Sunday, March 31, 2024

Nurse the Hate: The Triumph Of My Maps


I picked up a couple of maps that I had purchased in France which had just been framed.  They are maps of semi-obscure wine regions with my thinking being that if I have them on the wall near where I work, maybe I can remember key details of the region.  I am trying to compensate for what might well be rapidly diminishing mental acuity.  I think I might have maxed out details that I can remember in life.  For example, I can remember that Steve Vai played guitar on Pil's 1986 "Album", but I can't remember "the name of that one wine producer from that one village in France that's sorta south of that other one".  I think I have to let go of something to allow something else in there.  Maybe I can see if I can forget the chronological order of Dead Kennedys LP releases to see if I can squeeze in fermentation temperature of Port wine.  I think my brain is a hard drive that has just maxed out on storage.  I might be a guy that repeats the same stories to people over and over and I don't even know it.  In fact, I should check to see if I wrote this down last week.  I might be speaking in some sort of banal loop and have no idea.

So I loaded my maps into the car and I saw a coffee place nearby.  It had the feel of a doomed business, one of those ones where later you say "What was the name of that coffee place that was there for about six months?".  It was one of those locations in a strip plaza that had no vibrant businesses nearby, limited foot traffic and only street parking.  I always wonder why people open businesses like these.  They must be delusional, just wanting it to work so badly they ignore the obvious.  "OK, here's my vision.  We open a tiny coffee shop that sells $4 drinks in a location with expensive rent, no place to park, no food, and limited hours.  We will also name it something that doesn't indicate it's a coffee place just to make sure no one wanders in from curiousity.  Let's take the space next to the dentist and the small accountant office just to make sure no one that works nearby comes in.  We can put some crappy local art on the wall.  That is pretty much all we need.  We are going to kill it!"

There was a woman working at the register from central casting.  She was in her early 20s, dyed black hair, thrift store sweater, and a regrettable tattoo that seemed like a children's drawing on her arm.  A temporary menu was still up from last week advertising special St Patrick's Day inspired items.  All of the drink names sounded vaguely like names of deviant sex acts.  Example, The Salty Irishman.  "So I'm in Lyon France at this restaurant eating alone, right?  This woman walks in and we get to talking.  Next thing I know we go back to my hotel, and she gives me a Salty Irishman.  I was like, whoah!  I don't even have a tarp.  What a mess!  Between us there's no way we have enough to tip out the maids, ya know?".

It's interesting that certain businesses are acceptable for The Cool Kids to work in while others are not despite being the same business.  For example, Tattoo Piercing Pink Hair Girl will gladly work in Whole Foods, but would never consider the same job in Giant Eagle/Wegmans.  Tattoo Piercing Pink Hair Girl will provide disinterested hipster service at Starbucks, but would not under any circumstances do the exact same job at Dunkin Donuts.  The marketing effort of those enormous corporations like Starbucks and Whole Foods of greenwashing their organizations has paid off by being able to attract overeducated young adults with attitude while Giant Eagle and Dunkin focus more on the pissed off hillbilly labor pool.  Everyone stays in their lane I suppose.

I knocked back my espresso and drove my maps home flush with the satisfaction of having successfully getting them framed before they were destroyed by strangers en route.  I had the cafe employee in the Beaune train station that tried to spill beer on them.  There was the Eastern European guy on the train to Dijon that tried to smash them with his backpack as he pontificated a confusing narrative about Putin, his friend that stole a car, a sexual indiscretion with that same friend's sister, and the misbehavior of his child that appeared to be from a third woman all as an effort to perhaps impress the brutally unattractive French woman that was his audience.  I almost then lost the maps as I paid for a Metro ticket in Paris when I leaned the flimsy tube on the billet machine, but remembered as I stepped away.  

All was secure with the maps until I placed them in the carry-on bin on the United flight back to the USA.  As the airline charges for anything possible to pad profit margins, all passengers now carry as much personal baggage on them as a sherpa scrambling up a mountain.  I watched helplessly as a dim looking man with his mouth slightly open continued to jam in his oversized suitcase into my map tube and backpack in the bin, optimistically pounding his square peg into a round hole.  The tube must have slid underneath his suitcase as the only victims were my headphone case (dented) and emergency Cliff Bar (smashed).  That man spent the entire flight doing two things.  1.  Watching Harry Potter movies and 2. farting on me.  It wasn't great.

I hauled the maps inside my house.  What an achievement.  This what Robert of Flanders must have felt like snug in his castle after the First Crusade.  I can now nestle in with the satisfaction of looking at the brown paper encased blocks leaning on the couch, comfortable with the knowledge that I won't summon up the effort to actually hang the frames for weeks.  It's an embarrassment of riches.  What plunder have I.  In my head I try to mentally run down the villages on the maps.  Fuck.  What's that one on the bottom?  It starts with an "R" I think.  Dammit.  Better get those maps up.             


