Friday, November 29, 2013

Nurse the Hate: The Ultimate Christmas Beer Tasting

I cannot stress to you the stupidity of drinking 26 Christmas beers in one sitting.  This makes the pumpkin beer tasting fiasco seem reasonable in comparison.  However, anything worth doing is worth overdoing.  They were arranged in groups of three, and in samples of about 3 oz each.  I doubled back to try the ones I especially enjoyed to figure out how they held up while being tasted next to different beers.  It wasn’t especially scientific, but I’m no scientist either.

There are a million winter seasonal beers out there that aren’t Great Lakes Christmas Ale, the #1 selling beer in the region in November/December.  Think about that for a second.  Bud Light moves to #2 for two months for a beer that is $14 a six pack.  It has made the category very popular here, so it’s good to know what the options are for your dollar.  Plus, I’m one of those guys that gets out of things when I see the herd move into it. 

Consider these…

Affligem Noel-  This was really terrific, and highlighted how Belgian ales are in a class in their own.  It’s hard to compare this to one of the American craft beers as there aren’t too many points of comparison.  It’s like debating the merits of a BMW 4 series coupe to that of a Chevrolet Van.  If this ale was a band, it would be one of those confident British bands like Radiohead.  You may not always be in the mood for Radiohead, but even people that don’t like them will begrudgingly say, “Yeah… They’re good.”.

Alesmith Yulesmith- I’ve been to this brewery in San Diego.  All of their beers are named things like “Skullbuster” or “Angry Assfucker”.  The alcohol contents are always really high.  This beer reminded me of sitting in the stands at an NFL game on a freezing December day.  Suddenly the stranger to your right fishes a flask out of his coat and offers you a swig.  You brace yourself for something harsh and cruel.  Instead it’s warm and surprisingly flavorful.  You have no idea what is in that flask, but it was kind of good.

Anchor Steam Christmas- Each year the brewery changes the recipe slightly, theoretically making note of how each holiday season follows tradition but it is still a unique experience of its own.  I would say that if the beer is meant to comment on the year past, the people of Anchor Steam had a year spent crying in a musty room while a black and white TV flickered in the background.  There is a musty quality to this beer, like an old bowl of potpourri at an elderly woman’s house.  I didn’t really like it if you couldn’t guess.

Avery Old Jubilation Ale- This is a pale red ale with a heavy cinnamon streak.  It’s OK.  It reminded me of one of those classic rock bands that hasn’t written anything really good in years, but puts a good concert on anyway.  It’s like going to see Bob Seger in the 90s or something. 

Bell’s Christmas Ale-  I was disappointed in this.  It’s not because it was bad.  It’s just that I expect more from Bell’s.  In comparison to all the other holiday beers that had been assembled, it sort of drinks like a pale ale.  It just seemed out of place, like the one Jehova Witness kid in elementary school that had to watch all the other kids do fun Christmas shit while he sat in “the Brown Activity Room” in the basement by the furnace doing a workbook.

Bison Brewery Gingerbread- This is a brown ale that I tasted and said, “Damn!  This really does taste like gingerbread!”.  It’s a Colorado brewery that makes a big deal out of how organic they are on the packaging.  Usually when I see a beer or wine trumpeting how organic they are, it means “this tastes like shit but give us a break because it’s organic”.  This is pretty good though I’m not a brown ale guy.

Brew Kettle Winter Warmer- This beer seems almost like homage to Great Lakes Christmas Ale, but the flavors aren’t as complex.  If Great Lakes is Bob Dylan, this is Tom Petty.  If I was one of the Brew Kettle guys reading this and thinking, “Who is this loudmouth saying we’re Tom Petty?  Our beer is kickass!”, I urge caution.  Being Tom Petty is way better than being .38 Special.

Breckenridge Christmas Ale- This didn’t show very well.  Where the other beers tasted like fresh herbs, they tasted like dried herbs from a bachelor’s kitchen.  It was kinda stale tasting to me.  It’s a Christmas Beer, but not a great one.  It’s the Minnesota Twins of Christmas beers.

N’Ice Chouffe-  This is in the Belgian brewer La Chouffe house style, but with the telltale nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon flavor notes.  It has a crippling 10% alcohol content, which shouldn’t be surprising as the bottle showed cute gnomes building a fire.  I will repeat the golden rule of Belgian beer.  The cuter the mascot on the bottle, the more likely the alcohol content is close to rubbing alcohol.  If you ever see a bunny on a Belgian Ale bottle, run away as it is probably like liquid LSD inside.

Dark Horse 4 Elf- This had a very unique style, as it was basically a holiday porter.  It reminded me of having coffee cake with a mocha.  You can tell a bunch of dudes with beards made this beer.  This is one of those beers that big guys in work jackets and beards drink while telling each other how great it is.  If they make a mistake and ask a woman to try this, the woman’s face will crinkle up and say “Oh my god!  How can you drink that?  Get me a wheat beer!”.

Fat Heads Holly Jolly-  This was my personal favorite.  It was spicy and the flavors are lively and intermingling.  Whoever makes the beer here knows what the fuck they are doing.  Their Headhunter IPA is awesome, and all their limited edition brews at the restaurant are always good.  I urge everyone that is drinking the ocean of Great Lakes Christmas Ale to at least try this.

