“What are YOU doing here?” a man says in blatant bewilderment. “You look like a professional. You like a doctor, or lawyer, or something?”
I laugh and tell him what I do, which is neither doctoring nor lawyering. The man, from what I observed, has a profession that involves the use of a neon-green reflective vest – one you apparently must remain wearing when you’re off-duty. Judging by his appearance and the fact he is ostensibly NOT working, I venture he climbs chimneys in his down time.
I’m from Duluth, I say, went to school in Superior. His son went to St. Scholastica, and Superior has good titty bars, he says. I disagree with the latter. He pooh-poohs me, placing my opinion as merely that of a married man. I am now disagreeing with him on two counts, but we part ways amicably and I join that woman I’m married to at the pool table.
This is why we’re at a 7th St. pub and not our usual Woodbury Jack’s barrel table. Have you have any idea how tough it is to find a pool table around here? I mean, we found some – Riley’s in Oakdale, but that’s a gangbanger hangout; Jersey’s in Inver Grove Heights, but they had a band and a $7 cover (NO!); so, here we are at Keenan’s 620 Pub.
Park your car alongside the building and here are the first two things you notice are an American-flag mural sprayed onto the brick, and the RC Cola logo on the corner of the hanging sign. Keenan’s front door is simultaneously a portal to Superior’s Tower Avenue and the T.A.R.D.I.S. taking you back to a simpler time. Lined up in the entryway are an Indiana Jones pinball machine, Big Game: Safari, a pull-tab dispenser, and a jukebox in which you can see the CDs changing and a good minute passes between tunes.
Less than a mile away, my wife got her first look inside the new $15M Cossetta compound. We walked on pristine wood planks and ate gelato with little plastic shovels. And now we were here, on the same street, but in a bar with a hole in the floor and hardwood that looked like a zamboni spun out on it.
Yet, the table was level and the cues were straight. My first break is my best, and I cruise to victory over my wife. She doesn’t even have time to pull “The Wife Rule.”
Right now, it’s about 9 p.m. and there are maybe two in the bar besides us. The bartender is calm and methodical (this changes drastically later on), and asks if we need anything. We order cheeseburgers – a Big Kahuna for me (1/2 pound, the menu says, “because there just can’t be a Little Kahuna”) and a Juicy Lucy for her. Tater tots with both, please.
The hanging lights burn the same orange hues a heat lamp would, and the bulbs are all different shapes and sizes. One resembles an over-sized Christmas light; another, round and speckled with dust, a snow globe. Betwixt the light wires hangs the top of an intersection sign post, ASHLAND St. and OXFORD Ave., like the chopped-off head of an outlaw.
The cheeseburgers arrive, and are expectedly delicious. Much like Mickey’s downtown, every bite carries the grease of something cooked in the 70s. We shovel down our beef and get back to the game. She pulls The Wife Rule – changing from solids to stripes after I’ve cleared the stripes off – and still loses.
By now, a pair of 50-somethings are dancing near the pool table. “Hypnotic” is not how I would describe the motion of their bodies – more like “Bollywood + LSD =.” The woman’s got an electrocuted hairdo, spec frames like the eye cutouts on Catwoman’s mask, and patterned pants that look like … a freeway? Hard to tell. The man’s got a gray porn-stache and newsboy hat. He’s only important because he left three credits in the jokebox and didn’t care if I used them; she’s only important because my wife nearly battered her.
I was lining up a shot when my wife leapt out of her chair and shook her head at something beyond me. As I shot, she said “No.” I missed. “Don’t TOUCH him!” I heard the woman say “Please!” from inside her guy’s embrace. My wife repeated her warning as I calmly returned to the pitcher.
“What just happened?” I ask the Missus.
“She was pretending to spank you when you were shooting.” She laughs. “But I think she realized she wasn’t sober and that I’m INSANE, and I woulda DECKED her.”
All of that, if you’re keeping score at home, is true.
By the time my wife rides her rule to victory in Game 3, patron presence is escalating. A grumpy old prick tries to steal our credits while we’re away from the jokebox and I have to confront him. He slinks back to the bar, has one more of something, and leaves.
A trio of hipster-types sets up shop near the pinball machine. I would, at one point, hear what sounded like the front of Indy’s little adventure being lifted and dropped on the floor. At night’s end, their table would have a 20-cent tip and a broken shot glass left on it. This bar is already cool. Poor bastards were beaten to the punch.
An untimely drop of the 8-ball costs me Game 4, but I overwhelm my wife in the next rack. Bill Simmons would call it “an Eff You game.”
As I’m sinking these two games’ worth of aggression, an outsider steps up to the table …
RELATED: Read the night’s thrilling conclusion! The outsider and I duel at the pool table, and a Jesus party bus (or something like that).