Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Kentucky

What could be better than waiting around for the snow to melt on the last weekend in March?  I seem to recall a time when I routinely walked outside and didn't have to prepare as if I was leaving an igloo and about to battle polar bears.  It seems so long ago when I wore shoes that were not constructed primarily of rubber.  I do have evidence that such a time existed as my closet is filled with lighter weight clothes I apparently no longer need.  I just can't remember when it was that I wore them...  Are Jams shorts still in style?

That leaves me trapped in the house left with nothing else to do but gamble wildly and listen to my new Dex Romweber and Sham 69 records.  I am aware that this is almost rock bottom, but I'm not there yet.  Not as long as I can take Michigan +2.5 over Kentucky.  I won with a couple of underdogs yesterday (Dayton +10.5 and Wisconsin +2) and really feel pretty good about this game.  I really didn't have to think about it, and instead let my mind wander to the possibilities of re-arranging "Action Time Vision" as a 60s pop song.  You see, what makes me so carefree is that The Public has jumped so far onto the Kentucky bandwagon, there is no other possibility except a Michigan victory today.

Every national media outlet I saw over the last two days has been loudly proclaiming "Kentucky Is Back!".  I honestly had no idea who they were even playing until this morning when I specifically looked.  The Sports Press has already penciled in their beloved Wildcats into the Final Four, not really remembering that Michigan is a legit basketball team.  At this point the train has left the station and everyone is on board.  WooHoo!

This seems like one of those classic games that make Las Vegas casinos say "Fuck, let's do a .99 cent shrimp cocktail.  We can afford it as long as we get enough Rubes in here to bet that Kentucky game. Maybe they'll stay and play some slots too!"  It's why there are gigantic lakes in the desert.  It's why they build rollercoasters on top of twenty story hotels.  It's why they put a light on top of a faux Egyptian pyramid that you can see from outer space.  Every dipshit in the United States is going to be all over Kentucky today.  I urge you to get on the other side of that line.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate "This Is Cleveland!"

The campaign has begun.  It’s all different now.  Can you feel the change in the air?  “This Is Cleveland”  I am amazed that an ad agency could present that campaign with a straight face and charge whatever the hell they charged.  “Stan, this is nothing like the “This Is Buffalo” or “This Is DeMoines” campaigns we cooked up last year.  This is fresh crispy creative that is gonna make those millennial hipsters cream their jeans to get into C-Town to drink some organic free range IPA and eat some stone ground locally sourced mustard!  This is the new Brooklyn baby!” 
See what I mean.  Click on this: 

Seriously, the agency must have come up with that idea on the plane ride home and then tried to figure out how to sell it through for the weeks leading up to the presentation.  “Chad… There is no way they pay our fee for “This Is Cleveland”!  You can’t make me step into that room with that bullshit!  I don’t care how many grainy pictures you take of shit to make it look “gritty” and “real”, they ain’t going to buy that!”

But they did.

The “This Is Cleveland” video shows that living in Cleveland is exactly like living in a Miller Genuine Draft commercial from two years ago.  It’s all about having a grainy photo experience with fellow hipsters drinking microbrew and eating out at really expensive restaurants while being thrift store cool.  While this might be the experience that white people from an ad agency on an expense account have while they are here, and that probably mirrors the experience of the Positively Cleveland people that they are selling this concept to, that might be an experience that is almost entirely limited to the tiny population of unmarried college art school grads with no kids. 

I’m a guy that plays and inhabits some of the clubs they show on that video.  I can identify every location in that thing.  You know how many people I run into from my neighborhood or workplace (i.e. “normal” people) when I go to the Happy Dog?  None.  Zero.  You know why?  Because like the rest of America, the General Public doesn’t give a fuck about The Futurebirds playing at the Tavern, or that the Greenhouse Tavern is doing an organic Belgian Ale tasting.  They want to go to Giant Eagle, buy some pre-packaged foods, and maybe watch Transformers 2 at the Mall before stopping in at Menchies for a Reese’s Pieces sundae.  While it looks cool to show cool people doing cool things, is that really going to move the needle?   The Cleveland Music Scene that is being portrayed in that video (i.e. individuals making cutting edge original music reasonably well that can put 50+ people in a room when they perform) numbers about 200 people, and that’s being really optimistic. 

The problem about trying to trick the 17 people in every city that actually make up this target market is that those 17 people are aware enough to know that they can buzz into Cleveland for a weekend to see a show, but if the tour dates line up, they’d rather see that same band in Chicago or New York.  Hell, I would too.  No matter how many shots of East Fourth St are recycled, this café culture that is being presented doesn’t actually exist.  This video can literally be made in any city in the Rust Belt as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit etc. etc. all have a few really cool places to go.  It’s just sort of ridiculous to market to a tiny demographic, 11% according to an earlier interview given by the organization, when it isn’t really what Cleveland does best.

Like it or not, Cleveland is all about families.  Here’s a test.  A new guy starts at work, and then is asked “Are you originally from Cleveland?”.  If that answer is not “Yes” or “I have family here.” that guy is moving away in two years.  I have seen it time and time again.  I love it when the New Manager Guy starts and bullshits about how excited he and his family are to be here and how they plan on setting down roots.  Hey, did you buy a house or rent?  “Oh, we rented…”  Of course you did.  Adios amigo.

Cleveland is dorky families going to the Lake and having picnics.  It’s about day trips to Cedar Point.  It’s about watching the Browns get pasted together.  It’s about walking around at the Zoo and the IX Center.  It’s about our teams losing, our weather sucking, and people from out of town giving us shit.  It’s about friendly people that don’t like pretension, or really spend any time doing what that video suggests.  It’s a “we’re all in this together” mentality that a bunch of carpetbaggers from Kansas City couldn’t have possibly picked up having pints at Great Lakes or standing around on East Fourth by the Positively Cleveland offices before an Indians game. 

