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Michael's Pub sounds like one of those trendy, toe tapping, ankle twisting, green beer drinking, thank God we Irish saved religion, we are right - all of us (Catholic, and Church of England) about the good and evil of King Henry the Eighth, kind of bar. A place where we can claim our grandmother, on our mothers side, was 1/16th Irish, let our hearts go a-thump with the fervent love of fiddle music, cry when Irish pipes play eerily dissonant laments, and where we can have an unreasonable love of all things Gaelic.
Of course, Saints preserve us, if we hadn't seen Riverdance, or had to admit to ourselves that the quirky haters of the See of Rome, and Irish oft bald-diva renown the Right Rev. O'Conner were all, perhaps, a smidgen angelic and probably a-heap-o-nutty, we wouldn't drink ale at this dive, or any it resembles. We would also have to admit the terrible truth that U2, a band we honestly like, is just mildly talented, with a very charismatic generous singer and a guitar player with a gift for memorably endless, though not tiring, repetitive riffs. Pubs are, for now and deservedly, cool.
Michael's Pub is not truly, after all the above, one of those places. It sits in a run down area the City Government has put on the back burner for so long that they
invented an in-tray, in an office, in which no one works. All letters, faxes, e-mails, phone calls, notices, crime reports, complaints, autopsy files, arrest warrants, law suits, tax assessments, and anything else pertaining to the nine block square down by the Rivers edge is given to a person, to work on, that does not exist. It is a neighborhood inhabited by those that do not want to be noticed, or found. It is a very interesting and convenient place, within a very large city, indeed. A place filled with vaguely Christian storefront-churches, here today - gone tomorrow, soup kitchens, seedy Minus-A hotels, graffiti covered warehouses, with doors that open to black cars, out of state trucks, shady shadow people, and lock up so fast that the dark interiors are never seen. The, mostly unknown, proprietors of said nondescript warehouse businesses are purveyors of most anything labeled, for legal purposes, contraband.
There is a Café, with a C rating from 1983. The rating was given because the plates and silverware didn't match, not because of cleanliness. The place is always spotless, but no one from Downtown has been down here, since the last inspection, to see the new china and cutlery. An ex-cop, Johnny O'Shea, runs the Eatery. Of whom, 'tis said, got caught taking a bribe, did some time, learned a lot about cooking while in the joint, and came back to live in the environs of his old beat.
Old Johnny cooks wonderful food at a great price. He could care less about the conflicting and ridiculous maze of bureaucratic codes that infest the Health Departments of every City in the U.S. of A. Johnny, also, fences small stuff to those who need a little hand up, and equalizes situations, like when some hopped-up A-hole decides a local homeless person has too many worldly possessions and not enough pain. Johnny, upon finding out about such deplorable actions, will extract the value of the stolen goods, with interest. He will relocate the pain back onto the original owner and provide a slice of the best pie in the city to the injured party. He does this service free of charge. He sees it as a Christian community service and because, to him, it is recreation.
Michael, of Michael's Pub and Johnny, of Johnny's Cafe are good friends and have been for twenty years. When Johnny drove the beat in the, then, thriving area back in the early Eighties, Michael would keep him up on what was going on in the ten blocks. Between them a lot of bad guys fell without the muss and fuss involvement of liberal courts and unethical lawyers. The bad guys, that were left, did not like vigilantism. It was bad for business. They set up Johnny and put Michael in the hospital. When they could, Johnny and Michael set it right. Life is, after all - long. Now, with those un-cooperative vermin eliminated, every thing in the nine blocks that now happened, Johnny and Michael got a piece. The Café and Bar sit strategically across the street from one another, between them, keeping what could be a terribly dangerous and grimy place into a, generally, quiet place to live. They even pay for an office in City Hall that ignores all that happens in their small part of the world.
They are also the owners of a large exterminator pest control company and that is where our story really begins.
Sam Adams should not live here. He was a moderately successful Builder and all around good citizen. He played by the rules, fair or not. He was married and made two mistakes associated with the stupid but true phrase 'Location - Location - Location!'. He built five large houses in what should have been great areas, but the large developer, who loaned Sam the building funds, stalled his adjacent projects and waited, forcing Sam into Bankruptcy. The Bastard picked up the foreclosed houses, from his own bank, at pennies on the dollar and finished his project. The second mistake was to believe that there is a Justice System in the US that holds everyone equal under the law. Between arrogant, and ignorant Judges, manipulative and unethical lawyers, Byzantine insurance companies, and an impatient and punitive IRS, the last of his money and dignity was stripped from him. Sam lost it all, in fact he now owed more than he had ever made in the whole of his life, including his will to play any longer in a rigged game.
The spiral down was a bad one, depression, divorce, any and all drugs, and eventually homelessness. He finally stood up and gave a 'Grand Finger' to the machinations of the so called 'Legitimate World' and decided to do as well as he could in another. He picked himself up a bit and became a thug and petty criminal. He took dark and dirty work as a thief and high-jacker. His size and previously learned fighting skills allowed him to be a collector of debts and bodyguard-cum-bouncer. Michael and Johnny took a liking to him, and looked after him. They paid for computer classes and turned Sam into a regular Geek. He became quite a skilled Hacker. He had successfully removed his presence from almost every database in the country; he was effectively invisible. Michael and Johnny also had become Phantoms at Sammy-boy's skilled hands. This new tool kept taps on people, places, and things, and Michael and Johnny liked doing business in this hi-tech modern way, it cut expenses and legwork.
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, when Michael called Sam up and told him to come by for a pint. Sam didn't mind at all. His eyes were screen blurry, he needed a break, and he had some good stuff on some local politicians - and a Judge or two. Michael could find the information valuable and put it to good use. He had told him, over the phone, about a railroad deal that didn't smell right.
end part 1
Why is doing what you love the hardest thing to do? Is it because failing what you thought defined you would be too devastating a thing from which to recover? If so, we stay where mere accident has left us.