Monday, May 26, 2014

Nurse the Hate: The Deer Incident

As a kid, I can count the times I saw a deer in the wild on one hand.  Deer were something that made allegorical appearances in movies, and were in my experience animated and capable of speech.  I should point out; it isn’t as if I lived in the Bronx.  I lived in a suburban neighborhood that backed into extensive woods in a fairly rural spot in NW PA.  To see a deer was like seeing a bald eagle.  As far as I could tell, deer were animals that gracefully frolicked in America sometime between the Indian Nations and shortly after the Pilgrims landed.

Sometime in the last decade or so, whatever predator deer had must have vanished.  Did pterodactyls used to fly around and eat deer twenty years back?  I don’t really recall.  I suppose I would have remembered my mother scolding me to “Look up at the sky while you walk to school!  You don’t want to get taken away in pterodactyl claws like that Cameron boy!”  Yes, it seems unlikely that was the reason that now deer waltz around like they own the place.  Now I see deer every day.  These things have become so used to being near people, they are almost like squirrels.  Deer now stare straight at you with unblinking eyes like bored 13-year-old girls that think they have all the answers. It’s a strange reversal of fortune for the deer population.

A few days ago one of my bassets was going crazy by the fence line first thing in the morning.  This is not unusual as she patrols the perimeter with the stoic ferocity of an overzealous Border Agent.  The male basset sees himself in the role of “backup”, sort of like the “fat partner with the heart of gold” in a typical police drama.  I took a look outside to see why the basset is losing her mind, and standing right next to the fence is a decent sized deer.  The deer is completely unconcerned about the dog barking about two feet away.  In fact, I would say the deer was completely unimpressed by the whole display.  The male basset sees this entire episode is fruitless, and drifts away.  The female barks for a while longer, until finally giving up and just exchanges a stare with the deer.  I walked outside to get the dogs in, and the deer just stares at me.  This is one brazen deer.

I get involved in my normal morning routine until I see the deer is now running around with two fawns in the neighbors yard.  I will admit that I did not have my contacts in.  My vision is, shall we say, compromised.  This sentence will probably be used against me dramatically as I testify in a trial sometime in the future.  “Mr. Miller, how could you see the alleged shooter when in 2014 you admitted that you couldn’t tell the difference between a dog and a deer at a mere 50 yards?”  Cue shocked gasp from the citizens in the courtroom…

I had never seen anything like it.  As I stared to try and make sense of what I was seeing, I realized that this deer was in fact chasing the neighbor’s two dogs around the yard.  I was not aware that deer now feel like they have moved up a notch of the evolutionary chain over the dog.  Well, maybe not all deer have, but this one sure did.  Then the drama went up another notch as the teenage neighbor kid went outside waving his arms to scare the deer off and instead got charged by the deer as well.  This deer was not fucking around.  It was a hell of a thing. 

I went to work and forgot about the deer.

It was later that evening when I received a phone call alerting me that the deer had returned.  He had also hopped across the fence into my yard, eaten the hostas, and taken two (2) rather large dumps in the yard.  Who the hell did this son of a bitch think he was?  I thought I was doing this guy a solid when I brought the dogs in and let him do his thing out there undisturbed.  This was my payback?  Eat my plants and take two (2) dumps in my yard? 

I will admit to having a soft spot in my heart for deer.  They always seem to get shoved out of their natural habitat by whatever new unneeded housing development or shopping mall is being erected.  I get bummed out every single time I see one as road kill.  I recognize that most of my information about deer has come from the movie “Bambi” and that might not have been a completely factual documentary.  But it’s the eyes, it’s the eyes… They seem so sweet and kind…       

This was different.  This time it was personal.  This particular deer had gone too far.  I had decided that I needed a real show of power to make this deer respect me.  Many would have gone home and fetched some sort of firearm and shot wildly at this insolent animal.  Not me.  As I had taken this as a personal affront, I decided I needed to solve it up close and personal.  I needed to make a real statement here.