By the way, what happened to all the black people?  For a city with 53% African American residents, as far as I can tell the only black people that live here shop in record stores, dance in the streets, or play guitar on street corners.  Oh well…  In my mind Cleveland has always been a plum anyway…

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Tournament Day 3

I came plummeting back to earth yesterday.  This should come as no surprise.  I don't know anything about what is going on with these NCAA games.  That won't stop me from going back to the well today.  While I am waiting to play a rock show tonight, I want to be able to obsessively check my phone for scores.  I feel as if I have begun a project and I need to see that project to its inevitable conclusion.

I am going to take San Diego State -3 today over North Dakota State.  My blogger guy says they have much better defense, and that will be the difference.  I just think that these tournament upset feel good stories usually last about 48 hours.  The story arch appears to be team wins big upset, kids at small school live it up and can't believe all the national media people that want to talk to them, and then forget they have another game the next day.  It's a harsh world to go from Erin Andrews wanting your attention to hoping someone takes your Taco Bell order in North Dakota in less than 2 days, but that's life kid.  This was your moment in the sun.  That's over now.  Have a good life in Fargo.

Alert!  Alert!  What a great time for an ill-advised two team teaser!  Saturday night?  What a perfect time to make a sucker bet.  How about if we take Syracuse -4 and Oregon +9.5.  Everyone thinks Dayton is a big deal because they beat a weak ass Ohio State team.  Syracuse is a legitimate basketball team though.  They'll get to the Sweet 16, right?  This is admittedly very flimsy logic.  Regarding Oregon +9.5, I think that this game will be close.  Wisconsin likes to slow it down and play low scoring games.  If that's the case, 9.5 is too many points to give in a tournament game against two relatively close teams.  No one ever sees Oregon, so the logic is they must suck.  The Pac 10 or 12 or whatever the fuck it is now is a monster conference.  What could go wrong here?    

Tournament record= 4-2-1

Friday, March 21, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Tournament Day 2

Yesterday worked out very well.  I went 3-0-1 against the spread, pretended to know a few things about college basketball, and had a few Stone Go-To IPAs.  This is what is referred to as “a very successful day” in Western Society for an adult male.  Have I set my sights too low on what success means?  Yes, I probably have, but I won’t let this bring me down.  Instead, I will take the money I won yesterday and chase further triumph by wagering on more games that I really have no rational reason to bet on. 

First up, I am taking Duke -13 over Mercer.  Betting on Duke is sort of like taking Darth Vader over the scrappy loveable Jedi Knights.  I realize it is bad karma to hitch my wagon to these elitist creeps.  However, it seems that there’s a lot of shit talk coming from so called “experts” on sports talk saying that Mercer might win this game.  As far as I can tell, that is because there were a couple of upsets yesterday and these people have caught the fever in trying to predict yet another surprising finish.  Assuming Duke goes out and tries to score a shitload of points and turn this into a scoring contest, I think Mercer hangs in through the first half and then looks dejected on the bench with 8:34 left in the game down by 22.

I am also taking Kentucky -6.5 because of the sheer amount of pre-tournament talk about how disappointing that team has been.  Make no mistake; this team is really a professional team of 19 year olds that will be playing in sparse minutes of forgettable NBA games next year.  The expectations that they would win almost every game they had just by showing up is probably fair.  Today they play Kansas State who my blogger friend pointed out has only won twice (2) games on the road all season.  That doesn’t give me much of a reason to believe that they will suddenly show up on a neutral court that probably traveled 11,000 Wildcat fans and punk Kentucky.  This is also probably a bad karma wager, but what the hell…        

I’m taking Virginia Commonwealth -6 over Stephen F. Austin.  There is no way a guy named Steve can possibly play well enough on his own to beat a team of five motivated college kids from VCU.  Granted, I know nothing about Stephen F. Austin.  There is the slight chance that this might not be an individual that somehow won enough games against full teams to qualify for the tournament and may be an actual university.  I don’t have a lot of time today, so I couldn’t look it up.  Even on the off chance this is a school, I can’t believe a school founded on the guiding principles of The Six Million Dollar Man TV series on ABC in the 1970s could attract top tier basketball talent.      

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Tournament Day 1

The first day of the NCAA Tournament is one of my all time favorite days of the year.  I still fondly remember the time when a kid from Kentucky hit an otherwise meaningless 30 foot jumpshot at the buzzer to provide a late 27 point cover while a group of us wept for joy on Cleopatra's Barge at Caesar's Palace.  There is something very subversive about slinking away from work to watch the first round games with other degenerates avoiding work responsibilities.  However, I do tend to look down on those that are white knuckling the NC State v St. Louis game strictly due to their $5 office bracket.  This is the time of year to man-up and gamble wildly on sporting events that you have absolutely no real idea about the outcome.  I will later be swaggering around some sports bar called something like TJ McDrunky's running my mouth about the "senior guard play" of Iowa State when, in fact, I have no idea of what I am talking about.  It's all shit talk.  All of it.  That doesn't mean I'll be on the sidelines today.  It's the opposite.  I'm swinging for the fences based purely on internet research and betting on trends. 

I'm on Dayton +6.5.  I haven't followed Ohio State this year.  The only thing I really know about them is that every time I open a sports page the headline reads "Ohio State Disappoints Everyone Again".  If Ohio State somehow wins and covers this game, I will just double down on them next game.  Betting against the Buckeyes is sold gold this year.  Plus, I really enjoy betting against Ohio State in a room filled with OSU honks.  The dirty looks are great when I do the robot to Salt N Pepa's "Push It" on the jukebox after I win the wager.

I read a blogger that really shines at this time of year.  As far as I can tell, all he does is watch college basketball games on TV and read about college basketball while he's on the shitter.  That's a guy you need to know today.  He really likes Pittsburgh -6.5.  That's not because Pittsburgh is so great, but rather Colorado is the second worst team in the tournament this year according to a bunch of cross analyzed info.  If someone who does nothing else but watch basketball tells me something like this, I believe him.

