Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The 70s

There is a strange cultural wind blowing that has made the 70s, specifically the late 70s, a "cool" time period.  I just hopped onto a website for a music festival in Atlanta, the Shaky Knees Festival.  This was brought to my attention by an old friend that suggested we attend to see the Replacements.  While I am always up for seeing The Replacements, the chance of this friend of mine seeing this trip through is roughly the same as if he had suggested we go to the moon together in a rocket ship that we build together from particle board and discarded twelve pack cartons.  Still, the festival itself seemed pretty good to me.  Replacements, Spoon, Tokyo Police Club, Alabama Shakes, Modest Mouse, Jason Isbell, Deer Tick, The Hold Steady...  That's a lot of good music in one place. 

While I weighed the event back and forth in my mind, it began to soak in how many bands I didn't know.  I have no idea who Man Man, White Denim, Wake Owl, Apache Relay, Houndmouth, The Weeks, or Paperbird are to name a few.  There was once a time I could wax poetically on the merits and faults of any band on a major music festival.  "Let me tell you the problem with Interpol's latest record..."  I actually knew what I was talkin g about (to some degree).  Now there is so much music out there it is completely overwhelming.  Recording is so cheap that just about everyone can put out a serviceable sounding release.  Hooray!  Bad news.  Recording is so cheap that just about EVERYONE can put out a serviceable release.  Ugh!  I just don't have time to sift through all the shit.  It's overwhelming, and I have about two friends that have obtained any new music since the first White Stripes record came out.  It's me against the elements.

This event looked good though.  I figure that the proximity of the unknown bands to these other bands I liked meant that I would therefore like a reasonable amount of the other mystery bands.  This is when I decided to utilize something that I have become aware of called "the worldwide web".  (I like referring to old technology in clunky language like I just discovered it.  It reminds me of the time Leo asked a group of Swiss people in 2013 if they had "The Facebook" yet.  They did.)

What I discovered on The Worldwide Web was that an amazing preponderance of these bands sound mysteriously like Steely Dan outtakes or 10cc, both artistic landing spots I would wholeheartedly argue are disastrous.  Why America's Young People have decided that the late 70s commercial radio sound is a desirable voice for their own music is really confusing to me.  That ocean of terrible music was so bad that it created punk rock.  Think about it for a second.  Steely Dan sucked so fucking bad that groups of people that had no idea how to play instruments came together organically and said, "Despite the fact that we don't know what we are doing, any noise we happen to make has to be better than Rikki Don't Lose That Number.".  Large groups of people were willing to make bands with others even though at least half of the other members of that band would be discovered to be mentally ill to some degree and drive everyone else crazy.  These people willingly placed themselves in a mental asylum of their own creation just so they wouldn't have to listen to Supertramp or Foghat anymore.  The sheer effort just to mount a band rehearsal was like chiseling Mount Rushmore into a mountain.  The expense and difficulty of recording was so large that buying a beach front house in the Hamptons would have been easier.  Yet, large groups of people walked through these walls of fire just so they wouldn't have to listen to that type of horrible shit music.  And now here in 2014, many people that would have probably been in punk rock bands in the late 70s, are willingly attempting to make music that sounds like the soundtrack to the movie "American Hustle".

It's confounding.

To those that were not alive in the 1970s, it appears like it was all wild ass clothes and people getting fucked up all the time while "Dream Weaver" played out of stereos.  It wasn't key parties and driving around in El Caminos having fun.  It was uncomfortable synthetic fabrics.  It was men's platform shoes.  It was "smoking sections" on airplanes that made a flight to Chicago like hanging out in a pool hall in Manila.  It was awful looking cars like the AMC Spirit, fake wood paneled station wagons, and shrunken Ford Mustangs.  Disco wasn't fun.  Disco sucked.  I was seven and I knew disco sucked.  Food was bad.  There were gas lines.  The economy sucked.  Haircuts were terrible.  TV had four channels, one of which was PBS.  The best show on TV was Fantasy Island, and that show was horrible.  The 70s were just plain awful. 

