Friday, February 20, 2015

Nurse the Hate: The Dinner Incident

Three people sat at a dinner table.  The elderly couple was in their eighties, both suffering from the various maladies associated with that age.  The woman’s son brought them dinner, as he did each week.  The son would use this as an opportunity to check up on them, and do little jobs that needed attention.  The elderly man wasn’t his father, but a late in life companion to his mother.  Though he was very particular, and could be rigid and difficult, it was generally agreed within the family that his steady companionship and presence in the household was good for all parties involved.

The dinner, bland take out from a nearby neighborhood restaurant, had wound to a close.  They lingered in sluggish conversation.  The elderly man excused himself from the table, remarking that he didn’t feel well and would be retiring to the bedroom.  The son and his mother lingered at the table.  An odd noise followed by what sounded like the man falling to the ground brought them to attention.  The son quickly moved to the bedroom calling out the man’s name.  He swung open the bedroom door.  It took a moment for everything to register.

The elderly man was crumpled on the ground.  His dentures had come out of his mouth and smiled at the son from the floor.  From a small hole in his head blood relentlessly gushed out onto the carpet.  In his lifeless hand he still clutched a small pistol.  “What is it?  What is it?”  The son held the door closed to not allow his mother to look into the room and see the bleeding body of her companion on the floor of her bedroom.   The noise they had heard from the kitchen table was the small “pop” of a .22 pistol.   Very quickly the mother understood what had happened.  Perhaps the man had waited until the son had come over for his weekly visit, not wanting for the woman to have to deal with the complications of having a suicide in the home.  There was no note.  No one would ever know for certain.  The authorities were called, and events proceeded according to protocol.

The son, obviously shaken by the events, spoke to me the next day about how he felt he was just a pawn in a grand scheme.  The Hand of God had placed him at the home, to be the one to discover the grisly sight in his mother’s bedroom.  Like many of the disastrous events that had pummeled him in the last several years, it was God’s Will.  Why would God place him in this scenario?  It was not for him to know, as he would be unlikely to understand the grand scheme anyway.  It was enough to know that God had a plan, even one that seemed counterintuitive or opaque in the moment.

I suppose the mind will hold onto anything to try and explain a horrible experience like that, however doesn’t the concept of “God’s Will” then eliminate the idea of free will and choice?  To suggest that a supreme being was responsible for the man waiting to shoot himself until the son came over is to suggest that the man had no control over his actions, a mere puppet.  If we then decide that this Supreme Being decided on the events as they transpired, doesn’t it also follow that any “choice” we make no matter how large or small has already been predetermined?  If we are just passengers on a pre-laid track, why even labor over choices?  Whatever the decision, the “choice” that was made was only illusion.  

The further extension of this line of thinking is to eliminate accountability.  If a man commits a crime, how can that individual be held accountable when his action was set into motion by the Supreme Being?  The criminal cannot be at fault as the action was predetermined by a being that we cannot understand.  Of course, the Supreme Being may have only set that course of action into motion so the individual could experience the ensuing accountability and society’s version of justice.  Damn... This is getting complicated...  Let's say you do whatever you want whenever you want.  That freedom is an illusion.  You would only be doing what God had planned for you to do.  Go ahead, choose to do the opposite of what you initially wanted.  This line of thinking would follow that the following action is only what God wanted you to do as the mere act of thinking of the alternative was part of His Grand Plan.  How’s your mind now?  Blown?

It is comforting to think that an all powerful being has a keen interest in the everyday actions of each and every person on the planet, carefully orchestrating events in a way that are beyond our primitive understanding.  We are all players in this grand pageant.  This gives each one of our lives not only meaning, but helps minimize the randomness and lack of control associated with tragic events.  Revisionist history is always correct.  This happened because of that.  It is all part of God’s Plan.  Case closed.  Move on.

I don’t know.  Maybe sometimes a guy shoots himself in the head and that’s all there is.     

