Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Jesus Conversation

On Tuesdays they always went to Subway for lunch.  Mike would get a Groupon emailed to him that provided “Two Meal Deals For $9.99”.  Mike would always get the cold cut combo, and in what he believed to be a nod to healthy eating, a bag of Baked Lay’s Potato Chips.  Pete was a bit more adventurous in his order and today decided on the tuna on asiago bread.  They sat in their regular booth by the door where the fluorescent lights of the restaurant blended in with the gray doom cloud cover from outside to make it at least debatable that something was natural in the environment.

Mike picked out one of the perfectly formed imperfect shaped potato crisps with a look of concentration.  The brittle crunch of the chip was not as satisfying as the real thing.  He stared out the window watching the other office workers trying to maximize their brief lunch breaks before their inevitable March of Defeat back to their officially designated work spaces. 

“You ever notice how in all these Jesus pictures that he’s always ripped?”


“I’ve been seeing a lot of Jesus pictures lately.  Maybe because it’s almost Easter and shit, I dunno.  Anyway, in all the pictures, Jesus is always ripped with six pack abs.  He’s never working on a little belly or is a little too hairy or even just too skinny.  He’s always totally jacked up.  Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus doing any kind of workout?  Are there paintings in museums of Jesus doing crunches I don’t know about?  And there’s no way he was a runner.  You can’t run in Jesus sandals.  It would totally fuck up your arches.  Plus, I never heard about Jesus running anywhere.  He was always gliding around in those robes looking like Chris Cornell in 1993.  I’m calling bullshit on him being ripped man. Maybe skinny, but not ripped.”

Pete considered Mike’s point only for a moment and answered with certainty.  “He’s divine.  He’s not mortal.  He’s the son of God, so of course he looks good.  You think God is going to have a son that looks like Danny DeVito?”

“Yeah but isn’t Jesus supposed to be half God and half mortal? So, shouldn’t the mortal side have at least given him a receeding hairline or fucked up teeth or something?  It’s not like they had fluoridated water or invisiline braces in Biblical Times.  You never see a buck tooth Jesus.”

“Well, I don’t know about Jesus’s teeth, because he’s usually got that closed mouth contented smile in everything I’ve seen, but I’m assuming they were perfect.  And he was only 33 when he died, so it’s not like he should have been going bald.  You still looked almost normal at 33, right?  He’s not you.  He’s divine.  The ideal.”

Mike worked on his cold cut combo and thought it through.  “All I’m saying is that if you are going to be ripped, you have to do at least some kind of workout.  I know they were always eating fish in the Bible, but it was “loaves and fishes”, so it’s not like they weren’t eating any carbs.  Plus, they were always drinking wine.  That shit adds up.  There should have been some mention of Jesus doing crossfit right before the sermon on the mount or something.  I heard about him walking on water, but you don’t hear about him swimming.  So, when did he get any cardio in?”

Pete quickly countered.  “Yes, but he fasted and walked the desert.  You know how much weight you’d drop not eating and walking around a desert?  You ever see a fat Bedouin on a camel?”

Mike considered it as he sipped his Diet Dr. Pepper.  “OK, you have a point there but I think the artists doing those paintings took liberties and made Jesus look too good.  The church paid for all those paintings, so there’s no way the artist can turn in some fat Jesus painting.  You can’t be like, “Here Bishop.  Here’s the Jesus painting you ordered.  I saw him in my mind with a little muffin top and a wart on his face.  Hope you like it!”  No way!  So, as time moves on ALL Jesus paintings looked like Chris Cornell from Soundgarden in 1993 and that’s the only thing subsequent artists had to go on.  Case in point…  If you had to paint a unicorn, you wouldn’t make it look like a basset hound with a fucking horn coming out of its head.  You’d make it look like every other unicorn picture you ever saw, which means you are just regurgitating the same idea.  All you can do is finesse it.  So, then you decide that if you’re going to do a unicorn painting, you’re going to paint a ripped unicorn with his mane blowing in the breeze, not some normal horse with a horn.”

Pete pointed at Mike with his tuna sub for extra emphasis.  “So, you are saying that Jesus is the same thing as a unicorn?”

“No.  Jesus or the idea of Jesus is a concept about human goodness and compassion.  I am only talking about physical appearance here.  If we agree that Jesus is the physical embodiment of the church’s ideas, then I think we can agree that Jesus is the logo for Christianity.  Over the years that logo keeps getting improved, sort of like the girl on the Wendy’s sign across the street there.  There’s no way that the real Wendy looked like that.  Wendy’s changed it to look like they wanted it to look.  That’s what the church did.  So… I think Jesus is sort of like Wendy.”

Pete crinkled up his sandwich wrapper.  “Well, you can’t around the fact that the Son of God is most likely to look good.  Jesus obviously had charisma, like a Biblical movie star.  I contend that he probably was pretty ripped, or at the very least quite svelte.”

Mike popped the last of his sandwich in his mouth and smashed his wrapper together.  “OK.  You probably have a point there.  Let’s go.  We gotta get back.”  They through their trash into the can and placed their plastic trays on the top.  The wind hit their faces as they opened the glass door and walked back to the office.   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Albert Belle and Me

I saw that former Indians slugger Albert Belle had been arrested in Phoenix for something called “extreme DUI” and “indecent exposure”.  That's never good.  There were very few details this afternoon, but I assumed that Belle must have been taking a leak somewhere public and then drove off drunk.  A copy of the arrest report was secured by the media and it turns out it was a bit more spectacular as Belle was in fact taking a piss by a parked car.  When the owner of the car walked over to complain about it, Belle turned around and waved his dick at the guy and his 15 year old daughter.  That’s going to be a tough one to talk your way out of in court.  I think the key word in the account is “wave”.  That denotes a certain carefree yet aggressive display of your penis that most judges will find problematic, especially with a 15 year old girl involved.  Albert Belle always liked to go all the way.

