Recently I spent an entire weekend trolling the waterfront for taxi fares, a strategy that did not go unrewarded. At Waterfront Park, the Vermont Brewers Festival was in full swing, and the whole town was packed and rocking. The intermittent thunderstorms that kept rolling across the lake only upped the taxi demand.
Yes, I understand the gourmet appeal of microbrews - but, with due respect to the sexy esoterica of hops, oats and barley, the three-day event is essentially one more excuse to go out with friends and get hammered. Don't get me wrong: I heartily endorse this type of recreational activity so long as the revelers don't get behind a wheel. My suggestion: Go Dionysian all night and then hail a cab. Hey, I'm just saying . . .
Amid the rain and the hubbub, two couples commandeered my taxi in front of ECHO. As they climbed into their seats, I noticed that all four of them were extra-large folks; even the two women probably tipped the scales at 240 apiece, and the men were larger still.
"Whew," my seatmate exhaled, tousling his curly hair with a free hand. "This is one crazy town you got here, brother."
"Yeah, that it is," I said. "Especially this weekend. Where am I taking you folks?"
The two women and the other man were still positioning themselves in the back of the cab. It was door-to-door humanity. One of the women, with red hair and a beaming smile, reached over the seat and squeezed the man's shoulder. "What was the name of the place, hon? Was it the Econo Lodge we ended up in?"
"Yeah, Rhonda, that was it," he responded. "On Shelburne Street."
"Yup, I got it," I said, shifting the cab into drive. "The Econo Lodge it is."
As we wended our way through the waterfront district, I could see the couple in the back kissing, and tenderly - not your typical backseat groping. Beside them, Rhonda said, "Randy, what are we going to do with these two? Can't they, like, at least wait until they get back to their room?"
Randy turned his head, staring severely at his amorous friends and comically shaking his head. "Guys, the honeymoon was last summer. Plus, Joe - you're gonna start making me look bad in front of my wife."
"What can I tell you?" Joe said with a laugh. "It's love, man. I got a sexy wife."
I was starting to fall in love with all four of these people. They were carefree and earthy and seemed to be enjoying life to the hilt. Their plus-sized bodies were apparently no impediment; they were fully OK with who they were, and how many of us can say that?
I thought of a dear friend, one of the loveliest people I know. Among other pursuits, she works in various organizations devoted to world peace and reconciliation. She is a light in a dark world. She's also significantly overweight and has spoken of the verbal abuse she takes from complete strangers on the street. How is it socially permissible to hurl insults at large people in public? Knowing her as I do, it breaks my heart.
"So, what were the favorite beers you sampled at the festival?" I asked.
"I liked that Portland beer," Randy replied. "I think the brand name was Shipyard."
"I don't know," Joe said. "I still gotta go with our local favorite, Smuttynose."
"Smuttynose?" I said. "That's a great name for a beer. What town is it brewed in?"
"It's brewed in our town - Portsmouth, New Hamshuh," Joe's wife interjected.
"New Hamshuh, huh?" I said with a chuckle.
"Ayup," Joe affirmed. "New Hamshuh."
We reached their hotel, and Randy instructed me to drive them around to the back units. As we passed the guest pool, he said, "Honey, do you know what I'm totally in the mood for now that this rain has let up?"
"Oh, God," Rhonda replied. "I dare not guess."
"A chunky-dunk, baby - a chunky-dunk."
This was too cool for me to pass up. I asked, "What the heck is a chunky-dunk?"
Smiling broadly, Randy said, "It's when folks of a certain size take a midnight cannonball into the pool - au naturel, of course."
"Oooh, baby," I said. "That sounds awesome. Can I join you?"
"I don't know," Randy said. "You don't exactly qualify."
"Aw, c'mon. Can't I be, like, honorary?"
"What do ya say, folks?" Randy put it to the jury in the back seat. "Can our cabbie here take an honorary chunky-dunk?"
"Sure, why not?" Joe gave the green light on behalf of the group. "He seems to be a righteous dude."
I'm not saying whether I took the plunge that night or not, but the stories I could tell . . .