Sunday, February 16, 2020

Nurse the Hate: The Cincinnati Hasil Adkins Gig

I had received an email seeking information about a Hasil Adkins gig I had booked in Cincinnati at the Southgate in what seems like a thousand years ago.  Billy Catfish asked me about details about how the show came together.  It was like trying to remember a disconcerting dream that leaves you off-kilter the entire next morning after waking.  The pieces started to fall into place, but I will admit some sizeable gaps.  This is what I remember, but don’t hold me feet to the fire on this…

It was Summer.  That I can remember.  At least I think I do.  I had put together a record for Hasil on Shake It Records from cassette tapes of songs Hasil had sent me.  The tapes were crazy.  A song from the late 1950s would be immediately followed by one he recorded two nights earlier which would go straight into something from the 1970s.  There were two types of songs:  Fast Songs and Slow Songs.  He was adamant that the record be synced to go fast song/slow song/fast song/slow song.  I preferred almost all the fast songs which captured the insanity and reckless spirit of the man himself.  However, he was the artist.  Who was I to argue?  Eventually we titled it “Drinking My Life Away” and I believe it stands as one of the best records of his later period after he had been “discovered” by Fat Possum well after the landmark Norton reissues.

I can’t remember if the show was a “record release” show or not.  Trying to work things out with Hasil was never easy.  I would have late night conversations with him which would almost end up with him asking me for money.  “Greg!  Can you send me an advance!”  I think he was under the impression I was a big time record executive as opposed to a guy in a pair of shorts in his living room.  We had a history of playing shows together in West Virginia, but he could never seem to make the connection that I was the same guy from The Cowslingers.  Thus, each time I called him I had to reintroduce myself.  It was never easy.  If I asked him if he wanted to play on show May 6th for example, I would hear a response like this…  “Oh yeaaahhh I am going to be in Canada, New York, they love me in New York, and Dallas and they keep asking for me over the water so I got to get over there and…”  That’s great Hasil, but what about May 6th?  Repeat.

It was a difficult feat to get Hasil on the road.  He could forget about the gig, refuse to go, disappear, or just not feel like playing when you went to pick him up.  There was no way he could drive himself as he had lost his license decades ago over countless DUIs.  If you got lucky, he would climb in the car to go to the gig.  The problem was that as soon as he got in the car, he would start drinking.  If the gig was 30 minutes away at The Empty Glass, that was no problem.  If it was four hours away at the Grog Shop, that was a sticky wicket.  John Steele told me the trick was to water down vodka to keep him on the rails.  It was a technique that was at least functional.  To think that Fat Possum records put Hasil and T-Model Ford together on a bus tour still blows my mind.   

For the Cincinnati show, I gave the Southgate the complete caveat emptor.  I will book him, figure out how to get him there but I can’t guarantee any of it would happen as he could refuse to leave his trailer.  I gave my usual backup plan of two Cowslinger sets with a Hasil no-show.  “Sorry everybody, no Hasil!  Here’s a deep cut from Boot N Rally!”  (general murmur of disappointment)  The problem on my end was I didn’t want to have to drive to his trailer in Boone County WV just to ply him with alcohol to then immediately drive to Cincinnati.  I would need to dupe someone into it.

I want to apologize now for not remembering the man’s name that volunteered to get Hasil for us.  I think it was Jason.  This was one of the most heroic acts of all time agreeing to make this suicide run.   It makes firefighters look like cowards.  He should get priority boarding for all airplanes for life.  “Thank you for your service sir.”  I can’t recall how we got him to agree to it.  Someone volunteering for this mission must have had a Leo tie-in somewhere.  This was all pre-Google maps so I had to draw out directions complete with the tips on how to handle Hasil.  “OK, so when you pass the third guard rail you’ll notice a small dirt road.  DO NOT drive down it as you’ll bottom out your car, so park just down the road and walk until you see the City Bus on blocks in a clearing.  I would call about 45 minutes and again 15 minutes before you get there because if he forgets you’re coming he might shoot you.”  These were just some of the actual directions.  It was a real production.

I called Hasil in the nights leading up to the Cincinnati gig just to make sure A) he remembered, B) planned on still playing and C) there was no other craziness I needed to know about.  It required a delicate touch.  Hasil was in good spirits, especially so about a new fashion trend he believed he had discovered.  “It’s been so hot, I’m been sweating like a mofo.  I just made myself a shirt.  People like it!  I made it myself!  People like it!  I’m gonna wear it tomorrow!”  It sounded like things were as together as they would ever be.  It was in God’s hands now.  Jason would drive down to get him and in theory, we'd have a show.

When we got to Cincinnati the next day, I walked into the Southgate ready to absorb whatever potential catastrophe had already occurred.  Things were oddly calm.  Hasil was in the dressing room and asking for me.  I walked to the back room of the old auditorium.  This was going to happen.  I couldn’t believe it.  I walked in the dressing room and saw Hasil.  He was sitting on a weatherbeaten chair in jeans and old brown dress shoes, an old thrift store cowboy hat with drawstring up to his chin, plastic sunglasses and each finger wearing a fake gold ring.  Most notably was his homemade “shirt”, which was a yellow and blue bed sheet which he had cut a hole in the center and tied around his waist with a remnant piece of rope.  It was sort of like a mumu.  It was insane, like something a mental patient in a post apocalyptic nightmare would construct out of necessity.