Before the Indians ascended into a legendary team, they were still a bunch of unknown players working hard to get people to come to the games.  I remember the Indians marketing director showing up at the radio station pleading for us to take tickets and give them away on air.  We would leave stacks of them on the front reception desk that would go unused.  You could go to a game in the early 90s and it was so devoid of people that when you yelled at a player, he heard it.  It would be like yelling at someone at a gas station.  I remember conversing with Kirby Puckett in the outfield one Saturday afternoon.  My buddies and I were knocking back whatever terrible beer they served in those wax paper cups carrying a normal conversation with Puckett through the mid-innings.  He didn’t have to be very focused as the Indians chances of hitting one to the deep outfield was almost none.  Hell, he could have hopped up in the stands with us and knocked back a few.  It’s crazy to think about now.

Things changed in 1994.  The Indians managed to get lucky and have a few generational greats hit at the same time.  Belle was one of them.  He could really hit a baseball.  He was also notoriously difficult with a short fuse.  He was also coming off rehab for alcohol abuse.  He was a very difficult guy for the organization to keep on the field for a period of time.  There were incidents.  A woman in the stands was yelling at him in left field and said something that pissed Belle off, so he fired a ball into her.  Pow!  He was, by all accounts, a loathsome human being at that time.  Teammates called him Mr. Freeze after he turned the thermostat down to where he liked it and then proceeded to beat the themostat off the wall with a bat.  You get the idea.  A real fun guy.

Now I didn’t know that much about him, except for the ball hitting the fan in the stands story.  The reason I mention this is that I met Belle right around this time.  I was watching Albert Belle play pool with a co-worker at this charity event.  The idea of the charity event was people would play a game of 8 ball with a local “sports celebrity” for a cash donation to whatever the hell the cause was.  This was probably early in 1994, before the team took off.  Belle was about as famous in Cleveland as an arena football player.  It’s always been a football town.  The pool tables with low profile Browns offensive linemen were packed.  My friend and I saw Belle by himself so we walked over to see if he wanted to play a game.

Say what you want about Albert Belle, but the guy always competed.  Even in charity 8-ball.  He ran off a few balls and got pissed when he missed a makeable shot.  He wasn’t mildly annoyed.  He was pissed.  Muttering to himself.  Super intense to the point of it being sort of crazy.  Meanwhile my buddy was a pretty good pool player.  Belle was actually in trouble as he had just matched up with a guy that spent the last 8 years hanging out in bars with too much time, so my buddy could beat almost anyone on the planet in pool or pinball. 

My buddy started to run the table.  We were both lighthearted as this was a charity event and there were no stakes.  It was a total goof off event.  We were knocking back beers and having fun.  This is when I made a mistake in judgement.  Now, if I knew then what I know about Belle now, I never would have said what I said that day.  However, he was just this obscure ballplayer who I recalled somewhat hazily had pegged a woman in the stands with a baseball the previous year.  I’m sure he had a sense of humor about it now.

“Hey Albert…  If my buddy keeps running the table, you aren’t going to get pissed and chuck the cue ball at him, are you?”

This was a major mistake.  A large lapse in judgement.

I could literally feel the temperature of the room go down.  A black cloud formed over Albert Belle as he glared at me.  He stared holes through my face.  It flashed into my head clearly.  “That enormous man is going to kick my ass.  He is going to kick my ass right now.”  I had radically misunderstood Mr. Belle’s ability to laugh at himself and his past.  He was so angry that he missed his next shot, a bunny.  This made him even angrier.  He was almost shaking with silent rage.  My buddy was totally silent now as well, knowing that anything could set Belle off like a powder keg.  I felt bad.  I mean, I wanted to bust his balls, but I figured he could take some wiseass remarks from a guy his age.  We were all friends here having fun, no? 

I tried to apologize.  This had all gone so wrong.  “Hey, I was just screwing around.  I didn’t mean to upset you.”  Belle cut me off.  He hissed out a retort.  “You don’t tell me nuthin!!!”.  There would be no coming back from this.  Belle fumed as my buddy beat him in a few shots.  My buddy and I both walked back from the table slowly, like you would if a junkyard dog had shown you his teeth.  Easy…  Easy…  Years later when I saw Belle had that unbelievable incident where he tried to run over kids trick or treating, I thought “yeah… I could see that…”.        

I hope Albert sorts this latest arrest out.  It sounds like a pretty fucked up situation.  Waving your dick in front of 15 year olds is a bad look.  He is going to need a good lawyer.  Hopefully that lawyer can keep Albert in the pocket.  He can be a bit edgy.  If I could make one suggestion to the judge, it’s this:  Do not ask Albert if he is going to hit you with a ball if he doesn’t like the judgement.  Albert does not like that.  At all.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The New Used Cadillac

The difficulty of driving the car became more pronounced when the cold medicine took effect.  In retrospect, it was a mistake to combine the three different types of medicine, but desperate times called for desperate measures.  His head was crushed by sinus pressure and aches behind his eyeballs suggested enormous tumors growing behind the sockets.  He needed decisive action.  He approached it like he was a member of the Alice Cooper Group in the mid-1970s.  He combined over the counter meds and a healthy slug of Bullet Rye Whiskey.  The Benadryl would take care of the sinus with the Mucinex adding some oomph to the cough.  The Dayquil would offer a warm comforting hand, but the addition of the caffeine would keep it all moving.  The late winter sun shone through the driver’s side warming his face.  He felt disconnected and warmly uncaring.  Things had improved.

The car was an older model Cadillac he had bought used from a charity operation with a confusing matrix of relationships with community efforts.  The more he asked the representative about it, the more confused he had become.  The salesperson kept repeating the phrase “doing well by doing good”.  The flier the salesman left behind when the finance officer inspected how to ram his deal though with his sketchy credit showed smiling “disadvantaged” people.  Well, if he could help those folks while buying himself a new used Caddie, then all the dots connected.  You’ve got yourself a deal sir!  Handshakes all around. 

