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“I’m not doing this for you…I’m doin’ this for ME.”

That, by the way, was my favorite quote from the television mini-series North & South, when northern abolitionist Kirstie Ally was gettin’ freaky with a damn fine southern slave who stopped in the middle of their lustful embrace to basically let her know that even though he knew she wanted his hot chocolate, he was also in the mood for vanilla, so the whole “I wanna have sex with you because you’re a slave and I want to express my displeasure with the current social establishment through hot sweaty love-making in a barn” was cool with him, but he was more interested in getting his groove on than being a symbol.

Or something like that.

This evening I read two opinion pieces in Sunday’s edition of The Star Tribune, both expounding on the delicate relationship between the “Up North people and the Minnesota migrants.” I have been thinking about this topic for a while now, due to both a discussion of small-town festivals on Mnspeak.com and a lovely Memorial weekend spent up north with Katykins.

As someone who lived “up north” for the past six years until moving to Minneapolis in March, I always read articles or discussions concerning this topic with a bit of suspicion and foreboding. I really shouldn’t, having been on both sides of the tracks…therefore, you would think I could be objective and neutral. I’m not. Even though I was more than a little unhappy living up north and a tad snotty about it, that all changed after I started to experience some of the tourist inflow.

Living in one of the larger tourist-attracting towns in northern Wisconsin can definitely have its perks. While being a swinging single stuck in the woods can suck The Big One the other nine months of the year, during the summer it’s hella awesome. However, there are a few reasons why I used to have the bumper sticker “If it’s called Tourist Season, why can’t we shoot ‘em?” plastered proudly on the back of Blondie.

One of the reasons why I’m writing this is to make sure that both you – the tourist – and the locals have a great time while you’re visiting their hometown. Okay, so, I’m not doing this so much to make sure that you have a great time…I’m doing it mostly so you don’t piss off a whole bunch of people and make an ass of yourself.

Because I care about you, being that I’m a caring person.

Drawn from my well of infinite wisdom are the following tips:

When You’re In Public, Don’t Ever Talk About Moving There.
Just. Don’t. Do. This. Seriously, please don’t, because you people always end up fucking it up. Either you talk about moving there because you think it will be a compliment, or you talk about moving there and end up insulting us by going on and on about how cheap it would be and the joys of simple living, blah blah blah. What you don’t realize is that we don’t want you to move there. Deep inside the heart of every local is the fear that their hometown will become the next Aspen. Towns like Hayward already struggle because assholes keep moving up there to buy up all the land and build summer mansions on the lake, subsequently raising property taxes and destroying the shore line. It’s gotten so bad that the people who do actually live there year-round can’t afford to buy or build their own houses on less-than-prime real estate because they can’t afford the sky-rocketing property taxes. Please try to understand how angry that makes people. If you plan on moving up to the area, just shut your mouth about it. The only person who wants to hear about it is the real estate agent who’s going to actually profit from your exodus.

Drop The Attitude.
Some people have the impression that they’re going to breeze into town and all the locals will fall to their knees at the sight of them, in awe of their cultured sophistication. People from the Twin Cities are especially guilty of this, which is funny, because let’s face it…you’re from flippin’ Minneapolis/St. Paul, not Rome or Paris. That’s kind of like bragging that you’re from Dubuque, Iowa…no one cares; or worse, they think you’re a chump.

Don’t walk into a local coffee shop and exclaim loudly about how surprised you are to find a “place like this in a town like this.” One of Hayward’s glittering citizens is Molly, former front woman of “Molly & The Makers” (formerly “Molly & The Haymakers”). Molly is an entrepreneur – she owns one of the best shops I’ve ever been in (The Pavilion), and she used to be the owner of one of the most rad coffee shops in the country (Madeline’s). However, Molly isn’t doing this for you. She doesn’t own and run these places so you can be impressed. She does it so that the residents of Hayward can have a higher quality of life and because she’s the bomb.

Another tip that goes in this category: Do as the locals do. Chances are, the locals don’t go camping with their Louis Vuitton bags (and yes, they know who Louis Vuitton is). The locals probably don’t park their Hummer sideways in the parking lot, taking up three or four spots. They also probably don’t throw their empty beer bottles into the lake, or go jet skiing on a small private lake the size of a pond, or just whiz around and around the lake with no goal other than to hear the sound of their own motor going at top speed. Remember – this is their home. Therefore, conduct yourself accordingly. And no, nobody really cares what you’re wearing or driving…the surefire way to look like a jerk is to act like they should.