I'm going to take Syracuse -13 today for two reasons.  First, they really fell apart after a great start.  That means the public thinks that they will immediately flame out against Western Michigan.  To think that, you would have to avoid considering how mad the MAC Conference has become.  Teams from the Horizon League like to kick the fuck out of MAC teams in December to warm up for the rigors of Youngstown State and University of Illinois at Chicago in league play.  You think those Western Michigan guys are going to step up against a legitimate basketball team like Syracuse?  I don't.  The second big reason for me is the very real possibility I will be watching this game with some Syracuse grads.  They are good guys, and I would prefer to be part of the club than an antagonist in this case.  I will not be doing the robot to "Push It" in this instance.

That blogger guy loves NC State +3 over St. Louis.  For some reason he thinks St. Louis is totally overrated.  I, on the other hand, don't even know what St. Louis's mascot is, unless of course the Cardinals are playing the NC State basketball team.  If that is the case I am very concerned about Yadier Molina's ability to get up and down the floor vs. a bunch of long limbed college athletes.  I think a decade of catching in the big leagues is going to really prevent him from playing above the rim too.  If the Cardinals baseball team isn't the team that NC State is playing, I'm basically betting this game blind. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate St. Patrick's Day

1) He stood in the long line to get into the Irish Bar.  The bar was a shit hole.  The owners kept it going just to cash in on St. Patrick’s Day.  Everyone in the area felt it was authentic to go to a place called Sullivan’s on St. Pat’s, as if this grim little tavern was somehow magical due to the Irish American descent of a long forgotten past owner.  The current owners were of Polish descent, last names an impossible array of consonants.  He had seen the young man behind the bar a few years previously hit a 25-foot jump shot as a Gannon College guard to impossibly beat Georgetown by one at the buzzer.  Now he struggled to fill an unquenchable thirst for green draft beer in small plastic cups.  His fingers were stained green from dropping the food coloring into the Stroh’s coming off the assembly line run by his older brother and mother.  This was a long way from that Georgetown buzzer beater…

2)  He went to the parade with his friends from school, all of them too young to drink legally.  They crammed themselves into a downtown bar where the girls convinced some men to buy them beers at the bar.  The men grew visibly irritated when they learned the girls were not unaccompanied and they would have to buy beers for him and his friend lest they appear too transparent in their motivations.  Horrible music blasted well past the limits of the sound system, the distortion from the overhead speakers making conversation almost impossible.  One of the men dismissively handed him the beer he had paid for and turned his attention back to the girls.  He drank the cup of beer with his elbows pushed in to his sides, the crush of people in the bar making any movement impossible.  They went to the parade.  It was cold and windy.  High school bands marched past proudly.  Black hustlers from the inner city hawked plastic derby style hats and blinking shamrock buttons.  Teenagers lurched on the sidewalks, drunk well past their previous experience.  They tried to get into the “cool bars” later.  With no fake IDs, both he and his friend were stopped.  Despite no IDs either, the girls were waved in.  The girls ditched him and his friend, laughing at the lark of it all as the crowd swallowed them up. 

3)  As an attempt to distinguish himself from the other “great unwashed” that crammed into his usual local watering hole, he ordered Black & Tans.  Though he didn’t especially care for the taste, he believed this would make him appear more cosmopolitan.  This seemed optimistic at best, as his Philadelphia Eagles jersey he wore was his only green item of apparel.  This shirt did not suggest a young life being spent traveling the British Isles.  Fate smiled on him though as a young woman in a green top hat noticed the bartender preparing his Black & Tan, and they struck up a conversation.  She was quick witted and confident.  They bought each other Black and Tans.  They left the bar together under the guise of getting something to eat at the nearby gyro cart.  It was swamped with almost comatose college students hoping the garlicky sandwich would soak up their poor judgment from earlier that afternoon.  Without further discussion, he walked her to her apartment.  She lived in a second floor walkup above a downtown boutique.  She sat him down on her couch and walked to her bedroom down to hall with the clichéd promise to “slip into something more comfortable”.  This was the first chance he really had to look at her clearly.  Her body was well out of what he had considered to be his league.  She was beautiful.  He waited for her to emerge from the bedroom.  Time sluggishly clicked off on her kitchen wall clock.  It seemed she had been gone forever.  He slowly walked down the hall asking if she was OK.  There was no response.  He opened her bedroom door.  She lay on her back on the bed with her feet on the floor.  She was passed out.  He kissed her on the forehead and walked out the door, making sure it was locked behind him.  He never saw her again.

4)  He worked in a job that placed him in bars on St. Patrick’s Day managing beer promotions for the rock radio station.  Many of his co-workers joined him at the bar that afternoon for the promise of VIP treatment and free beers on the station.  One of the young salesmen from the station was crippled with the insecurity of having to constantly prove he belonged with the crowd.  The Salesman was the one that did too many shots, shot off his mouth too often, and bragged about questionable exploits.  Not surprisingly The Salesman started doing shots upon his arrival.  The Salesman sought out female co-workers and did shots with them all.  The Salesman was a big man, and though still in his early 20s The Salesman bore an odd resemblance to the Browns current head coach.  He saw The Salesman starting to fall off the rails, but thought nothing of it.  The atmosphere would help his deteriorating behavior go unnoticed.  Well, until he noticed The Salesman standing against the bar facing the crowd in the room with his pants unzipped and his penis hanging out of his pants.  The real issue was not so much that the penis was out flapping around.  No, the real issue was that many people in the bar had noticed and were pointing at him, yelling much like if a dangerous African mammal had strutted into the room unexpectedly.  The Salesman was whisked out of the room by bar security.  He spent the rest of that St Patrick’s Day explaining to the bar owner that this was an isolated incident that didn’t bear any further conversation and could be swept under the rug without further adieu.  There was no reason to call station management to talk about The Salesman and how his prescription medicine had unfortunately interacted with a friendly drink provided by a stranger.  Why perhaps that drink had been laced with something? (As if a young woman wanted to take advantage of a balding overweight man in his twenties…)  The bar owner settled down and The Salesman later passed out in the lobby of an apartment complex, though not before calling station management himself to confess to the horrible crime.  His time at the radio station would quietly end shortly afterward.                   

