Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Dentist





As I wait here at the drug store for my pain meds, I can't help but marvel at the absurdity of willingly driving across town to have a relative stranger drill into my jaw with a drill.  I have put myself into this situation.  I initiated the situation I find myself in right now.  I could have avoided it.  Yet, I hopped in my car and drove over to a nondescript office building to be manhandled by a stranger.  I will pay this stranger thousands of dollars to perform a procedure that I don't understand or frankly have any real idea if he actually completed.  I don’t know what happened down there.  All I know is that I sat in a chair with a woman putting suction devices in my mouth while this man drilled into me with nightmarish instruments while I squinted into the blinding light hoping it would end soon.  

I had a good run with dentists for most of my adult life until the last five years or so when I began with cracking a molar, which then became crowns of various substances, until finally I cracked the root of the tooth itself.  This has, of course, led to a continuing string of related issues all of which lead me back into the dentist chair.  I have a superhuman resistance to Novocain which always plays out the same way.  Step one is I get the first series of Novocain shots.  50% of the time a nerve is struck in my lower jaw and the pale blue electric shock jolts me in what is referred to in the industry as "momentary discomfort".  My less schooled friends would refer to this sensation as "hurting like a motherfucker", but every peer group has their own particular language.  The doctor then says "you should be numb now, so let's get started".  I then say "I'm still pretty tingly."  He thinks I don’t know what I am talking about and begins drilling into me with some horribly effective device at which point I say something to alert him like "Holy mother of fuck!".  As I have a host of tubes and clamps in my mouth this comes out as “Mooway muffa a fuh!”.  There is then confusion as he attempts to understand why I am writhing around like an angry otter on a slip n slide.

When I was in college I went to a dentist that I chose based on cost.  This is a mistake.  One should never scrimp on shoes, cheese, and as I learned, medical care.  I went in to get a cavity filled, but that situation soon denigrated into a dozen Novocain shots and the dentist accusing me of being a cocaine addict.  “I have never seen someone so unaffected by Novocain.  You must do a lot of cocaine!  Why don’t you just admit it!”.  I had never even seen cocaine unless you count all the coke everyone in the 70s rock documentary “The Last Waltz” was doing apparently 13 seconds before every scene was shot.  For whatever reason, Novocain just works very slowly on me.  At this particular appointment I had to choose between having a shot directly into my cavity (which seemed like a horrible idea) or bracing me for the“discomfort” for what he promised was ten seconds.  I chose the latter.

Let me tell you with great authority that ten seconds of having an exposed nerve drilled are a longer ten seconds than that spent sky diving or being fellated by a Kardashian sister.  Time is funny that way.  Those ten seconds of being drilled was at least 17 minutes, though I did not own a watch at that time and cannot confirm it.  It lasted forever.  When it was over, the cold sweat and involuntary tears on the corners of my eyes made me feel like a real sissy boy.  Being yelled at unjustly for being a coke addict while in the prone position didn’t help either.  I slunk out of the office with an entirely numb face and crushed spirit.  It forever changed how I felt about going to the dentist.

Today’s experience went as usual with the drilling starting prior to my being numb.  I also enjoyed the initial Novocain shot striking a nerve and popping that electric pain charge across my lower teeth like I put my tongue into a socket.  Eventually the 17 shots did take effect and my face felt like wax.  I am convinced I have drool running down my immobile lip.  I will probably chew the edge of my tongue off by accident waiting for this to wear off.  Then again I am filled with fear that the Novocain will wear off and I am left with a pain that turns me into a snarling animal.  I have been given some sort of discount pain killer prescription, but I know those will either be ineffective or too effective.  It will be like I took nothing or I will pass out and wet myself in my car.  This whole thing has gone poorly.    