I don't have any memory of our set.  Honestly, we were just there to kill time.  I think Billy Catfish played too, but once again, this is just a vague feeling.  When you took Hasil on the road, the crowd was exclusively there to see Hasil.  Half of those people were jacked up to hear him play his "hits", in a stage of semi bliss that the miracle of seeing this obscure bucket list concert would be checked off.  The other group was there to see the freak show, to observe this mythological creature which had been pulled from the West Virginia holler like Bigfoot.  I always had mixed feelings about doing these gigs, like I was potentially exploiting Hasil.  However, I genuinely loved his music and he was certainly one of the most unique individuals I would ever meet.  The stories surrounding the man are legendary.  Plus, he needed the money...

I recall Hasil's set being chaotic.  There was a woman that kept getting up on the stage and touching him.  She had to be on LSD or ecstasy as there was no rational explanation for her behavior.  Hasil was a good sport about it, but it was hard for him to get into a groove as this woman would quickly drift back onto the stage just as soon as she would be led off in the first place.  Eventually he just got tired of the entire thing and finished in his traditional manner, tossing the drum kit.

There was a question about what to do after the show.  It's not like you could just send Hasil over to the Holiday Inn.  Billy had a party at his house as I recall.  Jason drove Hasil over.  It was pretty unhinged with a weird electricity in the air.  I have an image in my mind of Hasil playing some of his slow songs illuminated by a lamp with missing lampshade.  At this point, I felt a wave of relief as the show was in the books and whatever insanity that happened now was off my watch.  I crashed out quickly planning to escape the madness at morning.  I think Jason was supposed to drive Hasil back the next day, but instead there was some sort of audible called and those guys got into some adventures.  The story is very murky to me now, but in the end Jason ended up driving to the desert after spending too much time with Hasil.  This MIA road trip may have been responsible for sending his marriage to divorce.  In the Hasil Adkins concert promotional game this is referred to as "collateral damage".

That was the last time I got involved with taking Hasil on the road.  We played with him at the Empty Glass a couple more times, but he had canceled twice as often as he played.  We had a couple failed attempts at picking him up at his trailer, one of which a zonked out hillbilly woman chain smoked cheap cigarettes and glared at us as we tried to cajole him into the van.  He told us she would drive him to the club later.  "Hasil...  I don't see a car anywhere..."  He didn't make that one either.  The last time we played together we recorded both of our sets onto a half inch tape machine.  It was one of the best sets I ever heard him play in person.  I have never heard that tape.  Hasil died in 2005.

The great gift of today's world is that we are all connected, evolving and reacting to one another in real time.  This is also a curse.  It is impossible now that a man in the woods in West Virginia could hear songs on a distant radio station by "Hank Williams" or "Elvis Presley" and think that they alone made all the sounds he heard, forcing him to improvise into a crude one man band to try and create his own music.  Hasil Adkins was a unique individual from a time that is long gone.  Doing those shows were a terrible idea.  I'd do it again in a minute.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Nurse the Hate: A February Monday

I walk my basset hounds every morning.  I would be a simple target for assassination as I maintain a strict routine.  The basset, an absolute stickler for routines, is absolutely adamant that we go outside for our slow meander around the neighborhood at precisely 7:20am.  If I am being honest with myself, this routine is important to me as well.  The sense of purpose and inflexible schedule provide structure in my life that can at times seem completely unmoored in chaos.  The bassets and I have a classic enabling relationship.  Ultimately this will be our undoing as we are "whacked" by the Gambino crime family after I am in way over my head gambling and the Browns fail to cover at home in what appeared to be a "sure thing".  "The Browns miss the chip shot field goal!  Browns lose!"  I can see it now.  Hopefully there will be a grainy black and white photo of my bloody corpse staring lifelessly in the sky while uniformed patrolmen smoke cigarettes and laugh at private jokes.  The bassets will be taking a dump on the neighbors lawn, my hand clenching the unused blue plastic grocery bag flapping uselessly in the breeze.

This morning the bassets were edgy.  We didn't leave until 7:22, a clear breach of protocol.  They buried their noses into the ground and got to work.  I was thinking about the Super Bowl.  I should have been overjoyed.  I was heavily on the Chiefs, my biggest "play" of the season.  Things had looked grim at one point, but as expected Mahomes was great and Garappolo was what we all quietly expected.  This wasn't what bothered me.  It was the advertisements.  Almost all of the big budget Super Bowl ads were celebrity focused inside jokes.  The problem was I wasn't sure who most of the "celebrities" were, though I did vaguely recognize most of them.  I wasn't sure why 83 year old Martin Scorcese was freaking out because Jonah Hill hadn't met him at a party, and why Jonah Hill was the one that needed the much needed boost from some shitty Coca-Cola energy drink.  I didn't know why an unrecognizable gay bearded man campily told me I needed to eat pretzel pop-tarts.  I didn't know why character actor Luis Guzman (who's name I had to look up) was the guy most qualified to make a punch line in a confusing Snickers ad.  There were many music artists dancing around for soda and snacks, a decision that would have doomed a career in years past.  Unless Karl Ove Knausgaard or one of the guys from Calexico appeared in one of these ads, I just wasn't going to know who the fuck it was...

I should have been paying more attention to the bassets.  We were just slowly doing our thing, a sniffing of the general area in what I would call a "saunter".  As usual Monty was close to me while Ryver asserted her independence with a 15 foot drift from the team.  We were on a familiar corner, a house with a husky that has terrified the neighborhood and more specifically small dog owners since his arrival two years ago.  While some dogs need to be observed with some caution, this dog is bad news.  It is important to keep your head on a swivel.  His move is to lurk in the shadows and leap out in attack.  His victims include Brodie the collie and Charlie, the little fluffy bullshit dog, and those are just the two I know about.  Ryver, who assessed that the husky was imprisoned by an invisible fence, has been guilty in the past of staying just out of the range of the fence and taking a dump in the husky's face.  Not very neighborly to be sure, but as sure a sign of dominance that an admittedly wimpy 60 pound basset with a bad back can muster.  There is a history here between these two.

