I don’t drink often, primarily because I just don’t like the taste of most alcohol. Turns out that means it only takes me two glasses of wine to enter, shall we say, an altered state of consciousness.
We did an overnight kayaking trip this weekend on the Wildcat Creek near Lafayette, Indiana. The outfitter we use has a beautiful piece of land situated between two good half days of paddling, and they allow customers to camp on it, one party at a time. This means we always have the place to ourselves. We like cooking over a campfire, so we packed four ears of Indiana sweet corn, a summer sausage, and some chicken breasts. We get hungry when we paddle, and we meant to have a feast.
One of Travis’s supervisors, knowing our outdoor habits, gave us a nylon picnic tote for our wedding last May. It has room for a wine bottle, a cutting board for cheese or sausage, two plastic wine glasses, and an array of knives, flatware and plates. It works perfectly for camping. We also have six bottles of wine left over from our wedding party, so Travis grabbed one and stuck it in the tote.
The campsite consists of a long, broad meadow, part of which is a hay field, enclosed on three sides by woods, and on the other side by the wooded creek bank. After we got off the water, we set up the tent, took a brief nap, and then I went to search the edge of the hay field for butterflies to photograph. When I returned, he was building a fire in the ring near the creek bank, and had sliced some sausage and set out two glasses of the white merlot he’d brought. I know little about wine other than I don’t like the dry stuff, and only like the non-dry stuff slightly more. And beer?No. Ugh. I had to take my sister with me to buy beer and wine for our wedding party.
“Oh look, wine!” I said when I saw the glass on the picnic table. I took a sip. “Oh my God,” I said in shock after it slid down my throat. “I love this wine!” I exclaimed. And I really did. But it was strange, because that’s not a thing I’ve ever said. I don’t usually offer a compliment to any alcoholic beverage greater than “Hey, that’s not bad. I can finish a half a glass of that by the end of the night.” But I really, really loved this wine. It was wonderful. (Go ahead and take a moment to mock my taste in wine. I won’t know any better, honestly.)
Because this was such a new experience for me, I was a little more enthusiastic about consuming the wine than I usually am. Before I knew it, the small glass was empty, so I poured more. Halfway through the second glass, I began looking up into the trees and contemplating the strategy a bird might use to position its nest. A bird, after all, must protect its young from predators of all kinds.
Whoa. The thought brought me up short.
“Holy shit,” I said to Travis. “Can you imagine being a bird? I mean, how would you feel if you came home and someone was eating your children?” This seemed deeply grave to me; a matter of serious concern. This was an awful lot to ask of birds.
Travis smiled a little, a grin that, in retrospect, seemed a bit too knowing. “I feel like now would be a good time for you to write a post,” he suggested.
“Not now,” I said. “I have to go to the bathroom.”
The campsite has a portable toilet, but I prefer to pee in the woods when possible. It’s usually cleaner. I exited the wooded area by the bank across the meadow, and headed for a protected copse of trees a little further down. The path I took was not completely direct, but I made it. The woods were getting dark; it was past eight o’clock. I was going about my business when a huge bumblebee landed on a flower next to me. For some reason, this annoyed me. It was way too late for pollinators to be flying around.
“Dude, are you serious?” I asked the bee. “What are you doing? Why haven’t you gone home for the day yet? It’s waaaaay past five o’clock on a Saturday. You need to cut this out, man, you’re just showing off. This is gonna piss off the other bumblebees. You’re making them look bad. Go home already, man.”
On some level I knew it was weird to be lecturing a bumblebee about his work habits, but I felt strongly about it at the time. I told Travis about it when I got back.
“Are you sure you don’t want to write a post? I think you should write a post,” he encouraged.
I knew what he was getting at; I wasn’t that far gone. “Maybe I should write a series, for when I drink wine in the great outdoors. Like Drunk History or Drunk Kitchen, except it’s Slightly Buzzed Nature,” I pondered.
“Yeah,” he said. “For the three times a year you drink wine.”
I slapped at a mosquito that was dining on my arm.
“Hey,” I said. “If I’ve been drinking wine, and I’m a little buzzed, do you think the mosquito gets a little buzzed when it bites me? I mean think about it. There’s some alcohol in my blood right now, so if it’s drinking my blood, then…what? Is it buzzed too? I’m very serious about this. I want to know.”
He just stared at me. “Don’t go near the creek,” he instructed. I nodded. Nature seemed so very serious after two glasses of wine. I reached for another piece of sausage and the water bottle. I was ready to be myself again.
That didn’t take long – it seemed to fade as quickly as it crept up on me – but I was still haunted this morning by the mosquito question. Google dutifully filled in my query as I typed it, which tells me I’m not the first person to wonder about this.
The answer is that I needn’t have worried about the mosquitoes, because they hold their liquor much better than I do. Although no studies have addressed my precise question, mosquitoes do dine on fruits as well as human blood, and some of those fruits are fermented. So it’s a reasonable surmise that since mosquitoes are regular imbibers, they have built up some tolerance. In fact, there is some evidence that mosquitoes are more attracted to people who have consumed beer. So they don’t have to worry about partaking of drunken blood.
But leeches? Total lightweights. Like me.