Goose

They're here.

The enduring winter held them at bay, but my mortal enemies have returned. An ancient evil has come down from the skies to invade our aquatic vanity sources. They know two emotions: A white-hot hatred for humans, and insatiable hunger for warfare.

They are the Goose Mob.

Already, geese are setting up shop near the man-made water bodies of the Twin Cities. Like street gangs, they congregate on the corners and drill fear into the weak and infirm. It's THEIR corner now, so take YOUR stinky hot dog cart and YOUR low-end cannibus stash and get up outta there!

It's our fault, though, you know. It was sooo cute to feed them French fries and bread crumbs, and we kept doing it, and now they aren't afraid of us anymore. Now they're dropping their green grumpies on our sidewalks, and laying their eggs near the ponds ... and defending their turf with VIOLENCE! Your flailing limbs are mere obstacles. They'll see your handgun and raise you a phone call from PETA. No humans are safe.

Except you, because I'm about to save your life.

NOTE: You know where it's written: "All content © Frank Haataja (Pronounced "Hottie-ah") unless otherwise noted"? This is one such exception. This was given to us at the office, but I found it on several websites. All I did was re-write the steps in my own words, as it was never mentioned which ones were key. 

1. When you pass a posse of geese, it's the male you want to watch out for. This is key because, if he hisses or flaps his wings, that's your cue to vacate the premises. The male will come at you first, bro, because the females are watching the eggs. This matters in a moment.

2. Let them know you're scared. This step is NOT key because geese pay special attention to body language and, if they smell fear on you, they'll only come harder.

3. Maintain eye contact. This step is key because geese have excellent vision, and interpret your shifty eyes as an act of fear. Covering your face with your arm or your Hello Kitty handbag? Guess what that does ...

4. As it is with just about every animal species, it's the female you ought to really be scared of. Stay calm when confronted by the male. Get all chesty with him and the female might get rowdy. Hold my hoops, hold my baby!

5. Make sure your body is directly facing the goose as you slowly back away from their camp. You don't want to turn your back to the goose because ... you know what, anything other than eye contact and slow baby-steps backwards is a sign of fear to geese.

6. Peripheral vision is key. Tripping over a tree branch and rolling your ankle? Also an act of fear.

7. If the goose flies into your face, walk backwards at a 90-degree angle. Any other angle is an act of fear.

8. The preferred method of escape is a gate. In spring, geese will rarely fly over it; during summer - ready for this? - geese shed their feathers and lose the ability to fly!

You're welcome. Enjoy your Friday.

Saints Piece Final

"It's kind of weird," our tour guide said as we made our way back toward the clubhouse. "We're just not used to having this nice of stuff."

If you've been watching St. Paul Saints games in the deliciously trashy Midway Stadium over the last few years, you had gotten used to chipped-up walls, unexplainable stains, and aluminum bleachers you had to sit on just right lest a screw head dig into your butt cheek. Yet, it became synonymous with the Saints experience, so much that I quietly mourned the butt-bugging bumps and dirt-floored locker rooms when the final out was thrown at Midway last summer.

What would the Saints experience be now? Would they be too fancy for tailgaters and Dog Day? Would ticket prices go into the stratosphere? How was parking going to work? I heard the field was displacing a dog park. That sounds kind of mean. I had a lot of questions, and they were answered last Tuesday.

You're going to like the news. Let's take a look inside CHS Field, home of the new-school yet still somewhat old-school St. Paul Saints.

Clubhouse

Our tour began in the clubhouse, where club-level season ticket-holders will smoke their pipes and talk about the Dow while we plebs take in the game below. The ceilings are mostly cedar -- pardon me, reclaimed cedar. It's gorgeous, and a far cry from the industrial shambles you'd look up at in Midway's corridors.

