Monday, February 27, 2017

Nurse the Hate: My Wingwalking Days

I don’t remember if I ever told you about what happened to me after my ventriloquism career ended…  Shortly after emerging from rehab, I found myself adrift.  My so-called celebrity “friends” wouldn’t take my calls, or even acknowledge my existence.  At the time I was devastated to find myself so abandoned by what I thought of as my social support system.  Now looking back, I can understand why Sandra Bullock had security remove me from her property as I wandered around outside in the rain with no pants screaming “Sandy!  Sandy!  Come outside and have a drink with me you crazy fuck!”  Even Iggy Pop avoided me.  Shannon Hoon blocked my calls.  I had become unmoored as “The Second Golden Age of Ventriloquism” ended as quickly as it had begun.  I never saw it coming.  I had no skills and no plan.  Rehab provided me with a much needed reset, but I had no direction.

I can’t explain now why I thought my future was in Wingwalking and forming a barnstorming troupe.  You need to understand what it was like in America in 1994.  The war had just ended and the streets were filled with men like myself looking for adventure.  We were young and addicted to adrenalin, used to having our nerves on edge facing death while fighting The Hun.  Risk was our food.  The crazier the situation, the more we liked it.  It was at a logging camp outside of Coeur d’Alene when I first fell in with Danny “Hipshot” Hamilton, a former RAF pilot that was supporting his drinking by crop-dusting his way across America.  Hipshot had a biplane which he had won in a poker game in Minsk after the war on an inside straight on what could only be called “stacked odds” thanks to his proclivity for dealing from the bottom of the deck.  He was a hell of a character. 

Hipshot and I were cut from the same cloth in that neither of us was in much of a hurry to embrace an anchored life of a house, wife and 1.8 kids.  We were both broken in a sense.  Hipshot had just flown too many missions while I had never gotten over a blonde I had met backstage in an Edinburgh club while on tour with Temple of the Dog.  We were fast friends.  It was over the course of many bourbons at The 44 Club that we hatched our plan.  The idea was to make enough money on the small town air show circuit to finance an eventual trip to Hawaii where we would permanently perform for open mouthed tourists and make love to Island girls on the beach while drunk on rum.  In theory it was a great plan.  We really should have investigated the air show circuit more thoroughly.     

In the mid-1990s America was interested in two things:  The Macarena and Wingwalking.  It was just like the newsreels show it.  There wasn’t a bar you could walk into without running into a bunch of folks doing the Macarena talking about Wingwalking.  It was a mania.  Everyone was getting into it.  I remember seeing Ed Asner hanging off a tail section in Duluth in 1995.  Now here comes Hipshot and I trying to break into this circuit with absolutely no cred while big time acts like The Gates Flying Circus, Tex Rankin’s Flying Circus and The Wood Brothers Air Thrill Show are taking all available budgets.  We knew we had to come up with a competitive edge.  We were on the outside looking in.

I can’t recall which one of us came up with the idea of trying to train the wolves to wingwalk.  Hell, I barely knew what I was doing.  Our “show” at the time consisted of me being strapped onto the plane like Hannibal Lechter while Hipshot did various barrel rolls and loops while I barfed all over the place.  We were confident that there wasn’t a booking agent in the circuit that wouldn’t book us at top dollar if I could somehow get the wolves to jump through hoops on the wings while we roared over the crowd.  It was just a question of being able to train the wolves…

I will be honest.  Mistakes were made.  The first five or six wolves totally freaked out once I released them from their cage on the wing and immediately plunged to their deaths.  We couldn’t figure out how to get it done and were almost broke from the expense of wolves.  That was when we came up with the foot harness that kept them on the wing while I made a big show of tossing them scraps of meat while cracking a whip theatrically.  It wasn’t the trick show that we initially envisioned, but it was a hit.  We played them all.  Boise, Lincoln, Norman, Wichita… the entire circuit.  We were flush with cash.  Even the wolf didn’t have to be tranquilized as much as before as he had gotten used to chomping on Slim Jims at 8000 feet while being inverted.  Hawaii and our dreams were within reach.

It was probably inevitable that Danny “Hipshot” Hamilton would leave with the money.  It’s like the story of the scorpion that stings his friend the frog.  It was just in his nature.  I wasn’t even that mad.  I woke up on a Sunday morning in Springfield Missouri with $9, a wolf and no sign of Hipshot.  I let the wolf go in a park outside of town.  He’s still in Springfield as far as I know.  As for Hipshot, I’ve heard some rumors about him.  I’d heard he was a tattoo artist in the Philippines.  A tilt-a-whirl operator on the Georgia carnival circuit.  That he died diving for pearls in Indonesia.  He could be selling insurance here in town for all I know.  I will tell you this.  Whenever I hear the roar of a propeller plane I look up, just to see if it’s him.  Even after all that’s happened, I miss him.    

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Seven Earth Sized Planets Discovered! Oh no!

