Thursday, December 28, 2017

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week 17, Pop The Champagne

I have amassed what I would call “an irresponsible amount” of champagne and sparkling wine.  I have one final sparkling wine unit to pass to finally finish my quest for this WSET Diploma.  The word “quest” sounds a bit overdramatic.  I understand that.  However, I find that word to be much preferable to the word “journey”.  The word “journey” is used so often in today’s polite society that it really gets in my craw, and I don’t like to have things in my craw.  I don’t even like to say “craw” much less have something stuck in there.  I'm not even positive where my craw is, so getting what is stuck in it out isn't going to be easy.  

Here's the thing with "journey"...  It used to be that you took a job.  Now people are referring to their series of crappy jobs as their “career journey” with a straight face.  Someone takes a class that lasts for eight weeks.  At the end of the class the instructor might say “When we began this journey…” and no one laughs out loud.  If you were taught rudimentary French while sitting in a conference room, you did not take a journey.  If you loaded a sailboat with Vikings, ale, hard tack, and axes to attack villagers across the sea?  Yes, you made a journey.  The differences are tangible.  Text book and quizzes= No Journey.  Decapitated villagers and plunder= Journey.

I believe my pursuit of a laughably useless wine certification is a quest and not a journey.  The rationale is quite simple.  There are no decapitated villagers or drunk Vikings, therefore I did not make a journey.  At one point, I did go to Bordeaux for ten days, so I did tick a box or two for “journey” as I crossed the ocean and at one point argued with an Air France clerk unsuccessfully.  I will admit that I might have decapitated her had I been given the opportunity.  I was, as they say in Francois, "en colère".  I think it is evident that if I would have attacked a French citizen with an axe at any point there taking WSET crap, it would have swung this over to “journey”.   Yet since there was no axe attack, this is a quest.  No doubt about it.

A quest is a long arduous search for something which I believe ends with a tangible goal.  This WSET Diploma has certainly been a long arduous search and while I think I only get a lapel pin at the end of it, it is still a tangible item.  Granted, the Quest for the Holy Grail might have been more high profile.  The payoff of the Grail is without question more impressive than a lapel pin.  I don’t think anyone would have sent thousands of men to their deaths for Jesus’s lapel pin.  Frankly, I have never seen compelling evidence that Jesus was much of a dresser.  Regardless, both the Knights of the Holy Grail and myself are involved in comparable quests.  Unlike them, I will succeed.

The bottom line is I need to immerse myself in sparkling wine.  This means I will be opening an absurd number of bottles of low dosage, grower and vintage champagne this Sunday while watching football with friends that have almost no interest in the quality or even characteristics of any of the wines.  This is a foolish and expensive endeavor.  Ideally, I should be sitting in a room with good lighting debating mousse levels with someone that can participate in such a frivolous conversation and then ride a tandem bike to the store to buy more.  Life doesn't always work like you want it to work.  Now, I am forced by circumstance to dig in on Sunday and try to win the cost of these wines back with good old fashioned elbow grease.  By “elbow grease”, I mean “gambling on football”.

The last weekend of the year is a wilderness of mirrors.  It is almost impossible to figure out if teams have packed their bags for Barbados or are mentally invested in getting one more win.  I am going to completely avoid games like “Giants v Redskins” where every player is a potential rogue agent.  Why roll the dice on the Texans v Colts game where a third string Texan QB will assumedly hand the ball off all day against an awful Colt run defense? 

I cannot figure out why the Panthers are getting 4.5 points against the Falcons.   They need a win to get the NFC South title and host a playoff game.  They are 7-1 straight up in their last eight.  Frankly, they look like a hard out in the Playoffs.  More than a field goal seems crazy to me.  This seems like a “last possession wins”, so give me the points and the hot team.   I am going to get aggressively on the Panthers and hope the points carry the day.  Carolina +4.5

The Raiders are getting 9.5 points against the Chargers.  As I bravely stated at the beginning of the year, the Raiders were due to regress.  ( You’re welcome for the two out of three winners by the way.  However, I don’t think anyone was expecting 6-10.  A team slides to 7-9 and team management can explain that away.  Ten losses and the coaches are looking for new jobs.  I will bet that the coaches like living in the San Francisco Bay area making a ton of money.  I know I would.  I would also like to make the move to Vegas with the team making a ton of money next year.  This is a big game for the Raiders.  I think they play hard.  Let’s also note that the Chargers don’t crush anyone (except the Cowboys).  I could see a Raider straight up win, but I’m just taking the points.  Raiders +9.5      

Season Record (including win totals):  23-19-1

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Frozen Lake

The lake would freeze solid by December in most years.  Intrepid outdoorsmen would go out onto the windswept ice and fish.  Some men would mill about their holes in the ice wearing snowmobile suits and multiple layers of clothes in a failed attempt at beating back the unrelenting wind.  Others would haul homemade shanties out onto the ice via snowmobiles.  There on the raised platforms they would fire up space heaters and drink, the hole in the ice an excuse to escape their families.  The success of the fishing was unimportant.  The camaraderie shared between the men out on the ice was the real reason most endured the activity.  It was something to do during the cold.

In a small town to the north, most men are outdoorsmen.  There just isn’t anything else to do but drink and smoke, which most of these men did as well.  Cans of Stroh’s would sit exposed on the ice where it wasn’t important to keep it cold so much as hoping the beer wouldn’t slush up from exposure to the elements.  At intervals, a whiskey bottle would be passed around and the men took turns taking long pulls and laughing at inside jokes.  I was a boy watching everything, excited to be part of this ritual.  I noticed all the small details of their language with each other.  I noticed how ice would be skimmed out of the fishing holes.  I was miserable in the elements but happy to be there.  It felt like a rite of passage.

