Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nurse the Hate: The One Direction Wallet

--> CLEVELAND, Ohio -- An 18-year-old Cleveland man is accused in the armed carjacking of two suburban teenage girls he met through Instagram.  Jontrell Crockett and two others used the popular social media platform to "lure" two girls, a 16 year old from Independence and a 15 year old, to a corner store at East 153rd Street and Kinsman Road Friday afternoon, according to court documents.

The girls drove there after school to meet a teen they only knew through Instagram as "Ray Ray," according to a Cleveland police report. Police did not specify if they believe Crockett posed as Ray Ray, or if it was one of the other two men.  Ray Ray then told them to park behind a gray sedan farther down East 153rd Street. As the girls pulled up, Ray Ray and two others walked up to their car. One pulled out a revolver, the report says.

When the 16-year-old girl tried to start the car, the assailant pressed the gun against the 15 year old's head and told them both to get out of the car, the report said. The men then jumped in the car and drove north on East 153rd Street back toward Kinsman.  The men also stole the girls' backpacks, which were filled with school books, and the girls' iPhones. One girl lost her reading glasses, and the other lost her One Direction wallet.

Let that sink in for a moment...

 While I think we can all agree that these young ladies exhibited poor judgement driving to what could charitably called “a really shitty neighborhood” to meet someone from social media known as “Ray Ray”, I’m sure that they never would have envisioned losing their One Direction wallet.  What kind of depraved scum steals a young woman’s One Direction wallet?  Her Dad’s Buick?  That’s collateral damage in this risky game called love.  Even having a pistol put to one’s head over their Trapper Keeper in their trusty backpack is forgivable.  Yet to steal someone’s One Direction wallet is to lose all semblance of order.  That is something you just don’t do.

I remember just a few weeks ago when I was dining out with friends at Chez Francois.  We had enjoyed an outstanding Duck a’la orange with a transcendent Romanee Conti 1990 when the bill arrived.  It was going to be a hefty bill for the feast we had just enjoyed, and each of us were insisting on paying the check.  It can often be embarrassing in that type of situation.  Voices became raised and insistence became more urgent.  However, when I pulled out my One Direction wallet and announced “I’ve got this.”, the entire restaurant grew silent.  They knew I was somebody.  That One Direction wallet announced to all, this is a man of means.

I don’t know what these ladies had in mind with their rendezvous with “Ray Ray”.  I admire their adventurous spirit.  To drive into an area that features daily gang shootings to enjoy the company of “Ray Ray” and his cadre of amusing companions is indeed perilous.  Yet, who could have ever predicted that such a journey would have ended so badly?  What could have possibly led them to think anything could have stopped them from launching an exciting new relationship at East 153rd and Kinsman?  We can never know for certain the discussion that led to this disastrous loss of the One Direction wallet.  Perhaps it went like this:

Girls:  Ur hot
Ray Ray:  Y don’t ya meet me
Girls:  I dunno.  Where?
Ray Ray:  In the scariest neighborhood you can imagine
Girls:  OK we will come, but will my One Direction wallet be OK?

Jontrell “Ray Ray” Crocket is but a man.  A flawed young man with dreams that went crazy when he heard about that One Direction wallet.  Perhaps the jury will feel pity for Jontrell (aka “Ray Ray”) when they see with their own eyes the splendor of that One Direction wallet.  Perhaps they will look at the glowing image of that supergroup emblazoned on the synthetic material and wonder how a young man from poverty could have ever stopped himself from doing whatever he needed to do to make that One Direction wallet his own.  Not me though.  I know how precious that One Direction wallet is to its owner.  Ray Ray must learn to respect the One Direction wallet.  Only then can he say he is rehabilitated and re-enter society.

This is a violent city, but only now do I consider it a place without basic human decency.  Those crazy kids chasing love might have thrown caution to the wind.  Maybe they took a crazy risk.  Maybe a little bit of the human spirit died that day.  I don’t know.  But I do know this.  You can take a gal’s affection, but don’t take her One Direction wallet you goddamn monster.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The NFL Week 3 at The Mall

The two women walked with defiant purpose.  They each clutched multiple shopping bags.  They were in the apex of their beauty, the age when youth and maturity have a perfect delicate balance.  Well put together, they had obviously spent much time and thought into their appearance.  This was sharply contrasted by the disdainful expressions they maintained behind enormous sunglasses.  While their clothes were specifically designed to attract attention, they were angry when passersby glanced at them.  They climbed into a black Mercedes SUV that cost as much as a small house.  At the very bottom of the back window was a small tastefully placed Pittsburgh Steelers sticker.

