Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Lip Service

One of the most difficult things about being in a band is the dreaded conversations you are required to have when either A) you didn't really like the band that just opened for you or B) when you just opened for someone and they didn't like you. The social contract says that we must all remain pleasant to one another. Of course, there is also the fact that you have to respect that the group of people that just played are doing something, and that does require a real leap of faith to put yourself out there. The key is in either case to remain positive on the surface while not really committing to be entirely on board. It sounds like a compliment at first, and it usually isn't until later you realize what it really was. We refer to this in our band as "lip service". For example:

"You guys were really tight!": This is used as opposed to saying "While you were well rehearsed and have a certain competence, I must say that your songs are awful."

"You guys are a lot tighter than the last time I saw you.": Translation: "While you were pretty bad tonight, at least you weren't totally horrible like the last time I saw you." I can't tell you how many times I have heard this little jewel over the years. So much so, that I use it myself on occasion.

"Looks like you guys had a lot of fun up there.": I don't remember who said that to me, but I knew at once this person not only hated what we played, he hated how we played it. The only possible thing he could comment on positively was our visible enthusiasm. The translation for "having a lot of fun up there" is "Wow, for a bunch of guys that I think totally suck, it's amazing to me that you are oblivious to it and are still having fun in that amateurish little way you do."

"Your set is something I will always remember.": I used this myself after a band that opened up for us in Canada was so terrible, they instantly catapulted to the top of our All Time Worst Live Band list. The guy that cornered me seemed like an OK guy. Nobody needed brutal honesty to the "What did you think of our set?" question. I was totally honest. I will never forget what might have been the longest 45 minutes of my life.

"I think I hear what you are going for...": I really liked this one. I seem to remember some Roots Rock icon hitting us up with that. Translation: "I was somehow able to cut through the misguided efforts of the band to find the small nugget of value you are trying to reach. While you did not come even close to getting there, I want you to understand I know what it should sound like if you particular guys were capable of getting there. Keep trying. Maybe you'll luck into it."

"I really liked that last one.": Translation: "I was sitting down in the dressing room and was so uninterested in you guys I didn't even attempt to walk the 7 feet to watch any of your set. Since you ran long, I did stumble into your last 45 seconds."

"Thanks so much for playing tonight.": This usually means, "We really needed someone to kill an hour before we played. While our first three choices for the opening slot were not available, we settled on you. It was no better or no worse than I expected. You have merely performed a function."

"You guys had a lot of energy!": This is a great one. People like being told they have "energy". I used to like it. Now I know it means. "Well, the songs suck and the playing is not so hot. However, you sure did move around a lot. And that counts for something. Now, if you could move your drums outta there, we'd like to set up now."

Random notes: Sometimes I think "Celebrity Rehab" might be exploitative. But then I watch Tom Sizemore smoking meth, and I realize it's just good wholesome TV... I had a 2000 CH du Moulin Rouge last night that I thought might be over the hill. Boy, was I wrong. It still tasted young with plenty of fruit. For a Haut Medoc, this was way more than I expected... I saw "Avatar" last week in 3-D. I liked being in a room full of people that looked like Roy Orbison. The movie was OK. It's like "Dances With Wolves" done sci-fi with great effects. Still, I liked "Up in the Air" way better. But then again, I'm not a 14 year old boy, so that is to be expected... New Spoon record? Good. New Vampire Weekend? Not so good. New Tom Waits? Really good.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate The NFL Playoffs

Once again I have been betrayed by the NFL Gods. Whatever is up, is down. Right is wrong. In is out. I was certain that the Chargers would destroy the Jets last week, and stepped up forcefully. The rubble in Haiti is small time compared to what it looked like at my house after that Jet/Charger game. One thing you have to say about San Diego. They know how to get it done. They hold the Jets to no first downs for most of the first half, and still manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That's the mark of an organization that is dedicated to hanging out in 75 degree weather and watching the rest of the Playoffs from a beach bar. What the hell. It is a good way to spend a Sunday.