What an age of scientific wonder!  It was a very exciting thing to learn that there was a discovery of seven planets, some of which could be “awash in oceans and sustaining life”.   Normally these astronomy findings are a yawn, but this is a good one.  “The Trappist-1 planets make the search for life in the galaxy imminent,” said Sara Seager, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Sure, they are 40 light years away, but don’t let the distance get you down.  It’s time to focus on these and meet our new cosmic friends!

This is when things go off the rails for me.  Whenever scientists discuss finding and contacting other life in the galaxy, it is usually the same scenario.  All-knowing Super Beings travel here aboard unbelievably advanced spacecraft to deliver wisdom and enlightenment.  Gentle creatures gracefully glide out of tastefully designed sleek craft and present themselves to us to deliver gifts to benefit their new Earthling friends.  Oh mighty space creature, please allow me to understand the mysteries of life.  At last we can enjoy peaceful bliss here on Earth as all concerns have now been wiped away.

The other scenario is the Hollywood version of very angry super powerful armies of scary creatures that can not only destroy us physically but have also created weapons beyond imagination to wipe us off the planet.  Big scary spaceships arrive and somehow know that they need to blow up the White House, Eiffel Tower and Vatican ASAP.  They don’t blow up a Wal Mart distribution center.  Nope.  It’s always iconic pointless structures like the Statue of Liberty.  I have my doubts that someone would travel 40 light years away to come to a self-contained world that offers no danger to them just to kill everyone for the fun of it.  It would be like hopping in your car to drive to Guatemala to kick in an anthill.  Who needs the hassle?  Wouldn’t those space armies be flying around looking for other badass space armies to fight with via lasers?  That’s what I would do.

The one idea that no one seems to grasp is what if these aliens are less advanced than we are and require immediate help?  Our entire nation is getting worked up about this non-existent Mexican immigration menace.  Can you imagine how that plays out if the planet of Kronos decides they need to get a better life in San Diego?  Look, I don’t care what planet you live on, La Jolla is quite pleasant.  I’m sure the deadbeats of Kronos would like to walk around with an overpriced latte and look at the seals just like the yoga instructor residents of La Jolla do now.  These Trump core voters that are afraid of Mexicans will lose their minds.  “You know I thought those Mexican fellas with their brown skin and different way of talking were bad, but that’s before I saw these tentacles and antennae on these Kronos folks.  We need to build a roof on top of that wall to keep them out!”

I can see cable TV stations debating whether calling Kronos immigrants “Slimebacks” is racist.  Meryl Streep could stand quivering on the Oscars stage talking about how “some of my best friends are from Kronos”.  Johnny Depp would be tripping over himself trying to get in a band with a Kronos dude.  He would mumble away in interviews with his odd new Kronos accent about how he’s “always loved Kronos music… It’s so pure..”   Sean Penn would become a surprising new spokesman for the “Earth First” movement when he freaks out and reveals that his daughter has had a bizarre looking kid with blonde hair and tentacles with some Kronos guy that is living on Penn’s couch smoking weed.  Even I would become comfortable saying things like “I don’t have anything against them.  I have met some that are quite nice, but why do I have to pay taxes so they can just hang out at Starbucks wagging their antennae at girls all day?  I mean, I’d love to do that too, but I HAVE TO WORK!”.  Everywhere you look in urban city centers tentacles are flapping around with hissing Kronos asking “You got a dollar man?”.

Who the hell knows what is going on out there at Trappist-1?  We can’t deal with someone having a slightly different culture here on Earth.  What happens when we find out that a Krono culinary delight is eating live kittens?  Even Susan Sarandon will lose her shit on that one.  Take it from me, the move on these Trappist-1 planets is to keep an eye on them but from a nice safe distance.  Who needs the hassle?  We don’t know where to put Syrians.  What are we going to do with 2 million slithering deadbeats 40 light years from home?  “Excuse me sir?  I was on my way to work at Kronos and ran out of gas.  Do you have $4 million dollars so I can get back home?  It’s 40 light years away man..”  Meanwhile you have to do that move where you pat your pockets and pretend to look for cash…  It’s too much trouble.  Stay away from that Trappist-1.         

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Spring Reading

The musty smell was a constant in the bedroom.  He had tried various cleaning solutions to no avail.  There was something in the wooden floors and walls of the old house that just smelled like age and decay.  On warm days he would open the stubborn window and place a fan in the opening which only swirled the scent of the room as opposed to bringing in a new odor.  When the fan was on he would turn up the music to try and override the fan, so as a result most of the residents of the house had become quite familiar with the band Superchunk that Spring.

He had immersed himself in American writers of the early 20th century after his latest girlfriend had left him.  He complained to his friends about the sheer amount of reading he needed to accomplish, but honestly he was thankful for the opportunity to lose himself within the pages.  He spent lazy afternoons reading Fitzgerald.  When he closed the book he was always slightly surprised to find himself in the modest room instead of a sprawling house in the Hamptons in 1926.  He always read on the left side, which had been ‘his side” of the bed.  In the afternoon when the sun shone directly into the room it became warm and would make him sleepy.  He would place the book carefully on the nightstand and roll over to the right side of the bed.  The pillow still smelled like her.  He closed his eyes and breathed her in.  Sometimes she would enter into his dreams, confusing scenarios of 1920s parties where he could never find the door to exit.

