Friday, April 30, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Pittsburgh

I am heading to play a show in Pittsburgh tonight. Pittsburgh hasn't been an especially great town for me or any of the bands I have been in over the years. There's been some good shows here and there, but it's been hard to sustain a regular momentum there. It's hard to say why really. Sometimes a city embraces you, and sometimes they just don't. It's the way rock works at our level. You can be the biggest thing in the world in one city, and an hour away no one has ever heard of you.

Pittsburgh has some really good people. I love the 31st Street Pub and Joel. I used to like the Decade too. However, one of my favorite shows we ever played was at the old Electric Banana. The Banana rose to prominence as one of the first clubs to host punk rock shows when most punk bands were happy just to have a place to play. Johnny Banana, the owner with his wife Judy, has more great stories about his past than John Dillinger. The time he pulled a pistol and shot at the Circle Jerks comes to mind. Is it true? Probably, but does it even matter? Isn't it just great to know that there was a place and time where a crazed bar owner fired shots at Keith Morris and Co in anger?

This is from the early Cowslinger days. We rolled into the Banana on a Saturday night hoping to trick a few wayward souls into hearing us. The way it usually works is that you show up at the club by 830pm for load in. By 845p you are loaded in. Then you sit around for about 3 hours until you play. The trick is to make sure you don't drink too much beer while waiting to play to actually render you unable to play at all. This particular night we were shooting pool in the back room, and the phone started to ring. And ring. And ring. Finally Leo decided to pick up the phone and answer it to help out Judy Banana. "Hello? Oh! Yes, tonight The Cowslingers are playing and..."


Judy came at Leo at 100 mph with the scariest outburst I had ever seen from a woman. We were all freaked out, but none of us as bad as Leo who stood absolutely frozen in fear. "HANG UP THE PHONE!!!" Then in a quick movement, Leo hung up the phone to avoid what appeared to be incalculable sudden violence heading his way from Judy Banana. I don't know why she freaked out so bad, but she really didn't want Leo to answer that phone. And then poof, she was gone upstairs.

We talked about it amongst ourselves wondering if Johnny was going to shoot us for some reason, but decided that it would be OK. We played to probably 20 people, and the sound guy (who I think was Johnny and Judy's kid) broke a cement block with a karate chop on stage before we played. With 20 people at $5.00 each, we should have gotten about $100. Instead Johnny said we only had $20 but since we were such good guys he would cook us a toaster oven pizza too. That was the best part about getting stiffed at the Banana. With $20, that would mean that there were only four people in the room. It's not like we brought anybody, but twenty is clearly more than four. To be able to walk up to us and say with a straight face there were only four people is so brazen it's great. It was just considered part of the "Banana experience" to get shorted when you got paid. We asked Johnny and Judy about the Circle Jerks story, laughed about how Judy yelled at Leo, and then Johnny started waving the pistol around the room. It was great. I wish Johnny and Judy still had the Banana open.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Weekend Sports

I hate the NBA. Those players seem like the biggest shitbags on the planet to me. Their sense of entitlement is really second to none in sports. All the tough guy posturing... the "me first" attitude... the relentless marketing of the individual players instead of teams can't help the attitude either. But here's a real eye opener for those guys. "ESPN's coverage of the NFL draft outdrew the two NBA playoffs on TNT last night. An ESPN spokesman said the draft was seen in 5.4% of households in the top 56 U.S. markets. A TNT rep said the Cavaliers-Bulls game had a 2.1 rating, and the later Lakers-Thunder playoff earned a 3.0."

LeBron may have a"Chosen One" tattoo on his back, but more than twice as many people would rather watch college football prospects walk up to a podium than actually watch him play. So what do you want? Kevin Garnett posing in front of the crowd in Miami, or Mel Kiper speculating on some second tier offensive guard from Georgia Southern University? The people have spoken. Apparently Mel Kiper... Don't even get me started on how Dateline beat the NBA Playoffs in the ratings. However, when Dateline runs those "Catch a Predator" segments, I think we all agree that is much better than pro basketball. Seeing if a tall guy can hit a jump shot at the end of the game is dramatic, but not as dramatic as watching a guy explain why he has a bottle of vodka and condoms while visiting what he thinks is a 14 year old girl.

