Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Jury Duty

It happened at last.  Always a fear in the back of any citizen’s mind is the spectre of Jury Duty.  Shockingly, I have voted since I turned 18, and have never even received a summons.  I don’t know if this was because I was on some sort of government watch list, or if they just figured I would never show up anyway.  I do have a tendency to ignore my mail, so there is a distinct chance I have received a summons before but never even opened the envelope.  You can't escape forever though.  Your luck will eventually run out.  Just like in combat, my number came up. 

I had mixed feelings when I received the summons.  Secretly I have always wanted to take part in the judicial system.  I think I would have been an excellent trial lawyer as I am persuasive and would enjoy the stage aspect of the courtroom.  I know I could confidently walk across the courtroom in a $2500 suit and casually toss a legal pad on the table while badgering a witness.  I do a variation of that all the time with Leo right now for God’s sake.  It seems easy from the outside looking in.  Let’s be honest though.  I think those dreams would have come unraveled when I failed to memorize any key legal statutes or procedures.  My gut tells me that “Objection!  The prosecution is being a total dick to my client!” might not hold much water in the court room.  My legal dreams are probably akin to those people in the stands at an NFL game that are just as positive they could go down on the field and play QB.  I’ll bet just like in the NFL, the game moves faster when you are actually on the field.

I had to report to the Elyria Courthouse in Lorain County.  The courthouse is on the square in Elyria, which is sort of like the exact opposite of town squares like Chagrin Falls OH, or Sonoma CA.  Where they have boutiques, nice restaurants, and charm, the square in Elyria has closed karaoke bars, martial arts supplies, and drifters.  The courthouse itself is a decent building as it must be the town’s remaining source of income via court costs and fines.  You can’t miss it.  It is the only building on the square with any activity whatsoever. Stop on by.  This building is an excellent place to meet a single mother with tattoos on her breasts, amputee, or rangy looking dude with a goatee that is continually in legal trouble.  If I were a producer for the TV show “Cops”, I would do a casting call here.  It’s pure gold.  The building is a living monument to low expectations and repeated mistakes.

I sat in a large room with one TV that played “Live with Kelly” while the prospective jurors gathered.  Upon arrival most people have the same look that a new kid in any grade school has during his/her first day.  “Where do I sit?  Do I know anybody?”  This is when I learned my first painful lesson about jury duty.  “OK everyone.  We will be gathering up everyone to go upstairs for jury selection, but first we have to wait for the judge to finish up something.  I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”  Time is all relative.  Each time someone said they would be back in ten minutes, that meant thirty.  Twenty minutes meant 50-75.  The wheels of justice move slowly in this country, and that is mostly due to the fact that everyone is stuck waiting around all day.  I got more reading done here than on my last two beach vacations.

Eventually we were placed in a line based on what number prospective juror we were.  I was #22, and stood next to an overeager fat dorky guy in glasses and an elderly black woman that never seemed to know exactly what was happening from moment to moment. We were marched upstairs to the courtroom and then directed where to sit.  Due to the overflow of prospective jurors, I was sat down directly behind the defendant.  The defendant was in orange and white striped prison garb, and sported a shaved head with very fashionable glasses.  I immediately wanted to know what he looked like on his mug shot as his lawyer must have had him cleaned up to look as presentable as possible.  My guess is he was sporting a Charlie Manson meets Boxcar Willie look prior to entering The System.  It was then I glanced to my left and noticed the black woman was crying.

“I don’t want nothin’ to do with this!  I’m church people.  I don’t think I have the right to judge nobody.”, she said as tears streamed down her face.  This was going on as the judge was giving pretrial instructions to the crowd.  No one was paying attention to the fact that a sixty something year old woman was totally falling apart three feet from the defendant.  I leaned in and comforted her by saying, “It’s OK.  They only take 12 jurors.  We are numbers 22 and 23.  They would have to dismiss ten other people for us to be in the jury box.  You’ll be fine.”  She sniffled and looked up with a sudden flash of optimism.  “Really?”

The prosecution was a petite cute little blond that was wound up way too tightly.  As she made her way with seemingly pointless questions during jury selection, it seemed like she needed to make a consistent effort not to fly off the handle and shout at people.  She had worked very hard to be here and no one was going to mess up her career godammit!  I imagine her as someone that would yell at you after you went out of your way to buy her something because you got “the wrong one”.  Here sweetie!  I got you this perfume you like!  “You know I don’t like the #4!  I like the #3!  If you ever paid attention to anything at all you certainly would have noticed that!  It’s just like last time when you were supposed to pick up the dry cleaning on Tuesday but you waited until Wednesday!  How many times did I tell you that blah blah blah…”  In short, she is probably perfect for the job of prosecutor. It’s nice to see someone with the natural trait of “ballbusting” finding a perfect career match.

The defense attorney was a laid back guy I immediately liked despite recognizing he was working us.  I identified with him as a guy that seemed amused by the tedious protocol of the courtroom and had a bit of a fly by the seat of the pants element to him.  He seemed like the kind of guy that wasn’t worried about finals because he had a buddy at the Frat that had a copy of the test.  While everyone else tried to find the tickets for the Big Concert, he had a hookup that would let him in the stage door.  If this was a high school class, he was the popular guy that breezed through school while the prosecutor was the one that stewed about how “it wasn’t fair” that things were so easy for him.  He would have been just as at home selling upscale cars or PGA Golf Tour Sponsorships.

The jury selection dragged on.  And on.  And on.  There are a series of questions asked to identify if there is some reason why you shouldn’t be on the jury.  For the most part, this seems like a waste of time as no one was getting left off the hook.  For example, the judge will ask, “Does anyone here have a close friend or family member in law enforcement?”.  (Almost everyone does by the way)  He then asks, “Do you think your relationship would be a factor in not allowing you to remain fair and impartial?”.  Every single time the person responds, “No.”.  I mean, what the hell are you going to say?  “My brother is a cop and he tells me that there are so many shitbags that go free because of legal bullshit.  So if this guy actually got arrested, he’s probably guilty as fuck.  Fuck this guy.  Let's lock him up!”  Everyone pretends that they are totally unbiased.