“Do we look like the kind of place that has imported beer?”
This was my dry response – accompanied with a dead stare – one summer day when a group of snobby and obnoxious bicyclists burst into my bar and demanded imported and micro-brew beers. I found this demand particularly ridiculous, because some of the brews they were requesting aren’t even carried in most bars down in the Twin Cities, much less a small local bar in a little town in northwestern Wisconsin. They finally left when they decided that our selection wasn’t to their tastes, much to my great relief (imported and micro-brew beer drinkers are notoriously bad tippers, mind…they’re almost as bad as wine drinkers).

“Do we look like the kind of place that has imported beer?” + Don’t make me spit in your (not imported) beer.
The whole point of “getting away from it all” is to have a good time. Sometimes that includes going to a bar to whoop it up amongst the hoi polli. Know who’s going to be your greatest ally when it comes to having a great time at a local place? Your server. Two things to remember – you don’t want to seem like an obnoxious tourist (even if you really are one) and two, you want her on your side.

I am about to give you incredibly valuable information as to how to go about doing this. While some of this information might make you uncomfortable when you put it into action, suck it up cupcake, because it will pay off in the end:

The first thing that’s going to make you stand out as El Jerko Tourist is ordering an obscure beer right away. You don’t want to do this. If you do not immediately see the beer of your choice displayed either on a sign or tap, as soon as the bartender comes up to you order either a Leinenkugel or a Miller Lite (even if you can’t stand either type of beer, just do it. Trust). Just pick one and go with it…do not ask the bartender to run through all the kinds of beer they have, and or harass her with a litany of requests. The reason why I want you to order a Leinie’s or Miller Lite is because they’re safe “local” beers and ordering one right away will ensure the bartender will not become annoyed with you for taking up too much of her time (and yes, it is valuable, in case you were wondering…unlike you, she’s not on vaca).

After you get your beer, tip right away. Right away. Right away…don’t argue. Just slap a dollar or two down on the bar, and go cry in the bathroom later if you must. This tip will make the bartender more amenable to your requests…such as “Damn…this beer just isn’t hitting me right…you wouldn’t happen to carry ___, would you?” BAM – you’ve got your favorite beer (if they carry it) and the bartender is happy to serve you. This also goes for hard liquor. Also – and this is über important – don’t order a mixed drink or complicated shot if you yourself don’t know how to make it. As unbelievable as it sounds, I really didn’t get much call for drinks like cosmopolitans up in the north country. Therefore, I would have to look up the recipe in my bartending book, thus wasting ten minutes of my money-making time and prompting me to hate you.

Now comes time for making friends; your bartender is your In. She can introduce you to all the fun people there, and steer the scary ones away. Even though most people feel it’s her job to entertain you, it’s not. You can make her want to entertain you by throwing out a few lines…notice I said a few. Do not monopolize her time. A couple choice openers are enough to make her want to talk to you. Once she talks to you, other locals are going to talk to you. Then the party begins, and you have an inside view to the real fun of going to a small town. And if you really want to make friends, buy the house a round…you’ll be the most popular person in the bar, and you’ll only be out probably 15 bucks, tops.

Stop calling the local residents “hicks.”
They’re not hicks. Even if they are, you calling them that term just makes you sound like a condescending asshole. The size of the town does not always equal the size of the minds of the people who inhabit it. I’ve run into a lot more narrow-minded and ignorant people who live in huge cities than I ever have when I lived in small towns…specifically, people who talk about visiting small towns to be entertained by all the “hick-watching.” The fact that you live in a city does not make you better…and if you think it does, stop by the Valley Bar in Eagan on a Friday night and take a gander around the place…those people live in the city, too.

And that, my friends, is your guide to a touristy summa.

God, I’m amazing.

Featured in City Pages Blotter for Minnesota Blog of The Day, June 7, 2006 (link to story now defunct, but you can still see it on Google)
Written & published June 6, 2006

BECAUSE THE ORIGINAL COMMENTS ARE WORTH IT:

18 COMMENTS:

straight sambucca5:15 AM, June 06, 2006

funny (well, not really) how all your rules apply to off the beaten track destinations everywhere. tho in australia they call us bumpkins, not hicks. and i feel like punching people who say “oh, you have target? wow”. yep, we even have electricity these days.

Redirt9:01 AM, June 06, 2006

Wotch out! I think a dingo’s got your baby.

Dr H.O. Potamus9:16 AM, June 06, 2006

Dirt,

I saw the whole thing! The Dingo has the Baby by the Ankle and then that Alligator jumped the dingo the beby flew in the air…and landed in a roo’s pouch. The Roo bolted. They will never find that baby…it will be raised like a roo.

