Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Kitchen Timer Game

There was a period of time where this group of guys I hung out with would drink an entire bottle of tequila while listening to music and bullshitting, and then go out to the Kent State bar scene. This period lasted long enough to where we became used to handling massive amounts of tequila and still function socially, but not long enough for any of us to actually die from the staggering quantity of El Toro we were consuming. When other casual friends of ours would go out with us for "a full night", they would pay a terrible and horrible price. Lemmy and Ozzy Osbourne would have thought twice about hanging out with us. It was insane.

One night my roommate from two years earlier, Jim, came out with us, and we pre-gamed by playing "The Kitchen Timer Game". This was an idea we had where shots would be poured for the group, and taken back when the bell sounded from the timer. The timer would rotate around the group, with each person setting the time according to their whim. For example, if The Apeman wanted to keep it together, he might set the timer for 25 minutes. The timer would then be set up with the clock hidden from view, and only the "tic-tic-tic-tic" audible over the endless stream of underground rock coming from the oversized stereo. When the bell went "DING!", everyone stopped whatever they were doing and knocked back their shot. Pavlov's Dog had nothing on us.

The problem would be if a few guys in a row would want to get after it. Suddenly you're doing a tequila shot 4 minutes after last choking one down. Then it turns out whoever set the timer last wants to teach the guest a little lesson and see if he can take 4 shots in 14 minutes. You can see how this would denigrate very quickly into survival of the fittest... On this particular night, Jim (the ex-roommate) was hanging in there. I seem to recall we went to Mother's Junction around Midnight, and it wasn't until we walked up the steep staircase that I noticed he was becoming unhinged. "Hey man, did you notice the way Jim's eyes are kinda swimming in his head? Maybe we should get him a futhermucker to put him up and over."

A "futhermucker" was some unholy combination of alcohols and grenadine that was like a flammable mug of gatorade. They would serve it in a giant frosted beer mug. It would have been an excellent drink to serve your date on Prom Night when you were 16. It should have been called "The Date Rape A Tronic". It was like Kool Ade that would rip your fucking face off. It was exactly what a guy that had 5 beers and 6 tequila shots needed. "Here man... Take this... It's like juice."

We left at closing time. Not so much as "left", as were told to "get the fuck out!" by the bouncers when it became apparent we weren't ready for the party to end. Jim, myself, and another guy decided on the walk home to swing by a house where Joe, a friend of ours, was supposedly having an after hours party. Let's digress to put in a quick description of what the "after hours party" is supposed to be, and what it actually is.

What the after hours party is supposed to be: A gathering of like minded souls interested in continuing the grand spirit of the night. An equal split of attractive women and cool guys. Sort of like a scotch ad in a 1978 Playboy magazine. What the After Hour party is: Nine guys that didn't hook up at the bar are now going to get shitfaced beyond the point where they are now. Three of these guys will pass out on the couch. One will barf in the house somewhere. There will be lots of shit talk. The music will be oppressively loud. The music will also be either Neil Young or some Krautrock you've never heard of. One girl will show up momentarily, but she's just going upstairs to her boyfriend's room. Lots of half finished beers will be left on countertops.

So there we were... Three guys going to the alleged after hours party. When we get there, we discover the lights are out. That's not strange since it is 2:55 am. However, since we have made the trip, we decide we should wake Joe up and have a few beers. As no one has answered the doorbell, we decide we should send someone up on the roof to climb in Joe's second story bedroom window. We'll climb in, Joe will laugh at the folly, and we'll keep the night going. It's a solid plan. As Jim the ex-roommate is obviously the most intoxicated, we elect him to be the one hoisted up. It made perfect sense at the time. It was all going pretty well, until Jim's balance failed him and he fell backwards from the roof. When his head hit the sidewalk it made a "crack" sound like a baseball being ripped into centerfield. Not good.

Jim was going to need medical attention. I say this not as a medical professional, but with the confidence that comes from seeing blood flowing like a gusher from a man's scalp. There were wounds that were less gruesome on Normandy Beach on D-Day. We walked back to our apartment, and convinced The Apeman to drive over to the student medical center. As we started to make the drive, Jim started to talk kinda crazy, like he was a 4 year old boy. At the time, I wasn't that concerned, as the bloody towel he was holding to his head attracted most of my interest.

