There won’t be a sunset past 7 p.m. in these parts again until St. Patrick’s Day 2020.
Maybe that’s why so many places hold festivals the next-to-last official weekend of summer. Nobody exactly rages against the dying of the light, but plenty of folks enjoy drinking something not pumpkin spiced out of a plastic cup, gobbling down funnel cakes and listening to 80s cover bands.
Others wind up babysitting. That’s what I did Sept. 13, helping Best Fest Buddy Tom watch his three grandkids.
See, Tom’s daughter and his sort-of son-in-law were at work, and, well, you know. Grandparents shouldn’t have any plans of their own.
The kids are all under five and great fun – at least to someone who has the option of leaving. Plus, they think of me as a 222-pound teddy bear.
“Yeti. Bear. Napkin. Same difference,” Tom says.
He’s referring to my paleness. I lack the furriness of the Star Wars creature. As for being a human paper towel, my black shorts wound up splattered with red sauce, courtesy of the frozen pizza served for dinner. At least that’s what I told the cops.
Kids can’t help being sloppy. And this trio has helicopter parents. In this case hovering means creating a strong downdraft that leaves a lawn, a house, a car a mess in its wake.
Tom thought his daughter might get home in time for us to do what we had planned to do.
Fireworks between East and West Dundee that night marked the 127th anniversary of the treaty ending the war that ultimately created two towns instead of one Dundee, IL.
Feeling they got the better end of the deal, West Dundee holds Heritage Fest to mark what they see as a win. They launch the fireworks from a footbridge over the Fox River between the two towns. This reminds East Dundee who’s boss.
Being Irish, I headed to the East Dundee side, sans Tom, to meet up with a friend at Rosie O’Hare’s.
I expected a big crowd on what was a nice night. But apparently not many people saw fireworks 411 on their Facebook feeds. That made viewing all the better for my friend and me.
The display made me hungry, so I ordered baked chicken over mashed potatoes served with a bit of sauerkraut. All for $7.
Then we both went home under the glow of the harvest moon. I had a lot on my plate for Saturday, and my friend had the All Ireland final to watch.
After my Saturday morning chores, Tom texted me, telling me to wear my Sriracha t-shirt. He has one, too.
However, when I arrived at his house that afternoon, Tom was shirtless and doing laundry.
Turns out his youngest grandson piddled on Tom’s shoulders. That morning, Tom had the tot hoisted on his shoulders while watching the local El Grito parade, and el chico lo orinó.
“I usually have to pay women to do that,” Tom said, channeling Donald Trump. (I include this line because Tom is testing out his stand-up material.)
The shirt went into the washer. Besides, multitasking Tom also was cleaning out his SUV, a sweaty job to say the least.
In a benevolent mood, I lent a hand. OK. I was hoping he’d get through his chores ASAP as we were going to head to Elgin. A guy from Texas shows up every few weeks in an Ace parking lot there with a truckful of Gulf Coast shrimp.
After sweeping the living room for my evil step brother-by-another-mother, I joined Tom on SUV detail.
Tom had, on occasion, lent his daughter and her kids his Navigator. That meant crackers, cereal, nuts, tiny toys, coins, fries, cheeseburger remnants, Peppa Pig pages and even a copy of the Gettysburg Address commingling in a bacterial orgy under the floor upholstery. It smelled good, too, like any meeting of dairy and diaper would.
The project wound up taking more than four hours – and no visit to the shrimper.
Instead, we headed over to the El Grito celebration down the block in our town’s park, wearing our matching Sriracha shirts. The reason was simple. If we became separated, we could ask other fest goers and event authorities if they saw another bald guy in a Sriracha shirt. Duh.
El Grito in this case refers to the legendary cry for freedom and an end to oppression let out Sept. 16, 1810 by a parish priest in Delores, Mexico. It came to symbolize the start of that country’s fight for independence.
We stopped by in search of food, but opted to eat at Heritage Fest. That gave us more time to visit the Heritage crafts fair for inspiration.
I’ve decided to go into the crafts business. I’m thinking hand knitted underwear with NFL logos, and for dogs, too. Or selling imported, organic kale yarn.
Through Facebook, a friend suggested I knit kilts, which I would call knilts. Another pal reminded not to forget outfits for concrete lawn geese.
It was so much food for thought, metaphorical ears of Knights of Columbus hot buttered corn for the brain, Bleu Root steamed pork buns for the soul.
Eager to share my crafty plans, Tom and I told them to the bartenders at Rosie’s, then the folks at Village Vintner.
Actually, Frick and Frack here were getting as much mileage as we could from wearing matching t-shirts.
At the Vintner we learned more details of a benefit they’re holding for their assistant manager’s family on Sept. 29. This summer, her husband had an emergency ileostomy, two strokes, and doctors discovered a hole in his heart. He’s an independent contractor delivery driver, which means he’s not getting paid. And the family lacks health insurance.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum here promised to attend – and to show up Sunday at the Vintner’s version of Oktoberfest.
It provided a chance to wear the Halloween store lederhosen staff from Rosie’s gave me last year. They thought if anyone would find a use for the garb it would be me.
I thought better of giving the outfit a test run that night at a German fest going on in Hoffman Estates, where a band called Unconstitutional was serving up classic rock with bratwurst.
Back home in Carpentersville, I fell asleep hearing the competing sounds of El Grito and Heritage Fest, a mashup of Mexican music with REO Speedwagon and Journey through my bedroom window. I dreamed of a band called Nacho Mullet.
After mass Sunday, breakfast, returning his dad to the assisted living community and buying prosciutto on sale for $6.99 a pound, Tom wound up babysitting again.
This time, the job ended in time for us to catch the tail end of the winery’s Oktoberfest. I looked so snazzy in my lederhosen 46 people liked my selfie on Facebook.
I was glad it was cloudy. The costume material felt as if sunlight would meld it to my skin. Turns out, one of the Vintner owners wore a similar getup a few years ago and had to cut it off with scissors.
I looked like an aging Pinocchio. Despite that, I impulsively proposed to a dirndl-donning fräulein/waitress/bartender. On bended knee even.
As we hadn’t even dated, she counter-proposed that I stay at least 15 feet away from her. We settled on five feet. She can still wait on me from behind the bar.
Now it’s the last weekend of summer. Ramble on like we will. Enjoy the adventures.