Monday, March 27, 2017

Nurse the Hate: National Whiskey Day

It certainly raised my spirits to see today was National Whiskey Day.  As I am still nursing myself back to health, I will likely not participate in the celebration though I have been barraged over the years with the alleged medicinal qualities of whiskey.  There is the often-told story about the basis of the Daredevils song “Just the Thing” where a Swiss fella plied us with horrific shots that were supposed to cure our ills from the common cold.  However, when I pressed him for details on these healing attributes he sheepishly admitted, “Well, after these shots you will become so drunk, the cold will no longer matter.”  All hail whiskey!

I had always had a disdain for whiskey after some bad decisions in my early twenties involving Jack Daniels.  When Mick and Keef are seen slugging it back looking all cool, one can’t help but think “That must be one tasty drink!”.  What they don’t tell you is that there is something in the distillation process that makes you a dangerous sociopath.  As a marketer, I think it is wise not to advertise that by the way.  On top of the personality change that can occur with Jack, I found the taste of brown spirits to be horrific, no doubt a boomerang effect from lengthy barfing sessions in 604 McDowell Hall.  It led me to avoid brown spirits at all costs, which was a policy I could strictly enforce until this damn WSET certification class where I had to imbibe all kinds of spirits.

A downside to naming the band “Whiskey Daredevils” was it encouraged people to buy us whiskey shots.  It is certainly reasonable to assume a band that has “whiskey” in their name will probably enjoy whiskey.  I get that.  However, I will freely admit it was a decision based exclusively on imaging.  I didn’t think the public would respond favorably to “The Session IPA Daredevils”.  It would have been difficult to create a t-shirt for “The Riesling Daredevils”.  Concessions had to be made for the marketplace.  Did this make me a poseur?  Yes.  Yes, it did.

A strange thing happened when I next tried scotch.  I will always remember this as my “a-ha” moment.  I went to the apartment of my Stuttgart host on a Halloween night, and he offered me “what is that drink that Americans have when the night is almost over?  What do you call it?”  A nightcap?  “Yes!  A nightcap!”  Being a good guest, how could I say no?  When I asked him what he had, his answer brought a shiver to my soul.  Scotch or gin.  Gulp.  Faced with that choice at 3:36am, there was only one way to go as to pour gin on the 117 German beers I had been given would have resulted in “a gastrointestinal situation of grave consequence”.  I chose scotch.  It was a Talisker, and dammit, it was good!  I liked it!

So, I discovered that I now like scotch.  The downside of discovering this is like discovering you like cocaine.  It truly is a habit with no real benefit.  I have done everything possible to limit my consumption of it to rare occasions.  There is a woman I know that told me that every time she drinks scotch she cries.  I think there was some sort of small intervention held by her friends.  An agreement was reached.  It wasn’t that she wouldn’t drink scotch, but rather just not drink it as often or as liberally.  Despite knowing she could become a crying mess, scotch had gotten its hooks into her.  She was a scotch drinker.  As far as I know, she might be having a scotch with a tear rolling down her cheek right now.  

As I flood my body with over the counter drugs, perhaps I should have just gone old school and had whiskey.  I had a hot toddy in San Francisco years ago that helped tremendously with a head cold.  Though in retrospect it just made me so drunk I passed out on my hotel bed, which is also known as “the Euro method”.  Yet, traditions need to be observed.  The old masters must have known something, eh?  Maybe I’d best find a tipple of my favorite dram, put on a kilt and listen to some bagpipe music.  Let us praise National Whiskey Day.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Fever

I became sick with a fever.  This wasn’t a case of slowly feeling slightly off.  This was a dark cloud thunderstorm that powerfully moved in with considerable force.  I sweated through clothes and bedsheets swinging on a pendulum over to bone chilling shakes.  Slept came in little bursts but was marred not so much by dreams as visions.  At one point I had a consistent run of flash cards rolling through my head of English to some Chinese dialect.  As I have no education in Chinese whatsoever with the exception of walking through San Francisco’s Chinatown last weekend after dark, I can’t really explain why I suddenly know that “yah” means “duck” and “muqin” means “mother”.  High fever is a strange thing.  It wasn’t how I planned to spend my weekend.

