Oktoberfest Revisited

Many years ago, the son and I developed a bit of a relationship with a young AM station DJ.  This was back when radio stations had live bodies pumping out their over-night broadcast shows.  I was doing midnight security shifts and heard a lot from this up-and-comer.  I called the station one night at 4 AM to show him where Billy Joel left in a small mistake, in a song about learning from our mistakes.

My son stayed up 24 hours one Friday night, to accompany me on my midnight shift.  He also phoned in and *won* a contest to “name the DJ’s lunch.”  We got to go to breakfast with him, on Saturday morning.  He finally got an afternoon shift, and I also got one.  His radio station sponsored a pancake breakfast in the parking lot of a local mall, the first Saturday morning of Oktoberfest.  It started small, with three to five hundred people.  The son and I went to it for years.

Like so many other things, it’s got much bigger, just not necessarily better.  The son surprised me the other day by expressing a wish to attend again.  He just turned 40.  Is this a wish to revisit his youth?  I can barely see mine any more.  He worked his usual Fri. night/ Sat. morning shift, stopped for some items at the Kitchener Market and got home around eight.  I went to bed at my usual 4:00 AM.

When he came home, I was ready for my four-hour washroom break anyway.  When he comes in, the dog rouses and wants to be let out of the bedroom.  I was up, so let’s go!  There’s nothing like sharing an intimate, chilly, outdoor breakfast with ten thousand of your closest friends total strangers.

Before the daughter ruined both knees, she was in the color guard of the Dutch Boy drum and bugle corps.  We had breakfast in the staging area of the big Oktoberfest parade that she got to march in once, long ago.  This year’s estimate puts a hundred and fifty thousand people on the sidewalks, some natives, many tourists, watching the parade live.  Several million more see it on national television

We managed to find parking only a block away, and walked down to join a block-long lineup for food.  When we finally got to the sign that said *Line Up Here*, we found that it snaked another half-block around the seating area and back into the plaza.  We were fortunate to have arrived so early.  As we left, the line had extended another block.

We each got two big pancakes with plenty of syrup, a large sausage and eight ounces of local apple juice.  Tim Hortons had sent a trailer where you could buy coffee or tea.  They had no hot chocolate.  We stood in line behind a young local couple with a baby girl.  I thought I caught her name but asked, to be sure.  She was called Ryla.  My daughter uses Rylah as an on-line name, and LadyRyl as her blog-name.

We sat down beside, and became instant best friends with, a couple even older than me.  At least that’s what the tree-ring count said.  The little old lady had a pair of beautiful knitted mitts on the table, but they were large enough to fit my son.  When I asked, she said that she had knitted them herself, and showed me that the occasional ecru stitches in the Kelly green pattern were actually tufts of un-spun fibre, filling the inside with extra insulation.  She learned this process, called thrumming, from a Newfie lady.  It is also used in hand weaving, and on boat sails.

Trainee chefs from our well-known community college cooked the food for us.  Somehow I expected that Conestoga College Culinary Arts would only provide pictures of food, but it was pretty good.  There was a little three-piece band providing live oompah Oktoberfest music.  One guy played the inevitable accordion, one had an electronic keyboard, and the third played kazoo drums.  They belted out all the old Oktoberfest staples, including The Monkees’, I’m A Believer, Johnny Cash’s, Ring Of Fire, and My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.  A good time was had by some.

Just north and east of the city, is Ontario’s last/only covered bridge.  It sits about a hundred yards off the arrow-straight highway.  The original road made that jag to reach the narrowest spot on the river.  The old road comes in, makes a 90 degree turn, runs down and across the bridge, makes another ninety, and back up the bank.   There is a little country general store at the first bend which many Mennonites shop at.  Last year, a buggy-horse, perhaps startled by loud traffic, broke loose, galloped across the bridge, and tried to make the sharp left turn.  She slipped on the paving, dumping the wagon and scraping her one side.

There are signs at both ends reading, “No heavy trucks. Three ton load limit.”  Someone can’t read, or doesn’t give a sh*t.  Recent inspection reveals that one of the three main timbers is cracked.  I suspect a grocery delivery truck driver too lazy to turn around.  They can’t afford to dismantle it, but may be able to put a *cast* on the cracked beam.  In the meantime, the bridge is temporarily closed.  Aside from risking truck and limb to the river, some lazy idiot has smashed a chunk of irreplaceable history.  Thanks, doofus!

