Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Neil Young "Hitchhiker"

I just came into the latest Neil Young archive release “Hitchhiker”.  Young recorded this “lost album” in a single night in 1976 at a session in Malibu.  It’s just him and an acoustic doing early versions of songs that appeared later like “Powderfinger”, “Captain Kennedy”, “Pocahontas” and “Ride My Llama”.  There are also two unreleased songs making it even more of a necessity.  The quality of the recording is impressive.  You can feel the spontaneity and 1970s buzz to the record from the pot giggles before tracks to the sparse and soulful playing.  I can’t stop listening to it.  It’s very pure.

I think the first time I saw Neil Young was when I was 22.  He was playing an outdoor shed show near my house.  I went with my then girlfriend and a crew of my boys.  I started to feel sort of weird before we left the house.  This hard to define feeling would come to me a few more times in my life, like a massive storm cloud brewing in the distance.  One of those storm clouds that has green edges to it that indicate it’s going to be very bad but is so unnatural and unique that you can’t stop looking at it.  What’s always interesting about those storms is how beautiful they are from a distance and how warm, lazy, and breezy the weather is right before they hit.  You can feel something is going to happen, and it’s probably not going to be good.  This was the case for me as well on that night.

I remember being in the back seat drinking cans of beer.  It was early September where the late afternoons were very warm but when the sun went down a chill would creep in.  I felt OK, but this odd foreboding started to creep in.  We listened to “Decade” on the drive.  Every stoner I knew listened to a lot of Neil Young.  I was OK with Neil, going to the show more as a check mark on my “rock legends I have seen” list.  My buddy Brian was driving.  He was really into Neil Young.  The volume was loud.  The beer was cold.  I started to feel a little warm and woozy, assuming the beer was taking over.

We sat on the lawn on a couple of cheap blankets.  People sat around us smoking tons of pot.  My head started to feel like a balloon.  I realized I had a fever rolling in like a massive wave.  It was all about timing now.  I was going to be very sick, but the question at this point was when (not if) it was going to crush me.  The Neil Young and Crazy Horse set started.  I recall “Hey, Hey, My My” being the opener.  People went crazy.  He sounded really good.  I settled in.  My girlfriend could tell something was wrong.  Her eyes showed me I must have looked shaky.  Then like a monster wave the fever broke on top of me.  I was curled up on the blanket.  I remember a “Powderfingers” that lasted a long time and a “Like a Hurricane” that went on for maybe a week.  I was hallucinating at this point, sweat pouring from my head, and shaking from chills.  I had to lean on Brian to get up the hill to get to the car when the show ended.

I was in my bed for the next 36 hours.  I was sweating through bed linens, twisting back and forth as my muscles convulsed.  In my head, the Neil Young show played over and over.  Those songs are stamped in my head.  He played all the big ones.  “Sugar Mountain”, “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down By the River” and “Tonight’s the Night”.  In my head, his current single “This Note’s For You” kept coming in and out.  I had a temperature of 105 at one point.  I remember hearing some of my friends real far away talking about if they should take me to a hospital.  However, I was certain I was a casualty in the Union Army in the Civil War and would not survive the wagon ride.  Meanwhile “Down By The River” screamed in my head.  They all sort of freaked out when I explained that I had already died and would be back, so don’t load me onto the wagon.  “YOU ARE LIKE A HURRICANE!!!” Neil sang in my head.  Then the show started over in the beginning.  That’s what happened for a day and a half.

I had a different relationship with Neil Young’s music after that.  It was sort of like surviving a massive unwanted acid trip.  Someone had taken a cheese grater to my brain.  I now had a certain fear and respect for the power of Young and Crazy Horse.  I was wrung out.  Later I saw an interview where Neil talked about the band saying “You have to be careful not to spook the Horse.”.  I know what he meant.  That damn band was powerful.  I paid attention to Young and Crazy Horse after that.  You should too.  Check out “Hitchhiker”.               