The last time I got a fever like this was when I lived in my crummy duplex.  I lived on the top floor and got sick in a thunderclap like this.  I remember at one point having a fever so badly my muscles were cramping and I started to hallucinate.  For some reason I felt like I needed to get out of bed and get outside to cool off.  I wasn’t able to walk.  I started to crawl across my floor.  I woke up a few hours later on the floor of my dining room in my underwear.  It is odd to be embarrassed and all alone.  I slunk over to my couch and had the good fortune to find “Rock, Rock, Rock” on cable.  I spent the next day almost comatose on the couch until making a soup and ginger ale run late that night.

Yesterday was a day on the couch where my 100 degree fever made me feel almost crisp and refreshed by comparison to the previous evening.  It was very much like that day in the duplex watching “Rock, Rock, Rock” except I gambled on the NCAA Tournament games and let them wash over me.  I did go 2-0, yet wagered almost nothing on them as I wisely noted my judgement was perhaps a bit compromised.  I am actually showered and dressed today, so I’m almost human once again.  Still, it feels like Recovery Couch Day Part 2, and that means NCAA Gambling.  What else can you do?  I’m sure as hell not going to watch a “Jack Reacher” movie.

The first game is Florida v South Carolina.  Florida is, as usual, stacked with blue chip players.  South Carolina is the feel good story of a bunch of guys playing great team defense.  Everyone loves a Cinderella story.  South Carolina has been so good in these last three games, it must mean that this is a team that has locked in to some magic, yes?  Nah.  I am going with the team of blue chip guys that are bigger, stronger and faster.  Florida -3.

The late game is one of these Darth Vadar vs Darth Vadar games.  It is hard to root for either North Carolina or Kentucky, though by proximity I have been closer to the obnoxious Kentucky fans than Tarheel fans.  As far as I know the Tarheel faithful might be terrible as well, but the waves of self important Kentucky fans with their revolving door of hired gun players is too much.  I am going to go with my heart on this one (and even give up the points) and taking North Carolina -2.5.

Somebody bring me medicine.    

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Richard

The two-bedroom apartment was in a decidedly “gritty” section in town where the underemployed and overeducated moved in because of affordable rents.  The new area residents in this “transitional neighborhood” pretended that they loved the area because it was “real” as if periodically getting your car broken into was somehow a badge of honor.  Soon the gourmet coffee shops would outnumber the used appliance stores and order would be restored.  He walked up the stairs to Apartment 4F.  He could hear the music and murmur of conversation as he ascended.  He held a bottle of Bordeaux which he had carefully selected that afternoon.  He didn’t get invited to parties very often and he wanted to make a good impression.

He had been invited by one of his new co-workers, though he suspected it was only because not inviting him would have been a glaring omission.  It was just easier to pretend he was one of the gang.  He was new to the job, new to the city.  He had impulsively moved out of his old life two months ago in spectacular fashion.  Most of his possessions were now in several boxes in his old garage.  His soon-to-be-ex-wife had already moved in his replacement who had efficiently boxed up his life.  He hadn’t noticed needing any of the things he had left behind.  Each passing day decreased his likelihood of going through the hassle of arranging them to be shipped to him.  Sweatshirts, LPs, trophies, and books.  Fuck it.

He knocked on the door.  His palms were damp.  He thought about just turning around and going back.  The door swung open and a man he had never seen before greeted him.  Uh… Hi… Um..  Is this Cindy’s place?  The man bowed dramatically to allow him entry.  Heads in the crowded apartment turned briefly to note his arrival and turned quickly back to their original position after deciding on a lack of general interest in him.  “Cindy is around here somewhere my good man…  Let me take that from you.  Help yourself to a drink.  It’s all in the kitchen.”  The man took the wine and placed it on the kitchen counter with several others.  The careful selection of his gift bottle of Bordeaux would be for naught as it unceremoniously joined a group of five other bottles, the total retail value of all five being around $20.  

The open wine was something Bulgarian.  Bulgarian?  Jesus.  He opened a small cooler looking for beer.  Of course.  There were only cans of ironic cheap beer.  At least they were somewhat cold.  He opened it and drank the bitter malty liquid.  It was awful.  Music he had never heard before urged him to “Rip it up” to an electronic trance beat, though he couldn’t be sure what exactly “it” was that he needed to rip up.  He quickly scanned the room for anyone familiar in the room.  Strangers were all in pairs or threes in animated conversations.  He walked slowly around the room pretending to be fascinated by the cheap Impressionist poster prints on the walls hoping for an entrance into a conversation.  He drank quickly so he could have the task of heading back to the kitchen for another beer.  His eyes met a small blonde woman’s.  He smiled as to communicate “aren’t we both good sports being at this type of thing?”.  She frowned and quickly looked away from him.

