Friday, May 28, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Indians Baseball

I have seats right on the first baseline at Progressive Field for all the excitement that is Cleveland Indians baseball. I used to go to 20 games a year until the team decided publicly they were not interested in winning but rather being “competitive” every four years or so. I now have five games. The team really blows, and there is no light at the end of this deep dark tunnel. The trades of the key players in the franchise (Cy Young award winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, All Star catcher Victor Martinez and Casey Blake) netted almost nothing. Either the organization has no ability to assess talent (as their woeful draft record would suggest), or they have no leverage at all come the trade deadline. Thus, the excitement does not come from the diamond itself.

The big perk of those tickets is that foul balls come screaming into the area whenever the pitcher tries to jam a lefty inside. These are not the lazy pop ups that you catch barehanded. These hiss and curve as they rocket in. One of my favorite games last year was when the senior citizen couple wasn’t paying attention, and Mrs. Fan took a shot to the ribs. Her husband, a true sports fan, decided not to abandon his seat and instead let his wife seek medical treatment on her own with the stadium staffers. I would imagine that was a long car ride home from that game.

The other best game of 2009 was when Victor Martinez fought off an inside fastball and sent a rocket into our section. It was really too bad that 13 year old kid was paying more attention to his nachos than to Martinez’s at bat. The ball struck the kid right in the face, just below his nose. The sound was like cracking a thick stick against a burlap sack filled with hamburger. The kid immediately put his hand up to his mouth and nose, and then withdrew it to look and see if he was bleeding. He must have been surprised to see no blood on his fingers. It only took another split second until the blood started to flow out of him like spigot. The woman sitting in front of me stood facing away from the action on the field and stared at the horrifying spectacle. Meanwhile, the pitcher threw Martinez another 1-2 inside fastball that Martinez jacked back into our section. That woman was lucky she wasn’t killed as the ball whistled by us. “Hey… You better pay attention Honey.” Knowing this was a moment of self preservation, she turned back towards the field and left the bleeding boy to his fate.

I will be going to my first game of 2010 in those seats next week. Man, do I hope that there’s a lot of left handed Red Sox batters getting jammed inside. What else am I going to do? Hope Lou Marson goes deep?

Random notes: I really like the new Drive By Truckers “Big To-Do” release, as well as The Dead Weather’s “Sea of Cowards”. I would also recommend the debut release of The Soft Pack. Oh yeah, The Dum Dum Girls disc is really good too, especially if you like the Raveonettes… I was a little disappointed by the new Hold Steady and Band of Horses CDs. Maybe they’ll grow on me… I recently started re-ready Charles Bukowski. I cannot stress how important it is that you read “Women” and “Post Office”. These are some of the great works of 20th Century American literature… There is no way in hell the Indians win more than one this weekend in NY. I would also take a real hard look at the Celtics closing out the Magic tonight, especially if the line drops to 2.5.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nurse the Hate: More Very Short Stories

The father pulled the car over in the downtown neighborhood so the boy could see the fire trucks. The little boy walked from the car and stood outside of the apartment fire staring at the flames whooshing out of the broken windows. The flames changed colors from a construction paper red into a jack-o-lantern orange. It was beautiful and powerful. The firemen were furiously engaged in their tasks. The boy stood transfixed watching something that he had previously thought only possible on his favorite TV shows. The boy turned to an equally transfixed little girl and said, “Wow… Isn’t this great?” The little girl’s gaze never broke from the fire as she answered him. “I live here.”

The young man ran his fingers inside the panties of the young woman. She let out a little moan. He struggled to free himself out of his jeans, and climbed on top of her. He could hear the rush of the stream’s waterfall in his left ear, and the gasp of her breath in his right. “I love you”, he whispered to her. She kissed him hungrily. It didn’t take long. Afterwards as he put his jeans back on, she asked him “Do you even remember my name?” Quickly he replied, “Sure, it’s Ellen.” She paused a second and responded. “No. It’s Emily...It’s Emily.”

It was a small town with two stoplights and one railroad crossing. Every time he drove over the railroad crossing he thought about how years earlier two high school seniors had raced a train and lost. They were drunk probably. Who knows. The boy in the passenger seat was a basketball star. He died instantly. The driver was a boy that made lots of jokes in class. Everybody thought he was funny. He lost his legs. That boy’s family moved away quietly soon after he had healed enough to leave the hospital. That was probably two years ago now. The railroad crossing had lots of high grass on either side of the tracks. Even now, when he drove over the tracks he always looked towards the edges, thinking that one day maybe he would see the wheelchair boy’s severed legs partially hidden in that high grass. That would really be something.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Restaurant Business

At one time I had the worst job in the world. No, I did not clean out video booths with a mop at Adult Mart by a truckstop. It was worse. I was a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant. Dishwasher is usually a job reserved for criminals, the mentally ill, and the generally unemployable. I had just moved to Columbus for the summer, living with my parents. While most young men my age had fathers hooking them up with plush jobs at country clubs and warehouses owned by Dad's golf buddies, my father was like me in that he didn't know anyone in Columbus either. I opened up the classifieds, and managed to interview successfully enough to convince management I was trustworthy enough to secure the dishwasher job at Casa Lapita in Columbus. I would work like a mule for roughly $3.85 an hour next to a dizzying array of scary individuals.

Dishwasher is a horrible job. It's hot, messy, back wrenching work. The extra joy of doing it in a high volume Mexican restaurant is that the refried bean pot contains sludge baked into the bottom that will not ever come out, and cheese is melted on every single item in the kitchen. It really fucking blows. I hated it. I hated the scary weirdos I worked with. My back hurt every night when I got home. My hands had cuts all over them, except for the spots where the steam burns had really done their work. It was awful work. After about 3 weeks of this, I realized I was meant for a higher form of labor. Yes, I joined the line.