While I pondered Super Bowl advertising, the long term impact of the Corona Virus, and who might want to buy an Academy Awards local TV spot, I didn't notice the husky roaring out of the underbrush on a collision course with Ryver.  Ryver is a total joke as a watch dog.  She is 9 years old with a bad left leg.  She is a scent hound, and can become completely focused on a patch of grass.  The dog is oblivious to most of what is happening and has an inflated sense of her own ability if things get physical.  Frankly, this lack of self awareness is her most endearing quality.  I did the math.  She had her back to the husky sprinting towards her, and it was obvious the husky would get there before I would.  This was the Doomsday Scenario.

The husky immediately bit her deeply in the back, on the scruff.  There was no hesitation.  Ryver began to howl in shock and pain.  I had yelled out prior to the dog getting there as a last ditch hope to ward this attack off, but the dog had blown through the electric fence.  The husky bit into her again and Ryver yelped out again in pain while trying to get loose from the dog's toothy grip.  At this point I figured I was going to get bitten by this dog as I tried to prevent Ryver from being killed.  I had moved next to the two dogs and clocked the husky with a right hook to the head with everything I had, the impact shooting an electric pain up my arm as the blow sounded with a crack.  The husky bit down again on Ryver who was desperately struggling to get away, and I punched the dog again in the neck with a satisfying "thud".  Fuck this dog.  The husky lurched back and Ryver ran off howling, me following in mad pursuit so she wouldn't run blindly into the street and get hit by one of the teenage girls zipping around in the SUVs their Daddy's bought them for their Sweet 16th.  Ryver stopped after a short burst, blood streaming from her ear and shoulder.

The great thing about dogs is their ability to be stoic.  Had this happened to me, I would have been freaking out.  Ryver looked embarrassed more than anything, her brother Montgomery circling my legs as if to say "Hey, that crazy fucking dog isn't coming for me, is he?".  She looked amazingly composed considering she was bleeding from wounds on her head, neck and shoulder.  I made eye contact with her.  "You want to go home?"  Yep.  We all trotted the half block back to the house.  I dropped Monty off inside, tried to triage Ryver as best I could, and scooped her into the car to go to the vet.  She calmly sat in the back seat as I stopped at the the husky's owner's house.

My adrenalin was flowing.  I can feel my arms shaking.  I am partially hoping to get into a confrontation so I can go inside the house and chop everyone that lives there up with an axe.  "What?  You think this is my fault?  Here comes Johnny!"  (axe into door). Instead, after ringing the doorbell, I am met with a very nice woman, tears streaming out of her face as she begs for forgiveness.  She wants to know about the well being of Ryver.  Are we all ok?  Dammit.  I tell her what happened and tell her that I am going to have the vet call her for payment.  Meanwhile this poor woman has what might be the largest tears I have ever seen hitting the front porch as she sniffles through telling me about the family's attempts to train the dog.  She is purely filled with grief at the events that have transpired.  At this point I am making excuses for her.  I sheepishly leave, embarrassed by my early show of aggression at the door and drive Ryver to the vet.

Four stitches to the inner ear.  Three small puncture wounds to the body.  Ryver is like a zombie when I pick her up later that afternoon, the drugs used to sedate her still working though her system.  My jacket rattles with pills I will need to give her over the next couple of weeks.  The vet says the woman hasn't returned their call to offer up payment.  I leave the vet, letting Ryver let out a satisfying steam of urine after being locked up all day.  I wonder if the woman is going to willingly pay the vet.  I wonder if there will be more unpleasantness.  I wonder why I didn't know any of the Super Bowl halftime show songs.  I drive my dog home.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Thoughts On The Kronosaurus and Me

There’s an elusive peace I find in scuba diving, a sort of zen calm when things are going properly.  This is not always the case as I don’t really know what I am doing and my gear is all rented.  I place a great deal of trust in total strangers named things like “Cheech” and “Tiger” who have gold teeth and provide unclear directions in broken English.  However, as it is their country and I don’t speak any Spanish, I can’t get too particular.  I have the same sort of faith in dive guides as I do Uber drivers.  I just assume “Hey, they’re professional.  They know what they are doing.”  This is clearly flawed thinking as anyone can be an Uber driver, and almost every person behind the wheel demonstrates gross incompetence every rush hour.  Why do I think a guy on a beat up boat on an island in Mexico has been vetted to guarantee total scuba professionalism?  It’s better not to think about it too hard.  I wash it from my mind as I flop in the water, dropping down to 90 feet popping my ears as I go.  

It’s taken me a few years, but I finally have the buoyancy concept down.  I spent my first few years diving either sinking to the bottom like a stone, having to delicately and ineffectively puff air into my vest to avoid dropping down to the abyss OR trying to avoid floating to the surface like a cheap plastic bag.  Each time I get on a dive boat, Cheech will ask me “Señor?  How much weight do you need?”, to which I will reply “Uhhh, I don’t know?  14?”.  I never remember as it has been so long since I did it last.  Then Cheech will give me an unverified amount of weight I hope would allow me to float like Superman once I get in the water.  It is almost always the wrong amount of weight though or my sheer lack of experience screws me.