I don't understand the appeal of that 70s sound.  Who are the people that think "Man, we gotta write some shit that sounds like Fleetwood Mac or America.  If we can get that going, we'll really have something."  The only reason people wrote that shit in the 70s was they had lost the cultural revolution and had apparently given up completely.  "Well, we didn't overthrow The Establishment.  Let's listen to some Randy Newman and hope things work out on their own."  While all these hipster bands try to cop licks from "Pretzel Logic", it only made me more resolute.  I gotta write some new songs.  We gotta play some shows.  We gotta rehearse.  We gotta get better.  We have to let people know that music doesn't have to be awful.  At least we can maybe inspire someone.  That stuff those ironic little fuckers are playing?  What they want to sound like?  That stuff?  That shit sucks.  Just like the 70s.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Endless Winter

It has become obvious that there will be no end to this winter.  Each bleak frozen day blends seamlessly into the next.  The ten day forecast offers no relief.  Everything is wet and dirty. All hope is lost.  Right now snow is blowing sideways.  I can't make out even the simplest landmarks.  Weather reports have all descended into Fear Machine mode using words like "treacherous" and inferring that to even step outside is putting Your Family's Safety at great risk.  It takes amazing self control not to jump into the car with a backpack, drive south, and not stop until you can get out of the car without suffering frostbite to the extremities.  These are the hardest days in this region of the country.

Perhaps I should consider going on Spring Break.  Why does that have to be reserved only for 18-22 year olds.  They haven't been doing shit all year except playing beer pong, plagiarizing term papers, and trying to bump genitalia with anyone willing.  Why them?  Why can't I go on Spring Break?  I don’t mean heading to a college student heavy Florida town and participating in a wet t-shirt contest.  Besides the sheer amount of time it would take to shave my chest, I can’t imagine that the prize money in those contests would warrant the cost of my getting breast implants.  There is no way my crappy health insurance will cover that.  I need to be more pragmatic here.

The last time I went on a Spring Break I was 21 and went to Daytona Beach with a good friend from college.  We bought one of those packages that were offered on bulletin boards outside of the student union.  The offer was amazingly fucked up, but as a true indication of how much people will put up with just to get out of the snow, we didn’t bat an eye.  For something like $200 a person we got a room on the beach at Daytona.  The hitch was that we shared the room with two other guys, complete strangers.  To think that we climbed into a car in Ohio to drive to Daytona Beach to shack up at a hotel with two strangers for six days is beyond comprehension.  “HI!  I’m Greg!  I’ll take this bed over here!  What’s your name?  Dahmer?  Jeff Dahmer?  Cool.  Good to meet you.  Let’s get drunk and pass out so you can cut my head off and rifle through my stuff!”

The impact of thousands of drunk college students on a hotel’s amenities is hard to put in scale.  Our bathroom had an enormous hole punched into the tiles which had been “repaired” by having a plastic bag taped over it.  Had we had Trip Advisor at that time, I think I would have deducted a star on that one.  The hallways smelled like vomit.  The toilets backed up.  The pool area was filled with broken chairs.  Yet, no one cared as at least it wasn’t 15 degrees with sleet blowing sideways.  It was sunny, there were plenty of plastic cups with beer, and there was a true sense of no ramifications on any reckless behavior.

I recall my buddy going to the room next door to spend some quality time with a girl he met from Lansing Community College.  I also recall with great clarity his return to our hellhole room a short time later with a bit of a limp, the result of an episode of oral sex that he claimed was “like putting my dick in a garbage disposal”.  I like to think that right now there is a man in the greater Lansing Michigan area that married that woman, and now after years of this activity has actually built up thick calluses on the shaft of his penis.  As a party trick he can pound nails into patio deck railings.  After a few Coors Lights at the summer barbeque, the same thing happens every year.  “Mike!  Do that thing!”  Bam! Bam! Bam!

The real excitement on that trip happened when he asked if we could head out a day earlier, and make a quick stop in a small town along the coast.  Confused, I asked why we would ever want to leave a high society hot spot like Daytona Beach.  For God’s sake, MTV was sponsoring a free concert with Mike and the Mechanics and The Outfield tomorrow!  How could we miss that?  That was when he told me that we had to stop and see his ex-girlfriend who had given birth to their child a year earlier.  Um, what?  I don’t recall you mentioning knocking up some girl, having her leave the area in shame, and then later having a child in the last two years in which we have spent almost every waking moment together.   
We stopped at a depressing cluster home community in some Florida coast shit town where his ex-girlfriend had been exiled to live with her mother.  We were unshaven, smelled like depravity, and were probably slightly drunk.  To say her mother wasn’t pleased to see us is an understatement.  The pure hatred she manufactured in her glare was off putting even to me, and I was just getting the shrapnel by association.  I’m not saying she wasn’t justified.  My friend had gotten her pregnant, and then turned to his wealthy family who unleashed a group of legal jackals to wash him as clean from the incident as possible.  It didn’t appear to have left anyone with a good taste in their mouths.