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Amusement Park


 
I have found myself on a collision course with a supposedly fun thing that I have no interest in doing and probably no escape.  It appears that next week I am locked into going to an amusement park.  This would be absolutely awesome if I were 15.  It is supposed to be “fun”, and to most outsiders it would appear on the surface to be a zippity-do-dah type day.  I understand that I probably just come off as cranky, which I am by the way.  It should be noted that the actual facility and the “attractions” I am rather ambivalent about.  Most of my distaste bubbles up from my general avoidance of the general public who generally conduct themselves like barnyard animals.  There is nothing that brings out Wal Mart America quite like an amusement park, unless of course a stock car race or rib burnoff breaks out.

Every time I visualize myself in this “amusement park downward spiral of doom” scenario, I think of my last trip to Cedar Point, which I believe was in 1988.  I can recall with vivid clarity spending 50 minutes next to a hillbilly family as we slowly serpentined through the Bataan Death March of a line.  The dominant male was dressed in a mesh football jersey and smoked two packs of cigarettes upwind of me.  It was odd how the wind shifted in my direction no matter where we stood in the roughly 2-mile line.  The overweight matriarch was whining about being overheated as she fanned herself with a cheap stuffed animal, sweat pouring off her ill-advised pink tube top.  The capper was the hyperactive nine year old that hopped around the railings like an agitated spider monkey.  He had an extremely odd snaggle tooth that jutted straight out of his upper jaw like a minor tusk.  The tooth was also totally encapsulated by a cheap silver tube that almost looked like a spent .22 casing.  It was almost more than I could handle to resist the urge to flick my index finger off the protruding dental experiment and feel a rush of joy wash over me as the boy yelped in pain. 

I stood in line next to these people for almost an hour before getting on the “Dick Scrambler” of whatever the hell the ride was called.  The ride I don’t remember.  The never ending wait trapped next to these irritating people is something burned into my memory now more than 25 years later.  Look, I am at a point in life where I know what I like to do.  I am not going to show up at this amusement park and have a “voila!” moment where I suddenly blurt out “Holy mother of fuck!  What have I been doing these last two decades?  I realize now that I love food on a stick, waiting in lines, and having my photo taken in moldy old timey clothing at Frontier town!”.  I hate it.  All of it.  Sure, if I was heading there after prom with a slight light beer hangover with the allure of copping a feel “outside” on the Ferris wheel?  Well, now you are talking!  But you better be talking about a 15 year old boy, not a middle aged man.  That middle-aged man would need to be locked up and have a special file created by a government agency.

Life is funny how it creates these scenarios.  I know exactly what I want to do, who I want to do it with, and I appear to be further from that than ever.  Instead I am just days away from barfing up a chili dog after a quick ride on The Spine Corrector.  How on earth did I allow this to happen?  How do I get back on track?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Nurse the Hate: The Beer Mug's Last Waltz




A lot of my friends spent their twenties and thirties on a well tested path.  In your mid twenties marry the girl you happened to be with at the end of college, like a matrimonial game of musical chairs.  When Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” stops playing at your friend’s reception, you pop the question.  Cue Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”.  Then came the “trial baby” of a dog.  That dog was soon dismayed to find it received no more attention as soon as the actual baby arrived 18 months later.  Then came the time consuming path of weekend soccer, “travel” soccer, the stark realization their kid sorta sucked at soccer, and polite clapping at other people’s kids at JV soccer games.  Meanwhile I chose a different path.  I spent my twenties and thirties at the Grog Shop.  Brownies.  The Star Bar.  Empty Glass.  The Decade.  The Mohawk Place.  Sudsy Malone’s.  Lounge Ax.  The Pits.  Wild At Heart.  And The Beer Mug…

The Beer Mug does not look like much of a rock club.  It appears like a weather beaten modest house because frankly, that’s what it is/was.  If it looks like someone owned a house and said “we should open up a bar!”, that’s because that’s what happened.  They were the first people that let our ragtag little country punk band The Cowslingers play in Erie.  For the first few years we had to set up on the floor by the old fireplace.  Then a small stage was built.  Heck, they even put a small set of lights in.  In the tradition of all really good rock clubs, it isn’t what the club was made of physically, it was the attitude of the place that made it special.

