When I returned to Kalamazoo after a year in Ireland back in 1997, I was an annoying prick. I had that fourth-semester worldliness that so many college students who study abroad return with; I put an Irish flag up in my bedroom and listened to Irish traditional music just to let everyone know that I was different now. I had seen the world. I had seen the Egon Schieles at the Leopold Museum in Vienna; I had ordered a bottle of pinot grigio at a trattoria in the Trastevere; I had painstakingly walked every inch of Leopold Bloom's path from Irishtown to Eccles Street. I was nineteen years old and thought I was hot fucking shit.

Sometimes I so want to punch nineteen-year-old me.

You can bet I looked forward to March 17 in those days as an opportunity to flaunt my experience with all things Irish. St. Patrick's Day in Dublin had been mildly disappointing; there was a parade with a few dozen neo-pagan creative anachronists dressed like Celtic warriors and maidens skipping across College Green before St. Patrick himself ended the parade on stilts waving a giant crucifix at them. At night, there were anti-climactic fireworks over the Liffey. There were no more drunks on the streets than usual. The Irish I talked to were confused by the whole drinking-green-beer-starting-at-7:00 a.m. phenomenon we have here in the states; to them it sounded like smoking crack on Martin Luther King's birthday.

In 1998, Wood and I were living on separate sides of a duplex in a student neighborhood with four other roommates, and we all decided to throw a St. Patrick's Day party. I even designed a flier that showcased my superb collage skills, full of cheesy Irish sayings and ephemera:

That flier incorporated my first and all-time favorite street urchin photo that I had ripped out of my high school history textbook. At the time of the party I was big into the quasi-hippie "homebrew" scene, but I was way more serious about making awesome labels for my bottles than I was about the beer itself. For St. Patrick's Day I brewed up a special batch of my signature "Licensed to Ale" IPA, with added green food coloring. Most people were smart enough to stick to the keg of Guinness. My roommate's younger brother drank like four bottles of my "Licensed to Ale" and we found him passed out naked next to the toilet a few hours later.

The best thing about that party was the leprechauns. There was an elderly dwarf who worked in the bulk foods department at Meijer's who I had contemplated offering $50 to show up dressed in the tiny green waistcoat I bought at the Salvation Army, but I thought he might have found that insulting. I had to settle for my two shortest friends. They did me proud. My friend Hether even performed a series of jigs for the drunken frat boys that Wood's roommates invited. I wore a checkered sportcoat, green pants, and the orange-haired "paddy hat" that I'd purchased at a souvenir shop on Nassau Street. In this get-up I was cornered by a frat boy who said to me in a low voice, "I am trying really hard to control myself right now just to not kick your ass for wearing that." While I respected his self control, I was mildly disappointed because I had my trusty wooden shillelaigh in hand. Although it would have resulted in an even more profound ass whooping, the image of me knocking some frat guy over the head with a souvenir shillelaigh from Kate's Cottage in Killarney, County Kerry would have lasted much longer than any bruises or broken bones. I would have cherished such a moment on my deathbed. What's a St. Patrick's Day party without at least one donneybrook?

Pictures from that party did prove useful when making the flier for the next year's St. Patrick's Day party, held in a big shitty house where I lived with five of the best guys in the world, including one leprechaun:
I'm pretty sure I almost got beat up by some frat boys at that party too. I would have wanted to beat me up if I were a frat boy. I dimly recall playing banjo in a trio with my Dutch-Korean friend on violin and some frat boy playing guitar who kept getting mad at us for fucking up "Whiskey in the Jar" because we were so deeply embarrassed. I had just received my admission letter to the university of Michigan Law School that day so I don't remember much that happened after the sixth celebratory Guinness. The next year in Ann Arbor I woke to a hot blonde coed puking all over my front yard at 8:30 in the morning. A few hours later I was drinking out of a jar in Dominic's across from the Law Quad and I saw that same blonde coed with a group of frat boys who were all wasted. I hadn't had a haircut in a long time. The blonde pointed at me and then the whole table erupted into a chant:"MULLET! MULLET! MULLET! MULLET!"I rushed out of the place in shame, giving them the kind of looks that could have gotten my ass kicked. St. Patrick's Day never lived up to my expectations until I just finally accepted that the holiday belongs to frat boys and secretaries who like to buy little plush shamrocks and leprechauns to pose carefully on the edge of their cubicle walls. Now I am never disappointed.