Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Nurse the Hate: The Summer of Robo Calls

I have been receiving a dizzying array of robo calls in the last week.  Until these calls came in I did not know that I had delinquent student loan debt (I don’t), my credit card had been compromised (it wasn’t), my social security number had been stolen (it wasn’t) and someone from the IRS needed to talk to me (they didn’t).  On top of that I had been receiving credit card offers, bogus charity requests and odd calls from a woman’s obviously recorded voice that just kept saying “Hello?  Hello?”.  I had reached my breaking point.

Today I received a call from an 877 number with a computerized voice which intoned that my social security had been compromised and only by pressing one and speaking to the government advisors could I possibly save my lifetime’s savings.  Naturally, I pressed “one”.  

In my experience, anytime you connect with these phone scams, they are inevitably answered by someone with a Pakistani/Indian accent.  They must be the #1 industry of New Delhi.  Sadly, I am not well versed enough in the regional dialects of that part of Asia to really zero in on the likely geographical source of the scam.  I do appreciate that someone that sounds like they are doing a terrible impression of Apu from The Simpsons answers the phone and says in a herky jerk accent without any trace of self consciousness, “Hello!  This is social security office.  I am Brad.  Please have your social security number?”

This is a key time in the call.  I am a firm believer in using the opening as a way to turn the tables.  I like to create a surrealistic world where up is down and down is up.  Everything they thought they knew is wrong.  Right out of the gate I went with this:  “Hello, my name is Mr. Walsh and I am glad to be speaking with you.  I believe your social security number has been compromised.  May I please have your name, bank account number and PIN numbers?” 

No!  I called you about your social security number!  “Sir?  I hate to correct you, but I called you.  I am certainly happy I did because I believe your account has been greatly compromised.  May I have your home address?”  Ahh… Ahh.. It’s Houston.  “Sir…. I am going to need more information than that.  Perhaps you do not understand the situation you are in.  I just thank that Lord I was able to reach you.  Now…. Your street please?  “2345 Dilliard Street”. 

I thought it was interesting he made up Dillard Street.  I could barely understand him past the accent.  He might have said “Dylan Street”, in which case we could have discussed the regrettable mid 1980s records of Bob Dylan.  However, I pressed on.  “Your zip code sir!  Your zip code?”  67231.  “Sir, that is not Houston’s zip code.  Is this a matter of trust sir?  Please…. Give me your bank account and PIN numbers so I can earn your trust by performing a scan of your accounts to make sure that swarthy men in cheap shirts and rubber sandals haven’t tried to steal your life’s earnings…”. I am with the social security office.  I know my accounts have not been compromised!  “Brad!  Godammit, if we don’t take care of our own, who can we trust?  Give me the numbers Brad!”  Ahhh… Hold on… Talk to my brother…. “You work with your brother?  How wonderful!”

This is when they passed the phone to The Supervisor of The Worst Criminal Operation In India.  “Jess…. Jess… I am brother.”  Hot shit on a shingle son!  Do you realize what trouble your brother is in?  His social security number has been compromised!  Now I am going to need your entire family’s banking information… PIN numbers, account numbers, the whole bit.  Thank God I called you!”  This is when things turned…

You son of bitch!  You motherfucker son of bitch!  I take you money!  I take all you money!  We are social security!  Not you!  (This is when I went to an old favorite.  There is nothing better than suggesting a man from that part of the world has been confused with a woman.)  “Ma’am!  Ma’am…. I hate to disagree with you, but I called you, not the other way around…”. Ma’am?!?  Ma’am?!?  You dirty motherfucker! I am not ma’am!  “Ma’am!  I am not going to argue about your gender as you are clearly a woman.  I can tell from that very feminine voice, which I might add is quite melodious, and…”. YOU SON OF BITCH!  I KILL YOU!  I KILL YOU!  “Ma’am!  Ma’am!  Why are you turning this into a violent confrontation when I just called to help you?  Now if you can just be reasonable, I’m sure I can help.  You are a woman in distress, and…”.   I CALLED YOU MOTHERFUCKER!  I AM SOCIAL SECURITY!  NOT YOU!  “Ma’am… I hate to correct you, but it is I that called you.  I am the one clearly sitting in the social security office while you are likely doing your housework…” YOU FILTHY SON OF BITCH!  (CLICK)