Monday, March 11, 2024

Nurse the Hate: My Wind Machine Scheme


I spent the day before flying home in Paris as I normally do on a France wine trip.  I generally stay in Saint-Germain-des-Pres at a hotel where I know some of the staff.  There’s a young man that works the desk that is somehow a Seattle Seahawks fan and likes to talk about the NFL with me.  I always walk past the desk and give him instructions from the 1920s that he has learned to ignore completely.  “I’ll take my post and the newspapers in the lounge.  Bring me a bottle of Suze, a bucket of ice and two glasses.  I am expecting to hear from my editor so bring the phone in at once if he calls.  Thank you Pierre.  You’re a good man.”  It should be noted his name is not Pierre, and there is no lounge. 

I walk around the city with a vague gameplan in mind.  I like to go to an art museum in the morning, but now tend to avoid the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay as the struggle to avoid throngs of Asian tourists taking expressionless photos of themselves in front of the best known masterworks is too detracting from the experience.  I would like to go to a Japanese household one day and be shown dozens of photographs of the dour lady of the house in front of every top of mind European landmark possible in some sort of slide show.  I have no idea of what happens to these photographs after the attainment.  There must be some sort of private showing to their inner circle to which I am not privy.

I walk down the Seine and marvel at the sheer number of American girls in their twenties holding giant coffee cups talking too loudly.  You cannot walk a block without seeing a Kaitlin that is in Paris for a few months to “gain experience” before being placed at a lofty position in the family company somewhere on the East Coast.  These girls have the confidence that comes from no economic pressure, no responsibilities, and absolute freedom.  They think they have the world by the balls, and you know what?  They do.

Walking by yourself gives you time to think.  I had spent the week in Burgundy with the team at Albert Bichot.  I spent a day in Chablis where the technical director talked about the various processes and challenges in the region.  One of the most northern growing extremes for quality wine, Chablis has benefitted from climate change in the level of grape ripeness they can now achieve.  The downside of climate change for them is the sheer unpredictability and dramatic weather events that occur.  Frost has always been an issue there with their location, but now they are more susceptible than ever to frost events.  Here’s a great example of climate change…  It never used to warm up until late March/early April, but now there can suddenly be a week of 65 degree temps starting March 5th.  The plant, sensing the warming earth, begins its growing cycle and begins to bud.  Then, the weather might revert back to unseasonably cold temperatures a short time later and destroy all the buds with frost.  This will severely limit the amount of grapes the vineyard will produce, and therefore crushes the entire business.

The best defense against frost now are three practices, none of which are ideal.  If you have deep pockets, you can install electric wires across the fruiting zones to prevent frost.  This works fairly well, but at $80,000 per hectare to install, it only makes sense for the most expensive vineyards.  The second is wind machines that move the cold air out before frost can set in.  These are giant elevated fans that take warmer air from above and shove out cold air to lower lying areas.  Again, it’s an expensive proposition to buy wind machines.  The third and most used method is using frost candles.  These are just big citronella looking candles that are set up all across the vineyard to produce just enough heat to prevent the frost in picturesque scenes across the best Chablis vineyards.  The downside there?  It’s $8000 in candle cost each time you do it, and that adds up fast.

This was when the idea hit me.  My associate Bob Lanphier and I have often come up with various schemes like our ill-fated “Feasibility Study” business where we take these unbelievable large sums of money like the $800,000 the City of Cleveland paid someone to determine if it was feasible to connect the Lakefront Loop railway with the Cuyahoga National Forest train.  (It isn’t.  No one rides either of these things, and the issue isn’t because you can’t take the train from one to the other.  The problem is no one especially wants to go to either destination and a train won’t make them give a fuck.  Thank you and can I please have the $800,000 now?).

The Miller-Lanphier Wind Machine Company would offer bargain wind machine leasing options to cash strapped farmers.  I picture myself standing around a vineyard talking to a hard working vigneron.  “Look Marcel, I’m not trying to tell you how to run your business, but candles?  Candles?  What are we, in the 1700s?  And at $8000 a pop?  Let me say two words to you… Wind.  Machine.  I know I know I know, you’re thinking “I can’t afford a wind machine!”.  I get it.  I do.  But I have good news for you Marcel.  A little financial innovation we have brought over right from the USA… the lease!  Now before you say “no”, hear me out.  How would you like to have all the benefits of a wind machine but at just a few dollars a day?  Is that too much to pay for piece of mind?  Of course not.  Let’s get you signed up today.  No reason to dwell on the contract, let’s get that signed before your neighbor rents out our last wind machines right from under you!”.

Now you might be thinking, “I don’t think Greg and Bob know anything about wind machines”.  C’mon, what’s to know?  We drive around Europe and buy up any old wind machine that’s getting replaced, tow it out to the greater Chablis area, and have Leo and his guys at the ready for installation when frost is in the forecast.  It’s not like those guys will fuck that up, right?  Sure, not one of us can speak a lick of French.  Yes, it will be difficult to read the French directions on how the wind machine works.  True, when buying these used wind machines we have no idea if they even work.  The equation I see is Overpromising Salespeople + Lack of Product Knowledge + Lack of Experience + Poor Middle Management + Unreliable Labor + Predatory Contracts= Big Success.  I can see us right now laughing it up in an office outside of Nuits St Georges until the first frost hits.  I am fairly certain the headline will read “Les charlatans américains détruisent les récoltes de 2024 et les entreprises familiales détruites”, which roughly translates to “American charlatans destroy 2024 crop, family businesses destroyed”, or maybe “Les escrocs des machines éoliennes sont toujours portés disparus” meaning “Wind Machine Grifters Still Missing” as we try to slip across a border to Switzerland. 

