Chapter 10: Young Americans, Part 2

“Gretch? Gretch who?” Bill and I looked at each other half-bewildered. The mentioned name was of a foreign dialect as a mixture of melted cheese, ground beef, and deep-fried pickle seeped into our taste buds, sending signals of ecstasy to cloud our minds. It was an overwhelming amount of grease and fat, far more than our bodies were acclimated to, but a risk we were more than willing to take nonetheless. The heaven we were experiencing now would far outweigh the potential hell that our stomachs would suffer and the carnage it would produce later down the road, for this… this was how a birthday was supposed to be spent. I had Bill, my traveling and crime companion, Cambray, our certified Minnesota representative, and John, a fine English lad recently adopted by the state, and we were gathered at the Blue Door Pub, a local favorite according to the Food Network enjoying the simple pleasure of my long, sought-out Juicy Lucy.

The waiter stopped by our table as I took my final sip of beer, making his arrival a timely one in order to sustain our state of euphoria. “Can I get you guys anything else to drink?” he asked.

“Do you have a nice ‘PILS-ner’ on tap?” I asked back in a half-sarcastic manner, parodying an obnoxious character created by the comedy duo Tim and Eric. Being that it was my birthday, not only was it an excuse, but also an obligation to act like a dingus.

“Yes. Yes we do.” he replied, his dry facial expression obviating the fact that he wasn’t the slightest bit amused with my question. “It’s called Hamm’s.” Well, crap. That sort of backfired on me.

 

“Uh, heheh… ok, I guess I’ll have the PILS-ner,” I said in a sheepish manner, slouching my chin into my chest. Shamed by my own immaturity, accepting the cheap imitation of PBR was my only means of recovery.

“Don’t worry, we’ll take you to a place where you’ll never have to worry about beer ever again,” said Cambray. There was a spike of sincerity in her soft tone, bringing true meaning to the words she had just spoken. She was a loyal and trustworthy friend, her word at least equal, if not great to that among my other best friends, including Mike Gibson. I wholeheartedly believed her, and chugged my beer to prove it.

“Tell me more.”

“It’s called Surly, a local brewery that’s been gaining in popularity lately, especially in the Midwest. They just opened a new facility this year too,” said John.

“Surly… I think I’ve heard of that before. They have a Furious or something… That might be something worth checking out, and you know it’s no secret that I like an occasional beer or two, even if it is a PILS-ner.”

“And if you’d like, I’ll even be the designated driver, being that you are the birthday boy.”

“Yea, and get this. If you’re lucky, you might even see a…” Cambray leaned in close, her inside voice turning into a whisper. “…A Boundary Babe.”

“Boundary Babe?” shouted Bill.

“Check please!”

***

SURLY BREWERY—The sign glowed bright into the fading summer sky around a sculpted foundation of stone and rebar, the gateway to a 50,000 square foot complex. It was clean, it was open—it was in all forms of the word stunning, a textbook example of how all breweries should be built, and a true monument to the beer gods. We walked along a path of brick and fire, behind us a large gathering of beer-drinking patrons spread across a beautiful landscape of cement and green, decorated with meticulously placed art sculptures, trees, and walkways lined with bench level ledges. At the center of the master-crafted courtyard was the main attraction, a large mound of finely broken black stone with fire spitting up from its core that each section of the campus built towards, blending in to become one with its atmosphere, as if its presence were merely just a simple reflection of Mother Nature. As an aspiring architect, my sister would be thoroughly impressed.

But as striking as it all was, its beauty could not preclude us from moving forward onto our ultimate goal, to the indulgence of another sense; the trigger for further euphoric satisfaction. The freshly built brew hall stood before us, serving as a modern day Parthenon for beer worshipers everywhere. We drew closer to the entrance, our excitement reaching the bounds of containment, like Ridley Scott’s Alien seconds from bursting out of our bellies. Our pilgrimage was nearly complete.

I swung open the double doors into the brewery a man on a mission. To my left was a gift shop, its immediate vicinity drawing captivation over the rest of the brewery’s attractions far beyond the focal point of my faded eyesight. I took a sharp turn to a clean spread of pint glasses, clothing, accessories, and much more paraphernalia with the Surly logo plastered about, giving each carefully placed item a quick peruse, but unable to stop my legs from kicking back and forth in a scissored direction that propelled my body in a steady circular motion around the shop, over and over again. It was the best and only control I could provide to an over-stimulated body, a puppy parading around his personal candy store, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, drooling over everything that could potentially be his.

