That time the world shut down on St. Patrick’s Day

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Chelby’s Pizza on Mammoth Road.

I understand all the cynics’ objections to St. Patrick’s Day—it is Amateur Hour, St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, the day is hardly recognized in Ireland. I get it. St. Patrick’s Day boils down to a manufactured reason to get drunk while eating boiled food.

But I happen to enjoy corned beef and cabbage, and no one has ever accused me of being a teetotaler[1]. Besides, I have some fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout my life.

My most memorable St. Patrick’s Day, however, was the one that never was.

In 2020, my plan was to celebrate the occasion by guzzling green beer and stuffing my face with corned beef at Chelby’s Pizza, like I had done for the past decade.

Then, a few days before St. Patrick’s Day, our schools closed their doors for a precautionary two weeks while doctors studied ways to combat an infectious virus that was surfacing throughout the nation.

Toby the Leprechaun at Chelby’s, pre-COVID.

A few days before St. Patrick’s Day, while I was at Chelby’s having beers with friends, a discussion about the virus started. Most of the patrons were dismissive, downplaying it, but I sensed a subtle pall hanging over the bar—an ominous lump appeared in my throat.

I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in my basement that year, drinking alone. Chelby’s had closed and was on an indefinite hiatus[2].

Now, here we are three years after the world shut down, and the whole Covid-experience has the washed-out feel of a fever dream for me. I still struggle to grasp the fact that something so colossal happened to all of us.

Three years ago, we had no idea how this pandemic would upend our lives, change the ways that we work and communicate while testing our mental fortitude.

But if I’m going to be completely honest—and I’m sure there are other introverts reading this who will agree—I didn’t mind the quarantine. Sure, it got monotonous, but I have never struggled with being isolated or alone[3].

However, while introverts exulted in our mandated isolation, many people suffered in real ways, financially and physically and emotionally.

Things have pretty much returned to normalcy now, the day-by-day wheels grinding away again. The world has moved on as this bit of unpleasantness continues to dim in the collective rearview mirror.

On Friday, however, if you’re out for St. Patrick’s Day and think of it, practice some gratitude for the simple things around you. Be grateful for the green beers being toasted, the Irish folk music you hear once a year, the stench of white vinegar wafting throughout the room, the drunk college guy with the hipster beard puking in the men’s room.

Try to remember where you were three years ago, when the world shut down.



[1] This can neither be confirmed nor denied.

[2] When I interviewed Chelby’s owner Heidi Liolios for an article on the restaurant shortly after Chelby’s re-opened, Liolios said the business had to absorb $600 in corned beef alone that year.

[3] So says the man currently holed up in his basement while his wife and friends are having drinks at…you guessed it.


About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Fly Like The Seagull was published by Luchador Press in 2020. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: