Friday, July 29, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate Bret Favre

As all the NFL franchises scurry around like roaches exposed to houselights trying to sign players, I have but one thought as I listen to all the analysis and speculation. Will there be one August in my lifetime when I won’t hear pundits discuss the likelihood and potential teams interested in Bret Favre’s Triumphant Return? It seems impossible doesn’t it? Every time this year we hear about drought, the price of gasoline, Back-To-School sales, and how Team X may want to make a run at Bret Favre to possibly take them “over the top” in the upcoming NFL season.

Sure, there is a track record of Favre hanging out at his ranch driving around on his tractor (or whatever the fuck he does all Summer), and then slyly ducking training camp to sign at the last minute. He then arrives in prime time to bask in the glow of the media lights as ESPN anchors ejaculate on the red carpet as His Highness strides confidently past. He certainly is more compelling a story than where Kyle Orton is going to land, this I grant you. However, haven’t we all finally had enough?

I seem to recall Bret Favre looking every day of his 41 years last year. When he was healthy, he still looked damn good. Of course, he was healthy for about 23 minutes. I don’t know too many 41 year old dudes that could bounce back from having three 385 pound monsters that run 4.7 40 yard dashes crash into them. The problem with playing QB in the NFL isn’t the flak you catch for sending pictures of your ween to young female interns. The problem is you don’t heal like you did when you were 23 and some animal snaps your shoulder. Steroids work pretty great, but not that great. If they did, our pal Joe Montana would still be slinging it for the Chiefs instead of selling borderline orthopedic shoes like Shape-Ups.

I think we can all finally agree that even if Favre wants to make a Lazurus like return to the NFL, the expiration date is (finally) past. The question remains, when will ESPN realize it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Nautica Stage

Tuesday night I went to Nautica Pavilion and saw The Decemberists play for what could be their last time in the area, and certainly the last time they will play Nautica. As Cleveland continues its quest for the winning cosmetic makeover to trick tourists into the city for gambling, the venue will vanish to make space for an aquarium. Why an aquarium? Ya gotta have something for the kids to do while Dad is losing the mortgage payment on a Hard Eight at the craps table! "Daddy look! A stingray! Hey, why is Mommy crying?"

The venue is a great place to see someone, with the stage backing up to the Cuyahoga River. It maintains an intimate feel for the performance space, but holds a good crowd while doing so. As night fell on the city and the Decemberists played “The Mariner’s Revenge”, a giant iron ore ship went by as if on cue. Those boats are so big, it’s like a giant building is floating by seemingly only an extended reach away. What a great prop for that song. The band will remember that forever I’ll bet. A couple quick notes on the show: 1) The band is really good, but I wish they sang more songs about whaling. You could always use more whale songs. 2) There were a lot of bookish dudes with beards there. The concert would have been a bad place to score narcotics, but probably a great place to score a used copy of a David Foster Wallace novel.

I’m moderately sad to see the venue go. While in The Cowslingers, I played that stage a few times. The most noteworthy was when we opened for the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Setzer is, of course, the founder and lead guitarist of the Stray Cats. If you made a flow chart of living rockabilly musicians, Setzer is probably comfortably placed at the top. Note, I said “living”, so you tattoo pompadour guys don’t type me death threats about disrespecting Johnny Cash/Eddie Cochran/Gene Vincent.

We were really pumped to play that show as not only was Setzer one of Bobby Latina’s guitar idols, it was not everyday we had the opportunity to do our thing in front of 3500-4000 or so people. We would get to play a 35 minute set. Not a long time as at the time we were playing about 125 shows a year averaging 90 minutes per show. We were crisp as only a road tested band can be. I remember going to sleep that night with a combination of nervousness about playing in front of the biggest crowd we had ever played to, and the excitement of knowing we were prepared and could knock it out of the park. Sure we were nowhere close to the league of musicianship of Setzer's band, but we did have our moments. Self delusion can be a powerful tool.

I woke up about three hours later and threw up. I threw up again about 30 minutes later. And again. And again. It wasn’t nerves. It was the stomach flu or food poisoning.

