May 2, 2011

In and Out of the Quad-Cities

Gail-and-Toni-baby-JesusContributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

Remember True Confessions Magazine? Long before The National Enquirer, People or Us Magazine adorned our checkout stand. Years before tabloid magazines provided us reports of Elvis and Marilyn frolicking on the beaches of Paraguay – True Confessions Magazine was there for us. Each issue carried a bizarre attention getting headline. Designed to spark a prurient piece of the deep recesses of your subconscious mind, let’s just say they inspired a few of our junior high “friends” to dig way down into the darkest depths of our change purse and plunk down the 35 cent cover price. And, this was back in the days where a journeyman (or journey-lady) baby sitter could bring in a quarter an hour and popcorn. But, we want to go on record – we never read them, ever. We didn’t even look at the advertisements for secret potions that create bigger bosoms or kiss proof lipstick, because we were good girls…

These same friends tell us confession is good for the soul. After having lifted the burden of buying those risqué magazines as young teens, these same friends encouraged us to spring with our own confessional.

We are Kool-Aid Winos and Kool-Aid Winos are dyeing across the QCA!

That’s right, Kool-Aid Winos. Careful examination of the in-store videos of local grocers reveals two ladies slinking down the aisle, past the juices and box drinks, and loitering directly in front of the Kool-Aid section. As you might expect, hard core Kool-Aid Winos don’t go for the artificially sweetened variety. It’s not right. We skip past the lemonade flavored blends and the vitamin C enriched varieties. Our blast comes from strong deep shaded blends.

But we don’t stop there. Ever on the lookout for something with more kick, we head to the generic brews. Gail was first to note the private-label brands are cheaper and carry a mighty wallop. This discovery leads to late night visits to obscure stores, ever in search of that legendary nickel pack of the “stuff.” But acquiring the mix is just the start.

As soon as the purchase is complete, we hurry home to begin the powdery drink ritual. Deep inside some long forgotten recess of Gail’s basement, there exists a collection of secret containers – each painstakingly selected at some back-alley garage sale or junk shop. Once an armload of the vessels are selected, we hurry straight to the nearest faucet. The water is immediately turned to high – the container swished out once or maybe twice. Then like depression era Okies laboring over sweet California grapes, the packets are plucked from their plastic sack cocoon. With thumping hearts and trembling hands, the plasticized paper packs are no match for the adrenalin pumping through our veins. The colored powered is painstakingly measured into the waiting caldron. For the Kool-Aid wino, no sugar is added – no ice cubes required. It’s a straight up mix of water and powder. Once the liquid is mixed the whole scene takes a turn to the eccentric.

Fibers of all kinds, wool, silk, alpaca fur and even bamboo are produced. Yarn and other pre-assembled bits appear from baskets and bags. Each bit of fiber is matched up with the soft drink mixture. Then the magic begins.

The fiber literally sucks the color from the liquid mix. What was once deep blue (and perhaps grape flavored) liquor becomes clear – as clear as the tap water with which we started our journey. Like the flower-children of Haight Ashbury’s hippy movement, we see bright colors swirling around our world. Cherry reds, raspberry purples, watermelon pinks, yellows, oranges –you name it. Joyful colors from every segment of the rainbow are now embedded into what will soon become socks, scarves, mittens and maybe a State Fair Project. Soon, we take our colors outside and allow them to dry on the picnic table. Once dry they are ready to start spinning and knitting.

By now some of you are thinking about the mechanics of our process, and a few of you are wondering about our sanity. Allow us a few more words to answer some of your questions.

Why would you use Kool-Aid as opposed to one of the commercial dye mixtures that you can buy in the store? Well, we like the idea of using Kool-Aid because it’s non-toxic. You can actually get some on you and be 99 percent safe. If you
accidently splash some into your mouth, you live to dye another day. Gail even allowed her granddaughters age 6 and 9 to do some “Kool-Aiding.” They had a blast, and we didn’t need to watch them too closely.

Doesn’t Kool-Aid dye eventually wash out? Actually this stuff is pretty permanent. Ask any mother who had to remove the stains in their kids Kool-Aid stand uniform – they’ll tell you this stuff stays. Plus we use a bit of white vinegar to “set” the dye. This extra step is again very safe, and it produces a life time color.

Finally, Kool-Aid dying is a growing sport amongst people who like to play with yarn, wool and other fibers. We didn’t invent it but we darn sure have taken it to a new level. Before we hurry down the dusty trail – there are a number of ladies who gather at the Serendipity Yarn Shop in Muscatine on a regular basis to talk all things fiber. If you find yourself in Muscatine, stop by and tell them some Kool-Aid Winos sent you.

Have a great May – All those April showers are about to pay off with May flowers.