Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Mexican Shark Dive II

“Greg?  Yes my friend.  The sharks are here waiting for you.  You are coming when?  Before Christmas?  Good!  Good!  You know the sharks like Santa…”  And with that the long awaited shark dive has been re-scheduled.  Mi amigo Alvaro has penciled me in and I am committed.  In a few weeks I will flop over the boat in Mexico to dive with Nitrox (which I have never used) after not diving for a year trying to remember how scuba shit works all to check out eight foot long 500 pound bull sharks without a cage or any real defense.   It's a horrible idea.  What really caught my attention on Alvaro’s website was the following: “The sharks are curious by nature and will come to within a few meters of the divers.  We allow the Bull Sharks to approach and remain at depth until we run low on air in our tanks and then ascend to the surface.”

I’m not sure how you ascend from bull sharks as most attacks I have heard about have been bull sharks striking upwards.  I have a friend of a friend that almost died swimming off a boat last year from a bite from a bull.  Not to worry.  Alvaro has assured me that the bull sharks are wary of the bubbles from our tanks.  That crazy fucker jumped into the water off La Jolla when Great Whites were feeding on seals to try and get footage for a wildlife TV program, so he’s pretty much up for anything.  He maintains sharks are essentially frightened of divers.  That probably is a lot more reassuring on top of the boat then when you are passively buoyant trying not to do something stupid when normally aggressive sharks that are 2.5 times your size swim by at a few meters. 

“Don’t worry my friend!  If they arch their back, it’s when they are going to do something aggressive.  Now you know!”  I don’t really understand what I am going to do with that information if a 500 pound sea predator gets aggressive while I am clumsily swimming around in dive gear.  In my mind I see myself quickly brandishing a knife and fighting the sea monster off.  What would probably happen is that I would get bitten in the leg and bleed out on the way to the boat while crying.  I trust Alvaro to make up a story of a more gallant finish than the undoubtedly sad reality.  He seems good that way.

It has become amazingly important to me that I accomplish this before the end of 2016.  I have been pretty lame this year overall.  True, I have made progress on the impossible wine certification.  Yes, I managed to get a record out.  Other than that it has been a series of personal embarrassments and spectacular failures.  I really need to get back on track.  Assuming that I don’t do something stupid on this dive and die or end up in a decompression chamber (which might be worse than dying by the way), I can make some new goals and re-new a sense of purpose. 

The real upside would be if I can get a small bite of some kind that doesn’t kill or disfigure me.  I can very quickly morph into a Hemingway-esque character and show off my shark bite at the drop of a hat.  “It was a day like any other.  The pelicans slept on the dock.  We took a small boat out to sea.  The engine strained.  The smell of petrol filled our noses.  And the tanks and masks and fins.  The sea does not care if you are calm or have fear.  It was cold and blue and small fish near the reef.  I dove with courage.  The sea respects courage.  But the sea does not yield.  The shark bit.  The shark bit hard and flesh tore.  I stabbed with the steel of the knife.  The shark bit again.  I fought.  The sea turned red.  My knife plunged through his thick skin.  The shark fled.  I ascended to the sunlight.  Alvaro applied the tourniquet in the boat.  We drank tequila long and hard and toasted the shark.  It was the truest thing I had known.”  Then I would show a small disappointing scar on my arm about the size of a car key.

Follow your dreams.      

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nurse the Hate: My Godfather Part 2

There is another opportunity for me to become a Godfather again in the near future.  This is obviously very exciting news for me as I have never been known to pass The Godfather movie whenever I stumble onto it on cable.  It is an undeniable fact that I like the idea of being a Godfather much more than any of the actual duties of being a Godfather.  I am, frankly, completely unaware of the actual duties of being a Godfather unless you count repeating dialogue from the Coppola films.  I have yet to have the opportunity to sit in a darkened office with nearby muscle as I slap my godson screaming “Be a man!”.  I will share with you that based on some social media photos I have glimpsed of my current godson, I am concerned that I am on a collision course with that reality.  As I haven’t actually spoken with my godson in well over two years, this will probably come as a shock to the boy.  A grown man that is essentially a stranger slapping your face and screaming at you?  Eh, what can you do…  You gotta straighten the kid out.

I think a mistake I made in the past was to focus on the characteristics of Vito Corleone.  This time around I think if given the opportunity I will assume a role more akin to Don Fanucci, the Black Hand from Godfather 2.  While Don Fanucci did get shot by DeNiro at the Feast, he had a good run prior.  I think I can really assimilate into the Don Fanucci personality and have it work for all parties concerned.  I can definitely claim a puppet show is too violent for me.  That’s easy.  I will just need to create a scenario where I extort cash from someone and place my hat on top of it as I drink espresso.  I think it will be less effective if that hat is a Giants baseball cap, but I can’t start walking around in white suits a la Don Fanucci.  I have already shared with you my last disaster with a white suit.  There is no need to go back there.

I will need to make clear to the interested party in retaining my Godfather services that unless the kid lives in my immediate orbit, I will offer almost no real support.  I am much too busy and self-involved to possibly be seen as a safety net emotionally.  Granted, if the parents are eaten by a mountain lion while on an unlikely hiking expedition, I will see to the boy’s education, though by “see to” I mean enroll the child in military school and have awkward holiday dinners when he is on leave.  “So…  How’s school?  Hmm…  That’s nice.  Can you pass the rolls?”  I won’t be completely absent though.  I would like to take him to Cleveland’s West Side Market as he walks by my side as I pluck fruit off vendor’s carts and eat my way through the stalls.  I should practice wearing a coat on my shoulders beforehand.  It would be embarrassing if it falls off when I am shaking down the citrus stall.  The boy doesn’t need to see that.

