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Catherine Goes Missing

June 25, 2012

You may recall from my last post that we were all looking forward to Admiral Porkliver’s long-awaited performance of bandleader Stoughton Finney’s magnum opus called “Road Kill Soufflé in E Flat Minor.” Well, after much practice and anticipation, the band finally played it live last weekend, and, sadly, only half a dozen people showed up, in spite of everything that we had done to get the word out about the premiere of this remarkable composition.

Before starting the performance, Stoughton looked around at the handful of audience members standing before him, shook his head, sighed deeply, then picked up the microphone and spoke to us all, saying that he was saddened by the poor turnout, but once again emphasized that he was dedicated to the proposition of art for art’s sake, regardless of the lack of public support for his creative vision. He talked about his recent illness, which almost killed him, and about how he was now a wiser man because of it, since it had caused him to reevaluate his priorities. He noted that he had no more time for anger or hostility in his life.

Bert, who was already completely sloshed, then yelled out to Stoughton, you should go ahead and get ticked off like you did last time and leave, so we don’t have to listen anymore to your crummy music, and anyway, I buy the beer around here, I keep this place on its feet, and what do you do, nothing, that’s what, so get lost, bucko.

This time, the bartender Norm and I knew exactly what to do. We certainly weren’t going to make the same mistake we did last time by siding with Bert instead of Stoughton. That’s it, Bert, we told him calmly but firmly, you’re going home right now, we’ll see you next time. He refused, and then got off his chair and sat down on the ground, saying, make me leave, punks.

Well, you know Norm and me -- we’re not into getting physical with anybody, especially with Bert, who is still our friend and a good client, in spite of his sometimes pain-in-the-butt personality. But we still had to get him out of there.

Luckily for us, Norm’s boss Terry, who just happened to be at Uncle Steve’s with his girlfriend to share a few drinks, who stands about six-foot-four and looks like Paul Bunyan, and who used to work for a logging company in Oregon, walked up to Bert and said, if you don’t want to walk, I’ll carry you out of here. Bert laughed, and said, just try it, big boy.

I won’t try, said Terry, and slung Bert over his shoulder, and then he added, I’ll do. He laid Bert down gently into the bed of his pickup truck, and Bert started crying like a baby. Norm rode with Terry in the truck so he could show him how to get to Bert’s sister’s apartment, where they dropped him off. The two of them returned to the club after half an hour.       

Right after Bert had left the building, Admiral Porkliver played what must undoubtedly be the world’s first anti-song. You know, you’ve got matter and anti-matter, so now, I suppose, we have songs and anti-songs. This anti-song must contain at least ten different time signatures, each of them highly irregular, changes tempo constantly and unpredictably throughout, lurches countless times from screechingly deafening to barely audible, and is largely dominated by Stoughton’s stream-of-consciousness poetic barking and Willy’s spasmodic kazoo playing. In the middle of the set, I had to take a couple of doses of Pepto Bismol and two Dramamine tablets to deal with the musical motion sickness I was experiencing. So, in summary, it was probably the most wonderful and supreme live music experience of all time. Too bad my good friend Joe Minsk wasn’t there to record it for all posterity.

When they had finished playing, all of us were too stunned to even applaud, except for our country fiddle player Beatrice McIntyre, who clapped heartily with a great big grin on her face, and yelled out, bravo, Stoughton, bravo! And maybe for the first time since I’ve known him, Stoughton allowed himself a faint but unmistakable smile.

But I must say, he did look a bit gray and ashen, not his usual self, and he silently departed the stage before the other musicians had even started putting away their equipment. Norm went to the group’s bus to see if he was okay, and when he came back, he said that Stoughton had already gone to bed. Well, you know how it is, after his big surgery, he has to take it easy and all.

In other music news, Nazi Sex Zombies (NSZ) had been doing quite well for the last several weeks, with regular weekend shows. The audience for their performances had been steadily growing, and two weeks ago, they played to a packed house. Lead singer and rhythm guitar player Pete Wilkinson had really been polishing his vocal delivery as of late, and had left behind his former punk rock growl and replaced it with a rich, smooth baritone lounge voice that conveyed a kind of velvety melancholy and authentic world-weariness. The women were really eating it up, as evidenced by the large number of female audience members in attendance.

We were really getting geared up for last weekend’s NSZ show, but unexpectedly, the band cancelled at the last moment, when their drummer, Dr. Roscoe Hogg -- also with Admiral Porkliver -- informed me that Pete had texted him to let him know that he had decided to go on vacation for a while. Where Pete has gone to and when he’ll back, nobody knows.