There is a distinctive sound when ice of a certain thickness cracks.  It almost sounds like a large tree breaking off a major limb.  It’s a deep sound.  There is no mistaking it.  Instinctually everyone stops dead in their tracks to take stock to see if this sound is going to create disaster for them personally.  Heads turn on a swivel.  About 50 yards away I could see a pair of arms and a head reaching up out of the ice.  The ice had cracked open and a man had fallen in.  Men started to yell and run towards the man in the hole.  There was chaotic activity.  Two men ran the long distance to the shore to try to retrieve the emergency pole that could be used to pull a man out.  It was a long run made longer by snowmobile suits and winter boots.  “You boys stay back!” a man said to me and swiped us back with his forearm.

Three men yelled at their friend in the ice.  The man slowly struggled in the water.  Each time he tried to grab the edge, the ice broke loose making the hole larger.  “Hold on!  We’re getting the pole”.  The two men that had run for the pole were almost to the shore.  I could hear the man in the water breathing heavily and gasping.  His jacket arms made dull thudding noises as he tried to get any type of hold to haul himself out of the water.  It must have been incomprehensible how cold the water felt, how quickly it had happened to him.

The man in the hole began to slow in his movements.  This increased the urgency of the tone and language of his friends on the ice.  “Hold on!”  The men with the pole looked like they were furiously running back but they seemed to make no progress.  The sheer white of the snow met the light gray of the sky providing no sense of scale.  They didn’t seem to be getting closer.  The man in the water looked right at one of the men cautiously near the spot where the ice had cracked.  I could see he was only looking at that one man.  He spoke in an odd calm voice.  “I’m going under.”

The man in the water slipped below the surface.  The water was very dark, almost black.  I saw the man disappear.  The top of his black stocking cap made one final appearance above the water and then sunk under the ice.  He was gone.  The men around the hole yelled out.  We all waited to see if he would surface.  It was quiet as we stared at the ice as if making a sound would reduce his chances of survival.  The two red faced panting men arrived with the pole.  One of the other men grabbed the pole and began to flail at the hole hoping to snag the man in the water.  He was gone.      

I never went ice fishing again.  I walked across that frozen lake only once more in my life.  I was an adult.  That day the ice was clear.  There was no snow to obscure the visibility.  Small fish swam close to the surface.  It felt like magic being able to walk across the water with the fish lazily swimming below you.  A child squealed out in delight at seeing the fish.  Small shanties were set up about 200 yards away.  Men stood in cold weather gear in small groups watching for indications of nibbles on their line.  Some men smoked.  It was the same general area where I saw the fisherman die all those years ago.  I thought about that day but didn’t say anything to the people with me.  There was no point.  It was late December.  The ice was frozen to a safe thickness.     

Monday, December 25, 2017

Nurse the Hate: New Cowslingers Record

So, there’s a new Cowslingers record.  It started out as an idea.  Bobby and I decided to write some songs.  It was always easy for us.  We have had the ability to speak in shorthand that doesn’t make much sense to anyone else but we understand it.  It’s the product of too much time in the van and shared taste.  “OK, this is like an Evan Johns thing but with an early Tbirds vibe.  No, it’s gotta sound thicker than that.  Yeah but not all 70s out.  And we have to do that bridge thing twice but maybe only the second time.  You know?”  The best thing with songwriting is to be able to collaborate and make something better than either one of you could do on your own.  You need to be able to communicate and have a shared idea of what is good.  Enthusiasm for ideas and creativity goes a long way.

We wrote almost a complete record in a week.  I had been sitting on some ideas that were “Cowslinger” things.  Bobby had some riffs.  It was shockingly easy.  It came together.  We felt confident about the songs.  Now, maybe you’ll listen to these songs and think “Good God did those guys have some misplaced confidence there.”, but we felt good about them when we rolled into the basement.  This was Stage 2 of the experiment.  Would the band still sound good?  Krusty had to blow the dust off his bass.  We hadn’t played together in years except for a couple one offs where we played songs that are still muscle memory.  100+ shows a year for a half decade will do that for you.  But writing new material is a different beast altogether.

I won’t sugarcoat this.  Our first “practice” was a disaster.  I have no idea what Leo was up to prior to going down to the basement, but he was higher than most people at a Phish show.  He was all over the place.  Krusty immediately had equipment problems that didn’t help his trying to remember how to play the instrument.   I forgot words to our old songs we played to warm up.  I kept stumbling on the new melodies.  Bobby was asking “wait… how did that go again?”.  We sort of sucked.  We didn’t suck badly enough to scrap the entire thing, but there were some anxious phone calls between Bobby and I questioning the basic ability of this group of people being able to pull this off.

Then we had the second practice and it all clicked like it always had.  Leo was ready after being challenged by Bob.  Krusty remembered how to play the bass.  I remembered what the hell to do on the new stuff.  Bobby drilled the songs and was ready.  We still had whatever fragile magic that the four of us can conjure up when the wind is blowing right.  It sounded good.  The new stuff sounded like Cowslingers.  A heavy sigh of relief.

We recorded with John Smerek up at Rust Belt, where the last few Daredevils records have been recorded.  John already knew everyone but Bobby, so we wouldn’t have to tiptoe getting to know the guy behind the board.  He knew what the basic aesthetic was that the band was seeking.  We could just get down to work and blow the songs down as live as possible.  So that’s what we did.  Two days.  Basic tracks on Saturday.  All the vocals and doubled guitar tracks on Sunday.  We were on the road home before the sun set on Sunday.