He checked his messages constantly hoping she would initiate contact again.  He had called her once since she had left, immediately regretting it.  She had not answered the phone but he knew she would see his missed call and look at it like weakness.  In his mind she had somehow merged with the characters in his books, spending her nights being clever at fabulous parties while he sat in his self-imposed exile.   He was sure she was awash in suitors, each one more handsome and accomplished than he.  Superchunk gave way to Pavement.  The fan whirled.  He thought about how her long hair would move while she slept next to him.

It was a shock when he ran into her.  He was in the shabby grocery store near the city center.  As he always refused to get a cart or basket, he was perilously balancing cans of tuna, a loaf of bread, soup and a six pack of Bass Ale.  He was performing a cheap circus stunt with no audience.  He almost collided with her when he turned from the cooler, the beer precariously balanced on the tip of his index finger.  “Hi…”  He felt embarrassed.  He wasn’t sure why.  She stared at him with a look of light annoyance.  She had cut her hair from the long wild mane into a proper bob cut.  She looked great.  He instantly knew she didn’t love him anymore.  He stammered out some small talk.  She was composed.  He felt his face grow hot.   He felt like a fool.  He went home and washed the sheets and pillowcases.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Boat Club 5



You are being contacted to determine your continued interest in joining the Avon Lake Boat Club (ALBC) as a kayak member.  We our lease will be renewed shortly and the creek walls replaced this year.  We anticipate having a limited number of additional kayak spaces available once the creek walls are completed.

We will be eliminating the 'waiting list' as it has been known and have added a new Social Member classification to our rooster.  In the future, all boat storage spaces will be governed by the seniority of the Social members.  This same membership opportunity is available for those residents with motor boat interests.

The dues for a Social member is $100. annually, due the same as all members, March 31st.  The Social member non-voting classification is entitled to attend all ALBC functions, including the fishing derbies, socials, meetings, etc.  The goal of this new classification is to give residents an opportunity to build new friendships and learn about the opportunities members have to enjoy Lake Erie more fully. By utilizing this affordable opportunity, a more complete understanding of the club and benefits are realized without a major investment in a watercraft. The dues for regular motor boat or kayak members is $250. annually, with a one-time $100 initiation fee. 

Please respond by email (with all of your current contact information, including cell phone) if you are still interested in joining the Avon Lake Boat Club by Feb 27th, the date of our next General Membership Meeting at the Old Firehouse, beginning at 7:30 P.M.  If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 933-XXXX.

Ray Frank



To:  Ray Frank
       Avon Lake Boat Club

Fr:  Greg Miller
Re:  2017 membership opportunity

Ahoy Commodore Frank,

  I was pleasantly surprised to receive your correspondence today in regards to finally bringing me into the fold at the Avon Lake Boat Club.  Your timing is ideal.  A number of years ago I had reached out to Joe in regards to putting me on a fast track to get into the organization.  Joe must have placed me on a wait list, which seems absurd given my impressive qualifications and standing within the outlaw kayaking community.  As I had clearly indicated that I was a fellow “man of the sea”, it must have been a political situation internally at the ALBC which prevented not only my immediate admission to the organization but my swift ascension to leadership.  I congratulate you and your vision to bring me in to elicit a New Era of Freedom & Change at the club.

  I had reviewed your rules on the website and have a couple of quick questions.  In regards to the No Alcohol policy, is this a firm policy or more of a “nod and a wink” type regulation?  Most of the kayak men I know that are worth their salt like to take a good tug from the rum bottle now and again.  Who amongst us has not paddled out to the horizon line with a British Naval Rum in hand screaming incoherently?   What could be more satisfying after an afternoon of paddling with your harpoon in this, the Greatest Of Lakes, and then enjoying some cold ales?  I have a distinct vision of life in the Avon Lake Boat Club which includes me wandering around at sunset with a couple of cold ones with my fellow compatriots swapping tales of high seas adventure. 

  This is where my second question comes in.  Please note, not all of my personal associates are as active in the outlaw kayaking scene as I am, and are in a more complimentary role within my social circle shall we say.  We travel in a rather tight pack and they would need to fit in to life at the Avon Lake Boat Club as they would be there quite often.  I want to make sure they fit in.  I have taken the initiative and reached out to several of them to see if they would be comfortable in wearing nautical gear while on club grounds, and the response so far seems “good” to “very good”.  In fact, my associate Mr. Leo P. Love has let me know that he believes he can assemble a World War I era evening dress uniform to wear at the club whenever he is there loitering.  Frankly, I think this will add great character and color to the facility.  His knowledge of nautical terms is limited, but I think we will be able to create a laminated card with buzzwords and terms for him to use until he gets more comfortable mingling with other members.  With all these obvious benefits of having “my people” at the facility, will there be an issue having a blend of non-members within club events and facilities?

