Saturday night I attended my first German shooting club ball. You mean to tell me you've never been? Well then.
It started last year when Steve read in Time Out Chicago article about this German social club and thought it might be fun to check out. He called up some buddies to come with, and he fell in love with it instantly. I think it helps that he's already something of a good shot, but he likes the old-timey feel of the organization, the fact that the club instantly welcomed him and his friends in as new blood, and, of course, good cheap German beer. I liked that he had something fun to do every week: being a girl I am very Planny and see my friends a lot, often with five hundred emails going back and forth about time and place and so on. Guys aren't so much like that, so I'm glad that he has a place to see his pals and unwind and also feel proud of himself--often he'll come home and show me hole-ridden targets, the fruits of his shooting.
It's sometimes hard to explain the schützenverein to my friends, because "German shooting club" sounds a bit weird to those who don't frequently hold guns or do things that are explicitly German (for the record, you do not have to be German to attend.) So it was extra interested to explain to people that I was attending the Brandenburger Schützenverein King and Queen Coronation Shooting Competition and Dance (the King and Queen shoot is where the club chooses the club's royalty for the next year by the interesting method of shooting at a plywood eagle. And earlier in the day there had been a special inter-club competition.)
I had no idea what to expect. I asked Steve what to wear and he told me "You know, a ballgown." I told him that I do not own a ballgown, and asked if he had any other suggestions. He told me that he was wearing a suit and that I should dress accordingly, so I sort of dressed like it was the wedding if someone I didn't know that well (a cute frock but no getting-my-hair done or anything like that.) Steve would be wearing a new tie he had bought from the center for the occasion that featured two crossed rifles on it.
I was a little worried though when we pulled up, with our friends Erica and Fuzzy, to the Schwaben Center in Buffalo Grove, because the building sort of resembles a strip mall, and most of the men and women who entered it were dressed in some sort of uniform. Fortunately Erica and I saw some other ladies dressed up like we were, but just to be safe, we went and grabbed cocktails while the guys sold raffle tickets (for items ranging from big sausages to gift baskets to sports memorabilia.)
Erica and I were especially captivated by the men's hats with the big feathers on them, which seemed to perk up when the men who wore them seemed especially engaged. I introduced Erica to Rosemary, a lady from the club who Steve introduced me to at last year's Brandenberger picnic. I like Rosemary because she is adorable and is basically a German version of my Aunt Ginger. Rosemary always swears to me that Steve resembles her nephew and I can ask her sister when she shows up, as if I'm always saying "Now come on Rosie, we both know that's bullshit."
We grabbed a pitcher of beer for our table when it was time to eat. Dinner consisted of liver dumpling soup, salad, and family-style servings of beef rillette, schnitzel, chicken on the bone, beets, potatoes and veggies. I was most excited for the schnitzel although I swore it sort of tasted like donuts. Dessert was a mousse of indeterminate flavor: our friend Mark swore it was hazelnut, but I claimed it was almond. We'll never know.
After dinner the different shooting clubs from different cities marched in, and the kings and queens were announced (the king shoots the head off the eagle, the queen, the tail). I was very proud of my husband as he won an award for shooting the claw off the eagle (that night he came home with this approximately two-inch piece of plywood that, yes, looked like a claw of some sort). He got a pin with a claw on it. Then we toasted the new king and queen, who had a special dance where some other people held hands in a circle around them as they danced in the middle. We all danced then to a life band, Steve and me faking a waltz as we best know how, in front of the big replica of the Brandenburg Gate that was on the dancefloor.
At dinner at one point Rosemary came by and said (imagine this in an adorable German accent), "Now this may be shocking for me to say, but after dinner all the ladies are going to do...blowjobs!" She was referring to the whipped-cream covered shots that you drink with your hands behind your back. After the dancing, we were all getting pretty tired and ready for the hourlong drive home, but Rosemary grabbed us and told us we were doing the shots with her and the other gals. The other gals, who ranged in age from I'd guess 32-72, dove in. I have to say that doing one of these shots is much harder than it looks. What do you do with the whipped cream? Do you grab the glass with your lips or teeth? And it's impossible to swallow with a shot glass in your mouth. Much ribaldry ensued, and I can say that no ribaldry is more fun than the type you share with ladies of a certain age.
It's still sort of hard to describe the Schützenverein to people who've never heard of it, the ball even moreso (I wondered if other nationalities had similar events, or if it's just the Germans), but by the end of the night Erica and I had met plenty of new friends and promised that some night we'd come and shoot as well. It was sort of like a wedding, only you didn't have to buy anyone any presents, and there were way more pictures of guns around. So in some ways, it was better than a wedding.