I called John on Monday.  “Hey man.  Am I crazy or is that shit we just recorded good?”  John gave me a surprised laugh.  “Ahhhh, yeah!”  The thing is whenever you’re involved in recording something that you’ve written, the brain will often make it sound like what was in your head.  When it’s in my head, the idea always sounds like a slick FM radio track that just came out of nowhere and is perfectly mixed.  Add in the enthusiasm you have for your songs and it can be a self delusional ride.  The mind won’t want to hear how thin the guitar sounds or how flat you sang that note.  It’s the pitch perfect version in your imagination that resonates.  Someone needs to pull you aside and whisper, “Um, that’s not the final version, is it?”.  I trust John for that, but I secretly suspect he’s too nice a guy to point out our lesser tracks could use a little elbow grease in Santa’s Workshop.

We decided to do a few shows to pay for the recording.  It’s not cheap to make a record.  Just because you steal all your music from the internet doesn’t mean it was free for the people to make it.  Yeah, I know what you are up to on that computer of yours!  This studio shit adds up fast.  We are hoping you’ll buy a CD from us or at least the digital files on Bandcamp.  I don’t know if this record is a stupid vanity project or a continuation of the Cowslingers catalogue.  My gut tells me it’s picking up where we left off.  Give it a listen.  We hope you like it.              

Friday, December 22, 2017

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week 16

A family holiday gathering is typified by a few things.  It’s very important to have a few food items that absolutely no one wants.  Green bean casserole immediately comes to mind.  I have seen a few jiggly plates of ambrosia over the years.  The raw vegetable tray with carrots, celery, radishes, and peppers eaten leaving behind the hard lonely cauliflower and broccoli.  I think these foods must be there at gatherings to present contrast with the food people will devour like mac n’ cheese, shrimp, or any form of potato.  No one has ever said, “Looks like we bought too much shrimp for the party.”.  Ever.

Another important element is to have a relative that will dredge up an old family grievance after having 17 beers.  While it is preferable to have this come via an outburst at a seated dinner, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a one-on-one confrontation viewed by others who will then recap it to the unlucky guests who missed it via conspiratorial whispers in the corners of the room.  Great lines that are always effective include “Get your goddamn hands off my wife!” and “Mom always liked you best!” followed by hysterical crying.  As long as it is sure to divide the room, it’s a winner.

However, for my money, the best part of any family get together is having action on a sporting event which will be on the TV in the “man cave” or side room where the degenerates of the gathering will headquarter.  You might have a strong dislike of your cousin Brad.  Maybe you don’t have anything in common with him at all.  You see him twice a year with his anorexic tattoo artist girlfriend who brings her bastard son with the perpetually runny nose.  All he talks about is his motorcycle and how “they” keep screwing him at work.  But if you both have a vested interest in the Buffalo Bills, you will be able to cobble together an alliance that is sure to last for the duration of the family gathering.

With that thought, I’m taking the Buffalo Bills +11.5.   Look, I don’t think the Bills are going to win this game either.  I just think they can hang around in what is sure to be an ugly game after Gronk’s cheap shot on that little Bills defensive back a few weeks ago.  I fully expect this game to be terrible.  New England has used up their quota of December Football God gifts with that “win” they got in Pittsburgh last week.  I am hoping the mojo swings the other way to a Buffalo team that has been playing well since that San Diego debacle.   Every favorite won last week.  The pendulum usually swings back.

I am taking Jacksonville -4.5 over San Francisco.  Everyone is very excited by San Francisco winning a few after securing Garrapolo from the Patriots.  They look like a legitimate NFL football team, especially after beating the woefully average Titans last week at the buzzer.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.  Jacksonville has the #1 defense in the NFL.  The 49ers are still the 49ers.  Jacksonville is playing for the AFC South and a potential first round playoff bye.  I think they take care of business here.  Jacksonville -4.5    

Season Record:  21-16-1

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Tax Windfall

At first, I was very excited by this windfall of cash I was about to receive thanks to this massive tax cut Congress finally passed. Then I realized that since I wasn’t a CEO of a major corporation or have significant real estate holdings, I was only going to wind up with $25 a week. The great news is that thanks to the promise of “trickle down economics” I will be the recipient of a massive wage increase. As we know, whenever a corporation gets a giant influx of cash, the first thing they do is rain cash down on their employees. Wait, maybe they shell out obscene bonuses to the top three or four executives perched on the flow chart and keep the rest of the serfs working at their previous wages. I can’t remember which.

What bothers me about this tax plan is the absolute insincerity of the entire enterprise. The exact same Congress that waved their arms in horror about the deficit under Obama have now completely reversed course and decided to give massive wealth to the top .5% of income earners and real estate developers. On what must be an unrelated note, I seem to recall our President is involved in real estate. The deficit, which was one of their top talking points, is expected to grow to 1.5 Trillion. That's with a "T".  Meanwhile these assholes all keep saying with a straight face that cutting taxes to corporations and top earners is about “American Families”.  "We need to create jobs and make our economy competitive!"  This completely ignores the fact that our employment rate is at a near record low and corporations have record profits. Who is going to take all of these illusionary "new jobs"?  Also of note is that almost all actual heads of corporations have indicated they have no plan whatsoever to add employees or invest in their own companies. They are simply going to pocket the 15% cut of the massive revenue and inevitably pay themselves with it as part of their ebida bonus structures. Meanwhile the TV misdirection by Congress continues.  Watching Paul Ryan pretend to care about normal people is an affront to common decency. The ultimate shill and company man, Paul Ryan would sell out anyone for personal gain. He is a man with no visible soul.