That was when my friend decided to get “caught up” with the ex-girlfriend with a drive to town, and they left me alone with the mother and infant.  Who the hell puts a guy like me at age 21after a five day bender in charge of an infant?  What kind of sick individual allows that to happen?  Yet, there I was trapped at this tiny house with an angry strange woman and an 8 month old child.  I don’t know how long they were gone.  I will swear on a stack of Bibles it was “forever”.  It didn’t go well.  As the mother seethed and would only provide one word answers to my questions, I ran out of small talk in about 20 minutes.  I then played with the kid and tried to remember if there was a bar we passed on the way in that I could walk to as some sort of oasis.  This wasn't the sort of "Spring Break" I had been promised on MTV's 24 hour coverage.  This was complete bullshit.

When they eventually returned, we crashed out in a spare room.  I slept next to a sewing machine on an inflatable mattress.  My friend slunk out of the room after the mother had gone to sleep and went to his ex-girlfriend's room.  Nothing like dragging a gal through the mud in a paternity case as a warm up for romance!  Something must have gone horribly wrong through, because soon after sunup he woke me up and we had to make a hasty retreat to our car.  There were no goodbyes.  We slipped out a sliding glass door and threw our duffels in the trunk.  The noise of the trunk closing must have woken the household.  As we backed out of the driveway, the mother glared at us through a slight part in the living room curtains.  We made the 18 hour drive home.  We never talked about the episode.

I'm looking for a slightly different experience.  Perhaps I need to book some sort of Southern Tour for the band.  We can go play the musical hotbeds of Jacksonville FL, and Charleston SC.  We can learn Allman Brothers covers, and maybe even the dreaded "Wagon Wheel" so despised by Nashville musicians.  We will eat at Huddle Houses and Crystals, carefully avoiding too much sweet tea at the risk of contracting diabetes in the span of a week.  I will purchase a "Roll Tide" key chain at a Pilot Truck Stop.  The van will have a "Petty For President" sticker, this time all of us knowing the Petty in question is "Richard" and not "Tom".  Hotel clerks and waitresses will enthusiastically say "Bless Your Heart" to us, while their actual meaning is "Fuck off Yankee".  We will stop at every Boot Shop and Gun Store off the interstates.  It will be a trip for the ages.

Another five inches of snow has fallen.  I have to shovel the driveway.  Somebody call The Covered Dish in Gainesville... See if they have an open Friday in March.  We're coming...


Friday, February 14, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Valentine's Day

I remember being in grade school and having to put Valentines in every classmate's paper mailbox that had been haphazardly constructed in what passed for art class days earlier.  Mine always looked like shit as I could never get the handle on the combination of those tiny safety scissors, rough construction paper and paste.  As the years passed and we became aware of the impact of awarding the Valentine, Valentine’s Day became a grade school popularity contest.  Each child received concrete evidence of their place on the school social ladder as one and all could clearly see the number of valentines he/she had received.  I remember what must have been 4th grade when a girl named Tammy had her mailbox overflowing with little cards in what was probably the zenith of her social strata.  Tammy started to develop earlier than the rest of the girls and her slightly raised breasts and subtle curve of the hip made her the “hot” girl of the 4th grade.  Tammy, not unawares, strategically placed the phrase “Dream Girl” on her mailbox to alert all those that might possibly be blind to the obvious.  Of course, she spelled it “Dram Girl”, which probably foretold of her eventual fall from the highest heights.  She later made many bad choices that led to a legendary incident of blowing a group of much older guys in the woods and following up shortly afterwards with heavy smoking teenage single motherhood.  A dream girl no more.  Too much too soon, Icarus flew too close to the sun… 

(Tammy reportedly recently found God, which coincidentally came after the sad end of her second or third bleak marriage.  She now appears to be an overfed small town Mom, and it also appears unlikely that anyone that comes in contact with her at Church Youth Group meetings is aware of her former run as a “Dram Girl”.  I think most people would guess she was one of those majorettes you see in small high schools that tend to be so chunky that to have jammed them into those sparkly one piece outfits seems a cruel joke.  Those high calf white boots don’t do those chunky gals any favors either.  Praise Jesus Tammy.)

