Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Mountain Climbing

I saw that a man my age just died climbing Everest last weekend.  As I thought my heart might burst yesterday while I was working out running around carrying a light sandbag and flipping tires, I took this as a dire warning that my expiration date of climbing Everest has passed.  This is a shame as I had always planned to join the Explorers Club in New York City and sip brandy by the tusks near the fire.  Formed in 1904 in New York, The Explorers Club is “an organization to unite explorers in the bonds of good fellowship and to promote the work of exploration by every means in its power”.  Despite hating camping much less “exploration”, I thought maybe I could slip in with a good mountain climb.  Look at that room!  I want to hang out there and have someone bring me a drink on a silver tray.  I thought I might look splendid in a tweed suit as an old man, and if I practiced at home I could probably master wearing a monocle.  I did suspect that I would have had to at least attempted to ascend Mt Everest to gain admittance to the club.  The major issues there would have been, of course, dying on the climb and a basic aversion to the cold. 

The Explorers Club really seems to be jazzed about members exploring in the cold.  They absorbed The Arctic Club of America in 1912, so my whining about how cold I was at base camp before wussing out on a previous attempted climb of Mt Everest would probably make me a more unpopular member.  This would be before I even had a chance to act up at one of their legendary “smokers”.  Though I know I would be a real hindrance on a mountain climb, I think I might be a good guy at a “smoker”.  I can definitely see myself in a crested blazer singing songs from the 1920s about exploring, the sea, and loneliness in the wilderness.  “That Miller is not much of an explorer, but I cried like a child when he sang by the piano.”

That’s the thing with time.  There is a limit to what you can accomplish.  While that guy that died of altitude sickness knew he was getting old for that climb, he figured he could push it.  I can’t help thinking he was embarrassed as he realized he was going to freeze into the side of the mountain.  “Dammit.  I should have just run a marathon…”  Still, I suppose once you stop trying to push the limits of what you can do, you have already started to die.  I will also note that had I been eaten by that shark a few months ago I would have been embarrassed when I looked down and noted I had no leg and was bleeding out.  “Dammit.  I should have swum with the dolphins…” 

I suppose the question is whether that climber wanted to have brandy and ruminate about his one previous failed attempt or just go for it on a second climb.  Clearly you can swagger around The Explorers Club confidently if you actually made it up Everest.  The only thing that would be close if you didn’t accomplish your goal is if you lose an eye on a narwhal tusk or if your foot froze off.  Personally, I think the eye patch would be better with the crested jacket, but that’s just my opinion.  No one in The Explorers Club wants to see a perfectly healthy man say things like “Oh yes, I had quite a journey in mind.  I was going to travel North and sleep in an igloo, but I didn’t get on the plane for the first part of the journey.  The quest fell apart after that.  I later went to Cancun.  I am mowing the lawn later today.”  There’s little doubt, unless I figure out something spectacular to do shortly, my application to The Explorers Club will look very thin indeed.  Why do I feel like I'm the loser and not the guy that froze on the mountain?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Nurse the Hate: St. Pauli Supporters Club, Ohio Chapter

With the very best of intentions I set a reminder to myself on my phone to turn on the St. Pauli FC match today against VfL Bochum this morning at 930am.  I was wearing my St. Pauli t-shirt the other day.  A woman asked me in German if I was from Hamburg.  At least that’s what I think she said because she re-phrased it in English after I looked at her with a “huh?” expression on my face.  I told her I wasn’t but I tried to support the St. Pauli football club.  I left out that my only experiences in Hamburg were 1) playing two shows there, one was great and the other bleak.  2) Going to the art museum by myself and drinking sekt in the café before one of those shows.  An art museum café is a good place to drink sekt if you are dressed like a cowboy and don’t want to get a hassle or odd looks.  3)  Walking down the prostitute alley in the Reeperbahn and marveling at the German organization of the women by hair color, then size, then various fetishes.  The women were surprisingly attractive but the illusion is shattered the moment they try to lure you over and hit you with guttural German.  The vibe goes from sensual daydream to World War II interrogation in a snap of the fingers.  And no, I did not pay for intercourse.

