POSTED ON OCTOBER 29, 2008:
German song and dance alleviates discomfort of beer-soaked jeans
I've spent a little time in Bavaria, Germany's largest state, but never during the fall. I've always wanted to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. This year, Tulsa's 30th annual Oktoberfest, would have to serve as my first. My Munich. I'll start in Oklahoma and work my way to southeast Germany, I told myself.
On my visits to Munich I've always stopped in at the Hofbräuhaus, a brewery and large tourist destination known for its rabble rousing and beer consumption. I only mention it here because it brings back pleasant memories from my younger years and because the main tent, Der Bier Garten, at Tulsa's Oktoberfest reminded me of its charm. The only thing missing from the event was the building itself and more of the German language. Oh, and Coors Light can't shake a warm pretzel at the brew offered at the Hofbräuhaus.
Because of my connection with this publication, I first attended Oktoberfest on Wednesday's Corporate Night. It was an agreeable evening, but it was obvious I was not having as much fun as many in attendance. None of the rides were up and running and few booths were open. No German hats, no gnomes, no beer steins. Not tonight.
Observing Tulsa's working people soused and dancing atop benches and/or tables can only be appreciated for a limited time. Being sober in a large crowd of tipsy strangers is mildly amusing until a stray beer or person lands in your lap or on your shoulder. Thanks for accompanying me, Cristi.
I wanted to return to experience the weekend crowds and the rides and the booths. I also wanted to have a beer and see what all the "zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi" was about, though I still didn't care to be showered with beer by my peers. Don't worry, I'm only mildly foreshadowing.
Saturday night arrived and I found myself greeted with considerably more traffic than I was on Wednesday evening. More people, more cars, and more opportunities for $5 parking. I, being my father's son, found a free and completely legal space and enjoyed the walk.
After paying my $5 entry fee and converting $20 worth of paper currency into a paper ticket-like currency, I was ready for a beer and some "zicke, zacke"-ing.
The beer selection was exceptional and pricey, which I fully expected. I think Germany's Oktoberfest might be more affordable, though the commute more costly. Additionally, they - the Munich organizers - probably won't offer to take me home if I have too much to drink, a service provided to inebriated Tulsans by Anheuser-Busch at Oktoberfest. Thank you, Anheuser-Busch! I applaud you.
What else has to be done to prevent drinking and driving? We, as a country, could follow Europe's lead and stiffen the penalties, but that is an entirely separate discussion. One I would gladly take up over, say, a beer at my house if you had a designated driver.
I decided on a $4 beer and made my way to the Der Bier Garten. It was close to 9pm, so many people had been "enjoying" Oktoberfest for several hours at that point, as was evident by the 50-something who did a face plant into a bench as I entered the tent. His mind just got ahead of his feet. He was fine, but it reminded me I was heading into the eye of the storm.
Beer showers were being administered in this tent. I'd better keep an open eye, I told myself.
After declaring my spot adjacent to the dance floor, a diverse location, I settled in to watch the madness. Dance assistants outfitted in lederhosen, traditional German knickerbocker-esque attire made of leather or corduroy often worn with suspenders, were available to answer questions or borrow for a drunken dance. For most dancers, it appeared the amount of beer previously consumed resulted in a fast rate of whirling. Parents danced with children, lederhosen-clad dancers twirled with anyone, and beer washed over the floor.
I was hit, not on a rising of the glass or even a drinking game, but merely standing. Bam! Oh man, that feels wet, it better not be beer, I thought. Beer-soaked jeans. Cristi was hit, too. I guess the only consolation was that it wasn't my beer. I hadn't paid $14. But, I stunk; again, something I fully expected.
If you've never been to an Oktoberfest, it really is an experience like no other in Tulsa. Don't go during the day. Wait until the late evening, don a rain jacket, and prepare for tomfoolery.
I've never seen that many people standing on top of tables. The chicken dance brings out the crowds' best and results in more beer on the floor -- a common occurrence at that time of night.
Many of the acts are flown in from Germany, a fact I learned at the Tulsa airport two years ago while awaiting a return flight to Belize. Having real, live German performers gives the festival that added flair. I don't know if it in some way encourages more table dancing, but the German music and dancing made my evening.
Needing a break from continually having to watch my back for potential accidents, Cristi and I decided to ride The Spider, a devilishly dizzying experience. What's more intoxicating than two beers? Two beers and The Spider.
For many in attendance, a jumbo pretzel or bratwurst was the perfect way to compliment a pitcher of beer. Not for me.
Mixing drinking with carnival rides is not something I recommend. Many of you know better than I do. I will say it's nice to have a balance for the family, but to me a night at Oktoberfest isn't the ideal family setting. The day... yes. But, as a friend of my family used to tell me, "Nothing good happens after dark."
I stayed long enough to enjoy some fare (a reminder that I need to include more sauerkraut in my dishes), cold beer, music and a carnival ride, but just long enough to avoid the cretins who declined the free cab ride home in favor of drinking and driving. The early departure was not coincidental.
Oktoberfest was an adventurous occasion that I found entertaining, albeit an over-priced gathering of drunken strangers -- something I can deal with once or twice per year.
Cristi, my driver, got me home safe and sound. I put some stain wash on our pants and relaxed to Cristi telling me of her renewed love of lederhosen, a garment she had always desired as a child. I laughed. Beer soaked lederhosen sounds worse to me than soggy jeans. But, that's an American's take on it. Germans may disagree.
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