September 16, 2002

Ye Ole' Hangout. Well, One

Ye Ole' Hangout. Well, One of Them

I capped a very busy weekend with a trip to Lewiston to visit my good friend and former college roommate, Troy. His job schedule as a Minnesota State Trooper pretty much ensures that the only time we can get together for a couple of beers is on strange days and times like Sunday at 7:15 p.m. or Tuesday at noon, or possibly sometime during the Ides of March.

We sat and watched the Vikings play a typically stupid Vikings game, consisting of all offense, with a defensive game plan that is apparently designed to exhaust the opponent's offense by repeatedly making them run 80 yards downfield in four or less plays. It worked. By the end of yesterday's game, the Buffalo Bills were pooped, mainly because they chalked up 45 points to the Vikings' paltry 39. But, that's neither here nor there.

Troy and I decided to drive to Winona to eat. Winona, of course, is the home of Winona State University, our alma mater. Winona is a pleasant Mississippi River community, situated on a giant sandbar, tucked within a protective barricade of majestic bluffs. As we descended into the valley, I experienced the typical wave of nostalgia I feel each time I find myself driving the old familiar streets. It has only been four years since I graduated, but everything seems strangely distant, strangely old.

"I don't know why, but the women going to school here now seem like they're so young," said Troy as we watched a pair of female joggers gallop past. I explained to him that the freshmen this year are about a decade younger than we are, and we both looked at each other in disbelief, as if that realization had escaped us until that very moment. We groaned.

We ate at the Great Hunan, a Chinese restaurant that was, without a doubt, my most favorite place to eat when I was in college. They have since remodeled the inside, and I'm fairly certain they were able to afford to do so primarily due to vast amounts of money I deposited in their coffers. I ordered Hunan Chicken and crab rangoon, and I ate it with gusto, despite Troy's on-duty Trooper story about cleaning bits of brain off a telephone pole after a motorcycle rider with no helmet forfeited his cranium while traveling at an excess of 100 mph. Boy those crab rangoon are tasty.

After eating, we stood outside the restaurant, breathing in the cool pre-autumn air. The street looked the same, and it felt the same (if such a feeling is possible), almost as if a shade of my former self walked by and brushed my shoulder.

"I've got an idea," said Troy, as if he had the same feeling. "Let's drop by Bull's Eye for a beer, just for old time's sake."

Bull's Eye Beer Hall is located about 20 feet from the Great Hunan, a dingy little drinking station that hasn't changed a nail in ten years. There's no atmosphere. Students pretty much go there to get drunk. We sauntered onto a pair of worn bar stools and noticed that the bartender was the same guy from six years ago. Even the old and unused Ms. Pac Man game still sat forlornly in the corner, with the images of Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde forever burned into the screen. Ghosts of ghosts.

"I got drunk there, and there, and there, and there, and there," said Troy, pointing at each table down the wall behind us. "Oh, and I got drunk in that corner, too."

The scary thing was, I was with Troy during all those times, drinking right alongside him. How the hell did we manage to graduate anyway? Yet, there we sat, the State Trooper and the journalist, two professionals that normally distrust one another, gulping a beer and watching the Vikings lose in overtime.

We finished our beers and exited back into the early evening air. Back to reality. Back to real life.

Posted by Ryan at September 16, 2002 10:52 AM

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