Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Cheetah

The Cowslingers played a show in Athens OH, home of Ohio University. As I recall this was even before Krusty was playing bass in the band and The Chief was holding down the low end. Krusty must have still been living in his OU dorm with the mysterious Japanese exchange student, because we were looking for a place to crash out for the night. We had played the show with a really fine garage band called The In-Sect. (Look for their rare 7 inch on Drink N Drive Records kids!) Those guys were in that weird space you sometimes find people that live in isolated college towns, having graduated but having no real plans to leave the protective bubble of College Town life. I get it. When you have the system down in a town, know all the bartenders, and can still lure unsuspecting 20 year old women to your filthy futon lair, why leave?

So these guys were the Cool Kids in Athens. They had the best thrift store clothes, had the best record collections, threw the best parties, and had the best haircuts. The In-Sect agreed to let us crash out there, which was definitely premium space in Athens. After the show was the expected “After Hours Party” at their house. As Athens OH’s alternative rock scene in 1994 was about 26 people, all 26 people that had gone to the show went over to the after hours party and drank the incredibly cheap beer we had dredged up at the club. We all stood around the kitchen with warm cans of beer listening to a distorted Sonics record blasting out of the stereo in the other room.

I must have had 200 nights exactly like this while in The Cowslingers. In the Early Days of Bitter Struggle, which begrudgingly yielded to the Later Days of Bitter Struggle, we had to hang out at the party until people began to drift off and then secure sleeping space. It led to lots of scheming early trying to locate the best spots in the house. You would spot a couch that looked like a pullout in an upstairs room, wait until no one was looking, and then slink upstairs while the other guys in the band listened to some drunk expound upon the merits of the latest Jon Spencer record. We quickly came up with code words for this behavior. The man that discovered and then seized the best sleeping space was The Cheetah. The herd downstairs that let the fates dictate their future? They were Gazelles. In a world of Cheetahs and Gazelles, it is always better to be The Cheetah. The Cheetah enjoys the coldest beer from the bottom of the cooler while The Gazelle drinks from the six pack left on the table. The Cheetah sleeps soundly on the spare bed while the Gazelle attempts to get comfortable on the floor. The Cheetah springs into action while the Gazelle mindlessly waits for his destiny to unfold.

This particular night I remember that we had also played with a band of really young kids. They played first on the three band bill. They must have been in high school and lived nearby. I can only imagine how stoked they must have been to play on a gig with the local heroes and the out of town band that actually had honest-to-God records out. They really showed a little future Cheetah as well. They had pulled the old trick of telling each other’s parents that they were all sleeping at the other’s house, thereby making it possible to hang out at three in the morning at the In-Sect house and drink actual beer with actual college girls. What a score for a 17 year old! It was getting late and I remember Leo and I talked about crashing out. We had both eyeballed a pullout couch in an adjacent room, and decided to make our move. We walked in, saw a couple backpacks on the couch, tossed them off, and got to work making the transformation from couch to bed. We had the entire thing set up, and spread some blankets we found in a closet on it when two of the 17 year old kids walked in. “Hey! We “saved” that!”

The boys had made what appeared to be a logical move for any high school kid. By placing their belongings near the couch, they concluded that they had secured ownership rights to the space for the evening. Based on their limited life experience, I would have concluded the same thing. The problem for those young fellas was they were dealing with road hardened men that were full blown Cheetahs. Leo and I both ignored them and kept readying our space as they looked on. That was when Leo turned to them and pulled off his pants. “Boys? Have you ever seen a grown man naked?” They were in over their heads, and they knew it. They retreated shell-shocked from the room leaving the space to the scary naked red head and his hairy cowboy singer friend.

Leo and I slept the fitful sleep of The Cheetah that night.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Way Down

I worked at a Top 40 radio station right out of college in sales. I spent most of my time chasing down dance club owners for cash to run commercials for their “Nights Out” with the station. They would give me $600 or so, and in exchange one of our DJs would talk about how “ladies night at Club Whatever is the HOTTEST party this Thursday night! All ladies drink free courtesy of DaVinda’s Tanning!”. Then that Thursday night the station DJ would stand around the club for a couple hours, hand out some shitty prizes, and leave with $250 cash for the effort. Meanwhile, I would have to drive to the club seven times to find the unreliable coke addict owner for the cash, go over the commercial 17 times with him, and show up at the club to make sure the jock got paid. I’d make $72 in cash. Before taxes. It wasn’t easy to make big money selling Top 40 radio.

One of the perks of the job was you got to meet celebrities in one of two stages of their careers. “On their way up” was the most common, as the management teams had their clients on the road doing merciless press and radio appearances to flog whatever CD or show they had for sale. For example, I used to walk Jerry Seinfeld up to the studio all the time when he was still a club comedian. Lenny Kravitz and his band made the entire station smell like weed and that weird mold smell that comes off of hippies. I met a zillion bands that are great trivia questions now. Til Tuesday, The Divinyls, Extreme, The Covergirls, Tone Loc, Vanilla Ice, The Bullet Boys, The Rembrandts, and Gerardo immediately come to mind.   

  My personal favorites were the “On the Way Down” visits. You would get recording artists and performers that were too big to deal with local radio for the last few years, and in some cases had been total dicks in previous promotions with the station.  Guys that wouldn't do a meet 'n greet with fans a couple years ago suddenly appeared hat in hand to do a live acoustic show for listeners.  Well, if you would add their new single that hadn't been getting much traction nationally that is...  These visits were always unpredictable.  One time John Mellencamp had one of his people come back and tell the salespeople “Mr. Mellencamp said you can walk up front and meet him now.” They didn’t call him the Little Bastard for nothing. The best part was when my sales manager at the time said, “Tell Mr. Mellencamp he can walk back here and meet us if he wants to.” Welcome to the long downhill slide John. (Although he is now squiring around Hollywood with the woman formerly resembling Meg Ryan, so he got the last laugh. I guess he did anyway.)

