Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Railroad Trestle



There was a railroad trestle that ran over the stream.  It had been built during the FDR Public Works Program era in the early 1930s and harkened back to that time when things were built to last.  Thick beige stonework provided sturdy support for the train tracks that ran above it.  The structure was two large stone tunnels, large enough for five men to walk down it shoulder to shoulder.  Even in the heaviest rains the creek would never fill the tunnels completely, but in the Spring it would produce a lively current.  A perky waterfall was created by the flow of the creek through the trestle.  Small colorful trout would feed under the falls, gliding gracefully in the deep pool.

This was a known fishing spot.  When trout season began, grizzled men would shake off the winter and line up shoulder to shoulder to allow the trout to ignore their baits.  No one expected to catch anything, but everyone felt good to be out of the house after the long bleak winter.  Occasionally heated arguments would break out when lines tangled, but the men rarely came to blows.  After a few weeks, the men would launch their boats into Lake Erie and forget about the little trout spot.  This left it to the teenage boys with too much time on their hands.

There were two ways to get to the trestle.  One was a twisting path through often muddy trails in thick woods on a gradual descend to the creek bed.  The other was a straight shot, right down the steep embankment of the train tracks with the coal soot and rocks from the track bed.  It was impossible to go that route without becoming filthy, and there existed the possibility that by descending that way, too much momentum would be created and you could fall from the top of the trestle into the creek.  This was a fall of about 25 feet into a small deep pool of water.  Ledges of shale jutted out from the shoreline rocks, so a small miscalculation would be a major injury or possibly death.  This was part of the allure of the trestle.

As a young teenage boy, it was important to keep your head on a swivel while in the area of the trestle.  This was a known gathering place for some of the roughest kids in school, boys old enough to drive and smoke cigarettes.  Andy and two twin brothers from near my house would often perform spectacular leaps off the ledge into the water below.  It could not have been any deeper than eight feet and likely about 15 feet across.  There was little margin for error.  The boys were aware of their audience and would make flips as they fell into the pool.  None of us would dare speak to those older boys much less try that jump ourselves.  We had not yet earned the right to even attempt it in the presence of those boys.  This was their turf.  We would have to wait.

We usually hung out in the creek area below on the large rocks surrounding the creek.  If we would hear the tough older kids coming down the hill, we would hide in the woods until we could assess the situation.  If they were in a good mood, they would sun themselves on the rock and smoke cigarettes and let us goof around nearby.  If they didn’t appear in a good mood, we’d disappear into the woods like the Viet Cong.

One time a boy named Scott dared to step over what ever the understood behavioral line was with these boys.  This incensed the two twin brothers that insisted Scott prove he “wasn’t a pussy” and jump off the trestle.  Scott, a well-known pussy, was not in favor of the idea and tried to come up with any possible excuse to avoid it.  The bad news for Scott was that the brothers were not going to accept “My Mom doesn’t want me to get wet” or “I just don’t feel like it today”.  They grabbed him and dragged him up the small hill.  Scott struggled as they shoved him to the edge above the creek pool.  Scott pleaded with them to let him go.  We all stood below the ledge looking up, afraid to even breathe.  Scott started to cry.  Andy said, “For Christ’s sake.  Let’s let him go.”  Scott began to sniffle but relax.  He thought he was off the hook.  However, Andy had just done this to make Scott drop his guard.  With a lunge he shoved Scott off the ledge into the water.

Scott never made a sound as he fell off.  He must have been as surprised as we all were.  It was obvious though that he was falling at the wrong angle.  He was going in feet first, but at a slanted jack knife angle.  He was too far right.  My heart leaped up into my throat.  Scott hit the water, and at first it looked like it might be OK.  Scott went under and then resurfaced.  He looked wrong though.  He was pale and gasping.  That’s when I saw his lower leg twisted at an unnatural angle.  Blood began to fill the creek.  His leg was broken.  He began to scream out in pain.  There was a general panic from all the boys surrounding the creek.

The older boys reverted back to the children they really were and ran off, abandoning Scott.  Scott’s brother and one of my friends were the fastest runners.  They sprinted down the path in the woods to get help.  It was a long way though.  Scott floated in the water and grabbed onto a rock to avoid having to swim.  Myself and another boy talked to Scott, trying to tell him he was going to be OK, though we were just reciting back things we had heard on TV.  Scott was probably going into shock.  After a long while, two fishermen came down the path and pulled him out. Scott was laid out on the rock as they men swore and tried to stabilize the situation.  A siren sounded far off.  Dust started to appear at the top of the trestle as a paramedic van bounced down the railroad tracks.  The paramedics brought a stretcher down and hauled Scott up the filthy hill with a rope.  Being boys that knew someone was going to get blamed for this as soon as the crisis dimmed, and most likely whoever was standing there, we drifted back into the woods to disappear as they loaded Scott into the van.  The lights flickered in the dust and the fading sun of dusk.  We walked home assessing our grim chances of avoiding punishment. 

My friends and I skated through with little more than angry questions about why we were there.  The older boys got in trouble.  They then blamed Scott for getting them in trouble, which was generally agreed upon in the schoolyard.  In retrospect, I think Scott was within his rights to tell the paramedics and cops who had to haul him out of a creek with a compound fracture who the person(s) were that had shoved him off a 25 foot fall into sharp rocks.  Yet, at that time, it was more of a gray area open to great debate.  The excitement faded as it always does.

We went back to the trestle after the heat cooled off.  Scott was in a cast and it became old news.  The cops had chased off the older boys.  It had become our place now.  We would stand at the top of the trestle looking down at the creek, replaying again and again what had happened to Scott.  The dare to jump off into the water became very real once again.  I never did it.  If I ever get the chance, I am going to walk that path to that creek side and take a look at that jump.  Sometimes things aren’t as big as you remember them.  I bet this is one of them.               

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Doug Sahm and Blown Minds



This afternoon I was driving around listening to an old Sir Douglas Quintet CD.  Yes, it was a CD.  One of the compromises I have made in driving a car with too much everything is that I could only afford an older version of this beast.  The Germans were extremely hesitant to provide any electronic creature comforts in this car, and allegedly only provided drink holders very begrudgingly.  Sometimes when you turn the car off and sit in the silence, you can hear a German accented voice say “Why would we provide distracting electronics when the experience of driving this automobile is absolutely perfect?”.  Hence, I have to listen to CDs.

