The beloved festival returned in full force this year, welcoming both the initiated and the new.
Too much. Toooooo much. 300 beers, not enough money. Aftermath is sickness. The antebellum is sickness. Everyone lost something: I lost my innocence. Bavaria is either a twisted place or it’s being ill-represented. Go to Oktoberfest.
The whole thing is billed as a sterile festival of German culture, sponsored by a German industrial company. Arts and crafts, strudel and sausage are your family friendly mid-day activities, but beware the sundown. Hordes of miscreants wander with plastic jugs of sopping foam through knee-deep mud-swamps lining the boardwalk highways built at the proportions of Lewis Avenue.
There are tents everywhere; I am stumbling in the rear-guard of a crowd of strangers, and there is no way you can tell any of the sounds apart. I can’t tell where anything ends and begins, but banging, blamping, beeping and godforsaken polka. It’s heaven.
The website lists some dozen or so featured Bavarian bands who’ll whoop and holler at you for two hours, whether you’re barking and foaming or unconscious. I wander into a tent to find some lonesome lederhosen-laden devils bashing at their accordions. We whirl and cheer, whooping up into the Weltschmerz night. There’s an unmistakable ecstasy about this swirling Deutsch endeavor.
I would like to insert here my one criticism of the ordeal: very poor signage. I’ve never been so happy to be lost in my entire life, but I couldn’t tell up from down. I wasn’t keen to consult a map, not that I could have anyways. Thank the gods that this whole ordeal is a matter of fortune and fate because I could have been a hermit since birth, but I think everyone I ran into or over was my best friend, except a couple of unfortunate incidents with a roommate’s ex screaming hell at me.
The disorienting haul was necessary though. Sloshing around, strudel in hand, necessitated a sort of deadly competence, which the success of the evening was entirely dependent upon. I’m strolling, thinking about all of the implications and about run over some poor lady who’s torrenting fuming German lager. All niceties are exchanged, of course, but before my eyes is one word that changes the whole direction of the night: Biergarten. The mother of all tents. The very pith of it. The zeitgeist.
The world quiets at 3 a.m., spread out flat in the mud on an overbank somewhere between Riverside and Boston. I wouldn’t know; I was tucked safely away in the comfort of home. Reflecting on it, you could probably focus on the immense subjective negatives of the whole occasion (typical fair: screeching, crying, lost items and generic drunkenness), or you could check your Snapchat memories and try to remember the frenetic neon lights, bodies twitching, sloshing, shouting and the immensity of the joy everyone partakes in. I am a newly-ordained, yearly patron of Oktoberfest.