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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.

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Comments

I hope this doesn't mean that you, and your friends, didn't stay true to your youthful ideals?? Perhaps its just that twenty years is a long time to make plans!
Happy St Pats.

Happy SPD! Hey, I noticed in that picture the dude from 28 Days Later. Have you seen there's a Dawn of the Dead remake coming out and how do you feel about that? I don't think I ever told you about my recurring living dead type dreams, so there you have it.

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.

But come you back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'tis I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so..

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Michele. The greatest thing about this day is that you don't have to be Irish to enjoy it...because on St. Paddy's Day, EVERYBODY gets to be Irish for a day!

An Irish Blessing

May good luck be your friend
In whatever you do
And may trouble be always
A stranger to you.

I know that it's a whole lot easier to suggest these sorts of things to people than to actually carry them out. That said, perhaps you should try to track those guys down and meet them at that very rock at the appointed hour each year? Take a picture? Then one day when you're all old and gray and toothless, you can all laugh at your awful outfits from 2009.

D

Poignant, Michele.

"Man, were such geeks. Such idiots."

That may be true, but there's nothing in your post that would indicate it ....

Nice one, Michele.

Really nice job, Michele.

Reading this post almost made me cry--this June I will gradute then head off to college in the fall. It's finally starting to sink in that-- AUGHHHHHH, I'll be gone!!

From what I hear, most adults keep in touch with few of their high school friends. I dread the thought of losing contact with some of these people I care about so deeply...well some of them anyway ;)

Give 'em an email or something...