Thursday, June 27, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Story About The Bag

I used to work with a woman at a radio station that was involved in some sort of doomed off shoot department.  Within moments of her employment, it must have stunk of failure.  She must have known this was a short term job.  The radio station, like all corporate concerns, had become enamored with the idea of getting their hands into more "revenue streams".  It was decided we would put on events instead of just promoting those put on by actual professionals.  For example, instead of just taking advertising money from Belkin Productions and let them put on the show (because that's what they did for a living), we would instead hire three people on the cheap and then have them put on a major concert while the sales staff was saddled with selling sponsorships.  The low paid employees shoved into cubicles had no real idea of what the fuck they were doing, and the sales staff had little understanding of the world and currency of sponsorship sales.  It would be like if a car wash started to offer transmission repairs because they dealt loosely with "automobiles".  "Well, we wash 'em.  We know cars!  What can be so hard about dropping in a tranny?  The cars are already here!  Let's go buy some tools!"  Like I mentioned, this enterprise was doomed to failure.

During this brief working relationship with this woman, two things became evident.  1.  She was a self professed pagan, or at least that's what her mangy old car bumper sticker proclaimed.  An otherwise quiet young woman, I don't know why she felt it was important to proclaim her pagan beliefs to all, but perhaps that's what she felt was special about herself and made her stand out from others.  A theory floated around that she might just have bought a used car with the sticker already on it, but one day her boyfriend came to pick her up in his car which gave no doubt to his intense interest in fantasy books and gaming as well as renaissance fairs.  He had a beard before beards were fashionable, and frankly that chunky little fella had well out kicked his coverage in ensnaring the mousy female companion.  My guess is that he was an absolute beast at video games and could likely dominate a delivery pizza.

2.  This woman always carried and fiercely guarded a backpack, never letting it drift from her sight.  Now I will grant you that most of the radio station employees seated around her were assholes, but none of us were thieves.  She must not have felt this way and would move the backpack at times to a more strategic location near her feet to ward off potential snatch and grab thefts.  I picked up on this behavior and was soon fixated on this backpack.  What could possibly be in there that was so important?  Reflecting back, maybe she was guarding some magic runes or enchanted relics of some kind that were of great importance at the Great Lakes Renaissance Fair and her no doubt active social life therein.  It was hard to imagine though as even now I can't recall ever hearing her speak.  Maybe she really shone in a group of trusted friends.  I became so focused on this backpack that I wrote the song "What You Got In That Bag?" on the "West Virginia Dog Track Boogie" record about this situation.

For no real reason, I thought about that backpack today.  I wondered about her mental state, going to work daily in a place where she felt threatened and unsafe, and likely open to ridicule from the others about her esoteric interests and beliefs.  That is a tough way to spend five days a week.  People are much more fragile than they appear.  I regret not being more genuinely inquisitive in this woman and finding out whatever odd yet interesting things she was up to.  Life is hard enough without feeling you can't reveal your true self to others for fear of being torn open.  She and her ill-fated department were only there a few months before being quietly ushered out shrouded in inevitable failure.  It's too bad I never took the time to find out more about her.  More importantly, I could have found out what was in that goddamn bag.  That's probably the biggest tragedy of all.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Trouble with the Whiskey Wagon

The band played a show on Tuesday.  It was mostly uneventful, and Leo and I drove the Whiskey Wagon back to where it sleeps in a storage facility making our usual shit talk.  It was very by-the-book.  Totally normal.  Good night Whiskey Wagon.  See you this weekend.  I even took the trash out of the van.  You must take care of the Whiskey Wagon, so it will take care of you.

On Saturday we were scheduled to play in Erie.  Whenever we play a show, it’s a bit of a Chinese Fire Drill as we figure out where to rendezvous, so we can drive together in the van.  Text messages fly around, and a plan comes together.  This Saturday, I went by myself to the van with the game plan to meet Leo on the westside and then get Sugar and Pete out East.  The rain fell steadily.  I hustled through puddles to the van’s driver’s side door.  The weather was miserable.  I loaded gear into the van from my car.  I felt like something was off.  Yet, everything appeared normal.

I cannot explain why a foreboding thought flashed in my mind as I climbed in the driver’s seat.  The rain pattered on the metal roof.  “Something is going to be fucked up…”  The van had been running perfectly.  All service was up to date.  Hell, even the mileage isn’t that heavy.  The Chevy van always roars to life, even in the coldest temperatures.  I shook off the bad vibes and turned the key.  Disaster.

There was a bang.  It sounded like the engine exploded.  All the lights flashed on the dash like a Christmas tree.  The engine was LOUD but running.  What the fuck?  It sounded like the entire exhaust system had fallen off.  There was no way I could drive this to pick everyone up and make it to Erie.  I tried a small drive around the lot to see what happened.  It sounded like a WW2 era B-17 taking off.  The power felt low.  God fucking dammit, I knew it!  There was no way this was going to work.  What were we going to do now?