Monday, October 16, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Proud Mary

When I was a little boy, my father would take me to a place near our house where we would buy penny candy and climb onto large rocks on what seemed like a vast and rushing river.  Once we found a rock to our liking, we would sit on the rock and eat our little brown bags of candy while the water roared past us.  The whole thing sounds like something from another century, but that’s how I remember it.  I remember the store where we would buy the candy with its worn wooden floorboards.  The counter had glass jars filled with candy where an amused woman would pluck out the candy I selected to put in the tiny brown to-go bag.  Even then I picked up on how the whole presentation was a folksy ruse, but I still liked it.  I would have a 25 cent budget and have to carefully select the candy to make the money go the furthest possible.  I recall having my first Mary Jane candies there, and I think also Bit O’Honey.  I always avoided those hard Brach’s candies that one only encountered as fused together husks in senior citizens hallway candy dishes.  

After the stressful decision making of the candy purchase we would walk across the street to access the stream.  It seemed like a mighty river, but I think I was about five years old, so my perspective was skewed.  I don’t think my father would have allowed a five year old distracted by a small sack of candy to hop around on slick rocks if there was a chance I could have slipped in and gone over an enormous waterfall.  Then again, things were very different in the 70s and safety was not a consideration.  My parents would be brought up on charges now for the things we used to do as kids.  Skateboarding down hills, riding in the back of pick up trucks with three other kids down the highway at 60 mph, making flimsy go karts, routinely playing with matches/fire/fireworks.  Hell, we would leave the house at 9am and not come home until dinner.  No one knew where we were, what we were doing, or cared as long as nothing too terrible went wrong.  There was one simple rule.  Be home at 6 for dinner.  That was a commandment that could not be broken.  You could have blown off a kid's hand with an M-80, but be home in time for dinner.

I remember having to jump between the rocks like you see in movies where in a chase scene a man jumps from building to building.  When your legs are less than two feet long long, it’s not easy to make that jump.  One time I fell when I landed on a rock further than we had ever jumped to before.  I lost control of my bag and it slipped into the water.  My candy was swept away.  I started to cry silently.  I was ashamed I fell.  I was ashamed I lost my candy.  Most of all I was ashamed I was crying like a baby in front of my father.  He asked if I was OK and pretended I wasn’t crying.  That was either because he knew I didn’t want any attention drawn to it or that as an East Coast Irish Catholic he was unable to deal with any emotional outburst.  Either way, I was OK with it.  He shared his candy with me, even though he had some Good N Plenty which I hated.  Good N Fruity would have been better.  We sat and looked at the water for a time.

We finished the candy and it was time to go back to the car.  I could see the ugly Grand Torino station wagon parked so far away on the river bank.  I was afraid I was going to miss the first jump and fall in.  “You can make it.”  My father jumped onto the rock to show me how easy it was by example.  Of course, he wasn’t five years old and spooked.  I sized it up like Evel Knevel.  I did the lean back and forth 1, 2, 3…  I landed on the rock and fell into my father, who was trying to catch me.  He lost his balance for a second and we both almost toppled in.  When he caught his balance I could see the momentary worry in his eyes.  There would have been a great deal of explaining to do to my mother when I arrived home soaked, or worse yet as a waterlogged little corpse.  “That was close.”  It was a little bonding moment where we both knew we dodged a bullet.  

When I got back to the car I climbed into the front seat.  (No seatbelt/no car seat)  My shoes dangled above the floor off the seat.  It was stuffy and hot in the car.  It was always stuffy in that car.  I turned the crank to lower the window.  My father started the car and we began to drive home.  On the radio a song came on that I had never heard that made me perk up my head.  “Big wheel keep on turning/Proud Mary keep on burning/Rolling/Rolling/Rolling on the River”  I liked how the song connected to how we had just jumped on the rocks in the river, like a shared experience.  It made me feel like I was part of some kind of adventurous American tradition, though I wasn't really sure what the song was about.  The chorus stuck with me.  Whenever I would see a stream/river like that, CCR’s “Proud Mary” would always pop into my head and make me think of penny candy.   

