Saturday, December 31, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate New Year's Eve

I used to like to host a party on New Year’s Eve.  It reached a point where it became more of a hassle than a good time.  It had to stop.  There was a group of people that would hedge if they were coming or not until the last minute as they would wait to see if something better would come along.  It made it impossible to plan for the party.  I don’t know what they were expecting.  I think that New Year’s Eve is riddled with unrealistic expectations.  It has to be The Best Time EVER or it is judged as a complete failure.  A host can go out and buy plenty of good food and drink, prepare great music, and set a mood.  They can’t go out and buy sex starved models in tight outfits that are inexplicably attracted to the other guests, meaningful midnight kisses from strangers, or resolution to all the guests problems.  What can I do?  My hands were tied.  Now I let someone else handle the New Year's Eve parties.

I probably should have purchased airfare to the Carribbean.  It was originally what my gut told me to do.  That would have started 2017 pointed in the right direction.  I can see myself right now in a white sport jacket with a glass of rum on the rocks thinking I was charming when in fact all the resort guests would sidle up to various hotel employees asking “Can that man be removed?  I don’t think he’s even a guest here and he is freaking my kids out.”  As the midnight countdown is being made I could hear it becoming further and further away as I was hustled out of the area by hotel security.  The next morning I could walk around the pool and offer apologies and shame to the people I offended.  That would have been nice.

Instead I am here in Ohio.  That means I will be watching the Ohio State game.  I don’t think it will be possible to be in any public gathering and not have the game front and center.  The only possible exceptions are those annoying hipster dudes that call events like that “sportsball” just to remind you how ironic and above communal events they are and always have been.  When I see a guy in a knit cap indoors that makes a show of not caring who covers a national championship game, I see a guy that needed a father and more masculine peers.  You can listen to Elliot Smith records in your squalid apartment, but you sure can’t bet on them.  Get in the game kid.  And take that fucking cap off.

I am on Ohio State -1.5 tonight.  Ohio State is essentially a pro football team of men that gets to play kids that are playing their last bit of football before becoming gym teachers.  The Ohio State guys are getting ready to play in the NFL, have intercourse with lots of skanky nightclub chicks, and blow their money within five years on tricked out SUVs, poorly thought out real estate deals, and very colorful suits.  It’s not really fair to the other teams they play.  Ohio State is loaded with NFL talent.  Clemson has “some” NFL talent.  That makes a difference.  Also, let’s not pretend that Clemson played as tough a group of teams as Ohio State.  The Big 10 is really good.  What’s Clemson in now?  The Ivy League?  They get to play those sorta crappy Atlantic Coast teams.  Ohio State is in essence a bad NFL team.  It’s a real step up in quality for Clemson.  Ohio State wins this game unless this insane 25 day layoff screws them up.  I’m aggressively on the Buckeyes. 

I hope you have a “pretty good” night tonight.  It won’t be The Best Ever, but that’s OK.  Shoot for “good” and see what happens.  Stay away from whiskey, vodka, pot… In that order.  Here's to a better than anticipated 2017.

Season Record:  28-12 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Nurse the Hate: There Is No Choice

I walked in Whole Foods, America’s most expensive grocery store.  I was really in the mood for free range vegan thoughtfully farmed organic apples at $2.69 per.  I was very much lost in thought working on a song in my head.  I've had a very prolific period of late.  Songs are pouring out of me.  Two teen girls walked out of the store arm in arm through the door that I entered.  They had manic plastered on smiles and were talking to each other out of the sides of their mouths.  They practically crackled with electricity.  There is something about that age with women where the intensity of the “best friend” relationship is combustible.  Everything is a hilarious or dramatic secret.  Wild giggles could explode in any moment about shared private jokes meant to exclude others while defining their special bond.  Everyone is out of the joke but them.  They spoke to each other like ventriloquists after seeing me and then exploded in giggles they were trying to hide.  Hmmm…  I wonder what’s wrong with me?  Suddenly I heard my name.

“Hey Greg!  Greg!  Dude!  Are we running with the bulls this year?”  I had completely forgotten about shooting my mouth off about that two years ago.  I liked the idea of participating in this horrible festival of sprinting down vomit and alcohol slick cobblestone streets trying to outrun monster bulls bred for the ring in the midst of a crowd of staggering drunks.  There was one unavoidable problem.  Already a painfully slow runner, I had been plagued by nagging heel and knee injuries.  I had gone from running 25 miles a week to hobbling around in a walking boot.  Then I tore my meniscus.  Let me put things in perspective.  As a teenager I may have logged the slowest 100-yard dash time in the region.  I finished last in every race I ever entered.  I'm sloooowwww.  25 years of leaping around in Spanish cowboy boots while drunk on beer didn’t help matters.  Prior to my various leg injuries there was a very real chance of me being gored by the bulls.  Now it was almost a certainty.