The car was big and floated across the road.  The combination of the smooshy ride and velvet curtain of cold medicine made him feel like he was driving an overstuffed couch 85 mph down the highway.  He felt the warmth of the heated seat on his back and turned up Neil Young’s “Tonight’s The Night”.  The air conditioning was on the highest setting and blew his hair back.  He squinted into the sun and drifted over to the passing lane.  He passed an Acura missing a fender leaving a plastic tank of fluid exposed.  The driver of the car, a worn laborer, looked over to him and nodded his approval as if he heard the Neil Young.  “Tonight’s the night…”

His phone rang and he pressed a button on the lit dash to enable the car’s Bluetooth.  “Hey man… What’s going on?”  Brake lights flashed in front of him.  He considered slowing the big car.  He didn’t allow the caller to respond.  “You think it would be fucked up if I called my ex and asked her if she saw that news story about the guy that got lost in the woods and wound up living in that igloo for a week?  She was the first one I thought of when I saw that.”  The caller responded.  “Well… She did put out a restraining order on you after you showed up at her work thing in that gorilla costume a couple years ago.  Is that still active?  If so, I wouldn’t recommend it…” 

He crested a small hill and felt his head lift off him like a balloon as the car smoothly motored on.  “I gotta go.  I’ll call you later if this Benadryl shit wears off.”  Click.  Neil Young came back across the sound system with authority.  He weaved to the right to pass a slow-moving panel van.  He knew a woman named Celeste that liked to refer to those trucks as “rape vans”.  Celeste told him a story about how she had printed out a crude sign she made at work proclaiming “Free Candy!” with balloon graphics that she taped to the side of her brother’s beat up white panel van.  He was pissed when he finally saw it and realized why he had been getting all those looks at stoplights.  “He’s always leaving his rape van in the driveway.  Fuck him.”  Celeste was not particularly close with her brother. 

Traffic slowed as drivers overreacted to the setting sun.  He slowed the car for stop-and-go.  It was an out of body experience.  He watched himself drive the Cadillac.  The sun felt good on his face.  The heated seats spread their warmth.  Without question he had “done well by doing good”.  He briefly thought about how he had helped those poor disadvantaged children as he commanded the stately vehicle.  There was no doubt about it.  “Cadillac, you’ve arrived.”  Traffic began to open back up.  He quietly accelerated and settled back in.      

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Interesting Times

I was taking a glance at the headlines today and couldn’t help but noticing one very graspable fact.  Things are very fucked up right now.  The President is under federal investigation for collaborating with Russia to get elected, and if he gets lucky he will just be indicted for money laundering.  That same President has a side case running where he paid off a porn star he was fucking while his wife was pregnant, which seems sort of quaint compared to the treason thing.  A serial bomber was loose in Texas before blowing himself up.  A self driving car just killed a pedestrian.  There was another school shooting.  The United States had troops killed in Niger, which is interesting because no one has explained why they were even there.  Facebook, always positioned as an “individual rights over the corporations” company, has been revealed to be in the business of selling their user’s minds to the highest bidder in a slightly terrifying Big Brother scenario.  China just officially became a dictatorship again.  Russia poisoned someone in London.  Putin was congratulated by our President for winning a sham election.  Our President wants to execute drug dealers while kids are walking out of schools because the government refuses to protect them.  Anything goes baby!  At any moment a news story that would have seemed impossible a few years ago can break.  Anything can happen at any time.  At long last, anyone that has romanticized the 1960s has a decade worthy of comparison.

The 60s were the greatest decade of the modern era.  If you don’t believe that, just sit for a moment with almost any Baby Boomer that has spent their entire lives romanticizing the era.  No one promotes the 60s like a person that was a young adult in the 1960s.  Hollywood movies show a time of moral certainty where youth culture triumphed over the evil establishment.  Beautiful hippie girls in go-go boots giggled and performed fellatio on any longhair strolling down Haight Asbury on their way to see Jefferson Airplane at The Matrix.  Amazing music blared out of transistor radios at just the perfect moment to provide a sound bed for social change.  Hollywood has taught us that if a group of photogenic teenagers started to paint protest signs, a killer Creedence song would start playing in amazing high fidelity.  They would then all march on a government leader that would then be swayed to the kids’ point of view after seeing the teens’ commitment to their cause.  Maybe he would even use clunky slang.  “You know, you kids are pretty groovy.  Let’s not cut down the trees in the park.” 

What a time to be alive!  If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there!!!  Straight and narrow boys would routinely meet friendly hippies that would give them LSD where great truths would be revealed on wild yet safe acid trips.  Then in remarkably short time, the same boys would captain VW microbuses to attend Woodstock where they would have perfect vantage points to witness Jimi Hendrix blow their minds.  It was a Utopia I tell you!  Making love in the green grass to gorgeous sexually aggressive blondes while Dylan whizzed by on a motorcycle.  It was magical!!!  You don’t know!!!  You weren’t there!!!

I remember talking to an English teacher of mine when I was a senior in high school.  He showed me a ticket stub he kept in his wallet from a Beatles concert at Shea Stadium.  To an 18 year old it was like viewing a Dead Sea Scroll.  What an artifact!  Soon other boys began to crowd around to look at it.  I remember one of the kids saying “Mr. Layman… It must have been awesome to have been in the 60s.  It’s so much better than now.”  Mr. Layman gave a small frown.  He paused for a second and said, “The 60s were a stupid time.  It wasn’t like it was portrayed.”  He shook his head for a moment, not wanting to get into it and put the ticket stub away.

I always remembered that and kept a critical eye on the 60s.  The 60s were great music and moments of cultural upheaval.  Yet they were also domestic terrorists, race riots, narcs, government surveillance, drug addiction, Vietnam, alienation, generational conflict, and daily uncertainty about what was up and what was down.  There was a culture of “Us” versus “Them” that was clearly unhealthy, and in the end “Them” won as the Establishment always does.  All the iconic 60s rock stars died of overdoses or just settled into cocaine snorting corporate rock careers that punk later reacted to as fuel.  Communes became cults became the Manson Family.  Things got very dark.

