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Holidays with a Bang 

An apocalyptic clown but no birthday haggis

In America, we're not satisfied with some quiet holiday like Arbor Day. No, we want holidays with bang, with panache. We want pomp and circumstance, and we want an excuse to drink. All of which helps explain why St. Patrick's Day, essentially a celebration of the Christianization of Ireland (yawn, snore) has become a green beer-swilling, corned beef and cabbage-eating drunkfest (woo hoo!). In protest of this outrage, I decided to forgo malted beverages for the weekend. Saturday morning, I headed down Tryon Street to check out the big St. Paddy's Day parade, which, like most parades, consisted of people I didn't know or could care less about riding down the street in cars donated for the day by local dealerships. That said, they also feature marching bands, which are one of the coolest things ever, and they attract all sorts of freaky people. For instance, there's people selling Spongebob Squarepants inflatable toys, apropos of nothing, and people like the guy dressed up as a St. Patrick's Day clown handing out doomsday literature.

Mr. Clown walked up to me and handed me a little yellow piece of paper with a large smiley face on the front, emblazoned with the legend "Smile! God Loves You!" That's pretty nice, I thought -- not being a big Old Testament fan, I like my God to be a happy one. I then turned the paper over. "BUT," it read, "if you reject His love, given at a great sacrifice at Calvary, it would have been better for you not to have been born!" The really creepy part -- aside of the fact that he was a freakin' apocalyptic clown -- was that the guy was also handing the little two-faced flyers to kids. It's folks like that that make people want to drink green beer, I decided, and headed to the nearby vendor for that most Irish of foods, the Polish sausage.

That night, still a bit freaked out that I might have unknowingly had a headache or something and rejected God at some point in the past, I headed to Tremont Music Hall to see the band Snagglepuss, and their pals White Chocolate, who had driven up from Alabama for the gig. White Chocolate, I soon decided, were either terrible or a collection of geniuses. Guitars were either out of tune or the band was using some remarkable alternate tunings. Somehow, like a rickety old jalopy, everything stayed together. Even cooler was the lead singer, who looked like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Dave Matthews (I'll pause here while you call up that mental image). Somehow, HST/DMB managed to stay almost uncannily off-key the whole night, which fit perfectly. By the end of their set, I wanted to become their roadie. Next up was Snagglepuss, who, I've recently decided, are pretty damn amazing. Most folks in the band aren't playing their "first" instruments, which somehow adds a refreshing veneer to the proceedings. Another thing I like is the fact that when lead singer Hope Nicholls said they had one more song left, they played about four more. Last, I liked the fact that Nicholls hadn't given in to the folks who bastardized St. Patrick's Day, and kept her hair a tasteful orange. Keep Hope alive, or something like that.Sunday evening, I gave in, as it was St. Patrick's Day Eve, and also my birthday. Along with some other folks, I headed to Sir Edmond Halley's, who were having a big St. Patrick's Day celebration. I broke my fast, ordered a beer, and asked one of the proprietors about the haggis-eating contest I read about. "No haggis," I was told. "You didn't care about that anyway, did you?" Well, no, not really, I thought. I just wanted to watch other people eat the nasty reconstituted sheep parts, like a big live episode of Fear Factor. I was then informed that haggis wasn't really Irish anyway, and got seriously confused, as I wasn't the one who advertised I was holding such an event. I soon turned my attention to the band Gael Warning, who was playing electrified Celtic music with a trippy light show, and to all the men walking around in kilts (wait a minute -- that didn't come out right). A number of birthday toasts later, my resolve had completely melted, and I was diving into a plate of fish and chips. If you can't beat "em, I decided -- literally or otherwise -- you might as well get in on the fun. If there's a holiday everyone ought to be able to celebrate, it's their own.

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