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Ripped at Baja Billy’s in 2008

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve pulled out another relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s connoisseur of drinking establishments from 1999 to 2009. In this article we travel back ten years to the time of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 — before Duluth’s Mexico Lindo restaurant existed — when the ol’ “sultan of sot” paid a visit to Baha Billy’s at the Fitger’s Brewery Complex. The article was originally published in the June 30, 2008 issue of the Transistor.]

Have all you motherfucking patriotic cheesedicks got your economic stimulus checks from the IRS yet? That’s valuable drinking money, you know. While a few misguided Duluthians might use that free cashola to pay down their massive credit-card debt or save up to fix their sewer lines, the rest of us know what it’s really for: top-shelf liquor.

And so I walk into the Fitger’s Brewery Complex with three crispy hundos in my pocket, which is pretty much the only way you can walk into a shopping mall on Grandma’s Marathon weekend. My destination is Baja Billy’s Cantina & Grill, the tourist trappiest of the four drinking establishments in the building. Sure, my money would go a lot further at, for example, the Rustic in West Duluth, but I’m not dealing with real money today. I’m going to sit outside on Duluth’s best deck, look out at the full moon over Lake Superior, and slowly get hammered, all on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime.

Now, I don’t possess a degree in economics—or even a basic high school diploma for that matter—but even I understand how this economic stimulus plan works. I get a check, I spend it, and the money goes back where it came from. In the middle, I get stimulated.

Since this plan is obviously so effective, I’d like to see it more frequently employed. And there’s no reason why we should have to wait for the government to sort through its bureaucratic red tape when we can manage our own economic stimulus plans. For example, if you own a bar, you should give me $300. I’d be happy to spend it at your bar, and everyone would win. You’d have to be a fool or some kind of liberal communist to disagree.

Anyway, you’d at least think that on a 70-degree night during Duluth’s busiest weekend, with free money being broadly distributed, people would want to sit out on Baja Billy’s deck with me, where they could theoretically wad up a couple of $20 bills and romantically toss them out into ol’ Gitche Gumee. I mean, the moon is hanging big and yellow on the horizon, ships are rolling in and away again through the magnificent Aerial Lift Bridge … what red-blooded American tourist wouldn’t want to sit up here and drink until he barfs on a seagull?

Strangely, that’s just not the case. After making my way through a mildly happening barroom and heading out onto the deck, I find only two small groups of people boozing al fresco. I sit down and 14 seconds later a server arrives, apologizing profusely for making me wait so long. She tries selling me on the margarita special, which I resist, since I’m not really in the mood for half a shot of rail tequila drowned in two liters of Mountain Dew.

Honestly, however, I’m finding it hard to pay attention to her or focus on ordering a drink, because my balls are being squeezed together in the miniature plastic chair I just sat down in. Somehow, in this obese nation, Baja Billy’s has acquired chairs that manage to pinch on a guy who has non-ironically gained the nickname “Slim.” I’m not sure if this establishment is trying to cater to 8-year-olds, dwarves or Asian tourists, but either way, I’m disappointed by the lack of dwarves and Asian tourists.

By the time I’m halfway through my first drink, a group at the far end of the deck leaves, and they somehow manage to do it without waddling off with cheap little chairs stuck to their asses.

All that’s left now are two guys drinking mojitos at the table next to me. As if it wasn’t totally predictable—but in a good way and very much appreciated—Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” comes on the sound system at the very moment that a ship crosses under the moonbeam. One of the mojito guys quickly complains to the server that the louder music playing in the bar is “atrocious” and drowning out Redding’s soulful serenade. Once the server closes the door, making the mood just right, the guys suddenly realize that maybe things are getting a little too good out here.

“The perfectness of this moment is threatening my heterosexuality,” one says to the other.

“Let’s get out of here before we give each other blowjobs,” is the reply.

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