As you read this, I'm probably in some crazy tent, standing on a table, singing "Ein Prosit," with a one-liter stein in my fist, an oom-pah band in my ear and, hopefully, hopefully, hopefully some buxom St. Pauli Girl waitress spilling out of her dirndl as she delivers the next cold round of Löewenbräeu.
Which is to say, I'm in Munich celebrating Oktoberfest.
Well, I think it's a celebration-I'm not really sure, since, as of this writing, I'm not there yet. And I don't even know what Oktoberfest is, or why and how it began, or what, if anything, it celebrates, or why a festival that occurs mostly during September is called Oktoberfest. I don't know much at all, except what The Slovak, tells me.
We'll get to that shortly.
The motivating force behind the trip is a man named Scott Slaga, who is the co-founder and co-organizer of the annual San Diego Oktoberfest that launched last year. He got the idea after he, his wife Patty and Michael Kinsmen (of Union-Tribune fame) visited Oktoberfest in Munich. The three were so inspired they decided to bring Oktoberfest to San Diego. They added another partner, hired a crew of fellow bartenders (myself included) to manage the various tents and put on a three-day bash that drew 30,000 people and earned $50,000 for the community.
It was such a success that they're doing it again. Only this year, Slaga is bringing us tent managers to the real Oktoberfest, in Munich, for, you know, research and development. As you read this, I'm already there, um, researching and developing.
Speaking of research...
I just got off the phone with The Slovak. He's been to Oktoberfest four times and is the closest thing to an expert that I know. He loves talking Oktoberfest:
"There are a million-plus people on opening day," he said, animated and excited, like Tony Little on taurine. "They've got a carnival, a parade, horse races, outdoor biergartens everywhere, chicken vendors with chicken racks 30 feet long and 12 feet high selling whole birds like cotton candy, and all kinds of people dressed in lederhosen and dirndl dresses."
According to The Slovak, there are 19 tents. Each is two stories tall with a 10,000-person capacity and everyone in it is drinking and dancing on tables and singing "Ein Prosit" (pronounced: Ine Proh-sit), which is a cattle call for everyone in the tent to toast and drink and sing along...
Ein prosit, ein prosit
Der gemütlichkeit (ge-moot-leek-heit)
Ein prosit, ein pro-oh-sit
Ein! Zwei! G'suffa!
"Then everybody in the tent toasts together," says The Slovak. "Thousands of people singing and toasting at once. That's what it's all about-the toast. Nobody cares about language. No one gives a fuck where you're from or how much German you know-it's not about that. It's about: "Are you toasting and singing and dancing on the tables?'"
Sounds like Deutschland knows how to throw a party. Not like San Diego, where we continue to nurture a culture of prohibition. Not like San Diego, and all the bureaucratic restrictions you have to endure just to throw a freaking party. As far as festivals go, we suck whole chickens-too many forms, too many fees, too many rules.
"They've got a completely different attitude about alcohol," The Slovak excitedly blubbers on the phone like he's got tarantulas on his body and he's trying to knock them off. "Ninety years of family shit is under that tent, and everybody is drinking-from the 12-year-old to his 90-year-old great grandma, who, by the way, could drink any one of us under the table. Beer is their baby formula. There is not one German that could not drink any American into the shitter."
Hmm. I must admit, Oktoberfest Munich is beginning to sound unnerving. I may be a veteran alcoholic by American standards, but my baby formula was still just baby formula. I don't know if I can keep up with these Germanic types. From what I understand, they've got three livers (one for beer, one for booze and one for everything else). And this "Ein Prosit" business has my liver-the only one I got-shivering and hiding behind my spleen. They play it over and over, every 15 minutes, for hours and hours-toasting and drinking-with tourists passing out left and right. And the worst of it is, "Ein Prosit" has no translation to English, which makes me suspicious. Is it a conspiracy? Is the translation kept secret by the Germans so that they may taunt tourists behind their backs?
You lightveights, you lightveights!
You drink like der girls
You lightveights, you lie-yite-veights
Ve piss in your glass!
Now. Pass. Out!
Furthermore, the thought of roaming Oktoberfest Munich with a gang of obstreperous, alcoholic bartenders is unsettling at best. Who among us will end up in jail? Who will catch the Bavarian clap? Which of us will get beat with cymbals for heckling the Oom-pahs?
Oh well, it's research, baby! Which, by the way, reminds me, it's plugola time: Come down to Ocean Beach for Oktoberfest 2003 (www.sdoktoberfest.com). It runs Oct. 10-13. We'll have three tents (averaging about 18,000 square feet each), four stages, 75 bands, carnival, rugby tournament, roving oom-pah band and the Miss Oktoberfest competition-for which we will have to start recruiting very soon. You know, more research and development. Prost! ©
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