The Sir Douglas Quintet is one of Doug Sahm’s old bands, and they are great.  You are likely familiar with “She’s About A Mover” and “Mendocino”, but each of the hard to find albums is packed with meat.  I particularly like the records after Sahm arrived and set down roots in San Francisco in the late 60s.  The language is awesome.  “I’m Not That Kat Anymore”, “Lord I’m Just A Country Boy Living In This Freaky City”, “Can You Dig My Vibrations” and “You Can’t Hide A Redneck (Underneath That Hippie Hair)” come to mind.  He made the kind of music I like, which is mashing together all of your influences to make a distinctive voice.  He manages to take all his Texas home influences of rock, country and Mexican music and became a pioneer of what was later called “Tex Mex”.  Go out and get yourself some of this music. 

The lyrics of this late 60s period are filled with songs about “grooving” and things that are “heavy”.  Almost every song has a mention about having your “mind blown”.  It was then I realized I have not spent nearly enough time in my lyrics discussing having your “mind blown”.  I then reached out to Krusty and Bobby Lanphier with this epiphany via text, asking them if I needed to heavy up on “mind blowing”.  Krusty attached the photo of Sahm in full cosmic cowboy regalia and then contrasted that with me in a suit holding a bottle of Krug champagne.  “You’re going to have to do a lot of work on your look before you can seem credible talking about “blown minds”.”  He then noted the photo of me from last week.  “This guy is going to talk to me about “blown minds”?  C’mon.”  At that point Lanphier weighed in with “more like a guy talking to me about blown investment opportunities”. 

Those were both valid points.  As much as I would like to insert an occasional “blown mind” reference, it just might ring hollow.  That’s a damn shame as I have had my “mind blown” a few times.  Don’t even make me reference back to that ill-fated space cake episode prior to a Swiss border cross while on tour.  Oh yes, my mind was blown.  My mind was mostly blown because I thought a German TV program I was watching was about a man pimping out his girlfriend so she could succeed in show business.  In a number of scenes the boyfriend offered her up for sex to strange men so he could advance his own agenda.  It was a sick tale of betrayal and life in the abyss.  That's when Krusty turned me onto what it was all about.  I was a little off.  It turned out it was a home improvement program.  Consider my mind blown!

I will just have to temper my desire to pepper in references to “Sunday Groovers” and “freaks” in Daredevils songs.  I don’t think I can make it sound organic.  That’s a shame.  What isn’t a shame is that the Daredevils will likely move ahead with two new releases this year.  We have the record we recorded with Gary last summer, and before long the band is going to have to get in the studio to record all the new material we have been writing.  We are also going to make our return to Europe, as a plan is afoot right now for the end of September/start of October to hit The Old Country.  As I stated in my New Year’s Resolutions, I wanted to A) make playing music fun again (check with the addition of Hector), B) lose 7 pounds (check as I knocked off 10), pass the WSET Diploma (check), and travel to Burgundy.  Ideally I would like to get to France before the end of June thereby achieving all my goals in 6 months.  We are getting shit done and moving forward over here.  If you sit and think about it, it really sort of blows your mind.  Damn.  I guess I can't say that.
 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The NFL Anthem Fiasco




The NFL is generally adept at handling public relations issues with expertise.  I am not exactly sure what happened with this National Anthem thing.  Sure, they were in a difficult situation.  If they did not act, players would continue to protest police brutality and a segment of their customer base would freak out.  If they responded in too heavy handed a manner, they would be viewed as trying to silence the players right to peacefully protest in a democratic society.  It came down to two choices.  They could have the players off the field during the anthem to sweep the issue into the locker room OR they could force the players to stand at attention and levy fines against the team for non-compliance.  They chose the second option.

The players have voiced that they see this as their right to expression being squashed and their employer not supporting their cause.  The NFL has somehow made themselves bad guys to all their players, and pitted the employees versus owners.  Why they have backed these guys into a corner is hard to fathom.  They have taken what was once a small issue and now given it new life.  Making matters even worse for them was the release of a video from January of a Milwaukee Bucks player being roughed up by six cars of cops for no particular reason.  Sure, he double parked at a Walgreens, but my guess is that not too many suburban white guys get tased and arrested for that crime.  If Jerry Jones of the Cowboys had a nightstick shoved up his ass by six carfuls of cops after strolling out of Target, my guess is he might be OK with taking a knee for “awareness” of that issue.

My thought is that it might be a good idea just to scrap the entire anthem.  I have taken friends of mine from other nations to major league sporting events.  Seeing it through their eyes is sobering.  Imagine if you want to a soccer match in Germany in 1938.  Prior to the game an enormous swastika flag is unfurled as members of the Hitler Youth stand next to soldiers waving it as the anthem is played.  At the conclusion of the anthem, a wave of Luftwaffe bombers flies over the stadium to the roar of the crowd.  Later in the first half, the Jumbotron features photos of Wehrmacht troops with the announcer intoning instructions to “remember our veterans and thank them for their service”.  At halftime troops march out onto the field to present certificates to recently returned soldiers.  Whatever would be a German version of “Proud To Be An American” booms from the speakers.  An enormous swastika flag flies next to the scoreboard.  It’s creepy as shit, right?  What does any of it have to do with football?

The problem appears to be the disconnect between Trump Nation and reality regarding what the flag represents.  Somewhere after 9/11 many in the population decided that The Flag=The Army.  To not hold any flag ceremony in the upmost reverence indicated you were somehow “against the troops”.  My understanding of the flag was it represented the ideals of the nation in question.  In the case of the United States that means the right to protest, equality, and having a voice.  Isn’t the most patriotic thing to not only allow the players to protest during the pointless flag ceremony but support their right to do so?  At no point have the participants in that protest indicate they were against the nation.  They are protesting paid employees of the nation killing them in their communities unjustly.  It’s a legitimate issue.  I would argue that they are more active participants in what our nation is supposed to be about than anyone screaming about how anyone that has ever been in a uniform of any kind is a “hero” and are the ones being represented by a flag ceremony at a football game.