Things are looking up.  I have finally found a mask that fits me.  Let me tell you from experience, it is very disappointing to have your mask filling with salt water as the current shoves you into a cave with a black tipped shark swimming out annoyed you are stopping by for a visit.  That happened in Costa Rica on a fruitless quest to see a Manta Ray.  All I saw there was the salt water line going up and down on my mask as I sort of cleared it and let it fill again.  The next day when the visibility was down to about 15 feet and I lost everyone while sitting on the sandy bottom at 110 feet trying to once again clear my mask to see, I thought, “I should really find a mask that fits so I don’t die alone in the Pacific.”.       

The problem appears to be my giant pumpkin head.  I might have a poorly formed skull, Neanderthal-like, as if I am some kind of modern primitive.  “Korg jump into water.  Korg no see Manta.  Korg float into coral and get ripped open like Christmas present.”  You don’t hear much about cavemen scuba diving.  This is likely as they probably couldn’t figure out how to compress oxygen so soon after discovering fire and then the wheel.  There was probably a lag time.  Plus, it was a more hazardous pursuit with actual sea monsters swimming the waters looking at hairy guys like me as prey.  A spear will only do you so much good against a 30 foot long Kronosaurus.  

These are not my problems now.  This time everything came together.  I floated down smoothly, the current pushing me comfortably past colorful coral formations.  Little fish with bright yellows, oranges and reds darted in and across the nooks of the reef.  My breathing was slow and easy.  I let all the air out of my lungs and floated down further, hovering closely above a tiny hole where a thick cranky moray eel glared at me.  I hovered up and allowed myself to drift in the current.  A school of yellow and black striped little fish swam through me, their wide eyes suggesting expressions of surprise.  An enormous turtle the size of a desk sat atop a rocky outcropping chewing on a snack.  His heavy lidded eyes looked at me with indifference.  The current pushed me on.  The less I did, the more control I felt, the more at ease.  I wasn’t thinking about anything, I was just existing and letting the small activities and dramas of the reef wash over me.  I then made my mistake.  I noticed my mental state of zen.

This, of course, wrecked it.  It’s like when I am singing a song strictly from muscle memory.  I am not thinking about anything, just doing.  There is no need to concentrate on remembering the lyrics.  They are there.  You just have to allow them to come out and not make the mistake of noticing that you aren’t thinking about it.  Once I think, “Wow, I’m singing Trucker Bomb and I don’t even know what verse we’re on”, I’m lost.  The magic spell has been broken and you’re a mouse without shoes.

I started to worry about how much air I had left, thinking about how fast I was breathing, and noticing that maybe I had an itch by my left eye.  My mind left the serene and started to think think think.  I was out of the moment and back in the mental space I had dove into the water to rid myself of. The overactive brain nestled inside the misshapen modern primitive skull floated along trying to get back to the serenity that had disappeared as mysteriously as it had come.  I looked up at the sun shining on the surface, drifted under the buoy, and hoped to do better next time.  

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Mocking Zeus and the Lock Of The Season

I barely escaped Northeast Ohio this weekend.  The encroaching winter weather had already been given a name, a new twist in our cable news media age where all weather events are catastrophic as opposed to slightly inconvenient.  It’s not too difficult to travel in a storm producing 1-3 inches of snow, but to make headway in Winter Storm Joshua is goddamn heroic.  Sure Winter Storm Joshua is what we all used to call 1-3 inches of snow, but it gives our lives more drama to be involved in the epic struggle of Man vs. Nature.  Battling Winter Storm Joshua is like going bare knuckles against fucking Zeus.  To think I managed to make it to my well appointed hotel room in Cozumel while going toe to toe with Zeus makes me a bit of a Demi God myself, does it not?  Hail Greg.  Of course now I have tempted the Gods to exact brutal revenge on my insolent tone by celebrating my victory of climbing into an economy airline seat and reading a book all day across two airports.  He that mocks Zeus shall feel the fury of Zeus’s wraith.  

My concern is that Zeus is going to screw me in the NFL Playoffs.  Most of the players will “praise God” when they find success on the field.  As an old acquaintance “David with a D” once famously said, “No one seems to believe much in Zeus anymore”.  This is absolutely true and this seems like as good a time as any for Zeus to re-emerge from his self
imposed exile and make a big comeback like Dolly Parton.  I just don’t want to be clasping a betting slip on the wrong side when this highly irregular occurrence plays out live on Network TV.  This is why I have decided on a bit of a curveball on the games this Sunday.

It was brought to my attention that a line existed on a Super Bowl future of “AFC v NFC pick em”.  I firmly believe that the Kansas City Chiefs are the best team remaining in the field.  The Titans will have to win what is effectively their fourth playoff game on the road in a row.  Prior to their win last week over Baltimore, most sports fans would have struggled to have named more than two players on the Titans.  Their gear is so unattractive even bandwagon jumping Nashville sports fans refuse to wear it.  For the Titans to win, they will rely on man beast Derrick Henry to have a fourth game of 30+ touches, a feat last done in 2009 by Cleveland Brown Jerome Harrison, a man now physically broken and requiring 24 hour monitored medical care.  (I’m serious). Over the last decade, the 20 times when a back has had 24+ carries four times in a row, their fourth game resulted in a full half yard less efficiency per carry.  As a result, to bet Tennessee, I think it follows that you expect Derrick Henry to pull of a historic feat.  I’m going the other way on that...