The people at the med center gasped when the saw him, and rushed him back to an examination room. After about 15 minutes they decided to transport him to a real hospital. They had him strapped to a stretcher with a neckbrace, and started to left him into the ambulance when he started screaming in pain. "Ahh!!!! Ahhh!!!" The student med techs quickly set him down, and stammered, "What is it? What hurts?" Jim then started laughing and rocking back and forth like a mental patient. Then the crazy talk started again.

The ambulance driver looked at Jim strapped to the gurney like he was transporting Hannibal Lechter. "Look, you guys are coming with us to talk to the doctors at Robinson. I'm not dealing with this..." I was elected to be the guy to explain what happened to The Authorities, and climbed into the ambulance. The ride to Ravenna was distinguished by Jim screaming every five minutes and then immediately slipping into talking like a 4 year old. Meanwhile, I am nervously saying to the paramedics, "Heh heh heh... OK Jim... C'mon now.... Quit screwing around..."

When we get there, Jim gets rolled into the ER, and I'm stuck reading the 4 year old People Magazines in the waiting room. It has to be about an hour/hour and a half later when a doctor emerges, and brings me back to a room near where Jim is holed up. "Ok... What is he on? I know he's on something... Just tell me what it is..."

"Look, I'm telling you, all he did to my knowledge was drink a hundred shots of tequila.", I plead.

"I'm not going to bust you. Just tell me what he's on so we can help him.", the doctor said while giving me his best "Let's be on the level here Son" look. After 15 minutes of going around and around, I get the doctor to tell me what the issue is. "He keeps saying his name is Billy and he is 4 years old. We can't discharge him like that." I assure the Doc he's not on PCP, LSD, or any other letter combination drug. I did have to explain the kitchen timer game, and I will admit it was a little uncomfortable in the harsh fluorescent hospital lights. "So...ah... then the timer goes off and you ah... have to do your shot, see.... ah.... Let me talk to him...Maybe I to him and work this out...."

I walk into the exam room, and Jim is laying there with his head bandaged like a mummy. "My name is Billy. I'm 4 years old."

"Cut the shit man. It's 630 in the fucking morning, and these guys won't let you go until you tell them who you are and how you got here." The doctor and I look on as Jim repeats his Billy thing. I then remind him, he's supposed to go to Daytona Beach on Spring Break at 7am and he's about 45 minutes away. "You're going to miss your bus, and your trip is off man." That did it.

"Jim Head. I live on Water Street in Kent. I'm an art major." Boom. Ten minutes later we're out of there and into the Spring glare of an early morning.

Cut to two days later. I'm watching MTV. Remember how they used to broadcast live from Penrod's in Daytona? They do a wide shot of the pool, and jumping up and down double fisting beers in the center of the shot is a guy with a bloody head bandage. The fucking guy made his bus I guess. I'll tell you this though. We never played the kitchen timer game with strangers again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Homeless

The winter is cold here. While this is hardly news, I think that unless you spend some time here you don't understand how cold it really is in February. The temperature is always below freezing, but it's the wind that whips unimpeded across Lake Erie from the Arctic Circle that really crushes your soul. It was one of those grey windy freezing days when I pulled into a downtown parking spot to find a shivering cold black guy in his late 20s/early 30s waiting for me to exit the car. Oh yeah, he also had a damaged eye that left a lazy lid partially obscuring the milky discolored eye.

I sized up the situation immediately. He was going to hit me up for some money. Well, of course, he might just kill me and take my wallet, but I didn't want to risk looking politically incorrect and fleeing the "scary downtown negro". Can I say that? He was pretty fucking scary looking in a early 1960s way ... Like a character on a Prison Break movie that kills someone early in the film but is later killed even more horrifically (yet justifiably) by the hero. And I saw myself as the secondary character that spat up blood while the killer laughed in minute 17 while sticking me with a shiv.

I get out of the car, and he launches into his sales pitch. "Hey man, I appreciate you gettin' out of your car. I know some people look at me and just be trippin'." He then produced a dog eared piece of paper with some hand writing on it. "I just got out of jail, and I just want to go home to Akron. But the lady over there says I got to have this amount of money to get on the bus." This was clearly bullshit, but I was strangely excited to see that he didn't hit me up for just spare change, but $7.50. Way to ask for the order! Why ask a dozen people for change when you can ask one guy for $7.50? That's the way I operate in sales, and what else is this but straight sales? I gave the guy 4 bucks, because he clearly needed it. It was about 23 degrees and the wind chill made it "really fucking cold". He didn't even have gloves or a hat. If he was going to blow it on drugs or booze, at least he would be out of the cold while doing them. It was fine with me.