The interesting thing is when you first get called to jury duty, you want to get out of it.  Then this weird transformation happens as the selection process continues.  Suddenly you find you want to be on the jury mostly because the lawyers are trying to figure out if they don’t want you.  It’s like the VIP phenomenon at a nightclub.  As soon as a velvet rope goes up around a certain area to make it “special”, everyone wants to get in there.  It is the same with the jury. “What do you mean you might not want me?  No!  No, you want me!”

The fat dorky guy to my right had buddied up to an equally plump dorky guy to his right.  It was obvious this was the biggest thing to happen to either one of these guys since they saw Richard Petty signing autographs at a Wal Mart.  They were so overstimulated and eager to be on the jury I don’t think either lawyer wanted any part of them.  At one point Fat Guy #1 leaned in to the defense attorney and asked “You don’t want him on the jury, right?” after a question was fielded by a prospective juror across the room.  The lawyer looked at him with a look of mild disbelief and wrote something on his legal pad.  It reminded me of when Travis Bickle asks the Secret Service guy questions in the movie "Taxi Driver".  Within moments, Fat Guy #1 had been dismissed. He was crushed.  He would now have to return to his life of farting into his sweatpants while watching TV on the couch.

The lawyers dismissed jurors back and forth using their five dismissals.  Someone was sent out because of a health concern.  The judge then started reading the numbers of the jurors.  I was in.  What?  The black lady was in.  Huh?  He told us to get up and take our new seats.  The woman had a stunned look on her face that said, “But you told me this wouldn’t happen…”  She had no idea that I didn’t know what I was talking about and only had said those things to calm her down.  We sat down in our seats in the box and suddenly I was part of the jury.  What madman had allowed this to happen?  As my brother later texted me, "They have text books about jury selection, but in none of those text books is there a chapter about someone like you."

Hey, whatever...  I'm here now.  Let's go!  It was show time.  We knew the case was criminal, but we had no idea of any of the specifics.  Was it a murder?  Had someone been kidnapped?  Perhaps there was some international intrigue…  It looked just like the movies.  This was really happening! Certainly if the case couldn’t be settled, it was going to be a real matter of import that we as citizens would have to wade through in what would probably become a landmark trial.  Then the opening statements began…

It turned out that Hillbilly #1 had been collecting “scrap” (aka “garbage”) in his sister’s vacant garage.  Hillbilly #2 (the defendant) and #3 decide they were going to load up a trailer with a bunch of the garbage and sell it presumably for drug money.  Hillbilly #1, very attached to his garbage, kept close watch on his sister’s vacant house and his garbage.  One day he drove up and discovered Hillbilly #2 and Hillbilly #3 loading up a flatbed trailer with his garbage.  His Garbage!  Hillbilly #1 calls 911 and leaves his car in the driveway blocking them in. 

Now if I was Hillbilly #2 or Hillbilly #3 I would have waited for the cops to come and threw some bullshit story out about how they were hired there to clean the garage and they didn’t know what this crazy old man was talking about.  (Hillbilly #1 that owned the garbage was 74 years old.)  Being hillbillies they, of course, make a hillbilly decision and begin to ram Hillbilly #1’s car with their truck in an attempt to move him out of the way.  When this doesn’t work, our defendant Hillbilly #2 gets out of the truck, picks up a 20 pound motor and throws it through the driver’s side window.  There is then some sort of tussle, Hillbilly #1 loses control of the phone in which he was talking to the 911 operator, and Hillbilly #3 somehow gets the truck at an angle so they can make their big escape across the lawn.  Hillbilly #2 jumps back in the truck and they drive away.

As there were literally tens of dollars at stake, Hillbilly #1 tears after them in hot pursuit with his shitty Buick leading the chase.  The 911 operator has him zero in on Hillbilly #2 and #3’s location which takes them into Elyria.  Hillbilly #2 and #3 pull into a convenient store parking lot, make a run for it and try to hide in some weeds.  They are, naturally, captured in about 13 seconds by the cops.  Police reports are filed and the garbage is presumably returned to Hillbilly #1.

The problem for our defendant is that Hillbilly #1 hurts his shoulder in all the excitement and has to get a rotator cuff surgery.  That means that instead of Hillbilly #2 being in trouble for breaking & entering, criminal tools, robbery, etc., he now is facing felony assault charges and aggravated assault charges.  There is a mountain of evidence against Hillbilly #2, and even the defense attorney says, “Look, my client is guilty of four of these charges.  He did it.  But he didn’t necessarily do the bad ones.” 

We spend the next two days watching the uptight little blond prosecutor become more uptight at the defense attorney.  He tries out an angle of that the old man’s shoulder was already hurt (which it probably was to some extent), but when you toss a motor through a car’s window while telling the car’s driver to “move the fucking car”, wrench on the old dude, and then the guy immediately gets admitted to the hospital overnight for shoulder pain, there isn’t much you can do.  Bam.  Suddenly you are going to jail for over 10 years for trying to steal garbage.  Way to go Hillbilly #2!

As I went back to the jury room to deliberate, ideas floated through my head.  I could have gone with two different approaches and needed to decide which way to proceed.  Approach one would have been “Overbearing Jury Foreman”.  As we have seen from countless TV shows and movies, the role of Overbearing Foreman would have required me to try to shove through a decision that made the other jurors uncomfortable.  I would have had to have trampled on other’s opinions, cut off discussions, and said things like “We all know he is guilty/innocent!  Let’s get this over with and go home!”.  The key to that is to completely intimidate the mousy people on the jury (there were at least six) and make them so unwilling to challenge your position they would vote your way on anything as long as you didn’t call them out in front of the group.  This is a role I could have easily fulfilled.  I do it almost daily at work anyway.  Plus I had already purposely secured the seat at the head of the table just in case I decided to go this route.