This week I have been obsessively focused on watching the Jets lose and have their dreams go down the shitter. That game last week has probably cemented a lengthy unhealthy relationship with that team for years to come. I hate the pretty boy QB Sanchez. I hate the shit talking fatso coach. I hate the suddenly best defensive player of all time Revis. (Why is it no one had heard of Revis until 3 weeks ago, and now he's Butkus, Sanders, and Tatum all rolled into one?) I hate their ugly Titans throwback uniforms. So that's why you have to take with a grain of salt when I say I'm on Indianapolis minus the points.

I am hoping the line moves from the 7.5 down to 7 by game time. The Colts win games, but the common misconception about the 2009 Colts is that they win games with offense. This team doesn't drop 38 points on you. They win games 24-21, 27-24, 20-17. Clearly that leads to anyone with a rational mind taking the Jets with the points. The Jets play good defense, run the ball, and just sort of hang around. They don't get blown out. I know this. However, I have lost my mind. I'm all in on the Colts. Be forewarned. This should be a disaster.

I don't really know what to think about that Viking v Saints game. I had written the Saints off as a team that had peaked too early, but then they looked like the "Greatest Show On Turf" era Rams last week. They look unstoppable on offense, no? But then again the Cards hadn't forced an opponent to punt since around Christmas, so who knows what we saw last week? What we did see last week was a Viking team that totally ripped the scrotums off a pretty good Cowboy team. The Vikings can run the ball. The Vikings can throw the ball if you try to stop the run. The Vikings also have a scary defensive line that can generate pressure while keeping the maximum amount of guys back in coverage. It's this reason why I am taking the Vikings money line over New Orleans and a hedge position with the points at +3.5. If a game is a toss up, give me the long shot odds.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nurse the Hate: The Albany Incident

I don’t know how that Tiger Woods did it. I was never able to pull off relationships with two women at once, much less that kind of circus he had going. Who could keep all those lies and half-truths straight? Who has the energy? The amazing thing about that whole incident is that he was juggling all that nonsense AND playing the best golf on the planet. Even if I would have decided on that ill-fated course of action, I know I couldn’t have done it. The closest I ever came to that kind of a situation is laughable compared with Woods. And I still screwed it up.

In the early 1990s, I was dating this girl we'll call Mary. She was kinda crazy and possessive. For example, she used to want to kill the women I worked with because they were friendly with me. She threw a bottle at a girl that she thought was checking me out. One time a gun fell out of her purse when we were at a bar. I think I saw her in a porn movie once years later. It was like I was dating an extra character from the movie Pulp Fiction. She was “troubled”. I knew it really wasn’t right between us, but we had fun sometimes so I just sort of went with it. Hey, I was 25 or so, she was good looking, and it just seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary trouble to give her the “heave-ho” before some major incident took place.

Meanwhile, I was totally pining for this other girl. Let’s call her Jane. Prior to dating Mary, I had undertaken a lengthy campaign to lure Jane away from her out-of-the-country boyfriend, and won her over. I am still not really sure how I managed this feat, as she was way too attractive and interesting to have spent time with me. I was like the dorky guy in the 80s teen movie that got the girl. Jane was flaky and fun and totally unpredictable. I never knew what the hell was going to happen, but it was always intense. It was really clipping along. Then her boyfriend came home and I got cut out of the picture. Wham! I was o-u-t. Just like that. I was reeling.

I drank like I saw jilted lovers do in movies, and wrote some of the songs that wound up on “Off the Wagon”, “Fistful of Pesetas” and some of those early Cowslinger 7 inches. (Being crushed like a beer can was good for my “art”. Yippee!) After what seemed like a long period of time, which was in reality probably about 3 weeks, I started going out with Mary. To make matters worse, Jane would call every couple weeks or so and stoke the fires again. “Hey… I was thinking about you…” There were definitely some “mixed messages” coming from Jane. So I started thinking “Maybe I can get back with Jane. That would be awesome. You know…maybe I can get back with Jane, AND have fun with Mary in the meanwhile!”. It really seemed like a win/win proposition for me. And frankly, it was all about me in the early 90s. (Many would argue somewhat convincingly I maintain this policy today.)