It was incredible it took these criminals this long to get it done. They have an absolute majority to jam whatever they want up our ass. Yet it took them a year. It’s like a bunch of guys were starving in an apartment. They had a wad of money, a pizza coupon, and a phone. They just couldn’t seem to get the thing ordered. “Well, I’m not going enter into a pizza without pepperoni! Until we come to a basic agreement on meat or vegetarian pizza, there’s no point in discussing eating. I suggest we reconvene in a month to discuss the possibility of ordering food in the future.” (Insert grumbling of old white men)

Perhaps they needed to get their implausible story straight.  This idea of trickle down economics is too ridiculous to even bear serious discussion. It has failed three times in our history. The basic concept of this tiny majority of the very rich spending great money and effort to cut their own taxes so they can then in turn give it away to someone else is absurd. Has that ever happened? Once?  Anywhere in history?  The icing on the cake is that the politicians that are rewarding the ultra rich only got in the position to do so by lying to the working class. I think of those idiots I saw at The Youngstown Trump 1000 Year Reich Rally. There they were waving their flags and hooting it up shouting “USA!” for a real estate hustler that was only focused on his own personal gain. Hooray. Here’s your $500 a year tax cut Youngstown. By the way, we are cutting your health care. Deuces.

I was watching various GOP Congressmen try to sell this scam on TV. The talking points are nonexistent studies suggesting that not paying for government spending now is no big deal thanks to the Beautiful Future of Economic Boom.  When pressed, these Congressmen then switch to "well, no one can tell the future, but this is good for families!".  And who could be against families?  "Many studies I can't produce show this will be very effective!"  The "studies" show it will work.  These are also the same people that are ignoring what 99.5% of scientists say about our impact on climate change in their studies. 

In this life you usually get what you deserve. America, you deserve this.  There's a party going on you haven't been invited to.  The bad news is that you are going to get stuck with the check.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Bridge At Christmas

When the large American car lurched from side to side across lanes of the bridge on the Parkway, I will admit I was concerned.  Not as concerned as I should have been as I had a bellyful of port and was safely nestled into the womb of the backseat.  From the back of the sunken leather seats, the various panicking other motorists forced to veer violently out of my Uncle Jack’s car’s wake seemed like something that had little to do with my life.  My father was seated to my right.  It was odd to see him in the back seat of any car, much less as obviously frightened as he appeared to be now.  He stared out the window wide eyed as Jack steered the mighty American Auto Ship on his own course.

We usually went to New York on Christmas to visit my father’s side of the family.  We would go out to eat in Manhattan the night after Christmas as at that point no one with “Miller’ in their last name had any capability in the kitchen.  I might be the only person in my extended family able to cook an appealing meal from scratch to this day.  However, at this point in time, I was as hopeless as the rest of them.  There was a routine.  The family would get all greased up at cocktail hour in Tarrytown.  Jack would pull his enormous car out of the driveway for us to take the trip to The City where we would eat at a landmark New York restaurant.

It is important to note that Jack Ford was a man from a different age.  He was a man from a time when the number of cocktails had no effect on the stance of "readiness to drive".  The man drove there.  The man would drive back.  To suggest he should not drive was an affront to his masculinity.  It was literally impossible to get the keys from him even if you had witnessed him having seven scotches at dinner with a few after dinner belts.  Jack Ford was an older man at this time with compromised vision, especially at night.  Even in perfect conditions I would not describe his reaction time as being akin to a mongoose.  The drive back from dinner was a doomsday scenario.  The only thing to do was settle in to the backseat and hope for the Lord’s grace.

The best part of going to The City with Jack was his encyclopedic knowledge of New York’s history.  He would point out where Mob bosses had been gunned down, Irish immigrants forced to work in slave conditions, and former brothels he had “heard about” with a wink.  Meanwhile my Aunt Rose would be countering with a stream of consciousness monologue that would make Neal Cassidy jealous.  The return trip was a different matter.  That was more of a white knuckle affair for all concerned.

I had an image pop into my mind from that drive of seeing a small apartment window from the bridge.  A small string of yellow lights was intertwined with a strand of garland.  They had set it to light up in a “two quick blinks, pause, three quick blinks and a long flash” pattern.  It was humble but joyful.  It made me wonder what the lives were like of the people that lived there behind that little window.  Then my Uncle Jack’s car lurched to the left and it was gone.  


Monday, December 18, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Ambulence

It was on 18 December when Jim Stevens had a stroke. Jim worked three cubicles over from Roger’s own work station at the insurance company for the past seven years.  They were probably beyond “work acquaintances” but still short of “friends”. This much was known…  Jim had two children, a boy and a girl. Jim’s wife Susan was very active at the children’s school. Jim worked out four days a week and had recently taken up spinning.  He was an ordinary man doing ordinary things. He appeared quite healthy.  He collapsed from his chair in the early afternoon.  Someone called an ambulance.  Lisa from accounting kept saying “shouldn’t someone do something?” over and over until the paramedics arrived.  When they carried him out, he had a plastic oxygen mask over much of this face. Employees looked on from a safe distance very quietly whispering to one another. After 45 minutes of spirited discussion replaying the event, work resumed and things returned to routine. Everything was back to normal.  This was when Roger made his bold decision.

