The Rock: A St. Patrick's Day Story from my Misguided Youth
[[Click for bigger image - it's a St. Paddy's Day greeting from my husband]The last time I went to the city (New York City, of course) on St. Patrick's Day was in 1980, with a few of my closest high school friends. We were in the home stretch of our high school careers; June would bring graduation, separation and higher education. We decided to make the most of our final months as high school juvenile delinquents and wreak as much havoc as possible.
So on March 17, 1980, we found ourselves on a westbound train at 7:30 in the morning instead of on a bus on our way to school. There was no other place to be on St. Patrick's Day besides New York City.
I don't think we saw much of the parade. Mostly we walked around the streets acting like idiots until lunch time, when we parked ourselves inside the Steak & Brew, a restaurant that gave out free beer with meals. Those of us who were only 17 showed fake ID, which the waitress barely glaned at. We stayed for a couple of hours, drinking and laughing, until the waitress said if we weren't going to order more food, we should leave. It had been a couple of hours.
We decided to walk over to Central Park. Drunk, perhaps a bit stoned, and surrounded by a massive crowd of other drunks and perhaps stoned people, we made our way through the throngs of Irish-for-the-Day revelers. We sang Danny Boy and some other Irish songs that everyone but me - the lone non-Irish person - could sing. We worked the crowd, not caring what anyone thought of us. We introduced ourselves to strangers, shared cigarettes with a homeless man and drank green beer with a bunch of firemen. Kevin shook hands with anyone and everyone, using his signature greeting of "have a nice life!" Man, were such geeks. Such idiots. But we had so much fun.
We closed out the afternoon pretending to scale rocks in Central Park. When we tired of that, we stretched out on one huge boulder, the five of us spread out, staring up at the gathering clouds. And we talked. We talked for what felt like hours about hobbits and pinball machines, about Todd Rundgren and the Grateful Dead, about the Yankees and the Islanders, and all the other all the things that bound us together through four years of high school, things that seem insignificant now, but were so important to us then.
I was the only girl among the five of us. It never felt odd to me, though I know it looked odd to other people. Those four guys were the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I had the greatest times of my life as part of that group of geeky kids. We weren't the jocks, we weren't the burnouts, we weren't the honor students or drama crowd. We were just us, the kids with no single identity, the kids who appeared to be friends with everyone, but were really only friends with themselves.
We talked about life, too, laying on that rock in the park as the sun started to disappear and the day turned cold. We guessed what our futures would be like. We wondered how long our friendship would hold. We made plans, laughed at our own far-fetched dreams of fame and fortune and stayed on that rock until our fingers and ears went numb from the cold. It was as if we knew that we were experiencing one of our last great days together. We hung onto it for as long as we could, and then we made an impossible promise to each other. We promised that no matter where life took us, no matter how far we roamed, we would come back to that very rock on St. Patrick's Day in the year 2000. Twenty years. We'd share our stories, show off pictures of our families, give each other autographed books and albums since we were all destined to be famous authors or musicians. We spat on our palms and gave each other wet high fives to solidify our vow. And then we headed for home.
I haven't seen them in quite a few years. I think it was 1999 when an old high school friend had a bunch of us over to reminisce. Only three of the five of us showed up, and it just wasn't the same without the other two. It wasn't right. And we forgot about our promise - not one of us mentioned it.
St. Patrick's Day, 2000 came and went. I didn't go to the rock, but I swear, I did think of my four friends that day. I wondered if any of them remembered our promise to meet there. I wonder if they still think about hobbits and pinball machines, if they still think of all those parties at my house when they watch Islander games.
Well, Happy St. Patrick's Day to Kevin, Chris, Tim and Jim. Hope you guys are having a nice life. I am.