I realized that despite having a St. Pauli shirt and very dependable hoodie, I don’t actually watch any of the matches.  That’s like being one of those annoying poseurs that wears a Ramones shirt they bought at Hot Topic and only know the song “Rock and Roll High School”.  After a quick internet search I discovered that St Pauli was going to be playing their last match of the season today.  Being a man with a shocking amount of TV channels at his disposal, I looked up the match in the channel guide yesterday and was pleased to see it listed.  My plan was to sit with the hounds and cheer on my beloved “Boys in Brown” as I scanned the NY Times.  With my support, I knew we would beat the hated VfL Bochum.  This is probably a good time to note that I don’t know what VfL stands for or where Bochum is located despite being in almost every backwater town in Germany over the last decade.  I looked up VfL and leaned it meant “Verein fur Leibesubungen”, which didn’t offer me much help.  Still, I was ready to watch St. Pauli emerge victorious on the road in Bochum (wherever that is).

Disaster struck though as I was unable to find a feed for the game.  Sure, I could watch Stuttgart destroy Wurzburg.  I could watch three different Italian matches.  Maybe Bochum is such a second rate city and club that they don’t have television broadcasts.  After a quick scan of the standings I discovered that this match was essentially a Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Buffalo Bills game in Week 16.  Also of note, this is a 2nd league match, so it’s actually more akin to a Columbus Clippers vs Buffalo Bisons AAA baseball game.  It does seem a bit optimistic that some jackoff in Ohio with two stinky basset hounds should expect to watch this minor sporting event thousands of miles away.  I could have really used a European in my house to help me navigate the confusing Euro Cable Sports matrix.  By the time the feed was discovered, I saw the players all shaking hands and being cordial after the clock had run out.
While searching for an internet feed of the game, I did discover that St. Pauli was almost relegated to third league.  If you are unaware, these Euro Football Clubs have a pretty good idea with relegation.  What happens is that if there are ten teams in the top league, the two that finish last get dropped down to second league and are replaced by the top two from that league.  So for example, when the Browns go 1-15, they could be replaced by the University of Alabama in the AFC North and then the Browns spend 2017 playing in the SEC.  When the Browns go 2-9 there, they would get sent to the MAC and have to tangle with Eastern Michigan in 2018.  Getting sent down to the third league in German soccer is a disaster as the games aren’t included in television packages.  Had St. Pauli been sent down, it would have been grim.  The good news is that they strung together a bunch of wins down the stretch, avoided being sent down, and then threw a party at the stadium where they gave away a lake of beer as the players roamed around drinking cold ones.  See?  It’s a likeable team.  When's the last time an NFL team gave away 100 kegs of beer?

This led me to further investigation on the web where I discovered the relative ease of setting up a St. Pauli Supporters Club.  There are only three conditions to setting up a club.  First, I need to gather up five people.  I don’t think the hounds count.  Second, I need to accept the “self concept statement”.    This entails staying in contact with other supporters clubs.  This will be tricky as most of them are in Germany and the only words I can say in German are essentially “auslese” and “flammenwefer”, which will come in handy if anyone in another club wants to discuss sweet Rieslings or flame throwers.  Our club will also have to comply with stadium regulations whenever we go to a match, which seems reasonable, especially since Hamburg is a hell of a drive from here.  We also have to oppose all forms of discrimination against people, all forms of racism, sexism, hooliganism, and all forms of disparagement against same-sex preferences and tendencies.  I’m on board with that.  This is a good team to support in the Age of Trump.  I like the socially progressive ideas are more important to the club than selling in a fast food sponsor.  Then I have to contact the Supporters Club Spokescouncil.  This is where things usually go off the rails, but I will do my best to follow protocol.

I recall Krusty trying to set up a supporters club here years back.  I think he went to the Jolly Roger in Hamburg, the home base bar of the hardest core of the hardcore St. Pauli fanbase after a Daredevils tour to nose around a bit.  As he did not look like a member of GBH or Crass, he did not fit the look of the old denim/heavily tattooed/leather guys that looked at him crosswise.  He was sporting some clunky Euro glasses and some sort of utilitarian German shoe boot that probably made him look like a government informant, so it wasn’t the warmest reception.  Hopefully he didn’t land us in some type of narc data base over there.  It’s been awhile.  It’s probably blown over.