The grade school Valentine gave way later in life to the true testament of the damaged art kid’s soul, the mixed tape.  Was there ever a better way to passive aggressively tell a girl you were sweet on her than to provide a 90 minute cassette tape of unrequited love songs?  That cassette said “I have provided you these songs drenched in feeling.  This means, by association, I am also capable of great feeling for you.”  In retrospect, boys of that generation might have been better served directly saying, “Sally, I think you are really pretty and I like you.  Can we spend time together?” instead of hoping she would somehow decipher that the lyrical content of the Smiths song placed at the end of side one was meant to convey personal feelings of pain and longing for the tape’s recipient.  Ah, the shy gestures of young love…  What do kids do now?  Send a few files to an email account and hope the special song lands on shuffle and she remembers you sent it to her?  I should ask around about that…

Men have now been conditioned by the American Floral Council and American Greetings to purchase a dozen roses and greeting card (which effectively replaces the mixed tape for men unable to communicate clearly).  This is the drill that each man in America is expected to participate in from the age of 21 until death.  To fail to make these purchases indicates shortcomings as a suitor.  Women should regard these men with great suspicion.  They are unworthy.  Before I became aware of this as strictly a corporate hustle, I used to play that game too.  Let me tell you about the last time I sent flowers strictly out of duty.  One Valentine’s Day in my early twenties I was at the end of a very destructive relationship with a woman that I did not love in any way whatsoever.  I hardly liked her by that point.  I really wanted to get out of the relationship, but couldn’t seem to get out.  It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time it all made sense somehow.  What I would now handle with a sharp phone call, then required delicate planning with a team of your friends. 

She was an absolute lunatic.  I recognize that every man that breaks up with a woman uses the phrase “She’s a fucking psycho!”.  Not as many women can be “psychos” as there are men that claim them to be.  It is simple math really.  Can we agree it takes two to tango?  Maybe the men that make these claims need to shoulder some of the blame.  I know plenty of really fucked up guys.  Let's be honest.  Most men are fucked up really…  However, in this case, my claims of “psycho” were and are warranted. For example, on this particular Valentine’s Day, she went to my apartment complex while I was at work, lied and told the landlord she was a relative that needed to be let in to my place due to emergency, and proceeded to spend the afternoon ransacking my apartment.  

In a coat pocket she found two receipts.  One was a receipt for flowers I had dutifully sent her, at that point in midst of delivery.  The other was a restaurant receipt for a restaurant that was deemed “suspicious” for me to have eaten an innocent lunch in.  It was ridiculous.  I think it was a TGIFriday's or something equally pedestrian.  I was grilled about my dining companion, who as luck would have it was a totally unobtainable woman that really underscored the shortcomings of my interrogator.  That woman was the total opposite of the woman that would search your apartment like she was an overzealous member of the KGB.  While nothing remarkable happened at that lunch in question (except I foolishly ordered French onion soup and scalded the roof of my mouth with cheese all over my face), I was unable to conceal my overall regard for this other woman in my recap.  This led to one of my true moments of clarity. 

What the fuck am I doing in this relationship with this woman interrogating me?  She broke into my apartment and searched it for God's sake!  What the fuck am I doing?

Pow!  It all became clear.  I broke up with her at that instant with a measured "It's time for you to leave.".  I coldly led her out of my apartment, and I never saw her again.  I still remember the look of confusion and outrage on her face as I calmly shut the door on it.  It was like a weight had been lifted from me.  I felt great.  I stared down at the floral receipt on the table, and realized that when she returned home there would be flowers from me greeting her.  Son of a bitch.  No way to cancel the delivery now.  Never again.  From that point on I vowed to never hop on that Valentine's Day Sheep Train.  If I sent flowers, it would mean something.  I'd pick 'em out myself and hand deliver if possible. No greeting cards.  Any gesture I made would be my own, not something printed en masse from a corproate concern. 

It should also be noted that I later made a move on the unobtainable woman from that lunch.  I took a risk and told her how I felt. I left myself totally exposed.  I was a young man being bold.  I committed myself to winning her over, and in the end I did just that.  Well, briefly...  She quickly went back to her ex-boyfriend and left me broken on the side of the road.  It was OK though. 

She was a fucking psycho.

Happy Valentine’s Day.           