I don’t know if this is exclusively the reason why I am going to bet against the Steelers this week.  I obviously want some small misfortune to visit those two.  They were just so sure they had all the cards in the deck, and dammit I think they do!  They were probably going to a party that looked like a rap video.  Here I am hunched over a small table looking at the sports page like a degenerate, a twisted monster.  Does this make me petty?  Yes.  I cannot deny this character flaw.  I am clearly bitter at these two thoroughbreds going through their paces at the corporate created shopping village with requisite Olde Tymey Farmer’s Market with America’s most expensive Amish grown vegetables.  By the way, why is it generally assumed that the Amish are providing vegetables of superior quality?  They aren’t exactly filling me with confidence over there with their bad shoes and Three Stooge's haircuts. I challenge you to find a difference in the $8 butternut squash they are selling versus the Mega Grocery Store version for $1.25.  As far as I know those wily Amish are wheeling their buggies into Wal Mart, buying those squash at list price and then tossing them on a fold out table at the Olde Tymey Farmer’s Market at six times cost.  Bunch of suspender and bonnet wearing carnies…  I’ve got my eye on them.

It’s more than just my petty jealousy of the snotty shopping girls as to why I'm betting against Pittsburgh this week.  I did a little research and found an astounding amount of money is on Pittsburgh this week over St. Louis.  I am aware that the Steelers can apparently score at will.  I am also aware that LeVeon Bell returns this week after his suspension for selling LSD cookies to people at Burning Man or whatever the hell he did.  However, I am seeing 75-85% of The Public is on Pittsburgh.  If they zig, you zag.  Example.  If 85% of The Public thinks the Pope won’t bust out a keytar and do Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” during his papal address in Philly today, I’m betting he will.  I am also betting he hits that high note at the end of the chorus too.   This Pope rocks.  St Louis +2.

I’m doing things I never thought I would do.  I enjoyed a piece of salmon the other day.  I test drove a Mini Cooper, though to be perfectly honest it was just to see if I could hit Dead Man’s Curve here in Cleveland at 65 mph and not have the Mini Cooper slide into the wall.  (It didn’t.)  I read a science textbook to see if I could figure something out.  (I couldn’t.)  I listened to Best Coast’s new release and liked it, though I must also admit a smoldering grudge against the singer chick and husky guitar player fella for waiting an hour to go on in San Antonio three years ago and totally screwing us at that Festival we all played together.  Yet, what is life without new experiences and shifting views? 

It is a Brave New World.  I am doing all sorts of amazing new things.  Watch this!  In this New Guilded Age I am betting on the Houston Texans.  The Texans have already bungled their starting QB situation two weeks into the season when they discovered Brian Hoyer was Brian Hoyer and stuck Ryan Mallet in at QB after three quick quarters.  Unfortunately for the Texans they discovered Ryan Mallet is Ryan Mallet, which means he is the poor man’s Jeff George, or “an unlikeable simpleton with a cannon arm”.  That quote came directly from the Patriots scout reports.  OK, I made that up but I wish it was true.  None of that will matter this week as the Texans get to play at home against a shit Tampa team with a rookie QB that will have the deal with JJ Watt all day.  I watched HBO’s Hard Knocks where Watt flipped a thousand pound tire 65 times.  How the hell is Tampa going to deal with a Frankenstein monster of a guy that runs like a cheetah and tosses half ton tires around like potato chips?  The answer is, of course, they won’t and the Texans defense will carry the day.  Houston -6.5

Season Record:  3-4     

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The After Party

We had played a show in Erie PA.  The show went very well.  People were excited.  We were invited to a party.  There are almost no circumstances in which I attend “after parties”.  There are some very sensible reasons for this.  First of all, let’s all admit to one another in this open forum that the idea of “nothing good happening after 1am” is a very solid idea.  Most decisions I have made in the spur of the moment at 1 am have been disastrous.  I have reasonable decision making abilities.  Can you imagine some of the decisions Leo has made after 1am?  Don’t even make me go into some of his fiascos.  You ever see that "Celtic Dragon" tattoo on his arm?  Judgement goes right out the window at that time of night.