Get in touch with me if you’d like to be in this club.  I see it as an excellent way to watch sports in the morning (match times tend to be 930a here), drink Astra beer, and be all-in on something that has no real impact in our lives whatsoever except the ability to forget about the Browns failures and take the moral high ground that St. Pauli strives for.  Plus the gear is killer!  I have an image in my mind of being one of those annoying people that is way too into something that is very obscure and pretending not to understand when others aren't informed on it.  "What a tough match yesterday...  What?  You didn't watch the St. Pauli v Bielefeld match Sunday morning?  Jesus.  Almost the entire club was over at my place yesterday."  Translation.  Three people came to my house to drink champagne and eat omelettes while we watched a soccer game with German commentary no one understood.  Then we rolled into a wasted day drinking Sunday until firing up the grill to cook up giant cuts of meat while Wagner's disc 11 of Der Rings Des Nibelungen blares on the speakers.  Dare to dream.    

St. Pauli 3  Bochum 1  See you next season.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Record Collection Quandry

I was scoffed at earlier today for refusing to get on board with Spotify and instead continue on with my outdated 160G iPod.  I have a variety of reasons for staying the course with this system, most of which are probably rooted in ignorance or refusal to change.  I'm not saying it got heated, but at one point I was referred to as a "Luddite", which seemed a bit strong.  It's not like I'm a filthy caveman over here.  I think I just failed to properly explain my position, though I am becoming more of a technology laggard with each passing day.  I'm at over 36,000 songs, so something is going to have to give.  I am going to need a solution, but I am paralyzed by fear of making the wrong choice.  Spotify, I know, is the wrong choice for me.

There was once a time when a bond was forged by checking out someone’s LP collection.  This now sounds as outdated as going to a woman’s parlor and showing her your etchings, but I assure you such a time existed.  There was once a time when everything wasn’t a mouse click away.  I vividly remember reading about records from bands in Europe that were like our version of buried treasure.  A Cramps LP with 4 cuts not available in America would be talked about like sailors speaking of mermaids.  You knew what it looked like, but doubted you would ever personally see it with your own eyes.  Then word got around about a new guy in town with a killer record collection.  “Hey man…  Who knows this guy?  Jimmy?  You think he could get us in there?”  Cut to three dudes standing in front of some other dude’s apartment with a flimsy excuse to get inside and pour over stacks of records like hungry jackals.  Meanwhile the guy with the records would be watching everyone carefully noting key details as records were pulled from stacks with a mix of pride and concern for his precious albums.  “That’s the red vinyl first pressing.  Australian.”

I remember in college when a girl from my marketing class notched herself up several notches in my eyes when I discovered hidden in in her obligatory “Bob Marley Legend”, “Psychadelic Furs Talk Talk Talk” and “The Cure, The Singles” records was a decently worn copy of X’s “Big Black Sun”.  Well, hello Dawn!  This proved to be fool’s gold though as I later discovered this LP was an ex-boyfriend’s and her taste was much closer to the New Order/Cocteau Twins flavor that dominated the stacks.  Our dalliance was brief, but her ex-boyfriend turned out to be a cool guy that turned me on to the Lime Spiders.  I let him know Dawn still had his X record.  He swung by and picked it up while our group was working on our semester project.  We exchanged that all knowing nod as he left with it under his arm.  Dawn was a very nice woman, but c'mon.  That was his X record.  I had to nark. 

While Spotify no doubt provides staggering access to music, it’s an illusion.  Because it’s all there, none of it is “yours”.  I think when you purchase music, you have thrown in with the band.  Besides the obvious benefit of supporting the actual people that have made this art financially, it also means you have stake in the game.  A purchase says “I’m into them” much more than a click on a page.  If I purchased records from a band when I was 15, I still feel a sense of allegiance with that band.  I might not have listened to Iron Maiden since I was a kid, but we’re all on the same team since I still have those records somewhere in the overwhelming stacks of music in various formats which dominate my home.  I am, if nothing else, very loyal.