The good, the bad, and the ugly, the local cultural river slowly flows on.

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Horace

Once upon a time, there was a horse named Horace.  Even when he was a young colt, he had a beautiful, long, flowing mane.  As he grew, he became prouder and prouder of his mane, and let it grow and grow, until it reached almost to the ground.

He combed it and washed it and brushed it, until it just shone in the sun, but one day, a terrible thing happened.  A homeless family of birds flew up and saw his wonderful long mane and decided that it would be the perfect place to make a home.

Horace tried to tell them to leave, but they didn’t pay any attention to him; in fact, they even went and told their relatives about the magnificent place they had found to live.  Soon, Horace’s mane was full of cheeping, tweeting birds.

Horace finally could stand it no longer, and went to a veterinarian to see if there was any way that he could rid himself of all these noisy birds.  The veterinarian told him that the only way that he could think of to get the bird out of Horace’s mane would be to take a large amount of dry yeast and rub it all through his mane.

The smell of the yeast would be a bit objectionable for a while, but the birds would not be able to stand it, and would move out and stay out.  In a week or so, Horace would be able to comb out the yeast, and things would be as they were before.  Horace did this.  He got the yeast.  He rubbed it in.  The birds left, and stayed away.

The moral of this story (if there is one) is: Yeast is yeast and nest is nest, but never the mane shall tweet….

As Monty Python used to say;

And Now, For Something Completely Different

-*-*-

Michael Richards better known as Kramer from TVs Seinfeld does make a good point. This was his defense speech in court after making racial comments in his comedy act. He makes some very interesting points…

Someone finally said it. How many are actually paying attention to this?
There are African-Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc.
And then there are just Americans.. You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.
You call me ‘White boy,’ ‘Cracker,’ ‘Honkey,’ ‘Whitey,’ ‘Caveman’… And that’s OK…
But if I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink … You call me a racist.
You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you….
So why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?
You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day.
You have Black History Month.
You have Cesar Chavez Day.
You have Yom Hashoah.
You have Ma’uled Al-Nabi.
You have the NAACP.
You have BET….
If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we’d be racists.
If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.
If we had White History Month, we’d be racists.
If we had any organization for only whites to ‘advance’ OUR lives, we’d be racists.
We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.
Wonder who pays for that??
A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.
If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships… You know we’d be racists.
There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US ..
Yet if there were ‘White colleges’, that would be a racist college.
In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights.
If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.
You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you’re not afraid to announce it.
But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.
You rob us, car jack us, and shoot at us.
But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.
I am proud…… But you call me a racist.
Why is it that only whites can be racists??
There is nothing improper about this e-mail..
Let’s see which of you are proud enough to send it on.
I sadly don’t think many will.
That’s why we have LOST most of OUR RIGHTS in this country.
We won’t stand up for ourselves!
BE PROUD TO BE WHITE!
It’s not a crime YET…. But getting very close!
It is estimated that ONLY 5% of those reaching this point in this e-mail, will pass it on.
I DID!!

Oktoberfest

Like so many other things these days, Oktoberfest has almost slipped past me.  I have nothing on it in my drafts file, so I guess I’d better get something electronic captured in this here computer thingy.

Since Canada’s weather turns cold sooner than the USA’s, we celebrate our Thanksgiving earlier.  Our turkey day will be this coming Monday.  Kitchener/K-W/Waterloo Region’s Oktoberfest always begins on the Friday before.  That way, after three days of binge drinking, you can be thankful that you’re still alive, and that the hangover headache is receding slightly.  We tap the first keg at Speaker’s Corner at noon on Friday, and throw out the first drunk by about one.

Corporate taxes weren’t enough to provide infrastructure funding, so, because of the strong local Germanic heritage, in 1969 it was decided to imitate the tourist draws of places like Niagara Falls, and hold an Oktoberfest.  There were five German clubs initially, all in Kitchener.  Now there are fest-halls in school auditoriums and Catholic Church basements for fifteen miles.  The Germanic influence is fading.  One of the original German clubs recently closed for lack of new members, and another is struggling.

The original Bavarian Oktoberfest was held for five days, starting October 17.  Nowadays the Germans can’t wait to get at their beer.  Their two-week contribution to Alcoholics Unanimous started on September 22, and wraps up this weekend.

