When asked what St. Patrick's day means to me, I had, as always, a ready answer, but not one I expected to come up with when I began writing. I had forgotten about a very memorable Irish celebration. What do I think about on the day everyone is Irish and celebrating Erin go bragh?
Pinching, lots of pinching. I always forgot to wear something green and in school that meant getting pinched. I got pinched a lot.
Since no one is Irish in our family, or at least no one I know about, it wasn't a big holiday. There were no corned beef and cabbage feasts and no green beer or Kool-Aid for the minors in the family. St. Patrick's was something celebrated mainly in school and just another day in the year at home. It wasn't until I moved to New Orleans that St. Patrick's day took on more importance. It was the day I saw the man who stole my car drive it down the street past my Lucky Dog cart on the corner of Bourbon and St. Peter just a few steps away from Pat O'Brien's in the French Quarter.
I had just worked up to that really important corner and was beginning to make some money. It was a bright clear day with a warm sun beating down on the cobblestones and tourists drinking green daiquiris of various flavors from 32 oz cups strolled up and down the streets of the French Quarter wearing their best green fripperies and clothes, some with T-shirts that said they were Irish for the day.
I put bright red dried peppers on a Spanish couple's Lucky dog on top of the spray cheese I bought that morning to entice more trade when I looked up and there was J.D. Bath, his arm hanging out of the window of my car. The car purred as it idled, waiting for the traffic in front to move a few more feet. I couldn't believe my eyes, but there he was. My first impulse was to run across the street and drag him through the window and out of the car, but a pair of cops walked up and asked for two Lucky Dogs with green jalapeños and relish and lots of onions. They laughed about going green and I laughed with them, anxious for them to be gone. They didn't go, but stood and chatted and ate their Lucky Dogs with relish. When I next looked up, J.D. and my car were gone.
After five months of hardship and hard work, adversity and adjustments, the man who made it all possible just drove by in my car. Like the original St. Patrick who was kidnapped from his home in Britain and taken to Ireland by raiders, I had been hijacked and left in New Orleans without my car or money. No doubt J.D. Bath thought I'd call my parents to bail me out. I didn't. I survived alone and lived to return to New Orleans years later, just as St. Patrick returned to Ireland, I as a tourist and St. Patrick as a priest, both having prospered and survived our trials and travails.
Happy St. Patrick's Day.