A Hellish St. Patrick's Day

I'll always have a warm place in my heart for March 17th. Not because I'm one-quarter Irish. Not because my son's due date was March 17th (he came early). Certainly not because I crave corned beef and cabbage or look good in green. No, it's because St. Patrick's Day is the one time in my life that I ever threw up from drinking too much. The warm feeling comes from the very important lesson I learned that night!

I still remember it like it was yesterday, even though I was 22 and I'm way past that now. I worked for a small publishing company with a lot of other people in their 20s, most of us freshly out of dorms and none of us ready to grow up. I used to hang out after work every night with the other writers, editors and designers (and the occasional slumming ad sales rep). We'd drink and play video games and the jukebox and figure out who was going home together. The pay was so bad where we worked that turnover was high, so there was always fresh meat. It never got old, at least for the two years I worked there.

We always went to the same place, a saloon on the Upper East Side. But for some reason--probably a special St. Patrick's Day promotion--we chose a different spot that night. The new place was loud and crowded, two things I seek to avoid now but avidly enjoyed back then. I was seeing one of my co-workers, George, so we were hanging out together. George was older, pushing 30, and a Scotch drinker. I tended toward the sickly sweet myself, and liked to mix it up. I always paid my own way, so I was limited by my limited funds. But that night somehow the booze flowed more freely, or at least more cheaply. I scarfed down a Tequila Sunrise, a 7&7 and (shudder) a Black Russian.

I don't remember too many specifics about the time in the bar, but I vividly recall leaving with George, who had to support me as I staggered out the door. Even more vivid is my memory of puking at the base of a tree--you know, the kind with those little fences to keep the dogs away. The cabdriver who pulled over to our curb was kind enough to wait until I finished rather than pealing off in disgust. I guess he was figuring the potential for a big tip would outweigh the inevitable stink of a St. Patrick's Day lightweight.

George held my head in his lap during the drive to his Hell's Kitchen walkup. I slept the whole way and somehow dragged my sorry ass up the stairs to his studio, then up the ladder to his loft bed. Yes, we lived like royalty! I could touch the ceiling from that bed, and almost all four walls as well. It came in handy that night as the room spun wildly to be able to reach up and steady myself on the ceiling.

The lesson I carry with me from that night has made an enormous difference in my ongoing happiness: never mix liquors (and especially liqueurs). I switched to vodka after that experience, and except for a brief veering off to gin in the late '90s, have remained true to my commitment. Mostly I drink wine now, and it would take a lot of wine to make me puke. Let's just say I'm not looking to figure out how much.