I pull my jacket off as we open the door to the Gopher Bar. The St. Paul East end lunch crowd fills the joint with raucous, but good natured spirit. At this time of day the warm, soggy air steams up my glasses so that I have to take them off and feel my way to our table. My nostrils fill with the pungent and spicy scent of beer and fried onions, making my mouth water in anticipation.
Peggy comes over to our table, swipes a bleach laden rag in a figure eight dumping the crumbs on our laps. Loudly she asks if we’ve all been there before. We all answer “YES” in unison.
“Okay then, you all know the rules. I don’t take any pussy orders so don’t give ‘em. I don’t want to hear any dirty words like bitch, tits, or cunt. Those words will get you the attention of the ‘manager’.”
After everyone places their orders for coney dogs with fried onions, french fries and sodas, Peggy goes away to leave us in (relative) peace. The two office associates who have never been to lunch here give a sign of relief, laugh and look around while our visiting begins again. It takes a few minutes for them to get over the embarrassment of the ordering process and a few more minutes before I begin to see them become flustered at the décor of the bar.
The list of ‘forbidden’ words, typed in very large font, is taped next to the cash register. As I read them out loud at least one of the newbies faces turns a ruddy color to the tips of his ears. The rest of our table is looking at the photos of buxom women and their associated undergarments hanging on the walls. However, I am more drawn to the Hockey theme that is the heart of the bar. There are photos of Gopher Hockey teams from the past as well as more recent crews. Beside and among these are pictures of individuals accepting awards as well as changing and challenging each other in the dressing rooms. To me, these pictures portray a dynamic, masculine and cold climate sport played by athletic and happy young men.