Kansas City has been getting healthy at the right time.  When they last played the Titans, it was Mahomes first game back from a dislocated kneecap and they still put up 500+ yards.  The KC defense is significantly better than 7 games ago.  This is an elite team that is peaking.  I can’t see how Tennessee can score enough points to stay with KC at home.  The Titans have had an amazing run, but their good fortune is going to run out on Sunday.

I suspect that SF wins over Green Bay.  Green Bay is a bit of a mirage.  They went 13-3 but were somehow out gained over the season.  They won almost all of their close games, a trend that eventually runs out.  The NFL is cruel.  It is manufactured to bring everyone back to being average (except the Browns who will always be terrible).  I can’t go all in on the 49ers though as I do not trust Jimmy G.  A man that dates a porn star when he is the highest profile athlete in the SF Bay just isn’t right in the head.  We all saw that horrible INT in the Vikings game right before halftime.  We all saw the expression on his face.  If this game is going to come down to the end, who do you trust?  Jimmy G or the guy in the State Farm commercials?  Jimmy G is not in my circle of trust.  When I see Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, I see a guy thinking “put me in so we can win the game”.  When I see Jimmy G I see a guy making a noise like “guh guh guh” as he freaks out throwing a backbreaking pick.

So if we assume that KC wins, and we don’t really care who wins in the NFC, what’s the line in the Super Bowl?  Kansas City minus three?  Tennessee is much scarier than San Fran or Green Bay.  If the Titans keep winning, I get Tennessee with an extra week of rest against the SF/GB winner at pick em.  That’s a win either way.  I am taking my “strongest position of the season” on AFC Super Bowl pick em.  I am stepping up on this one.  This is opportunity knocking.  Fuck Zeus.  I have outsmarted The Gods!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Interesting Times and the NFL Divisional Round

We have been cursed to live in "interesting times" as the Chinese say.  Our impeached President, a B-list reality TV star, almost plunged us into war because of an impetuous decision he made as he waddled off a golf course last week when he decided to blow up an Iranian "bad guy".  Most people seem to agree that the Iranian guy was a creep, but the timing seemed illogical.  The oddly suntanned fat guy that is in charge of the United States appears to operate on the principle of "Go!  Ready!  Set!" which is pretty scary.  He doesn't seem to have a depth of understanding of anything but TV.  That doesn't appear to be a big issue for most people though.  The good news for The Orange Man is that most people that like guns and Jesus but don't like brown people were very excited by this "tough" action.  I have found that people that don't have to participate in wars are the ones generally most in favor of the idea of fighting.  There must be a correlation between the number of kooky Far Right memes people send out and low level of travel and interaction with people that are different than themselves.  It's hard to be in favor of killing people when you've met them and discover they are surprisingly like you.

The angry Orange Man and the equally angry Iranian Religious Kooks got down to brass tacks the way Real Men do nowadays.  They lobbed insults at each other on Twitter.  Afterwards the Iranian guys probably had tea and high fived each other.  The Orange Man had a soda and watched himself on TV.  The Iranian kooks took their revenge by shooting some missiles into the dust in Iraq.  Then came more angry tweets on both sides.  This freaked all the rest of us out so much so that some trigger happy Iranian military guard blew an airliner out of the sky filled with Canadian and Iranian students.  In retrospect, it might have been a bad idea to catch a flight out of Tehran a few hours after Tehran shot missiles into the dust in Iraq.

All was not lost though.  Blowing up the Iranian creep played well to the Orange Man's "base" that wait for his somewhat confusing actions to be explained by his favorite pretzel twisting logic cable TV hosts.  They like that the Orange Man is "tough".  It's a shame those bone spurs kept him out of "The Shit" in Vietnam.  Man, he would have taught Charlie a thing or two.  It looks like things settled down.  The Iranian guys felt good about shooting the missiles and retreated back for more tea and plots on how to blow up the real American stuff they wanted to blow up now.  The Orange Man played some more golf.

Meanwhile Australia is on fire.  Not "some buildings in Australia are on fire", but "the continent of Australia is on fire".  The fire is big enough that you can see it from space.  Unfortunately for the Australians, their head of state rejects the idea that climate change is responsible.  It takes a certain amount of discipline to stick to your guns and say nothing is wrong when your entire continent is on fire.  I don't know what is wrong with me, but if I see some Australian's home burn to the ground I am unfazed.  If you show me a kangaroo hopping away madly in flames or a koala sitting in a burned down forest, I'm sick with grief.  Those koalas get me every time.

With the undeniable environmental crisis in front of our eyes, the Orange Man and his friends took away required environmental studies before launching major projects.  They sort of slipped that through while everyone else was worried about the Orange Man's other craziness.  This is great for those long suffering fellas in the energy business as they can now just build a pipeline though a forest and not even have to consider what terrible damage they would do to our common land.   It's part of the "Go!  Ready!  Set!" mindset that is going to be remembered from this age.  The Orange Man and guys like him are like Quint in "Jaws".  Quint saw the engine overheating, and when it was brought to his attention he slammed the throttle down to show he was not going to be told what to do.  He would rather self destruct than take advice.  "Quint" is running most of the large nations.  We are all Brody on the boat, along for the ride and not knowing how to swim.  Good luck to you all.

My head was swimming with all these headlines as I scanned the newspaper in the coffee shop.  Neil Peart died?  Even the coffee shop barista opted to leave his protective shield of hip indie cred to mourn the loss with the fitting tribute of a posted photo on his social media accounts with the phrase "this one hurts".  It was the most emotion he had shown publicly since Ric Ocasek of The Cars passed, a time of apparent paralyzing grief.  It took a full 24 hours to once again be dismissive of customer's choices in film, music and restaurants as the coffee shop alternated between "Candy-O" and "Shake It Up".  There was no choice now but to find piece of mind in my safe space, NFL gambling.  I opened up the sports section to see the latest lines as "By-Tor and The Snow Dog" rumbled out of the speakers...  

