A true story about St. Patrick’s Day, and other lies. To set the stage, I was a middle schooler in Alaska when it happened, long ago when I still thought I was cool and had hair. Dad was stationed at Fort Richardson and we spent three glorious years up there back in the mid 1970s, running amok in the midnight sun. I’ve never been so cold or been eaten by so many mosquitos in my life as I was back then. Or caught more fish.
I startled a bear, once, and also got surrounded by wolves, maybe, during a camping trip almost straight out of the movie Stand By Me. We climbed into the rafters of a nearby pavilion while the wolves ran around outside. Never saw them, but we heard them and later we got attacked by leeches while swimming in a pond. Alaska was great.
All that said, I can’t remember why me and some other 12-13-year-olds were walking down a street in Anchorage, and, for that matter, I can’t really remember if it actually happened in Anchorage. It might’ve been Fairbanks, since I once went up there for a basketball tournament and fell in love with an Eskimo girl, but never mind.
It was Alaska and in March, and right around St. Patrick’s Day, and a group of us hotshot teens were on a sidewalk headed somewhere early one afternoon when we passed a bar. A man came out and sort of wobbled up the sidewalk, listing to either port or starboard, or both at the same time.
Then he tried to grab my coat and started hollering “It’s a leprechaun, it’s a leprechaun!”
Naturally, I escaped, or I wouldn’t be here to write this - and fortunately it wasn’t one of those life changing events, like reaching puberty or getting hitched or finding out Santa is genuine after all, but only after you thought he wasn’t real for so long. I’d hate to have a leprechaun complex, especially on March 17.
Anyway, as I got older, I regularly celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with many cold beers and probably saw a leprechaun or two myself. When I was in the Army and stationed at Fort Stewart some friends and I regularly made quite a nuisance out of ourselves on River Street in Savannah, belly dancing for beads. And once I saw a mannequin sitting at a bar with a whistle tied to its neck, though I forget why.
Before that, when I was in the 5th Battalion, 8th Field Artillery at Fort Bragg, some friends and I came down to celebrate and got lost on the way back to my folk’s house in Hinesville. We got turned around in Richmond Hill, of all places, back when there was only a flashing four-way light at the Highway 17 and 144 intersection. It was like getting lost in Ludowici. You almost can’t do it, even if you try. Unless, of course, you’re pixelated.
I do remember us stopping at what is now Clyde’s or something and trying to figure out where we were. Eventually, we got home, but there was a real danger we could’ve wound up somewhere that eventually turned into Buckhead.
That was after I got propositioned in Savannah by a woman whose husband was so hammered he was clinging to her knees while she hit on me. Her husband looked like Steven King, the novelist. She looked kind of like Elizabeth Warren, the liberal presidential candidate.
All that was in the 1980s when nobody had sense, least of all me. These days, I tend to avoid crowds, mostly because they’re full of people like I used to be. Young and obnoxious. These days they’re running a close second to old obnoxious people, who also will likely be on vivid display later this week down the road.
All told, there will be vast hordes of green wearing party animals wandering about that area General Oglethorpe laid out so many years ago. This is because Savannah has become part of a vast metropolitan area in Georgia known as the Coastal Empire to South Carolinians and the Low Country to people from up North, not that it matters.
An ancestor from Anderson, South Carolina, would tell you in her later years that it’s all going down because the end is coming. A pious and somewhat confused lady, she blamed Judgement Day for much she didn’t agree with, including all the commercials she saw on TV.
“There are so many commercials on TV because they’ve got to sell everything before the end of the world,” she would say, giving me a look like I better get my act together.
Later, this particular ancestor went on an underwear stealing spree, but I am told that side of the family has often been somewhat unusual and includes an aunt or something up in Royston who used to keep her mother’s ashes in an urn in the glove compartment of her Cadillac.
That has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day, of course, but what do I care.
I’m supposedly Scottish. Hoot mon.