Monday, April 29, 2013

Nurse the Hate: The Dance Lesson

When I was in ninth grade our gym teachers had the big idea that they should teach us all how to dance.  I have no idea how this idea came to pass, or why they thought that this lacking knowledge in ballroom and square dancing was creating a void in our young lives.  Perhaps they thought a square dance would bust out somewhere in northwestern Pennsylvania, and we would be left in the lurch.  With the exception of participants in musicals and people in the Great Plains in the 1930s, has anyone ever square danced in normal life?  Have you or anyone you’ve known stood around with a bandana tied around your neck in a barn, and then did the doe-si-doe with some young chippie?  What was the purpose of this besides creating an hour a day where young people could embarrass themselves in front of their schoolmates?

These dance classes would be held in lieu of our regular gym class.  My gym class was already a horrible place to be, as it was a mixed class affair.  Because I was in ninth grade and had my schedule created randomly, I was placed in a gym class containing most of the varsity football team seniors, the juniors from the wrestling team, and one other ninth grader, a social pariah named Dennis.  I was small for my age and horribly shy.  I really didn’t have much going for me socially.  OK, I didn't have much going for me period.  I was a mess.  I spent an hour each day overwhelmed in a group of powerful strange men I had to play sports against.  I was a hundred pounds, and some of these guys had full beards.  It was Darwinism at its finest.  This gym class was like a prison yard, and I would have been better off sticking a shiv in one of the big football players to gain respect.  God knows my track and volleyball skills weren't getting it done.  My attempts to be a normal person had also gained me nothing in the way of social status, and I was essentially invisible.  I was just doing my time trying to make it to 10th grade.

The girl’s gym class was made up of all the varsity cheerleaders and their minions at the “hot girl lunch table”.  No one is more vicious than a high school girl, and these were the ones that had scratched and clawed their way to the top of the social totem pole.  Now in their senior year, they enjoyed this final victory lap as Queens of the School.  They were like women for God’s sake, and had actual breasts and hips and asses.  They were as aware of my existence as much as they were the janitors and bus drivers.  We were all just extras in the dramas of their much more exciting lives, people there to provide backdrop as they did fabulous things. I’m not really sure what these girls did, but it seemed to be much cooler and grown up than what I was involved in.  These would be my potential dance partners.  This was a bad match.  These were not “my people”.

I was concerned about how the logistics of this thing would play out.  If we were assigned partners randomly, this could be a big win for me.  Quiet unassuming young freshman dances with head cheerleader and wins her admiration?  OK… I could get behind that.  Granted I had a hard time picturing how I would go from point A to B in that scenario, but it happened in movies all the time, so why couldn’t that play out in the gymnasium of Fairview High School?  Maybe I had an untapped natural ability that would assert itself when the time came…  “Greg, I never knew you existed, but now after dancing with you I would like you to rub your hands over my nubile body while I later tell the older guys how cool you are!  You take my breath away!”  That would be good.

Unfortunately what happened can be only described as “The Doomsday Scenario”.  Why gym teachers love to divide up the class by having captains “pick” the sides, I’ll never know.  How could they be so far removed from being 14 and knowing the horror of being essentially ranked by your peers in front of your peers?  The first day the girls picked the boys.  So here I am, a 14-year-old freshman that is firmly ensconced in “an awkward stage” that lasted well until my mid-thirties.  I then stand in a line while the girls in alphabetical order take their pick of the males standing across from them.  There is no better way to have your social standing with the opposite sex cemented firmly on your psyche than to enjoy that experience.  The popular older girls picked the popular older boys, with most of the choices having been decided well ahead of the actual event.  The game was rigged.  Notes must have flown around in Algebra III in an earlier period that locked up all the top football and wrestling team guys.  As the boys were slowly picked around me, I quickly did the numbers and ran potential scenarios around my head.  I was fairly certain I had more juice than Dennis the Pariah, and there was a sophomore that rarely showered and smelled like a diaper.  I figured I had them both beat.  That would set me up with either the Indian exchange student that somehow already looked like a fifty year old banged up housewife, or the really big girl with the greasy hair that looked like a city bus driver.  I was wrong.  Dennis went before me.  That hurt.  The diaper-smelling guy went last.  I went with the Indian exchange student; both of us embarrassed at being even near the other.

I don’t really remember the class itself.  There is a memory of a cloud of shame.  Late at night, when the winds are blowing in from the lake just right, that cloud of shame can still be seen hanging over Fairview High School.  I don’t recall learning the fox trot however.  I do remember the poor Indian girl looking at me with a “what the hell are you doing” look in her eyes.  It was a disaster.  By the time lunch rolled around word of my public humiliation had spread like wild fire around the freshman class. The inevitable "I hear you have a new girlfriend" gags were bad, but the imitations of my poor dancing had already created quite a buzz.  Of course, I didn’t really even think about the fact that the poor Indian girl was probably taking a razzing for being stuck with me.  That would have been way too much to get my head wrapped around for sure.  “Wait!  I’m the Bobo partner?  It’s me?  I’m the loser.  Oh fuck!  I am the loser…  Oh no…”  In another gym class I would have blended into the herd.  Not this one.  

The next day the gym teachers threw in a twist.  The guys would choose the girls.  Now on the surface this sounds better.  In theory, I could go strut over and take one of the women from the Hot Girl Lunch Table.  This was only an illusion of course.  The price to be paid for taking the starting middle linebackers girlfriend would be severe.  To even be seen considering one of those girls would have guaranteed a kickball to the face at 90 mph in an upcoming battle ball game.  Plus, think about the public humiliation for walking over to one of these girls and then having them turn to the gym teacher and saying, “No fucking way!  No way!”.  There would be no coming back from that one.  You would be known as "Gym Class No Fucking Way Dance Partner Guy" forever.  This situation was a real sticky wicket.  It had to be handled delicately.  Each girl's social standing had to be considered.  Who was she linked to on the boy's side?  What side deals had been arranged in an upper level science class periods earlier that I wasn't privy to?  What was my play?