The other role would have required me to be the silent grumpy guy that makes a wild outburst after having said nothing for so long, the fact you are even speaking stuns everyone to silence.  Rhetoric should be focused on minutiae, and show little understanding of what is actually being discussed.  There should also be a tinge of paranoia to the whole thing.  For example, let’s say the group is discussing if there was enough evidence to support the defendant purposely tried to injure the victim.  That’s a great time to let loose with, “Well, no one ever asked me if I was going to get hurt when I went over to Viet Nam!  Now we are all concerned about rights?  Well I didn’t see any of you concerned about my rights when I got back from The Shit!”. 

I decided on role #2.

An Italian guy with maybe the largest jutting forehead I have ever seen from someone born after 50,000 B.C. was our foreman.  He seemed like a nice guy.  I am sticking with the fact that if you froze him in a block of ice with a loincloth and a spear, he would be the most important archaeological find of our time though.  You don’t see too many guys with that Cro-Magnon look these days, at least not in golf shirts.  He did his best to lead the group into an efficient decision after quick logical discussion. 

 The back and forth was focused on the legal sticking points of cause and intent with the mice being quiet, and the alpha males agreeing on his guilt.  I let that continue for quite some time.  Then I let loose suddenly and loudly with “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, who amongst us hasn’t lost their temper and thrown something through a car window?  Who amongst us hasn’t at least thought about it?  I put to you that this 74 year old man is nothing but a whiplash hustler!  Now don’t get me wrong…  I’m not condoning the acts of the defendant…  I am just asking for a little empathy.  Is he really guilty?  Let’s take a real close look here…”  That’s when almost everyone went crazy shouting about how guilty he was from top to bottom.  I let that go on for awhile as I appeared to thoughtfully consider the evidence.

I finally gave it up.  “Oh, I know he’s guilty.  I just wanted to play devil’s advocate and see if you guys got fired up.”  There was some nervous laughter, but mostly relief as people exchanged glances communicating how excited they were about finishing this thing up and probably getting me out of their lives.  We voted unanimously to find Hillbilly #2 guilty on all counts because he was guilty on all counts.  Sucks to be you man.

So now I walk tall, the unblinking eye of justice.  I am safe and secure in knowing that I have kept the garbage of Lorain County safe, and that abandoned house will continue to be overrun with trash.  Justice has been served.  

The system worked.   



Monday, August 26, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Replacements Reunion Riot Fest 2013

Yesterday I went to Toronto to see the Replacements play their first gig in 22 years.  Damn that’s a long time.  The Eagles have gotten back together.  The Pixies got back together.  Hell, even the Backstreet Boys got back together.  Why did the Replacements wait so friggin' long?  Can we blame Axl Rose on this?  Would they even be any good?  Would it be worth the trip?  The show was at a festival gig called Riot Fest that was held at Fort Pitt Park in downtown Toronto.  It was the standard festival prototype with a bunch of cool bands, food trucks, slacker corporate sponsorship, and Hipster Nation out in force. Let’s discuss a few of these elements for a moment…

There were about 10,000 people at this festival.  About 9184 of them were wearing Wayfarer sunglasses.  9998 of them had tattoos, most of them absolutely horrible.  Here’s a quick tip for portly ladies…  If you have calves the size of an NFL fullback, a tattoo on the back of them that draws even more attention is probably not in your best interests long term. Another quick tip…  At this point some of the Tattoo Pioneers have reached an age where the skin is not quite as elastic as it was 20+ years ago when they got the ink.  No one wants to look at a saggy mermaid or angel on your shoulder.  That blotch of color on your arm makes you look like a Korean War vet at the VFW Hall, not Johnny Thunders.  Time to put away the sleeveless shirts and tops and consider other clothing options.

An interesting look that is sweeping the Canadian Hipster Community is what I refer to as “The Gay Sailor” look.  Men are wearing mustaches and haircuts with the hair parted to the side with product like Dapper Dan.  Throw in a pair of long legged shorts (almost Capri's) and striped horizontal t-shirts and everyone looks like a homosexual sailor that just hopped off Daddy’s sloop in the Hamptons in 1926.  There must have been 6000 dudes that looked like Matt Damon in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.  It was unsettling.

As mentioned earlier, the food options were via Food Trucks parked to the side of the area.  Food trucks have become very trendy, as any food that has been prepared in the cramped space of a truck surely must be better than food prepared in an actual kitchen.  This is the myth that has made yesterday’s “Roach Coach” today’s cooler than thou eatery.  However, just like restaurants, some food trucks are good while others kinda suck.  The real issue is when 10,000 people want to eat, it’s hard to feed them out of a tiny window of a truck.  The lines for the trucks were mammoth, so I stuck to the beer tent.  This had its’ own set of issues.

While I understand the need for corporate sponsors to help make an event of this magnitude happen, it is very disappointing to arrive at a fenced in area on a hot summer day and discover your options are cans of Pabst poured into plastic cups or a shot of Jager.  Making matters worse, each can of Pabst was $7.  I know I risk sounding like some sort of heretic, but let’s be honest.  The emperor has no clothes.  Pabst sucks, it’s always sucked, and at $7 a can it really really sucks.  Let me also be forthcoming about my personal weaknesses.  I’m not going to go to a show in the hot summer sun and not have a few beers.  I drank the fucking Pabst.  

Toronto traffic and a lengthy border cross made for a late arrival.  Apparently Canada has become so pissed off by the inefficiency of our never ending War on Terror that they have decided to make sure it takes an hour to get into their country as well.  It’s a real pain in the ass despite crossing at the “no wait” bridge that was actually an hour.  If I crossed at the Peace Bridge I would probably still be there, slumped over the steering wheel holding my passport.  Some Gay Sailor would have probably sifted through my pockets for the tickets to the show.  It became all about patience, which I have little of.  Still, after all the hassle, it turned out the show was worth it.  It was an awesome bill. 