Monday, February 10, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Olympics

I have no interest in the Olympics whatsoever.  This may be rooted in the fact I have little background in following international curling, biathlon, or team figure skating.  Luge is not exactly a great spectator sport.  I would imagine whipping down an ice chute would be pretty kickass to do; it just doesn’t interest me to watch.  It reminds me of the time I killed a couple hours at the Kanawha Drag Strip waiting to go play a show at the Empty Glass.  Greasy hillbillies had descended down whatever mountain outpost they called home to run their piece of shit car down the track at dangerous speeds.  The first couple times the Christmas Tree hit green and the cars took off, it was “Wow!  Check it out!”  Then by the third time I was bored and found myself wondering the odds of winning the 50/50 drawing and if people were actually going to eat that crockpot chili out of the “fun sized” Frito bags from the Snak-Bar.

While Sochi seems a little less developed than Kanawha WV, the only thing I find interesting are the pure Russian accommodations, construction disasters, and rampant corruption.  It’s hard to get fired up about meaningless hockey games and ski jumping when pictures of side by side toilets capture my imagination so much more robustly.   While I assume that a bunch of Swedes are totally jacked about the Nordic Combined Ski finals, I don’t truly understand why.  I don’t understand the Scandinavian Death Metal scene either, so it’s probably all on me.

The worst events are the snowboard and free-style skiing.  The media attempts to tell the public how popular these X Games events have become.  “It’s part of the Millennial Lifestyle!”  While that makes great copy, it is also patently untrue.  For example, the recently televised X Games attracted about 1% of the viewing public, while an NFL Playoff game will attract about 40%.  The guys that are always really high with goatees and skateboards and NOFX patches on their jackets?  That’s who watches that shit, assuming they can remember it is on TV in the first place.  I get the idea that people like to see dudes to flips on snowmobiles and spin around a pipe on a snowboard.  It looks pretty cool.  Am I the only one that notices that there are a set limit number of things that are possible, and each competitor does the same basic thing over and over and over and over?  Guy goes down half pipe, flies up on the side, lands, flies up on the other side and twirls around, and repeat.  Unless I am crushed by depressants and unable to reach the remote, I’m not sitting through that shit.

The figure skating is awful.  Prissy little figurines and their overbearing coaches/stage mothers all preen for totally subjective scores.  I am continually creeped out when I see a heavily mustached coach with a much too close relationship to a 17 year old girl skater.  The guy is always two feet taller and about 150 pounds heavier when he stands next to the always crying skater after their routine.  It always seems like that right after the event this poor girl is going to be returned to the shackles he has in his basement by the hot water tank while he eats sardines from a can yelling some gruff Eastern European language.  “Sasha!   Stop the crying.  I will beat you with broom handle.  Rest.  You skate tomorrow.”

The Olympics last for what I believe is 113 days.  Television hosts are straining even now to manufacture enthusiasm for people and events they have never heard of prior to getting their assignments.  Soon these speed skaters, skiers, and bobsledders will return to their almost total anonymity and we can pretend to stop caring that any of this matters.  It can’t happen soon enough for me.  Well, unless the Russians can keep building shoddy hotels and western journalists can write about them.  If that’s the case, these Games can continue forever…

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Cozumel Scuba Dive

As the boat skipped out to the dive site, I realized I was in completely over my head.  This was a familiar feeling.  I recall being called out to the blackboard in 9th grade algebra with no idea what the answer was or how to possibly get to the general idea of the answer while all around me other classmates toiled easily in producing the desired results.  With a self-defeating mix of pride and self-sufficiency, I don’t want to ask others for help for fear of looking weak or foolish.  This has minimal negative effect while doing freshman algebra.  While scuba diving it can result in your death.  So there’s that. 

I was in a small group with a couple from Canada working on advanced diving certification, a retired Navy officer that was spending his autumn years scuba diving and allowing his second wife to buy things she didn’t need, and an English diving instructor from Florida.  Me?  I had been diving on three separate occasions for a total of five dives with a ridiculous amount of supervision.  Not wanting to disappoint anyone, I answered in the affirmative when Luis our dive master briefed us on this morning’s dive.  “Okay… Today we are going to go to a drop-off in the reef at about 85 feet.  Greg?  This OK with you?”  Um… sure… “Then there are some swim throughs… Greg?  Is this also OK?”  Ah… Yeah, I guess…  The others in the boat looked at me with expressions conveying, “Don’t let this rube ruin our kickass vacation.  Why is this guy even here?”.  Frankly if Luis had said, “You will need to drop down to 120 feet almost immediately because of the angry Great Whites and Giant Squid, but be careful of the horrible undertow which has dragged dozens of people to their deaths.” I still would have said, “No problem.”.  It was pure foolish pride.