Roger quit his job at the company the next week.  He was expecting to face pleading for him to stay.  He had rehearsed his responses in his mind.  Instead the company accepted his resignation without fanfare.  They had a small sheet cake on his last day.  Everyone signed a greeting card with variations of “good luck”.  He sold his house and moved to Austin Texas. He had decided to invent a new version of himself there. He would wash the past clean.  He bought all new clothes.  He changed his name from Roger to Jim. This was partly as a tribute to his debilitated work friend. It was also a reference to when the Byrd’s Roger McGuinn had changed his name to Jim at the height of the Byrds success.  Roger/Jim suspected that Roger McGuinn‘s name change had more to do with peyote induced hallucinations than anything else, but he maintained great reverence for both the Byrds and McGuinn. He was Jim now.  No matter what, he pictured that it would make for a good story he could tell at parties. 

Jim/Roger rented a dilapidated house in what was called “an emerging neighborhood”. The neighborhood was filled with artists, musicians, baristas and a few stubborn Mexicans which refused to be gentrified out. He liked how different this was than his old life. He went to shows and art openings.  He began to see a woman he met from the neighborhood that described herself as “strong” and “no-nonsense”. She was actually blunt and pointlessly cruel, but Jim/Roger hadn’t reached that conclusion yet.  He liked her accent which distracted him from her damaged persona.  She wrote angry poetry and recited them to her cats.  Jim/Roger, who was a “dog person”, should have known their relationship was doomed for failure.  As is well documented, dog people should not mix with cat people.

When Jim/Roger began to run out of money, he began to ratchet up his job search.  He was unable to secure even an interview in what he believed to be exciting and emerging business sectors.  He finally relented and began to search for a job in his old industry of insurance.  He found work in a small office.  His pay was slightly below industry standard.  He got a cubicle near a window.  He slowly began to make friends with the man in the next cubicle.  His name was Robert.  He had two boys and a wife that was active in the boy’s school.  He enjoyed mountain biking.  He appeared to be in good health.   

Friday, December 15, 2017

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week 15

If I had played my cards differently I would right now be relaxing on a tropical island with my biggest concerns being where to make a dinner reservation, hoping I don’t kill myself diving, and hoping a sand flea doesn’t hop into my champagne.  “Cocktails at the Sand Bar Luv?”  I operate well in that scenario.  Instead I was walking the bassets in 17-degree weather on crunchy icy sidewalks trying to make heads or tails of this weekend’s slate of NFL games.  It’s very important to provide distractions for the mind so as to not look around your surroundings and go completely mad.  I don’t hear the phrase “completely mad” often these days.  I would like to be able to take off a pair of glasses, wipe them with a handkerchief and say something like “Leo?  Oh, he’s gone completely mad.” before replacing the glasses and crossing my legs with a dismissive expression.  I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from doing so.  I’d probably have to wear a three-piece suit and check my pocket watch to really pull it off.  I just bought a pair of expensive boots, so taking on the added expense of a pocket watch might be a bit much right now.  Yet another crushed dream.

The reality is December is cold and bleak.  Don’t let the festive plastic Santas lit up all over town fool you.  It’s the time of year when many NFL teams have realized they are playing not to get hurt and put down “good tape” for next year’s contract negotiations.  It becomes very important to ferret out who is playing for something and who is going through the motions.  That’s why this Chargers at Kansas City game is worth a look.  We are talking about two teams somehow fighting to win the AFC West at 7-6 though both look dicey at best.  A couple of key points in this one.  The game is on Saturday night where a well-oiled bunch of Midwestern drunks are not worried about going to work on Sunday as they wear ugly red Chiefs gear in the Kansas City night.  That is not a scenario that portends to great success to a team flying in from Southern California.  I was walking around in San Francisco on Monday in shirt sleeves while tourists from LA were outfitted in down jackets with scarves.  People from LA think temperatures under 68 are polar exploration weather.  It was 58 degrees in The Bay, not nice and chilly like it will be in Kansas City on Saturday. 

Now it’s true that most of the Chargers are likely tougher than Kaitlyn and her yoga class from Orange County, but the Chargers don’t travel especially well out of their time zone.  Certainly, not to Kansas City.  Kansas City is 4-2 against the spread at home this year and 9-2 against the spread at home in prime time.  They are also 8-1 vs the AFC West in their last 9.  On top of that, they’re getting points.  Oh, I like the look of that.  I like that quite a bit.  To give the Chiefs points at home seems “completely mad”.  Kansas City +2

I am going to bet against the Browns.  This should always be assumed unless I make a point otherwise.  It’s like swinging by a hospice and betting on “death”.  The only two things certain in life are taxes and a Browns loss.  This week they play the Ravens at Browns Stadium.  Normally the savvy gambler would factor in home field advantage, however I think there will be more Ravens fans than Browns fans at the game.  Tickets are currently $6 in the secondary market.  It’s really a nice weekend for Baltimore fans.  Fly in Friday, eat at a Michael Symon restaurant, Saturday go look at Jimmy Page’s dragon pants at the Rock Hall, Sunday pop over to the stadium for a win and then home by 7p. 

The Ravens are giving seven, which might be too many.  The Ravens offense is terrible, despite lighting up the Steelers last week in their heartbreaking loss.  They are getting better at the end of the season, like all good teams.  The Browns, like all bad teams, are firing people in the executive office.  Anyone that is associated closely with the old regime would be recommended to take some shit home in a box over the holidays.  With the Ravens at 7-6 and on the Playoff bubble, I am expecting them to win.  Yet, I don’t want to give 7.  Therefore, I am tying in the LA Rams at Seattle as well as Ravens moneyline.

