This Friday, 6:30PM, at the corner of Randolph and Hamline.
A: This is a bicycle/walking tour taking place in Saint Paul called "Noteworthy Dives of Old Fort Road."
Q: What is a Dive Bar?
A: Cleanly defining a dive bar is difficult, precisely because dives are not very clean. It's a bit like Justice Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity. Here's what we know...
Windows - These are a minus. Dives eschew fenestration. What happens in the dive, stays in the dive.
Staff - Ideally, there's only one staff. Maybe someone works in the back. The more staff, the less divey.
Regulars - A must. When you walk into a dive, people should stop talking like in a wild west saloon and look at you a bit funny. Unless you are a regular, you really don't belong.
Pull Tabs - 90%. Meat raffles are also good. Best is when there's a pot of some sort of free food sitting on a table.
Nonchalance - Dives can't be trying too hard to make money. If they are, they're not dives any more. No fancy menus. No fancy paint jobs, etc.
Cleanliness - Nope.
"Craft Beer" - Nope, unless its brewed within a mile or two of the dive.
Food - Greasy or nothing. Heggie's Pizza is the hallmark of a dive.
Q: What is Old Fort Road?
A: This is the old name for West 7th Street, which used to run from downtown Saint Paul to Fort Snelling. This street is ancient, and has the greatest stretch of dive bars in the Twin Cities. We'll be going up West 7th Street from the "brewerytown" area (by the old Schmidt brewery to downtown Saint Paul) hitting up about six dives along the way. (For comparison, the Minnesota Historical Society's lame "west end pub crawl" is only going to two dives on their $20 tour.)
Looked at through the lens of everyday life, the dives of Old Fort Road are the most historic thing in this city. These are places that defy so-called progress, places that pass down from owner to owner. The names might change, the beers might change, the decor might change, the kinds of jobs might change, the patrons might change, but the dive lives on.
Q: Do I need a bike?
A: No! Not really. These dives are close to each other, certainly stumblable, if you don't mind walking a bit.
Q: Can I come for part of it, but not hang out with you the entire goddam time?
A: Yes. I will be tweeting locations, there will be a quasi-schedule, and you can always call to find out where the tour is at. Come just for one dive, or enjoy the whole diving expedition.