Granted, this plan does have some large sized holes, but to win big, you must think big.  While the various British tourists sit around trying to figure out if their Parisian waiter is ever coming back to take their order, I’m using this time wisely sitting at my table for one making plans.  Big plans.  I leave France tired and jet lagged.  I will return to triumph.    

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Nurse the Hate: Dexter Romweber


I learned that Dexter Romweber had died in the way that one does in 2024, a social media post adorned with the tear face emoji.  The news impacted me more than I would have thought.  I wasn't particularily close with Dexter but we had played together ten times or so and he had stayed at my house at least three times.  The impact had something to do with the combination of familiarity, my admiration for him as an artist, and that we are the same age.  Wayne Kramer passes away and you think, "Damn, that's a drag." as you do the mental calculations and remember seeing the footage of Wayne playing the 1968 Democratic Convention as you buffer yourself with the knowledge of "I guess he was pretty old".  Shit.  I remember staying at some college party flophouse in Gainesville Florida with the Flat Duo Jets when we were all in our twenties.  Clock is ticking.

When I think about Dexter it takes me through a Greatest Hits of Indie Rock venues.  Like a lot of people I became aware of the Flat Duo Jets from their scene stealing performances on that "Athens GA Inside Out" documentary.  I cannot stress how many times I played that "Flat Duo Jets" record, it being one of the first examples of how the "rockabilly revival" that was rearing its ugly head was an artistic dead end, and these Flat Duo Jets guys were onto something with their primal energy.  I saw them for the first time when they opened up for The Cramps at the Phantasy Theater.  That's the only time I saw them with Tone on bass, and even that night Dexter was yelling at the poor guy for whatever infractions he had made during the chaotic but great set.  

The next time I saw them was when they played the Babylon A Go Go on some weird package tour with the Chickasaw Mud Puppies.  This is probably 1991 or 92.  I talked to Dexter for the first time that night and I remember thinking "this guy isn't like anyone I've ever met".  He had this raw emotional edge and animal intensity even as we talked about old records.  It was just obvious that he experienced things differently than everyone else, like he was sensitive to things other people didn't notice.  That was right around the same time we were attempting to get the Cowslingers airborne.  Within a few years we had played with them at the Magic Stick in Detroit, the Local 506 in Chapel Hill, The Covered Dish in Gainesville FL, The Grog Shop a couple times, and Stache's in Columbus maybe?  

One night when they stayed at my place in Lakewood, Dexter didn't want to sleep on an available couch or futon and instead slept on the floor in the spare bedroom.  I woke him up to go to a late breakfast at this brunch place near my house as soon as I could corral Crow, and he woke up so completely disheveled and lost that the image stuck in my head.  It was like he had gone 12 rounds with some demon as he had slept.  I named my basset hound Dexter after him when the puppy woke up from a nap at the exact spot on the floor bearing more than just a passing resemblance to Mr. Romweber about a year later.      

That show in Gainesville is one I really remember.  It was one of those Thursday night gigs in a room that was too big for the bill.  The Cowslingers opened.  We had played our way down to the Florida panhandle and I was feeling crispy.  I sat in the back dressing room.  Dexter was in a dark mood, very introverted and was deep in his head.  I just gave him his space and sat there in the quiet.  Eventually Ken walked in and felt the vibe and sat quietly as well.  Crow walked in and flopped down.  It was quiet for a bit until Crow spoke to Dexter.  These two guys had this really quiet caring conversation about their tour, if they should be doing it, and how they felt as if Ken and I weren't there.  They both revealed they felt resigned about the tour but just wanted to make sure the other guy was OK.  It was so genuine.  About an hour later they went out and completely destroyed, closing with a version of "Sing Sing Sing" that lasted 20 minutes + with both of them leaving everything on that stage.  We ended up at some shitty college townhouse where Dexter grabbed a cold shower, threw some clothes on his soaking body, walked through the after hours party like it wasn't there and disappeared into the night with crazed eyes.  

When the Flat Duo Jets ended I was bummed that Dexter seemed so low profile.  I saw him solo a couple times, played with him in Atlanta and somewhere in the Midwest, but he was struggling.  I saw him in a session at Kudzu at Rick Miller's place during that period where it was all just a bit off.  It appeared to me that he found his stride again with the Dexter Romweber Duo with his sister.  That time period produced some great music where his ability to rip the essence of obscure old songs and make them his was reignited.  His spirit seemed lifted to be in the band with her.  I remember an amazing set they played with us at the doomed Jigsaw stage where he played like he was in a sold out stadium.  That guy was the real deal. 

