While down-home Americana and other fine handmade crafts aren’t really my decorating style, I do enjoy going to various fairs and festivals full of vendors shilling their rustic wares. So when Jessy suggested that we all go to Columbiana, Ohio for the Shaker Festival last Sunday, I was all for a little expedition in the woods. Plus, Henry said there would be AMISH PEOPLE THERE.
For me, the big picture was hooking up Henry with Jessy’s husband Tommy. We’ve been planning a group vacation to the beach next summer, and Tommy has expressed concern because he doesn’t really know Henry. I told Jessy I would handle it; they should be trading porn before we know it.
A great opportunity arose the night before the Shaker Festival, when Jessy texted me and asked where I thought we should meet.
“Ooh, we should let the MEN handle this part,” I thought, the wheels turning and a devious grin splitting my face. Jessy texted me Tommy’s number and my assault on Henry began immediately.
“Call him. Here, call him. Here’s his number, call him. PLEASE CALL HIM YOU’RE MAKING ME LOOK LIKE AN ASSHOLE PLEASE DO NOT RUIN THIS VACATION FOR ME OR I WILL FUCK YOU UP.”
“I’m not calling him just because you two want me to! I’ll call him when I’m ready,” Henry argued. Defiance never did look good on him. Just makes his dick look small.
“He’s probably sitting there staring at his phone!” I yelled. “You better call the boy right now!”
He continued to lounge on the couch, soaking in the sensation of standing his ground. So I snatched his phone and texted Tommy. He’s lucky my reputation is on the line here, or I would have sent the most flaming, rainbow-tinted text imaginable, but I stuck with the safe, “Hey man, what are you thinking for tomorrow?” I even spelled everything correctly and resisted the urge to call him “cuz.”
Tommy never replied (Henry looked a little sad about that), so Jessy and I finalized plans on our own, but that’s OK – we’re used to doing everything ourselves.
Once we pulled into the parking lot and got out of our respective vehicles, Chooch honed in on Tommy and it was all over. They antagonized each other for the rest of the day and I said a silent prayer; finding someone who can hold Chooch’s attention is not easy. Jessy’s mom Karen and her husband Gary were also in attendance, which I liked. I enjoy things done in groups; it makes me feel cozy and less worried that I’m going to get lost.
“Go over there and stand with Tommy,” I whispered sternly to Henry, trying to get him to bro-up.
“I’ll do it on my own terms, stop pushing!” Henry hissed, shrugging away from me.
Once the admission was paid and we were enveloped by the trees, Jessy was off to the races. We would walk a few feet and then someone would say, “Where’s Jessy?” We’d stop and slowly make a 360 degree pivot. Sure enough, she’d be inside one of the little woodland shops we had walked past, making friends with the vendors.
The rest of us spent a good amount of time standing in a huddle in the middle of the footpaths, with Chooch plunked down in everyone’s way, dumping pebbles out of his sandals.
It didn’t take me long to realize that there weren’t any real Amish people there, just vendors dressed up in period costumes. It’s a good thing I’m pretty good at figuring things out on my own, because if I had asked someone where the Amish were, well, I imagine I might have found myself in a very embarrassing Alamo moment.
While Jessy was looking at non-edible things, my belly zeroed in on a small round table brimming along the edges with a multitude of jars of jellies. This was basically the beginning of the end for me. I had just dove into my sampling frenzy, spreading a thick slab of lemon meringue butter onto a cracker, when Vickie herself emerged from the storefront and said, “Here, try this one, but put some cream cheese on it first.” It was some sort of apple walnut bullshit, but once it was married with the cream cheese, it took on a whole new meaning. My tongue had suddenly become the coke table at Studio 54 and it wanted more.
I ran to get Henry, begging him to try it. He didn’t bust out into a shimmy-shake of delight like I had, but I figured it was just because his palate is so old and damaged from all his years of doing fuck all in the Service.
