I used to fantasize about being a rock star.
Heck…I STILL think about it. Me… in tight leather pants, my name emblazoned on a giant tour bus, and thousands of fans following me on social media.
And in some bizarre parallel universe, this MIGHT be possible.
Unfortunately in the real world, leather pants do not come with an elastic waist. I can barely make payments on my used SUV, let alone afford a tour bus. I have no clue how to use snapchat. AND…I can’t sing. (In the spirit of Milli Vanilli, I also stink at lip syncing.) Thus any dreams of the Iowa Roadie winning a Grammy are quickly squashed.
However a recent Iowa Roadie adventure did result in an encounter with a Real Live Rock Star. Sort of.
Jack has owned the 405 Lounge located at 405 Main Street in Reinbeck, Iowa for the past 38 years. Jack used to play the bass guitar in an Iowa-based rock band named Believer. Believer was so popular that their act played alongside Blue Oyster Cult, a rock band that went on to achieve platinum record success and sell 24 million records. And although Believer disbanded years ago, remnants of Jack’s rock band days are still on display at the 405 Lounge today.
I admit…The Iowa Roadie and her husband came across the 405 by accident. It was New Year’s Day, and we were out for an afternoon drive seeking a new adventure. Surely it would not be difficult to find a small town bar with a football game, drink specials and a greasy pub burger.
We were wrong.
We drove through several little Iowa towns and found ZERO places open. I could not help but compare this to our good neighbor Wisconsin where bars pop up in the middle of the nowhere and are ALWAYS open. (In Wisconsin, the ratio of bars to people is about a zillion to 1. In Iowa, substitute the word “banks” for “bars,” and you have a more accurate statement.)
Mid-afternoon, we came upon Reinbeck, population 1664. On a normal day, Reinbeck boasts a brewery and a couple of taverns. On a Wednesday that doubles as a national holiday, the only form of life we saw was a dimly lit Budweiser sign. It was in a small window of a non-descript gray building that had a “for sale” sign in front of it. That was it. No cars. No people. Just the neon glow of a beer sign in a place labeled “The 405 Lounge.”
Undeterred, we entered and took our customary seats at the bar allowing us the opportunity to visit with other pub patrons. However…there were no other customers. Just us.
In the past two years, Jack has only taken two days off of work. (Interject quick math lesson here… That means that out of 730 days, he has worked 728 of them.) Evidently Jack does not call into work sick…or when he just wants to Netflix binge. Let’s face it…a bar is where other people GO to play hooky. (I bet if your workplace allowed cocktails and beer pong, your attendance would improve, too.)
Case in point…after serving my husband a beer, Jack also drank one. In fact, he even recorded it in a little notebook that he kept behind the counter. Jack showed us his check marks indicating that the day before, he had consumed eight beers over the course of the day. Today, however, Jack was only up to three check marks. (I confess I was glad I did not have check marks recording my mint julep consumption the night before at a Roaring 20s New Years Eve party… which would be in direct proportion to today’s check marks for Sprite.)
It is with some regret that I report the 405 Lounge did not sell greasy hamburgers. Instead, Jack had an air fryer which he used in making us some super spicy cheese curds. On The House. (Have I mentioned that FREE is my favorite four-letter word?) Jack also sold us a 2 1/2 pound frozen pizza, an overwhelming upgrade from my usual Totino’s pizza that claims a “serving size of two.” (Insert laughter here.)
As the Iowa Roadie and husband munched away on our pizza, Jack regaled us with stories of his days as bass player for Believer. One night’s gig would pay his 405 bills for a month! Turns out Believer was an extremely popular band. It was only when Jack began talking about the band groupies that I cut him off. I did not think I could process anything more than a PG-rating on Sprite.
I would like to commend Jack for taking his love of music to a philanthropic level. For several years, he hosted JackFest, an outdoor music festival in Reinbeck, that raised money for charity. Old posters of JackFest I, II, III and IV adorned the back walls of the 405, chronicling the names of the bands and charities featured each year.
I would also note that the 405 Lounge ceiling tiles are each painted to commemorate something or someone. From “the class of 1975” to local little league teams, each tile is a tribute to the people and community Jack loves.
I asked Jack about the “for sale” sign out front and what he would do is and when he someday closes. Jack’s retirement dream is a simple one…to sell asparagus and other produce at the end of his driveway to passersby.
The Iowa Roadie can only hope that his produce stand includes mint. Because…at SOME point…I’ll be able to face those mint juleps again.