Now, on the upside, I experienced a great deal of satisfaction tweaking that guy into a rage.  On the down side, I am now a target of extremists in rubber sandals making calls from a sweaty cinderblock building in an Asian hellhole.  I hope I don’t get blown up by a suicide bomber in an explosive vest because I called some dude halfway across the world “ma’am” that was trying to rip me off.  To me, it seems reasonable for him to expect that once a shift.  I miss the good old days when people from that part of the country went in on family hotels or convenience stores to rip off overfed Midwestern guys like me as opposed to telephone death threats, but the world is ever changing.  I suppose you have to change with it.  

Friday, August 9, 2019

Nurse the Hate: How This Hillbilly Casino Thing Came Together

We are playing a show with Hillbilly Casino next Sunday August 18th at the Beachland at 7pm.  We have played gigs with those guys for a long time.  The first time we played with Hillbilly Casino was in Cincinnati at Top Cats.  Well, that’s not completely true.  That was the first time Leo and I played with Nic from Hillbilly Casino.  We were in The Cowslingers and Nic was in the Blue Moon Boys.  We played last, and the Blue Moon Boys played second.  We had some crappy little band play first that we threw a bone to because we knew their booking agent from Athens OH.  They were called the Drive By Truckers.  Yes, I shit you not.  That was the bill.  It was $5 to get in.  It was about a third full. 

I have a few memories from this show.  I remember the Greenhornes came out.  They were these young guys that played cool garage rock that had played with us a couple times.  I have a distinct image in my head of a few of those guys standing by the doorway in very skinny pants they either got from 1966 or the best thrift store on earth.  They were hanging out with that “we’re kind of the shit, but you don’t know it yet”, which in retrospect was totally accurate.  One of the guys smoked a cigarette Euro style as if he was taking a break from a Swedish Magazine modeling session.  I gave him the old head nod in my ill-fitting polyester cowboy shirt. 

The Drive By Truckers had written most of Southern Rock Opera by this time, and were in the midst of recording it.  I spoke with the bass player at length about it after their set as he was engineering as well as recording the bass parts on it.  I wasn’t that familiar with their music yet, but I definitely remember them playing “Uncle Frank” and “Nine Bullets” in their set and thinking “Fuck, those songs are really good.  That band is really good.”.  The bass player told me in a self depreciating Southern way that the record was “coming out pretty good”.  Um, yeah it did. 

I had not seen the Blue Moon Boys play before, but we had heard about them.  In cities where we overlapped at that point like Detroit, Columbus and Chicago people would come up to us at shows and say “Have you played with the Blue Moon Boys before?  They are great!  They’re a rockabilly band and…”.  Now normally when I heard “they are a rockabilly band” I would take that to mean “they all wear vintage clothes and are going to play “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” before at some point the guitar player would stand on the upright bass as they played an Eddie Cochran song to close the show”.  Yawn. 

The Blue Moon Boys started, and this was different.  It was rockabilly.  I guess it was…  But it was modern with really great original songs.  The guitar player was terrific and had his own distinctive style.  Meanwhile Nic was out front jumping around like a spazzy kid that had just mainlined a pixie stick.  On top of that, he could sing.  They were great performers and the crowd ate them up.  Our closing set was going to be a lot of work.  If we didn’t bring it, we would look like a bunch of assholes. 

I think we did OK that night.  I can’t remember anything about our performance except how much the guys in the Blue Moon Boys liked us, which was a nice surprise.  A lot of times bands can get needlessly competitive.  This wasn’t the case here, where we competed, but in a good way, pushing each other to be better.  We had an immediate Bromance between the bands and started to play together as much as we could.  The picture up top is when they brought us to Wolfy's in Ft Wayne.  The bill was a great fit.  I think we both sort of ignored those Drive By Trucker guys at that point.  Hey, who cares.  They weren’t going to amount to anything anyway!

