I have been to enough Irish pubs in my time to know two things about Ireland. First, there is no such thing as happy hour unless you count the hour when the pub opens. Secondly, the end of the night is always going to end up with you eating some kind of chips to soak up the Guinness fermenting inside of you.
I went to Ireland twice. Thankfully, both visits were during a time when digital cameras were not prevalent and disposable cameras were the way to go. There weren't selfies or photobombs, just the plastic click and the grating wind of the drugstore special. Which, if you were lucky enough and had a few extra bucks, you could get with a flash, so another third of your pictures might come out.
My adventures on The Emerald Isle were more mysterious than the Lost island and yes, there were smoke monsters there too. In typical tourist fashion, I lost my best friend in Dublin the very first night and somehow staggered to my hostel. I didn't sleep, though, as I shared the room with five German guys who probably were talking about their future plans or taking my money. Either way, it sounded the same to me.
We never made it to the Guinness brewery, though our rental car smelled like one for days. Ordering water is just not an option over there, and a sure sign that you're American is asking for ketchup. I climbed Croagh Patrick, the third highest mountain in County Mayo, despite my feeble American "conditioning" and was passed by a 90-year-old man with a shillelagh who told me to "Pick it up or get the f*ck off the mountain."
I stayed in a bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere in a bed surrounded by pictures of Jesus and crucifixion crosses while our traveling companion in the next room woke the entire house because of his night terrors. Because of that, the owner thought we were sent by the devil and she denied me my Irish breakfast. Keep in mind that it's either that or Twigs and Berries cereal. There is no middle ground.
We rode in a tiny European car like a merry band of circus clowns on roads that were barely big enough for one car, let alone two. And roundabouts, they are plentiful. Ever hear the term going in circles? It was invented in Ireland.
I have visited Blarney Castle and have tipped a shifty Irishman for spotting me while I hung upside down to kiss the stone. Luckily for me, he was there to tell me to "mind my nut," which is something I had to do a lot of over there. Guys in pubs would exclaim that I was the tallest man they had ever seen and would buy me pints. I felt like the prettiest girl in the bar. I was dubbed "The Two Meter Man" by a guy named Paddy who I never saw go to the bathroom. We were there for six hours.
I've paid for two nights at a B&B in Cork, but never actually slept in the room where my luggage was. They don't call them places that you dance clubs, they are called discos and asking someone for a ride has a whole other meaning, FYI. My friend "slept" on the stairs of a church under a sign that said "The damned will be saved." I also went on the Bushmills Distillery tour. That is all I remember about that.
I've seen the majesty of the Cliffs of Moher and dangled my legs over the side. I am guessing that anyone stupid enough to go over deserves it and anyone who doesn't must have kissed the Blarney Stone beforehand.
While there was no pot of gold, there were many containers of liquid gold consumed and even run-ins with the Garda while I tossed traffic pylons around Trinity College. Harp and Guinness are good for you, but can also have some influence on your behavior.
You truly haven't seen green until you have been to Ireland. Not even the Chicago River comes close, even on the day that they dye it greener than it usually is.
Clearly, a lot has changed since then. A lot. I had hair back then and lots of it. Every St. Patrick's Day makes me think about those days in Ireland and my time with my Irish friends in Chicago.
10 Ways St. Patrick's Day is Different With Kids
1. Before, I thought leprechauns were chasing me. Now I am the one chasing little leprechauns.
2. Before, I was bar hopping in Chicago without a coat. Now, I lie to my kids and tell them if they don't wear a hat, they will automatically get sick.
3. Before, I was drinking until the wee hours of the morning. Now, I have to get up in the middle of the night to go wee.
4. Before, I started the night going out at 11. Now, I am ready to get in bed at 11.
5. Before, I was drunkenly dancing a jig. Now, I am hosting pajama dance parties in my living room.
6. Before, I was interested in causing mischief. Now, I am trying to keep it from happening.
7. Before, I used to start drinking at 10 a.m. and go until 4 a.m. the next day. Now, I drink three beers, pop in my mouth guard and snore all night.
8. Before, I spent lots of time throwing back pints. Now, I am spending time with pint-sized children.
9. Before, I sang a rousing rendition of "Whiskey In The Jar." Now, I am singing "Let It Go."
10. Before, my favorite sounds were Slainte! and Black 47. Now, I look forward to, "Daddy can you read to me?" and, "I love you, Daddy," when I tuck them in for the night