Friday, March 14, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Cleveland

I have recently become infatuated with the efforts to “re-brand” the City of Cleveland.  To most of you that thankfully don’t obsess on minutiae like this, please note that every population center in the country has a little office of worker bees attempting to generate interest and “tourist dollars” in their fair cities.  I don’t know how effective any of these efforts ultimately are, but an effort is made nonetheless.  It makes everyone feel better that at least you tried.  “Well Mitch, we just got the word.  The Plumber’s Convention said it was between us and Vegas, but they went with Vegas.  Damn!  You would think that with our great hotel rates, they would want to come here in January.  Oh well, I feel sorry for those suckers.  Good luck having a good convention there!”  Some cities have a very easy time of tricking folks in for a visit.  Las Vegas, Orlando, and New York I am looking at you!  Some others, like Cleveland for example, have a much less enviable task.

As you are probably aware, Cleveland has tagged itself as The Rock & Roll Capital of the World.  Originally this was because 176 years ago DJ Alan Freed allegedly coined the term “rock and roll” on his radio show, not because Cleveland is the birthplace of the Raspberries or LaVert.  Through heavy lobbying, and probably out and out blackmail money, the city managed to get the rights of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from Jan Wenner and his cronies at Rolling Stone Magazine.  Why Jan Wenner decides where such a museum goes is very confusing to me, but that’s how it played out.  He must have bought “rock & roll” in the early 70s when it could be had lock, stock, and barrel at a good price.  By this logic Sports Illustrated’s editorial staff should have decided the location of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The tough thing about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that almost all the really high profile events are held in New York.  This is because most of the actual artists in the Rock Hall only want to go to Cleveland when they are playing 50-minute sets at a sports arena and selling the hard working concertgoers $45 t-shirts.  They don’t want to actually hang out here.  Springsteen may be all blue jeans and workingman in his songs, but that dude only shows up at big events in Manhattan.  Mick Jagger does not want to go to South Park Mall.  He does want to go to New York and pay homage to Jan Wenner so they’ll call his next terrible solo record a “classic” though.  This is the horrible truth.

So Cleveland has an association called Positively Cleveland that works as hard as all these other cities in trying to lure conventions and tourists here.  They have apparently decided that the City needs to be “re-branded”.  This is very typical of these organizations, as they have probably grown tired of telling the same people the same old things.  There’s some writer at some crappy travel magazine that has been there for 20 years, and if he already wrote a puff story about Cleveland once in the last two decades, he isn’t going to again no matter what is going on at the Rock Hall or if we finally put up a casino.  Well, not unless he gets hand fed a new angle…  That’s why there was probably a meeting at Positively Cleveland where everyone agreed that the marketing needed to be “freshened up”.  It makes everyone feel like they are getting something done, like they are changing the harsh reality of what they are trying to sell.  It’s a new ballgame.  They are getting away from The Rock and Roll Capital thing, and into something new.  But what is it?  Ah, there’s the excitement!  They plan a great unveiling sometime this month!  Frankly, I can’t wait.

I’m a guy that has traveled around a bit.  Thanks to this two-bit rock and roll band, I have been in every city you can think of on this side of the Mississippi, and most of them on the other side.  I added it up once.  In the Top 50 cities in the United States by population, I have been to 44 of them.  The largest city I have never been to is Oklahoma City.  Trust me on this, as far as I can tell, Cleveland is almost exactly the same city as Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and sorta Detroit.  Toledo is a smaller Cleveland, as is Akron.  Same with Erie too.   With the exception of the Rock Hall, this is basically the same as everything else in the Rust Belt.  All you do is shuffle some details around.  That makes the decision to drop the Rock Hall from the marketing efforts really interesting to me.  It’s the only point of differentiation.  I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with whatever campaign this advertising agency from Kansas City got paid an absurd amount of money to produce.  I have a few ideas…

“Cleveland: Fuck Yeah!”-  This campaign would be like a version of the guy that always throws devil horns at the concert.  I’d run a montage of the typical horribly misshapen NE Ohio residents tossing back beers and not giving a shit about anything except getting wasted.  In the background the commercial could show crap like Terminal Tower and Browns Stadium so viewers would think, “Hey, that seems like a good place to get wasted some weekend!”

“Cleveland: When Your Travel Options Are Limited”- This would appeal to the “millennial” segment that Positively Cleveland noted in an interview that makes 11% of all travel decisions and the same ones that they have targeted.  Note, I would market to the remaining 89% that make decisions, but what do I know?  If you are relatively young and can’t afford to go to Venice, San Francisco, or Bora Bora, why not Cleveland?  This is a tried and true strategy of limiting expectations, like how girls from small towns always marry their shitbag boyfriends because they are afraid to move two hours in any direction and see if anything better is out there.

“Cleveland: Lake Erie… So close, so far!”-  Civic honks love to point out “our amazing lakefront”.  It really is pretty great if you have a nice house perched majestically on the shore.  It’s not so nice if you are looking for public access as our genius leaders from days gone by decided to put an airport, highway, and football stadium in the way of most public access.  Think of how kickass Chicago is, and then imagine the opposite.  That’s how they designed Cleveland.  The Lake is a frozen deathtrap until June.  In September right after Labor Day it is as if someone flicked a light switch off and all warmth disappears.  I’d run TV spots with families leaping over a barbed wire fence at Burke Lakefront Airport and then sprinting across an abandoned runway trying to make the breakwall with their inner tubes.  Maybe have cops in hot pursuit with sirens blaring.  That’ll pack ‘em in!

