Friday, August 31, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Strangers In The Photo

He was sitting in the company lunch room, a bleak industrial space without windows and under fluorescent light.  A slight buzz could be heard from a failing bulb.  He had decided to trade in the desperate loneliness of wondering about his lost love for the piercing pain of certainty in searching out photographs of her on social media. He was staring at a photo of her in a group.  It was a mixed group of men and women, smiling with the shared comraderie of a night out.  He studied it like the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination.  What did the subtle facial expressions indicate?  Each hand location implied familiarity and no doubt created dozens of potential scenarios in his head.  He stared over at me.  “I never should have looked for her.”

I, on the other hand, had hoped to slip by and go out to the parking lot with that nod of acknowledgement that signified “Hello.  I see you.  Greetings, but I cannot stop due to inflexible time constraints.”  He was deep in it though.  There was no way I could avoid it.  I was going to have to fill the role of priest, advisor, and most likely liar.  He needed someone to throw him a rope. 

“What do you think?  Is she with one of these guys?  Or is this just like a bunch of people from the office that went out?”  Now I didn’t know any of these people.  I had never seen them before.  And these photos were frivolous instants in stranger’s lives.  What did I know?  It was a group of people in their late 20s/early 30s.  Everybody had probably fucked everybody or was at least trying to.  I looked at it closely.  Somebody was fucking the cute little brown girl.  That was clear.  Probably the guy in the baseball cap.  His ex-girl was in the back of the group smiling, not wanting to be the center of attention.  She was probably just out with the group.  Yet…  Who was that guy back there near her?  He seemed a bit meek, like he was under the sway of the girl in question.  Hmmm…  Something was going on there.

“I don’t know.  Who are these people?”  He wasn’t sure.  Work friends he thought.  They were all on some sort of outing.  “Well, someone is hooked up with that girl in the green.  I think it’s that douche baseball hat guy.  One of the two dorks is probably with that puffy pale girl in the sundress.  It looks like your girl is just hanging out.” 

“Really?  Do you think so?  I think that guy back there next to her might be her new boyfriend.  See how he’s lurking near her?”  Uh-oh.  He saw the same thing I did.  I looked over at my co-worker, knowing full well what he expected.  He needed me to provide him with a scenario where he could have the willing suspension of disbelief that his girl was still like he remembered her, thinking about him as much as he was thinking about her, that somehow, they would get back together.  He needed me to tell him a lie that he could cling to for combating the misery of imagining her happy, in constant coital bliss, and having totally forgotten him.  He needed a lie that would work.

“No way.  She would never go out with that pussy.  Look at him.  He’s probably just trying to get in there.  Look how uncomfortable he looks, like he’s got no game.  I wouldn’t worry about it.”  He stared back at his phone, trying on my scenario, seeing if it fit.  I took that pause as my way out.  “Hey, I gotta go.  Don’t let it bother you.  It’s her loss.”  I walked out the door, a successful escape.  I still had the image of the photo in my mind, of the girl and the thin uncomfortable man.  There was no doubt. 

They looked like a couple.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Hate Huntington Bank Part 2


Andy Harmening
Huntington Bank
17 South High Street
Columbus OH  43216


I was a little disappointed that you did not reach out to me personally, but I am glad you dispatched one of your minions towards fixing the failed international wire transfer of August 13th. I am now at Day 16 and appear no further along than when we started. I had a glimmer of hope when speaking with Sue Roberts last week. Though Sue was clearly not much of “a Greg Miller guy” and couldn’t get off the phone with me quickly enough, I do believe that she was attempting to address the issue.  Alas, I also do not believe she has any more practical knowledge of bank transfer practicalities than I do.  This isn’t good Andy, as I have previously explained that I’m just a “song and dance man”.  I don’t handle international wire transfers and apparently neither does Huntington Bank.

Let me bring you up to speed. It seems that nothing can happen without “The Wire Department”. Each person I have spoken to at your bank has referred to “The Wire Department” as the only people that can be a conduit to this problem.  They are the Wizards behind The Magic Curtain.  When I ask for more detailed information on whatever the latest perplexing excuse that has been offered up by a Huntington employee, I’m told “The Wire Department” would have the additional information I’m requesting.  I am not allowed to speak with The Wire Department though.  I’m told because “they don’t speak to the public” as if this were an impossibility as opposed to your own policy.  I then need to wait for your people to follow up, which they don’t.  Sue Roberts was supposed to call me back by COB today with an update as per our conversation Friday afternoon, and I have received no communication.    

Andy, I am going to try to impress upon you in the strongest terms that I need my money back.  I don’t want any more of your minions to call me.  I need you to throw your weight into this.  I want YOU to pick up the phone and call whoever you need to call to put the fear of Jesus into them.  I would suggest imparting the idea that unless someone wires that money back to my account that you will drive over to The Wire Department, rip off someone’s head, and authoritatively defecate down their neck in front of their sobbing colleagues. Look, you and I both know that would be highly irregular for a Senior Executive Vice President of Consumer and Business Banking to act like some sort of drunken Visigoth tribal chief, especially in a Columbus office park.  They don’t know that though, at least not for sure.  At the very least, it would get their attention. 

Andy, you are the Senior Executive Vice President of Consumer and Business Banking while I'm just a humble minstrel, so please proceed how you feel most prudent.  I don’t want to tell you how to do your job.  I will point out that thus far your tactics have been highly ineffective.  On the other hand, my plan will create the urgency of not letting me continue look like an asshole to my business partners in Germany who still await payment.  The last 16 days have taught me that no one at Huntington can or will follow up to solve a problem as promised.  If you don’t mind me saying, “The Wire Department” appears to be a free-wheeling entity that does what they please.  I have a vision of them right now having frozen margaritas and chimichangas, laughing it up about ignoring the repeated requests to find this lost money.  One of them is probably taking a selfie in a sombrero right now. 

