The Tan Who Wasn't There
God knows your faithful correspondent Budd Rugg has a long and acute history of frustration, but the last two weeks have taken me to depths of futility that are truly unparalleled in my experience. I'm prepared to swear to you on my dear mother's Precious Moments Bible that I did everything humanly possible to hunt down Paul Magers for the purpose of ogling his superhuman tan. I went so far as to request intercession from my mother's prayer chain, usually the most eerily effective conduit for divine assistance in the cosmos. I'd thank my readers for the dozens of tips that they sent along in the days following my last desperate missive, if not for the fact that each and every one of them proved to be so patently bogus. If Budd Rugg didn't have such complete and wholly unjustified faith in humanity I'd swear that I was the victim of a vast conspiracy designed to thwart me.
I'll admit that even I found some of these tips a bit specious, but I was doggedly determined to leave no stone unturned. And so it was that I found myself driving one afternoon to Robbinsdale, where I was assured my prey was going to be lending his celebrity to a Magic The Gathering tournament at a little geek emporium in a disconsolate strip mall of the sort I am unfortunately all too familiar with, having spent far too much of my unhappy employment history laboring in such enclaves of broken dreams. (Someday when I'm feeling truly suicidal I'll tell you about my brief career as a wholly unqualified dog groomer.) Suffice it to say that the young man behind the counter--who was wearing a threadbare Alf T-shirt and shoving fistfuls of Cheetos into his face--had never even heard of Paul Magers, which was of course consistent with his kind's failure to recognize anything even vaguely resembling reality. Appalling as it is, Budd Rugg is no longer surprised that there are people who ostensibly breathe the same air as I do and have never heard of a star of the magnitude of Magers, let alone such lesser luminaries as Kim Ode or Jeff Dubay. There isn't a scientist dead or alive who can convince me that humans are all the same species.
The day after my wasted trek to Robbinsdale I ventured to a Best Steak House in Richfield, where a tipster had informed me Magers would be addressing a luncheon meeting of Civil War buffs. What I found there appeared instead to be a group home's raucous holiday party. These good people greeted Budd Rugg like a long-lost friend, but it was clear enough that they were indifferent at best to Civil War history. One of their saintly counselors allowed that a visit from a celebrity of Magers's status would have been nothing if not surprising. As disappointed as I was, the event was not without its charms, and I contributed to the holiday merriment by raffling off my Texas toast.
Meanwhile, as I was running around town tracking down these and other equally fruitless leads, my e-mails to KARE 11 requesting information regarding Magers's itinerary and tanning regimen were going unanswered. Frustrated with my lack of progress, my superiors handed me a disposable camera and sent me downtown to stake out a number of locations on the Nicollet Mall. I attended the Holidazzle Parade for eight straight days--a cruel and unusual punishment, even if it did not quite kill me--in the hopes that my quarry would make a surprise appearance as Grand Marshal. On December 4 I was modestly thrilled to see Star Tribune overlord Anders Gyllenhaal riding in the position of honor, but after seeing both his nephew and his niece naked in local movie houses over the last year, the appearance of a fully clothed, middle-aged newspaper editor was slightly underwhelming. On other nights of my increasingly grim Holidazzle vigil, the grand marshals included Peef, an obese and flamboyantly attired bear of seemingly ambiguous sexuality, and KDWB's Dave Ryan and Angi Taylor, whose presence did nothing to raise Budd Rugg's blood pressure or spirits.
I took to disconsolately trolling the sidewalks of the Mall, making my way from Brasserie Zinc to Zelo, with stops at restaurants and bars up and down the street. My inquiries were met with bemusement and out-and-out hostility, and as I hopelessly scanned these establishments crowded with beautiful people I was left with the sinking feeling that Magers was either hiding from me, out of town, or a beautiful figment of our collective imagination.
Friday night I was refused admittance to a private party at Zinc, a gala affair at which Magers's attendance had been positively assured. I stood forlornly on the sidewalk out front, shouting increasingly hysterical queries regarding the nature of the affair and its guest list to the hordes of the anointed who filed through the doors. I saw hundreds of obviously moneyed white people, but none was Paul Magers or anyone nearly as handsome as him, and I returned home in the foulest of spirits, a black mood that even a wee-hours Trading Spaces marathon and an eggnog and peanut brittle binge couldn't assuage. Unable to sleep, I drove back across town to the Magers compound on one of the city's lakes. The neighboring homes on each side were for sale, I noticed, leading me to surmise that Magers is a difficult and perhaps tyrannical neighbor.
At wit's end I spent the rest of my weekend canvassing local tanning establishments, seeking professional commentary on the quality of Magers's tan and its likely origins. A place called Sun Place, which advertises itself as "The Official Tanning Salon of the Minnesota Vikings Cheerleaders," seemed like a logical starting point, but a pleasant woman there told me that she had signed a contract prohibiting her from offering anything that might constitute confidential tanning information. Jill at Studio Tan in Hopkins was more helpful, hypothesizing that a tanner of Magers's stature might well be following an expensive sunless tanning regimen that involves a "mist-on" procedure, "sort of like a car wash." She allowed that a man of Magers's means might have his own home tanning booth. "A decent used tanning system could be had for around $1,000," she told me. Jill was unwilling, however, to offer anything that might pass for a professional critique of Magers's tan.
As Saturday rolled on, my investigations took a dark, highly irrational turn whose logic now entirely escapes me. I eventually ended up calling around to various meat markets around the Twin Cities in an attempt to discover whether it would be possible to make beef jerky in a tanning booth. A self-professed expert on meat smoking at a place called The Outdoor Cooking Store in White Bear Lake gave the matter more serious thought than it perhaps deserved. "To be honest, I've never tried it," he said. "But I'm pretty sure you could do it. If the temperature in the thing gets anywhere above 100 degrees you'd essentially be cold smoking. Between 130 and 160 degrees E. coli bacteria would have a field day, though, so the meat would have to be brined. But even at the lower temperatures you could probably make beef jerky in eight to sixteen hours."
Early Sunday morning, following a long night of drinking Melon Bombs, a toxic concoction that is a specialty of an Uptown watering hole, Budd Rugg found himself in a Minneapolis salon that employs my friends Crystal and Jessica. There, in a tanning booth cranked up to its maximum temperature, we attempted to bake a beef roast from Rainbow Foods. By the time we called off our experiment the sun was coming up and the roast had acquired the burnt-copper glaze--very Paul Magers-like, if I do say so--of a Slim Jim.
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