Saturday, March 21, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Tournament Day 3

Today I am on my way to Bordeaux to tackle that WSET Level 3 exam and crash some En Premeur tastings at chateau where I have no business being.  Thanks to the marvels of The Interwebs, I think I might be able to watch college basketball while I travel.  Logic naturally dictates that I should really get after it today after yesterday became almost a wash.  In retrospect I should have just bet on West Virginia as aggressively as an angry Hun. Had that been the case I would have purchased two tickets to some tropical paradise and then flown the Frenchies in to teach me there while watching my bikini clad female companion trot about while I debated the merits of Burgundy vintages.  Ah, the path untraveled...

The way I see today fleshing out is like this.  I really talk myself into a dangerous wager on a mid afternoon game.  I lose that, seeing the end of it in an Airport Lounge while I spit out statements like "play some fucking defense you fucking fucks" and "how the fuck do you miss that layup you piece of shit?".  Despite the lounge being crowded, there will be an empty one seat cushion around me in all directions as the cloud of bad vibes will be evident to even the most clueless observer.  I will finally get up after the final buzzer seals my fate and the other patrons will make eye contact as if to communicate "finally that creep is out of here".  This will turn set up the doomsday scenario of me being stuck in coach watching a dicey Direct TV feed on the tiny screen in front of me.  Some French guy will sniff dismissively as I contort in the uncomfortable seat with each lead change.  My thinking is that this distraction must be better than watching Transformers 3 or Two and a Half Men re-runs.  The die has been cast.  Let's begin...

The great thing about those first round upset teams is that how sudden their fall from "instant celebrity" to "incredibly obscure college basketball team" strikes.  I fully expect UCLA, who benefitted from a shockingly bad goaltend call to even be here, to eliminate UAB.  The Public likes Cinderella.  I like The Chalk.  UCLA -5.

 As I don't know anything about any of the teams, I will continue to bet on teams where I have some affection for the fan base.  The University of Cincinnati is a great place to go to school if you want to be assaulted by street thugs on the way to your freshman level English class.  I remember trying to load the van one time as a race riot came to a boil after a show. It should be pointed out that we did nothing to instigate this race riot, but played a set obliviously at Sudsy Malone's, a club and self serve laundry.  The smoking was so heavy in that place that it may be the only laundromat in history where the clothes came out dirtier than when they went in.  Ah Cincinnati University...  Look, they are going to lose to Kentucky. We all know that.  Every dipshit on the planet is betting on KY.  I'm going the other way and hope that Cincinnati can just sort of hang around in the game.  This is probably a mistake.  Cincinnati +17.

I'm going to bet against Xavier.  That fistfight of a game they won two days ago had to have taken something out of them.  Looking at their results, they tend to play close.  I had never even heard of Georgia State before Thursday.  They are that perfect example of sudden stars that none of us will remember on Tuesday.  I just need them to keep it close.  I am taking Georgia State +7.5.  As an aside, this seems like the type of school where Krusty may eventually get a job, grumpily teaching "Introduction to Politics" to uninterested C students from the outer rings of Atlanta.  He will have to say at least once a day "No, I don't teach at Athens.  I'm not at Georgia.  I'm at Georgia State."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Tournament Day 2

I got after it yesterday.  After typing in my ill advised picks, I jumped on UCLA and Utah as well.  While these were winners, without question the greatest moment of yesterday was when some VCU guy drove for a meaningless layup and a backdoor cover over Ohio State.  I was on Ohio State up to my eyeballs, and Krusty was sitting next to me reveling in my defeat.  I can't think of any other word than "reveling" as he had both arms lifted to the sky as Ohio State failed to play defense.  He began to cackle when the scenario became crystal clear.  "March Madness!  March Madness!"  He had no skin in that game, but was just soaking in my failure.  Ohio State -3.5.  Ohio State wins by three.  Loser.  Drink up Krusty.  Enjoy your Dortmunder with side of schadenfreude.