I will admit a certain tragic lust for the idea of international media coverage of being impaled by a horn.  I like to think of various friends of mine sitting absentmindedly in front of a TV at a pub or hotel lounge and looking up at CNN to see “…and today in Pamplona this rickety American man was impaled through the scrotum during the 117th annual Running of the Bulls…” I would imagine a gif of me being speared would be quite popular.  If this “Good Fight” record doesn’t take off, it could be my last chance of going viral for God’s sake.  How can I get a reality TV show career started as “The Horn Through The Scrotum Guy” on the Spanish TV version of “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” if I don’t go viral? 

“Hey man… yeah… We gotta do that…”  I am fairly certain that this guy doesn’t want to actually do it either.  I think that Running With The Bulls has become “our thing”.  For example, I have people that come up to me all the time that never under any circumstance go to see live music.  They will then put a pained expression on their face and say “When are you guys playing again?” as if this particular time frame will somehow be different than the last 17 years of opportunities.  They haven’t gone to see Billy Ray Shelton or Guns N Radiohead, so they sure as hell aren’t coming out to the Beachland to see us and the D-Rays (though they should).  I can’t stop it though.  Asking me about the band is “our thing” now.  It’s the go-to conversation topic for chance meetings with these acquaintances.  Now I think running with the bulls is “our thing” with this guy.  Dammit.

The only solution of course is to call his bluff.  Let me be clear about this.  I am willing to risk being trampled or impaled.  I will put up with the claustrophobic crowds of drunk American and drunk Australian assholes barfing on drunk German and drunk Spanish assholes.  I will pay exorbitant rates for a hotel room that can best be described as “a toilet they decided to add on to”.  I will overpay for lousy deep fried food that is being positioned as “authentic”.  I will wear white knickers and a red neckerchief as an attempt to “go local” which will only solidify me at first glance at being a loser tourist.  I will park my shitty rental car miles away from the city center where it will be broken into by drug addicts to steal an almost completely worthless FM radio which will cost me 700 euros when I turn the car back in.  I am willing to be gored though the scrotum and almost bleed out on a primitive Spanish operating table as the surgeon botches the procedure.  I am willing to leave that hospital without testicles and having to spend my life emptying a colostomy bag after complications set in.  I will do all of this just to avoid having to have “our thing” for the rest of my life be that conversation.

God help me. Time to book a flight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nurse the Hate: New Potential Goal

Something I started doing a number of years ago was to set goals for myself, the more absurd the better.  I discovered my life had become essentially boredom while waiting for something interesting to happen on its own.  This is a very bad plan.  I look around me and see people that haven’t even tried to do anything in a decade.  There was a woman I know that was losing her mind because she went to an apple orchard and just discovered the “honeycrisp apple”.  She was practically doing cartwheels after learning this apple even existed.  Granted, it’s a good apple, but in comparison she could climb into her car at lunch and have dinner in New York City with world renowned artists and musicians if she put forth even a tiny effort.  Good Apple vs The Big Apple if you will…  You have to try.

I have been carefully considering a new ridiculous goal.  Now by “carefully considering” I mean “made a knee jerk decision completely without any research”.  So I’m sitting around watching the sun set on the sea last week drinking this barrel aged rum on the rocks.  I’m feeling pretty nautical with my salt-and-pepper beard coming in and my tattered old khaki shorts.  This is completely self-delusional by the way as I have no real sea captain experience and looked less “sea salt” and much more “American suburban asshole”.   Regardless, this is my moment.  I have the satisfaction over pulling off the shark dive mixed with the bittersweet reality of not having another goal in place.  It’s an odd feeling.  I need to know where I am headed.

I like these sea adventures.  This is for a couple of reasons.  First, I have almost no real skill set in any of the things I have taken on like the shipwreck dive in Curacao or this shark dive.  I am in WAY over my head.  I have an average amount of athletic ability but the key to these ocean things is really not freaking out when you find out that you don’t know what you are doing.  Panic is what does you in.  Or drowning.  I think because I enter into the situation not knowing what I am doing, I can keep my cool and muddle by.  I never have that moment where I go “Shit!  I don’t know what I’m doing!”.  From the very outset I’m thinking, “I don’t know what I’m doing.  I better keep my shit together.”.