I have seen with great clarity the “post gig after party”.  I challenge you to come up with a different scenario than this one.  There are seven people in the room.  Six of them are male while the lone female is either the pissed off housemate of one of the men that had no idea that this gathering was happening or is obviously mentally ill.  It should be noted that this obviously mentally ill woman will be targeted by the drummer as his next wife regardless of the band this drummer plays in.  I believe that Carl Palmer from ELP met his first wife in this manner, as did Robo.  (Can someone fact check this?)  One of the guys will be very urgently talking about something arcane like the Presidency of James Polk or the merits of Ford pickup trucks.  It will be crushingly boring. 

There will be music.  It will be too loud.  It will be something that only one person in the room is interested in, like a latter career Thelonious Monk LP, Sonic Youth side project, or ironic Donny & Marie record.  The only beverages available will be slightly warm cheap domestic beer like Busch Light, MGD in cans, or Stroh’s.  There might also be low end liquor that is remarkably obscure.   This tends to be a disconcerting clash of cultures like “Ian MacTavish Tequila” or “Boris Kremlin Sour Mash”.  It was purchased in either a drug store or gas station.  It must be avoided at all costs or the following day will be spent vomiting blood in truck stops across the heartland.

There will be someone that decides 3:47am is the time to really start getting after it and suggests shots, or pulls out a plastic bag of some type of drug that no one has heard of in their lives.  “What man?  You haven’t done Popsicle Lightning?  Fuck.  This is the shit here.  It’s like ground up meth and baby aspirin mixed with paint thinner.  You get a migraine for 36 hours but then it’s a super mellow buzz…  You want to try it?  Get on the plastic tarp.  You take it with this hot syrup enema…  It burns a little bit at first...  There you go… There you go…”

I knew in my heart that the "after party" was a bad idea.  However in this particular case I went to the party.  The party was being thrown by two women that seemed like white collar professionals.  I was optimistic that not only would the band be happy that I went along with it, but that there would be delightful snacks on site.  These seemed like gals that would have frozen shrimp ready to thaw and maybe something bubbling away in a crockpot.  Yes!  I would like a crab puff!  I thought their apartment would look like a Pottery Barn catalogue.  Of course when we arrived we discovered the scenario I laid out for you earlier with a few details swapped out.  (There was no “popsicle lightning” or if there was the tarp wasn’t out yet.)

I sat sullenly on the couch looking at my watch nursing a warm Miller Lite (can).  I dug into the bottom of a bag of old chips.  The cheap stereo played Guns N Roses.  All I wanted to do was take off my boots and go to sleep.  That would be impossible.  There was nowhere to crash out here and Leo was already in full swing.  “Ohhhh!!!!!  That’s fucking funny!!!!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!”  I had really bungled this one.  I sat and fumed, angry at myself for allowing this to happen. 

I’m still not positive why I picked up the fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  I suppose it was sort of a Mt. Everest because-it-was-there thing.  I was sort of joking around about putting out the “fiery” Cheetos that were on the kitchen table.  Then that became “oh, you would never shoot that off” from our hosts.  Then that became me thinking it was not so much of a dare as a real test of my manhood.  This was a real crucible.  Then I pulled the pin on the fire extinguisher and it became “Oh ha ha!  You would never do it.  I dare you!  I dare you!” and then the whole room was filled with whatever came out of the fire extinguisher.

In all the videos I have seen of fire prevention safety, I have never seen the aftermath of a fire extinguisher.  Let me tell you, if you have a fire, serious consideration should be made to let the flames just burn themselves out and tossing out the burnt remains of the household afterwards.  The mess the fire extinguisher made was impossible to calculate.  It had to be worse than an actual fire.  A layer of white dust covered every inch of the apartment.  A fine mist hung in the air which of course set off the smoke alarms.  Now it is 3:47am and the alarms for the entire building are going off.  I soon learned that these were hard wired into the 911 system as I began to notice the sirens from multiple fire trucks getting ever closer.  I had made an error in judgement.