Perhaps it was the several Stone IPAs I had consumed prior to making this decision.  It’s hard to say what kind of combination of rage and drunken foolhardiness made me decide to return to my home and strip down to nothing else but a pair of gym shorts, work boots, and a Mexican wrestling mask.  I had decided that this deer had probably had many experiences that I as a human could only speculate about.  However, I felt fairly certain that he/she had never been punched in the face by a full-grown man.  How often would a big-eyed deer take a hook to the side of the face?  Probably never I was guessing.  There is no way he would see it coming.  I was thinking it was going to be a “Down goes Frazier!  Down goes Frazier!” kind of moment. 

The die was cast.  I was ready.  I stepped outside my sliding glass door with some butterflies.

A strange light filled the backyard as a mammoth thunderstorm eerily rolled in.  I stepped towards the woods, the deer nowhere in sight.  It had grown even darker.  A sudden flash of lightning in the distance flickered, showing the silhouette of the deer across my fence line.  I crouched in a combat pose yelling profanity at the animal, daring him to Enter The Octagon.  Another flash of lightning.  The deer stared right at me as I met his gaze.  He paused, considered, then turned and walked away as the rain started to drop with increasing urgency.

I suppose I won’t know for sure if that deer walked away due to the need of finding shelter from the incoming storm, or if I had righted the imbalance of nature and returned to the top of the food chain.  I did return inside with a sense of confidence, however misplaced.  Now here I sit inside my well lit home, typing this out, getting weaker while he’s out there.  Somewhere.  Getting stronger.   

Friday, May 16, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate Dave Mathews and His Dreaming Tree Shit Wine

Today I went to dinner at the Outback Steakhouse.  Now, I don’t normally go to chain restaurants like this.  While I could try and take the moral high ground and talk about how these are just soul sucking corporate greed troughs designed to feed factory food to the morons amongst us, that would be not exactly accurate.  I wish I could be so resolute.  It’s really much more basic.  In general, I don’t eat at these places because the food sucks so fucking badly.  It’s all about me.  I like to eat well.  I like to eat food that was created by a real person, and not flash frozen in a factory in New Jersey.  I want to eat something that was grown near here.  I want to eat things in season.  I want to eat at local restaurants that are run by people that created the menus with a sense of pride and purpose, that live in my community, and don’t have any shrimp on the motherfucking barbie. 

The problem was this $50 gift card sitting on the front hall table.  I mean, what are you going to do?  Not eat $50 of free food at Outback Steakhouse?  From the commercials alone I expected to meet a number of rugged individualistic Aussies that would set me up with a Fosters oil can and a dazzling array of taste treats representative of the continent of Australia.  It would all be good laughs in a semi tropical environment with sizzling goodness being tossed at me from all sides.

These television ads were not exactly representative of my experience.  What I found was a group of sad looking servers shucking Satan’s appetizer (aka The Blooming Onion) to a heavily tattooed bunch.  It was hard to count how many Wichita Buzzcuts were in that dining room.  I could only imagine how many ill-advised scary flaming skull and sword tattoos dwelt under those hoodies.  Don’t even get me started on the stark realization that many of these overfed female companions would be enthusiastically orally servicing these men with the same unbridled joy with which they attacked their “decadent pecan brownies”.  Outback Steakhouse is the Morton’s Steakhouse of Wal Mart nation.  When a fella picks up Darlene in his Ford F-150 and treats her to a blooming onion, he knows that she’ll be bobbing up and down in his lap while Kid Rock plays majestically on his in cab stereo system.  I was naïve.  I didn’t know that before today.  I know that now…

I had knocked back a LaChouffe Belgian ale before my trip over there.  I love that little gnome.  I was in the Outback now.  I had to change it up.  I decided I wanted to go red wine with a filet.  Let me tell you, the Outback Steakhouse wine list is not exactly the Four Seasons.  As a word to the wise, if you identify wine brands on the wine list that you can secure at a Walgreen’s or Discount Drug Mart, it might not be a great steak house.  I was stymied. 

