Monthly Archives: March 2008

green beer and wannabe Irish people: observations from the band

Maybe for you, yesterday was just March 17. Or perhaps you knew it was St. Patrick’s Day, but only in the sense that you vaguely realized you should wear an article of green clothing to work so people wouldn’t ask you why you didn’t. Or, maybe you plunged wholeheartedly into the celebration of the Emerald Isle, not caring that it was a Monday, leaving work early to head for an Irish bar. then there are those of us who entertain the crowds. I’m a member of a Celtic band, and for us St. Patrick’s is The Day of the year — the day we both love and hate. If every day was like it, I could make a living as a musician; but I’d wind up deaf, and also I see enough drunk and silly people on that single day to last me the rest of the year, thanks.

My band played Friday night, Saturday night, and twice yesterday (three times, if you count the school performance in the morning — but that was fun, rather than punishing like the bars). I left home yesterday at 10:15 a.m. and got home at 10:30 p.m.; I was making music for 7 of those hours. The following, in no order except that in which they enter my head, are some thoughts from my third year playing for St. Patrick’s Day.

For owners of Irish bars, St. Pat’s is like the day after Thanksgiving for retailers: the day the crowds descend and the money pours in. This year, because the day itself was a Monday, all the bars held two St. Pat’s parties: one on Saturday, and one yesterday. This made up for the fact that the crowds last night were somewhat less than they are when St. Pat’s is on a weekend. I hope their tipped workers did well and that they gave all their other employees bonuses to make up for the mayhem.

Last night I would have given a lot to have a camera phone. people will try to help a waiter carrying a large tray of food by grabbing hold of the tray’s edges to keep them level. This, of course, serves to throw off the waiter’s careful balancing act, and may have the exact opposite effect of what’s intended. To avoid major accidents, each time food went out from the kitchen at Molly Malone’s, at least two and often three people went along to serve as a phalanx around the person carrying the tray. In this way, large quantities of food were safely shepherded through tightly packed crowds.

Very wide men with Drew Carey haircuts and glasses are not attractive when wearing large foam shamrocks on their heads.

One young man had made himself a clever outfit by buying several hundred shamrock stickers and sticking them all over his khaki slacks.

When a bar has a rock band out back in a tent and a Celtic band inside, both amped to maximum levels, and the space between the two is open, and hundreds of people are talking, singing, and shouting, the result is VERY LOUD. My ears are still ringing.

Despite the wall of sound, and our ability to hear the rock band clearly whenever we weren’t playing, a 60-something woman who’d had her share of beer insisted repeatedly that we should play “Danny Boy.” Now, I happen to like “Danny Boy”; it’s a singer’s song, and I sing it well, and under the right conditions a couple of weeks ago I got a standing ovation from a restaurant full of people. But a deafeningly loud bar is not the atmosphere in which I want to perform it; it’s a slow, moving song with a big finish, and I want the audience to be actively listening. So, we kept putting her off, and she was getting obnoxious. Finally we said that if the rock band took a break, we’d do it. She brightened up and said that she’d go tell them to stop playing; and off she went. Problem solved. 🙂

At O’Sheas, we unexpectedly ended up playing outside in a tent. It was cold. And although Louisville has a smoking ban that applies to indoor spaces, people could smoke in the tent. The smoke then drifted upward, arriving at our level on the stage. I haven’t had to be in smoky conditions for a long while, thanks to the ban, and this situation reminded me exactly how marvelous the smoking ban is. When I came home I had to take a shower to get rid of the smell before I could go to bed.

Text messages are a Wonderful Thing. I was able to keep my family informed all evening about where I was and how things were going. Being connected to the sanity of my regular life made the insanity all around me much more bearable.

Bartenders under these conditions are heroes. woman arrived at O’Sheas wearing — like many other patrons — a tall, green foam hat, rather like the Cat in the Hat would wear. She found a table with her friends, took off the hat, and extracted a large ziplock bag filled with little plastic cups containing jello shots. She and 3 or 4 other people proceeded to lick, suck, and drink their way through the entire bag; when nothing was left but some liquid jello in the bottom of the bag, a guy used a straw to get every bit.

When people are drunk, they all think they’re more attractive than they are. And they see other people as being more attractive, too. People of all attractiveness levels will grab beautiful people whom they normally wouldn’t dream of approaching and swing them into a wild dance in front of the stage, and the beautiful people will happily dance along. Dumpy, balding men will gyrate their hips and sing lustily, beckoning confidently to all females who pass by. Swaying women in badly conceived green outfits, holding their cups of green beer over their heads, will form conga lines and wrap themselves around men of all shapes and sizes.