So there I was in a suffocating relationship with Crazy Mary, scheming about how to get Jane back, when a friend of mine calls me with two tickets to see the Jerry Garcia Band in Albany NY the following weekend. I was really into going to see the show. I had never seen Garcia play out of the Dead, and I’m always up for a road trip. So, the question is who am I going to take to the show? I got a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach when I thought about taking Crazy Mary. I just don’t want to do that. I really wanted to go with Jane instead. She was going to be so much more fun…

I nervously make the call to Jane. After a brief sales job on Jane, she agrees to go and we conspire to head out Saturday morning to Albany. As friends. Just a couple of buddies going on a road trip. Nothing to see here officer… She tells her boyfriend God Knows What, and I tell Crazy Mary I’m going to see Jerry with this unreliable hippie buddy of mine that didn’t even have a phone or permanent address. The Plan appears airtight.

Saturday morning goes as planned. Jane and I have a whole adventure getting out to the concert, and we barely make it by showtime. We have a really great time, and then head out to find a hotel at the end of the night. The whole town has been overrun by the traveling deadhead hordes, and almost all the hotels are booked. After some real driving around and searching, I think I scored a room at someplace really classy like a Red Roof or Super 8. They have two rooms available. One has a double bed, and one has a king. Jane is out in the car watching me through the window while I try to check in at the reception desk. I whisper to the clerk, as if Jane could hear me from the car, “Gimme the king”…

We grab our bags and head up to the room. When we open the door, I pretend to be shocked to find the king sized bed. “Geez! He didn’t tell me that! Well, what can we do? It’s the last room. Better make the best of it.” She has fallen into my clutches… That’s when it happened.

We climb into bed, and Jane starts nuzzling me. Meanwhile, I am so overcome with guilt, I don’t do anything but sort of moan. Then Jane starts to kiss me, and run her hands all over me. All over me… get my drift? For some unknown reason, I still feel this misguided allegiance to Crazy Mary as I haven’t officially cut the cord on our relationship. I start trying to stop Jane. “Maybe we shouldn’t do this. I mean… I don’t know…” Jane responds by taking off her top, and rocking on top of me. She looks spectacular. Playboy Magazine spectacular. Cry your eyes out spectacular. The term “unfuckingbelievable” comes to mind.

I somehow managed not to have sex with Jane. I don’t remember what happened or how, but there was no sex. I was a fucking idiot. In the top three regrets in my life, this is one of them. I still look back in wonder at how I made that decision. What was I thinking? I hardly even liked Crazy Mary. It must be that damn Catholic upbringing that so enshrouded me with guilt that I was unable to do what ultimately would have been the right thing.

The next day we drive back to Cleveland. My stomach is upset and I feel like shit. (In retrospect, this must have been my body revolting against my own stupidity.) I dropped Jane off at her place without incident. I head across Lakewood to my apartment at the time, ready to regroup in the late Sunday dusk for another horrible work week. I park in the high rise parking lot and hit the elevator. I kind of give a sigh of relief as I walk down my hallway. The weekend essentially came off as planned. I went to the show with Jane. We had a good time. I didn’t cheat on Crazy Mary, and maintained my admittedly murky moral bearings. I was OK.

I walk into my apartment, put down my bag, flip the TV on and flop on the couch. I then notice the light is on in my bedroom is on. That’s odd. I walk down the short hall, and sitting on the floor is Crazy Mary staring ahead blankly like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. WHAT THE FUCK??? HOW THE FUCK DID SHE GET IN HERE??? SHE KNOWS!!! SHE KNOWS!!! HOW THE FUCK DOES SHE KNOW??? FUCK!!!

