Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Tent Sale

I have a hard time understanding why the ubiquitous “Tent Sale” continues to be trotted out by local businesses. It must work I suppose, or why would they go to the trouble of renting a giant circus tent? Still, who are these Rubes that rocket out to strip plazas in search of “deals” under the tent? “Jesus Christ Margie! They’ve got a tent set up! Can you imagine the cornucopia of values under that fucker?” Since when did having a tent set up mean indescribable consumer values? Anytime I see a tent set up, I think about drunken camping trips, ill advised sexual advances, and barfing in the woods. I’m not thinking “dining room table”.

If you are in the market for a new living room set, does it make any sense whatsoever that you will get the best price/quality ratio because they dragged a sofa pit out of the back warehouse and placed in on the asphalt in front of the store? “Well, I like the look of that recliner mister, but let me ask you, how much would you be charging if we put that little baby under a tent outside in the searing sun? No thank you sir. I wasn’t born yesterday. I think I’ll just hold pat and see if you fellas put a tent up anytime soon.”

The power of The Tent cannot be denied. The Tent alone is a motherfucker of sales wonder. But let me ask you, what if we combined it with the monstrous drawing power of the inflatable Santa, dinosaur or bunny? Yes, behold the wonder of the giant balloon tethered to the roof of the store by some halfwit and his pot addled “helper”. It’s the DefCon4 of retail sales efforts. Can you imagine the juggernaut combination of the tent and inflatable Uncle Sam on the building roof? Cars must careen off the road as if drawn by a Super Magnet. The sound of screeching tires must be all you can hear for miles. “Holy sweet mother of Jesus! Take a left! Take a left! Can’t you see that inflatable robot on the roof? Right there! Right fucking there! By the tent! Get all of our money! Now! Now Godammit! These deals can’t last!”

I like to think of the guy that sells the inflatables to these businesses. They have quotas, inventory issues, and problems like anyone else. It’s a living. However, can you slink any further down the totem pole of business than to be hashing out an annual agreement that hinges on the availability of a Snowman? “Phil, look I’ll go to the mat for you on this thing, but you have to understand, there is NO WAY management will let me take our one snowman and place it here for two weeks in December when you don’t have an annual with us. I have had that thing locked in for six months, and it’s the end of August. You’re just a little late to the party. I’d give you the Santa, but that Alberta Clipper that rolled through here before New Year’s blew that fucker halfway to Buffalo. Replacement got all fucked up in that tsunami in Japan. But listen, we want your business… How about this? What if I give you the Elf for a week in December, spin you the Frankenstein for October, and guarantee… in writing… an Easter Bunny for a week in April. But I am going to need an annual commitment from you Phil. And I am going to need it today. There’s just no way to make it work otherwise.”

Let’s say you are a business owner. You’ve got the Yogi Bear swaying back and forth on the roof. You have dragged all your shitty merchandise nobody normally wants out into the elements under a rented tent that you have pounded into the parking lot. Is there anyplace to go from here? Can you possibly take it up another notch? I hesitate to even suggest it, but can you imagine the pure glory of adding the Radio Remote? How could anyone resist the allure of spinning the Q96 Prize Wheel and possibly winning such amazing prizes as a squirt bottle, station bumper sticker, tickets to a rib cookoff, or maybe even a station T-shirt with so many sponsor logos you wouldn’t even wash your car with it? You can engage in small talk with the sullen college interns that man the booth, and enjoy a response of “He ain’t here.” if you inquire about the whereabouts of the station’s wacky morning DJ. Meanwhile a steady stream of Dexy’s Midnight Runners/Human League/Lady Gaga/Gin Blossoms will crackle through the station’s low budget sound system at frightening volume. It’s really the whole package.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nurse the Hate: The Big One

Having survived what I will now refer to in all future stories as "The Big One", I feel very confident about my future. Here in NE Ohio we were gently shaken by the earthquake that hit the entire East Coast today. It was sort of like being in a small boat tied to a dock on a nice Summer day. Let's all admit, it was kinda exciting. To have been trapped under 50 tons of rubble like in Haiti would not have been exciting, but a gentle rocking back and forth at work? Hey, it had to be better than this week's highlight thus far, singing "Happy Birthday" with all the other Rubes at the office to a work acquaintance while candles flickered on a sad little grocery store sheet cake. This afternoon everyone was all abuzz!

The best part of The Big One is sharing your exciting story with everyone else. "I was sitting at my desk after lunch, and it seemed like someone was rocking my cubicle back and forth. I thought it might have been Steve. Remember how he put tape all over my phone that one time? I felt kind of weird, and then I wondered if maybe that tuna salad at Subway was bad, like maybe it gave me food poisoning? So then I figured I would have been barfing if it was bad, but I wasn't, so I wondered if this is what getting a stroke feels like. Next thing I know, someone says it's an earthquake, and some people are freaking out." That is pretty much everyone's story in Ohio.

The key is to turn it into something. You want to make yourself seem more heroic. Make future potential employers see something special in you. I know this guy that was in a hurricane, and he has told the story 4 of the 5 times I have been around him. The last time I heard it, he was some kind of cross between Superman and Bruce Willis in "Die Hard". Despite the fact he was safe and secure in basically a bomb shelter, he tells it like he was on top of a mast of a clipper ship on the high seas. It's great. That guy knew how to take a natural event and run with it. He's got a job now that pays him so much money you'd blush if I told you how much. People look at him as a Leader. Hell, I was excited the first time I heard the story. He had told it so often, it was "his thing". He was really good at telling it too. It's all about practice. If he had been here today, his version of The Big One would have been like this...

"I wasn't concerned when the building first started to shake. I am well versed in the various fault lines in North America, and so I was not caught by surprise at all. Most of the others fled the building. I stayed behind. It wasn't a conscious decision I made, but just something I automatically did. I didn't think. How could I? I didn't have time. And there was too much at stake. But I am no hero. The real heroes are the ones that stayed behind with me, under my leadership. This ragtag skeleton crew and I did what we had to do. I made decisions on the fly, with everyone pulling their weight and then some. But it wasn't for us. We have a public to serve. Those people out there waiting to see "Price Is Right". Who would be there for them, the silent victims? As the plaster fell around our heads... live wires crackling loose like angry cobras... alarms sounding... women crying... I did what anyone would do really. I made sure that those Burger King commercials aired as scheduled and the station stayed on the air. Most of you here in the room would have done the same in that position. Well, some of you would have wept and soiled yourselves like school children with the sheer fright of it."

I really have to take this opportunity and manufacture something. When Lady Luck deals you a hand like this, you have to be ALL IN.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Jim Thome Redux

As expected, a spate of articles have come out after Thome's 600th home run talking about how he has "done it the right way" and how he's a great all around guy. Cleveland sports writer Terry Pluto: "Jim Thome's Better Than A Good Story, He's A Good Man". Plain Dealer sports writer Bill Livingston offered up the irrefutable evidence of Thome's family being "big". My Aunt is "big", but she also doesn't get paid for athletics, you know what I mean? I don't doubt Thome's a great all around guy. I do doubt he did it "the right way". Seriously, you expect me to believe that he was the only Super Performer of his era not to do steroids? Is that right? This is the same guy that came up with Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez, but the secret creams and jells of the franchise were only shared with those guys? Ssshhhh.... Keep it quiet! Here comes Jimmy!

If Jim Thome wasn't a big likeable white lug, the mainstream media would be crawling up in his ass asking some tough questions. Has anyone even asked? Has anyone but me looked at these pictures? Thome's biggest home run years were from age 30-35. That isn't the way it works. The only guys to hit more home runs than him after age 30 were Aaron, Ruth and Mays. Oh yeah, and Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmiero. After Thome on the Home Runs After Age 30 list? McGwire and Sosa. Let's recap, shall we? The Big Three of All Time. Four Steroid Users from The Steroid Era. And Jim Thome. Nothing to look at here people! Let's all move along.

"It irritates the hell out of me that they bring [steroids] up with Jimmy," said Mike Hargrove. "He has never been mentioned as using it. I was around him every day [from 1993-99] during the season, and he never had the mood swings, the change of complexion or other signs." Of course, that's if you buy into the idea that the teams who had invested tens of millions into their players didn't take the trouble to check into what their guys were doing. I know the Giants would have put a stop to Bonds, his 79 home runs, and massive post season revenues had they only had an inkling of foul play! I know the Cubs also would have stopped those cash registers at Wrigley from ringing had they known that formerly spindly Sammy Sosa was on the juice. A team can tell if a guy has a degenerative condition in his shoulder, but they don't notice 40 extra pounds of muscle. Sure. Makes sense.

Take a look at those pictures. You tell me what was going on.

