“Most of the Uncle George tales are substantially true – but Uncle George always maintained that truth should never get in the way of a good story.”
My Uncle George was the fountainhead for much of my instruction in the "Facts of Life".
George kept Playboys in his basement in a big wooden crate. Once the cousins found the crate the Stork was history.
George explained the "Wine Facts of Life" to me when we started making wine.
Uncle George had desecrated his suburban front lawn and covered it with horse poop and planted blueberries. It turned out that blueberries love horse poop. George discovered that if we made wine from the blueberries then he would be a Vintner and we were off and running. George began to speak of his vineyard and vintages and fellow vintners.
That blueberries grew on bushes and not vines was an alternative fact.
George was overjoyed when I asked how wine was made. He loved stuff that was iconoclastic. He showed me some grains of yeast and explained, "It’s called fermentation. These little yeasties drink the sugar in blueberry juice and pee alcohol until they pass out in the alcohol. They also pass gas."
It sounded a lot like one of our Irish birthday parties.
It occurred to George as we were bottling the wine that if he added a little extra yeast and sugar he might get more alcohol. This started what is known as second fermentation.
George had invented blueberry champagne.
The myth of real champagne’s creation is as odd as my Uncle George story.
The credit is accorded to a couple of monks - Dom Perignon, a big tall guy, and Dom Ruinart, his little helper. Dom Perignon was a cellar master in a monastery in Champagne, a province of France. He probably stumbled upon making champagne by putting wine in a container that had leftover sugar in it. After the good father mastered the basics of bubbles he tried to keep it a secret, but his little helper took off down the road to the next monastery and started making his own champagne.
The bubbles were on the loose.
The champagne the boys made had stuff floating around in it and looked more like cloudy beer than bright and sparkling champagne. It took a woman to make champagne beautiful - surprise. The neighborhood widow, Mrs Clicquot - in French the veuve Clicquot - radically improved the look of champagne by inventing the riddling rack.
A riddling rack is big board with holes in it. You stick the bottle of champagne sideways in one of the holes. All the junk slides down to the bottom side of the bottle. The bottles are turned and increasingly inverted until the bottle is upside down and the junk is in the neck. Then the neck is frozen, the frozen junk is removed - degorged - and the bottle is recorked and wired shut again.
The widow’s portrait is still on the famous orange label of Veuve Clicquot. She is kind of scary looking. She spent a lot of time in the basement.
When George invented blueberry champagne he left out the wiring-the-cork-shut part.
The bottles did not blow all at once. It was spread out over a few days. Most of them blew in basements and sheds so it wasn’t too bad. One unfortunate bottle exploded in Aunt Mary’s dining room. Mary was the sister who almost became a Sister. She damn near killed Uncle George.
If you are inclined to see a real riddling rack, I bought a couple and used them to make sliding doors at the Doctor’s Office, our new little craft bar.
Sean Murphy is the Head Coach of the incredibly talented team that runs the Beach Bistro, it’s little sister Eat Here, and their new craft cocktail bar, The Doctors Office. Some of his articles can be found on the Bistro’s web-site, www.beachbistro.com
Sean Murphy, Beach Bistro - as syndicated to the AMI SUN
My Uncle George had moved from the cove to a nice suburban neighborhood.
Nice lawns. Nice shrubberies.
George hated shrubberies.
He ripped out all the shrubberies and paved his entire property with horse poop and planted blueberries.
The blueberries loved the horse poop but it drove George’s neighbors crazy.
The neighbors complained to the city commission. The commission started bugging Uncle George. George decided to run for commissioner.
He asked my Dad for help.
Dad ran an Irish Catholic political machine. He had five hundred dead guys that were still voting.
He called them his reliables
The reliables were run by a corps of good Irish Ladies.
It went like this.
Mrs O’neil handed out the ballots at the polling station.
Mrs Kelly registered the voters.
Mrs Kelly went house to house to see who could vote. She went to Mrs O’Malley’s house on Dublin Street.
Mrs O’Malley invited her in for tea. Mrs Kelly enquired about Mrs O’Malley’s dear departed father, Sean.
“Will Sean be able to vote?”
“He wouldn’t miss it.”
Mrs Kelly put a little tick by Sean’s name on her voting list.
The ringers did the voting for the dead guys.
Big Mike Kelly was a cab driver who ran a team of ringers.
The day before Election Day, Mike went to the jail and found five guys.
He got them cleaned up and gave them each twenty bucks.
On Election Day Big Mike drove his five ringers to the polling place.
Mike went in first and got his ballot from Mrs O’Neil. When he went into the booth he put the ballot in his pocket.
Back at the cab Mike marked the ballot then gave the marked ballot to the ringer along with a little card with the name of his dead guy and his address. The ringer told Mrs O’Neil he was Sean O’Malley from Dublin Street.
She gave him a ballot. He went into the booth and put the marked ballot into the box and brought out his clean ballot.
Big Mike took the clean ballot, marked it, and sent in the next guy.
When the ringer system was explained to me, I asked my dad why they went through the elaborate process of pre-marking the ballots.
Dad said, “Well you know, you can't trust the ba***rds.”
Uncle George’s campaign was great fun. We had parades with cars covered with George's posters. All the cousins were hanging out the widows yelling, “Vote for George!”
Then after the parade we would all go back to George’s house and watch his buddies drink rum and tell lies.
A week before the election George had it in the bag.
It scared George to death.
He came to dad.
“You gotta get me outta this.
I never thought I'd win. Please help me lose. No one can know.”
The hardest part was keeping it a secret.
At the last minute Dad was able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
On Election Day each of the twenty cab drivers ran the ringers like they always did except they marked all the ballots for the other guy.
George lost by a whisper.
He did well enough to keep his respect and his horse poop.
No one was the wiser except for Dad and the twenty cab drivers.
George’s horse poop grew the most abundant blueberries in the county and I learned a valuable lesson about politics…Sometimes it's all about horse poop.
Hope you all voted. Every voter who shows up at the Doctor’s Office or Eat Here or the Beach Bistro bar with their I Voted sticker gets the first one on us. Dead or alive.