Harpoon Winter Warmer- This is a cinnamon bomb.  If you don’t like cinnamon, don’t even open this.  I can’t even imagine what would happen if someone dropped a shot of Fireball into a pint of this.  It would be a cinnamon explosion that would leave the bodies of Keebler Elves strewn everywhere.  It’s really smooth and tastes like the Harpoon house style.  I dig this.

Goose Island Sixth Day- My tasting notes said “malty and kinda musty… I kinda hate this… Brown Ale… This reminds me of Jethro Tull”.  I don’t know why it reminded me of Jethro Tull now that we are in the cold hard light of morning.  I do know that being reminded of Jethro Tull is never a good thing.  Tull is my rock n’ roll kryptonite.  This is the kind of beer that guys in beards and stinky tights drink while getting ready to play flute solos no one needed or wanted.

Hoppin Frog Frosted Frog Christmas Ale-  The flavors on this are at 11.  It’s too much.  This is a bleached blonde in skintight pants that blew Richie Sambora in a sports arena in 1991.  Her hair is so processed it is crunchy.  She smells like the perfume she uses too heavily that she thinks masks the scent of cigarette smoke on her.  She is chewing Juicyfruit gum which leaves her breath a mix of smoke, Scope, onion, vodka, and gum.  You wind up going to her condo in her beaten up Fiero, and have a great time doing things with her that don’t even have names.  Afterwards you feel ashamed.   

Lakefront Holiday Spice Beer- I really like this Milwaukee based brewery.  This beer has a dominant clove flavor, sort of like a hippie chick named “Freebeam” that you let stay on your couch and later steals your wallet while you are in the shower.  She is in such a haste to leave that she forgets her Baja style poncho which smells like the clove cigarettes she favors.  This event was, no doubt, the inspiration for this beer. 

Lagerheads Winter Mischief- I found this to be slightly disjointed and unsatisfying, like a Bob Evans breakfast.  It is like one of those beers your buddy gives you that just started to home brew.  You don’t really want to drink it, but you don’t want to be rude.  While you are pleasantly surprised that it is actually drinkable, you are really hoping he leaves so you can drink something you actually like and pour his down the sink.

North Peak Blitzen Festivus Ale- It has a heavy cinnamon nose, and a deep low finish.  I didn’t really find this too holiday inspired, but then again it’s“Festivus Ale” so maybe that’s the whole point.  I liked it overall, but if I am in the mood to drink holiday ale I would look elsewhere.  This is one of those beers to drink when you want to look like you are having a Merry Fucking Christmas, but you are really just having a cold one.

Revolution Fistmas Holiday Ale- This is not super Xmasy, but it is a pretty good IPA style with slight spice notes.  At 6.1% it almost qualifies as a “session” beer in this category.  I love the idea of the term “session” by the way.  It’s so much more civilized than saying “bender”.  The can design is really great too. 

Red Hook Winter Hook #29- Is there anything going on here?  This is reaching for Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road” CD for a ride in your car, and then you find out you put “Washington Square Serenade” in there by accident. 

Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve- This is a really bitter beer, with almost none of the sweetness that most in this class flaunt.  I wrote something really terrible in my notes about this that I can’t in good conscience write here.  It apparently reminded me of a leathery old woman that screams at you for stealing her parking place.  I think the gist of what I was trying to say is that it isn’t a very “friendly” beer.

St Bernadus Xmas Ale- The smiling monk from this Belgian brewer practically screams at you “Hey!  We are going to really fuck you up!”.  This is smooth as silk with rich flavor complexity.  Have another sip my son.  Yes…. Drink deeply my child… Do not concern yourself with the 10% alcohol content…  yes… slip out of your pajamas while I pour you another goblet…  (Try looking at the smiling monk while saying this.  It will creep you out very badly.)

Southern Tier 2Xmas- This is really intense in cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg flavor packing 8% alcohol.  It’s almost like a shot.  I know I am supposed to like this, like the music of Elvis Costello, but I just don’t.  That is not to suggest that much like the musical output of Elvis Costello it is not without value.  It’s just not my thing, which is disappointing as Southern Tier is one of my most reliable go-to brewers.

Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas-  In what is the worst kept secret in the beer world, this is the original recipe for Great Lakes Christmas Ale.  I am pretty sure that this is a con game launched by the brewery, but it’s working.  Most of Northeast Ohio residents will lean in and tell you this fact with a conspiratorial whisper. It actually is very similar to the Southern Tier, but mellower.  I really like this, and had it in my top three.

Troeg’s Mad Elf- This 11% monster is spicy with a stewed fruit quality.  This will destroy you like Judas Priest with a wall of Marshalls shoving a hot poker up your ass sideways.  Or maybe a band of Hell’s Angels beating you with pool cues while a Melvins record blasts out of a jukebox.  This would be a great beer to knock back a six of right before heading to your work Christmas party with the intention of “straightening some shit out”.

Victory Winter Cheers- This is a winter wheat ale, which is odd to me.  When I am thinking wheat beer, I am thinking summer.  Sunshine.  Grills.  Thirst quenching.  I don’t want to sit out on my deck in a speedo in a blizzard, which is what this makes me feel like.