There were others I wanted to buy, but I stuck with the apple walnut jelly, because it called forth visions of hayrides and Thanksgiving dinners (the kinds I’ve seen on TV, anyway), and the lemon meringue butter, because it was sugar shock in a jar.
I walked away with my bag of Vickie’s jellies, trying to snuff the desire of dunking my fingers in the jars right there in front of everyone. If it was just Jessy, I’d have done it. Probably just stuck my whole fat tongue inside a jar until I gagged. But there were other people in our party so I was trying to act like I hadn’t just escaped the zoo. (“Since when?” Henry would probably ask, assuming he ever read this shit.)
I’d like to put Vickie in a jar, if you know what I mean. (And I hope you don’t.)
But my hunger for samples was insatiable. After my jelly binge, I walked into a candle storefront with Jessy and instantly began looking for a tray of candle samples to taste.
Occasionally, Jessy would find herself in hostage situations in some of the storefronts and Tommy would have to rescue her. I would always start out going inside with her, but damn, that girl is a professional shopper. Where I just glance at things, she picks everything up, holds it up to the light, lightly bites it to check its authenticity. I think I even caught her polishing the lens of a pocket loupe in one of the jewelry shops.
Meanwhile, I would look at one or two things and immediately find myself distracted by something going on outside. So I’d wander off. I fail as a woman in so many ways. Though I do succeed in using my tits to get what I want. So there’s that.
I got chastised after taking a picture of this little faux-Amish kid.
“Oh ma’am,” came the softly pious, high-pitched voice of a similarly-clad man to my right. “We don’t allow pictures taken here.” He gave me one of those feigned apologetic smiles, coupled with sad eyes and a head tilt. I’m assuming it was the kid’s dad. Look, dickhead, if you don’t want people taking photographs of your son, then don’t dress him like he’s one of the Children of the Corn.
Henry said the guy was probably more worried about people taking pictures of his wares. If you start seeing neon-painted beach signs popping up on my Etsy, you’ll know where I got the idea.
Fudgie Wudgie was there passing out samples. I think that’s when it was really clear to me that this wasn’t actually an Amish thing. But that didn’t stop me from sucking back a blueberry cheesecake fudge sample before skulking over to the next booth and licking some of their no-bake cheesecake samples from a plastic spoon. Feeling energized by the samples, I joined Jessy in a storefront shilling these pretty, shimmery jewelry things. We both decided we liked the bracelets. I pointed out an orange and pink stone and said I liked that one the best.
Then I left and commingled with our group some more while Tommy whined about being so hungry and where the hell was Jessy? She finally caught up with us and said to me, “Look what fell in my purse, I have no idea how that happened.” She opened her purse mysteriously and there, laying on top, was the bracelet I was admiring. At first, I thought it really had just fallen in there. “What are the odds?” I thought. But then my second thought was, “Oh my god, Jessy stole this!?” and I quickly made a list of all the heists I could have her pull. But really, she bought it. For me! She bought herself one too so I decided they’re friendship bracelets. Henry is so jealous.
We lost Jessy, her mom and Gary inside the gnashing jaws of a snowman shop. It just happened to be right near the path to the food vendors, down which Tommy stared with glazed-over eyes and saliva-dripping lips.
I’m certain Tommy was cramming in a two minute lesson on strippers, fishing and bb guns over french fries and it scares me how piqued Chooch looks as he takes it all in.
The map we picked up at the entrance promised “authentic Shaker food.” I’m still under the impression that Shakers are some bastard mutations of Amish and I promise you I didn’t see any shoo fly pie or succatash being heated by nothing but the flame of a lantern and the Lord’s warmth. Last I checked (which was literally just now, just this very second), the Amish weren’t known for their fajitas.
Which is what I had for lunch.
Everyone else had meat. Then the Tumbleweed Band came on stage, announced they only had a few shirts left, and promptly drove us away with their banjo bullshit.
They’re men. I’m sure whatever they were looking at either involved buoyant breasts or a barbeque pit, or buoyant breasts being barbequed in a pit.