The good news is that yet another full slate of games come stampeding in at Noon.  My coffers are fairly stuffed after going 4-2.  I am going to be aggressive today.  In the parlance of the gambling community, I am going to "Swing For the Fucking Fences".  This is really interesting as I don't know anything more today than I did yesterday, yet stumbling into a few winners yesterday has inflated my confidence to a dangerous level.  If this goes wrong today I will be forced to leave the country in a bid to escape my creditors, and if that fails I may well be left to dance on the docks for nickles.  Either scenario is grim, so let's all hope my momentum continues.

I am getting on West Virginia is a big way today over Buffalo.  I don't know what criminals Bob Huggins has somehow crowbarred from the State of West Virginia Justice System for the Mountaineers.  I know that these thugs will be unable to read or perhaps even speak English in more than grunts.  However, they will be rebounding monsters, have astonishing quickness, leaping ability, and ball handling skills that are well beyond whatever sad sacks the MAC rolls out.  The MAC really sucks and has for years.  Around here there is this memory of those magical Kent State runs and limited success from Akron.  Although only a handful of people have actually seen the University of Buffalo team play, a snowballing belief that they will upset WVU has gained speed.  That's absurd.  I am filling a truck with American money to place on West Virginia -4.

This guy I read says that New Mexico State is the strongest 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history.  That is a big claim.  It could be all shit talk.  Look, for all I know this guy is a meth addict that is on some crazy binge typing maniacally on a greyhound bus bound for Sante Fe.  He might be on his fourth day of no sleep and completely focused on finding the electromagnetic grids in the desert that are well reported on "The Deep Web".  I am just taking what he says at face value as he seems to exist only to watch college basketball games.  Meth would probably help in that department.  Here's what I have learned...  New Mexico State's two best players were hurt for a stretch, and they went 7-7.  The rest of the season they went 16-3 with close road losses to Wichita State and Baylor.  They are 13-0 since getting the full roster back.  Meanwhile Kansas is without one of their ringers.  Is New Mexico State going to beat Kansas?  Hell, I don't know, but it doesn't seem like they will lose by more than 10.5.  New Mexico State +10.5 

I love to bet against Indiana.  I have a longstanding beef with that state due to their long history of terrible bathroom conditions off of the turnpike.  I also have had a couple of tepid shows in Bloomington, a town with way too many jacked up pickup trucks piloted by backward baseball cap dudes.  I spent a weekend in Indianapolis being carted from strip plaza chicken wing bar to strip plaza chicken wing bar while two huge men filled the vehicle with monsterous farts that made my eyes tear.  Gary had an acoustic guitar stolen once (that we later found after someone had discarded it).  I don't have a lot of positive memories of Indiana.  Knowing how important basketball is to the state, I just enjoy seeing their dreams crushed by someone like Wichita State.  I'm down with the Shockers.  Indiana has lost 9 of 14 going into the Tournament.  I don't think they "get right" against an elite team like Wichita State.  Wichita State -4.

St. John's lost their last two games by a combined 54 points.  Their only real big man just got suspended for marijuana.  They will basically play this game with four guards and a forward.  That's going to be a problem against San Diego State.  I keep seeing words like "mismatch" in regards to this game.  It's nice to imagine all the New York money flooding in on St. John's while no one in San Diego is even aware that the city has a college, much less a basketball team.  San Diego residents are all about surfing, drinking really hoppy beer, and finding a place to live on the right side of Interstate 5.  At some point at a beach bar in Mission Beach a guy will look up at a TV and say something like "Brah!  Those uniforms say San Diego!  Do we have, like, a school here?  No way!"  That should keep this line nice and low.  San Diego State -4.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Tournament Day 1

The NCAA Tournament is perhaps America's Greatest Gambling Event.  While the Super Bowl is the biggest spectacle, nothing can hold a candle to the rapid fire action of non-stop games going off on a weekday.  Lost a couple hundred at lunch when some kid you never heard of from Robert Morris hit an otherwise meaningless free throw?  No problem.  Double down at 3p on Oklahoma State because you heard a completely unsubstantiated rumor that they have "great senior guard play".  Even now I can recall with vivid clarity the joy of jumping around Cleopatra's Barge in Caeser's Palace when an end of the bench guy from KY heaved in a three point shot at the buzzer to cover a 17 point spread over some early round patsy.  It is, perhaps sadly, one of my greatest sports memories.