My favorite t-shirts: “Fuck me, I’m Irish!” and “I’m magically delicious!”

I don’t drink. I don’t like the taste, I take a medication that alcohol wouldn’t mix well with, and, most important, the couple of times in college when I managed to get a little drunk I hated the way it felt: I was not fully in control of what my brain was doing. I can’t imagine purposely wanting to feel out of control of your mind and your body. Standing on a stage and performing for hundreds of people who came to that place to get very deliberately drunk is thus a supremely surreal experience: I want to ask them, why in the world are you doing this? Why do you want to feel and behave this way? What’s up with your life that you get a blast of enjoyment from altering your consciousness and behaving stupidly (and, often, dangerously)?

Far too many young women have with Paris Hilton blonde hair, ironed straight, and sizable chunks of dark roots. Ick.

A guy was carrying around a big box of Lucky Charms cereal and pouring out handfuls for people. Which they were eating. In between swigs of green beer. beer on tap: $4.00. Bud Light in a shrink-wrapped green bottle: $4.50. Irish Car Bomb (half a pint of Guinness Stout and a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream: drop the Bailey’s in the Guinness and drink as fast as you can): $7.00. So incredibly much money, spent by so incredibly many people, for such an incredibly pointless purpose. They are, however, helping pay for my Spring Break trip with my family, so I guess I shouldn’t question their motives. 🙂

Apparently quite a few women have taken step-dancing lessons at some point, at least judging from the fairly impressive impromptu demonstrations given in front of the stage. The most unexpected, timid-looking female will suddenly leap into action, jumping and kicking and energizing all around her into a whirl of motion.

Other women were already having to be supported by friends at 7:00 p.m. in order to stay on both feet, leading me to wonder what condition they’d be in by the time they went home.

And who drove all these people at whatever hour they finally left? If they drove themselves, that’s really scary.

I’ll bet a sizable chunk of the American workforce woke up green around the gills and called in sick today with Post St. Paddy’s Syndrome.

trying on clothes that, you know, fit, I should say right off that this is a chick thing. Specifically, the people who will relate are women who are probably at least 35 and/or have had children. Guys, you won’t get it because you’re used to thinking, “Hey, I need some new shorts”; running to Target (or wherever); holding up shorts until you find ones that appear to be big enough — maybe or maybe not trying them on; and then buying them, with no worries about the size.

That’s not a Middle America, woman-of-a-certain-age reality. My reality is that I weigh a lot more than I did in college, but my mental image of myself is still that earlier size. I’m either two or three sizes bigger (depending on the clothing item) than before I bore two children, but the new numbers are so horrifying to a female accustomed to our mass media version of model-thin perfection that I haven’t been able to bear to go to a store and try on clothes that would actually fit well. Instead, over the last year or so, the couple of times I’ve tried on clothes I’ve gone home angry and depressed because I haven’t been able to wear the sizes I thought I should fit into.

In less than two weeks we leave for spring break in Florida, and the fact is that I have very few warm-weather clothes left in my drawers or closet that I can wear. So, I had to go shopping, and I had to find wearable items. But when my daughter and I headed to Target this evening, I went with a new attitude: I pulled clothes off the racks that were the sizes I thought would fit, rather than the sizes I thought should fit. I made myself ignore the numbers and the expanses of fabric, and instead focus on style and comfort.

And lo and behold, I found a stack of new spring and summer clothes that make me happy. They’re comfortable. They’re flattering. And they’re bigger than I used to wear — but that’s OK.

sex workers look forward to GOP convention have to love it. According to American Prospect magazine, sex workers are gearing up for both political conventions. However, those in Colorado (who will be servicing Democrats) aren’t as enthused as those in Minneapolis (who will be on call for Republicans). Apparently the GOP delegates like to have grand parties with prostitutes in between sessions of political business — and they keep the sex workers much busier than Democrats do.

Here’s the American Prospect item:

Conventional Sex

Will actual business, for the first time in decades, be conducted at this year’s political conventions? With the economy in decline, America’s prostitutes are counting on it.

Sex and adult entertainment workers in Denver and Minneapolis are gearing up for the conventions, which they say bring a boom in business as more than 35,000 out-of-towners descend on the cities. It’s nothing new; conventions have long brought stimulus (of the economic sort) to the towns that host them. During the GOP convention in New York in 2004, some sex workers offered special discounts.

