Monday, November 16, 2009

COLUMN: Door County Pt. 3

It's not my intent to turn this column into a weekly travelogue for northeast Wisconsin, I promise. But our recent weekend trip up to Door County merits a few weeks of reflection. This was no mere vacation. No, it was a learning experience and nothing less than a revelatory exploration of the inherent frailty of the human condition.

Specifically, the human of ME, and the condition of my sanity.

If you've been reading along, my girlfriend and I had arrived just before sunset at our hotel in Sturgeon Bay, road-weary and mind-fogged after six hours in the car. My immediate hope to salvage the night with a romantic carriage ride turned into a terrifying ordeal of sub-freezing temperatures and the World's Most Flatulent Horse.

Upon our return, we decided simply to stay in and enjoy a thoroughly over-priced and thoroughly under-tasty dinner at the hotel restaurant. Afterwards, we moseyed into their inviting lounge before calling it a night. Inviting yet empty, as the only other patrons appeared to be off-duty employees letting off some steam. That's when the evening's entertainment walked into the bar. Well, kinda walked.

You guys know that I DJ on the weekends at a dance club in the District, right? Having worked down there for a number of years, I've got a pretty good understanding of some of the key elements of contemporary tavern-ing. This would include the warning signs that say, "Hrm, maybe I shouldn't serve any drinks to this particular customer."

A clear warning sign, for instance, is when the customer enters your lounge DANCING. Note: There was no music playing. And I don't mean a little dancing, I mean a full-on shuffle step that looked like an intoxicated cross of the Boot-Scootin' Boogie and the Stanky Legg. This dude would make a clear front-runner for "So You Think You Should Never EVER Dance In Public Again." And behind Drunken Fred Astaire staggered his equally-less-than-sober wife.

Another warning sign might be when the wife yelled to no-one in particular, "HEYYYYYWHEREZZZABAFFROOM???" Neither of these appeared to phase the bartender, who frankly looked like he would rather be at home playing Call of Duty on his X-Box. Instead, Slacker Bartender readily obliged with a sigh when Dancin' Joe asked for a round of shots. Uh oh, I thought.

Soon Mrs. Dancin' Joe came out of the restroom with an angry look in her eye. She marched to the bar, slurped down the shot, and then proceeded to tell the husband, the bartender, the two of us, and everyone else within earshot that the restroom... was out of tampons.

If only it stopped there. But no, she had to impress upon all of us her dire need for the aforementioned product, which she did with gusto, volume, and alarmingly creative graphic detail. I can't say much more in a family newspaper, but I'm pretty sure her gynecologist knows less about this woman than I now do. Hurrah.

My girlfriend is a nice person. I mean, hyper-nice. Almost to a fault. If a creepy axe murderer was chasing her around, she'd be the one to stop and ask if he needed a foot massage or maybe some home-made brownies. And I believe it was this inherent niceness, or perhaps an overwhelming desire to shut this woman up at all costs, that made her stand up and go, "I've got something in the room that you could use. Let me go get it."

And before I could even say "umm," she was off... with Mrs. Dancin' Joe in tow.

I sat there dumbfounded for a couple of moments before it hit me. I was the biggest idiot on the planet. I had just let my innocent and beloved girlfriend go wandering off with some drunken stranger while I sat silently with drunken stranger #2. This wasn't just a bad move, this was a future episode of Dateline - "The Tampon Killer." For all I knew, this woman WAS an axe murderer. Eventually, Mr. Dancin' Axe Murderer Joe would either (a) kill me, or (b) run from the lounge cackling, never to be seen again. By the time I could get back to the room, my girlfriend would be robbed or hacked into wee bits and I'd have to explain to Amy's mom why I came back from Door County one passenger short.

Surely my luck wasn't THAT bad, was it? These people couldn't be criminals, they were probably pleasant folk who just had a drink or six too many, right? I'm sure they're nice people...

"Hey, buddy," said Dancin' Joe. "Lemme axe you sumthin..."

"Umm, yeah?" I said.

"Have you ever done blow?"

Omigod. That was it. Amy's dead. I wondered who would play me in the Dateline reinactment. I hoped he wouldn't be as fat as me.

"Umm... NO, man. Not at all, ever."

"Well, lemme gives you a piece of advice -- DON'T."

"Uh... okay?" was all I could muster.

I had just stood up to literally RUN to the hotel room when Amy and Mrs. Dancin' Joe returned, all smiles and laughter.

"You okay?" Amy asked as she sat down. "You look sick or something."

So, lesson learned. Kids, don't take candy from strangers. Adults, don't give tampons to strangers. In our case, we lucked out. The Dancin' Joes were actually a really nice couple (albeit with some apparant feminine hygiene and/or illicit drug issues) on vacation from Minneapolis who indeed DID have 6 drinks too many to celebrate Dancin' Joe's 37th birthday. We hung out with them for a while longer and they shared some funny stories and what turned out to be some great recommendations for the best Door County food & fun...

But that's for next week's column, which I promise will be the last one set in scenic Wisconsin for SOME time.

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