As I walked away, I thought about how the last 4 or 5 times I had been hit up for change it has been with the same basic story. It's really odd to me. The story is always the same basic tale, but the details change with the seasons. For example, the basic story is always this: "Hello. I am a good man. I am on my way to work/home/back to children. Fate has worked against me and I am out of gas/bus fare, and if I had just a little help from a Good Samaritan like yourself, I could get back on the path of righteousness." But the really interesting thing to me is that for a three month period, different guys will work me with the exact same story the exact same way. So, the question I have is this... Why is it that every pan handler has the same exact story going at the same time? How does this information get around? Are there sales meetings? Tip sheets? What is it? How does it work?

There has to be some kind of seminar system, or panhandling website I don't know about. I sort of envision a Holiday Inn ballroom filled up with homeless guys and junkies taking notes on laminated workbooks. Standing at the front of the room, complete with overhead projector, a presenter uses a laser pointer and works through the material. "OK guys! OK! I know a lot of you have to go get your methadone, so I'm going to keep this moving. If you fall behind, or have a question, consult your workbook afterwards or ask me in the Q&A section. OK...OK... Let's get back to the "My kids are in the car and I have no money for gas to get them home" pitch. I cannot stress this enough people, get yourself an empty plastic gas can. It lends credibility to the car in your story, and is a terrific prop. What is the three dollar cost of a gas can when you are asking for ten dollars? Do the math people! Plus you can use that gas can again and again and again... Also, if you have pictures of kids, use them people! There are only so many pitches we can make in a day. Let's make them count!"

How else do you explain that all these guys have the same story going at the same time? A few years ago, every guy hitting me up for money used the "kids in the car" story. In the last 6 months I have had the "going home from jail" story. Who can forget the "I'm late for work, and just need bus fare" story of two summers ago? And I am telling you, I get hit with the same story from different guys in different cities all the time.

I have been driving around downtown lately looking for the scary one eyed guy. I haven't seen him. I hope he bought a hat.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Opryland

I had heard the rumors of the horror that is The Opryland Hotel and Resort, but never thought I would grace the halls of the Seventh Level of Hell until Nic Roulette from the Hillbilly Casino told me last November, "You've got to come out here and see us play. You'll make fun of me forever. " Nic had stumbled into a Xmas gig where the band would play a 15 minute set of "Rockabilly Christmas" for the passing dimwitted tourists. They got paid a relatively large amount of money to essentially degrade themselves in front of people that wouldn't know good music if it bit them in their junk through their Wrangler jeans. But, what the Hell, it was only 15 minutes at a time (the same kind of moral bargain a prostitute might make during Fleet Week for example).

Opryland was everything I thought it would be and less. It was a lot like a tacky Vegas casino without the actual gaming pit. If I didn't know any better, I would still be wandering around looking for a table to play $25 a hand blackjack. Imagine if the Excalibur in Vegas went with a low rent "down home" vibe, or if an Embassy Suites Hotel grew out of control. Maybe they got Dolly Parton to decorate it to look "classy". Tacky Xmas decorations are hung everywhere. A fake waterfall attracts Rubes to snap photos in very serious Senior Prom poses. A Jack Daniels sponsored bar overflows with paunchy men eating french fries, drinking 24 oz cans of Lite, and adjusting their NASCAR jackets. Most of all I was struck by the herds of Middle Americans shuffling around with mouths agape. This was their "trip of a lifetime". These are core American Idol viewers. Who's buying all those hats at Speedway gas stations? They are, that's who... These are the same people that go into Cracker Barrel and buy all that shit in the gift shop like the singing mounted bass and Chinese political prisoner made "old timey" road signs.

I hated it. It was awful. It was manufactured two dimensional luxury for people the lived their lives out through their favorite TV shows. If you listened hard enough, you could almost hear them bray like sheep as they funneled into the gift shops. But I will admit, I laughed my ass off watching Nic and the guys put on the fake smiles and provide the folks with something they would enjoy for 11 minutes or so. I couldn't have pulled it off, and they did it with ease. (Talent or a curse?)