Erie Pennsylvania is not a good rock city.  It is very conservative.  People are very cautious to try anything new, and even then they don’t like it.  Change makes them uncomfortable.  At any moment in Erie you can witness someone wearing a completely out of style article of clothing or haircut without a whiff of irony.  The last few Members Only jackets I have seen not worn by someone with a waxed mustache and skinny jeans have all been in Erie PA.  There is a comfortable isolation from the greater national trends in Erie that make places like Dayton and Rochester seem absolutely progressive.  To find good original new music in Erie, one needs to be vigilant.

I say this as a man that grew up in Erie PA.  My family moved to Erie in the mid 1970s from Philadelphia.  I looked like a kid from the East Coast in the mid 70s.  I thought I looked like Steven Tyler, but I actually looked like Buster Brown.  Meanwhile everyone in Erie looked like an extra from “Mayberry RFD”.  I had “long hair”, which made quite an impact.  It was really cool to answer the question “are you a boy or a girl” 17 times when school started from the hopelessly out of touch population of Chestnut Elementary.  Still, I grew to really like it there.  It was a great place to grow up where you could only get into so much trouble.  People are genuinely nice in a small town way.

When we got the Cowslingers going, we knew right away we wanted to hit the road.  One of the critical mistakes young bands make is to stay close to home.  When you are twenty two all of your friends will come to your gigs and tell you how great you are.  They are just excited to know someone in the band.  It seems cool.  Meanwhile the local band feels like they are really kick ass because they get unconditional love from their friends.  This is not reality.  Stepping onto a stage in front of strangers that reflexively hate you for being a hurdle to see what they came to really see?  That’s reality.  That is where you have to prove your mettle.  That’s when you become a band.

I figured a gig in Erie would be a home run.  I still knew enough people in the area that we could seed our early shows with friendly faces and then build from there.  That’s when I ran into the problems of booking yourself into a small town with no real original music.  Every venue at the time hosted two types of bands, and two types of bands only.  Hippie bands ruled the day as Erie doesn’t have a lot to do, so people like to get really fucked up, and jam band music is a good soundtrack to do that.  There was also (and maybe still is) a freakishly supportive metal scene grounded in 80s classic metal covers.  I’ll bet this weekend there’s a band that is playing at least three Judas Priest covers at some bar in Erie.  I’ll bet it’s tough to roll a motorcycle into the front door of most of those bars when they kick into “Hell Bent For Leather”. 

The Beer Mug was the only place that said we could come play.  When they booked us they weren’t exactly sure of what we did, but I think they liked our enthusiasm.  We really cut our teeth in that place, sometimes playing three sets.  That’s not easy when your songs are all about two and a half minutes.  I always appreciated how Paul (the owner) just let us do our thing.  They had a jukebox of strictly classic rock, and here’s four guys in dumb cowboy outfits blazing through stupid songs they wrote on their couch back in Ohio.  Slowly but surely, we got better and people started to notice.  The crowds grew.  We started to travel more and more, and our appearances at the Beer Mug became less frequent, but I knew all I had to do was place a call.  “Hey Greg… Howya doin’?  The 17 th?  No problem… We’ll see ya then…”.  He always played it like we had just talked yesterday when it might have been three months.  There was a rumor that when their beer coolers would break, the shout of “Call the Cowslingers for a gig!” would arise as a solution.  I don’t know firsthand if this is true, but I love the story.

Other Erie club owners noticed our growing popularity.  These were many of the same people that blew us off or told us our material “would never work in Erie”.  I never considered playing their places.  I always appreciated that Paul and the Beer Mug were loyal to us, and we always tried to be loyal to him.  We had some really wild gigs in there.  Bodies flying around, glass breaking, and diving off tables.  Knowing that this Saturday night will be the last time the Beer Mug would host a show, I knew we needed to get the Cowslingers together.  We owed it to Paul, and we owed it to that rabid group of Erie fans that went their own way in a town that tries really hard to keep them on a straight and narrow path.  The fact that the bar is going to be bulldozed and not turned into a lame sports bar is fitting.   Thanks to everyone that ever went to see us play at the Beer Mug with The Cowslingers and then later with the Whiskey Daredevils.  You made it all worthwhile. 