One of the things I was taught as a child was that if you made a mistake, you stand tall and accept the responsibility and consequences.  This was foolhardy advice from my parents.  There was nothing good that could happen if I had to explain the twisted path I had taken to make these various civil servants drive across town in the dead of night for what was essentially a false alarm.  "If you could get these cuffs off of me, I can just run down what the hell happened here.  It's funny actually, a heh heh heh...  See I saw those Cheetos which said fiery on them and um..."  No.  That would not go well.  I needed to do something else.  I did what any sensible gentleman would do. 

I ran away.  

The fire department and police were briefed by the women as to what scoundrel did the deed.  I was a wanted man as they very wisely threw me under the bus.  It's not easy being a cowboy on the run in Erie PA.  You stand out from the crowd.  I hustled over a few blocks to a house where a deadbeat friend of mine allowed me to crash on his couch.  The band split up in the melee.  I lost all the guys.  My friend that had the warm invite for us to the party had the women come back to his apartment as theirs was completely filled with the horrible white powder they would deal with for months.  It should be noted that he somehow created a scenario where the three of them all masturbated in front of each other on his bed "to help us relax, and since we are such good friends it won't be weird".  This surprising turn of events also turned out poorly when it was found to be definitely "weird" for the women.  I think my friend's timing of ejaculating when one of the girls started crying freaked out both of the women, or at least that's how it sounded to me when I heard the recap.  They all stopped talking shortly after this incident.  I was never invited back either.

I don't go to after parties very often these days.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate the NFL Week 2

I was exposed to the light last week as a complete fool.  While this has not necessarily been an uncommon experience for me, it was still humbling to realize that I don’t know anything about the NFL or gambling.  Sure, I would have won that Baltimore game if that last second Flacco pass didn’t ricochet off the tight end’s hands in the end zone.  Yes, Browns QB Josh McCown’s helicopter concussion placed John W. Football in for the Browns, guaranteeing a loss with the certainty of death/taxes. There were reasons for my total failure.  However this is a game of results.  There is no time for whining explanations.  There are only winners and losers, and I was a total loser.

I believe in the Law of Averages.  Today I will be vindicated.  This is a bold statement considering that I shot my mouth off last night and became entangled in a Browns +3 bet with a friend.  As we all know, it is literally impossible to win a professional football game with John W. Football at QB.  I cannot explain why I allowed myself to take the Browns and the elevated 3 points, except for the fact that I like to be a contrarian.  I must have assumed that the Browns defense would recover a couple of fumbles in the end zone, or maybe the special teams would return three kicks for touchdowns.  Maybe I thought that during a key moment in the game a plague of locusts would descend on Browns Stadium and in the ensuing mayhem a Browns running back would heroicially carry the ball into the end zone.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know what the hell I was thinking.  I am now actively trying to distance myself from that “Browns +3” position.  With luck my buddy was so loaded on cheap rum that he will forget all about our conversation.  This is my only hope.

I am now going to have to not only dig out of the hole from last week, but from my stupidity last night.  I can think of no better way of doing that than betting against the Chicago Bears.  The Bears are really bad.  The general public vaguely thinks so, but it isn’t top of mind.  Most people spend as much time thinking about the Bears as they do fiber contents of cereal, labor policy in Vietnam, or the recording career of the Alan Parsons Project.  I wonder what Alan did after he completed his project?  I will tell you one thing he didn’t do, he didn’t go out and get Bears tickets.  He probably had himself a nice Fresca instead.

Arizona is an elite NFL team.  They are in Arizona so no one gives a shit yet.  No one has noticed.  When I think about Arizona I think about retirees and Mexicans driving around strip plazas in white cars hoping that wherever they stop the car has really good air conditioning.  I don’t think about the Cardinals.  I should though.  The Cardinals have very quietly done the things good teams in the NFL do, which is routinely defeat bad teams.  Arizona is 14-3 against the spread versus teams with a losing record.  The Bears are 4-19 at home ATS.  Make no mistake, the Bears are going to be a team with a losing record.  I foresee a highlights package airing tonight with Jay Cutler walking off the field after a back breaking interception with his head hung low.  Arizona -2.  

