I'm not Irish but I was adopted into everything Gaelic on a technicality. My best friend from college, Tracy Gilbert, no that doesn't sound Irish at all, and I used to frequently attend many a night at Vaughn's Pub in Chicago. I was easily the tallest guy in there and the Irish guys off the boat would marvel at my gargantuan stature and often buy a Guinness for the "Two Meter Man". We went to Gaelic Park for Irish Fest, went to Irish Pubs, and fended off poor Irish dancers at the end of the night at Laskos. After visiting Ireland twice with Trey, I got to see first hand what the Emerald Isle was all about and not just through the eyes of Patrick, who I thought literally lived at the end of the bar.
The two times I went to Ireland I had many magical adventures and not the kind that you read about on the back of a Lucky Charms box. I went first when I graduated from college in 1996 and again in 2000. As I look back on the pictures of both trips I remember how 1) digital cameras didn't exist 2)How few pictures there were the second time and probably for good reason. Both times I managed to climb Croagh Patrick, kissed the Blarney Stone while a shady Irish man spotted me ensuring I would "mind my nut", and toured the Aran Islands on a bike. Well, that was too much work so we ended up in a pub of all places and parked our bikes outside but hey, we gave it 10 minutes!
While there was no pot of gold, there were many pints consumed and even run ins with the Garda. Guiness is good for you but can also have some influence. Clearly,a lot has changed since then. A LOT. I had hair back then and lots of it. And it made me think back to the times I had in Chicago with the Irish and how I used to celebrate St. Patrick's Day as compared to now. I will fondly remember drinking green beer while they dyed the Chicago River an even brighter green than it usually is.
So here's my list of St. Patrick's Day comparisons between BEFORE and NOW. Cue the pipers!
1) Before, I thought Leprechauns were chasing me. Now I am the one chasing little leprechauns.
2) Before I was trying to figure out ways to snare an Irish lass. Now, I am trying to figure out ways to "capture" an imaginary character for my kids.
3) Before I was drinking until the wee hours of the morning. Now I am getting up in the middle of the night to go wee.
4) Before I marched in the St. Patty's Day parade in Chicago. Now I march around the living room playing Hot Hot Hot!
5) Before, I used to go Irish bar hopping with no coat in the Windy City. Now, if my kids aren't completely covered I tell them they are going to get sick.
6) Before I used to go to Gaelic Park. Now we just go to the park.
7) Before, I used to start drinking at 10 am and go until 4 am the next day. Now, I can hardly get through the day without an afternoon nap.
8) Before, we were Patty training. Now, we are Potty training.
9) Before I was spending lots of time with pint sized things. Now I am spending time with pint sized children.
10) Before I was happy if I passed out using a pizza box as a pillow. Now, I am glad that I survived all that stuff to be where I am today.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!