 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nurse the Hate: The Greatest Gift




I stood near the band merchandise area and caught my breath.  Southern Culture on the Skids was about halfway through their set, and sounded great as usual.  I felt a tap on my shoulder.  “Hey Greg… I thought you should know… Leo is getting busted out there with a couple other guys for smoking weed.”  Many people in that situation would panic, concerned that things would spiral wildly out of control.  The scenario of standing in a police station at 2:15 am while attempting to put together enough money to bail him out would send many people into a panic.  Not me.  Leo has a long and well documented history of emerging from such scenarios unscathed.  It would all work out.  Somehow.  I turned to the tipster.  “That sounds like something I don’t really need to get involved in…”  I went back to watching the band.

About 15 minutes later I saw Leo walk back into the club without a care in the world.  He stopped in to see what I was doing and yelled over the band.  “Dude!  It was reeaally fucked up.  I almost got busted!”  Then something else caught his attention and he careened off into the crowd.  I will admit to feeling some relief that I wouldn’t have to problem solve getting him out of legal trouble, but at that point I was more interested in the story about how he got out of it than the actual fact that he got out of it.  He has a quality of harmlessness to him that seems to protect him in these types of jams.  The devil would be in the details.

It wasn’t until the show had ended and the venue had pushed out the last of the revelers that I got the full story.  “OK… So I was outside with these guys I just met and we went into this alley to smoke.  Then this guy starts walking down the alley and says “Hey, what are you guys doing?” and I’m like “We’re getting high.  Do you want to join us?” and he says “I don’t think so.  I’m an undercover police officer.”  The next thing I know these cops are saying things like “Sir!  Stand down sir!”.

Wait… You were arguing with them?

“I don’t know.  I was kind of upset.  Then I just explained it to them, and it was cool.”

What do you mean?  What do you mean you explained it to them?

“I said “Now I know that you do not smoke because you are not allowed to…but…if you did, you would know that to get someone high is the greatest gift you could ever give someone.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Let’s analyze this just for a moment.  I know that in the unlikely case of having been in that situation, I would have gone to the “Yes sirs” and “Sorrys”.  To be busted dead to rights usually means having the tactic of throwing oneself on the Sword of Justice and hoping for the best.  The hope is that the self-sacrifice of admitting total guilt will buy mercy from the court.  This also tends to be a plan that backfires terribly, and I have no doubt that I would right now be swinging a hammer on some sort of chain gang while singing traditional negro spirituals.  I think I would look OK in stripes, though I have some concerns about the shackles chaffing my ankles.  Still, I think I would have just admitted that I was in the wrong.  Not Leo though…

Leo amazingly went on the offensive.  He came right out of the gate and decided his move was to explain, in clearly distorted and flimsy logic, that he was actually “providing the greatest gift you could ever give someone”.  His plan was to essentially say, “Sir, I know that this activity is something you cannot be a part of, but as I thought that there was no issue for you, I think you can agree that I was actually offering you a gift beyond measure.  The fact you could not accept the gift was immaterial.  It is now my duty to educate you on the fact that ignoring the law you were sworn to protect makes more sense than to enforce it.  It’s not an issue really.  It’s that you just didn’t know before right now.”