The Steelers played that Thursday Night NFL Season Opener what seems like 7 weeks ago.  Meanwhile San Francisco played at home late Monday night.  Now the 49ers get to make that “west to east” trip to play the well rested and pissed off Steelers in their home opener.  That doesn’t sound good.  Have a really super afternoon guys.  You want to hear something else that doesn’t sound good for San Francisco?  Pittsburgh is 8-1 in their last 9 home openers. This seems like a game where Pittsburgh gets out to an early lead and SF wonders what the hell just happened and did someone get their luggage at the airport.  Pittsburgh -6.

I have a few personal codes of conduct that have served me well.  Never eat at Hardee’s.  Don’t buy cheap shoes.  Bet against Marvin Lewis and the Bengals whenever possible.  If you follow just these three basic commandments your life will run relatively smoothly.  The Chargers roll into Cincinnati today where Bengal fans are probably already questioning something Marvin Lewis did.  Please note I don’t think that the Chargers are an especially good team.  I also think that the Bengals have about twice as much talent as the Chargers.  I just firmly feel The Marvin Lewis factor will be enough for the Bolts today.  Oh yeah, the Chargers are also 16-6 against the spread out of their division.  I will take a flier on them today.  San Diego +3.5.

Season Record 0-3

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Tour

I am very much looking forward to going to Europe and playing this upcoming run of shows.  I like to spend each day traveling to a new city with completely new sights and experiences.  I like the feeling of the van being a safe cocoon in a sea of uncertainty.  I like that each day presents the possibility of great triumph or failure.  I like meeting new people and hearing their stories, the crazier the better.  I like walking alone in small museums having my imagination explode looking at art from people I had previously never heard a whisper about.  New food.  New drinks.  New everything.  Each day when we wake up anything can happen.  It is just us out there alone with our stupid songs we made up in the basement.

Stasis is the enemy.  Though looking at that line it appears like something from something I am typing in a remote cabin in the woods that I vaguely refer to as “My Manifesto”, I am willing to accept it.  I have often thought about getting a place in the woods where I could type 3786 pages of run on sentences of foggy dogma, but I could never find the time to get the aluminum foil I would need to put over the windows.  Plus, who wants to have to hike out of a remote wilderness location whenever you need a six pack or a loaf of bread?  Too much hassle.  I will stand by the thought though.  If one is not in motion moving forward, one withers and dies.

I strangely only feel normal when I am in motion as I am on tour.  It is somehow more honest singing songs about urine filled plastic bottles to Germans in nightclubs than uttering phrases like “we need to bring down the CPM by packaging the D2 before the deal sunsets”.  That this is an actual phrase I heard this week is not really as important as the fact that the person uttering it was completely serious and thought they were doing something of great importance.  Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one that notes the absurdity of the world of business.  Paradigm shift.  Super serve.  Hyper local.  Low hanging fruit and deep dives.  Crazy.

We live in a world that provides the illusion of great choice.  Can I really become a globe trotting wine expert?  Maybe.  Can I become a dive instructor in Fiji?  Maybe, but then again do I really want to live in a squalid apartment in Fiji, especially when the term “squalid” in Fiji must be so far beyond what is even on the outer edge of the American imagination of “squalid”?   There must be insects there the size of Maine Lobsters that are crazy mutations between spiders and scorpions.  I sure don’t want one of those popping out of “the slop hole” down the hall of my apartment building and stinging me in my Johnson.  Next thing you know you are on the beach by a bonfire biting down on a stick while two heavily tattooed native guys hold you down as the “doctor” pulls a fish hook stinger thing out of your swollen angry phallus.  No thanks.

I have considered moving to a strange country and taking some sort of vague interesting job.  In this fantasy life I am making a comfortable yet not extravagant living in a low stress job like being the brand ambassador for Vueve Cliquet champagne.  I can see myself at the Monaco Grand Prix pouring La Grande Dame champagne while charmingly chatting up people like the Princess, Michael Caine and Lenny Kravitz trackside before ignoring their fabulous after party and instead sitting at a small seaside café at Nice talking to my dear friend Jean-Claude over a glass of pastis.  “Parties are fine Jean-Claude, but a night like this is best spent alone enjoying the pain of a love lost.  I have nothing Jean-Claude… Nothing…”  Jean-Claude would then grunt while wiping down the quartz counter.  (Jean-Claude in truth doesn’t really care for me, but lets me ramble on as I do tip very well on my Vueve Cliquet expense account.  He knows I will eventually talk myself out and later tearfully walk down the misty alley towards my tasteful seaside flat possessively holding a small mysterious key I carry with me everywhere in my pocket.)  

