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It's Paddy's Day, Not St. Patty's Day
Proud of my Irish heritage, I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by wearing green and joining friends for a green beer and Irish nachos. Since I’m a rookie when it comes to the festive holiday, I thought I’d get insight from a pro. So here is my Irish coworker, Declan.
Thanks a mil, Caity, for inviting me here to talk about one of my favorite days of the year. My grandpa Grady’s cousin from Boston—who he affectionately called the Yank—referred to the holiday as St. Patty’s Day, as many Americans do. This would “get my grandpa’s goat,” so my granny bought him a pint glass that said, It’s Paddy’s Day, not St. Patty’s Day, Ye Goat. Paddy is the nickname for Patrick, whereas Patty is a nickname for a woman named Patricia. It’s grand to say St. Patrick's Day or Paddy's Day (preferably without the St.), but never St. Patty’s Day.
Can you imagine trying to dye a Guinness green? Not sure what wretched color you’d end up with, but surely not one I’d fancy to drink. A Dublin pub catering to tourists might dye an ale or light beer green and serve corned beef and cabbage—an Irish American creation and tradition. My mate’s cousin from Chicago wanted to order both in an Irish pub. We convinced him that Ireland’s traditional holiday dish is green eggs and ham. When he ordered it, the waitress gave him an odd look, and we burst out laughing. We had to tell the poor bloke that Green Eggs and Ham is just a Dr. Seuss book, not a traditional St. Patrick’s Day dish.
St. Patrick’s Day is a legal holiday in Ireland. Schools, banks, post offices, and many other businesses and organizations are closed, but pubs are open. You might think, of course pubs are open. However, they were closed on the holiday until the late 1970s. How mad is that?
In 1903, Waterford held the first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ireland. Nowadays, a parade might include Irish fairies, step dancers, or a John Deere tractor. I once attended Dublin’s parade, but finally gave up trying to see around all the people standing on ladders for a better view. I went to a pub and paid eight euros for a Guinness. That’s wicked dear when I could have been drinking for half that at Carter’s pub—up the road from my parents’ in the Midlands—and had a front-row seat at the local parade. FYI, if you ever attend Dublin’s parade, pay the extra quid for grandstand seats with a view.
So how do I usually celebrate the holiday? After attending Mass with my family, we have a large roast dinner with Brussels sprouts, carrots, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, and chips. Then the family heads down to Carter’s pub to watch the All Ireland Club Championships for hurling and Gaelic football held in Croke Park, Dublin. The owner, Des, dresses like St. Patrick, and his wife, Mags, as St. Brigid—Ireland’s only female patron saint. Their son Darragh dresses as a green vampire in memory of his favorite Irish author, Bram Stoker. You never know what you might find in an Irish pub, especially on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s always great craic!
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The following is a selection of Facebook posts about the many embarrassing, frustrating, and "enlightening" mishaps I've experienced while traveling.
These are fact, not fiction.
Please Remain Seated
After dinner at a busy restaurant on the San Antonio River Walk, I went to stand and the heavy iron chair came with me. I dropped back down in my seat. I felt behind me to discover that the belt loop on my jeans had somehow become wrapped around the chair’s fancy scroll design. I attempted to undo my pants button to loosen the loop but the waistband was pulled too tightly.
The couple next to us flagged down a waitress and requested a scissors. No way was I cutting the loop off my new jeans. However, I was questioning just how well they fit. I scooted the chair forward, covering my lap with the tablecloth. I sucked in the deepest breath possible after a pasta dinner, enabling me to unbutton and partially unzip the jeans, freeing the loop from the chair. Although I was a tad embarrassed about the incident, my coworkers and I laughed the entire way back to the hotel.
Taking a Nosedive in Dublin
I’m a total klutz, like my character Caity.
A few weeks ago, while I was crossing a busy Dublin street, the light turned yellow. A bicyclist zipped toward me, attempting to time the light as it turned green. I leapt onto the sidewalk, my shoe catching on the curb. I fell toward the pavement then steadied myself midair before heading toward the ground once again, all the while propelling forward. My knees hit the concrete and a paper shopping bag flew from my hand before my palms braced my fall. My bag shot down the sidewalk as I yelled out, in what seemed to be slow motion, “My cooooookies!” The bag contained my mom’s favorite Irish cookies.
My friend Laura helped me up as I shook the confusion from my head. Two concerned tourists returned my damaged bag to me. Rather than checking my palms for blood or my pants for tears, I checked my cookies. Seriously? Luckily, I had no broken bones, merely a few broken cookies.
Failing at French
I studied in Paris for a college semester. My penpal from Normandy came down to visit one weekend. When I exited a restroom at the Eiffel Tower an older woman sitting by the door held out a bowl containing a few coins. I’d only encountered a bathroom attendant once or twice in my life, so I wasn’t prepared with change. I smiled apologetically and left.
Feeling bad, and a bit naïve, I asked my friend for change. “You don’t need to pay Madame PeePee,” he said. Unsure I’d heard him correctly, I said, “Madame PeePee?” He nodded, laughing. The woman came barreling out from the bathroom, shaking a fist, giving us a verbal lashing for using the slang nickname. We turned red with embarrassment, apologizing. When the woman yelled at a curious tourist with a camera, we took advantage of the distraction and fled.
That was one French phrase I never repeated and I made sure I carried change the rest of the trip.
My real-life travel mishaps definitely inspire Caity’s character.
I travel frequently for work and I’ve become comfortable dining alone in public. I’ve learned to blend in…most of the time. While perusing a menu in a rural Irish restaurant a centerpiece candle ignited it. I attempted to blow out the flame, causing it to leap out and torch my napkin. After tossing my glass of water on the fires, I smiled reassuringly at the concerned diners. I apologized to my waitress, giving her the damaged menu and my order.
Following dinner, the owner ran after me for two blocks due to a billing error. I joked that I’d thought the additional charge was for the cost of the menu and napkin. Thankfully, I wasn’t too embarrassed to return to the restaurant, since it is still one of my favorite spots in Ireland.