I looked over the group and tried to figure out how I could trade up somehow, but not overshoot my social standing.  I figured I needed to stay in my class, or maybe go one year up tops.  If this were a car deal, it would be like getting out of my Ford Focus and getting a Taurus.  You don’t trade in a Focus and hop into a Porsche 911 Targa.  That would be just plain crazy.  Get a car payment you can afford Miller.  Make a good choice… 

I tried to nonchalantly saunter over and pick my target, as if I had given it no thought.  “Oh, that’s right I was walking over here for something.  What was it?  Oh yes.  A dance partner.  Hmm…  I suppose you will do.  Since I am standing nearby, I will select you though I don’t find you that interesting.  Though I could have selected anyone, the wheels of fate have spun me in your direction.  The whole thing is such a small trivial matter, I have given it but barely a thought.  Now let us dance!”

What everyone else probably saw was that I walked over slowly with obvious anxiety.  We picked one by one with the entire class of boys and girls watching each selection.  Honestly, could they have designed this thing to create any more anxiety in a 14 year old?  I walked over feeling the eyes of the entire class on me.  All of the girls probably had the thought of “not me not me not me not me” running in their heads like a mantra.  I made my choice.  When the others realized they had dodged the bullet, the line of girls audibly exhaled and got back to hoping that the starting QB or School President would somehow choose them.  I then stumbled around with this “lucky” lady to pre-recorded music played on a horrible turntable, and we made an agreement with each other to choose one another in the future and avoid the horrible potential pitfalls of future selections.  I don’t remember who that girl was, but I will always have a special place in my heart for her act of kindness, even if it was motivated by her desire to cut her own losses in this horrifying social experiment.

I did not retain any dance steps from this experience.  I do not know how to square dance, and I do not understand why anyone would do that for fun.  Sure, maybe if it was 1847 and your entertainment options were limited to hanging some criminal in the town square or galavanting around to fiddle tunes, I can see why there was some appeal.  In a bleak high school gym in the 80s?  The whole thing was crazy.  Let this stand as a warning to any woman that ever wants to dance with me in the future.  I have received no effective training in this area.  I have only memories.  Terrible, terrible memories...  


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Prostitution Sting

A couple days ago a Cleveland Browns player was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. He was a recently signed free agent, and I think we can all agree there is nothing a new employer likes more than seeing their people in the newspaper tied to words like "prostitution" and "anal".  It makes everyone at the team happy they gave this guy millions of dollars I'm sure. "Hey, did you hear Quentin got arrested for soliciting a prostitute?  He's on the phone right now and wants to swing by to get his signing bonus check.  Oh that rascal!"  These things happen.  There were two items that really caught my eye in this story though.

1.  The perp agreed on the phone for a price of $100 for an hour of sex with the woman.  He then negotiated another $20 upcharge for anal. I am assuming this means he would be the one inserting into the anus and not being inserted into with some sort of rubber projectile from the woman in question. With this leap of faith, let us assume that it costs an extra $20 American to put your penis into a stranger's ass and rub it around until "completion". Is this not much less money than you would assume you would need to pay for this type of service? I had no idea.  I had a turkey sandwich and a cup of soup for lunch that cost me $20 by the time I tipped out. You are telling me I could have put my penis in a strange woman's ass and ejaculated for the same price?  Why, it simply astounds what you can get for $20 nowadays!

Now let us flip the roles... I realize working at places like Home Depot or Applebees sucks. Still, wouldn't you rather work stocking light bulbs on aisle six for two hours instead of having a professional football player's penis rammed in your ass? It's a no brainier for me, but clearly others don't see it that way.  Who wants to wear that Home Depot smock for instance?  It's a quandary.  Having a strange man do horrible things to you for an hour for $120 is not a good career path, but I suppose that if you endured it three hours a day for five days a week, you net a nice ninety grand a year with two weeks of vacation.   Hmmm... That's not a bad gig as long as you can handle the crying in the shower as you scrub yourself with a wire brush after your "shift".

2.  The fact that it is illegal for two consenting adults to reach a financial agreement for sex is odd. You can meet a stranger and both decide to do horribly decadent things to one another.  If one of you slips the other a twenty, you are going to jail.  You can pay $75 an hour for someone to rub any part of your body but your sex organs and it's considered "massotherapy".  That hand moves two inches in the wrong direction?  Now you've got cops all over the place and your picture in the paper with the word "degenerate" as the headline.  I read in the arrest report that a dozen cops were involved in this sting operation. Does it really make sense to put that much effort into stopping people who are paying other people to make them feel good physically? As long as no one is underage or chained to a radiator, it seems like a misuse of police resources.  The police put out a classified ad and then arrested people that responded to the ad. That's a rough break for a guy that just moved to town and wants to put his dick in someone's ass. Here you are, new in town, and your picture is in the paper with your predilection for anal sex well known all because you responded to the wrong ad.  Clearly he should have gone to a dance club and blindly asked potential partners if there was a possible free scenario in which he could move it around in their anus as opposed to responding to an advertisement which asked directly "Would you like to pay money to put it in a stranger's body and move it around?".  It's counter intuitive isn't it?  Maybe now that The Ladies know what he's into he will attract the specialty crowd he is seeking.  I hope so.  Responding to an online ad seems so sad. 