Crazy Mary had made a copy of my apartment key without my knowledge sometime in the prior weeks. While I was gone that weekend, she had done a total FBI search of my place top to bottom. She even went through the pockets of clothes in my closet looking for clues. She probably had carpet fibers analyzed. Remember, this is the very early 90s, so it’s pre-cell phone era. The only people that have those giant cell phones are guys like Gordon Gekko, Hugh Hefner, and maybe Reggie Jackson. Air time must have been $4000 a minute. When you are out of your house, you are unavailable. There is no way to call me, or my deadbeat hippie friend that was my alibi. How the fuck did she track down my whereabouts? How did she know? (It turned out she hit redial on my bedroom phone, where I had called Jane prior to leaving Saturday morning letting her know I was on my way. Damn. I was so very close.)

I spent the first hour or so listening to what a shitbag I was, and then the next hour shifting gears and being very honest in answering her questions. The downside of that honesty policy was I got hit a couple times. (If you don’t want to hear the answer, don’t ask the question!) The upside was I finally had enough and tossed Crazy Mary out of my place for good. I even got that clandestine key back. The worst part was that she never believed I didn’t have sex with Jane. C’mon! If I’m going to be punished, shouldn’t I at least get to commit the crime?

I suppose we all have various skill sets. I know my limitations. I cannot hit a golf ball straight. I also do not possess the “eye of the tiger”. Keep it simple. Lesson learned.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Wild Card Weekend

Wild Card Weekend of the NFL Playoffs is really a perfect weekend. It’s early in the New Year, no one goes out, so the band is always off. No responsibilities. I go into Full Bunker Mode by purchasing supplies, cooking pulled pork, and inviting over my biggest gambling degenerate friends for an orgy of drunken good times. (For the record, I’m going with a 24 oz Boris the Crusher stout, a six of Pilsner Urquell, and a six of Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA. That should cover whatever disasters strike during the games.)

The always overrated New York Jets travel to Cincinnati today to take on the nose diving Bengals at 4:00. The Jets ripped the scrotums off the Bengals last weekend in a totally meaningless game for Cincy, but still it would have been nice to see more life from the AFC North champs. The general public has (of course) overreacted to that game by pushing the line from Cincy-4 to Cincy -1 . So what do we need to know?

The Bengals are 9-0 in their last 9 at home vs underdogs, and they’ve won their last 5 at home outright. The problem comes in when you notice that the Bengals have not covered in 6 of their last 7 games, while the Jets have covered in 5 of 6. Meanwhile the Jets have won outright 8 of the last 10 times these teams have played. The other big factor is that Cincinnati has completely gone down the shitter down the stretch. This “down the shitter” factor is the one I am really paying attention to this afternoon. These are two teams going in opposite directions. Cincinnati can’t seem to throw the ball. Or stop the other team from throwing the ball. Or running the ball for that matter. I see the Jets running the ball early and often and winning a low scoring game. I’m going with the Jets money line. If you are feeling gutsy, take the under. With it at 33.5, you really have to sack up though.

The Dallas/Philadelphia game is the third time these teams have played each other with Dallas convincingly winning the other two games. Conventional wisdom says the following: “There is no fucking way in hell an NFL team can beat another NFL team three times in one season!”. That’s all I’ve heard all week from every so called “football expert”. (Note: These are the same experts that said Mangini would be fired from the Browns, and JaMarcus Russell was a sure thing QB.)

Let me run this by you. Let’s say you get cornered by the school bully and he beats the crap out of you once. Now you walk into the Boys Room at an inopportune moment and find that same school bully. He beats the crap out of you again. So, why is it exactly you are going to win the third rematch?

In reality, in the NFL Playoffs since 1970, the 2-0 teams are 11-7 in a third matchup. Not exactly a “sure thing”, but it sure does dispel the ironclad notion of winning three in a row as likely as my basset hound building a moon rocket out of old dog kibble bags.