I started shoving what I could in the back of my car.  This was not going to work.  It is not possible to fit a bass drum into a standard sized vehicle.  I tried to get in touch with Sugar and Pete.  Voice mail.  Fuck.  I took the bare minimum of what we needed and headed into the rain.  Maybe we could borrow gear from the Kookie Kutterz.  I’m sure Leo could play Pete’s kit.  I ran through scenarios and phone calls went back and forth.  We worked out a plan with the confidence of “yeah…  I guess that could work” when we accepted the reality of the situation.  My car was full.  Leo drove separately.  I stopped at a CVS pharmacy to buy two things I needed.  Pain killers and a large can of Budweiser.  I met Pete and Sugar at the rendezvous point and we crammed in all the stuff from my car into Pete’s groovy 80s van.  I bought another Bud.

The gig went well in Erie all things considered.  I thought we played well with the pieced together set up.  Hector and Chanda gave me a lift back in their car after the gig.  I climbed back into my car for the drive back to the Westside in a downpour I would call “monsoon-like”.  It was 335 am.  I was not exactly “crisp” or “refreshed”.  I kept going over in my mind what had gone wrong with the van.  Had the outdoor storage situation finally led to a rust out of the exhaust?  This was so typical.  Just when things get going in the right direction, it all goes wrong.  I knew Monday would be a full day of automotive nonsense.

I made a few calls and dropped the van off to a mechanic I’ve used before.  I roared down back roads.  It felt like the end of Jaws when Quint refuses to back off the smoking engines and dooms the boat to be battered by the giant shark.  The van strained to get to the repair shop.  All heads in the shop turned when I limped in to the lot.  The mechanic told me he would call with an estimate later.  He called in about 90 minutes.

“Are you sitting down?”  This is not usually a sentence you want to be spoken to you by either mechanics or physicians.  If this was a doctor, he would have taken off his glasses and said, “In all my years of practice, giving news like this has never gotten any easier…”.  Then he tells you that you have Stage 4 Lung Cancer.  I was expecting the mechanic version of this to hit me next.  I braced myself. 

“I got it up on the lift after I heard how loud it was.  Soooo….  someone sawed off your catalytic converters, cut through the oxygen sensors, and took (some other part I can’t remember).  I mean, it must have taken them at least 10 minutes and it would have been really loud.  I don’t know how no one noticed.  So, I called for the part and… this is bad…you can only get it from the dealer.  And it’s not something they keep in stock, so it will be until at least tomorrow.  We’re talking about $2000 or so…”


I called the storage place.  The guy in the office was surprisingly relaxed.  “Yeah… We had a break in last week.  That was probably part of that.”  Hey, the mechanic said that it would have taken about 10 minutes and was loud as shit.  You live there on site, don’t you?  “Yeah but I didn’t hear anything.  What day was that?  Hmmm.  Wednesday?  Yeah.  I didn’t hear nuthin.”  So, is your insurance going to cover this?  “Oh, yeah I’m really sorry but no.  It’s in our rental agreement that we don’t cover that.”

Now, one would think that a completely fenced in facility with a coded gate entry would take a slice of responsibility.  Nope.  It’s like when someone puts a sign on the side of a parking lot that says “no responsibility” as if that action alone voids out all common sense.  “If only there was something we could do.  However, we put that sign up, so I’m afraid I just can’t help.  Oh, and can you give me your monthly parking money?” 

I called the storage company home office.  The manager there was also oddly detached from the event.  “Yeah, I think they might have cut a hole in the fence to get in back.  They broke into a few trailers too.  Yeah…  We just don’t offer insurance for an open public parking space.”  What do you mean?  It’s not a public parking place.  I have to enter a code to get in the gate.  “Yes, but the car is still in the open, so we just can’t do it.”  She even sounded like she cared.  It was that version of “I’m more upset about this than you are” that I really appreciate when it’s done well.  It was a pointless conversation. 

I filed a police report.  This being the suburbs, they actually have a suspect.  Shit, there must be security footage.  It’s not going to help me with my insurance company though.  I’m on the hook for the $500 deductible at least.  I need to get in with the cops and get in the room with the suspect.  Maybe I can help them “work him over” in that interrogation room.  That would give me some satisfaction as I “got medieval on his ass with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.”  They might not do that at police stations in the Burbs, but I do plan on asking in a tactful way.  As for now, we are waiting on dealer parts and I assume the thief (or thieves) have spent the $80 they got for our $2000 in parts on something nice for Father’s Day.  Like Oxy. 