We readied ourselves as the boat stopped.  The water was a brilliant light blue, so clear it seemed manufactured like a Disneyworld landscape.  English Diver and Retired Guy talked equipment.  “Yeah, I was using 22 pounds of weight, but then I switched over to these slotted flippers and…”  It makes no difference if it is swimming, making music, or a golf course, men will ultimately immerse themselves in gear.  Me?  I showed up in a pair of flip flops and a tattered baseball cap.  I don't know what anything is called or really how it works.  Set me up boys.  Let's go diving!  I struggled on my rental gear and tried to remember how the hell it all worked.  I flipped backwards into the ocean and hoped it would all come back to me.

While getting my certification in Belize last year I had totally screwed up my left ear.  It’s called “barotrauma”, which for the layman means it sounds like you always have water in your ears.  It lasted for two months.  It really sucked.  It had also been my fault 100%.  I had done it to myself by not pressurizing as I dropped into the depths.  The key is to blow on your closed nose, allowing building pressure to pop out of your head.  Otherwise it seems like a vise is attached to your head and it hurts like a mother.  As the others easily dropped to 85 feet, I slowly worked my way down as I fiddled with my gear and tried not to blow my head up.  Then it all sort of came back.  I joined the group and started to explore the reef.

I’ve always loved the ocean.  I am fascinated by looking around in this secret world of colorful crazy looking creatures dashing around completely uncaring to our presence.  The colors and shapes.  The exotic corals.  The rugged landscape.  The possibility that some enormous wild ass sea life will be around the next corner.  I find it to be adrenalin inducing and calming at the same time.  I could stay down in the water for literally hours at a time.  There is always something worthy of inspection, something you’ve never seen before.  The phrase “teeming with life” definitely fits for this reef.  All kinds of creatures are moving in all kinds of directions as I clumsily pass through.   

At 85 feet on a reef next to a drop-off, there are plenty of big fish.  Butterfly fish the size of trashcan lids pop out of little crevices in the rock like angry neighbors.  Crabs with bodies the size of basketballs work down rocks like window washers.  Grouper 100+ pounds look at divers with total indifference.  It’s all a lot to take in.  That was when Luis made the “shark” signal to me with his hand on his head like a fin.  Hmm?  What?  He pointed out a rocky shelf to me where a 6-foot nurse shark lay on the sand.  I was pleased to see it was a glorified catfish and not a cranky bull shark.  This was at the opening of the “swim through”, which you or I would call a “cave”.  This is what is called "advanced diving" and something for which I was woefully underqualified.  The game plan appeared to be for me to follow Luis into the cave, over the shark, take a quick left and somehow squeeze through a small opening that allowed 8 inches of leeway in either direction.  As discussion would have been impossible, I followed Luis.  What the fuck was I going to do?  I’m at 85 feet with nowhere else to go except to follow this Mexican guy I just met 22 minutes ago.

I was almost certain that I would rip myself to shreds going through the jagged coral opening of the “swim through” and in the process kick up enough sand to foil the attempts of my fellow divers.  Through sheer luck and a newfound temporary ability to control my buoyancy, I somehow slipped though.  Suddenly, as if cued by the Disney people that must have built this water park, an enormous sea turtle flapped by, his shell an easy four feet across.  I fixed in on the turtle and let the drift take me out of the cave.  That’s when we hit the sheer wall drop off.  It’s hard to explain what it is like to float out from an underwater cave and float over a 5000-foot drop off.  Below you is absolutely nothing, pure blue that fades to black.  It is like flying, or when Superman hovers next to a skyscraper in a comic book.  It’s pretty awesome.  Shortly afterwards, I got the signal.  Time to surface. 

The fact that I didn’t kill myself or anyone else I took as a great success.  I no longer felt like I was in over my head with normal dives.  This is what is called "false confidence".  Obviously I needed to overextend myself once again.  I had decided earlier that one of my goals for this trip was to try a night dive, as the idea of jumping into the pitch black ocean really seemed like the scariest thing I could imagine.  I arranged to do a dive with English diving instructor and the Canadian couple about 45 minutes after sundown the next night. 

