Will you or won't you? That usually ends up being the central question come St. Patrick's Day. Let's break down both sides as we talk ourselves through the pros and cons of wading through a sea of green-bedecked humanity on the streets of downtown Cleveland on the city's favorite holiday.
If nothing else, going downtown for St. Pat's has that "ritual" feel to it. There's a bit of community pressure, like most things in Cleveland (Why haven't you been to Trentina yet? Isn't Heinen's awesome?), but it's an annual tradition that embodies so much of what we all love about this city's cultural vibe and heritage. The neighborhoods are great, but downtown kinda shines on this holiday.
It feels very much like pressure. IT'S A THING TO DO THAT EVERYONE IS DOING. Except, I don't think most people really enjoy it. But it's easy to get suckered in. You've got a group of friends, the majority of whom think it's a mighty fine idea to pay $10 for a tallboy, fight through a crowd like a running back getting through the line to get the bartender's attention (except ending up stymied like Trent Richardson half the time), aimlessly stand in a place that's vaguely Irish, as if every bar doesn't have Guinness and Jameson, and never find a comfortable place to sit. Not even for one second. Because sitting means you're having a good time, that it's relaxing, that it's time to enjoy the day. No, people stay on their feet and stay moving because not one place is fun. It's all in search of fun, except we never find it, so you leave every joint with a burst of optimism that the next place will be better, and it never is. You get down there and instantly wish you were back home or at your favorite neighborhood joint.
Your favorite neighborhood joint being, unfortunately, just as packed as your average Flannery's all day on St. Pat's. The lure of the Blarney Stone looms in every watering hole on March 17 — vaguely Irish or not. Thing is, though, holidays come with that sense of pressure (read: ritual), and the central nerve of St. Pat's in Cleveland just happens to be downtown. Opting out wholesale is certainly an option, but if you're gonna "do St. Pat's," you might as well "do downtown." It's chaos, sure, but it's one day that comes around once a year. Don't you want an epic story? And why not go to where the parade is?
I'm glad you mentioned the parade. I'm sorry, but ... it's a parade. It's nice for families and kids. For anyone else who doesn't have a relative or an Irish sidepiece on a float somewhere, there's no point. Everyone plans the downtown escapades around the parade, except no one wants to watch it. And certainly not if it's 40 degrees outside. All the parade accomplishes for the casual drinker is crowding the sidewalks. And St. Patrick have mercy on your gastrointestinal system if your crew actually wants to post up for the duration and your belly's full of half-assed corned beef and three shots of Jager. Sure, it's a spectacle, and among the best people watching this side of the Tower City foodcourt, but the payoff in memories doesn't merit the headache. As you said, all of this and more, save the parade, can be accomplished at any bar in any neighborhood. Cleveland does love it some St. Patrick's day — the Tribe home opener and Brown's tailgating are about the only comparisons in terms of sheer scope and blood alcohol content levels — and Euclid is lined with kids off from school and downtown workers ditching their cubicles early, but for anyone to travel into downtown? Pure silliness. Who the hell wants to park and drive on St. Patty's day?
Hey, Jeff Tanchak says it might be like 60 degrees on St. Pat's. Either way, right, it can be a pain in the ass. But if you're the sad suburban soul who thinks it's going to be okay to just coast into town in your Subaru, then this conversation is moot. That's a terrifying proposition. I think part of the allure of the downtown "party," as it were, is to experience downtown. You mention people traveling into downtown, yes, and there'll be plenty of them. I'd argue that, outside of Cavs games and that one time someone's boss gave everyone extra tickets to Lion King at Playhouse Square, lots of these nice folks don't venture downtown too often. Here's a great chance to scoot down on the Red Line and remind yourself of all the cool things taking place downtown these days. It's an opportunity to catch up on the latest developments and changes amid our fine urban core. The parade is one node of what could be a very long and very, dare I say with tongue in cheek, enchanting day. Break from the crowds and take in an hour of nursing stouts at any one of the gazillions of cool new bars around here. Options galore.
You writing for Destination Cleveland now? People come downtown all the time — on a separate tangent, I'm not sure what good the Horseshoe Casino's new ad campaign to get people downtown is going to do; they're already coming — but sure, it's a party. God bless the RTA, and it's a lovely way to get in and out (don't go driving if you've been drinking, naturally). But it's a logistical step in a long line of logistical steps that take you to the same place — the bottom of a plastic cup of beer — that would be available with far fewer logistical steps. Not to mention the dead phones, the waiting around because so-and-so ran into so-and-so and we're a pack and we don't leave without everyone, or the text that says your friend is at Flannery's but by the time you make it there your pal has moved on to Map Room and the rest of your crew doesn't want to walk to Map Room, and holy hell, you haven't eaten yet and you can taste the stale domestic lager stench to the root of your soul. I'm all for the party. I'm not railing against Amateur Night here. I'm just in favor of comforts. Give me one spin of the Pogues and it's festive. Give me 10 versions of "Streams of Whiskey" and I'm eyeing the first flight to China or anywhere else that hasn't discovered Irish music.
Well, it sounds like this might be one of those great unresolvable Cleveland debates, much like whether Christmas Ale is good, whether Dick Goddard is a robot, or what the hell George Kokinis actually did to get fired. I do know this: The people who go downtown for the day will end up hammered and frustrated — but they'll have seen the parade, and probably had a half dozen random interactions that never would have happened anywhere else in the city. And the people who hang in West Park for the day will end up hammered and frustrated. Same goes for Lakewood, Ohio City, Parma and all the conceivable places to celebrate this fine day. You know where to find me, though, just like every beloved year: grumbling somewhere on Euclid about how so-and-so ran into so-and-so and we're a pack and we don't leave ... .
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