I’ll never forget that particular St. Patrick’s Day afternoon in New York years ago when I saw inebriated teenage boys pissing on the north wall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Little did they know – those miscreant lads – that they were relieving themselves on the one-way mirrored window wall of the Temple of Dendur Wing, and that their particular offering to the Egyptian gods was being witnessed by many, no-doubt, startled art lovers.
Now, still, years later, when I see a jubilant crowd of football fans turn over a car or drunkenly attack a city bus to celebrate a sports victory, I think of those New York City boys, and wonder what sort of men they have grown to be. Could some of them be sitting behind desks in the White House at this very moment?
In any event, there are times when it feels like our world is run by drunken boys, and whereas I am a complete endorser of celebration and the strong martini every now and then, plus ample use of a good champagne on opening nights, I am compelled to ask some questions. I am aware there may be no answers to these questions, but I must ask them anyway. I am also aware I just wrote a February column about forgiveness being as important as love, and in the following words I may sound unforgiving. So right up front, pardon me my judgmental tone. But these things have been bugging me for a long time:
1. Why does St. Patrick’s Day turn urban areas into battle zones?
When I was an East Coaster, I tried to stay off the New York streets on the day of the “wearin’ o’ the green,” but more often than not, I had to cross Fifth Avenue to get to the East Side auditions that were my bread and butter, so not only could I not stay indoors and nurse my prudish cup o’ tea, but I had to come in physical contact with too many people dressed in green, drinking from multiple beer bottles until their faces turned the same shade as their shiny hats.
By the way, did you know that one of the reasons green became a popular St. Paddy’s color was because it was believed that if you wore green, you’d disappear into the Irish countryside and the leprechauns would not be able to find and pinch you? If being unobtrusive is the goal, our present-day holiday revelers certainly squash that notion. When I am in a St. Patrick’s Day crowd anywhere, I feel like I am back in the mythic days of the god Bacchus and his screaming pack of wine drinkers who used to roam from town to village tearing people apart. I do not like it. And I wonder why other people do, too.
Which brings me back to the subject of the Super Bowl:
2.) Why do crowds turn over busses and cars when their team wins?
Look, I love winning. Who doesn’t? The whole point of winning is to not lose, right? And not losing means you get to gloat over the people you beat, generally rubbing their faces in the sheer fact that, for that moment at least, you are a higher quality of human than they are. Stronger, faster, more beautiful, whatever. When it comes to football, the guys get to celebrate the harsh coming-together of helmets, so that brains scramble and old age is not guaranteed. What better to celebrate? But, then why prove how inferior you are by going out and honoring your heroes with the wanton destruction of others’ property? Last month, when Philadelphia suffered the winning of the Super Bowl (I use the word “suffered” knowingly), surges of out-of-control people turned over an entire municipal bus and one of the guys turned around to the camera and beat his beefy hands on his skinny chest, making an animal call o’ the wild. I didn’t hear it because the crowds were so loud, but I saw his mouth open wide and I imagined what came out of it: the sounds of a victorious gorilla who’d won leadership of his pack over some other poor shmendrick who was no doubt lying in a pile somewhere.
Then I saw anther crowd turn over a car. Jumping on top of it, they pounded the poor thing into a state of permanent dent-hood. Why? How does being happy at winning a ball game turn into an adrenaline junkie’s nightmare? They smashed windows. They decimated Macy’s front doors. Why?
Why, when we are happiest, do we want to escape the pure quiet joy of that happiness and rush into a frenzy? Why do we want to piss on beauty and upset the busses?
3. And why, oh why, do we want to hurt Macy’s?
I just had to ask.