Friday, March 15, 2019

St. Patrick’s Day Devilry - A Closer Look at “da Channel” New Orleans

"In honor of the Saint, I’m hell-bent on Jameson Irish whiskey.  That’s the drink for me..."

St. Patrick’s Day Devilry - A Closer Look at “da Channel” New Orleans

In honor of the Saint, I’m hell-bent on Jameson Irish whiskey.  That’s the drink for me, at least for the next few days.  When I traveled in Ireland, I consumed ample amounts of it, in between rounds of room-temperature Harp Lager or Guinness Stout.

Every bit as memorable as downing Jameson in 17th century pubs, was to discover the prevalence of demons.  It’s possible my exposure to voodoo culture made me naturally interested in this topic, the day an old Irish woman invited me for tea, I made a point of discussing it with her.  The reason she placed objects above her doors, my hostess told me, was “to keep the evil spirits out.”  To protect against bad spells was an additional concern.

My hostess knew a things or two about the Devil.  According to her calculations, Donnie would never replace me.  “The Devil you don’t know is alot scarier than the Devil you know.”

Even if Saint Patrick banished the Devil and converted the heathen King Cormac, he ultimately could not know the extent of what he was up against, Neolithic pre-Christian culture reached back thousands of years and was deeply rooted.  Being earth goddess-centered, made things worse.  I personally understood how flimsy the Christian veneer was after I studied Ireland’s Neolithic megalithic archaeological sites, such as the portal tomb Poulnabrone Dolmen (3500 BC) in the west, and the mind-blowing chamber tomb Newgrange (3200 BC) in the east.

Put aside the fact that the clam chowder in Ireland was indisputably the best I’ve ever eaten, I looked for but failed to find the sloppy, juicy, roast beef Po-boy sandwich they serve at Parasols Irish Bar on Constance Street in “da Channel.”

If you are unfamiliar with New Orleans, “da Channel” is the historical “Irish Channel” neighborhood settled by Irish immigrants in the 19th century, an area bordered by Magazine Street to the north, First Street to the east, the Mississippi River to the south and Toledano Street to the west. Although, Germans, Italians and African Americans squeezed into there as well. When I was young, an elderly German named Bob who prized hard work over dissipation described to me an Irish wedding he attended near his home in da Channel when he himself was young. Wedding guests were passed-out in the muddy potato patch behind the home. 

To those who might be curious about the phrase’s pronunciation, imagine actor Steve Schirripa (“Sopranos”) video-marketing his book, “A Goomba’s Guide to Life.”  That fat boy, you’ll surely object, isn’t Irish!  Granted.  But longtime residents of da Channel sound precisely like the Bensonhurst New York actor.

Be reminded that Parasols Bar, one of my favorite dives in da Channel, has an elegant, sloppy roast beef Po-boy, with which I encourage you to down a few Irish whiskeys.  Further, Parasol’s will host an enormous Block Party on Saturday, March 16 to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Precisely ten blocks east of Parasol’s Bar, the St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans began a few days early.  On Thursday evening, the Irish Channel Club Block Party took place at Annunciation Square.  I included a picture for your edification.

Predictably, the Saint's Friday night is big.  Tonight’s auspicious Jim Monaghan’s St Patrick’s Day Parade marks the thirty-seventh year of unholy ruckus.  The devilry associated with this event calls up for me Ignatius J. Reilly’s “every vice that man has ever conceived in his wildest aberrations.”  The debauchery begins at Molly’s Irish Bar (Molly’s at the Market) at 1107 Decatur Street, with the traditional Storyville Stompers brass band, numerous other brass bands and marching groups, and you’ll probably see some mule-drawn floats.  After looping around da Quarter, the parade returns to Molly’s.

This French Quarter parade attached to Jim Monaghan and Molly’s Bar became sanctified when Monaghan died in 2000.  I did not attend, but I read he had a French Quarter jazz funeral, his body rode in a glass hearse pulled by four white horses and draped with flowers, mourners decked out in tails and silk hats walked along horses and hearse.  The funeral ended at Molly's, of course, where Monaghan’s ashes now sit near the cash register.  Sort of like Alexander the Great orchestrating his Imperial burial and funeral games before he croaked, Monaghan is now strategically placed  to watch the money.

It’s important to know the important history behind all of this.  The Irish celebrated March 17, the day of the Saint’s death in Ireland, and carried the celebration to America.  St Patrick’s Day has been celebrated in North America since 1737, and the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in New Orleans in 1809.

Unabated, along with Parasol's Block party, things crank up the day before St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 16, at 1pm when the Irish Channel Club’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade "rolls."  The parade begins at the corner of Race Street and Magazine Street, proceeds down Magazine Street, and turns right on Jackson Avenue, left on St. Charles Avenue, left on Louisiana Avenue,  left on Magazine Street, right on Jackson Avenue, ends at the corner of Jackson and Constance Street.

For those concerned with redemption, there will be a noon Mass at St. Mary’s Assumption Church at 2030 Constance Street, one hour before the parade begins.  There are a couple of more parades, be assured, on the Saint’s holy day, Sunday March 17.

1 Irish Channel St Patrick’s Day Club website - new-image
2 Irish Channel St Patrick’s Day Club website image
3 Irish Channel House. website by Paul Broussard
4 Annunciation Square Block Party, Uptown by Zach Brien 3_14_19
5 Parasol's Bar Website Image