Maybe I can somehow blend the Vito and Don Fanucci roles and take my godson in like Robert Duvall’s “Tom” character.  Though I don’t suspect I need a consigliere, it would be conceptually good to have one.  I know plenty of guys that have fast cars and nice guitars, but I don’t know any that have a consigliere.  That’s a real status symbol.  It will be tough to work into conversation.  I would have to say complete lines of Godfather movie dialogue with key details switched out.  It will probably shake people initially when I lean in and whisper “So, Leo will move against you first.  He will set up a meeting with you with someone that you absolutely trust, guaranteeing your safety.  And at that meeting, you will be assassinated.” I will get the kid into it too.  It will be confusing when a young boy shows up at places I am frequenting and announces “I'm an attorney for Greg Miller. These men are private detectives hired to protect Greg Miller. They are licensed to carry firearms. If you interfere you'll have to appear before a judge in the morning and show cause.”  In time I think people will think of it as just “an amusing quirk”.  We’ll see I suppose.

It is an exciting time.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Nure the Hate: Hate Ohio State/Michigan

Many people in the region are VERY excited about the Ohio State vs Michigan game today. I can understand their excitement about this marquee matchup but we must admit a truth.  There is almost nothing worse than being surrounded by Ohio State superfans, and I would include experiences like attending a live Starship concert or being forced to attend an amusement park in August as being slightly more desirable.  Most Ohio State superfans are missing a key component to having their annoying behavior justified, and that is of course actually attending Ohio State University.  Just because you live in Sheffield Lake and bought an Ohio State cap at a gas station does not allow you to yell out "O-H!" in my general direction.  Even if you did attend OSU, you can pound "Hang On Sloopy" right up your ass.

I lived in Columbus for a couple of years.  The entire town is focused on Ohio State football.  Every single bland guy in khaki pants and an OSU golf pullover is going to get staggeringly drunk today and scream about how much they hate Michigan, in most cases a place they have never actually been.  News flash.  Ann Arbor Michigan is about ten times nicer than the barrio surrounding the ivy covered old buildings at Ohio State.  This does not excuse the people rooting for "Blue" though as they are just as big of a bag of assholes as the OSU faithful, but Columbus Guy should be aware that Ann Arbor is actually quite nice.

I am going against my better judgment today and going to a public place to watch this game.  I know the bar where I am going will be packed to the rafters in dudes yelling at the TV screens and punctuating moments of inaction with chants of "O-H!" with the expectations of me screaming back "I-O!".  I'm sorry.  I can't do that.  I am a contrarian at heart.  An agitator.  I am strongly considering taking Michigan with the points and rooting against the entire room.  This places me in a position where if Michigan wins I will be happy by my financial gain and seeing the crushed dreams of Ohio State Guy.  If Michigan loses, I don't really care.  I will need to find a happy medium where I can balance out financial risk with emotional well being.  I might have to wait until I walk into the place prior to placing my action to get a feel for how obnoxious Ohio State Guy is going to be.  Hell, if Michigan Guy is in there being an asshole, I might take Ohio State on the money line...  There is much to consider if one wants to achieve a moment of Zen today.

I had this dream last night where I was in a small cottage reading a book.  In the background music was playing.  It was opera music that was familiar but I will be damned if I can name it.  It was very calm.  I could smell something weird cooking, like a tuna melt in a toaster oven though, which sort of grossed me out.  Still, I felt very peaceful.  Then the phone rang.  It was an old rotary style phone.  I picked it up and my gambling degenerate friend Dave (a.k.a. the "Stackmaster") urgently asked me "Who do you like in The Game?  Who do you like?".  I became very anxious because I had no idea, just like I do now.  I told him I would call him back.  I didn't know!  I didn't know!  Why is Stacky bothering me in my dreams?

In about an hour I'm walking into that bar.  I am going to scan the room, observe the behavior of The People and confidently call Stackmaster.  Little does he know that my subconscious and the behavior of some morning drunks in Ohio State or Michigan sweatshirts will determine his financial well being this weekend.  Life is a hell of a thing filled with vagaries, isn't it?  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Thanksgiving Galaxy of Wagers

Most people have Thanksgiving traditions.  Perhaps your family likes pumpkin pie made a certain way, or are very particular about a certain recipe for stuffing.  Maybe you decide that it's a good idea to play a "Turkey Bowl" tackle football game in the morning with old high school friends.  I would like to warn you right now that you aren't 16 any longer and you will either be so sore you can't move or will shatter your fibula.  Once you get past age forty, there is only one real decision to be made on fitness and overall health.  You can choose to be either fat or sore.  It's one or the other. That football game idea will catapult you well beyond sore and straight into traction.  You have been warned.

My brother and I have a Thanksgiving tradition of our own, the Thanksgiving "Galaxy of Wagers".  We gamble on every possible outcome of each one of the onslaught of games coming our way.  The centerpiece of this "Galaxy of Wagers" is the time honored tradition of The Thanksgiving Teaser.  The teaser is known in gambling circles as "a sucker bet".  It requires the gambler to pick the outcome of two or three games but gives the illusionary advantage of being able to move the line by six points.  On paper, the teaser looks like a sure thing.  It isn't.  It's for suckers.  Like my brother and I.

There is almost no chance to go 3 for 3 in betting on NFL games.  These games are all on a razor thin margin, and making matters worse is that it is a short week.  I have read accounts from players that compare playing in an NFL game and the after effects of "like waking up in the morning after you have been in a terrible car crash".  Put it this way.  These guys all have four days to recover from being in an enormous car crash instead of seven.  While we see "Andrew Luck, QB, questionable", what that really means is "He's crying in his condo because if he even glances at any light an electric current of pain runs through his broken skull".  Meanwhile guys like me are fully reclined on a couch drinking heavily and eating sausages saying things like "Aw yeah, he'll play...  It's not that bad.".  The injury report is key to these games.