I had an earlier post about the crazy local street layouts.  It’s hard enough to get anywhere on a street-map that looks like a plate of vermicelli at the best of times, and Oktoberfest is not the best of times.  We have at least three main streets with major road-repair happening, and several short sections of downtown streets will be closed for fest-tents, tourist information and music/dancing.  Throw in a hundred thousand confused tourists, attempting to drive in various states of inebriation, and we have a recipe for bumper-cars disaster.

Already, my son’s co-workers are reporting getting stopped in DUI ride-checks.  Oktoberfest brings a lot of income to the area, and many residents take a week of vacation, to work as bartenders, waiters, cab drivers, etc.  Probably even more take the time off and get out of town to escape the madness.

Originally, the organizers wanted to call it a Beer Festival, but the blue-nosed bureaucrats would have none of that.  It is a Bavarian Festival, and only cultural references may be advertised.  When it was younger and smaller, it was a friendly little celebration, and there were cultural aspects to it.  There are still things to do, even for a family.  One of the events is Bogenschutzenfest, an archery contest where the competitors try to hit a stuffed bird, high up on a post.  I guess it takes a drunken German to explain why killing eagles in trees was a good idea in the first place, and why there is a dearth of eagles in Germany today.

Several years ago, one of the nephews got married on the second Saturday of Oktoberfest.  The reception was in the basement of the Catholic Church where the mass was held.  Suddenly a group of Schuplattlers (German clog dancers) showed up and began to put on a show, while their manager held a conversation with the boy’s father.  After three or four dances they suddenly packed up and disappeared.  Apparently they had shown up at the wrong Catholic Church and there was a paid-up audience waiting for them elsewhere.  And these guys were sober!

Residents who live near big fest-halls can probably make five to ten dollars a day, by returning for deposit, all the beer bottles and cans left on their lawns.  Sadly, it doesn’t really pay for the time or yuck factor of also having to pick up food containers, used condoms, panties and other clothing, and human feces.  These days, the cultural competitions include public urination.  There are separate divisions for both male and female. Like the peppermint schnapps/Oktoberfest sausage vomiting, there are prizes for both distance and accuracy.  The artists in the drunkaholic crowd get their creative release by using car keys to draw pictures on automobiles in driveways.

In 1973 the committee issued commemorative Oktoberfest Dollars, silver-colored Trade Dollar coins, good for merchandise or services.  They discontinued the practice in 2002.  I still hadn’t got into coin collecting for the first couple of years, but when I did decide to, I found a plant worker who had extra coins of the years I missed, so I have a complete set.  In 1986, they went to a gold-colored coin which cost $2.  In 1998, they went back to the silver color, but the value was still $2.

Our Oktoberfest only lasts for nine days, but it must be like what living in downtown Las Vegas is like year-round.  Many residents, especially the younger ones, love it.  Many of the older set (not mentioning any names) aren’t too thrilled.  My son has two lapel buttons, which he put on his jacket last night.  One reads, “I’m from K-W, and I hate Oktoberfest!”  The other one says, “Willkomen (Welcome) to Oktoberfest.  Now Go Home!”

I’ve been lucky over the years, only being stopped by the police twice, both times coming home early in the evening from the outlaws’ house.  Once I was pulled into a RIDE check on my bike, about 10:30 P.M. on my way to work for an eleven o’clock shift.  Get drunk and ride a motorcycle?  I think not!

We’ve got an empty calendar next week, not even one doctor’s appointment.  It’s fairly safe to go out during the day.  They’re already doing stops at the Conestoga Parkway ramps this week, but the son uses surface streets to get to work.  He may get through four midnight shifts next week without being pulled over, then we can all relax and wait for things to get back to, what passes for normal in this town.

Let Me Think About That

I recently took my daughter, and one of her friends, to a Free Thinkers luncheon.  One of the male attendees had on a tee-shirt imprinted, “You never see a bunch of atheists stoning a gay to death.”  The president of the local association came fifteen miles down from the town which is the center of the area Mennonite community.  He brought with him a thirty-ish Mennonite female, dressed in a floor-length, shapeless, dull-patterned cotton dress and veil-fabric, hair-modesty, yarmulke-like snood.

