Creepin’ It Real in Downtown Fargo
Proper People Watching Practices for the Bar Scene
BY ANDY WESTON
When a drunk bar patron falls to the sidewalk does she make a sound? Of course she does and you’ll be there to witness all of it first-hand.
It’s a Saturday night, there’s nothing to watch on TV and your friends aren’t up for a movie. How do you get your entertainment for the night? By watching all the shenanigans the downtown Fargo bar scene has to offer.
I’m going to walk you through some techniques I discovered while going out on a Saturday night and partaking in the age-old practice of people watching.
Assembling The B-team
It’s best to go people watching in a small group rather than going alone. You’ll be less conspicuous this way but mainly you won’t look like a sad, pathetic creep.
When choosing your team you’ll want to make sure you enlist the best and brightest of your social circle. You need people who won’t draw attention and have the patience to wait for a good show to start.
Unfortunately I don’t have many friends so I got stuck with my wife Brenna, a master of subtle gawking, and our friend Nate, a man so non-descript he can blend in with a bar stool. This is my B-team.
It’s best to have two males and one female when developing your team. In the misogynistic times we live in you have to be aware of the horrible bar creatures known as Man.
By having two males it will ward off any Neanderthal who would otherwise try and approach the female in your group. But it’s important to have a woman in attendance because it will help to make the two men who are people watching not look like molestation monsters.
Basic Practices (Don’t Be a Dolt)
No matter what bar you end up going to, there are some basic principles that apply to people watching.
First and foremost: don’t become the loud lush you’re attempting to watch! If you’re the drunk causing a scene, you will become the show. It’s difficult to watch a musical when you’re on the stage singing. Also, you’ll be ruining the night for the others in attendance (your friends).
One of the easiest ways to find where there will be interesting subjects is to look for large groups who are dressed in a similar fashion. While out on the town, we found a group of young twenty-somethings wearing white shirts they had drawn pictures on and signed. They were loud, obnoxious and probably part of a birthday or wedding party. You could follow this train wreck all the way back to the station.
Don’t start too early. The bars won’t be hopping with the most entertaining people until around 10:00 p.m. There’s no need to sit around in a dead bar looking like sad pandas until then.
Buy a drink so you don’t all look out of place. It’s a bar. The point of being there is usually to partake in the Devil’s nectar.
“You’ve got to get a drink or you’ll get kicked out,” said Smith. “Unless it’s crazy busy and then they won’t care.”
Once you’ve witnessed a few memorable moments it’s time to move on. There are other bars to go to and mistakes in the making to witness.
“There’s also a time limit,” said Smith. “You can’t be here for more than 45 minutes.”
Weston offered an amendment to Smith’s time allotment using a different measurement.
“Do it enough to have one drink and then you gotta get out,” said Weston.
Lastly, let’s keep things professional. You and your friends are here to people watch, not find your next life-partner or one-nighter. Keep it professional and enjoy watching other people get shot down for a change.
Work as an Elite Creeping Crew
You are now a group of tactical peeping personnel and it’s time to start acting like it. Here are a few tips on how to work together to make sure you don’t get caught spying and sent to the gulag.
You have to work together. Be prepared to crack out clock-orientation so you can let your buddy know there’s a blitzed bogie coming in at their nine o’clock.
A great way to share what’s happening behind a member of your team is to act as though you’re taking a selfie and then snap a picture of what’s happening behind them. This is another area where it is a good idea to have a woman in your group. It seems more socially acceptable for women to take selfies and there’s less of a chance for confrontation.
Part of working together is to sacrifice. There may come a time during the evening when you can’t turn around to see what’s happening and it would be too obvious for anyone to snap a photo. Take one for the team and act casual. You may miss out on this spectacle but there is always another one waiting at the next bar. Your friend can always paint a word picture for you of what is happening beyond your periphery.
One last team tactic is the changing of the guard. If there is something going on you absolutely can’t let your friends miss out on you will have to change seats. But how do you do this discreetly? Have the member of the group whose back is to the action get up and go to the bathroom. While they are gone, get up and stretch out for a bit. As they return from the restroom, sit back down in their seat and let them have yours. Now they have a clear view of what’s going down.
