Monday, January 29, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week four (bye)

The beer: Great Divide Hibernation English-Style Old Ale
The commentary: An excerpt from the—by god—forthcoming "Don't gimme no affliction: 25 years of 'Moonlight on Vermont' and other bush recordings."

During the Summer of 1993, which fell between my freshman and sophomore years of college and would prove to be the final extended stretch of time I'd call my childhood home "home," some high school friends—Ivan, Oskar, Pierre and others I've forgotten—and I piled into someone's mother's minivan for a trip to Canobie Lake Park. It was the nearest "big" amusement park, certainly larger than Whalom Park, which was soon to be closed and condemned—the decaying clown mural on the back of its potato-sack slide loomed over Route 12 like a horrific death's head for years afterward. So it was Canobie. It was always Canobie.

Oskar used to make mix tapes for the rest of us from his own and his brother's fantastic collection of Touch and Go, Amphetamine Reptile, Sub Pop and other releases: Tad, Love Battery, Big Black, even big-timers like Nirvana and Ice Cube. It was great stuff—these were formative years and I would not be the know-it-all purveyor of taste I am today without those tapes—and even if I didn't love every song I either came to love them over time or found new songs to like instead. With few exceptions they covered from, say, 1985 on. He gave me four such tapes over the course of eighteen months or so and the thire was produced and delivered ahead of the trip to Canobie. We popped that shit right into the deck as I listened from the seatless back of the van, a handsome and serviceable spare tire.

Following an indeterminate indie-rock set, which was the style at the time, out of nowhere comes "bum-ba-de-bum, bum-ba-de-bum," the Drumbo brilliance that opens Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band's "Moonlight on Vermont." Then the guitar, that riff, that strangled untuned riff! And here's the Captain, an impaled Howlin' Wolf on (battery) acid, "Ooonlaht on Ver-maw-uhh… fektid errehbody, eee-ven…" Even me! Especially me. No one else seemed to care for the song and even Oskar apologized for its inclusion. "No," I responded. "I… like it?"

I don't remember much else about the day, how many of us there were, how many times we rode the Turkish Twist… what else was even on the tape—sadly it, the other three and my own mixes, Interrupting Cow Blues included, are among the missing. (I do remember earning a proper seat for the ride home.) But I listened to it a lot on my own, hearing "Moonlight on Vermont" over and over, and sometime later I walked to Newbury Comics (remember when they sold music?) in search of the Trout Mask Replica source. It was a naive impulse in the "Maybe it all sounds like that" vein, given that most of my sixties exposure was limited to the Doors, the Who, the Animals, Led Zeppelin and Steppenwolf, excellent bands that nonetheless did little to innovate or reform themselves—Beefheart surely had no chance and my sonic adventure was doomed to fail. I simply wasn't ready.

The following weekend or thereabouts—likely emerging from a haze of Saran-wrapped mushrooms, several Southern Comfort/pink lemonade cocktails and a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon—buyer's remorse stood before the stereo and ejected the error halfway through in favor of something crowd-friendly like Meddle or A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. My college friends, unable to rank Teriyaki Asthma and Dope, Guns and Fucking in the Streets releases like the snobs in that van, each fell somewhere along a decidedly more mainstream spectrum of Alice in Chains, Bob Mould, the Grateful Dead and fucking Snow and so my evolving catalog was often met with the blank stares and/or vocal derision that often accompany "weirdo shit." They predictably offered no "Stick with it!" encouragement or "Who cares what we think?" wisdom—the disc remained in my collection for novelty reasons, its overlooked red spine fading to pink in the Boston glare. Drag.

For years, Trout Mask Replica was reduced from a double album to an unsupported single. The enlightened advice of "It's not too late for you if it's not too late for me" from the opening "Frownland" was aggressively avoided in place of biased muscle memory: Insert disc/Press play/Skip immediately to track six/Listen for four minutes/Stop-fast-stop-now! (The "squid eating dough…" introduction to "Pachuco Cadaver" served a purpose as the outgoing message on our answering machine for a period—I'm sure my roommates and their calling parents loved it—and was only acknowledged in the first place because, as track seven, my Stop! finger must have been slow one day.) Even the album cover was strange, the good Captain sporting a trout mask, replica or otherwise, that covered only half his face. And the illustrations? The illustrations! What had my new credit card gotten us into?

