For St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve always loved St. Patrick’s Day, I reckon for a pretty obvious reason lol. We Blocks don’t think of ourselves as Irish, although, like many Southerners, we’re of ‘Scotch-Irish’ descent, so I reckon that makes me kinda Irish. Definitely Irish enough to celebrate on March 17th with a shitload of Guinness lol.

Since this St. Patrick’s Day is gonna suck with all the bars closed, I thought I’d tell y’all about a St. Patrick’s Day in my past. One that was as awesome as this year’s is a boring shitshow.

I had an Irish buddy in college. He was born there and came over with his parents when he was a kid. He had a great name: Cian McGwire. Meemaw always said it sounded “as Irish as Patty’s Pig”. But Cian (it doesn’t look like it, but ‘Cian’ is pronounced just like ‘Keaton’ minus the T) did look and sound Irish, so much so that sometimes you couldn’t understand him. He was a solid 6’ and 200, with red/brown hair and green eyes. With that and (especially) the accent, a lot of girls thought he was dreamy. He was born in Limerick, but then his family moved to Nashville when he was 10. He loved and respected his new country, but he was always super proud of his old one. Y’all know how proud I am to be a Southerner? Cian’s maybe even more proud that he’s Irish. He’s Catholic and went to mass every Sunday, and had a whole mess of Ireland rugby and soccer jerseys in his closet. He takes the Shannon Rugby Football Club pretty dang seriously. The way I make it out, Shannon was his answer to the Smokies.

I got to know Cian in one of my Shakespeare classes. He was very active in campus theater and was usually in two shows a year. He was a great actor, and I remember seeing him as Orlando and Prince Hal. The Shakespeare sounded great when he recited it, although that cool accent of his made some of the text hard to understand. I still remember that As You Like It production. It was so good that I talked Mom into coming to Murfreesboro to see it. (I also went out with the Rosalind for a little while, but that’s another story.)

The theater shit didn’t leave Cian whole lot of time for sports, although I’ve seen him play soccer, and, believe me, he was fuckin fierce out there. He liked rugby even more than soccer and tried to get a rugby league started at school. He was able to fill out two teams, so we got to play some, but it didn’t catch on. That’s a shame, since, even though I was worried about getting hurt for baseball, playing rugby is fuckin fun.

Cian McGwire was also, despite the theater shit, extremely straight. Like he might have beat me at 30 chicks/30 days by getting to 30 before me. Jackson especially hated going out with us because he kept saying “y’all leave nothing for everybody else.” That wasn’t really fair: there were lots of chicks at MT that neither me nor Cian slept with lol. There were also plenty of chicks one of us slept with, some girls both of us slept with, and at least one chick me, Cian and Jackson all slept with. But that’s a story for another time too.

So junior year, me and Cian decided to make it the best St. Patrick’s Day ever. We got green shirts, Cian pulled out a green tie of his, and I had a pair of green Chuck Taylor All-Stars that I almost never wore. (They were kind of a lameass purchase, but I still have them and they do come in handy once a year lol.) There were a few campus bars that got into the occasion: St. Patrick’s Day is a day when everyone wants to be Irish because it’s an excuse to get shitfaced, and everyone knows the way to get shitfaced on St. Patrick’s Day is by ingesting large amounts of Guinness Draught. I know some people don’t like it, but me and Cian both love the stuff. Jackson never got into it, although I managed to convert Turner. Keaton’s still on the fence…and I was hoping to enlighten him about the wonders of Guinness this year on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s just gonna have to wait another year, I reckon.

(If you’ve never had it, y’all owe it to yourselves to try Guinness’ 200th Anniversary Stout. It may be a little rich for some people’s tastes, but I think it’s amazing. But every Guinness I’ve tasted has been great, even the Blonde, which I’d say was gayass if it came from any other brewery lol.)

Me and Cian had a master plan for our best St. Patty’s Day ever: corned beef and cabbage dinner, drink as much Guinness as was wise…and then start a fight. A good old-fashioned Irish bar brawl like you see in movies. Both me and Cian can handle ourselves dang good, and, if we got our asses kicked for a change, that’d be fun too with enough stout in us.

My only problem with St. Patrick’s Day is that March 17 always falls out during spring training, so I always had to be something of a good boy and not get too tore up or miss curfew. Junior year in college was the year of the total hardass coach, the one who told us we were gonna be wearing Elsa dresses on the field if we didn’t shape up. But that happened in the middle of the season; in March we still had our old coach, who was super nice, but who just couldn’t get us to win that year. He was Irish on his mother’s side, though, so he said we could all break training for St. Patrick’s Day and go out and have a good time. We had a big practice on the afternoon of the 17th, but he promised us an easy day on the 18th in case there were hangovers.