I missed Dinosaur Jr, a band that has continued to put out really good albums since reuniting a few years back.  For my money their last two indie records are better than the two they made at the end of their major label run in the 90s.  I had hoped to see them as I missed their last two local shows.  No dice though.  I did see Jay Mascis standing on the side of the stage later.  Does that count as seeing Dinosaur Jr? 

The timing was perfect though to see Rocket From the Crypt.  Now I have been resistant for years to go "in" on Rocket From the Crypt.  I never really understood the horn thing, and the only CD I had was that last one they did for the major.  I should have known better as all my German pals love these guys.  The Germans are serious about their rock, so if a pack of Germans says someone is awesome, they probably are awesome.  Indeed, Rocket From the Crypt is awesome.  I am so sorry I am this late to the party.  I vow to remedy my ways.

The Weakerthans found themselves in the unenviable position of having to go on after Rocket From the Crypt.  I like this band, but their sorta nerdy bookish power pop punk was not really what I was in the mood for at this point.  Even they said from the stage, “We are honored and sort of bewildered as to why we are here.”  They did what they did well, and I’m glad I finally saw them play.  I always loved that “I Hate Winnipeg” song.

Next up were Iggy and the Stooges.  I am 100% a fan of Iggy.  That guy knows how to put on a show, and is the cockroach of rock n roll.  He cannot be killed.  He has hung around and hung around, and nestled into the Godfather of Punk role perfectly.  I think he was considered the Old Man of punk in 1982.  There he was, shirtless and lean as always, banging out a muscular “Search and Destroy” with James Williamson on guitar and Mike Watt on bass.  They played most of the “big” Stooges songs, and some real deep cuts like “Cock In My Pocket” and “I Got A Right”.  I can’t recall the last time I saw a 66 year old man dive off a giant festival sized stage into a crowd, but that fucking guy will kill himself to put on a show.  The Stooges sounded great, like a powerful machine.  I never thought I’d see that band, or that they would sound that good.

Then came the main event.  I have outlined previously how big the Replacements were to me.  They have been on heavy rotation for me since I discovered them in the 80s.  The fear of these reunion type shows is that the band will suck, and they will rob you of your good memories of them by planting new shitty images in your head in their place.  I once had the chance to meet Westerburg, but purposely walked the other direction.  I was so worried that he might turn out to be an asshole, and then I could never listen to his records the same way again.  I love this band and I think they are everything rock and roll can and should be about.

The Replacements set was better than I could have hoped.  First of all, Tommy and Paul look great.  They have stayed trim and looked like they belonged on a stage in front of 10,000 rapt fans.  They were having fun and smiled their way through the set playing songs that the crowd clearly loved as much as I did.  Paul’s voice sounded like he had just popped back in from 1992.  There they were, doing their thing.  They were the same old Replacements as Paul flubbed lines on “I Will Dare” and “Androgynous” while of course perfectly nailing a Sham 69 cover.  They played early stuff, late stuff, covers, and pretty much what you wanted to hear.  OK, no “Waitress In The Sky” or “Unsatisfied”, but I’m not complaining.  The band was locked in, and you can tell how much the guitar player had studied those Replacements records to faithfully nail those solos.  What a dream gig for that guy.  Who wouldn’t want to blast out “Alex Chilton” or “Left of the Dial” with Westerberg and Tommy?  I almost wept when they played “I Can’t Hardly Wait”.

Hopefully there will be more to come from The Replacements and the remaining two shows of Riot Fest in Chicago and Denver aren’t it.  I don’t know if Paul Westerberg has any more songs like those left in him.  Frankly, he got more than his share to begin with…  I would love to hear what happens if they tried though.  I don’t want to be too greedy.  Even if these guys never play together again, I was so glad that they decided to do it last night, and I was lucky enough to be there.  Food trucks and border crossings be damned.  It was worth it.            

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Small Time Anarchy

There has been a subtle change that has been going on for some time that is almost complete.  I have stopped obeying almost every rule and law that I think is foolish.  This either means I have become some sort of cantankerous old man, or have become some sort of low impact anarchist.  I am leaning into the “cantankerous old man” side as I am not attempting to get any minions to join me on this clear path of chaos.  This is no movement.  This is no revolution.   I don't have the energy.  I’ve just evolved into this anti-social creature that rigidly obeys certain aspects of our society, and has totally discarded others.  There is almost no rhyme or reason to any of it, really just a reflection of personal convenience.  I really should start wearing cooler sunglasses and a flag shirt...  That will help sell my ideas through.  

For example, many traffic laws I now regard as merely “suggestions”.  Red light/green light?  That shit is important.  I haven’t gone mad.  I don't want anyone killing themselves out there.  I’m all about tailoring existing laws to better fit my preferred lifestyle.  My thought is that since I have a high performance vehicle that has been specifically designed to drive at high speeds and brake rapidly, I should not be held to the same vehicle limits as a 1998 Dodge Caravan with bald tires.  As the machine I am driving bears little resemblance to that other machine that is so often annoyingly in front of me, I feel that I should no longer be shackled to the lowest common denominator traffic limits that rightly have been imposed on the majority of others.  I have, in fact, ascended beyond these laws and now exist in my own set of self-policed rules.  Do not worry fellow citizens.  I shall continue to monitor myself closely.  

If a law gets in my way, and it doesn’t present any real benefit (to me), it’s time to stop paying attention to it.  I no longer adhere to the idea of open container laws.  In most of Europe, if you want to have a beer instead of a Diet Mt Dew, you have at it.  What’s the difference?  Will the nation spiral into lawlessness because I have beer and water in my cooler at the park?  Will I lose all control after having wine with a sandwich on a picnic?  Will children decide to no longer listen to their parents because they see me shuffle by with a Green Flash IPA at the beach?   Was anyone harmed when I knocked back that completely tasty Hala Kahiki Pineapple beer after I paddled around on my kayak?  Hell no.  This is another pointless rule that I have discarded.  I would suggest you do the same.  You’ll like it.  Once again, I want to stress that this is not a movement per se.  It’s just an idea I have outgrown.  I have evolved into a new direction.