Let’s ignore for a second the startling idea that Leo believes that “the greatest gift you could ever give someone” is to get them high.  I would suggest that a kidney, freedom, love, or a large sum of money would be a greater gift than getting buzzed up in an alley, but what do I know?  The last time I got high was when I unknowingly had a pat of pot laced butter on a muffin and crawled into the van to go to sleep about 15 years ago.  I think I was paranoid for three days.  Let's get past that idea that experience was "the greatest gift" anyone could ever give me.  What I would like to focus on is that the police somehow bought in.  Leo somehow got an undercover cop to let him go with that story, moments after being told to "stand down".  It's incredible.
I have a suspicion that after Leo told the cop about his "greatest gift you could ever give someone" theory, the cop thought to himself, "Do I really want to bring in this obviously high, tatted up leprechaun and do the hours of paperwork necessary to process him when I know damn well that he will be back in this alley 15 minutes after I let him go?  I mean, I let this guy go, and I can be home watching cable and eating a Hungry Man chicken dinner in about an hour."  Yet, there is another half of me that thinks maybe Leo just got into some kind of wild Matthew McConaughey zone and somehow turned the whole thing around.  "You know, this guy is making a lot of sense... How can we bust him when he just wanted to give me a gift?  The greatest gift you could ever give someone..."
  
   

Monday, May 4, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Quality Inn Springfield OH



I received an email from my good friends at Expedia this morning regarding the Whiskey Daredevils stay Saturday night at the Quality Inn at Springfield OH.  "Review your recent stay at Quality Inn & Conference Center"  I decided to provide a complete review which I will share with all of you now in the slight chance that Expedia won't post it on their site....
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I booked a room at this hotel as all other options in the Dayton area were sold out.  The fact that all hotels in Dayton were sold out was staggering to me as the only reason I am aware of for a large number of people from out of town to stay in Dayton is to get blinding drunk and attend NCAA Basketball Tournament games.  I looked at my watch and noticed it wasn’t March.  That was out.  Then I considered our recent history where we encountered a similar situation in Ft. Wayne and Erie PA, both secondary cities that have no real reason to visit for more than 12 hours at a time.  The phenomenon of “travel soccer” and “travel baseball” may well have been afoot, where normally reasonable suburban families throw all sensibility to the wind to pursue the parent’s faded dreams of a pro sports career.  In today’s new version of the American Dream, caravans of SUVs take 12 year olds hundreds of miles away from home so they can play (poorly) against other 12 year olds that have also traveled hundreds of miles.  It’s sort of like a modern version of the Joad Family but with kids running wild at breakfast buffets at places like Courtyard By Marriot and Hilton Garden Inn.  Why these parents don’t send these same dorky kids to “Investment Banker Camp” or “Foreign Language Camp” to get a real edge in life is beyond me.  My sneaking suspicion is that there is some sort of wild suburban swing scene going on with these parents after they send the kids to bed.  Oh, I’m sorry… I got off topic from this hotel review…

So we found ourselves rolling into the Springfield Quality Inn at around 2:30 am.  We had a reservation via Expedia, which is generally no problem.  Today?  It was a problem.  The woman behind the counter was a nice enough woman that was severely overweight in an unusual way.  She had these rolls of fat between her rib cage and waist that extended out past her breasts and hips.  It was almost like she was the Michelin Tire Man, but in a sad polyster Quality Hotel uniform.  Apparently this front desk clerk had “done the audit” and couldn’t figure out how to check us in.  Normally I would be freaking out, but I had taken a can of Bud from the club and figured if I was going to have a beer, the front desk was as good a place as any.  Meanwhile Leo and Sugar were entertaining themselves on the couch, so I waited it out.

After 25 minutes of watching the strangely obese woman struggle with the computer and vainly try to call someone at corporate, I said, “Whattya say you check us in and then figure out how to write it up later?”.  That’s when she told me that she could check me in right now at a lower rate if I wanted to do that.  As opposed to saying “Why the fuck didn’t you suggest that 20 minutes ago you stupid dipshit?” like I wanted to, I said “That seems sensible.  Let’s do that.”.  I took her another ten minutes to get us checked in, but we eventually got the key and away we went to Room 102.

