Subversive Shorts

I was chatting with my nephew about university and its associated hi-jinks, and he mentioned Bermuda Shorts Day.  It’s been an end-of-term tradition at University of Calgary since the 1960s, but there was a kerfuffle this year because the administrators prohibited the campus pub from serving alcohol during the event.

My mind boggled.  It’s a university end-of-year party and they’re shutting down the pub?!?

I guess I’d understand it if I pretended to be a responsible adult for a moment.  A massive piss-up isn’t healthy for the participants or pleasant for those who have to clean up afterward, but still.  The twenty-something rebel inside my brain was scandalized.  It’s university!  End of classes!  It’s supposed to be a piss-up!

The funny part was the apparent implication of Bermuda shorts as culprits, as if none of these mature and responsible students would ever even consider partying hearty except while under the influence of evil garments.

I made some crack about ‘subversive shorts’, and my nephew laughed.  “That sounds like a title for one of your blog posts,” he said.

Well, dang, he’s right.

So what constitutes subversive shorts?  Judging by the news photos in which they’re wearing either long pants or Daisy-Dukes, these kids wouldn’t recognize real Bermuda shorts if they crawled up their legs and gave them a wedgie.  But that’s okay.  I wasn’t sure what was so special about Bermuda shorts, either, so I looked them up.   Turns out the only defining characteristic of Bermuda shorts is their length, about 1” above the knee:  How anti-climactic.

But I speculated that since the military have worn them for so long without causing chaos, there must be something else about them that incites people to the kind of uncontrolled drinking and mayhem that the U of C apparently fears.

When I envision Bermuda shorts, my mental image isn’t of the restrained and dignified version described in the Wikipedia article.  I tend to think of them in bright madras plaid, which might be enough to incite violence among those opposed to plaid.  So maybe the psychotropic component of Bermuda shorts is loud patterns paired with pasty white legs:

Okay, now I need a drink. And those aren’t even Bermuda shorts.

Okay, now I need a drink. And those aren’t even Bermuda shorts.

But maybe this is all merely the deranged imagining of a heavily medicated mind.  I’m currently stoned on antihistamines, so my brain function isn’t to be trusted.

In fact, neither are my optical functions:  A few days ago I served myself a slice of pizza at the table before turning away to replace the pan in the oven.  Hubby’s laughter made me turn, only to realize that the plate I’d seen in my mind wasn’t actually there at all.  My hot slice of pizza was lying in the middle of a naked placemat.

And get this:  I had modelled those loud shorts only a couple of hours earlier.

Coincidence?  I think not.  The shorts must’ve subverted what was left of my brain.  An uncontrollable drinking binge can’t be far away.

Loud shorts:  Love ‘em or hate ‘em?

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P.S. The first VBBC (Virtual Backyard Book Club) discussion starts today!  Check it out here!

Baby, Duck!

This weekend I was treated to a blast from the past.  We invited friends over for dinner, and one couple arrived bearing a bottle of Baby Duck.

For those unfamiliar with Baby Duck, it’s a ‘wine’ that was introduced to Canada in the early 1970s:  fizzy grape juice with lots of sugar, some alcohol, and a generous dollop of successful marketing.  Oenophiles may recoil in horror, but the truth is Baby Duck was part of the formative drinking years of an entire generation.

The friend who brought it this weekend confessed that she drank Baby Duck for the first/last time at a party long ago where she singlehandedly polished off one and a half bottles… and has never drunk it again.

So many people had their first disastrous drinking experience with Baby Duck that the name became a bit of a joke.  As the victims fled for the bathroom, stomachs heaving, a sardonic cheer would go up from the rest of the revelers as they scattered to provide a clear path:  “Baby, duck!”

My very  first drinking experience was as a young teenager, maybe fourteen or fifteen.  One day our family departed the sticks and went to the Big City for a family visit, and my city cousin took me out for Chinese food.

Imagine the importance of this event in the life of a backward young hick!  I’d never had Chinese food.  And my almost-grown-up cousin (she had a driver’s license and a car…!) was taking me out, just the two of us, like adults.  And when we got to the restaurant, she casually ordered us each a Singapore Sling!  (Even though we were both too young to drink I guess we looked close enough – we didn’t get asked for ID.  Times were simpler then.)