The sun had already set when I reached the dock, and the sky had turned a weakening auburn as we set out of the harbor.  The game plan was to hop out of the boat, drop ourselves down to 40 feet, and let the current drift us along the reef.  Ideally we would spot eels, crabs, and the grand prize, octopus.  With only weak flashlights, the four of us plus our guide backflipped into the new pitch black sea.  The technique is to point your flashlight straight down as you descend, avoiding flashing the light in others eyes.  The artificial light makes the water pale green.  Slowly the descent is made into the pure green, no bottom in sight, no landmarks.   It’s a wild experience.

I had expected to be pretty freaked out.  Not being able to see at any great distance does allow your mind to conjure up horrible sea monsters that could appear at any second to devour you, but in the words of the guy from Belize that taught me how to dive, “Relax mahn… You have everyting ya need mahn…”  I found myself surprisingly very comfortable in the totally foreign atmosphere, playing a game of seek-n-find with eels and octopus.  The drift pushed us along slowly, my breathing shockingly relaxed.  Large fish floated in and out of my peripheral vision.  Lobsters… crabs… rays…. Eels… but still not the elusive octopus.

Towards the end of the dive I was the one that actually spotted the octopus.  He was scrunched up on top of an outcropping of coral, a light tan and brown color making him blend in almost imperceptibly.  If not for his crawling the moment my light hit the spot, I never would have seen him.  I waved the light back and forth to alert the others.  We all floated in as the octopus moved across the reef, changing color to match his background.  It was then we spotted a second larger octopus only a few feet from the first.  Eventually they tired of our staring and lights and with a surprising quickness darted off under some rocks leaving stains of black ink in their wake.  It was clearly the grand finale, and we completed the dive.  We had been under for 65 minutes, though it seemed like 10.  I was jacked up from adrenalin for hours afterward, wishing I had shared the experience with someone I could have talked about it over Dos Equis at a dodgy seaside bar until we were kicked out.  It was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Super Bowl

It was with a heavy heart the I read the passing of Phillip Seymor Hoffman on the place I receive almost all of my entertainment news, The Facebook news feed.  I find it interesting that dozens of people feel compelled to post "Rest In Peace Phillip Seymor Hoffman" as if they have a personal relationship beyond his compelling work in "Twister".  I love how he fearlessly drove around in that camper with Bonnie Hunt too.  Maybe that is a way that people feel part of a bigger picture.  I will be honest.  Here was my reaction.  I said, "No way!  Phillip Seymor Hoffman died!  Must have been drugs...  Yep... It was drugs...".  It is hard to feel too badly for a guy that has been shooting heroin.  I don´t know too many people that said to themselves "Man, I bet messing around with heroin will be really fun and there won´t be any price to pay later for it.  I can´t think of anyone that has had a bad time with it.  Please pass some here for me Mr. Junkie Man!".  You dive in the deep end, you better know how to swim out.

In the 17 seconds it took me to recover from this Phillip Seymor Hoffman business, I focused on what really matters.  Who the hell is going to cover in this surprisingly non-compelling Super Bowl?  In theory I should be all jacked up to see Peyton Manning and the Rest Of His Denver Broncos take on the #1 ranked defense in the NFL (or so the NFL promos tell me).  Instead I find myself not caring all that much. Being a degenerate, I will of course gamble wildly and throw all caution to the wind in a game that appears to be a complete coin toss.  That is my sickness.

Today I like Denver for two distinct reasons.  1)  It appears that Denver will most likely score 24 points or more unless Manning gets hit in the neck and is forced to play the second half in a breath controlled wheelchair.  That should be enough to win as the Seattle offense is now focused on Lynch being some sort of ManBeast and needing to win the game on his own.  Russell Wilson looks like a second year QB, which is of course what he is, and that is not good on a stage this big.  2)  Denver suddenly has a defense.  They shut down New England, held San Diego at bay, and Seattle´s offense is nowhere near that class.  They have given up only 14 points a game since the weather turned cold and shitty.  I also have a hard time imagining Denver not scoring more than 14. 

So what have we decided today?  I think we can all agree on two things.  First, becoming a heroin addict means you might die alone in an apartment with a needle in your arm much younger than you had planned.  Second, Denver might win by more than two today, although I say that with less certainty than the heroin thing...

Denver -2  over 46.5, Tails, and the MVP thanking his teammates first in the Postgame