Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hollywood nights ...

If anyone asks, we decide, we'll say we spent our vacation in the Atomic Lounge. "No, it's not a bed and breakfast," Chuck explains. "It's just this room right next to our bedroom." On our fourth day of vacation, we spend the whole day here. I'm working on a form of novel writing called "word barfing" and on this day I barf a scene about a post-gender high-ranking official and a plucky go-getter named after menstruation.

We take a break to go to the library and a woman asks me for a dollar so she can go get some coffee and warm up at Jitters. Except that when I pull out a dollar I accidentally pull out a $10 and her eyes get wide and I stuff it back in my pocket and then pull out a $5 and she mentions that if she had that she could get a sandwich. Then I find a single dollar bill and hand it to her. It's what we'd agreed on, I say. I come home with a book of short stories by Mary Gaitskill and a new novel I'd sampled on my Kindle.

Lunch is at the Duluth Grill, which is curiously swamped on a Monday. I mean, it's a big place already but still the tables are filled and there is a line growing at the door. Who are these people? Where do they all come from? When I order the Corned Beef Hash and Eggs I'm imagining the stuff from a can that, in its raw form, resembles high-grade dog food. My dad used to love the junk, probably still does but won't let himself eat it. I remember stopping at Barlow's for brunch food after 10 a.m. mass on Sundays, my mom leaning toward those orange rolls that puff in the pan and shine with orange-flavored frosting. My dad's vote for this corned beef hash with eggs. The stuff at the Duluth Grill is made in house, though. Like, someone actually sliced pieces of corned beef and added it to a homemade hash. It's great, of course, just fancier than what I was craving. It's like wanting a Totinos pizza and having someone make a Margarita Pizza with a hand tossed crust and fresh basil and homemade mozzarella. Fine, big sigh, I'll eat your fancy food.

We prop Chuck's laptop on our brand new footrest, wrap up in blankets and nibble on the cinnamon roll I didn't finish at lunch while we catch up on back episodes of "Revolution." I'm not necessarily sold on this show, but everyone has nice hair so I'm going along with it for now.

And then it's time for happy hour, because that's what we do now: Have happy hour. We abort the planned destination and opt for a place with better parking options -- The Pickwick. This formerly rustic spot with seemingly a lot of history in its wood work has gotten a makeover. Now there is a flat screen TV in every booth and a bar that is so shiny I can see my own adult onset acne in its surface. Still, the whitefish appetizer is delicious and we end up getting a second drink.

"What do you do with Rum Chada?" I ask the bartender.
It turns out it's for pumpkin martinis.
"Can't you just serve it on ice?" I ask. I'm thinking of the time my parents were in town with friends and they all ordered a lowball of it cooing over its unique taste.
He makes a face.
"I suppose," he says. "I just don't really like it."
"Doesn't it taste like cereal?" I ask. I seem to remember it tasting like the leftover milk at the bottom of the bowl.
"Maybe Cinnamon Toast Crunch," he says.

Rum chada. It's my new favorite thing. So good that I can't stop chewing the ice at the bottom of the glass.

"We need some of this for the Atomic Lounge," I tell Chuck.
He fan-fictions a scene in which first this is a great idea. A single drink to get a person's creativity loosened. Until the night she downs four, five drinks and then is unable to ever drink Rum Chada again.
"Perfect," I say.

By now we've gotten the sense that Happy Hour is turning plural, so we stash the car and decide we'll take the bus home.

We have a drink at the Rathskeller.
We stop at Pizza Luce, wait almost 10 minutes for a bartender, and leave unserved.
We hit Dubh Linn, which is right next to our bus stop.

"As Bob Seger once said, 'Sometimes Hollywood days turn into Hollywood nights,'" Chuck says. "I don't know if that was Bob Seger. ... As some wise man once said ..."

(Later he'll Google this and learn that Bob Seger did sing "Hollywood Nights," but as for that line he was trying to quote: "Apparently I'm the one who said it," Chuck says).

We stop at RT Quinlan's and the bartender lets us have a few slices of his pizza.
We catch the 9:40 bus west and share a ride with people discussing domestic assault.

"Been there, done that," a woman keeps saying. She's adorable. A smooth young face and a pink zip up fleece. She's with a tall man dressed in camouflage and they both just seem so nice. People who found each other the second time around and did a great job of it.

"I liked them," I say to Chuck when they get off the bus, inviting another passenger along for some of the woman's meatloaf.

We get off the bus outside of Players, drink a beer, enjoy some frozen pizza. It's rich in Monday night football fans and my phone dies mid-text to my cousin Bergen West. We've run into a local musician who is sitting alone and reading. One time she was visiting and found this man a curious specimen. "I saw him smoking in the rain," she said that night. "It was like a poem." Or something like that. Mostly it's driving me nuts that I can't see what he's reading.

"It's from the library," Chuck says. "It looks like short stories."
But that's not enough.

We walk home. It's still relatively early, but late for happy hour. We watch a Vince Vaughn movie that's on TV and I can tell by the shape of Vince Vaughn's face that it came out in ...
"1998," I guess.
It's 1997, which is close enough.

Chuck gives up on the day and goes to bed. I stick around to see how this all plays out. Will Vince go to the foreign prison to save his childhood friend from hanging? Will he bang Anne Heche? Yes, but it doesn't save him and double yes on Heche.

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