Dr H.O. Potamus

Redirt9:25 AM, June 06, 2006

I hear roos make great foster parents. I think I heard something on npr about aussies renting roos as personal babysitters.

Dr. Ethel9:30 AM, June 06, 2006

Wow, Amber, how do you know all this stuff. You are so smart.

Dr H.O. Potamus9:30 AM, June 06, 2006

They do have the pocket and all.

Dr H.O. Potamus

Redirt10:27 AM, June 06, 2006

Why is it so publically acceptable for kangaroo dolls to have a pouch?

I mean, it looks like a pocket. Straight line (straight sambuca…can she walk the line?), square pocket, no mucas…cute.

So I ask. Why don’t barbie dolls come with pouch like vaginas? Girls (and certain types of boys) could play with the pouch, much like they do with their kangaroo pouches.

You could put anything you wanted in there. I always put GI Joes in my kangaroo pouch. You could put spare packets of salt and pepper in there, in case you need them later in the day. Most condements would do well. But why stop there? Engagement rings could be delivered in the clean, unlife like box of a barbie vagina.

Mister Underhill12:04 PM, June 06, 2006

That’s the only thing I can’t stand bout hick towns – no imported beer 🙁

straight sambucca5:54 PM, June 06, 2006

lordy! firstly, i never saw that film, having an amercian play the role of an aussie woman was a travesty in itself, let alone with such an abysmal accent. it sounds more like this to us “a dingo took my buy-beee!” secondly, no alligators down here, only crocs. thirdly, have you not seen pregnant barbie? she doesn’t have a vagina, but she has a uterus, which is more the pouch’s equivalent than a vag. fourthly, the straight in my name refers to being undiluted, NOTHING else before you let your imaginations run wild. and last of all, redirt, you need to keep an eye on your spelling. i noticed errors here AND on the good doctor’s page.

ps: ha ha @ mister underhill.

dan10:47 AM, June 07, 2006

I drink imported beer and tip well.

And I have a pouch.

This may date myself some, but does anyone else remember Kangaroo shoes with the little zipper pouch on the side that was supposed to be cool but wasn’t big enough to hold anything but condoms?

Redirt12:46 PM, June 07, 2006

I tip, but not with money.

I give out helpful comments, like:

“Next time, try serving me a little faster.”

or

“No, those jeans don’t flatter your ass.”

or

“Sleeping with me will up your reputation as the bar room slut.”

Dr. Ethel1:01 AM, June 08, 2006

Redirt, you have the sweetest personality. Giving of your time and knowledge is far greater and more sacrificial than money. You are an “honorable” man.

Hi Amber, I just wanted to zip in here to say hello. Hope you are doing great. Love, Norma

Dr H.O. Potamus9:18 AM, June 08, 2006

You’re right Dr Ethel, Redirt is such a giving man.

I think he is moving in with the hot chicks to throw us off the trail.

My gaydar is tuned….I like Redirt straight! Will he have the same mean and selfish personality when he comes out of the closet or will he be all nice, gracious and self-sacrificing (catcher).

I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see.

Redirt10:51 AM, June 08, 2006

what?

Dr H.O. Potamus11:03 AM, June 08, 2006

FU what Redirt..duh…

Dr H.O. Potamus

Redirt4:01 PM, June 08, 2006

Did you go to work today Hippo?

I did a google search for Hippo.

It returned ClubHIPPO.

I was interested.

I clicked.

I got gay porn.

Amber11:18 AM, June 09, 2006

Exactly, Sam – how amazing to think that rural areas have TV now, and running water. And that’s what always gets me – that urbanites make the assumption that those people are ignorant, when they can be just as much if not more.

Thanks, Dr. Ethel – I think it’s combination of a lot of time spent in bars, and a lot of time hearing people bitch about stuff.

Deal, Mister Underhill.

Viragosilverado…is it gonna make you feel bad to know that you drink the same beer as my parents?

Redirt – if I were a bartender, and you were my customer, you would be the one customer I would ignore the most. You’d make those passive-aggressive comments, and I would just stare at you, letting my glare communicate everything that words could not. Then you’d feel sheepish and slightly embarrassed that your stupid digs weren’t getting to me and that everyone in the bar was catching on, and then you’d try to suck up. But I would just continue to only serve you with the bare minimum of interaction, and do whatever I could to make you as uncomfortable as I could so that you would get the hell out.

I already can imagine exactly how you would conduct yourself, and my arm’s twitching with that bartender-waitress-grown reflex to backhand you across the face.

Redirt2:47 PM, June 09, 2006

I think you spend too much time thinking about me.