It still does.     

Friday, October 13, 2017

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week 6

I was quite pleased last weekend that my faith in the Browns futility and J-E-T-S, Jets!  Jets!  Jets!  ability to crush the best laid plans was able to find a middle ground.  It’s not often possible to win money with anything associated with the Jets, so now it is best to run for cover from the stench of that terrible organization.  Any further association is like having your smiling photograph standing next to Harvey Weinstein surface online.  It can only go poorly and cause guilt by association.  One quick note on Weinstein.  That guy really spent a lot of time in a robe in the middle of the afternoon.  If I ever walk into a room and he’s there in a robe, I know that a massage request is coming from him soon.  The only thing worse would be if he was in a Jets robe.  Ye Gods.  A freshly showered Harvey Weinstein in a Jets robe is an image that I can never scrape from my imagination.  Thanks you creep.

With the plan being to run away from the Jets, there is no better time than when the Jets face the Patriots after the Pats have had 10 days of time to prep.  I would take the Pats after a long week against almost anyone.  The fact that I can do that against the Jets is like discovering your dog shits candy.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving.  Though, I will admit I would have some hesitation on eating candy if it came from my dog’s rectum, even if that candy looked absolutely delicious.  Maybe the entire analogy was a little shaky.  I don’t know.  But I do know I am betting against the Jets.  Patriots -9.5     

I think the Rams might be good.  They should have beaten the Seahawks last week even after making five turnovers.  They beat the Cowboys.  Goff looks legit at QB.  The defense pressures the QB.  This is a key as Blake Bortles is very Blake Bortles on his own.  Blake Bortles with a lot of pressure starts to look a lot like Brandon Weedon.  It is always wise to gather a great sum of money and bet against anyone that even vaguely resembles Brandon Weedon.  I am getting very footloose and fancy free with my gambling as I am becoming more convinced every day that we are in End Times.  What I really should do is gather up weapons, canned goods and dig a bunker.  Instead I am diving into potentially destructive behavior and wild risk taking usually associated with terminal disease patients, clinical depressives, and soldiers on leave.  I am reminded by a line one of the soldiers in Stephen Ambrose’s excellent World War II book “Band of Brothers” told another soldier who was fearful.  “What you have failed to understand is that you are already dead.”.  What the hell.  With that in mind Rams +3.5 over Jacksonville.

I have been enjoying the foolhardy propositions of the three team teaser in that in seems inconceivable to lose.  I have personally seen dozens of people lose these bets.  It’s impossible to win them with any frequency.  I remember seeing a guy crying in the Flamingo’s men’s room after a fluke Dolphins field goal bounced off an upright and he blew God knows how much dough on a three team tease.  He was leaning against the wall in full sobs.  My buddy, filled with empathy that only a 24 year old can muster, screamed over to me.  “Check it out!  This dude is crying!  CRYING!”.  It’s a cold world Pal.

Check this out and dare to dispute it.  It’s impossible to argue against it.  Atlanta -2.5 (over Miami)/Patriots +.5 (over Jets)/Denver  -1.5 (at home over Giants).  These are three teams you would take in a survivor pool and not sweat a second of the game.  Why not tie it all in together and wager the mortgage?  Do something to really get your attention.  Now we are really talking SUNDAY FUNDAY!  Atl-2.5/NE +.5/Denver -1.5

Season Record:  5-5

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Procedure

He woke up in a pure white room which was remarkable for its utter lack of scent.  The windowless space was illuminated by aggressive fluorescent light.  He was in a hospital bed looking up as a nurse backed away from him holding a syringe. Two men sat across the room in straight back chairs staring at him.  He was groggy.  He was sore at the base of his skull above his neck.  He couldn't remember how he had gotten here.