Every thirty minutes for the next 12 hours I violently threw up. When I was empty, I threw up bile and had the dry heaves. I couldn’t hold down water. Instead of getting ready for a really big day, I laid in bed feeling absolutely horrible as the clock ticked towards showtime. I was as sick as I had ever been, and show time was in five hours. I dragged myself in the shower, and shampooed my hair as I dry heaved. It was grim. I made the decision of eating a few crackers to build some kind of base. You know when right after you’ve thrown up, you feel pretty good? It’s that illusionary oasis of “well, now that the poison has been expelled from my body, I’ll continue on with my life”. I figured it was my only chance. I was weak and dehydrated, hoping anything would work.

I drove down I-90 to go to Ken’s house and the band van, and I pulled over about ten minutes into the ride. If you wondered who that guy was in the cowboy shirt barfing up crackers from the driver’s side door on I-90 on that hot July day was, it was me. I then pulled into a church parking lot at Ken’s exit ten minutes later, and barfed again in their parking lot. It was about 85 degrees. I was freezing cold with sweat streaming down my face. It was also about three hours until show time.

I finally got to the van, crawled into the bench seat with a plastic bag, and hoped I wouldn’t throw up again on the 20 minute drive to the venue. Leo and Ken didn’t seem too concerned as we bumped and swayed down the local roads to Nautica’s artist entrance. I was sort of moaning and curled into a fetal position. Death would have been preferable to that hot summer van ride.

The main difference between playing Nautica and playing a clubs we were used to like The Continental in New York is that at Nautica there is a whole crew of grizzled professional guys grabbing all of your gear and putting it where it needs to go. At The Continental there were grizzled guys that looked at you with disinterest and/or scorn when you asked where you put your stuff. We felt like real Big Boys having jaded disinterested dudes carry our shitty equipment to the stage, I'll tell you that. We had arrived. Welcome to the top Kid. I didn’t have to really do anything but crawl out of the van and slither on top of a picnic table backstage and hope I died.

About 15 minutes later, Brian Setzer walked by and looked at me like I was a heroin addict. I was splayed out on top of the picnic table, looking bleak. I looked at him with my heavy lids and groaned out a greeting. He looked at me, and said hello with as much enthusiasm as he could fake. Hell, that was more than I would have done under the circumstances. I would have stayed as far away from me as possible for fear of catching spinal meningitis or some kind of exotic burrowing skin worm.

I unsteadily walked out into the blazing sun for sound check, and surprisingly did not vomit again. The stage was huge to us. We were used to playing tiny little stages like the Empty Glass or the Star Bar. This was another world entirely. Bobby and Ken seemed like they were set up in another zip code. As it was usually my responsibility to do interesting stupid shit on stage, I realized I was going to have to move around more than I wanted to up there. To be honest, walking up the metal staircase to the stage was more movement than I wanted to do at that point. I wasn’t in any shape to do David Lee Roth karate kicks.

I managed to sip on a bottle of water before it was showtime. I was still really quesy, and my fear was I would throw up in front of thousands of people in a few minutes. Even if I stopped the show and explained, "I know many of you think I am freaking out due to stage fright, let me assure you that I have the stomach flu. Maybe it's food poisoning. That's not important. What is important is to not leave your seats while we mop up this bile. Sit back and get ready for some rock and roll. Thank you. Um, is that area mopped up yet?" Even if you play that scenario out in your head to "best possible outcome", it's not really something you are hoping comes to fruition.

At 8 sharp, I walked out there into the setting sun with the rest of the band. I hardly remember the show itself at all. Bobby and Ken were like statues to either side of me. I tried to move around a little bit, but when I did I felt really shaky. Towards the very end, I remember some people seemed to like us. Most of them stared at us with a "when do we get to see the famous guy we bought a ticket for" look of boredom. It all happened really fast. Afterwards Brian Setzer was nice enough to seek us out and say how much he liked it. He was probably in his trailer and didn't see a note, but even to make the effort to give us the lip service was great. He didn't have to do that, and I really appreciated the gesture. I remember Bobby and I looking at each other after he left and saying "We just talked to Brian Setzer. Like normal guys. No way." Considering we had been playing music for about four or five years, and had absolutely no idea what we were doing, it was pretty awesome. We were excited just to be there. For God's sake, I used to watch his videos on MTV when I was in high school. You don't get to hang out with people like that. At that point, Brian Setzer wasn't real. He was more like a concept. It was like if Bugs Bunny or Marcia Brady stopped by to say hello.

