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Ripped at the Blue Crab Bar in 2008

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. Before OMC Smokehouse took over the building at 1909 W. Superior St., it was home to the Blue Crab Bar, which closed due to foreclosure in 2009. But in 2008 the ol’ Sultan of Sot visited the Blue Crab and published this report for Duluth’s weekly Transistor.]

There are two ways to get on my list of favorite bars: 1) Cater to a bunch of weirdo regulars who are constantly shitfaced and causing a scene, or 2) Sell 34-ounce beers for $3.50 or less. You’d think the latter would automatically produce the former, but for some reason the freak vibe has failed to catch on at the Blue Crab Bar, in spite of the cheap swill. Still, it’s one of my favorite places, and there are rare moments of crazy if you are patient enough to wait for them.

Tonight, as usual, about eight people are spread out in the room. They are mostly keeping to themselves, either staring at the TV or engaging in soft chatter. The bartender disappears on a smoke break for about 10 minutes of every hour.

Eventually, all the quiet starts to get on one woman’s nerves. She decides to get up and provide some nourishment to the hungry jukebox. After staring at the display screen for about 10 seconds, she seems a little exasperated, perhaps because she’s worn out from Election Day. The prospect of choosing songs is clearly too much for her, and she finally turns to two guys at a nearby table for help.

“What should I play?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” one of them says, but he’s quickly cut off by his friend, who says “Play ‘Werewolves of London’.”

“How do I find it?” she asks.

“It’s by Warren Zevon,” the decisive fellow says. “Use the alphabet. Scroll to the bottom.”

The two guys return to their conversation for about 10 seconds and then suddenly the woman cuts back in. “I found it! I found it!”

After much congratulation, the song starts up and her eyes widen. I can see the lights go on in her brain. She recognizes the tune.

“It’s … this isn’t … what’s his name?”

“Warren Zevon.”

“No, this is Alabama.”

“Alabama is a country band.”

“No, no. The song is … ‘Alabama.’ It’s Kid Rock.”

“No, this is the good song Kid Rock ripped off to make a shitty song. Now I see why you need us to help you pick music.”

“Oh, shut up. … Kid Rock … what’s that other song he has? You know, that bum-bum-bum song?”

“Huh?”

“The one that goes bum-bum-bum.”

Eventually she realizes that the mere mention of Kid Rock’s existence seems to be agitating these guys, so she gives up and leaves it up to them to pick the rest of the music. For some reason, the decisive guy stays in his seat, and the indecisive one accepts the challenge to be our DJ. He spends the next ten minutes checking out what tracks are available from just about every album on the screen.

“Just play ‘Werewolves of London’ three more times,” the decisive one says, wanting to get on with it.

When DJ Molasses finally finishes picking tracks, he tells his friend that by completing the task before the last song started, he has “won at jukebox.”

As “Riders on the Storm,” starts to play, I look toward the glass front door and notice there’s a black cat outside peering in. At first, it seems kind of eerie the way it keeps staring at me and sticking out its bright red tongue. Then it occurs to me that the cat has probably started to hang out here because the smokers go outside and feed it. Between this place and Curly’s, I’ll bet that little fucker licks up a gallon of barf a night.

Meanwhile, at the far end of the bar, two women are either teasing or complimenting a guy who looks like actor Ray Liotta. “You have darker hair than Ray Liotta, though,” one of them says, “and not as many craters on your face.”

Suddenly, a young woman who I’ve noticed has been staring at me since she walked in, decides to stagger over and sit next to me. She says, and I do quote: “Hi, my name is Sherry, and I just gotta say howdy … and wassup? … and … I gotta go.” She walks away before I can say anything, then turns around and shouts “Obamaaaaa!”

A black guy a few stools down responds by shouting “McCaaaaaain!” which is funny only because he’s black. Call me prejudiced.

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