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nurse the Hate: SNL Special

Like most of you, I watched the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special.  I haven’t seen Saturday Night Live on a regular basis since The Cowslingers got serious about touring.  That led to me be very confused by “that guy” in the office during the week.  Do you know That Guy?  He is the one that re-enacts funny comedy bits he has seen in movies and TV shows and figures by osmosis that he’s funny too.  There was a guy I worked with in the early 90s that spent almost every Monday pretending to be Jim Carey and then staring and smiling with an open mouth patiently waiting like an obedient dog for a positive reaction.  He just never made the connection that because others would politely chuckle at the recollection of Jim Carey being “Fireman Bob” or whatever the fuck that character was, it didn’t mean that he was funny just by association.  I would uncomfortably do that move where you chuckle a little bit to show that you understand, but not too much to suggest that you wanted more impromptu impersonations from him.  “Oh yeah… ha ha… yeah… that was good…”

It was interesting to see a bunch of SNL’s best skits referenced to in quick hit fashion.   I can’t tell you how many I had to look up on my phone and watch as I paused the show.  Unlike most of America, I just saw the “Taco Town” and “Red Flag Perfume” fake commercials yesterday.  There’s a lot of funny material I missed.  Of course, I got up to speed in about 17 minutes, so maybe it worked out OK that I went out to play these shows in scuzzy clubs instead. 

A few impressions from this star studded broadcast…

I am becoming more and more unsettled when I see Paul McCartney.  The combination of dyed brown hair combined with what I assume is a “hair system” is sort of shocking when perched on top of a senior citizen’s head.  The sagging face combined with the hair is making Sir Paul look like a drag queen, and that makes me sad.  The rock star from that generation that got it right is Bob Dylan.  Dylan reached a point when he ditched the leather pants and dressed age appropriately, in his case like a Southern Gentleman that might have walked out of the mid 1860s.  Paul McCartney is 73 years old.  The hair and kid clothes did not fool me into thinking he was the Paul McCartney of “Band On The Run” era Wings.  When he couldn’t hit those high notes on “Maybe I’m Amazed”, I felt even more sad.  I hope he just had a cold.

I truly enjoyed Keith Richards slithering out on stage to introduce McCartney.  That’s a guy that is not trying to hide his advancing years.  He has dressed like a model runway pirate since 1978, and dammit, he’s sticking with it.  He just lets it rip.  I also really enjoyed his signature move of walking out for a prepared public speaking engagement and he is laughing before anything even happens.  While the confused audience will try to figure out what he is laughing at, he will mumble out something about whatever his basic task for the speaking engagement was and slip in a Rolling Stones reference as well as slurring “rockandroll”.    

Chris Farley might have been one of the funniest cast members they ever had.  To see a collection of the skits he did in rapid fire fashion was revelatory to me.  I had relegated him to a place in my mind as The Guy That Made Stupid Movies That Wished He Was John Belushi.  He was really talented, and it is a shame to think that his self destruction couldn’t have been prevented.

I found it odd that Chris Rock delivered a heartfelt introduction to Eddie Murphy as the Comedian of His Generation, a man that singlehandedly saved the show, and was the largest personal influence on his professional career.  Then Murphy walks out and awkwardly thanks everyone for the accolades, and again refuses to do anything remotely resembling comedy.  What the hell happened to that guy?  It is like he intellectually decided to dismantle everything about himself that people found appealing to become Tim Allen.  He is so iconic that even now the current crop of A List comedians won’t say, “I have no idea why he sucks now.  Maybe he doesn’t know how to be funny anymore.”.  The whole thing is very confusing.

It was sort of amazing to see how many people that participated in the show that they presumably knew in advance would have a huge audience appeared to be completely unprepared.  For example, as Robert DeNiro appears to be unable to read cue cards, could he have maybe memorized the three lines  he was required to read?  Did Chevy Chase just give up?  Could someone let Norm MacDonald know that this might have been a good opportunity to allow the industry know he was still alive?  Meanwhile Larry David kicked ass.  Martin Short was prepared and excellent.  Alec Baldwin crushed.  I’m thinking in this type of environment where everyone is ultra talented, it might be a good idea to at least have your lines ready.

I do not understand the appeal of Kayne West.  I have heard him on these award shows a few times now, and within seconds after his song ends I cannot recall even the basic melody.  He seems like the crazy pissed off guy at a party that it is important to keep on the radar because he is going to start a fight with someone as soon as he gets fucked up enough, and the key is to make sure it isn’t you.  Someone must like this guy’s music as he is on every one of these created events.  I may just need a 24 year old girl to explain it to me, and I will explain Tom Waits to her.  That would be a good trade.