Nationalism is on a rise that doesn’t appear to be stopping soon.  The NFL owners caved in because it was easier than fighting for principles.  The Press is being attacked daily for reporting facts.  The justice system is under siege for doing their jobs.  The ideals of this nation are disappearing.  Maybe you can’t identify with the ones being silenced now, but if history shows anything, it’s that you will identify with them soon enough.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Big Star




I think I bought the first two Big Star records at Singing Dog in Columbus OH in the early 90s.  I had never heard the records but had read almost every musician I admired name check them in the press over the last decade.  If Paul Westerberg titles one of his best songs after you, that’s a pretty good sign.  I had some of those Alex Chilton records that mysteriously popped out while I was a radio station music director.  The punk rock anarchist in me liked those, and that song “No Sex” should have been a hit if it wasn’t about the AIDS outbreak and include the lyric “come on baby, fuck me and die”.  Somehow Big Star had passed me by.

There is a terrific Big Star documentary that came out and details their horrible bad luck regarding their “#1 Record” named debut release and subsequent records.  In retrospect, naming it “#1 Record” was likely a curse.  I appreciate the sardonic wit though, and understood that record to be the motherload.  Chilton and primary songwriter Chris Bell painstakingly crafted this record, each one of the songs obviously slaved over by a group of people intensely focused on the end result.  These are guys that spent every night in a studio trying different ideas and needing it to be absolutely perfect.  They came about as close as four young men left to their own devices in Memphis can probably get.

The distribution fell apart almost immediately.  They had a deal with Stax that went South.  Even the few people that had heard of the record couldn’t find it in stores.  It died on the vine without the public even getting a chance to hear it.  Chris Bell had a breakdown.  He knew he likely could never hit those peaks again.  He took his shot and it missed, despite it not being his fault.  That’s tough to live with…  Chilton kept the band going with the rhythm section for two more records.  “Radio City” is probably underrated and has more great rock pop songs on it.  “Third” is a difficult listen at first.  It’s these broken little fragments that Chilton gave to producer Jim Dickinson that somehow assembled this stark, apocalyptic sounding record.  It’s fragile and lonely.  It’s really a beautiful record with no commercial potential whatsoever.

When I first bought #1 Record and Radio City, I didn’t get it.  They sounded just like dated 70s radio songs to me that I had somehow never heard.  I listened to them a couple times and put them away.  They just didn’t connect.  Every year I would give them a spin.  Eh.  What was the big deal here?  Then, like most of the very best music, it hit me.  Holy shit.  These records are brilliant.  I am not sure why records that have the most impact are not the most immediately appealing.  They need some time to grow on you to reveal their depth.  I have had similar experiences with “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Mendocino” and “Raw Power”.  It’s the ones that find you when their time is right that become your friends for life.

I’m sitting here listening to “Third”.  It’s dark and raining.  I am glad I found that record, and I suggest you do the same.  You might not be ready yet, but you will one day.     

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Cat



The cat had been a gift from her previous boyfriend.  The boyfriend was a young man it was easy to be dismissive of, with his passive aggressive manner.  He seemed meek, but that was just a con.  He always mentioned that he was either coming down with an illness or in the midst of recovery.  His dark sad eyes did the trick.  When he would look up at her with those wounded eyes, he would always receive comfort and attention.  I, of course, hated him and by default the cat he had left behind.

He always came up with reasons to come over to her house.  Thoughtful little gifts for her mother.  Returned cooking tools.  Used books.  It was always some flimsy manufactured bullshit.  If I happened to be there at the time of his drop in, he would skirt to the sides of the room, always avoiding direct contact with me.  He would shift topics of conversation to his strengths, areas that I had no experience or interest in.  Chamber music concertos.  Ethnic restaurant news.  Foreign film expos.  It was a game that he pretended he was not playing.  Just a nice fellow stopping by to offer considerate gestures.  No strings attached.  A quiet, thoughtful young man.  All the while the cat would flick its tail while sitting in the windowsill. 

I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it drove me insane.  I had never been in a conflict with no offense, no visible battle.  He was slowly gaining ground, working at solidifying his return, consistently demonstrating that he was the true match for this woman while I was some sort of beast.  It was easy to see.  I preferred dogs, while he was clearly a cat man.  Every time that goddamn cat walked across the apartment, it was like that passive aggressive young man strutted across the room declaring “I’m still here.”. 

The cat must have sensed my growing distaste for it.  If I slept over at the apartment, the cat would come roaring into the room at an ungodly hour and dive on my head.  It was like being attacked by a mongoose in the middle of a deep sleep.  This did not help solidify a bond between the cat and I.  In the morning, the cat and I would glare at each other while the woman obliviously sipped herbal tea. 

Making matters even worse, the cat loved the passive aggressive man.  Theirs was a mutual admiration society.  I would feel a slow burning fury when the cat jingled over to greet him when he dropped by with one of his thoughtful little presents.  “Oh, I just saw this used booklet of French poetry I thought your sister might like… Sure, I would love a glass of wine!”  The cat purred on his lap as he slowly sipped his wine.  He would never risk the outright aggression of smiling triumphantly at me when the woman left the room, but I swear to you that cat did.

Eventually he wedged me out of there, like we both knew he would.  I was ill-equipped for this drama.  I was a man from the late 20th Century that was taking part in an 18th Century parlor drama.  I didn’t know the rules.  It was like an act from the old theater productions they both loved whereas I was immersed in the films of Coppola.  I should have flipped the script and gone Godfather.  “Pauley?  Oh, you won’t see him round here no more…”

The last time I was ever in that apartment I remember walking to the kitchen table to retrieve my car keys.  There was a small round bistro table by the window.  It was one of those garage sale finds where if I had put it in my house it would have looked like garbage, but she had magically transformed it into something artsy and wonderful with a dash of paint.  The cat was stretched out across that table, my keys right in front of its head.  He flicked his tail with his eyes serenely closed.  As I put the keys in my hand he opened his eyes and I swear he smiled at me.

I still hate that cat.                

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Texas School Shooting



As we know from past experience, now is “too soon” to discuss the consistent gun massacres in schools, the thought being that emotions are too raw.  We missed that brief window between the last one and this one when talking about guns would have been acceptable.  What no one is saying is that because of the routine of these shootings, it is becoming harder and harder to muster any legitimate emotions.  The Public becomes immune to the story after hearing it enough times.  Remember a couple of years ago when the population was flipping out because the President of the United States was telling lies?  Now it is just a known quantity and is essentially accepted as The Way Things Are.  School shootings have become the same.