Allow me to caution you on my picks.  I know almost nothing about college basketball.  I am aware that Kentucky has the best college team in a couple of decades.  Teams that are always good like Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova, and Gonzaga are good again this year.  That's about it.  Everything else is some faintly registered piece of information I glanced at in a sports page while taking a crap.  Thanks to the Wonders of the Information Age though, I am able to do some deep dives from some sources that have earned a small amount of trust. I will digest this information, and then spout it back off to anyone that will listen and on the surface appear to be quite an expert in the coming weekend.  I have always been able to project a veneer of confidence, even when I don't know what the hell I am talking about.  This is one of those times.  Buyer beware.

One of my pet peeves is to see grown men sitting around bars with their folded bracket living and dying on a first round 8 vs 9 game.  Allow me to be perfectly frank.  Real men gamble on these individual games with real money.  Having just scratched in names on a $5 bracket is for women.  Children.  The elderly on fixed incomes.  When I see a guy by himself eating a sandwich at the bar transfixed at the end of a 67-64 contest where I know the line is 4, that's a man that deserves a nod of respect.  Not the group of four bad haircuts and cheap shoes sitting at the table excitedly saying "I got them on my bracket!  I got them on bracket!" when the final horn sounds.  It's time to set yourself apart from the herd.  Let's get to this thing, make some money, and assert ourselves as more evolved beings, shall we?

I am getting on Xavier.  Mississippi beat BYU in a remarkable comeback two days ago while the guys at Xavier were presumably smoking weed and playing Xbox.  Many fools will feel that Mississippi will come rolling in with “momentum”.  I think they will come rolling in with “tired legs”.  Plus, any time I can bet against anything from Mississippi I like to do so.  That’s a state that really focuses on obesity, illiteracy, and being hurricane victims, not basketball.  Xavier -3.

Ohio State is favored over the higher seeded VCU today primarily because The Public likes betting on Ohio State as they believe (correctly) that Ohio State is essentially a minor league factory for professional sports franchises that dabbles in education.  From what I gather, VCU wins games because they make the opponent’s guards turn the ball over.  Meanwhile Ohio State has that hot shit point guard D’Angelo Russell handling the ball.  Unless that kid flames out under the lights, they should be able to handle the defensive pressure.  I am well aware that Ohio State has a long history of crushing their supporter’s dreams in the NCAA Tournament.  I think they will crush those dreams on Saturday, not today.  I have bought in to Ohio State as a “sleeper”.  Well, for today anyway…  Ohio State -3.5

I am going to take Eastern Washington +9 over Georgetown.  I might as well be completely transparent and tell you I don’t even know where Eastern Washington University is located.  I have driven across Washington, and once you leave the greater Seattle coastal area it gets into this really ugly tundra populated by aggressive hillbillies driving trucks and listening to Kenny Chesney records.  It can’t be easy to recruit top athletes to come play at a school that isn’t even within 6 hours driving of a real airport.  I say this with the confidence of someone that hasn’t even googled where this school might be located despite the information being just two clicks away.  I prefer spouting off from a place of complete ignorance.  It might be located in some idyllic mountain paradise.  Who knows?  That being said, I did learn that Eastern Washington scores almost all of their points chukking up threes pretty successfully.  That can really equalize things when the other team is composed of 8 foot tall thugs, I mean “students”.    Combine that with Georgetown being a notoriously bad tournament team under John Thompson III, and I think this is a live dog.  This game goes off at 10pm.  I won’t watch a second of it.  Eastern Washington +9.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Mini Burgers

