Wednesday, June 18, 2003

One night in Portage makes a hard man humble

Joy's blog about Portage inspired me to new heights of creativity. Actually, it inspired me to new heights of recycling stuff I wrote a long time ago. Nevertheless, here's an email I wrote my friend three years ago about my impressions of Portage nightlife.


Sun, 16 Apr 2000 17:01:18 -0500 (CDT)

Robin, someday I will tell you more about last night, but at the very least I want to mention a couple of details.

I went to Portage, Wisconsin with my buddy McNeil, the guy who recorded the Benders' demo yesterday (you'll be getting a copy). He's a music-business type and was being paid by a Portage band to record their gig at a local bar, the Cactus Club. The band is called DeTOUR (they are very precise about the capitalization), and Portage, Wisconsin is no place you want to spend a Saturday evening unless you have a finely tuned sense of irony--which I do, as you know.

It is hard to describe the scene at the Cactus Club, but if there was a single telling detail, it was the fiftyish man who arrived dressed in medical scrubs, including stethoscope. The back of his scrub shirt said, in stenciled letters, "Dr. Poke-em." At some point I asked Dr. Poke-em if he really was a doctor, and he said no, he's only a medic--but it was when I was speaking to Dr. Poke-em that I realized the front of his scrub shirt said, over the pocket, "Oral Specialist."

Other highlights included Terry, the Phish head from New Mexico who writes and plays harmonica for a Portage jam band, and who lives with the band in a communal setting on a forty acre farm south of Portage. I asked what they grow, and he said they are turning the entire farm over to its natural state. Terry got into a long argument with my sound engineer friends about the merits of various live taping techniques, something about which Phish heads probably know too much.

Also entertaining was DeTOUR, the live band, all the members of which are brothers with bad teeth. They wore sunglasses onstage and played Bob Seger covers, and the keyboardist kept making his synthesizer sound vaguely like a string quartet, and then a saxophone. There were lots of bikers there (the management told us, as we set up expensive recording equipment literally on the dance floor, that there aren't usually a lot of fights) and signed pictures of Sable, the professional-wrestling sex kitten.

Ken Burns drank free.

Later, we left the bar and, against my wishes, visited another of Portage's evening establishments. The jukebox played mostly hair metal, and one mulleted local performed striking, lip-synched interpretations of Slayer hits, while an overweight young woman across the bar kept winking at my friends and me and performing lewd acts with her breasts--she would bare them, then hide them in a twinkling. We later approached her and her boyfriend, a one-eyed groundskeeper at a local golf course, and learned that she works stuffing sausages at the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison. She drives up to Portage for fun.

My friend put a Dolly Parton song on the jukebox and they almost lynched us.


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