This is strange!  The more intense a religious sect is, the less likely they allow any thinking, much less free thinking.  Mennonites are strict.  There are many sub-sects, some much stricter than others.  She explained that she had developed free thinking on her own, but kept her opinions to herself, so that she could continue to associate with her friends and family.  Like the Catholic Church’s *excommunication*, where the faithful were not allowed to speak or deal with a heretic, the Mennonite faith has *shunning*.  She had heard of the Free Thinkers, and found that the local teacher was a leader, and convinced him to bring her to the freedom of a meeting.  I don’t know how she explains not being at church with her clan.

Like every other religion, there are divisions, and sub-divisions, and sub-sub….until there are tiny little groups, all convinced that they, and only they, are correct.  There are Old Order Mennonites, who use horses and buggies.  They will not allow zippers, or even buttons on their clothing.  It is all tied closed.  They refused to put the glass-crystal, triangular, slow-vehicle signs on their dark buggies, because they eschew any adornment.  It took several late-night, coming-home-from-prayer-meeting collisions before the government convinced them that they were not *adornment*, but legally required safety devices to keep them and cars and drivers safe.

New-Order followers buy black or dark cars and trucks, but painted any chrome black, until the government again convinced them that this was another visibility/safety feature.  New New-Order buy colored cars, but still wear black hats over zippered and buttoned clothing.  I worked with a young new-new-new….whose worship group was about fifteen people, meeting in some guy’s warehouse, because they couldn’t build, or even rent a meeting-house.

It’s like a child’s game of How Much Can I Get Away With?  Many of these people are businessmen, building and selling furniture, equipment, farm produce, etc.  They shun the secular world, but are forced to interact with it for commerce.  They have preachers who tell them that they cannot be connected to the fallen.  (That’s you and I.)  Yet they must buy and sell goods, arrange shipments, check specs, etc.

When I worked at the steel warehouse there were three farmers who also ran a fabricating shop.  Two of the farms were side by side on one concession road, and the third butted against the common border over on the next road.  They built a little weather-proof box, and paid Bell Telephone to install a phone where the three farms met.  Any one of them could give the horses a rest and make a call, but the phone wasn’t in any of their houses, so it was allowed.  If you had to call back with information, you were given a specific time to call.  One would be waiting by the phone at exactly 10:00 AM.  If you missed your call, you missed an order.  I wonder how they tell time.  Are watches prohibited?

The mullahs can’t keep up with technology.  Cell-phones don’t “connect” them to the secular world, so half the Mennonites have them.  Similarly Wi-Fi computer connections from outdoor posts or the nearest urban hot-spot are not specifically banned so Mennonite boys can get porn just like the rest of us.

I recently took the wife fifteen miles out to a Mennonite butcher in a village.  As we drove into town, the wife spotted some plants near the edge of the road, with a for-sale sign.  We stopped on the way home.  The wife was interested, but wanted to ask some questions, and wondered if we should knock on the door or if someone would come out.  The answer to both was, no.  I spotted an Honor Box.

They put various items out at the side of the road with prices marked, and it’s up to the honor of the customer to leave money.  Some even leave money out in the open.  You can make your own change if necessary.  This one was a large, heavy (?) aluminum box with a slot in the top to insert cash.  It would be possible to walk away with the entire box, but probably not un-noticed in the village full of nosy neighbors.

Farmers on the highway put out corn, potatoes, apples etc. and an honor box.  Farms where you have to drive in to the house have signs saying, “No Sunday sales”, but the honor boxes can sit out seven days a week.  If you wish to stop and remove some produce and voluntarily leave some cash, that’s your business, but if they’re not sitting there accepting filthy lucre, they’re not Doing Business, so it’s moral.

The wife worked for an insurance company for ten years.  I find that Scotsmen and Jews have nothing on Mennonites for being cheap.  They want everything that’s in the contract, whether they qualify or not, and then they want some free candy off your desk for giving you the business.  The young lad I worked with must have asked at least six times in disbelief, if I was sure I wanted to give my excess foreign coins to his immigrant wife for her collection, at no charge.

I think it’s silly to worry about violating, not God’s rules, but some narrow-visioned man’s rules.  They think they can remain religious hermits, and still be business-men in today’s society.  I think the mental and moral gymnastics are silly and amusing.  They think up new ways to circumvent the lifestyle they claim to revere.  Look out!  Here comes the future!