Old Chicago and I are like two electrical cords, grabbed up in a hasty handful and stuffed into a box together. We wrap around each other, we part, we touch, we miss each other for lengths, we touch again, we part again, and now we might be wrapped around each other again.

My 21st birthday dinner was held at Old Chicago, a night before which I'd never had a whole beer. Since then, I've navigated three World Beer Tours. That's 330 beers, and plenty more have gone undocumented.

In those days, Old Chicago was a rare Twin Ports hideaway in which you could avoid the Michs and Bud Lights and ... stabbings, to be honest. My best friend Zach and I would get in at 7:30, dial up a deep dish and chicken tenders, and hog the pool table 'till close. Snakebites and black-and-tans nudged me into a 10-year love affair with Guinness. The pizza, with its perfectly crunchy crust and billowy dough, its wide-reaching pepperonis and cheese that could stretch out the door, was so addicting we'd often get two. We'd awkwardly flirt with the waitresses, and cap it with a gigantic tip.

You'll give us prizes for trying new beers? Hell yeah, we'll sign up! Our first tours eased out of the High Life and into Grolsch Swingtops and Spaten Optimators. Well, eased might not be the right word -- we went from 0-110 in under eight months. We suffered Zywiecs, winced away Tsingtaos, chugged the cheap ones, and raised Lindemann's Lambics at the finish line (I finished mine first, by the way).

Our conquest was bittersweet: Zach moved out of state only days after. He came back, but then I moved away, then I came back and he moved away, then I came back and he went to Afghanistan. Friendships live but fade. That's just life.

The Old Chicago I knew faded with it, also life. I stopped recognizing faces, and started bringing a woman with me. When we stopped in to celebrate our engagement, we were still drenched from the rain I proposed to her in. Dan the Man behind the bar was the first to hear about it, but it would be the last time I saw him back there. Just as Zach came back for good, I moved away for good.

My wife and I finished world tours together in Duluth (my third, her first) a year after betrothing; but these took us three-and-a-half years to complete, and this winter was just setting in.

Old Chicagos were placed inconveniently in the Twinkies, for one. Locations included that Uptown coffin on Hennepin, the one Boneyard was just buried in after less than a year; Eagan, which is way the hell down in Eagan; and Roseville, whose drinkers refuse to unshackle themselves from Grumpy's.

The Roseville spot was where my wife and I celebrated the first day of her first job after college, but knock-out alternatives were readily accessible from my pad in Washington County. That isn't a knock on Old Chicago; fact is, NOBODY competes with Smalley's barbecue and rum drinks and NOBODY competes with a BYOB pizza joint like Ronnally's.

Then Plymouth happened.

The Parkers Lake vicinity is a veritable dead zone for hop-hunters. It became even more so when Digby's POOF! disappeared after Christmas. What now?

It didn't take us long to find it ... and wouldn't you know, there's an Old Chicago five minutes from home.

It's a New Old Chicago, though. Gone are the tough-to-pronounce imports and risky-sounding countries of origin. DRINK GLOBAL hath withered. The concept that excited me so as a twenty-something? Deleted.

Who are they now? Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom. They're assimilating the craft beer frenzy. It's defensible yet depressing. CRAFTED since 1976? What does that even mean?

They've got what I'd call "safe crafts." It's a polite way of saying "the same ones you can get anywhere." They taste great, that's not the issue -- I'll drink a place dry of Moo Joos and Farm Girl, but Old Chicago is just another place I could do that at. I'm sure there are circumstances behind that, but it doesn't change the fact.

Otherwise, I couldn't be happier. The pizza -- with its perfectly crunchy crust and billowy dough, its wide-reaching pepperonis and cheese that could stretch out the door -- reminded me of the very slices Zach and I fought over 10 years ago. The Sicilian rolls and pretzels are perfect, and the calzones are the closest things to straight cash you can eat, homie. After 9 p.m., the $2 pub pizzas are pure magic. This all bodes well for a place I could drink dry of Moo Joos and Farm Girl.

As it is with all types of modernization, I just have to get used to it and accept life without sketchy-sounding Ukrainian suds. It'll be three nights in a row when we head there tonight. I can't believe how quickly the comfort set back in.

Hell, I even over-chatted the bartender Wednesday night to the point of getting my shin-kicked by my wife. Old habits die hard, I guess.


The only thing he can do that I can't do is lick his own butt hole, and I've no ambition to do that.

Meet Porter, whippet/pointer mix, speed incarnate, Usurper of the Blanket Fort Queen, demolisher of anything plush, He Who Has Eaten a Thunder Shirt off his Own Body. He doubled our family's foot count, and -- yeah, that's weird too. We're not just a married couple making out in a dimly-lit bar corner anymore. We're still that, but we're also a love seat body pile when we're all home from work.

He has not taught me anything but having a puppy has taught me a great deal. He ambles through the house, serving a constant reminder of how correct we are in deciding we aren't ready for kids. I spent most of my twenties working at Champs sports, pointing out every malcontent brat and declaring: "Reason number infinity why I'm NEVER having kids." Nowadays, I only need one: As my bloggerrlfriend Katie Gard so rightly puts it:

Kids? None.
I'm lucky the dogs are still alive.*

I know exactly what she means now. At least we can kennel this one: A human child would eventually outgrow the crate or figure out how to escape it. Kidding aside, your life is different when you're in charge of a living, breathing thing.

Even a month into owning him, my wife and I still look at each other the way the "Weird Science" kids used to and say, "This is OUR DOG."