If you sit me down at any legit restaurant in the United States, I can reasonably guess if a good by the glass pour is available.  I know an embarrassing amount about wine.  I looked at this list and saw nothing.  To put things into perspective, as I looked at my wine options my choices were between Stroh’s Dark and Old Milwaukee Light.  Son of a bitch.  There was a red blend that I couldn’t identify.  The server said, “Dreaming Tree Red is my favorite.”   

I can’t tell you why I trusted the judgment of an effeminate man in a leather wristband on the merits of a red wine.  This was a man I should have trusted on a hair gel, not a red wine.  It was truly a moment of weakness.  From the second the glass was put down, I knew I had made a horrible mistake.  It neither smelled nor tasted like anything I have ever had before.  This is saying something.  I have tasted extensively in Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Washington, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Rioja, the Mosel, and the Southern Rhone.  I have drunk wine with the owner of Chateau Lynch Bages.  I sat next to Robert Mondavi and had a glass of Opus One.  I spoke broken Spanish with the owner of Chateau Pegau in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and discussed the merits of his reserve vs. his estate blend.  Look man, I’ve been around… But I can’t even guess at what the grapes were in that piece of shit wine.  It was like if Mountain Dew got into the fine wine business.  Imagine if Smuckers said, “Eh, fuck it!  Let’s make some wine this year!”  If it were a car it would have been an Atari.  If Taco Bell made wine, they would have kicked the shit out of this.  It could have been “Snickers Red”.  It wasn’t just bad.  It made me angry.  This wine's very existence is an affront to God.

I did what any normal human being would do.  I looked it up on Google.  What I found was horrifying, like discovering Hitler made the beer you were drinking at your favorite bar…  The Dreaming Tree Red Blend is made in a partnership with wine maker Steve Reeder of Constellation (Arbor Mist, Paul Masson, Clos Du Bois, etc) and Dave Mathews.  Yes, that Dave Mathews…

Of course.

Steve Reeder has apparently been making shitty wine for years.  It’s what he does.  He is the Meister Brau of wine.  But Dave Mathews?  That motherfucker makes $72 billion making his absolutely horrible music for Americans that think his songs are well crafted jams.  Unsatisfied with that payday, he decides to lend his name to a soda pop wine just to rip his audience off one more time after another one of his painful shows.  Fuck that guy.  It’s not like he doesn’t know any better.  Listen, when you are a rock star you get “wined and dined” like a mother.  Are you suggesting to me that after decades of drinking high quality Red Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo, and Napa Cab he says to his management people, “You know what we need to do?  Let’s get involved in a really shitty $5 wine that gets made in steel tanks and sell that crap for $15 a bottle to people that don’t know any better.  Despite my near limitless resources, my goal is to add to the ocean of cheap shit wine instead of making something delicious and beautiful.”

I have had a long cold unhealthy disdain of Dave Mathews.  I have never respected Leo more than when he told a German sound guy to “turn that shit off” while we were setting up in Cologne and some horrible Mathews track blared from the speakers.  The last things guys on edge need to hear is a bunch of noodling from a warbly singer that doesn’t appear to have a point of view and likes to dabble in World Music much like a housewife that goes to a hot yoga class at a strip mall considers herself involved in Eastern Religion.  I realize that people like Dave Mathews music.  For me, it’s not a case of not caring for it personally.  I don’t care for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band because I hate the horns and keyboard sound.  But I get it… I know why people like it.  Dave Mathews.  That dude just sucks man…  There is no merit there, and I don’t care how long we talk about it.  Maybe one day I will have an epiphany while sifting through incense cones at a Pier One.  I doubt it though… And that shit wine isn’t helping.

Fuck Dave Mathews and his awful Red Blend Dreaming Tree wine.  I hope anyone involved in that shit drowns in a tsunami of unsold grape piss.  This is a blatant attempt to rip off his fan base and anyone else that comes along by rebottling Two Buck Chuck class wine into his Holistic Caring Hippie packaging at a huge profit margin.  I’d rather drink a wine made by Stalin.  Stalin may have had more soul.       

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Todd Snider "I Never Met A Story I Didn't Like"

I spent last weekend a prisoner like I have many weekends, trapped in the Whiskey Wagon rolling across America’s highways.  I have found myself driving back and forth through Cincinnati four times in the last two weeks, and I think we can agree that save for that horrible stretch of I-90 in Indiana, the I-71 drive from Columbus to Cincinnati is the worst length of highway in the region.  It is flat and unremarkable, except for that one crazy hillbilly house with the painted Confederate Flag roof and rotting cars strewn about the yard.  That’s really close to those “God Will Strike You Dead” signs that I always thought Uncle Scratch should have used for a promo photo.  Those guys just ran out of time.  What can you do?  No one ever tells you how much you have left… 

I made use of my time by reading the new Todd Snider book “I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like”.  I hope that you know Todd Snider.  Well, not personally… That’s asking a bit much.  I never met him, but by the amount of time he has spent in various rehab facilities and the laundry list of cool celebrity friends he has, I think I’d like to hang out with him.  He’s got some great stories.  Let me give you the Todd Snider lowdown if you aren’t on board.

Todd Snider started out making some records for MCA that sounded like Tom Petty records if Tom Petty was a guy that delivered a pizza to your house and then lived on your couch for a few months.  He has since gone back to be the shaggy dog country folk artist he always wanted to be, like his hero Jerry Jeff Walker.  While I don’t always like every song on every album, I always seem to find a bunch that stick in my head and I can’t ever shake.  He is one of those guys that is really talented and probably doesn’t get as much run as he should since he seems like such a slacker.  He’s like that Wooderson guy that Matthew McConaughey played in “Dazed and Confused” but then rips out a guitar and plays a few songs that make you laugh, pauses for second and plays one that rips your guts out.  He’s really good.  You should buy a few of his records.  You'll want to buy more after that first purchase.  He grows on you.

His book is sort of like this blog, but has a lot more celebrities.  For example, think about some of the more sordid stories I have banged out and substitute Kris Kristofferson for Leo, and you’ll get the idea.  Drifting around playing songs on the fringes while being in and out of drug addiction leads a fella to meet some characters that people working at Dunder Mifflin don’t typically run into.  I have always found that people living on the margins are much more interesting than those on the High Ground, and Mr. Snider is way beyond my embrace for these modern day pirates.  He seems at home with the people that the General Population fears and avoids.  He seems to find the unique individuals out there that have decided that they are going to do their own thing, and could care less about public opinion from the people too scared to follow their own muse.    

Something I found really compelling and inspiring in the book was the theme of living in the moment and for the experience.  Snider maintains that unless a songwriter is willing to put him/herself in precarious positions and allow themselves to be knocked around by life, that it is impossible to create material that actually will resonate with anyone.  If you think about it for even a second, it becomes apparent that is an insanely ballsy way to approach life.  Jerry Jeff Walker passed a lesson down, for better or worse, that a songwriter needed to be able to pack up their possessions and move in 15 minutes.  If not willing to risk it all, there can be no real gain.  Try that on for size.  That’s a combination of courage and fear of responsibility that is definitely worthy of spirited debate.

What is not worthy of debate is the story telling ability of Snider.  That shouldn’t be surprising.  When a guy has to make a living standing in front of a crowd with nothing but a guitar and a gift of gab, chances are that he will learn how to tell a crowd pleasing story.  He does.  Over and over again.  The book is a collection of wild stories, personal philosophy and unabashed fandom of some of his personal musical heroes.  It’s an easy read, and flows like a guy that is smoking weed and telling tall tales in a hotel room after party.  Trust me, this is a guy who you’d like to have tell you a story or two.  Check it out…        

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate the NFL Draft (As Always)

There is a very good chance that I may burst into flames if I hear one more word about Johnny Manziel.  I have been actively avoiding NFL Draft media coverage, but there is truly nowhere to hide.  When I close my eyes I discover that ESPN has implanted a Johnny Manziel story complete with a video pre-roll ad for some razor.  Sleep has become impossible.  To even drift into a nap I discover a voice whispering into my ear speculation that Johnny Manziel is going to go to the Vikings in a convoluted trade involving Sam Bradford and those kidnapped Nigerian girls.  As I attempt to shake this disconcerting information I stare blankly at CNN where I could’ve sworn I saw a story about Johnny Manziel somehow guaranteeing finding that missing Malaysian Air flight.  It’s all gotten out of hand.