“Cleveland: Safer Than Detroit”- I can’t tell you how many Euros I know that go to visit Detroit because they think it maybe Motown artists are walking around and maybe Iggy and the Stooges will drive by.  If we could just capture that look of fear in their eyes when they gaze upon the massive urban apocalypse, we’d really have something.  Detroit’s almost zombie like homeless hordes are twice as scary as our occasional “Hey man!  You gotta dolla?” pests downtown.  By limiting the comparisons to the absolute bottom, Cleveland begins to look like San Diego.

“Cleveland:  It’s OK”- The TV creative can point out that we have a good orchestra, Zoo, and park system as if there are no other places where a visitor could experience that with better weather.  I definitely think there should be a jingle package as well with a big multi voice chorus holding the note on “Clevelaaaaaaaaand….” followed by a quick “It’s OK.”.  If enough media is purchased regionally, with a snappy tune like that, even school kids will automatically sing that back at the mere mention of a horrible football team, government corruption, potholes, glacial storms, or serial killers.

As the dates creep slowly by here in March, I wake each morning with the expectation that today might finally be the day of the big unveiling of the new campaign.  I’m like a kid with Christmas morning every single day until this thing is revealed to me.  Suddenly, all of our civic misperceptions will be whisked away in one fell swoop thanks to the whipsmart branding efforts of MMGY Global of Kansas City.  In no time at all, we will all think of this town as Vegas East, or Better Than Chicago.  All we need is that slogan…

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Miller Fortune

As a 25-54 year old male, the American business community has decided that the following products need to be marketed to me as I watch sports on Sunday: Cars, tires, razors, erection medicine, and of course, beer.  If you follow the logic, it appears that Corporate America believes men do nothing but drive drunk with erections.  This, upon reflection, may be true.  Even a simple scan of the Police Blotter in your hometown newspaper does offer some evidence backing up this marketing plan.  This must be the reason for the unveiling of the Big Brewing beers “Miller Fortune” and its counterpart Budweiser “Black Crown”. 

These beers are essentially malt liquor rebranded as a classy beverage.  With alcohol contents prominently displayed on the label at 6.9% on Fortune and and 6.0% for Black Crown, these beers all but scream “Drink me and get fucked up cheap!”.  Yet we are all supposed to pretend that these beers are Sophisticated Beverages for Men of Taste and Character.  The current Miller Fortune TV creative has a young black male walking out of a gritty yet trendy club that seems very New York.  An outrageously seductive mixed race woman, all alone as these women typically are in real life, walks by and gives him the up/down/up.  TV tough guy actor Mark Strong walks in the frame and asks if the guy wants eight hours sleep, or if he wants to “make it a night most men only dream of” while handing him a Fortune.  Translation:  If you drink this and get really fucked up, you’ll be banging the hot chick in the bar.  Reality?  If you drink that, you’ll be the annoying guy that rids the bar of all women like a canister of tear gas and later will go home alone after a 3am stop at White Castle.  You will make creepy text messages to all kinds of women that will immediately cut off all social media ties to you.  You will then potentially piss yourself in bed while sleeping through your alarm and be late for work.   The beer’s tag line?  Fortune Comes To Those Who Seek It.  Hell yeah!  Bad fortune!

Compare that with Budweiser Black Crown.  “The Loud. The Savvy.  The Famous.  It took all of us to taste and choose the new Budweiser Black Crown.”   This is the voiceover while models and glamorous folks dressed in black party down in what appears to be an incredibly ornate Medieval Great Hall, everyone being unique and wonderful simultaneously.  This is unlike any party I have ever been to in my life.  Most parties I have been to have been in a kitchen centered around a sad loaf of pumpernickel bread hollowed out with some kind of mayo based dip inside, has terrible music, and is filled with people who's biggest adventure was taking their six year old to Disney last summer.  This might mean that I have been going to the wrong parties because I haven’t been hanging out with that “select crowd” that was somehow chosen to both taste and decide on a major global corporation’s decision to sell malt liquor to a new demographic.  I clearly need to drink Black Crown and become accepted into that inner circle.

Of the marketing, I think I prefer the Miller Fortune.  These guys are approaching it like drug pushers from old TV shows like Dragnet.  The language they use is great.  “Spirited Nights.  This is the stuff that keeps us up at night.”  This means “This shit will fuck you up and you won’t want to go home.  Let’s party motherfucker!”  The website also notes “That Hole In The Wall You Just Passed Could Be A Gold Mine”.  This is supposed to tell you “Go get drunk in that shithole bar and maybe this brew will give you the courage to take that tatted up foul smelling barmaid back to your squalid apartment so you can rut like dogs.”.  They also note “You could choose a regular beer, but then you will get a regular night.”  This is cleverly telling you, “Why get as drunk as you do when you knock back eight Miller Lites when you can knock back eight of these bad boys?  You’ll wake up like an AWOL sailor with a tattoo of a barbershop pole around your penis and a case of the crabs you won’t shake for a month!  Now that’s a night you’ll remember!”.

