Celebrating St. Patrick's Day
Although I only have a small amount of Irish blood in my DNA, I married a McKenna, which is about as Irish as one can get. That gave me all the excuse I needed to celebrate St. Patrick's Day Saturday. Actually living in St. Paul gave me the opportunity to celebrate the holiday on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
A movement is afoot in Minnesota to make the holiday land on the same day each year, mostly for the following reasons: to accommodate the annual parades in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, but mostly to accommodate people’s hangovers the next day, which results in lost work production.
Lest I find myself in trouble like former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura did for remarks regarding "the drunken Irish" in charge of errant road building around our state Capitol, I would like to state for the record that I believe the Irish to have a similar rate of alcohol use as the general population. If memory serves me right, I think the heaviest drinking population belongs to us Germans. I know I played my part in upholding that honor, at least during my youth. This is not to deny, however, the Irish reputation, deserved or not, of enjoying imbibing on St. Patrick's Day.
All of this drinking talk reminds of my younger days as a barkeeper when a certain Irish gentleman used to come in my tavern every evening. He would state, "Give me three shots of Irish whiskey — one for my brother in Belfast, one for my brother in Boston and one for me." He would quickly down all three shots before departing for the evening.
This went on for several years until one night he came by and I noticed he was not his usual jovial self. "Give me two shots of Irish whiskey," he said.
"Oh my," I said." "What happened? Did one of your brothers die?" I asked.
"No, I quit drinking," he replied.
This brings us to last Saturday night when my wife and I traveled to downtown Minneapolis. We went out to listen to Boiled in Lead, an Irish rock band we hadn't seen since the early 1980s. This talented group got their start at a bar called Goofy's. The band consists of five Irishmen who play anything from punk folk to traditional Gaelic to what they refer to as rock and reel. After 31 years together, Saturday night proved they can still have fun, especially every St. Patrick's Day when they perform at the Cedar Cultural Center.
For a short time the dance hall was transformed into a frolicking Irish pub when the floor was full of revelers doing the jig. I think this may be the first Minnesota event I ever attended that had a lack of Scandinavian blondes. They had been replaced with Irish redheads and brunettes. Also noticeable were several T-shirts bearing the slogan, "God made whiskey to stop the Irish from taking over the world."
In reality, alcohol consumption appeared to be rather minimal among the mostly 60-year- old crowd for the main source of entertainment consisted of singing, dancing and listening to some great music.
Todd Menton, the lead singer, has a great baritone voice accompanied by his thick Irish accent. He also plays a wicked pennywhistle. Fellow guitarist Dean McGraw is a regular on Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." Fiddler David Stenshoel is still sporting waist length hair just as he did 30 years ago. One major change: Like most people in attendance that evening, his hair had turned a shade of gray. The band is rounded out by Drew Miller on bass guitar and Marc Anderson on drums; and I just learned on Saturday evening that we followers of the band are called “Leadheads.”