We hung out backstage for awhile, and then I started to feel almost normal. We waited until the end of the show, put the gear in the van, and went home. Nautica was different to me after that night.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Heatwave

It’s hot.

The best part of having severe weather like this recent heat wave is the local news coverage. However, unlike massive snowfalls, there really aren’t a lot of visuals you can throw up on the old TV screen. When you’ve shown one hillbilly family waving fans in their face in front of their bleak rental house, you’ve kind of seen it all. How many times can you look at some sweaty dope walking around a local festival saying such compelling things as “It’s really hot!”. It’s tough to make good TV out of, that’s for sure. To me it gets most exciting not on the first couple days of a heat wave, but on day three or so. Day one is a breathless recounting of stats. High temperatures. Heat indexes. Advisories. When you get to day three, the news department can’t just rehash the same old crap. They have to dig deep and try to get your attention with another angle on this heat thing.

An old tried and true one is the “cook the food item on pavement” gag. “It’s already 89 degrees out there, and Jim is going to place that egg on the car hood and see if it will actually cook!” It should be noted, they should probably do a dry run on this prior to airtime to make sure it actually does cook. Viewers will not be too excited by an egg slowly running off a car hood. A savvy news organization will show a shot of the reporter holding an egg, and then deftly cut to a close up of an egg frying in a pan, implying that it is so outside that you would fry up like a piece of bacon if you slipped onto the pavement. Why let reality get in the way of a good visual, you know?

One of the other keys is to appeal to safety by implying that not only is it hot, it’s somehow very dangerous for children. “With record breaking temperatures all over the viewing area, the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning. Is YOUR FAMILY at risk? Join us at six.” I don’t ever recall losing kids in my class to a heat wave when I was but a wee lad, and I doubt anyone else watching has either. However, parents are more overprotective than ever. They sure don’t want to be the ones at the bus stop on the first day of school one kid short. “Oh, no we only have two kids now. We lost Johnny on that heat wave. If only I had known about that heat warning, I never would have let him leave the air conditioned cocoon of our home. I can only blame myself.” (collapse into uncontrollable sobbing)

If the heat wave continues, the story angles get more and more suspect. Day 3. “With temperatures breaking records all over the North Coast, it’s the dog days of summer. Tune in at six to see how to best keep man’s best friend cool.” Day 4. “As this heat wave continues to roast the region, the National Weather Service has issued an ozone warning. Are you safe outside? Is your family safe? Join us at six for an exclusive report.” Day 5. “Record breaking temps have made Lake Erie a sea of lava. Will life continue? What does it mean for YOUR weekend? At six.” Day 6. “Tragedy strikes a local family as their six year old child dies from dehydration. At six, we’ll talk with local parents that want to extinguish the sun.”

Right now, we’re still in the “Beat the Heat” phase. That’s when all over town you see crap like, “Coming up, five ways the people of NE Ohio are beating the heat”. This usually turns out to be 1) staying in air conditioning 2) sitting in front of a fan 3) going for a swim 4) staying in the shade and 5) drinking cool liquids. Seriously, it’s like the newscasts are put together with the assumption that the viewers are all slightly more intelligent than your average sea mollusk. “Wait a minute! Honey, are you watching this? That fella on The News says we can cool off if we turn on the air conditioning and maybe whip up some lemonade!”

Eh, what are you going to do? Just like those morons you’ll run into today that will hit you with some “wacky” line like “Hey, hot enough out there for you?”, it’s all anyone wants to talk about. The problem is, there’s just not that much to say.

It’s hot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nurse the Hate: The Jim Thome Question

This is Jim Thome's rookie card in 1994. Above that is Jim Thome in 1997.

