Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Motor City?

I just spent 5 days in Detroit recording a fabulous new Whiskey Daredevils record. (Will this be the record to catapult us to superstardom and dry humping R&B singers with single names like Rihanna? Yes, probably.) Detroit is a very odd contrast to our home here in Cleveland. In both places the weather is horrible, the industry has collapsed, and homeless people wander around waiting to break into your car. The diference is that people in Detroit are proud of their city, whereas here people are embarrassed by the blight and missed opportunities.

I like the fact that the attitude in Detroit is "kill the weak". Folks strut around that city like they are some kind of Mad Max survivor and they can eat your spleen for lunch if they so choose. (Note: Many of them probably can, and have no other source of food, so be careful.) I was warned by a Clevo suburbanite before heading out to Downtown Detroit, to "be careful of the bad areas". As far as I can tell, they're all bad areas. Yet, I was also struck by the 26 year old Detroit native woman bartender (that should really get into modeling instead of bartending as I left a shamefully low tip) that had the "D" Tigers style script tattooed on her upper arm. I'm telling you, civic pride everywhere you look. Is it unfounded? Yeah...but I think it's better to be deluded than bummed out like we are here in Cleveland.

When in Detroit, make sure and stop at the Motor City Casino. We stopped in on a Saturday night after recording, and that place was like the bar in Star Wars. I have never seen a place with so many horrible freaks, misfits, low rent hustlers, and losers. I left a blackjack table that featured a collection of human beings with no redeemable qualities whatsoever, and I was winning. I can put up with almost anything if I'm collecting some jack. What was it like? I will try to set the scene for you. How often do you walk around a place and say, "Well, I have to say, this crowd is nowhere near as high class as that dog track in Daytona." and mean it? Amputees on scooters...80 year old black men in turquoise suits (with matching shoes) struggling around with canes... bloated white guys with 1986 hair cuts and rayon Red Wings jackets...cocktail waitresses so fat that you wonder what the girls must have looked like that got turned down for the job. There's two sections in the casino: smoking and heavy smoking. It's really an amazing place. Hell's Casino.

I would also recommend a couple coney dogs and bean soup at Lafayette Coney Island. Tucked next to hated rival American Coney Island, Lafayette is the real deal. It's small, dirty, and makes only a small list of menu items. All the guys look like they have been working there since 1974 (and might not have washed their clothes since their employment started). Do not let this liberal adherence to health codes get in the way of your meal. The hot dogs are great, the chili sauce is perfect, the soup is spicy, and the ambiance is like that old Saturday Night Live "Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger! Cheeseburger!" skit. Plus, you can eat a complete meal for about 4 bucks. Highly recommended. Here's a youtube of the scene there... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qitl33LEm_g

Looking for a cheap watch or plastic bust of Athena? Look no further than Greektown! Taking a cue from their forefathers in the real Greece, the immigrants that moved into Greektown in Detroit turned to the one business they knew: selling crappy souveniers. Greece has been in a bit of a fallow period since what, 300 B.C. or so? After the death of Aristotle, Greece was forced to focus on their economic strengths of exporting poor quality gold and silver painted housewares, wall hangings of Greek Gods, cylinders of lamb meat to sell to college students as "gyros", and women with hairy forearms. The whole package really comes together in Detroit's Greektown, where you get the horrible fashion sense of Greece with the weather of Michigan. While we were there, oblivious suburban Moms walked their teenage daughters around while dark haired guys with bushy mustaches leered at all their asses (and mine too as far as I know).

Still, I like Detroit. There's a unique feel to the city, and plenty of interesting things going on. The confidence and pride people feel in the city have lead to a laundry list of accomplishments that other "great" cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Dallas (for example) can't touch with a ten foot pole. People are out trying to make things happen and succeeding despite huge odds against them. So let's hear it for Detroit! Hey, what the fuck is that guy doing by my car?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Nurse the Hate: Hate Traveling

I just got back from Zihuatanejo Mexico. It's a little fishing village in the south of Mexico on the Pacific side. It was 93 degrees and sunny everyday. The people were friendly. The beaches were beautiful. In Shawshank Redemption, it's the place where Andy Dufresne tells Red "he could use a guy that knows how to get things". That's it in the photo above. It's really great, it's cheap, and I highly recommend visiting there as soon as possible.

The problem is having to actually get there, and jump over the various hurdles placed in front of you by the folks in the "travel and service industry", as well as your fellow travelers. I love to travel, but it really is a ying/yang situation, isn't it? For every breathtaking sunset, kharma makes you pay by placing you in the 15 inch middle seat in coach next to an overfed midwestern plumbing fixtures saleman. It is in this spirit that I will pass along my three biggest complaints in airline/vacation travel.

