Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Patio

Back when The Cowslingers were playing 125 dates a year, I had a girlfriend that was by all accounts a very sweet girl.  She got mixed up with me by the sheer chance of attending a baseball game with her girlfriend that was tangled up with my dangerous alcoholic co-worker.  She was a very normal woman.  This was appealing.  When you spend 1/3rd of your time playing places like the Star Bar in Atlanta and Brownies in NYC, a normal person is very rare.  Most of the people I hung out with then had an amazing mosaic of bad choices pulling them in 12 directions at once.  It’s where the songs came from.  I didn’t know too many normal people at that point.  I sort of forgot they existed.  She was sort of like a unicorn that wandered over to me.  We got along well and sort of fell into this relationship.  I don’t know what she was thinking. I didn’t bring much to the table.  I was ALWAYS gone and when I was home I was generally sleep deprived.  Still, she hung in there and did her best.  I must have had brief flashes of charm.

Pretty soon, enough was enough.  After I started routinely falling asleep at her family gatherings, the bloom was off the rose.  I remember one night driving from Atlanta at 2am to make some sort of birthday lunch for her 2 year old niece.  I made it to the lunch, but then after eating the men dispensed downstairs in the Man Cave with Uncle Gary and the fellas.  About 12 hours earlier I had been playing with The Woggles watching Manfred leap off a bar into a wildly dancing crowd while we all sang “My Baby Likes To Boogaloo”.  Now I was on the same day watching golf with 5 guys who between them had maybe 6 LPs, the edgiest one probably the Top Gun soundtrack.  It was jarring.  I had nothing in common with this world.  They would have me in a recliner, the lights dimmed, and the hush of a golf tournament whispering from the TV.  They might as well shot me with a rhino tranquilizer and told me to read a Russian novel.  Nighty night.

Shortly after the latest of many “fall asleep at Uncle Gary’s” incidents, the girlfriend had decided to put in a patio on the back deck of her charming little house.  Those that know me know full well I cannot build or repair anything.  To have me involved in building a patio is like asking a nursery school class to build a B-1 bomber from scrap.  You can provide me with tools and complete instructions.  There is a very slim chance I can accomplish the task.  Every single home repair person that comes to my house looks at me like I’m a pussy because of the various small handy man jobs that have been left unattended.  On top of that, I know any woman I have ever been involved with thinks less of me because I can’t do something manly like change a hot water tank.  It’s not my fault.  It’s in the Miller DNA.  It’s not what we do.

So here we are on the dawn of the patio project.  I have been no help in the planning because as I have stated I am not a) capable and b) in the Cleveland zip code when supplies have to be picked up.  The night before I think we played in Columbus at Little Brothers.  My life in those days was spent being yelled at selling rock radio commercials from 830a-530p.  I then hopped in a van and drove to exotic locales where we generally headlined.  That means we had to load in by 830-900.  We then had to wait until 12 to play after the openers finished.  With three hours to kill in a bar, there is only one option for four young guys.  We would drink as much beer as possible and get to the edge of being able to function properly while playing.  Those Columbus shows were usually throw downs, so I’m sure I had 97 beers and went crazy.  Someone poured me into the van and then we drove back.  I definitely remember going over to her house really late (meaning for most people obscenely early like 5am) with the intention of getting up at a reasonable hour to help.  Please believe I had the best of intentions.

I stirred awake at 11am or so.  I was dead tired and heard off in the distance someone digging.  Where was I?  Oh yeah…  I’m going to help with the patio.  So I walk outside and obviously three hours of work has been accomplished, but not just by her.  Her passive aggressive work friend, David, was out with his shirt off digging.  Good old David.  When he heard that her deadbeat boyfriend didn’t know anything about patios, he’d be sure to come over and help.  Why, who doesn’t like digging a pit in the summer heat on a Saturday?   Meanwhile while he is out there playing the role of “ideal boyfriend”, I’m inside sleeping one off.  None of this potential scenario had been mentioned to me prior to this moment.  This had been set up as some sort of surprise lesson.  It would have been good to have known Good Old David was coming to help out prior to my walking out there in shorts barefoot asking if there was anything to eat.  It definitely played to the image of “you can do better than him”.  I will wholeheartedly admit to anyone reading this that she could have and I assume eventually did do better than me.  This was not only clever maneuvering by David, but also devastatingly effective in highlighting my shortcomings.  In the late 1990s I really only did two things: tried to present the illusion that I was working at my job and playing rock and roll music in America’s best indie rock clubs.  I was a deadbeat.  David had made his point.

A week or so later I was out.  David’s plan had worked, that filthy son of a bitch.  David snuck right in and assumed my spot in the loft bedroom.  Unfortunately for David, he didn’t possess a few of my other qualities and she quickly bored of him.  He was demoted back to the friend zone and she tried to woo me back.  At this point I knew it was doomed.  I would never look at her the same way again after the old David switcheroo.  I eventually succumbed to her beautiful gestures of humility and kindness for a brief Round 2 though I knew it would end in disaster again.  It did.  The whole relationship was a mistake on her part as I would only continue to disappoint her and by proxy the rest of her family.  I was who I was and nothing was going to change that.  Her timing was awful.  I often wonder if I come up at family dinners as a discussion point of the “near miss” she made with a horrible man.  On paper I looked good, but I’m sure there were tales of (in the words of Ray Davies) drunkenness and cruelty.  I ran into one of her closest friends a couple of years ago and she looked at me like I was Ted Bundy.  My PR with that group has taken a real hit.  Maybe I should have done some direct mail or an infomercial or something. 

Yesterday I was minding my own business deep in the outer rim of Cleveland seeking asylum from the RNC madness.  I was in a funk thinking about everything and nothing at all.  There in the corner of the room at a booth was David.  I hadn’t seen him in years.  He looked relaxed and artsy, his hair a bit long for his age.  He was being the comforting friend to some woman seated with him.  I had to hand it to him.  He stuck to his guns.  There was some poor guy in that woman’s life that was going to be hit in a couple of weeks with a “why can’t you be more understanding of my feelings like David?” rap.  That poor sap.  David would be padding around his well appointed kitchen in a kimono and a man bun making an espresso in a few weeks.  He’d cue up some Elliot Smith later that night and make some Thai food while that poor sap’s dog looked on.  David wouldn’t pay attention though.  David must be a “cat guy”.  You can just tell.  “Have some gruner veltliner…  Tell me what happened darling…  He sounds awful…”   A couple of weeks later he would move on to some loft apartment downtown giving some other woman a foot massage while making up mystical shit talk about pressure points.  That fucking guy.  I paid my check and left.  When I walked out I made eye contact and nodded at him.  I don’t know if he recognized me.  I went home to my patio which had been built by men that thought less of me as I cut them a check.  I tapped out emails while an opera I didn’t and probably wouldn’t ever understand wafted out of distant speakers.  Fucking David.     


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