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Entry date: 7-13-2022 - Rye's Above part 4 - Things I made up

Dear Friends,

What a time to be alive!

Here is the fourth installment of Rye’s Above. Enjoy.


June 18, 1987

“So, what are you doing this weekend,” Linda asks as she hands Ben a Michelob. He had decided to cheat on Budweiser with its cousin that night. The Incognito was beginning to fill up for a Thursday night.

“We’re playing tomorrow.”

“Which band?”

“The one you want to see.”

By the look on her face, Ben could tell his buddy, Linda, perked up a bit. She almost looked excited.

“What time? I’m first out tomorrow so I may be able to make it. Where?”

“Alwun House. We go on early, like 8:30 or something like that. It’s a benefit for some artist.”

“Well … shit. I’ll make it to the next one. How did you guys get roped into that?” She looked thoroughly dejected.

“No clue. Randy announced it at practice a few weeks ago and we’re all free, so I guess we’ll play for free. Should be fun, though. Those parties get kinda wild sometimes.”

Randy was the front man of Ben’s side band, The Men in Smoking Jackets. They did a kind of garage lounge thing that was a mixture of The Cramps and Burt Bacharach. Ben loved playing the songs and all the guys in the band were excellent players.

Ben had met Randy while taking a poetry writing course at Phoenix College in 1979. He was the proverbial tall, dark, and handsome guy full of bohemian energy. During one of their first conversations, he asked Ben, “Do you listen to the Cramps?”

When Ben shook his head to indicate he had not, Randy reached into his knapsack and pulled out a 7” record and handed it to Ben. The A side was a song called “Human Fly” and Ben was intrigued.

“I’ve got a bunch of these. People need to listen to the Cramps,” said Randy and a friendship was born.

Besides Randy Whitfield, aka “Dandy Randy,” on vocals and Ben on guitar, The Men In Smoking Jackets had Anita French, aka “Frenchy French” on bass and Shannon Tovar, aka “Toves” on drums. They had all died laughing when Randy suggested the band name, so it stuck. Two of The Men In Smoking Jackets weren’t men at all.

Linda had a huge crush on Toves. Ben was pretty sure that Toves might have been open to being a bit more than friends with Linda, too, but both of them got very shy around each other. He had known Toves since his high school days and she had never been very serious about anyone, male or female. She loved to play the drums, though, and was a hell of a player.

He wasn’t sure if he should say anything to Toves about Linda. It wasn’t the easiest conversation to have, and he wanted to be respectful, so he just stayed quiet. One thing he wasn’t was a matchmaker. Toves and Linda would have to figure it out on their own.

“Doing anything else?”

“Not really. Was thinking about going to see The Believers on Sunday. I like Martin Sheen a lot.”

“Huh. What’s that one about?”

“Not sure, but it looks kinda cool. I think there is some voodoo stuff going on. Wanna go?”

“Nah, I’m going to hit the pool on Sunday and work on my tan.”

Linda knew Ben meant going to the first showing on Sunday morning. It was a “Ben” thing. He didn’t like watching movies at night and liked to go to the first showing of the day if he could. He explained this theory to her the first time they discussed seeing a movie together back in ‘83 or ‘84.

“Uh oh. Beatrice is going to be pissed.”

Linda had been seeing Beatrice off and on for a couple of years. To say it was a tumultuous relationship was like saying Keith Richards was good at playing guitar or beating death. Ben liked Beatrice, but he was also a little scared of her. She could be a tad unpredictable, and she hated the idea of getting a tan.

“Let’s not talk about her. What else is going on with you? Tell me a story …”

Ben took a long slow drink from his beer, smiling at her with his eyes, and thought for a moment. Should he tell her, he wondered? He hadn’t talked to anyone about the idea since he and Chuck went to see Rabid Rabbit last month, but it had been keeping him awake at night. There was a bakery on his way to and from work.

Barb’s Bakery.

He stopped in pretty regularly to pick up donuts or if it was someone’s birthday, a cake. They had great bread, too. He got sandwiches from this place called Easy Street and he knew they got their bread from Barb’s because he asked them when he stopped in during the week after his big idea.

There were two sisters that owned the place and they always remembered what he liked to order. When he walked up to the counter, the dark haired one (he could never remember their names) asked if he wanted a turkey bacon avocado on pita and a potato salad. That was his favorite.

“I think I’ll have it on rye today,” Ben said. “Yeah, let’s do rye.”

While his sandwich was being made, he casually asked about where they got their bread and they told him that everything came from Barb’s except the pita bread. That came from the Middle Eastern Bakery over on 16th street.

Ben couldn’t believe how different the sandwich was on rye. It made everything taste a little strange, in a good way, and he knew he had to learn to make rye bread like that. He also knew he had to try the turkey bacon avocado on the other bread, too.

“Ben. Where did you go?”

“Sorry, Song. I was thinking.”

He loved calling Linda by her last name. He thought it was the best last name he had ever heard. Song. He knew they were destined to be friends after she told him.

“You better get with the story, son. These bitches are getting thirsty in here.”

Linda laughed as she walked away to get drinks for a couple of gals sitting a few stools down from Ben. He was sweating a little. She was the one he wanted to tell about Rye’s Above the most because she would either say, “That’s brilliant” or tell him to go fuck himself.

Instead, Ben nervously threw a five-dollar bill on the bar, finished his Michelob in a couple of gulps, and pushed himself away from the bar. Linda noticed him leaving and shouted after him:

“You owe me a story, Ben.”

He just waved at her and watched her charm the pants of the customers.


See you tomorrow.

The only picture I could find of the Incognito. RIP.

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