  Lastly, will I be able to have an honorary title of some kind?  My thoughts are we could create a title like “Kayak Admiral” that would be a good fit.  I would also construct a uniform to wear at all club events which I think would immediately grant the aura of authority and make the members comfortable right out of the gate.  I wouldn’t want any area of actual responsibility, but I could keep the members with kayaks in line if necessary.  As Kayak Admiral, it seems a reasonable expectation.  I would be tough, but fair.

  Let me know about these points when you have the opportunity.  There are a number of clubs in conversation with me right now.  I am weighing my options for the 2017 season and a triumphant return to Avon Lake is of interest.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Cenotes

“Greg my friend… It is Alvaro…  Listen my friend… I have hurt my shoulder.  It is immobilized.  I cannot dive with you tomorrow.  I feel terrible about that.  But I have set something up for you with someone I know so you can dive.  His name is Gerry.  I feel terrible about it.  But at least you can go.  Ok.  Goodbye my friend.”  Click.

With that I learned I would be going to diving with some strangers.  Normally this would have made me uptight, but I was feeling pretty zen about it.  It’s Mexico after all, and if things aren’t sort of fucked up then they aren’t really authentic.  The key to enjoying yourself in the Third World is to give in to the culture.  They have their own way of doing things.  Oh, the elevator is broken so this little kid is going to haul that heavy shit up four floors in a bucket with a string on the handle?  Hmm.  OK.  Sounds good.  How old is he?  11?  Hmm.  OK.  That’s fine.

I went to the small scuba shop on a sleepy side street.  Young boys in official employee polo shirts and rubber sandals gawked at the young women walking to work.  “Hey, is Gerry here?”  No Senor.  They gave no indication that the had any idea of even potentially knowing Gerry.  A small brown girl in tight jeans walked by as they both turned their heads to look at her ass.  “Alvaro sent me?”  Alvaro Senor?  Another small man in glasses emerged from the office.  “Are you Gerry?”  No senor.  “I’m supposed to go diving with some guy named Gerry?”  He stared at me for a moment and then dug into a manila folder.  Yes.  Yes.  OK… but senor?  It is very important that you do not tell the other people on the dive how little you pay.  Special price.

I have been to Mexico a dozen times or more.  There have been zero (0) occasions when I have not paid “a special price”.  This is just like how every single person you know that has purchased a car got “a great deal” on it.  You know you are getting screwed, you just don’t know how badly.  However, when you get screwed in a Mexican tourist town you are out $3 not $300 like in the States.  I settled back into the plastic chair to fill out a form comforted by the fact I would be paying this man a “special price” to dive with him.  What a day.  I was, in my own small way, making America great once again. 

OK Senor, Cheena will be here in a moment and he will take you.  “Cheena?”  Yes, like “China” the country but sounds like “Cheena”.  As if on cue a small middle aged man with gold teeth walked into the shop.  He moved quickly, almost harried as he gathered gear.   He had the leathery limber strength of a man that has spent a life working outside.  “OK my friend… You have gear?  No?  OK..  Try this on…  No, this one!  OK…  You OK with deep dive?”  How deep?  “Eh?  120 feet?”  Yeah I guess.  “OK”  Hey, where are we going?  “Cenote”  Is that off Cozumel?  He looks at me with an incredulous look.  “Cenote!”  OK.  Whatever.

One of the things to know about diving sites is they are all named.  Usually they have these great adventure sounding names.  “The Devil’s Throat” is a favorite.  What better to swagger around in a beach side bar than to say “Yeah, so we drop down into the Devil’s Throat and the fucking current is ripping.”?  The fact it is a small swim through with a bunch of pretty little fish isn’t really something people need to know.  It could just as easily have been called “Butterfly Daydream”.  It’s hard to embrace that skull and crossbones sea mythology when you are dropping into “Butterfly Daydream” though.  In Mexico it might not surprise you to learn that most of these sites have Spanish names.  I have recently learned that the official language of Mexico is Spanish, hence the proliferation of Spanish terms.  Since my Spanish is essentially limited to two words (Cerveza and banos), if you tell me we are going to “Bolones de Chankanaab” or “Cinotes”, it’s all the same to me.  I don’t know where the fuck we are going.

The people I am diving with turn out to be two very attractive Swiss girls and one of their boyfriends, who is of course athletic and handsome.  They are very Swiss.  By this I mean they have that confidence of growing up Swiss, where everything is beautiful, works precisely according to plan and there is more than enough money to do whatever you want.  They are probably better at everything than I am.  They are all proficient in a number of different languages, are well traveled, and knowledgeable in every topic that crops up on the eternal car ride to “Cenotes”.  One of the girls is an orthopedic surgeon.  Of course she is.  The guy is finishing out medical school.  They all have a sense of humor, which is rare in Switzerland.  They’re really fun.  We get along quite well despite me being this weird American fourth wheel.