That being said, I like what is going on with the Lions.  They have guys coming back from injury whereas the Vikings have guys in walking boots and knee braces,  Detroit has won five of their last six and is 4-1 at home.  The Vikings, who betrayed me last week, have lost four of their last five.  I hate betting on the Lions.  The Lions exist only to crush your dreams, and I'm a guy that knows what it is like to have these dreams come crashing down around you.  I have shuffled around the post industrial landscape of Downtown Detroit.  There's not much good that can happen there except for pretty good chili dogs and avoiding Greektown.  Still, I'm on the Lions.  God help me.  I will drive to Minneapolis on Friday and attack the Viking complex if they screw me two weeks in a row.

My gut tells me Washington is going to hang in there versus the Cowboys today.  It just seems like the Cowboys will have trouble pressuring Cousins, and he's pretty good when he can stand around in the pocket and fire away.  However, the Redskins are 30th versus the rush.  This is going to be a major issue as Ezekiel Elliot will continue to be a monster player until he eventually gets arrested for getting on an airplane with a duffle bag full of weed.  That didn't happen this week, so he should have a big day.  As long as the Cowboys don't fall behind early, they should cover.  Dallas has yet to lose against the spread this season.  Let me repeat that.  The Cowboys are 9-0-1 ATS.  I'm on Dallas.

The late game might be unwatchable.  Andrew Luck isn't going to play.  That means the Colts are without their best player, the guy that singlehandedly makes them competitive.  Instead they roll out against Pittsburgh with Scott Tolzien under center.  It's not easy to imagine Scott Tolzien rallying the troops.  I like to think of the Colts being in their meeting room and being told Tolzien is going to start and a guy puts his hand up to say "Seriously Coach?".  It's hard to come up with a scenario where the Steelers lose this game.  Then again they are a perplexing team that is capable of losing to anyone at any time..  That being said, there is no way that I can bet on Scott Tolzien, especially with how intoxicated I am likely to be by the time that game goes off.  I am tying the Steelers into everything.

So what to do?  How to tangle all these games up together?  Here's my extremely ill-advised plan.  I am on the money line in a three team parlay with Detroit/Dallas/Pittsburgh at +211.  I am also going to tie all three up in a teaser with Detroit +4.5/Dallas -.5/Pitt -3.5.  I am going to come out of the gate hard with Detroit money line .  After that, I am going to play fast and loose with the individual games hoping like high hell I don't have to chase when LSU v Texas A&M comes on.  I don't want to have a thousand dollars on my beloved LSU wondering why I'm not returning the punts.

Buckle up.  Let's get after it.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The New Record

We have a brand new record that comes out today.  I have released 19 different full length releases between the Daredevils and Cowslingers.  That’s a whole lot of records with a bunch of really talented people.  I prefer to call them “records” as opposed to “releases” as that seems more tangible to me and is probably a concession of age.  When I first started playing music, my goal was to play out on stage once.  Then it became to play out of town.  Then it was to make a record, to make one thing of permanence.  When we made that first single (Bad Booze Rodeo/Hogtied), I liked to think that we had participated in the tradition of making odd little records that years later someone would discover at a garage sale and have it become this little piece of treasure.  Some of my favorite records ever are these odd little previously ignored songs that re-emerge from the dust.  I hoped we had made our own version of Ralph Nielson and the Chancellors “Scream”, though I will admit it is impossible to make something that great.  I hope years from now someone takes one of our songs and it makes it on a Nuggets type compilation.  That’s not too crazy a goal, is it?
Each time we make a record I hope that the effort pays off and it finds an audience.  It’s an incredibly laborious process to make a full length.  The songs are written.  Many get discarded.  The arrangements are worked on.  They are played live to be test driven.  Then the elusive life of the song is attempted to be captured in the sterile environment of the studio.  Many permutations of mixes are made and debated about.  The artwork has to be conceived and put together.  Then the near impossible task of making anyone notice that it exists begins.  It’s actually rather depressing when you realize that all this effort that is expended can be completely for nothing when The Public fails to even click a mouse to give something even a cursory listen.  I know that there is a large group of people that would love what we do that have no idea that we are here, but it’s almost impossible to get their attention in this world of all of us screaming at each other across various media platforms.  I have long since decided that we will make a little announcement about each release and then welcome anyone that is interested to join our little universe.
Sometimes I can have self doubt.  What if what I think is really good is in fact awful?  For example, I bet Starship really felt great when “We Built This City” went up the charts.  That’s a song that really encapsulates the worst tendencies of popular 1980s music.  Even if you can somehow get past the absolutely terrible production, which is a feat in itself, the bare bones of the song are so flimsy that it is hard to imagine that these are some of the same people involved in “Surrealistic Pillow”.  Yet, they forged on while making that record and were rewarded by the marketplace with heavy MTV airplay and high profile tour dates.
I will admit to you that I saw Starship in 1986 at Spring Break on the Daytona Beach bandshell.  I had no real desire to see Starship, but MTV had put together free concerts on the beach as a way to lure college students to shower them with “branding opportunities” from New Coke, Trojan, and Marlboro.  Everyone from the immediate area age 18-22 were there.  There were so many free cigarettes being passed around smoky brand tents that I almost threw my hat into the ring and joined into the brotherhood of the smoker.  I was a young man full of Miller Lite standing around in my Wayfarer sunglasses trying to look happening in my Jams bathing suit.  In retrospect, I was NOT happening.
I recall what might be the worst triple bill concert I ever witnessed.  Mister Mister gave way to Mike and The Mechanics.  Both bands were terrible, but the crowd did get energized when Mister Mister played their awful hit “Broken Wings”.  It was really lame.  That gave way to the headliner Starship.  Grace Slick had morphed by this time from sultry Sixties siren to a weird Mom in a pantsuit and rhinestone jewelry.  I think she had on a billowy jumpsuit with Tommy Bahama style sunhat.  I remember being stunned and thinking “Man, she was at Woodstock…”.  I eventually drifted out of the overflow crowd to buy a foot long hot dog and 16 oz can of Miller Lite somewhere near Penrod’s.  These were dark times.
My roommate had met some girl from East Lansing Community College during the concert and ditched me.  I remember watching MTV VJ Alan Hunter host a wet t-shirt contest at the Penrod’s pool.  Some girl from Arkansas really went for it and showed full bush.  Alan Hunter appeared a bit shell shocked.  Then a guy in an Iron Maiden shirt barfed on the tile floor to my right and I called it a night.  I came back to our hotel room which we had bought on some dodgy campus package promotion and found my roommate  reclining on the bed wincing.  Two guys we had never met before but now shared this hotel room with (and I’m not making this up, it’s how it was sold) were beer bonging Busch.  I asked my roommate what was wrong besides being in a room with two strangers beer bonging cans of Busch.  “That girl from Lansing gave me a blowjob but used so much teeth it was like I put my dick in a garbage disposal.”  Good times.
When I think of that trip I don’t think of any actual fun.  I do think of that horrible set from Starship and think “Fuck, what if the Whiskey Daredevils are Starship now and I don’t know it.”.  These are the things that keep you up at night in the world of budget indie rock.  Still, I am willing to take a chance and foist these records out there to The People.  As of this moment, I think it’s a really good record and something I would want to listen to if I wasn’t involved in making it.  I’m really thankful that we get the chance to keep making these records and that enough people out there want to hear them so we can keep making more.  Thanks a lot.  I hope you like this one too.       