He walked into the kitchen towards the cooler.  People moved their shoulders to allow him snug passage.  A high-pitched voice came from behind him.  “OMIGOD!  I can’t believe you came!”  It was Cindy from the office with her other almost indistinguishable friend, both mid-twenties girls in tight dresses that showed their admirable figures.  They were out of his league and they all knew it.  The girls both had sloppy grins that showed the party had started early for them.  Cindy grabbed her friend’s arm and shared a conspiratorial glance.  “This is Richard.  He just started at my office.  He’s from OooooHiiiiiiiOoooooooo!” They both started laughing uncontrollably at the hilarity of not only the idea of Ohio but the drawing out of the word in an exaggerated hick accent.  Nervous, he smiled, eager to be in on the joke.  He leaned in as the girls kept laughing.

“My name isn’t Richard.”    

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Tasmanian Fall Out

It’s been a difficult realization that I need to pick up the pieces after my failed scheme to corner the Tasmanian sparkling wine industry has completely unraveled.  I really thought that was my golden ticket punched for glory.  I was so sure of success.  It seems evident to me that if your goal is as attainable as owning the Tasmanian sparkling wine market appeared to be, it would be easy to achieve.  Not only that, but I should have been rewarded for my sheer gumption alone (and I don't use the word "gumption" lightly).  Sometimes life just isn’t fair.  Just when you think you can have it all, it slips right through your fingertips.

I am reading an excellent book, “Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan that has me thinking about becoming a surfing champion in 1967 Hawaii.  It has already been pointed out to me by my numerous skeptics that I have pretty poor balance, which appears to be important in big wave surfing.  There is also the complicated matter of time travel which also appears to be a bit of a wild card.  However, I think that if I can overcome these two minor hurdles, I will fit in very well in Hawaii during the Summer of Love.  I am wary about the very real chance to be involved in fistfights with locals, and as a middle-aged man I have some concerns about my chances of victory over lean muscled Hawaiian and Samoan teenagers.  I might read the book to its conclusion first before launching my mission in that area.  I might need to pick up a few tips.

There also appears to be a very exciting opportunity in the political arena as most of our current President’s cabinet continue to slowly provide every indication that they have been involved in either criminal or even treasonous behavior in colluding with a hostile foreign power.  Now in the past I would have thought that the American Public would have already fitted these guys in ball gags and tossed them in barbed wire pens in Guantanamo Bay.  This is a New Age though.  We don’t seem to care about such trivial behavior as our elected leaders using Russian counter intelligence.  If even a shred of a flimsy explanation for this mystifying behavior is offered by the various creeps in the Right-Wing Information Hate Machine, the various Rubes that have yet to completely figure out they got fleeced by Trump will buy in.  One would imagine that if you thought that the Reality TV Show Billionaire Guy was going to help you out, and then he decided to give government jobs to his Billionaire Pals, you'd be pissed.  Then when he decided to give them big tax cuts while at the same time fucking you over, you’d be even more pissed.  Then when you found out that when he was telling you all those lies so he could fuck you over, it turned out that he was using The Russians so he could instead deal them a solid?  Well, I would think you’d be super pissed.  Nope, not really though…  Who's got time to follow up on all that?  I mean, did you see that new “Taco Bell Triple Double Crunchwrap”?  Yum.  Pass the hot sauce.

So, I suppose I should go write some songs tonight and try to identify South African chenin blancs and New Zealand pinot noirs blind before heading to the basement.  I want you to know though, I’m looking.  Looking for my Big Chance. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Tasmania Letter

March 22, 1848

My love,

If you have opened this letter, I need for you to stop reading if it is not yet March 22, 2017.  If it is, please read on…

I have made a horrible miscalculation in this Tasmanian sparkling wine venture.  In my haste to head to 1840s Tasmania in my time machine, I completely overlooked the fact that the time machine itself wouldn’t be sent to 1840s Tasmania, only the contents inside it, i.e. me.  I am now trapped in Port Arthur Tasmania in 1848.  It’s quite embarrassing.  So, I arrived in 1841 with a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, Chuck Taylors, my gym bag, and a copy of A.J. Whittaker’s “General Viticulture” book.  I was so excited to get the time machine done, I just let my enthusiasm get the best of me.  I should have planned better, but I have tried to make a go of it.