We make a right turn down a dirt road into the jungle.  There is no ocean in sight.  The drive down the hot dusty road is ten minutes or more.  We finally stop in a circular crude parking area where about six trucks have people in various stages of putting on/taking off dive gear.  This is when I learn a “cenote” is a sink hole in the earth where underground caverns run though limestone.  I will be climbing down a rickety ladder in full dive gear, jumping into a hole in the jungle and swimming into a cave that is 400 feet deep.  Hmm.  OK.  This looks pretty fucked up and well beyond my meager skills, but why let the possibility of death stop me?  The drive was pretty long, so I might as well jump into a cave with four strangers and drop down into a tight passage 120 feet under the water.  Besides, I don’t want to look like a pussy in front of the Swiss girls.

There is no way in hell any American insurance company would allow this to happen.  The staircase down the rockface to the pit is closer to a ladder.  That alone would have some State Farm guy in cardiac arrest.  Forget the fact that I’m wearing a scuba tank, in a wet suit, holding swim fins, and in flip flops with someone ahead and behind of me while descending this wet ladder.  It’s an excellent place to break multiple bones.  I get to the bottom, get my fins on, and jump in the pit.  It’s cold fresh water.  We descend into the pit.  The water is crystal clear, unlike anything I have ever seen really.  It’s the clearest pool in the world.  At one point the fresh and salt water mix and it creates a cloudy visual.  We drop below that to an entrance of an offshoot cave.  Flashlights on.  The natural light has disappeared. 

I am not normally claustrophobic.  Allow me to be honest.  I will freely admit that after six minutes of swimming further and further into the darkness and banging my tank on the cave ceiling, it was starting to work on my mind.   Silt made the visibility diminish.  Clank.  It’s getting tight.  Depth 126 feet.  I’m having buoyancy issues.  I am 100% in over my head on this dive.  OK, I am ready to start working towards the surface.  Don’t freak out.  Anyone seen the sun lately?  There’s no visible way out, but don’t freak.  I scanned in front of me with the flashlight.  Yes, your air is getting a bit low, but I’m sure this man you met an hour ago named Cheena with the gold teeth has everything worked out to the smallest detail.  Sure, he never asked you about your experience, but they wouldn’t just let some asshole jump down into an underwater cave would they?    

Finally natural light.  We emerge from the deep cavern.  We have to ascend in slow circles to decompress.  The dive, despite otherworldly beauty at times, wasn’t so much a pleasure as an endurance test.  Had I been an English frogman in WWII, the dive master ranking officer with a walrus mustache would have said “Let’s test your mettle a bit, eh Old Bean?”.  My mettle was tested.  We climbed the dangerous ladder back out of the hole, took of our tanks at the truck, and drove to another hole in the jungle.

We had some surface time to kill before jumping into the next spot.  I resolved to do a better job this time with my technique.  I absolutely detest not being as good at something as those around me.  The Swiss divers looked like fucking water fairies.  Meanwhile I felt like one of those primitive Civil War submarines.  Sonofabitch.  This next spot was a lengthy run through caverns.  Though only 15 feet in depth, they were totally submerged without any air pockets.  Freaking out means you probably die.  There was a nylon rope strung along the recommended path.  As the caverns stretch out in multiple directions, it would be very easy to swim off down a corridor and get lost.  Cheena gathered us for a pre-dive plan.  “OK, we will go in the order we stand here, OK?  Greg?  You take up the back?”  Sure.  Let me stay back here and make sure everyone else is OK.  Got it. 

It was probably about 20 minutes in when I got caught up swimming through a tight passage.  I was stuck.  In front of me the rest of the group moved ahead, took a left and dropped out of sight.  I waved my flashlight behind me to see what the hell I could be snagged on.  Nothing.  I swam forward.  Something held me back again.  I reached around my tanks feeling for something hanging onto the gear.  Nothing.  What the hell?  This was the time I reminded myself “Hey man, if you freak out right now, you’re done.”  I backed up again.  This is when I noticed my air gauge had somehow caught on the yellow nylon guide rope.  By my swimming forward I had now knocked the gauge out of alignment and was leaking air.  Hmm.  That’s not good considering I am alone and have no idea the quickest way to the surface.  In a restaurant I would have raised a finger and said “Waiter?”.  I untangled the line and swam ahead to try and catch Cheena.  Where the hell are they?  If there is one thing a leathery Mexican guy with gold teeth can do, it’s probably fix a fucked up diving gauge.

The Swiss who had been effortlessly sliding through the skinny rock openings with their perfectly toned bodies noted me passing them with some surprise.  I caught up the Cheena and pointed to my hose leaking air.  Had I been able to I would have said “Dude, I am not real handy, so if I try to do something here I will either fix it in a half assed fashion or knock it off completely and drown.  Can you give a brother a hand?”.  I think he must have recognized that in my pointing to the bubbling hose because he fixed it pretty quickly.  He then made the “OK?” sign and I gave one back.  Good times.  I clanked my way around the underwater tunnels until we returned to the original hole.  It was really beautiful with stalactites throughout.  It’s like swimming through a James Cameron movie set.  That said, it’s as David Foster Wallace once noted “a supposedly fun thing that I will never do again”.                 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Comrade Trump

It is absolutely astounding to me that our elected president was apparently involved in colluding with Russian intelligence and we haven’t burned him and his crew at the stake.  Is this a bit Biblical or Puritanical?  Yes, but may I remind you that the Pilgrims were a bit uptight so that this might be the best course of action from a historical sense.  The ceremony could be held at Salem Massachusetts and televised, finally getting Trump his coveted #1 Neilson household rating.