Let's talk about this 49ers/Vikings game.  The Vikings are really good.  It was a bit under the radar as the team tends to play well when they aren't on national TV.  Here's an odd stat for you.  Viking QB Kirt Cousins covers the spread 70% of the time when he starts at 1pm EST.  If he played all his games at 1pm, he would be the best starting QB versus the spread in NFL history.  Unfortunately Cousins also plays games at other times.  In these games he covers 30%, the worst starting QB in league history.  Cousins has a love of routine, to the point of it being on OCD behavior.  Sunday at 1p is when he likes to play.  It's when he is comfortable.  This game?  Saturday at 430p.  Uh oh.

Normally I would just jump on the 49ers and count my money.  Here's the thing.  The 49ers have slowly denigrated defensively as the season progressed.  The Public remembers their early monster wins.  I remember them giving up 46 to the Saints, 31 to the Rams, and 29 to the Falcons down the stretch.  This is also Jimmy G's first playoff game, a QB I'm not sold on, as well as Coach Kyle Shanahan.  Vikings coach Mike Zimmer?  Best spread coverage coach in the NFL.  This is a 7 point line San Francisco has to cover against a really good team.  They haven't covered 5 points since late November.  Hmmm...  Time to go to The Teaser!

I am going to take Minnesota +13.  I think the Vikings win this game outright at 1pm on a Sunday.  Saturday at 430p I just need them to keep it relatively close.  I went back and forth with who to pair this up with in that I think Baltimore and Kansas City are going to win easily.  I decided on Kansas City as if the Vikings can't hold up their end, I want separate action on the later game.  Minnesota +13/Kansas City -3.5.  I am going to take Baltimore -9.5 as they apparently cover any spread they are given.  They are 10-1 in their last 11 against the spread.  A well rested Ravens should beat a Titan team that is surprised to be there.  I was tempted to do a Kansas City/Baltimore/Green Bay parlay, but that just seems stupid.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Nurse the Hate: Wild Card Weekend Ill-Advised Wagers

I will be completely frank.  These NFL Wild Card Games are a complete mystery to me.  That won't stop me from betting on them as I literally have nothing else to do.  Sure, I could dive into the DOCGs of Friuli and try to remember oblique Italian river and village names.  A rainy Saturday afternoon is absolutely ideal to dig into grape compositions of tiny production wines that no one outside of the Northern Italian region you can't even pronounce correctly has ever seen (much less tasted) while a basset hound whines at your feet for something (anything) else to be happening, BUT if I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times.  The first weekend of January belongs to the Houston Texans.

I am not sure how many years in a row the Texans have been pasted on the first weekend of January on poorly viewed Saturday afternoon telecasts.  I remember one magical Texans playoff appearance where totally ineffective ex-Brown Brian Hoyer led the Texans to a 30-0 Playoff loss with spectacularly ineffective Brandon Weeden standing on the sideline.  That was a vision.  It seems like every NFL Wild Card Weekend, I vaguely remember that the Texans playoff game is on well into the third quarter.  When I turn it on, the Texans are down by three scores and the announcing team gamely tries to suggest how the Texans can rally back enough to keep the viewer engaged.  The good news for the Texans is that they play the Bills, a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1995.

In 1995 I was living upstairs in an aging duplex, scrambling to get The Cowslingers booked at Lili's in Detroit, hoping my Acura Integra wouldn't break down, and dating a girl that had a pistol unexpectedly fall out of her purse at the Symposium.  I am fairly certain I saw her a few years later on a pornographic videotape one of my friends had rented back in the days when you had to go to the back room of independent movie rental stores to secure such forbidden fruit.  Based on the date of the film title, she made more money that weekend than I did while I was obliviously playing Top Cats in Cincinnati.  She also had a better time as evidenced by the footage.  Ah, 1995...  The Buffalo Bills had it much more together than I did.

The Texans are favored by 3.5 over the Bills today.  The Texans are at home.  There are a few reasons to take the Texans today.  They have played a tougher schedule this season, and teams that have played tougher schedules win about 70% of the time in the first round of the playoffs.  JJ Watt is back on the field, a legitimate difference maker on defense if healthy.  They have Deshaun Watson at QB, a player that has been christened as having "it", the perception of always winning close games.  Obviously I should bet on the Texans...

However, Will Fuller is out for the Texans.  Fuller's stats don't look like m much, but he is the guy that spends the field for the Texans.  Watson's yardage per completion drops two yards plus when Fuller isn't on the field.  While that doesn't seem like big deal, a drop of two yards per completion would move the #12 QB in the league down to the bottom of the NFL.  Translation:  Watson becomes Baker Mayfield.  That is quite concerning to the savvy wagerer.

I think this is one of those games where the guys at BW3 making bets on their phone will reflexively bet on the Texans because of their high profile stars like Watson, Watt and Hopkins.  The Bills were on a prominent national TV game once this year.  Sure, they crushed Dallas, but by now everyone has decided that the Cowboys aren't much better than the Cardinals or Bengals.  Buffalo plays great defense and can run the ball.  That keeps games close.  I think the Bills can win this if they can put a rush on Watson.  Gimme the points.  I am not taking a "strong position" but I am taking Buffalo +3.5.