I was able to acquire my Aboriginal sidekick “Bunji” rather easily thanks to bribery and the gift of a Zippo lighter.  I think you’d like Bunji, though you would have to overlook how he and I disemboweled several prisoners at the woodcutting shed to make our reputations as cruel overlords.  Still, we have been able to move past that and I think we have built quite a nice team.  We hardly get any complaints when Bunji gives 15 lashes to slow workers as we clear vineyard area on the slopes.  At Christmas, we even give everyone a small spoonful of honey just to show our appreciation for the 364 previous days of physical labor.  

The real issue has been the inability to grow the grapes.  As you recall, I don’t have much of a green thumb.  I thought that book would tell me all I needed to know.  I really should have given it a quick read before hopping into the time machine.  The book references all these chemicals and machines I can’t get hold of anywhere in this mosquito infested backwater, so I’m at a bit of a standstill on getting traction in the vineyards.  Bunji’s idea of just whipping the workers when things went wrong was appealing at first, but has produced mixed results at best.  It has been 7 years of failure to produce a crop.  I think I am going to admit failure.

In theory when you get this letter I will have been deceased 150+ years, unless malaria gets me sooner of course.  As you can imagine, it is very difficult to send a letter to someone that doesn’t exist yet that lives in a house that hasn’t been built and is 150 years in the future.  However, Mr. Burroughs at the post has assured me he will do his best to insure this arrives to you in a timely fashion.  I hope you will be able to overlook my failure in this Tasmanian sparkling wine business.  I only did it for you in hopes of impressing you and winning your heart.  What a fiasco.    

If you could somehow find the charity, I would appreciate if you could go to my basement and build another time machine from the plans I have left on the workbench.  After you have constructed that, please build an even larger time machine so as to place the first time machine inside it and then send the smaller time machine to me at Port Arthur Tasmania sometime in late March 1848.  If you can do that, I would really appreciate it and I promise to go back to yesterday to stop myself from going back to 1840s Tasmania in the first place which will eradicate the need for you to have built the two time machines later this week.  I know this is a lot to take on, but if you can build these two time machines I will make sure that you never built them by going to the past and fixing this little mishap. 

It has been a long and humbling seven years in Tasmania.  Once again, I am sorry for this inconvenience.  I’m sure we will have a good laugh over this when I take you out to dinner, my treat.


Sgt. Gregory Miller
Port Arthur Penal Colony/Miller's Sparkling Wine Company

Monday, March 20, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Tasmanian Plan

I have just stumbled into a fabulous opportunity, that of running a Tasmanian sawmill in the 1840s.  What a potential growth industry and launch pad for my ultimate scheme.  Now, I know you might have some objections to this plan.  There are some obstacles to work through such as not having any knowledge about woodcutting, knowing very little about Tasmania, and the challenge of not only moving to Tasmania but also back in time 180 years.  Allow me to remind you that all things worth doing have hurdles to clear, and the satisfaction of overcoming these is part of the joy.

Right out of the gate, let us assume I can build a time machine with construction remnants and instruction from a YouTube video of some kind.  That's done.  Handled.  Let's move on.  The issue will be securing a job as a supervisor at a British penal colony with a thousand criminals forced to do woodcutting.  I feel like there are a very limited number of visitors to Tasmania in the 1840s, so if I just show up and ask around for a job, something should turn up.  I'm not especially tough, so if I can get my foot in the door I think my move will be to oversee a work crew with absolute pitiless brutality.  Maybe if I trump up some charges and hang a few convicts right out of the gate I can catch London's eye and move right up the ladder.  "Hmm, the American bloke that showed up in that time machine is really showing some initiative.  Perhaps we should let him have a go at the entire Port Arthur Penitentiary."   And just like that I will have slave labor at my disposal.

Part of my rough idea of succeeding in 1840s Tasmania is immediately securing a quiet but viscous Aboriginal sidekick as muscle.  I see him as wearing a combination of traditional garb and 1800s Anglo khaki while toting a rifle and scary knife.  I need him to have heavy drooping eyelids and almost no expression as he swiftly dispatches my ordered violence.  These workers of mine will be convicts, so I will need them to fear me.  It's part of the job after all.  After an adjustment period, I think we will all become friends, and by "friends" I mean none of the convicts will try to kill me when I sleep because they are worried my sidekick will kill their extended families if they get caught trying any stunts.