Six hundred home runs is a magical number. Here’s who has hit 600 Home Runs legitimately. Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and allegedly Ken Griffey Jr. These are legendary players that literally set the standard in the game of baseball. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Alex Rodriguez all passed 600 home runs while juiced up out of their minds. Those guys would all have put up big stats on their own, but when they passed landmark numbers, baseball purists all gathered to put the dark clouds of suspicion around them. This makes what is going on regarding Jim Thome even more curious to me.

Jim Thome is now four home runs short of 600. I have not heard one word about how this guy went from a kinda stocky OK third baseman to a giant plow horse of a man in 26 minutes. Thome hit 25 home runs on the 1995 Indians World Series team as a starting third baseman. That’s really good output from your third baseman. A couple years later, a much larger Thome hit 40 home runs. Not a little bigger. Much, much larger. It’s easy to explain really. From 18-26 he probably didn’t know that working out would help him as a professional athlete. He probably hit the weights for the first time when he turned 26 and threw 40 pounds of muscle on. Maybe he changed his diet up and ate more protein. In fact, I was thinking about doing the same thing this summer.

The really interesting thing is when Thome was 30 through 35, he had his biggest home run outputs in his career hitting around 50 home runs annually. Huh? How did that happen? It's not like in the past 80 years prior to steroids, guys got a lot better when they turned 30. Hell, I sure didn't. So Thome had a bad back, didn’t re-sign with the Indians and promptly hit 255 more home runs. Good diet, exercise, and lots of stretching I’ll bet! Maybe mix in a little yoga. That statistical trend of numbers jumping at age 30 is exactly like Barry Bonds at pretty much the same time. The difference? Barry Bonds is a giant A-hole that hit 70 home runs while Thome "quietly" hit 50. Everyone hated Bonds too. If you made a poll of disliked people, I bet Bonds finishes ahead of people like Stalin, The OctoMom, Paris Hilton, and probably even that poor little innocent Casey Anthony girl that clearly didn’t have anything to do with her kid’s death.

Thome is almost universally regarded as a really great guy. Everybody loves him, especially the media. He’s polite, makes himself available for interviews, and has that “aw-shucks” Midwestern Roy Hobbs thing that baseball writers love. "Oh, that Jim Thome is good for the game of baseball!" He does always say the right thing, doesn't he? You can't find anyone bringing up the fact that Thome must have been taking Gorilla Adrenalin, Mexican Power Juice, HGH, and every kind of cream/clear/ointment available. I would think he's still got some magic powder working. Still, isn’t there one baseball writer out there willing to look into it? Shit, they tore Mark McGwire down and everyone loved watching him launch 500 foot bombs too.

When Thome gets to 600 and ESPN makes those "gosh darn ain't he a good ole boy" montages, remember these two pictures. If you rip down Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmero, etc, you better get after Thome too. He ain't no Roy Hobbs.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nurse the Hate: The Evan Johns Story

This morning while driving, my iPod shuffled onto Evan Johns and the H-Bombs “Vacationtime” from the "Rolling Through The Night" record. This is a killer record I will always associate with a particular time and place. I spent the summer of 1987 living in the attic of a ramshackle rental house in Kent OH. I was subleasing my room from four guys that I can barely remember. I called one guy The Big Kahuna, and one guy was a really fucking hairy Greek guy ironically named “Harry”. We didn’t really talk to each other much, but we were cordial enough I suppose.

That summer was insanely hot, and living in the attic was not exactly the most desirable location. It was literally like a sauna up there. I had two fans attempting to move the air around, but nothing really cooled it off. When folks reference the air being so thick you can cut it, they must have been in that attic on a day in July. The house did have the benefit of being located within walking distance to all of our regular bars, and with that all of my deadbeat buddies that were spending their summer at their cushy family homes would come down on weekends.

The usual routine would be that these guys would start to filter into Kent around 7pm or so on Friday. We would hang out and “pregame” at our house, and get into various misadventures in the dingy campus bars in and around Kent afterwards. One of my friends liked to come down a little early so he could visit my neighbor. We’ll call her “Sue”. Now, when I say “visit” I mean have brisk sexual intercourse with Sue prior to knocking back 500 beers with his friends. Sue was a nice enough gal with shall we say “liberated” views on sexual congress. With the exception of myself, I believe every single person in my social orbit had engaged in some sort of depraved act with her in the previous 12 months. Some would call her a Bad Girl. My friends called her a Fun Girl.