Quick aside: Can Brady Quinn ever catch a break? He handled himself with class in Cleveland while being totally jerked around by the organization. He finally escapes by being traded to Denver where he can compete with Kyle Orton to actually QB a real offensive football team. Denver promptly trades one of the best receivers in football to Miami. Then he gets totally screwed when they draft Tebow! I think that Quinn has been labeled as a "career backup" based on just a few games for the historically bad 2009 Browns offense. He'll need to get lucky and hope the guys in front of him break their spines to get back on the field. The NFL is a cruel mistress...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Sober House?

The greatest show on television right now is Sober House with Doctor Drew. I can't get enough of it. Ex-celebrities with horrible dependency issues are filmed by roving TV cameras 24 hours a day in close quarters while attempting to get their lives on track. First let's just soak in the premise... You are a famous person with a horrible drug addiction. You are now down on your luck and are out of options, or are so attention starved you figure it's better to be on TV as an addict than not on TV at all. The suggestion that this would be a healthy environment to get cured is laughable. This season they have Tom Sizemore, who punched Heidi Fleiss in the face while high a few years back, attempting to enter recovery with meth addict Heidi Fleiss pushing his buttons every ten seconds. How could that possibly work? The answer is it doesn't and that's what makes great TV!

I love Heidi Fleiss and how she looks like a torn softball. I love how Tom Sizemore is always two seconds away from leaving and getting high. I like how the two porn chicks are so damaged that maybe the substance abuse is really just the tip of the iceberg. I like how Dennis Rodman is always amused by the other patients. But my favorite is without a doubt Mike Starr, the ex-Alice in Chains bass player. I love how he walks around in his time machine "grunge rock"uniform of army shorts, t shirt, and boots. He got kicked out of Alice in Chains 18 years ago for drug use, and still can't seem to come to grips with it. With the way he dresses, it's like he's expecting a phone call to go back out on tour. In 1992. He feels sorry for himself all day long, makes excuses, and just can't seem to do anything. When you have a nightmare about a brother-in-law, this would be the guy. I can picture him living in my basement, burning holes in my couch with a cigarette, and stealing my shit for drug money. There is NO CHANCE that this guy ever gets sober, because he is a total loser that has been trotted out on TV to make us all feel better about ourselves. Thank you Doctor Drew!

Dr. Drew is positioned as a caring expert that wants to help these people get well. How could this guy exploit human beings more successfully? Does he have Chinese teenage girls handcuffed in a massage parlor basement somewhere too? Maybe he owns a sweat shop in Manila... Yet, that might be my favorite part of the show. I love the clear conflict of interest in between creating chaos for good ratings on TV and actually helping these people. But then again, who cares as the patients just want to hold onto their fading fame any way possible, even if that means laying their most horrible secrets on the table to stay in the public eye. It is the most American show on TV. Why have pride when you can be famous?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Easter Dinner

I may have told this one before, but what the hell... I think of it every year. Let me tell you about the worst Easter dinner I ever had. I was in college living in the dorms, when some friends of mine had the ill advised idea of having a "Fu-Fu Drink" night. So on the Saturday night before Easter, I sat in a tiny dorm room in Kent OH and drank daiquiris, hurricanes, tequila sunrises, and weird rum punch concoctions made in an old blender. I also remember listening to the Circle Jerks blaring over the grinding of the ice. Just a big night out for some Suburban punks. What do you want? You have to make your own fun sometimes...

The plan for Easter Sunday was for my roommate and I to go to family dinners of two girls we hung out with in our dorm. My roommate was from NY, and I had no big Easter tradition in my family, so we had stayed in Kent for the holiday weekend. The girls felt sorry for us, and must have had some tear jerking image of us picking at a cold cafeteria dinner plate of processed ham in the dining hall. They called their parents, and got the OK to bring us. On our end, my roommate and I were psyched for a legit home cooked meal. With that in mind, we probably should have not attended the "Fu-Fu Drink Party".

When I woke up Easter morning, I was ready to have myself brought to the Health Center for that complete blood transplant that Keith Richards allegedly does in Switzerland whenever he is kicking junk. I didn't feel "bad". That doesn't come close to capturing the complete nausea, skull pounding headache, and total vertigo I felt that morning. It was like having the flu with an inner ear infection that made your head spin. Yet, there I was crawling into the shower to head over to some strange family dinner in about an hour.