It’s all about making society fit your lifestyle, not the other way around.  I like to bring the hounds with me when I enter stores in strip plazas and malls.  This is not an everyday thing as frankly those two are a pain in the ass.  However if I am driving around with those bassets, and let’s say we need to make a stop at Banana Republic so I can get a special little shirt, I’m bringing the hounds with me instead of leaving them in a hot car.  Are the dogs “allowed” in the store?  Probably not as some sort of corporate attorney at headquarters has decided there is inherent risk in allowing anything to happen in that store besides selling overpriced merchandise.  This is really a key to my new found behavior.  I always assume I am not “allowed” to do anything, but I really don’t give a fuck.  I am moving ahead at my convenience.  Those dogs aren’t impeding fellow citizens purchases of $78 dress shirts.  Let ‘em sniff around while I shop I say!

In my experience, no one will say anything if you walk into clearly inappropriate places with two confident dogs.  This is due to the fact that most of the employees at your basic box store make about $11 a day, and the last thing they want is a hassle from some off-kilter unshaven man with two stinky hounds.  Would you?  Let’s say you are employee #32876 at Banana Republic and I come waltzing in there with ripped combat shorts, a Roky Erickson t-shirt, and two big short dogs.  Your options are to confront me and say I have to leave, or just ring up the shirt purchase I made and get me the hell out of there as quickly as possible.  I have done this a great number of times, and only once (in Dick’s Sporting Goods) did an employee suggest I couldn’t continue on my course of action.  Here’s a quick recap of that:

Employee:  “Um, I don’t think you are allowed to have them in here.”

Me:  “No, it’s OK.  I can.” (As I walked right by her like she didn’t exist.)

This strategy is very effective.  In general, most small time authority figures are unsure of their actual scope of power.  The key is to appear even more confident in your behavior than they are in their potential actions.  As you confidently go about your business, in the back of their minds will spring the thought, “It must be OK that this guy with the two stinky basset hounds is drinking a beer in here while buying those overpriced shorts.  He couldn’t possibly be doing it if he didn’t get permission from somebody!”.  That’s the key.  Always act as if you have implied permission from someone above them in the food chain.  Then even the act of questioning you will be nerve racking as they wonder, “Will I get in trouble for this if I give him a hard time?  Does he know someone at corporate?”.  I’m telling you, try it.   It really works.  Oh, and once again, I’m not trying to lead some sort of cultural revolution here, I’m just making “suggestions”.  

It’s a very confusing and transitional time for me.  On one hand I want to kill drivers that cut in line when lanes merge.  On the other hand, I have totally discarded most other traffic laws.  I steal from hotel mini bars like a kleptomaniac, but am outraged when other guests steal towels or robes.  I want my community aggressively policed for other people’s outrageous behavior, but I don’t want the cops to hassle me when I am shooting off fireworks while on a tequila binge.  Ultimately I may need to buy more land, or create some sort of "compound" where I can put foil up on the windows and spend some real time typing out my manifesto.  After I bang out a quick 500 pages I can show up outside of places like previous employers, police stations, political gatherings, ex-girlfriend's houses, and high school reunions to really get the word out with the book.  "Hey man, it's all in the book man.  Just read it and open your mind."  I'll probably have the flag shirt by then...     

None of it makes any sense, least of all to me.  At any one time I am contradicting my own shakily constructed codes of behavior three times over, but yet I am sure my actions are justified.  I just need a good label for my principles.  Something like “Libertarian Soft Anarchist”... Or maybe “New Democratic Individualistic Opportunist”…  If I can properly label these ideas as some sort of dogma, I can avoid having to logically explain why none of it adds up. “Sir, I did not ignore these posted signs as a criminal action.  I have done so as a practicing “Self Actualized Citizen of New Tomorrows”.  Now step away and be on your way Sir!”

You may think these are dangerous ideas.  Let me remind you of one thing.  These are dangerous times.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the East Coast

We don’t play the East Coast very often.  The reasons are simple.  The pay is always lousy at the clubs.  The people that work at the clubs are usually dicks, failed actors that are taking out their venom on the unsuspecting bands filing through from towns that have affordable shithole apartments.  There is never a place to park, and if you do find one, chances are some violent drug addict will break into the van.  The clubs are always located in a “transitional” neighborhood, which is a real estate agent term for “scary”.  There just isn’t a lot of upside for us. 

One of the last times we played the East Coast was in Philadelphia way back when Bob and Dave were in the band.  We played some show with the guys in Mondo Topless at a club in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia.  The upside of the gig was not the light attendance from paying customers, but rather the invented history we came up during the lulls for Bob and his childhood spent as a trapper’s son in Fishtown.  To give you an idea of the quality of the neighborhood, we lost Dave and Bob about 11 seconds after our set when they passed through the metal detector of the all black strip club a block up the street.  This was after they were allowed entry after the full pat down by one of the enormous bouncers under the “no colorz in da club” sign.  I know this because when I couldn’t find them for load out, I knew there was only one possible place they could be after I deduced they were not in the used appliance store or wig shop.  I also received the full pat down like I was showing up for a gang land turf negotiation.  Tiny topless underage girls teetered dangerously on the thin bar while angry looking patrons glared at the big tipping cowboy and his little trapper pal.   With some effort, I pried them from the club.

Shatner and his friends at Priceline got us a great rate at the Radisson in the Financial District.  This is a very civilized hotel with impressive marble lobby and majestic lighting on the stone frontage.  We had a couple rooms with Bob and Dave taking their traditional room together.  Usually when those two checked into a room together, Dave would immediately attempt to order room service shrimp cocktail and then they would smoke cigarettes hoping for “Cool Hand Luke” on late night WTBS.  Say what you will, but this is a much more regal way to spend the wee hours of the evening than the members of The Melvins probably do.