Second, having spent my college years reading Hemingway, Steinbeck, London, Kerouac and other likeminded American writers that chase adventure as a way to kindle the spirit, I feel a romanticism in pursuing this as well.  Globalization has made the planet one big Applebee’s.  I saw some film footage of Mexico from 1967.  It was a different planet.  Compare that with the planet today.  Fucking Facebook wants to put solar powered planes in the air so African natives can play candy crush while they have downtime hunting wildebeests.  It isn’t possible to have A Moveable Feast or Mexico City Blues like it was then.  However, the ocean is the ocean.  It remains a constant.  I see that as a continuous link to the past.

As I sat looking out at the sea trying to decide if I liked that rum (I did), I turned over possible scenarios in my head.  I have this wild idea about diving a sunken shark infested U-Boat that’s about 130 feet deep off the Carolina Coast.  Combining sharks, deep sea diving and Nazis is pretty good.  However, if I didn’t come out of that dive with a Nazi relic, I’d be pretty bummed.  “Oh, that luger?  It’s from the wreck of the U-371.  I believe it is Captain Stroman’s personal sidearm, though I haven’t been able to authenticate that yet after Billings was attacked by the shark.”  Now that’s good but it just seems too tough to pull off.

That was when the idea hit me.  I did a quick search on my phone and found it.  Yes.  Perhaps this is it.  Now, when I say this you might be skeptical.  Stay with me on this thing though.  What I am considering as my next adventure goal is to not only enter but outright win the 68th Annual Ernest Hemingway Marlin Fishing Tournament in Havana Cuba.  Now, I know I have some hurdles to overcome…

1)       I have not caught or attempted to catch a marlin, a billfish which can be 1200 pounds of pure fight at any time in my life.  In fact, I have only fished in the ocean twice.  Once when I was 13 I became so seasick I begged the charter captain to gut me like a tuna to end my misery.  The other was when I went out with some Bahamian dudes, got buzzed up on Kalik Beer, got really sunburned, and caught a barracuda.  The barracuda was probably 25 pounds and almost blew my back out.  The marlin would be 20+ times larger.  This is a concern, especially with the tournaments 80-pound test limit and me being essentially weak and frail.

2)      Cuba is still not officially accepting American tourists, so I will have to drum up a series of phony papers or sit through some horrible “Triumphs of Cuban Agriculture” lecture in some insect ridden Cuban backwoods sugar cane processing plant.  Knowing my long history of winging it without any real attention to detail I will be flung into some Cuban State Prison and beaten until I produce a handwritten “confession” of my crimes.  I need to keep that in mind as I proceed.

3)      I don’t have a boat.  I don’t have a relationship with any fishermen.  I don’t speak any Spanish.  I don’t know how to evaluate who is a good marlin captain and who isn’t.  Even if I could speak the language, I don’t even know what I am looking for in a good marlin captain and mate.  I will have to commit completely on “gut feel”.  As we all know, that works very well in all films.

My thinking is that I will somehow find a down on his luck Cuban sea captain.  Maybe he has a drinking problem.  A bad one.  His boat has fallen into disrepair, sort of a Cuban sport fishing “Orca”.  He has a hard working and undyingly loyal first mate with a great nickname like “Gato”, a small man that is a bundle of energy, good spirits, and deep reserve of hard won knowledge of marlin fishing.  The Captain won this tournament in the late 1980s, but a personal tragedy set him on a downward spiral.  He retains his skills but can’t muster the energy or sense of purpose to once again rise to the top of the sport fishing world.  He needs money and agrees to charter my team.  Slowly we all begin to come together as a team, working together on the boat while a Hollywood music bed of inspirational rock music plays from thin air as we work. 

At last the day of the tournament arrives.  We are completely outclassed at first glance by the well-funded teams from around the world.  It’s time to leave the port.  We can’t find The Captain.  Gato and I hurry on a tandem bike to his weathered lodgings above a local seaside bar where we find him drunk.  “No puedo hacerlo. Gato. No puedo hacerlo.”  Gato turns to me and says, “He cannot.  It is all too much.  The sea has taken his wife.  He no longer trusts the sea.  He is sorry.”  This is when I take a dirty rum glass and throw it at his mirror, smashing it.  “Godammit!  Get up!  We are going to win this tournament!”.  We all exchange glances.  The Captain considers this fork in the road of his life.  Slowly The Captain rises and places on his cap.  “Senor Miller…  We had best get started…”  Gato smiles slowly until it spreads across his face.  We do poorly for the first three days.  Perhaps the Captain has lost his skills.  Gato pats me on the shoulder and says all knowingly, “Do not worry senor…”.  On the last day I sit in the fighting chair.  A monster fish strikes.  We come together as a team despite great adversity.  We catch and tag a 1200-pound Marlin, setting the club record and winning the tournament. 