Weyerbacher Winter Ale-  I think I hated their pumpkin beer, and I hate this too.  This is all bass notes.  I should have looked at the bottle more closely to see if Black Sabbath bass player Geezer Butler is involved in this.  They could have named this “Doom Ale” and sold it at heavy metal shows.  Fat metalhead guys in their 40s would like that I think.

This was one tasting on one day.  I broke up the Belgians and the Americans as they are so utterly different.  I don’t think these preferences would necessarily hold up if I did this again, but on this day here’s how it shook out…

Top Beers

1)      Fat Heads Holly Jolly

2)      Harpoon Winter Warmer

3)      Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas

Top Belgian Beers

1)      St Bernadus

2)      Affligem

3)      N’ice Chouffe

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Thanksgiving Football

There are many Thanksgiving traditions that help make this the greatest of all holidays.  An enormous turkey roasting to a perfect golden brown.  Generations of family and friends crunching in the fallen leaves during the annual Turkey Bowl football game.  A rich slice of pumpkin pie.  Family gathered for no other reason than to give thanks for all their tidings.  And of course, the annual Thanksgiving "Galaxy of Wagers" ill-advised teaser bets on football...

Normally my brother Ken and I assemble a ludicrous multi-team teaser to white knuckle through during the holiday.  This year I have gone it alone.  I haven't heard from Ken in weeks with the exception of shadowy social media posts reporting on his taco consumption or appearances in dive bars in the Greater Austin TX area.  That is probably for the best as he would try to talk me into getting involved in the Texas v Texas Tech game.  As far as I can recall, Ken has not given me the right side on a Texas game since moving to Austin.  I would hate to see my well conceived plan go down the drain late when some borderline mentally retarded Longhorn receiver named either D'Tavius or Colt drops a sure thing touchdown for a loss.

I will once again be gathering up all my resources for this three team teaser bet.  The beauty of the teaser bet is that it is the very definition of the "sucker bet".  It appears on the surface to be so airtight, so heavily weighted to the bettor's favor that it is inconceivable that it could lose.  Meanwhile, with so many moving parts, it is in reality almost guaranteed to lose.  I am essentially gathering a pile of money and lighting it on fire on top of the Thanksgiving turkey.  By even announcing that I am making a three team teaser bet, I have stood up in a crowded room and admitted that I am a fool.  I have no chance of winning.  None.  This does not matter in the slightest, as it has become tradition, and as we all know, one does not mess with tradition.

I am going to be betting the NFL games.  The hope is that I win the first game no matter what, as to be out by 3:00pm would be really disappointing.  To refresh your memory, the three team teaser allows me to move the line in either direction by ten points on each of the three games with the caveat that all three have to win for the wager to pay off.  If even one of the three games is a loser, I have lost the wager in its entirety.  Unfortunately, I have the greatest concern for the early game.  The Detroit Lions have a completely unfounded reputation for "always winning on Thanksgiving".  This is complete horseshit.  The Lions have not won on Thanksgiving since 2003.  They are 2-7 against the spread during that near decade long run.  This is mainly due to the fact that the Lions have traditionally sucked.  However, if the Lions are going to win a Thanksgiving game, it should be today.  The Packers without Aaron Rodgers have little in common with the "good" Packers that you immediately think of when thinking of Green Bay.  They are 0-3-1 without Rodgers, and today will roll out with big contract bust Matt Flynn at QB.  The Lions have been losing games, but that has primarily been due to turnovers.  They should win today.  Here's the question...  Can the Packers keep it close?  I think they will not be able to run the ball at all, and will rely on Flynn to throw short and intermediate passes.  That concerns me.  It concerns me greatly, but I'm taking Green Bay with the inflated 17 teaser points assuming the Lions continue their decade long run of Lionish football.  The Lions aren't beating anyone by 17, are they?

The next game has Oakland going to Dallas.  Oakland has sucked since they lost that last Super Bowl appearance in 1982 or whenever the hell that was.  I remember lots of guys with Fu Manchu mustaches.  It was a long time ago.  Today they will have yet another shitty QB handing the ball off to some semi injured running back that will rip off a 17 yard run against a horrific Dallas defense that will then be called back due to a penalty because some lineman bit some Dallas DT in the nutsack.  It's how every Raider game goes.  Dallas is 4-1 at home, with the only loss being a nailbiter to a vastly superior Denver team.  They are 10-2 to losing teams on Thanksgiving.  I'll take my chances with Dallas +1.  If they don't win this game, the people of Texas will burn that $300 billion dollar stadium to the ground, and they would be justified for doing so.  That stadium is an affront to God.

The night game is Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  I see two teams going in opposite directions.  Pittsburgh, as usual, is getting better late in the year.  Don't get me wrong, they kind of suck, but they appear to suck less than Baltimore.  They are the bizarro world Cleveland Browns.  When the Browns face adversity they wither.  When the Steelers do, they break the other teams ribs and win close games in the snow.  This game is usually a street fight.  It's one of those rare pro games where the teams really seem to dislike each other.  It's always close and very hard fought.  Since 2009 only one time has this game been decided by more than three points.  Since Pittsburgh is already getting points, I'll take the extra points and assume that Baltimore can't possibly win by more than 12.5.  