One particular Friday my buddy came down around an hour earlier than everyone else. He slunk off to the neighbor’s house for his Friday business, but discovered Sue’s roommate home and not going anywhere. He was effectively jammed up. When faced with adversity, this guy did what he needed to though. He convinced Sue to come over to my place, where he figured he could find an area private enough to get to work. Now I have no idea any of this is going on when I emerge from the shower, and walk into my room with a towel wrapped around my waist. I was a little surprised to see my friend and Sue in my bed under the sheets rolling around, but no big deal, I’d get all gussied up for my night out around them. My buddy wanted me to split for awhile, but I maintained a position that if he could just wait for about 10 minutes, I would be out of there and he could soil my bed. (I’m a pretty good dude to live with.) I put Evan Johns on the turntable, and started my routine.

I attempted to dry my hair, and the action on the bed started to escalate. Sue started to moan as my buddy was fingering her under the sheet, her enormous breast exposed. “Hey man, I’m not leaving until I’m done.” His response was quick. “Well, I’m not stopping either.” Fine. I’ll play this little game of chicken. I looked around for my cleanest dirty shirt. There was more thrashing around on the bed. My friend mounted Sue from behind and started pounding her. Sue’s eyes were closed, and mouth open in a low moan as her enormous breasts swung back and forth. My buddy was now staring down at her as the slap slap slap of their skin tried to drown out an extremely badass Evan John guitar solo.

“Hey! You up there?” From the bottom of the staircase came the voice of the little brother of one of my other roommates. He was about 18, and started coming down to Kent without his older brother once he got a taste of what was going on at our shitty little house. He was a nice kid that was quiet and wasn’t much trouble. He hadn’t been around too much, but he was a quick study. We didn’t mind him hanging around, so he became a regular fixture that summer. “You up there?” I looked at the scene around me. It was literally a live sex show. OK. You want to fuck Sue right now? You think you are winning? Fine. Let's up the ante. I yelled down to Tim. “Yeah Tim. C’mon up.”

When Tim walked into the room, it took a second for his brain to process what was going on. I was standing in front of a mirror without a shirt. Meanwhile my other buddy was fucking Sue doggy style with great enthusiasm. Sue was clenching her eyes closed and breathing in fast little gasps, not noticing or caring Tim had walked in. “Hey Tim. What’s up?” My buddy lifted his head up, noticed Tim and said, “Hey man! What’s up?” Tim stood there for a moment, turned around without a word, and walked back down the stairs. It was more than his young head could process. Evan Johns blasted out of the speakers.

I played a show with Evan Johns in Austin Texas years later as a member of The Cowslingers. I told him the story, and how I always thought about it when I heard that “Rolling Through The Night” record. He threw his head back with a throaty laugh and said, “Har Har Har! That’s what vacationtime is all about!”.

Damn, that’s a good record.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate UPS

I was recently sent a notice from my good friends at UPS that they were sending me a shipment from a merchant I had wisely chosen to do business with, and no it was not the Milwaukee Brewers. Scrolling down to the bottom of the notice I found a peculiar legal attachment. "© 2010 United Parcel Service of America, Inc. UPS, the UPS brandmark, and the color brown are trademarks of United Parcel Service of America, Inc. All rights reserved."

Seriously? You can trademark the color brown? Can I go out and trademark "triangle"? "I'm sorry Sir, but I am going to have to hit you with a cease and desist. I appreciate the fact that you seem to be enjoying that slice of pizza, but from now on that food item will have to be cut exclusively into squares. Oh, and if you will please note this eviction notice, I am afraid that I am going to have to insist that we demolish your A-frame house. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I have trademarked the word and very idea of the triangle."

It doesn't seem possible that you can claim the rights to "brown", does it? Wouldn't that infer that you created the color? Perhaps those black and white film clips you see from the 1920s where people are moving rapidly in herky-jerk fashion are actually accurate. Maybe it wasn't until just recently that brown was invented by those folks over at UPS. I think I remember having a brown crayon when I was a kid, but it just might be that the mists of time have clouded my memories.