Friday, November 18, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The Last Journey of The Sock

I went to see my physician this week.  Unwisely I had knocked back an espresso earlier that defied the general sizing limits of such drinks.  Whereas most people order a double espresso, I am fairly certain that the espresso I had was an “octo”.  The people that made it for me were dressed in hazmat suits and carried the drink to me with metal tongs as if it was nuclear material.  It jacked me up to the point where ingesting that alone was reason enough for the visit to the medical facility despite my visit there being for an unrelated malady. 

When I checked in to the doctor’s office a little helper guy weighed me and took my blood pressure.  I think he probably has a title more specific than “little helper guy” but I don’t know what that is.  The reason I remark on it is that I am fairly certain he was not a nurse or physician’s assistant.  If he was, my blood pressure reading was high enough that he should have forced me into immediate emergency treatment.  He did blink while looking at the reading and say “Umm…  Usually when we see a number that high the person is on a gurney in the ER…”  Really?  Huh.  Well, I feel pretty good all things considered.  I just had 47 oz. of dark espresso though… Maybe that’s why it is so high?  “Oh.  Well that probably explains it.  The doctor will be in shortly.”  Then he left.  I would think that someone invested in my well being would have been more concerned that my blood pressure was such that I should have been in cardiac arrest.  Hence, I use the term “helper guy” not “nurse”.

I am not going to allow that to concern me in any way whatsoever.  I remember one time when my roommate and I were driving home from a PiL concert in his Chevy Citation unfortunately known as “The Sock”.  The car was known as “The Sock” as the interior smelled just like an old used gym sock stuffed in a hamper.  That car must have been in a flood, dried out, and sold straight off to my roommate.  It really reeked in there, but that was really the least of the car’s issues as it would turn out.

One place you don’t want to be at 215am is with a gut full of suds on I-77 when the “check engine” light and then the “oil” light flip on without warning.  While most owner’s manuals strongly suggest to immediately pull the car over and assess the situation, we did the exact opposite.  The last thing we needed was a curious cop wondering what two intoxicated guys in their twenties were doing standing around a car that smelled like discarded gym bag at 2:00 am.  We just kept driving despite the warning signs.  Everything was going great until the car made a small lurch and then the entire dash lit up like a fireworks display.  We coasted to the side of the road and abandoned the vehicle.  The next day we discovered the “engine seized”.  We then did the only sensible thing.  We unscrewed the license plates and drove away in our recovery vehicle.  That car was there for about six weeks until it was mercifully towed away by I assume State of Ohio authorities to its final burial place.  

Now while in this analogy I am “The Sock”, I prefer not to dwell on the sad final days of the car rotting on the side of the industrial wasteland of I-77, but rather think of the proud final moments as it steamed down the highway giving all it had.  It is all about seizing the moment and living to the fullest.  Still, I might cut down on the Octo Espressos.  I did update my last will and testament.   I have made very few commitments of my material possessions, so if you want something it’s best to let me know soon.

Now let’s move onto what really matters, gambling on the NFL.  I like to have a firm bank roll established rolling into the greatest day of the year, aka Thanksgiving.  Now is the time to have a steady hand and firmly make a statement about who you are and where you are going.  Let your freak flag fly.  Step up to the plate and make some money.  The first place I would start with that is the Arizona Cardinals +2.5 over the Minnesota Vikings.  The Vikings haven’t won in a month.  They can’t score and that’s not going to help when you play a good defense like Arizona.  A month ago the Vikings were in my “circle of trust”.  Now I can’t bet against them fast enough.  Arizona +2.5

The Lions are favored by 6.5 over Jacksonville.  They haven’t beaten anyone by more than four all year.  Allow me to look into the future on this game.  The Lions will roar out to an early lead.  (See what I did there?  Roar.  Pretty good, huh?)  They will have the game completely in hand.  It is only at this point, when the game is out of reach do the Jags begin to move the ball against soft prevent defenses.  Blake Bortles looks great on paper.  That’s because he gets all of his stats padded when they are down 31-14 with 12 minutes left.  The Jags will score two otherwise meaningless touchdowns late and get a backdoor cover.  It’s what they do.  Jacksonville +6.5      

Season Record:  16-6

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Ashes

It’s not easy to look at the news right now.  Trump is filling his cabinet with scary and dangerous people that will likely doom us all.  Meanwhile the people on the other far end of the spectrum are marching in the streets in protest.  Go home.  The election happened and you lost.  That’s the way it works.  As a very calm friend of mine said in a club before we played a show about six months ago, “Hey man, if we elect Trump it just shows that we don’t care anymore.  We deserve to go down.”  He was, and is now, 100% correct.  We bought the ticket.  Now it’s time to buckle up for the ride.  It’s going to be a rough one that lasts at least a half decade.

