[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 the Sultan of Sot paid a visit to ‘R’ Place Bar & Grill and wrote the article below for the Aug. 6, 2003 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. ‘R’ Place, located a few miles outside Superior at 6611 State Highway 13 in South Range, has been out of business for many years.]
The first thing I do when I walk into ‘R’ Place is check to see if Jake is still alive. It’s hard to tell sometimes. He tends to sprawl out in the middle of the floor for extended naps. Sometimes he’ll look up when you step over him, but not always.
Jake, by the way, is an old, fat golden retriever. But he’s no ordinary old, fat golden retriever. He’s on a short list of candidates for being the best bar-dog ever. That’s because, when he is awake, he knows how to entertain. His best trick goes like this:
1) You take a dollar bill and present it to him like food.
2) He bites down on it and takes it behind the bar.
3) The bartender takes the dollar, and replaces it with a shrink-wrapped stick of beef jerky.
4) Jake then walks back around and offers you the slobber-covered package.
If it stopped right there, that would be enough for me. That would be enough for any dog to earn his keep at a dive bar on State Road 13 in South Range, Wis. But no, there’s more to this trick, if you know how to play. It goes like this:
5) You open the beef jerky package and tear off a piece.
6) You hold it up for Jake to beg, and ask Jake, “What do the girls in Hurley do?”
7) Jake rolls over on his backside and throws his legs up in the air.
8) You reward him with a delicious slice of dried meat (in a different way than one might reward a Hurley girl, of course).
That’s Jake for you. As for the people at ‘R’ Place, well, they’re not quite as entertaining. Some of them, however, come close.
Tonight, I’m paying particular attention to two brothers named Joe and Josh. They look not quite old enough to be drinking, but they’ve obviously been doing it for at least a few hours. I hear the older one mention going to college for drafting, so he may be clear of 21. But the younger dude, with his pants hanging three inches below his boxer shorts and his shirt totally unbuttoned so that none of us go unaware of his scrawny physique and hairless chest … well … he should obviously be attending summer school somewhere.
Now, two young guys getting drunk and giggling and falling all over themselves is not usually interesting to observe, but it is tonight, because they are with their mom and someone who appears to be the older brother’s girlfriend. Mom, for the record, is drunker than her children. Girlfriend, for everyone’s amusement, is stone-cold sober. And she’s really annoyed about being the designated driver for Sauced Family Robinson.
I’ll be getting back to this delightful foursome in a minute, but right now I have to tell you about the two 30ish-year-old guys playing pool and the argument they are having. They are actually debating about whose girlfriend is a better qweefer.
“Dude, Becky can qweef to the tune of ‘We Will Rock You,’ and she will indeed rock you in the process,” the one guy says.
But the other guy will not go down easy. He’s fighting for his true love, after all.
“Man, Wendy can qweef the bass line to ‘Smoke on the Water,’ and believe me, there’s a fire in the sky when she’s done.”
What no one, and I mean no one in the room is noticing, except for me, is this: There is a guy in the parking lot casually looking into the window, watching the guys play pool. Each player must rest his drink somewhere in order to take a shot, and one of them is using the top of a video poker machine, right next to the side door. Each time he sets his drink down and steps up to the table to shoot, the door opens and an arm reaches in, pulls the bottle of Leinenkugel’s outside, and returns it, minus about one ounce.
This goes on until the drunk brothers challenge the qweef sniffers to a game of doubles. At this point, the guy outside figures there are too many eyes in the area, so he leaves. My hero.
When the qweef sniffers win the pool game, one of them taunts the older brother until he finally calls his mother over.
“Mom,” he says, “”these guys want to fight, can you handle my light work for me.”
Mom springs into action, but she is stopped by the younger son, who seems annoyed, and is now restraining her. Mom, in an effort to explain, shouts out, “He wanted me to fight them, not fuck them.”
Meanwhile, the girlfriend is just sitting by herself, staring at the wall, wondering how she ever agreed to be the driver tonight.
At the other end of the bar, a 40-something-year-old guy is mouthing along to the jukebox, which is playing the Pearl Jam song “Black.” The woman next to him is groping him and trying to kiss him, but he keeps pulling away so that he can sing along to the song and continue to completely ignore her. But she keeps trying, grabbing him by the head and forcefully kissing him in an attempt to persuade him to provide her with unsatisfying sex tonight.
I look at the clock and see that it’s about time to go. As the song fades on the juke, the conversations in the room are suddenly more audible. One voice stands above all the rest. She says, “See, you need to understand, I’m missing an ovary.”
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