I have also considered moving to Northern California like a modern day Tom Joad.  I passed up a great opportunity to buy a property years ago in the midst of the real estate panic.  This is my one great economic regret.  In this current plan, I somehow scoop this property back up at the Chicken Little sale price of 2009.  This mountain top home looks majestically down on the Napa Valley providing amazing views, even from the lap pool.  I will buy this property in a fevered rush of passionate excitement, not doing any of the normal due diligence.  Soon after moving I will discover it is structurally unsound after the last round of earthquakes, and it will either slide into the valley or burn up in a forest fire.  Maybe both.  State Farm will, of course, fuck me and not provide coverage for either case with a murky explanation of “Yes, while you do have fire coverage if it is an Act of God, I don’t know how you can prove this was an Act of God.  God would never set something on fire AND send it down a mountain in a mudslide.  Good day sir!”  The agent will drive away and leave me in the smoldering ash with nothing.  This will place me as another one of those filthy long haired guys muttering to themselves that look like dirty .38 Special roadies and beg for spare change around dodgy streets in San Francisco.  Eh, it’s an option.

Until I re-invent myself for my last Great Act, I look forward to traveling and singing songs I believe about with my friends.  I am going to drink fine Belgian Ale at Pits.  I am going to share a few Rothaus Pils with my pals in Stuttgart.  I will try to avoid horrible schnapps in Finnegan Shinnegan.  I am going to go to bed late and wake up early.  I don’t want to miss anything as who knows when I will do it again.  I am going to see amazing things I don’t even know about and suffer through disasters I can’t even imagine.

I can’t wait.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Nurse the Hate: My First Browns Game

I recently read a nice article a friend of mine wrote about her first Browns game and her lifelong love of the Browns.  It made me feel good when I read it.  It’s a story of family, civic pride, and shared communal experience. The magic of the full stadium and emotional lift of a big win in the national spotlight helped confirm her attachment to the team and provide a link to her father. Sparkling lights and heroes doing battle in front of 80,000 will do that for you.  This was very different than my first Browns game experience.  

I had moved to Erie PA as a kid.  Erie is basically equidistant from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Cleveland.  When we arrived in the mid 1970s, my father made a logical decision about which team we would follow.  The Steelers were really good, but tickets were absolutely impossible to score.  The Browns were awful.  The Bills had OJ.  We bought Bills tickets.  Of course the following year OJ blew his knee out and the Bills settled into some of the worst professional football anyone has ever seen.  Even now it is hard to imagine a grown man driving a young boy two hours to see Gary Marangi at QB lead the Bills to get pounded by whoever they were playing in the horrible weather of Buffalo.  Looking back, it was madness.  That’s what happened though.  I was the only Bills fan in Erie PA.

My friend Jim was (and somehow remains) a Browns fan.  This was a curse handed down from his father, who also spent his middle age screaming profanities at the TV as the Browns bungled their way through Sundays of Failure.  Jim’s father worked at some sort of job that I didn’t understand like “Logistics Industrial Fastener Representative” or “Great Lakes Regional Insurance Broker Manager”.  Whatever the fuck he did, he got comp tickets to see the Browns play the Jets in a late season game.  Jim invited me to go, and I was all in.  What could be more exotic than traveling to another distant city to experience an NFL game in a strange stadium?  To a boy my age it was like getting a free trip to New Dehli.

My previous experiences in the NFL were at The Vet in Philadelphia where I was surrounded by friendly but coarse men that all seemed like extras out of the first “Rocky” movie.  Rich Stadium was The House That OJ Built, and was a modern shiny facility custom built for football.  I was unprepared for Cleveland Municipal Stadium.  The word "dreary" comes to mind.  I remember the cold wind whipping off the Lake with a grim blue gray cloud cover.  It was bleak as if it had been designed by the Soviet Union.  The entire stadium smelled like urine.  Our seats, which were considered good in context to the other available options behind rusting steel girders, were about 70 yards away from the field.  The stadium was cold, dirty, and filled to the brim with angry drunks in shiny union embroidered softball jackets with ugly Browns pom pom knit stocking caps.