After lunch, Jessy did some more shopping I think. I wouldn’t know. It’s hard to see what’s going on around you when your face is engulfed in row after row of samples. It was the motherlode. Every type of dressing, barbeque sauce, hot sauce, mustard, vegetable dip you could think of: it was all spread-eagled on a table that seemed to stretch for miles. And inside the storefront were more samples: jellies and jams, syrups, no-bake cheesecake mixes. I tried it all. Some I tried twice, despite the crudely drawn sign that tried to deter such greedy behavior.
“Try to stay away from the dips that are cream cheese-based,” Henry warned. “They’ve been sitting out in the sun all day; you’ll get sick.” Henry knows me very well, which is why I can’t figure out why he’d waste his breath. Of course I’m going to indulge in every single sample laid out.
It’s what they’re there for.
To be sampled.
Because if I don’t, I’ll die. Just a fun little survival game I like to play by myself.
So I kept right on dunking.
“Hey Erin,” Tommy taunted. “Try the Hell’s Kitchen sauce. It’s not that hot. I swear.” And then he and Henry exchanged little school girl giggles.
On one hand, I was annoyed by this tag-team effort to dangle me over a vat of bubbling Precarious Situation. But on the other, I was tickled that Henry and Tommy were teaming up because it meant they were bonding.
I marched over and jammed a pretzel into the Hell’s Kitchen sauce and tossed it in my mouth.
“It’s not hot——” I tried to say, but then my tongue went up in flames. And then I swallowed and my esophagus exploded.
Henry and Tommy thought this was hilarious, and I was still trying to deny that it was too hot for me. Although the fact that parts of me were disintegrating before their eyes kind of gave away my lie.
I got an instant headache from that tiny little spot of sauce. Gary had also jumped onto the Ridicule Erin trampoline by that point, but I was too busy choking back bile to get as defensive as I normally would have. I wasn’t down for the count immediately, but as the day progressed, and the curdled creams in all the sauces I swallowed began their digestive fornication, I started to feel decidedly not OK. And then I started thinking about the first trimester of my pregnancy, when I was a total whore for condiments, and how I filled the fridge with exotic soft cheeses and sour creams and spent my days submerging crackers into their cold tubs while laying on my side watching “Rome.”
And then I burped a little.
Oh, but a little nausea didn’t deter me! We found another sample-laden store front near the entrance and my first thought was, “How did I miss this?” and then “Oh my god, more hot sauce!”
It was here that I managed to lose all six people in my group. Rather than call any of them, I sent out an SOS tweet.
Tweeting is the new 911.
Then Henry found me and bought me some kind of berry cobbler shit, which I didn’t really enjoy but still dug into it until Henry pulled the bowl away from me.
Nice purse, Tommy!
Chooch kept asking, “Who ARE these people?” when we were forced into the unthinkable – sharing a table with strangers. They returned his rude inquiries with polite laughter, and I kept kicking him under the table. Stop making them notice us, boy! God, if conversation was a vampire, he’d be inviting it in on the daily.
I love how Henry is looking at his fingers, trying to replicate Tommy’s RUDE GESTICULATION. During one of many nudge-nudge sessions between Jessy and me, regarding Henry and Tommy’s blossoming bromance, Henry defensively muttered, “Would you two stop! I’m not a girl, stop trying to set me up with Tommy!”
The “I’m not a girl” argument made Jessy stop in her tracks. “Oh, I don’t know about all that, Henry. I’ve seen the pictures!”
Chooch was still asking, “Where are the rides?” as we walked through the parking lot to our respective cars.
I went home and promptly purged all the samples from my ailing body then passed out for about an hour. Even though my taste-testing indiscretion proved lethal in the end, it was still a really fun and fulfilling day, and the company couldn’t have been any better. I’m really enjoying spending time with Jessy and her family; it’s just easy and laid back. I can be myself and laugh until my cheeks hurt. I’m thinking this beach vacation is going to be pretty rad.
Yes, it was a great day, but now I associate Jessy with vomiting. (Kidding!)