LIME: You deserve this. (Take that however you want.)
LIME: You’re going to fuck here, so you might as well live here.
LIME: Veteran views available.
LIME: Five-year financing available—ask your parents for details.
LIME: A condo development that’s at least better than a surface parking lot, you can tell yourself.
LIME: The reality TV of housing.
LIME: If you lived here, you’d already have stumbled home by now.
LIME: An apartment complex with “that sex smell.”
LIME: Because dorms won’t let people in their late 20s live there.
LIME: Hey woman walking by—you’re stupid and slutty. Live here!
LIME: The Smirnoff Cake Vodka of expensive condos.
LIME: Housing for those who are financially 30 but emotionally 20.
LIME: Because expensive condos taking over Uptown isn’t making this area douchey enough fast enough.
LIME: Get your poke on.
I was at the Varsity the other night for the Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving Transmission, which has become a tradition in Minneapolis for a lot of people. It’s a fun night; virtually nobody works the next day and we get to be nostalgic before bracing for what for many shakes out to be a trying Thursday afternoon with their families (I feel lucky that last part is mostly untrue for me).
I ran into a few people I hadn’t seen in a while and at some point, as the conversation made an awkward turn, we started discussing how the opulent bathroom upstairs had recently been voted the best bathroom in America by Cintas Corporation, nationwide suppliers of bathroom décor and products. But this wasn’t always true of the now fairy-tale-ish bathrooms (and entire interior, really) of the Varsity. Once, not so long ago, it was in a fair amount of disrepair and had nothing in the way of style going for it at all.
Back in 2001, I was in ad school, and as such, I got invited to a vast number of weird parties all of the time, it seemed. One such party took place in the Varsity and back then it wasn’t open to the general public. It was being used as a rental hall and a firm calling itself Forte had either rented it for the night or was renting space in the building (I’m still unclear about what they did or why the Varsity was involved at all), which necessitated this gathering. Regardless of the small details, we showed up at the door, identified ourselves and were promptly granted entry. I was with my usual rag-tag fivesome, all of us trying hard to look creative by letting our facial hair grow and not showering.
At some point, we realized we couldn’t leave. To be more precise, we couldn’t leave and get back in—the door guy had been instructed to tell everyone there was no re-entry. They didn’t want people milling about outside smoking, so you just couldn’t leave. But we wanted to smoke and continue to drink the free beer, so we let it slide for a bit as we grabbed some food and bullshitted with some guy and his roughly two-decades-younger wife at the table next to us.
He seemed like he was trying too hard to be cool, until he said “Hey, you guys party, right?” and pulled a huge bag of weed out of the inside pocket of his coat—confirming that, in fact, he was trying too hard.
I decided taking drugs from a complete stranger was probably a bad idea but a couple others thought it was probably fine and disappeared for a while behind what is now the backstage area. Finally, I needed to go to the bathroom.
The old bathrooms upstairs look nothing like the ones now. Upstairs used to be sterile and kind of depressing, like a hallway in a high school that someone had forgotten about for 30 years. The lighting was bad, both bathrooms were on the far wall and were comically tiny. I was never in the ladies’ room, obviously, but the men’s room was about 8x8 and had two rust-stained floor-drain (as opposed to wall) urinals and a stall, which was hilarious because it seemed there was no way three people could ever comfortably fit in that space. But as I was standing there peeing, a light bulb went off. There weren’t very many people at the party and there were multiple sets of heavy, metal doors separating us from it (remember the old entrance into the stage area with the awkward, two-sided bar?) We could smoke in this bathroom. I quickly ran downstairs and posited my theory. All agreed—including my friend Jens, who had somehow found an old cowboy hat to wear while he was backstage.
So the rest of the night continued like this: have some food, drink some beers, sneak upstairs, and burn one in the bathroom. Eventually the other smokers caught on to what we were doing and followed suit. It became such a novelty that I hardly remember anything else from the night at all aside from smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. Sometimes I talk about this party with my friend Reid and we actually refer to it as the Party Where We Smoked Cigarettes in the Bathroom.
Eventually, I was proved wrong about the capacity of the bathroom, as well. Toward the end of the night I meandered up for one more cigarette before leaving (if I remember right, they ran out of beer awfully early) and saw people of both sexes having their own private party in there. That 8x8 space must have had about eleven people in it and in the middle was Jens laughing at something—maybe just the sheer ridiculousness of it all—with a cigarette dangling from his lips. Someone was standing on the toilet in the stall and a guy was peeing in there, too. The entire upstairs of the Varisty reeked like the inside of a bar and everyone seemed to be having the greatest night of their lives, somehow.
I don’t miss those old, decrepit bathrooms at the Varsity but I miss nights like that something fierce. I’ll never have nights like that again and I’m both eternally grateful and profoundly sad about it, for some reason. Responsibility comes with its own set of setbacks, I suppose.
Ghost of Christmas Past: Betty White in the Christmas episode of Golden Palace. In the holiday episode of this short-lived Golden Girls spin-off, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia appear as ghosts to bring the holiday spirit to their cook Chuy. Rose, appearing in veil and halo, briefly confuses Christmas dreams with wet dreams before escorting Chuy first into his bathroom and then into his past, where it’s revealed that Chuy’s hatred of the holiday stems from his father’s making him dress as a giant Navidad cake.
Ghost of Christmas Present: Carol Kane in Scrooged. Bill Murray’s yuppie Dickens update frequently sags, but never when Kane is on screen beating the hell out of the TV executive who’s forgotten how to love.
Ghost of Christmas Future: Guthrie Theater, 2010-2012. If you like your Ghosts of Christmas Future to be pants-fillingly terrifying, the dramatic first appearance of this spirit—a giant crow-like prop dropping suddenly from the ceiling with a shuddering gong strike—will not disappoint.
Bob Cratchit: Kermit the Frog, The Muppet Christmas Carol. Is there any Cratchit more touching than Kermie, trotting down the street on his little Muppet legs?
Nephew Fred: Joe Gabler, St. Mark’s School ca. 1997. I’m sorry that most of you didn’t get to see my little brother playing Scrooge’s merry nephew, but those of you who caught him in Ivory Tower Burning can imagine the defiantly sunny impression he made bursting into his uncle’s dank office.
Jacob Marley: Steven Epp, Guthrie Theater, 2009. The Jeune Lune alumnus brought great physical presence and a menacing moral rectitude to the Guthrie’s last production of Barbara Field’s script.
Ebenezer Scrooge: Patrick Stewart. The actor best known as Captain Picard and Charles Xavier has a close relationship with A Christmas Carol: for decades he’s performed a one-man adaptation of the story on stage. His solo version is available on audio, and he can be seen as Scrooge in a fine 1999 TNT movie that’s now available on DVD. He’s pitch-perfect throughout: stony at the beginning, then slowly cracking as the ghosts visit, and finally breaking into possibly the only Scrooge laugh that will make you laugh too—maybe even cry.
Tiny Tim: Gary Coleman in The Simpsons, 1999. ”Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, every one!”