I saw the Jimmy Fallon audition tape.  I don’t know why they hired him on.  He really seemed like a high school kid goofing around.  His Q rating must be off the friggin’ charts.  I am aware that every female between the ages of 18-44 thinks he is “cute”.  That can’t hurt ratings.  However, I don’t know if he has ever done a sketch on the show where he doesn’t start laughing in the middle of it.  That’s bad, isn’t it?  He seems like a one of the most genuinely nice people in show business, which makes it so odd that he made it on that show.  The best comedians on Saturday Night Live have been drug addicts, mentally ill, and difficult.  He must have stuck out like a sore thumb.  Once again, I feel as if I might know absolutely nothing about what America likes.

A man that apparently does know what America likes is Lorne Michaels.  Every single person that walked out on that stage (except  Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David) quakes in their boots at the mere mention of Lorne’s name.  I don’t know if I have ever seen a group of powerful entertainment industry people be more deferential.  Lorne does have the golden touch though.  It’s amazing the talent he has identified and nurtured.  I have no idea how scary it must be to audition for that guy on the SNL stage.  Mike Myers must have based Dr. Evil on Lorne Michaels.

While the power of the show has undoubtedly shrunk due to the influx of media outlets, it is still the ring to reach for if your profession is sketch comedian.  I know this not only because of the instant credibility and opportunities it provides for the illustrious cast, but because as soon as I walked to my desk at my day job someone quickly game me a Phil Hartman impression.  “yeah… haha…. That was good…”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Shipwreck Dive

I had decided last year to dive a shipwreck.  The idea of a shipwreck is really appealing to me.  A murky doom laden ship deep in the water is something almost no one sees with their own eyes.  Sure, everyone has seen it on Discovery Channel, but it’s different in person.  It is very difficult to capture on video the scope of a proper shipwreck.  They are massive.  The ocean acts like a ticking time capsule slowly eroding the best laid plans of man. There is something chilling about a shipwreck.  It speaks to the impermanence of life.

The Superior Producer is a 165 foot freighter that had the fate of being poorly loaded and then subsequently became swamped in rough waters off the Dutch island of Curacao when the cargo shifted in rough seas.  It went down in 1977, and sits in 120 feet of water directly underneath regular cruise ship and military boat traffic.  As both cruise ships and naval vessels tend to frown on unidentified scuba divers swimming around, the wreck is only available once a week.  Well, in theory one could access it on other days, but one would also have to be fairly comfortable with a pissed off trigger happy teenage soldier with an M-16 or an even more pissed off naval diver that would undoubtedly do something very terrible to you in the relative privacy of the deep ocean.

I had made arrangements via the wonders of the internet to dive with a Dutch expat named Bas.  I glanced at his website and everyone seemed to like Bas.  In retrospect, I don’t think I ever looked at any of his qualifications, but as I didn’t notice any Yelp headlines along the lines of “Dude almost killed us” or “Clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing” I proceeded with my naïve enthusiasm intact.  The idea of diving based on a website is crazy when even a moment’s thought is devoted to it.  Based on a few Yelp entries I would be descending into a fairly dangerous environment with a complete stranger, using all of his gear, having no real idea of his experience or qualifications.   

Bas picked me up at my hotel.  A heavy smoking guy with a colorful past he only hinted at that included stops in Australia and Thailand, he fit the stereotype of “dive guide”.  Most dive guides seem like the guys you went to high school with that partied too much, wandered around the planet on the warm weather hippie trail, where they picked up exotic tattoos and the skill of diving.  Now in their 30s with diving as their one marketable skill, they pick up fuckwads like me at our hotels, toss us into the water, and hope we don’t do anything stupid.   

I differ from most scuba enthusiasts in a couple of key ways.  First, I am much less experienced than anyone else I am diving with on any excursion.  Living in Northeast Ohio in the snow and ice doesn’t help, but I have no idea how these other people on these dive boats find the time to make 100+ dives.  I manage to get to a tourist destination with warm clear water 1-2 times a year.  Everyone else always casually mentions how awesome the Red Sea is compared to Pago Pago.  I have no idea what I am doing wrong in that I am not jetting out to Pago Pago on a whim.  Everyone else in the boat has done everything already and spends most of their time being unimpressed.  When I get out of the water and back to the boat, I will exclaim “Did you see the fucking size of that grouper!” while everyone looks at me blankly like I am the biggest rube on the planet.  I am always jacked up and excited about all the crazy shit I see in the ocean.  I haven’t learned to play it cool yet.    

The other key difference is how gung ho everyone is about their gear.  Like guys that are too into golf, men in a dive boat can be counted on to get competitive about their unimportant gear.  “Yeah, I used to use a Skyrex 220, but I switched over to a Pacifica 14 last year.  It’s so much lighter.”  I never know what the fuck these guys are talking about.  I just show up, take whatever gear the shop gives me, hope it works OK, and flop out of the boat when someone tells me to do so. I am shockingly frank in what I don’t know.  This caught Bas by surprise.