The Rams are for real.  No, I don’t know how they got so good so fast either, but they are the real deal.  They go to Seattle this Sunday who is absolutely decimated on defense.  The Public is under the impression the Seahawks never lose at home.  That’s why the Rams are getting the points.  Seattle is 1-5-1 against the spread versus a team with a winning road record.  The Rams are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games.  I am going to tease Baltimore -1/Rams +8.5.  I don’t know if the Rams win, but I don’t see them losing by two scores.  Hell, like the rest of you I will be watching that Pittsburgh v New England game.  Someone let me know when I win. 

Season Record:  18-16-1

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Pat DiNizio

Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens died this week.  There has been a shift this year from “classic rock guys I listened to” dying to “guys I listened to that I thought were my age dying” in 2017.  I’m not talking about the beautiful death of the heroin overdose or romantic rock suicide.  Kurt is always young and tormented.  Morrison is perpetually the Apollonian Lizard King in leather pants.  Jimi is stoned.  Beautiful.  Immaculate.  Pat DiNizio died after a fall like a goddamn retiree.  Damn.   

I got hip to the Smithereens when I was a DJ.  A guy slid the “Especially For You” record to me promising I would like it.  I recall his words being “this is that garage rock Merseybeat shit you like”.  He was absolutely correct.  I played the shit out of that record on air.  The Smithereens were great, almost completely because of DiNizio’s fabulous writing.  The band was not a good looking group.  They looked like a bunch of Jersey guys that collected records.  If  they didn’t have material three times as good as anyone else, there is ZERO chance they’d get that record deal over a band with good haircuts.  The Smithereens had the material.

Most people became aware of the band from the “11” record with “Girl Like You” on it.  That received a lot of "modern rock" airplay, which really meant it was too good to ignore.  I preferred the first three records, though they were all good.  As an aside, I would especially recommend that readers check out "2011", a record that they recorded in 2011 that sounds like a companion piece to "11".  I assume no one heard that record when it came out, which is a crime.  The Smithereens didn't lose a step.  But it was the first three records that were constant companions to me.  When I hear any of those songs I can smell the apartment where I lived.  I can feel the way the sun would come in the living room window in the late afternoon.  I remember blasting those records getting ready to go out for the night when "going out" meant absolutely anything could happen that would change life as you knew it completely.  It was one of the few records my roommate and I agreed on. 

Pat DiNizio saw me play once.  It was unsettling to look out on stage and see my record collection staring at me.  I was friends with a guy that was his record rep in the region.  The Smithereens had played a radio showcase early, and the rep brought DiNizio out to see us and Dick Dale at Wilbert's.  I was really surprised by how curious he was about our band.  He was very complimentary and bought three of our seven inch singles.  I had assumed he was there to see Dick Dale, but he was much more interested in learning about the underground label scene that we were involved in at the time.  I tried to give him the copies but he insisted on paying for them.  He left in the middle of Dick Dale's set and thanked me for the records.  A couple weeks later he sent me a note telling me how much he liked one of them in particular.  I always appreciated that gesture. 

I would fall out of the Smithereens from time to time.  Then I would unexpectedly hear a song and have to dredge up the entire album, which would lead me to listening to additional albums.  There are so many songs there.  I have a few that I have direct associations in my mind.  "In A Lonely Place" ties me back to an autumn night with a pair of brown eyes.  "Time and Time Again" was playing when a party at our house was so out of control the cops came to break it up.  The officer walked up the porch and asked me "Do you know who lives here?".  No sir.  I have no idea.  Snare drum roll.  Time and Time again... Time and time again... When would I ever learn... guitar riff.  "Strangers When We Meet" was playing when I walked Joe Walsh to the bathroom to "get right" one Saturday morning that was more like really, really late Friday night.  "House We Used To Live In" live at the Agora on the "11" tour when every song ripped my guts out.  Damn that guy could write.

I feel like history won't give justice to the Smithereens.  They played great rock songs at a time when that had fallen from fashion.  They will likely get lumped into the "bands from the early 90s before grunge" dustbin.  That's not fair, but then again life is never fair.  I think to be remembered in life is a great accomplishment.  I don't know how many people will remember Pat DiNizio, but I will.  He was one of the greats of his era, frankly of any era.           

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Hate San Francisco

Without question, one of my favorite bookstores is City Lights in San Francisco.  The store is essentially unchanged from when the Beat writers used it as their base of operations.  Black and white photographs of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Cassidy, and Bob Dylan at the store dot the walls showing that as times have changed, City Lights has not.  I have spent hours in there trying to decide which subversive books I can cram in my luggage home.  I bought a hardcover copy of “Howl” there once while staring at a photo of Ginsberg making the infamous first reading with his cadre of contemporaries hooting him on enthusiastically.  What could be better than “Howl” actually bought at City Lights?  I wonder where that book is now?

Next door is the bar Vesuvio.  It’s a grimy little place where I usually stop for an Anchor Steam and wonder if the place has ever been re-painted since indoor smoking was outlawed in California.  I was hoping to watch the end of the Steeler game, but in true Vesuvio fashion the single old TV played a re-run of “Bosom Buddies” no one paid attention to.  I wondered if I should ask the groovy bartender woman if she could change the channel to the game, but felt the possibility of consternation about even acknowledging the television or sports as a whole placed me at risk for expulsion.  Instead I talked to a couple of Irish guys I could barely understand that sat next to me.  I would have preferred the game.