So what's the long game here you ask?  Sparkling wine my friend, sparking wine.  I have learned through my WSET wine weekend that Tasmania is the center of the Australian sparkling industry.  They've got the right climate, potential vineyard sites and soils.  Some of the larger Australian corporate concerns have well maintained positions in the best vineyard sites currently.  This means I will need to think out of the box and effectively beat them to the punch by securing the land over a century earlier.  Whereas these people are smugly producing their wines now, they have no idea that an American entrepreneur is about to undo their work and create his own monopoly by savagely muscling in.  It's a plan that is simple and foolproof.

The goal is to make big profits in woodcutting.  Having the advantage of being able to look at historical data, I will always be one step ahead of the market.  Then I will take this profit and invest in my sparkling wine facility while using my forced labor to clear and plant vineyards in the best potential sites as have already been identified 180 years later with current technology.  I will corner the Tasmanian sparkling wine market and festoon the bottles with a woodcutting of my image in a British colonial helmet of some kind.  This trademark will become ubiquitous with the symbol of "quality" (and "cold
blooded forced labor" unless I get a good PR firm cracking in about 1865 or so).

The interesting thing is that when I execute this plan you won't even know it.  One day you are reading this thinking, "hmm, that's a guy with some big goals".  Then I will have gone back in time, done it, and it will seem as if you have always known "Miller's Sparkling" to have been the finest Tasmanian sparkler.  Miller's has just always been there, a beacon of Tasmanian good taste.  It's a shame I won't get to enjoy the accolades of my success in 2017 as I will be busy hanging people and clearing fields in 1846.  Sacrifices are necessary I suppose.

Cheers.  To new adventures.  Prepare to raise your flute of Miller's Sparkling.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Tournament Day 3

I am in this hipster hotel that seemed to be a "good deal" when I booked it.  I generally like to stay at boutique hotels, and especially in San Francisco as the competition usually forces the standards up.  I would also like to note that if Expedia has something as "four star", it is usually quite civilized.  I entered into this stay with good faith.  This has proven to be an error.

The hotel is one of those joints that has taken a building from the early 1900s and gave it the hipster makeover.  For example,  the hard wood floors of this room are beautiful but they purposely didn't refinish the baseboard trim which is dinged up and repainted to show "character".  It really just seems like they ran out of money or maybe if I had been the one doing the job I had just said "Eh, fuck it.  That's good enough."  Either way, I can deal with that.  What I am having an issue with is the choice they made with the window.  If I can figure out how to post a picture of the window, I will.

Look, I appreciate the effort to be "gritty" and "real".  The problem is that the window doesn't close.  It is so "gritty" that it serves no purpose.  It's basically an open hole to the outside world.  This means the room is about 51 degrees.  I'm shivering under the thin bed coverings like a goddam refugee.  I also had a full night of Arab guys yelling at each other in the alley.  At first I thought they were yelling about Jihad, but on reflection I think they were just arguing about who got more heroin.  I would go down and complain, but I don't want to look bourgeoise.  That Asian guy at the front desk with the $700 haircut will roll his eyes.  It's 607 am on a Saturday.  I can't deal with that right now.  So instead I'm trying to fold my legs up underneath me for heat and scanning college basketball gambling websites.  This isn't what travel brochures display about San Francisco by the way.

The good news is I went four for four yesterday.  That means I should be able to pay for this room and the resulting health care crisis that results.  I'm going to keep swinging today.  Each ensuing round of this tournament gets tougher and tougher to bet.  I will keep going until disaster strikes.  With luck I can make enough to move over to the Hyatt tomorrow.  That lobby even looks warm.  I bet you can't even open a window over there.

So I am sticking with Xavier.  Florida State is probably a team with bigger and better players on paper, but those Xavier guys are only here for basketball.  I don't really know or care if they are going to win.  I just think they can keep it within 7.  I hope I can see some guy I've never heard of hit an otherwise meaningless jumper at the buzzer to allow them to lose by five.  It's what happened yesterday with Oklahoma State and I almost wept with joy.  It was the best moment of college basketball 2017 and made me hungry for more.  Xavier+6.5

Arizona goes into the tournament every year as one of the can't miss, sure thing, they might go all the way, Final Four locks.  Then they lose to someone you've never heard of in an early round.  Strangely, the gambling public forgets about this by the time the tournament rolls around again next year.  I didn't forget though.  I'm taking St. Mary's +5.  I look forward to seeing dismayed Arizona players wander off the court in the video package ESPN will show in the Hyatt lounge TV.