1) No one is responsible for anything! My flight from Cleveland was grounded at 9:00 am (after sitting on the plane for 2 hours) by a mechanical issue. This delay caused me to miss my connection in Houston, and therefore one day of prepaid hotel stay in Mexico. I stood in line at the Continental Airlines customer service desk for 80 minutes, and had to book the same flight for the next day. Originally, I booked the trip via the web through Apple Vacations as a package deal of flight/hotel/ground transfers. It was the best deal out there for price, and it wasn't on a junket, so I figured...What the hell? After calling them to see if they could cancel my hotel for tonight and extend it an additional night instead, they told me to call my travel agent. "Ummm...You're my travel agent."

I'm sorry sir. It's our policy not to do wrap arounds. "Huh?" You'll have to call the hotel yourself and see if they'll credit you tonight, or give you an extra night for free. "Why would they do that? I'm not trying to get out of paying, I just want what I paid for from you." They then said I'd have to call the airline to ask them make up investment for the missed night. I said I booked it through Apple, and they chose the airline, so aren't they responsible? Aparently not... "Well, can you call the hotel for me and extend my stay?" No, you'll have to have your travel agent do that. "Like I said, you're my travel agent according to the confirmation you sent me." Because it was a mechanical failure from the airlines, it's not our responsibility. "Well, what if it had been a snow storm?" Sir...That is not our responsibility because we can't control the weather. "Well, you're the ones that chose the airline. I paid you. Aren't you responsible for getting me there?" Sir...Sir...We can't be responsible for mechanical failure on the part of the airline. "Is it ever your responsibility? Sir, of course! And when it is, we take care of our customers. "How long have you worked there?" Nine months sir. "OK...Can you give me one example of when it would be your responsibility? Certainly, in nine months there must be one example you can think of?" Sir.........I can't think of one right now. Do you want me to email you your new flight confirmation? "Oh, the one I just had to stand in line and book? Hey, certainly there must be just one example where you were responsible for something, right? Just once?" Sir! Sir! I suggest you call the airline to see if they will pay for your room for the night.

Now, I know the airline wasn't going to do shit, but I figured I had to try. At first, they tried to send me on my way with a $6.00 meal voucher for anywhere in the Airport. Hooray! Cinnabon here I come!!! That six bucks will more than make up for my lost vacation day and the $200 hotel room. Thanks a lot! You guys are aces!

After grinding them and working my way up 3 different "supervisors", I did score a $250 flight credit and two free first class upgrades. But it wasn't easy. Or pleasant.

2) Why does it take so long for people to get on and off the plane? One of life's great mysteries is why people seem surprised and unprepared to leave the aircraft as the departing rows work their way back to their seats. The plane landed 20 minutes ago and taxied about 37 miles to the gate. You are seated in a fixed position staring as people leave in front of you. Why is it at that key moment of "your turn" do you decide to begin to gather your Grisham paperback, black carry on bag, and plastic bag filled with shitty airport souveniers? Did you think you weren't going to have toleave the plane? What is it exactly that prevented you from being prepared and kept me wedged into a virtual veal pen next to that plumbing supply saleman?

3) Why does every airplane movie feature Martin Lawrence, Matthew McConaughey, and/or Sandra Bullock? In an attempt not to polarize anyone, the airlines secure films that won't upset anyone, and therefore won't actually entertain anyone either. These already crappy movies are even edited to a "G" rating, so there's no chance of even seeing Sandra Bullock's ass or anything. However, it's a guarantee no matter how awful the movie is, some old lady will refer to it as "cute" as she struggles to work her way down the aisle to the can. Despite the three highballs I have slammed down on the flight, I'm wedged in next to that plumbing supply saleman, so I won't be able to get up out of my seat and punch her in the face.

Random Notes: I split the Super Bowl by taking the Patriots and the under. I figured no way would the public be right on the Giants, but they sure were this time. Vegas got killed, losing a reported $2.6 million...I just read a pretty good/depressing novel by Jay McInerney called "The Good Life". If you can get past his preoccupation on NYC Upper East Side socialite culture, it's a good read...When I was wedged in next to that giant plumbing supply guy, I read Chuck Palahniuk's "Choke". It's the guy that wrote "Fight Club", so it's real in your face with constant references to body functions and discharges. I like reading descriptions about snot, menstration, semen, and bile as much as the next fella, but it can be bit much when you get an airline meal dropped into your lap. He does have a unique point of view though...Good new CDs: Iron and Wine "The Shepard's Dog", Calexico "Toolbox", New Pornographers "Challengers", Tokyo Police Club "A Lesson In Crime" and the Black Lips "Good Bad Not Evil". On my "to buy" list: the new Cynics, and Nine Pound Hammer...I'm telling you right now, bet against the Mets, and get on the Dbacks in the National League. The Mets will be so overvalued in the odds right now, and the DBacks have the two best inning killing pitchers in baseball with Brandon Webb and Danny Haren. They're flying right under the radar...