When you think of traditional German cuisine, you probably don't think of me. However, if you ate at the Schmidt's Restaurant on Henderson Rd in 1989, you may have well eaten potato pancakes, bratwurst, or other traditional German delicacies like "potato skins" and "mozzarella sticks" prepared by yours truly. I preferred running the grill, although I was known to handle myself at the steam table with true courage under fire. I think the people of Columbus knew in their hearts they could enjoy a fine meal anytime I was on the line for my $4.25 an hour. But that Golden Age was not to last...

I was wooed away to a restaurant who's name now escapes me for the promise of $5.50 an hour. With me averaging 30 hours a week that summer, you can see I was going to clear enough money to really impact my lifestyle. I could move to Bud from Busch. Life changing money. I walked into the kitchen of the new place that day to see two grizzled old white guys (that learned to cook in the Navy) and a black guy that I couldn't understand one word of. The woman that hired me showed me around the kitchen showing me equipment and using terms I was 100% unfamiliar with. I nodded my head like this was all old hat. After the tour, she then said, "Why don't you make the quiche of the day. The recipe book is on the table.". Sure. Sounds great. Let me knock that out.

There were a few issues I would have to confront. 1) The recipe book used terms like "sift" I had never heard. 2) I had never seen a piece of quiche before, much less made one. 3) They were under the impression they had hired a trained chef that could cook anything made to order, where my experience was confined to throwing pre seasoned meat on a hot grill and frozen shit into a deep fryer. At first I thought I could bluff my way through it, but it became pretty evident I had nothing to go on. In fact, within 25 minutes of my first day, one of the Navy guys said "That kid doesn't know what the fuck he is doing.". That guy didn't know much, but he was right on target there.

The rest of the workday was a blur. I remember slinking out the employee entrance with a real sense of shame. Later that evening I sat at the family dinner table. "How was your first day of work?" The phone rang. I answered it. It was the woman that managed the restaurant. "Hi? Greg? Yes... Hey... We aren't going to need you tomorrow like we thought. Oh? Friday? No... We won't need you Friday either. How about we'll call you when we set next week's schedule?"

I never heard from them again, and so ended my career in the food service industry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Sinking Feeling

The all too familiar sinking feeling has hit the city of Cleveland as the "This is our year!" belief in the Cavs has faded into the "Whoa is us..." self pity. Residents of Northeast Ohio do have a reason to feel this way. It's not exactly unfounded. I was in my living room when Brian Sipe threw the Red Right 88 interception ending the Browns Super Bowl dreams. I was standing in the Dawg Pound during "The Drive", and walked out of the quietest football stadium of all time afterwards. I was sitting in a party gathered around a little color TV the next year when "The Fumble" derailed the Championship Game comeback, and everyone struggled to understand how it had happened again.

The best baseball team I ever saw, the 1995 Indians, went meekly into the night in the World Series thanks to the Braves pitching. The 97 Indians were a mere out away from spraying champagne around when Jose Mesa imploded like everyone watching knew he would (except automaton manager Mike Hargrove apparently) and gave it away to the Marlins. And let's not forget the 3-1 ALCS game lead the Indians choked out a few years back. It always happens, and now it feels like it's going to happen again.

As I write this it is halftime of Game 5 in the Cavs series vs Boston. The Cavs are down by six, and LeBron James (a.k.a. The Chosen One) has ZERO points from the field. Ummm, if you tattoo "Chosen One" across your back, you may want to win something besides an Ohio High School Championship. You may want to sack up, and take a Do-or-Die Playoff game on your back and win it. As I recall, that was you that had your PR team set up a 60 Minutes story about how great you were and how sponsors should buy into the "LeBron Brand", no? Perhaps you should drive to the hoop on occasion as opposed to clanking up a 30 footer off the rim. I would like to "witness" an MVP Big Game instead of you dropping 50 on the Knicks in November.

Maybe they'll come back and win this thing, and LeBron will score 35 in the second half. Maybe even if they lose tonight, they'll win two straight and keep rolling through the Playoffs. Or maybe that sinking feeling is here for a reason.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Three Very Short Stories

1) She wanted to go to the NBA Playoff game and accepted a date with the man she didn't like very much. He wasn't good looking, and his breath smelled like coffee. But he had good seats that would maybe put her on TV if the camera angle was just right. She wore an outfit she bought especially for the evening. When he dropped her off at her house at the end of the evening, she felt like she owed him something for his generosity. She considered having sex with him in the car, but instead just gave him a hand job. Afterwards she watched him clean up with a Burger King napkin he found under the car seat.

2) The children came to his door looking for money. It was always something. Band camp. Travel baseball. Girl Scouts. He had boxes of uneaten cookies and unpopped popcorn in his cupboard from earlier fund drives. "Will you donate to help our team?", said one of them. The other kids stared at the man at the open door with blank faces, waiting for his answer. The man always felt guilty if he didn't kick in, like his neighbors kept a tally of his support of their children's activities. The man opened his wallet and gave the kid a $10 bill. While he closed the door, he could swear he heard the tallest boy say "asshole" under his breath.

3) She pulled the sheets over her chest, stared up at the ceiling and broke the silence. "When I was a little girl, I wanted a Barbie Beach House more than anything. I begged my father, and he said on my birthday maybe I would get it if I was a good girl. I remember I tried to be a good girl so I would get that Beach House. I never did though." He moved his arm from underneath her, and folded the pillow in half under his head. "That's too bad Baby." He grabbed the remote next to her thigh and turned the television on to SportsCenter.