Thanksgiving Day Bonehead Teaser

Green Bay +17
Dallas +1
Pittsburgh +12.5

P.S.  Take Mississippi over Mississippi State tonight.  Mississippi State is starting a third string freshman at QB, and the Mississippi coach is 16-2 ATS against losing teams.  Plus, the game is called "The Egg Bowl".  How can you not have action on The Egg Bowl?  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Knockout Game

I work in a really crappy neighborhood in Cleveland’s “Midtown”.  Another name that comes to mind is “Shit Town”.  The consistent parade of riff raff and lost souls that shuffle through the area require two security guards to provide the illusion of safety in making the one block walk from the office to the employee parking lot.  Each afternoon police squad cars tear ass up the street towards the housing project two blocks south to fill out the paperwork on tomorrow’s headlines of “Three Shot, One Critical”.  Midtown’s enchanting dining options include Burger King and KFC, or perhaps a beef jerky passed through bulletproof glass at the Shell Station on Carnegie.  The area combines a complete lack of charm with total lack of basic services.

It shouldn’t be surprising that on Friday I received an office wide message in my work email to be on the lookout for “The Knockout Game”.  This is the latest Culture of Fear story being reported breathlessly by mainstream media that insists a nationwide epidemic is upon us of young (black) men punching totally unaware (white) people with the goal of knocking them unconscious with one punch.  This has been unimpeachably proven with three pieces of youtube video that run during each national media report.  The national news factory and their never ending hunger for sensational content has regurgitated this story over and over again without providing any substantial evidence that this is anything more than isolated events.  Why bother though?  It’s ratings gold!

While it probably blows a hole in the story that there have actually only been five or six shaky documented cases of “The Knockout Game” in a country of 314 million people, what TV program doesn’t want to air video of someone getting totally jacked?  Hell, I watch the videos every single time and I know how it’s going to end.  The fact that the one video pictured above of the guy taking a horrible header into the curb in New York is actually from Oct 2012 never seems to get mentioned.  The implication is that this happened yesterday and it could happen to you at any moment.  What all these panicking (white) people haven’t taken the time to figure out is that in 13 months across the entire country six out of 314 million people have been a victim of this.  This is roughly your odds of being struck by lightning while in the midst of a shark attack as you are holding a winning Mega Millions ticket.

I think I will take my chances.

The real story in this is how willing mainstream media is to villianize black teenagers again.  The undercurrent to each one of these stories is that black teenage boys, especially in a group, are to be feared.  The expectation that to even be near them is dangerous as they will strike you without warning or provocation.  The Culture of Fear, which is used to control the population, has once again been fed.  Don’t leave your homes.  Stay away from people that look different.  Fear everything. 

The problem with “The Knockout Game” is that the inference is that we as normal citizens are exclusively victims.  Let me ask you, why not turn the tables?  Why don’t a group of middle aged suburban white women leave their kick boxing class and drive to a sketchy neighborhood?  What’s to stop them from playing The Knockout Game themselves?  I can see six soccer moms walking down East 78th and kicking some black teenage boy in the head, knocking him cold.  Then they can post the video on their local PTA website.  They probably have kickass video cameras from recording all those school plays and travel soccer games.  Women in yoga pants walking around urban malls would be the New Face of Random Terror, or probably it would just be reported as “a new exercise craze you just won’t believe!!!!”.  Can’t you see grainy footage of Reese Witherspoon landing a windmill kick to some teenage boy’s skull?  “Reese Witherspoon gets in shape for her latest starring role by playing The Knockout Game on the Sunset Strip!  Coming up next on Entertainment Tonight!” (insert theme music).

While this will undoubtedly run out of steam like other great Urban Myths like Rainbow Parties, it will probably enjoy a pretty good run.  Eventually the news media will have to turn its attention back to losers camping outside of Wal Marts for Black Friday, Best of the year lists, and New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss.  Until then, I am going to wear boxing headgear and walk past all teenage boys and women in yoga pants in the classic Muhammed Ali “rope-a-dope” position.  I may push the limits of fashion, but I'm no fool.

I will not lose “The Knock Out Game”.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week 12

As last week proved without any doubt, Montgomery the basset hound doesn't know a damn thing.  I should have had my suspicions.  The basset hound, a loving and wildly eccentric  companion, has never been known for their intellect.  Montgomery is a great guy.  Nicest dog on the block.  I love that dog to death.  But between you and me?  He's no genius.  Ultimately I am to blame for putting him in a position to fail.  Though he his probably more capable than most regional managers in corporations, the business of picking winners in the NFL is not for three year old dogs or fools.  What was I thinking?  How could an animal that was primarily focused on ripping apart a plastic squeeky toy have known that the Kansas City Chiefs would have been incapable of moving the ball on the Denver defense?  That's on me.

This week I have spent some time getting deep inside the numbers.  While this will probably backfire on me yet again, I like having the false sense of security that Science is at work.  A game that stands out to me is the Colts at Arizona.  Arizona is giving the Colts three, which seems reasonable for a home team that has won three straight.  However, those three wins are against Jacksonville, Houston, and Atlanta, as they are known collectively as The Crushed Dream Triplets.  The Cards have beaten the crappy teams and lost to the good ones.  The Colts are a good one.  Well, I think they might be...  Indy is 4-1 ATS on the road, having won 6 of their last 8.  Take out that head scratching loss to St Louis at home, and it seems that the Colts are a class level above Arizona.  The Colts secondary is really banged up with the corners and a safety out.  That should lead to a high scoring game that the Colts eek out at the end.  I like the Colts +3 and love the OVER 45.

