Friday, March 20, 2009

"Shit Me, I'm Kiss-Faced"

The king is back.

Forgive me for feeling boastful. But the feat of lasting over 12 hours on St. Patrick’s Day is fairly impressive for anyone; for someone with my recent St. Patty’s Day history, it’s a borderline miracle.

Pittsburgh’s St. Patty’s Day Parade was held this past Saturday; every year, the city erupts into a boozer’s paradise on this day of revelry. Despite thinking that I had somewhat redeemed myself for my 2007 performance by lasting until around 8 pm last year, I received a steady flow of teasing, jokes, and pessimism (i.e.—hating) from friends in recent weeks. In the end, though, I outlasted damn near all of them. To quote Stewart Gilligan Griffin, “Victory is mine!”

We began at Shannon’s apartment on Mt. Washington, as has become tradition. TJ was in attendance and in the zone for his first St. Patty’s Day in Pittsburgh—even though he was taking pulls from a bottle of Parrot Bay, and nothing else. Not from the multiple bottles of Jameson on hand, not from the Smithwick’s that T.C. had brought with him, not from the chilled cans of Guinness; not even from the keg of beer with a tap set up on the deck railing. He may be from Chicago, but sometimes the guy is a little more South Beach than South Side. He did manage to throw back a Jell-O shot, but…

When we walked in around 10 a.m., the kitchen was full of people hoisting the day’s first round of Irish Car Bombs in the air. The traditional shot apparently kicked in pretty quickly for the party’s hostess, and this was ever so apparent as she prepared another round. Car Bomb vets will tell you that the “bomb” is one part Jameson and one part Bailey’s Irish Cream in a shot glass, which is then dropped into a glass of Guinness. Shannon, however, was pouring the Jameson directly into the glass of Guinness, and then pouring a full shot of Bailey’s to drop. When I and another person attempted to correct her, she paused; then, in a measured, chilly rhythm reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter, she responded, “These are…Irish Bombs…this is how I make them.”

We didn’t push the issue any further.

One of my friends (we’ll just go with the alias “Gaelic Gangsta”, or “GG”, for him) was on hand without his significant other, who had to work. She had, however, bought him his own personal 375 ml bottle of Jameson to bring, and given him only one instruction for the day: “No fighting.” Now, to look at GG—replete with spiky blonde hair on top of a round face that’s adorned with glasses, and his wacky, boisterous laugh that resonates off walls at all hours of the day—you may think his dear fiancée to only be joking. Surely you would assume that this fun-loving 5’9” man of modest physical conditioning, wearing a green, white, and black argyle sweater vest, is not someone who is likely to get to swinging.

Alcohol is a hell of a drug.

GG, who allowed me frequent swigs of his Jameson bottle, had a pair of green gloves with him, and I borrowed one of them. Wearing it and a pair of sunglasses that used green plastic shamrocks for lenses, I strolled down to Station Square looking like an Irish Michael Jackson. Well, a mid-80s Irish Michael Jackson.

At Steelhouse GG, T.C., Mrs. T.C., and I met up with Mrs. T.C.’s sister, their cousin, LRG, Toe, Nate, and NGF. Somehow, and at someone’s suggestion, GG, T.C., and I began double-fisting beers. GG deftly held both of his beers in one hand while he boogied with a random cute girl nearby; Toe entertained us with some amateur auteur work; Nate, T.C. and I drank ourselves further down the rabbit hole; Mrs. T.C., who’s three months pregnant, watched all of us, silently shaking her head—good times. After an hour or so, we decided to move to Saddle Ridge, which is two clubs over—but accessible through an internal series of doorways. Our group stopped just inside of the country-western-themed club to discuss something. Though I was standing near GG, I was glancing in another direction when I felt the tension point that anyone who has ever been in a fight knows. It’s that sudden fraction of a second when you can feel the air turn. It’s almost intangible; an involuntary reflex that pulses from the back of your neck and puts your head on a swivel and announces, “GO TIME!”

When I looked back, a fat gorilla of a guy had one hand on GG and the other cocked back, and my buddy was engaged in trying to fuse his fist with Gorilla’s face. I got between them, putting GG behind me, and T.C. was Johnny-on-the-spot, grabbing Gorilla from behind and tying up his arms. A bouncer, who must have felt that same ethereal warning that I had, grabbed GG and attempted to move him towards the front exit. GG broke free—I still wonder how—and proceeded to throw another two jabs into the face of Gorilla, who was still being restrained by T.C. I expected this large, hairy, imposing guy to try to retaliate physically; but instead, he complained to the bouncer. I couldn’t help but laugh. Someone hits you in the face while you’re being held back, and you don’t even struggle to get free? You just cry to Teacher?

Funny as it was that GG had embarrassed a large crybaby while breaking the only rule that his fiancée had given him, we now found ourselves in the parking lot instead of inside where all of the tasty, tasty beer was. We hailed a cab, and luckily the first one to appear was Henry, a Dominican cabbie who T.C. and Mrs. T.C. have known for a few years. He dropped us off at 1311 Tavern in the South Side. We caught up with some of our friends with whom we had originally walked down from Shannon’s, and got back to the business of drinking. And drinking. And drinking. And—you guessed it—drinking. I think I could hear my liver slosh around when I moved.

When I noticed that one of my thumbnails had split (probably during GG’s scuffle), I grabbed the female bartender’s attention and said, “Can I get a band-aid? I broke a nail.” The look on her face was…probably similar to the one on each of yours right now. Smirking, she handed me a couple from behind the bar, and I patched myself up. I’s a manly man, I yam.

This brings us to my haziest part of the day. It was only about 6:45 pm, and we decided to leave 1311 for another nearby bar that was several blocks off of Carson St. But what it was, why we went there, and how we got there are all a mystery to me. Some of our group had packed it in (most notably the T.C.s), while others like Shannon and Dr. Kelly had gone to Bar Louie in Station Square. While I remember our brief stay at the mystery bar, my next clear memory is walking down Carson, carrying on a mental debate over whether to catch a cab or hoof it to Bar Louie (given that catching a cab would be next to impossible). It was about 7:30 pm, I was all alone, and I had lost my shamrock sunglasses. Luckily, The Prince of Ligonier called me as I approached the corner of 18th. He was a street away with his wife and their friends, so I hooked a left when I reached 17th and we ended up at a small bar called Dish.

I was still throwing back beers, but my drunk seemed to almost be going backwards; each sip brought with it a touch more sobriety. Prince’s wife wasn’t in the same boat; she was twisted like braids in Jamaica. She frequently found herself hugging someone—whether it were Prince, one of their friends, or even me—merely as a means of keeping herself upright.

We moved on to Intermission Lounge on Carson, collecting Girlfriend (and a green fez) along the way. By about 10:30, though, I had clearly hit my saturation point. I was fairly sober, and could not physically put more beer down my esophagus. Girlfriend and I made our way to Tom’s Diner to soak up some of the booze before heading home. Shortly after our food arrived, TK made an impromptu appearance with some friends of his. Spotting my unattended plate of pancakes, he plopped down in front of them and began ferociously chopping and tearing at them with a fork. There have been kills in the Serengeti that weren’t as gruesome. A female friend of TK's, who seemed to be charged with babysitting, looked on with a mixture of pity, humor, and disgust that I’ve never seen before.

Well…that I’ve never been consciously aware of.

We got back to my apartment well after midnight, and I woke up Sunday morning feeling fresh and clean. Where are all the haters at now?

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