The times today seem eerily similar to the 60s with the exception of no good music.  Maybe there will be great nostalgia with Paramore or Beyonce as a backdrop for people staring at their phones.  It doesn’t seem quite as grand as a sweeping shot of protesters filling the National Lawn with Sam Cooke playing in the background, but maybe it’s something Paul Anderson can work with in a pinch.  I will tell you this.  We do have the vibe of the 60s in one sense.  The daily uncertainty and unease of knowing something terrible can and probably will happen at any moment.  Hey man… If you remember the Twenty Teens, you weren’t there man…  (cue song by Pink) 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Nurse the Hate: It's Over

I am beaten.  I am humbled and am backing away.  I don't know a goddamn thing and I am getting out of there.  I would have been better off betting on Harness Racing than the NCAA Tournament.  I should have known better than to wander into this forest alone, like a tiny shivering lamb.  Then again, I was briefly known as “Lamby”, so perhaps I should have taken heed.  I did not though, and now am left to sit and lick my wounds.  It was a bloodbath.

I can’t recall having a cold streak like this in the last decade.  I’ve had some grim NFL weekends, sure, but nothing like this comes to mind.  The last time I had a total asskicking like this I was in Las Vegas with a group from work.  We were all in our upper twenties/lower thirties and making a shit ton of money.  We had hit some type of monster sales goal so the station rewarded us by flying us to Mandalay Bay for a long weekend.  I spent the first afternoon playing blackjack and methodically building up house money.  I was up about $1500 and feeling pretty good about myself right before dinner. 

One of the other guys and I were waiting for this woman to meet us in the lobby for some group expense account steak dinner.  She had never been on time for anything and this was no exception.  “Let’s play a few hands of blackjack until she comes down.”  To this day I remember the dealer’s name.  Melena.  She was a gorgeous strawberry blonde with that chilly Eastern European demeanor like a Bond villain that seemed like a put on.  I lost a few hands right out of the gate, astoundingly quickly.  Bam, bam, bam.  I should have realized the mojo was all wrong and left.  I didn’t.

Instead I decide to put some real money down on a hand, you know, to win back my loss.  I get dealt a pair of eights, which I split.  After the split I get another eight, which I spilt as well as a three, which I double down on.  I was slightly uncomfortable by the initial ante I had put into the pot to begin with, but now I was in four times that.  She was showing a five, so this was a text book situation to be all in.  I was sweating it, but in the back of my mind a voice was saying “This is the right thing.  It’s what The Book says to do.”.  The four hands ended up with an array of totals between 17 and 20.  I felt pretty good about how this was developing.

A small crowd had gathered behind me.  There was a lot of money out there for 7pm.  Melena with complete indifference flipped her card.  Five became eight became twelve became twenty-one.  The crowd even let out a collective groan.  The sickening sound of the stacks of chips being taken away was the exclamation point.  Melena might have had a small smirk, but I couldn’t tell for sure.  It was like I had been punched in the gut.  Right then the very cheerful woman we worked with came out of the elevator with a “Hi guys!  Am I late?”.  I got up from the table.  It was a gut punch.

I limped over to that dinner totally deflated.  What the hell had happened?  All that painstaking work to build up my wallet had gone south in an instant.  I even floated out a test balloon to blame the woman we worked with, suggesting that her tardiness was the cause of this shattering episode.  As we walked over to the restaurant, the other guy kept saying “Mel-AAAAAAA-nah” and will bring it up to me now 15 years later with the exact same tone and volume.  It was a long walk of shame and failure.  But it wasn’t either of those women’s fault.  It was mine.  I did not appease the Gambling Gods just like I had not appeased them for this tournament.  I should have walked away after those first few hands with Melena and I should have walked away when Virginia lost to a Community College on Friday night.  I didn’t though. 

Somewhere Melena has that little smirk on her face.  I can feel it.    

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Nurse the Hate: NCAA Basketball Sunday

I continue to exhibit no understanding of college basketball.  I split a couple games yesterday after staying up much too late with Hillbilly Casino drinking wine, making pizzas, and discussing obscure musicians.  Four in the morning is no time to make wild guesses on basketball games.  My judgement was even more poor than normal as I went straight chalk with Kansas and Kentucky.  It was like being one of those suckers that walks into a Vegas sports book and bets on the Patriots because you heard they might be good.  I should have gone out for .99 cent shrimp cocktail yesterday afternoon to complete the package.  Maybe looked for Wayne Newton tickets.

There is no reason to stop this compulsive wagering now.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  I’m getting on Marshall +12.5 points against West Virginia.  I have no doubt that former Whiskey Daredevil Dave Bowling will have somehow secured a choice pair of tickets to this game and be resplendent in some combination of Herd gear and cowboy jewelry that will offer support to Marshall and maintain a beach-meets-Gram-Parsons vibe as they try to slay Goliath.  Maybe the game will be in safe hands but the spread will be very much in play as a Mountaineer guard steps up to the line.  There will be a great ruckus coming from behind the Marshall bench as a loud yell comes from across the gym in an unmistakable West Virginia accent.  Mr. Bowling, who will also undoubtedly be on Marshall up to his eyeballs, will register in this young man’s head.  As he steps to the foul line, his team up by 11 with 14 seconds left, he will not be thinking about hitting that shot.  Instead he will be thinking, “Who the hell is that guy in the Marshall hat and cowboy shirt and why is he going so crazy?  The game is decided.  Did he just say something about George Jones?”.  That’s when that shot clanks off the rim and we get a winner.  Marshall +12.5 

I am going to tease Michigan State and Butler.  I don’t know anything about the current situation of either team.  I am essentially betting on future events based on past successes of these two teams despite knowing that there is no correlation.  It’s a very bad idea.  The key here is these games both go off early. These are the kinds of things one does when one is floundering without purpose.  I need something to do today.  The mind must be kept distracted to avoid existential crisis.  This is why sports are on TV.  It’s the basis of the entire sports broadcast industry.  It’s not a life of quiet desperation if you’re screaming at some 19 year old kid from Indiana that just blew a lay up.  It’s what makes America great.  Again.  Butler +7.5/Michigan St -5.5

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nurse the Hate: NCAA Tournament Day 2


 As expected, I came out of the gate 0-1-1.  This will happen when you wager on things that you have absolutely no tangible knowledge in, much like the rest of the planet and the stock market.  I cannot explain why I feel more confident putting my money on Cal State Fullerton than a “domestic mid cap mutual fund”.  Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I can provide the illusion of knowing what is going on with Cal State Fullerton by saying reassuring things like “they are a great road team as they went 9-4 against the spread out of their gym”.  That is much more believable than if I spout gibberish about “high leveraged tech companies with questionable earnings reports” even though it’s the same horseshit.

