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Two words to solve Fake Patty’s Day: tow trucks

By Bill Felber

I used to be young and stupid, and even at this hazy distance I have the vague recollection of having once or twice succumbed to the desire to get young and stupid drunk.

But only once or twice. An extended session of rolling around on the floor, my head pounding, my stomach heaving, my various internal organs in full rebellion, my fondest wish being to leave body at least for the interim, and all the aspirin in the world failing to ameliorate any of the above symptoms, taught me on short order that while one or two glasses of beer was sociable, very much more than that was simple abuse.

See, I did learn something in college.

And so, I presume, do most of the attendees at what has become the annual Fake Patty’s Day here. Another iteration of that event looms a month or so away now, and given the apparently inexhaustible supply of dumb college kids we can expect an influx.

The community’s leaders have spent a substantial amount of time the past several months trying without much success to agree on how to handle Fake Patty’s Day. Most of what bothers people about it — public drunkenness, underage drinking, loud parties, parking across driveways or in park spaces, littering, overcrowded taverns, jaywalking Bluemont — can be characterized in seven letters: illegal.

Some, particularly Aggieville bar owners but a few city leaders as well, have lobbied for its regulation as a more or less formal festival. Beyond facilitating the ability of bar owners to make even more money, I don’t really get this approach. To provide a government imprimatur to an occasion so routinely replete with so many inherently illegal activities seems somehow. . . I don’t know. . . irresponsible. That may be why while some have promoted the idea, others have fought it to a draw. 

Truth be told, I’m not sure there isn’t some measure of merit to the idea of roping off Aggieville for the weekend, posting notices (“Danger, enter at your own risk”), and standing back. I’ve always held to the view that the way to handle vice isn’t to prohibit it but to zone and tax it. If the city could put a special 10-cent excise tax on every beer sold between midnight March 9 and midnight March 11, as many problems might be solved as are created.

But this solution fails to consider that Aggieville is not by its nature a combat zone. There are plenty of non-alcoholic businesses in the area, many of which would be hurt by the free-fire zone approach.

Whatever occurs in Aggieville, the event remains a problem for those who live in other affected areas. I’ll say one thing for the drunken escapades of my youth: I never peed or puked in somebody else’s yard. I never made a spectacle of myself in a residential neighborhood. And I never blocked some guy’s driveway so I could get to a loud party next door. Over the course of the past few Fake Patty’s Days, I’ve seen all those things happen here, some of them miles away from Moro Street.

Let it be noted that virtually everything wrong with Fake Patty’s Day — public drunkenness, underage drinking, loud parties, littering, illegal parking — is also wrong when done in the middle of an August heat wave. Laws already exist against all of those transgressions, so the real question is one of enforcement.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the best way to control Fake Patty’s Day is to enforce the existing laws, especially the parking laws,  and to do so ruthlessly. A kid who leaves the Ville or a party in some quiet, out-of-the-way neighborhood to find a vacant space where he left his illegally parked car will on short enough order get the message that we are not the welcoming, tolerant community he wants to return to. Particularly when it costs him a few hundred dollars to get those wheels back.

If we want to turn Fake Patty’s Day into any sort of festival, let’s make it a tow truck festival. We’ll only have to do it once.

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