[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 he visited two Duluth bars — Mary’s Place and Terry’s Place. Both would later change their names. Mary’s Place became Clubhouse Sports Bar in 2005, then closed in 2014. The building at 132 N. 34th Ave. W. is now home to Stadium Pawn. Terry’s Place became Bergey’s in 2006 and remains in operation. Goodbuzz documented his experiences at Mary’s and Terry’s places for the March 7, 2001 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
“I haven’t had my sled out in a month,” complains the dude across the bar from me. “I worked 60 goddam hours this week.”
I tell him that I also worked 60 hours this week. I don’t mention that drinking is my job.
Then my new friend starts complaining about what a lousy game he just bowled. He seems cheery though. Complaining seems to make him happy; each self-deprecating remark inspiring a grin and a nod in my direction to indicate he knows that my life also sucks. All our lives suck. We’re at Mary’s Place / Stadium Lanes on Wednesday night.
I can only listen to this dude bitch for so long. I head over to the jukebox to see if I can get things going. Everyone has been sitting around watching the local news on the big screen TV. Newschannel 3 is “working” for us by spending half the newscast hyping its network freak show Survivor. There better be some Hank Williams in this jukebox, and I mean the daddy, not that “are-you-ready-for-some-football” waste of skin.
Along with all the other Twin Ports jukebox standards, I find Old Hank and reach for my trusty slug collection. But this jukebox isn’t even worth spending slugs on. It’s three plays for a buck. If I were at a sports event, I’d start chanting “bull-shit … bull-shit … bull-shit.”
I can’t go back and sit down where I was because I was sitting with my back to the big screen and everyone in the room seemed to be watching me instead of the TV. I started to search for someone to play pool with, but was surprised when some high roller decided to splurge and start up the jukebox. Sure enough, the room was soon filled with the annoying sounds of three songs I never want to hear again. General rule: People stupid enough to pay $1 for three selections should not be allowed to pick out songs for a room full of people who might have taste.
Time to walk over to Terry’s Place.
Terry’s Place seems to be some alcoholic race-car driver’s wet dream. Racecars decorate the awning outside and cardboard car cutouts cover the interior walls. The female bartenders are big-haired gum chewers. A sign in the lot outside reads: “Terry’s parking only. If you’re not in the bar … goodbye to your car.” As if hundreds of West Enders are clamoring for parking spots in that bustling business district.
Terry’s is conveniently located across the street from Premier Towing, the greasy idjits who towed my designated driver’s car from a parking lot downtown last winter and held it ransom for $127.50. (Repeat bull-shit chorus.)
Terry’s Place made me remember what a great time I was having at Mary’s Place. I left quickly, after chugging down a pitcher of Killian’s.
On the walk back to Mary’s from Terry’s, I compared and contrasted the two dumps. A pitcher of Leinie’s Red at Mary’s costs $7. A pitcher of Killian’s at Terry’s costs $7. Mary’s jukebox has the usual selections, three plays for a buck. Terry’s has the worst jukebox of all time, featuring Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Eagles and every godforsaken Garth Brooks album ever recorded, but at least you get all that for the quite reasonable price of five plays per dollar. Pool, however, is outrageous at Terry’s. It costs a buck a game. The opportunity to play pool at a West End dive in today’s market is worth 50 cents to me, and anyone willing to pay more shouldn’t be in the West End. Mary’s Place is just across the ore-dock border in the slightly classier neighborhood of West Duluth, and charges 75 cents per game — which is pretty close to reasonable.
Back at Mary’s Place, I return to the seat near my ornery new friend and listen to him continue bitching about life. “Blah blah ex-wife is brainwashing my son blah blah Vikings suck blah blah tranny’s screwed up blah blah blah.” Then, Dr. Laura comes on the television and I change the discussion to what an old hottie she is.
The bartender decides at this point that it’s time to hit the lights and close shop. But this bartender — my new favorite bartender — does just the opposite of normal closing procedure. Instead of cranking up the lights to drive us out, she turns off the lights so we’re sitting under the dim and peaceful glow of Dr. Hottie. My new friend and I slowly polish off our beers, content to stay all night, if only the taps still flowed after 1 a.m.
The bartender puts on her coat and heads outside, presumably to start her car. A group of young guys across the bar shout, “You guys got snow on your car? Debbie’ll get it.”
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