We dressed up as best we could, which in my case meant a shirt with a collar, some ill fitting dress pants, and pointy shoes that were most likely never in style. (This was during my "awkward stage" that has been well documented as lasting from 1973-1997 and picking up again in 1999 to the present.) My roommate even wore one of those fabric square ended ties with some dark shirt that wasn't even close to matching. Still, for us, it was an improvement over the way we usually looked. We wanted to at least present ourselves on the surface as appreciative house guests.

It was determined I would go to Laura's grandmother's house in Garfield Hts. while my roommate would go with Anne to Brecksville. The house in Garfield Hts is one of those Cleveland area bungalow houses with small family room, attached dining room, and a little kitchen that had a door to the garage. Packed into this little house was about 15 people making small talk conversation. I recall Laura's brother Robert had a hearing aide, and was a little off. "Robert doesn't get jokes, so don't worry if he doesn't react." He may have been pumped full of psych meds for all I knew. He was expressionless and sat staring at me. I attempted to make small talk and hoped I would be able to eat when the time came.

Laura's grandmother was nice, and very eager to please the surprise guest. You know the way it is when someone new enters the family dynamic. People are so excited to be able to interact with someone new instead of hearing about how Fuck-Up Cousin Dave got fired from Home Depot, or Aunt Ruth's long winded update about church bingo night. I was the main attraction at Small Talk Theater. I got to talk about my major, and where I was from 14 times to 14 different people. "I grew up in Erie PA... No, I don't know Dave Lapinski... Well, Erie is big enough that I don't personally know everyone in the town... So... do you live around here? No, I don't know where that is..."

I kept knocking back 7-Up from the 2 liter bottle in the kitchen. If anyone had been paying attention, they would have thought I had just gotten back from running a marathon. "Honey, don't you think it's strange that the poorly dressed college boy has drunk that entire 2 liter of 7-Up and hasn't gone to the bathroom even once?" I was shaky, but there began to be light at the end of the tunnel. It was then we were called to dinner.

The dinner table was a series of tables pushed together into one long table of varying heights. I was seated in the middle across from Laura, and her blank faced brother. Various plates began to be passed around, and I stuck to my game plan of simple. A piece of ham here, a piece of turkey breast there, and a little mashed potatoes would probably stay down. My stomach did a little flip-flop even looking at the ambrosia with a condensation film on the top. The key to this meal would be to stick to what I know. That was when Laura's grandmother called down from the head of the table. "Greg! You didn't get any potato salad!"

"Oh, that's OK. I don't care for potato salad."

But Grandma would not be denied. "You haven't tried my potato salad", she said while slopping two giant serving spoonfuls onto my plate. Now let's be direct here. I hate potato salad. I have always hated potato salad. It's the mayo. I just can't deal with mayo. Mayonnaise grosses me out normally, so today wasn't a real good day to experiment with Grandma's Potato Salad. My mouth started to water slightly in a Pre Barf Countdown when I stared at the pile of mayo soaked glop on my plate. Look away... Must look away...

The moment passed, and I started to eat my way around the plate. But Grandma still had not lost her focus on her Special Guest. She sat down, and a look of inspiration warmed her face. "Greg, do you want a beer? College boys like beer!" All heads at the table turned to me. Everyone else was drinking soft drinks or iced tea, and there wasn't a drop of alcohol anywhere on the table. "No ma'am. I am perfectly fine with the 7-Up. I couldn't be happier." Grandma would not be deterred though. Despite numerous cries for her to sit and eat, she got up and scurried out to the garage. I would be having a beer.

A couple minutes later, Grandma came back with the beer. It was a can of Stroh's. This was no ordinary can of Stroh's, an obscure brand that was most noted by me as the cause of giving me a case of the shits outside of a high school party years earlier. No, this particular can of Stroh's was a little dusty. And warm. Very warm. It was like she had it sitting next to the furnace before giving it to me. She placed it in front of me on the table with a dull thud. By now every single person stared right at me as if I had held the old lady up for a brew. "You satisfied now? Maybe now our patriarch can finally enjoy her holiday meal you ungrateful slob." I was going to have to drink this beer.