Normally I wouldn’t take the time to write a letter like this and share it with thousands of people.  You’ve left me with no other options.  It is obvious by your actions that you and the people at Huntington Bank don’t care.   If left to your own devices I believe I would NEVER have this resolved.  The Company Value Statement, undoubtedly crafted by a team of consultants and then only referenced in self-praising internal communications, states that Huntington Bank’s Value and Mission is to “Do the Right thing with a “Can-Do Attitude” (enthusiastically work and succeed together), “Service Heart” (inclusive spirit to put yourself in each other’s shoes-then help) and “Forward Thinking” (Always look ahead for ways to be the very best).  Between us, I bet people at Huntington Bank “team building outings” knock out some eye rolls when the perky consultant points to them on the white board.  That company mission statement seems like a reach, right?  I need for Huntington to shoot for a “Maybe attitude” (bare minimum effort), “Fake smiles” (at least pretend you care about jamming me up), “Middle of the road” (“Not as bad as you expected”).  I think this is a tangible goal.

I know you are involved in high powered meetings with more lucrative customers than me.  Your days are not spent thinking about one low end customer.  I get it.  I’d rather be playing squash with a gold-plated racquet against some dude named Brandon at my country club too.  I can’t though because I have to try to GET MY MONEY BACK FROM YOU TO PAY MY BILLS.  I just need a modest effort here.  I just need to see if there is someone… anyone at Huntington Bank… that can put forth the absolute bare minimal effort to find my lost money and return it to me.

For the love of God, won’t someone do the right thing over there?


Greg Miller

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Hate Huntington Bank


Andy Harmening
Huntington Bank
17 South High Street
Columbus OH  43216

I don’t know what you know about international wire transfers.  As a powerful executive in ‘The Banking Game’, I’d like to think you are well versed in the process.  However, based on my interaction with all the employees at your bank, this would be a potentially dangerous assumption.  It appears that very few (if any) of your employees are aware of the process or more importantly, the troubleshooting steps when there is an issue.  Allow me to explain.

I am attempting to pay for an LP pressing at a German record pressing plant.  I don’t know if you have dealt with many Germans, but they have a well-deserved reputation for being very focused on precision and timeliness.  For example, when my band has performed shows in The Fatherland (insider tip!  Fatherland is a term for “Germany”), there have been occasions where we have considered delaying a start time of a show.  For example, maybe a scheduled 9pm start is not wise due to a late arriving crowd from a sporting event that has run long.  I will suggest to the Germans that we delay.  The Germans will then huddle with one another in nervous fashion and debate for several minutes.  Then the spokesman will emerge to walk over to me to say, “We talked about it and decided to delay your start time.  Instead of 9pm, let’s make it 9:03.”.  I am not kidding.  This happened once.

I stopped at your Twinsburg branch where Tim Ferree initiated the wire transfer from the provided information from the pressing plant.  All appeared to be routine.  As far as I knew, the money was transferred, the Germans paid, and our records shipped to our European contact.  Several days later I received a terse email from The Germans asking me why they had not received payment.  I do not like receiving terse emails from Germans, and I don’t think you would either Andy.  It’s no way to greet a morning.

It seems they had not received the money.  I contacted your 800-customer service number where I spoke with a remarkably unhelpful woman that suggested I could only speak with Tim to receive assistance in discovering why my money had not been received.  I then called Tim who tried to figure out where the money had gone.  We then filled out “a dispute case” to send to “The Wire Department”.  After two days I had not received any information about A) where the money was B) a plan to find it or C) any sense of urgency in trying to do so.

Andy, I’m not a high rolling, pill popping, jet setting, life-on-the-razor’s edge Senior Executive Vice President of Consumer and Business Banking like you.  I’m just a simple “Song & Dance Man”.  Myself and my merry band of minstrels need to have our money to pay for our music projects on a timely basis.  We don’t drive around in well-appointed American luxury cars in our mink shoes like you wealthy banker types in Columbus.  We are hardworking folks that earned our money with our sweat and expect our bank to be as concerned about our money as we are.  This is not the case at Huntington, where, if I can use the parlance of the times, the bank appears to “give zero fucks” about the customer.

Now I realize this is strong language Andy, and I hate to use it, but I’m quite frustrated.  Let me tell you why.  After a 56-minute phone call in your cleverly designed “electronic phone dungeon” I finally threatened and cajoled my way into speaking to a human being that at least tried to help.  Jakob Nelson should be commended for at least admitting how completely incompetent the bank was handling this fiasco when he had to deliver the news to me that we could file an “elevated complaint”, which is I assume your version of “double secret probation” as per the National Lampoon film “Animal House”.  (A good film I highly recommend by the way).

The issue appears to be that Huntington wired the money to Wells Fargo who wired it to the German bank.  Each link in the chain takes days to respond to an inquiry on the ironically named SWIFT System, though I was promised they would be able to give me an answer on the location of my funds in ninety (90) days.  This is when I said to Jakob, “excuse me?” as it seems impossible that it could take 90 days to essentially find an email. 

In 90 days, you could have someone walk from Columbus, hitch a ride on an ocean freighter, disembark anywhere in Europe and take a train to the German bank to find the money.  What takes 90 days in business anywhere?  It takes 83 days to build a Boeing 777.  It would be a great reality tv show to have your “Wire Department” race the staff of Boeing.  On one side of the TV screen a person sits in front of a computer and a phone with all the information on my bank transfer.  On the other a group of people assemble a jet airliner from nothing a full week ahead of your employee.  Hell, they could build it and then fly to Germany and beat you guys to the money by 6.5 days.    

Andy, I hope I’m not overstepping my bounds when I offer this potential solution to this 90-day window of finding my money.  The telephone.  Yes, my friend, the telephone.  Someone at Huntington Bank could, in theory, pick up this device and reach someone at the bottleneck of this problem and say, “Pardon me, do you know where our customer’s money is because he is two weeks late paying some Germans and now they are losing their minds.”  Now I understand that Huntington Bank is not a big believer in the telephone as I found it impossible to reach you on the phone, or even leave you a message.  Huntington will also not allow me to speak with anyone in the fabled “wire department”, which might just be an email portal that goes to Wells Fargo where you clip your customers with an upcharge.  You don’t get mink shoes for free, eh?