As a late-nineties nine-to-fiver with a reverse commute I was at last open to music beyond my Unwound/Blues Explosion/Six Finger Satellite comfort zone, embracing mid- to late-period Coltrane and lesser-known English interpretations of American blues and assembling them (with the help of WZBC's "Psychotic Reactions" show and the Nuggets II boxed set) into a full-body orgasm of psychedelia that is well represented in the playlists at right (starting with Volume 2). Trout Mask Replica, fortunately, had held fast to its real estate between Cake Like's Delicious (1994) and Cat Power's Moon Pix (1998)—pigeons do enjoy their holes!—and my generous patience with an ugly relic was rewarded. The delayed appreciation of a masterpiece had begun.

Up next: Sanctimonious bastards love income inequality. Pats by six. Cheers!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week three
AFC Championship

The game: Jaguars at Patriots
The beer: Gun Hill Void of Light Foreign Style Stout
The result: Win, 24–20
The commentary: Complacency is a bitch but also a defense mechanism and that's how a fourth-quarter, two-score deficit keeps the terror-sweat at bay, however barely. You've got it good when your six-year-old declares with certainty—in the second quarter—that "Sorry, the Patriots aren't going to the Super Bowl" and all you can say—and be correct in saying—is "Let's keep watching" because she's six and doesn't know better. I hope for her sake that Brady plays into his fifties.

We New Englanders (excluding half of Connecticut, most of Rhode Island, all of Vermont and undeclared pockets of Maine) can understand not what it was like to be a fan of the dominant 49ers or Cowboys twenty-some years ago but rather a fan of both the 49ers and the Cowboys back then. Sure, the Eagles might win next Sunday and leave us with a mere five championships (so far), falling short of the six the 49ers and Cowboys combined to win from 1988/1989 to 1995/1996, but I'm feeling pretty good because that terror-sweat has been dormant awhile. The Pats could be down ten, fourteen, twenty-five points in the fourth quarter… Gronkowski pacing in street clothes on the sideline… McCourty perfecting bad angles against Alshon Jeffery… but you keep watching because it's Tom Fucking Brady out there.

"I'm feeling pretty good."
Bill Belichick
February 2, 2008

When the end comes it will do so swiftly and never be assumed. It will be witnessed. Everyone will have kept watching, maybe even Mark Wahlberg, and it will be tragic (for some) or wonderful (for most), a moment marked by zeros on the clock. Zeros. Good luck, NFL.

Up next: A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous. Got me? Cheers!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week two

The game: Titans at Patriots
The beer: Mayflower Oatmeal Stout
The result: Win, 35–14
The commentary: I would never have read Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry were it not for the Ladies. From the book club's first meeting—back when the Pats had won a game more than it lost—and nominations were flying around I immediately liked the overview. It sounded wry and English, especially in the presenter's accent, though if the embellished, feminine typography of the paperback edition replaced the slab-serif hardcover she displayed then I might have walked out for good. (These look like unrelated books, never mind the alternate cover, which is my favorite of the three.)

Regardless of the shell, I knew I could read three hundred pages in a week and so waited until early this month to pick it up from the library—retention, etc. Alas! All copies were checked out of the local branch. The neighboring town had a copy so G. and I drove over for it, checking out a few for her as well. In the children's section were heroic illustrations of Martin Luther King (Jr.) for kids to color and G. sat down with a couple. "Please don't use black," I thought. She used orange.

Back to our friend Harold Fry, about whose story I'll leave the "gorgeously poignant novel of hope and transformation" bullshit to Oprah and remark instead that a gentleman takes a walk for reasons he deems important. I loved this book and only an asshole would not. Joyce is a gifted writer—the dreaded "female authors" are two for two so far while poor Ben Winters bums laundry quarters off of his fellow fiction-workshop-retreat guests. Ron Hall and Denver Moore might have joined him if I didn't skip their Same Kind of Different As Me dreck last month. We'll see how Graham Norton does with Holding in a few weeks.