Dallas held Philadelphia to 88 yards rushing the first time these two teams played. Last week with the NFC East on the line, Philadelphia rushed for 37 yards. Meanwhile, Dallas ran for 182 yards last week. You win the playoffs with defense and running the football. Dallas plays great defense and can run better than Philadelpha. Dallas wins the game. But do they cover?

The underdog is 8-3 ATS when these teams play. The Eagles are 10-4 ATS in Dallas. The Eagles are also 7-0 against the spread when a 3.5-7.0 point underdog. Oh yeah, Dallas is 5-11 in their last 16 vs the NFC East. That really says you have to either take Philadelphia +4 or Cowboys -190 if your risk tolerance is strong enough. I’m going Dallas money line.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nurse the Hate: The History of Leo P. Love's Tattoos

Leo took his shirt off while playing a show the other day, and afterwards someone commented to me, "Geez, I didn't know Leo had so many tattoos. When did he get those?". To answer your question, may I present to you The History of Leo's Tattoos (as I know them).

Leo's first tattoo was that of a leopard on his bicep. Normally this is the sort of tattoo seen exclusively on gas station attendants or bass players in Foghat. I'm not sure what the significance was of this tattoo. I'm pretty sure he just got it to look cool among his friends at Chuckie Cheese (where he was actually in the Chuckie suit and smoked more weed than at least Ziggy Marley if not Bob himself). A common first tattoo mistake, he went way too conventional. The good news is that he did not get a Tazmanian Devil, Ohio State logo, or barbed wire.

Leo's second tattoo was designed by Tony, the old Cowslinger bass player and gifted visual artist that gave The Cowslingers their look in the early days of bitter struggle. It's of a Cowgirl sitting on a bass drum on his other bicep. Makes sense, no? Leo was playing drums in The Cowslingers and it actually looks like one of our show fliers from 1994 or so. As I recall, he got it early in the morning in Pittsburgh after a full night of partying up with the locals (including the artist himself). This was followed up shortly afterwards with the matching "Lady Luck" piece on the left side of his chest. This one has that similar 50s pin up look, so we can see a theme beginning to emerge. This may have also been done by the same artist in Pittsburgh under the same circumstances about a year later. Picture the sun coming up, 516 empty beer bottles, over flowing ashtrays, and drunk guys getting permanent designs on their skin by an equally drunk guy with a needle.

Leo then made a departure with the controversial "Celtic Dragon" on his forearm. Always on the look out for a bargain, Leo attended a "tattoo party" with his step daughter's squirrely boyfriend at the time. The basic idea of the tattoo party is that someone hosts a party at their house where everyone gets a new tattoo from the artist at a massively discounted bulk rate. The way this one went down was Leo hit the house party pretty hard, and was passed out on the couch late that night. At about 3:45 am someone shook him awake to let him know the tattoo artist would work on him now. Not the best set of circumstances... You would think if you were going to put something on your forearm for life, you would give it a great deal of thought. Well, in this particular case, Leo just sort of flipped through the example book after he woke up while the tattoo artist guy smoked another joint/drank another beer and a "Celtic Dragon" caught his eye. Leo has always maintained a shaky Irish heritage (at least around St Patrick's Day), so he thought this Irish dragon design would look badass.

The next time the band got together, Leo was very proud to show off his "Celtic Dragon". We were about 5 songs in when Leo stopped us, and said "Greg, check it out! This is my new Celtic Dragon". I looked down on his forearm and saw what looked to me to be a dragon like you would see on a Chinese restaurant menu. "Lee...What the fuck are you talking about? That's a Chinese Dragon!". Leo came back hard at me, and said I "didn't know what the fuck I was talking about". (I mean, is there even any tradition of dragons in Celtic folklore at all? Isn't it all leprechauns and gnomes?) He then appealed to Ken for his opinion. "Well, what do you think? Pretty cool, right?" Ken looked at it blankly for a minute and said, "Well, Lee it looks pretty good, but when I look at it I feel like I should order some won-ton soup." Momentarily shaken, but ultimately undaunted, I believe he still regards this obviously Asian design as "Celtic". I tried to hammer out an agreement that he would always check with me before committing to a design in the future, but as you will soon see, that policy never came into fruition.