However, I am concerned the reality would be closer to this…  I walk around a leaky boat with two cantankerous Cubans that talk shit about me in Spanish all day.  They don’t even try to catch any marlin and just burn up whatever gas we buy driving around with lines in the water far from the fishing grounds.  I am dressed in some sort of Hemingway getup and have fallen in to Hemingway speech patterns.  I stare out at the sea and say things like “Every day is a new day.  It is better to be lucky.  But I would rather be exact.  Then when luck comes you are ready.”  The Cubans roll their eyes.  I get overcome from the exhaust fumes from the motor and start to aggressively barf over the side.  We later pull back into port with no catch.  I’m sleeping in the cabin seasick.  All the other boats laugh at us.  One of the mates steals my wallet.  They all get drunk at a dodgy bar, buy whores, take off in the boat and are never seen again.  I slink off to the airport where I am detained for having my passport stolen.  I am imprisoned in Cuba for three weeks.  My grainy passport photo is shown on CNN every 30 minutes as the third story in the news cycle.  Trump finally tweets “We don’t negotiate with terrorists and rogue governments.”   I get thrown into “general population”.  I have to decide to shank the biggest guy in prison or go bitch. 

As you can see, I have some details to work out. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Hate Christmas Eve

A few days ago I was swimming around in the ocean with a barfing Chinese guy and monster sharks.  Now I’m hunched over a computer in the rain in Ohio trying to figure out today’s NFL action.  I need some winners.  I wildly overspent on that diving quest, not so much because of the actual logistics of the trip but that I somehow screwed up the dollar to peso conversion rate.  I was walking around Mexico making it rain, though I had no idea.  I wondered why everyone was so happy to open doors and drive taxis for me.  This is a re-creation of me haggling with a taxi driver with actual dollar values represented.

Me:  How much to go to Playa Mujeres?

Taxi driver:  $4

Me:  No, no…  Last time I got a ride here for $20.  How about $20?

Taxi driver:  OK

Me after the ride:  Thanks for the ride.  Here’s $20 and a $20 tip.

Taxi driver:  Thank you senor!  Here is my card!  You call me if you need anything!  Anything!

Me: (walking away smugly as if I just worked a deal like a Arab horse trader)

That’s what I did over and over and over.  Rumor had it I was known as “Gringo Loco”.  Now I need to figure out how to pay for that wild series of miscalculations.  For me, there is no better place to start than the Cleveland Browns.  There is a wild belief out there that the Browns will win today.  This reminds me of when people thought they would beat the Jets for the same illogical reason.  The Jets played one of the worst first halves of football in NFL history and then calmly flipped the switch to pound the Browns.  I would like to remind you that we are talking about the Jets here, a continued embarrassment in The Big Apple.  The Chargers are a legit football team.  They play everyone tough and score like crazy.  They don’t win very often, but when the Browns appear only capable of scoring 10-13 points per game, that appears like the right formula for the Chargers to win another game.  I cannot bet on San Diego -4 more aggressively.  Merry Christmas everyone.

I wish I was dancing around with Santa on the beach.  I’m not though.  I’m in the cold rain.  No one likes going into the cold rain and wind after being in the warm sunshine.  You know who is going to do that?  The Miami Dolphins with Matt Moore at QB.  The fans in Buffalo have been drunk since the workday ended yesterday at five pm.  They will have their shirts off as horrible wind and rain pelt their bodies.  Many of them will catch pneumonia and die slow horrible deaths in their beds over the holidays, just as their fathers did and their fathers before them.  Meanwhile the skill players at Miami are going to be standing around on the sideline in horrible turquoise rain parkas saying to each other “It fucking sucks here.  We gotta end this game and go back to South Beach.”   Matt Moore will be wildly overthrowing those guys as the ball sails all over the place.  I like Buffalo in a close one, which is why I am teasing them with Green Bay.

As a reader pointed out to me a couple weeks ago, only a damn jackass bets against the Packers at home in December.  I was that jackass and I lost.  I have learned my lesson friend.  I should have listened to you.  Green Bay is getting stronger in time for the playoffs, while Minnesota has been getting their dicks kicked in the dirt.  If I watch this game I will do so with the sound off as I can’t handle listening to the announcers masturbating and ejaculating while speaking about Aaron Rodgers.  I probably won’t even risk watching it as the image of Joe Buck in an elf hat having a self-administered orgasm is something that will prevent me from ever having one again myself.  It would be even worse if somehow it made me fall into some kind of “masturbatory elf fetish subculture” where I couldn’t go anywhere without my “special holiday sex hat”.  It’s too risky.  I will watch the Browns lose instead.  Green Bay +.5/Buffalo +1.5.

