[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. Twenty years ago our anti-hero took a Sunday-night tour of drinking establishments in Proctor and nearby townships.]
“Oh yeah, now, Flip’s Bar, I’d stay away from that place,” this inebriated wastoid in a Motorhead T-shirt told me about three months back. “No, Flip’s is the roughest place in Proctor. It’s a real dive. You don’t wanna go there.” Naturally, after hearing this, I did want to go there. So when Sunday boredom started to get the best of me, I decided to stir things up and head to Flip’s.
There were two cars in the parking lot when I arrived, and one of them was for sale. I walked in the door to find no one there except an old guy behind the bar, who I presumed was Flip himself. I didn’t hang around to find out. Before the old dude even knew I had opened the door, I was back in my El Camino, swearing to milk this night for whatever I could get.
I had to find a decent bar. Anxiously, I drove through the streets of Proctor, past the Iron Horse and Kennedy’s, which had two cars apiece in their parking lots. These places didn’t seem any more promising than Flip’s, so I didn’t even slow down.
Sunday night. In Proctor. What is there? Not much.
The Keyboard Lounge
Eventually, I found the Keyboard Lounge in the middle of downtown Proctor, which is about a block and a half from suburban Proctor. Assuming that the “inner city” would be the most exciting part of town, I thought I might give it a try.
After peering in through the window and seeing six patrons sitting at the bar, I stood outside for a while trying to decide whether or not I should go in. Then I realized, as “Ravishing” Rick Rude once said, “If you want something in this life, nobody’s going to give it to you. You’ve got to reach out and take what you want.” Confident, I stepped inside.
There were two groups in the bar. One group sat quietly dismantling a pizza. The other group talked loudly about how drunk they were, and about how they weren’t going to drink anything more. I sat between them, ordered a High Life, and got started.
A guy at the end of the bar sipped what appeared to be a martini with six or seven olives in the bottom of the glass. Let me tell you this: a pile of six or seven olives resting in the bottom of a glass looks exactly like a cat turd.
As I was finishing my beer, the pizza gang left. Then I looked at the bottle of Captain Morgan and for some reason I wanted some. It was definitely time to move along.
The Dry Dock
The Dry Dock is located out in Midway Township, just past that church with the glowing red neon cross that looks like an establishing shot in a Stephen King movie. The bar has two pool tables, about a dozen TV sets and approximately a billion annoying ads screaming out from the walls. The lights are cranked up nice and bright so you can see how much fun you’re not having. When I walked in the room there were about 20 people in the bar, all of them watching the local news in dead silence.
I sat at the bar next to a middle-aged woman who was obviously ashamed to be as soaked as she was. She sat watching the news, being careful not to make eye contact with anyone except her husband, who seemed quite bright and cheerful. When she tipped over a full bottle of Miller Lite, she quickly turned and hid her face with her hands while the beer chucked out of the bottle and ran down the bar.
I ordered a Moosehead on tap and drank it while watching other people as they watched the news. It was almost as entertaining as it sounds.
I couldn’t take it anymore. It was time to grab the bull by the horns. Leaning over the bar, I asked the bartender that all-important question: “Are there any other bars around here?”
“Well, there’s the Munger Tavern,” he said. “Just go out and turn that way then take a left at the stoplight. It’s right there.”
This sounded good enough to me.
Hidden back in the woods like the hillbilly joint that it is, the Munger Tavern proved to be my best experience of the evening. About eight middle-aged drinkers vehemently caroused at the bar. Two couples danced to the jukebox, which played old-school country — George Jones, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Several people joshed each other over a game of pool. Everyone was as drunk as a wheelbarrow.
Sunday night drinking is for the die-hards, I realized. Most social drinkers get their imbibing done either on Friday or Saturday, or during the weekday cocktail hours. Sunday is for the loners, the eccentrics and the flat-out drunks. I had to decide which category I wanted to be in. At this point, “loner” seemed to be my best bet.
I took my beer out on the deck, where I could better manage my environment. It was a beautiful night. I suddenly felt very content. All alone and surrounded by candles, I leaned back, sipped my Old Style and listened to the crickets, the trains passing by, the leaves rustling and the occasional voices that filtered out of the tavern.
“No, no, you got big ones.”
“Nah, I got perkies.”
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