My final email from Huntington today was that you have “requested for the funds to be returned.  They will be put back into your account, but I cannot give you a time frame.  I once had an instance where the return took over 30 days…”.  So, to review:

·         You lost my money
·         You told me you could tell me where my money was by Thanksgiving but instead…
·         You have “requested” the money be returned from this instantaneous electronic banking system that somehow takes a month

Andy, Huntington is not invested in keeping customers vaguely satisfied.  The bank has greased up a two by four and shoved it with great enthusiasm up my ass.  I need to pay the Germans with the money you lost, and I need to do it a week ago.  I find Huntington Bank’s position to be remarkably laissez faire.  I would suspect that if I had all your money and told you “Hey Andy, chill out dude.  Maybe I will find it by Thanksgiving.  Just tell your landlord not to freak.” you might have a little empathy.  My guess is that if someone lost Huntington Bank CEO Stephen Steinour’s wire transfer, people would be scuttling around like frantic spider monkeys over there.  “Hey Steve… chill out Bro.  We’ll look around for it tomorrow…”  I don't think that's going to fly.  You don't get to be the Senior Executive Vice President of Consumer Banking telling people like Stephen Steinour to "chill out".

So how about it?  Can someone do the right thing over there?  Can I get at least the appearance of some effort?  

Greg Miller

P.S.  I saw your company mission statement on your website.  Stop kidding yourselves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Alligator Attack

There was a news story about a woman being killed by an alligator in South Carolina.  I’m immediately drawn to those stories as I am always interested in someone meeting their demise from a monster.  It’s a much more exciting headline than “Man Slumps Over At Taco Bell From Heart Attack After Eating Cheese Explosion Nachos”.  There is something primal and tangible about a reptile bursting out of the water and pulling a screaming human into the depths.  For reasons I can’t explain, I’m always sad when I hear about the alligator being captured and killed in the aftermath.  The alligator was just being an alligator.  It’s not his fault.  Nancy exhibited poor safety protocol by walking a little snack by the water’s edge.  I can understand public opinion not being with me on this.  Clearly it would be uncomfortable to stroll around the lake in future weeks to note, “Hey, there’s that alligator that ate Nancy”.  That probably wouldn’t play at the Neighborhood Association Meeting.

In the scale of things, this is a minor news event.  Yet, all morning TV news programs jump all over it because we ALL want to know about a scary monster attacking.  It’s ratings gold.  One of the only disappointments is the stories all follow the same formula.  Person with dog walks by alligator.  Alligator does what alligators do and attacks.  Police say, “It’s a helluva thing.  Oh, and we neutralized the alligator.”  Animal expert in interview says “that was a bad idea to walk by the alligator with a miniature poodle”.  Then family and friends eulogize the deceased while a series of grainy stolen Facebook photos pan back and forth.  “Nancy was the nicest person you ever met, only doing things for others.  She would do anything for anyone.  This is a tragic loss.  We will miss her forever.  She was a saint.”

This is when I wish the news story was a little less flowery.  Maybe they should dig in there a bit.  For example, let’s say that I wander too close to the pond by my house walking the bassets and an enormous eel strikes.  He’s a monster.  Fifty feet long with a mouth as big as a Jetta.  Maybe I even valiantly fight the eel off and allow the bassets to drift off for their escape before being pulled flailing into the pond.  State animal protection agents rush to the scene and dynamite the sea monster, dragging it out of the pond with a tractor.  “This was a tragic event which could have been prevented.”, said State Wildlife officer Brandon Kerns.  “This is Eel Country in Lorain County.  Residents should know not to walk too close to brackish water.”

There is then a montage of clipped Facebook pictures of me in cowboy hats, Mexican wrestling masks, and hopefully an awkward portrait from the early 90s.  “Greg was an OK guy I guess.  He was always a little standoffish and his sarcasm seemed to have a bit too much of a bite.  He didn’t seem to care about others all that much.  He wasn’t quite right in my opinion.  Clearly his best years were behind him.  All and all, I don’t know how much of a loss this was.  I mean, an eel’s gotta eat, right?” said local neighbor Bob Stanley.   Then the story cuts to the studio where the anchor sounds serious and quickly brightens up.  “A cautionary tale for those of us near ponds…  Coming up next, a local cat water skis for charity!”

The current news stories of alligator attacks never really satisfy like that one would.  Sure, in theory I feel badly for Nancy getting eaten by the alligator.  It had to be a very bad surprise when that roared out of the lake, one that Nancy was ill-equipped to handle.  Her dog had to be more than a bit concerned.  I agree that conceptually, it’s a terrible tragedy.  However, it’s just something on TV.  It’s not real.  It’s the same as Game of Thrones, like a dragon attacked.  Look, I’m not even sure if South Carolina is real.  I just can't generate real feelings of connection.  The only thing that really caught my eye was this…  The dog was OK.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Catholic Church

I was raised in the Catholic Church.  Almost everyone I knew was too.  I was vaguely aware of other religions, but thought of them as obscure as everyone I knew went to CCD classes and/or Catholic Schools.  We were all Irish or Polish kids.  We had one Jewish kid in our entire school, and there was a rumor of a couple of kids being some Protestant off shoot that had the tiny church close to the high school.  Other than that, we were all in for the same ride.

When asked about my religious preference, I always use the phrase “raised Catholic”.  I haven’t ever willingly attended church services since my confirmation into the church, a forced labor given to me by my father. Yet, being raised in the Catholic Church does a number on you regardless.  I have had guilt pounded into me from the moment I walked into the building.  I was born with sin.  I had a hand in Jesus’ death.  I was consistently committing sins that needed to be redeemed via incantations and confession.  Anything associated with pleasure was sinful.  If you are happy, you must have done something wrong.  Repent.  Duty is more important than happiness.

I never connected with the church.  To me it was always impenetrable rituals that had no meaning.  We were forced to memorize words that didn’t mean anything to us and repeat them on command.  I still don’t have a grasp on what the Lamb of God is.  Each Sunday I was forced to attend mass with my father and brother.  None of us got anything out of it.  My father was there out of duty, and dragged us along as well as his father had done to him when he was a boy.  My mother, a non-practicing Protestant of some kind, must have loved the time in the house alone on Sunday mornings. 

We used to sit by the door on the right hand side so when the mass was almost concluded we would slip out the side as the priest painstakingly read aloud the church bulletin, which had been placed in all the parishioners’ hands upon entry.  That fucking bulletin would drone on almost as long as the mass itself.  It was brutal. We would roar out of the parking lot before “traffic” with the same sort of feeling of victory my father had when leaving a Buffalo Bills game prior to the final gun.  (Which is why we missed one of the greatest come from behind games in NFL history when the Bills improbably beat the Patriots in the early 80s.)