The death of his sister hit him especially hard as I understand it.  He had many disappointments and self inflicted wounds over the years, but the loss of his sister had to be uniquely brutal.  Within a short period he lost his sister, two brothers and his mother like some sort of terrible Southern Gothic curse.  He had a haunted genius quality to him with an inner conflict that must have produced so much of his greatness as well as making the day-to-day life a heavy burden.  I had just found a podcast he had done promoting his latest release "Got A Good Thing Going" a couple weeks ago and bought the record.  It just seemed like he would always be there, doing what he did.  I suppose the ending to his story was what it was always going to be, sad but with an amplified resonance.  

I saw a shaky youtube clip of him doing an instore appearance at a record store.  He stopped between a couple of songs and stalked around the area they had provided him for his performance.  He was talking to the crowd, but to himself really.  He made some awkward jokes and then said, "I'll go a little bit longer.  As long as I can.  I'm not sure what I want out of life any more.  I've done this for over 30 years.  I just don't have any other means...  any other skills... I really don't... and this is the only thing I've had since I was a young man, if you call it a skill.  And it's the only thing that's never left me.  Women have come and gone, but the guitar?  The guitar always stuck around.  So...  anyway..."  And then he went into a sad song facing the back of the room, singing with everything he had.        

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Nurse the Hate: A Week In The Fatherland or MW Stage 2 Seminar Blues


I was in Germany last week for the Stage 2 Master Of Wine seminar.  Sorry for not getting a Super Bowl column in, but as anyone that texted me will attest, I was on Kansas City +2.  Winner.  Anyway, let's get back to my little German Blitzkrieg.  For most of you reading this, it would have been a brutally boring week of sitting in a small conference room in the morning after taking a 2 hour and 15 minute test of blind wines discussing your answers.  Now this would bore the shit out of any rational human being, because most of the conversation isn't even about what you answered but how you answered it.  There are other Stage 2 students taking the course in Napa this week, so I won't get into the particular wines, but here's an example of what the morning was like for four days.  There's 12 wines in glasses in front of me.  I get a question like "Discuss the relative quality of wines 3 and 4 in regards to context of origin" as part of the analysis.  I think wine 3 is better than wine 4 and I spend about 100 words in my answer.  Later, after the mock exam, I'm sitting there with 12 other people and we discuss our answers.  My favorite part of the process is when we get bogged down for 20 minutes discussing the validity of a certain word choice.  

Let's pretend that wine 3 is "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.  Wine 4 is "Desolation Row" by Bob Dylan.  I say "Desolation Row" is higher "quality" than "Wooly Bully", but that doesn't mean that I like it more.  It just means that I think it hits a higher level of ambition and has more depth of content, not that I necessarily don't want to crank up Sam the Sham driving around in my car.  During the discussion period after the exam we get into our answers.  I might write something like, "Desolation Row is the higher quality track.  Wooly Bully has wild energy with the funky keyboard driving the song compared with Desolation Row which has tight dense lyrical content offering great complexity with the virtuoso uplifted Spanish guitar playing offering counterpoint to the solemn vocal delivery."  We might spend 20 minutes talking about my use of "funky" in that answer, completely ignoring that I was correct overall.  Imagine a posh English accent saying something like "Funky?  Is that the best word choice here?  I don't know what "funky" means."

Now this guy isn't wrong.  He doesn't know what "funky" means, but that's because he is the product of British boarding schools and he has never been within 10 kilometers of anything remotely funky.  Now I can agree that "funky" might not be the best word for describing Sam the Sham's organ in "Wooly Bully", but it's probably more widely understood than if I had used the phrase "garage punk".  The problem is that phrase won't work for whoever is reading it as they probably have never seen Thee Headcoats and have a secret affinity for late Elton John recordings.  So now the room bandies about different word choices to "fix" my answer.  How about "frantic"?  No, that's not quite it.  Perhaps "primitive"?  No, that's a negative connotation.  "Energetic?"  Yes, that's probably better the English advisor intones.  We move on with me thinking "energetic" would be better used to describe one of those first two XTC records keyboards.  Whatever...  "Energetic" it is.

That's the tricky part.  There's only a few minutes per wine and you have to capture the essence of the thing in a few lines that can be agreed upon regardless of your cultural background.  I got lit up by a guy because I was scrambling at the end of a mock exam and wrote "Euro tourists make up an important market for this wine region and the entry level quality of this wine would have broad appeal to these consumers."  The person that reviewed my paper said "Euro Tourists?  Euro Tourists?  What does that mean?  Do Bulgarians come buy this wine?".  Now I have no fucking idea if Bulgarians drive to Alsace France to buy affordable white wines, but I read that a shitload of tourists drive through and load up their little campers as they go.  The guy reviewing my paper was adamant I missed the mark and killed me on points.  It should be noted that three days later I was in Alsace and a producer there said to me "We get tourists from 17 countries, all over Europe mostly, and they all buy wine."  It didn't matter that I was right.  The person grading me didn't think I was, so that means I'm wrong.  Had I put "An important market for this wine are primarily French, German and Belgian tourists that travel though the region on holiday and make purchases via the cellar door.".  Am I saying the same thing?  Yes, but now I'm saying it the way the reader wants to read it.  