The bottom line is I want some action in the middle of a work day afternoon.  I plan on standing with my arms folded staring at a TV perched above my sanctioned work space hoping my miniature dream catcher that is taped to the file cabinet provides enough good vibes for some guy I have never seen before hit an otherwise late meaningless basket for Cal St Fullerton to not win the game but merely cover a 20 point spread.  This is the sad juncture I find myself in the Year of Our Lord 2018.

I wouldn’t call it an existential crisis.  Not yet.  However, you need to take a good hard look at things when your day hinges on if a kid hits a free throw in garbage time in an afternoon college basketball game across the country.  The only light at the end of the tunnel is that I get to play a rock show with my pals Hillbilly Casino later tonight.  It’s nice to step away from the idea that life doesn’t have to be a cubicle and a missed free throw and can instead be an hour of pointless songs written on a couch in Ohio that sort of rock.  Still, it’s a long path to trudge down until the band roars to life.

This is why I am going to swing for the fences on a couple of money line bets on 12 seeds against 5 seeds.  Betting on 12 seeds is one of the least “sharp” things you can possibly do during the tournament.  The receptionist at every business within a 50 mile radius picked 12 seed upsets because she heard something about that on The View.  It’s an NCAA Tournament cliché that just happens to be true. A #12 seed has won a first round game in 26 of the last 29 years.  Yesterday both of the 5s beat the 12s.  There is really no choice.  Opportunity is knocking.  I am going to white knuckle a couple money lines today with Murray State +450 and New Mexico State +170.        

Murray State are the “Racers” and New Mexico State are the “Aggies”.  Clearly at +450, the Racers are the team I’d like to see win.  I hope their mascot logo is Speed Racer with one hand on a steering wheel and the other flipping the bird.  I could get behind that.  I’m not sure what an Aggie is exactly.  Does it refer to “agriculture”?  If I am focused on growing crops, I am not going to New Mexico.  If I am going to start a business in New Mexico, it would be selling turquoise jewelry or maybe crystal meth.  I bet a hot yoga studio would fly too.  Putting seeds in the dust is no way to make your fortune kids.  I hope that when you aren’t watching the dust for a seedling to pop out that you are practicing 3-point jumpers. 

Go Aggies.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Ancestry Test

Against my better judgement I sent in my DNA sample to for their analysis.  This is despite my conspiracy theory suspicions that they are collecting DNA for some nefarious reason that will involve me being framed for a mass murder, or perhaps picked up by stormtroopers for “ethnic cleansing”.  There really is no good reason to send strangers your DNA.  I just got caught up in it. 

There is a belief that the Miller Family’s long held position as being “Irish” is a tad flimsy.  My Uncle Jack Ford maintained we were all Germans and had changed our name from “Mueller” after The Great War to more seamlessly blend into the population and escape the various war crimes committed by family members.  Never a fan of the Millers or his wife’s constant Irish cheerleading, he held fast to that assertion until his end.  I think he got sick of Aunt Rose’s quest to get The Blarney Stone Ring back from a relative “that doesn’t even appreciate it”.  Jack Ford might have had a point as the joyless old Miller family photos definitely have the grim determination of a German heritage to them.  Yet, one must remember that there are no positive Irish American childhood memories on record on the East Coast.  Most Irish American kids grow up being beaten at Catholic School, emotionally ignored at home, and then sexually assaulted by priests.  Worse yet is having to root for Notre Dame, and if your grades are bad, God forbid, Boston College. 

My mother’s side of the family is even more checkered with confusing marriages, unexplained limbs of the family tree, and shady natural parental lineages that have more in common with circus performers than proud Irish backgrounds.  I think it was easier for my parents to respond with “You’re Irish” than explain whatever kind of unholy stew makes up my genetic background when I asked as a kid.  It’s obviously better to pretend a direct link to Ireland than Poland.  With Ireland you can get excited about drinking, shamrocks, “The Troubles”, Catholicism, St. Patrick’s Day and The Pogues.  Compare that if you came up as “Polish”.  With Poland the mind drifts to black and white photographs of Warsaw being bombed and Nazis slaughtering kids.  Maybe Russian tanks rolling through the streets.  Not real festive. 

The problem is that I have spent my entire life regurgitating that I’m “Irish”.  What if this report says that I am something I never considered?  I will have to completely re-think my entire idea of “self”.  The fear is the report comes back with something irrefutable in a region I’m not excited about.  If it comes back that I’m from Eastern Europe, does that mean I need to buy a gold chain and Adidas track suit?  Do I have to start hanging around European train stations and sell burner mobile phones?  I’m not ready for that kind of adjustment.  How about if I come up French?  I can’t pronounce a goddamn word correctly except “Beaujolais”.  I don’t have time to find a dismissive cigarette smoking woman to go to confusing black and white movies with 4 nights a week.  That’s not going to work for me.

I suppose I could adjust to being “Italian”.  Not like one of those cool well-dressed actual Italian guys I see gliding around Milan.  I am talking full on Jersey Goomba.  I will go out and purchase an Italian horn.  I will immediately do that move where Italians from New York launch into “just off the boat” Italian accent for certain foods.  They go from Jersey accent flat into what they think Italian sounds like and then back into Jersey.  Example.  “Hey Joey!  Let’s go to D’Aminici’s for the capocolla!!!  Forget about it!”.  I will become just like every resident of every Little Italy across the country that all feel like they are extras in “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas”.  I might need a track suit and Yankees cap in this scenario, but that’s in the budget.

