Last Saturday Hoboken had its annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and as always it was a pretty disgusting spectacle. Until 2012 the town had a St. Patrick’s Day parade on the first Saturday in March, a day that was chosen because all the drum bands in the area were available, but since the event brought thousands of youngsters from all over New Jersey to Hoboken with no other intention than getting completely hammered, and the day always ended in violence, the Mayor – Dawn Zimmer of Bridgegate fame – canceled it. In 2013 the parade was canceled again, but to accommodate the local bar owners, who were very upset that the parade was now a thing of the past, and the thirsty millennials, who kept coming to Hoboken anyway to get drunk on the first Saturday in March, something called Lepre-Con was created, in an attempt to localize the heavy drinking and contain the violence. A limited number of bars, all on the south side of town, were open for Lepre-Con business, and participants paid a small fee and got a wristband indicating that they were part of an organized drinking exercise. Of course it didn’t work as planned, and most of the drinking still took place un-organized and outside of Lepre-Con bars.
And so it happened again last Saturday that droves of New Jerseyans, most of them barely of drinking age, descended on Hoboken, starting at about 10 am. The young women, often half-dressed in green, with wide open eyes looking forward to the attention they would be getting and the possibility that they might get laid by day’s end, and the young men totally focused on the tasteless American beers they would consume all day, which would make them completely impotent by nighttime. As the day progressed this crowd got louder and more stupid, and while some people started vomiting and passing out in the bars you could run into herds of others moving from bar to bar on the streets, laughing and yelling at each other and with a look on their face that said: ‘Look at me, I’m unique and special and funny,’ while in reality none of them was unique and special anymore and all had become extremely annoying. I did what I always do, get away to a golf course as far as possible from Hoboken if the weather is good enough to play, and stay at home if it isn’t, but the whole thing reminded me of something that happened at my last job a couple of years ago that made me understand the Irish better.
In the summer I was co-teaching a program for a group of Irish high school kids who were spending six weeks in New York City, partly in the classroom and partly in internships. They were from Dungannon, a small town in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Half of the group was Roman Catholic and the other half Protestant. The program was an initiative of a New York City businessman who did business in Ireland, got to know the Mayor of Dungannon, and wanted to make a contribution to peace in County Tyrone.
On their first day in class I discussed the program with the students. Among other things, I suggested that we would watch the movie ‘The Molly Maguires,’ about the violent struggle between Irish miners and their Welsh supervisors in the Pennsylvania coal mines in the nineteenth century. Most of the kids had not seen the movie, but two of them had, and they told me they didn’t want to see it again.
Since I considered it a great movie I asked them why, and they said: ‘Because it’s just another stupid movie that shows the Irish as people who can only drink and fight.’ It is of the maturity of those two students that I think when I see dumb American drunks acting ‘Irish’ on the first Saturday in March.