Everybody in the office is always complaining about Mr. Night's "wine." It's really just Pruno (canned fruit and brewers yeast, aged in the tank of the gents' toilet) from an old jailhouse recipe, and it tastes about as good as a high-octane toilet wine could taste. Why does Mr. Night always take the cheap route? Seems like Eckert's Country Store's Beginner's Winemaking Class should be right up Mr. Night's alley. It's free, it takes place at 6:30 p.m. at Eckert's Belleville Farm (Route 15 and Mount Green Road; 618-233-0513), and the wine recipe (which comes from Dave Nagle of Dave's Home Brewing Supplies) involves fresh fruit instead of canned -- and a toilet never enters into the vinting process. The Eckert's wine doesn't come with Mr. Night's patented catch phrase, "putting the 'assy' in 'classy,'" though, so there is something of a tradeoff for expert knowledge.
Thursday, July 8
You know, for early July, the humidity hasn't been that bad -- which means that horse-blanket-dipped-in-sweat humidity of 96 percent should drape the city in its scratchy embrace right about... now! Ha, scared ya, didn't we? Well, if you want to brace yourself for the worst, there are worse ways to face the dog days than with a pail of crab legs on one side of you and a bucket of frosty beers on the other. Brandt's Cajun Seafood Boil (at Brandt's Market & Café, 6525 Delmar Boulevard; 314-727-3663) is back on Thursday nights through August, so you can beat the heat at least one night a week by pretending you're in New Orleans. Park yourself at one of Brandt's outdoor tables, order up a bucket of boiled seafood, adopt that weird N'awlins accent, and tell neighboring tables that your name is Robespierre and you're up from the bayou on "bidniss." Sometimes you gotta make your own fun, people.
Friday, July 9
When you think of the somewhat faraway city of St. Charles, perhaps outdoorsy things such as the Missouri River or the Katy Trail or even Lewis & Clark (heaven forbid) come to mind. But you probably don't ever think of art -- at least not until now. But in May the city opened the Foundry Art Centre (520 North Main Center, St. Charles), a beautiful combination studio/exhibition space on the river's banks. This expansive converted train-car factory allows visitors to view and interact with pieces in progress in the artists' studios as well as completed art in the building's galleries. Check out Over/Under (a juried show focusing on large versus small pieces) in Gallery I, pieces from the Foundry's various artists-in-residence in Gallery II and Paul Jackson's watercolors in Gallery III (he designed our state quarter). The opening reception for these exhibits is Friday, July 9, from 6 to 8 p.m.; call 636-255-0270 or visit www.foundryartcentre.org for more info.
Saturday, July 10
And just when you thought you'd read enough about art, here's another story about it. But this is a different kind of Art. Sure, the capitalization and italicization set it off, but those things alone don't make it special. But the fact that this Art is a play (and not something like, say, a painting, although the storyline does concern one) is a distinct divergence. In fact, the show, presented by the Broadway Center of Arts, involves an argument about the worth of a white-on-white painting. Seems like a no-brainer, but don't you want to know how the all-female cast settles the fight? Come see the Tony Award-winning comedy, written by Yasmina Reza, Friday and Saturday (July 9, 10, 16 and 17) at 8 p.m. or Sunday (July 11 and 18) at 4 p.m. on the Broadway Main Stage (124 East Main Street, Belleville, Illinois). Call 618-233-0431 to reserve your spot; tickets range from $8 to $10.
Sunday, July 11
Tradition is important because it lets you know what to expect. Sure, sometimes surprises are fun, but not when it comes to summer fairs. Jersey County, Illinois, knows this and is celebrating its 135th county fair the old-fashioned way. The theme of this year's nine-day event (Saturday, July 10, through Sunday, July 18) is "Home Spun Fun 'til the Cows Come Home" -- and the fair promises to be just that. Instead of the modern bands, fancy foods and elaborate air shows, Jersey County is focusing on the basics: livestock shows, carnival rides and tractor pulls. Remember: You can see a concert any ol' day, but the Miss Jersey County Fair Pageant (Tuesday, July 13, at 8:15 p.m.) happens only once a year. And when was the last time you looked on during the time-honored cowboy tradition of bull-riding (Thursday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m.)? Gate admission is only $1 for adults, and kids twelve and younger get in free (grandstand admission and rides cost an additional fee). For directions or more info, call 618-498-3422 or visit www.jerseycountyfair.com.
Monday, July 12
Something that's been lost in the shuffle of events commemorating the 1904 World's Fair is the 1904 Olympics. St. Louis hosted those, too, and yet everybody's paying more attention to Judy Garland and Lewis & Clark than they are to St. Louis' one and only Olympics. Everybody except for the Compton Heights Band, that is. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the CHB brings back David Morris (winner of the World Olympics of Whistling, by the by) for a special "Hail to the St. Louis 1904 Olympics." The big question here is not whether Morris' whistling will complement the skill of the CHB (he's proven that many times in the past); it's whether Morris will whistle the entire Vangelis theme to Chariots of Fire or just highlights. Find out at 7:30 p.m. at Tower Grove Park (4256 Magnolia Avenue; 314-776-2227) for free.
Tuesday, July 13
Life without a car is not as bad as people imagine, even in St. Louis. You get up a little earlier, and your friends with cars never answer when you call, but otherwise it ain't so bad. The only time it seems like a hardship is when you see an auto as beautiful as the Chevy Nomad and wish you had one to call your own. This week should be particularly tough: The Chevrolet Nomad Association is in town for its annual convention, so there will be plenty of these boss station wagons cruising the city. In fact, somewhere between 80 and 100 Nomads will be on display at the Holiday Inn-Westport (1973 Craigshire Road; 314-434-0100) for the 9 a.m. "Show and Shine." If you can't make it to the morning event, the bulk of the club will be rolling to the Chuck-A-Burger (9025 St. Charles Rock Road) sometime after noon. They just don't make 'em like the Nomad anymore.