I hardly even glanced at the headline when it scrolled across.  School shooting reported in Texas.  Yawn.  I knew the basic story line.  Quiet kid showed up at school with guns, shot a bunch of classmates and probably killed himself.  Interviews with crying teenagers.  Whatever.  My brain is now able to shove that in the same place as “Mexican Earthquake Claims 17 Lives” and “Tragic Plane Crash In Cuba”.  School shootings are just part of the daily mosaic of the news cycle.  It's a concept and not a real thing.  I feel much more outrage when I see the castrated politicians offer up their empty promises and false grief.

Trump immediately said the administration would do “everything in our power” to protect schools and keep guns away from those who should not have them.  Even if a moment of righteousness somehow flickered across that man’s brain, by this weekend the NRA will have him in line with their talking points.  I predict “a pivot” into suggesting this is a mental health issue, not a gun issue, and we need to do more to combat mental health issues.  As mental health issues are mostly undetectable, this is essentially vowing to protect a town from floods by offering to combat the rain. 

“We are with you in this tragic hour and we will be with you forever…” was offered up on the President’s Twitter feed.  I can translate this into “This is the gesture of empathy that the office dictates I make, and I am hoping this blows over by Tuesday as I have already forgotten about it as have most other Americans”.  Fore!  I barely glanced at the story, as I already know how it ends.  The bottom line is that not enough people care.  We have decided that thousands of shooting victims are an acceptable trade for gun enthusiasts to maintain their fantasies of vigilante justice where they are cast as heroes.  Come and take it.  Ka-pow!   

Wal Mart Nation has the steering wheel in this country right now.  America is becoming greater every day.  It’s pre-facism with a redneck fashion streak.  Self-delusion and ignorance rule the day.  There is no reason to believe this gun violence problem will be addressed because we have decided that no problem exists.  The same old rhetoric will get tossed back and forth next week with no movement in any direction.  The gun manufacturers will stick to their playbook of letting things cool down so the simpleminded populace will back burner the issue.  If the gun companies get lucky they might convince the lunatics in office to spend millions on guns for schools, turning lemons into lemonade if you will.  Score!

This weekend they will bury ten kids in Texas.  Crying parents will vow to fight for change.  Politicians will hide.  Cable news will devolve into pointless side squabbles about gun categorization, the false beliefs surrounding the Second Amendment, various smoke screens, and NRA spokespeople dropping their flimsy talking points into the stew.  We’ve seen this before.  Yawn.  Change the channel.  It’s just The Way Things Are.           

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nurse the Hate: WSET Diploma, Completed




One of the great disappointments of this particular era is that personal news is often delivered via email.  I found it to be a bit anti-climatic to receive an email on my phone that I had passed my sparkling wine exam with merit and thus passed the WSET Diploma.  Immediately after my brief moment of triumph a smiling waitress asked if I wanted more iced tea.  I thought it would be different.  When I had pictured this moment, it was with me ripping open an envelope reading an overly formal letter while standing by my mailbox, not seated at the restaurant “Melissa”.  Further dampening the moment was the email said, “Congratulations Troy!  You have passed your exam!”.  Wait…  Did I pass or did Troy?  Who the fuck is Troy?  It turned out after several anxious minutes and a clarifying email exchange, that not only did Troy pass, but I did as well.  I guess my “iced tea re-fill of triumph” was justified.

I sat at my seat at the counter with my salad and tea.  All that work, and here was the moment of payoff.  I think I had a flicker of accomplishment for about 7 seconds before that faded.  I had five more hours left of work.  It was Tuesday.  I was sitting there by myself.  Most importantly, I didn’t feel like I had succeeded.  The waitress had this permanent yet genuine smile that had to be caused by either chemicals or a groovy yoga Zen.  “Is everything good over here?”  This placed me at the crossroads of saying, “It’s really good because I just found out I somehow passed the WSET Diploma, which is something I couldn’t possibly explain to you.” Or “Yes.  Everything’s fine.”.  I opted for the latter.

Rumor has it there are only something like 4000 people in the world that have passed this exam since the program started up in the late 1970s.  Part of the reason there are so few people is that I am sure it took a couple decades to get some traction and allow people to know outside of England that the program existed.  The other reason is that it is very difficult.  I don’t care about soil types or geological characteristics of locations in general.  When I first arrive at a new place, I normally don’t take soil samples.  Yet, this program forced me to remember all kinds of subtle soil differences.  I have used the word “schist” more often than I thought possible.  That information didn’t want to go in my head, but I pounded it in there.

Who wants to talk about long term oxidation of the sangiovese grape in Brunello and the variances possible with different barrel selection?  No one?  Well, I can if you’d like.  No?  How about the effect of morning fog on the Semillon grape in regard to botrytis in Sauternes?  Would you like me to tell you why a bottle of Chateau D’Yquem is so expensive and yet still underpriced?  Sit right down my friend…  While you wait let’s have a quick breakdown of low oxygen, low temperature fermentation within stainless steel for Northern Italian whites and the criminal over cropping in Soave.  I’m sorry.  Did I wake you?  It never ends.

So, why did I feel so empty?  The problem is now two-fold.  I had anticipated becoming some sort of expert in wine.  I suppose I am now.  However, what I did not anticipate was that the more I learned, the more I realized I did not know.  I feel like I have only scratched the surface and the problem is now that I will run out of time before I run out of information.  I have come to the painful realization I cannot ever truly master this subject matter as the waters run deeper than first estimated.  So now instead of feeling like “Ah-ha!  I’ve done it!”, I feel more along the lines of “You fucking fraud.  You don’t know a goddamn thing.”. 

The other issue is that I am perhaps too competitive.  I am not sure how I turned wine into a competition, but I have done it.  It is sort of like Leo’s idea of “competitive yoga”.  Inserting competition into something that has no obvious measurement is a very Whiskey Daredevil thing to do.  I have to win.  My thinking now is that since thousands of people have done what I have done, what’s the big deal?  What have I accomplished?  How can I beat these other people that are unaware I am competing with them?  The answer is obvious, by trying to breathe the rarified air of becoming a Master of Wine. 

There are 38 Masters of Wine in the United States.  Ever.  The exams are legendarily difficult.  I spoke with a woman that failed her last tasting exam partly because her mouth had broken out in lesions due to a combination of stress and too much wine tasting preparation.  There are stories of grown men weeping.  The challenge is so absurd, to essentially store into memory an entire planet of wine production’s tiny details while understanding how these parts all fit together.  Meanwhile you must be able to identify wines blind in a swift, decisive and most importantly, accurate manner.  All the while there is an undercurrent of not being worthy to join this secret society.  A difficult entrance exam must be passed just to have the opportunity to enter the program so you can torture yourself with further impossible exams.  You need to have a written recommendation from an existing MW, just like trying to get into a Mason’s Lodge.  Most MWs I have met look at me like I am a circus freak.  It would be hurdle after hurdle after hurdle just to get in for the chance to fail.  Clearly, this is something I will need to beat.

