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A Phoenix Rises in Bratwurst

April 7, 2011

After months of bad news and bad breaks, Uncle Steve's seems to finally be experiencing some kind of a cautious revival of sorts -- the phoenix has risen up from the ashes. Winter is officially over here in Ohio, although truth be told, it's taking a while to really warm up. But a few flowers have sprung up here and there, and in a similar way a few folks have started coming back to Uncle Steve's just like woodland creatures awaking after a long hibernation.

We were eagerly awaiting Uncle Steve's return last month. That didn't happen, but some progress was apparently made at his appeal hearing, with the presiding judge commenting that he would be "very interested" in finding out more, and noting that in his opinion the procedure followed by the prosecution "had not been entirely regular." He promised to refer the matter to the superior state court judge for the district at the earliest possible opportunity. Uncle Steve's lawyer is definitely on top of this and is no doubt twisting arms and pulling strings on his client's behalf whenever he gets a free moment from his asbestos litigation work.

Dinner at Uncle Steve's has now become a staple of our music club experience. Norm and I have actually "hired" someone to help us in the kitchen, her name is Catherine and she is from California. Beyond that she won't give us any other details except to say that maybe that's where she's from and maybe not, and maybe that's her name and maybe it isn't. She smokes Marlboro Menthol Lights. Her hair has obviously been dyed because the roots are dark brown unlike the rest of her coiffure, which is bright red.

I think that Norm has the hots for her, but if so, I suspect that he is wasting his time, because she seems to be in her early twenties and Norm is in his mid fifties. I asked Catherine what she thought of Norm and her response was, "He's okay." She said it while she was chomping on her gum, with the same tone of voice you might use if someone asked you if you like cheeseburgers: "They're okay." Norm has Catherine on couscous duty, which is pretty important, because that's a key ingredient in almost all of his specialties.

Catherine has been looking over my shoulder as I write this at the club on my laptop computer. She would like to add a clarification, so I will now temporarily pass her the keyboard. The italicized words that follow are hers.

jake dosent know what hes talking about he thinks hes so smart but he dosent have a girl freind so ha ha jake what do you know nothing you dork just kiding lol jake your alright but i just like you as a freind and your a total nurd and a geek so dont get any ideas and i know norm wants me but hes like my dad hes an old man and also hes gross so he needs an ugly woman that smells bad with gray hair like him not me so to bad norm and your web sight is stupid jake just like you ha ha just kiding lol you know i love you but not like you think you got a dirty mine

As you can all see, Catherine is a veritable wellspring of editorial inspiration. Perhaps she will lose interest in helping us in the kitchen and will move on to other noble fields of endeavor, such as hanging out at the strip mall in nearby Duckworth.

We kind of gave up on the idea of charging people a fixed price for the meals. That didn't really work, and after awhile we kind of guessed that we were driving folks away. So, now we have up a big hand painted sign saying: CASH DONATIONS APPRECIATED FOR FOOD EATEN. Last week we served 23 dinners and collected a grand total of $8. We hope that the spirit of generous charity will eventually catch on and make the restaurant a profitable enterprise.

We also kind of realized that we needed to do away with concert admission fees for the foreseeable future. I think Bert summed it up best the last time we asked him to pay to come in. He said: "I'll give you a choice. You can let me spend the five dollar entrance fee on a beer, or I'll go drink somewhere else." Several people were within earshot when we gave in to Bert's demands, and before we knew it, everyone within 10,000 miles of the club was refusing to pay the entrance fee. So, the pressure is on to move more beer, which is still selling at a fixed price for the time being, thank God and fingers crossed. Without beer sales, there would be no way to pay the bills on this place and just break even. Like I wrote earlier, this is a labor of love.

A few of our regular acts have started showing up again. Kirby and Coney did a show last week which was attended by a small group of college-aged girls who seem to know nothing about Kirby's fan-stalking fiasco from a few months back -- or was it Coney who did the stalking, I can't recall. I get them confused all the time. I saw Kirby kissing one of those college girls after the show. Kirby, you smooth operator, you.

The Rocking Dudes gave a comeback concert of sorts. They played an original tune called "Snooze Blues." Interesting rhyme there, but the song title is just a bit too dead on, if you know what I mean. Let's just say that it would be hard to play a more predictable and cliché-ridden blues instrumental than that one. If there's a well-known blues guitar lick that you've heard before, trust me, it's in "Snooze Blues." Bert gave them a standing ovation, then, he ran outside to ralph up the contents of his beer tank.

Dr. George Feldspar made a surprise appearance three Saturdays ago. This time he did not come with any college students in tow. He explained that the rumors were true -- he had been denied tenure and had applied for a temporary teaching position that in the end was given to someone else. By his own admission, he is now living off of his meager savings and has stopped paying the mortgage on his house, which he plans to set on fire before the bank can foreclose on it. He went to a job interview at Burger King the other day and was asked the question: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" He responded: "At a soup kitchen standing in line with a plastic tray." They told him he was overqualified and gave the position to a high school tenth grader. Dr. Feldspar played "Nearer to Thee, O Lord" on his banjo, which caused Bert to pass out and fall onto the floor.

There have been a few new acts at Uncle Steve's. We've had the usual stream of one-time-wonders, as Norm and I call them, which are local area people of all ages who show up with an acoustic guitar and a notebook with lyrics and chord changes, which they place upon the stand that we loan them for the occasion, and after one performance never again return. Sorry, I can't remember any names, but there was this one college freshman kid who sang about twenty tunes which all consisted of variations of three chords, C-G-D, and all prominently featured the expression "I love you baby" several times over. Catherine reacted by pulling this guy into the utility closet with her and shutting the door for two or three hours.

There has only been one new act worthy of serious consideration, and that is Tripping Travis and the Psychedelic Mindblowers, a band from nearby Duckworth High School that cites The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and the 13th Floor Elevators as their biggest inspirations. All dressed in tie-dye t-shirts and bell-bottomed blue jeans, and sporting shoulder-length hair, they could take a time machine back to 1967 and nobody would realize that they'd come from the future. As for their music, it suits the band's retro name to a "t." The highlight of their concert was their 10-minute extended freak-out jam entitled "Intergalactic Warp Drive." I keep thinking that I've heard that song title before somewhere else, and I've asked Travis if it's a cover song, but he assures me that it's an original. Other memorable song titles are, "A Week in a Life," "Glimmer on You Deranged Sapphire," "A Lighter Tone of Pallid," "Horsemen in Ivory Silk," and "Yesterday Always Understands." In the middle of their last concert two Saturdays ago, the father of the rhythm guitarist walked up to the stage, grabbed his son by the ear, and led him out of the building, all the while shouting "This is a den of satanic iniquity!" To which Bert replied with a ten-second-long beer belch. When I asked Bert what he thought of the band, he replied: "Only Admiral Porkliver was worse, but not by much." Catherine remarked that the bass guitarist was totally hot, but of course that doesn't say anything about their music. The band brought with them about ten audience members, all of whom had to rush home immediately after the concert so that they wouldn't get in trouble with their parents.

Well, that's about it for the latest goings on at Uncle Steve's, which as you can see has pretty much returned from the dead. I have a hunch that things will be heating up at the club as the spring temperatures rise. I'll be keeping you posted.

-- Jake Silverman

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