I am intoxicated by this city. The wide sea-vistas of Duluth effectively make me feel small in the grand scheme, but in Minneapolis I am huge among these shimmering glass pinnacles. This is mankind’s playground. It was built for me, for my approval or disapproval, as appropriate.
A few vagrants try and shake us down for change. At first I am amiable, listening to and rejecting their requests. Then one large reeking fellow follows us for three minutes, bumbling over his words and never expressing his purpose. His lack of direction makes my empathy melt away and I wish I was carrying a blade to do away with these foul beggars. They did not pay admission. They have no right to bask in the golden glow of this modern symbiosis.
On the balcony during the Ben Folds concert there is a man. He sweats through his white dress shirt as he conducts an orchestra with his drink. Sometimes he hollers encouragement and sings along. Sometimes he pitches over the railing. He is always theatrical.
We are looking for a bar. Not one bar in particular, but a place where we can sit down and chat over beer and fries. There is an Old Chicago, but we have one in Duluth so it holds no great appeal. We try a place called Brother’s that is advertised on the radio. It is in the basement of a building and has pool tables, rock walls and insufficient lighting. Sweaty flannels and bare flesh dance together on a blinking dance floor. We have been transported to a house party. We leave. Brother’s is a cool place to get drunk if you are eighteen and have a fake i.d.
The Fine Line is having dance night as well. Repeating lines and thumping bass leak into the street and drown the vagrants clambering up from the gutter.
Finally we settle for the Loon Cafe. We get a table and I order two hard ciders for a staggering total of ten dollars. The waitress does not give us separate checks, so in the mathematical chaos that follows I steal my glass. That’ll learn her a lesson.
A day passes. Before going to Don Pablo’s to meet my friend’s parents we find a shopping cart outside Galyan’s. It has a narrow wheelbase and I ride it into the swamp. This same scene could be recreated in any suburb across America, excepting the suburbs that lack swamps.
That night we attend the Cabooze for an Umphrey’s McGee concert. Many exclamation are uttered at the outlandish drink prices of this ex-biker bar. Cobwebs smother the display bottles. $4.50 for a Hard Cider. $4.75 for a Hurricane (at Grandma’s in Duluth, $4 will drown you in a pitcher of the stuff). I beat all my friends and pick up a Long Island Iced Tea. The bartender tells me it is $6.75. My choice is between getting drunk that night or feeding an entire Iraqi village for a week. Utilitarianism fails. Again. This is not a kind weekend for the Greater Good.
During set break a woman by us will not stop talking. After fifteen minutes of jabbering she decides she isn’t drunk enough. In her absence the floor is noticeably quieter. The band appears and plays complex rhythms until everything is bright and quiet again.
I wake up. The televangelist keeps telling me not to spend another night with the frogs. Sleeping with frogs makes one take for granted the moving of God in our mix. When he belches forth something astounding he cites a passage in the Bible as proof. It’s refreshing to know that there have been so few advances in sociology, psychology and philosophy in the last 2,000 years that a self-refuting, paradoxical, hypocritical piece of absolutism can still be true. It gives hope that even my trashy writing will survive me.
In the end I’m not convinced by his arguments, but he says that that’s because my heart has grown hard to the will of the Lord. I say it’s because I’m hung over, but he doesn’t listen.