The sound of heavy metal blasted through the gift shop’s other entrance, reveling unto me a large dining hall filled with rows of long, solid wood tables leading to an industrial style bar lined with 20 different types of craft beer. The gift shop was merely a distant memory now, for my deficient attention span had drawn me towards a new majesty, growing more majestic with each aggressing step.

At the end of the bar was a 4-story glass wall that spread the length of the dining hall, a showcase of industrial ingenuity. Inside it was home to a state of the art system of pipes, boilers, rows upon rows of hoppers, and various other stainless steel structures, all for the purpose of producing a large quantity of a quality beverage we call beer, and doing so in a logical and efficient manner. Every square foot of the grandiose facility was spotless, a valid sign that they took pride in their craft, a craft of which I was about to show my upmost appreciation for. As an engineer whose expertise is in piping system design, I was thoroughly impressed.

“Yes, I would like that one, that one, we’ll go with a Furious just to be safe, let’s try that smoky one, and maybe a nice ‘PILS-ner’ if you have it,” I told the bar tender, pointing to random beer taps left and right with faith that they would all be up to my sophisticated standards for beer. Bill, Cambray and John grabbed a pint and joined me at a table I had snatched a moment later, as it was a struggle keeping up with my rabid excitement.

Seconds later, our tattoo-clad waitress walked up to us with a look distress, although my up-spirited mood left me unsuspecting of concern. It’s probably just been a busy night, that’s all. She began talking, my mind trying to focus on her speech, but distracted by the other elements in the room—friends, babes, the augmented reverberation of distortion pumping through the beer hall, the variety of beer sitting in front of me—I can’t understand what she’s trying to—now she’s looking at you and nodding her head! Focus man, focus!

“Oh yea! No problem! Sounds great. Thank you very much! I appreciate it…” I went on and on, adding to it a heavy nod and a giant smile with raised eyebrows and two forceful thumbs up before she walked away, foregoing any future eye contact. She was just busy, that’s all, and wanted to let us know that she would be with us soon like all waitress do. No big deal. Bill, Cambray, and John all whipped out looks of unease, as if they had just witness daddy hit mommy. “What?”

“Zack, you do realize she just yelled at you, right?” replied Cambray.

“What do you mean?”

“I think her exact words were, ‘um, just to let you know, this isn’t open seating. You’re supposed to see your hostess, before you grab a table, ok?’ She looked pretty upset about it too, like you cut in front of a bunch of people…” Whoops!

 

I guess it’s a good thing crabby waitresses never brings me down! And despite the same grumpy look she gave us each time she walked past the table, our mood never seemed to sour, each pass having quite the opposite effect to be exact. The simple fact was, I had beer, I had friends, and I had a beautiful evening to spend with both, and nothing could take that away from me. And at that very moment inside the Surly Brewery, I felt no anxiety over turning 30 like I had anticipated, no feeling of discontent, and certainly no concern over compromise. There only was wisdom, maturity, and resolve. So I rose my glass, and prepared a toast, a rite of passage to the rest of the 20 year olds around me, for as a 30 year old, I had lots of knowledge to give.

“You know, I wasn’t sure at the beginning of this day how I was going to feel going forward, especially after the H&M debacle.” I shot a look towards Bill, who responded by darting his head towards the ground. “But as I sit here in this brewery on this wonderful Midwest evening, I realize it’s times like these when we realize how lucky we are to be alive. And to have you here as friends spending this special day with me… gosh, all I can say is, life is good, and I honestly don’t know how this day could get any better! So from here on out, I’d like to make a pledge. No more distractions. No more excuses, and no more silly games. From here on out, I won’t let anything keep me from becoming a strong, independent, and contributing member of society. I would like to announce that starting now, at this moment forward, I will—“

“Whoa,” Bill interrupted. His jaw dropped and his head slowly shifted towards the entrance, my words of kindness long forgotten. “What is that?” he asked, running out of breath as the words left his mouth.