Although I reckon corned beef and cabbage is a cliché, I happen to really like it. Mom used to make it a couple times a year, and we always had it for St. Patrick’s Day. There weren’t too many Irish students at MT, but there was a café in town that was owned by an Irish couple, and they kinda adopted Cian. They all used to speak Irish together, and they promised him the best corned beef and cabbage in Murfreesboro. So the O’Conor’s is where we started our St. Patrick’s Day.

Cian was always teaching me words of Irish here and there, but I found them very hard to pick up. That night, they taught me that beoir is ‘beer’, gloine is ‘glass’, and buachaill álainn is ‘pretty boy’. The word for ‘fight’ is troid, ‘fist’ is dhorn, and earraí fisticiúla is ‘fisticuffs’. We figured that was all the Irish I needed to know for the evening, since we reckoned that me getting called a buachaill álainn would give us an excuse for some earraí fisticúla lol.

The food was great, and I learned about colcannon, which is cabbage mixed with mashed potatoes. It’s dang good, and way better than just boiled cabbage. And of course we washed it down with our first glasses of Guinness, although those came out of bottles since the O’Conors ran a café and even Irish cafés don’t have draft (sorry: draught) beer.

Then it was time to get down to the serious business of the night, with full stomachs that would make it easier to drink more while getting a little less tore up. We knew who had Guinness draught and that’s where we headed.

Cian told me a bunch of stories about being a kid in Ireland, and about how his parents wanted him to learn Irish instead of English. They spoke Irish at home and sent him to an Irish school. I didn’t know that there were special Irish schools…and I kinda figured that all the Irish could speak English. But the McGwires felt that, if Cian learned English, he’d never learn Irish, so they brought him up with only one language. They didn’t know at that point that they’d be coming to America, and then there was a crazy rush for him to learn some English before they got here.

He told me how the Catholic boys were always getting into fights with the Protestant boys, of who there were more in his neighborhood than y’all might think. Of course, in Cian’s stories, the Catholic boys always kicked serious Protestant ass, since (he said) everyone knows Catholics are tougher than Protestants.

“Maybe tougher than your wimpass Irish Protestants,” I told him. “This here Methodist’s pretty dang tough.”

He saved himself by saying he didn’t mean Methodists: he meant jerkoff Anglican boys. He was willing to admit that at least some American Protestants could fight…although probably not the Episcopalians. I thought tensions like that settled down in Ireland by the time Cian was old enough to get in fights, but apparently I was wrong.

Yeah, we traded stories about chicks too. Both me and Cian got called horndogs a lot, so that gave us something major in common. Mostly we discussed women like gentlemen…although we weren’t above trading pointers. I learned a few good tricks of the horndog trade from Cian…and vice versa lol. One of his specialties was making eye contact with a chick for a while, then looking down and staring at nothing. He said it made you look like a soulful poet…and most chicks go for soulful poets big time.

Try it sometime. It works.

So we hit one bar, drank heartily, hit another, and threw back another few beers. By that point in my drinking life I was starting to get a clue about how much I could drink, and that was usually around 6 beers a night. So I was pacing myself, especially as I didn’t want to be so tore up that I was gonna get my ass kicked in that bar fight we were fixin to start.

The bar we saved for last was the one we figured would be easiest to start a fight in. For a campus bar, it was a dive, and it was called Malachy’s, so someone Irish must have been involved in the running of it. There were certainly a lot of St. Patrick’s Day decorations and the place was pretty crowded, even though it was getting late.

So me and Cian walked in, walked up to the bar, and ordered another pair of Guinnesses. Then we looked the place over to try and figure out how to go through with our plan.

I had my share of fights outside bars already, but, this time, we wanted to start a brawl, not just a fight. That was gonna take some creative thinking and button-pushing on the part of two totally stupid 21 year olds. We could have been getting ourselves into some serious trouble, although dive bars in college towns aren’t the kind of places where you find a bunch of bikers who want to fight you with chains wrapped around their fists.

Turns out we didn’t need much of a plan: a couple dudes, drunkass and stupid like us, came up and started shit. No, they didn’t call Cian a ‘mick’…they called me (wait for it) a pretty boy and asked if me and Cian were ‘a couple of faggots.’

“We’re a couple of faggots who can kick your ass,” I said. I don’t know how Cian felt about that, but it did the trick.