One afternoon I walked into the lunchroom to get something to drink from the vending machine. A middle aged guy with small glasses, receding hair, and pressed jeans was messing around with the machine. He looked familiar to me. Really familiar. Then it hit me. “Hey… Aren’t you the guitar player from Loverboy?” He said “yeah” sheepishly and kept trying to get the machine to respond to his attempts to free a Diet Coke.

“I gotta tell you, I grew up in Erie PA. I heard the singles off those two records so many times, I hated you guys! Those were on the radio every fifteen seconds!” I realized two seconds after saying this, it was maybe not the way to introduce myself to this poor guy looking for a soda. I was actually excited to see Loverboy's guitar player.  Hell, I had seen those terrible videos thousands of times.  This was way better than meeting Information Society.  There was no going back now though.  I really bungled it.

He shrugged and said “Sorry” in a way that made me feel like he was really sorry to have bothered me by telling me that everyone was "Working For The Weekend" every two hours for two years.  He was just a guy looking for a soda.  I had a hard time coming to grips that this guy that had leaped around in red leather pants on MTV in my teenage years was now a guy that looked like he could give me sound tax advice in my work lunchroom. 

As it's odd to discover Loverboy’s guitar player (Paul Dean for the record) in your work lunchroom by himself looking for something to drink, I asked him what he was doing there. Hell, Loverboy hadn’t had a record out that had made a national dent in a half decade. “Mike is doing an interview. We’re playing a rib cookoff or something.” Oh.  I see.  There really wasn't any common ground here.  We looked at each other uncomfortably.  I gave him a quarter. He put it in the machine and got a Diet Coke. He opened the can, took a sip, and said thanks.  The encounter awkwardly ended.

I walked back to my desk to try and track down the owner of a shitty dance club by the Airport called Club Rio.  He owed me $650.  

It was a weird job.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nurse the Hate: Hate Occupy Cleveland?

It’s hard to believe that those five guys couldn’t successfully blow up a bridge. I mean, I look at them and I say to myself, “I’ll just bet those fellas could do anything they have their minds set on. There is no limit to the possibilities of their achievement!”. To those that are not aware, these five guys decided that they should blow something up as part of a hazy connection to their involvement to the Occupy Movement. I can understand why they might want to get a new project going. The idea of putting 50 or so hippies in tents on public squares has for some reason failed to topple the existing economic structure. When you are sitting around in a tent holding up hastily constructed cardboard signs, sooner or later someone is going to say “This sucks. We should do something really cool.” In that case, I would have probably said “Start a band!”. However, this particular group of dudes decided on blowing something up.

The tough thing in Cleveland if you are an amateur anarchist is that there really aren’t too many things you can blow up that will get people worked up. They discussed all kinds of lame targets like the Free Stamp (a horrible statue) and the Horseshoe Casino (which probably has tighter security than the Pentagon), and the Federal Reserve. How they settled on a suburban bridge in a sleepy community, I’m not sure. I would have gone another way. Browns Stadium would have been much cooler to blow up and a solution to the fiasco that goes on there every Fall. However, I think we can agree on the photos above, this is not exactly a Dream Team that was assembled. What a crew. When a movie is shot with a nefarious group of thugs planning evil deeds, they usually have the mad genius ringleader. Which one of those guys looks like a mad genius? Maybe the guy with the goatee and the skullet.  Those guys all look like they hang dry wall or are roadies for the Melvins.

The one thing I have learned from the news is that anytime that anyone tries to buy explosives or a hit man, the alleged seller is always an FBI agent. Always. If you are a dodgy looking guy and you reach out to someone to ask “Hey man. You know anyone that can get me a bunch of C-4?” there is a good chance that the person you asked is going to turn you in to The Authorities. This demonstrates that overall people have good sense, or maybe it just shows that people in Occupy Cleveland didn’t want that bridge that goes to Starbucks in Brecksville to get blown up. It’s hard to say.

This whole event places those Occupy folks in a tight spot. They can now look forward to a long trial with their name being associated with those five dipshits, and most of the population assuming that they are slackers in tents thinking about blowing shit up. I believe them to be harmless outcasts that would otherwise be following Phish or the Grateful Dead, but the tour schedules just aren't working out. Take a look at most of the people involved.  They aren’t thinking about blowing up bridges. I am confident most of them are thinking about having a nice clean bathroom available for a healthy shit, not being rained on, and how to gracefully go home without looking like this whole thing was a tremendous waste of time.

It’s sort of amazing that the Occupy movement is still happening even in its limp state. I think we can agree at this point the “movement” consists of a small collection of naïve zealots and a much larger group of outcasts hungry for attention. When you are unemployable and living in a shitty apartment (or with your Mom and Dad) it must be pretty exciting to have TV cameras and people with microphones asking you what you think. In most cases, I would imagine this would be the first time anyone ever asked these people what they think about anything. It’s fun and makes them feel important. Bravo. As far as I am concerned, it’s better than them taking up all the good tables at coffee shops. The good news about this whole incident is that now The Man can sweep these people out, and they can go home and rail about how they have once again been violated by society. It's a withdrawal with some honor I suppose.  We all win. Well, except those guys that tried to blow up the bridge. They’ll be in orange jumpsuits for the next 40 years. Fight the power, man.