It can be very frustrating for me, and English is allegedly my primary language.  My cultural shorthand doesn't work.  Now if I'd used a phrase like "pear drop", that is completely acceptable because there is an English candy flavor called "pear drop" and most of these blokes are English and they write the rules.  Americans dominate world culture, but not here.  The Brits have planted their flag and will make their last stand extolling the glories of port and sherry,  I try to remember to type out answers like I'm role playing being a British business middle manager for a consumer goods company.  There are people there so gifted that they are doing this in their third or fourth language.  I'm struggling to come up with the right word and some guy from Singapore is knocking it out in a language he barely knows.  It can be disheartening to be a filthy ape like myself.  Yet, I soldier on and sit in a conference room watching German chemists present reams of data regarding TDN formation in wild chemical fermentations as I pretend to grasp what he is saying.  It's really a hell of a thing.

I made a quick day trip into Alsace with my associate Felix.  There are these unbelievably charming little villages built in the 1400-1500s where at any moment it looks like a gnome is going to jump out and do a little jig.  A winemaker we visited was the 14th generation winemaker and his family lived in a house built in the 1470s.  Afterwards we hustled back to have dinner with Jochen/Evil and crew knocking back a half dozen regional wines and some local beer.  I woke up early after going to bed late, my sleep schedule a complete disaster.  My plan had been to escape to Frankfurt and spend the day regrouping, but as I watched costume clad young adults in their Fasching gear jumping on trains to whatever street party was happening I thought "I gotta get out of here".  I booked a train to the airport from my phone and muscled my way into an open Premium Plus Business Class seat on the 530p back to Washington-Dulles.  I caught the second half of the Super Bowl in the United Club lounge and had to hustle to my gate when it went into OT.  I streamed the overtime on my phone as we readied for takeoff.  Just as the Chiefs went to make the winning score, I lost the signal.  I fell asleep in my seat secure in the knowledge that my KC +2 had hit.  All and all, a successful trip.    


Sunday, January 28, 2024

Nurse the Hate: Fatherland Preparation and NFL Conference Finals


I am heading over to Germany soon, and have been trading emails with a number of my associates in The Fatherland.  I have always operated smoothly over there as I respect the cultural need for precision and punctuality.  There is no such thing as meeting "around 10:30".  You meet at 10:30 or 10:45.  That's it.  I remember a number of times where we played club shows that were slated to start at 8pm.  At 7:30 there is NO ONE in the club and you're thinking "Fuck, this is a disaster", but then at 7:50 the club is full like a bus just dropped off a hundred people.  That is because of a cultural set of norms where everyone knows that if a show is supposed to start at 8:00p, it is not starting at 7:59 or 8:01.  That fucking thing goes off at 8:00 on the dot.  

There was a gig we played one time where the local soccer club had a match that was supposed to be ended by the start of our set.  Something happened in the match that resulted in a bunch of extra time and it was going to run over by 30 minutes or so.  Now in the United States, the club promoter would tell one of the band members, "Hey, let's wait til the game ends and then go on when the club fills up".  It's a gray area based on the situation.  Now this German scenario was much more high stress.  First the club promoter huddled with the bar manager.  Then, after ten minutes of animated discussion, they were joined by a third club employee for even more intense discourse.  Finally, a decision reached, the promoter came over to me and leaned into my ear to say "OK.  We are going to push the show back.  We will have you go on at 8:10.".  It can take 10 minutes to find Leo/Sugar at any given time, but rather than explain that to the clearly stressed event promoter, I just said "OK" like we had just pulled off a major logistical obstacle.  

As ridiculous as that is, you have to admire an entire nation that runs with the expectation that everyone has their shit together and will do what they say they are going to do.  I don't know about you, but my daily life consists of trying to work around most of the people I deal with, none of which ever do what they say they are going to do.  The other day I was trying to get a FedEx shipment that had inexplicably stalled out for four days at the drop point.  The entire concept of "overnight" shipping is to get something from point A to B in one day, but the FedEx representative didn't seem too concerned that the package hadn't moved in days.  "What probably happened was that someone put it in the incoming box instead of outgoing.".  Now, she had decided this was the root cause of the issue despite not having talked to anyone about it, and had done nothing to see what the situation was for the delay.  She just made that shit up, and my role was to go along with it like there was some sort of factual basis for the horseshit she had trotted out.  When I suggested she needed to be more proactive as there was no reason to think this package would move again today, she said, "Well, I could call over there.  Do you want me to do that?".   No, I would prefer you don't do anything except keep my money and I just go back to hoping the package miraculously arrives. 

I can't get an overnight shipping company in the United States to even inquire to why they haven't executed their service, and in Germany they thoughtfully tell you scheduled dates of an upcoming rail strike so you can plan accordingly to be on time with alternate transportation.  The key part of being onboard with the mindset of American Exceptionalism is to ignore the glaring examples of how badly basic standards have eroded by never going anywhere outside of the United States.  "USA is the best country in the world!", says the person that has never traveled anywhere except DisneyWorld and Las Vegas.  I mean, don't get me wrong, at any given time some German can go off on you because you ordered the wrong sausage at the wrong time of day or don't know how the bakery line works, but the key is there is a system and dammit we are following it!  

