Chester is a town full of old money and older people. And since the town is right on the water, sailing is a big part of the local "cultural" identity. So in the middle of August every year, the local elite throw themselves a little party known as the Chester Race Week. During this week, which is really only four days, sailors and sailing enthusiasts from all over descend on Chester to rejoice in all things sailing related.
On the last few nights of Race Week, the Chester Yacht Club opens its doors to the general public. The small club and its smaller lawn area overflows with people from every tax bracket. Millionaires stand shoulder to shoulder with blue collar joes, all waiting in line to trade their drink tickets in for rum drinks and beer in plastic cups.
The real treat, for a jaded guy like myself, is the chance to see people that I've haven't seen for countless years. It's like a high school reunion every summer, but with enough booze to go around to make it all palatable. I bump into old friends, bullies from high school, the guy I used to play G.I. Joes with when I was seven, old teachers, former neighbors, kids I used to babysit and countless people with whom I make an effort to avoid eye contact.
Over this past winter, the Yacht Club underwent some serious renovations. This meant that the open grassy areas of yesteryear were made smaller and less grassy. Also, in a move that seemed almost baffling, it meant half as many port-a-potties as usual. On more than one occasion I found myself going directly from the bar, with a full drink in hand, to the port-a-potty line. And by the time it was my turn to urinate, I had alreay finished my drink.
While many specific memories from this year's Race Week are difficult to recollect, I do know that I had enough of a hangover after it was over to reasonably assume that I enjoyed myself.