> A woman at the bonfire behind Palmer’s pulled me aside and accused me of being a Republican (not the first time! Is it the hair? Or my resemblance to T-Paw?), which, while not technically illegal, is apparently banned on the premises. After telling me I need to calm down (I hadn’t said anything, but I may have looked alarmed) she speculated admiringly about the manly endowment of my friend Scott. She hugged me in her puffy coat as I left.
> I met my 89-year-old grandfather’s girlfriend Betty at dinner in Prairie du Chien, where we go for prime rib when I visit. He called her “goatface” and other mildly shocking terms of affection, as he used to do to my grandmother. More shocking, Betty didn’t seem to mind. She promised for my next visit she would have fine Italian beef sandwiches sent from Chicago, which I hope she remembers to do.
> At U Otter Stop Inn, which serves up karaoke to mostly indifferent patrons seven days a week, a sinewy, fierce-looking man wearing logos of extreme fighting sports sang lithe renditions of Sinatra and pop-country hits of the 90s. After singing some really crummy Bon Jovi, the bar’s other star performer put everyone in our (admittedly sorry-ass) troop to shame with a high-flying version of “These Eyes.” He was far too young to have heard the song in its radio heyday. I’ve had a hard time getting it out of my head.
> An evening of shenanigans in Dinkytown and West Bank to celebrate Lucas’s 38th birthday began with heaping plates of beef and tofu at Hong Kong Noodle, detoured into an unanticipated and understated performance by Slim Dunlap over tall glasses of Jamesons (yipes!), and wound down with a ill-advised second Chinese meal at midnight (I’m still in the thrall of an MSG-thickened hangover). Parting shot: watching Scott squeeze his lumberjack body through the small rear window of his pickup in heavy snow at 1AM. Drive safe!