"Good afternoon sir!  No need to be alarmed.  You are safe in the State Hospital.  I am your lead case worker Seth Marks and this is Mr. Collins."  The taller thinner man had risen to address him while motioning to the squat man in glasses to his left.  The squat balding man took out a tablet and became focused on the screen, ignoring the proceedings.  "You have had a procedure.  As you know, The State monitors all internet and mobile phone text traffic for safety purposes. We saw a number of risk factors in your recent conversations that placed you in our actionable citizen pool."

Seth Marks walked over to the bedside as the nurse walked out of the room.  The door made a secure click behind her reinforcing his helplessness.  Seth lowered his voice to a well-practiced tone that was meant to convey compassion and empathy but instead suggested extensive training.  "I understand this must be somewhat surprising for you.  I know I would be surprised to find myself in your position.  Most people, in our experience, are shocked at first but then grateful that The State was able to helpfully intervene in a possibly dangerous situation."  As he struggled to understand the situation, he noticed a throbbing ache in his neck.

"Your employer first brought to our attention your lack of interest at the job.  We did our due diligence and found a pattern of your entertainment consumption with themes of disconnection and became alarmed.  It was Mr. Collins that noticed your approval and interest in Hemingway, Van Gogh, Chris Cornell, and the early work of Ian Curtis that led us to believe you were a suicide risk.  That is why we had to move swiftly and insert the Monitor Chip in your brain.  As you know, The State has an initiative where we are committed to lowering the suicide rate to well below pre-war levels."

He swiftly reached behind his neck to rip away the gauze and felt a small line of sutures indicating where the incision and insertion had been made.  Marks smiled slightly while looking down on him as he removed a small black case from his breast pocket.  He unzipped the case revealing a small black clip on microphone.    He attached the microphone to his lapel as he continued speaking.  "That will heal very quickly.  79% of our clients never incur any scarring."  It was then he noticed Marks's voice was not only in the room but somehow in his head as well.

"As you know, The State is committed to complete care which is why we have been assigned to you as your Health Advocates.  We will be able to offer you 24-hour complete therapy with this program."  The voice filled his brain as he simultaneously heard Marks speak.  Marks was in his head.  They had done something to him.  He began to panic and think about how to rip whatever they had placed in his skull out.  At the same instant, he saw Collins jerk his head up from the screen and motion to Marks.  "He's going 219."  Marks looked at Collins and smiled in understanding as he then returned his gaze back bedside.

"Don't consider trying to reverse procedure the Monitor Chip.  It's very dangerous and has a 93% fatality rate out of the State Health Facility System.  This has happened.  We are here for you.  Mr. Collins will be monitoring your thoughts to make sure you don't drift into any areas that could threaten your health and well-being."  Collins stared behind his thick black glasses and close shaved balding head.  Collins broke his gaze to return staring at the video tablet.  The voice returned in his head.  "We will always be with you to help monitor you and insure that you stay within the parameters of the Approved Lifestyle Pyramid.  At first you might feel this is a bit intrusive, but let me assure you that in our case history, patients get used to our presence and begin to think of us as valuable resources."  Marks stood above him and smiled a broad yet cold smile.

Collins abruptly stood up.  Marks clapped his hands together to signal the meeting was over.  "OK!  We are really looking forward to helping guide your recovery and re indoctrination period."  With that the pair flashed a key card to release the clasp on the door with a heavy click.  The door closed and panic flooded his mind.  Marks voice filled his head.  "Relax.  We are with you.  Stop thinking of unpleasant things."  He thought about escaping from the room, getting away somehow.  "There is nowhere to go.  You cannot run away from yourself.  You need to focus on pleasant things.  Pick up the index cards on the bedside table.  Look at the pictures.  That will help you."