Was there a game?

Up next: Complacency (kəmˈplāsənsē) NOUN – A feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc. Cheers!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beer and football VIII — playoffs, week one (bye)

The beer: Maine Mean Old Tom Stout
The commentary: In honor of the MBTA refusing to look forward—with excuse-ridden complaints of "last week's historic tidal surge" delaying and outright canceling countless commuter trains ever since—and also of Commissioner Rico finally paying out, here is the closing set of knockout-pool statistics that interest only me… and Oren and Katie, who belatedly declared the previously disclosed "tendencies" to be "wicked awesome." She's got a point.

Simply put, which teams won for people? Which lost? How often? And for how long does a shampoo pompadour generally hold?

You chose wisely
Green Bay Packers – 32
Oakland Raiders – 31
Seattle Seahawks – 28
Philadelphia Eagles – 23
Buffalo Bills – 21
Pittsburgh Steelers – 18
New Orleans Saints – 15
Kansas City Chiefs – 14
Baltimore Ravens – 12
Detroit Lions – 12
Minnesota Vikings – 12
New England Patriots – 12
Jacksonville Jaguars – 11
Atlanta Falcons – 10
Los Angeles Chargers – 10
Los Angeles Rams – 10
Tennessee Titans – 10
Houston Texans – 9
Cincinnati Bengals – 8
Dallas Cowboys – 8
Carolina Panthers – 7
Arizona Cardinals – 5
Washington Redskins – 5
Denver Broncos – 4
Indianapolis Colts – 3
New York Jets – 3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2
Chicago Bears – 1
Miami Dolphins – 1

You chose poorly
Pittsburgh Steelers – 25
Atlanta Falcons – 17
Miami Dolphins – 15
Denver Broncos – 8
Houston Texans – 6
Kansas City Chiefs – 4
New England Patriots – 4
New York Giants – 4
Seattle Seahawks – 4
Baltimore Ravens – 3
Cincinnati Fucking Bengals – 3
Dallas Cowboys – 3
Saginaw Mysterians – 3
Detroit Lions – 2
Arizona Cardinals – 1
Buffalo Bills – 1
Minnesota Vikings – 1
New Orleans Saints – 1
New York Jets – 1
San Francisco 49ers – 1
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1
Tennessee Titans – 1
Washington Redskins – 1

Quick sizzle: Yes, the Jets and Bears wins all came against the Browns. It's remarkable that the leading Packers, Raiders and Seahawks represented twenty-seven percent of all wins (ninety-one out of three hundred thirty-seven) and missed the playoffs. Remarkable! Meanwhile, the Steelers, Falcons and Dolphins were responsible for fifty-two percent of losses (fifty-seven of one hundred ten), as if a team that benched Jay Cutler to close the season can hang with two legitimate contenders. Lastly, Craig, Kim and one of the Matts defaulted to the Saginaw Mysterians after deciding (in weeks seven, four and three, respectively) that the pot was too small to be bothered. Good riddance.

Thus ends all talk of my quarter share of this season's knockout distribution, especially since the Chiefs would have eliminated me had we continued into the playoffs. (Shudder.) In conclusion, I drink a Maine beer toast to weeks three, four, five and six for eliminating more than half of the competition. May Project Also-Rans purge so cleanly.

Up next: Belichick, in a show of resilience and/or animosity, kneecaps his burdensome quarterback moments before kickoff and they still manage to advance to a seventh straight AFC title game. Cheers!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Beer and football VIII — week seventeen

The game: Jets at Patriots
The beer: Down the Road Wolfgeist Dunkel Lager
The result: Win, 26–6; Lions win, 35–11; Jarrod/Dan/Katie/Oren win, 4–53
The commentary: With apologies to Commissioner Rico, we knockout-pool participants who remain after seventeen regular-season weeks of entertainment—Dan, Katie, Asterisk Oren and myself—have copped out and agreed to split the dough four ways. Rico pushed hard to continue into the playoffs and we might have been convinced were a solid structure in place. Instead his "interesting" suggestions to address my concern that we four (with a reset list of teams to choose from) would settle on the same picks through to the Super Bowl were, basically, unreasonable and desperate: for example, "How about two of you have to pick AFC teams and the other two NFC teams?" Um… no thanks. Five hundred-something net credits is better than the nothing I might end up with in an all-or-nothing affair, which is as much as poor Kelli took home after going o-fer, and that would be a goddamn shame. No thanks. (For fun though? Chiefs over Titans tomorrow.)

