Jay Meehan: St. Paddy’s in Park City brings back memories of old shenanigans
“I am a drinker with a writing problem”
~ Brendan Behan
The memories know the calendar better than I. And with St. Paddy’s Day on the horizon, reminders of shenanigans past have been flooding the cognitive centers this week more often than not.
As when Sammy and I stumbled out of the old St. Mary’s Catholic church up on Park Avenue onto the “Luge” track that was King Road that late winter’s evening back in the day. Until we lost purchase, as they say, and went down in a heap, we were arm-in-arm lost in song.
The womenfolk attending us had sent out word that we were off to other mischief when it became evident that Sammy had turned up missing and I was to lead the rescue party. It was relatively early in Father Pat Carly’s pre-Elk’s Lodge run of St. Paddy’s Day revelries, and we knew Sammy couldn’t have made it too far – not in his condition.
In fact, I had quickly located him in soft slumber in one of the rear pews of the darkened parish a few steps from the hall where the shindig proper showed little sign of abating. With the slew of Irish tenors reaching critical mass and our brown bag of smuggled-in-from-the-West-Coast Tullamore Dew only vapors, we set off with further misconduct in our crosshairs.
But back to King Road where Sammy and I attempted to locate the now-also-missing coefficient of friction usually associated with boot soles and asphalt. Seemingly, when it came to our collective angle-of-repose, we had overdrawn our account.
Regaining an upright position had proven nigh on to impossible as we continued sliding and spinning our way down the street to the cheers of those who, no doubt due to the stubbornness of finely-tuned hairs in their middle ears, had yet to assume the horizontal.
Inebriation hadn’t helped, of course, only made our predicament more plausible and more enjoyable. My journey ended with the help of an uphill-bound matron who, for whatever reason, kept looking at me and shaking her head. I never did figure out what that was all about, but who cared, I was upright.
Sammy followed suit and before long we were engaged in a new jug with a new song but in similar antics. Main Street’s negotiability had proven a friendlier slope to the intoxicated. Strength in numbers, as it were.
It seldom proved difficult for Sammy and I to transition from whatever occupied us at a particular moment, even when sober, into a bout of “Sherlock Holmes trivia,” which, for us anyway, always proved to be a decibel-rich pursuit.
Considering ourselves to be advanced-level “Sherlockians,” we would usually announce the start of another round of Holmes-driven minutiae by shouting “If you’re so fecking (Irish street slang) smart” and follow that with the most obscure reference we could come up with in the moment.
Something akin to: “In what story did Watson return home to discover Holmes methodically shooting bullets into an opposite wall from where he sat in an armchair in their digs at 221 B Baker Street, what was the significance of the shot grouping, and what was the caliber and model of the firearm in question? The other would always return serve in similar fashion.
On such an auspicious occasion as St. Paddy’s Day, we might even argue about the percentage of Sherlock’s Irish ethnicity. I always asserted, of course, that someone possessing his level of brilliance had to be at least partly Irish, whether or not that bloody Scot Arthur Canon Doyle would admit it in print.
And so it would go. Jugs would be passed and songs would be sung and topics of conversation would range from the benign to the bellicose — rosy cheeks and the occasional shillelagh most often keeping order, such as it was.
You got to love it when you’re looking back and talking trash in a saloon on historic Main Street, even when it’s one of the newer models. After a couple, you can close your eyes and picture yourself and your mates in a grittier time of the old mining camp.
Now those Irish, left out west following their part in the construction of the Union Pacific line, knew how to party.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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It’s fitting in this fact-free world, writes columnist Tom Clyde, for Wasatch County officials to host a “grand opening” for a road that isn’t open yet.