Season Record:  28-10

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Nurse the Hate: At Last, The Bull Shark Dive

We pulled up to a dusty road near a public beachfront in Playa del Carmen.  Little boys with dirty feet and Kool Ade stained mouths played in the sand near where their fisherman fathers brought in their catch.  A heavy lidded bored looking woman sat at a cart selling terrifying looking food.  A leathery looking tramp looked at us with a smile of broken teeth, amused at what we were about to do.  Alvaro, a man that I had dove with about ten months earlier, gathered us together as we struggled into our wet suits.  “OK!  Listen up!  We are going to move fast!  We are going to drop down to the bottom quickly but not too quickly.  Understand?  You are going to be weighted down so you are going to drop.  We want to get down to the bottom before the shark gets any ideas.  OK?  So get down fast… but not too fast!’.

With that we all got moving hauling our gear to the small boat anchored just off shore.  I had gone to great lengths to be here.  I have been fascinated with sharks since I saw the movie “Jaws” as a kid.  The idea that I could swim in the ocean right next to them without a cage was too good to pass up.  The fact that they are full-grown bull sharks just ratcheted the whole thing up a few notches.  As most of you are probably not well versed with bull sharks, let me give you a quick rundown.

The bull shark is widely considered to be the most dangerous shark on the planet.  This is due to the fact of them being large, very aggressive, prone to habitat near populated tropical beaches, and of the habit of attacking almost anything.  They are part of the Big Three along with Great Whites and Tiger Sharks as being the three species most likely to attack humans.  They are between 7 and 11 feet long and max out at about 500 pounds.  One would think that it would be an unbelievably bad idea to put oneself in the water with one of these, much less with multiple full grown adult bulls expected to be circling.

I would like to point out that I’m not crazy.  I take calculated risks.  The bull sharks come into the Playa del Carmen area around November and cruise off shore for a few months during their mating season.  They tend to back off their aggressive behavior.  The belief is that the bull sharks attack humans by accident thinking that they are another type of their food.  For example, a friend of a friend of mine almost lost his leg while swimming off a boat.  The sharks saw him flopping around on the surface and thought “What luck!  An injured seal!”.  The shark nailed him in the leg and then let go when he thought “Hey… That’s not seal!”.  Now the down side to this guy was that by the time the shark realized this he had clamped down on his leg with a four foot wide mouth of razor sharp teeth with 478 pound bite force.  To put that in perspective, bull sharks can bite sea turtles in half.  “Sorry man!  My bad!  Sorry about that leg!  My fault!  100%!”

Alvaro has made this dive many times.  My thought is that if he has done this over and over, I’m sure I can do it once.  Of course, Alvaro also dove in the water with Great Whites feeding on seals in La Jolla with a video camera, so maybe he wasn’t the best guy the have my gauge of acceptable risk ratios.  Regardless, the whole idea seemed so fucking gnarly, I had to have the experience.  I knew people that had dove with sharks while in cages, but I’ve never heard of anyone a) diving with bull sharks and b) doing so without any protection whatsoever.  It’s like running around a pride of lions nude.  It’s really a bad idea.

We got on the boat.  It was a small group.  Jung was a very talkative Chinese national that was much more focused on his camera than following instructions.  I had the sneaking suspicion that Jung would fail to heed a basic part of the plan and get bitten in half in front of me.  Not having much of an attachment to the man, it did interest me in seeing what that would look like in person.  The father son duo of Adolfo and Adolfo rolled up in a Porsche McCann Turbo.  The son was probably 16 or so, and my gut told me I was a better swimmer than he was, thus my plan of not out swimming the sharks but out swimming Adolfo Jr. was formed.  When the bull sharks went into a feeding frenzy feasting on Jung’s leaking corpse, I’d ascend quickly as Adolfo Jr. got pulled down behind me.  Sorry kid.  It was a good run.      

Alvaro led the dive and his helper Favio served as our wingman.  The plan was to drop down to the sandy bottom at 70 feet, form a line with the current to our shoulder.  The key was to get to the bottom quickly so as not to look like an injured animal flopping around.  Get to the sand and don’t move around.  Alvaro took the right wing in front of us, and Favio the left wing.  Alvaro would open a little bucket of fish guts, let some seep out, and the sharks would come see what the smell in the current was all about.  They would cruise by us and check us out.  If they started to get too aggressive, we’d bug out.  I assumed by ”too aggressive”, that meant when Jung got bit in half.

