PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

Ghosts of St. Patrick's Day Past

In the not-so distant yesteryear, when I wasn’t so much a wee lad as an underdeveloped adult, I’d find a random St. Paddy’s Day falling on a weekend and would drive home to meet mom and Dad at Coleman’s Irish Pub in Syracuse, NY. Syracuse wasn’t a town known for being Irish, at least in my mind; everyone I knew seemed to be Italian, and the people who weren’t (like me) wanted to be Italian (like me!).

But to hell with any other tradition on March 17th. Friends of all stripes were keen to pack the bars and throw up all over each other. Slight exaggeration. Still, it was a pretty tipsy scene, and there was often an earnest singer crooning “Danny Boy” on a cheap PA system, enjoying his once-a-year day in the sun. And outside Coleman's, the traffic light had the green on top and red on the bottom, blowing people's minds. 

At home, someone (not me) would put “The Irish Rovers” on the record player and we’d sing along to songs like “No, Nay, Never,” which the Dropkick Murphy’s reprised a few decades later. Later my Dad would fall asleep with a toothpick in his mouth (substituting for a cigarette) to John Gary crooning the very sad “Molly Malone” on our console record player.

Years later, when we kids were out of the house, my parents would throw wild parties where everyone would strip naked and drink Irish coffee, because that was life in the 1970s and 1980s. OK, no one ever stripped naked thankfully, but the Irish coffees flowed like coffee. Thankfully, most everyone was walking home (although, I’ve recently read it’s better not to be tipsy when walking).

All these years later, I find the old John Gary “A little bit of heaven” album still intact in my basement, deeply scratched, bearing my long deceased parents’ fingerprints, and coaxing me to YouTube to relisten to the old songs. Hard not to miss mom and dad on this St. Patrick’s Day. 

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This Year

I’m trying to decide if the most apt Mountain Goats song to describe the past 365 days locked up in our homes and masquerading as 1970s surgeons is “This Year.” It seems like a reasonable choice, given that it includes the line, “I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.”

However, “Going to Lebanon 2” might be more suitable because the surrealness of the last 365 days is captured in the verse, “Take note of what will be gone in the blink of an eye, the blue blue water, the bone white sky.”

I cast my vote for Going to Lebanon 2 because a) it was released during the pandemic from hell, which suggests to me that John Darnielle wrote it to describe the feeling of being denied the simplest of pleasures when the disease struck; and b) because I have scads of Lebanese cousins, so what the hell.

As with many Mountain Goats songs, it’s really hard to understand why this one was named Going to Lebanon 2. It could have been named almost anything else and you’d be no farther from guessing what the song was about. There is no mention in the lyrics of going to Lebanon or anywhere. You’d think that something about the architecture of Beirut or Mediterranean beaches would be in order.

OK, I’m clearly diverting our attention from the bigger story: the last year has really stunk. Did you know that I had tickets to 3 rock shows that got canceled, including Nick Cave. (As if that’s a problem, with half a million Americans dead.)

But it is a problem, as is the fact that my kids haven’t been in school for a year, restaurants have closed, there is no live theater, film venues are shuttered, and I need a goddamned hug.

Maybe if we just listen to a Mountain Goats song, we’d all feel a little better and would have some hope that the future is a little brighter.

 

 

 

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