Baseball wants to move past all of this ugliness. The last thing anyone wants is more questions about how all this was allowed to continue for so long. You notice how the Bonds and Clemens trials quietly got swept under the rug? No one is going to say shit about Thome. His timing, like on those 3-1 fastballs, was perfect.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate Golf

Last week I attended the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Country Club. For the uninitiated, this is one of the “majors” in the PGA golf season. All of the big name players are there, and a whole slew of other dudes you have never heard of even if you watch too much ESPN. The real action is off the course however, as an event like this brings out every Old Money/Nouveau Riche Southerner in a 400 mile radius. Expensive sports cars displayed by perky girls in tight clothes beckon from air conditioned tents. The merchandise tent is roughly the size of a Dick’s Sporting Goods Superstore with PGA Championship logos on 45 different hats, 65 different golf shirts, signed course lithographs, wine glasses, pint glasses, golf bags, shoes, balls, tees, arc welding equipment, decorative burial urns, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Corporate schmoozing is an art form as everything has been paid for via company expense accounts. It’s a crowd of thousands that looks like they fell out of a J. Crew catalogue. Every guy is walking around like he has the world by the balls, and frankly, he probably does. Tastefully dressed blond Southern Girls sashay around the VIP tents, dodging overfed middle managers with donkey dick sized cigars, looking for CEOs and The Holy Grail... an actual PGA Tour pro. It’s a real scene.

The PGA is serious business. It is well run, as extremely well educated and well heeled men trip over themselves to be a “Hole Marshall” and shush other well heeled men with too many Mich Ultras in their belly by the Seventh Green. These are serious men doing serious things. Ah, to be so close to Tiger Woods that you could make some sort of crack about a Waffle House waitress… It’s exciting. (Side note, I was so close to Tiger I could have whispered something terrible to him, and he would have heard it. He also could break me in two. That guy is fucking ripped. Someone check him for steroids already. Or have the Detroit Lions sign him as a nickleback.)

No one is allowed to use their phone on the course, lest these heroes be distracted while playing. As has been written before by everyone else, if the Duke point guard can hit a free throw while 20,000 people scream insulting things about his scrotum, I would think Phil Mickelson can deal with a camera phone as he hits a drive. But this is a gentleman’s game, and decorum must be observed. It is what separates us from the beasts. And separates us from those that serve us our Michelob Ultras in the VIP tent.

The golf culture has always been odd to me. It’s like it is exempt from all other social norms. For example, what other activity could you participate in during work hours like that and not be immediately fired with complete dishonor? It is no problem whatsoever for a sales guy to take out someone loosely considered a “customer” and spend 5 hours knocking a ball around while knocking back beers. “We’re not dicking around in a golf cart! We are building relationships!” However, what if that same sales guy went to his management and said, “Hey Terry, I am going to have Jim and Steve from Consolidated Logistics over to my brother’s basement this afternoon. We’re going to smoke some weed, listen to Social Distortion CDs and play some Madden 2011. Late.” That guy would be driving home with the shit in his desk in a box. But isn’t it really the exact same thing?

It all goes back to The White Middle Manager Conspiracy. Suburban white guys love Michelob Ultra, eating at Friday’s, college football, giant wristwatches, Jennifer Anniston, sport utility vehicles, Bruce Springsteen, Cabo San Lucas, and believing they could have intercourse with their regular waitress at their favorite corporate sports bar. But there is nothing these men love more than golf. Nothing. Golf has it all. There’s tons of gear to buy and compare with their buddies gear. It also gives these men their only opportunity to escape from their dreary lives and be by themselves for a few hours. It also doesn’t hurt that it is played in generally beautiful outdoor surroundings in great weather. Best of all, it is cost prohibitive so others below them in the social strata can’t come crash their party. I didn’t see a lot of saggy jeans and sideways ball caps at the Atlanta Country Club last week… No friend, at the Atlanta Country Club, we are all The Same. This is The Secret to golf. If you golf and can afford the country club dues, you are in The Club. You are One of Us.