“Faggots can’t fight,” said the dude who started it.

“These two can,” I said. I could feel my fist clenching, which isn’t always a bad feeling.

“Prove it, faggot,” said the other guy.

“Okay,” I said. And I hit him cleanly in the jaw. He went backwards into group of guys standing behind him. They were the only thing that kept him from landing on his ass.

That was the first time I actually hit someone inside a bar. It felt kinda fun, since I knew these dudes just wanted to get in a fight like me and Cian did. They probably didn’t even think we were gay. Come to think of it, they probably wouldn’t have picked on us if they did think we were gay…since they decided that gay guys can’t fight. (And oh yes they can. At least some of ‘em. That’s a third story I’ll have to tell you later.)

So the dude came back at me, but got cut off by Cian who stepped up and nailed him a second time. He managed not to land on his ass that time either, but then his buddy got into it with me, and landed a shot in my gut. A shot that hurt.

Ok, I guess some of y’all may not think this sounds like fun. But, if you’re drunk, 21, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and you like a good fight, yeah, this was getting to be big time fun.

I stood up straight and had this fantasy that the four of us were gonna tear the place apart. Then I realized that would get the four of us in a shitload of trouble, even if I think all four of us were having that same fantasy. Y’all know…the kind of fight you see in the movies where someone gets slid down the length of the bar and shit like that.

Unfortunately the bartender (we always figured he was Malachy, but we were never sure) had different ideas about having his place busted up by 4 college kids, so he pulled out a baseball bat from behind the bar.

“I don’t mind if y’all fight, but take it outside,” he said. “Right now.”

We looked at each other and then, with perfect Southern politeness said:

“Yessir.”

So we started to head outside when, from behind us, the bartender said:

“10 bucks says the faggots win.”

I heard someone take the bet, then we got outside and got right back to business. It got pretty rough in a good way, there were some bloody noses and one split lip…and let’s just say that the bartender won his bet lol.

We needed a first aid kit after the other guys surrendered, so, with nowhere else to go, we went back in the bar. And guess who had the first aid kit ready? Along with four Guinnesses on the house.

“Remind me to have you around next time I get in a fight,” I told Cian.

“Anytime. You’ve definitely got a lot of Irish in you, Hunter.”

“Thanks, man. I’m taking that as a compliment.”

We gulped down our free beer. The fight had sobered me up. “Dang I’m thirsty.”

“Fighting’s thirsty work,” said Cian. “Can we stand you two another round?,” he asked the other two guys, who by this time were patched up and standing a few feet down the bar.

“Thanks, man,” said the one who started it all by calling me a pretty boy.

“Just admit that faggots – as you so cleverly put it – can fight,” Cian said. “And that a couple faggots just beat the crap outta you two.”

“Fuck, man…you really are faggots…I mean gay? We just said that to mess with you. Fuck, man…we didn’t mean to offend you for real.”

“No worries,” I said.

“Y’all are just fucking with us,” said the other one. “You hit way too hard to be gay.”

“Sorry, bud,” I said. “I just hope y’all don’t feel too bad getting beat up by a couple gay guys. We won’t spread it around campus, though.”

We totally had them going. We just couldn’t tell if they were more embarrassed for calling a couple gay guys ‘faggots’ or because they’d gotten their asses kicked. We eventually said a friendly good night, but it was all me and Cian could do to keep from breaking out laughing in their faces. We somehow managed to control ourselves until we got outside.

Then we totally lost it and laughed like we were nuts.

“Bonus!,” I said. “I wonder if they’ll ever find out that they really lost a fight to two of the biggest horndogs on campus.”

Cian was laughing so hard that he had to lean up against the wall of the bar to pull himself together.

We got ourselves home, a little unsteadily, very pleased with ourselves. It was one heck of a great St. Patrick’s day, well worth the bloody nose I got when I took a shot to the face I should’ve been able to block. I didn’t even wake up with a hangover, which is more than I can say for a lot of the other guys on the team when they got to practice the next afternoon.

Me and Cian are still friends, although it’s hard keeping up with him, since he’s back in Ireland. Last year he finished his studies to become a barrister. (They have two kinds of lawyers in Ireland just like they do in the UK. Barristers are the ones who appear in court.) He’s super busy ‘deviling’ (as they call it) this year, so it takes forever for him to return an email or even answer a text. I’m sure he’ll make it as a barrister, but I do wonder one thing: will his clients ever find out that the dude defending them in court is really a badass fightin horndog?

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