I was thinking about these systems regarding the NFL Conference Championship Games today.  Home teams have gone 16-4 in the last decade.  Overs are 9-3 in the last 6 years.  Home teams are 13-7 ATS in the last decade.  Home favorites of more than 7 are 6-14 ATS.  What does any of it mean?  I dunno.  I will tell you this...  I am not going to bet on Jared Goff playing outside in a big game.  The Lions are definitely a sentimental favorite, but let's be reasonable here.  They snuck by a crappy Tampa team at home, and could have lost to the Rams at home.  This is a road game against the undeniably best team in the NFL all year.  With the exception of that weird three game losing streak, the 49ers have looked elite.  I think we can all agree that San Francisco is going to score on the Lions.  If Tampa moved the ball on you, the 49ers are going to as well.  The big question to me is how well will Detroit rise offensively.  The narrative is that this will be a high scoring, who has the ball last game.  I don't think that's going to happen.  I think SF dominates if Debo Samuel gets shot up with enough goo goo juice to play effectively.  Unless Detroit gets lucky with a bunch of high variance decisions like making risky 4th downs, turnovers going their way, etc., I think San Francisco outclasses Detroit.  San Francisco -7.   

The Ravens v Chiefs game is a minefield.  The Ravens are the better team.  They have been all year.  Lamar is the MVP, yet he's the QB I trust the least in this game.  Despite Baltimore having the better offense, better defense, better kicker and being at home, are you eager to drop money against Mahomes?  If you are like me, your Doomsday Scenario is two weeks of Taylor Swift/Travis Kelce Super Bowl hype.  I don't understand why Taylor Swift is so popular, and I can't seem to summon up the energy or empathy to embrace why others are so taken with her.  Do you want to see speculative media on how Taylor is getting into the stadium to watch the game from a luxury box perch?  I'm sick of those Kelce Brothers too, and they are hometown boys.  Mahomes wife?  Enough.  It's too much but I don't feel like I can stop it.  I'm thinking about tossing a few sheckles on Kansas City, so when the harsh reality of Super Bowl Taylor Swift Hype enters my life, I can at least count a few dollars on a win.  This is a wager based on hate and negativity.  Kansas City +4.5

Current record:  32-27-2    

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Nurse the Hate: Wine Tasting Magic + Divisional Round Day 2

I have played in a rock band for a long time.  As a result, there are a number of people in my life that ask me about the band when they see me as their fall-back conversation topic.  I run into someone at a restaurant or grocery store or whatever, and very quickly it becomes “How’s the band?”.  It’s my “thing” to them.  It’s important to note that 95% of the time, these questions are not sincere, they are simply the way to fulfill the social contract of feigning interest in an acquaintance.  It’s like asking, “How are the kids?”, when, in fact, you couldn’t identify their kids in a police lineup.  In the case of either question being asked, the required answer is “Great!”.  No one really wants to strap in to hear about how your kids got arrested in a fentanyl sting operation, is considering joining a cult or in my case the difficulty of securing studio time for our kazillioneth record that the person asking me will never under any circumstances listen to.

I now also get a fair amount of questions about when my next wine exam is in this Master of Wine quest.  The MW is a very small little dork subculture, not that different in being Master of Cheese or a Dungeon Master really, so the protocols of test taking and the required tasks are murky to outsiders.  I’m finally at the last exam.  When people ask me about the “test”, what they generally want to know about is the Practical Exam.  This is the tasting part, where you get 12 wines poured into glasses, and you are expected to be able to identify the wine and discuss the inherent quality level in context of its place of origin.  Day 1 is a white wine flight.  Day 2 is red.  Day 3 is the dreaded “mixed bag” where it can be anything but is usually sparkling, rose, sweet and fortified wines like port, sherry, and madeira. 

The first time people see you correctly identify a wine “blind”, meaning it is sitting in a glass in front of you without any other clues, they think you are a witch.  It’s a great parlor trick.  What most people don’t understand is that it isn’t some innate ability, but rather a learned skill.  I could teach you too, if you had the patience.  Anybody can do it.  It’s referred to as the “deductive tasting method” or as I like to say, “figuring shit out by paying attention”.  I’ll show you how it works.

Let’s say you have a red wine in front of you.  It is not a deep almost black color, but rather more of a light ruby.  If you hold the glass up, you can see through it.  This suggests that it was made from a light skinned grape, not a thick skinned one as wine gets the color from the skins of the grapes.  So, this means I am already thinking about light skinned grapes like grenache, Nebbiolo, sangiovese and pinot noir as being distinct possibilities.  Now you smell the wine. 

The biggest obstacle for most people at this point is that usually no one spends the time to pay attention to details in life.  Slow down.  Concentrate for a second.  What does that liquid in the glass smell like to you?  Good wine tends to smell like multiple things at once.  Smells are usually personal too.  For example, Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes usually smells like the gum that was in packs of baseball cards to me.  White wine from the Rhone Valley in France often smells like the juice at the bottom of a fruit bowl when you are the last one to get a crack at it at the Cancun resort breakfast buffet.  In the case of the wine in the glass, it smells like cherries, mushrooms, and the cedar closet I had in my old house.  Grenache tends to smell like strawberries, so I am beginning to suspect it’s not grenache at this point, but I’m still not going to rule it out.