My parents had both come from non-drinking households, but they figured the safest way to protect their kids from dangerous rebellion was to introduce the concept of responsible drinking.  So they had already explained the concepts of alcohol and intoxication, and every now and then they drank a glass of wine with dinner while we were growing up.  They didn’t make a big deal of it, but we understood that alcohol was an adult thing.

So I was wildly excited by the grown-up meal… and I was afraid I’d get drunk and embarrass myself.  I still recall how yummy the almond chicken was, and I still recall wondering if I was drunk yet because I didn’t feel any different after one cocktail that was probably mostly fruit juice.

Needless to say when I went off to university a few years later I discovered that you’re not actually drunk until you’ve consumed seven Zombies (three kinds of rum, apricot brandy, and fruit juice) a couple of Brown Cows (Kahlua and cream) and then topped it off with a couple of warm beers that nobody else dared to drink.  (Gee, I wonder why…?)

I’ve been blessed with a cast-iron stomach and a lightning-fast metabolism, so that night I staggered home laughing all the way and fell into the dreamless slumber of the just and the intoxicated.  My drinking buddy at the time wasn’t so lucky – she spent the entire night talking to Ralph on the great white telephone and silently cursing my oblivious snores.

I think she’s forgiven me after more than three decades, but she’ll never forget.

Anybody else remember their first drinking experience?  Or prefer to forget it?

Thinking About Drinking

It’s autumn, and I need a drink.

It’s partly because autumn is my least favourite season, but mainly because the crabapples are ripe.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember I mentioned I love food and I’m helplessly addicted to gardening.

The result of those traits is a back yard containing an apple tree, a crabapple tree, grapevines, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, haskaps (a very cool variety of honeysuckle with fruit like blueberries on steroids), strawberries, asparagus, a hazelnut tree, and a greenhouse full of tomatoes and peppers.  My “real” garden is about 3,000 square feet of vegetables outside the city.

The back yard in mid-summer when it still looked nice

The star of the backyard show is the crabapple tree.  Every year, it droops under the weight of its crop –  deliciously sweet-tart, juicy blush-pink apples.  (The variety is Rescue, in case there are any other hungry gardeners out there.)  Every year, I cart away a couple of wheelbarrow-loads of crabapples.  I make jelly, fruit leather, applesauce, and spiced crabapples.  Then if there are leftovers, I ferment them into hard cider.

This process begins with an explosion of pulverized crabapples and ends with a product that ranges from rotgut to rocket fuel to rot (if I don’t get a high enough alcohol content).

Juicing was a laborious process until a few years ago when Hubby bought me one of those newfangled kick-ass juicers – yet another reason why he’s on the best-husband-ever list.  The new juicer works like a dream… except for one thing.  No matter how fast I slam the pusher into the chute after adding a handful of apples, the shredding action is so aggressive that bits spray everywhere.  The first time I used it, I was picking apple flecks out of my eyebrows and off the ceiling.

This year I wised up and did the juicing on the back deck where I could hose everything off afterward.  (The neighbours didn’t even bat an eye.  After the radish/toilet incident, they’re probably afraid to ask.)

Once all the juicing is done, it’s a glorious exercise in hope.  What yeast should I use this year?  What part of the process will I tweak to get the absolutely perfect batch of cider?  Then there’s fermentation, racking, fining, bottling with just the right amount of added sugar to get a delicious sparkle in the finished product.

Then there are months of anticipation.  It takes about a year before the final product is ready.

Then comes the first taste… and the final classification:  rotgut, rocket fuel, or rot.  But I keep hoping somehow, some year, I’ll magically produce something drinkable.  Well, something other people might consider drinkable.  I drink it anyway…

But in the mean time, all that work and hope has made me thirsty.  Think I’ll crack open a bought beer.  At least I know it’ll be good.

What’s your favourite autumn beverage?

Oh, and loosely related to gardening:  I can’t believe I actually managed to snap a bee in mid-flight in my garden a few days ago:

Bee in flight just below the smaller sunflower