In the school year, I was forced to go to CCD classes.  These were religion classes taught after the 930a mass on Sunday by either priests or well-intentioned parishioners, none of which had any real idea of how to engage with children.  The class would last probably an hour, but it seemed like a thousand lifetimes.  I remember sitting at a desk, as some lady would attempt to explain why it was important to say the rosary, as I even then understood it to be a diversionary chant.  Yet there was no greater crime than to be unable to recite an Act of Contrition on command.  I had those prayers pounded into me like sledgehammer and even now I can recite them from muscle memory.

The teachings of the church itself are admirable.  All religions have the same basic playbook.  Be nice to each other.  Take care of your neighbor.  Don’t be an asshole.  You can be whatever religion you want, and as long as you don’t lose your mind in literalism, you’ll have a code of conduct that is pretty reasonable.  Teaching kids the fundamentals of decent behavior seems like a good thing to do, no?

One of the teachers we had in CCD was Father Schanz.  He was an older guy with a temper.  He was sort of the #2 at the church and appeared to have a great deal of respect.  We all feared him in our CCD classes, as he would drop the hammer if we had been acting up in front of another teacher.  He was always quick to call out students to stand in front of the group and recite arcane facts and prayers.  But Father Schanz had a friendly side too. He seemed to take a particular interest in a few of the boys that I knew from school, a group that was considered to be “bad” kids.  Father Schanz cultivated a special relationship with those boys, and they seemed to get away with more in class than the rest of us thanks to their special relationship.

We were probably about 12-13 years old when those “bad kids” and a small group of us talked about the upcoming CCD classes.  This was the year we would have Father Schanz as instructor and most of us dreaded it.  A couple of the bad kids spoke up.  “Hey, Father Schanz is cool.  He took us out on his boat this summer.  He’s a really cool dude.”  Now this was impressive.  We were just a bunch of kids.  At that time I had never considered that any of the priests ever left the church, much less owned small speedboats.  I never thought about them doing normal things.  Who would have guessed that Father Schanz was this totally cool guy roaring around in the lake in a speedboat? 

The boys told us about how he was really cool when they were on the boat.  “He let us drink beer!”  At that point I had not had even more than a sip of beer.  Yet, here was really strict Father Schanz offering up cold ones to pre teen boys!  After hours, he really let his hair down.  That’s when things got a little weird.  One of the guys gave a little sheepish laugh.  “Yeah, we all went swimming but he had us take off our swim suits.  He said we should swim as the Lord intended us to.  Then he wouldn’t give us our towels and said we should just dry out in the sun.  I guess that’s the way people always used to do it.”

Now at this point I’m thinking “that’s really fucked up”, but I’m not sure.  I mean, Father Schanz is an authority figure.  He is the last word in what is right and wrong in CCD classes.  Everyone defers to him, even the other teachers.  But still, it doesn’t seem right to take off your bathing suits and swim naked for no real reason.  Why is he taking the boat far out on the lake with no one else around?  And how come there aren’t any other adults on the boat?  We all began to debate it, pretty sure it was wrong, but maybe just like we couldn’t understand that whole Lamb of God thing, maybe we don’t get this either.  It was confusing.  The bad kids were also exchanging looks of some kind.  It seemed like something else might have happened out there, but those guys weren’t talking.  Like kids do, we just moved on.  It never occurred to me to tell my parents or any authority figure about it.  Father Schanz WAS the authority figure.  He knew God personally.

I hadn’t thought about that in years.  Last week the 1000 page report on priest abuses in Pennsylvania came out.  I went to the link and saw it was possible to do a search for priests alphabetically.  I didn’t hesitate.  One name came to mind to enter.  Schanz.  Ding!  There it was.  Erie County.  One of the implicated priests, forced to retire.  It was an open secret amongst all the boys in the parish.  Don’t be alone with Father Schanz, hahaha…  Oh, he’s just a harmless guy with some quirks.  We all knew.  I’m sure we weren’t alone.  Who knows what really happened out on that boat?  How many boys did he “take an interest in”?  The other priests at that church must have known.  The Church decided to do nothing that would risk the business.  It was a business decision.  Don’t take it personal kid.

Conceptually I knew I would never return to the Catholic Church.  I walked out of there at 17 with a lifetime of implanted guilt and a basic ethical codebook.  Now, having particulars to attach to the broad stroke scandals that have continued to leak from the church, it would be impossible to return.  It’s impossible to reconcile what they have done to the weakest people in their care.  The Catholic Church is and always has been a business.  It is time for that business to close up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Cowslinger Set List

I had received numerous requests online for songs for the Cowslinger set list or questions as to what we might play this Friday night.  Let’s not get into titles.  I will lay out what I’m thinking for a set list based on what the songs are about. 