This is when we all took in the true splendor of the Springfield Quality Inn.  Be advised, this is like stepping into a time machine and setting it for “1988”.  This must have had a previous life as a “Holidome” as all the rooms faced inward towards a center recreation area featuring an odd geometric pool (a rhombus maybe?) and series of arcade games that haven’t crossed my mind in years.  Who’s up for a game of Golden Tee?  Ms. Pac Man anyone?  Pole Position?  Just step right past the sad outdated workout room.  This is the kind of place where dodgy families swing open the sliding door of their rooms, take a seat on the lawn furniture facing the center recreation area, and knock back bottom shelf margaritas while their kids run around like feral dogs and shit in the pool.  If you close your eyes and use your imagination, you can almost see the bearded father in a truckstop WWE t-shirt yell at his woman to get more cigarettes as she waddles over to “Crazy Joe’s Jamaican Bar” to get refills for their plastic cups.  It's like a Wal Mart with a pool and a bar.

We discussed the possibility that “Crazy Joe’s Jamaican Bar” might not be the most authentic Jamaican experience, but then Leo pointed out that perhaps if “Crazy Joe” was the kind of guy that poured hot coffee on you “because I’m crazy” and then quickly poured a full pot on himself afterwards because once again, “I’m crazy!”, then that might go a long way.  I think patrons would ignore an obviously plastic parrot and Bob Marley posters if the guy behind the bar was completely unpredictable and potentially violent.  It could carry the place almost singlehandedly.  Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there, so this is all speculation.  Maybe check on Yelp and see if our suspicions are correct.

Nothing is clearly marked, so it took us forever to find the room.  When we got to the room we discovered that they key didn’t work.  The light flickered red on the plastic key pass.  Son of a bitch.  We all trudged back to the desk.  I checked my watch.  It was 3:10 am.  We had been there 40 minutes and were no closer to a bed than we had been while in the van pulling in.  “Hey, the key you gave us didn’t work.  Are you trying to crush my will?”  The woman stared blankly for a moment and then instructed me “to pull the handle.  I stayed in that room before.”.  I let her know the issue wasn’t a question of technique on my part, but rather a malfunctioning key.  She then insisted it was my technique and wanted us to walk all the way back so she could show us.  We followed the oddly shaped woman across the indoor fun zone towards the room as I wondered why she had stayed in room 102.  She inserted the key, and sure as shit it didn't work in exactly the manner in which I had told her.  "Oh... mumble mumble housekeeping... mumble"  She blamed housekeeping and scurried back towards the lobby.  We walked all the way back to the front desk.

At this point I began to feel that we might never get a room.  The front desk clerk struggled her way through the process, until finally grabbing a key and instructing us to follow her to the new room.  We arrived as I inserted the key to the flickering green light.  Success.  I walked in the room with Sugar and Leo behind me, tossed my bag on the floor, and sat on the bed to discover the clerk had followed us into the room.  "Um... OK, looks like we're in."  Meanwhile the woman just sort of stood there in the middle of the room staring at us.  I don't know if she wanted to invite us to engage in some odd sexual activity where Leo and I would insert our penises into the folds along her sides while Sugar either recorded it on a smart phone or retreated to the front desk to stand in for her while we completed our disturbing romp.  It eventually got uncomfortable enough where a light must have gone off in her head that she should leave.  

After 45 minutes of check in at the nearly empty hotel, Leo and Sugar felt like they should take a dip in the Rhombus Pool.  I'm sure the other guests didn't appreciate the noise they must have made as the rooms all surround the sad little pool, however if they had glanced out of their sliding door windows they would have seen the true artistry of a "Rhythm To Swim" practice, our up and coming synchronized swimming act.  I would imagine most guests irritation quickly turned to joy when they identified such minor celebrities in their midst.  I used this opportunity to quickly down five plastic cups of water from the rust stained sink in the bathroom and hope to fall asleep prior to "Rhythm To Swim's" return.  I did not.

We woke that morning to discover the room had no climate control kick in whatsoever, so it was a swampy cesspool of filth.  I left as soon as possible, avoiding breakfast at the restaurant as I obviously feared running into Crazy Joe and having my crotch scalded with hot coffee.  When I arrived outside to the parking lot I found a lone man with a long gray beard walking around while loudly telling "knock-knock" jokes into a cellphone.  Leo and Sugar got lost trying to find their way out to the lobby, so I looked around the area to find a place to eat.  As far as I could tell, the entire area is now C-list fast food like Hardee's and Mr. Chicken and failed businesses of the past like Internet Cafes and Laser Tag locations.  We quickly drove away.