I'm pretty psyched for the Denver at New England game.  The Public has decided that the Patriots are going to win at home because, presumably, that is what they have done in big games since 1999.  New England is giving Denver 2.5.  Really?  There has been so much hype on the Manning vs Brady aspect of this game, it is easy to forget that those guys aren't actually on the field at the same time.  I am not sure how it is possible to bet against Manning and this magical season he is having in Denver.  If this was the Patriots of five years ago, I get it.  But this Patriot team kinda sucks...  I can already see the Patriots losing their first playoff game with the long lingering camera shots of the disgruntled Tom Brady on the sideline as the clock runs out.  The Patriots are 3-3 in their last six with losses to the Jets and Bengals.  I think Denver is going to attack New England up the middle, and the Patriots will play to keep it a low scoring game with the tactic of "hanging around and maybe something good will happen at the end".  That is probably their only play, but it isn't going to work.  Denver is getting points for the first time this season.  How is this not a pick em game?  I get 9-1 Denver and points?  Sounds good to me.  Denver +2.5.    

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Lou Reed

It has been disappointing of late to see rock musicians that have impacted my life die off.  I’m not referring to the fabulous career move of dying young and beautiful in tragic fashion like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, or Tupac.  For example, has anyone ever managed their show business career more gracefully than Jim Morrison?  How did his estate rid the planet of three years’ worth of “fat Jim with beard pissing in his overalls” pictures?  He is frozen in 1967 in perfectly fitting leather pants.  He truly is the Lizard King.  He can do anything.

The thing that is so disarming is that people that I first listened to somewhat close to their artistic prime are dying of old age maladies.  If that isn’t a warning bell for me, I don’t know what else is.  “Hey!  What do you mean Ray Mazerek died!  He wasn’t that old.  He just produced all those edgy punk bands like X!  What?  Those guys in X are in their late 50s now?  Really?.....Manzerek was 74?   Oh fuck….”  For some reason I still have in my mind that the Rolling Stones are the “old” band.  Keith Richards has been “old” ever since I got a vinyl copy of Hot Rocks when he was probably 36.  That has been a constant.  If Keith died tomorrow, something which has been openly discussed since 1969, it wouldn’t be shocking.  So what is it that surprised me about Lou Reed’s death?  He was a 71 year old man that had been an alcoholic, heroin addict, and speed freak.  Maybe it’s that he’s looked leathery and cranky since I first started listening to him in the early 80s.  Maybe I haven’t really noticed that 14 years have passed since his amazing “New York” record.  I better start paying closer attention.

Let’s talk about Lou Reed for a moment.  Lou Reed is a challenging recording artist.  He took chances, and frankly a great many of them failed.  He was one of those name checked artists that more people seem to like the idea of than their actual output.  You know those people that look like a thrift store barfed on them, always look disinterested/stoned and live in coffee shops without any visible means of support?  “Yeah… I love Lou Reed.  Transformer is great.  Um… I think my older brother had Rock N Roll Animal.  Yeah…  I love Lou Reed.”  They are “big fans” of Lou Reed in the same way they are “big fans” of Johnny Cash because they know Folsom Prison Blues and saw the “Hurt” video once. 

Lou is an enigma.  He has a free pass because of the music he made in his early twenties with the Velvet Underground.  I am assuming if you are reading this, you must have those records.  If you don’t, this should be a major point of embarrassment, and you should not let anyone know this about you.  Quietly secure all the Velvet Underground material.  It is one of the few things on the planet that lives up to the hype.  Because of those records, no one is allowed to say “I have no idea what most of Lou’s records sound like.  I bought one once and hated it.  I only like “Sweet Jane” and “Walk On The Wild Side” because I heard them on the radio a million times.  I saw “Mistrial” in most cutout bins though the 1990s though…”

After Lou jettisoned out of the Velvet Underground to no fanfare whatsoever, he made a million records.  Almost no one I know has hardly any of them, and I know a lot of record nerds.  I, on the other hand,  have almost all of them.  This is either a testament to my loyalty to his artistic statement, or my obsessive nature.  Note, I did not get duped by the Metal Machine Music farce, or buy that horrible Metallica collaboration.  Hell, even I have my limits.  But I do have “The Bells”, “Legendary Hearts”, and even “Ecstacy”.  I even have those live records from the last 15 years, some of which are really good.  Here’s the thing about Lou Reed.  He did what he wanted to do with only the smallest regard for the audience.  He figured he was smarter than the masses, and fuck ‘em if they didn’t get it.  At least, that’s how I saw it.  His one real hit, “Walk On The Wild Side” was a fluke.  I don’t know if he could have catered to the public even if that was his goal.  It was Lou’s trip, and you could go on it if you were interested.  Me?  I was interested. 