Prostitution should be legal and regulated.  All of Western Europe has it, and I don't see their society falling apart.  I saw all kinds of gentlemen ducking out of brothel doorways looking sheepish when I was there last.  Why can't guys in Ohio be looking sheepish too?  If someone wants to pay for a service they aren't receiving, shouldn't the free market provide it?  I'll tell you this, I'll bet if it is legal and regulated these poor women that found themselves in these jobs won't have to charge only $20 to allow a big wiener in their ass.  Who am I kidding?  Anal will be $50 more, but taxes will take $25 of it and then "The House" will take another $10.  The prostitutes will need to unionize.  They'd be a good addition to the Teamsters.  It would make the Teamster meetings more fun I'd bet.

Based on the difficulty in getting marijuana legalized, I can't imagine this social issue being tackled anytime soon.  Still, it makes a lot more sense than having twelve cops not looking for violent criminals and instead luring people to hotel rooms under false pretense.  You may not agree with me but I know someone that does.  Quentin Groves does.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Hero

A friend of mine brought up a very valid point this morning.  He believes the word “hero” is thrown around too much, and to this I heartily agree.  When did everyone become a hero?  If you served in the armed forces, you are now a hero.  If you are a cop, you are now a hero.  A fireman?  Yep, a hero.  In the medical profession?  Also now heroes.  It doesn't even matter what you did or didn't do any more.  If you just showed up in the uniform, it is now politically correct to call everyone a "hero".  I think at this point pretty much everyone but me is a hero, which seems right because I don’t feel like a hero.  While this may by process of elimination make me a victim, I’d rather not dwell on that.

I think everyone started to become “heroes” about the same time all kids received trophies for participating in whatever activity their dopey parents signed them up for.  There has been an entire generation that has had the idea of competition slowly bred out of them.  “We need to make sure no one feels bad, so let’s give the same size trophies to the last place team as the one that won the championship.  That will make sure we teach everyone the lesson that they are all winners no matter what the outcome!  Now let’s have cupcakes!”  While little Billy enjoys his cupcake and trophy we gloss over the fact his baseball team finished last because he is a little pussy that is afraid of the ball and he throws like a seven year old girl with a torn rotator cuff.  Meanwhile little Jimmy, who throws 90 miles an hour with five different arm angles and has a screwball that drops off the fucking table, is munching his cupcake feeling like he got screwed with his duplicate trophy.  Whoa be to him if he complains as a shit storm of “bad sportsmanship” cries will come down on him like a bad dream.

I embrace the idea that those in the armed services are sacrificing for our country, though to be honest there is a large group of folks in the ranks that just plain ran out of options and ended up in that uniform as opposed to a Subway uniform.  The armed services are a large corporation.  There are all kinds working away in that company.  A guy that runs into a crazy ass firefight, pulls his buddies out of harm’s way at unbelievable risk?  That guy is a hero.  A guy working in supply at an Army base in North Carolina that just happens to be serving while we blow up some other country somewhere?  Really?  Do we really have to use the same word as we did with that dude with the balls of steel that saved his fellow servicemen?

My neighbor’s house caught on fire a number of years ago.  The fire truck arrives and a few firemen sprint upstairs into the flames.  Would I have done it?  No fucking way.  Then again, I also didn’t undergo years of training on how to do that and decide to do that as my job.  To those guys it was business as usual.  If one of those firemen sprinted into an unstable house to save a person trapped inside despite the pleas of his fellow fireman who knew that shit was way too risky?  Yeah, that dude is a hero.  It’s not the job that makes you a hero.  It’s the extraordinary actions taken that makes one a hero.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Boston Bombers 2

As the Boston Bombing incident comes to a conclusion, I think I can sum up the whole thing with the first thing that came to my mind.  What the fuck was that?  It really appears like a dumb ass boxer convinced his little brother that blowing up people at the Boston Marathon was a really good idea.  The Uncle really nailed it on the head in that interview when he blurted out "Losers!  They are losers!".  An amateur boxer and high school wrestler, now there’s a dream team!  I would like to point out that if a boxer and a wrestler get together to come over and kick my ass, that will probably work very well.  Conversely, if a boxer gets together with a wrestler to come up with a “plan”, it probably won’t work very well.

They seemed to have a post bombing plan based on bad action movies.  The “crime spree ending in shootout” works pretty well in movies directed by Michael Mann.  The real life version of having every local, state, and federal law enforcement officer in a seven hundred mile radius up your ass is that it ends very poorly for you.  Well, I guess that’s only if you think being shot a bunch of times and then run over by your dumbfuck brother in the “getaway car” is bad.  Or laying inside a boat and shooting yourself in the mouth, only to botch it and wind up in police custody.  I don’t recall any of those Die Hard movies ending with Jon McClain propped up with a feeding tube.  I didn’t see Die Hard 3 though, so maybe I’m wrong on that.

I have been most struck by the interviews of the school mates of the little brother.  Every single one of them said a variation of “Dude would be the last person you would ever think would do this”.  I don’t know if that is an indictment of him being passive, dispassionate, or maybe just being inept.  The one thing that it does point out is that you never really know anyone.  It’s hard enough to believe anyone at face value anyway.  This takes everything to a whole new level.  Now I have to wonder if anyone I know is planning on blowing me up at something like a Motley Crue concert?   Or maybe they want to videotape sawing my head off in their garage because they watched some crazy youtube videos that gave them ideas on how to be cool with the bad vibes beard and turban gang?  And to think some people don’t think TV ads work…

That kid went to a dorm party after committing a heinous crime and was allegedly totally relaxed.  He was just hanging out, chill as can be…  I’m telling you, I need to totally re-think my approach to other people.  You really have to assume every one you know is comfortably lying to your face.  It’s the only way to not be shocked.  You have to assume the worst from this point on.  Your co-workers are child pornographers.  Your neighbors are planning to blow up the Washington Monument.  Your girl is sleeping with your friends, who are also involved in the child pornography ring which is funding the Washington Monument plot.  Multiple international corporations are calling the shots on the timing of all of it to manipulate stock prices to keep you as an indentured servant to your 401k and mythical retirement.  You are surrounded by a web of lies.  Hell, every person is lying so often with such comfort even they don’t know what the truth is any more.  You will never have a real moment of clarity.  The question you have to ask yourself is “Do you even want to know The Real Truth”? 