The nagging question is whether the organization would be willing to allow me to even attempt to enter.  In many ways, I represent the exact opposite of what has been the traditions of the wine world.  There is a certain pomp and circumstance that exists that doesn’t always mesh with my more punk rock sensibilities.  When I see authority figures, my first inclination is to try to knock them down.  Blame Joe Strummer, Jello Biafra, and Hunter S. Thompson.  I don’t tend to want to join clubs that want me as a member.  Yet, I clearly have the passion and the ability to succeed in this endeavor if given the opportunity to apply myself.  I must somehow trick these people into letting me in.

I have succeeded in getting the Diploma.  Why do I think the real struggle has only just begun?            

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Gin Job



5.15.2018

Hayman’s Distillery
8a Weir Road
London
SW12 0NA


Gentlemen,

First let me say that I am flattered by your interest in having me represent your gin to the no doubt wonderful people of Scotland.  I am certain I could build a natural rapport with the people as soon as I could figure out what they are saying.  I will be upfront and tell you that I have had limited interaction with Scottish people.  Between us, I even had difficulty making sense of what the members of The Proclaimers were saying in interviews during their heyday, and my guess is that they were trying their best to allow an American record buying public understand what they were saying.  I’m thinking I will have a bit of a learning curve trying to sell gin to people that prefer scotch while not having a clue to how the conversation is going.  Maybe for the first 6 months I could just “stick to the script” but if some customer says “haud yer wheesht” it will be an uncomfortable situation when I just blather on about the botanicals in the spirit.  I just want to set your expectations right out of the gate here.

The other stumbling block is my general distaste for gin after a series of “incidents” in my late teens.  An associate of mine at the time, a Mr. James Jazz, had decided that it would be in our mutual best interests to embrace gin as a recreational beverage.  He believed it to be an excellent choice when mixed with off-brand cranberry juice.  For a brief moment, this “New Golden Age of Gin” appeared to have endless possibilities.  Soon it denigrated into madness.  In retrospect, the move from rapidly drinking “value priced” beer into bottom shelf gin was a step backwards as the later written song by a Mr. Snoop Dog (a.k.a. “Snoop Lion”) would attest.  I will tell you with great authority that an overserved young man throwing up gin and cranberry juice in the early hours of the morning will believe he is throwing up blood and think he requires immediate medical attention.  Thus ended the “New Golden Age of Gin”.

Yet, I remain intrigued with your offer of employment.  As you no doubt have learned from my WSET Overlords, I am tantalizingly close to having earned the coveted WSET Diploma, something here in the United States that almost no one understands.  For the last time, “No, I am not a sommelier”.  It might have been worth being tested on opening a bottle of champagne in a fine dining situation in a Court of Master Somm exam just so I wouldn’t have to explain what a WSET Diploma is to people that stop paying attention mid-explanation.  You can’t go back in time though.  I have only a small handful of regrets in life, and choosing the WSET is not one of them.  (If a member of the WSET grading staff is somehow reading this, please remember to “keep it fair” when you get to my sparkling exam.  I clearly knew how sekt was made. I thought by "discuss production" you meant the end results.  If you can let me slide on that, I’m sure we can have a few laughs over it later this year in London where I can buy you a steak at The Ivy.  Seriously, it’s my treat.  Order whatever you’d like…)  The bottom line is I know enough about gin to be dangerous.

But what of a new life in Scotland?  As you no doubt have learned via my Ancestry.com results, I am 78% English.  Besides finding myself suddenly infatuated with the Royal Wedding this weekend as well as almost breaking out in hives over the football matches, I am embracing what is clearly a genetic desire to take advantage of the people of Scotland and Ireland.  It is perhaps my destiny to levy the Scots with crippling alcohol prices and taxation.  I would be fulfilling a genetic imperative by accepting this position.  However, I need to temper this immediate enthusiasm with a healthy dose of reality.  I am going to require a wage well above what you are alluding to in your correspondence.  I have grown to become accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and I am not going to move into a depressing two room flat in Edinburgh just to fulfill my destiny like some sort of alcohol toting salmon.  The image of me coughing in the consistent rain trying to choke down a blood sausage in my flat while my indifferent cat looks on is too grim to think of for more than just a moment.  In this scenario, I name my cat “Mr. Bigglesworth” and he always moves away from me if I try to touch him.  Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

With this in mind, I am going to have to decline your offer.  Once again, I thank you for your consideration.  I wish you the best of luck in extending the reach and market share of the brand.  Your gin is no doubt a delightful way to spend an evening in Scotland surrounded by largely cheerful yet unintelligible friends.  I wish you the best of luck.

I remain,

Greg Miller      

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Quality Inn



“Hello Greg!  Would you like to review your recent stay at Quality Inn?”

Friends,

First of all please allow me to say how much I appreciate you requesting my feedback on my recent hotel stay.  I had always quietly suspected that you were interested in my experiences and you were not just a faceless internet travel reservations company.  This correspondence to me today only solidifies the deep and rich feelings of affection I have for your company.  You care about me, not as a customer, but as a man.  In a cold world where a true connection is almost impossible, you have only confirmed the deep feelings we have for one another.  I thank you.  I wish we could have a long embrace where neither of us spoke, but only let the moment pass between us.  I wanted you to know that.

My recent stay…  yes, where do I begin?  That evening we had played a rock and roll show in Erie Pennsylvania.  Being people involved in the travel industry, you are no doubt well versed on Erie and the wild underground rock culture that is well hidden from view of the unsuspecting public.  There are some true degenerates there, as you no doubt know.  However, I use the word “degenerate” as a term of affection in this case.  It is not often in today’s world where one can perform heartfelt personal songs written in an Ohio basement to a room stuffed full of people in the depths of massive LSD trips.  From my vantage point, it appeared that a few of these people needed a psychedelic captain, as the trip we took them on was not the one they had intended. A man in a cowboy hat wildly yelling into a microphone about The Devil, the Consequence of Choice, and cat pajamas is not something many of them were prepared for. 