“Well, it’s ripping today.”  What do you mean Bas?  “The current the Superior Producer is famous for, or infamous for I should say, is really ripping.  Conditions are about as bad as they can be.  It’s going to be crazy out there.”  Oh yeah?  “How many wreck dives have you done?”  None.  Dude, I’ve only been on about 10-12 dives ever.  (Silence… He lights a cigarette)  “OK…  Well fuck it then.  We’ll figure it out.”  

The wreck is only about 100 yards offshore, so we drove over to the shore dive site in his pickup truck where I initialed a bunch of forms saying I wouldn’t sue him if I killed myself out there.  I’m not sure how I would sue him if I was dead, but it is a litigious world we live in.  We came to a stop at the end of a scrubby little road with plastic bags and beer cans littering the general area.  It was about as unscenic as you can imagine.  This spot was the Toledo of the Dutch West Indies.  I tried to remember how to get into the various gear while Bas went over the dive plan.  “Alright… We are going to walk out on those rocks over there.  Don’t fall off those rocks because you’ll break your fucking leg.  Then we are going to swim way out left before we descend.  That current is so strong we will have to drift over to the wreck while we make depth.  We aren’t going to stop and look at anything on the way out there unless we see a goddamn mermaid, and even then don’t spend too much time because if you do…whew!...we’ll miss the wreck and drift right by.”  All right.  Hey, how does this attach?

I will freely admit that I did not foster much confidence in Bas as I really appeared to have never seen any dive gear or be aware how any of it actually worked.  On top of that, I had never been to the depth we were heading to (110 feet) or dealt with the various hazards a wreck can present.  For example, with a strong current a diver can easily get tangled in debris, have his respirator ripped out, or freak out when entering an enclosed space like the bridge of a sunken boat.  The downside of being at 100+ feet is that the diver cannot just shoot to the surface or because of not de-pressurizing the diver will be afflicted with “the bends”.  That means nitrogen bubbles settle into the joints and bloodstream and cool things like paralysis, bleeding out of places one shouldn’t bleed out of, or death can result.  Safety stops have to be made as the diver works toward the surface to allow the body to return to normal.  That’s tough to make the brain do that when air supply gets cut off, a shark swims by, or general panic sets in.  That’s why Bas probably had some concern when I said things like “Dude, don’t worry.  I’ll be fine when we get in the water.  Now which one of these buttons gets the air out of the vest?”  I made no attempt to conceal how much I didn’t know.  We were both locked in.

As we went over final instructions “OK, we are going to swim into the bridge.  You will notice a bunch of windows.  If you freak out, you would have to be a retard not to be able to get out, OK?”  Yeah man.  “OK, then we’re going to swim straight down through a hatch into the second floor.  Once again, windows are all around, so if you freak out???”  …Um, I’m a retard because there are plenty of ways to get out?  “You got it!  OK, then we will pop out of there and swim down into the cargo hold.  It has a bunch of steel beams, so when we swim out of it, look up.  You don’t want to hit your fucking head.”  I nodded as this seemed sensible advice.  It was then that four divers emerged right in front of us near the shoreline.

The dive guide of that group was a red headed Dutch guy that Bas obviously knew.  This guy looked like he had stepped out of a 16th century Flemish painting and into a wetsuit.  Extremely skinny with a red beard mirroring his sharp features, he awkwardly ascended from the rocky shore.  They greeted each other in some creole/Dutch language combo.  “How is it out there?  Ripping?”  No.  It’s all good.  “The current isn’t bad?  It was horrible yesterday.”  The redhead just shook his head “no”.  Bas turned to me.  “OK, fuck it then.  We’ll swim straight out to it.”      

It should be noted that when you see someone on TV walking into the sea in dive gear they are making it look easy.  In my wet suit and tank, I moved like the first amphibian making its initial tenuous steps onto land.  It must have looked like 50,000 B.C. and I was the very first frog.  It is not easy to walk down seaweed covered rocks with waves breaking on you while wearing a shitload of bulky gear.  I somehow managed not to break my fucking leg on the rocks and got into the ocean.  Then I had to bob around in my vest while I awkwardly tried to put my unfamiliar flippers on.  “Hey man… How the fuck do these attach?  Wait…  Wait… I got it.”  Once again, I was not inspiring much confidence.