It’s a good time to focus on the micro and not the macro.  I saw that my cousin Nancy was traveling across the country to a relative’s wedding with her mother’s ashes in tow.  I like to think about my Aunt’s spirit in the room upset about something completely irrelevant like the type of flowers or timing of dinner at her granddaughter’s wedding.  My Aunt Rose was a woman that didn’t finish a meal in the last 40 years of her life.  She would spend every meal engaged in a rambling monologue that could cover subjects as diverse as other relatives, the Yankee’s #2 hitter, the history of a New York deli, Turkish coffee house social mores, and the efficiency/inefficiency of the hotel staff of her current lodgings.  All of these subjects were very thinly held together by a tiny thread as she pushed her food around her plate, stopping the fork from entering her mouth to make a point.  I never saw her finish a meal.  Not once.

If we were eating at a restaurant our table would be almost impossible for the staff to service.  Whereas most diners would finish their meal in 20-30 minutes, my Aunt might not even begin to make progress on her entrée until 35 minutes in.  She would then be very confused when the waiter would ask her one hour later if she wanted her now cold plate of food cleared, completely flummoxed by the outrageous idea that this waiter would try to clear food this soon after serving it.  Her ability to ignore the fact the rest of the people at the table had long since finished their meal was extraordinary.  More than once I saw the server’s thin smile masking frustration as they disappeared forever after being curtly turned down on their offer of clearing the table.  I’m still waiting for a waiter to come back to my table at a meal we shared in White Plains NY in 1994.

My Aunt had expressed her wishes to have her ashes spread in the Ganges River in India.  She loved that part of the world having traveled extensively in India and Turkey.  I personally believe that her experience was made extra special after making a grave error in currency exchange rates.   She misread the currency conversion board after entering the country and instead of 70 rupees to the dollar, she was tipping at 700 rupees to the dollar.  This led to an army of locals following her everywhere catering to anything they might have even thought might be her whim.  If some crazy lady would give you $10 to open a door for her, why not?  Got to make hay while the sun shines!  This led to her strolling around like the Queen of Sheba with a posse Alan Iverson would have envied.  Imagine a skinny little lady with  a shock of gray hair in a bob walking with 30 locals heading over to the Taj Mahal.  “Hey, who is that?  Is she famous?”

I don’t know when my cousin is planning on taking these ashes to the river.  My Aunt passed away well over a decade ago now.  I am hoping that my cousin was waiting for this wedding to go off and will move ahead shortly.  My great fear is that she will continue to put this off and something will prevent her from making the trip herself.  I will receive a call along the lines of “Greg, as you know this hip surgery has made me largely immobile, so I was wondering of you could do something very important…”  My mind then flashes to myself in a dingy hotel room in India, bent over with massive gastrointestinal crisis, a plastic bag of gray ashes sitting on the dresser.  The ceiling fan squeaks overhead failing to dry the thin sheen of sweat from my fevered skin.  I force myself up and trudge unsteadily to the Ganges looking for a spot to open the bag and do the deed.  I wait for a moment of privacy that will never come, tourists and locals passing in a steady stream.  I finally decide there is no point in waiting, and open the bag to provide Rose with her final wish.  Not gauging the wind correctly, the ashes fly everywhere.  I wipe my eyes and struggle back to my room with a dusting of ash all over my clothes.  Fittingly my Aunt is everywhere at once. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate the WSET Fortified Wine Test

It’s hard to believe how much has changed in a week.  Hell, a week ago the worst election result of our lifetime was Brexit.  England stood there proudly after shitting their pants and said “Ha!  Top that America!”.  They really thought they had done something.  That’s when the United States said, “Oh yeah?  Here.  Hold my beer for a second and watch this.”  Ta-da!  We always go big or go home, don’t we?  It’s exciting that this generation will have their own Nixon with a little Vince McMahon/Stalin tossed in.  It’s an exciting time to be hurtling towards possible global destruction.  I hear it’s going to be great.  Again.  I’ve already begun “grabbing pussy” and looking for “bad hombres”.  I plan on embracing this New Age and blending in so the J. Crew Secret Police don't toss me in Gitmo.  But I get ahead of myself...

A week ago I was standing in a bar in O’Hare well in the midst of a five (5) hour United Airlines delay and got to watch Cleveland’s Rajai Davis crush a ball into the left field foul porch to tie Game Seven with the Cubs.  I will admit to a perverse joy in then standing on the rail of the bar overflowing with stunned Cubs fans and screaming “Excuse me!  Excuse me!  You all must be VERY disappointed!”.  Though I was expecting a chilly response to this clearly adversarial outburst, the rapid change of mood in the room from despair to fury was a surprise.  I slunk out of the bar over to the gate during the rain delay avoiding the extra inning beating I would have assuredly received (and deserved).  That the Indians lost was immaterial as I got to see the faces of Chicago’s dreams go up in smoke ever so briefly.  It’s the little things.

I have now been delayed in 7 of my last 8 trips to SFO on United.  The plan to arrive in San Francisco and cocoon up in my Jack Kerouac scroll room went up in smoke with the 335am arrival.  With the time change that was 635am according to my body, meaning I had been up a full 24 hours.  This would normally be acceptable if my trip to SF was strictly to buy Golden Gate Bridge snow globes and pose for photos holding jail cell bars at Alcatraz.  Unfortunately I had to take one of two WSET wine exams starting at 945am.  This proved to be a bit more of a challenge.

I slept for what seemed like 22 minutes and walked a mile on the urine drenched San Francisco sidewalks to the spartan Holiday Inn Van Ness ballroom.  One thing I will say about the Bay Area homeless is that they talk to themselves much more than any homeless population I have ever seen, even the New York City homeless during their golden age of 1984-90.  There is a certain skill in keeping your eye on these people while still not making any real eye contact and inviting potential bad craziness and violence into your world.  Your expression must convey "Yes, I see you are talking to a demon right now and are busy.  I respect that but prefer to leave you to your business as I am needed at another area much further from here.  Excuse me."