Meanwhile, last weekend I was at the true epicenter for Middle American glitz. Yes my friends, I was at the Tri County Dog Track in Nitro, West Virginia. The once humble dog track has been made over by the good people of Bally's after the State of West Virginia was kind enough to pass a bill allowing table games and slots. That has relegated the dog track itself to the back corner of the room, hidden away like a piss stained kid with Tourettes. The track now is just an excuse to host the money making slots and sucker poker games. "Hey, we've got a track! That's why we're allowed to have the supplemental games! Where is the track? Oh... Go downstairs to sub level 3 and walk through the unmarked brown door. Take your second left by the ramp, and take a quick right. It's past the nickel slots through the door marked No Admittance". The dogs have taken a bit of a back seat...

Let me tell you about the Tri County Dog Track though. It's a scene in there Man. I can't get enough. A woman in a bad red wig and t shirt with an American flag and phrase "These Colors Don't Run" proudly told me she lost $1500 playing blackjack last week. You go girl! A woman pushing an oxygen tank cuts off the one legged woman in the rascal for the corner slot machine. So much money is on the sucker bets in the middle of the craps games, it takes 10 minutes between shooters to figure out who gets a couple of winning chips. The food in the buffet is only one color: a deep fried tannish brown. All the cocktail waitress's calves are thicker than a Vegas cocktail waitress's thigh. Everyone has the stink of a loser on them (myself included). But yet, I feel good. I like it here.

This is way more real and interesting than the Opryland experience. Opryland has that creepy Bible Belt vindictiveness that freaks me out. It feels like at Opryland if someone walked in wearing a turban, they would drown them in the fake waterfall "cause that's what Jesus would want us to do". On the other hand, nobody at the Dog Track gives a shit what you're up to because they don't need anyone looking too closely at what they are up to. I feel confident that P-Funk, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and a guy dressed as Uncle Sam on stilts wouldn't even garner a second look in there. People are doing their thing, and you can feel free to do your thing.

So while Opryland tries to hustle tourist Dopes into thinking they have the Real McCoy for country music culture, I ask you this... Where would Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson rather hang out? That's right... Sweating out $20 on "Wrecking Ball" tied into a exacta wheel in the third. Viva la Dog Track!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Dad's Birthday Party

The story was so horrible, it took a minute to register. Could it actually be true? If so, it raised more questions than I could even begin to answer. But I get ahead of myself... Before I even begin to tell this tale, I must admit I have had second thoughts about passing it along. It is the kind of story that even the most hardened friends of mine have been rendered silent by as they contemplated the sheer horror of it. It's like when you get an email attachment from a friend called something innocent like "Dad's Birthday Party", and you open it to discover a photo of an absurdly obese woman shitting on a nude skinny man with a pencil mustache. There might even be a midget wearing a leg brace in the background. Your mind registers it all surprisingly quickly. You may close the photo quickly. Delete it. But yet, the image stays embedded on your mind forever.

It was a few days ago when a friend told me the story. Her roommate works at a local hospital as a nurse. A woman came to the hospital complaining of abdominal pain. She had a colostomy bag due to an earlier procedure, so the doctors were concerned about an infection. After a battery of tests, the conclusion was reached that she had contracted gonorrhea and this had led to her discomfort. When the doctor delivered the news, the woman said she understood how it may have happened, and freely offered up an explanation to the startled doctor and nurse. It turned out that her husband had been having sex with the hole in her abdominal wall where the colostomy bag attached. The woman said, "I'll bet that's how I got it."

I'll just let that sink in for a second.

Now beyond the primary question of exactly what kind of people are engaged in this rather unusual and extreme sex act, a few more questions come to mind.

1) If a woman catches a venereal disease from her husband, but that same man is not only willing but enthusiastic about having sex with her colostomy bag hole, you would think she might have to cut him a wide berth. Let's face it, the market for women with colostomy bags can't be thriving. She might have to offer a little give and take on this matter. Or does she respond with even more indignation by threatening her weakened immune system with the potential of disease by his indiscretions? How does that play out?

2) How did that first sexual contact with the hole happen? For example, did it start with some conversation about how she should not be ashamed about it, and that it didn't matter to him? "You're still the woman I married and I love you." Then what? Next thing you know his wiener is in there? I mean, how does that jump get made? And how did it keep happening? You would think there would have been a conversation the next morning after the first incident. "Hey, things got a little out of hand last night..."

