Gettin' Ripped at the Alpine Bar

Back before Minnesota’s smoking ban, you could really smell the nicotine at the Alpine Bar and Lounge. It wasn’t even close to being the smokiest bar in town, but it was smoky. Tonight, for some reason, it smells like cleaning products in here. The frustrating part is, it’s not powerful enough to get me high. It’s just a faint, annoying, lemon-fresh scent. It’s not the kind of thing I expect, or want, when I’m in Gary/New Duluth.

There are a lot of things I don’t expect when I’m in Gary/New Duluth. Cleanliness doesn’t necessarily top the list, but it’s right up there with bowties, lap dogs, Donny Ness, flavored coffee, surprises of any kind, community gardens, a police presence or anyone from out of town.

What I do expect is the 38-year-old man who just walked into the bar wearing full snowmobile gear. He fits the mold perfectly. He was precisely typecast for the role of Alpine patron, and he has an excellent opening line, announcing to everyone at the bar: “Well, the dog chewed up the fucken seat on the Arctic Cat.”

If the country wasn’t headed toward a deep recession, I’d buy the guy a drink. He certainly deserves it. Unfortunately, these are tough times, and a drunk needs to look out for himself—set up a “slush” fund, so to speak.

There’s a guy at the middle of the bar who knows exactly what I mean. He’s drinking at a perfect pace with his buddy as they go on and on talking about some guy named Jimmy and his back problem. Each time their drinks get low, this guy takes a final pull of his drink and heads to the men’s room just before the bartender comes over to ask if they’d like another. Because this is slightly more interesting to me than what’s on TV, I observe the guy stick his friend with buying three straight rounds. It’s this kind of discovery that makes me wish I had friends.

Anyway, I can’t help but think that this guy is faking. He shouldn’t need to piss after every rum and Coke, unless, of course, he’s “broken the seal.” I’ve been here longer than he has, and I haven’t broken the seal yet, so my guess is he was either drinking before he got here or he’s made several trips to the head to stand and whistle for 40 seconds. Either way, I salute him.

Of course, thinking about this causes me to have to hit the can myself. As I stand at the pisser, I’m keenly aware of the open men’s room door and its proximity to the rear entrance of the bar. If anyone were to come in right now, the first thing they’d see would be my wiener. Normally, I like to let people get to know me a little before I introduce them to ol’ one-eye. Instead I’m standing here like some kind of perverted doorman: “Hi, folks, welcome to the Alpine. This is my pecker. Can we get you something to drink?”

Luckily, no one comes in while I’m draining my vein. On the way out, I notice a sign on the door that I’m now able to quote verbatim, because I swiped it:

Attention all customers: Effective immediately.

Due to the price increase in everything, we the Alpine will no longer run tabs or charges for anyone. This situation has become uncontrollable. Please try and understand that our bills are not getting paid because of this. We would appreciate it if you took care of your outstanding charges as soon as possible.

So please don’t ask. Thank you for understanding and we greatly appreciate you as a customer.

Thank you
Alpine Bar


At the bottom, someone has scribbled the words “This means you.” While I do enjoy running up huge bar tabs, I actually don’t owe the Alpine anything. So, of course, I feel bad — like I missed out on a good thing. Being at the right place at the right time is so important in the world of drinking.

I’ve always taken comfort in building up debts at my favorite bars, and I recommend you do the same. The way I see it, as long as you have an unpaid bar tab, there’s someone out there who cares whether you live or die.