I should have taken up golf years ago. I know the lingo. Maybe I can bluff my way through by just talking a good game, and never having to actually go out for hours on end and knock balls into various woods and bodies of water. The problem for me always comes into play that even dressed in J. Crew finest, I am quickly flushed out as Not One of Us. But still, I went to the gift shop. It was hot out there, and the sun was brutal. I got myself a $35 logo hat. I referred to a sand trap as “the beach”. I called a golf club “a stick”. I called Phil Mickelson “Lefty”. Maybe I can pull this thing off. Maybe now, in the right light, I can pass as one of The Boys. Who wants to go play Firestone?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nurse the Hate: The Butterfly Effect

Your life is defined by choices you make. It's not always the big ones along the lines of "Do I move to New Mexico?" or "Should I go to College or pursue my dream of being a Rodeo Clown?". Sometimes it is the little ones you make. The seemingly minor events that follow you forever. Sometimes you walk out of a door at just the right time and meet your Dream Girl. Sometimes you walk out in front of a bus. The butterfly wings that flap in Japan and create a wave that will drop you headfirst into the sand in San Diego. I present you this little story...

In the early days of bitter struggle in the band, traveling on the road was more exciting. There was a time when we were all single guys trying to meet girls (and generally failing in spectacular fashion). Leo, like seemingly all drummers in rock not named Dave Grohl, would often swim along the nightscape like a catfish. He would usually find the real damaged girls, the lost souls, and the outright mentally ill. This is the curse of having "partying" as your top priority for the evening. When you poke your head up at 3am and see who's left at the ball, it's not a pretty picture.

One night we were in Chicago, probably after a disasterous show as they all seem to be for us in Chicago. I recall Leo meeting a girl at the club that seemed really loud and super fucked up. It was either Lounge Ax or the Empty Bottle. This is not necessarily odd at a club like that at 2:15 in the morning. The decision to bring her with the rest of the band to a mutual friend's apartment? This is an example of "short term thinking". For example, what if you spend another ten minutes with this gal and suddenly realize, "Hey! She isn't cute and interesting like I thought she was initially. Why, in fact, she might be seriously mentally ill and she appears to be annoying everyone in the general area." Now you've got a situation where you have to get her out of there. Do you hustle her out the door with cab fare? (Drummers would never do this as they never have any money, and they would never even think of this very viable option in the first place. The brain gets damaged hitting stuff so close to your head. Never mind all the weed.) Are you going to drive her home in the band van? Sure, good luck finding the apartment again, much less running the gauntlet and not getting arrested driving around all fucked up after your 8 hours of "partying". Yep, you've got yourself in a real pickle there...

Leo handled himself like any classy drummer would in that situation. Knowing the rest of the band was trying to sleep, much less his gracious hosts, he knew he had to get this young lady out of the area. She just couldn't seem to be quiet as she was either fueled up on dangerous street drugs (probably not) or was heavily manic with all the unexpected male attention (likely). What can a guy do? Of course, he took her out to the romantic confines of our 1991 Ford Clubwagon passenger van, and "made love". OK. That may not be accurate. He banged her? Probably closer to the truth. God knows what went on out there.

We drove out of town the next morning to our next show, and I don't remember what happened to her. I think we threw her in a cab after she annoyed the shit out of us after she and Leo came back in the apartment the next morning. I definitely remember the people that had the apartment asking "Who is this????". At a certain point we packed up our shit and left. We got rid of her somehow. Just like that, she was out of our life. Poof. A new day was here and the past was the past. We'd never see her again.

An interesting thing happened. We finished that run of shows and we went back to Ohio. A little time passed. A month later we went to Springfield Il, to a club most noteworthy as having a back staircase Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins had fallen down years earlier. It was probably the inability to stay nimble in pointy boots and leather pants. No matter. The stairs were our problem now. So, here we were in Springfield for the first time. As we set up, the sound guy said, "Which one of you is Leo?". Leo raised his hand, clearly surprised that someone in a town we had never played before knew who he was. "You're the guy that fucked Crazy Patty!". Word had traveled.

It started to happen everywhere. The Star Bar in Atlanta. Mabel's in Champaign. Wolfy's in Nashville. Guys coming up to Leo while tapping their buddies shoulders saying, "That's the guy! That's the guy! The guy that fucked Crazy Patty!". He had become some sort of legend, and I'd like to remind you, this is all Pre-Internet. People had to be so excited by the news that Leo had hooked up with this legendarily insane woman that they immediately picked up the phone to tell everyone they knew. And then they called everyone they knew. And so on and so on and so on. It's kind of amazing. This woman was such a legend that people all across the nation knew who she was on either reputation or perhaps a more discreet previous sexual encounter they themselves had. Who can say?

Today I was on the phone with a club booking agent. He asked me, "Is that guy still in the band that fucked Crazy Patty?". Seriously, that had to be 17 years ago, and people are still asking. One moment of weakness almost two decades ago... A seemingly small action that ripples across time... The butterfly effect, I'm tellin' ya...