Winters is a great place to be from. Usually when people say that somewhere is “a great place to be from” it’s because they’ve moved away and have no intention of ever returning. I don’t mean it like that. Winters is a great place to be from not because I’m never coming back, but because it’s a great place to return home to.
What a welcome sight, that gap in the blue Berryessa hills. As soon as you see it, you’re almost home. It’s a welcome sight, but nothing is as welcome a sight as your own driveway. Whew. You’re home. Maybe our town slogan should just be “Winters… whew.”
When you’re on vacation, you get temporary amnesia about “home” because you’re simply having too much fun. The Cutest Man In The World and I were so busy bottling 10 gallons of mead to bring to Pennsic 38 (the largest medieval reenactment encampment in the U.S.), visiting with family and then, of course, the main event -- Pennsic -- we didn’t give much thought to what we left back home. Somewhere over Podunk, Illinois on the return trip, it all came back to me. I was more than ready to get back where I came from.
After more than two weeks away, I was so tapas-deprived, I would’ve crawled on hands and knees to Ficelle for a cup of ajo. I’d also totally forgotten what Berryessa Gap Tempranillo tastes like, necessitating a visit to the tasting room to refresh my memory.
There’s so much to miss in Winters. Roadhouse Salad. Fat ripe tomatoes from the Farmers Market. The Palms. Hot dry days and cool breezy evenings. Hummingbirds. Bocce. Karaoke at the Irish Pub. All my wonderful, wacky pals. My kitties. I even missed the boss. (OK, I didn’t really, I was just seeing if you’re paying attention.)
Don’t get me wrong -- although it’s joyous to return home, TCMITW and I had a blast getting medieval for a week or so, despite camping in Pennsylvania’s torrential rain (they call that SUMMER?), heat and humidity, with access only to a makeshift shower (which we were thankful to have) and living with 15 other people in our camp who are just as headstrong as we are.
When you’re at Pennsic, which attracts about 10,000 people to Cooper’s Lake to recreate a medieval world, complete with kingdoms and an ongoing “war,” you have very little contact with the outside world. Before long, “real life” seems like a distant memory. Coming back to the “mundane world” is almost culture shock.
Last year, after reemerging into the mundane world, we discovered that the stock market had crashed, ultimately dragging down the cash flow TCMITW and I needed to start a microbrewery here in Winters. We’d worked on that project for more than a year, and in a matter of weeks last fall, watched our dream slipping through our fingers.
This year, I was hoping for the reverse – to leave Pennsic and find out the stock market had surged, our cash flow was back and our dream might become a reality. Well, the market was up a little, but not enough. Time to start thinking about Plan B. The main feature of which must be a boatload of cash.
Even though our microbrewery is stalled for now, which has bummed us both out for months, TCMITW’s enthusiasm got a jump-start after attending the brewing roundtables at Pennsic (where he first caught the brewing bug), and catching some brewing classes, like the various effects of yeast on dark beer. He really gets off on that sort of stuff. Me, I don’t much care HOW he brews the beer, just THAT he brews the beer.
While we’re waiting for our Ship of Cash to sail into port, we have a batch of mead fermenting at home and as soon as the temperature drops below Hades level, hopefully some homebrew too. Life is good. Beer makes it gooder.
If you’re wondering what mead is, it’s honey wine, and tastes like heaven in a glass. In medieval times, the wedding couple was given mead to help ensure that the marriage was consummated. Hence the term “honeymoon.” Sadly, it’s darn near impossible to find good commercial mead – it all tastes like cough syrup. But it’s in abundance at Pennsic.
Brewing is just one of the things you can learn about at Pennsic, which is organized by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), a worldwide organization dedicated to the preservation of medieval arts, crafts, textiles, history and culture, as well as weaponry and the finer art of bashing your opponent’s brains out with a duct-tape covered rattan pole.
Me, I didn’t learn about brewing or fighting at Pennsic this year. I took up soapmaking, basic doumbek drumming and Saidi stick dancing, as well as a few other odds and ends. And I learned one other thing: No matter how much fun you’re having on vacation, Winters is a great place to be from.