Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Freddie and the Baby King of Norway

I could see his smile from behind as he hopped the last step and waddled his nonexistent ass into the bar. He was an orb of fat and back hair atop a small square of plaid boxers. An single scoop of tried jokes and b.o. I immediately wanted to call Freddie. Bulging through his once manly mane, Freddie approached the only decent looking girl in the place, who was seated close to the door facing inward to convey that old simple secret, "I am not easy. You have to talk to me first." He gave her neck a friendly squeeze more about his ability to get away with such a move than a gesture of friendship. He took up his pole position at the bar earned over the last month, paid for in half-paid tabs and requisite last call promisings, and tried to make her smile.

In my hometown in TN this ubiquitous move is found in year two of any Player's curriculum. After the paralysis before the fear of paralysis in the face of certain virginity (final exam, year one), it becomes all about the offense maneuver, judging tactics and timing. There are lateral moves that call for motion toward the confident ex-cheerleader (and subsets thereof, dependent upon her marital status, financial success and lasting popularity in the community she has no intention of leaving). A more linear advance can be made on those out of their element. With proper timing and tempo she can be laughing beside you despite your overbite and only three more drinks from eyes hard shut and gripping the door handle.

And then there are guys like Freddie. His is an effective confidence born of indifference, of admission of one's inexorably frozen fate. It is bravery before the barrel of a gun, discovering time and time again that some bullets are only deadly if you believe their bullshit. Most just hurt, and that's nothing but another tic come game time.

The resort bar is named Baby King Haakon's Bar and Grille (I couldn't make that up) having what to do with the local mythos of infant kings saved by Thorish half-brothers, epic decents down a mountain just outside the video arcade, peppered now with more mortal, but still impressive, boogie boarders. Here in the bar, it's a strange kind of beat down VFW and ecru collared visitor center. Some have ventured far to seek the firework marketing of a winter's fun pinnacled in chance adventure, family-gathered R&R tinged with the implied hope of a carnal backslide. Others are simply locals from the nearby town of Cable who have saved paycheck drippings for a chance to show spouse and kiddies Daddy ain't as bad as he sounds at midnight. More often than not the weekend getaways end up hair-splitting declarations of success, failure, and wall-mounted contentment.

I envied something in Freddie's gait, the gleam in his eye as he walked in the door. The happiness of seeing his people already at the helm, his throne, already warmed with the game. Not that being the one to pop the evening's cherry would have gotten him down. No, Freddie was the kind of returning band camp senior who relished that role too, took a repeated pride in being the one who got things going down here on the best part of the first floor by the arcade (Burn Out Champ two years running), where the real fun is should you drag yourself all the way down the hall, to Cable, to pay to play in the snow. The Packers were on, so that's all she wrote. The place was Hrothgar's mead hall after good defense of the realm, songs and swears swelling into the loyalty of small town souls to their chosen guilds. Almost medieval, just outside the urban glow of some bigger, real city.

Telemark Resort
Cable, WI
January 2008

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