OUR DOG doesn't care if you're playing League of Legends or coming up on the ending of a TV show. Once OUR DOG starts sniffing and walking in circles, nothing is more important than getting OUR DOG outside. Otherwise, OUR DOG is leaving a "Porter pie" on the carpet. This is part of responsibility for a living, breathing, peeing, pooping thing.

It has taught patience -- and by "patience" I mean standing outside for 15-20 minutes waiting for him to find the right spot. Sound preposterous? Look at it this way: How long did it take YOU to find the right spot? Few years? Hell, I'm turning 34 this week and I still don't always.

He's a social eater. It's weird, but we have to account for the quirks of a living, breathing, peeing, pooping thing that only wants to eat when the humans are there to see. If it doesn't look like he's eaten yet that day, my wife and I coordinate a kitchen trip to lure him to his dishes. He eats, looks up, hears "Good boy!" over and over, reaches back into his dish, chew and repeat.

You should see this stuff we're feeding him. It's called "evolutionary dog food" and there's a picture of a wolf on the bag. We're hoping he doesn't evolve like that. I can tell you what he does with the carbs, though: He goes to the dog park and moves like the other dogs would in fast-forward. For him, it's a gift and a curse -- he loves being chased, but no other beings can keep pace.

While he's off zooming in circles, my wife and I are taking more romantic walks than ever. We'll chatter and occasionally call out for Porter. He'll dash back to be seen, and take off again with his friends. I'll take my wife's perpetually warm, perfectly-manicured hand in my frozen meat hook, she'll grimace, I'll laugh, and we'll go back on our way.

That's life, now, and I don't regret it. We're not watching our parent's dogs anymore. This one is our living, breathing, peeing, pooping thing that only wants to eat when the humans are there to see and wants to be chased but hasn't found a worthy pursuer.

If he's taught me anything, it's ... nope, nope, still just the butt-licking. In fact, he's doing it again right now.

*I revised this section to include the exact quote.

Hudson Bagel with macaroni-n-cheese shells (fire-spitting wrist fixture not included)

I've waited long enough to break the seal on the Minnesota Skinny's best-kept secret. The greatest food item I've ever encountered hasn't had beef in the middle, pepperonis or pineapples on top, or sliced cuts of beef stacked a foot high. It hasn't come in a glass, growler, or heinously-priced bottle or tallboy.

It's a bagel -- you heard me, a bagel. Except it's not just a bagel, it's a Motherfucking HUDSON BAGEL. It's the cheddar bagel. Perfection is simple: You disjoint your jaw to get your mouth around it, and you've got four messes to clean when you're done. Otherwise, perfection is simple.

Cheese, bun, cheese, bun, done.

The Basics: You can find Hudson Bagel on the Internet at hudsonbagel.com. There are two locations in total: One in Hudson and one in Heaven, because Heaven would be Hell without a Hudson Bagel.

Hudson Bagel with pulled pork and cream cheese (If it takes you longer than four hours to eat this, seek medical help immediately)

Hudson Bagel anchors an otherwise fugue-inducing strip mall in, yeah, Hudson. They sell 'em individually, or you can buy 'em in bags of bakers' dozens (and the seventh one is free!). Coffee, donuts, and soda are  sold there as well. A Coca-Cola is never as good as it is with a Hudson Bagel. Neither is coffee. Neither is anything.

The cheddar bagel turns heads, breaks necks, and halts traffic. It's a culinary supermodel. A mere glance makes the humans drool. The dogs, too (now I know for sure). This egg-infused alien wonder injects Earthly beings with the two most elemental foundations: CARBS and CHEESE.

Most of the time, it doesn't really have a hole in the middle. It's never level, never perfectly round, and how is the cheddar infused? It isn't: They just cook a slice of cheddar right onto the roof of the bagel.

It's the only bagel I've ever met with the audacity to be greasy. Why make it fair, right? One Hudson Bagel is all you need to stave off depression, anxiety, exhaustion, heat exhaustion, probably Lupus, and keep the Polio virus extinct.

The only way you get sick at Hudson Bagel is if you win the loyalty drawing, then you get SICK DEALS (explosion noise).

They have other flavors, too, like the sun-dried tomato (wife's go-to) the pizza bagel (sounds gimmicky but it works), bacon cheddar (listed without comment), and Swiss (for emergencies only, when they're out of cheddar), but the cheddar is the one my mother-in-law will fight off an eight-year-old for if there's only one left. The cheddar is the one with the city-sized bull's eye.

Use a Hudson Bagel to fight off a badger, a honey badger, a horny badger, Bucky the Badger, whatever. All badgers cower before the might of a Hudson Bagel. Afterward, wipe the cheese off your face, the grease off your hands, the crumbs out of your beard, and toss the paper bag in the trash.

Once that's done, that nirvanic rush of exuberance ought to have set in. Go forth and finally subdue your nemesis, whatever it is. Work project? Eat a Hudson Bagel and figure out fucking Excel. Home project? Hang it after a Hudson Bagel -- with your newly-acquired eye superpowers, you won't even need a level.

Confronting a super-villian? Blow your post-bagel belch into his face and laugh as he falls in love with you ... then uppercut him into the spike pit. BAGELITY!

Want versatility? Bring a Hudson Bagel home, cut it in half, add cream cheese, then add pulled pork. Or macaroni shells. Or a chicken breast. Or a hamburger patty. But you're still adding cream cheese, right? Good.

A Hudson Bagel bun on a menu is a miracle waiting to happen. For instance, what if ... what if Agave Kitchen made a Steeburger using a Hudson Bagel as the bun?

That would be -- oh God --