This sort of reminds me of Watergate and Nixon, but it is more unreal.  I read a Dan Rather opinion piece where he remarked that this scenario couldn’t be drawn up as a Hollywood popcorn movie as it is too unbelievable to get a green light to produce.  I think that is the one thing that has saved Trump and Company so far in that it seems so totally crazy that normal citizens are all asking themselves “There’s no way that could be true, right?”.   Yet, it seems that it is what it looks like as most things usually turn out.  Whenever I have ever heard someone say “this isn’t what it looks like!” it is in fact 100% of the time always EXACTLY what it looks like.  I walked into a room to get my coat at a party and found my buddy’s sister naked on top of a bartender.  She quickly blurted out “this isn’t what it looks like!”.  It was.  It was EXACTLY what it looked like.

I am not sure as to why Trump is choosing to poke the bear that is the Intelligence Community.  The Intelligence Community is a business that specializes in finding out what you are up to and then can either allow you to weather a storm or bring down a massive thundercloud of shit on top of you.  Why Trump continues to suggest that these people are stupid and “un-American” is just about the worst tactic I could ever think of in this scenario.  If I were him I would bake up a nice Bundt cake and send it on over tomorrow.  While this would not completely heal the wounds of their fighting, a good Bundt cake can go a long way.  “Hey, he called us unpatriotic because we caught him working with one of our biggest adversaries buuuuuut… that Bundt cake was really moist and sort of fabulous.  Let’s not tell anyone about him colluding with Russian spies in the election.”

The other amazing thing is the still unwavering support from the ardent Trump supporters.  How anyone with a rational mind can look at this situation and not think something very fishy went on is beyond me.  On top of that the big time Trump honk loves telling you how much they love America because of how American they are while they are being American in America.  It can’t be easy for them to pretend they are suddenly chummy with Russia.  If the names in this story had been switched out to “Clinton”, I know a dozen people that would have spontaneously combusted in pure rage.  Why they are shucking and jiving through this with Trump is baffling.  Trump isn’t even Republican.  He’s a cheap used car salesman.  It’s been very interesting to watch these poor saps try to figure out how to spin this in a way that makes it OK.  The fact that any sitting Congressman or Senator isn’t demanding a complete “what the fuck is going on here?” investigation should make them immediately dismissed from their post as they clearly aren’t acting in the country’s best interests.  This story is completely insane. 

I saw a former intelligence officer today noted that a senior intelligence community friend emailed him saying “He (Trump) will die in jail”.  That’s probably not good to have being said about you from a bunch of guys in trench coats.  Buckle up.  This is going to get good.  Somebody get the nuclear football away from the douche at Trump’s country club.  We are going to need that back.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate My Ventriloquism Days

I can’t recall if I had told you about my days as a ventriloquist.  Those of you that are fans of the genre are no doubt familiar with the act “Livingston and Swope”.  I had taken the stage name “Swope” as a lad while woodshedding my craft at the St. Mary’s Home For Boys.  I was a frightfully unpopular orphan and had turned to ventriloquism as refuge from the toughs and hooligans that surrounded me in the shelter.  I had been given my first puppet by kindly Sister Mary Catherine who had fished it out of the River Thames and dried it on the steam radiator.  Even now I can remember the smell of the St. Mary’s basement as I spent hour upon hour perfecting my technique in solitude.  Though it was filthy and missing an arm, I loved that puppet.  I was a sensitive boy more inclined to art, and my art was that of ventriloquism.  I had found my true talent.

The early 1990s were known for two things, grunge and celebrity ventriloquism.  I was quite fortunate to have been living in Portland in 1991 where I worked on an organic chicken farm and worked on my act at night in the small boardinghouse where I rented a modest room.  In a pawn shop near the Portland bus station I was fortunate enough to spot what would become known as the “Livingston” dummy.  I knew at once this was the dummy I had been looking for these many years.  As I didn’t have enough money at the time to afford the puppet, I worked out a deal to pay half down and paint the interior of the pawn shop after closing.  I am forever grateful to Portland Super Pawn owner Fat Manny Sanguillen in providing me that opportunity.  That puppet changed my life. My profile was raised almost immediately with opening slots for Green River as well as an early incarnation of Nirvana.  There was an undeniable buzz surrounding “Livingston and Swope”. 

It might be difficult to believe now, but ventriloquism had a major renaissance in the early days of grunge.  The natural symbiotic relationship of the urgency and power of the early grunge movement meshed perfectly with the Vaudeville traditions of classic ventriloquism.  There was a magic in the air during those early gigs.  Something was happening.  You could feel it.  I fondly recall sitting out on the stage on my wooden chair with Livingston in a zone.  The crowd all enraptured as I closed with our trademark home run joke.  “Livingston, I heard you slept under a car last night?  Why did you do such a thing?”  The puppet then responding with his now famous accent reminiscent of a British Amos N Andy.  “Well Mr. Swope, I wanted to wake up oily!”  Even now I can see a young Eddie Vedder laughing himself almost to tears just off stage.  It was a special time.