I would like to point out to anyone that has ever vacationed in Playa Del Carmen that about 1000 feet off shore in Nov-Jan there are so many bull sharks you would completely lose your shit.  When the boat stopped, we were well within site of a packed resort beach.  If those people on that beach had any idea of what we were doing, they’d never have gone in the water.  The boat stopped and almost immediately we all flopped back frogman style into the water.  In my head the only thing I could think of was “get down fast but not too fast…  What the fuck does that mean?”. 

Right away Jung is having problems.  In my experience anyone that is totally fixated with cameras is never in tune with what is actually happening.  They are always a disaster on a dive.  Every single time.  So there’s Jung in the water.  He has no idea how to operate his gear and isn’t descending.  Of course.  Adolfo Jr. is dicking around at about 10 feet.  Meanwhile I’m by myself at about 35 feet dropping down while pressurizing and start to notice a bull shark about nine feet long twenty feet below my feet.  Holy mother of fuck.  That thing is fucking huge.   Guys?  Guys?  Adolfo Sr. starts to get in the game and he gets to the bottom about 20 long seconds after I do.  I don’t see Alvaro.  I don’t see Favio.  All I know is I’m not going to start swimming around like an asshole and get my leg bit off.

When I learned how to dive a Jamaican guy helped teach me.  “Hey man… Don’t worry man.  Just relax.  You got everything you need.  Don’t ever freak out man.”  Alvaro appeared above me to my right.  Jung and Adolfo Jr. got down to the bottom.  We made our line.  Alvaro opened the bucket.  It couldn’t have been more than 10 seconds later the biggest fish I have ever seen swam three feet away from me.  Yup.  That’s a bull shark all right.  300 pounds?  Nine feet long?  Without question it is the most impressive thing I have ever seen in the ocean.  Powerful and graceful, it is perfectly designed.  It’s small eye looks right at you as it effortlessly cruises next to you.  This is his house and you are a visitor.  No one had to remind me not to move around like an asshole.  “Me?  No, I’m just a rock over here… Nothing to see.  Move along.  No need to give me that eye.”  Closer and closer they come.  Straight at you and then a quick turn a couple feet before impact.  It’s hard not to give in to your base instincts and flee.  It is very hard to put into words the feeling that in an instant those creatures can tear you up and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

If I can make a suggestion to you, if you ever get cut in the ocean, get out of the water.  Each time Alvaro would open the bucket a crack, three to five massive bull sharks would immediately respond out of nowhere to see what smelled so good.  One in particular with a gash behind the dorsal fin was especially noteworthy.  This was the largest of the group, probably ten feet and 400+ pounds.  I don’t know if a shark can be a wiseass, but this one certainly seemed like one.  It would get so close passing by that I could have grabbed it by the tail.  At one point 7 or 8 of them were circling us.  I had to remind myself to keep my shit together when I’m staring at “Gash Fin” in front of me and another 300 pounder would swim out of my blind spot to the right.  It really felt as if we had lost some of the illusionary control of the situation by that point.  I couldn’t keep track of all of them.  I'm thinking “OK… I’ve seen enough…  Whattya say we go back up to the boat guys?”.

The problem becomes surfacing.  Being stationary on the sand, we don’t look like food to them.  Slowly ascending through their playroom at 65-45 feet would change our profile.  Jung and Adolfo Jr. had blown through their gas and had to surface.  Favio grabbed them up into a group and they ascended when the sharks made a brief exit.  Adolfo Sr, Alvaro and I still had 1500 on the tanks so we stayed down.  This was when Alvaro decided to get a little crazy and open the bucket enough so little fish guts seeped out and a group of twenty small fish began to feed on it.  With absolutely awe inspiring speed and force, one of the larger bulls appeared from our left, accelerated as he rose and tore though the group of fish clamping down on God knows how many of them.  The strength and grace was awesome.  It was humbling, terrifying and amazing.  To put into The King’s English, that fish can fuck you up.  Time to go.

We waited until the coast was clear and ascended in a circle looking out in our assigned direction.  A three minute safety stop at 15 feet took an eternity.  Alavaro was excited and clenched my hand screaming, “Yes!” through his mouthpiece while laughing.  I wasn’t the only one that thought that aggressive shit at the end was impressive I see.  We saw about six bulls cruising the sandy bottom paying us no attention.  We got to the surface and got in the boat quickly.  Jung was aggressively barfing off the side.  Adolfo Jr. seemed happy but a little taken back by this odd little Chinese man violently heaving.  I could feel the adrenalin coursing though me, something I didn’t really notice in the water.  Within a couple moments we started the engine for the quick trip back to the beach.