Lou’s records are meant to be listened to as albums for the most part.  He really adhered to that format.  The problem with that is that there are a bunch of clunker albums with one or two really good tracks.  There are also so many repackages it’ll make your head spin.  Thanks to our good friends at itunes, it is possible to put together a retrospective that will probably determine if you personally need to track down his catalogue for yourself.  Take a chance.  Try these out…

1)       Wild Child- “Lou Reed”

2)      Walk On The Wild Side- “Transformer”

3)      Perfect Day-“Transformer”

4)      “Hangin’ Round (acoustic demo)- “Transformer”

5)      “Gimme Some Good Times”- Street Hassle

6)      “Street Hassle”- Street Hassle

7)      Underneath the Bottle- “The Blue Mask”

8)      The Blue Mask- “The Blue Mask”

9)      Legendary Hearts- “Legendary Hearts”

10)   Turn To Me- “New Sensations”

11)   Romeo Had Juliette- “New York”

12)   Sword of Damocles- “Magic and Loss”

13)   All Tomorrow’s Parties- “Animal Serenade”       

Now, does anyone know how Keith is feeling?  Is he OK?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Nurse the Hate: The Worst Bathroom Ever

If you really want to break the ice at a party, I would suggest asking the simple question, “Where’s the worst place you ever took a shit?”.  While this is a seemingly distasteful question, this is a universal experience that is burned into each one of our collective memories.  The answer will tell you much about the person.  In my experience, the more interesting the answer, the more interesting is the person.  A plain answer, without nuance, will generally reveal a plain person, also without nuance.  Is this a perfect question in every social scenario?  Well, probably not, but you will learn more about the person than if you asked where they had gone to high school.

I have a few candidates for my answer.  There was an ugly incident in Selestat, France.  A train station in Monte Russo, Italy comes to mind.  There are several rock clubs on the East Coast.  However, allow me to take you to the summer of 1989.  It was a hot summer.  It was the hottest on record up to that time.  I was living in a bleak rental house without air conditioning.  My window, which never produced a breeze, looked out on a patchwork of utility lines and shabby backyards.  The house was really a wonder of construction.  Somehow, no matter which room you were in that house, there was never a breeze.  A shower would be followed by immediate perspiration.  The thick stale air always hung like a moist blanket.  The key to living there was to limit movement, as if a lizard on a rock.  That summer was absolutely brutal.

The decision was made to go see the Grateful Dead with the Violent Femmes opening up at Buckeye Lake outside Columbus.  An extremely unusual bill, it was right in our wheelhouse.  I was, and am still, an unapologetic fan of the Grateful Dead.  Without “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead”, the idea of “Americana music” would be far fetched.  The problem with the Dead for many people is the wrapping paper.  Look, I get the fact that hippies are really frustrating.  Yes, the Dead seem to almost always be out of tune.  I know, they sure do noodle around a lot on those 90 minute second sets.  However, Jerry Garcia’s inventive playing and enthusiastic interpretation of American roots music was my gateway into a treasure trove of music styles like bluegrass, jazz, and Appalachian standards.  After I went to a couple shows and saw how much fun could be had, I was all in.  Hey man, maybe they’ll play “New Speedway Boogie” tonight…

I got into the Grateful Dead a few years before that “Touch of Grey” video on MTV blew the lid off the scene.  After years of toil, the Dead were suddenly a cool thing for The Public to check out.  Let’s pretend it’s 1967 and get fucked up at the big arena!  The circus is in town!  Shows went from 12,000 to 60,000 overnight.  While the size of the crowds were overwhelming, add into the mix that about 15,000 of the 60,000 people at the show thought it would be a great idea to try LSD for the first time.  Thus things like “parking the car” and “entering the facility” became almost impossible.  Traffic would be backed up two miles because some guy had set up a teepee on I-79 and was seeing visions.  “Hey man… How can I go to the show when my eyes fell out a hundred centuries ago?”  Um, I’m not sure, but can you get your dog out of my seat?

The show at Buckeye was at the peak of this insanity.  Buckeye is a “facility” in much the same way “Montana” is a facility.  Buckeye was an enormous group of rolling fields with a stage plopped down in the middle of it.  Snow fences circled an area the size of Harrisburg to keep the ticketless out.  Cars were herded in via one two-lane road in a traffic nightmare from The End of Days.  We finally parked the car in a vast field with 31,000 other cars.  There was a small outcropping of woods on the left.  Rumor had it that the concert was roughly a mile east.  It was then I noticed that in the woods a small group of guys that all looked like Charlie Manson were freaking out on some drug or combination of drugs, eyes peering out between the leaves like rabid raccoons.  They were gone.  Forget about them.  They were going on a trip that was going to be a rocky ordeal.  It would be a Lord of the Flies thing by nightfall.

We had a few hours to kill, and started in on our tailgate supplies.  The hippie community was the first group I saw that truly embraced craft beer.  In 1989, it seemed like everyone was drinking Samuel Smith, Saranac, or Sierra Nevada.  I think we had Saranac Pale.  We should have gone with water.  It was 102 degrees.  There was no breeze.  Not a cloud in the sky.  People sat Indian style in any shade available.  We drank and laughed it up, the sun roasting our skin.  I felt great, in that way you only can when you are 21 without a responsibility or care in the world.

The first gurgle in my intestine was a warning shot across the bow.  I was concerned, but hoped this was something along the lines of “at some point you will have to deal with this, but not yet…”.  The level of gastrointestinal discomfort rose.  I had notched up to DefCon3.  I would need someplace to go to confront this situation.  Someplace soon.  Very soon.