If you are looking for a hotel stay almost completely devoid of character on your next trip to the Bay Area, may I recommend the Holiday Inn Van Ness.  If I were selling office supplies and needed to stay overnight while typing out quarterly sales projections, it would be my first choice.  If I wanted to have any type of fun, I would steer clear.  It's the Olive Garden of hotels.  When I arrived at the hotel with my trusty pen in hand I saw dozens of stressed faces frantically paging through test review materials.  These people were doomed.  I believe that if you haven't absorbed something like the relatively complex idea of the Spanish solera system of making sherry, you probably won't be able to learn it 14 minutes prior to an exam.  Now is the time to put on your false confidence and strut into the room as if you are The Man even if you don't know shit.  Attitude goes a long way in these things.

I walked in to this exam feeling prepared.  I will admit to being somewhat shellshocked by my earlier failure in passing this test previously.  I falsely believed that my past experience of going on port benders with my Uncle Jack in New York would be some sort of advantage in this exam.  This is to say nothing of my hazy trip to Lisbon where I watched men that looked like James Bond movie villain toadies serve clueless tourists tawny ports in an horribly dated tasting room.  I made the horrible mistake in my last exam of overthinking.  There was no chance I would make that mistake again.  This is not because I learned a valuable lesson so much as I was so fatigued my brain was functioning in an almost shutdown mode.  If I was a baseball player I was in the "see ball, hit ball" mindset.

The exam itself is very serious.  A roomful of nervous people sit at tables spread classroom style in a ballroom.  A sealed envelope is placed in front of you only when you have provided ID that matches your "candidate number".  Three wines are poured from decanters into glasses in front of you.  A proctor reads the printed instructions on front of the envelope and looks at his watch the insure the exam goes off exactly as scheduled.  And begin...

There are three open ended essay questions.  I think I am probably allowed to reveal the questions now, but after all the shit I have talked about the Brits sitting in that WSET office, I hesitate to do so.  I can even now imagine a man named "Mr. Wallace" who has been dispatched by one of the various "Rogers" at the WSET HQ to give my exam "special consideration".  The heavily oaked door of the backroom squeaks open.  "Excuse me love...  Are those the San Francisco exams?  Be a dear and pull candidate number 150544 from the pile.  Roger has instructed Mr. Wallace to grade that one personally...".  Meanwhile I am driving around in a van with Leo in a cowboy hat getting ready to sing a bunch of new songs to a roomful of rowdy drunks in Pittsburgh totally oblivious to the impending doom.

Part of the exam is writing as much as you can about three open ended topics.  Mine was a variation of this...  Detail the fortification process of port wines.  What role does oxidation play in the various styles of sherry.  Discuss the fortified wines of Maury.  I was quite pleased to have a firm grasp on the topics at hand.  The real issue was that my brain was not firing on all cylinders.  Whereas I should have written something like "The aging of these ruby ports in wood for three years creates the characteristic rancio notes of the tawny class of fortified wines.".  Meanwhile my brain is telling me to write "They take that shit out of those big fucking tanks and put that shit in those smaller barrels and mix in some of that crappy white port.  Then they put it in good looking bottles and hope some fuckers in France buy it to slurp down at one of those dumpy cafes.".  While both answers are "correct", I really feel one will play a bit better than the other to Mr. Wallace and Roger.  I will admit to have written the word "dipshit" at one point.  In retrospect, an error...

Where I had fucked up my last exam was in the tasting.  I will go on record as saying I'm a good taster.  I'm not great, but I'm good.  There's always some little Asian woman at every tasting that will remark "there's a note of violet and honeysuckle mixing with the wet stone" whereas my tasting note is written in crayon saying "Greg smell berries".  I have a bit of caveman in my approach.  Still I have that misplaced confidence in at least being in the ballgame.  The real difficulty in tasting has nothing to do with actually being able to smell or taste.  It's really the mind game that you play with yourself.  Allow me to explain.

A red wine is poured.  You smell the obvious rich black currant and plum of a New World Cabernet.  You know this is probably a Napa Valley cab or cab blend.  You use a deductive method in noting what it smells like, mouth feel, etc while looking for character that makes you rule out other potential wines until you get to a small list of potential suspects.  That's when you think to yourself "Why would they pour such an obvious wine at a test?  This is a curve ball.  It must be something more obscure.  I see what they are doing here..."  The next thing you know you are trying to show off all the bullshit trivia that you have absorbed and spout off "That is an aged Nero d'Avola from Sicily!".  No.  No, it's a Napa cab you dumbass.  Walks like a duck, talks like a duck.  It's a duck.

I moved on to the wines.  I smelled all three to get the vibe.  That's an oloroso sherry.  That's a 10 year tawny.  That's a Bual Madeira.  I have been drinking so much fortified you could have poured me anything and I would have nailed it on scent alone.  I tasted through them.  Yes, I know these.  I was so tired that there was no chance of talking my way into anything else.  See ball.  Hit ball.  I buzzed through three tasting notes.  I finished the exam and looked around, the only one finished.  I re-read my answers and actually drank the port.  (It was pretty good)  I handed the exam in and waited outside to see what the feel in the room was on the wines to see if I was confident or stupid.

I will tell you that many people emerged from that exam questioning their future participation in this absurd pursuit.  I spoke with one woman that missed two of the wines badly.  It was like she called a Snickers bar a lollipop.  She looked down at her notes flipping through the pages hoping for confirmation of her now obviously wrong answers.  "I...  I don't know if I can continue... I... I just don't know...".  I spoke with a guy that finished just after I did.  "Yeah... I didn't know anything about those Maury wines.  But I knew the tasting was two Madeiras and a Banyuls."  No fucking way dude.  That first one was a sherry and the middle one was a port.  "No.  I don't think so.  Oh well.  If I don't pass, I'm done though.  This was it."

