The question almost always comes up.
Somebody: "You going to St. Patrick’s Day this year?"
Me: "Not no, but heck no. Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day has gotten too big for my britches."
And with predictions of 500,000 people and Vice President Mike Pence attending this year’s festivities, I think it’s gotten too big for Savannah’s britches, too.
Besides, these days I’m a peaceable man and I like peaceable things that don’t involve hundreds of thousands of large, inebriated and tattooed women stomping around River Street looking for a place to relieve themselves because the lines at the Porta-Johns are too long.
But I can understand the attraction, because there was a time about a quarter century ago when I was very much into trekking down to River Street to run amok with thousands of other Irish-for-a-day-idiots.
Much of it I can’t remember.
What I can remember I share now, sanitized, and in chronological order for ease of reference.
My first trip as a presumed adult to St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah occurred in the middle-late 1980s, when I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Bragg.
I was dating a girl who worked for a local real estate company (she ultimately wound up marrying a West Pointer, I think) and a bunch of us put on green stuff and made the trek down to River Street, hooting like howler monkeys.
Of course, it wasn’t quite as crowded in those days as it is now, but it was no less a party. I recall (vaguely) my girlfriend, a rather upright and sensible person, at some point and for some reason that escapes me now wearing a broken Styrofoam cooler around her neck trying to "Walk like an Egyptian." She also was drinking beer through a tube from one of those hats with can holders on the sides and, well, I do not recall how we got home, but apparently we did. She drove.
Fast forward a year or so (I don’t exactly recall which year) and I was back in Georgia with some Army buddies.
The Richmond Hill girlfriend was no more, and I was bacheloring it. So, after much alcohol, I wound up alone on a Riverboat cruise ship and was admiring the way the moonlight sort of glittered on the water (I once had a poet’s soul, I’m told) when all of a sudden this lady with glasses who looked and sounded like Edie McCLurg (look her up, she played Ed Rooney’s secretary in "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" and said "he’s a righteous dude,") came up to me and asked me if I would kiss her.
"No m’am," I said. I had beer goggles on, but they weren’t that strong yet.
Truth is, I would’ve kissed her, but her husband was with her. They were attached at the hip, you could say.
He was on his knees, hanging onto her belt and drooling up at me through these large, thick glasses that made him look like Stephen King on a bender.
"He’s had a bit to drink," she said, and smacked her husband upside the head. "Now, kiss me."
I ran away. They followed me around the boat for a bit, the poor guy hanging on to her belt and knee-walking behind her, steadily saying things like "blublees" while she tried to kiss me.
I am proud to say we never kissed. But the next day was awful. I think I got alcohol poisoning because my eyeballs hurt. I’d never had that happen before, and never have since, not even in Germany when we drank things designed to turn American soldiers into newts.
My last trip to River Street for St. Patrick’s Day was in 1992. I was about a year away from getting out of the Army and stationed on Fort Stewart with the old 24th Infantry Division. Me and some buddies went down and at some point ran out of beer money because we spent it all on beer. One of my friends, who later got married and became responsible but at the time was a genius when it came to being stupid, decided that we could quickly rectify that.
"Let’s belly dance for beer," he said, and took off his shirt. My other buddy did the same. I followed suit and we started belly dancing our way around River Street getting paid.
It was still daylight when we started and midnight or later that we discovered tired bartenders at one of those basement establishments really liked it when shirtless soldiers dropped in unannounced from the basement window, landed behind the bar and started belly dancing at them.
Erin go bragh, folks.