It is on record that I want the Browns to draft Manziel so I can see him flame out as close to the center of the fire as possible.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy.  He’s fun as hell to watch play football.  He pulled some amazing rabbits out of his ass while at Texas A&M while living a lifestyle I would have killed for when I was 20.  The downside is that when he scrambles around in the NFL like he did in college, he will most likely have his spine snapped by three 285 pound monsters that run as fast as cheetahs.  He’s a fun cocky kid that is a modern version of Joe Namath.  I would like to point out that nobody likes a loudmouth cocky kid that flamed out in the NFL that is shooting around in a mechanized wheelchair.   There is a reason that small guys don’t play QB in the NFL.  There are way too many big guys that make it impossible.  The NFL tends to weed out the pretenders.

This Manziel stuff is this year’s version of the Tim Tebow draft chaos.  Anyone that knew anything said, “Umm… That guy can’t play in the NFL.”  Meanwhile the media does the same thing it does for any story.  Global warming?  Economic forecast?  Ukraine?  It doesn’t matter.  They just root around until they find someone to carry the story line on the other side of the coin.  “Tim Tebow is a winner.  He showed that at Florida and he’ll do it again in the NFL.”, said Some Guy that coaches in College somewhere that would like to coach at Florida at some point.  New headline…  “Critics differ on Tebow”.  Now you got yourselves a Controversy!

As I have said before, the Doomsday Scenario is if Manziel goes to Dallas.  There will be no stopping the national media machine that will produce stories upon stories about Manziel, Tony Romo, and When Will Manziel Replace Tony Romo?  There will be more stories on this topic than 9/11.  Even if you are not a football fan you will find it impossible to avoid the topic.  The situation in Ukraine could blow up into World War 3, and as nuclear missiles drop onto the East Coast the only topic will be is “How will this affect Johnny Manziel’s chances of starting this week in Washington?”.

The good news is that after this weekend all this hype will be over.  These over publicized draft picks can get down to the business of being who they really are… most likely somewhat disappointing players on kinda crappy teams.  Mel Kiper will slink back into his hair spray man cave.  That pencil necked geek John Clayton can disappear for a few months.  Ron Jaworski can stop talking about “all the tape” he is “breaking down”.  And by the way, who is it that does all these tape edits for Ron Jaworski to sit in front of to “break down”?  There must be a poor sap of a college graduate that has some sort of media degree that is chained to a computer putting together horrible permutations of game tapes for $14,000 a year.  Eh, fuck that kid.  He wanted to get into “sports”.  Live your dream kid, live your dream…

My advice?  Don’t turn on a TV or radio until Tuesday.  All the “drama” will turn out to be nothing.  Unless of course Manziel goes to Dallas, then God help us all…


Friday, May 2, 2014

Nurse the Hate: The Smoker's Lament

Allow me to let you into the inside of an indie rock scene.  Let me give you some real “inside access”.  This is an issue at the top of many small time touring rock band discussions right now.  It’s a shocker…  I have received word that Nashville stalwart live music club The 5spot stunned regulars by going “smoke free” without warning last week.  In what can only be referred to as a “shocking turn of events”, local Nashville rummies like ex-Daredevil guitar player Bob Lanphier will be forced to shuffle outside to smoke.  While this is the normal course of action for almost every club in the United States, Nashville has stubbornly hung on to the idea that each venue makes their own decision regarding smoking policy.  The worm has apparently turned for Bob and his musician scenester friends at the 5Spot.  I couldn’t be more pleased for my own selfish reasons, but let’s take a look at the fallout, shall we?

