Sunday, March 17, 2013


Every St. Patrick’s Day, my mother pinned a knitted green shamrock on my shirt, and I no longer remember at what age I started taking it off as soon as I left the house. To share a name with a holiday, especially one misunderstood and eccentrically observed, is among life’s minor curses. Even if born in Cleveland you’re expected to speak with a brogue and greet others with a cheery “Top o’ the morning!” You’re to look like Tyrone Power, fight like John L. Sullivan and drink like Brendan Behan. On all counts I failed, but I made my peace with St. Patrick Day’s about thirty years ago on the Long Island Railroad. It was 9 o’clock on the morning of the holiday, somewhere between Merrick and Penn Station. Three young men of high-school age entered the car, singing, slapping and swaying down the aisle. They sat across from me and the one in the middle, as the car started moving again, leaned over and vomited green beer on the floor with the force of a fire hose. His partners cheered, and he gagged and retched and wiped his sopping face. My shoes were wet. 

A reader once asked Myles na gCopaleen the meaning of the Dublin word “moppy,” and Myles assembled for him a lexicon of synonyms (The Best of Myles, 1968): 

“Moppy; drunk; jarred; fluthered; canned; rotten; plasthered; elephants; fluther-eyed; spiflicated; screwed; tight; mouldy; maggoty; full to the brim; footless; blind; spaychless; blotto; scattered; merry; well on; shook; inebriated; tanked up; oiled; well-oiled; cock-eyed; cross-eyed; crooked; boozed; muzzy; sizzled; bat-eyed; pie-eyed; having quantum sufficio; and under the influence of intoxicating liquor.”

He left out boiled, bombed, juiced, sauced, schnockered, shit-faced and three sheets to the wind. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!  And top o’ the morning to you!

No comments: