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Alive and Kicking at Uncle Steve's

March 31, 2015

Hello again, everyone. Yes, I know that it’s been an enormously long time since my last update. Anyone still out there? Well, regardless, here’s what’s been going on for the last two years or so, just in case anyone wants to know.

I’m still working at Little Caesar’s Pizza as the day shift manager. It’s not a great job, but I do get some basic benefits since I’m employed full time and have a managerial position. The pay is more or less the same as what I was making at Adlai Mortensen College as an adjunct English instructor. In July, the college called me and said that I could have my old post back. I asked them if I could get a more permanent position that couldn’t be defunded whenever the school had a budgetary crisis. I was told that there were no immediate plans to hire for any permanent positions in my specialty area during the current academic year. So, I just said no thanks, because I figured I’d probably be better off sticking with Little Caesar’s, where I can probably continue working until retirement age if I want.

I’m kind of wondering if I wasted so many years of my life getting my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, since I could get this position at Little Caesar’s with just a high school diploma. When I’m serving up a $5 large cheese pizza, nobody really gives a flip that I wrote a master’s thesis on Shakespearean-era drama. Anyway, I’ve kind of flirted with the idea of going back to college to get a doctorate degree in English Literature, but I’m not sure exactly how I might finance it, and anyhow, I’m watching the years of my life tick by, and finding it progressively harder to justify the enormous amount of effort and time required to complete a PhD. Quite honestly, I think I’m pretty much through with higher education, both as a student and as an instructor. I believe it’s pizza for the masses for me from here on out.

I finally left the old, leaky, drafty, run down house that I’d been renting for several years after a rat showed up in my kitchen one evening when I got up to get a glass of milk. That really freaked me out. I called an exterminator, who did a thorough inspection of the house, and told me that there was probably a whole colony of rats living in the attic and walls, and quite probably in the crawl space under the house. He distributed rat poison all over the place, and then told me to call him again when I smelled decomposing corpses. I called up my landlord and told her that I wanted out right away, annual contract be damned. She told me that I had to arrange for someone to sublet the place or I would be responsible for paying rent for the rest of the contract. I had no idea how I could convince anybody to take over the rent for me. I could imagine the possible conversations: “Hey, I’m breaking my rental contract on this house because it’s infested with rats, so would you be interested in subletting it for me?”

I know this may sound cruel, but fortunately this problem was solved when my landlord, who was in her mid-80s, had a stroke and died. I managed to look up one of her surviving family members after reading her obit online, and brought up the problem regarding the rental property. It turned out that the guy I was talking to had inherited her house, and he told me to forget about the rental contract, since he was planning to have the old house demolished and build a new one there for him and his family, so it was actually a good thing for me to leave early because that way he could get started sooner. That’ll be a grim and sad day for all those surviving rats.

I figured that I might as well move close to my job, so as luck would have it I found one half of a duplex home for rent within easy walking distance of Little Caesar’s. It’s considerably smaller than the old house, so I had a garage sale and got rid of a lot of furniture, but that wasn’t a big deal to me, since it was mostly stuff that was forced upon me by my mother when Grandma died several years ago, and nobody wanted her furniture. It feels good to downsize, kind of liberating, really.

I’ve enjoyed working at Little Caesar’s with Tripping Travis, who now just prefers to be known by the name Travis, since, in his own words, he’s “moved beyond the psychedelic phase.” We get into all kinds of interesting philosophical discussions all the time while we’re prepping dough. Travis finally got his GED and enrolled at Adlai Mortensen College part-time, which in his case means he takes one course per semester and has yet to declare a major. Last semester, he took a classical guitar course, and learned several really nice flamenco pieces, which he’s played for me during breaks on the job. He hasn’t played at Uncle Steve’s for quite some time, because he no longer has a band, but I’ve been trying to convince him to just do some of his flamenco pieces solo. He told me that he’d think about it. I don’t know how comfortable he is performing by himself on stage.

One of my coworkers is named Mary and is about my age, in her mid-30’s, I guess. Mary is from around here. She graduated from Duckworth High School in the 1990’s, where during her senior year she was voted Most Likely to Remain Single. Over the years, she’s worked at Burger King, Subway, Wal-Mart, Target, Peggy’s Thrift Store, McDonald’s, T-Rex Car Detailing, Precious Pooches, Rocky Romano Chevrolet, Whipple Funeral Home, Hemlock Assisted Living, and Stitch in Time Alterations. Mary has never been married and has no kids, thank god, because we’ve been dating for the last several months. She lives with her elderly mother and two older and unemployed brothers in a house just a few blocks from mine. Both brothers are heavy smokers and drinkers and watch ultimate kickboxing all day long. Mary isn’t a big talker, which is okay with me. We’ve spent some mellow moments together off the job, and when on the job she requires no supervision whatsoever. She comes over to my house on most days to watch DVD movies and eat dinner.

The other day Mary told me that she was planning to apply for work at the new Jimmy John’s sandwich shop that they’re opening up down the road. When I asked her why, she just said that she likes a change of pace every now and then. I asked her if she had gotten tired of me, and maybe wanted to get away from me, and she replied that she hasn’t gotten tired of ham sandwiches yet, so why should she get tired of me? I’m not sure how to interpret that, except to say that our relationship just might survive her going to work somewhere else.

Norm and Catherine and their toddler son Ahmad (who turned two in March) seem to be doing pretty well. Paternity test results came back and, as expected, confirmed Norm as the baby’s father. So, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Surprisingly, Catherine has turned out to be a very devoted mother, and has even replaced her profile picture on Facebook with Ahmad’s. She’s put on a lot of weight, too, so now she and Norm kind of look more suited to each other. That might have a lot to do with her quitting cigarettes, since I hear it’s pretty common to pack on the pounds after doing that. On my last visit to their house, I found out that she had taken down all of her David Lee Roth posters, and had replaced them with Elmo, Dora the Explorer, and Thomas the Train posters. Ahmad is an energetic little boy who likes to run around their doublewide trailer at full speed grabbing stuff and throwing it on the floor.

When Catherine found out that Ahmad was allergic to her cats, she held a cat auction at Uncle Steve’s with the intention of selling them to the highest bidder, only nobody wanted to bid. In fact, nobody wanted to pay any money at all for any of her cats, they just wanted to drink beer and listen to live music. So, she changed her tactics, and offered the cats for free. Still, there were no takers. Finally, she just put them in a cardboard box and placed them next to the road, with a sign saying FREE CATS next to it. I guess that she just couldn’t bring herself to take them to the animal shelter.

Later on that same day, I was riding my moped toward the box, and saw the members of the local death metal group Masters of Death gathered around it, and it occurred to me that they might not have had the best interests of those cats at heart. So, I hopped off my moped, and told those guys that Catherine had promised the cats to me, picked up the box, secured it to the back of my moped with several bungee cords that I had handy, and rode to the animal shelter. I understand that most if not all of them will be gassed, but in my view that’s a much more merciful end than what Masters of Death almost certainly had planned for them.

Sadly, Uncle Steve’s parole hearing last year did not go well. I’m not sure about all the details, but the upshot of it was that they laughed at him. Well, a parole hearing doesn’t seem like any laughing matter to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t seem like one to Uncle Steve, either. The criminal justice system in this country is just one big, awful joke. I honestly don’t see why Uncle Steve is considered so unworthy of parole. After all, he’s not a violent person at all. Nobody got hurt for any of his supposed crimes. Justice for Uncle Steve!

I’m very pleased to say that Pete Wilkinson of the now absolutely defunct band Nazi Sex Zombies (NSZ) has not been seen at Uncle Steve’s, or anywhere near Bratwurst, Ohio, for well over a year. Uncle Steve’s was closed for several months last year, and I had Admiral Porkliver’s bus locked up tight during that time so that nobody could get in it. I also put extra locks on the doors at Uncle Steve’s for the same reason. For awhile, I saw Pete hanging out in front of a local convenience store and talking to other leather-clad guys on motorbikes. Then he and they disappeared. I guess they rode off together beyond the horizon to who cares where. Well, I’m not mad at Pete anymore -- I guess I just feel kind of sorry for him. I wish him the best, but I hope that whoever he runs into next will immediately be able to see him for what he is, which is a manipulative parasite and shameless liar, and not fall victim to his wily ways.

I have some very bad news about Admiral Porkliver. Just a few weeks ago I learned that the band’s erstwhile leader, Stoughton Finney, finally gave up the ghost after a prolonged illness, in Wheeling, West Virginia. Stoughton’s death was shortly after followed up by a meeting of the remaining band members at a Wheeling coffee shop, who after brief consultation unanimously agreed that Admiral Porkliver could no longer continue on after the passing of its illustrious master. They then all parted ways from one another, and headed off to points unknown, all except for bass player Melvin Mayo, who returned to Uncle Steve’s and the Bratwurst area, where he took up residence with his new lover, Bert’s sister, in her apartment. Although Bert, who also lives there, has vigorously protested this living arrangement, and has employed foul language, outrageous insults, and occasional physical abuse, he has been unable to dislodge Melvin from his sister’s bedroom. When I asked Melvin how he could stand Bert, he only said that after enduring years of Stoughton Finney’s rigorous discipline, Bert was hardly more than a gnat buzzing in his ear.