But Denver-area prostitutes are feeling a little down that they got stuck with the Democrats. “It would be a lot better for the sex workers if it was the Republican convention. We get a lot more business,” Carol Leigh, a San Francisco prostitute who regularly heads off to convention destinations, told the Rocky Mountain News. “I don’t know if they’re just frustrated because of the family values agenda.”

Who says there’s no difference between the two parties?

movie update: Spiderwick Chronicles

Last night we went to see The Spiderwick Chronicles. Afterward, I mentioned to my son that he was continuing to bat a thousand on movie recommendations and that I was giving him credit on my blog. He suggested that I say the following: that he is my pride and joy, and my reason for getting out of bed in the morning to face each new day. Did I mention that he’s 12? 🙂 And he really is wonderful.

I liked the movie very much (see below). However, I’m sick and tired of films in which kids don’t tell their parents things because they’re sure the parents won’t believe them. Parents and other authority figures are routinely portrayed as blind idiots who refuse to listen to a word their kids have to say, even as some major plot element is destroying the known world all around them. Then, when they’re somehow forced to pay attention and see what’s going on, there’s a touching “Oh, honey, I’m sorry I didn’t believe you” moment.

In Spiderwick, the mom has every reason not to listen to her son Jared: she’s in the middle of a divorce, a move, and a new job, and her son has incredible anger issues and has been acting out physically. So, at least she isn’t made to seem like an idiot — just a stressed, harried woman who needs a week at a spa. But still, she won’t believe him, and she won’t listen to him, even when her other two children confirm his apparently wild stories. I find this immensely frustrating. And at the end, when she knelt down next to him, my son whispered to me, “Now she’s going say ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you'” — and she did, in fact, say exactly that.

Plots like this are getting kinda old. I’ve assured my kids that if aliens land in the backyard or they find an elf living under their bed, I will listen to them, and even believe them, if they show me the proof, and I’d much prefer them to come to me rather than trying to save the world on their own. Not all parents are blithering idiots, and I wish Hollywood would give us a little credit.

Anyway, here’s what I say on my Movies page:

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008). Yet another excellent recommendation from my son. He and I were the only ones home last evening, and when I asked if there was anything in particular he’d like to do, he suggested going to see this movie. I knew next to nothing about it, and had no real desire to go (I would have preferred to see Penelope), but I’m very glad we went. This is on its face a children’s fantasy-adventure movie about the magic world all around us that we can’t see, and a troubled family whose children get mixed up with goblins, fairies, and a very large, very unpleasant ogre. But many of the outstanding special effects would be far too intense and scary for small children; and the movie has plenty to keep adults engaged. It’s a visually beautiful film, and I loved the music. Plus the actors are all wonderful — for example, I haven’t seen the boy, Freddie Highmore, in his other movies (and he’s made plenty, including the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), so I didn’t realize that the two boys in this film weren’t twins until the end; Highmore is entirely convincing as two different brothers.

movie update

I’ve updated my Movies page with the following:

Interesting side note. I was reading an article about the low ratings for the Oscars this year and learned that I’ve seen only 4 of the last 11 Best Picture winners. Now, I watch a lot of movies. A lot. But this year I had not the slightest interest in the Oscars, because I hadn’t seen any of the Best Picture nominees — heck, I hadn’t even seen the movies the Best Actor, Actress, etc. nominees were from. I think I had to go to the Best Song category to find a film I’d gone to.

I’m sure the nominated films this year were fine, if you like that sort of thing. But why wasn’t The Bourne Ultimatum nominated for Best Picture and Best Director? What about American Gangster for Best Picture and Best Actor? Where was Christina Ricci’s Best Actress nomination for Black Snake Moan? Why wasn’t Waitress up for Best Picture, Best Actress, and a slew of other awards?

The nominees seem to be deliberately chosen in such a way as to avoid films with any popular support. It’s weird, frustrating, and guaranteed to make a movie buff like me skip watching the Academy Awards.

delegate counter

Oh, this is way too much fun: Slate has a delegate counter that lets you move a slider for each of the remaining Democratic primaries and watch the delegate totals shift. You can indulge your wildest blowout fantasies and also see what will happen if every remaining race is a squeaker.

My personal guesses (which are probably hugely off, based on the general inaccuracy of the science of political prediction this primary season) keep Obama ahead by about the same margin he is now.

For those who are just dying to see Clinton in the lead, move the sliders so she wins 100% of the vote in Ohio and 86% in Rhode Island: See? For the moment, your wish comes true.