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Seeking Greatness on Green Beer Day

Cartoon by Jinghang Huang
Cartoon by Jinghang Huang

Written by James Smith*

The count had reached "Nine!" when my body started fighting back against the continuous intake of beer, pleading with me to cut off the upward flow of carbonation and cheap alcohol. But I trudged on. One of the most essential lessons we learn is the importance of determination and perseverance, and I wasn't about to forget that now, with my legs hoisted unsteadily above me, my hands clutched tightly at the sides of the keg and the horde of drunken buffoons circled around me counting in unison like it was some cultish incantation.

"Eleven! Twelve! Thirteen!"

The cloying taste of the beer was becoming unbearable, but I pushed on for as many seconds as I could. This was no time for settling, no place for quitting or compromising.

This was Green Beer Day, and damn it if we weren't going to squeeze every ounce of this party that we could.

1:00 a.m.

"Should we start drinking now?"

My friend is sitting on the couch, anxious to begin the festivities. Like many Miami students, I have several friends from out of town visiting campus. They had heard of this holy day of parties, a day in which thousands of college students skip class to party and drink green beer all day (in a tenuous nod to Saint Patrick, I can assume), and they wanted to be a part of it, to partake in something legendary.

I admire my friend's eagerness, but I'm reluctant. It's common to hear that "Green Beer Day is a marathon, not a sprint," but even a marathon only lasts a few hours. This is an all-day affair and the earlier we start drinking, the earlier we'll eventually hit a wall.

On top of that, I don't have the excuse of having to break for class during the day. For GBD, many teachers cancel class and of course many students decide to "cancel" their own classes, but a good handful of teachers will purposefully schedule exams so that their students can't be absent. I always found that to be a little arrogant. What's wrong with giving your students one day off? Although I guess from a teacher's perspective, a student asking to miss class to drink all day would probably come off as equally ridiculous.

I look at my phone to double-check the time. 1:00. 90 minutes until the first party at 2:30. We seem prepared enough. There's a case of Natty and some green food dye in the fridge to get us started. Everybody has the address of the party and of the main house in case someone gets lost. We have a few cups of coffee brewed and ready to go if we need a pick-me-up later on.

It's time to begin.

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I toss a beer to everyone in the room before grabbing one myself, popping it open and raising it to my lips for the first sip.

2:40 a.m.

Before we exit the house to make our way to the first party, I reiterate the rules that had already been drilled into our heads.

Walk straight to the party, and don't wander.

Don't talk to anyone on the way that you don't know. They could be an undercover, and, like most students, we assume a green tongue is probable cause to ask for ID.

If you have a fake ID, leave it. An underage drinking violation is preferable to possession of false identification, and an officer will definitely not be as gullible or lenient as a bouncer at New Bar or Pachinko's.

Don't get belligerent. If you can control yourself, you'll most likely be fine. But, if you start stumbling around incoherently, you're out of luck.

And most importantly, as had been relayed to us by everyone from seasoned upperclassmen to know-it-all Yik-Yakkers, DO NOT GO UPTOWN if you're under 21. It will be crawling with undercover cops.

We make our way toward the party.

2:45 a.m.

We walk into the party, which is already pulsing with a wild energy. The music isn't very loud since an early-morning noise complaint could get it shut down swiftly, but the conversations and sporadic cheers of the shoulder-to-shoulder zealous college kids makes the party loud enough that I have to raise my voice in order to be heard.

"Beers are over there in the corner," I explain to my friends. I'm worried about impressing them, making sure that this day lives up to their massive expectations, but I'm happy to see they've already begun working their way through the crowd and mingling.

After polishing off a few beers -- what was that, seven? Eight? I really should be keeping better track -- someone offers me a jello shot. I know it's a bad idea to start bringing liquor into the mix, but this is the biggest day of the year. Why hold back?

I just knocked back the shot when one of my friends walks up cackling with laughter.

"Did you see that?" he exclaims, resting a hand on my shoulder.


"We were around back taking a leak and a cop started shining his flashlight into the yard, so we took off and this one kid tripped and fell down with his pants still around his ankles! It was hilarious!"

Oh God. One hour in and we're already having run-ins with the police? At this rate, things could start getting ugly if we don't get it under control.

5:30 a.m.

Reality is becoming hazy at this point, but I'm lucid enough to recognize that the party's dying down. It's time to move back to the main house to rest. I rally the troops and before I know it, I'm safe in my room and waking up, ready to rally for the next round of parties.

1:00 p.m.

We're relaxing in the room, sipping on more beers and watching the first round of March Madness matchups.

I can't help but think that there should be more to this. We could watch basketball anytime, but our next party isn't until 3:00. What else can we do but wait? Am I letting everybody down? Is Miami letting them down?

3:30 p.m.

We've finally made our way to the next party, past the streets and blocks that are peppered with green-clad students lost in merriment and revelry. I still can't get past this feeling that the day isn't living up to expectations, and a sense of paranoia and anxiety starts to set in. People are talking and drinking, but it doesn't have that wild and reckless energy we anticipated, and the occasional keg stand or round of shotgunning isn't fixing that. Where's the pulsing mosh pit? Where's the shower of exploding beer cans being chucked into the crowd?

"This party fucking sucks, huh?" my roommate says.

"Thank god you said that. I thought it was just me.

"Grab your friends. I have a better idea."

5:30 p.m.

After securing a few more cases of beer, we're back at the main house with a couple of pong tables set up. I can hear the music and shouting of the few parties that are still slugging away, but for the most part it seems that the day's festivities are beginning to come to a close. I look around the room and see an even mixture of my college friends and my high school friends, some locked in high-stakes drinking competitions and some just goofing around. A half-empty beer flies through the window and I watch as my roommate dives comically out the window to harass the perpetrator. From the stomach-clutching laughs of everyone in the room, I can tell that this is the most fun they've had all day.

8:00 p.m.

Undoubtedly there are still some upperclassmen endurance nuts that are now transitioning and making their way up to the bars, but for us the day is over. Some people are passed out, not in some drunken stupor, but rather simply from the exhaustion of a long day. The rest are wolfing down the Skyline conies I insisted they try while they were out here.

In this quiet moment of post-party meditation, I've come to realize that this Green Beer Day hadn't been the disappointment that I had feared it was becoming. It wasn't, and never had been, simply about getting loaded or catching a buzz. Heck, in Oxford, there's an opportunity for that any day of the week. Rather, GBD is about taking a break from the chaos of our lives, to let loose and celebrate our own youthful spirit. We weren't here to get plastered, but to rejoice in our own camaraderie and appreciate the friends we've made and the relationships we've cultivated.

Twenty or 30 years from now, nobody's going to remember every single night that they went to Brick or CJ's, but the memories made on Green Beer Day are there to stay.

*Name changed to protect writer