Gettin’ Ripped at Clubhouse Sports Bar

Before I enter the bar, before I even set foot onto the parking lot, I know I’m facing adversity tonight. The middle-aged woman wearing pink nursing scrubs, leaning against the wall outside and smoking a cigarette, is a sure sign that I’ll be drinking alone.

This woman isn’t some off-duty orderly from St. Mary’s Hospital enjoying a butt between post-happy-hour beers. I know from experience that she is the bartender. I also know from experience that, since she’s abandoned her post to have a smoke, it’s safe to wager all my money and half a handjob that there is a grand total of zero customers in the bar right now.

Welcome to Thursday night at the Clubhouse — formerly known as Mary’s Place — the sports bar attached to Stadium Lanes bowling alley in West Duluth.

I can always tell by the way the bartender eyes me up on nights like this that she would rather have zero customers than deal with me. When no one is around, she can smoke as much as she wants or decide to close early and go home. When I’m here, she has to work, and as long as no one else shows up (and let’s face it, no one else is going to show up) she will have only my chintzy tips to compensate for wasting what’s left of her life.

I nod as I walk past her, but she does nothing to welcome my presence, probably hoping I’ll take the hint. Minute upon drinkless minute pass while I sit alone at the bar, and it’s pretty obvious that the old broad has fired up another cig out there. I guess I’ll just make myself at home.

All the TVs are tuned to the Olympics, so I bide my time watching gymnast Nastia Luikin flash her camel toe as she sobs over the national anthem. Shit, I think, as long as I’m alone and the Olympics are on — as long as I’m making myself at home — I might as well jack off onto a bar napkin.

Of course, I’m not really going to do that. I’m totally aware that if I were to get caught rubbing one out in public it would kind of change how people think about me. Not that I’m well-liked to begin with, but an incident like that would kind of reduce me to a one-dimensional character. I don’t want everybody in town referring to me as “the guy who smacks his dill weed in front of people.” I’m perfectly happy with my current identity: “guy who gets drunk and shits behind the jukebox.”

Seriously, though, it’s amazing how quickly people disregard your previous accomplishments once they see you masturbating in public. Sure, they remember the volunteer work you did at the youth center and the free babysitting you did for your neighbors, but any other service to your community is quickly forgotten. I think that’s a real shame. But I digress.

Eventually the bartender comes in and asks me what I want. I order a tap beer. She pours the beer, takes my money, then retreats behind a wall where I can’t see her and she can’t see me. The sensation is weird, like being in a movie theater by myself or on the bus with just the driver. If I were able to stare at the bartender for about an hour or so while listening to an entire George Jones album, this would be a lot like a night at Tom’s Cedar Lounge in Superior. The only difference would be that this place has more than three kinds of booze and the bartender can stand upright and remember her own name.

Despite the awkwardness, I’m able to stick around the Clubhouse for several drinks. I guess it helps that, while I sip my beer in this empty dive, teenage girls are spreading their legs on worldwide television. Thank you, games of the 29th Olympiad.

By midnight, it seems the bartender has finally had enough of me. She doesn’t kick me out or anything like that. She just walks away and doesn’t come back. If I want another beer, I have to go somewhere else. And I do, so I do.

Slim Goodbuzz has had several nights in which he’s experienced parallel bars, but it has nothing to do with gymnastics. E-mail the sultan of sot at hatemail @ slimgoodbuzz.com. Look for the next edition of “Gettin’ Ripped” in the September 22 issue of Transistor.