The Grapes of Wrath – and Guinness
Grapes have always seemed to me to be pretty much useless. I don’t like wine. I don’t like Welch’s grape juice. I don’t like those little packets of grape jelly that come with toast in restaurant breakfasts. And while Steinbeck’s famous Dust Bowl novel isn’t bad, it should be noted that none of the principal characters is actually a grape.
And don’t get me started on that lingering 1960s fad of grape jokes, which produced perhaps the worst band name ever in Moby Grape. (Although, I’ll concede that “Murder in My Heart for the Judge” is a killer tune.)
Grape Nuts is OK, mostly because it contains no grapes.
But I must admit I have a new appreciation of that despised purple fruit after learning that the Guinness Book of World Records has a category devoted to the distance people can throw grapes in the air and catch them in their mouths.
Particularly since the new world record for this endeavor appears to have been set in Maine. Last Friday, Trevor McDonald, a Bowdoin College freshman from Londonderry, Vermont, went to the school’s Farley Field House and tossed a grape thirty-nine feet, ran after it, and caught it in his mouth. That achievement was captured on video and submitted to Guinness for verification.
Not only did McDonald’s feat redeem the lowly grape in my eyes, it also wrested the record from Ashrita Furman, the previous champion at thirty-seven feet. Furman currently holds one hundred and forty-four Guinness records, including those of underwater rope jumping, creating the largest popcorn sculpture, and catching seventy-five raw eggs in one minute.
Dude is seriously whacked.
Asked about McDonald’s accomplishment, Furman told the Times Record, “I think we’re making progress.”
If he means in raising the grape’s level of acceptability with me, that’s certainly true. If that’s not what he meant, then I have no idea what’s he’s talking about.
Speaking of saying nonsensical things, some members of the Bangor City Council really got to show off that skill this week, thereby demonstrating that the next time they open their mouths, it ought to be to catch a grape.
The controversy began when aging rocker Ted Nugent, addressing a National Rifle Association convention, made some provocative remarks about President Obama, including the scurrilous allegation that during meetings with visiting dignitaries, the chief executive of the United States regularly tells grape jokes.
Also, there was something about if Obama got re-elected, he’d be trying to kill or jail Nugent, because Ted kept pointing out what a “vile, evil, America-hating administration” he was running.
This upset Bangor city councilors Charlie Longo and Joseph Baldacci, because The Nuge is scheduled to play an open-air concert in Bangor in July. The councilors seemed to think the show should be cancelled, because – in Longo’s words – “this vitriolic, incendiary rhetoric has no place in our national discourse.”
Apparently, he’s never heard of Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine.
Not to compare Nugent to those guys, although you’d have to admit nothing in “Common Sense” comes close to making you get up and boogy around like “Wango Tango.”
At last report, the concert promoter was resisting all efforts to ban Nugent from Bangor, and some sensible observers were pointing out that shutting down the event because of the performer’s political comments was just the sort of thing they do in Iran and North Korea.
Only the music in those places is a whole lot worse.
Which is not to say life is only about songs and grapes. There’s also poop.
This past weekend, marked the twentieth anniversary of April Stools Day, a Portland tradition that involves dozens of stalwart citizens volunteering to clean up the city’s east end of unsightly grape arbors.
Oops, I let my personal prejudice leak into what has otherwise been an objective examination of the way life was last week. I apologize.
It wasn’t little round fruits, the Stools Day brigade was concerned with. It was doggie dumps. And to add to the joy that accompanies picking up canine fecal matter, the organizers of this event prepared a special surprise:
Ted Nugent gave a speech comparing certain prominent officials in Washington with the matter being cleaned up.
Just kidding. Such incendiary rhetoric has no place in liberal Portland, where the mere possession of Nugent CDs can result in arrest and imprisonment.
The special treat for the poop patrollers was that one of them would find a “golden turd,” good for a gift certificate at a local dog supply emporium. No word on whether this particular turd was made of real gold or was just an ordinary turd painted gold. Seems like that would be important to know. I mean, are you going to need a plastic bag to pick it up or not?
Finally, I’m indebted to the Lewiston Sun Journal for adding to my collection of unusual road names in Maine. In an April 22 feature, Maxwell Mogensen noted many of my favorites, including Katies Crotch Road in Emden and Alcohol Mary Road in Greenwood, both of which have embarrassed some of the more puritanical locals as much as anything Ted Nugent has ever said. But Mogensen also came up with a new one for me: Old Bloody Hill Road in Lewiston.
No one knows for sure how it got that name, but theories include the possibility that Nugent used to live there, and he used his guns to discourage visitors. Others believe the hill ran red each year when its owners cleared out an infestation of grape vines by stomping all over them.
Al Diamon just realized he does have some use for grapes, which turn out to be the main ingredient in sweet vermouth, without which it’s impossible to make a decent Manhattan. He takes back all the nasty comments he made about this valuable fruit. Recriminations from grape supporters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.