A sales job guarantees two things.  1) The salesperson will come in contact with all sorts of people that he/she would otherwise never come in contact.  2) The salesperson, as part of their occupation, is expected by customers and potential customers to eat a fair portion of shit sandwiches with a smile on their face and a pleasant disposition.  It was with this basic social contract in place that I set an appointment with a medical clinic to try and get them to buy what I was selling.  I found it a bit surprising that after I had set the appointment I quickly received a call back from the decision maker’s assistant.  “The doctor wants you to bring her lunch.”

I found this to be a bit over the top as we had never even met, however I was aware that the medical industry maintained a different set of expectations where leggy blonde saleswomen  in short skirts chased doctors with deli trays as a matter of course.  What the hell, I’m in.  What does the doctor want?  “I don’t know.  Can I call you back?” 

The callback came fairly quickly.  I was expecting “chef salad” or “turkey sandwich”.  The woman on the end of the line was very deliberate and serious in tone.  “The doctor wants you to go to Ruby Tuesday’s and get an order of mini burgers, fries, and side order of poppers.”  When I think of people in the medical profession, I think of people that are striving to increase their own health and those of others.  I don’t generally think “mini burgers”.  Then again, I have noticed a shocking amount of people in scrubs smoking outside of the Cleveland Clinic.  I agreed to get the mini burgers, still sort of surprised by the gumption of the whole thing.

I arrived at the prospect’s office a few days later at the designated time.  Very quickly the receptionist took the Ruby Tuesday’s mini burgers bag and disappeared into the back putting me on ice in the waiting room.  I was ushered into the back after 20 minutes of staring at some out of date People Magazines.  I was led into an office and sat in the chair facing the cluttered desk of the doctor.  I looked around the office trying to glean some personal vibe of the doctor, a woman I had never met.  On the wall were multiple photos of her in various ads and PR pieces, a younger smiling woman whose face filled the frame.  From behind me came the sound of the door opening and a woman’s voice making multiple orders.  “Tell my 2 o’clock I am going to reschedule.  Have Sherry call the dry cleaner.  I need my dress today.  Where are the expense reports?  Is my car ready?”  A harried woman responded from the other room, each response ignored as the doctor fired in a new demand.

I don’t know what descriptors I am supposed to use to tell you what the doctor looked like.  Dwarf?  Midget?  Little person?  She was a little ball of fire, not at all what I expected.  She appeared like she had a personality that had been molded by lots of “Yes You Can!” parenting that might have made her veer into “I Can Do Whatever The Hell I Want Because I Am A Little Person And No One Will Say Shit To Me”.  She hopped up onto the chair and dug into the mini burgers. 

Allow me to be transparent.  The unexpected vision of a confrontational dwarf digging into a bag to retrieve, or all things, mini burgers, was a bit much to digest.  Meanwhile, she couldn’t be any more rude.  There was no “thanks so much for getting me this lunch, I just don’t have time to get out”.  She instead decided to use the normal tactic of the ADD afflicted of saying “Whattya got for me?  Shoot!  Shoot!  Whattya got?”.  I tried to get into a fruitful conversation but meanwhile she was interrupting me every few words.  One of the shortcomings of doctors can be as they are experts at medicine and generally good students, they have decided that they are experts at everything.   “Get out of the way Mr. Mechanic.  I think we need to replace the flywheel.  I should know.  I am a podiatrist.”  This was the case here.  That was when she grabbed a can of Sprite.

