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Seriously? WORMS?

I have to tell you this story. I was going to tell you just after it happened, you know, in JULY, but then I remembered I’d have to anesthetize my children for a couple of hours in order to do that, and that is apparently frowned upon. So better late than never.

This summer, ostensibly for my birthday, but really because it had been about a hundred years since Rob and I had been away, overnight, together, alone, we did that. We went to Niagara-on-the-Lake, stayed in a bed and breakfast, saw a play, went to a few wineries. (Nice ones, actually, and tried some really lovely wines. It was kind of awkward though, because we’d spend half-an-hour with some black-clad tasting room guy, fawning all over the more expensive wines on the list. Then we’d be done, and there would be this tacit exchange: he’d politely leave us alone for a moment as he cleared the many (many) glasses, and we’d frown thoughtfully while examining the wine list, as if saying, “Hmmm. A case of the Cabernet would be good, and we should get at least a couple of cases of the Reserve… What have we got in the cellar already?”Really, we were pausing just long enough to pretend we were actually considering anything but the cheapest bottle on the list that wasn’t plonk. One. “One bottle, please, of that first one we tried. The one you said was a crowd-pleaser? Mmmm. Yep, I know we had lots to say about the Reserve Cabernet, but we just couldn’t get enough of that blend. Well, actually, one’s enough. Just the one. And a bag, please.”)

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake itself¬† is almost ridiculously pretty: Queen Street, the main drag as it were,¬† has become so quaint it’s nearly impossible to buy anything other than trinkety jewelry, leather coats, jam, and those colourful flags with sunflowers on them for your porch. The area’s biggest attraction is of course, the Shaw Festival, but the Niagara Wine region and the town itself are close contenders. The region’s proximity to the US is also a big draw, and this summer in particular, I’ve never noticed so many American license plates.

Now Rob and I are definitely on the bottom end of most of the demographic categories for most tourists: we’re younger, yes, but also poorer and less traveled. But it’s ok – for a few days, we can blend.

Some, um, can’t.

Though we were very decidedly not there for the buying, there are a few shops we’ve always liked to check out, namely one called Irish Design. In fact, on one of those hundred-years-ago trips, we bought my engagement ring in that very shop: a simple, heavy silver Claddagh ring. I love it still.

You know the place, or you can imagine it: all rich woolens and tweeds, Fisherman-knit sweaters and racks of Celtic jewelry. It’s sprawling. There’s the Kids Irish Stuff area; the Women’s Really Really Fine Woolens section; the Women’s Slightly More Affordable But Not Really Section; the Irish Books and Writers section; etc. And naturally, the Guinness section. Guinness T-shirts, bottle openers, paper weights, glasses, etc. So there we are, wandering quietly around the place, this church to Irish Exports. And at one point, I become aware that there is a very large, ruddy-faced middle-aged couple in the Guinness corner, talking really, really loudly.

Him: “WHAT ABOUT THIS?” He holds up a Guinness apron.

Her: “NAH. MAYBE THIS?” She stands there turning a black Guinness bar towel over and over in her hands, scowling at it, as if she’s trying to figure out what it is. It’s very obviously a towel.

Her: “WHY’S IT SO SMALL?”

(Me, under my breath, four feet away, to the sleeve of a Harris tweed coat: “Because it’s a bar towel. For wiping a bar. Bar.”)

Him: “I DUNNO. NAH. THAT’S USELESS.”

(Me, to the sleeve: “Not for a bar it’s not…”)

They keep picking things up and frowning at them, and I’m trying to understand why they don’t just move to another area of the shop if this one is perplexing them so much.

Her: “WHAT IS GUINNESS ANYHOW?”

My head snaps up.

Him: “HUH? IT’S A BEER. A BEER, YOU KNOW…”

(Me, to coat: “Oh thank God. I was going to have yell at them.”)

Her: “WHAT ABOUT THIS?” She holds up a wall clock with a picture of the St.James Gate Brewery on it. I’m now confused about why they’re trying to buy something Guinness when they don’t even like Guinness. Or know what Guinness is.

Her: “OH WAIT!” She’s practically screaming now, not because she’s angry, but just because it was the only place left for her voice to go. I whip around as stealthily as I can, hoping to get a look at the souvenir that put her over the edge. But she’s forgotten about the clock. She’s standing still, with a look of dawning comprehension on her face, staring at her husband.

Her: “IT’S THAT BEER WITH THE WORM IN THE BOTTOM ISN’T IT!”

This is not a question. She has figured this out. It is a fact.

Him: “YEAH. I THINK SO. YEAH. BUT YOU DON’T EAT THE WORM.”

Her: “NO….NO YOU DON’T.”

Well, of course. Silly me.

And I’m standing there waiting for one of them to slap themselves upside the head and go, “OOPS! DUH! What were we thinking. That’s TEQUILA. This is BEER. Yummy, rich, foamy, dark, FAMOUS BEER.”

But no. No, they all of a sudden become really disinterested in Guinness Worm Beer, and disappear into the rest of the store. I don’t know if they bought anything, and I don’t care. Rob had to usher me out of the store because I couldn’t stop ranting in this evil whisper about Neanderthals and Tequila.

I did have a Guinness that night, and I enjoyed it LIKE CRAZY. I enjoyed it with spite and purpose, and it was good.

Oh, by the way, if you happen to go to the Irish store, don’t buy the size small Harris tweed coat. One sleeve’s all bunchy and wrinkly.

4 comments to Seriously? WORMS?

  • Regan! That’s hilarious…sad, but hilarious!

  • Sharron

    Hey Regan ! Joce and I were in that very store last Oct when she and I did a Mom & Daughter road trip. She survived four plays in two days and did not badly putting up with the slow pace of the post-summer crowd. If you and Rob ever find yourself on another just him and thee time away, St. Andrews by the sea is high on my list having just returned with John and the Europa Inn & Restaurant the place to stay! I’m certain you’d adore the young chef Markus Ritter and his artist wife Simone and their 3 wonderful kids (5 through 1 years old)…glad you’re back to your blogging…

  • Mom

    I’m so glad you’re writing this blog!!

  • Jen

    I am SO tempted to ask if you ate the worm at the bottom of your Guinness…

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