Things happened fast for all of us.  The early tours were great, being on the road with everyone in the scene.  It was a whirlwind.  35 dates with Pearl Jam.  Two days off.  Back on the road with Screaming Trees.  I did 300 dates in 1993 alone.  The Rolling Stone feature and then the cover of Spin magazine confirmed what we all felt.  Ventriloquism was back on top.  Livingston and Swope were major celebrities.  Movie stars counted us as friends.  I rode motorcycles with Patrick Swayze and made love to the entire female cast of Beverly Hills 90210.  I thought nothing could touch me. 

The first time I did heroin was with Layne Staley of Alice In Chains at Lollapalooza.  I was playing the side stage for the West Coast leg.  Layne loved Livingston.  He was, admittedly, “never much of a Swope man”.  We would all sit in his trailer killing time waiting for our sets, smoking various exotics, and then stare at Livingston.  I swear one night Livingston started reciting Proust on his own.  The slide into the heroin was gradual but looking back it was completely inevitable.  Things had changed.  It was then that the public’s fickle tastes had shifted away from ventriloquism and right into the swing revival.  Before I had even known what had happened most of my opening slots had been snapped up by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Squirrel Nut Zippers.  I had a drug habit and rapidly dropping income.  People I thought of as friends stop taking my calls.

The end of “Livingston and Swope” came quietly.  I was in my chair at Lounge Ax, first on a four band bill with Menthol.  I was dope sick and shaky.  There’s a video out there on YouTube.  I can’t bear to watch it.  At the 12-minute mark I turn my head and throw up on the stage, wipe my face with Livingston and launch into what was the last bit.  “Well Livingston, looks like you have some vomit on your tuxedo!”  That’s no surprise Swope…  Because you’re a fucking junkie!”  The crowd stopped talking and paid attention to what was a man melting down in front of them.  In many ways it was our greatest show.  The curtain was pulled.  I was tossed out the back door.  Livingston and Swope were finished.

There were many dark days to come before hitting rock bottom.  We did things in cheap motel rooms for our fix that shocked even the jaded crowds in therapy sessions when they were recounted.  It was only when I saw the stained Livingston folded over on a flophouse floor in Boston that I said “enough”.  As an act of mercy I tossed Livingston into the Charles River.  I had one single tear roll down my cheek as I saw him get carried down river in the cool brown water.  My days of ventriloquism were over.  I entered rehab.  My life could begin again.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Betsy DeVos

It’s an exciting age we live in when a woman that would probably be going for her real estate license to “keep her busy” instead gets to be in charge of the Department of Education because she is a billionaire political donor.  Betsy DeVos is as qualified to be Secretary of Education as I am to be Chief Surgeon at Cleveland Clinic.  Frankly, I might be more qualified to be chief surgeon as I used to watch a lot of MASH episodes as a kid.  I know I can say things like “close him up” after walking away from the table.  I could also probably do that move where I take off my glasses and wipe them with a cloth when I tell a patient “It’s never easy to deliver news like this…  You don’t have much of a chance…  But there is a radical procedure we can try that just might save your life.”  I would generally say that with a furrowed brow as I look up from my glass cleaning activity and then place them back on my face while looking oddly confident for a man that has never gone to medical school.

It’s not just me that knows Betsy DeVos is unqualified.  Every single person in the Senate knew it too.  It’s like you woke her up at some luxury hotel on vacation and tossed her up in front of a Senate hearing to answer questions on a subject with which she had complete unfamiliarity.  Like how the American public education system works.  She would have had just as good of a chance effectively answering questions for heading up defense or energy.  She actually got to live that dream where you show up for an exam and you are completely unprepared.  I guess to have been exactly like that nightmare she would have been in her underwear.  She’s a billionaire.  I bet she has nice underwear.  High end for sure.  Dammit.  Now I’m thinking about Betsy DeVos's preferred pantie style.  I didn’t ask for this!  Damn you Trump.

Back to the point.  She is totally unqualified to run public education.  It’s not like this is my opinion.  It couldn’t have been more evident.  That Senate hearing was a hoot.  The bottom line is that almost every single one of those reprehensible worms in the Senate is more concerned with keeping their mouth in the trough in Washington instead of serving any of the people that voted for them.  They could have found someone else after having some unpleasantness or just vote her in.  They then met expectations and voted in a complete incompetent.  If they had been given the task of voting in a mallard duck for that position, they would have done so.  “Well, though the duck has limited experience in running public schools, I would like to point out that this particular mallard duck is very enthusiastic and will make an excellent Secretary.  The duck is Christian too!”   Quack.