The mouse click world of today means everyone has an attention span of 13 seconds.  People can't even wait to get to the hook of a song if it takes a moment to develop.  Unfortunately, some records require time to grow on you.  There is patience required to listening to them a few times before the lightbulb will (or won't) go off for the listener.  A great example of that for me is the music of Big Star.  I had read the praises of "#1 Record" for years, but it always just seemed like a different version of The Raspberries to me.  I bought it, listened to it a few times, and wondered "what the hell is the fuss about?".  It sat on my shelf for a decade.  Once in awhile a song would rotate through on a iPod shuffle.  Then I heard a live version of "Thirteen" and a bell went "ding!".  I listen to those Big Star records every week now and have been buying my way through the Alex Chilton solo work.  I am on board in a way I never would be if I clicked something as a "playlist" or "favorite".  I'm engaged by the work.  A chocolate isn't special if you have a mountain of them.  It becomes special when it is a unique thing wrapped in a box just for you.  This one individual piece of candy that is just for you is much more memorable than if you have a mountain of chocolates stacked to the ceiling that you can eat one after the other.  You appreciate it because it is rare, special, and places you in that moment.

Some things aren't better through technology.  I still write notes on paper.  I still believe the letter to be the most impactful form of communication.  I still like to buy CDs and LPs because I want the artist to at least have a chance at getting some money.  I like to look at the cover, read the notes to find out who engineered it, where it was mastered.  That matters to me.  Maybe I'm a sucker because I still buy actual books, but I like the way the pages smell.  I like the feel of something tangible in my hand.  I like to know that my copy of Ginsberg's "Howl" actually came from City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, like it makes the words more alive somehow.  Would disc number 9 of Der Rings Des Nibelungen make me feel less melancholy if it was from The Cloud?  Probably.  And I bet Wagner isn't getting paid by Spotify either.  I know the Whiskey Daredevils aren't.       

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Ring Cycle Discs 6 and 7

I am now on Disc 7 on The Ring Cycle.  It has been odd listening to nothing else but opera for the last week.  Yesterday I was on a morning commute inching past an accident on I-90.  I am always slightly disappointed when after a long wait to pass the source of a slowdown to not find decapitated bodies strewn about the roadside.  At the very least when four lanes of traffic have ground to a halt, massive robot debris should be everywhere.  I want smoke.  Fire.  Severed limbs.  Escaped monsters.  Instead I got three cars on the side of the road with cosmetic damage and a couple of police cars with flashing lights taking reports.

If you are the person standing on the side of the road looking at your crumpled rear quarter panel, it’s a huge event.  When whisking by a stretch of road at 70 mph, it’s never a consideration of what the gravel on the side of the road feels like under your feet.  You would never notice the discarded tennis shoe wet with rain.  It never crosses your mind that everything might have changed for you because someone behind you was texting and slammed into you, thus permanently dislodging your spine in a way that you can never be completely comfortable sitting in a chair again.  It is a benchmark event in their life.  To other motorists, it is a nuisance. 

It was stop and go as everyone driving past needed to slow down and get a real eyeful of the minivan with the smashed bumper, the pacing woman on the mobile phone and the police writing the alleged details down on carbon copy reports.  That was when a serendipitous event happened.  The lane in front of me opened up completely at just the moment that “Die Walkure” started Act 3, or “The Ride of the Valkyries” began.  What a fortunate turn of events.  What proof of a higher being.  What an act of pure provenance.  There was little choice in my actions.  It was if this had all been set to unfold in front of me as a beautiful gift.  I have been aware of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, making the wrong decision, etc.  Rarely though does one have the awareness of the right set of circumstances presenting themselves in real time.  The only thing I was missing was a majestic beam of sunlight illuminating the lane.

