Ripped at Miller Hill Mall 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. Twenty years ago the Sultan of Sot paid a visit to the Miller Hill Mall and composed this article for the Dec. 24, 2003 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. Historical footnote: This was Slim’s last column for the Ripsaw before it switched from a weekly newspaper to a monthly magazine. Neither were ever the same. Additional footnote: The Great American Bar & Grill closed in 2011; the space is now occupied by Noodles & Company and Chipotle Mexican Grill.]

With all the recent abductions and alleged abductions going on in the region, now is an excellent time to prey on people’s paranoia. That’s why I’m at the Miller Hill Mall, picking out people at random and following them around. It’s just before Christmas, so there are plenty of targets to choose from.

My first victim is Sean Baker. I know his name because he just registered to win a Sea-doo powerboat and 500,000 World Perks miles. I also know now that he is gullible. You don’t have to read the fine print on the entry form to know that the odds of winning are miniscule and the odds of being contacted by annoying telemarketers for the rest of your life because you just signed away your do-not-call list status are equal to the odds of whether or not you have a phone.

I derive great pleasure out of following Sean around, making bets with myself over what stores he will enter and what stores he will pass by. As I do this, I’m simultaneously trying to figure out how I can establish some stakes for betting against myself. There must be a way to develop a drinking game out of this.

My thoughts are interrupted, however, by two hardworking Bryles Research employees who want to take me to a secret back room and show me a movie preview. Trying to keep an eye on Sean, I resist their pitch. Eventually Sean is lost, however, as I get drawn into conversation with the pollsters.

“So, what have you learned so far?” I ask.

“I’ve seen 80 cute girls go by,” the young man says. “I count them. Saturday I saw 110.”

Wow. I need a drink.

There are two drinking establishments at Miller Hill Mall. Both are family restaurants with full bars. I’m going to start off at Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill.

Things are pretty cheery here. Among the sea of mom-dad-child-grandma combos stuffing their fat faces is an army of about a dozen 18- to 25-year-old female hotties, busily serving up the fine American cuisine.

Shortly after ordering my first drink, the bartender informs me that she has mistakenly poured a bloody Mary for a customer who ordered something else. Would I like to have it for free?

It’s all I can do to keep from jumping across the bar and kissing her beautiful face. I manage to play it cool, however, and simply say “yes.” Inside my head, I am singing, “merry Christmas to me, merry Christmas to me.”

Soon, a Michelob Amber Bock is mistakenly poured and presented to me. Yes, it won’t be long before I’m jolly enough to fuck Santa. But first, I have to visit the men’s room, and I’m in for a little different experience there than I’m used to.

See, generally, when I go to take a piss, there isn’t a four-year-old girl in the stall next to me, peeing with daddy. Of course, there was that one time at Molly’s in Superior when I caught a 40-year-old-woman “peeing with daddy” in the men’s room, but that’s another story entirely. The point I’m making is that this family atmosphere is killing my buzz.

When I return to my stool, the waitress at the table behind me is informed that it’s the birthday of a very special young girl named Erica. Soon, the hottie troop has surrounded the table to wish Erica a happy birthday with the patented Applebee’s birthday chant, which goes like this:

“I don’t know but I’ve been told,
Someone here is getting old.
I don’t know but it’s been said,
Someone’s face is getting red.”

And the place goes wild. And I get the hell out.

Back in the shopping area, I’m amazed how this mall seems to be worshiping the all-American mentality of consumption consumption consumption, but there are no liquor stores, no gun stores and no robot stores. Everybody seems to be carrying the same line of Minnesota Vikings wallets and sweatshirts with funny sayings.

Since there isn’t a shirt that says “World’s Most Neglectful Father,” and since the deadbeat sonofabitch would have to show his face for the first time since 1976 to get his gift, I think I’ll just head into the next bar.

Speaking of the Vikings, by the way, they are about to defeat the Seattle Seahawks, clinching certain defeat in the first round of the playoffs. The game is on the many TVs that are appropriately mounted on every wall of the bar area at the new Great American Bar & Grill. U-S-A! U-S-A!

The Great American has replaced the old Angie’s Cantina & Grill, which wasn’t impressing anyone. With a new Olive Garden moving in down the street, the owners figured it was time to hang some Life Magazine covers on the wall and see if that will compete in this new era of family dining.

I notice there is something on tap called “The Great American Brew.” What could this be? A little something brewed down in Andy Borg’s basement? No, it’s a Leinenkugel’s seasonal with a specialized label. You can get the same thing at hundreds of other bars, under a different name at each place. And I can say that again.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

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