My guess is “no”.  The NFL Draft is in a few days.  Focus on that.  Go Browns.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Conversation Starters

There was a guy that used to live next door to me named Toby. This was when I was in a neighborhood filled with working class families and students.  Most of the homes were rentals with tenants that were just passing through or got stuck on the way out. Toby was the latter. He had probably come to school in the area twenty years earlier and decided to stay a "student". While he maintained he was a student, I never saw him with books or actually engaged in any activity one associated with a scholastic lifestyle. I am not even sure if he knew how to read.  I think he liked the idea of sleeping late and focusing in on his consistent binge drinking. He had no obvious source of income, so I deducted he probably received a monthly check from mother as a type of insurance so he wouldn't move back in with her.

Toby is memorable to me for two reasons. The first was that he had a nervous twitch where he would scratch at his scrotum on the right side. Every twenty seconds or so his right hand would shoot down to the front of his jeans and claw at his balls. This happened so often that there was a worn patch on all of his jeans where the color had disappeared and the fabric gave way to the white horizontal stitching. It was sort of like how little kids wear out jeans on the knees, except it was on the right hand side of his balls.  This was a nervous habit that created a sense of aversion amongst every woman that even casually ventured in his immediate area.  I just pretended it wasn't odd that he touched his crotch every twenty seconds.  If you pretend it isn't happening, maybe it isn't.  That was my theory anyway.

The first day I moved in Toby walked over to my old style wood front porch.  In the neighborhood's prouder days this is where one would sit with his/her family and watch children ride by on their bikes. Grandmothers would rock on porch swings and sagely look out on the peaceful neighborhood, trading gossip with the neighbors on their porch just a driveway away.  Now these porches were where one sat on cheap plastic chairs and engaged in "pre-game" drinking out of twelve packs while watching dented automobiles thunder past.  Empty beer cans littered front lawns, and bottles with cigarette butts stood resolutely on staircases.  The neighborhood had "transitioned" as real estate folks would say.

Toby shuffled over across our shared driveway in his omnipresent army cap, wild long hair, and scraggly beard. He was wiry thin and had a Busch Tall Boy. He always had a Busch Tall Boy.  It was 11am on a Wednesday. "Hey man, howa doin? I'm Toby."  We exchanged greetings and he sat down next to me on the steps.  We sat quietly next to each other for a moment, just long enough so the silence was uncomfortable.  Toby exhaled loudly.  "Whewwww... So I just took my sister to get an abortion..." 

It was probably the best first sentence I have ever heard someone say to a stranger.  Who introduces themselves to their new neighbor that way?  What could be worse?  "So I was fucking my dog last night and..."  There really aren't too many directions you can go in that are more shocking.  I suppose you have to credit him in that he didn't bring up snuff films, Nazism, child slavery, or the recorded catalogue of Marillion.  Still, I wondered what could have possibly been on his mind as he ambled over to introduce himself.  How did he think that was going to play out?  It went like it logically should have with me going "umm" as I grasped at what he just said, and then said things like "that's tough man". 
Oddly enough Toby crossed my mind today as I met a stranger today that said, "You're from Erie?  No way!  I got the best blow job of my life there."  I had known this guy for eleven seconds.  Complete stranger.  I thought it was odd.  Maybe I'm just uptight.  Then a thought crossed my mind.  If only there was a way to team that guy up with Toby, they would be like the Conversational Super Friends.  Can you imagine those two guys rolling together?  Toby grabbing at his balls talking about uncomfortable "Cops" type family problems while the other guy tells you graphically about his sexual history?  People in sports use the "Dream Team" phrase too often.  This, if it could somehow be assembled, would truly be a Dream Team.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Boston Marathon Bomber

The senseless bombing in Boston yesterday once more proves that there are some scary people that live amongst us.  Bombs that appear to have been intended to maim normal people supporting the solitary challenges of distance running are difficult to get your arms around.  There is no political agenda of the Boston Marathon.  It is a large gathering of people from many nations celebrating individual athletic achievement.  As there has not been a wildly nonsensical video released from a Muslim extremist group, perhaps this is a fucked up individual from our own country.  Who the hell knows?  There are damaged crazy people everywhere.  I am not sure how someone comes to the conclusion that detonating explosive devices designed to maim strangers at an event designed for distance runners is a good idea.  It is in the same family of thinking that goes into movie theaters with automatic weapons.    

I would imagine there will be an almost unprecented amount of law enforcement resources devoted to catching the person(s) involved in this.  That area of Boston must have a stunning amount of security cameras on a normal day much less a public event as large as the Boston Marathon.  I feel confident that someone will be caught.  While most people will actively scream for the death penalty to be applied to the perpetrators, that seems too quick and somehow merciful.  I would argue for life imprisonment with the caveat of first performing amputation surgery on select limbs in “field hospital conditions” on the guilty.  35-45 years of living in a surgically reduced body to provide limited movement and flexibility is a start in the right direction.  Then again, I have always been and eye-for-an-eye type of guy. 

In my city of Cleveland today the mayor had a press conference that interrupted all regular scheduled broadcasts to address security in our town as we also have a marathon later this Spring.  This is, of course, totally fucking ridiculous.  We have as much in common with Boston as we do with New York, LA, Chicago, or San Francisco.  We all have Applebees, Shell Gas Stations, and Subway.  That’s about it.  They are world class cities associated with America.  We are a second rate backwater.  Terrorists attack London, not Leeds.   Whatever asshole(s) did this crime didn’t do it because of an intense hatred of distance running.  They attacked the Boston Marathon because it is a world renowned race in a huge well known population center with a kazillion people in attendance.   It is an event in the world’s spotlight.  I have my doubts that some nefarious criminal syndicate is traveling around causing mayhem and destruction at track events in general.  My head almost explodes when I think of how stupid that whole line of thinking is on it down at City Hall.