I walked back in to the classroom now empty.  In the corner of the room was the box that housed the empty bottles of wine from the tasting.  I did the move of leaning while looking out of the door to see if anyone was coming.  Nope.  No one coming.  I looked at the bottles.  Oloroso sherry, 10 year tawny port, Bual Madeira.  Fuck you guys.  I knew it.  I was right on all three.  I walked over to the charmless Holiday Inn Van Ness bar to get a drink to bask in my own glory.  I'll be honest with you.

I ordered a beer.  



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Result

I am ashamed to be an American today.  I have never felt that way before, even when George W was elected twice.  While that man was a buffoon, I never considered him a dangerous buffoon.  Even when that moron thought invading Iraq was a good idea, I wasn’t embarrassed to be an American so much as just sorry I had to try to explain a clearly stupid thing our nation had done to people from other nations.  This is worse.  We just decided that a transparent used car salesman should be in charge.  He has no idea what he’s doing and even worse, he doesn’t care.  In a complicated world that needs to have a delicate touch, he's a drunken fratboy at a keg party.    

There is really no way around it.  The American people just elected a digital age Benito Mussolini.  They gave a big thumbs up to racism, sexism, and the illusion of returning to an age that never really existed.  It’s a stark wake up call to all of us.  There are more of those terrifying simpletons that were seen on man-on-the-street interviews outside of Trump rallies than I ever imagined.  This is the real America.  Our country is Ford F-150 trucks, contemporary country music, WWE wrestling, flag waving, fear of brown people, and ignorance as a virtue.  America was shown to be Wal Mart nation.  Despite more red flags than any candidate had ever had revealed, The People voted with their hearts.  What is in their hearts frankly scares me.  I find myself unbalanced to discover I live in a place where over half of the other people share a mindset of fear, hatred, and division.

The American People have remarkably short and flexible memories.  Irrefutable facts have become debatable.  The argument for electing George W. included that amazingly ill-conceived notion of “Well, he isn’t smart but he will surround himself with smart people”.  I suppose the Trump argument will be “He might be mentally ill, but he will surround himself with sane people.”?  The idea of having qualifications doesn’t seem to hold salt at this point.  The People must have looked at this as a Reality TV show.  They wanted to see Trump, who is much more interesting on TV than Hillary over the next four seasons.  The vast majority of the American Public cannot be counted on to sort through and comprehend the tidal wave of information and disinformation washing towards them.  Sit quietly in a public place and listen to people.  Most people are complete dipshits.  Despite walking around with a device in their hand that enables them to educate themselves on any topic they choose at any time, instead they look at Fantasy Football, pornography, and cat videos.  Holy fucking shit.  This is happening.

I will never feel the same way about America.  I feel like I live here but have little in common with the majority.  I don't trust the will of these people.  I am afraid of these people.  You should be too.          

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Sanity Found

When things begin to get chaotic and downright weird around you, the key is to hold onto the one anchor that will always be there for you no matter what. Some people foolishly decide to throw their lot in with other people who will only let them down. When the lifeboat is taking on water and the waves are picking up, your closest friend will pitch you off the boat to save his own miserable skin. He might feel badly as you bob up and down in the waves with sharks circling, but he won't let you in the boat if it puts him at risk. It's a sad truth in life. There is only one thing to count on. That is gambling wildly on NFL Football on a Sunday to provide sanity in an otherwise insane world.

I am betting on my favorite team, the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers generally don't win football games. They like to lose by 3 or 4. This means the general public thinks “the Chargers suck”. Having watched my unfair share of Chargers games, I can tell you the Chargers don't "suck", they “kinda suck”. Frankly, all you need to beat the Titans flying across the country to play you is to play “kinda sucky”. The Titans will give you all the “suck” you need. The Titans are an almost unwatchable football team.  If the Chargers had gotten a few breaks, they would be one of those teams that gets the “in the playoff picture” graphic. Instead they just get the chance to get a solid win at home vs. Tennessee. San Diego -5

I'm betting on the Vikings. Yes the Vikings look terrible right now. Yes the Vikings can't block anyone. Yes there is a very good chance that Sam Bradford will shatter into a million pieces of broken glass this week. It's OK. They are playing the Lions, who are very ready to look like the Lions in a “big game” situation. The Lions have been cruising along like they have real hopes and dreams. You can smell disappointment in the air. Here it comes Lion fans. The Vikings looked like buffoons last week. Pros that look like Buffoons tend to respond like champs the next week. With that thought, I am doing a wildly ill thought out teaser by taking another team that looked like buffoons and teasing them. Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am taking Cleveland +13.5/Minnesota +1.5. Dallas played a whole extra quarter last week and lost two defensive starters. With McCown at QB, Dallas having no discernible pass rush, and the chance the Browns offense might score, I think Cleveland hangs around before losing. Dallas might give Elliot 107 carries and grind clock. I don't think they win by two TDs. That's the great thing about teasers. It looks impossible to lose. This is why I am a sucker. Jump on board. Dangerous moves in dangerous times my friends. I'm all in!
Season Record:  15-5

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Nurse the Hate: On The Road To San Francisco

I am traveling to San Francisco to finally right the disaster of my last fortified wine test failure.  I have attempted to re-create the scenario as best I can so I can Groundhog Day my way to glory, but already an issue has cropped up.  I was anticipating getting my Jack Kerouac “The Road” scroll wallpaper hotel room.  I have an emotional attachment to the room now, this being despite the fact that it might well be the worst hotel room in the Greater Bay Area.  The last time I was there a couple of bums spent most of the night screaming at the top of their lungs things like “I’m the nigger?  I’M THE NIGGER?  YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I’M THE NIGGER!!!”.  I found that especially odd as the guy appeared to be an Eskimo or maybe just a really dirty man of some Pacific Rim descent.  He later started singing “Eye of the Tiger”, though it was a tad off-key.  He gave it his all though.  The hotel windows were thin enough I almost starting doing the guitar part with the “Dah!  Dah-Dah-Dah!  Dah-Dah-Dahhhhhh!” to give him a hand.  It was a very restful night as you can imagine.

