November 24, 2002

kraken synapse snap dragon

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.

Umphrey’s at the Cabooze? I dream of Umphrey’s, much like I dream of fine women and real cider… Japan has great doughnuts, though, unlike many other “civilized” parts of the world.
When I get back I’ll be able to give an introductory course on Japanese beer… would you care to participate?
Thanks for the link, by the way. It’s interesting how “local” is defined by proximity of relationship as opposed to any spatial constraints…

I will be more than willing to take a course on Japanese beer, so long as it is long and arduous and requires a lot of extra-curricular activity.
Willis got a doughnut this morning. He asked for a raspberry bismark but the fucker gave him a spunk-filled one. At least mine had sprinkles.
I organise my PDA’s address book the same way. My friends are split across Hopkins, Duluth, Ihduhapi, no matter their current location. It seems I’ve mentally stamped everyone with where I met them, and wherever they are now makes no difference.
It’s like that new kid that lives on my street. When they first moved in he was four years old and didn’t even know how to read. All of a sudden, this summer I’m out in the turn-around talking to him. Ends up he’s driving now, he’s on the Hopkins cross-country ski team, he’s hardcore about mountain biking… all this shit in this kid’s life that’s been going on without my knowledge. I always thought of him as a runny-nosed curly-haired brat, but now he has totally maxxed out the coolness potential of Farm Lane.
We assume that since we’re not SOMEWHERE that there’s nothing going on SOMEWHERE… like you can just leave the phone off the hook for a couple years and pick it up as though nothing happened. But it doesn’t work that way. A gravel pit I used to bike in as a kid got turned into a neighborhood ten years ago. Luxury apartments are popping up in every nook and cranny that we went running through in junior high. Samaritan Tires moved down the street, Budget Power became a rug store, Caribou Coffee moves in next to the White Wolf, which used to sell ski gear and then sold patio furniture and then evaporated completely. The MGM Liquor Warehouse used to be an establishment of no great consequence in my life, but now it can easily become the center of my being on return to Hopkins.
It’s strange to go home when it’s not.

That concert was pretty damn sweet. If ya’ll don’t know it yet, Duncan Sheik is a VERY good band. Check them out some time.