With every one in the family staring, I cracked the can open, and poured some of the warm beer into my mouth. Every cell of my being screamed out "What are you doing!?! No!". Somehow, it stayed down. A short while later, someone started taking pictures. I used to have a picture from that dinner with that can of Stroh's in front of me. It's shocking how sickly I look. Think "kid with rickets". Think "cave dwelling ship wreck victim". I look really bad.

I have been to many holiday dinners since, but when Easter rolls around every year, that's the dinner I remember. I still avoid potato salad, blender drinks, and of course, warm cans of Stroh's.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate Baseball 2010

It's almost Opening Day, and here in Cleveland it means the Indians have almost been mathematically eliminated. This is going to be a very bleak season for Indians fans, and makes me glad I cut bait on this woeful organization and took up with the Giants last August. I have my Giants cap on right now, and am looking forward to watching the games at 10pm EST all summer. It's a very civilized time to see a game begin. Still, isn't Spring the time of year when hope is a ray of sunshine beaming down on all teams? No, not really... After careful study of the season win totals, I have some absolute locks to help secure you a Mammoth Payday come October.

Cleveland Indians UNDER 74.5 wins: This team might bring a tear to the eye of fans that enjoyed going to the old Metropolitan Stadium with 6500 fans yelling at Felix Fermin. I think they are going to blow really, really badly. The key will be how bad the pitching staff is going to be in 2010. Jake Westbrook is the #1 starter, and is coming off surgery. Fausto Carmona hasn't been effective in two years. Boston traded Justin Masterson to the Indians because they didn't think he could start. Then there's 4 almost identical guys fighting for the last 2 spots. There is not a single person to hand the ball to and say, "Yep, that guy is going to give us 7 quality innings". That means the already shaky bullpen will be blown out by June, and a steady stream of "prospects" will be coming through to throw some innings in relief. Sports Illustrated thinks they'll win 66. I think they'll win 70 because it's almost impossible to win as few as 66. Either way, it's well below 74.5... By the time you finish reading this Travis Hafner probably hurt his shoulder again.

The Chicago White Sox UNDER 84 wins: A team that really needed to get younger and more athletic to score runs instead brought in Alex Rios, Mark Teahan, and Mark Kotsay to join the slowest base running team maybe ever. I think I could get three of my musician buddies to win a relay race against AJ Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Quentin. The other good news is they also signed on such outta gas vets as Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones. Yes Virginia, this is not a .500 baseball team. Their starting staff will keep them hanging around all year, but look for them to fade in September when all these vets start planning their off season vacations. Ask yourself, is Juan Pierre going for that extra base on Sept 23rd in a meaningless game vs the Royals, or is he going to make sure he doesn't pull a quad and put himself at risk for the Wyndham Cabo San Lucas limbo contest?

The Chicago Cubs UNDER 83.5 wins: There is a very odd belief that since the Cubs got rid of the Greatest Clubhouse Cancer of Our Generation (aka Milton Bradley), they will somehow magically rev it up again. I don't see it. Milton Bradley wasn't the problem. Well, he was a problem, but not the problem. This is a team that had a shot, and now the window is closing. Derrick Lee, Alfonso Soriano, and Aramis Ramirez are all a year older and statistically fading. They are going to run that shitty Fukudome out there in right. (But I do love to say his name, don't you?) Carlos Marmol is a potential gas can coming out to close games. I'm not sold on Carlos Zambrano being 100% either. There's the familiar scent of disappointment at Wrigley. It'll be close, but take the under.

Baltimore Orioles OVER 74 wins: I know, this sounds crazy. They have to play the Yankees and Red Sox every other day. And then when they don't play them, they have to play Tampa. The AL East is not a good place to be if your payroll isn't the GNP of France. However, hear me out... I like that they signed Kevin Millwood as a #1 starter. Is he CC Sabathia? No. But he will keep himself out there on the mound and keep you close. Jeremy Guthrie looks like a legit major league pitcher. Plus Mike Gonzalez can close. Around the horn super hyped catcher Matt Wieters will start every day, and scouts have been ejaculating over him for three years. Garrett Atkins is a legit 3rd baseman. Nick Markakis is a All Star caliber outfielder. I even like Adam Jones in center. This team would be big trouble if they were in the AL Central. Let's be realistic though. This is probably a 76 win team tops. But 76 is still over 74! What the hell, take a chance!