This particular night they checked into their room to discover a cooler with Yuengling Beer, and a backpack with condoms, dental dams, and giant women’s sunglasses on the dresser.  I would imagine they immediately deduced that these were not complimentary sundries like some sort of “Philadelphia Welcome Basket”.  That did not impede them from breaking into the cooler like raccoons, and begin watching Cool Hand Luke with beers in hand.  Bob became very fond of the sunglasses when he decided they made him appear like a 1966 Keith Richards, though some may argue he looked like a transgender Joyce Dewitt.  Regardless, the boys couldn’t have been happier.

The sharp knock on the door came as a surprise.  It was 330am, and Dave hadn’t ordered shrimp cocktail.  There was no doubt that this was the owner of the cooler, backpack, and sunglasses back for their things.  Initially they decided on the sensible move and not answer the door.  Like two twelve year olds caught with beer in a tree fort, they played dead hoping the authority figures would go away.

They did not.  The knocking became more urgent.

When Dave opened the door, a woman that was clearly a prostitute walked in with her John obediently in tow.  There had been a misunderstanding at some point earlier in the evening.  A big misunderstanding.  The room had been abandoned and the John had been forced to go to a cash machine to provide more money to the outraged hooker. He must have checked out in the earlier argument with the prostitute, and forgotten the gear was still in the room.  It was hard to understand what exactly had gone wrong with the transaction, but now no one was happy.   She yelled at him consistently as she gathered up her bag.  With his head down, he took the verbal abuse and took the cooler.  They both headed out the door, either not noticing or not caring that Bob and Dave had drank most of the beer.  It was a brief storm that had rolled through the room, and then it was gone.  

Dave and Bob sat on their individual beds and began to recap on exactly what the hell had happened.  They both lamented on the sudden disappearance of the beer.  That was when Bob showed his resolve that evening, and slid open the bedside table drawer to reveal the sunglasses, henceforth known at “the whore glasses”.  Bob put the glasses on, and then Dave and Bob watched Cool Hand Luke until they fell asleep.

If you are in the Greater Nashville area, and there just happens to be a harsh glare, you may just yet see Bob Lanphier driving the roadways in those whore sunglasses.  Bob moved to Nashville about five years ago.  He doesn’t play the East Coast.  We don’t either.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Myrtle Beach

The family that lived across the street from me had seven kids.  Well, there were seven kids that I knew about.  There always seemed to be a strange teenager lurking around that may or may not have been in the family.  I was friends with the two youngest boys, Richard and Robert.  The Father was a big scary man that I heard speak twice.  He looked like a cross between Fred McMurray and Herman Munster.  He was never home and I never recall knowing where he worked or what he did.  He was just a hulking man that completely ignored Richard and Robert like they were feral dogs that lived in the back yard.

The mother’s name was Lil.  I remember her as being a chain smoker that was always lying on the couch with daytime TV droning on in front of her.  I can’t ever recall seeing her stand upright.  She was always in a robe in a prone position with overflowing ashtrays scattered around her like toadstools.  The shades were always drawn in the living room and the room was in a permanent haze due to the smoke.  It looked like a drawing I had seen in a New Yorker Magazine of a 1800s opium den.  Come to think of it, her basic lifestyle was that on an opium addict.  She also ignored Richard and Robert like they were feral dogs, which for the most part, they were.

Richard and Robert’s older siblings spent their days primarily listening to David Bowie records and smoking pot upstairs behind locked doors.  I once was allowed the privilege of sitting on their sister Linda’s bed while she played “Ziggy Stardust” on her RCA stereo while a poster of Bowie in Ziggy garb looked down on me.  As she explained why Bowie was so awesome, I noticed a pair of her pink cotton panties on the floor, at which point she threw us out of the room after classifying me as a “pervert”.  I really should have refuted this charge as she was the one playing androgynous rock music and displaying pink panties to a prepubescent boy.  I was truly an innocent at this point in my life.  I must confess that upon reflection I wonder if I would find myself subconsciously aroused if I opened a department store circular to discover a panty advertisement while “Five Years” was on my stereo.  Best not to dwell on such things…

Each August the entire family would go on vacation to Myrtle Beach for two weeks.  Every year it was the same vacation; Myrtle Beach at a campground in their attached trailer.  Why Bob, the father, thought it would be relaxing to cram seven kids and a woman that was an obvious opium addict into an International Harvester Travelall for a nine hour drive to a mosquito ridden campground, I have no idea.  That’s what he did though.  Every single year.  As far as Richard and Robert were concerned, it was awesome.  They would come back two weeks later sunburned to a crisp after having two weeks of running amok in Myrtle, with new hermit crab pets in tow.  These hermit crabs were always dead within a week due to neglect.  If you ever thought about where the wild dirty barefoot kids with Kool Ade stained mouths, shaggy haired teenagers smoking on the boardwalk, and parents that were all buzzed up on Stroh's and Canei wine came from at Myrtle Beach, please know that at least nine of them came from Erie PA.

This summer tradition died a horrible death one fateful year on our nation’s highways.  The family was enjoying their inhumane travel conditions in the beat-to-shit Travelall on their return trip.  Richard and Robert were riding in the trailer.  One has to remember that this was a different time.  I wouldn’t say that parents were encouraged to place their children at risk, but it was well before children wore helmets for any outdoor activity.  The only helmet you wore while riding a bike was a football helmet because you were going to play a sandlot game in pads.  Kids played with fireworks, built dangerous tree houses, and checked in with their parents only around meal times.  Safety was more relative then.  Granted, my parents wouldn’t have allowed my brother and me to ride in a hitched camper, but Bob and Lil were probably just worn out from all those kids.  If you lose a couple of them, who would even notice?  Lil was always so zoned out, it was hard to decipher if she was even aware of the kids at all.

