My earliest memories of the day are rushing home from public school to watch Captain Jack McCarthy (Cap'n Jack) on WPIX hosting the parade down Fifth Avenue while my Irish Mom boiled a big pot of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes on the stove. My Italian Dad would relish that once a year treat while my brothers and I would gag. I think I might be the only person still to have never eaten a corned beef sandwich at Kelly's-the most famous Irish bar in the area.
I went to a Catholic High School, and as I said, we had off. Our school colors were green and gold, our mascot was a leprechaun and we were called Caseys. It wasn't much of a brainer to see that being Irish in that school carried some pretty heavy weight. On Saint Paddy's Day, our cheerleaders would go into the city and march along with all the fife and drum bands while the rest of us hung around, waiting for spring to hurry up and get here.
One year, my BFF and I went to the nun's beach (yes, they owned their own), along with a group of friends. It was a breezy spring day, and guys were throwing a football around while the girls jockeyed for position. I recall not being able to string three words together when a guy named Mike came over to talk to me. As he shook his head, probably in disgust, and went back to his friends the only saving grace was that my BFF said "Let's get out of here and go to McDonald's." And that's where I had my first Shamrock Shake.
Saint Patrick's Days have come and gone since the year I drowned my sorrows with that first creamy green mustache. And this weekend, I tried to remember some of the memorable ones I celebrated with Wingman, but came up short. About 36 years of them short. Given, he was Polish and Czech, and pooh-poohed the whole day since it was not about his nationality. But I do remember going to the City with his brother one year. I do remember being in the city with his friends. I do remember him taking the boys to pitching lessons or batting lessons on Saint Patrick's Day. Yet I can't remember being in a bar, or a restaurant, or even eating at home together even though he did love a good corned beef sandwich.
I've been sick this week, and spent an inordinate amount of time in bed watching TV, and there it was-the commercial for that minty green, flash-back-to-high-school, make me feel good drink. And if being alone tends to make me reflective, being sick and on antibiotics makes me hungry. So on my lunch break, I went over to have a feel good day by sucking down a Jersey version of the green monster.
I guess it's been a while since I've been inside a Mickey D's-preferring the anonymity of my car and the drive up lane. But that's where my jaw dropped-looking at the picture of the McCafe cup filled with ice cream and shamrock McShake syrup, topped with whipped cream and a totally unnecessary maraschino cherry. Right under the $2.99 price tag. The words: 660 calories.
In the end, I walked out with a zero calorie unsweetened ice tea. Not what I wanted, but just like the song says "You can't always get what you want". If things haven't worked out for me recently as I thought they would, at least they're still a work in progress.
And that Shamrock Shake I didn't buy? I just learned how it's creation provided the funding for the very first Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. Today, there are 302 houses in 30 countries providing free lodging for families with sick children. Better not tell the families of kids with Diabetes that there are 109 grams of carbs in each one of them though.
So what the hell, it's Saint Patrick's Day, I talked myself into going back for one for old times sake. And when I savor that first minty taste, I'll think about that guy Mike. If we met today, I don't think I'd have trouble holding a conversation like the one that haunted me back then.
And if I did, all I have to remember is that the shake will be gone this week. The 125 calories a glass and no green mustache are definite pluses to the wine that will be here the rest of the year.