The Hot Spots to Pop a Squat
We started our sojourn through the buffet of buzzed bar-hounds at Rooters; a bar best known by college kids.
It’s a fairly spacious bar if you get there before the big rush starts and works well as a first stop. We decided to take a seat by an archway dividing one side of the bar from the other. From this vantage point we were able to act as though we were watching a hockey game on the TV hanging above the group we were observing.
If you can plan ahead, it would be a good idea to find out what big sporting event is happening the night you’re going out. If your group can coordinate and wear apparel featuring a team that’s playing, it will help to sell the appearance you’re there watching the game.
Next up on our itinerary was to break into Fort Noks. It’s a narrow bar that has minimal seating and doesn’t start rocking until later in the evening.
If you’re going to people watch in the summer then Fort Noks has the added benefit of having a patio where people can spread out more and enjoy the warm night air.
Because it’s the dead of winter, we were forced to slink to a table covered in empty beer bottles from previous customers. Having trash in front of us ended up being a blessing though.
“If you don’t want to pay for drinks, sit at a table that already has old drinks,” said Weston.
The table had a nice view of the street for watching people who were belligerent and others who were wearing ridiculously skimpy clothing for such a frigid night.
The dingy store front of the cleverly named Sports Bar beckoned us with its Siren’s call of frat boy loudmouths.
Once inside, the first thing we noticed was the density of belligerent patrons. There was nothing more than standing room. By standing room, I mean the only way to get around was to elbow joust the people around us and shuffle as a unit.
“If you’re doing this you have to move around,” said Weston.
About the only good tactic to use in a place like the Sports Bar is eavesdropping. You can listen to some interesting conversations but this sardine can of an establishment doesn’t leave much room to actually watch anyone.
We quickly realized we had run into a dead end and decided to continue on our way before we got trampled.
Bright lights and synth music reminiscent of communist-era Russia call out to those who pass by the Pickled Parrot.
When we entered we saw there was plenty of real estate to pull up a chair and view the large dance floor. There was a live band doing covers of such timeless hits as “All Star” by the barely relevant band Smash Mouth.
What makes this bar such a great place to people watch is that it’s filled with nerds. And I don’t mean it as an insult. The people at the Pickled Parrot don’t have a care in the world what anyone thinks about their dancing, they’re just there to have fun. It’s a judgment free zone.
“It is the Planet Fitness of bars,” said Weston.
With most people’s attention drawn to the dance floor, it’s easy to take in the sights without fear of being noticed.
What better place to cap off a night of spectating humans than the cesspool of sloshed millennials that is Old Broadway.
Complete with a grinding pad disguised as a dance floor and music that will make your ears bleed, the OB is a perfect place to hide in plain sight.
“If you like listening to really loud dance music and standing in one place, this is a good place,” said Smith.
We entered the bar and immediately noticed long tables bordering the dance floor. Unfortunately the seats were all taken and we had to move towards the back of the bar. And there’s a reason why that area filled up.
“That’s the gawking area,” said Weston. “That’s where you sit and stare openly without being noticed.”
Once we found our seats we realized it wouldn’t be hard to see action from the back of the bar. The mirrored pillars surrounding our table allowed us to watch people who were behind us and the circus show that congregates outside the bathroom is ripe for a few laughs.
I would never send a friend in alone to the OB but as a group there to watch humanity regress back towards the primordial ooze, it can be a good time.
Dempsey’s isn’t exactly known for having the wildest clientele. It’s a great spot to watch a live show but seating is limited and it tends to not get too rowdy.
The one bright spot for people watching is by the front door. There is a mirrored window on the outside and makes it hard to see in. If you’re lucky enough to pull up a seat by the window, Dempsey’s can be a great way to watch drunks stagger along outside. This is the exact spot where I witnessed a woman being heaved off the ground by her irritated friend. Magical.
Live to Tell the Tale
Now that you have the skills to spy on some of the most inebriated and unaware citizenry in Fargo, make sure not to die before you can spread your tales of the inept.
Don’t drink and drive. The whole point of people watching is to enjoy some cheap, live entertainment and have a fun night out with friends.
So don’t get hammered and instead be safe, be observant and be merry.
(Andy Weston is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at MSUM. He hopes to one day end the hashtag and bring back the pound sign. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org)