It will be hard to convey upon you the hopelessness of my situation.  From my immediate vantage point, I had two options.  I could go into the woods and shit amongst the freaked out Allman Brother looking guys, which seemed like a horrible idea based on the noises coming from those woods.  Option #2 was even worse, squatting between cars like a dog in plain view of 15-20 people depending on what angle I could work out.  This I decided would irrevocably erase the line in me between “man” and “beast”.  I would no longer be human, but some sort of biped animal to be mocked and feared.

I set out on a mission, a quest really, to seek out any change in circumstance that would approach anything close to an “acceptable” bathroom option.  Over hill and dale this intrepid adventurer traveled.  I walked past row after row of cars as the merciless sun beat down.  Sweat poured down my back.  The grass almost crackled it was so dry.  These were hard times.  Rock hard times.  Then, in the distance, I saw a lonely line of three portajohns.  I was like a man that had wandered the desert and spotted an oasis.  I walked unevenly in that direction through hacky sacks, nitrous tanks, and dead eyed girls in peasant dresses with cardboard signs offering palm readings.

By the time I reached the toilets, my gastrointestinal status had reached DefCon4.  This was happening.  This was happening soon.  There was a surprisingly small line of people waiting, as these three toilets appeared to be servicing 17,434 people.  As I waited in line, we all made nervous small talk and told jokes about how badly we all had to go, a brotherhood of the toilet.  I can still remember the stench coming from the toilets being overwhelming.  At this point, that did not matter.  Nothing did.  It was “go time”.

At last it was my turn.  I don’t know what the conditions of the other two portajohns were at that time.  Mine could best be described as “horrifying”.  I have seen some horrible bathrooms in my time.  Bernie's in Columbus.  CBGBs.  JBs Down in Kent.  Assorted gas stations across the USA.  This was unique.  It was almost beyond belief.  Part of the toilet seat and most of the backsplash had been sprayed like a hose filled with pudding had been fired into the doorway.  A brackish brown liquid sloshed around my feet.  The temperature was unbearable outside, but inside it was hot enough to braise short ribs.  However, instead of ribs braising was an unfathomable jambalaya of human excrement, perched just inches from the filthy seat.  I would have gagged, but didn't want to open my mouth.

Sweat poured from my brow.  I squatted above the general area, my shorts being held above the filth on the floor by my positioning my trembling legs like I was skiing snowplow.  I released.  Despite the monumentally terrible conditions, it was a moment of relief.  I rode the wave.  Imagine a can of Dinty Moore beef stew being shot out of a shaken Coke can landing on a heap of spaghetti sauce.  It was soft hitting soft.  I wanted more than anything to get out of that tiny filthy space, but I was held captive until my colon spasms ceased.  It seemed like I was there an hour, my shirt now soaked through.  Voices yelled from the outside.  “C’mon man!  What are you doing in there?”  Pressure.  Tension.  It was awful.  Then it was over.  At last. 

My relief turned to horror when I saw the roll of toilet paper puffed out from contact with God-knows-what liquid.  I reached carefully into my pocked and found a used Kleenex and receipts to pad myself as clean as possible.  It wasn’t, shall we say, ideal.  I walked out of the portajohn, making eye contact with no one and filled with shame.  The next person in line, probably as urgently needing to enter the facility as I had been moments earlier, wouldn’t have even noticed.  Even if they did, their focus would have completely shifted to taking stock of their new hellish reality that I would have been instantly forgotten.

I set back out with the sun in my face; unsure of where the car was or which direction I had come.  It was, without question, the worst place I had ever and hopefully will ever shit.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Football Week 11

Seeing the hound at work is to stand in the aura of a master.  His mind free and pure, able to understand with precise clarity the outcome of future events.  His days remain unhindered by trivial pursuits.  He spends his days eating, relaxing, sniffing, and gazing into the future with a calm that covers all in his axis like a warm blanket.  Can I explain it?  No.  How can one explain a hummingbird or a bumblebee?  They should not function, but yet do in effortless fashion.  Such is the situation with Montgomery, the oracle of football.  His uncanny ability to predict the future is most likely related to how dogs sense earthquakes.  We cannot hope to understand it completely, but we must attempt to harness this power in our own clumsy way for personal gain.  It is the plight of man, stumbling through this world in which so much is unknowable.

Montgomery went 4-1 last week, and I think I confused him on the one game he lost.  Last night we went over some of the high profile games, and Monty was very decisive on all of these games with the exception of the Denver v Kansas City game, where he lingered staring at both treats as I repeated “Denver minus nine over here, or Kansas City with the points over here… “  His brow furrowed, he stared at both treats for a long time before finally making his selection.

I have received many emails wanting to know how Monty felt about particular games, and I am sorry that he did not pick the whole slate of games.  This is not because he is unaware of who will win each game.  He does.  Remember, he looks into the future as you would look into a TV set.  It’s not a prediction, but a validation of events that have yet to unfold to us.  No, the problem was the number of treats I had at my disposal.  An overfed basset is not an asset to anyone, and Monty needs to keep his trim figure.  To stay “hungry” if you will for future games…

As one person who messaged me asked, here’s Monty’s “early steam”…

Monty loves Nebraska +5.5 over Michigan State and Stanford -3.5 over USC on Saturday.  Remember, Montgomery does not buy into media hype.  He does not watch ESPN.  He watches squirrels and sometimes birds.  That keeps his mind clear. 