After we get past this kneejerk reaction phase, I hope we all get back to doing our normal routines.  Our country is built on freedom.  That’s what drives these kooks out of their minds.  Fuck 'em.  Let’s get back to the business of doing our own thing, bring whoever did this to light, and hopefully head the next possible event off at the pass.  The twisted thinking on these horrible acts of random violence is to intimidate the normal population.  Create fear.  Once again, fuck those people.  I'm going to go where I want  and do what I want.  Right now?  I'm going for a run. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Jeff Gordon License Plate Holder

The faded Jeff Gordon license plate holder was all that was left from the trip to Daytona six years ago.  It grimly held onto the Chevy Corsica like a barnacle from the past, when everything seemed possible and each day was an exciting adventure waiting to unfold.  Things had changed since then.  He stared straight ahead at the traffic light, his face utterly blank.  He would automatically drive into work and not remember a single moment of the drive, like it never really happened.  It would be as if he had been magically transported to his cramped workstation to continue his series of never ending meaningless tasks all in the name of shareholder value.

He had dreamt about her again last night.  It was now five days in a row.  Each dream differed slightly, but even an armchair psychologist could find the thinly veiled themes of regret and shame that served as the bones of each scenario.  He woke each morning unsettled, and hoped to chase the fading memories by the time he climbed into the Corsica.  He allowed the country music station and the carefully constructed “folksy” morning show to wash over him like a blanket of distraction.  Each song was more inane than the last, but the hook of the chorus would stick in his head like a thumbtack.

He shuffled into the two-story building at the end of the office park without emotion.  He had made this walk for eleven years.  The familiarity of it made him feel safe.  He walked past the sales area where a dozen young women spoke with frantic urgency into headsets as a dry erase board at the far wall tracked their individual failures.  He walked into the out of date kitchen area, and poured himself a cup of what may have been the worst coffee East of the Mississippi into a tiny Styrofoam cup.  He walked to his cubicle in the back of the building crammed in with the other techs, grunting replies to half hearted greetings as he went.

Next week would be six years since his trip to the Daytona 500 with his fiancé.  It had been his Everest.  Top of the bucket list.  He had saved up for tickets by Turn 4, and when the hookup had come from his old roommate Randy for a free place to stay, it all came together.  They had made the drive to Randy’s place in one burst of manic energy and excitement.  They ate gas station snacks and drank energy drinks that kept them talking nonstop.  Neither of them had been to Florida before, although he once had a three-day bender in Ocean City shortly after high school graduation that had been pretty awesome. 

Randy’s one bedroom apartment by the airport was nice enough.  The couch pulled out, and the hum of the traffic from the highway helped lull them to sleep after the first night of drinking and catching up.  He should have known something was up when Randy kept making remarks about “How did an ugly motherfucker like you get such a sweet gorgeous girl like this?”  He knew that Randy was flirting like crazy, but the glow of pride he felt to be with her more than made up for his friend’s questionable behavior.  Plus, he and Randy had been close.  He was all bluster.

They started up on the Jack Daniels later the second afternoon, backed up with cans of Natural Light.  There was a hazy plan to grill in the courtyard later on the seemingly filthy grill in the common area of the apartment complex.  The music was loud and distorted from Randy’s shitty boom box he had cherished since high school.  They were all having a good time.  When the beer ran out, Randy pulled out a $20 to get more.  “I buy, you fly.”

Maybe he made good time getting to the grocery store and back.  Maybe they lost track of time in the apartment.  Maybe they just didn’t give a shit.  When he walked in to discover Randy thrusting himself into his fiancé, sweat pouring from his brow onto the small of her back, it didn’t shock him.  What really shocked him was the facial expression she had, her eyes closed tightly, and making noises that were completely foreign to him.  Her tiny hands clenched onto the arms of the couch as Randy steadied himself on her hips.  Neither of them even looked up.  Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” roared from the boom box.  He stood there for a moment, trying to register the scene in front of him. 

Even now he couldn’t remember precisely how it ended.  He dropped the groceries.  He remembered that.  Then he grabbed his duffel while yelling a stream of profanities.  It was almost an out of body experience. “Hey man!  Don’t freak out.  It’s no big deal.”  She grabbed his arm, “it’s not what you think”.  He climbed into the Corsica and just started to drive.  He kept replaying the scene over in his head.  He found his way to the highway and drove back alone.  That was pretty much it.  He talked to her on the phone a few times after that, but never saw her again.  Sent her shit to her in a box.  Randy was just gone.  As far as he knew they were together now.  Or maybe not.  Who knows?  He didn’t like to think about it.

He ground through most of the morning, trying to engage himself in his tasks.  The memory of the dream kept whispering to him to concentrate on it.  Remember it.  Think about it.  He ignored the siren song as best he could and walked out to his car at lunch.  He was in the back row of the parking lot.  It was the white Corsica with the “Jeff Gordon: Daytona 2006” license plate holder.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Thrill Seeking

I had decided earlier this week that I would skydive at my next available opportunity.  Now when I say “my next opportunity”, I don’t mean to suggest that I mean the next time I am in an airplane that has engines failing and I dive out the hatch.  That really isn’t “skydiving” as much as it is “surviving”.  Plus, how often are you really on an airplane where they provide you with parachutes as you board the plane?  Perhaps if you climb on one of those DC-3s left over from Vietnam that ferry people and their chickens around on discount airlines in Central America.  Even then, do they provide parachutes?  That seems like something from a John Candy movie.  Does that even really happen?