I am hoping to get some American Indian come up in the mix.  There is nothing I would enjoy more than saying things like “this land used to all be ours until you forked tongues white devils stole it from us” when glancing at any development.  I wouldn’t mind getting an Indian name, though I am concerned the Tribal Elders would hit me with something like “Runs Like Girl” or “Fearful Dog”.  I don’t want to worm my way into their casino business and then have someone say, “What do you think about increasing the ante minimums on blackjack Fearful Dog?” at a board meeting.  That won’t be good for my self-confidence and would likely result in me putting on my old Shamrock hat and seeing if I can blend in at the St Pat’s Day parade just like old Klaus Mueller did after The War.

If I never mention this again, just know the report probably didn’t come out like I’d hoped.   

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Nurse the Hate: 2018 NCAA Tournament Day 1

The NCAA Tournament is a welcome diversion here in this frozen hellhole that is Northeast Ohio.  It has been cold for five months.  Unless I suddenly find a passion for “ice camping”, I don’t have a reason to be outside for more than two minutes at a stretch.  I was able to keep myself distracted with The Never Ending WSET Diploma Grail, but now I am in a seven week holding pattern awaiting results.  I actually considered taking on an extensive Southern Italian wine course just for the hell of it.  Clearly, I need something to keep my mind and spirit occupied.  I am dancing on the edge of being swallowed whole by seasonal depression.  I feel like the disclaimer of a Chantix ad.  I am close to the brink of a suburban version of cabin fever where I line the windows with foil and focus on typing out a rambling 700 page manifesto.  This pointless opportunity to gamble heavily couldn’t come at a better time.

I want to point out that I have no knowledge of NCAA basketball in 2018.  If you’d like insight on a college basketball game from 1979, I could really help you out.  My father and I used to religiously sit in front of the TV on Sunday afternoons in Erie PA watching college hoops.  In retrospect, this was his version of cabin fever as Erie PA is an even worse frozen hellhole than Cleveland.  The good thing is that college basketball has a consistency to it.  The same teams that were good in 1979 are good now, just with guys I have never seen play.  Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Villanova, Virginia, Kansas, and Arizona are ALWAYS good.  To get up to speed in 2018, you just have to toss in Gonzaga and Xavier.  Bam.  We are ready to go.

The first thing I am going to do is bet against Ohio State.  I don’t know anything about Ohio State except I truly enjoy betting against the Buckeyes.  Having spent two somewhat miserable years living in Columbus, the consistent backdrop was the population all wearing unattractive Ohio State themed clothing.  There is a consistent hum in the air of blind enthusiasm towards Ohio State’s sports teams that is just a tinge below Jones Town in its zealocy.  Columbus is a good bet for a town that will commit mass suicide if something breaks the wrong way for the Ohio State football team one day.

Ohio State Guy always thinks Ohio State is going to win.  He is going to get the boys together and knock back some Michelob Ultras for the game.  They might just fire up the grill and get into the bourbon later.  The wives will put their cute Ohio State tops on and chat it up in the kitchen.  When the Buckeyes lose, the boys will get together and work out a story to exonerate the Bucks from guilt, usually something involving bad officiating.  Think of it as a sports version of the Republican House commitee findings that nothing could have been screwy in the last election, much less Russia pulling for the incompetent guy.  Swap out “Putin” for “Refs” and you get the idea.  

The thing I notice this year is that Ohio State guy isn’t coming into the tournament with his usual swagger.  Even he is aware that the Buckeyes are a little soft this year.  That is a five alarm fire as far as I am concerned.  I am going to place a wager on South Dakota State, a school that I knew existed in theory but had no tangible proof existed until now.  From what data I could glean, I learned that this is South Dakota State’s third trip in a row to the Tournament.  The game is in Boise, so these guys won’t have that small school star struck quality to them when they get blown out early trying to figure out if this is really happening.  They play good defense, which is a key to covering these games.  I just need them to hang around.  South Dakota State +8.  

I went to a school in The MAC.  The MAC conference used to get some respect as they reliably sent a player to the NBA each year and the teams always had a certain pesky quality to the them.  These teams are made up of Midwestern guys that are really good basketball players but just can’t quite cut the mustard physically to get up to that next level of “the big schools”.  For example, a team like Buffalo will have a really good two guard that can score at will on the other guys in the MAC.  That’s because he’s 6 foot 3 and can jump 34 inches.  He’s The Man in the MAC.  Unfortunately for him, he is now going to fly out to the West Coast to play Arizona where all of the guys are a minimum of 6 foot 8 and can all jump 43 inches with wing spans like fucking condors.  Buffalo has three guys that can ball.  Arizona has 12 guys that can ball, and 10 guys on a practice team that could likely sneak onto Buffalo’s roster.  These games always go the same way.  Buffalo will play their guts out in the first half.  They will get gassed and then Arizona blows them out of the water.  Arizona -9.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Painter

He first picked up a paint brush at age 31.  He took to it immediately.  It was like he already knew what to do, to execute on the canvas what had formed in his head.  In no time at all he was a very good amateur without any training whatsoever.  He had come to the idea of painting one day as he installed a sink in a rundown apartment in a five story walk up.  His life had become a gray cloud of “is this all there is” glumness after his plumbing certifications had been earned.  He would start each day thinking “only another 34 years to go” before climbing into his dirty overalls.  He began to think of the overalls as prison garb.  He could never be sure why painting had been the answer, but there was never any hesitation.  It flashed in his mind like something he had been trying to remember and then came to him fully formed.  It felt natural.