Please note that I do not think the Democrats are wonderful for voting against her either as I firmly believe that the only reason they opposed her was that they couldn’t figure out how to rubber stamp her through without giving at least the appearance of caring about the people they represent.  They were only howling in protest because they thought maybe they could get a win for "their team" with this unlikely cabinet appointee.  The Democrats don't really care about public education.  The only thing any of these people care about is maintaining their lives in Washington DC.  It must be an awesome lifestyle.  Ozzy Osbourne didn't try that hard to stay a rock star, and he got to do literally anything he wanted.  Imagine how great it must be to have one of those Senate gigs.  They will do absolutely anything to stay.  Anyone that gets in to Congress immediately loses their ethical compass and ends up like that spineless twerp Mitch McConnell.  Interviewer:  “Senator McConnell, President Trump referred to a federal judge as “so-called”, compared the United States with Russia on human rights violations and once again oddly complimented Putin while refusing to divulge his finances. What do you think?”  McConnell:  “I’m not going to get into that.  Excuse me I am late for my wife’s appointment to become Secretary of Transportation.”

I really screwed up.  I never should have done this rock band thing.  I should have become more “electable”.  Maybe I could have been charming and given the appearance of wanting to serve my community.  True, getting in would have been tough if anyone even made a cursory glance at my background.  The election would have been especially difficult for me as the bad decisions of my youth and subsequent years would have been almost impossible to explain away.  I've done things that are tough to explain in context, much less the things that could be dredged up out of context.  You never know though.  Trump was out there grabbin' pussy and he won.  I might have been one Kellyanne Conway away from living the dream and making it impossible for your kids to get the critical thinking necessary to have never voted for me in the first place.  

God Bless America.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate Flight 173

They got the last two seats back to Los Angeles.  Blank faced travelers wearily entered the jet for the last flight of the day and trudged up the aisle.  They had originally been scheduled to leave on the 5:35, but he couldn’t seem to “get it together” in time to get to the airport so she had to scramble to re-ticket.  She felt frazzled and desperate.  All she wanted was to get home to her apartment.  To be alone.  “This is flight 173 bound for Los Angeles with a scheduled arrival time of 10:17.  If Los Angeles is not your final destination, please let a flight attendant know.”  The trip had been a disaster.  He was somehow still oblivious to her radical change of heart.  He now sat next to her with his knit cap, sweat pants and Vans.  He looked a decade younger than his 28 years.  Up until last night, she had thought that was cute.  Now she couldn’t wait to get off this plane and get away from him as soon as the flight landed at exactly 10:17 PM.

He had adopted the SoCal stoner/brain damaged vibe that was so en vogue with seemingly every male in the 75-mile radius of Los Angeles.  This was despite the fact that he was originally from Boise.  It was all part of the new identity he had created for himself.  The bored flight attendant made a monotone safety announcement into the intercom.  He stared at his phone playing a game slouched in his seat saying “I like this game because, it’s like… a puzzle… heh heh heh!”  Oh God.  The swiftness with which her feelings about him had changed shocked even her.  Just one day ago she found him completely cute, his childlike manner completely endearing.  Now all she wanted was for him to take his leg away from brushing up against hers. 

They had traveled to the Bay Area for her college roommate’s wedding.  She had expected all of her friends to warm up to him as she had and think he was “darling”.  He was so fun and spontaneous.  However, in this case “fun and spontaneous” had meant him getting high on the loading dock with a busboy while she stood alone on the dance floor looking for him.  Her friends had been polite.  They were always polite.  One even suggested that “he seems nice”, though it was obviously a gesture more than an actual feeling.  She felt a shudder of embarrassment when she realized how others saw him.  How they saw her.  After that, she could not recapture the flicker of attraction that had blown out.  It had all happened in an instant. 

After the reception, they had stayed at her roommate’s apartment instead of a hotel.  Boxes containing her childhood years were stacked in the far corner awaiting storage.  The only remaining furniture was the double bed and kitchen table.  Sound echoed around the nearly empty apartment.  There was a chill.  She had curled up on the bed and faced the wall away from him, waiting him out to leave her alone.  He pressed himself against her back presenting his erection against her backside as an invitation she refused to acknowledge.  He made small kisses on her neck as she stared at a Monet print leaning against the wall, hoping he would stop.  She pretended to sleep.  Eventually his stroking of her had matched the same rhythm of his breathing and he lulled himself to sleep.  In the morning she carefully got out of bed without waking him, moving into the kitchen like a cat burglar.

She had been short with him all afternoon.  He hadn’t seemed to notice even when she thought she might scream when he caused them to miss their scheduled flight.  How was it possible for him to take 90 minutes to shower and pack a small overnight bag?  They were late leaving the city and then traffic had trapped them.  She frantically had gone through every permutation of potential return flights on her phone while he had advised her to “chill out”.  It had been a quiet wait at the airport for their later flight.  The hum of the engines picked up urgency as they rolled down the runway.  He was staring at his phone, his mouth slightly open.  A small cartoon character hopped across the screen.  He smiled and made a small laugh.  “Heh Heh Heh”  He leaned his head against her shoulder and she stiffened reflexively.  She sat absolutely upright.  Another announcement crackled over the intercom.  “Please prepare for takeoff.”   She looked at the clock on her phone.  9:24.  53 minutes to landing.  All she needed to do was make it to 10:17.  

She could make it.