With March Madness quickly approaching, I can’t wait to absorb these messages more completely.  There will be no place to avoid it.  These commercials will be wedged into every ad break.  There is really only one way for me to proceed with my life.  I need to buy a sleeker fitted black suit and drive around until I find that really trendy shithole bar where other sleek Fortune Seekers like myself are out having the best nights of their lives thanks to malt liquor 12 ounces at a time.  I have always said that the problem with light beer has always been that the alcohol content needed to be doubled so guys in shithole bars could get twice as drunk.  At last, that future has arrived…

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Nurse the Hate: The Heavy Rebel Weekender Story

  The Heavy Rebel Weekender is an over the top rockabilly/punkabilly/garage/punk festival held every Fourth of July weekend.  Dave Quick and his friends have constructed a great three day gathering of the faithful to the temple of boots, sideburns, Pabst, hot rods, and bona fide rock n roll in the otherwise sleepy town of Winston Salem, North Carolina.  This is always a good place for a band like the Whiskey Daredevils as our twangy slop n’ roll always plays better to folks below the sweet tea line. Plus, the chance to re-connect with friends of ours in bands scattered across the United States is rare in our vagabond lifestyle.  Let me recount to you the first trip the Daredevils made to play the festival a number of years ago.  

  Winston Salem is a small town with limited choices in lodging, but the Festival had set up a discount rate directly across the street from the facility.  Usually we stay at discount hotels like Red Roof or Motel 6, so this would be a chance to relax in relative luxury.  As we planned for the trip, our gregarious former rhythm guitar player Dave Bowling informed us he had old friends that lived in the area with promises of an after party Shangri La…Multiple bedrooms, cases of cold beer glistening in iced down coolers, bar-b-que, local ladies, and a swimming pool.  Visions of a Motley Crue video set danced in our heads as Dave described visions of topless Southern Belles chicken fighting in the pool while we basked in the glory of our triumphantly received set.  A full pig would be rotating on a spit.  Comfortable lounge chairs would host various music luminaries as we would have some sort of mythic jam session playing country standards.  It was all coming together now...

  We made the long drive in our van (The Whiskey Wagon) killing the eight hours listening to a random mix of punk and country music on the iPod.  As it was July 4th weekend, traffic was brutal and the temperature quickly climbed to 90 degrees.  In my head, I always know that Winston Salem in July is going to be like visiting the surface of the sun, but every time I have stepped out of the air conditioned Whiskey Wagon upon arrival, I always think "Fuck!  Is it hot!".  This was no exception.  Our arrival at Heavy Rebel in the early afternoon was greeted with a collective yawn as most of the patrons were struggling to rid themselves of last night’s hangovers with long pulls from Pabst tallboys.  With nothing but time to kill, we cracked open the first of many cold complimentary Pabst in an attempt to beat the heat.

  The scene at Heavy Rebel can be overwhelming.  At any one time a band can be playing on one of the three stages in the large vacated government building used to house the show.  Each stage is in a different room, and a large vendor area sprawls across the main floor.  Our set was later in the evening in “The Dungeon”, a stage downstairs in what used to house a temporary holding cell in the old Courthouse.  People packed the room right up to the stage, and at the risk of sounding immodest, we delivered the goods.  Beer flew everywhere, girls danced on stage, and rock and roll was performed the way it was intended.  Taking our gear off stage in the afterglow of the performance, it was apparent that many of the Daredevils had been “over served”.  Normally this might be a problem, but with our incredible accommodations nearby and at the ready, it really didn’t appear to be an issue.

  All of the Daredevils were scattered throughout the festival enjoying themselves.  Leo had set up camp with the Crank County Daredevils and God-knows-what narcotics.  Bob moved from bar to bar checking out the scene.  Ken came and went from the various stages.  Dave and his friends from Winston Salem sequestered themselves in the main bar, and got down to some serious drinking.  The evening wound to a close as I attempted to catch as many bands as possible.  What a great night… But all nights must end, and so did this one.  It was time to get our gear out of the basement, track down Dave and his friends, and head on over to the after party.  It was when I first started to look for a stage hand to give us the elevator key that I realized something might be amiss…

  Bob shuffled over to me at the loading dock in his characteristic way.  From his posture I could tell something was wrong, and I also knew that there was NO CHANCE he had done anything to remedy the situation.  “Hey… I think our accommodations might have been…compromised.  I haven’t seen Dave in awhile, and I think his friends left a couple hours ago.  I think we might be fucked.”  And he shuffled off.  The problem was now mine.  I would now have to somehow figure out how to get to a house which we had no idea of the location, owner of, or even general direction.  Time appeared to be of the essence, so I tried to find everyone to do a quick load out.  With luck we’d be able to find Dave, get the directions to his friend’s house, and make our way on over.  Ken appeared to be up for the challenge of finding the elevator key holder and getting us out of Dodge.  Bob was dispatched to find Dave.  (Leo was getting high with the Crank County Daredevils.  Those guys were like the vices of 1987 Guns N Roses without the budget.  And I mean that as a compliment.)

   The problem we faced is we couldn’t get the gear up the elevator without the key to turn on the power.  On top of that, we had another band’s gear stacked up in front of us.  When we asked around the venue where the stage hand was with the key, it was rumored he was a) going to be back in a minute b) grabbing a smoke with "Jason" (whoever the fuck that was) or c) I haven’t seen him in an hour.  Needless to say, it took quite some time to sort through all of this nonsense, but with some effort we got moving towards our goal of loading the van.  We wound up loading out the other band’s gear that was lined up in front of us to get to ours, and then finally doing ours as most of the remaining patrons and performers inside were way too drunk to focus on taking care of any gear.  The wheels had come completely off for most of the patrons of Heavy Rebel. 

  Bob appeared on the loading dock with Dave in tow, and it wasn’t pretty.  Dave was in that special drunken condition where you repeat the same thing over and over again.  In this case, he was going to call his friends to see why they had left him (undoubtedly when they realized having this totally shitfaced cowboy and his deadbeat friends over to their house was a horrible idea).  We had no directions, no idea where they lived, and between you and I, probably no invitation over there in the first place.  I think Dave wanted to believe that this Shangri La accomodation existed so badly, he just figured it would all somehow organically come together in the mists of the end of the night.  This was not the case.  We had nothing.