What transpired on the drive home was perhaps the most exciting event in that family’s dysfunctional lives.  The cause would be debated for years, fingers pointed at many scapegoats.  After being crammed into a camper for 14 days with nine people, Dad’s nerves were probably shot.  Or maybe the the years of mechanical neglect finally caught up to the camper.  Whatever the reason, as Dad rolled down the highway he noticed a camper unattached to any vehicle roll by him in the right lane.  Not any camper.  His camper.  He knew it was his as he saw the faces of Richard and Robert pressed up against the window, their cries of panic silent through the glass of the side windows.  The trailer then veered off the road to the right at a slight angle, the boy’s faces still pressed against the window as it tumbled from view off the roadside.  The accounts differed on how many times it rolled, but what was agreed on by both Richard and Robert was that it was “a lot”.  Richard broke his collar bone and Robert broke his arm.

I still remember the hush that fell over the neighborhood as the dented camper was dragged home into the driveway.  It was like a wounded WWII bomber limping in over the cliffs of Dover.  The top left corner was crushed in, windows broken, and it moved with a shimmy that must have been spectacular at any speed over 35 mph.   The boys emerged from the Travelall in their casts and slings, and the story was told.  It was retold.  And it was told again.  It was their finest hour.  The trailer sat in the driveway for well over two years before it was quietly towed away one afternoon while we were at school.  It was the family’s last trip to Myrtle Beach, and perhaps their last vacation as a family. 

I haven’t had a vacation like that in years, where it is more about survival than enjoyment.  There is something pure about being totally out of reach, with your days being dictated completely by the rhythms of the shore.  Having sand in everything and just giving into it.  Two full weeks where no one cares about what you are doing.  Fourteen consecutive days where your only oasis is a sand fly ridden camper sounds pretty good at this point of the year.  There’s only three weeks left of what I consider summer.  I need a camper and right away.  I bet I could get a good price on both that Travelall and that crushed 70s vintage number. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Maui Shark Attack

I was reading about a shark attack in Maui where a woman was snorkeling in 10 feet of water 30 feet off shore and what was estimated to be a 25 foot tiger shark bit her.  Think about the size of that animal.  A big grizzly bear is about 500 pounds.  That shark was about 1500 pounds.  I would imagine that it would be disappointing to have what is real life sea monster clamp down on you.  “I don't know because it happened so fast. I didn't see him coming. I didn't see him leave. He just came and hit me hard and bit me hard and I just took off to the shore as fast as I could." 

The fortunate thing in this story was the shark apparently thought this woman initially was a seal and then changed its mind.  Thank goodness for the typical American diet.  This woman’s lifetime of eating Subway and Bob Evans must have made her not very tasty.  Even a tiger shark doesn’t want anything to do with “Avacado Madness” or whatever that gross looking sandwich Subway is advertising right now.  The good news is she just got one bite.  The bad news is the 15 inch bite from her neck down to the middle of her spine is probably not very comfortable. 

It’s all about finding the silver lining.  If I was attacked by an enormous shark like that, I’d be Mr. Shit Talk for the rest of my days.  I would literally look for opportunities to take my shirt off on any occasion.  “Oh this revolting scar?  That’s from when I was attacked by a 25 foot tiger shark.  What’s that little two inch mark on you?  A skateboarding accident?  Hmm…  Why don’t you put your tampon in and let’s get our shirts vs skins half court basketball going, eh Nancy?  Who’s guarding the guy with the scars? You sissy boy?”, I’d say. 

I would be so obnoxious everyone would hate me at a level I never thought possible.  I would literally always be walking around the beach looking for a volleyball game.  There I am again mowing the lawn with my shirt tossed casually aside.  Oh!  Now I’m jogging down the busy road in just running shorts.  Hey, who wants to take a look at me shirtless walking to get the newspaper on a Saturday morning?  It would be “my thing”.  I wouldn’t let any stranger get further than 11 seconds into getting to know me before I brought it up.


“So, where do you work?  Oh, I thought about getting a job there, but after being involved in that shark attack, I figured the insurance wouldn’t take me…”

“Oh, you are from (name of city) originally?  I haven’t been there since my shark attack…”   

“I see you are a Browns fan.  Me, I’m more of a hockey fan.  San Jose Sharks, which is odd really since I was attached by a 25 foot tiger shark in Hawaii recently…”

No matter what, I would bring it up.  I envision anyone that has known me for more than an hour to be rolling their eyes the second I started speaking to anyone new, or anyone I felt hadn’t recently had my dramatic first person re-telling of the tale.  People will do anything not to be near me at a party.   “Oh fuck, here comes Greg again.  He’s going to tell the fucking shark story. Again.  And again.  I wish he had been eaten by that damn thing.” 

Yet there I will swagger about, oblivious to all of it, with my giant bite mark scars.   I might even get one of those shark tooth necklaces.  This is all part of my new six point plan where I run a surf/kayak/paddleboard/scuba shop on the beach in Hawaii very poorly with a lovely female companion that realizes I don’t know anything about my business.   I’ll have to hire a couple of local employees that will skim off the top without my knowledge, and will make more money than I will by selling weed to the tourists.  I’ll be in big legal trouble when they get caught and say it was all my idea.  Then I’ll wind up losing the shop and the lovely female companion after the 25 foot shark attack leaves me in bloody bandages for months in the hospital without insurance.  It will get real bad with my resulting pain killer addiction.  The good news is that I will eventually return to Ohio and just focus full time on telling my shark attack story.

I can’t wait. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Johnny Football

Everyone seems pretty worked up about the fact that Heisman trophy winning QB Johnny Manziel probably signed a bunch of autographs for cash this off season.  Due to the “purity” of college athletics, players cannot benefit financially in any way while they are playing for their college team.  This is certainly understandable because Manziel as the face of the Texas A&M football team was at least partially responsible for generating $92 million dollars.  The University was kind enough to provide him with $17,456 per year in tuition free Texas A&M education and on campus housing.  That’s a pretty good deal.  Well, for Texas A&M it is anyway…

As the face of the team and a Heisman winner, Manziel is trotted out to every fundraising event you can possibly imagine.  The NCAA and Texas A&M use him to make money all day every day.  Literally every person he is involved with is making more money than he is with the exception of the other dopey football players of course.  Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin makes $3.1 million a year.   There are another 15 or so coaches (or whatever the position of Offensive Quality Control is considered) that average $250,000+ a year.  Meanwhile this 20 year old kid is going to get hung out to dry because he sold his autograph for a few thousand bucks (which were probably later marked up by dealers ten times what they paid him). 