One of the things that I have always wondered about was why when the Cleveland Municipal Stadium was built in 1932 did they only install what appeared to be seven working bathrooms for 80,000 people.  Was it that in 1932 they did not expect 78,789 of the 80,000 people to have consumed 17 beers each and need to go to the men’s room every 14 minutes?  I’m not sure.  All I remember was a tight foul room crushed with horrible smelling men where I waited in line to piss in a rusty trough.  It is what Hell must be like.  Years later when I walked the ruins of the Coliseum in Rome I thought “Hmm, these bathroom ruins are nicer than what Municipal Stadium was back in the day.  I bet guys didn't piss on your Jesus sandals here.”.

I don’t remember much about that Browns game.  I seem to recall it was the Richard Todd led Jets, who pretty much sucked, that lost to the Browns, who also sucked, but a little bit less than the Jets.  At one point in the 4th quarter eight to ten guys in ugly Browns fan jackets started punching five or six guys in ugly Jets jackets in the face.  They hopped over the railings by us, and Jim’s father guided us out of the melee before we got pummeled by the nightsticks the cops used on everyone in the general area.  We left the game and drove over to some guy’s house that Jim’s father knew.  Jim’s father knocked back a few Pabst with his buddy while Jim and I threw a football on the brick street out front. I felt no connection to the Browns or the drunken thugs that went to the games.

So it is thirty something years later and the Browns are playing the Jets.  The Browns kinda suck and so do the Jets.  It is hard to get a handle on not so much which team is better.  The real focus is “which team sucks less?”.  It is generally agreed in both cities that these teams are “slightly below average if we get a few breaks and stay healthy”.    That’s a solid “three” on the 1-10 scale of fan excitement.  Both teams have a much better defense than offense.  The Browns have a journeyman QB going up against two of the best corners in football.  The Jets have their backup QB trying to move an offense without a playmaker against a vastly improved Browns defensive front and solid DBs.  I’m taking the points and the under as I expect to nod out in the third quarter with a bellyful of wine while something slowly braises in the oven.  Wake me when it’s over.  Browns +3.5 and UNDER 39.5

I also like Baltimore over Denver.  I think the Rubes out there are remembering the Peyton Manning of two years ago.  All I remember is that old looking dude that couldn’t make throws and was a statue in the playoffs against a crappy Colt defense.  This really feels like the last wheeze from Manning.  He’s in that Joe Montana as a Chief part of his career where he will need to get by on guile.  That doesn’t cover five.  I don’t even think Denver wins, but I’m not that ballsy today.  Baltimore is great as an underdog, going 4-0 in their last four games ATS as a dog.  I can take one of the best AFC teams with more than a field goal?  I will do that all day.  Baltimore +5.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hemingway Weekend Goes Off Rails

I had gotten in too deep.  All of those Hemingway novels and short stories I had consumed on a jag in my twenties sat in the back of my brain, apparently waiting to be activated by the self guided tour of Hemingway’s Key West house.  The romance of the Hemingway lifestyle is impossible to debate.  A global citizen when that was a real commitment, he maintained residences in Paris, Chicago, New York, Key West, Havana, Bimini, Spain, and on and on and on. I think I would be well suited to the insulated upper crust 1930s lifestyle of spending the summer in Provence with a consistent cadre of friends until leaving for Barcelona on a whim with Bradley, Fitz, Lois, and Natasha.  Sure, you would have to wire New York for money now and again, but that’s a small trouble.  The reality of Hemingway being a blowhard drunkard that wore out his welcome and just kept moving is inconvenient to consider.  The myth is better.

I began to speak only in short declarative sentences.  While it was annoying to those around me that were in the inner circle, to any outsider I encountered it had to be very confusing.  What’s wrong with that guy?  I was by myself on a dive boat with a group of tourists.  One of the tourists dropped their voucher into the water by accident and an instructor casually hopped into the ocean to retrieve it.  The captain made a joking remark along the lines of “what a brave girl to rescue that piece of paper”.   I hadn’t really spoken since leaving the dock, so it must have been really odd for those on board to hear me say loudly and without expression, “We will not forget this day.  There was no hesitation.  She leaped in the water with great courage.  The sea gives no favors.  The sea takes and gives as it decides.  It is not up to us.  We must remember this day.  All of us.”   About twelve people stared blankly at me.  