Let’s taste the wine.  What I look to do first is to figure out the structure of the wine.  OK, what the hell does that mean?  Food tends to have flavors and textures that work together to make it taste good.  Like a McDonald’s cheeseburger has the fat of the beef mixed with cheese.  The pickles provide a tart lift.  The ketchup gives sweetness as does the bun.  The onions give a textural crunch.  It all works together.  Wine is the same thing.  The acid in the wine has to balance the lushness of the fruit.  Just like a good glass of orange juice should have equal parts sweet fruit and mouth watering acid, wine should have the same idea.  Red wine also has tannins, which is like the skeleton to support the flavors.  Tannins are what you feel in your gums, that drying sensation that you get in things like wine and black tea.  I want to get an idea of not only the levels of these three components but also the nature of them.  I am looking for clues.

In this case the wine has slightly elevated acid, which suggests that this wine came from a cool climate that wasn’t able to ripen the fruit to the point where the sugars in the grapes were able to overtake the acids.  This has too much acid to be grenache, so that grape is out of consideration.  The tannins are soft and it is hard to notice them at first because they have a silky quality to them instead of a fierce grip.  They really blend into the wine.  This eliminates Nebbiolo and Sangiovese because those grapes tend to be very high acid and tannins that rip your face off.  This wine gracefully moves across your palate.  There is a finesse to it, something that used to be called “feminine” but I’m not sure if you’re allowed to say that in 2024 without consulting with HR first.  I’ll have to check.  Anyway, this is probably pinot noir. 

This is when I dial into what the wine actually tastes like.  The fruit is very fresh, like fresh picked cherries, but it also has a little raspberry vibe to it.  If you pay attention, after that initial cherry taste hits you, it recedes and turns into a "savory mushroom, cedar and dried leaves on an autumn day" thing.  This also suggests a cooler climate from where the grapes came from because the nature of the fruit wasn’t black cherry, cherry cola, or baked cherries like in a pie.  The fruit doesn’t finish with a sweet sensation like a candy or soda.  This is pointing me to a cool climate in Europe somewhere because pinot noir from places like the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Chile are usually more fruit dominated instead of the finish of secondary flavors like mushrooms and leaves. 

The wine is really good.  What’s the difference between a “good” and an “ok” wine?  An “OK” wine would be a short little taste of cherry dominated fruit and then the taste would be gone pretty quickly.  Yellow Tail chardonnay has a little burst of apple candy flavor and then it's gone.  It's fine.  It's pleasant.  Then, poof!  This isn’t like that.  It’s giving complex flavors.  It tastes like one thing, and then it turns into something else, and then it is three things at once.  It’s like that candy on the Willie Wonka movie that kept changing flavors.  It is perfectly balanced between the acid, tannin and fruit.  At this point, I figure it has to be pinot noir.  We have ticked most of the boxes for that to be the grape.  This had to come from a place that makes top quality pinot noir in Europe.  That means it is probably from Burgundy in France, but you have to consider places like Baden or Pfalz in Germany, Alsace in France, or Alto Adige in Italy.  This quality is extremely high though.  The wine is concentrated with flavor but at the same time is very light and airy on the palate, a hell of a trick.  There is only one place on the planet that can consistently do that.  It’s got to be Burgundy.

Now at this point in the Master of Wine program I’m expected to be able to tell you what little village it came from in the Burgundy region, which is really splitting hairs.  This task is just a matter of immersing yourself into great tasting expensive wines, and I’m just the man for the job.  It's not magic though.  Basically, it’s like getting a fast food burger and saying, “This has that fake charcoal grill taste on it, so I know it’s Burger King.  The ketchup tastes a little weird, so I bet it’s not Heinz, so that means it’s probably from East 30th and Carnegie because the guy that owns that franchise is always trying to cut costs by using cut rate condiments.”  In this case the wine I'm identifying is a $475 retail Domaine Faiveley Latricieres Chambertin Grand Cru 2014, a wine I could easily mistake for a Volnay Premier Cru, sort of like saying you thought it was from a very desirable street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, not a Central Park penthouse condo on the Eastside.  

I drill at least once a week to identify wines blind.  Sometimes I do better than others.  The most important thing for you to remember is when you ask me how the MW program study is going, I am going to launch into the character of the tannins of an obscure wine from a tiny village in France while you are thinking "My God.  Why did I make the mistake to ask him that?".  What you should have asked me was about the games today.