I always find it a shock to the system when I walk into some backwards ass place where you can still smoke inside.  While recently in St Louis I discovered that not only is smoking permitted, it must be encouraged.  I didn’t know.  I only packed a couple t-shirts and underwear for the weekend.  Who thinks about multiple pairs of pants for a weekender?  My jeans after the first night smelled like Keith Richards on the Rolling Stones 1982 American Tour, dirty and spent.   My stomach did a flip flop when I had to put them back on Saturday morning.  I think we can all agree this is an unfortunate side effect of being in a small bar while people chain smoke Marlboro Lights and drink plastic cups of Bud Light.  It’s grim.

The smokers are all worked up in Nashville though.  It is sort of like the Five Stages of Death.  Today in Music City they are definitely in Stage One: Denial and Isolation.  I heard lots of talk today about people not going out and staying home to “mull it over”.  What exactly they are “mulling over” I don’t know.  There are two options really.  They will have to stand out in front of the door creating a “cloud of death” for entering patrons or enjoy the bleak back parking lot which may be dressed up as some sort of Smoker’s Paradise with a picnic table and/or potted plant.  Many of these guys are total creatures of habit in East Nashville.  They spend a shocking amount of time standing in a ten foot radius, talking to the same core group of friends while they all smoke heavily.  The idea that this ritual will be slightly changed has definitely unhinged many of them.  While it is only walking seven steps out the front door, the risk that they will lose their bar stool as well as interrupt the flow of their regular night has been quite a blow to absorb.

I think Stage 2 is Anger.  That will probably happen this weekend.  There will be lots of shit talk about how “I’m not going there any more man!  I’m going to be spending a lot more time at (insert name of bar that will still let them smoke here).  Those guys are going to lose a lot of business!  Almost everyone I know is saying the same thing!”. 

The one thing we know is that smokers have never been good at organizing a counteroffensive.   As a group they are beaten.  There is really no logical ground to stand on to allow smoking in a closed public place.  I also think in the back of their minds they know two things. 

  1) The bar will continue on unabated.  While maybe some people will spend less time in the bar itself buying drinks, that will be far outweighed by the vast majority of people that don’t want to smell like Chris Robinson of the Black Crowe’s fringed Indian leather jacket at the end of the night.  The 5Spot will continue and they'll be fine. 

  2) They will still go to the 5Spot because that is where their friends hang out.  As far more people are non-smokers, or at least smokers that aren’t hardcore enough as to need 17 cigarettes in a two hour visit to the establishment, they will adjust to having to stand outside smoking and give other entering patrons the evil eye as they walk in.   When Ohio went non-smoking all the media sources speculated about how it was going to “kill the bar business”.  It didn’t.  People went outside to smoke even if it was sleeting sideways.  Life continued.  The smokers had lost.

Stage 3 is Bargaining.  I would imagine Bob and his group of regulars will try to find some sort of basement or side room where they can smoke.  Some kind of secret clubhouse.  Maybe they’ll see if they can make the bar “smoking” on a specific day.  They will find themselves settling for something that only a week ago would have been unthinkable.  The worm has turned so fast on this thing, that even now they are still two stages away from being able to formulate some sort of Hail Mary pass for a special area.  It will be an act of pure desperation, one that will make them uncomfortable even thinking about.

Stages 4 and 5 are Depression and Acceptance.  There will be lots of staring into drinks over at the Three Crow Bar across the street, mumbling about “the good old days” when a guy could fire back a pack of smokes while ignoring the band over by the soundboard.  Eventually though, there they will be… shivering in the cold in the front of 5Spot with a hand jammed in their pockets, trying to finish a cigarette and get back inside where their faithful stool by the soundboard will be waiting for them, the band laboring on somewhere in the distance. 

God speed my smoking Nashville friends.  It’s been a hell of a week for you.  I’ll be there next week with my boots on the ground.  By the way, I’m only packing one pair of jeans this time…  Is the HiWatt smoke free too?