  1. We used to spend an unbelievable amount of time driving around the country in a van.  I always identified with truck drivers as part of our sick underground “fraternity of the blacktop” as we all pushed well beyond normal limits to make our routes. Friday night in Columbus and a Saturday in Athens Georgia?  No problem.  Got to leave Athens in time to get home in Cleveland by early afternoon?  Yeah, we can do that.  Right by the counter of every legit truck stop are the dodgy off brands of speed available to help make that 3a-530a shift happen.
  2. When I was a kid I used to drive past a restaurant on the Sterrettania Road exit in Erie PA that was close to my house.  I never ate there.  I never walked in the place even once, but I did eat at a lot of other truck stops across this country.  This is a combination of all the truck stops I ever went into but I placed in that one restaurant I didn't.
  3. There was an evening in which I ran into a lovely woman that was in a group project of mine in college.  I was a total degenerate at this point, able to consume amounts of tequila that would fell a large brown bear.  This poor girl, a petite girl with a perfectly chipped tooth and fabulous brown hair, fell into my world and started to have tequila with me.  I walked her home and disaster ensued. 
  4. My hair stylist a couple of years ago was late for our appointment one Saturday morning.  I don’t normally get out of the house if I’m home on a Saturday morning, so I was greatly annoyed at her tardiness.  When she finally arrived and leaned in to cut my hair I noticed the unmistakable scent of sex and day old gin.  She was clearly 20 minutes late because she was enjoying intercourse with whomever she had taken (or was taken) home by the previous evening on some type of gin bender.  
  5. There are television ads which in the industry are referred to as “PI” or “per inquiry” ads.  This means that the advertiser does not pay a set rate for the ads, but rather pays the television network an agreed amount for anyone that responds to the ad.  In the early 90s there was a never-ending ad series for a Time Life book series about the Wild West.  The books came in fake leather covers to make them look old fashioned.  I always wondered who bought those books and who was that mesmerized by the Old West.
  6. In a roundabout way this song is about a former band member that spoke in legendary terms about his Los Angeles punk rock days.  One day while having dinner at his home, his mother informed us that he had actually moved out there on a Friday, called home crying on a Saturday, and flew home on a Sunday.  His LA Punk Rock Days ™ were actually an LA Punk Rock Weekend.  The stanza about the pale girl dressed in black isn't about him.  It's about a pale vegan girl that is much more vicious than she appears.
  7. One of my great fears is to wind up in one of those cars I see at inner city stop lights where the speakers are banging out chart busting hits that other people enjoy but make me break out in hives.  I have almost no connection to popular culture at this point.  I don’t say this as a badge of honor, but rather as a warning.  It happened to me, it’s probably already happened to you and if it hasn’t, it will.
  8. Link Wray was the greatest rock musician of his time.  That’s not a debatable point.  It’s just the way that it is.
  9. I wrote this one sitting on the steps outside the Moto Lounge in Jacksonville FL, probably the club with the best pinball machine selection we ever played.  Sometimes when it seems like everything is going wrong and there is no hope to be had, you can look at a sadder sack than you standing in line for a lottery ticket.  You know, and they know, there is no chance they will come up a winner.  They never have and they never will.  That doesn’t mean that they still won’t play the lottery.  It’s when folks who play the lottery stop is when you know their hope died.
  10. This is one of my favorite songs to play.  It makes a bunch of photographs that I have in my head flip past my brain when I sing it.  It can’t possibly mean the same thing to anyone that listens to it, but the hook is so good that you can’t help remembering it.  A girl named Alena, a masseuse with a terrible soul, gave me one of the best lines in it.  "She said I know, what you'd expect?" 
  11. We used to have to kill time in weird places before gigs on the road.  I was usually the Pack Leader and came up with the stupid ideas.  One of our favorite things to do was to go to the dog track in Nitro West Virginia, the single best place to people watch in America before a big corporation messed it up and put table games and video poker in there.  It was like a circus sideshow on meth.  By the way, if you need a winner at the dog track, Leo is your guy.
  12. There was a kid that lived down my street that had this piece of shit old Mustang.  It wasn’t one of those classic ones from the 60s either.  It was one of them from the late 80s that hair metal fans that put dream catchers on their rearview mirrors that doubled as roach clips drove. It was the kind of car that always had Winger blasting out of it.  The car sucked.  It had a specialty license plate. 88 Stang.  What a piece of shit.  That kid loved that car though.
  13. The first time we ever played this cover was when we played a gig with SCOTS at Champaign IL at Mabels that Sasha the Mensch booked.  SCOTS was really dragging having spent the day at a Rolling Stone magazine photo shoot.  Their “Dirt Track Date” (a great record) had come out and was making some noise.  They were groggy and road weary.  We, on the other hand, were in great shape playing our first show.  We came out on stage with that perfect buzz of three beers and kicked into an Aerosmith cover at the end.  We made it fucked up like one of our songs.  You could see the crowd bob their heads, into it, but not sure of what it was.  When Leo and I sang the chorus you could see guys nudging their friends finally recognizing it with broad smiles.  We kept playing it after that as it’s fun as hell to play.        

That’s what I’m thinking.  We’ll play more if we have time.  I might also feel like the vibe of the place is different than this list and toss this out at the last minute.  Don't worry though, it will be fine.  Come get some.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Ruminations On Touring

We are coming back to Europe to do a tour this Fall.  It’s been three years, so in the back of my mind comes the question if anyone will remember who were are and will come to see us play.  The world moves so quickly.  Everything changes and I feel like I’m the same 28 year old I've always been.  Most people’s attention span runs for about 17 seconds.  Venues disappear.  Scenes rise and fall.  Castles melt away into the sea.  The crusty hardcore punk that booked the club last tour is now an accountant with a two year old.  Things just move on.

The first time we did a tour overseas was in Spain. I had received a letter from a small label in Spain, Rock&Roll Inc.  We put out a record and after two more letters back and forth we decided to do a small tour there.  It seems completely insane that four men would climb into an airplane to fly to a country where they didn’t understand the culture or language and essentially just show up and hope everything would be OK because of a couple letters strangers sent you.  We had never met any of these people before flying over.  We just trusted it would work out and it did.

It was harder to tour in foreign countries then.  Spain had the “peseta” for currency, which had an impossible conversion rate of something like 178-1.  Krusty and I could do that type of math in our heads, but I know for a fact that Bob and Leo had no idea if they were paying 14 cents or $1500 for a soda in a gas station.  They just handed over a wad of odd looking money to the cashier and hoped for the best.  None of us spoke the language and English wasn’t nearly as widely spoken as it is now.  There was a lot of pointing and making “OK” signs when trying to wrangle something from a clerk.

I took two years of Spanish in high school.  I had retained two things.  I could say “Donde esta zapatos rojo?”, which is very effective if you want to know where the red shoes are located.  I also remembered the phrase “ciudad de oro” which means “city of gold”.  It was one of the key phrases in a Spanish reading comprehension test I had passed in unlikely fashion with an A+ to limp out of high school Spanish with a “C”.  For our final we had been given a reading comprehension test completely in Spanish, just like one of those standardized tests given in elementary school.  I had a working Spanish vocabulary at the same level as a pony, so I just glommed onto whatever word I recognized.  “OK… something about “pollo” which is chicken and “donde”…  Why and chicken…  Why did the chicken cross the road maybe…  OK… What is Spanish for “the other side”?”  Plainly put, it was a miracle I passed.

Those chickens, or pollo, came home to roost on that tour.  I never knew what anyone was talking about.  I was being whisked around the country like a functional illiterate.  I remember telling Leo “I think I know what’s it like to be you never knowing what is going on” to which he replied “I know!  It’s great, isn’t it Dude?”.  I think he missed my point or maybe I missed his, but we all did the best we could.