I have two distinct thrill seeking goals in mind, one of which is skydiving.  I have done a small freefall in the past, which was pretty awesome.  Of course, it was only 20 stories and I was tied to a bungee chord.  I was also under the crushing influence of something a guy named “Electric Dave” had given me earlier in the parking lot at a Grateful Dead show which I feel very confidently heightened my senses.  Guys named “Electric Dave” don’t usually mess around. 

The bungee jump thing was a lark.  It was the early 90s when insurance companies hadn’t done their “due diligence” in figuring out that a small Brazilian operation with an enormous crane may not be qualified to allow people to swan dive from 200 feet towards a parking lot.  It seems crazy now even to think about it, yet I don’t think about 1993 as being a particularly permissive time in American society.  It seems as foreign to suggest something like that happened as it is to recall “smoking sections” on airplanes.

My friend Jeff, who had knocked back a six-pack of Samuel Smith and enough psychedelic mushrooms to kill a horse, took the first jump.  He screamed as he leaped off the platform like an eleven-year-old girl watching her pony being murdered.  When I saw him being unstrapped as I prepared to be hoisted up onto the crane platform I asked him, “Was it scary?”.  His knees were knocking together like he had hypothermia.  I took that to mean it was scary.

The weird thing about when you are that far up is how sound moves around in waves.  Underneath us Webb Wilder’s version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” was blasting and phasing in and out with the wind.  I will always remember that because I thought to myself “What an odd song for them to be playing from that enormous sound system at a Dead show.”.  Most of the giant crowd moving around obliviously far below had no idea I was facing a primal fear.  Yet, there were still enough people with heads craned upwards that to go back down would be the ultimate red letter of shame.  Yes, I was committed completely to diving off this 20-story platform.  There was no way I could allow the 78 strangers watching think I was too afraid to do something clearly outrageously dangerous.

Let’s talk about what it was like on that crane platform.  Twenty stories is a long ways up.  If you find yourself in an office building twenty stories up you think “what a nice view”.  The thought of leaping out the window doesn’t come to mind unless you had your 401K on Michigan in the NCAA title game, or maybe your best girl showed up at your house with some loser that appeared to be relaxing after taking her for a spin.  Even then, you’ll have second thoughts when push comes to shove.  It’s a long ways up man.  You can always turn it around.  There will be other girls.  There will be other sporting events.

Yet, there I am standing there on a little platform swaying in the wind.  I have these wacky ass boots on my legs that have giant rubber bands attached.  The guy that had just been speaking Portuguese to the strangely attractive exotic girl on the ground that took my money turns to me and says in a thick accent “jump”.  Um.  Excuse me?  Every cell of my body screams out “NO FUCKING WAY!”.  Still, I don’t want to be a “pussy”, so I slide out to the edge.  As it is clearly better to be dead than a “pussy”, I decided to go for it.  I opted to fall face first off the platform.  As I fell towards the ground everything slowed down.  Well, at first it did.  Then it got really, really fucking fast.  Imagine the fastest roller coaster you have ever been on, and now imagine if it fell off the tracks at the top of the first hill.  It’s pretty scary.     

When the bungee chord slowed me up and eventually stopped my downward fall, I could see every single blade of grass underneath me.  Each sharp edge of each blade of grass was in perfect focus.  This may have been due to the massive adrenalin rush I was having.  This may have been due to the help of “Electric Dave”.  It may have been a combination of the two.  I really can’t say.  But what I can tell you is that the blissful explosion of endorphins that washed over me put to shame any sexual experience I ever had.  Well, almost any…

I woke up this morning with an aching knee.  I have been picking up my distance on my daily run.  I worked through it today, but it wasn’t pleasant.  The fact is that I won’t always be physically able to jump out of a plane and see what it’s like.  If I don’t knock that experience out now, when will I?  Now’s the time.  If something goes wrong I will write out a document for all of my important possessions.  My massive record and CD collection.  My cars.  My Bordeaux.  The magical Key of Ghent.  But one thing I can’t give away is what it feels like to fall toward s the earth at a ridiculous height.  Now, has anyone seen Electric Dave? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Journey

Is it just me, or are too many people discussing the “journey” they are on?  In my humble opinion, a journey is something where one has a rucksack and is walking a considerable distance with great hardship at every turn.  Journeys are high risk, high reward.  You might get eaten by a fucking bear on a “journey”.  On a journey, you shouldn't be surprised to see a sea serpent.  It is not being a contestant on a reality TV show and talking about “this amazing journey” when all you have really done is performed a negligible skill for profit in front of a camera.  Every interview clip out there from Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, The Voice, or whatever other crap show you can think of has the contestant breathlessly talking about “this amazing journey”.  Get over yourself.  You went to a sound stage after taking some dance lessons.  Or singing lessons.  Or whatever.

If you escaped Cambodia during the reign of Pol Pot, or maybe extradited yourself from a Slave Labor Camp in North Korea, now that’s a journey.  If you are sitting in an office complex and a motivational trainer has been speaking to you for a few days, stopping at the end to praise everyone for “this amazing journey”, someone needs to stand up and yell “Stop this madness!”.  We would all like to feel like we are very important and involved in exciting events that radiate with impact.  Let me break this to you bluntly.  You are not.  You are stumbling along, like everyone else, in a mostly unimportant life that will imprint on almost no one.  Maybe you have a spouse that is somewhat interested in you.  Maybe you plop out a couple kids that you fill with your fears and shortcomings.  Maybe you even have a friend or two.  You aren’t on a “journey”.  You are doing activities of your own choosing to fill your days.  These activities don’t really matter.

