CousinFest teaches us so many things. Our first CousinFest in Asheville, NC, which is getting on for ten years ago now, taught us that sometimes even strolling violinists can be a real pain in the butt. CousinFest Knoxville, TN taught us that some people like their barbecue with vinegary sauce and some people like their barbecue with brown sugary sauce, but it's all sticky if it gets in your hair. CousinFest Shipshewana caused us to understand that even the Amish can be bought.
CousinFest Madison, IN alerted us to the fact that the number of times Susan will try to make you watch her wedding-on-the-beach-at-Maui DVD is slightly greater than infinite.
The most interesting thing we've learned by far from CousinFest in Bowling Green is that Kentucky has liquor stores with drive thru windows and beer coolers in their grocery stores.
"Doesn't this seem....counter-intuitive?" asked Carol several years ago as she peered out the window of Susie's car at the young man, a Matthew McConaughey swap-out, who was leaning out to take our order. (Sadly, there's no speaker, like what you'd find at McDonald's or similar; I was hoping there would be because I'd love to pull up and order a pint of Cuervo, a fifth of Triple Sec and an order of fries.) "Kind of like the state of Kentucky is urging people to drink and drive?"
"Better to sell it at drive-thru liquor stores than to have people doing home brew with stills," I said prudently. "That stuff can make you go blind. Or send you crazy. At least that's what I've heard," I added hastily as Susan and Carol looked at me and then exchanged a long glance as if some dimly held suspicion had suddenly been made crystal clear.
"I suppose they'd turn you down if you said, 'I'd like a cold six pack and crack that first one open for me,'" Carol mused.
Susie thought all of this was killing funny -- she hasn't lived in Kentucky long enough to lose her deep appreciation for the comedy offered by a drive-thru liquor store, but the beer cooler at the Kroger was a different story.
The first time I saw an entire aisle of the store devoted to one lo-o-ong cooler filled with every kind of beer imaginable, I slowed down my brisk pace through the grocery and came to a complete halt, goggling.
"What are you doing, staring like that?" asked Susan. "Come on, we have to beat that woman with that buggy that has about six months' worth of food to the check out."
"Look. Look at all that cold beer," I said, gesturing. My husband would think he'd entered Shangri-La if he saw this, I thought to myself. All beer, all cold, all the time.
Carol stopped behind me and did some goggling of her own. "Wow," she said. And then added, "Doesn't this seem counter-intuitive? Kind of like the state of Kentucky is urging people to drink and drive?"
"How do y'all buy your beer?" Susie asked, surprised.
"Warm," I replied.
"Well, eewwww! Why would y'all want to drink warm beer?"
"We don't want to drink warm beer," Carol said. "We buy it warm and take it home and put it in the fridge and wait for it to get cold before we drink it."
Susie frowned. "That would take an awful long time, wouldn't it?"
Carol and I both sighed sadly. "You could go to a package store," I offered. "But for some reason, they're considered a bit tacky. Like you're so greedy for drink that you can't even wait long enough to cool it off yourself."
"That's just terrible," said Susan frankly. "Y'all need to move down here where things are civilized."
"And where a larger percentage of the population is apparently driving around half-lit," Carol whispered to me as she followed Susie to the check-out stands.
"There's some civilization for you," I agreed, falling into step behind her.
As we were walking, I said, "Wait a minute! Why do we need to go to the drive-thru liquor store? Why don't we just buy what we need here and save ourselves a trip?"
Susie halted and turned around and gave me a funny look. "Because we need some tequila and Triple Sec for margaritas, 'member?"
"Yes, I know, but we could get that here and it might even be cheaper."
"Buy it here?" Susie asked incredulously. "We can't buy hard liquor here!"
"You can't?" asked Carol.
"No way. Not hard liquor. Southerners have their standards. Why? Can you buy hard liquor at the Krogers up where y'all live?"
"Sure," I shrugged. "And at CVS and Walgreen's and Wal-Mart, too."
Susan's mouth dropped open. "Y'all have got to be kidding me! I have never heard of such a thing! What crazy thing are you Yankees going to think of next? Doesn't it seem counter-intuitive to sell hard liquor in a pharmacy where someone can come in and get his prescription for painkillers filled and then buy a bottle of Jack on the way out?"
"Well, when you put it that way...."
Susan stalked on, murmuring things about Yankees and Northern Aggression and what-is-this-world-coming-to's under her breath while Carol and I followed meekly along in her wake like a pair of ducklings. We got through the check-out line and headed for the parking lot. Just before we got to the car, Carol grabbed me by the elbow.
"Make sure you wear your seatbelt," she hissed, nodding knowingly toward the state highway that runs in front of the grocery. "You never know who just got done at the grocery."
[In the pictures, Susan is giving the drive-thru liquor store guy the money for our little teeny bottle of tequila (we are extremely conservative drinkers) and then striking her famous tree pose next to the beer cooler in Bowling Green's Kroger.]