It all began in a Marketing meeting. Just me and my bosses sitting around in a makeshift boardroom discussing the upcoming Hopped Up Caribou Beer Festival. It’s this super-sweet beer fest where you meet the brewers and get unlimited pours of delicious craft beers. And anything dealing with “unlimited” and “beers” is a noble cause in my book.
But then there was the small matter of who was going to hang up posters in the Cities.
Now I had dodged this bullet for a few meetings, but on this particular day, all heads swung my way. You know that point where volunteering becomes mandatory?
So I rose my hand and very quietly mumbled, “I’ll do it.”
It wasn’t so much that I was going to have to trade my only two days off (“my weekend”) but as you may have guessed from the billion times I’ve mentioned it: The Twin Cities is the bane of my existence.
I have avoided driving there my whole life. I lived in a suburb of Minneapolis for 3 months before hightailing it back to the North Shore. I’ve skipped best friends’ weddings because they took place there.
Mikey don’t do the Cities. Clear?
Okay, so I’m on my way to do the Cities. It’s at minimum a 600-miler for me, plus whatever traversing of the mean streets of Minneapolis ensues.
So I have this list of places that need posters:
Above is a small sample, but there were literally hundreds of places on this list. Most of them, I was told, were liquor stores and Home Brew places. And I’m thinking, Alright, this could be kind of a cool adventure.
My God, was I ever wrong.
The first place we pull up to is a Merwin Liquors. “Ghetto” does not even begin to describe this place.
I guess my first clue that this was a rough stop should’ve been the fact that it was also a “drug store” where “checks are cashed.” My second clue should’ve been the 14 drug deals going down in the parking lot and the gnawed-to-the-bone chicken wing I stepped on immediately after exiting my vehicle.
I was hit up for change by like 5 kids on bikes before I even got to the door. I was bounced around to 3 different “managers” before someone took my posters with a grumble and told me to scram.
And that was the first stop. Not good. So now all I can think about is how I drove a billion miles and brought my girlfriend into an urban hell.
That’s right, I’m so North Shore now that inner-city liquor stores give me anxiety attacks.
So I wrapped up the day by hitting a few of the Home Brew joints. Now these places are cool. Sort of mini-Home Depots but exclusively pedaling wares needed to brew your own beers. And they are frickin’ everywhere. I’m sure you’ve barely noticed like 3 of them this week.
So as the sun began to set and the cars began to clog the lanes like an overused artery metaphor, I was ready to call it a day. My girlfriend wanted to make one more stop, at a mysterious place called “The Wine Thief and the Ale Jail.” But after all my run-ins with potential crime, that name didn’t inspire confidence. So I booked it back to my hometown, safe from the clutches of the Big City.
Since I figured the Higher Powers would be pissed if I called it quits after only a handful of locations on the list, I decided to take another crack at it.
But this time around I needed more muscle. So I enlisted the help of the toughest SOB I know: my dad. He hates big cities, but he loves adventures–I figured bringing him with (and offering free lunch) would be a great Father’s Day present.
Despite having my GPS-enabled smartphone, my father insisted on staying up late and scouring his road maps to create the perfect route. I spent the night pounding Bud Lite Platinums and playing Foosball with my best buddy Brett. Turns out I’m fucking awesome at Foosball, by the way. And, I promise you, there has never been a sporting match as intense as the 2-on-2, best-of-three Foosball tournament played in that college house kitchen that night. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the Platinums.
So a cup of black coffee, a shower, and a long self-pep-talk later, I was ready (more or less) to hit the road with my old man. Turns out it was pretty handy that he scoured those maps all night–the ant to my grasshopper–because that list of places was IN COMPLETELY RANDOM ORDER. In fact, using the term “order” is being extremely generous.
Speaking of being generous, so was this weather report I woke up to:
With wiper blades set to max and still barely able to see the car in front of me, I trekked into the Heart of Darkness yet again. With my 3-time heart attack father in the passenger seat griping about my speed.
At the first stop, he got out, lit a cigarette, and said, “I’m driving now.”
FYI, gas mileage in a city is terrible. I was already out about $150 in gas and my tank was again on E. Thus, I located the nearest Target, returned the on-sale belt and shoes I had purchased the night before, just to get more gas money. Between Googling liquor stores, balancing and re-balancing my checkbook, and worrying about the bullets of ice pelting my car every 20 minutes, it wasn’t exactly the adventure I’d hoped. I mean, I’d already pumped my Father’s Day lunch into my gas tank, along with those unnecessary frivolities known as shoes and a belt.
But my dad was having a great time. Keeping his eyes peeled for street names, scoping out the home-brewing technology, locating old-timey bakeries. There are a shocking amount of old-timey bakeries located near liquor stores, just for the record.
Eye of the beholder, I guess.
The sun even began to leak through the cloud bank towards the end of the journey. Just for shits and giggles, my dad and I made a few more stops at more local liquor stores–not the uber-corporate MGMs we’d been stopping at all day.
The local shops were way more excited to put up our posters. Most of them wanted to buy tickets right on the spot!
As my dad was saying about the big liquor stores the whole time: “I think you’re barking up the wrong trees.”
After that, I drove all night, finally arriving back on the North Shore roughly 1 a.m. Wired on energy drinks and borderline hallucinating from lack of sleep, I powered through, stopping to put my last $6 into my tank just to arrive at my resort on E. I crashed, knowing I’d be waking up in 6 hours to pull a double at my restaurant, thus ending my “weekend.”
Anxiety aside, I got to see friends and family, eat a wonderful Subway sandwich, and spend some quality time with my dad just before Father’s Day. On top of all that, I was reminded how lucky I am to live up north now. The Big City sucks major balls, no offense.
Oh, and we did eventually stop at the Wine Thief & Ale Jail. Not nearly as criminal as the name implies, it was one of the coolest stores ever with the best selection of hard-to-find beers. (I scraped a little more change together to buy a bottle of Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter for my dad–it was Father’s Day after all.)
For the nicer version of this acid trip maelstrom of demons road trip, click here.