I would highly recommend this hotel to any traveler.





Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Riots





I can’t help but feeling that the country is veering into a minor version of the civil unrest of the 1960s.  I am really enjoying being surrounded by contemporaries that say things like “those protesters should go out and get jobs” without a touch of irony.  It makes me feel like I should vote for Nixon and call someone a “dirty hippie”.  Maybe I can blame Jane Fonda for something and scream "America!  Love it or leave it".  Or maybe I can go the other way with it and sew an American flag into a pair of bell bottom jeans and cruise protests for activist chicks.  From footage I’ve seen from the late 60s, that appears to be what every guy that went to a protest was trying to really accomplish.  “Hey man!  This isn’t my war!  Umm… Hey Lisa, you want a ride in my van?  We can smoke some grass and listen to Buffalo Springfield”.  What a magical time.

This Baltimore thing is wildly out of control.  Everyone is weighing in on social media.  Uncut footage is posted without context to serve both sides.  Young men in the riot zones are approaching this as a great adventure, chucking rocks at cops and firefighters, suddenly discovering that anything is possible.   It has to be more fun for them than whatever else they had going.  There are no rules.  As we head into warmer weather, riot season is really shaping up nicely.  I just watched one of the great collisions of populations that never see each other coming into direct contact, MLB baseball fans outside Camden Yards and a jacked up mob of young black guys.  To inner city black guys, baseball is a rumor.  The Orioles baseball fan is, almost without exception, a suburban white male that doesn’t understand what the fuss is all about.  When they get a couple of beers into them pre-gaming before an Orioles game, they get pissed off when jacked up black guys throw garbage cans around in their general direction.  Now you’ve really got something!  It had to be better than an Orioles game.

There is such a disconnect between the general population and the lower classes that are going crazy.  The social media feedback is crazy.  It’s hard for people observing the riots from afar to get their arms around the idea that burning down your own neighborhood and looting neighborhood businesses is a good long term plan.  “The cops killed Freddie!  Let’s go steal a 12 pack of mountain dew and burn the corner store down!  That will fix everything!”.  Then again, these same people don’t understand that these folks have the realistic fear that armed goons may break their spine without retort.  

I have no idea how this climate gets repaired.  If a population is pissed off because cops are treating them with brutality, my gut tells me that throwing rocks at them isn’t going to bring understanding and gentle treatment in the future.  There is also the concept that if this population wasn’t involved in criminal activity, then the cops wouldn’t be there all the time fired up in the first place.  Wasn’t there just a community that was trying to draw a parallel to Ferguson in an incident where a young black male was shot by police when they responded to a call that this man had broken into someone else’s home?  I mean, if the cops get called in on a home invasion and you are standing somewhere you aren’t supposed to be, that can’t end well, right?  However, I think we can all agree that having your spine broken when in police custody is not acceptable.  People in Baltimore should be fired up. 

So what do you do?  These disenfranchised people need to become part of the community as a whole with good paying jobs.  They can’t get good paying jobs because they aren’t educated.  They aren’t educated because their communities don’t place value on education.  They don’t place value on education because they don’t have good jobs.  And around and around we go…  I have no idea what the solution is on this, and no one else does either.  There are always going to be rich people and poor people, and poor people are going to get shit on.  It’s always been that way, though the minor details might change.  In a few days it will all blow over.  Commissions will be formed.  These commissions will have “findings”.  Some people will lose their jobs to be replaced by people just like them.  Everyone will move ahead.  Until then, I’m just glad I don’t have a gig booked in Baltimore this weekend where I’m walking around in a cowboy shirt singing revved up country songs.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nurse the Hate: The Second Coming of the Lorna Doone



I had not sat in a hospice situation for a number of years.  It’s an experience that is counter to everything that you have been led to expect in a health care facility.  As opposed to trying to find solutions to get that person out of bed, it is about trying to provide them with “comfort”.  This usually means pumping them with as many painkillers as possible as they fall in and out of consciousness.  Meanwhile the concerned visitors look on trying to figure out what to say to each other or figure out an activity that seems to help in some small way.  It is waiting for the inevitable with nothing to do.  It is an awkward and uncomfortable situation.