Fiddle player Beatrice McIntyre has been teaming up lately with some musicians who are new to Uncle Steve’s. They are upright bass player Norton Kendrick, acoustic guitarist Herb Burgess, and Casio keyboard player Bud Zeigler. They come courtesy of Bratwurst’s First Methodist Church, where all of them have been playing Sunday services for many years. Beatrice brought to her show some of the church’s parishioners, who seem to be rather respectable and well-mannered folks. Anyway, Beatrice’s new group is pretty awesome. They do an all-instrumental set of classic country music favorites.  Once again, Beatrice, we’re so glad you’re back at Uncle Steve’s. And congrats on your upcoming extended touring gig with Seals & Crofts. We’re honored and humbled to have you at our club.

Since my last update, we’ve had only one show by AM Five, which features lead singer and guitarist Travis, formerly of Tripping Travis and the Psychedelic Mindblowers. The tuba player has only an imperfect command of his new electric bass guitar, and halfway through the set, he apologized to the audience, saying that he felt more comfortable on the tuba, which caused everyone to cry out, “Tuba, tuba!” So, he put away his bass guitar and took out his tuba, which led to a standing ovation. Man, let me tell you, he does a great job doing the tuba line for AM Five’s cover of “Smoke on the Water.” The hairs on my arm were standing on end, big time.

Anyway, that last show by AM Five was great, so much good fun. They don’t take themselves seriously at all, which sort of turned their show into a great big party with everyone up and dancing, even me, which is a very rare event. Towards the end of their set, the band passed out party favors, you know, those cone hats, the confetti, paper streamers, and toot whistles. Then Norm turned on our brand new strobe light. I can’t wait until we do all of that again.    

I’m sad to say that death metal outfit Masters of Death has refused to go away. At their last show here, the guitar player was having some trouble with his axe, so he responded by smashing it on stage, Pete Townshend-style, but one of the wood chips that shot off of it took out a sizeable chunk of flesh just over my left eye, plus I got a very deep and nasty splinter in the wound. So, I did something I’ve never done before, the whole time that I’ve worked at Uncle Steve’s, which was to tell a musical act that their set was now over, and please leave the club.

The guitar player just grumbled at me that their set was over anyway, whether or not I said so, since he didn’t have a guitar to play, and he and his band members left without cleaning up the broken guitar mess, and without apologizing for my head wound, which was bleeding buckets. I honestly hope that they never come back, because if they show up at our door again, I’m not so sure that I’m going to let them take the stage. Hey, that’s my prerogative as stage manager, and I’m not afraid to exercise it.

You may recall that in my last post, I told you about Christy, who is a colleague of mine at the college, and we both work in the English Department. Well, her shows at Uncle Steve’s, featuring her solo singing and acoustic guitar playing, had been going great, and I was getting into them in a big way. We’d had lots of laughs, and shared several beers together between shows and all.

One night Norm suggested that I ask her out, so I figured, why not, just a friendly date, no big deal, right? Well, after one of her recent Friday night sets, I asked her if she’d like to go with me to the movies the next day, to a Saturday matinee, and I swear -- it was like I had dropped a turd into the punch bowl or something. It’s like from that moment on, she didn’t even want to speak to me, and she stopped showing up at the club altogether. I’ve sent her an e-mail or two to ask when she’ll be coming back to Uncle Steve’s, and tried to have a few words with her at our last English department meeting, but no response to my e-mails and no conversation at all. Sheesh, I’m so embarrassed. It’s okay Christy, I get it, you don’t want to go out with me, no big deal -- I can live with it, honestly. Please come back to the club and share your excellent music with us, and don’t pay any attention to me. Can’t we just be friends again like we used to be? That’s all I ask, you know. And please re-friend me on Facebook, if you don’t mind.

On a final note, and having no apparent direct relation to the goings-on at the club, Norm’s twenty-something wife, Catherine, has gone missing. He last saw her about a week ago, they had breakfast together at their home before she supposedly left for her job as a beautician’s assistant at Pyongyang Nails in nearby Duckworth. Norm checked with her boss at the shop, and was told that she had actually been fired two months ago for not showing up to work, so she’d been lying to Norm about having a job for quite a while. Lord only knows what she was up to all that time she was supposed to be at the nails shop. And then, to top all of that off, the rumor had been going around town for quite some time that Catherine had been seen riding around on the back of a motorcycle with some dude who was most definitely not Norm. But nobody could tell who it was because he was wearing a helmet.

So, if you know anything about Catherine’s whereabouts, please let us know, because Norm is worried sick about her, and is seriously thinking of contacting the police, but he has held off until now, since Catherine has replied to a few of Norm’s recent text messages to her. She hasn’t told him much, except to write the following:

Dont wory norm chil out alright

Norm stop freekin out dam your a wuss

Norm ill be back soon okay dont call police

Feed my cats dont forget

Well, that’s not much to go on, but at least these messages do indeed seem to be from Catherine. If you are reading this, Catherine, please come home soon -- for Norm’s sake, and for your own sake, too. Nobody loves you more or can take better care of you than Norm can. And as you should know, ooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world. Cat Stevens knew what he was talking about. There’s no need for you to find out for yourself, if you know what I’m saying.

-- Jake Silverman

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