Without question, this was one of the best things I have ever done.  It's everything I thought it would be, totally hardcore.  I got to see something almost no one else on the planet will or would even consider attempting.  It was a test of courage; something one doesn’t get the chance to do very often in modern life.  It’s hard not to fall into a rut, to let the normal shove you away from the extraordinary.  Life is about experiences and testing limits.  I’m going to try keep doing it until I fail. 

(That's me on the left...)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Nurse the Hate: My Unrealized Life of Crime

By the time the third salesperson hit me in Banana Republic with the antiseptic “Welcome to Banana Republic!  Just a quick reminder about our sale!  How are you doing today?”, I had no choice but to respond “Fan-Fucking-Tastic!  How about you?”.  That turned out to be as disarming as I had hoped it would.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need help picking out inoffensive holiday gifts.  I can see the black and gray sweaters all by myself.  Thanks and no I don’t want to open a fucking Banana Republic credit card.  Just let me give you all my money for the overpriced sweater!  Please!  I beg of you!

I am absolutely hemorrhaging cash.  The Holidays are brutal.  All I want to do is flop in the ocean with the sharks but before I can do that I need to spend all my money on gifts for people that don’t need or want what I am buying them.  I definitely need an influx of cash.  I was thinking maybe stealing some valuable art and then fencing it for great profit.  However not knowing where any valuable art is located or knowing a “fence”, this will be difficult.  In the movies it’s always easy to find someone to sell stolen goods in a seedy underbelly economy.  There’s always a guy that knows a guy.  Then you meet in an alley behind a Chinese restaurant or in a backroom of an Irish Bar and make a doomed plan to sell the stolen art.  The art gets stolen from you.  You get pistol whipped.  You wake up and begin a vengeful path towards vigilante justice.  In the end you get the art, the money, and the girl.  The credits roll when you sail off Barbados in your enormous yacht.  Happy ending.  Now I can’t do any of it because I don’t know a fence.  Fuck.

I suppose I will have no choice but to gamble on football VERY aggressively.  In desperate times like this, it is important to fall back on what you know.  I am thinking about making a nice three team parlay and betting each game money line with a sense of purpose.  This is the time of the year when teams that are going to the Playoffs start to play well and teams that are out of it just don’t want to embarrass themselves.  I cannot stress how much I like the Baltimore Ravens this week against the Eagles.  The Eagles have completely fallen apart.  They have no (as in “zero”) offensive weapons.  All they do at this point is throw the ball.  Carson Wentz is about to break the Eagle rookie pass attempt record.  You know who might have picked up on that little offensive trend?  The Baltimore Ravens.  This game will be ugly and a terrific waste of time to watch, but great to chalk up as a winner when it is over.  Baltimore.

Dallas lost last week to the Giants.  They won’t lose two in a row rolling into the playoffs, especially to the Bucs 25th rated rushing defense.  That Cowboy team is legit.  Elliot is going to run for 150+ yards.  The NFL is great.  All week long there has been the freaking out when Dallas loses media barrage.  The Cowboys may never win again!  Bring back Romo!  Let’s all hyperventilate!  It’s great for the lines.  Dallas hasn’t covered twice all year.  They’ve been a machine.  I like them minus the points, but I’m not mucking about on this.  Dallas. 

The Cleveland Browns will never win again.  Ever.  The team should be shut down.  The stadium should be demolished and the land used as a city park.  Not only should the team not be allowed to move to another city, their very existence should be erased like a terrible plague.  Having the Browns move to another city is like shipping a truckload of blankets laced with small pox.  They have no way to move the ball.  They can’t stop anyone else.  Maybe not even Buffalo.  The line is ten, but once again why risk horrible Buffalo weather keeping it close?  Buffalo.

Three team parlay pays off at 2-1.  How else you going to pay for a $90 sweater and shark diving? 

Season Record:  24-10   

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Disaster In New York

A number of years ago The Cowslingers had a gig opening for The World Famous Blue Jays at the Mercury in NYC.  The Blue Jays were this great band led by Jeremy Tepper, now of Sirius Radio fame, that specialized in truck driving music with a shaggy rock and roll backbeat.  Jeremy started this label called “Diesel Only” that made 45s that would get stocked in truck stop jukeboxes, most of which concerned the truckdriving lifestyle.  Anyone in a touring band should find immediate parallels with the truckdriver life of constant motion, truck stops, lonely nights, and short ill-advised attractions to waitresses and barmaids.  I would immediately seek out anything on Diesel Only including a CD comp they did in the 90s.  It’s a highpoint in the alt country movement in my opinion.