  I pulled out of the parking lot at 0300am with the plan of pulling over at the first chance for a hotel.  We had seen literally dozens of hotels off the highway on our way into town, so how tough could it be to find lodging?  I drove north with Bob as co-pilot as Leo and Dave drunkenly screamed for us to stop for a pizza.  Ken immediately fell fast asleep in “the possum seat” of the very back of the van.  Thankfully a Red Roof Inn appeared on the horizon, and I exited.  No vacancy.  Next door a Holiday Inn. No vacancy.

  Undeterred, I decided to continue North on the highway.  Surely every hotel in North Carolina couldn’t be full, could it?  It was at our third stop at a forlourn Knights Inn when we encountered a sad old man in a sour dress shirt smoking a cigarette outside his little motel office.  “There isn’t an open room between here and West Virginia.  There’s a Jehova Witness convention in Winston Salem this weekend.  They got every room off of I-75.”  This was obviously very bad news.  Making matters more depressing was that by this time Dave and Leo had joined Ken in peaceful slumber in the back of the van.  Bob and I were running out of steam, running out of options, and found ourselves in the unlikely position of being fucked over by a bunch of Jehovah Witnesses.

   “Your only chance might be to cut across Route 19, take 352, and cut up Old Route 44 and see if Rusty’s got a room open.  He’s my Brother In Law, and he’s got a little motel off the beaten path.  It’s about 10 minutes up the way.”

   With no other choice, we drove off into the rural North Carolina night looking for “Rusty’s”.  This would have been a simple trip at Noon.  It wasn’t so easy at 4am with a low fog forming, a bunch of Pabst Tall Boys working their way out of your system, and a complete lack of sleep.  Your mind starts to get a little sluggish.  Bob and I conferred on rights, lefts, double backs, and circle arounds as the van careened around the countryside.  Remarkably, we approached the saddest little motel of all time 25 minutes later.  Yes, it was Rusty’s.

  Abandoned cars mixed with cheap campers, and redneck chariots (aka Old Chevy Novas, Grand Ams, and various domestic pick up trucks in varying states of disrepair).  A satellite dish sat on its side abandoned covered with kudzu.  A vending machine with vintage 1970s Pepsi logo flickered as moths and strange insects swirled around it.  At this point I would sleep anywhere, but this scene still gave me pause.  “Bob, go see if they have a room.”

 “I’m not going over there.  You go!”

   Fuck…So I climb out of the van and ring the doorbell clumsily attached to the motel office window.  I ring it again.  Finally a scruffy good old boy in a tattered robe appears in the window scratching his three day old facial growth.  “I ain’t got no rooms.  We full up.”  It was then I realized we had sunk as low as possible from our glory of rocking Heavy Rebel a mere five hours before.  I came to a moment of clarity.  I realized I was disappointed that I couldn’t sleep at Rusty’s.  I was beyond disappointed.  I was crushed.  This was bad.  I had bottomed out.                        

  The van crunched the gravel of the dirt parking lot as we pulled out.  Neither Bob or I had any clue on how to get back to the highway.  We had taken so many turns, and were so overtired, our brains were useless.  We had no sense of direction, no idea where we were, and no idea of where to go.  The only plan was to keep moving and hope conditions improved.  Through all of this, Dave/Leo/Ken slept on, never stirring.

  I made the executive decision to drive north and hope for the best.  Within minutes I realized none of the terrain looked even vaguely familiar, we were lost, and committed to driving in this direction until something pointed us in another path.  A patchy fog had now completely settled into the hilly landscape.  I struggled to keep the van on the road as my body screamed for sleep.  Sleep whispered to me…yearned to cradle me in its warm embrace…and allow me to drive the van into a tree as I slept behind the wheel.

  The abandoned roadway came to a crossroads without almost any warning.  A blinking yellow light and a Sunoco station were the first signs of life we had seen in what seemed like forever.  I slammed on the brakes, and we slid into the station’s parking lot.  I went for the late night driver’s friend, the 24oz Mountain Dew wide mouth, and hoped for directions from the heavy lidded overweight woman manning the register.  Unfortunately she was no help. Whatsoever.  It was almost as if she didn't understand what language I was speaking.  She made a slight wheezing sound as I waited for any response to my questions.  There was nothing.  I turned and walked out.  I stood in the parking lot bathed in the yellow blinking light in a dreamlike state of overtiredness.  It felt like the end of a long acid trip.

  The van door slid open and Leo climbed out without a word.  He padded into the mini mart for what I guessed to be one of his patented “road game” shits.  Bob smoked a cigarette and shuffled over.  “Man, this sucks.  We’re totally fucked and Dave is out cold.”  Leo wordlessly emerged from the station, climbed back in the van, and went immediately back to sleep.  With no other choice, I kept driving.

  The fog had worsened during our brief stop at the Sunoco.  We headed into a small town that wasn’t indicated on any road sign.  The moon shone through the fog to create an almost comically spooky backlight to the horizon line.  A sudden movement a quarter mile ahead caught my eye.  Scampering across the road in an odd gait was a large dog.  But, it was too big and moved in a way I wouldn’t associate with a dog.  What the hell was it?  It wasn’t a coyote, but seemed to be a four legged mammal of some kind.  As my brain struggled with the concept of it looking like a werewolf, we roared by the spot where the animal had crossed the road.  I had never seen anything like it in the zoo much less the wild.

 “Bob…Did you see that?”

“You mean that werewolf looking thing?”

"What the fuck was that?"

  The road then started to make radical hairpin turns as the engine screamed in protest heading up foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  The fog grew heavier and heavier as I struggled to keep us on the road.  The absurdity of the situation and my complete over tiredness overcame me.  I started maniacally laughing as Bob looked over at me half horrified/half amused.  When it seemed like it couldn’t go on any longer, we crested the mountain and careened down the side.  Incredibly, we had stumbled back into the highway.  At 5:15 am I pulled into a parking lot of a Best Western and headed inside for a room.  Quickly I was dispatched from the hotel and back to the van. 

