I’m Back in the Saloon (Again)

That's a mix of Blue Steel and the no-look pour.

I’m doing everything I can to hang on to the job title “bartender.”

I’m something less than part-time right now — most accurately, an on-call bartender — but even after a particularly taxing week at work, I can’t wait to shoot down to Mankato tonight to spend a couple nights slinging drinks to college kids.

I’ve written about my affinity for working at South Street before. I’ve since put in a few shifts only to find I’m getting older and college kids are staying the same age. More depressingly, the only people I know in Mankato anymore are those I get to work with at South Street. It’s good to see them, but it’d be nice to serve an old friend now and then. Apparently, they’ve all graduated and moved away.

My most recent shift at South Street was about a month ago on a Sunday night. Business was slow and I didn’t see a single familiar face, save for my girlfriend’s. I had to work at 9 a.m. the next morning and didn’t make it back to Minneapolis until about 5 a.m. All told, I drove 160 miles to work a five-hour shift for just $43 in tips. On the way home, I started thinking maybe I should hang it up. Maybe the thrill is gone. Maybe it’s time to put the bartender shtick behind me.

But I can’t quit it.

It’s graduation weekend in Mankato, and hundreds of mid-year grads will pretend this is their last night in town before they set off for an adult life with full-time expectations. Sure, they’ll visit for homecoming, but they’re putting college in the rearview, thinking about bigger and better things. Who can blame them?

I did that. I did that twice. I graduated, then stuck around Mankato to dabble in graduate school, then moved to Portland and came back again. Now, I get to Mankato whenever I can, usually to work the same job that carried me through college. Maybe I’m the loser. Maybe I’m the one who should grow up. Maybe I should put bartending in the rearview.

But why?

I love the sense of community I feel at South Street or any bar, for that matter. My parents owned a sports bar during my formative years, and though the crowd was drastically different than South Street’s, I admired the way my mom and dad would float throughout the bar, saying hello to regulars and always meeting new people, organizing events like the Bogey’s Golf Tournament or the Bogey’s Super Bowl Party. I started working at a bar when I was 12 years old, filing dried-up cheese and ketchup off dinner plates for $3.25 an hour. Forget college — maybe working at a bar reminds me of my childhood.

Maybe I have nothing to apologize for, because I’m now closer to 30 than 20 and I don’t want to end up a bitter middle-aged man who too hastily let go of the things that made him happy. If anything, I’m lucky. It’s not like I’m trying to sneak my way into the Minnesota State University intramural basketball league or the Gage dormitory, for that matter.

I’m trying to play some loud music while pouring a few drinks with my friends, maybe while having a few of my own. There are worse ways one can make a buck.

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Mankato Mayor John Brady Admits Alcoholism, Won’t Resign

On Tuesday, Mankato Mayor John Brady said he will not resign after being arrested on Aug. 21 for driving while intoxicated with a blood-alcohol concentration level of 0.24 — three times the legal limit. Brady was also arrested for an alleged hit-and-run accident, an open bottle violation and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Mayor Brady also admitted he’s been an alcoholic for “18 years or so,” though he’s had stretches of sobriety lasting up to three years. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “he cited the death of his son last November and a 2007 tragedy in rural Waseca. His stepdaughter is Hilary Kruger, who was severely wounded when a gunman entered her home and killed her husband and son.”

Mayor Brady still plans on running for re-election in November, where he’ll face the court of public opinion. Fortunately for him, Brady seems to have the Mankato Free Press on his side. On Aug. 27, managing editor Joe Spear wrote:

Now, the argument goes, people are really going to believe Mankato is all about excessive drinking. The mayor was caught driving drunk, a mayor who has been involved in efforts to curb excessive alcohol use. That’s certainly going to be a factor in how the community can measure Brady’s ability to be a leader going forward.

Things are not looking good for the mayor, but we’re obligated by our ethics and our sense of fairness to hear the whole story before passing judgment.

I’ve only read the online version of today’s Mankato Free Press, but Spear & Co. continued to avoid judgment and instead wrote an editorial about 2010 congressional elections. The paper’s silence speaks volumes.

Robb Murray, an education reporter at the Mankato Free Press, got some great quotes from city council members who expected Brady’s resignation. From Robb’s story – the best coverage I’ve read so far:

“I came here hoping he would step down,” said Vance Stuehrenberg, a council member who is currently running for a seat on the Blue Earth County Board. “I honestly think the mayor needs to recover, but I don’t think he should be doing it on city time.”

“John’s a good guy and an effective mayor,” council member Mark Frost said. “But this is a breach of public trust that cannot be tolerated.”