We were about eight days into the tour when we stopped to eat a pre-gig meal with our tour manager Javier in a family restaurant.  It was a small town in the northern part of Spain, maybe Vitoria or outside Bilbao somewhere.  The room was a giant rectangle with the toilets in the back of the house in full view of all the patrons.  In these Spanish towns everyone would have drinks and tapas on a little circuit.  Then the entire group moved on from the little bar with the good fish toasts to the one with the octopus over to the one with the jamon.  The circuit ended at the small family restaurant.  At this point, everyone knew that the four strangers were American musicians and they all looked at us as a curiosity.  This is when Little Bobby Marika made two (2) tragic mistakes in front of the entire town.

Bobby had learned that if wine had come from a pitcher, it was acceptable to cut it with water.  I think the custom was a way to cut alcohol intake at lunch and/or change the harshness of cheap jug red wine.  That was to the south however, and Bob was unaware that we had moved into Rioja country, arguably Spain’s finest wine producing area.  We had begun to dig into our entrees when Bob reached over for the bottle on the table, poured himself a glass, and then cut it in half with water.  An audible gasp exhaled from the entire dining room.

Now I don’t know what wine they had poured us as I was just getting into wine at that time.  If I had to guess, I will bet it was a decent reserva or maybe even a gran reserva.  These people were amazingly warm and generous hosts.  It would have been the equivalent of having someone pour you an 18 year old single malt scotch and then you thanked them while simultaneously pouring a Mountain Dew into it.  With the audible gasp, I looked up to see what had happened.  Javier quickly told Bob, “No, not this one!  You don’t do that with this one!” to which the completely unflummoxed Bob just gulped some down after shrugging his lack of concern.

The meal ended and the diners lingered at their tables in that non-stressed way of Europeans.  Bobby got up from the table and walked all the way through the dining room to the toilets.  Everyone glanced at the American boor that had just now begun to fade from outrage as he walked through the tables.  I remember glancing with half interest when I saw him walk confidently into the door marked “senoras”.  The dining room began to buzz again as word began to spread that the American musician had just gone to the women’s room.

Bobby, who also had a couple years of Spanish in high school, plopped back down in his chair upon his return.  “Bob…  Did you notice anything strange about that bathroom?”.  Bob reached for more watered down gran reserva wine and shook his head.  No.  What?  What?  He knew he was in the hot seat, but had no idea why.  Javier leaned in and said “You went to the women’s toilet man”.  Bob’s face suddenly lit up in shock.  “What?  What the fuck are you talking about.  It said “senoras”!”  Javier leaned in again and pointed to Bob’s chest with a long bony finger.  You are a caballero, NOT a senora.  Bob’s eyes grew even larger.  “Oh my God!  I’ve been going to the women’s room all week!”  

Though we all asked a frenzy of questions amidst what must have been one of the absolute hardest laughing fits of my life, I was never able to figure out how he had not picked up on the fact he was always in the women’s room.  I remember asking him why he didn’t notice that there weren’t any urinals in any of the toilets he was going into.  “I don’t know!  I thought it was a Spanish thing!”.  Not once did he casually slide up to any of us and inquire, “Hey… Isn’t it weird that there aren’t any urinals here and occasionally women will walk into the men’s room like they belong?”.  It’s hard to say his reasoning.  We were all just trying to figure it out as best we could I suppose.

Touring was more of an eye opening adventure then.  We are all grizzled enough now for Euro touring sliding into "novelty of new places", but even now we will be coming back to some of our reliably favorite places to see old friends.  It's not really that much different, just a little less surprising.  It's still just a small variation of us climbing onto an airplane and hoping everything is going to be OK when we arrive on distant shores with all kinds of things out of our control.  It's good to maintain some sense of adventure in life.  Without that, there is only tedium.  Things are a bit different at this stage.  I'm a little wiser now, a bit more relaxed, and I also know that "Herren" is German for "men's room".  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Nurse the Hate: My Eagles Uniform

I was introduced to football by my father, like most boys.  I started my relationship with football at a young age.  My most cherished outfit was a Philadelphia Eagles uniform that I would wear as a child complete with a small plastic helmet that fit my little head.  I cut quite the strapping figure as a three-year-old boy that looked ready to jump in on kickoff coverage at a moment’s notice when I went with my mother to the airport.  There aren’t many uniformed football players at the Philadelphia Airport, much less three-year olds with their helmets on/chinstrap tight. 

The uniform was #35, which I know as fact was a forgettable linebacker named Adrian Young.  I think the uniform had a random number applied by the Chinese company that made the outfits as Adrian Young was not a player with a high enough profile to warrant a section in the team shop.  I don’t ever recall seeing Young play in a game, and I was a little disappointed it wasn’t #18 Ben Hawkins (who never used a chin strap) or #82 Tim Rossovich (a complete psycho with a wild head of hair).  At three years old, you just take what they give you.  I was always loyal to Adrian Young and maintained support for him even when his playing time was limited.

My father was pleased by my embrace of football, and obviously my mother was in full support as well as she likely dressed me up in the Adrian Young uniform for our airport pickup mission.  I remember standing next to my mother, helmet on, watching passengers disembark the plane scanning for my father.  I was feeling quite proud of myself wondering if anyone might think I was Adrian Young himself.  Young, not a great player, was still probably larger than my 35 pounds.  At least I hope he was as it would have been difficult to succeed in the NFL under 50 pounds.  A woman walked down the hall and remarked to her companion “OMIGOD!  How Cute!”.  This was when I realized I didn’t look rough and manly but in fact looked like a three-year-old playing dress up.  I suddenly felt self-conscious and used the helmet like an ostrich used a hole in the sand.

When my father got off the plane my mother pointed him out.  I hid behind her leg, realizing I was drawing attention to myself in my Eagles uniform.  My father gave me some sort of supportive greeting and we all walked out of the airport together.  I seem to remember being carried as I held onto a mini football.  That football made an impact on all of our lives.  I dented every lamp shade in our apartment making slightly less errant passes than subpar Eagles quarterbacking “greats” of that era such as Norm Snead and Rick Arrington with that football.