The next piece he decided on was when we were in the industrial German city of Bielefeld in 2008. We ran into a well known tattoo artist we had met the previous year, most notable to me for the ink spelling out "B-u-d-a-p-e-s-t" on his knuckles. For years I had been drawing Leo heads on our set lists. These are like stick figure heads with whatever facial hair configuration Leo has going at the time. After our show in Bielefeld (where we destroyed the tiny PA and struggled to get through the gig), we attacked the free flowing local beer with the vengeance known only to musicians seeking to distance themselves from a performance not up to snuff. It was after my 17th beer that Leo cornered me and wanted to know if I could draw a whole collection of Leo heads on a scrap of paper, a history of Leo's facial hair if you will, for a tattoo that would be administered that evening. I tried to talk Leo out of getting them across his wrist like a watch band, especially since the plan was to go out with the Hungarian guy and his friends to "make party" until the sun came up. I think he got that one finished up at 730 am the next morning. The guy did a great job in re-creating the "art" he was given. It actually looks like I drew them on his wrist with a black ball point pen. Whether you would want me to draw something permanent on you is another matter entirely. Yet another departure in the overall look of the designs...

That brings us to the Spring of 2009 when Leo, Christoph, and The Squirrel made the legendary Bilbao Spain to Frankfurt Germany Hell Drive. It took 26 hours, about $124 in tolls in France, and a case of "Mr. Brown" chilled coffee drink to get across Europe. Let's not even bring up when they made a wrong turn a ran flush into the futbal riot, shall we? The good news was Leo arrived to make his morning rendezvous with the Argentine artist that is such a fan he gave Leo a free tattoo, and referred to The Cowslingers "Americana A Go Go" as "The Bible". Early that morning Leo paid tribute the his mother the only way a grown man really can: By having a heart with "mutter" (German for "mother") placed on his chest by a South American stranger early in the morning by the Frankfurt airport.

Always thrifty, Leo found another opportunity to get a tattoo with no cash exchanging hands this summer. I think he laid a tile floor for some guy in exchange for a full color tattoo of a train on his forearm. Why a train? Well, Leo's father had worked on the railroad for his career, and Leo wanted to honor his deceased father's memory. My only beef is that opposed to a cool 1960's locomotive, he decided on an 1860s steam engine. If we're going to pay tribute, shouldn't we have some historical accuracy to live up to? His Dad may have been a railroad man, but there were no cow catchers on those trains. A 1960s train would have been much more unique. A missed opportunity... There has been big talk of filling in the train design with color. This will move Leo much closer to the "unemployable by others" or "TV celebrity chef" line with his tattoos. However, I think we can all agree the window of opportunity for him to become CEO of General Motors has probably past.

That should bring you pretty much up to speed with Leo's ink. For further study and inspection, feel free to approach Leo directly and ask for the complimentary tour. As you can see by his ready willingness to take his shirt off at the drop of a hat, he'll be more than happy to show you around. As far as I know he doesn't have anything like a barber shop pole tattooed on his cock, so it should be a pretty painless tour.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Post Holiday Blues

Well, it's over. The post holiday blues can now commence. Here in our spot on the planet we have a four month slog through the grey frozen tundra until even the possibility of brighter days. It's at this point in the year (for every year since 1986) that I wonder why I'm not wearing my throwback powder blue Chargers jersey, Green Flash IPA in hand, screaming "SHOW ME YOUR THUNDERBOLT!" at some beachfront bar in the greater San Diego area. But like a stubborn head cold, I hang on here in America's bleakest little corner.