We like to think that we are constantly evolving into a better person.  This is probably not true.  While age does bring some wisdom of the “I’m not buying flair pants again” and “I will never drink another Zima” variety, I think we should honestly ask ourselves if older people have more answers than younger people.  I have been to nursing homes and no one there knows anything.  If they did, these places wouldn’t be jail cells of loneliness devoid of visitors.  People would be lined up down the block to ask Gus in the wheelchair what he knows about time management, finance, how to throw a knuckleball, and the secrets of winning and keeping the girl of your dreams.  Instead Gus is staring out the window thinking if he were more mobile he would make a run for it and go to Mexico to drink margaritas in the sunshine.

It can be overwhelming to think that most events are random.  There is no plan.  While it is always better for your mental health to repeat the mantra “everything happens for a reason”, I think clear thinking individuals can agree it doesn’t.  Choices were made, actions resulted, and then there was consequence.  “My house burned down and everything I had is gone.  But everything happens for a reason.”  Yes, you know what that reason was?  You were smoking in bed and then your house caught on fire asshole.  It does seem much more magical and epic to tell others you “are on amazing journey”.  It’s so much better than the truth, isn’t it?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Air Travel

  As the Indian man seated to my immediate left slipped his black rubber shoe off, and then his black worn sock, I stared in wonder at the rough uneven yellowed toenail that jutted out bravely from his brown flaky toes.  This man was getting comfortable.  A slight scraping sound could be heard as his uneven nail slid across the pocket of the seat in front of him.  He fingers beat out a strange raga rhythm on his palm and his mouth made strange sucking sounds on the off beats. At first I thought he might be nervous about flying.  Then I concluded he was just an asshole.  Seated in coach, I was trapped next to this man for the next 90+ minutes.  I had nowhere to go.  I would remain 4 inches away from a man that would appear to be more at home squatted on top of a train steaming into Bangladesh.

Air travel has definitely changed.  At one time air travel was something reserved for the very wealthy.  Most people had never been on an airplane and assumed they never would, unless of course they were “in the service”.  “Well, I went to Hawaii once.  It sure was nice.”  Oh?  Where did you stay?  “I was in the service.  I was there for a month.  All they let me do was scrape barnacles off of the bottom of boats at night, and then during the day they made us sleep in a windowless airplane hangar.  We got leave for an hour once though.  I saw the ocean for 7 minutes.  It was nice”.

  While I am happy conceptually that the general population can have the ease of rapid air travel at their fingertips, I find myself less happy when I am stuck next to someone who’s idea of personal space radically departs from my own.  People now insist on “being comfortable” when they fly, which has resulted in airplanes filled with people in pajama pants, barefoot, and under the general impression that any conduct that is permissible in their squalid apartments is fine on the airplane with me four inches away.  After you spend a few hours in an airport, you realize that most people are horrible creatures that are only just a click above most barnyard animals on the evolutionary scale.  If not for the opposable thumbs, I think most people would be on the outside looking in with the hierarchy of species.  I can honestly say I would rather travel with most goats I have encountered than that Indian guy.  Please note that this is not an endorsement of goats, but an indictment of that Indian guy.  I just wanted to make that clear.

  Let me also mention that the safety speech before each flight is ridiculous.  If the plane crashes, it’s all going to turn out bad. On the off chance that some sort of emergency landing was successful, the chance of getting out of the plane before being engulfed in flames is almost none.  If it takes 30 minutes to get people seated in assigned seats in absolutely perfect conditions, what are the odds you could get out of a plane in chaos? That same old woman that spent an eternity finding seat 17A and then getting her bag in the overhead has no chance to effectively move from point A to point B in an emergency.  Let’s just stop pretending that we are all going to follow some sort of procedure when the worst becomes reality.  You will die a horrible death, and the last thing you will see is that woman fucking around with her carry-on bag and trying to get her jacket on instead of leaping out of the emergency exit.

  So now I am descending into the brown and gray April landscape of Ohio.  The Indian man has increased the tempo of the raga.  His scraggily yellow toenail is two inches away from my knee.  Maybe I need to get into the Zen of the “music” and stop focusing on the negative.  Maybe I can get into some kind of trance where I will find my spirit guide. The sprit guide can tell me all the important things like how to achieve total bliss, if the “Moveable Feast” really was a great time, why cold water boils faster than warm water, and who will win the American League East.  That would be great.  I wonder if my spirit guide will be a goat?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Anti Smoking Ad

So I’m relaxing, watching my beloved San Francisco Giants handle the Dodgers.  I couldn’t be happier really.  Baseball has returned, which means my life has meaning again.  Since the games go off so late, West Coast feed and all, I often struggle to stay up for the whole game while in bed.  It becomes like training for overnight drives on the highway.  If I can stay up while Angel Pagan fouls off 17 pitches in a row, I can probably stay awake driving the van at 4:15 am and not make us all plummet off a cliff.

This is when I saw a very disturbing Public Service Announcement.  In the spot a woman with a gravely voice complains that cigarette companies never let her know that nicotine is addictive.  I could argue that it was probably pretty evident because long before she probably had her first smoke, she undoubtedly heard people talk about how much difficulty they had while attempting to quit.  No matter, she can play it that way if she wants.  Hey!  No one told me inhaling smoke into my body was harmful.  I had NO IDEA.  I got duped by The Cigarette Company. It’s their fault, not mine. 

It was then I noticed the hole in the woman’s throat.  Oh no.  She isn’t going to do what I think she is going to do, is she?  Ye Gods.  She is.  She really is…  The woman in the commercial says, “No one told me nicotine was addictive.  How addictive?”.  The she takes a cigarette and smokes it out of the hole in her throat.

Look man, I’m just trying to watch a baseball game here.  I don’t smoke.  I never have.  I haven’t even took a hit off of a cigarette.  I never wanted to as the stench of the Marlboro Reds my mother smoked bothered me so much I hate even the faintest smell of them to this day.  So why do I have to watch some leathery woman smoke out of her tracheotomy hole?  Is there a waiver I can sign so I don’t have to see that again?  Ever?

