Once again I am way behind because I have been meaning to tell you I had a most excellent holiday weekend driving down to So. IL to hang out with my best pal Jen and how as soon as I arrived I was whisked away to some vineyard in the middle of beautiful green rolling hills of the tiny town called Alto Pass Population 350, where you would never guess you were actually in Illinois because most people, mostly those people in this flat-ass Northern Land of Chicago who consider anything south of 111th as “downstate” don’t really know just what another world it is down there and once you go about 350 miles south (that is a couple hours past the garish 10 story Jesus Cross just off I-57 near Effingham) just how not flat and pretty it can be and how fun it is to sit in the sun and let the terribly humid air roll off your bones while you listen to a crappy but yet harmless jam band play on while you are all pinkies-up - sipping tasty wine.
But then again I do not know much about wine or wine tasting, because at the So. IL Wine Events, you just pay a few bucks and are once again whisked away to little tent-y areas where cute fellas will fill your glass so you can have a little taste of the many, many wineries that have popped up all over that region in the last ten years or so, and even though you lift your glass to the cute wine-pouring-fella and ask for Seyval Blanc or the Domaine Des Sages or Chambourcin or anything fancy-pants that would require you to roll your r’s or make some sort of frenchy-type guttural noise in a way that is soooo midwestern-beer-drinker-turned-wine-taster-for-the-afternoon-mock-worthy, you may as well be yelling “Gimme the hooch!” - even though you’ve got that going against you, the whole thing is just so not pretentious because no matter how many spitty-fake french pronunciations you pour out, they just smile and fill your glass with a wee bit of wine for just a taste all the while smiling because it’s just so freaking pretty outside that day, and jesus-christ there’s a crappy jam band playing, so what could they say?
And so throughout the afternoon everyone is in such a fucking fantastic mood, the stumbling-over-frou-frou-wine name pronunciations eventually become so terribly endearing to them, the wee taste they were pouring into your glass just seconds ago turns into a half a glass after half a glass after another half a glass and a few hours later there is nothing left to do but sit in the grass and eat cheese and watch the sky bruise when the sun sets over the acres and acres of fat vines all greeny-leafy and twisty with all the good-grapey-friuty-stuff that makes pretty swell tasting wine for, you know, those like me who don’t know.
So yeah, you sit and laugh and keep your nose and pinkies up, until later it’s time to go to the punk rock show at the local dive-bar that used to be much more dive-y years ago, but now after a few coats of paint, looks pretty glowing and respectable, with the new pool tables and shiny new un-molested green felt and straight cues to shoot so you can play pool with the kids while you listen to the two former members of Screeching Weasel and the former lead singer of Operation Ivy do their little punk songs while you drink Pabst until the Old Guy In the Bar who mumble-talks like Boomhower on King of the Hill comes by to shoot the shit with you and your friend.
And so you play pool distractedly while you catch every third word Boomhower says and simply hear “mummmble mummmble … house by the lake … mummble mummble… camping… mumble mummble rumbble …. party! party! ….mumble mumble… you like to party, girls?… mumble, mumble … CROQUET! CROQUET!… “
And so you and your friend look at each other and you’re all like, “croquet?”… “croquet??” and you are laughing until you finally hear the Old Guy over the punk noise yell, “NO! No, do you want to do some COCAINE.”
Yeah, you know, croquet. Cocaine.
And so, just then you realize just what a long, long, impossibly funny day it’s been and you lose it and you can’t help but laugh and laugh and laugh and manage a polite, “no thanks!” in the middle of a Pabst Blue Ribbon spit-take until Old Guy Boomhower just leaves and you finish your beers and walk home on dark streets at 3 am trying not break your ankles on the broken concrete sidewalks and breath a little because you are laughing just that hard all the while doing fake mallet shots in the dark night and screamy-laughing “talley-ho! click! Croquet!”