Shhhh. I have a headache. After three days of suffering sport defeat, I was heartily up for the final day of Oktoberfest at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit. It's basically everything my wife dislikes packed into a tent: hundreds of really loud, really drunken people (most of them smoking) shouting at each other over a 700-decibel polka band. However, because I am male, and right-thinking, I recognize Oktoberfest for what it is: One Of The Best Ideas Ever.
Americans love drinking-based festivals and holidays. I have long said that if a culture wants to win the hearts and minds of Americans, it needs to think up a holiday that involves little more than eating fatty food and drinking to excess. Presently, the big ones are: New Year's Eve, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Oktoberfest and Thanksgiving. There are still plenty of spots on the calendar. Although, you should make sure that your new holiday doesn't butt against one of the established ones -- Wales should shift St. David's Day from early March to mid-September.
My wife chose to miss out on the festivities, but I had a great time nonetheless, drinking 2.5 liters of beer, singing along to the "Dos" song*, eating bratwurst, playing hammerschlagen, and losing my voice.
I just Google-searched "hammerschlagen" and see that the top returns are either from German sites or sites based in the Minnesota area, so it's possible you have no idea what I'm talking about. Here's a picture of some guys I don't know playing hammerschlagen. The goal of the game is to be the first to drive a nail into a piece of wood. The participants take turns taking a single strike at their nail until a person's nail is finally driven all the way in. You can also use your turn to straighten your nail if your previous turn put it at a bad angle. That sounds simple enough, but there are two key elements that make it difficult:
1) You have to use the tapered end of a blacksmith hammer to drive the nail.
2) You have to be drinking.
Oktoberfest is one of those great unifying events that brings out all ages, races and types, then squishes them all together at the same table. We got to meet Ray because he and his girlfriend, Carolyn, were able to squish in at our table. Carolyn is only a year older than Ray's eldest daughter -- way to go, Ray! Ray was the hammerschlagen champion of the evening. On his first attempt, he drove the nail in a single strike. Ray is the new icon of virility.
One of the more amusing aspects of the evening came when the polka band played a version of "New York, New York" The booing was so loud that you couldn't hear the band at all. Should a certain headphones-wearing person ever visit our fair metro area, she might want to leave her Yankees paraphernalia at home.
I have packed away my beach chair and neatly folded my map of downtown Minneapolis -- there will be no Twins World Series parade. I would like to point out, however, that with the exception of game three, the Twins proved to be a hard team to beat. And keep in mind that the total payroll of the Yankees ($184,193,950) is three times that of the Twins ($53,585,000).
I will now return to my protest of Major League Baseball.
How does this even happen?
*(To the tune of Do Re Mi)
Dos, a beer -- a Mexican beer.
Ray, the guy behind the bar.
Me, a guy, I buy beer for.
Far, a long way to the bar.
So, I'll have another beer.
Tea, no thanks, I'll have a beer.
And that brings us back to Dos.