Thieves 1
Daredevils 0             

Friday, June 7, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Hate the BMV

There is no better way to lose faith in humanity than to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.  I had no choice but to go to a Lorain County location to fetch the sticker for the Whiskey Wagon’s license plate.  I found myself dreading the experience but not having any other option but to stand in the BMV.  The last thing I need is to get pulled over for an expired plate with Leo in the van.   This isn’t Germany where I had memorized “Ich bin nicht verantwortlich für das, was in der Jacke dieses Mannes ist. Bring mich zur amerikanischen Botschaft.”, which means “I am not responsible for what is in that man's jacket.  Take me to the American embassy.”. 

As always, there was a line at the BMV.  This is a given.  There must be people that sleep in there as I am always 10-15 numbers away from being called regardless of when I walk into that Office of Doom.  I pulled #38 and heard the cranky female clerk yell out “Twenty!  Twenty!”.  An old man sluggishly walked to the counter.  This would take longer than I had hoped.  I looked around and took stock of the others in the waiting room.  I noticed a few things immediately. 

When I leave the house, I try to maintain a basic level of grooming and fashion.  I’m not spending two hours getting gussied up, but I think I can spend the 11 seconds on making sure my clothes match and I am essentially clean.  This idea goes out the window for most people at the BMV.  Standing in front of me was a woman that was crammed into a pair of gray sweat pants like a sausage.  The pants had a rip in the ass that exposed a quarter sized circle of flesh I would call “unhealthily pale” like the underbelly of a fish.  These trousers were offset by a white and green t-shirt featuring a print with a cartoon taco that said “Taco About It Later” that had yellowish stains on the front.  The black discount gym shoes accented with pink socks rounded out the look.  To her right was a man in a camouflage shirt with his arm in a sling, like he had just given himself a field dressing while duck hunting.  His pants were too big and slipped down to show the crack of his ass with what could only be called “a wild tangle” of brown ass hair.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  It was not an attractive room full of people.

Each person that approached the counter when their number was called was unprepared.  I saw person after person turned away because they had no followed the simplest of instructions.  There wasn’t a person in that room that was coming to the BMV for the first time in their life, yet each person was dumbfounded when it was revealed they didn’t have the necessary identification/form for the task at hand.  I heard the following exchange. 

Guy with sling:  I wanted to get mah license…
Employee:  Do you have a passport or birth certificate with proof of address like a utility bill?
Guy with sling:  Whah? 
Employee:  Here’s a one sheet that lists everything you can use to get the license…
Guy with sling:  Oh…  OK…  (looks at paper with the information)
Guy with sling:  So what do ah need ta bring tah get mah license?

I instantly wanted to yell out “You stupid fucking hillbilly.  You need to focus for 8 seconds.  The sheet of paper in in your hand.  Read it.  Bring back any combination of those forms.  That’s it.  Why the fuck didn’t you look it up before you came down here, you stupid jack off?”.  That seemed like poor decorum, so I didn’t.  I waited patiently as I watched each person get called and spend 5-10 minutes not getting what they needed because they were too stupid to get it together.  When I was called I had everything ready to go.  I wrote my check as the woman entered the info into her computer.  It took 35 seconds to get the plate.  I had waited 40 minutes to do so.

When you consider that if you walk over to the light switch and the lights come on, it’s a miracle.  It is unbelievable that our society is holding together.  This was like being in a room of barnyard animals that could drive cars.  The general population is astoundingly stupid.  Not one person in that office had a plan when they walked in.  No one took a few moments before coming to the BMV to look up on their bedazzled smart phone what they would need to accomplish the task at hand.  They all just showed up in their filthy sweat pants and hope it worked out.

This was when it hit me that every single person in that office was speaking with a twangy Appalachian accent.  How was this possible?  No one in my community sounds like a man-on-the-street interview in Louisville on ESPN’s College Gameday, yet here I was with it sounding like I was deep in Kentucky.  Country music played on the intercom.  Pickup trucks were parked in the lot.  I overheard one woman say to the other “I ain’t taking mah truck.  You the one that is drivin.”  Where did all these people pick up this accent?  It’s not possible that there has been a mass movement from Appalachia to NE Ohio.  Yet, every person in that room sounded like a cast member of Hee-Haw.  Did they listen to too much country music radio?  Too many Jeff Foxworthy comedy specials?  What’s with everyone having that twang?  I don’t know.  I can’t make sense of it.