He set to work to become a better painter with the same diligence he had applied to everything.  He tried to make sure, steady progress, always methodically pushing.  When he felt confident enough in his work, he tried to find a dealer that would sell his paintings.  This proved to be a challenge.  It appeared the art world was not extremely interested in slightly unsettling landscape paintings from a Midwestern plumber.  He could almost recite the rejection letters by memory.  “While we appreciate your interest in our gallery, we do not have a place for your work in our portfolio at this time.  Please keep us in mind in the future.”  He diligently sent out more sample portfolios to any gallery he could find that looked even remotely possible.

On a damp cloudy Wednesday he received a tattered letter from a small unfashionable gallery in Brussels he had contacted on a whim.  “We would be interested in showing two of your paintings in our upcoming emerging artist exposition if that would be agreeable to you.”  He carefully prepared shipping boxes, checking their sturdiness with the same precision he had learned from plumbing.  With a tinge of regret, he sent the packages and waited. 

He had begun to correspond with Emilee, the assistant at the gallery.  She would send him email and he would respond only with hand written letters.  The correspondence began as strictly business but then began to cautiously take a more personal tone.  The time lag between the email and the slow journey of the handwritten letter gave the time for more measured correspondence and narrative.  It created anticipation.  It also allowed him the indulgence of mentally placing himself into the world of struggling Flemish artists of the past.  Emilee was unlike anyone he knew at the beer joints near his home.  She was bright, viscously funny, and had a beautiful sadness around her edges.  She began to creep into him and his work.  He waited for her responses with great enthusiasm. 

Everyone at the gallery must have known.  His paintings had elevated.  They had even begun to sell.  There was now more depth.  There was an emotion to them that had always been lacking but never been evident until after his gradual correspondence with Emilee had blossomed.  She had also begun to champion his work which provoked side glances from other employees.  She was right though.  He was close to becoming noteworthy.

He had begun to paint with greater confidence.  It was evident on the canvas.  The work poured out of him.  The gallery had decided to run a month long feature on his work.  There was pressure to produce his finest work yet.  Emilee provided him consistent inspiration.  He had become completely devoted to her despite never being in the same physical space.  She was a constant companion in his consciousness.  His work days dragged as he counted down the time until he could paint again.  He was focused and perhaps for the first time, happy.

He received the small handwritten note eight weeks prior to his due date for his show.  The black ink printing was small and very neat, letters perfectly formed.  The paper was high quality with a careful fold.  He had never seen Emilee’s handwriting before.  “I cannot communicate with you any longer.  Do not try to reach me.  I will not respond.”  There was no explanation, no other rationale regardless of how many times he re-read the letter.  He called the gallery in a panic.  Emilee had resigned her position and moved.  No one knew where.  She left no contact information.  He had been split open with desperation.

He threw himself into his work.  He produced painting after painting, each better than the last.  He found no joy or release in it.  It offered no therapy.  He knew the work was good, but it gave him no satisfaction.  It was like gazing upon an open wound on himself.  He boxed them and sent them to Brussels, hoping to never see them again.  He ignored the excited emails from the gallery owner filled with praise for the paintings.  They sent him an airline ticket to attend the opening.  They pleaded with him to respond.  He ignored it all.  He continued to paint, lost in his grief.

The show was a hit.  He had arrived as an artist.  Small influential journals were effusive with praise.  Serious collectors began to make inquiries.  Opening night was the largest crowd the gallery had ever had with small groups of wealthy patrons whispering to each other while sipping white wine.  Gazing in the front window from the chill outside was Emilee.  She had the trace of a smile at the corners of her mouth.  The work was inspired.  She knew he had it in him.  She adjusted her gloves and walked briskly to the train station filled with satisfaction.  She had done it.  He had become a real artist.   

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Closing In On The WSET Diploma Grail

Today marks the first day I have woke up and not felt an immediate wave of guilt wash over me that I have not already been reading wine text books.  For the last two plus years I have gone to sleep reading about topics like Champagne Villages and then kicked myself in the morning when I realize I forgot maximum yield rates in the Aube when I re-read the data in the morning at breakfast.  The fact is that although a number like this has nothing to do with improving the quality of life, the minute chance that it could come up in one of these wine exams has me trying to force it into an area of the brain where I can recall it.  If I ever get into a conversation with a grape farmer in Northern France, it’s good to know I can say “So, looks like you harvested at under maximum yield this year.”.  After that we will probably struggle to communicate, especially since I can’t speak or understand French.  He will hate me for that alone.  Then he will smoke cigarettes and glare at me.

I took what could be my last wine exam on Tuesday, the sparkling wine unit exam for the WSET Diploma.  If I pass this exam, a distinct possibility, I will have earned the WSET Diploma.  Only one year ago, this seemed an impossibility.  It should be noted that almost no one has earned this certification as it is very tedious and takes forever.  I just read a blog post here  where a guy got crushed by the exams and folds up his tent.  There are something like 4000 people on the planet that have this Diploma title.  It seems to be growing in popularity lately though.  The numbers of people getting the diploma should swell based on the 80 uptight people that took the sparkling exam in San Francisco.  It’s really sort of stupid on my part.  Essentially, I went and got certified to be an anesthesiologist without being in position to put anyone under gas.  I’m an expert in a field I’m not in.  This either makes me the worst dinner party guest on the planet droning on about wine, or just a damn fool.

As usual, I got lucky with the exam.  I can’t tell you any specifics about the exam at this time as some goons from the WSET office in London will be dispatched to disembowel me if I do.  They threaten you right before taking the test.  It’s sort of great actually.  Eighty people are very uptight sitting in a hotel ballroom, and the test proctor reads a prepared sheet.  “We are now under test conditions.  Do not talk to anyone else at this point.  If you have anything on your desk but a pen and scrap paper, the WSET will fail you.  If your phone is anywhere near you and in the “on” position, you will be drowned in the San Francisco Bay by a surprisingly strong pale English boy named Roger.  If you reveal any information about the test on social media in the next 48 hours, the WSET will fail you and then disembowel you in front of your pets and then allow them to feast on your intestines before killing them in front of you and then finish you.  Oh, and put your candidate number on all the pieces of paper.  Good luck!”