On Sunday, Montgomery also gave strong “buy” signals to Cincinnati -6 over Cleveland and New Orleans -3 over San Francisco.  As I mentioned previously, the only game that gave him pause was the Denver v KC game where he made no move on either treat until finally indicating Kansas City +9 as his play.  Take this hesitation as you will.  Did he really concentrate on that game?  Was the future unclear?  Are there two possible futures?  Is everything that is to come already destined to occur, or do we indeed have freewill?  These are heady questions that are a lot for a young basset hound to tackle.  Regardless of how you fall on the subject of destiny, there is no debate on results. 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Paris

A good friend of mine was recently divorced.  This was a shock to him as he was with this woman for a decade, and by all outward appearances things were going swimmingly.  One day she came home and said, “This isn’t working” and it was over.  It takes two to tango, and this dance was over.  She took her stuff and moved out.  As it turned out, her stuff was the good stuff, and he was left in a depressing small house trying to figure out what went wrong.  It’s a tough situation when you want to make soup and realize you don’t have that soup pan anymore. 

The difficulty in these situations is attempting to figure out what went wrong, who was to blame, and what could have been done differently.  Unfortunately he will never really know what went wrong as almost no one has the courage to say “I realized I didn’t love you and being in the same room with you felt like a prison”.  Or maybe it was something as simple as “I realized I knew what every predictable second would be with you, and I wanted a story I didn’t know the end of yet”.  No matter what, being the one dumped can’t be easy and he will always wonder in the back of his mind if he is fatally flawed and ultimately unlovable.

He has attempted to move on and has discovered that almost every woman he comes in contact with is totally fucked up.  I suppose this shouldn’t be a total shock, as a man in his forties is left with what is left on the shelf.  Additionally I think a strong argument can be made that almost every single person on the planet is pretty fucked up.  Take inventory of your friends.  I will guarantee that even some of your closest and dear friends are damaged beyond redemption, and would drive you crazy if you spent more than an hour with any of them.  Living with them?  You’d leap off a building.  It’s not easy.  As Willie Nelson kinda said, “90% of the population ends up with the wrong person.  That’s what keeps the jukebox spinning.”

My friend meets a woman in a bar.  She's nice and they have an easy companionship.  He keeps the relationship on slow advance.  They see each other once a week.  The holidays are approaching, and he has unused vacation time.  He has a real desire to visit Paris properly.  He was there once for two days by himself and was eager to return.  He asks her if she wants to travel to Paris with him in December.  She eagerly agrees and they make plans, with the hedge of a cancelable ticket. They do their thing, getting together once a weekend having fun together.  Then, without warning, he gets a text message.  “This isn’t working.”  As of our conversation he had not heard from her in ten days.  No return calls.  No explanation. 

The question remains, what about Paris?  They are both vested in the trip as they split the costs.  She had not logged online to cancel.  He has not either.  It’s like a game of virtual chicken, neither of them yielding the bargain trip.  So how will this play out?   Will she arrive at the airport and go on the trip, assuming he will not show for the flight?  Will she score a 50% discounted Paris trip due to my friend’s fear of an awkward scene at the airport?  And what the fuck was that deal with a text message breakup?

In the pyramid of human communication, the text is the lowest form.  OK, maybe if she had sent him a piece of direct mail it might have been worse.  I am envisioning a colored envelope stuffer like a Dollar Stretcher where she has a photo of him with the text “Mary is no longer seeing This Guy”.  That would be more insensitive.  Skywriting would be bad too.  As would leaflets dropped by a cargo plane.  But a casual text sent without explanation sent to a guy that you were planning to go to Paris with a week ago is pretty poor etiquette.  She couldn’t have broken off a call?  C’mon now…

Now if I am in his shoes, I go on that trip no matter what.  If she shows up at the airport and unblinkingly checks into the same hotel room, he shouldn’t budge.  If she goes out at night and returns to the room with a French guy that performs 38 minutes of cunnilingus on her 2 feet away in a micro Euro hotel room, I recommend that he calmly reads a book in the bed next to hers as if it isn’t happening.  Maybe he puts in ear buds for some discretion, but under no circumstances should he turn the bedside light off and place his novel down.  They want room service?  Put a club sandwich on the order and talk about soccer, Jerry Lewis movies, and America's role in WW2 when the food comes.  It’s really the ultimate game of social chicken.  If he has to, he should walk into the ridiculously small and poorly engineered shower and lather up while she’s in it.  Text message?  Text message?  Take a close look at me lathering up my scrotum Mon Cherie!

I don’t know how this thing is going to play out.  I know that he is now more crippled by self doubt than ever.  The last two women you have been intimate with have decided that “it isn’t working” without warning?  Hey, it’s not good.  As we sat at the bar over a beer I listened to his story like a good friend.  We talked about his next moves.  We talked about what might have gone wrong.  We talked about Paris.  Finally, the conversation turned quiet.  We had one of those comfortable silences that make good friends.  He turned to me with a pause.  He hesitated.  “What is the deal?  Is it something I’m doing?”

I took a long pull from my beer.  I looked him straight in the eye.  “Yeah.  It’s probably you.  But you’ll always have Paris.”