I was six years old when my next pro football memory kicks in.  The Eagles used to scrimmage at a college field somewhere in downtown Philly.  One night in the pre-season they would hold this open scrimmage for the fans.  My father took me despite me not grasping what the word “scrimmage” meant.  I couldn’t get my arms around the idea of them playing anything but an actual game.  No one likes a six year old that can’t latch onto a simple concept.  To give you an idea of how much smaller the business of the NFL was then, the fans just circled the high school style rope around the field.  I spent most of the event playing in the wood shavings of a pole vault pit with other boys. 

After the scrimmage ended, the players would walk to their cars through the fans while still dressed in their uniforms.  They didn’t so much leave as try to escape.  I was able to secure two autographs.  One was from a running back that I believe never made the Eagles or any other NFL team, Speedy Thomas.  Obviously, his name helped make him important to me.  The other was kicker Tom Dempsey, then holding the record for the longest field goal in league history.  I was scared of Dempsey because he had been born missing a hand and with a stump for a kicking foot, not something most six-year olds encounter with great frequency.  He scrawled his name on my program holding it against his helmet with his stump.  He then hurriedly climbed into his VW Beetle in full uniform to drive away.  You don’t often see a large man missing a hand driving a VW Beetle in an Eagles uniform,  Different times.

I remember going to Veterans Stadium with the temporary metal bleachers pulled out, the fans making a thunderous noise by stamping their feet.  The season ticket holders around us became familiar as the seasons wore on.  The older man to my left shared his peanuts.  The foul mouthed good natured man behind us that smoked two cigars, one lit each half.  They were callous but kind to me.  The Eagles were reliably terrible and the fans loved them with a possessive viciousness.  Itvwas a sense of community.  Even now when I smell a certain cigar smoke it takes me back to being a little boy with the taste of peanuts in his mouth, shells at his feet.  

Parents can provide many of their own interests to their children.  I’m glad mine gave me football.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Nurse the Hate: The Bourbon Man

He was a bourbon man, just like his father.  He liked the feel of the heavily weighted glass in his hand while he sat outside of his home, his kingdom.  There in the backyard he liked to sip his bourbon after dinner, gazing over at his well appointed outdoor kitchen.  There were absolutes in his life.  He never cooked inside the house, yet he always did the outdoor grilling.  The primal aspect of the meat on the fire is what appealed to him.  Wrestling with the fires and the coals, knowing exactly when to flip the sizzling beef…  Those were necessary life skills of a bourbon man.

His boys were older now.  He had always imagined them to be high school football stars that would get scholarships to the University of Tennessee, his alma mater.  He had run countless drills with them in the back yard when they were young boys, but they both fell out of it.  The eldest one joined the lacrosse team at the behest of his mother whereas the younger boy shied away from physical activity.  He would never admit out loud his disappointment, but anyone attuned to the subtle energy of a household could tell.  The bourbon man never played football at the University of Tennessee, but in his constantly revising perception of himself, he felt that he could have walked on to the team and undoubtedly earned a scholarship.    

The bourbon man was a serious man.  His profession was law, which allowed him a veneer of practical knowledge that he felt placed him above other men with less serious careers.  His specialty was tax law, though he never corrected anyone that assumed he was a criminal defense attorney upon first introduction.  When the forks in the road appeared in law school to decide an area of specialty, not once did anyone assume that the serious young man would join his more outgoing and demonstrative classmates in trial law.  He was a grinder, face down in books, memorizing obscure tax codes.  Sometimes when the bourbon man sat outside at dusk with the warm sweet burn of his after dinner drink spread on his tongue, he would picture himself in a hand cut Italian suit dazzling a jury.

The bourbon man’s wife would dutifully sit quietly by his side after dinner sipping a white wine.  She was a quiet woman that had been searching for purpose after the boys had earned their driver’s licenses and their independence.  The bourbon man had only a vague idea of what her life consisted of, some sort of mosaic of yoga, group lunches and overseeing never ending unneeded home improvement projects farmed out to overpaid contractors.  He passively listened to the details, unable to engage.  She was trim, polite, smartly dressed, and by all accounts, a good mother.  She wore her mid length brown hair pulled back almost without exception.  She was a practical woman, the perfect match to the bourbon man.

The bourbon man always wished she would wear her hair down, but understood her practicality.  It was a trait he valued intellectually.  She had been a logical companion for the bourbon man.  Before his coupling with her, he had been involved in a brief moment of passion in law school.  She had wild blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, a sharp tongue and intelligence that more than equaled the bourbon man.  She was unpredictable. She was the opposite of what he had planned for himself.  She did not factor in to his long term plan and he broke it off with her, a painful memory.  He would never admit to anyone his thoughts of her each day filled with regret and longing.  He pushed those thoughts in the box each day, a chore that had become routine like brushing his teeth.  His wife was solid, steady and part of the community.  His father, UT Class of 63 and a bourbon man himself, greatly approved of her.  She had provided him two strapping boys and maintained the well appointed household. It had all gone according to plan.  The cicadas sounded off.  The smell of other nearby grills filled the air.  The bourbon man sipped his drink in the dusk.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Developing Facts

I had to stop looking at the news.  It was literally driving me crazy.  We are living in a Post Truth World now, one that doesn’t appear to have a rule book.  I was able to somehow not concern myself with the President of the United States picking a fight with a cable TV reporter and a basketball player while enormous wild fires raged in California, Russians continued to mess with our elections, a pointless trade war escalates, and no clear plan exists on a needless Iran confrontation.  I was even willing to ignore threats he was making about shutting down the government if they didn’t agree to pay for the unnecessary border wall that he insisted Mexico was going to pay for during his entire campaign.  No, what finally got my attention was the Tweet about how that infamous Trump Tower meeting was designed to “get information on an opponent”.  Isn't that the exact opposite of what he has been saying for a year?

Now like I said, I’ve been in too deep on the news.  Despite the ever swirling story, I’ve been following it.  Our President is so clearly an incompetent buffoon, I have difficulty wrapping my head around the idea that any logical human being can look at him and think “Boy, he’s doing great!”.  Yet, they do.  More than I ever would have imagined.  The truth just doesn’t seem to matter any longer.  Rubes just can't seem to get enough. 