As I blabbed on and on about why I was there, I became transfixed by the site of her struggling to open the can of Sprite with her stubby little hands.  While I was saying “…many of our customers have had great success by…” I was actually thinking “…Jesus…open the can…open the can...”.  I was really in a quandary.  Did I offer to help her with the can that she was really struggling with, or would that be viewed as some sort of affront?  “I am perfectly able to open a can!  I am a doctor sir!  A doctor!  Don’t you think I can do things by myself?  I am not handicapped in any way!  Get out of my office!”.  This was all new ground for me.  I had no idea how to handle this situation with any type of grace.  At last, the can opened with a “pop” and she placed both hands around it to drink.  Slurp. 

The sales call went nowhere.  I led that horse to a cool stream of crystal clear frosty water, but that horse would not drink.  Instead I watched the little hands around the little burgers while she berated me talking about things she didn’t know anything about.  Eventually I stood up, thanked her for her time, and left.  I have not been back.  I have thought about it every single time I have seen a “mini burger” though.   

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nurse the Hate: El Gringo Mear

I was looking at the coastline imagining my new life on this rocky island.  While traveling, I often find myself running scenarios where I am a permanent resident of wherever I am at that time.  “OK… I could probably afford a condo within walking distance of that happening area downtown.  I could maybe get a job doing some sales shit, though this damn language barrier would be a tough go.  Hmm…  Maybe I could be like this dude with the bad teeth driving the boat.  Make wisecracks to tourists.  The same jokes every day, perfected by the sheer repetition of it.  I could be that guy living like a monastic surfer, but then drop in intellectual stuff into conversation so people would wonder what the deal was with the mysterious boat driver…”

The result of almost consistent movement in my last 25 years has resulted in feelings of confinement and edginess if I stay static for more than two weeks.  The knowledge of other options that feel not only comfortable but undeniably “right” settle onto the shoulders.  I think one of the reasons people in places like Gary IN can be happy is that they have never traveled anywhere else to offer comparison.  If someone lives in a shithole house in a terrible climate surrounded by uncaring acquaintances, it would be fine as long as they never spent time in a sunny clean place with someone that provided them limitless love and support.  It’s all about having a point of comparison.  You're fine if you don't know what you don't have.  

So I’m thinking about all of this as the dive boat comes to a stop at a place called Rolling Rocks.  The wind had created a decent chop.  I struggled to get my scuba gear on with a nagging feeling that I really needed to take a leak.  Eh, I would be back at the dock in an hour or so.  I would be fine.  Frankly, the small boat didn’t have a “head” anyway (look at me using nautical parlance).  I flopped off the boat and waited for the other strangers in the group to get in the water.  The chill of the water dramatically increased the urgency of the need to urinate.  This is when I made my decision to let ‘er rip.  I floated in the ocean with a dull look of satisfaction as the warmth of my urine spread across my groin under my wetsuit. Ahhh….

The dive was unremarkable.  We worked across currents.  Some fish swam by.  Some coral.  A drop-off.  We ascended.  Due to the rough chop, we climbed on the boat giving each other distance to minimize the risk of getting hit in the head with a scuba tank if the diver in front of you fell off the ladder.  I deferred to the others and got on board last.  Most of them had already unzipped out of their “shorties”, wet suits with short sleeves that only went to mid thigh.  I unzipped myself out of the top portion and walked into the small cabin to grab an orange section and water.  Damn.  It smells like piss up here.  I walked back out to my area in the back of the boat and sat down.  The wind shifted slightly.  It smells like piss out here too.  Wait.  Wait…  It’s me!  It’s me!  I smell like piss!

In retrospect, I should have recognized that a wet suit is designed to not only keep the outside water out of the suit, but also keep things inside the suit.  As opposed to the dive washing out my suit, I had basically marinated in my own urine.  Making matters worse was my decision hours earlier at sunup to have a double espresso.  The only thing worse I could have done was to have eaten a plate of steamed asparagus as a side order.  My urine was a horrible liquid pollution.  I really reeked.  I flashed back to an amazing parallel of an incident in nursery school when rather than asserting myself and asking to go to the bathroom, I peed my pants and then attempted a game of cat n’ mouse with my teachers in a doomed effort to run their gauntlet and make it home to a pair of crisp dry underpants.  In that incident I was led out of the school with my head down, an object of scorn and failure.  If I wasn’t careful, this would end the same way.  Maybe worse.