Side note, am I allowed to call them “bums” any longer or is that like calling someone of Asian descent an “oriental”?  I have a fear that sometimes language shifts on me and I will cause an incident without knowing it.  “Grandpa Greg!  You can’t call Mr. Chang “that oriental fella”!”  Then I look up from my otherwise boring story about the nice neighbor confused as to why it isn’t 1921.  I need to research it further but my gut suggests it might be a bad idea to use “bum” in the future.  “Hobo” has a nice ring to it but suggests travel on the rails in The Dust Bowl.  9/11 nixed that romantic idea.  All right.  The guys screaming at my hotel were “homeless”.  Though then again, they might have been just out for the night and had perfectly nice places to live…  Please, give me a break.  Let’s just get past it.

Regardless, I’m en route to San Francisco.  I have drunk so much port, Madeira, and sherry that I will probably be dead from liver failure before my next post.  I am hoping that there are some machines that can keep my alive long enough for me to complete my exam.  I am going to see this thing through no matter what happens.  I plan on being buried with my WSET lapel pin.  I am becoming increasingly concerned that I don’t actually know if there is a lapel pin at the end of this thing.  I would prefer some sort of scepter, but that’s probably asking a bit much of some folks that just barely got a functioning website off the ground.  Maybe the WSET did a bulk order of scepters when they started this organization up.  There could be crate loads in the back library where they will savagely grade my exam later next month.  I really need to pop in over at WSET HQ and see what’s doing over there.  If I still have liver function we can argue about the quality of a fino sherry while standing in the lobby.   That would be nice.

I plan on walking over to City Lights Bookstore prior to the exam where I will sit in The Poet’s Chair.  I will have my wildly expensive pen in my pocket, assuming I don’t lose it on any of these flights.  I will look at the pictures of Ginsberg, Dylan, and Cassidy on the stairs.  I will purchase an armload of books.  I will then walk all the way over to the charmless Holiday Inn on Van Ness where I will sit in a windowless room and attempt to not over think the wines poured to me.  I will accurately write tasting notes with my amazingly expensive pen.  Afterwards I will gorge myself at The House of Prime Rib before catching my friends in Southern Culture on the Skids play a set at Slim’s.  I will get a night cap at Vesuvius where it isn't urine that you smell, it's "character".  Tomorrow I will begin my return to glory.  Today?  I must somehow get my Kerouac scroll wallpaper room secured and get ready to sing “Eye of the Tiger” with the homeless at 2:23am.  It's the key to the entire thing.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nurse the Hate: The White Suit

A number of years ago I spent the morning of November 1st walking back to my house in a three-piece white polyester suit which I had drenched completely in a bottle of English Leather cologne.  This was not because of a disastrous fashion choice.  I had been at a Halloween party where I had gone completely into character as sort of a Disco Stu thing.  At one point I had leaped up on a table to dance to KC and the Sunshine Band’s immortal hit “That’s The Way I Like It”.  This was a real crowd pleaser, even more so when the table toppled over and I fell into another table of patrons and their pitcher of beer.  It was a bit of a scene.  There was a definite hitch to my walk as the bruise had settled in on my thigh.

This was a period in my life in which I had no real connections with anyone.  There is a certain carefree quality to life when you have relationships that are barely beyond surface deep.  I was blissfully unaware and taking whatever came my way.  It is only when the lightning bolt of making a real connection with someone hits you that the burden of its absence becomes a weight to carry.  Before you realize that there are 2-3 people on the planet total that you are actually on the exact same wavelength, life is really easy.  After that, you’re hoping to stay in tune or just killing time hoping you get lucky and find them again.  On this particular day I had none of that.  I was a happy dipshit.  I was just a guy in a cheap cologne drenched suit that had one realistic goal, to get out of that suit and into a shower.

Something I learned that morning was that no matter how much Irish Spring soap that is used, English Leather cologne is impervious to it.  For the next week I should have just embraced it by buying an Italian Horn necklace and spending most of my time at dance clubs that spelled the word “Crazy” with a “K”.  I didn’t though and instead tried to position myself downwind in all social situations.  That plan was largely ineffective as I learned at work the next day when someone said “Who the fuck is wearing the cheap ass cologne?”.  I looked around the room with a dazed yet inquisitive expression that said “You know, now I notice it too…  I wonder where that’s coming from?”.  The key is too look as concerned as the others, but not more as that would give you away.  I would like to formally apologize to Corey, a happy-go-lucky guy I worked with that bore the implied guilt of this social faux pas when I didn’t correct the speculation that arose fingering him as the culprit.  Corey, it was my silence that doomed you to be known as “Cologne Corey” amongst the ladies of the workplace behind your back.  I’m sorry.

The suit smelled so strongly I had to put it on a hanger and leave it outside to air out.  I also learned that not everything “airs out” by leaving it on a hanger on a porch.  It hung on the hanger like a hunk of spoiled meat.  It repelled all potential visitors the same way a human head on a pike might.  I was sort of like a disco version of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.  I can see myself now hunched over in my living room palming a small cup of water when criticized regarding my dry cleaning technique.  “You don’t approve of my methods?”  Greg, I don’t see any method at all…

The suit was stolen that weekend from the porch.  Had I launched a criminal investigation I would have just been able to sniff out the English Leather fairly easily and found The Perp.  It would have been great to show up with a police baton and a bloodhound on someone’s porch ready to deliver swift justice.  I just didn’t have the energy.  To be honest it was a bit of a relief to be rid of the thing as I know that even now that suit is in the back of someone’s closet slowly making everything they own smell like English Leather, sweat, and mildew.  I hope they had a good time in it though.  That suit was really something.