Let's be honest.  The Patriots have been more than underwhelming down the stretch.  Father Time has finally caught up to Tom Brady.  It's always shocking when a great player becomes ordinary.  It happens so quickly.  The sudden decline of Peyton Manning comes to mind.  It's the worst in boxing where there's nowhere to hide. One minute you are Muhammed Ali, the baddest man on the planet.  The next you are being whipped by Leon Spinks and we all have to hide our eyes at the sad carnage.  In case you missed it, the only reason the Patriots are playing this week is because Tom Brady threw a pick 6 and lost to the Dolphins in a must win game last week.  Yes, the Dolphins...

The Titans have been impressive in the second half of the season.  They have league leading running back Derrick Henry, a beast of a man built for cold weather football.  Ryan Tannehill has been a top 7 QB since he took over for Marcus Mariota, something that is still difficult to grasp but impossible to deny.  Statistically they should go in and beat the Patriots.  The ultimate "public team", New England gets every benefit of the doubt, even when the eye test plainly shows that the end of their incredible run is at hand.  All dynasties end, and it appears that we are going to witness that tonight in Foxboro.

Of course, I am not out of my mind.  I don't know how the Patriots will do it, but they will.  A blocked punt.  A strip sack.  Using an obscure rule to their advantage.  Gronkowski unexpectedly suiting up.  Randy Moss back in a time machine.  Something has been cooked up.  Belichek will somehow come up with a scheme and get an edge over the Titans.  Logic dictates that the right side is Tennessee with the points, but I'm taking New England money line.  I'm not betting against the Patriots until I see they are dead and in the ground.

I have only been to New Orleans once.  Arriving on a Saturday in late December, the Saints were playing an otherwise meaningless game prior to the playoffs.  I had no idea and watched with some detachment as the game played on TVs in the cafe where I stopped in for a quick lunch.  They scored three touchdowns in about 4 minutes and the cafe I was in provided a complimentary shot after each score.  When I use the word "complimentary", I really mean "mandatory" as all the patrons and staff were insistent that the liquor be knocked back immediately.  I was just a tourist rube looking for po' boy, not a massive mid afternoon bender 40 minutes after getting off the plane.  This is what is called "home field advantage" in New Orleans.

I think this is the Saints year in the NFC.  They have had the Super Bowl ripped away from them in the last two years in maybe the most cruel way since the Browns lost "The Drive" and "The Fumble" games in successive years in the 80s.  The 2019 Saints are probably one of the best teams in NFL history to not have a bye in the Playoffs.  The bad news for the Saints is that they play a very good and vastly underrated Vikings team in round one.  The Vegas line of New Orleans -6.5 is too many.  However, I just can't visualize Kirt Cousins coming into New Orleans and beating the Saints in the bright spotlight of the Playoffs.

Cousins covers in 70% of his 1pm starts.  He covers 30% of all other start times.  This has become an open secret in the seedy internet gambling community.  I think that is the only thing keeping this Sunday 1pm game at the 6.5 points.  My gut tells me that sports books across the country are going to be absolutely loaded on New Orleans -.5 halves of teasers tied into the Patriots +1.5.  This means one of those two teams is going to lose.  I don't know how Vegas does it, but they always do.  In the United States in 2020, the smartest people in our nation run sports books and the dumbest run the actual country.  It's a shame, but it is undeniable.  We should give there nuclear codes to the guy setting the NFL lines at Westgate.  He knows what's up.  With a trembling hand, I am taking Minnesota +6.5 if New England loses on Saturday night and hope they don't get blown out.  

I have been arguing all season with the guy I workout with that the Eagles were going to make the Playoffs.  He kept harping on how much the Eagles sucked.  It was hard to dispute.  The Eagles have become like the 2010s Steelers, a team that doesn't seem very good on paper and looks unimpressive on the field.  Then, when the dust clears, they somehow win just enough to keep going.  There is no reason to think the Eagles will beat Seattle on Sunday.  All of their receivers are injured.  They have offensive lineman out.  They are walking wounded.  Seattle's Russell Wilson has been an MVP, stabbing a dagger in opponent's hearts late.  You just can't count him out.

Allow me this counter narrative.  Seattle has won a disproportionate number off close games this year, a trend that eventually comes back to the mean.  In fact, the team has lost close games in December, many of them late at night and out of The Public's mind.  The Seahawks have been a run first team, and their running backs are decimated.  They had to resign Marshawn Lynch off the street, a former great player that is in slightly better shape than I am, which is to say "a tad doughy".  I think they re-signed Tolbert too, a real nod to previous Super Bowl glories.  Perhaps the Eagles should sign Foles for the game Sunday to make this a real nostalgia show.  Regardless, the stats suggest Seattle is a 9-7 team, slightly over average.  The line places them as better than the Eagles.  Opening at Seattle -1.5, it has moved to Seattle +1.5.  I will take the Eagles at home as this is the type of ugly game that should suit them.  Philadelphia -1.5 with minimal confidence.     



Saturday, December 28, 2019

Nurse the Hate: A Christmas Story and NFL Winners

I am not positive when I made the transition in life from “enjoying the holidays” to “enduring the holidays”.  What was once a highly anticipated season of unbridled joy somehow morphed into a slow trudge of anxiety and fatigued consumption of sugar/alcohol.  As Christmas is “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”, here I write this on “The Day After The Day After The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year” wondering when I can avoid anonymous plates of cookies left randomly around most public spaces.  At a certain point my body will completely fail me, my quivering flesh secreting a liquefied sludge of Guinness Stout and M&Ms through my pores.  Let’s just end it already.

