was spouting, I believe it was just concealed embarrassment. Her words were probably just verbal attempts to pull the reins, and save her husband from a shameful morning. If she hadn't, he would most certainly have woken up on March 18th asking, “Why did you let me keep talking? We'll never be able to go out with them ever again.”

The other woman was smiling from ear to ear. I'm pretty sure she was just goading him into further ridiculous comments. Her efforts were not in vain. All she had to do was lead that horse to drink, and he was surely gulping down one fruity bit of nonsense after another. Was she the one who brought up the “Arab Spring”, and its non sequential association with the current conversation? It seemed as if such things were true. I also believe that she was having just as much fun antagonizing him as I had watching her do so.

She weaved a magical web of meaning out of a seemingly meaningless string of “facts.” And he was along for the ride. She took him from the origin of St. Patty's Day, to the way we celebrate it today as a appreciation of all things Irish (mostly their affinity for alcohol), and guided him to a ridiculous conclusion that a brand of soap is a commemoration of Irish independence. She was my new hero (move over Chuck Norris and Pat Morita).

After a another half hour or so, and very little else being said at that table (much to my chagrin), they made their way to the exit. I was sad to see them leave, and hopeful that he would give us all one more gem before calling it a night. He did.

Just as he approached the threshold of the bar, he stopped and turned toward his friends. By the glint in his eye, and the grin on his face, it looked like he was about to say something magnificent. But the only thing that came out was a liquified mixture of corned beef, cabbage, and a colorful assortment of fruits. He aimed for the garbage can, and with expert marksmanship, he left the surrounding area relatively unscathed. The stream was powerful, and the smell was surprisingly pleasant. He may have started the evening with metaphorically colorful verbal diarrhea, but he ended it with literal rainbow of vomit. It would seem fitting for there to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on such an occasion. However, I wasn't about to see for myself. I'll leave that to the barback who has to take out the garbage later. If there is a treasure to be found, I'll leave it for him to collect. He deserves it.

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