3) What do these people look like? The mental image I have of the woman is a little unclear. However, the image in my mind of the guy is crystal clear. He's white. He's overweight in that chicken wings and draft beer way we get in Northeast Ohio. Not a huge man, but definitely soft in the gut and pulling his pants up after walking across the room. I also see a mustache circa 1985. I'm thinking a poorly groomed Tom "Magnum P.I." Selleck mustache. He's wearing a stained Cleveland Browns sweatshirt that is stretched out from too much wear. His pants are blue work pants with faded thighs from ground in dirt and grease. Brown work boots with some construction material spackled on them. Hair unkempt and probably unwashed. This leads to the next question...

4) How did that guy sleep with someone else to get the gonorrhea in the first place? He's no looker. He probably didn't go to the trendy section of town and go "clubbing". I see it as he hooked up with one of the regulars at the local bar he always goes to. Maybe the woman that drinks in a slightly crumpled position down at the dim corner by the cigarette machine. Normally he regarded her with suspicion as she never really talked to anyone. She typically came in alone before he got there. Drank by herself, and usually left long after he had slid home in his battered Buick. But that night was different. They probably struck up a conversation while grabbing a smoke outside in the cold, their breath and exhaled smoke mixing in a white cloud under the fluorescent light by the front door. Next thing you know he's back at her place, fumbling around on the couch trying not to knock over the overflowing ashtrays on the metal TV tray.

5) So does he then tell the woman from the bar he contracted gonorrhea from her, or does he just keep quiet about the whole thing? See, I see it playing out with him playing the victim card and telling the entire bar one night after too many 24 oz draft beer specials. I see him standing by the bar with his loud drunk voice laying it all out for anyone that will listen. "She gave me the fucking clap and almost killed my wife! You know she's got that bag... She gets sick really easy. She should have fucking told me! What the fuck! You should 86 her from the place Mike! What? She don't cause no trouble? What do you call this? Huh?"

There's a lot to ponder on this entire situation. You probably have many questions of your own. Sure, I know this story sounds like Urban Legend. But this is no "friend of mine that knows this guy who's Mom works with someone that told them this story". I wouldn't believe it if I didn't know the source. I just thought I should tell you. Consider this your own personal "Dad's Birthday Party". Sorry.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate TMZ

Is there anyone lower than that smirking crew on TMZ? That has to be the lowest common denominator on television today. Jersey Shore seems highbrow by comparison. Never seen it? Here's the show: A bunch of lame ass slackers sit around and "shoot the bull" with their boss, whoever that fuck is with the sport bottle, and make snarky comments about celebrities. They all laugh it up at other's misfortune in a faceless cubicle farm, like they're having a big show prep meeting and talk about the big breaking stories in scandel TV. When I watched it they showed a film clip of Richard Dreyfuss eating a hot dog and insinuating he would be good at fellatio since he handled the food with such ease. Really? That's the best you can do? You have all day to write a show, and that's what you come up with?

The worst part of the show to me is that the post college "reporters" are so eager to please the boss (aka water bottle guy) and just preen like show dogs when they read their stupid little stories. Look at the picture of one of those guys above and tell me you don't want to punch him in the face... It's like that horrible clique from high school somehow got their own TV show and a syndication deal. You know the ones. The girls that huddled up in the cafeteria to whisper backstabbing comments about the kid wearing the wrong shoes, or in my case, in an "awkward stage" that lasted well into my thirties. (I recently emerged from it briefly, and went right back into Awkward Stage Part 2 after about 26 days.)

As far as I can tell, that caveman guy's "reports" include celebrities being spotted walking to the gym, celebrities being spotted walking to their cars, and lots of other big "news". How do you even get a job like that? Try not to even dwell on it though... It will really bum you out if you think about it. That guy is probably a VIP at every cool club, is drinking tons of free top shelf booze, and is bedding down every dimwit model on both coasts. The only solace might be to imagine Richard Dreyfuss lighting that guy on fire. There. That made me smile.

Just Released: Don't get swept up in this New Orleans Saints hype. The Colts have been the best team in football all year, and they will win and cover this Sunday. The Colts have played 16.5 games with their starters and have won 16.5 games. The Saints should have lost last week to a Vikings team that took them to OT despite turning the ball over 6 times. The Vikings rolled up 31 first downs. How do you think Peyton Manning will do? I think he'll do just fine. Give the five and bet aggressively.