John and Cambray followed his lead with similar expressions, the effect seemingly growing on the rest of the bar, bar tender’s included. Even the scorching sound of heavy metal had softened, as if we were about to witness an old Wild West style stick up. What’s going on? What possibly could be so intriguing as to make my own friend stop me in the middle of my birthday toast? I turned my body to investigate. “Whoa…”

 

Her radiance cut through my heart the moment I laid eyes on her, ripping it my from my chest and taking control, all without making an incision. The room lit behind her with each graceful stride, as if an angel’s aura left it’s blessing over the sacred ground she walked. It was quite evident she was out of her natural environment, a beer pub not exactly on par with the serenity of lake and forest, but her elegant stride did not falter, only enhancing the pristine surroundings of the finest brewery I had ever set foot in, her beauty incorrigible to even the most repulsive of surroundings.

For days I had tried to prepare Bill for an encounter, just in case we happened to be lucky enough to be graced with such a sight, but no matter how concise I made the definition to be, no words could ever come close to describing the ineffable symptoms one experiences when coming across your first sighting. And though it was a sight I had been fortunate to see before, its presence once again struck me harder than I could have ever imagined, as it always does, capturing me under a hypnotic spell that I was doomed to bear for the rest of eternity. The next set of words barely left my mouth, her presence leaving me dumbfounded, hardly able to complete the most elementary of sentences… and she was walking right towards us.

“Bill… that my friend, is a Boundary Babe.”

We exchanged hugs and a few kind words of to each other, as was customary after any extended absence, for a Boundary Babe never shies away from a polite greeting. “Hi, I’m Lauren,” she said to the unrecognized face across from her.

“Uh, I um, well… gee, I am… oh boy…”

“Sorry, this is my friend Bill,” I jumped in for the save, having witnessed the speechless effects a Boundary Babe can have on a person from previous experience. “Would you care to join us for a drink?”

“How about we have one on me! It is your birthday after all. What would you like?”

Wow, I actually don’t know what to say… But say something stupid! “Uh, I um, well, I like, um… gee, I guess uh—”

“Sorry, he would love a Surly Furious, if that’s ok with you,” Bill jumped in for the save, having witnessed the speechless effects a Boundary Babe can have on a person from previous experience.

“Surly Furious would be great,” I added. She called over the waitress, which for the first time that night, caused a smile to grow across her face as she took the order, as if she were eager to be of service to us.

“Ok, I’ll be back in a minute with your drinks!” And sure enough, within a minute, she was back with a fresh round of brews, another good quality of the Boundary Babe. “Cheers!”

Cheers!” we replied, satisfied with her newfound alacrity.

To be fair, for I believe in full disclosure in all of my writings I must say that Cambray is a Boundary Babe as well, for she embodies the same characteristics as mentioned above. However, being that she was (and still is, so don’t get any funny ideas guys!) married to John, groveling over her would not only be awkward, but also inappropriate. But as for Lauren (and all other boundary babes for that matter), nothing could stop my devotion, a succinct representation towards one of the few unadulterated locales left on this Earth, tucked away in the Northern wood and water of the Minnesota/Canadian border called “The Boundary Waters.” It was a beauty and presence I did not deserve, but regardless, was given the pleasure of her company along with a beer to share, for within the spirit of a Boundary Babe to provide to others, undeserved or not.

“You know, there was a nice crew cut sweatshirt I saw in the gift shop when I came in. I think it would look really nice on you,” said Lauren.

“I saw the same one,” added Cambray. “You have to get at least SOMETHING to remember the Twin Cities by.” It was by those word that I was prompted to pound my beer and all others lying on the table and venture back into the depths of the long forgotten gift shop… on a quest for the perfect crew cut.

“I love it!” I immediately said after pulling the sweatshirt over my body. It was black, and that was all I really knew. It didn’t matter however, for the Boundary Babe has an impeccable eye for style. I wasted no time with my purchase, the cashier scanning the sweatshirt as it was still attached to my body, for I had complete faith in the Boundary Babe’s choice of attire. “What now?”

“I have an idea,” Cambray popped in, her eyes gleaming as if she had just had a Godly revelation. “What if we did a little karaoke tonight?” the question was framed in what seemed like random fashion. I however knew better, as did she. She knew full well karaoke was my strong suit, the one area where I unequivocally outshined the rest, no matter the crowd, and she was rooting for me, as a true Boundary Babe would.

Lauren gave her a nod of approval, and then Cambray looked at me, waiting for a similar response. A grin grew across my face, for I was unable to hold a straight face, as was the intention.

“I would love some karaoke.”

To be concluded…

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