I was almost positive the pale fleshy girl across from me had noted that I had, in effect, peed my pants.  We both pretended she hadn’t noticed, or so I thought.  She must have though.  It was hard to ignore.  I couldn’t be positive though.  I then decided my move was to try to stay downwind until arriving at the dock where I would somehow clean myself and the wetsuit on the fly.  Maybe just a dive into the ocean where I would shed the suit and try to explain it like I was crazy eager to go swimming?  No.  That wouldn’t play. Why the fuck would I dive off a dock?  Keep your cool.  Keep it together. 

The boat docked.  I showed remarkable responsibility and quickness by hopping off the boat with an armload of gear and made my way well in front of the others to the dive shack.  Nothing to see here.  Just doing my part everybody.  Maybe I could ditch the suit like a body and disappear without them knowing?  A clerk stared at me upon entering.  Where the hell did he come from?  I kept myself busy sorting and re-sorting gear until he shuffled off.  In the back of the room was an enormous sink, about the size of a massive freezer.  It had already been filled with water to be used for others to dunk their gear.  I hurriedly dropped by wetsuit and vest into the water just as the fleshy girl entered. 

There is that moment when you know someone is pretending not to know something about you.  I knew that she knew that I knew.  Oh yes, she knew my shame.  Or she thought I was a half step above a barnyard animal.  I did appreciate how gentile she was as we both sloshed our stuff around the massive tank.  Had it been me, I wouldn’t have been eager to dunk my stuff into any water source potentially tainted with my fetid urine, but manners often override common sense.  I made small talk to bide my time.  I sloshed the wet suit around the water, hoping it would wash the horrible smell out.  Nothing I did seemed to make a difference.  It was time to move to Plan B. 

I pounced the moment she walked out to organize her backpack, quickly zipping the wetsuit onto a hanger, mixing in with the others on the rack, hoping that it would hide in the crowd.  I quickly disappeared out the back door, hoping no one would burst out of the doorway with a shout of “Hey!  You!  Grab him!  He pissed his wet suit!  The stench!  The unholy stench!”.  There was really no question.  Some poor sap would be swimming in a rather ripe wet suit on a future outing.  I felt badly about that, but certainly not badly enough to publicly discuss it with the cantankerous divemaster and rotten toothed captain.  I took the coward’s way out.

I walked back along the coastline.  The wind shifted.  My nose once again filled with the stench.  Just from my bathing suit alone, I smelled like a homeless man under a highway overpass on a hot July day.  I dove into the ocean.  I swam out to where the reef dropped off, and allowed myself to drop down 15-20 feet until my lungs couldn’t hold out any longer.  I burst to the surface and slowly backstroked to shore.  I came out of the surf to be greeted by the faint smell of urine.  Jesus.  That espresso was something else, or I was in serious need of medical attention.  I quickly walked back to the room while avoiding human contact, got in the shower and drenched myself with shower gel while still in the bathing suit.  Even while the offending bathing suit dried on the towel rack, the faint scent of it followed me.  Scent memory or reality?  I don’t know for sure.  I tossed the bathing suit in the garbage in a lonely plastic container at the end of a hallway like it was a human head from a murder scene.

I have been around a little bit.  I have a few ideas about where I would ideally like to be, and what I would like to be doing.  I’m flexible though.  There are many great places in this world.  Now when I catalogue the potential lives I can lead, that rocky island has been left out.  I find that if one wants to start over, rectify the mistakes and bad decisions of the past, it is best not to do so on a small island where one is probably known as “El Gringo Mear” or “The Piss Gringo”.  It’s just too much to live down.