Jeremy must have felt sorry for us and threw us a bone to open for them.  Getting a gig was always a hassle in New York because we immediately got the anti-Ohio bias and didn’t have the advantage of the in person schmooze.  I can’t tell you how many times we got booked in New York as third band on a five band bill and arrived to discover that we had been dicked over to play first or last.  We had more piece of shit New York pseudobands play suckass sets in front of us than any other city I can remember.  Jeremy though is a righteous dude.  He was letting us open at the Mercury, a great venue, and at a high profile gig no less.

The show was an all star tribute type of show where their musician friends all were coming up to play guest appearances on songs.  As these were really good guys that could all play their asses off, they knew everyone in town.  In essence my entire record collection was standing around in a room and going to watch us play.  Yo La Tengo casually leaned on the bar laughing with the Blue Jay guitar player.  Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and Andy York were debating gear with Bobby.  There’s the Swingin Neckbreakers over there.  Oh, Mojo Nixon is in town and going to do a song?  That guy plays with Marty Stuart?  Really?  Do I want to meet Will Rigby?  Yeah.  He’s coming with who?

By the time we had to play, the place had filled up.  I was completely intimidated.  At this point in my music “career” I was much more concerned at being found out as a fraud than I am now.  At this point our appearances would indicate a certain level of “professionalism” or at least “competence”.  At the time of this gig, I could barely sing.  Our band sort of reminded me of something I read about the Grateful Dead in the early 70s.  Like the Dead, we could either be very good or very bad.  This was just about the time we were finding our footing, and Bobby and I were just figuring out how to write decent songs.  What we thought of as “obscure” covers had been on most of the people in this room’s regular rotations for a decade.  We had probably five good originals.  We did have plenty of “ehh” originals though to play for the roots rock royalty.  Lucky them.

I will say this with great confidence.  I sucked.  I totally sucked.  I had one of those nights when I couldn’t seem to hear myself well enough to stay on key.  My vocal stayed in one of two places, flat or sharp.  I could see the crowd look on from being underwhelmed to totally disgusted.  As I struggled to get on point I could see accomplished musicians lean in to yell in Jeremy’s ear “Where did you find these guys?”.  The more I struggled the worse it got.  I was flaming out.  I could see it in the face of the crowd.  I got “The Fear”.

“The Fear” is the worst thing that can happen on stage.  When you suck but don’t know you suck, at least you are performing confidently.  Hell, in the past I have looked confident enough that I know even though I suck I can win people over on attitude alone.  “They must be good!  Look how much that singer guy is into it!”  Meanwhile when “The Fear” creeps in it all falls apart.  I tried to hit notes.  I failed.  I tried harder.  I failed worse.  No matter what I did, it got worse and worse.  My shoulders slumped.  I was dying a slow horrible death.  If I could go back and time and do one gig over, that would be it.   When I think of my life and things I could do over, there’s really only two things.  That’s one of them.

Afterwards I tried to blend into the walls.  No one came up to me with “lip service”, which is a true indication you were really bad.  When you play a show, generally the other bands will say things that sound complimentary but are really just hot air.  The best are the ones that are really jabs but sound like compliments when you first hear them.  Examples include:  “You guys have an interesting sound.”  Or “It looks like you guys had fun up there.” Or “That was really something.”  It’s the next day when you think about it and realize “Hey…  Wait a minute… That wasn’t a compliment!”  It’s a statement meant to convey camaraderie yet at the same time say “You guys aren’t as good as we are.  That’s why you played first. Remember that.”  Lip service.

I didn’t even get that.  That’s a really bad sign.  Really bad.  I remember Ira from Yo La Tengo giving me a look like he felt sorry for me yet still hated that he had to endure our set.  Even Roscoe, who at that point was almost in our employ to produce a full length, said “Oh man… Could you not hear yourself?”.  He looked on at me with the disappointed eyes of an Uncle you had let down on the football field in front of his co-workers.  I stammered out a bunch of flimsy excuses.  He knew.  They all knew.  I had flamed out on a big stage.  It was a disaster.  The Blue Jays then mercifully started and the crowd moved from the back of the room towards the front.  I sat at a round table with a big glass of Labatt Blue.  The Blue Jays set was great.  The guests were all awesome.  People forgot about me quickly enough I suppose.  The Labatt went down slowly.

I had a Labatt last night.  It’s been a long time since I have had one of those.  There’s definitely such a thing as “taste memory”.  As soon as I had a sip the first thing that hit my brain was the dark wooden walls of the club, the tattooed bartender sullenly wiping the bar, and the taste of that Labatt as I waited for the night to mercifully end so we could slink out of the city.  It was like walking into a time machine.  Last night I had two sips.  It all came flooding back to me from nowhere.  I had no choice.  I poured it out.  It was still too soon.