Bas made the OK signal and we let the air out of our vests and started to descend.  I hadn’t made a dive in a year, and immediately remembered why I do this.  Everywhere is color, interlocking details of coral, crazy fish, and the immensity of the sea.  It’s the best.  I began to get comfortable with everything as we swam out to the direction of the wreck.  I had no sense of how quickly we went to depth as I just kept pressurizing and got reacquainted with the feel of breathing underwater.  It was just sand, coral, and more sand.  Then, out of nowhere, there was the wreck.  Look at that fucking thing.

We got on top of it fairly quickly and entered the ship.  Sharp coral encases almost every surface. The gray green of the metal is contrasted by the occasional bright fish shooting by.  Clank.  Damn it.  I hit my tank against the ceiling of the bridge.  Something one never considers when entering a room on a ship is what it would be like to enter that room while weightless.  A room that must have seemed very large when the ship was afloat seems much smaller when 100 feet down in water with an oxygen tank strapped to your body.  We swam to a small hatch in the floor and swam directly downward vertical through to the lower level.  There were two things that went through my head.  “I have to swim straight down through that little hole?  That seems sort of fucked up.” and “This is badass!”.

We worked our way through the ship.  Giant tarpon held steady above the cargo hold.  Big butterfly fish looked annoyed.  We made a turn and swam down what would have been the main walkway on the deck.  We dropped down past the enormous rudder and propeller.  A large barracuda finned over to give me a look.  I looked at the depth gauge.  106 feet.  Fuck, that’s really deep.  I looked up.  The surface was just a slightly brighter blue, but no real detail to get a feel for just how far away it actually was from this place.  We began to swim back to shore underwater, allowing the gradual incline of the bottom to serve as our decompression phase.  We popped our heads out of the water a mere 15 feet from our entry point.  Way to go Bas.  

I was quite pleased with myself to have knocked out goal #1 of 2015 and not kill myself in the process.  I would like to go on record that had I somehow drowned myself on the wreck; I still would have accomplished the goal just by entering the bridge of the Superior Producer.  My feeling of adequacy disappeared rather quickly as I even more awkwardly emerged back out of the ocean on the rocks where I could break my fucking leg.  We slogged back to the truck with our gear.  A couple walked by us, giving us the eye.  I wanted to say, “Hey!  I just dove a shipwreck!  How awesome is that?” but I didn’t.  I played it cool instead.  Somebody book me a trip to Pago Pago…  I’ve got this diving thing down.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Super Bowl

Let's get this out of the way first. I have absolutely no idea which team is going to win today.  Neither do you or any of the so called "experts" that have been tasked with filling innumerable hours of pre game hype. This thing on paper looks razor thin.  Evil Empire East vs. Evil Empire West.

There are plenty of reasons to hate both teams.  New England is a franchise that blatantly tries to bend any rule out there to gain any edge possible.  Brady is a trash talking pretty boy.  They churn through players like a wheel and still win no matter who is wearing the jersey.  The attitude of the organization is that they are above the petty rules binding the rest of the teams, though they hide it through a thin veneer of corporate babble whenever they get caught.  Toss in the Boston area fan base and they are really easy to dislike.

Meanwhile Seattle has the same unlikeable fans, but they are people that have bought into their own hype as The 12th Man.  Gag.  The city of Seattle is all about drinking coffee in the mist and debating how to offer more benefits to the homeless that pop up out of every nook and cranny of downtown.  These people just got excited about the Seahawks when the Seahawks got good.  Let's see how much noise they make when the eventually return to their heritage as a 7-9 team.

I found it very off putting that after their miraculous victory over Green Bay almost every interview consisted of Seahawks angrily barking into microphones how they had been "disrespected" and "counted out".  Excuse me, but aren't you the defending Super Bowl champions?  Feel free to act like you deserved that and that you have been there before.  Maybe it's all that hippity hop music the kids are listening to nowadays that is filling their heads with the "respect" theme.

Only a madman would bet on this coin flip of a game, but as a licensed degenerate, I have no choice but to get something going.  It's the Super Bowl for God's Sake, the biggest caloric consumption day in America. Take that Thanksgiving!  I'm going to follow the axiom that defense wins championships and uneasily take Seattle on the money line.  I have little faith in this whatsoever, and am vaguely hoping this game will mirror the Tampa win over Oakland in that Super Bowl a decade or so ago.  Who the hell knows...