Trump presents himself to his zealots as the only real source of truth.  Don’t believe the media.  They are the enemy.  Yet, the bad news on that approach is the facts are right there in front of us.  To review, Trump said his campaign never met with Russians.  Then, when presented with evidence that a Trump Tower meeting could be proven, he said the topic of the meeting was adoptions.  This, clearly a lie, was quickly disproven with an email string his idiot son forwarded out into the world.  Trump said he didn’t know about any of it, which is also clearly a lie.  Trump then dictated Don Jr’s response about it being an innocent meeting, and later claimed he didn’t dictate it.  When it was proven that he did dictate it, he switched topic and said they were meeting about Russian intel all along and since they didn’t get anything useful, what’s the problem?  It is almost impossible to follow all the lies.

The incredible part is the general population is playing along, as if this isn’t outrageous behavior for our head of state.  Shit, this would be outrageous behavior for the head of an auto parts company much less the President of the United States.  Trump's lead attorney when asked about his conflicting previous statements about the meeting and subsequent cover-up attempt suggested that “over time, facts develop”.  Ummm… what?  This is an entirely new concept in truth, suggesting that facts are whatever you need them to be at that moment.  My entire understanding of facts is that they were rock solid and irrefutable.  This is no longer the case.  It is an exciting new updated idea to the “alternative facts” concept these people dragged out last year.

Trump has told an astounding 4000 lies as president.  The number he tells daily have increased to just under seven per day.  Like a Mad King, he is creating a separate reality not just for himself but for the lemmings that have latched onto this magic carpet ride.  The America he has created for his followers is one of dangerous brown people lurking to do harm at every corner.  The Deep State bogeymen hide in the shadows trying to bring him down for their own nefarious yet unclear reasons.  The alleged Witch Hunt has found witches and already indicted some of his closest allies, all of them awash in Eastern European money.  All of Trump’s efforts are now focused on discrediting this investigation, and to do so, he must discredit truth itself. 

I am not sure what happens when a country stops functioning on at least a variation of truth.  I suppose we are going to find out.  The complicit Republican Congress won’t do anything about it as long as they can empty the government coffers before someone notices that “trickle down economics” don’t work now, nor have they ever worked.  It’s a wild ride we’re on now where down is up and up is down.  There does not appear to be a precedent where our head of state lies about everything all the time.  Behaviors that even six months ago that would have been incomprehensible have now been normalized.  Things are wildly out of control and there doesn't appear to be a way to stop it.  In fact, it doesn't even seem that odd any longer.  It's incredible how quickly we went from relatively small lies bringing down politicians to completely ignoring that our leader might not even be aware of what the truth is any more.  History will judge this period harshly, or if "facts develop", maybe it will be taught to children as a glorious time.  The truth will be whatever you want it to be...

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Nurse the Hate: Browns Training Camp

I went to Cleveland Browns training camp yesterday.  The Browns hold open practices for the public multiple times per week which allows fans the opportunity to get close to the players watching them perform mind numbing drills and get yelled at by coaches.  After you get past the novelty of being close to incredibly large and fast human beings, there isn’t much to do.  In my case, I was in the “Friends and Family VIP Tent”.  While I am not a direct descendant of a Cleveland Brown, I did loosely qualify as a “friend”, or maybe better put the company I work for did.  Being in the VIP Tent affords me the chance to eat complimentary nachos and stand around with other well heeled powerful business executives and engage in shit talk.  It’s a better way to spend two hours than sitting in front of a computer.

The regular fans, or “The Great Unwashed” as I would say from my lofty perch in the VIP Tent, ring the entire set of fields intently watching.  In most cases they are outfitted in team gear.  These are the True Believers.  Regardless of how many times the team has pulled the rug out from under these fans, they come back for more.  It’s fascinating really.  Since the team’s return in 1999, they have not demonstrated even once the ability to make a strong organizational decision.  At every single fork in the road, they have chosen the wrong path.  Against all odds, each decision they make is wrong.  Yet the Browns have consistently maintained a smug attitude of superiority despite all evidence and history showing that they have no idea what the fuck they are doing.  Still, the fans come back for more like battered girlfriends.

There is something childlike to see grown men in football jerseys of players half their age.  It is even better when the jersey is of a just acquired player, one that in the back of their minds they know will let them down.  I often feel like I should put a fatherly arm around these men to offer them council.  If given the opportunity, I would calmly give them the two basic rules of purchasing a player jersey.  1. Never buy a jersey of a player that has yet to play in the NFL.  There is a better than average chance that this guy will be a major disappointment and then suddenly there you are walking around promoting “major disappointments”.  2.  If possible, buy a jersey of a legendary player that is deceased.  The risk of buying a current player is twofold.  First, it can never be certain if that player, while a star now, might make a catastrophic mistake that will forever stain their name a la Earnest Byner.  Even worse, as in my case as a child, you could have an OJ Simpson jersey and discover that Simpson might have anger management issues which will become rather well documented.  In either case, the risk obviously outweighs the reward.  Keep it safe with a long deceased Hall of Famer like Otto Graham.  No one is nosing around Otto’s background to see if he was involved with anything heinous.  The chance of an "Otto Graham's Pre-teen Girl Sex Ring" story coming out is pretty slim.

At camp there is an energy of hope and optimism.  I don't know where that comes from.  Where do people find that kind of hope?  The team has gone 1-31 in their last two years.  It doesn’t matter in August.  The fans circling those fields have convinced themselves that every free agent will play beyond their projection, every draft pick a blossoming star.  There is a tangible optimism.  Meanwhile, I stare down and think “that guy is slower than I thought he’d be” and “Wow, is he small”.  I am either pragmatic or cynical.  I wish that I could have the mindset of “everything is going to work out”.  I don’t though.  I am battered around enough by life and have enough memory to know “it’s not going to happen.  All of your dreams will be crushed.”  As a result, despite this overall communal feeling of hope at camp, I stand around feeling surprisingly lonely and sad.

The first preseason game is next TH.  The fans will be able to talk themselves into their optimistic outlook regardless of what happens on the field.  “It’s just a scrimmage.  When the regular season comes, they’ll be fine.”  They won’t though.  They never are.  The team will slog through a losing season, filled with indignities and self destructive disasters.  The fans will start to grumble by mid October.  They will continue to support the team.  By 2019, they will get excited about the draft and new players signed via free agency.  By this time next summer they will return to camp, just like I will.  They will be filled with enthusiasm about the future.  It will make me sad. 

Go Browns.