They passed out free bottles of Summit and led us out into the open, where a good view of the field was not hard to come by. Here, look:

Frank CHS

Two Angle CHS 2

Two Angle CHS

There are very few walls throughout. I can't remember the architect's name, but I did remember a) this was her first time designing a stadium; and b) she wanted to make the stadium a living part of Lowertown. Indeed, from just about anywhere you stand within CHS Field, you can see a part of the skyline. It's Target Field-esque in that manner; but, with Lowertown less developed than downtown Minneapolis, the view from CHS extends for miles.

Grass

Some dude stepped on the grass and got bitched at. C'mon, stay off the grass means STAY OFF THE DAMN GRASS!

Saints Piece 6

This mural was brought over from Midway, which I thought was a nice tip o' the hat. The fenced in area behind it is the dog park the Saints to replace the park they displaced. It extends almost the length of the facility.

It's long and narrow, but entirely fenced in and (I'd presume) will allow dogs to run off-leash. I never saw the dog park before the stadium started going up, but this will be a serviceable option for Lowertown's canine community.

Pro-tip: Grab a Three Rivers Park District pass. Their off-leash dog parks are humongous, and pretty well spaced out in the Cities.

Kelly CHS

The seats are gray and blue, with occasional yellow seats mixed in and no discernible pattern to coloring. Our tour guide sounded unsure of the logic behind the yellows. It might come off as over-creative, but it's a neat sight from afar. I paid off a hot chick to model seats for me by marrying her shortly before the tour began.

Let's head inside -- but first, let's see if I can photograph an office while keeping the camera straight.

Office

Nope.

A large painting of the logo dominates the wall of a staircase going down from their front offices, and this one overlooks a luxury suite, which goes for $100/person and comes with a private patio and seating section. In all, it holds 25-36 people. This lack of Bill Murray's face was a real missed opportunity, I think.

Saints Piece 8

Speaking of misses, their batting cage used to be a jimmied-up contraption they dragged onto the field. Not anymore! Check out what they've got in the basement.

Batting Cage

Looks sweet, doesn't it? You ain't seen nothing yet. Have a look at CHS Field's crown jewel, the Saints' new locker room.

Saints Locker Room 1

Lining the top is a Saints Hall of Fame. We wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon in here taking pictures, but another tour group was moving through. At Midway, the locker room was dusty, cramped, and piecemeal; standing in here makes you feel like you're a part of something special.

Locker Room 2

Some things aren't finished, most notably the parking lots -- most notably, the tailgate lots. Our guide also mentioned "rail-gating," but I didn't catch the details. Might that mean some tailgate lots will be farther off-site? I'll get back to you on that. What I can confirm is Porter, and your dogs, will still be welcome to one game per year. This year's Dog Day is June 6.* The Beer Dabbler is making the trip over, and Fireworks on Fridays continue.

So, what's this going to cost you?

What if I said you could get in for a fiver? It's true: the Saints will offer $5 tickets in a grass area, which will hold up to 200 people and be made available on game day. I don't know what kind of stadium access that will grant (i.e. concessions, etc.), but the view won't be shabby. If you want an actual seat, you can still get a good one behind the plate for under $20.

I was a skeptic at first, but CHS won me over. It was hard letting go of Midway, but the Saints deserve to play in something like this and the fans deserve to watch them in it. "The new" will take some getting used to, sure, but I think fans will embrace it with open bottles.

*I'm 99-percent sure that's correct, but not 100-percent.

 

Photo from John A. Weeks III (johnweeks.com). I had to use someone else's daytime photo because I've never seen this bar in the daytime. In fact, it wasn't until I saw this picture that I was ever aware of the lettering up top.

The phrase "Irish pub" can mean a lot of things in America. On one hand, I've partied at an Irish Pub in Chicago with candlelit hideaway booths and jovial live music that made me think I'd been whisked away to the Emerald Isle herself.

On the other hand, I've bowled and eaten buffalo chicken pizzas at Flaherty's in Arden Hills. Flaherty's prints leprechauns on pizza boxes, staples a clover up here and there, and fries up fungible fish and chips. I like Flaherty's, love Flaherty's, but it's about as Irish as the bingo hall on the other side of its parking lot.