I was unaware that LSD had made a comeback.  As Erie often stubbornly holds onto the past, maybe it never left.  More likely it is a case of these rugged individualists making their own fun in a dreary rainy evening.  I know that The Kids like smoking marijuana of increasing strength nowadays.  The wise sage Chris Crofton recently noted that young people today like to smoke pot that makes them feel like radioactive coconut crabs.  I suppose when you feel like a radioactive coconut crab on a daily basis, when the weekend hits, you want to take it up a notch.  I think that a few of these folks greatly underestimated the rocket ship they climbed onto.  I have a slight regret about telling one of them I could see into the future like a witch.  That was a lot for this kid to deal with on a Friday.  I hope she got home OK. 

My game plan was to drive back to be crisp and refreshed for a wine event on Saturday.  As a man that is believed to know what he is talking about in regards to wine quality, I can’t be sleep deprived calling some crappy Central Coast California Cabernet “transcendent” when it’s something that shouldn’t be used to wash your car.  Look, no one should even use the word “transcendent” in regards to wine anyway, as that only confirms that negative perceptions about so-called “wine experts”.  I’m not above pulling out fluffy language if I’m tired as shit though.  I will bluff my way through a room of people if I have to.  It’s only because you and I are so close that I will admit this to you.  There are many dark corridors in my soul.  I know you accept me for who I am, so I will unburden myself with this painful admission. Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

Just to check my options, I checked your helpful mobile app.  It was there I discovered the bargain rate of $46 for the Quality Inn.  Despite some trepidation, I clicked “accept” and locked the band in for a night so I could avoid the overnight drive.  I knew this would not be a four star experience, but I was just looking for six solid hours of sleep in an atmosphere where I wouldn’t question if a prostitute had been murdered in the bed within the last 48 hours.  I think $46 should allow me that piece of mind.  As the hotel was nowhere close to an airport, that only confirmed my gut feeling of minimizing the potential of sleeping on a murder site.  I drove us to the hotel with a serene mindset.

I could immediately tell the Quality Inn was one of those franchises that was owned by an Indian immigrant.  I wish I understood why there exists a population of people in India that decide their path in life is to move to the United States to buy a two star hotel and then put as little money as possible into the upkeep.  There must be seminars in New Delhi where a classroom of people are studiously taking notes like “Do not replace any carpet.  Regardless of the circumstance, do not update any plumbing.  Make sure and buy the absolute cheapest soap for the rooms.”  I almost took one of the business cards from the thoughtfully provided six stacks of cards near the front door to tell Mr. Patel what a fine job he was doing maintaining the lowest possible standards as per his seminar teachings.

A pointlessly confrontational desk clerk checked us in.  Walter was like a flesh and blood version of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.  Despite Sugar’s somewhat charming plea for a bag of pretzels from the outsized snack box visible behind the counter, Walter would not surrender the .11 cent snack.  “That is for preferred members.  You are NOT preferred members.  You have a pre paid internet rate.”  Walter then told us the only food available was from the dated vending machines down the hallway.  Sugar then made another case for a comp snack, was refused, and received 4 quarters change from the visibly annoyed Walter.     

When we arrived at the 1990-styled snack machine, we discovered it would not accept coins.  Walter gave Sugar change knowing damn well it would prevent her from getting the snack she was targeting.  Walter has his little games.  Luckily for Sugar and Leo, I had two singles.  In a nice passive aggressive profit seeking strategy, Mr. Patel had priced many of the snacks at $1.05 to insure that guests would insert $2 and then not receive any change.  What a wily operator!  Sugar chose the Lance Cheese Crackers, whereas Leo went for the chocolate peanut butter wafer cookies.  Delightful.

The hotel appeared to have two sections, Smoking and Heavy Smoking.  The entire place smelled like my Mom’s old VW Beetle in 1978.  An odd combination of Marlboro Red and hairspray.  Our room had the cheer of a minimum security prison.  It would have been an excellent place to film a budget porn movie, but one with a specific kink like midgets or foot worship.  If you listened closely, you could hear crying in the adjoining room.  To combat that we turned on the low def TV and to our joy found a Dolemite movie.  We fell asleep to the sound of rain falling off the roof onto a loose piece of metal outside our window. 

There was a complimentary breakfast, but I suspected the rations would have been a choice of Froot Loops from a plastic container and powdered eggs served on white Styrofoam plates.  I decided for the good of the band to let them sleep past the dining hours as I scrolled though pictures on social media hoping to catch a glimpse of something interesting.  I took a shower as a way to wake the kids up where I discovered the temperature options of the water were limited to “icy slush” or “flesh ripping hot”.  The good news was I didn’t have to choose between the two as the shower thoughtfully veered back and forth at its own pace.  The industrial strength soap made me feel somewhat clean though I am concerned about the rash that broke out.  The towels smelled slightly less sour than I expected.  All and all, an acceptable experience.

I would rate the Quality Inn as meeting but not exceeding expectations.  Obviously my expectations were quite tempered, so make sure to allow other potential guests know their experience will be defined by their own mindset going in.  Once again, thank you for contacting me for my feedback.  I really feel like our relationship is entering a new phase.  You are not someone running away from intimacy, but running towards the bright shining light.  I welcome our future together. 

Regards,

G. Miller 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Jim's Dad



Jim’s Dad died in a hot air balloon accident, which was unusual for a man born in this town.  The official story was that the flame went out on the propane tanks due to an equipment malfunction, but it was understood by those in the know that his old man was drunk and forgot to change the tanks out from the previous day.  He just ran out of fuel.  The gondola slammed into a hillside killing Jim’s father and severely injuring the honeymooning couple he was captaining.  Jim had a perverse sense of pride in the story and liked that his father had perished in such spectacular fashion.  Quietly wilting in a hospice was not really his style.

His father was a man that thought of himself as a modern embodiment of Hemingway.  He was a man that liked to fish, drink and be the loudest voice in the room.  He wore a short cropped mustache and weathered salt stained fishing cap.  The effect made him look more like Quint in “Jaws” than Hemingway, but he would have liked that too if he’d known.  When we were kids he would roar us out to past the break in his boat where we’d fish for stripers.  He’d put the radio on to the Big Band station and get excited if a Duke Ellington number came on.  We’d stay out until the sun began to set in firehouse red and pumpkin orange skies.  I always thought it was so cool that he’d let Jim dock the boat when we came in.  It wasn’t until years later I recognized that he let Jim do it because he was too drunk on the cans of Pabst he fired though all afternoon to dock it himself. 