I had to walk through Chinatown to get back to my hotel.  Store after store has absolute garbage for sale, each one trying to undercut the other.  I assume they are all owned by some Chinese crime syndicate that chops off the store owner's thumbs when sales dip.  Low quality t-shirts, plastic waving paw cat clocks, throwing stars, knock off luggage, and desperate little restaurants plead for business.  I considered realizing the dream of every 12 year old boy that walks through the area by purchasing a samurai sword.  It is true I would have limited use for a samurai sword and would tire of it quickly.  Still, isn't it my Constitutional right to have a sword?  My thought is that if people can conceal carry military grade pistols, I don’t know why I can’t walk around with a poorly made samurai sword.  I couldn’t work up the energy to haggle with a shop owner over the price, so I just kept moving.   

A block before the Dragon Gate entrance to Chinatown is a street with an extremely steep hill.  It was Sunday at about 830p so it was relatively quiet.  Traffic was light.  There was an Asian couple across the street waiting to cross.  I stood at the signal waiting for the light to change while clutching my stack of books.  That’s when I heard the noise at the top of the hill coming my direction.  I wouldn’t call it a scream exactly.  It was more like a woman’s voice making an excited yell.  It was a middle ground between panic and thrill. 

I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing at first.  But as she wooshed by it became crystal clear.  A middle aged Asian woman was on one of those scooter type contraptions that are used when you have a leg injury.  The injured leg is placed on a kneeling position on the padded seat and the other leg propels the scooter.  (see above photo)  This woman, extremely conservative and “normal” from what I could gather, was flying down this amazingly steep hill on this scooter yelling out “Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!” as she shot through the intersection at about 25 mph and proceeded down the next graduation down the multi block slope.  It was odd though as I couldn't decide if she was terrified or had done it on a dare and was excited. 

I cannot undersell to you the steepness of these hills.  There is no way I could ride a bike up it.  My heart would burst.  People ski on less on Ohio and New York.  I have never seen anything like this woman flying past.  It was like a combination of some Chinese mother in trouble and a Mountain Dew TV advertisement.  It was maybe the most radical thing I have ever seen.  The woman's "Ahhhh!!!!" faded with distance.  The other couple and I looked at each other after she flew by and descended down the hill.  Then we both pretended it didn't happen.

I walked though the intersection and passed the couple.  They looked down on the ground to avoid eye contact with me.  They were no help.  I wanted to speculate.  I need to know what happened.  I find it hard to believe that this woman after cooking Sunday supper for her family decided to hobble down to the street with her broken ankle and just get crazy.  "Listen everyone.  After we finish this spicy chicken, I'm going to do something totally rad!  Come on out front!"  Alternately, it seems impossible that Mrs. Chen could have been trying to wheel across the street a few blocks away and things just got away from her.  Could she have been wheeling over to the bank and then became incapacitated with fear as she gathered speed rolling downhill?  Yet, it had to be one of those two options.  Then, the moment had passed.  Traffic resumed and people walked past like the incident was a fever vision.

I walked another block past the Hotel Triton where I had once stayed in the room with the Kerouac scroll wallpaper and been serenaded by homeless drifters all night.  It was quiet tonight.  I paused to look in the window of the hotel lobby.  When I turned to resume walking, a dirty homeless guy with a mustache sauntered towards me.  He pointed to me and smiled.  He made a thumbs up.  “Looking good man!”  I laughed.  No, you’re looking good my man!”  He nodded his head as he walked by.  “You got that right.”

San Francisco is a great town.      

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Nurse the Hate: NFL Week Whatever

I am not going to be able to watch many of the games this week.  Normally I would be stuck watching the Browns lose to someone, but as some sort of Christmas Miracle I will be spared that fate.  As Christmas Miracles go, it's a big one.  If I look around I might be able to see a wise man walking past with some frankincense or myrrh.   If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times.  The problem with society today is not enough myrrh.  I’m not even sure if I could identify myrrh if I saw it.  Where can someone even buy myrrh?  If I assume that a savior of some type has been born, what am I supposed to do?  Show up at the hospital without a big box of myrrh?  I suppose Amazon might deliver it.  They probably have a decent myrrh section on the website.

Sorry, I got off track.  The point I was trying to make is that I am not as engaged with the slate of games this week as normal.  I suppose I could bet against the Browns, but it’s not as much fun without laughing out loud at the team’s misfortune.  DeShone Kizer is actually a very fun player to watch if you have a big stack of money riding on his failure.  I love that guy.  However, this week the Browns take on the Packers.  The Packers without Aaron Rodgers are a VERY different team than with him.  With him all things are possible.  Without him they have no offense whatsoever.  Combine that with the Browns lack of offense, and the makings of one of the NFL’s worst games of 2017 is clearly present.  I just can’t muster up the energy to feel connected to something I see unravel on my phone updates.  Yet I would be a damn fool not to bet on the Browns to lose.

The Browns can be counted on to lose weekly.  They are 1-26 in their last 27.  Allow me to let you in on a little inside information.  This is what gamblers call “a trend”.  I do have some reservations regarding this week.  Every team that plays the Browns has the tendency to look past the Browns, which is normal because they are fucking terrible.  The Packers are just not very good without Rodgers.  They could find themselves down 10-0 after the first quarter and not be able to come back.  The Pack won last week after only throwing for 84 yards, so maybe they have more moxie than I think.  For those of us wishing for The Perfect Browns Season of 0-16, this is a game that causes some concern.  The Browns have a legitimate chance at winning at home in crappy weather.  Yet you don’t go 1-26 without good reason.  Bet the trend.  Green Bay money line.  