I asked Melvin about the Admiral Porkliver bus, and what was to be done with it now that Stoughton Finney was dead. It turned out that copies of Stoughton’s will were distributed to all band members shortly after his funeral. It is a surprisingly brief and concise document, considering what a prolific talker the man was during his lifetime. Here below is a key selection of the text:

Ill health and declining mental faculties make it impossible for me to produce a truly fitting last will and testament. So, this must suffice. All earthly possessions, rights, and privileges, that to my person legally pertain, must revert, at the very instant of my death, to the Anti-Dictionary League, which may make use of them as it may see fit. Any uncertainties about the disbursement of my estate must be adjudicated in accordance with the consultative will of the league’s officers, who, I trust, will judge as I myself might judge.

After reading that, it seemed crystal clear to me that the bus in front of Uncle Steve’s is now the official property of the Anti-Dictionary League. So, I asked Melvin Mayo how to get in touch with this organization, and he just burst out laughing. There’s no website, no official mailing address, no officers, no nothing. Evidently, however, there were plenty of people during Stoughton’s lifetime who led him to believe that his brainchild was a legitimate and running concern, and that his many orders and directives on its behalf were being dutifully carried out to the letter. The deplorable truth, nonetheless, was that all of his generous monetary donations to his cherished cause were simply pocketed by anyone who happened to be willing to pay the man a bit of lip service.

Melvin explained to me that this meant that all of Stoughton’s possessions were, for all intents and purposes, in a state of legal limbo for all eternity. That in turn signifies that the bus in front of the club will probably belong to nobody at all until it melts into the ground in a pile of rust, at which time I suppose it’ll belong to Mother Earth. So, should nobody come to claim it, there it will remain, and I am guessing that it would cost more to fix the big hunk of steel than it’s even worth, so I don’t figure there’s any risk of anyone ever making off with it. Maybe it could be sold for scrap metal for a modest sum, but in my view the sentimental value of keeping the bus right where it is far outweighs that. Plus, it’s kind of handy as a temporary residence for visiting out-of-town musicians.

As Melvin listened, I wondered out loud if an ad-hoc version of the Anti-Dictionary League could be formed just for the purpose of sorting out Stoughton’s estate. Maybe Melvin could contact his former band mates and have them sign some kind of improvised legal contract stipulating that they are the official officers of that group. Melvin agreed that would be a great idea if it weren’t for the fact that Stoughton had basically liquidated everything he had to pay off his enormous hospital bill, because he was determined to leave this world debt-free as a matter of personal honor. Sadly, after forking over enormous amounts of money, he still owed the hospital a substantial sum, owing to the fact that he did not have any medical insurance. His only remaining asset upon his death was the tour bus, which, as I’ve already mentioned, is hardly worth much. So, in summary, it appears that the Anti-Dictionary League died with its founder.

Finally, I get to the all-important matter of the music club that bears Uncle Steve’s name. Since Ahmad has been born, Norm has been so tied up supporting his wife and son that he suspended his cooking in the club’s kitchen, and has yet to reopen it. As for me, I was so focused on making sure that Pete Wilkinson left town that I purposely shut the club down until I was positive that Pete was gone for good.

After several folks expressed an interest in reopening the place, I did just that back in October, right in time for Halloween. On October 31, we all got together to watch Bride of Frankenstein projected onto the brick wall at the back of the club using somebody’s LCD projector, laptop computer, and external speakers. There were maybe twenty people or so in attendance, some of whom were decked out in creepy costumes. Free cherry Kool-Aid was served since our liquor license had expired. It was really nice to see old friends again, and plans were made to reopen the club each Saturday night on a continuing basis, which is more or less what we’ve done since Halloween. I got our liquor license renewed around Thanksgiving, which has really boosted attendance. Bert is once again a regular.

So, who’s been playing their music at Uncle Steve’s? Well, we’ve had Masters of Death, who have shown no real improvement whatsoever, except that they now have an electronic tuner, and appear to be making a limited effort to keep their instruments in tune. I’m not sure if their music really sounds any better than it did when they were completely out of tune.

Then, there’s Beatrice McIntyre, who has been showing up with just her fiddle and a CD with backing bluegrass music. She tells me that she doesn’t want to bother her band mates at the church with coming out to Uncle Steve’s anymore. As always, we all love Beatrice’s stuff.

Finally, there is a new band out of Adlai Mortensen College without an official name. There are two guys with acoustic guitars and a girl with an electric bass. They do a lot of covers of songs by The Cure and The Smiths. So, I’ve unofficially dubbed them Smiths Cure. They’re not so bad, really. Keep coming back, Smiths Cure, and invite your friends to come along, too. The more the merrier is what I say.

Well, as far as musical activity at Uncle Steve’s, that’s about it. Once the fire goes out, I guess it takes a while for the remaining embers to reignite everything. Patience, everyone, patience, and let’s not forget that Uncle Steve’s is a lot more than just a place to drink beer. We’re Bratwurst’s number one place for live music, and don’t you ever forget it!

-- Jake Silverman

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"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...