Make It Your Best Parade Day

Every year I write this blog post, and every year I start it with one of my favorite movie quotes. It’s Tom Sizemore from Striking Distance making a sarcastic dig at the Pittsburgh policeman’s ball after getting his face kicked in by his cousin’s cousins as fireworks explode in the background:

“Best day of the year! Better than Christmas!”

It’s reminiscent of James Cagney’s “Made it ma! Top of the world!” line from White Heat. And when I say reminiscent, I mean total ripoff. Anyway, it’s still the best way to describe Parade Day in Scranton.

special parade guest, psu qb and scranton resident matt mcgloin. if they give him little footballs to throw, hopefully there won't be anyone in the crowds with florida jerseys. i kid!

special parade guest, psu qb and scranton resident matt mcgloin. if they give him little footballs to throw, hopefully there won't be anyone in the crowds with florida jerseys. i kid!

I’ve written this column about four or five times already to try and give people a taste of what Parade Day in Scranton is really like. You’ll hear all kinds of stories on local news broadcasts or from friends about what a great day it is — and they’re all true. The second-biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the country is the booziest funfest you can have on a random March day in Northeast Pennsylvania. The bars open early, the smiles don’t stop on the sea of people packed into the downtown and no one wants anything more than to have the time of their lives. I’ve already seen some Facebook plans for Poconos people to head up, so it’s time to make sure people know what they’re getting into.

There are no rules on Parade Day. As long as you don’t lay hands on someone else against their will or drive drunk, you’ve got a free pass. Fight with your girlfriend? Free pass! Hook up with a random guy on a dance floor? Free pass! Puke on a city street? Free pass! No one can hold anything you do wrong against you on Parade Day. If they do, they’re not a good friend. If your girlfriend is giving you crap the next day about how silly you acted or how drunk you got, it’s time to evaluate your relationship.

This is my 15th consecutive Parade Day, most of which started at 7 a.m. I’m too old and parental for that anymore, but I’ve seen just about every kind of Parade Day foul-up and can tell you one thing definitively: The key to a successful Parade Day isn’t maximizing the good times, it’s limiting the bad times.

When you’re still able to think straight and you’re trying to make decisions, always keep that in the back of your head: Limit the bad times. You don’t have to manufacture good times. They come naturally. It’s the bad times you need to watch out for.

I’ve written about some Parade Day rules before that are pretty obvious, but I’ve added some more just in case you’re heading up to Scranton for the best day of the year (better than Christmas):

–The easy ones still apply, but it’s necessary to stress one again: Make sure you eat early and as often as you can. Rookies find it amazing how fast time flies on Parade Day. You’re completely surprised to realize it’s 2 p.m., you’re hammered and you haven’t eaten yet. By then, the damage is done and you’re calling it a day at 3 while your friends laugh at you. So eat early, eat often.

the only place the phanatic gets accosted by drunk people more than his normal place of work is the st. pat's parade in scranton

the only place the phanatic gets accosted by drunk people more than his normal place of work is the st. pat's parade in scranton

Use cash only, don’t even bother bringing a debit/credit card. First of all, no bar will take them. And if they do, you’ll be making the bartender very, very angry. Two big perks on this:

1. It means you can’t lose the card and won’t spend all day Sunday crawling around on the pee-flavored floors of every bar in town telling your friend who is watching you and reconsidering that friendship, “I could have swore this is where I dropped it!” Or arguing with the bartender — who wasn’t even working during the parade — about how this is the last place you used it. In both arguments, you will be wrong and likely won’t ever see your card again.

2. It limits the amount of cash you can use. Parade Day has gotten out-of-hand expensive, it’s insane. The reason I started going in 1997 was because of the 17-cent beer specials at Farley’s (which is back this year). This year, I’ve seen advertisements for post-11 a.m. “specials” that include $5 cans. $5 CANS?!?!?! THAT’S YOUR SPECIAL?!?!?! Call it whatever you want — Parade Day Price, You Must Be Insane for Buying at This Price — but don’t call it a special. That’s insulting. For those who specialize in Parade Day binge drinking, if you’re going through four beers an hour for three hours after the 9-11 a.m. actual specials end, you’ve spent $60 by 2 p.m. and you haven’t bought food, shots, left a tip or paid a cover. It should be like going to the casino — take only what you can afford to lose. Once the money is gone, walk away.

–That reminds me, don’t buy or drink shots. Ever. It’s too expensive and causes you to get too drunk, too fast. Limit the bad times. If you’re poop-faced drunk by noon and your friends have to carry you around, you’re not just ruining your day, you’re ruining their days too.

Wear somewhat baggy pants with pockets. Sorry girls, this isn’t the day to get all Jersey Shore’d up. Old, comfortable jeans are the prefered attire. Two reasons for this one:

if this is how you're dressed, you're in for a long day

if this is how you're dressed, you're in for a long day

1. Pretty close to 80 percent of the rest of the crowd will be wearing old jeans or tights or something like that. The last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself on Parade Day by getting all gussied up, otherwise you may end up attracting a drunken weirdo who wants to make fun of you, hit on you, puke on you, or a combination of all three.

2. Having the pockets gives you somewhere to carry your essentials — drivers license, cash, phone. That’s it, that’s the list. That’s all you need for Parade Day. For ladies, that means no purse and for men that means no wallet. The less things you carry means the less things you can lose or have stolen.

–One bar update if you haven’t been there since last year or earlier. Whistles, probably my favorite Parade Day bar, closed late last year. That means no B-Street Band. Tear.

Stick to the downtown, especially if you’re just visiting for the day. It might be tempting to go off the beaten path and check out some of the cheaper, more accessible bars in South Side — easily within walking distance — but you’ll run the risk of getting lost or wandering into the, umm, wrong place. And if you get lost, just try and describe to your friends where you are or how you got there after putting down 15 beers. “There’s a street light, I’m under it, I think the road is paved, the street sign has an S in it … “

–Right now, take your phone out of your pocket. Program in 570-344-5000. Save it. Do not put this off, do it right now. This is the number for McCarthy Cab, the only taxi service in Scranton. Chances are you will need this number. Also, take out a sheet of paper, write down the name and address of where you’re staying, put it in your pocket and don’t lose it. You never know. Limit the bad times.

You’ll notice nowhere in this list does it say things like, “Don’t act like an @sshole,” “Don’t keep drinking after you puke,” “Watch your language,” “Obey the no smoking signs” or “Stop yourself after 25 beers.” If I did, I’d be a hypocrite. Have a blast, party with your friends, make new ones, just try to make sure when you go for breakfast Sunday morning, you’re not feeling the need to apologize to everyone you see. Once more: Limit the bad times.

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