I might get to see some of the end of the late games.  With that in mind, I am going to go in on Washington +6 over the Chargers.  The Chargers might be the best team in the AFC West.  As I have noted before, it’s like being the best 90s Pop Punk Band.  You might be top of your heap, but your heap is terrible.  The Chargers have that great skill of being close in every game they play.  Hell, they managed to allow the Browns to hang around.  They always play to the level of their competition, up or down.  Now it’s true that Washington is horrifically injured.  If I read correctly, most of their starting backfield is currently in medically induced comas to prevent the men from screaming in pain in hospital beds.  Yet, whoever the Redskins have found in the Greater District of Columbia Area to play football for them this Sunday are likely as good if not better than the Browns.  Washington will hang in there.  I think San Diego wins but doesn’t cover.  I am hoping to see a cheap backdoor cover in this one with Vernon Davis catching an otherwise meaningless touchdown with 13 seconds left.  I can already visualize myself screaming out “Yes!” as indifferent sports bar patrons stare at me.  Washington +6

Season Record:  17-15-1

Nurse the Hate: Great Success In Tasmania's Past

I have begun the last unit of the never ending WSET Diploma Wine Certification.  It is the sparkling wine unit, so there are worse things than spending a weekend in San Francisco drinking champagne.  Note, it doesn’t sound nearly as bourgeoisie to position it as “spitting out sekt into a plastic bucket in a windowless conference room in a Holiday Inn Express sitting next to dudes with beards” which is far more accurate.  Why split hairs though? 

In preparation for the weekend I had extensive reading to do on the entire sparkling wine industry.  In case you want to know about the particulars of the emerging Chilean sparkling wine market, I’m your guy.  However, what caught my eye was information about the infancy of the Australian sparkling wine market.  I learned a man named Hans Irvine spearheaded the movement in the 1890s after making a fortune as a young man in textiles and mining.  He seemed to have an unusual understanding of the potential market for sparkling wine.  He made some wine but then traveled to Champagne France to learn more of the nuances of production.  That was a hell of a trip back then, so he was totally committed to this wine venture.  He then returned to Australia and with Tasmanian grape sources managed to win a medal at the next World’s Fair, effectively launching his empire.  It was said he was an expert in wine advertising.  He used tactics and methods of marketing well before their time.  That really got my attention.  It seemed familiar somehow, like I was having some sort of déjà vu.  A man that seemed ahead of his time making wine from Tasmanian grapes that was an expert in advertising?  There is only one conclusion.  As I have mentioned previously on this blog, my long term goal has been to corner the Tasmanian sparkling wine market via time travel.  Based on this reading, I believe I have done it.  I can only conclude that I am Hans Irvine

My best guess is that in the near future after internalizing all of the information in this sparkling wine class, passing the final exam, and then assembling my time machine, I have traveled back to Tasmania in the 1880s to build my mining empire to fund my wine venture.  It’s very exciting to know I have succeeded.  I am more focused than ever in passing this class with merit knowing my guaranteed future (or past) as a Tasmanian Wine Baron.  Although, if I now know I have already accomplished my goal, perhaps I can slack off knowing it’s all going to happen anyway.  Wait.  It has already happened.  But if I slack off, will I fail and then that paragraph disappear in the reading because I have not grasped the material?  Will I change the past tomorrow by not focusing on the now?  And if it does change, will I remember I read it in the first place?  Goddammit this time travel business is complicated.

Let’s get back to basics.  Here’s what I know.  Everything goes great for me as Hans Irvine.  I am rich and powerful.  I corner the market.  I then head to London to deal with a gastric ulcer and it appears that things don’t go well for me there.  I die in 1922.  This is obviously a great concern as my plan has always been to corner the market, return to the present year, and enjoy my further expanded empire without dealing with 1922 English medical tortures to my digestive system.  There must be horrible steel drills and “tonics” they force down my throat in a London Hospital in that era.  I better look into my ulcer treatment now.  I don’t want to be screaming about needing to fix my time machine in the 1922 London hospital.  They will throw me in “the mad house”.  That’s no picnic in there friend.  

I am not positive why I will change my name to Hans Irvine in the future.  Wait.  That’s isn’t going to happen.  It already happened because of something I have yet to do.  I did that in Australia in the late 1800s based on a decision I will make in the future when I go to the past.  Well, regardless, Hans Irvine is obviously a made up name.  I must have combined a foreign sounding name like Hans with that celebrity chef guy with the big body and pinhead Robert Irvine.  We did a TV show episode of “Dinner Impossible” with him in the band once at the Rock Hall.  That explains that.  I probably panic when I run into my Aboriginal henchmen.  “Greg Miller” doesn’t sound very Australian Wine Baron.  I need to blend in, be one of them.  I need to fit the part.  A dude named “Hans Irvine” will send miners to their death to make a buck.  “Hans Irvine” will exploit workers at textile mills to make his fortune.  A guy named Hans Irvine grows a big bushy mustache and grows introspective staring at the fire while speaking with great certainty of his vision of The Future.  I think I will like being Hans Irvine.  Well, with the exception of that gastric ulcer situation.  I need to figure a way out of that.     

As you proceed with your day wondering about the idea of destiny versus free will, think of me.  I am right now spitting out Cava into a plastic bucket invigorated with the certainty that I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.  I am free of nagging regrets and fears.  It all works out for me, exactly as I have foreseen.  My scheme has succeeded.  As you float about the cosmos completely unmoored, I have found the answers.  I have rigged the game.  I have broken the time space continuum for my own personal gain.  I have made my own destiny.  I am Hans Irvine.