As the end arrived, the hospice facility rolled in “the hospitality cart”.  I had forgotten about the hospitality cart concept from when my father had died years ago, but it all came flooding back to me.  I remember telling the hospital personnel that we had decided to let events run their course and let him die.  Then, in a perfectly coordinated movement, a curtain was pulled back and a cart rolled in with the spokesperson saying “take all the time you need”.  I found it odd then and find it odd now that when it has become starkly apparent that it is the moment that marks the end of your parent’s life that the culturally accepted response is to have a snack.  “Sorry about your father, but please enjoy this off brand soft drink and cookie snack pack!”

The thing I kept thinking about then was the small bowl of individually wrapped Lorna Doone cookies sitting on The Hospitality Cart.  How had they decided this was the Official Cookie of Comfort?  I don’t know what cookie would be my go-to cookie of choice in that situation, but it seemed to me that the Lorna Doone was an incredibly obscure cookie choice.  Who the hell eats Lorna Doones?  Chips Ahoy.  Oreo.  Nilla Wafer.  These are the market leaders.  Lorna Doone?  Isn’t that strictly for grandmothers and their bridge groups?  It’s my most vivid memory of the whole experience wondering how those cookies got there.

So here was the second Hospitality Cart I had encountered in hospice.  There they were.  Sitting in packaged four packs.  Once again, the Lorna Doone.  Offering comfort to the grieving along with 7 oz. cans of Diet Shasta cola.  What the fuck?  First of all, let’s get past the confusing appearance of an off brand like Shasta that I had assumed was as extinct as a carrier pigeon.  The fact that Shasta was available, and as an obscure half can, was very confusing.  But how had the Lorna Doone once again wedged itself into this moment of human grief? 

I now believe that there is a dedicated sales force within the snack industry that has somehow created a market niche for the Lorna Doone brand.  Tirelessly this sales force meets with food service managers of hospice and end of life health care facilities with unbelievably persuasive power point presentations focused on the warm emotional hug of crunching into a buttery Lorna Doone. 

“Allison… You have a terrific nursing home here, but I see one area of concern…  When the family gathers at the end of a resident’s life, God forbid, what are you serving them?  Chips Ahoy?  Nutter Butter?  Allison…  How can you serve such a frivolous cookie as the Chips Ahoy?  It’s like breezing into the deathbed room with a pair of skater shorts and asking if anyone wants to catch some waves… Hey, it’s me Chips Ahoy!  Who wants to party?...  Don’t get me wrong Allison… The Chips Ahoy is a good cookie.  Solid cookie.  Tastes great.  People like it.  It certainly has a place here at the facility.  Chips Ahoy… great nurse’s lounge cookie.  Perfect for office get-togethers.  But when things get serious… When it is all going down…  When things require a delicate touch… That’s when you bring out the comfort and the unmatched emotional strength of the Lorna Doone.  It lets people know that it is all going to be OK… That we are going to get through this…  Together.  Allison, I need you to do the responsible thing here and sign this two year exclusive commitment for Lorna Doone to be the official Hospitality Cart cookie of Sunset Meadows Hospice.  Let me get you that pen…”
I don't know how else to explain it.  Those Lorna Doone sales guys have really done an amazing sales job.  They have somehow created a market for a cookie that is as quaint, old fashioned, and out of style as a rotary dial phone.  Bravo to the cold blooded sharks at Nabisco and their mercenary snack distributors.  While I did not crunch into one of the Lorna Doone snack packs, I recognized it was there.  As it maybe always has been and always will be...