Wine & Beer Walk always reminds me I'm home


There’s something about a hot shower that brings clarity to the mind.
Think about it. The best ideas come to you when warm to hot water is rushing over your body. It’s clarity.
After Friday’s Wine & Beer Walk in Fort Madison, we migrated to my house and after some tragic news in my brother’s family, the group cleared out early.
I made a sandwich, had a Leiny’s to finish off the night, and then took a hot shower.
In the shower with the 106-degree water running down my head and over my body and down the drain, I thought about the death my brother’s family was dealing with.
My heart broke.
The emotion interrupted an otherwise nice evening where I introduced them to people like Richard Fehseke, Rob Sandburg, Angie Holland, Rusty Andrews, Justin Cain, Clint Harland, and so many others on a cool nightly stroll up and down Avenues G and H.
Rich Fehseke spent some time listening to my brother talk about his time as a basketball and baseball coach at Fort Madison Aquinas.
The lights went on in Fehseke’s eyes as John reminisced about the 1996 Dons and Dan Hoenig parking a homer on top of the Aquinas gym. That year Matt Rump, Hoenig, and a Lampe I think, smacked the ball around under the tutelage of a 5’6” dude with an attitude.
It made me proud of him. He’s a year and a half or so younger than me, but he’s had more success in his life than I ever will.
He’s taken a girls' basketball team to state, a team that included my niece, who I still believe had she been left in, instead of being pulled because she cooled off after scoring 12 points in the first quarter of the first round at Wells-Fargo Arena, would have changed West Burlington’s fortunes that night against West Lyon.
But I’m just a journalist. He’s the master of the half-court 1-3-1. I need to stay in my lane and in so doing, let this hot water run over me opening my mind to some things I had been taking for granted.
For example, spending three hours walking around downtown and shaking hands with elected officials and economic development officials, city workers, county workers, friends, co-workers, and many, many others, is an exhausting endeavor, but also one a bit unmatched.
It’s also not lost on me that I know a lot of people in Fort Madison – a lot. But on this night annually I see people, a lot of people, I don’t know. Those are the conversations that are really a joy. It usually starts with an off-hand remark about a sample from one of the area breweries and turns into a short chat.
Short chats are what had me jogging down the street trying to catch up to the group of five I came with. It reminded me very much of going grocery shopping with my wife. Inevitably by the time she gets to the freezer aisle, I’m still back by the butcher’s counter talking with someone or stuck by the bread.
She hated going to the store, and she hated going with me more. I think this group of people walking around with commemorative fluted shot glasses may have started to hate that they were with me. Don’t get me wrong, my sister-in-law can hold her own in a room of people as good as any politician, but I think they came down to spend time with me. At least my ego says that.
The soups at the Elks were as good as ever and Terry McGregor’s Kansas City Chiefs Chili again won first place.
I thought about the multitude of conversations I’d had that night. From golf, to politics, to the city’s three City Manager candidates who were getting to see Fort Madison first hand, to the small glasses, long waits, and the appeal of both sweet and red wines. The Thunderberry  Vineyards swallows were my favorite wines. The sweet wasn’t too, nor was the dry. Very nice. Oh, and Hy-Vee’s blueberry cheese was surprisingly creamy and sweet. Clark and Nannette Griffin did a bang up job on a Cincinnati chili and brat pieces.
The other thing that escaped me about Friday night was the number of people I didn’t know. I made the point several times to my family as we walked around that it amazed me how many faces were down there that I didn’t recognize.
That happens every year. It’s part of the good stuff. I also find it a little lonely.
But a chilly night along Avenue H looking at the beautifully lit depot creating a black curtain backdrop that is the vista of the Mississippi River and Pool 19, struck me that winter was coming. It made me regret wearing shorts, but only a little.
I thought about a hot shower at home and I warmed right up.
I don’t always get to the things that happen in Fort Madison. I try to get to as much as possible, but this annual trek in and out of stores giving away free stuff the week prior to Thanksgiving in downtown Fort Madison always makes me feel just a bit like this is my home.
Because it is, but that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the Point, editorial, opinion, Wine and Beer Walk, Sunday, Pen City Current, Chuck Vandenberg, Fort Madison, friends, conversations, wine, beer, cheese,


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