He picked up the small stack of index card.  Each had a color photograph.  A puppy in a field.  A smiling child holding balloons.  A beach at sunset.  They all looked like inspirational posters.  Marks voice filled his head.  "Stop analyzing the pictures.  Just enjoy them."  He stared at the pictures and tried to become blank.  "Good.  Very good."  He could almost feel the two of them in his brain analyzing and discussing his thought patterns.  He flipped through the pictures and tried to forget everything.  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Madness of King Trump

I woke up on Tuesday morning with the slight disappointment I didn’t die in my sleep.  I laid on my back and scanned my brain to remember why I felt slightly hungover until I realized I wasn’t hungover.  This slightly sick feeling might just be a new “normal” for mornings.  Super.  I tried to think about the various small tasks that I had to accomplish during the day and weighed that against my desire for accomplishing these tasks.  With less desire than necessary for action, I remained motionless.  I decided to look at my email to see if anything disastrous had happened while I was sleeping and then check the headlines on my phone.  This woke me up.

It seems very odd how quickly we as a nation have gotten used to our president sending out crazy tweets.  We are the same nation that got worked up about if Obama was showing enough dignity for the office because he tossed a football with his sleeves rolled up.  The nation was paralyzed for two years when Bill Clinton got blown by an intern.  He even got impeached for that.  Yet, in one 24 hour time span our president wanted to have an IQ challenge with his Secretary of State, insulted an ESPN anchor, called a leading Republican Senator “Liddle” making fun of his height when that official noted concern for the lack of competency from the office, and picked a fight with NFL owners over taxes.  It didn’t even make a ripple.  Each one of these things would have been considered insane a year ago.  Not any longer.  It is another “new normal”.

One of the things I know about is the NFL.  I have worked on the peripheral of the league for two stints which has led to “behind the rope” access.  One of the things I know about the league is that the billionaire owners of the teams do not like to be challenged.  What they like even less is someone trying to get in their pocket.  Despite Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida, California wildfires, health care reform, North Korea, Iran, immigration, terrorism, and taxes all being front and center, our President has decided to focus on NFL players kneeling in protest during the anthem and an ESPN anchor that sided with the players.  He wants to bully NFL owners into making black players stand for the anthem.  That is who our nation elected to run the country and set our agenda.
Having had this limited experience with the NFL, I can tell you this.  The players are not the kind of men that back down from challenges.  They are violent borderline psychos that don’t back down from bullies.  The owners, unbelievably wealthy power brokers that kept Trump from getting into the league years ago, are not going to be goaded into a bad PR fight with the president.  So now, with no real upside, Trump has decided to fight with everyone and anyone associated with the league over a stupid symbolic gesture designed to focus on equal treatment from law enforcement, something in theory our highest office should agree with in principle.
Trump is now creating a much larger scenario with the players and owners than is necessary.  It will lead to further protests and bad feelings not just from players but across the population.  The owners, who are furious anyone is messing with their money, will be very actively working against Trump behind closed doors with their considerable influence.  If I was Trump, what I would have done is said “Respect for our flag is very important, but so is the right to free speech.  Let’s get both sides together on this issue and find common ground.”  This enables the players to save face and point to potential results, allows everyone an out to speak for how much they love the good old USA, and all pose for pictures afterwards while shaking hands.  I came to this simple conclusion because I am not, to use the parlance of the day, “a moron”.

This leads me to think about things I don’t know that much about like Iran and North Korea.  My thought is that if Trump doesn’t know how to deal with something like a simple NFL protest and makes it worse, how can he be expected not to lead us into World War 3 around the globe?  It is unreasonable to expect him to be able to handle ANY of these situations he faces because he is “a moron”.  This conclusion is coming from Rex Tillerson, a man that deals with him daily.  It comes from a leading Republican Senator, who is theoretically rooting for Trump to succeed.  Most of all, it comes from common sense.  Look, I don’t want to live through End Times.  I know we all have sort of got used to this craziness, and maybe sort of convinced ourselves it won’t touch us.  It’s easier to ignore it.  I get it.  But I’m screaming from the rooftops here.  

 Can someone in power do something?  Anything?