There’s an overwhelming amount of information to try and learn for the exam.  From that potential pool of data, they ask you just three essay questions.  That’s it.  Three.  It could be anything.  You need a certain amount of luck.  These things tend to work out for me.  I just happened to meet seven wine producers from an obscure European region three days before the exam (as that is the kind of thing that can happen in San Francisco when you go to places with obscenely good wine).  There they poured their wines and patiently answered super dorky questions from me about soils, regional climate and yeast selections for second fermentations.  I was boring myself, but I figured what if this came up in the exam?  Against all odds, there it was…  “In regards to sparkling wine, discuss this obscure wine region”. 

The second question is about a place where the Daredevils and Cowslingers have toured though.  We spent an off night at this weird little town where I spent the afternoon talking to a no-nonsense winemaker that answered all my questions in a combination of annoyance and wonderment about how any person could be as stupid as me.  I could hear his deadpan voice in my head as I attempted to regurgitate all this information on a piece of notebook paper while cramming in whatever random stats I could in a desperate attempt to show I knew just enough to cross the finish line.  The odds of getting that question, once again, rather long.

They pour three sparkling wines to analyze.  At this point I have had so much sparkling wine I can identify some of them if you poured it into a styrofoam cup on a windy day.  The test wines were totally fair.  One was sort of lousy, one was sort of OK and one was really good.  I thought they were relatively easy to sort out.  If they wanted to, they could destroy you by pouring three wines blind like a dry sparkling Vouvray, a Tasmanian blanc de blanc, and a Blanquette de Die.  This test was actually quite reasonable (said the man hoping he didn’t screw up the wines).  I suppose I will see in another 6-8 weeks or whenever they get the results back to us.

If I fail this test, which in the world of the WSET is always a distinct possibility, I will just take it again.  I still think they jammed me up on that fortified exam last year because of all the terrible things I have written about them here.  “Yes, Miss Yardsley…  Please send Candidate number 13490084’s exam directly to Mr. Bates for a more thorough grading.  I believe he needs some special attention…”   I have since evolved.  I now have a more love/hate relationship as I understand The Beast that is English Education.  It took me longer than I would like to admit to understand the rules of the game.  There is no point in fighting with them about anything.  Like a student version of a submissive, I am now subservient to my pen wielding master.  If Roger or any of his goons are reading this, please spare me the rod.  My ball gag is inserted.

I await the result.            

Monday, March 5, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Sea Lion Situation

When I was 16, I swam out to a buoy and back in Lake Erie in mid April.  As I recall it was to win a bet.  The stakes were huge.  I think a McDonalds quarter pounder with cheese was in play.  The water was so cold I almost had a cardiac arrest when I first jumped in.  By the time I reached the buoy, my muscles had stopped working normally and it felt like I was swimming with mannequin arms.  I remember thinking “I’m going to be one of those assholes you hear about on the news”.  Local boy dies in lake accident.  Details at 11.  

I made it.  I was cold for literally three days afterwards.  If I had a leathery old grandmother, she would have said “the cold got in his bones!” as she shook her fist.  I should have spent the next two days with my feet in boiling water with a blanket over my head.  Instead I ate that shitty hamburger and rode my bike back home.  Ah, the Golden Years of Youth...

The only reason I mention this at all is I have discovered a small but dedicated group that swim in the San Francisco Bay.  Why someone would willingly swim in the cold choppy waters for pleasure, I can’t be sure.  I think that human beings can get used to almost anything.  Pain, be it physical or mental, becomes normal.  Maybe you jump in to win a hamburger as a boy, and the next thing you know, it’s “your thing”.  There are people that swim every day amongst the seal lions and seals in the cove as part of their daily ritual.  

An interesting twist is that this year something unusual has been going on with the sea lions.  No one knows why, but they have been getting aggressive with swimmers.  In the last year there have been ten recorded incidents of sea lions biting swimmers whereas in the last decade there was one.  I would imagine that a sea lion goes from a fun little ocean dog to a big fast terrifying water bear when that beast chomps down on an arm.  I was reading a story of a guy that swims daily that looked down and saw a sea lion staring at him with his arm in his mouth.  He whacked him in the face and saw his bones and muscle tendrils flopping in the water.  This would be categorized as “a disappointing swim”.

He made it back to shore on adrenaline, and went to the hospital to discover he was at risk for “seal finger”.  Apparently old time sealers (and who knew that there was such a term as “sealer”) would get bacterial infections from handling seals that would result in insanely painful fingers.  The cure at the time was amputation, which frankly sounds worse than the seal finger infection itself.  I read this little passage that gave me a shudder.  “It was not uncommon that a patient at sea on a fishing voyage would demand amputation of a finger to avoid losing valuable working time and wages”.  Ye Gods.

At first the belief was that one sea lion had gone rogue.  I like the idea of a rogue sea lion.  Maybe he was the sea lion the other ones looked at and kept a safe distance from while sunning themselves on the dock.  “Dude... something is just off with Charlie...”.   One rogue sea lion could really turn their comfortable world upside down.  One minute you’re eating fish the tourists toss you.  The next you’re being harpooned as a menace.  I would think the others would want to chill that rogue sea lion out.  

The rogue sea lion theory went away after the attacks mounted.  The new idea is that there has been a chemical change in the water that’s making the sea lions crazy.  That seems like some armchair scientist tomfoolery to me.  The most complicated explanation gives someone a chance to show their educational chops.  It’s probably a much simpler explanation.  I’m thinking the sea lion is swimming around in his world, sees a swimmer plodding along and thinks “what does that guy think he’s doing out here in the cold?  You know what... fuck that guy.  You don’t see me laying around his workplace barking.  I’m going to teach him a little lesson.”  Pow.  It’s as reasonable a theory as any.

Swimming in cold water is a bad idea.  Swimming in cold water and being bitten by a pissed off water bear is worse.  Having to chop your finger off because you were voluntarily swimming in cold water with angry water bears is the worst yet.  There’s no reason to be out there at all.  Well, unless you can win a cheap hamburger off your buddies.