[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 Jimmy’s Saloon, which still operates at 1812 Iowa Ave. in Superior’s Billings Park Business District. Although patios at drinking establishments have become commonplace in recent years, they were somewhat rare when this article was published in the Oct. 1, 2003 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]
I’m a sucker for good conversation. So, by all means, tell me how bad your husband is in bed. The more details the better. Tell me about the spit bubbles that foam up on the edges of his mouth as he nears climax. No, seriously. I like that stuff.
Sports and rock ’n’ roll are good too. Just please do me the favor of saving the politics for your Chamber of Commerce meetings and lame-ass Wicca bonfires.
Tonight at Jimmy’s Saloon in Superior’s Billings Park business district, the conversation is just right, so far. Sure, I could probably hear the same talk of music, sports and fucking at any other bar in town, but it’s better at Jimmy’s because the drinks are cheap and there’s a nice courtyard.
I should note that there is nothing special about this courtyard; it’s basically a fenced-in grassy area with a deck, a couple tables and chairs, and a few bushes to pee on. It’s like the backyard of any Billings Park residence. But that’s enough to separate Jimmy’s from many of the bars in this godforsaken world that don’t even have that much going for them.
Anyway, I’m hoping I’ll catch some new variations on the old conversation themes by moving from inside the bar to outside. Perhaps out on the courtyard the talk will be of country music, old-time hockey and cast fetishes. A guy can hope, anyway.
There is just one group outside tonight, and, after eavesdropping on them for 15 minutes, I can give you complete personality profiles. One of them lives in a Twin Cities suburb where he has a shitty job that he hates. Hobbies include: building makeshift bongs out of aluminum cans, repeatedly quoting from the movie Fletch and buying lots of sporting goods in an attempt to psych himself into improving his fitness.
The next guy over lives in Duluth, where he burns a lot of CDs on his computer.
There’s a bald guy who grew up in either Duluth or Superior, but has spent the past few years in a foreign country. His hobbies include: being critical of others, shooting his mouth off and constantly seeking the approval of the few by arousing the disapproval of the many. In some ways, he’s a lot like me. Maybe that’s why I hate him.
The fourth guy at the table just keeps looking around to see if any women are going to show up. I’m putting my money on him to be the first to suggest going to another bar.
Anyway, the bald guy just won’t shut up about what a putz he thinks George W. Bush is. “One of the reasons I’ve come back here after all these years is to take a big dump on George Bush’s America and whatnot,” he says in an indefinable, pretentious accent. “I talked to some ladies on the plane ride over here. I said, ‘So how do you feel about our dear Georgie Boy?’ They said, ‘Love him! He’s like a best friend!’”
Right about then, he finally notices me lurking nearby. “So where do you think I’m from, eh?” he asks, even though I know from the conversation that he’s from right here in the Twin Ports. “I’ll bet you can’t guess.” Now, my brain may have been pickled in gin on a routine basis ever since I was breastfed, but even I know the rules of this game. I am supposed to guess all kinds of metropolitan places to boost up his ego (“Hmm. Gee, I don’t know … London?). But inevitably, with such a sophisticated accent I would never think of guessing that he’s from Superior or West Duluth or the Hillside. So no matter what I guess, I will be wrong. I will be revealed to be just a hick, while he will be revealed as an International Man of Mystery. Ooooooh.
So I’m trying to think of a smart-ass answer when Gallagher steps outside. Not the Gallagher, but a guy who looks enough like the watermelon-smashing comedian that everyone in the bar has taken to calling him Gallagher. Anyway, Gallagher says hello and wanders over to the bushes to empty his bladder, which makes me wonder if everyone in the front row should pull up their tarps for protection.
While Gallagher relieves himself, the International Man of Mystery gets up and grabs a hose that is lying curled up in the grass, then turns the water on. When Gallagher turns around, International Man of Mystery is grasping the spray nozzle, threatening to hose him down.
“Should I do it? Should I do it?” he asks everyone around him as Gallagher begins to ask himself what he will do if some jackass he doesn’t even know decides to open fire on him with a garden hose.
I’m a bit torn here. I obviously want Gallagher to get hosed, because that will be more interesting for me than if he doesn’t get hosed. But International Man of Mystery has obviously identified Gallagher as someone who is drunk and vulnerable — a good candidate for some bullying — and I don’t like it. Spraying down your friends is good-natured fun, but spraying down a stranger is a blatant display of disrespect, designed to show off what an arrogant asshole you are.
Seeing there is no support from the onlookers, International Man of Mystery lowers his weapon and nothing happens. I want to see Gallagher respond to this blatant threat of terrorism with a little shock and awe, but everyone continues to nurture their animosity through peaceful means. How boring. I wish George W. Bush were here.
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