by Tim Kelly
Dammit! Who turned on the friggin lights? What the hell?
Relax, guy, everything’s cool.
Cool? It’s the middle of the damn night and there’s a glowing guy in a dress standing at the foot of the bed and…
It’s a tunic.
You called it a dress. It’s a tunic. Spun from flax. Nice, right?
Flax. Flax? Ok, wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
Chill. This is not a dream and you’re very much awake. If you’d just calm down for a minute everything will be made known.
Made known? What’s known is I should never have Mexican food so close to bedtime.
Dude, you’re not making this easy. Let’s try this: Ask me who I am.
Wait, I know this. Jacob Marley? No, Clarence, right?
I knew that was a mistake the minute I said it. Ok, ready? I am the Ghost of St. Patrick’s Day Past. Now your turn.
What, you mean like “long past?” Then you say, “Your past?”
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
And to think, I even said no to tequila shots. Listen, whatever you are, I’d really like to get some sleep, so if you’d kindly dissolve and return to my subconscious, or wherever the hell you came from, I’d be much…
Oh, boy. You want to play it like that? Fine. Question: When was the last time you marched in New York’s Paddy’s Day parade?
Um, let’s see…
That was rhetorical. The answer is 2011, the parade’s 250th. And ever since, when that day arrives you mope around, oh woe is me, feeling sorry for yourself since you no longer march in the city. Waah, whaa, whaa!
Listen, why don’t you go flax…
Shut up and get up. You might want to put a robe over that “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt. Good. Now, I’m going to place my hand on your shoulder.
Shouldn’t you buy me a drink first?
This is not that kind of experience, wise guy. Ready? Promise you won’t puke on me?
Why would I… Good lord! What the hell? Where are we? Wait, is this…?
Hey, you made it sans upchucking! This is Wednesday, March 17, 1982, and that’s you banging away on an old manual typewriter.
At the old Traveler-Watchman newspaper in Southold! Oh, wow, look how young…
And scruffy. Jeeze Louise! Your wife let you out of the house looking like a pan-handler? Just saying. Anyway, there you are, without a car, meanwhile your very pregnant wife was home, an hour away.
Listen, is it a crime to accept a young reporter’s offer to pick me up?
“Offered.” Yeah right. Now pay attention. Any second now. Ah, there goes your phone. Gee, who could it be?
The Missus, telling me she thinks her water broke! And she wasn’t due for another three weeks!
And there you go, flying around the office like a fox-chased chicken. Until an ad salesman kindly offers you a ride to the hospital, half an hour away. And there’s your wife, being helped out of her mother’s new car.
Yeah, she only recently picked it up from the dealer, so she covered the passenger seat in a black garbage bag.
Ah, there’s the X-ray, showing your unborn child sitting bolt upright in a breech position, meaning…
A C-section. So much for all those flippin’ Lamaze classes.
Eventually down to the OR she went and you went for a cheeseburger. Now there she is, surgery over, being wheeled down the hall. Oh, and here’s my favorite part. Remember what you said? Listen.
“Honey, we have a son! He’s beautiful. He looks just like me!”
Really? THAT’s how you reacted? Pathetic.
Look. I didn’t mean those two descriptions were necessarily linked. It was a spur of the moment…
And so, Ryan Patrick Kelly entered the world, with all 10 toes and 10 fingers and with a full head of red hair on St. Patrick’s Day. The birth of your first child, a momentous Paddy’s Day indeed. One you look back on fondly, right?
Uh, I suppose.
You suppose? Good grief, man, what’s wrong with you? Ok, next stop, Manhattan!
Aaaaaaaaah! Oh, for the love of God! Couldn’t we have just beamed there, like in Star Trek? Now my stomach…
Suck it up, Mary Alice. Tell me, where are we?
Hey! We’re climbing out of the charter bus on 3rd Ave., just after finishing the parade. St. Patrick’s Day, 2003.
That’s your son there, isn’t it? He was the band’s bass drummer, on his 21st birthday. He have a good time, playing with his dad and all?
He seemed to. And I got to see him have his very first drink.
You mean first legal drink.
Let me keep this one fantasy, will ya?
Sure. Along those lines, I notice the bus is parked right between two very busy Irish bars.
Hey, I wasn’t the driver or navigator, but that was a perfect spot. As you noted, the bars were so packed you couldn’t even shoehorn a child into either. Uh, not that you’d ever want to, of course. That afternoon we played out on sidewalk, or rested in the bus, which conveniently had a bathroom, and talked with many amiable passers-by, including one Irish kid with an oatmeal-thick brogue, who I think was thanking us for keeping tradition alive, but it was hard to tell.
And who’s that approaching?
Ah, little brother Dennis, a San Francisco attorney in New York for work! Great timing. I gave him my band ball cap.
You’re the very soul of generosity. Now, can you tell me why that cop is talking to you?
Not to clap me in irons. The police often turn a blind eye to drinking outside that day, but within limits. As it was later in the afternoon, he very politely asked us to move along. I said no problem, since we we’re just about to head out for the long trip east.
A good day?
The best! Marching is great, but I really enjoyed the post-parade socializing.
Not only with your friends and complete strangers, but with your son and brother. You’re a classic Mick schmoozer, but you don’t really drink.
So what? That just means I can get out of bed the next morning and remember the day before.
Speaking of long trips…
No, no. Do you really need to…? Son of a …! George Bailey wasn’t subjected to this.
Now, now. Let’s lose the attitude. Otherwise I can have the Ghost of St. Patrick’s Day Yet to Come here in a heartbeat.
That wouldn’t necessarily be … Uh, would it?
You want to risk it?
Smart man. Tell me, where and when are we now?
This is Fifth Avenue across from the Central Park Zoo, I think.
And there you are with your son and daughter-in-law, on the sidewalk, St. Patrick’s Day 2012. An odd place for you be on that date, isn’t it?
I suppose, but at that time my son and DIL worked in Manhattan and lived in Brooklyn. He was a bit down because he was turning 30 that day. I’d called him earlier and said, look, we’ve marched in the parade, but we never really got to see it. Why don’t we do that? He liked the idea. I took the bus in and met them in midtown.
It must have been strange to see the parade from that vantage point.
A bit, but it was fun, except…
It’s just that every time a pipe band, or any band, approached, they’d stop playing just as they reach us.
It was a Saturday and we were just feet away from a synagogue. I’m guessing the bands were asked to respect the Sabbath and keep quiet.
Did that ruin the experience?
Hell no! I mean, no, it didn’t. Especially since post-parade, Ryan’s boss took us on a pub crawl through parts of Brooklyn I’d never heard of. Before you ask, we made five stops.
I assume you downed nothing but sarsaparilla at each?
Believe it or not, no. Was five for five. All I can recall is having a chocolate something-or-other at one place and eating rosemary French fries and boiled peanuts at a picnic table behind another. Boiled peanuts! Just awful. I spent the night at their place and returned home the next morning.
Let’s recap: One Paddy’s Day your son joined the family. On another you did father and son in the granddaddy of all March 17 parades and met up with your brother to boot. On yet another, you helped your son shake off the 30-sumptin’ blues while thoroughly enjoying yourself. That about it?
Well, when you put it that way…
There is no other way, dumbass. You’ve got memories many, many only wished they had and we’re not yet talking on your deathbed, are we?
I see your point.
Do you? Do you really?
Ok, Ok, I’ve got great things to look back on and Paddy’s Day memories yet to make. Happy now?
I am, actually. My work here is done. And speaking of deathbeds … Ready?
No, wait! Oh, crap!
Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for more than 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.