Surviving St. Pat's in Cleveland

Keep this page handy. You can print and fold it into a makeshift coozy for your boozy

St. Patrick's Day is not to be taken lightly anywhere — least of all in sunny Cleveland, where we take our booze-fueled holidays very seriously. The word of the day is beer. And the second word of the day is beer. But the third word of the day is preparation.

We're not screwing around here; St. Pat's is the real deal. If you're not ready, this day will swallow you. Someone will be knocked out cold. One of your friends will fall off the bar mid-dance. And who knows what the police officers in this town will do to you...

There are more than a few things you need to know before diving in Guinness-first. Here are the basics:

Don't drive. Only fools drive today.

If you're going downtown — and, let's face it, you'll likely end up there on at least two separate occasions throughout the day — staying off the main roads is imperative. Along with New Year's Eve and any day the Russo brothers are shooting a movie in town, St. Pat's the all-out worst day to be stuck driving. It's quite literally dangerous.

Outside of roping a DD along for the day, Northeast Ohio thankfully affords the drinker several options, none of which are really ideal, but do come with their own brand of theater on major holidays. The Rapid is obvious: Take the Red Line or whatever into Tower City and set forth from there. You'll likely be crushed amid the masses en route to the parade and you may have at least three kinds of sticky substances on your shoes by ride's end, but you'll be safe. Elsewise, you can hail an Uber or a Lyft — which is what everyone will be doing, thus raising prices to ridiculous levels and driving wait times into double digits (of hours, likely enough).

Wear green. This isn't amateur hour here. (Or is it?)

This is a simple one, and probably the least of your real worries. You wouldn't wear red to a Cavs-Bulls game, right? And you wouldn't wear red to a St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Cleveland. No one looks good in green, but Cleveland loves uniting behind things that don't really look good (Johnny Manziel's prospects, the GE chandelier, Polish Boys outwardly). Also, please do note that you'll be taking shit from chadbros all day if you don't. St. Pat's celebrations are nothing if not utterly conforming.

Don't call in sick. Call in awesome.

Any boss on the receiving end of a sick call on March 17 is gonna know immediately that they've got a spineless employee on their hands. Pick up the phone and let your employer know that you've reserved your right to claim an iota of Irish heritage, to stuff your gullet with corned beef and Smithwick's. Hell, she'll probably be dialing up her own Uber before you even call — remember, you've gotta hustle, dude.

Eat food. Go with a big Irish breakfast somewhere.

Lots of places around town open up at 7 or 8 a.m., proffering "kegs and eggs" and delightful Irish delicacies to pair with your early morning beers. Irish coffee, anyone? Corned beef is likely to be served at all hours, and bagpipers will make your food taste even better somehow. This is one of the big keys: If you're gonna do the St. Patrick's Day thing at all, you should start early, eat rapaciously, and get in the mood as quickly as possible. Irish breakfasts, a hallmark of this annual holiday, are among the best routes into an awesome day.

Drink water. Pop a multivitamin.

These are just basic rules of the road for hardcore boozing. You don't want to get railroaded by your insatiable appetite for intoxication; the crowds alone will twist your mind inside-out with knotty disorientation. A glass of ice-cold water betwixt every beer-and-a-shot, and you'll be just fine. Vitamins B and C will help; pop those early if you have 'em at the house or something.

Don't get arrested. Don't end up in a hospital.

Everything is on high-alert all day on St. Pat's — the cops, the health concerns, the liquor-to-beer ratios. "Don't act like a moron" is a kind of basic-level rule for most days, but on St. Patrick's Day the idea is even more important. Everyone is gonna be wacky and wild; you don't want to stand out and attract the attention of some wandering handcuffs. Even worse: You don't want to be "that guy" who lands on a gurney en route to Metro by midday. Your friends will be pissed!

Bring a flask. Instant friends.

Still, short of trips to the hospital or the clink, the whole idea is to drink hard, right? Lines at any bar will be insane. You'll spend a large portion of the day just waiting — for the parade to move on, for the bartender to spot you, for your bud to take a leak behind that wall over there — so come prepared with a flask of your favorite hooch. This will make you something of a crowdpleaser throughout the day, and the errant nip will keep you in high spirits as the swirl of holiday chaos wears on your soul.

Learn Gaelic passingly.

There's nothing like spouting off some fine Gaelic phrases on St. Patrick's Day. Try: "Pionta Guinness, le do thoil" ("A pint of Guinness, please"); "Tabhair póg dom, táim Éireannach" ("Kiss me, I'm Irish"); "Póg mo thóin!" ("Kiss my ass," pronounced like the name of a certain Lakewood bar); and the simple yet effective "ar meisce" ("drunk"). You won't be able to pronounce any of these, so you'll end up sounding like everyone else: slurry and jovial.

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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