Jim’s Old Man was living in the boat one summer.  He pretended that it was because he loved the water so much that he wanted to spend the summer down at the dock.  The real reason was that Jim’s mom had caught his Dad fooling around with his receptionist.  His Dad and the receptionist had a regular Thursday at the Quality Inn for about 18 months before his Mom caught wind of it.  I remember the receptionist showing up at one of Jim’s and my Little League games once.  She smelled like coconut oil and when she smiled you felt good.  She disappeared after that summer down on the dock.

Jim’s Dad used to eat at this place called The Sloppy Duck, right down from the dock.  It was one of those clam shacks that did great tourist business.  All the yokels from inland would think they were having an authentic island meal.  Almost all the fish was frozen brought in by that front company that went under when they finally broke the Whitey Bulger mob.  Jim’s Dad, his buddy Sully, and whatever other guy in trouble with his wife was bunking on the boat would watch the Sox on that grainy color TV by the bar.  That was the summer that Louis Tiant and Spaceman Lee had great stuff.  Jim and I would pretend to be Tiant, aping his windup and tossing rocks into the surf.  When Jim’s Dad was a few beers in and the Sox were winning, he’d give us change for the pinball machine.  It was a Gottlieb “Royal Guard” machine.  I bet my high score still stands.

I slowly fell out with those two.  We got older, Jim’s Dad moved back home and eventually got divorced.  I lost touch with Jim after I went to college in the city.  I had heard his Dad moved West but I didn’t know anything about that hot air balloon business.  I guess he saw an ad in the back of some magazine while he was waiting at his dentist.  He thought about it during his root canal, called the number from the ad, and just like that was in the hot air balloon business in Napa California.  He was an impulsive man.  He drove straight across the country starting the next morning.  I don't think Jim knew he'd done it until The Old Man had already figured out how to fly the damn thing a couple weeks later.

I just saw Jim over the holidays.  I stopped by his store.  There behind the counter were a couple pictures of his Old Man, framed in memoriam.  In one he’s older than I remember, smiling in a gondola waiting to lift off in his balloon.  In the other, he’s just like I remember him.  Fuller faced with a broad mustache.  He has that filthy cap on his head grinning ear to ear with his hands on the boat’s steering wheel.  Jim told me over beers at the Sloppy Duck that the picture was taken that summer he was living down here on the dock.  We were sitting in the same stools that Jim’s Dad and Sully used to sit in.  Jim cleared his throat and said he misses his Dad every single day.  We raised our bottles to The Old Man and took a deep pull of cold beer.  Then it was quiet.  We sat not saying anything for a time and watched the Sox on the TV above the bar.         

Monday, May 7, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Hate Surf Music


When we played Southgate House the other night, I saw a really good surf band called The Madeira.  I recognized the sound of the lead guitar player, but it didn’t hit me until later that he was from the Space Cossacks, one of the noteworthy bands from what I think of as The Second Golden Age Of Surf.  Yes, there was once a time in the mid to late 90s when if you threw a rock, you’d hit a surf band.  It was likely a reaction to the Garage Rock Revival mixed with Pulp Fiction.  Suddenly, great surf bands were everywhere.  The Phantom Surfers, Galaxy Trio, Laika and the Cosmonauts, Phantom 5ive, Exotics, Volcanos, and the Bomboras all come to mind.  There’s another dozen I’m forgetting at the moment.  Then suddenly, they were gone…

The Phantom Surfers had a record from that time called “The Great Surf Crash” that made light of it.  The wheels just completely came off.  Like a meteor that came to earth killing the mighty dinosaurs, the Surf Revival disappeared.  It happened all at once too, sort of like when swing died.  It was everywhere and then gone.  I always loved playing with surf bands as I think their often grand cinematic style is a good ying to our yang on a double bill.   

When surf modestly came back that first time, many of the legends of the original movement suddenly found themselves in demand.  We played on bills with Davie Allen and the Arrows and The Trashmen.  The Ventures hit the road.  However, the biggest and most important name of them all was Dick Dale.  Dick Dale isn’t called the King of the Surf guitar for nothing.  He was, and is, a monster player that revolutionized the entire idea of surf music.  I remember how psyched we were to play with him the first time.  I assumed that it would be a one time deal, that we would never have that chance to see or play with him again.  That was probably 1996.

The first time we played with him was at Wilbert’s.  That was a great club during its run, but it was not blessed with the largest stage.  When we arrived to the club for the show with Dick Dale, we discovered that he and his band had already set up his gear and soundchecked.  They left the gear on stage leaving us literally no place to set up.  Whereas they could have pushed the amps and drums back even 18 inches to allow us a modest area to stand perfectly still and play, they didn’t even allow that.  I was forced to go speak to Dick Dale’s road manager, who at the time was his young girlfriend of about 25 years of age.  “Hey, we aren’t going to be able to set up to play.  Would it be possible to move the gear back about 18 inches?  We could even do it for you and then move it back when we are done.”  The woman looked at me and freaked out.  “Oh my god!  I’m going to have to talk to Dick!”.  Her experience and role model for the position of “road manager” was Ian Faith of the band Spinal Tap.

Now I was thinking this request was no big deal.  I thought this because it literally was no big deal.  It would have required no effort on the band’s part.  Beyond that, (most) bands try to maintain a communal spirit in that we are all trying to help each other succeed.  A rising tide raises all boats.  This was a different animal as I discovered.  I watched from across the room as Dick, his girlfriend, and his band huddled for 15-20 minutes.  It was an animated conversation.  I have no idea what could have taken so long.  Ultimately the girlfriend was sent over to tell us in a very terse voice “We are willing to move back six inches, but THAT’S IT!”. 

This had somehow managed to reach a compromise that solved nothing. I watched the guys in his band move his amps back the prescribed six inches and still leave multiple feet of absolutely dead space between the back wall and amp. It was totally pointless.  The six inches did not provide the additional space we needed so we could set up our drums.    They were also pissed because we were not acting deferential enough.  I then sidled up to Mike Miller, the owner of the club, and told him we couldn’t play because we literally couldn’t all stand on the tiny space they had allotted us.  A second summit was convened.