“What happened?”

“The bad news is they don’t have any rooms. The good news is we’re in Virginia.”

  With absolutely no energy left, Bob and I sat upright in the front seats and tried to catch a little sleep.  Dave has many redeeming qualities.  He’s funny, generous, and charming.  He also has horrible nightmares and talks in his sleep.  It couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes of sweet sleep passed out upright in the driver’s seat when it started.  “Oh God!  Oh Sweet Jesus No!!!  Noooooo!!!!  Oh God!!!  Oh God!!!” at full volume.  This went on and off until mercifully the sun rose about 30 minutes later.  Ken and Leo woke up reasonably refreshed and drove us the rest of the way home.

  We played Heavy Rebel the following year.  I booked a room at the Marriot.           


Monday, March 3, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Oscars

All hope is lost.  There will be 365 days on Winter.  We will slide right from Winter 2013 into Winter 2014 with maybe a respite of three days of 44 degree rain.  There is nothing left to do but maintain the physical activity level of a veal and watch Awards shows on TV.  It’s great to take potshots at beautiful movie stars as you feel your muscles atrophy into jello.  I like the false sense of moral superiority of pointing out that a 110 pound actress “looks big” as my pale hairy body spills out over the couch. 

The Oscars are absolutely ridiculous but remain one of the most watched TV events of the year.  Even from the frozen tundra of Ohio it is easy to feel the sense of desperation and relentless careerism on display as everyone in attendance is clawing for the most desirable seats and corresponding camera time.  In the weeks leading up to the event, the press works up a frenzy trying to predict the winners.  That is one of the largest wastes of time ever, as the upcoming winners could not be any more evident.  Each year I participate in an Oscars Pool where I don’t think I have missed an award prediction in four years.  It just comes down to predicting the end of the telecast as a tie breaker. 

Best Picture “12 Years A Slave”:  You would have to be out of your mind to think that any of the movies up against a slavery film could win.  The Oscars voters are all upper class liberals that are trying to work out their white guilt but don’t actually want to get their hands dirty by doing any real volunteer work, or risk their comfortable economic existence.  A lot of feel good ideas that are bandied about in coffee shops and art gallery openings sound great until you have to actually come in contact with the alleged victims that are “at risk”.  Who wants to serve soup to inner city drug addicts and mental patients?  Vote for a movie instead.  This is the way those Oscar voters “Make A Difference”.  They vote for a movie whose subject is universally regarded as abhorrent.  The only chance a slavery movie would lose Best Picture is if a Holocaust movie got nominated.

Best Actor Matthew McConaughey “Dallas Buyers Club”:  If Matthew McConaughey doesn’t play a version of Texas Guy, he really sucks.  Since “Texas Guy” is who he really is, these roles aren’t much of a stretch.  “Hey!  He disappeared into the role!”  Of course he did.  He played a middle aged Texas guy that used to party his ass off.  The key was that he lost a shit ton of weight.  That’s what he got the award for, losing 40 pounds.  Voters love that.   It’s all they can talk about.  If a buff guy loses 40 pounds, chances are he is going to look sick and awful which is probably because he actually is sick and looks awful.  That isn’t really acting.  That is extreme weight loss, and that’s something that can’t be easy.  He’s probably a meth addict now, but at least he lost all that weight.  That’s why he got that trophy.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role Jared Leto “Dallas Buyer’s Club”:  The only way that you can top losing a shit ton of weight is play a homosexual and lose a shit ton of weight.  Starve yourself to death and act gay while in women’s clothes?  “What a brave performance!”  Oh, you mean how that skinny beautiful androgynous guy pretended to be gay and sick?  Oscar voters couldn’t give that award out fast enough.  If the movie had tied in slave labor at a Concentration Camp, that would have been referred to as “a role for the ages”.

Best Director Alfonso Cuaron “Gravity”:  The guy made a great looking outer space picture that must have been almost impossible to create visually.  Can you imagine if they spent even ten minutes on a script for that movie?  Is there a single person that walked into that movie that didn’t expect Sandra Bullock to somehow get back to Earth against tremendous odds?  The real question was how they could work the shots of her shockingly tight body into a movie about space, as we all know that space is the best place to relax in a tank top and skin tight yoga shorts.  Still, as we have discussed, Oscar voters don’t really watch the movies as a whole, but rather say “Man, I bet that was hard to do.  Give that guy a placque!”

Best Actress Cate Blanchett “Blue Jasmine”:  Cate Blanchett has now assumed the role Meryl Streep has always had as that of Important Actress.  It’s sort of like when Tom Waits puts out any album.  Even if you don’t know what the hell is going on, it is important to tell everyone how much you love it and use words like “amazing”.  This is not an indictment of Tom Waits, who I love and think is amazing, but rather the realization that certain artists get a free pass because of their past.  That’s why everyone always pretends that Springsteen’s current shitty records are really good.  Make no mistake, she was awesome in this and deserved to win.  She will win a kazillion of these awards over the next 20 years.  Every actress, regardless of their performance, in the future will say to their publicist “Fuck!  I can’t win!  That bitch Cate Blanchett is nominated!”

Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years A Slave”:  A previously unknown black woman playing a slave that is beaten mercilessly and sexually abused on screen?  That’s a no brainer.  While many voters probably welcome the opportunity to see Jennifer Lawrence fall out of her dress while stumbling on something, the all-important guilt vote will win every time.  This was probably the closest one to call because The Establishment has decided Jennifer Lawrence is a Cate Blanchett in waiting. 

I didn’t win again this year as I failed to predict how long the show would run.  One would think I would be good at that, but who can predict how long a previously unknown costume designer will ramble on at the dais or the length of a dance number to an animated film that was created as product placement and tourism driver?  That is the only real coin flip of the night.  And I lost.  Damn.