I drive a very fast car.  There are opportunities to drive fast, but fewer to drive very fast.  When four lanes of traffic have been brought to a near standstill, blaring sirens from approaching fire trucks are heard in the distance, tow trucks are positioning themselves backing up to wrecks, and every police officer in the area has been dispatched to handle traffic, the dice have rolled out in favor of someone that is willing to drive at speeds well beyond reckless and nestle into foolish.  The chance of law enforcement ahead is low enough to warrant tossing out all expectations of accepted driving norms.  Suddenly, it was the Wild West.  To have the eight speakers in my car roar out “Ride of the Valkyries” at the volume of a fighter plane taking off and have a totally open lane was too much to ignore.  It was, without question, the very reason I bought this otherwise indefensibly foolish automobile.  The car paid for itself on that stretch of road.  Thank you Wagner. 

I press on.        

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Spencer

I know this guy named Spencer.  He used to play in bands.  He’s a graphic artist now.  He isn’t one of those cool graphic artists that designs art show posters and band logos.  He does shit like garage door opener repair company offers and landscape direct mail pieces.  He’s done some really great stuff in the past, but now he is the guy you go to when you need something that will get .2% of respondents to call to respond to an offer to quote replacement window cost.  The world has sort of beaten him down a bit.  He has a weary air to him.

Spencer’s first ex-wife Karen lives in his old house with his two kids.  It's a little tudor in a nice neighborhood.  I remember Karen as the woman that stood next to Spencer at shows like Calexico at the Beachland.  She usually didn’t say anything.  I would go over to say hello to Spencer and then Spencer, always polite, would offer “You remember my wife Karen?”.  Karen would then grimace out a smile and nod her head while she said “Hello.  It’s nice to see you again.” while maintaining the vibe that it definitely wasn’t nice to see you again.  I never understood how those two were together in the first place.  I think she was his college girlfriend and then marriage was just the next thing to do after graduation.  Karen now spends most of her time defending the yard against weeds, baking perfect cupcakes, and using the kids in a passive aggressive way against Spencer on his court approved two (2) visitation days weekly for not more than four (4) hours.

Spencer had gotten mixed up with this woman named something groovy like Crystal or Jasmine.  It sounded like a stripper name to me.  He saw every red flag and just kept going.  I remember one rambling conversation I had with her once where she told me in non-linear fashion about her time in the Peace Corps, studying abroad in Barcelona, working in a hotel in Oslo, a confusing real estate job in the Cayman Islands, and about how her last fiancé “wasn’t supportive of her yoga”.  That one sentence alone should have shouted out “stay away!”, but to me the kicker was that she drove a Jeep Wrangler with the spare tire cover proclaiming “It’s a Jeep thing.  You wouldn’t understand.”  She designed jewelry from sea glass and made Spencer drive her out to every goddamn flea market/art walk in the region.  I remember seeing him sitting on a wooden chair behind her card table of junk while she was talking to a couple of hippies about “her journey”.  He looked happy though. 

A few months later I saw Spencer at the Beachland.  He told me that he and Crystal (or Jasmine) were no longer together.  The kicker was that fueled up on rum, he had married her on the beach at Ocho Rios.  Two or three weeks after their undoubtedly mystical ceremony, he received a letter while at work.  It was from Crystal/Jasmine stating that she was leaving him, leaving Ohio, and needed to “continue her journey of growth alone” which he would ostensibly be paying for based on the attached legal documents.  You would think he would have been pissed, but he wasn't.  "Best time of my life." I heard him call his time with Crystal/Jasmine once.  Spencer has since moved to a bleak apartment complex in Willowick filled with guys that started almost every conversation with the sentence “My fucking ex-wife…”.

Spencer had picked up his old guitar and amp from Karen's house and started playing music again with some of the guys in the apartment complex.  They had some Poco Tribute band going.  I have no idea why anyone would make a Poco Tribute band.  Do you fight to play the Richie Furay songs?  I suspect that if the guys invite enough of their friends to a gig, they could outdraw the actual band Poco.  He seemed kind of happy about the band, at least as happy as Spencer ever came off.  "Yeah man, it's good to play again.  I gotta do something.  If not I'm just waiting around to die."  

I got a garage door opener ad in the mail a few days ago.  I wondered if Spencer did it.