The solution that Mike and Dick Dale’s girlfriend came up with was for several milk crates to be pushed to the edge of the stage.  I was to stand on these four wobbly crates, making the ultimate low budget catwalk jut out slightly from center stage.  This was deemed to be a more logical solution than to move three pieces of equipment and additional 18 inches within the four feet of space available, and move them back prior to Dick Dale’s performance.  It was probably the most outrageously stupid rock show thing I have ever been or will be a part of.

After the show everyone was more relaxed.  Dick Dale was awesome.  He came out and blew through all the monster instrumentals, just destroying.  I spoke to him briefly and said how much we enjoyed his show.  Dick Dale looked at me and said something like, “Well, Dick Dale loves to play for people.” as if he wasn’t Dick Dale.  I had not heard third person being spoken like that since Allen Iverson.  I wasn’t really sure how to respond and gave out some complimentary double talk.

It was about 9 months later when we played with Dick Dale again, this time at the beloved Stache’s in Columbus.  It was a much bigger stage at Stache’s, but we still had to deal with limited space in front of their set up.  As we had been expecting it and somehow survived the Wilbert’s show, this seemed like being placed out on a sports arena stage.  I could really get into it with some rock star moves up there, as long as I limited them to two steps in either direction.

I don’t recall very much about that show.  I’m sure Dick was good.  He’s always good when he crushes his best originals.  The thing I remember best was after the gig standing with him backstage.  It was just the two of us.  I had not spoken to him to that point and he looked at me.  He must have remembered the cowboy hat.  “You know, when Dick Dale saw that you guys were on the bill, Dick Dale wasn’t too sure about it.  Dick Dale remembered having a hard time with you guys last time.  But Dick Dale didn’t have any problem tonight.”

I looked at Dick and said, “Hey, that’s great.  We had a great time tonight.  But I am a little confused.  You keep talking about “Dick Dale”…  I thought YOU were Dick Dale.”  I kept my face completely expressionless.  Dick looked at me sort of incredulously and then with a flash of anger.  I just stared back.  He suddenly broke into a little grin.  “Oh…  I see now.  I see.  You’re being funny!”.  He slapped my shoulder.  “Dick Dale thinks you’re OK.”

We probably played with him another 10 times with varying degrees of successful interaction.  We got yelled at once because he thought we had delayed a veggie pizza he had ordered, though it didn’t make sense as to how. He once insisted we only play a 25 minute set and then waited 75 minutes to go on after we had finshed.  I did have some wild deep conversations with him after shows at the Grog Shop.  He had a deep spiritual bent, and a great interest in native culture.  He’s an interesting man.  We played with him a few years ago and he was still as good as he ever was, this despite me knowing and reading about multiple health threats.  I read an interview he gave recently about how even at 80 years old he needs to stay on the road to fund his medication and treatments he needs to stay alive.  Dick Dale should be able to choose when and where he’d like to play at this point, not have to play by necessity.  I’m sorry he’s in that situation.

Right before I ducked out of The Madeira’s set, the guitar player announced to the crowd with a big smile.  “Do you know what yesterday was?  It was a very important day.”.  As the day prior was May 4th, I was thinking I was about to see a very unlikely surf cover of Neil Young’s “Ohio”.  “It is Dick Dale’s birthday!  He is 81!”  The crowd all applauded and then they played a Dick Dale obscurity.  It was nice to hear them toss a nod to Dick Dale.  It was even better to hear live surf music being done that well.  I’ve missed it.          

Friday, May 4, 2018

Nurse the Hate: My Favorite TV Show




The best show on television right now is the circus surrounding Donald Trump.  It’s one of those difficult shows to follow if you aren’t dialed in, like if David Lynch produced “Lost” and you first turned it on during the third season and expected to understand what is going on.  All of what I am about to type seems unbelievable, but that’s what makes this the “can’t miss” program of the TV season.  It’s “Must See TV”. 

In the last few days, the President of the United States brought on a possibly mentally unstable Rudy Giuliani as a member of his legal team.  Giuliani promptly went on TV reversing course on the previous version of events regarding Stormy Daniels and volunteered that Trump knew Cohen had paid off the porn star and Trump had also paid Cohen back via multiple payments.  He also added there was another $300K of payments to other individuals that had not even been reported yet.  Why he offered this up without being asked on live TV was difficult to explain. 

The White House pretended that this was exactly what they had planned all along, despite every other person that worked at the White House being completely blindsided.  The President then tweeted a confirmation of Rudy’s version of the events.  This flies directly in the face of the video of Trump on Air Force One previously being asked if he knew about the payments to the porn actress and him saying “No”.

Today in a wild story twist, Trump went back to his original version and claimed Giuliani “didn’t have his facts straight” as if he hadn’t confirmed what Giuliani had said just the day before.  “Virtually everything said has been said incorrectly, and it’s been said wrong, or it’s been covered wrong in the press.” said Trump.  While the sentence itself is baffling, it’s especially confusing as what has been said has been recorded directly coming from the mouths of the participants.  When he is referring to things “being said incorrectly”, he also must be referring to himself as he has at one time or another supported every version of this story.  Trump, who often refers to himself in third person, has now entered the surreal by calling himself out as not speaking accurately about himself.  The point has now been reached where even Trump cannot follow the storyline he has created. 

Giuliani released a statement today that said “references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.”  I am not sure what that means exactly, but I do know this.  Generally, when legal council is hired, it is hired for the specific purpose of helping you out of trouble.  It is not usually hired to help fuck you up even further.  I don’t think I would want my lawyer volunteering to go on TV and just start riffing on what I knew and when I knew it to have entered into the public record.  However, I probably also wouldn’t hire a lunatic like Rudy in the first place.

What cannot be disputed is that Rudy is a great addition to the cast of the show, perhaps the best new cast member since The Mooch.  The one thing about The Show is the cast turns over quickly.  Story lines are unpredictable and characters can get written out at any time.  For example, it appears that John Kelly might be on his way out shortly as he has been reported to have referred to the President as “an idiot”, which I think isn’t as bad as Tillerson’s “moron” comment, but still seems unlikely to play well with Trump.  With luck, we’ll get a more exciting member of the cast in that role soon.

I think it was all summed up perfectly by the President this afternoon.  “Wait a minute. It’s actually very simple. It’s actually very simple. But there has been a lot of misinformation, really. People wanting to say — and I say, you know what, learn before you speak. It’s a lot easier.”