If brown did exist prior to UPS working their legal magic, wouldn't it also mean that someone would have had the rights prior to this? "In a major sponsorship deal, UPS has announced that it has purchased the color brown from General Electric for $200 billion dollars. A clearly excited UPS CEO Scott Davis said, "We look forward to generating billions of dollars in future revenue anytime anyone utters the word "brown" or attempts to describe any of our shipping materials in our trademarked terminology. This acquisition really made sense for the UPS brand." Many investors believe this is only the beginning for UPS, as they speculate the shipping giant may also make a play for The Sun and the idea of the Wheel."

I am now mortified about even uttering "brown" in my home for fear of litigation from the United Parcel Service of America. My "brown dress shoes" have become my "mahogany dress shoes". My brown belt is now my "sandalwood belt". I have a pair of boots which are now known only as "The Boots That Shall Not Be Named". I am not taking any chances here. These people must have deep pockets and an army of lawyers that would like nothing better to sue me into submission. It's UPS. They probably have a goon squad of short muscular men in homoerotic oddly short brown shorts and work boots that are just looking for an excuse to bust down my "dark tan" front door and pummel me with billy clubs.

I don't know what Brown can do for me. I am afraid to even ask.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Brewers Part 3

From: Greg Miller
Date: Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 10:33 AM
Subject: Fwd: Free US Ground Shipping over $49


I don't know what kind of sick little game you and the Milwaukee Brewers are playing with me. I tell you again and again that I don't want to buy a Casey McGehee jersey, but yet you continue to shove this gear down my throat. The issue isn't shipping costs. My pockets are mighty deep my friend. The issue is that I think Casey McGehee looks more than a little like that guy that played "Corky" on Life Goes On. Remember that show? What is that actor's name? Chris Burke maybe? Regardless, I am not going to spend $49 to get your gear undoubetdly made in Chinese slave labor camps at astronomical profit margins. For God's sake, have you people no shame? You built a retractable dome on your stadium while the rest of the City of Milwaukee slowly crumbles into dust. Ye Gods man!

Let me also note I am not interested in your $34.99 Tony Gwynn Jr. signed 8X10 photo. Have you people no shame? Hasn't that guy already failed to live up to expectations on the Dodgers, yet you still shill what must be an entire storage unit full of signed photos while he still wore Brewers gear? I'll tell you what. You give me $50, and I'll dump those quietly in the river under the cover of darkness next time I'm in Milwaukee. I'll weight them down too so the organization won't get any PR backlash just in case dozens of Tony Gwynn Jr. photos are spotted floating by the Bronze Fonz statue. Nobody needs to see shaggy Greenpeace operatives in inflatable rafts pulling Tony Gwynn Jr. photos out of duck's beaks...

I will admit that I admire the Brewers single handed determination to sell me crap I don't need or want. You guys are like friggin pitbulls. You are unthinking unfeeling sales machines. You people are the Great White Sharks of MLB marketing. You have but a single purpose to which you have dedicated your lives: Sell Greg Miller second rate Brewers clothing and bobbleheads. You are a much more worthy adversary than I bargained for, however, the madness must stop. Don't make me put Rickie Weeks, Doug Melvin, Jim Bathey, Robin Yount and maybe even Bob Uecker on wild ass Mexican discount drug email lists. For every crappy discount Brewers offer I get, I am firing back with a flurry of Russian Mail Order Bride emails.

Clearly, we have reached the Doomsday Scenario we both feared...

I remain,

Greg Miller

P.S. That "Cerveceros" jersey is kinda nice. That kills me to write that too.

P.P.S. Giants baby! Giants!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Brewers 2

Never doubt the power of a simple mailed letter friends. I will no longer be bombarded with offers to buy Rickie Weeks bobbleheads or to take 12% off a Corey Hart jersey. Those days are over. Today I bask in my triumph.

P.S. Diny?


Mr. Miller,

Per your request, you have been removed from all Milwaukee Brewers email lists. If you do receive additional emails from us in the future, feel free to reach out to me directly.

Thank you for your patience.

Diny Hurwitz

Data Analyst
Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club
Miller Park
One Brewers Way
Milwaukee, WI 53214
Phone: 414-902-4419