First a shuffle, then a story.
Let's shuffle my favorite man from Belfast: Van Morrison.
- Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)
- Have I Told You Lately?
- Tupelo Honey
- And It Stoned Me
- Give Me A Kiss (Just One Sweet Kiss)
- Astral Weeks
- Irish Heartbeat
- Into The Mystic
- Someone Like You
*sigh* I heart Van.
Now for the story because I promised Poppy
that I'd tell it some day and the appropriate day for this story is always St. Patrick's Day.
By the way smart folks make Poppy a daily reading stop. You're one of the smart folks, aren't you? You should be!
The reason I promised I'd tell this story for Poppy is because it takes place in and around St. Louis, where Poppy happens to live. It is the first and only time I ever visited the Gateway to the West and it left a lasting impression on me. And I left a lasting impression too, I'm afraid.
Back in 1983 I was in Arkansas attending a conversative Christian university located in a town about fifty miles northeast of Little Rock (that's another long story) and when spring break rolled around I didn't head to the beach like many spring breakers do. I headed for St. Louis with a friend of mine who lived on the same floor of my dorm. She actually was from a small town in Illinois - Columbia - just over the river from St. Louis.
Being as we were straightjacketed during the school year, Gloria and I used the week away from Arkansas to break bad and St. Patrick's Day was going to be our high point.
The evening started innocently enough. Joined by a friend of Gloria's, her name completely lost on me now, we drove into St. Louis where we had a traditional St. Patrick's Day dinner of Mexican food. It seemed Irish to us...the beer was green and so was the popcorn given to us to snack on while our pile of burritos and nachos and enchiladas were being prepared. Oh yes - nothing cools the fire of chili peppers better than a nice, cold, green beer.
After we left the restaurant things began to blur. I could never really tell when we were in Missouri or Illinois and while I knew the names St. Louis, Columbia and Belleville, I wasn't always sure where they were in relation to each other. The night just became a cycle of drive to a bar, drink, drive to a bar, drink, drive to a bar - lather, rinse, repeat.
At one point we went to a restaurant called The Monastery. What was interesting to us besides the green beer they were shelling out were the young waiters, all dressed as monks. We were pretty full of ourselves by then and flirtation was turned up to eleven. We eventually left the restaurant with the promise to come back at midnight when the restaurant would be closed so the monks could join us.
And yes, these monks weren't wearing anything under their robes. When challenged, they proved it.
More bars, more drinking...well the friend of Gloria's wasn't really drinking as she was driving. No worries - Gloria and I drank her share. Horrible things like sloe gin fizzes and amaretto sours and vodka collinses and beer. Always the green, green beer. We balanced out the alcohol with large amounts of green popcorn that was available in every bar we entered. Midnight rolled around and Gloria and I begged her friend to drive us back to The Monastery. She wasn't crazy for the idea and was even less crazy for it when we arrived and found only two guys waiting for us, neither one paying her an iota of attention. Finally fed up she insisted that we leave as she wanted to go home - she was driving so she was in control. The former monks wanted us to go out to some bar called The Elbow Room and said they'd drive us back to Columbia. Since monk/waiters tend to look a lot more hot when you're drunk and since decision making becomes a lot more clouded when you're drunk, the guys won out.
I don't remember much about The Elbow Room except it was a sort of cheesy lounge with a really horrible piano player who played Color My World
and made it sound even more like a dirge than it already is. It's at this point where my memory fails me until we were back in the car. Oh the car. That poor, poor car.
The car in question was some sort of Chevy convertable from the 60s. Red with white leather interior. It belonged to the brother of the driver - the monk-waiter that belonged to Gloria. I found myself in the backseat with my monk. I have no idea where the last bar we were in was located but I can remember a lot of winding back roads that seemed to go on forever. And the more the road wound, the more nauseated I got. Suddenly all that Mexican food and green popcorn and candy ass cocktails and those gallons of green beer began their grand rebellion.
Unable to look at the winding road any longer I put my head down - in the lap of my monk. He must have thought it a grand idea because he began petting and stroking my hair. He could have been cutting my hair off with a butter knife for all I cared - all I could concentrate on was keeping the contents of my stomach in my stomach.
It all seemed to happen at once. At just about the same time that I began to feel suffocated and overheated I noticed that my monk was shifting under my head and in about the vicinity of my ear I felt one of the most enormous erections I've ever had the fortune to come across. As it turns out it would be his misfortune because I needed to get my head up and out of a window. Now.
It became a scene of me struggling to sit up, him holding my head down while murmuring "No...stay...stay right there..." and panic setting in. Gloria was in the front seat chatting up the driving monk, I was beginning to panic and my monk thought he was on a fast track to a sex act in a moving vehicle.
You know I told him to let me up. I warned him. I told him I was sick. He didn't listen. And there's a punishment when you don't listen.
His punishment was a lapful of vomit. It seemed like every single thing I'd consumed in the last eight hours was coming up all at once. It seemed like every single thing I'd consumed in the last eight years was coming up all at once. I kept throwing up, the horny monk began screaming "Pull over! Pull over! She's puking!" and I could just feel Gloria thinking "I'm going to kill her!".
The car was pulled over, all of us scrambled out like we were on fire, a flashlight was produced and we surveyed the damage. You know when it's dark you can only imagine the damage in a situation like that. Unfortunately when you shine some light on the situation it's often much, much worse.
I have never seen anything before or since quite like it. Oh there was vomit, alright. It was like a vomit massacre. And it was green. Jesus, Mary and holy St. Joseph, it was the greenest green I've ever seen. Beyond lime green. Beyond grass green. The rolling grassy knolls of Ireland don't sport a green quite this intense.
I thought Gloria was going to kill me and throw by body into the woods. There we were, in the middle of nowhere with two strange guys in a borrowed car and I have hosed down the entire pristine white leather backseat with puke, not to metion the sleeve of my coat and the lap of my now less than amorous monk. Gloria and I were fairly sure we were going to be left standing on the side of the road in the middle of the night.
Fortunately we had monks with manners. Towels were produced from the trunk, vomit wiped up, laps and sleeves tidied as best as possible and we continued on our way.
The goodbyes were short and plans discussed earlier in the evening to meet the next night were magically forgotten. Gloria and I were just happy to arrive home without having to hike fifteen miles first.
There's no real end to this story except to say that forevermore the incident was referred to as the Hurling o' the Green. And in the twenty-three years that have passed I have yet to ever drink again on St. Patrick's Day.
Enjoy your St. Patrick's Day and your weekend. If you're inclined to, have a pint for me. Just don't blame me if it doesn't stay down.