‘Know that place? Yeah, that one. What’s their deal anyways? And how would we even get in?? Hooooooo knows? Hooooooo?’
A public Facebook question on January in Duluth, 1/15: “what’s something, anything, anyone, that i should check out before i leave?” Comment from Ben Marsen on 1/16: “Owls Club. 118 e. 2nd St. – 1:30 Tuesday afternoon. I’ll buy you an Old Style.”
Didn’t know Ben yet, but I’d walked by the Owl Club a few times — the offer was too intriguing to pass up. We met on the stairs in front and he seemed slightly surprised I turned up. He brought me inside — it was like a VFW, clubhouse, and owl collection. In one!
I immediately loved it in a way I wasn’t expecting to.
In addition to the vice presidency of the club, Ben was tending bar that afternoon, two crucially important positions. That being said, he’d been on the outside looking in not too long ago — Ben first ran across the club looking for a spot to rent for a birthday and ended up a member.
The following is an audio slideshow made from an interview with Ben, getting into the Owl Club’s history, culture, and current state, paired with pictures from the experience:
(Read and see much more below.)
The Owl Club was a favorite experience for me. Ben was consummately to-the-point and disarmingly kind. After our interview, he bought me an Olde Style, which I nursed while we hung out with the Owl Club’s afternoon crowd. At the bar, conversation began simply, which hit the spot. However, as the bottom of the glass drew nearer, an unedited pile of stories tugged me away from the moment and towards a computer. I stood up to leave and blinked twice — my glass was full again.
Well alright. A second wouldn’t kill me. The jokes got looser and the conversation topics zigzagged as folks passed in and out. Heavy machinery. San Francisco. Bellybutton piercings. Nobody paid an excessive amount of attention to me, which was perfect. Two beers and a superlative experience at the Owl club to write about.
“There’s a three drink minimum and you’re not even paying. Sit down.”
I hadn’t been aware of the protocol, however, I wasn’t going to break the rules. Bawdier and louder conversation as the sun went down. Writing must wait — listening to stories and clumsily telling them with new friends felt better for that afternoon. Long conversations completely away from microphones.
I left after the third beer, turning around every once in awhile as I walked away, looking back at the Owl Club to make sure it was real. Yeah, still there.