In an editorial published Jan. 21, 2006, the Mankato Free Press endorsed Brady’s initial mayoral campaign: “Brady brings the most to the table in terms of knowledge, people skills and most importantly an ability to rally the council to work together to bring the city to the next level.” It seems that ability is lost now, so it’s puzzling the Mankato Free Press wouldn’t be as willing to call for his resignation.

If I was Spear and had any desire to maintain the integrity of my newspaper, I would assign at least two reporters from my severely understaffed newsroom to blow this story apart today and be sure tomorrow’s edition included response from community members, political advisers, lawyers, law enforcement, former mayors and drug and alcohol counselors. This is the biggest story of the year in Mankato and it’s being painfully underplayed. When a story is the talk of the town on its own, you, as managing editor, have the responsibility to provide the facts and details your readers deserve.

Back to Mayor Brady: I can’t say I’m surprised he’s relinquished his grip on the mayorship. Thomas Jefferson said “Power is not alluring to pure minds,” By yesterday’s admission, the Mankato community has every right to be skeptical of Brady’s abilities and motives. If he’s truly committed to seeking assistance for his illness, he must admit he’s not fit to run a city at the same time. He can either face the levity of his situation and go on his own terms or wait until November and see if the community is then more forgiving.

(Thanks to Nate Brennan and the MSU Reporter for the above video of Mayor Brady’s press conference.)

A Call for Resignation

I keep a close watch on the news in Mankato, Minn.  — the town where I went to college. I served as editor of the school newspaper for two years, where I picked up the habit of caring deeply about local affairs. The trouble is I never stopped caring. Mankato is a pleasant little town and I want to see it do well.

John Brady (pictured right) is the mayor of Mankato. For now. On Saturday, Brady was scheduled to fly to China with representatives from Minnesota State University, Mankato to promote an aviation partnership at the school. Apparently Brady missed his flight and havoc ensued. From WCCO-TV:

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“Mankato Mayor John Brady could face multiple charges after police say he was driving under the influence, involved in a hit-and-run accident and failed to yield to an emergency vehicle.

Golden Valley Police were alerted about the hit-and-run accident shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday in Minneapolis, near Interstate 394 and Highway 100. An officer attempted to pull over the suspect vehicle, but Brady, 61, did not stop and instead, exited at Hopkins Crossroad, according to police.

He was arrested for the alleged hit-and-run accident, third-degree DWI, an open bottle violation and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. Brady was transported to the Golden Valley Police Department jail then taken to detox.

The Golden Valley city attorney will consider criminal charges.

Earlier that day, police say Brady had been involved in another property damage accident, around 6:53 a.m. near Highway 169 and County Road 41.

A State Patrol report says Brady was driving a Tan Toyota Camry and rear ended Jason Mejia and his 17-year-old son who were stopped at a red light in a Ford Focus. Both cars could not be driven after the accident.”

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According to the same report, Brady pleaded guilty to a DWI in Blue Earth County in 1992.

This is particularly grating considering Brady presided over a city council that made sweeping changes to liquor sales in Mankato following the alcohol-related death of a student in 2007. City bars were forced to end all-you-can drink specials and all specials after 11 p.m. As a bartender, I saw firsthand how once-busy Wednesday and Thursday nights slowly became weeknights again after years of steady business. No doubt, the bars in Mankato have suffered the past few years as the job market’s grown more competitive, the cost of living has gone up and drink specials have been squelched. Plain and simple, college kids can’t afford to drink anymore. (College kids of legal drinking age, might I add.)

But Brady can. That’s our mayor, who just won the mayoral primary a few weeks back and looked prepared to win again in November. He’s in China until Monday, I believe, and while he’s released an apology, my hope is he resigns. He and the city council have set the expectation for total responsibility when it comes to alcohol, and that goes for college students, business-owners and the greater Mankato community. Shouldn’t it, too, go for local government? Among them, the mayor?

Mayor John Brady has embarrassed himself, his peers, Minnesota State University, Mankato and the town that elected him. It’s time he shows some humility, seeks personal help and steps away from the mayorship.

Mankato deserves better.

The Best Albino Muslim Rapper Ever

So, it was a sober crowd and a lot of Abercrombie-wearing white kids, but Brother Ali came and rocked Minnesota State University tonight Mankato, MN. He’s definitely a throwback to classic MCs. Ali is on the road in promotion of his new EP, The Truth is Here, released on Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers Entertainment.

I recorded a couple clips from the show. Unfortunately, my battery died by the time he got to his a-cappellas, but here’s what I got:

I only stayed for about eight songs. I’m on a month-long detox, abstaining from alcohol and pop. Needless to say, without a few beers or even a few Rock Stars, it was hard to get in the concernt-going mood. Not to mention I spotted about six of my students with whom I teach 8 a.m. class tomorrow. Last thing I need are my students mocking my terrible dance moves.