Friday, March 15, 2019

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

Halfway to St. Patricks Day March

"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” - Irish Channel New Orleans

In honor of the Saint, I’m hell-bent on Jameson Irish whiskey. That’s the drink for me, at least around the time of St. Patrick's Day.  In Ireland, I consumed ample amounts of it, in between rounds of room-temperature Harp Lager or Guinness Stout. Just as fun as downing Jameson in 17 th century pubs, was to discover demons.  It’s possible my exposure to voodoo culture made me interested in this topic, so 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.”  She also took measures to protect against bad spells. 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 a lot scarier than the Devil you know.”

Even if Saint Patrick banished the Devil and converted the heathen King Cormac, he ultimately could not know all that he was up against, Neolithic pre-Christian culture reached back thousands of years and was deeply rooted.  Its 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.

Irish Channel St Patrick's Day Parade Image by David Mora

Irish Channel St Patrick’s Day Club website

Put aside the fact that the clam chowder in Ireland was 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 19 th 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 old German named Bob who prized hard work over dissipation described to me an Irish wedding he attended near his home in da Channel as a boy. Bob saw guests were passed-out in the muddy potato patch behind the home. 

      Irish Channel House. website. Image by Paul Broussard

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, a fine dive bar in da Channel, has an elegant, sloppy roast beef Po-boy. Be sure to down a few Irish whiskeys.  Parasol’s hosts Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations.

St. Patrick's Day Image from
Parasol's website

The main event is the annual Jim Monaghan’s St Patrick’s Day Parade.  This unholy ruckus started nearly 40 years ago. The debauchery associated with the event calls up for me Ignatius J. Reilly’s “every vice that man has ever conceived in his wildest aberrations.”  Things usually begin 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, and is now something like a feast day.  I did not witness it, but I read Monaghan 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 made sure he was strategically placed  to watch the money.

It’s important to know the 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.

Irish Channel St Patrick’s Day Club website

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