I dove the wreck of the Vandenburg which is this huge navy ship about the size of a large cruise ship sitting in 135 feet of water.  It’s enormous and offers plenty of opportunities to penetrate the wreck while abundant animal life ignores you.  As I was by myself I was paired up with a Hispanic guy named William that was a relative novice like me.  We had a guide named Chris who fit the profile of almost everyone in Key West.  He had lived in Boston, was married and a construction project manager.  As he told me, “I was 52 going on 22 married to a woman that was 52 going on 62.  I wanted adventure and a life.  She wanted to relax.  I got a divorce, gave her everything, moved down here and became a dive instructor.”  We got in the water and it was obvious that William either didn’t understand what Chris had gone over as the plan or just chose to ignore it.  While he floundered around on the descent he spent almost all of that time fucking around with his go pro camera.  I became concerned about William.

There is a large percentage of the population that doesn’t actually experience anything anymore as they are so actively trying to record it on their phones.  While a shipwreck with amazing detail was directly in front of him, William chose instead to look at the two inch by three inch viewfinder of the shipwreck on his camera.  He should have paid attention.  That guy is going to kill himself on a dive one day.  When one is swimming inverted down a staircase at 120 feet in the dark, I think it is more important not to tangle yourself in debris than worry about your video of the experience that you aren’t really having.  

We ascended back to the boat for surface time before the next dive.  William fucked around with his camera.  When making dives at a depth like that it is necessary to allow nitrogen to work out of your system before going back down to depth.  A group of us sat on the deck waiting to go back in the water making small talk.  One of the guys was from Philadelphia and had an Eagles tattoo on his leg.  Are you an Eagles fan?  "Man!  I’m a huge Eagles fan!  We are going to be sooooo good man!  Chip Kelly has the guys playing awesome!  We are going to go 13-3.I turned to the water and said in a flat tone “They will need to play like men.  Like men that have faced war and cannon and loss and death.  Like men that know that only by victory can they continue to be men….”

Everything got very quiet.  It was obvious that speaking in this way made people very uncomfortable as in “how do I get off the boat with this fucked up guy on it?”.  The water made small lapping sounds against the hull.  I waited and let the silence stretch as long as I possibly could before speaking again.  I mangled some Hemingway quote I had read once.  “I always thought of the sea as La Mar, like a woman that could give or withhold great favors or be cruel and play tricks.  We men are divers and we suspect this as truth but we must know this.  We must know this as truth like the sun and earth and nights of whiskey and fighting.”  The slacker guy from Philadelphia turned to me and said “Dude, aren’t you from Ohio?  Why are you talking like that?”.  I had to do everything I could not to laugh.  “We must get our gear.  It is almost time to return to the sea.”  I could feel glances exchanged between people as I walked to my gear.  

The second dive was without incident as William must have figured out how to use his goddamn camera.   We cut down the side of the ship and entered a pitch black storage room.  We dropped down a shaft into the cold blackness.  The water became warm again after swimming to the sunlight.  I heard a tell-tale “click click click” of dolphins but couldn’t see them out in the blue.  Curious barracuda drifted over to us as we did a safety stop.  I clumsily climbed back onto the boat and got out of my gear.  “How was your dive?”  The ship is proud.  The sea wants to claim her but she holds fast.  The grouper and the barracuda and the sound of the dolphin.  To feel the sun after the darkness.  It was a good dive.  A fair dive.  An honest dive. 

I was once again met with a blank stare. 

There might be something really wrong with me in that I was essentially telling myself a joke that only I was aware was being told.  These poor people on vacation were trapped on a boat with some strange man that was speaking in a way that was just off.  I knew that when they returned to their homes people would ask them politely, “How was your trip?”.  They would then respond, “It was really good.  But there was this really weird man that was all alone on our diving boat that really freaked Nancy out.”  I hope I provided them with something to remember.  Something that was true.  Like the sea.  Dammit… I really need to stop…