Fun fact: There are 86 McDonald's locations in Ireland. Compare that to 282 McDonald's locations in Minnesota. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Somewhere in the middle is Half Time Rec. Its four-tone blocky structure looks straight out of Minecraft, but hey -- it was good enough for Max Goldman and John Gustafson, Jr. There are a lot of things that haven't changed since its portrayal of Slippery's Bar: You can still slink inside and get your $2.50 Grain Belt, and the men's room door isn't quite busted-up enough to replace. If you were last in there 20 years ago, some pieces of The Rec are still in there.

Yet, they've modernized in all the right ways. And the food! Everyone has been raving about the food! Now, as Jack Riebel and the Smack Shack boys shake off their first St. Patty's Day in da back of da Rec, I'll take a turn slobbering over their kitchen.

The Basics: The lovely shack is located on the corner of Front Ave. and Energy Park Dr. in St. Paul. More information can be found on their website. They were recently named Best Dive Bar by Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine, and their fries were touted in a Thrillist Top Ten.

The floor is plenty littered with pull tabs and kernels, but a sort of ... I don't know, cleanliness? ... seeps out from where Riebel's crew is making the grub. The Rec's modern, sleek logo is freshly-painted on the back wall; one of those newfangled Internet juke machines pumps out auto-tunes between Journey tracks; and Plexiglas signage glows eerily crack-free. There's a fine line between between keeping the people you've sauced up for years and alluring the young money, but Half Time Rec seems to be doing it nicely.

It was with great consternation I ordered the beer cheese mac. With chicken, it was $11. Even as the words rolled off my tongue, nightmarish visions of molecular chicken bits in a thimble-sized serving crept into my head. I distracted myself with one of those $2.50 Premium pints. This same pint put me out $7 at a Friday's a bit back, not that I'm still bitter about that or anything.

The prep time was in line with the 10-15 minutes advertised by my bartender. When it was slid before me, I saw right away why it's $11.

This isn't some puffed-up pricing larceny. No, it's $11 because they serve it to you in a bathtub.

2015-03-09 11.30.52

Order it with caution if you're not into popcorn or peas; otherwise, you'll be stuck scooping pests out for minutes. After scooping out everything that made my mac-n-cheese Irish, I dug in.

The cheese was dairy cocaine. By that I mean, a) it's addicting; and b) I would absolutely pile a three-foot mound of the stuff on top of my desk like Tony Montana in Scarface. It had zip. Nothing invasive, just zip. The noodles were soft but not soggy. It could have used more cheese, but that's true about everything; and they don't skimp on the meat. Very satisfying boat full of carbs.

I went back a second time and continued my Finnish Irishness by ordering the cheeseburger everyone's likening to a Big Mac.

There isn't much to say here. Indeed, think of a Big Mac ... well, think of a Big Mac made by Jack Riebel. Everything, but better. That's the Paddy Burger. They're taking it to the Twin Cities Burger Battle this year, where I'd anticipate they'll go head-to-head with reigning champion B-52 -- who, of course, does bun-gutter as well as anyone.

There isn't a lot of juice pre-Paddy Shack on the Internet about Half Time Rec, but word has spread since. Foodies are still making their pilgrimages, and my cubicle neighbor labeled it her new go-to for fish and chips.

Even if you're not hungry, Half Time has plenty of merit. I just throw myself together for a night at The Rec. I need places like those, okay? I don't need another one of those yuppity blank stare diners I keep confusing for one another. The Rec was a must-hit beforehand, but the Paddy food launched it well into the "If I could only drink at one bar for the rest of my life" echelon.

Maybe it's only Irish a few days a year. Maybe it won't take you back to ye olde Dublin, but you're in Minnesota. In Minnesota, we like plentiful noodles and a cheeseburger that oozes mystery sauce. We like to get in without dressing fancy, we like to kick pull tabs out from under our feet, and we love taking home half our meal. In those respects, Half Time Rec is the perfect Irish bar.