A number of football gambling degenerates I respect love the Chiefs today.  They do not buy into the narrative that Buffalo has fixed their issues they had when they were 6-6, and that Kansas City with two extra days of rest is going to crush their dreams yet again.  I think that this is the year the Bills finally slay the dragon.  They're at home, the fanbase will be out of their minds, and Kansas City just isn't very good.  Let's go Bills.  Buffalo -2.5 

Current Record:  32-26-2


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Nurse the Hate: Hate Hackney Diamonds and NFL Divisional Round


I still buy a lot of records.  Well, to be honest, I actually buy a lot of CDs.  I might be the only person keeping that format afloat, but dammit, I have old cars with CD players and no bluetooth.  I still prefer the album format to the digital playlist/streaming option.  For example, most people that listen to classic rock radio formats have no idea that an album like "Love It To Death" by Alice Cooper has more songs than just "I'm Eighteen".  You have to get in there and listen to the whole thing to see what's going on with the band.  "Exile On Main Street" is a great example.  Sure, there are singles on there like "Tumbling Dice" and "Happy", but the reason that Rolling Stones record is so great is the thing in entirety.  It's the greasy sleazy feel of the whole.  

This brings me to my latest purchase, the Rolling Stones "Hackney Diamonds".  Look, I went in with moderate expectations.  The last four or five original Rolling Stones records have been a little underwhelming to say the least, but that blues record they put out last was fucking killer.  I also feel like I might as well buy the new LP because at this point I have all of the studio records except strangely enough "Emotional Rescue" for no particular reason except I got tired of hearing Mick say "I will be your knight in shiiaaaning Ahhhhmour cumming to your eeeeeeemotiooonal resssssscewww" on the radio in the summer of 1980.  As I recall, I also unwittingly walked into a room with a friend's older sister in nothing but sensible cotton panties dry humping a fellow student to that song that August that left me a little rattled.  

I have copies of the Rolling Stones last three studio records.  I'll be honest, I would have difficulty picking out random songs on "A Bigger Bang", "Bridges To Babylon" and "Voodoo Lounge" and placing them in their correct LP.  I listened to "A Bigger Bang" a couple months ago, but I found myself thinking like most people probably do, "Why am I listening to this when I haven't listened to (insert classic period record here) in a long time?".  How was "A Bigger Bang"?  You know... it was OK.  It's like any Stones record that has been released after Exile.  There are a bunch of songs that sound like that signature two guitar Stones thing and a few where they chase trying to sound "contemporary", which is always a mistake.  There is nothing worse than when Mick tries to jump on whatever trend is happening like he's waving his hands around screaming "Hey!  Look over here!  We are still culturally relevant!  Lookit!".

Did you ever see that concert film and companion record they did with Scorcese?  "Shine A Light" I think it's called.  In the beginning there is this fake drama where the band hasn't told Scorcese what they are playing and he doesn't know how to position the cameras and it's supposed to be this dangerous rock and roll moment.  "Good God!  Those rascals haven't let anyone know what's about to happen!"  Then they do the move where they bring out the Old Bluesman in Buddy Guy for "Champagne and Reefer", the new rock guitar hero in Jack White for "Loving Cup" and the chart topping female siren in Cristina Aguilera singing along to "Live With Me".  It's the least dangerous rock show ever, especially since it is all industry biz people and their satellites making up the theater crowd.  That show was the execution of a business plan.

That's sort of what this new record is, a reason to promote yet another greatest hits package tour with obscenely priced tickets.  Yet, I'm begrudgingly going to admit, the record is pretty good.  Look, it's not "Beggar's Banquet", but that was a half century ago.  Let's cut these guys some slack.  This Stones Product, where quite a few of the songs require us to enter the willing suspension of disbelief that 80 year old Mick Jagger is out prowling around for ladies but always being done wrong.  He's tough, but you can hurt him emotionally.  I wish he would write about 80 year old famous rich guy problems, but that probably won't move units.  This is perhaps the most middle aged man album purchase I have made in a few years, and I almost feel like I need to justify the purchase by filling in some weird indie stuff I bought too.  "Hey!  A Hermanos Gutierrez disc was in that bag too!"  

I suspect this release will slide on the shelf next to "Steel Wheels" to be partially forgotten.  I still appreciate the fact that these guys went and made another full length.  They can do whatever the hell they want, and it would be much easier to just rehash "Satisfaction" every summer in football stadiums, which I guess they do, but hopefully now with "Here's one off our new album!" so the suburbanites can hit the toilets in time to get back for "Brown Sugar".  Everybody just needs to stay in their lane and do their job I guess.  I am hoping that's what happens today in the NFL.  I'm feeling pretty chalky.

That's exactly what I am expecting the Ravens to do this week.  I think the Ravens are going to push the Texans around.  The Ravens have easily been the best team in the AFC.  Despite the Texans kicking the crap out of the Browns last week, let's not forget that they stumbled into winning the shitty AFC South thanks to a Colts dropped pass and a Jacksonville meltdown.  The Ravens like to be bullies.  I am on Baltimore -10.

I think the Packers are a live dog.  If they can get a lead early, this will be a game.  If they fall behind?  Uh-oh.  I'm not sure how the Packers deal with a healthy 49ers offense.  The big question is can the Pack reliably score on San Fran.  I think if they hang in there early that they can turn it into a track meet.  Love has somehow quietly become one of the best QBs in the NFC down the stretch, and their receivers are finally relatively healthy.  As long as SF doesn't have the opportunity to rush without concern for a running play, Green Bay should be able to score some points.  SF/Green Bay OVER 50.5      

Season record:  31-25-2