I woke up this morning with a pale blueish glow of what passes for morning, and the sound of the wind rattling the brittle trees around the back yard. It would have been refreshing to turn on one of the local pathetic weekend newscasts and hear "It's going to be testicle shattering cold and windy as fuck out there", but I think there was mention of it being "brisk". The plus side of grim weather is I do stay inside, build a fire, and power through a mind boggling amount of books and CDs. While listening to Lou Reed's wildly underrated "New Sensations", I laughed my way through "To Hellholes and Back" by Chuck Thompson. Chuck is a different kind of travel writer that has the kind of burning cynicism and irritated attitude I hone right in on. This book is about his trips to four of the biggest Hellholes on the planet, those being the Congo, India, Mexico City and Disney World. His plan is to see if these black sheep destinations live up to their negative media hype, and see what's actually going on in the Heart of Darkness if you will. I like the fact he reports back with warts and all true stories, and injects his opinions all over the place. If you liked my Tour Diary stuff, this is right up your alley. I think it's $15 on Amazon.

The four CD "The Band: A Musical History" is one of the best career retrospectives I have ever seen. Housed in a well written hard cover book giving you the basic context of the music inside, this collection caused me to re-address my opinion of The Band as "overrated hippies that had two good CDs" in the 60s. This is a really impressive batch of songs in both performance and writing. True, some of the post 1968 stuff has that overblown 70s production fat on it, but great songs still shine through. If you are into the Drive By Truckers, you should probably know this catalogue front and back as a real point of comparison for what is possible in that songwriting vein.

As I absorbed all that, I read Phillip Roth's "Everyman". Need a big dose of regret, loss, and mortality? Here's your book. It's a quick read that is still a "serious" novel. This would be a good book to read while listening to Lou Reed's "Magic and Loss" for a real wrist slashing good time. To counter that, I knocked out Jim Harrison's "The Summer He Didn't Die", a collection of three short novellas (or long short stories?). "The Summer He Didn't Die" was easily my favorite of the three stories. Harrison writes great stories about main characters that are probably considered "losers" by most of society, but always manage to gain little victories as they continue to get ground down by modern life. Also a well known gourmand (or maybe it's more accurate to say he really likes to eat and drink), Harrison's writing always leave me hungry and eager for good wine. It seems like every 5 pages or so, he writes in a mouth watering description of some meal or another, and the wines they're drinking. That led me to the cellar to get at some good bottles.

The 1997 Silver Oak Alexander Valley is drinking very well right now. The familiar vanilla and coconut nose and silky currant body are all there in spades. The 1986 Ch Palmer didn't have as much backbone as I was expecting, but the fruit was still there. Earthy with an undercurrent of cedar, it tasted like it was supposed to... The 2007 Sinister Hand by Owen Roe was a little top heavy on the fruit, and left me wishing I had ordered a Spanish or Southern French grenache instead. Ultimately I abandoned it for some nondescript Argentine cab I liked better. Maybe it was my mood, but this seemed overpriced.

It's going to be another long cold winter, but at least we head into this one without the fear of the economic sky falling. Like the groundhog, I will stay here in my bunker, ready to emerge when Spring has arrived. But unlike that horrible disease infested rodent, I have to good sense to stock pile good wine, and enough to read. If I get a few winners this weekend, maybe I'll even buy that Doug Sahm box set too...

Alert: If you read this on Saturday Jan 2nd, you should probably take some $$$ and put it on Valpo against Wisconsin-Green Bay today. I don't know what Rahmon Fletcher looks like, but I do know he's WGB's leading scorer, and he just twisted his knee and re aggravated an MCL injury. All the pregame talk is on Fletcher trying to get ready for the all important Butler game. With Fletcher out, now Wisc-Green Bay has to run a couple freshman out there, and it doesn't sound like the kids are "ready". Also toss into the mix that the home team traditionally wins this game, and I love Valpo with the 9 points.