The last thing I remember about that night was speaking with a creepy overweight middle-aged couple in the doorway to the club.  The guy was proudly telling us how their German Shepard liked to fuck the woman and how much they both got turned on by it.  One time the dog was unable or unwilling to pull out of her, so they had to all go outside to spray the dog with a hose in the back yard.  I remember Bobby and I slowly backing away from the conversation in a manner you would a junkyard dog, facing them while slowly backpedaling.  “Hey…  that’s really great…  that’s really something…  we have to go back in the club and…  get some stuff… and… but you two have a great weekend…”.  That’s southern Ohio for you…

So here we are all these years later.  Nic fell in with these great guys from Nashville and got Hillbilly Casino going.  Leo and I were lucky enough to trick Sugar and Hector into the fold.  We all kept writing songs, recording and touring.  We are either to be celebrated for keeping the flame alive or pitied for being in such a rut.  I don’t know if I would have done anything differently, or even could have if I wanted to have done so.  I do know I am looking forward to Sunday.  It’s going to be good.  It always is.         

Monday, August 5, 2019

Nurse the Hate: Two More Acceptable Mass Shootings

I have not written about the need for effective gun control lately.  It isn’t an issue of debate any longer.  It is self-evident.  However, I felt that when nothing happened after the Las Vegas machine gun slaughter, there was no reason to think that the nation would ever do anything about this issue.  As a people, we have decided that the chance of a fucked up young white male with a military grade weapon blasting away into a crowd is an acceptable part of our lives. 

The Republican members of Congress, who can be argued are devoid of any soul, are willing to embrace white nationalism to stay in power.  You think that a few murders of strangers at a Wal Mart or nightclub will sway them into action?  They will not, under any conceivable circumstance, vote against the gun industry for fear of being taken out of office in a primary election.  I don’t know how great it is to be a member of Congress.  It must be awesome, because these people will do ANYTHING to stay there.  A strong majority of American citizens favor stricter gun laws, but these elected officials, tasked with enacting the will of the people, will do nothing.  This is fact.

I did find it galling to receive a social media post from Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a reliable lackey for the gun lobby.  “I went to bed with a heavy heart because of El Paso and woke up to the tragic news from Dayton. These senseless acts of violence must stop.  While we are still learning more about the details of this tragedy in Montgomery County, we are praying for the victims and their families and thank the officers who responded so quickly and bravely.  I am talking to local leaders and law enforcement officials this morning. First and foremost, let’s get all the facts and help the community heal.”

This goes right to the playbook of the gun manufacturers.  Slow everything down, let the moment pass, allow people to move on, get back to selling guns.  Portman today went to the old reliable talking points of “it’s not guns, it’s people”.  I will admit that I feel a little badly for him having to shovel this load of horseshit behind a podium as even he can't believe the nonsense he is trying to sell.  "Are there more things that could be done? I'm sure there are," Portman said. "But I will say there's something deeper going on here. If you look at the suicide rates, if you look at the addiction rates -- this community's done a good job in responding to it but it's been ground zero in terms of the opioid crisis."

That was a nice shift to suggest that opioids are the issue, even though neither shooter had anything to do with opioids.  Sure, the El Paso shooter did echo Trump’s aggressive inflammatory racial and immigration white power stance, but why get into that?  Portman then came back strong and suggested that since the issue is complicated, the best course of action is apparently complete inaction.  "There aren't enough laws, and in fact is no law can correct some of the more fundamental cultural problems we face today as a country and the shooting last night is an indication of that. I look forward to working together with my colleagues to try to respond in the most effective way possible. But we also must look deep into our hearts and figure out how could someone point a gun at someone who he had never seen or known and pull the trigger." 

Bravo Rob.  Way to tackle the responsibilities with which you have been entrusted.  Then again, the over $3 million dollars gun lobbyists have spent on Portman since 1990 should buy them something.  In this case, it’s our collective well-being.  Rob has a good thing going, and he is not going to rock the boat.  

Here’s a quick prediction.  This week will be spent with the same public discourse.  We need to outlaw assault weapons.  No, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  They will find a way to kill soneone if they really want to.  Yes, but 30 people don’t get killed in two minutes by a knife wielding maniac!  Well, it’s really a mental health issue.  It's all very complex.  Let's not rush into anything.  Two weeks pass.  The enthusiasm around the issue wears off.  We wait for the next mass shooting.  Repeat.