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Planning Ahead for 2012: Move Leap Day to March 32nd!

By Dave Fox
Seattle

March 18, 2010

In case you were wondering why a bunch of drunkards dressed as leprechauns were screaming and/or puking outside your window last night, it is because yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day. I am a fan of most things Irish, and an American who is irritated by most things Irish-American. I’ve got no problem with all the Saint Patrick’s Day boozing , but whose idea was it to take bad, mass-produced American beer, dye it green, and call it Irish?

(That was technically a rhetorical question, but the answer is: Not an Irishman.)

Fox's Bar 2 Years ago, I spent Saint Patrick’s Day in Galway, Ireland. There were live folk musicians in the pubs, parades in the streets, and friendly Irish drunkards galore. And the friendly Irish drunkards were mighty fun to talk to, until they started asking me one question:

“Why the hell do you Americans dye your beer green on Saint Patrick’s Day?”

I could offer no answer, other than to point at my pleasantly black pint of stout and explain that I had nothing to do with the greening.

Here in America, I generally avoid large Irish pubs on Saint Patrick’s Day. The sight of people dressed as leprechauns, bouncing up and down to Irish jigs, with the sort of non-Irish dance skills one might expect from a stork, doesn’t do it for me. And it’s not just the dancers. Sometimes it’s the pubs themselves.

There is a breed of bar in America that likes to call itself an “Irish pub.” Some of these places are authentic, but more often than not, they are nothing more than generic bars with paper shamrocks advertising Budweiser plastered on the wall, and the latest hit by Lady Gaga blaring from the sound system. Not that there is anything wrong with Lady Gaga. Other than her name. I mean seriously, what kind of international music sensation calls herself Lady Gaga? But I digress. My point is, real Irish pubs play real Irish music. And they don’t plaster themselves with Budweiser ads. Or worse, Corona. The largest brewery in Mexico trying to pass itself off as Irish one day a year? I don’t think so.

Corona st pats dayA few years ago, I attempted to get into an American Irish pub on Saint Patrick’s Day. My friend Dan and I were going to see a Celtic folk-rock band later that evening. We had a few hours to kill before the show, so we decided to go get corned beef and cabbage at a place called the Owl and Thistle. I had never been to the Owl and Thistle before. From the outside it looked like a pretty big place. We thought there’d be room for us. What we found when we arrived, however, was a line that stretched down the block and around the corner.

For reasons I cannot explain, Dan and I stood in the line for 45 minutes. During that time, we moved about seven feet. At that rate, we were not going to reach the front door until midnight, and we’d miss the band we really wanted to see.

“You wanna go somewhere else?” Dan asked.

“Yeah.”

We went to get Lebanese food.

It was several years before I returned to the Own and Thistle again. This happened earlier this month, sort of by accident. A couple of weeks prior, I’d been out at a different place with my fiancée, Kattina, when she ran into an old college friend who played in a Celtic folk-rock sort of band called the Stout Pounders. Any band that calls itself the Stout Pounders had to be worth listening to, I figured. They’d be appearing soon at the Owl and Thistle. So Kattina and I wandered down to the O&T a couple of weeks later, thinking the Stout Pounders would be pounding that night. We had the date wrong, however. A different band was playing. There was a three dollar cover charge.

“What kind of music is it?” we asked the doorman.

“It’s Irish music,” he said.

“You mean, like, trad music?” I asked, figuring the commonly used Irish slang for traditional folk music would not be over the head of a bouncer at an Irish pub.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Is it more like folk rock?” Kattina asked.

“No. It’s not rock if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“So is it Irish folk music?” I asked.

“Yeah. It’s Irish music.”

I handed over six bucks, and we went inside.

Twenty minutes later, the music started. It was not Irish music. It was, well, I would call it bluegrass, but that wouldn’t be fair to bluegrass. It was several way-too-perky guys playing Tennessee drinking songs in an ultra-happy musical style one might expect at a four-year-old’s birthday party. I have to give them some credit; they were talented when it came to playing their instruments. They were also shrewd marketers. Included in their repertoire were several once-Irish drinking songs, adapted to fit their Tennessee-Drunks-Meet-the-Teletubbies genre. Having such songs in their line-up enabled them to get bookings at pubs that called themselves Irish.

Kattina and I walked out, shaking our heads.

A week or two later, we got the date right. We went back to the Owl and Thistle to see the Stout Pounders, who redeemed the pub by belting out a couple of hours of Guinness-fueled, extra-rowdy, traditional Celtic folk tunes the bar could be proud to call “Irish Music.” The Stout Pounders did such a good job, I even clapped for their stray cover of that massive pop smash hit from 1981, “Centerfold,” by the J. Geils Band, which, it turns out, works quite well on the fiddle.

I left, sufficiently impressed that I decided to brave the green-beer-swilling crowd and go see them again on Saint Patrick’s Day at another Irish pubmart in Seattle known as Kells. Kells had an impressive musical line-up, and a free T-shirt included so you would not feel quite as ripped off by the 20 dollar cover charge. (Never mind the special Saint Patrick’s Day 100 dollar minimum on credit card charges.)

The Stout Pounders played two fine sets before moving on to a different venue. A fiddle-and-guitar duo from Ireland called the Smokin’ Shamrocks took over with some equally nifty music. Bartenders served pints of Guinness in plastic cups. Budweiser shamrocks were everywhere. Although I saw someone with a pint of green beer, Guinness was clearly the beverage of choice among the crowd. And as Kattina pointed out, green beer is what some Americans will demand of an Irish pub on a day like this, and with a 20-dollar cover charge, it’s not okay to disappoint them.

All in all, it was a pretty decent Saint Patrick’s Day, especially since I went to see the band with my friend Brad, who owns a travel company, just like me. Brad and I made a point of talking business between tunes, thus rendering the entire event tax-deductable.

Once we ran out of tour business to discuss, we ended up doing some disappointing math. Saint Patrick’s Day fell on a Wednesday this year. We talked about how great it would be when Saint Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in two years. Then, we suddenly realized that due to Leap Year, Saint Patrick’s Day will not fall on a Friday until 2017.

That is too long to wait.

But don’t panic. I have a solution.

All we need to do is move Leap Day in 2012 to March. I mean, let’s face it: Does anything really ever happen on February 29? I personally cannot recall any memorable February 29ths in my lifetime.

If we keep February at 28 days in 2012, and add the 366th day of the year in March instead, we can still have Saint Patrick’s Day on a Friday. But wait! There’s more! We will also get an extra day in March, which we need, to recover from Saint Patrick’s Day. We can make that weekend a three-day weekend, and make up for lost work on March 32nd.

Due to a bit of a headache today, I have yet to figure out how that plan will affect us in 2013, but we can deal with that when the time comes.

As far as my issues with green beer go, I have also come up with a suitable rebuttal to that scourge upon society. I don’t care what day of the week it falls on; when Cinco de Mayo rolls around this year, I am marching down to my friendly neighborhood Mexican restaurant and ordering a Guinness. Hold the lime, please.

Published on Friday, March 19, 2010

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