Christmas is traditionally best thought of in the fuzzy soft light of romanticized memories.  I was speaking with my Aunt Sandy recently where she filled in some detail on a Ghost of Christmas Past memory when she was three.  My grandparents would have an open house, the event of the season by some accounts.   In their swanky upscale Chicago suburb, they would openly compete with the Joneses to best whatever the last holiday gala had been within the social circle.   This was the late 1940s, a time of highballs, cigarettes, and slave wage domestic labor.  My grandfather, an insurance company founder, would have been at his most brash martini fueled best, a bull-in-a-china-shop with a quart of Beefeater gin helping his decision making.

The open house was such a priority that my grandmother called in reinforcements, her parents live-in housekeeper, to help prepare and serve food/drink to the revelers.  This poor woman, a criminally underpaid black woman from Alabama, had 9 children of her own that she had to leave on Christmas Day to smile through her gritted teeth as she served her employer’s children’s spoiled friends and their rotten kids.  The scene has been described by various witnesses as an odd blend of “Animal House”, “The Color Purple”, “Mad Men” and “Romper Room”.  Adults downed high-test cocktails while children pounded their feet through the house chasing each other as silver plates of hot finger foods emerged like magic from the kitchen as the woman grinded through the early afternoon.

Towards the end of the afternoon, tragedy struck.  The housekeeper keeled over from an apparent heart attack, dead on the kitchen floor.  My mother was tasked with keeping my Aunt, then three years old, out of the chaos and panic in the kitchen.  She was seven after all, a ripe old age to run that kind of interference.  But this was the Christmas Open House for God’s sake.  It was “all hands on deck”.  The situation was dire.  Who would serve the rest of the food?  How could they get the body out of the back while not alerting anyone of the revelers in the front rooms?  There were priorities.  This is when I like to imagine my grandfather “Bud” taking charge, filled to the gills with gin, and commanding his male inner circle to wrestle the corpse out back while someone made a distraction in front.  As I first heard it, the body was carried out by three lit up guys through the back yard to an emergency vehicle parked nearby so as to not alert the guests and risk losing the Christmas cheer.  At some point someone finally called the woman’s family to alert them of her death in what was likely an awkward and sobering phone call.  “Hello…  Yes, is this James?  Mona’s son?  Yes… Well…  Ah…”

The party was saved.  There were whispered rumors of course, but in the end the men had another drink or eight and re-told the adventure as word began to spread.  My mother saved her sister from the image of the lifeless housekeeper being carried by well dressed men out the back door.  Kids being kids, they soon moved on to raiding the cookies and running around the house.  The doorbell rang and other well-heeled families churned through, unaware of the drama from earlier.  The memory of the party blended into the others from the era, a fuzzy Christmas memory that should have been horrible but instead had the edges sanded down by time to become just absurd. 

As those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, I have made it as policy to not have a housekeeper, much less one that can potentially drop dead in my kitchen.  Sure, I can't afford one now anyway, but I probably will after this Sunday where these two monster winners have practically guaranteed me unlimited wealth.  It feels good to know that not having a dead housekeeper I callously remove from my kitchen on Christmas Day is a choice, not a result of circumstance.  With that in mind, let's discuss the NFL.

I firmly believe in wagering against expectation.  This is almost always a guaranteed win.  While they zig, I zag.  There is no larger fallacy in betting the NFL than betting on the team that "must" win.  This week for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers must win for a chance at getting in the Playoffs.  They are playing the Ravens, a team expected to rest "everybody".  The thought is the Ravens won't care, and just want to finish the season healthy, thus will expend minimal effort.  The Steelers MUST win, therefore they will win.  The betting line has gone from Baltimore favored by three at home to them now getting three as money has poured in on the Steelers, a team destined to win because they "must".

Allow me this counter narrative.  The Ravens will not play their QB and likely MVP Lamar Jackson.  RG3 will get the start.  Griffin, a mobile QB himself, is perfectly suited to stepping in and playing adequately.  Most times "adequate" would not be nearly enough to win an NFL game.  However, Pittsburgh literally cannot score on offense.  Their QB, the third string Duck Hodges, has done the following in his last 8 possessions:  Five interceptions and three 3-and-outs.  The Ravens, possessing a very good defense, are not resting "everyone", but just some key players.  Let's say that they rest enough players to go from "very good" to "average" on defense.  Pittsburgh doesn't score on anyone.  They likely won't score on Baltimore either.  Pittsburgh has an excellent defense.  They will not make it easy for Baltimore to score, especially with their backup QB.  I am taking Baltimore +3 and UNDER 37 in a parlay hoping the Steeler defense doesn't score on a pick 6.

The Cowboys MUST WIN over the universally recognized "horrible" Washington Redskins.  Two quick points.  1.  Washington under Callahan has actually been a decent team down the stretch.  They run the ball well, play ball control, and limit mistakes.  They beat the Lions, beat the Panthers, lost by five at Green Bay, lost a close one at Philadelphia, and lost in OT last week to the Giants.  They hang in there.  2.  Dallas essentially lost the division last week in Philadelphia.  What was most noteworthy was how bad Prescott looked, missing open receivers time and time again.  He is clearly injured, probably his throwing shoulder.  The Public knows the Cowboys need this game to have a chance at the Playoffs.  They also need to Eagles to lose to the Giants.  So you're telling me that a bad looking Cowboy team, with their hopes dashed last week and an injured QB, are going to beat an average Redskin team by two touchdowns?  I'll take Washington+14 and hope the Eagles surge out to an early lead in New York.

Season Record:  26-14-2