I walked out to my car firmly holding the sticker for the Whiskey Wagon’s plate.  I felt good, like I had passed a crucible.  It must have been what the Knights in the Great Crusade felt riding home with a saddlebag of religious artifacts and blessed wood reliefs.  I had survived the battle and left with my loot.  Then a horrible thought clouded me.  I have a car in the shop being repaired for a check engine light.  When that repair is completed, I have a new quest ahead.  I have to come back.  To the BMV. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Jukebox Situation

I am a big fan of jukeboxes.  Now, when I say “jukebox”, I want to be clear.  I mean a large machine with 45 rpm records in it which have been gathered thoughtfully to provide a clear-cut personality to a bar.  A good jukebox immediately raises my estimation of a place, even begrudgingly if it is a CD jukebox, which is a bit of a cop out.  If you look at a CD jukebox and see “Hank Williams Jr. Greatest Hits”, “The Eagles Greatest Hits” and Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell”, it is a good time to slug down your beer and get the hell out of there.  You are seconds away from being bludgeoned with “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” or “Witchy Woman”.  That’s no way to live.

The CD jukebox is a hedge.  On the one hand, it is a good way to provide the same basic idea of the “true” 45 rpm jukebox with a curated selection of releases.  However, to just collect a bunch of popular classic rock band’s Greatest Hits records is not adding to the ambiance.  If Jimi Hendrix’s Greatest Hits is on the jukebox, you might as well have placed “Purple Haze” and “Wind Cries Mary” 45s on there.  If the disc of “Electric Ladyland” is on the jukebox, well then, you have my attention.  However, that is a small eyebrow raise compared to the absolute joy of finding a jukebox with Ralph Nielson and the Chancellors “Scream” nestled in next to the Syndicate of Sound’s “Little Girl”. 

The absolute lowest is the wall mounted digital jukebox.  This represents true laziness on the part of the tavern keeper.  They are shouting to the customer base “We don’t know what’s good.  We have no taste in music.  Play whatever YOU like.”.  Now this might seem like a democratic solution where each day a myriad of songs ushers forth, but in my experience, it means Contemporary Country and Nickleback sound alike bands with the very real possibility of a terrible rap song by Someone I’ve Never Heard Of Featuring Someone Else I’ve Never Heard Of.  This is inviting the lowest common denominator to control the basic human sense of hearing.  Would you ever allow the customers to control any of the other human senses?  It is akin to allowing a customer to walk in with a flame thrower of cologne or allowing them to install strobe lights.  I think it is reckless on the part of the saloon owner.

This was my mind set when I noticed in the suburban brew pub Saturday night three girls activate the wall mounted jukebox and play three near toxic country songs in a row.  The bar was busy.  It was 930pm, their peak time.  It was then my friend George and I challenged each other to try and clear the room by doing nothing but selecting songs from the near limitless options of the digital jukebox.  George walked over with a few dollars.  He clearly had a plan as he was not gone long.  By the time he sat back down on his stool, the sounds of Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” blasted across the room’s sound system.  “Ja-ja-ja-jitterbug!”  He followed with an absolutely brutal selection of “Ghostbusters Theme” that almost brought me to tears.  I walked over to put in my three songs when Starship’s “We Built This City” came on.  My fear was the patrons would think I was the one that had made the choice, but I put my heard down and got to work.

There are a few ways to go about clearing a room.  This was a somewhat varied crowd, but decidedly suburban.  Someone without nuance might decide to bludgeon them with Slayer or the Butthole Surfers, or at least make a cursory check to see if the digital system had any of the Norwegian death metal band Enslaved.  I think that’s a cheap way out.  The key is to be subtle, selecting songs that, in theory, someone in the room could have been excited about sharing.  Something that is annoying but not shocking, like someone humming nearby.  I went for a couple of my go-to songs, Herb Alpert’s “Spanish Flea” followed by “Monster Mash”.  By the time “Miami Vice Theme” was playing, the room was down to one third of the crowd that had been there only 20 minutes before.  George countered with “It’s Raining Men”.  When I hit “The Eye Of The Tiger”, the room had eight people left.  As we walked out, my final selection of The Chipmunks “Jingle Bells” left no doubt as to our intention.  Mission accomplished.  The bar was like a ghost town at 10:10 pm.

Many would suggest that we were selfish to destroy one of the four most profitable days of the month for this small brewpub.  I would say that nothing could be further from the truth.  They needed this lesson.  I feel like we would have been doing them a disservice by not taking over in this manner, like if we had not pointed out a fire hazard or ignored an overflowing toilet.  It’s like they put a gas can on the wall with a mounted box of matches and assumed a fire would not break out.  I feel as if we owed it to them.

My hope is that the next time I walk in there I will see a giant jukebox filled with carefully selected records.  I am not optimistic though.  I will walk in with a wallet filled with singles.  In my mind I will be thinking “Don’t make me walk over there and play Europe’s “The Final Countdown”, Phil Collins “Sussudio” and the Beach Boys “Kokomo”, because I will.  I will clear this room dammit, and I will do it again and again and again.  Take down the wall mounted jukebox!