As the QB of a team that he led to the Cotton Bowl, Manziel got some free meals in Dallas.  The university got $3 million dollars.  Coach Sumlin made an additional $100,000 bonus.  Idiots that call sports talk radio will remark on the “free education” Manziel received as his payment.  The real “education” Manziel received was seeing how he got fucked while everyone else around him got rich.  He’s the one that can get a football career ending injury on any play.  To suggest he is there to go to school is absolutely ridiculous.  He is there as part of the NFL’s minor league slavery market where young men risk their future health without pay for the chance at an NFL golden ticket. 

The NFL is going to have to pay up for the long term injuries to its own players.  Oh, they will fight like dogs, but they’ll lose.  This concussion suit is just the beginning of a real Pandora’s box.  It’s really not asking too much for an industry which profits in the billions to pay for their ex-employees with scrambled brains and useless limbs suffered at work.  It’s just good business.  The NFL is going to pay up.  When are these college kids gonna wise up?  Sooner or later some shark lawyers will turn on the Football Factory schools when some of these ex-college football players with horrifying health issues band together in a class action lawsuit.  These colleges believe they own you for life just because they let you sit in Psychology 101 with 300 other people.  Hell, Warren Sapp is suing Miami University because they are still making money selling his college jersey.

I’m no Johnny Manziel guy.  Manziel is undoubtedly a complete douche.  There is no question.  He’s not wrong though.  If this kid got swept up in some small change scheme to make a little scratch off his signature, so be it.  The big question to me is why all this media attention is being put on the kid selling a dime bag of weed when the cartel is running wild right under their noses.  Every one of the players playing football and men’s basketball at the NCAA level should be paid at a level reflecting the revenue they generate.  Play the season.  Let the schools generate their P/L statements.  Let the players have their representatives go over the books.  Pay them their cut and move on.  Fuck these ticky tacky rules.  They are outdated and totally ignored by all the schools anyway (except when it serves their own purpose for keeping the free labor in line).  These kids should unionize and get paid.       

Friday, August 2, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Bob Mould

Last night Bob Mould brought his tour to the Beachland Ballroom here in picturesque Cleveland OH.  This was a show I had circled on the calendar for months as Mould’s music, whether in Husker Du, Sugar or on his own has always resonated with me.  I have probably listened to some of those Husker Du records once every couple months for over two decades.  His latest recording, “Silver Age” is especially outstanding and his been in heavy rotation for me for months.  Mould is one of very few that can write a savage song that will rip your head off while at the same time placing it in a sugary memorable hook that seem to come effortlessly for him.  He's a great songwriter with a very singular style.   

The amazing thing about his career is that he has written songs like this consistently from the mid 1980s.  “Silver Age” stacks up favorably against 90s modern rock radio hit “Copper Blue” as well as 80s college radio staple “Flip Your Wig”.  The stuff is all good.  It’s a testament to his commitment to his art that he has continued to produce such quality songs while also taking forays into other forms of music along the way.  Put more simply, he has never given up.  He has forged on.  Fashions and trends have come and gone, but he stubbornly remains. 

If you think about his contemporaries from when Husker Du broke out, it becomes even more impressive.  In terms of Minneapolis, he outlasted them all with even Prince becoming irrelevant.  Paul Westerberg of the Replacements has fallen off the map, seemingly afraid to compete with his own legacy.  Soul Asylum?  Run Westy Run?  Suicide Commandos?  Did I forget someone?  Even the bands that Mould influenced that had more commercial success than him haven’t had the staying power.  Frank Black was never able to rekindle the flame of the Pixies.  Jesus and Mary Chain and pop punk bands of that ilk are on the reunion festival circuit. Come up with whoever you want.  They just can't stack up.  Throughout it all, Mould has continued on with determination and adherence to his vision.  He is going to do what he does.  

The show last night was great.  Mould is now 52 years old, and looks 52 years old.  I like the fact that he is a paunchy guy in a plaid shirt and glasses with thin gray hair that ripped everyone’s fucking head off with an energy that bands decades younger should take as a template.  It was LOUD, just like it was supposed to be and the vocals were often lost in the din.  That didn’t matter to me or most of the others at the crowded show, as we all knew the songs by heart anyway.  The entire catalogue was represented in the set with hits from Sugar, current solo work, a nice “Black Sheets of Rain” song, and almost anything you would want to hear from Husker Du.  Hell, I never thought I’d hear “Something I Learned Today” from Zen Arcade.  Thanks Bob.  That was nice.

A special mention should go out to the rhythm section of bassist Jason Narducy and drummer John Wurster.  Those two guys are total ringers.  I challenge you to find a better rock rhythm section than those two guys.  With Mould’s penchant for steamrolling from one song to the next, those two got a helluva workout.  They are always right in the pocket. It has to be a blast for Mould to play with those guys.  They leave him plenty of space for him to slash his guitar runs in there.  Just a terrific band.

As the songs moved from one to another, I would get hit with memories of listening to some of them.  “Celebrated Summer” on my Sony Walkman while walking up the hill by the Music and Speech Building at Kent during Summer Session, realizing that it was in fact my Celebrated Summer.  “A Good Idea” in my black Acura Integra driving down the Flats on a rainy afternoon.  Morosely listening to “The Hanging Tree” on my porch in Lakewood in a cold fall rain.  Weaving through traffic last week with “The Descent”.  This music has always been there for me since I was 18.  To hear it delivered forcefully in one sitting like yesterday was awesome.  In a world where disappointment is the norm, and the past is always romanticized, Mould showed something rare.  His past was great, his present is better than most anything else out there, and his future is sure to be interesting. 

That was the way to spend a Thursday night.