I appreciate the fact they want to scare people straight.  However, isn’t the commercial itself confirming that if you are smoking now, you are pretty much locked in to your own future blowhole?  And let’s be honest here, kids aren’t watching these games.  Baseball is for old suburban white dudes like me.  We are all either all in or all out on this cigarette thing.  No matter what, smokers or not, none of us want to relax after a day at work and see that blowhole stunt.  

If I have to watch the Smoking Blowhole Lady, I firmly believe that women watching The View need to see a “Leaking Sexually Transmitted Vaginal Infection” PSA.  Kids watching cartoons need to see “Bleeding Eye Socket Running With Scissors” commercial.  If I have to take medicine I don’t want or need during my leisure time, everyone else does too.  I’ll bet the Smoking Blowhole Lady isn’t on ABC during The Bachelor.  Oh no.  Just during my beloved Giants games.

My fear is that the Blowhole Lady commercial is a season long sponsorship.  That’s’s how they sell this shit you know.  There will be no way I can avoid it.  I do feel confident that if I watch it every game, by mid August on game 113, I will get used to seeing her.  Hell, I might look forward to it.  I had a roommate that used to take out his glass eye, and that became no big deal.  Maybe I’m overreacting.

Oh fuck.  I just saw it again.  I’m not overreacting.  Everyone stop smoking.  Right now.  Put out your cigarettes you addicted fools.  Make this stop.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Further Ruminations On Religion

Wouldn’t you be disappointed to find out that Hell wasn’t a philosophical concept meant to keep you on the straight and narrow, but find out upon your death that it was an actual location?  If these commandments are legit, I have logged quite a few demerits with “taking the Lord’s name in vain” alone, so I may have a real problem on my hands.  I think I was coveting thy neighbor’s goods the other day too.  The guy down the street bought one of those Porsche Panameras.  Who can even afford that? Damn.  Am I coveting again?  Who can keep track of it all?  Even if I managed to log all my sins successfully in some kind of notebook, can I remember to recite them back for penance to a priest?  Maybe there’s an app for it now.  Apple seems to be on top of this kind of thing.

The thing that confuses me is Hell seems to be black or white.  You are in or out, sort of like a Frat.  It seems unfair.  Shouldn’t there be degrees of punishment, like the prison system?  It really would be disappointing to find out that you would be sent to the same place as Hitler.  I think we can all agree that Hitler is in Hell if there is a Hell, right?  So if I am to understand the church’s teachings, I would join him there, possibly as some sort of roommate, if I do not chant some prayers back to take care of the roughly 126, 365 times I have taken the Lord’s name in vain since my last confession in 1982.  This seems unfair, as Hitler was clearly a much worse human being than I have been.  However, I am not aware of any sort of “Hell By Degrees”.  This gives me some concern.

Let’s take a good hard look at this thing.  Shouldn’t Hitler be sent to fire and brimstone Hell?  I think we can all agree that he should be swimming in turbulent seas of diarrhea, having a red hot harpoon shoved up his ass, and having repeated dental surgeries without anesthesia.  Lots of flaming volcanoes in the background.  Laughing demons with pitchforks.  Wailing from the souls of the damned.  That seems fair.  But does that same scenario seem like a fair deal for “Lord’s name in vain” and stealing some beer when I was 16?  C’mon now!

I think I can make a pretty good case for being allowed into at least Purgatory, which I think of as the DMV of the afterlife.  But let’s say that maybe my paperwork gets mixed up, or maybe some quotas haven’t been filled and I get sent to Hell.  I would imagine I get sent to at least the Minimum Security Prison version of Hell, a neighborhood much more desirable than “fish hooks ripped through your penis hole” Hell.  I think of my level of Hell has things happening like a jukebox that always plays Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” and your songs never come up.  Or maybe you have a TV that just gets bad reception on Little House on the Prairie re-runs set up in a room that’s like a Super 8 with a somewhat dirty bathroom.  Your clothes never fit quite right.  You are always a little itchy and hot.  Your car is a Dodge Reliant K with a broken radio, and it takes forever to get anywhere because people are driving really slowly in the left lane.  You have to spend time waiting in lines for everything, and the demons working behind the counters are as efficient as professional sports stadium vendors. 

I think there are a lot of dropped calls in Hell.  Your bill always has some sort of issue on it, and when you call the toll free number they make you punch in lots of account numbers and codes.  When someone finally answers the phone, they then ask you all the same questions all over again.  When you ask them why they asked you to punch in all those numbers in the first place and then didn’t use them, they will answer “I don’t know, but people ask that all the time.”

You get movies in Hell, but they are things like “Transformers 2” and “GI Joe”.  One time they had an Oscar winning movie, but it was “The English Patient”, so that didn’t really count as a good thing.  You have your Ipod with all your really cool songs on it, but you also have a software glitch so you can’t play it.  For some reason Bob Dylan’s “Saved” will play, but you will assume that is some sort of ironic joke from Satan.  It’s not all bad in Hell though.  They get sports there, but it is usually “Padres v Rockies” baseball or NASCAR.  They get lots and lots of Stephen A Smith talking about LeBron James, who is revealed to be one of Lucifer’s minions.  It will be nice to have that finally confirmed.  

The difference between the first level of Hell and a normal Tuesday in Cleveland is minimal, so I think I will be ready if that’s my fate.  I should probably hedge and go to a priest in the Catholic Church and see how many Hail Marys I need to say to get out of the soup.  With luck, I can knock those out and avoid the whole mess.  I should probably do some math and see how many of these commandments I have violated, get a tally, and swing on by.  I need to find a priest with some flexibility.  I’ll let you know how it goes.