The small town bar and grill is a genre I know well. I may even be something of a connoisseur. So: Rosie Peters and company are running one of the best of the best in Brookside Bar & Grill. I was fortunate to be on the bill at Rosie’s inaugural reading event last night with Brian Baumgart, Scott E. Vetsch, and Lynette Reini-Grandell. Venus DeMars followed with a short musical set.
I've been to the Brookside before, which I thought was the case but then knew was the case once I pulled off the main road into Marine on St. Croix. My wife and I and a handful to a couple handfuls of friends used to camp every year a bit farther north, on the banks of the St. Croix. For years we camped on the Minnesota side and then switched to the Wisconsin side, where the group sites are in the remotest part of the campground (if you're going, these Wisconsin sites get my five-star rating). During the days, we'd drive around the area and hit up small-town bars and grills, the Brookside being one of many in the area, one of many we enjoyed. During a dry year on one of the those trips, when the river seemed low and slow—you could walk three-quarters of the way acroos starting from the Minnesota side on a sandbar with your head and shoulders above water—I and my brother decided we were good enough swimmers to get across the rest of it, where where the channel deepened. Long story short: It was a dumb idea. We almost drowned. Once we made it to the Wisconsin side, we just started walking toward the camps along whatever trails we could find. We hoped our camping party would get in a vehicle and come find us. Which they did. But we'd put in a lot of sore, barefoot mileage before they got to us.
I debuted my small town bar and grill reading set—light on the commentary, heavy on the shorter, punchier poems—which needs some tweaking. I read mostly from my reading copy of the book, the pages marked with colored tabs, the colors indicating sorts of poems I may or may not want to include, depending on how the audience is feeling. It can be hard to hear in bar readings with some people there just to eat or drink and not to listen to poetry. It can be hard to hear yourself and pay attention to what you're doing. All in all, it was typical in that regard, although a lot of people who seemed at the start to be there to drink and socialize it turns out were interested in the reading, but a little shy about it, this being the first time such a thing has occurred at Brookside.
Rosie is a great writer herself. She was a mentor for the Write Like Us program awhile back and visited my Into to Creative Writing class. She was on fire and the class loved her. It felt good to return the favor and to make the long drive that Rosie makes whenever she does events in the Twin Cities.
Rosie says the readings will be a monthly thing. Lots of live music on weekends, too. The Guinness and walleye fingers were perfect pub grub. Brookside in Marine on St. Croix: It’s worth a trip. It’s worth becoming a kind of regular. If you know Rosie at all, you know that the music and lit and Guinness come with lots of love, inclusivity, and generous and free helpings of hugs. See you there.
PHOTO: The inimitable Rosie Peters at the mic, launching the Brookside reading series.