Ripped at Molly’s in 2003

[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. One of Slim’s favorite old stops was Molly’s Tavern in Superior, which had a sign outside promising “dancing & sandwiches,” neither of which could be found inside. The bar closed in 2005 and later became Tower Avenue Tavern. Twenty years ago the Sultan of Sot paid a visit to Molly’s and wrote the article below for the Jan. 22, 2003 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

Whenever I find myself at Molly’s, I’m usually there to “finish up.” Usually, it’s late, I’m half in the bag and I have little interest in anything other than the square foot of bar top directly in front of me — the magical zone in which I lay down money and it miraculously turns into booze. But tonight Sean the Locksmith and I end up at Molly’s relatively early in evening. And I’ll be damned if Molly’s isn’t a pretty sweet place.

This doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve heard many tales of the coolness of this bar: the cheap booze, the weird and amazing antiques scattered about, the mother of Darryl Hall’s child pouring drinks. But maybe it’s to its credit that I’ve never really analyzed it. I go to Molly’s because I want to drink undisturbed. The appreciation of the bar among homosexuals and its seedy location at the very end of Tower Avenue help to keep away most of the local dillweeds.

So, Sean the Locksmith and I wander in and order our drinks; he gets a gin-and-tonic easily enough, but it takes me five or six tries to find a beer they actually carry. And it’s not like I’m ordering some obscure German hägenschtüffel. We’re talking your basic corporate products here. Finally, I notice a Blatz bottle on the bar and decide to go with that, which provokes a smart remark from the bartender, as if the Bud Light everyone else is drinking tastes like golden nectar or something.

Taking a seat next to a big mirror with a bullet hole in it (where else?), we discuss how happy we are with the entertainment. There’s no music playing, but the TV is actually treating us pretty good, and we’re able to catch some big World Wrestling Entertainment Raw action. The 10 or 12 people at the bar are all glued to the set, and with good reason. Jerry “The King” Lawler is in the ring, and if there’s one thing that’s thoroughly fun to watch when you’re in a bar, it’s senior citizens wrestling.

But it isn’t long before the inevitable happens, and the show turns into 30 minutes of Vince McMahon grunting into the microphone, which gives me a chance to check out all the bizarre antiques in the room. Covering all of the walls are vintage signs advertising everything from coffee to Les Miserables. And then there are cases covered with chicken wire and holding old toys, statuettes, lamps, etc. Even the surveillance cameras are antique. My two favorite things in the bar are the two gigantic vintage jukeboxes; one looks like a chunk that fell off of Stonehenge, while the other looks a lot like R2-D2.

And speaking of jukeboxes, here’s something: The new, operational jukebox has weird, weird selections. While the choices are pretty eclectic, there’s a lot of contemporary top-40 music like ’NSync, which is just, well, not in synch with the rest of the bar, or even with the people who frequent it. Also, there are homemade mix CDs in the juke, which is a great idea that I’ve never seen before. Regulars should have some sort of say in what goes in the jukebox, and more importantly, what doesn’t go in.

After a while, I notice the kitchen, which I’m surprised to find looks a lot like my mom’s kitchen, complete with a household stove and curtains on the window. I can’t say why, but this is really weird. It feels like someone lives back there, which, for all I know, could be true.

Then there’s the sign about 12 feet up the men’s room wall that warns, “restrooms are not unisex.” I assume this has something to do with an incident last summer where I was forced to use the women’s room due to the sudden popularity of the men’s room. I was perfectly content to wait my turn in the line for the men’s can, mind you, but a certain little Superior hussy had a different notion of how things were going to play out that night. When I made it to second in line, she stormed through the hall, pushing me out of the way, and grabbed the guy who was first in line, pulling him into the john, along with the guy who was already in there and trying to get out. Then, she slammed the door in my face with authority, like Maynard in Pulp Fiction before he and Zed gave Marsellus Wallace the cornhole of a lifetime. Anyway, I kind of considered the incident to be my license to piss in the empty ladies’ room. I’m sure the new sign will sort everything out in the future.

Suddenly, I’ve got a great idea. “I think we should go to Curly’s after this,” I say to Sean the Locksmith. “We never go to Curly’s this early. What do you think it will be like at this time?”

“Well, I think there’s going to be about six or seven guys there, and no women,” the Locksmith responds. “The jukebox will be playing ‘Me and You and a Dog Named Boo’ over and over again, interrupted occasionally by the Doors’ ‘The End,’ maybe at a 3:1 ratio. Some guy who looks like Santa Claus will be eating pizza off a paper plate.”

Precedent has told me what I’m going to do at Curly’s. I’m gonna drink a bunch more Blatz and then scarf down one of Curly’s famous $1.25 Coney dogs. Then tomorrow, I’m gonna shit through a screen.

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