Week seventeen outcome
Dan – Vikings over Bears
Katie – Redskins over (home) Giants Falcons over Panthers
Oren – Patriots over Jets
Robin – Saints over (home) Buccaneers
Tim – Ravens over Bengals Redskins over (home) Giants

Way to finish, Tim, though you really left yourself with nothing (the projected Ravens lost as well). I recommend a glorious spreadsheet of your own, from which you might one day cull the following in an email to fellow quitters:

Anyone like stats? Or tendencies, at least…

Over 17 games I picked 12 home teams. Dan, Katie and Oren picked 11.

Katie and I favored the NFC with 9 picks vs. 8 for the AFC. Dan picked 10 NFC. Oren picked 10 AFC.

Dan and I picked the same team in a week 3 times. Katie and I did too, as did Katie and Oren. Dan and Katie shared 6 picks while Dan and Oren shared 7. Oren and I had only one pick in common.

Dan, Katie and Oren all picked the Steelers in week 1 (at the Browns), the Lions in week 10 (hosting the Browns) and the Jaguars in week 11 (at the Browns). Dan, Jarrod and Katie all picked the Eagles in week 5 (hosting the Cardinals). Dan, Jarrod and Oren all picked the Chargers in week 13 (hosting the Browns). "Tendencies."

Dan and I started with 13-game winning streaks. Katie's loss came more in the middle and she ended with 11 straight wins. Oren finished strong, winning 14 after an early loss. (Tim won 15 straight before losing the last 2. Ouch.)

Over the course of the season we each took the Ravens, Jaguars, Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Eagles, Steelers and Seahawks. None of us ever picked the Bears, Browns (shocker), Broncos, Colts, Giants, Niners or Buccaneers.

Lastly, everyone's losing team (Jarrod—Bengals; Katie—Ravens; Oren—Dolphins) missed the playoffs except for Dan's (Pats).

That's good stuff, though Oren was the only one who expressed interest: "I love crap like this!" Right on. His asterisk remains even though I suspect no real shenanigans—Rico handled himself well in dealing with bullshit and, ultimately, ruled with an appreciated iron fist. The whole ended as it began—drinking iced coffee at Market Street, though with decidedly colder temperatures. At least I remembered to take a picture this time. And I did eventually get the hang of the CBS RICO app, which worked well even after losing a few weeks ago. "CONT." It's my own fault but I'm happy to watch the Bengals eat shit for eternity in their Marvin Lewis malaise.

In other news, a halftime promo for Celebrity (?) Big Brother introduced two female cast members who claimed to "work in the boxing industry." If they're not simply "boxers," which is a straightforward job title, do they hold those cards that tell you what round is coming up? Sticking with reality television, Project Also-Rans started last night with its odd determination of categorizing multi-appearance contestants (from Also-Rans and/or the flagship show) as either "veterans" or "rookies." Amanda was onscreen for literally one second before I yelled at her for wasting our time. A. told me to cool it: "I know you don't like the format but can we just try to enjoy this?" I'll never miss an episode. Never.

Seth Wickersham is the troll of the day, gifting us with the antithesis of a Friday news dump as his ESPN hype machine picks the low-hanging fruit and squashes feel-good stories about the wild-card Bills and the Super Bowl-hosting Vikings. "The Patriots, in the only statement anyone associated with the team would make on the record for this story, responded to specific questions by saying that…" "…we won thirteen games this year so what gives?" Is Wickersham wrong if the team wins another title in a few weeks? If they fail, does anything he's right about even matter? It feels like a Cliff's Notes version of every "Brady and Belichick don't like each other" and, more recently, "Belichick and Guerrero don't trust each other" pieces written by hacks who otherwise ignore the football being played. Wickersham's article is the story of the offseason, whether the Pats lose to the Chiefs or defeat the Saints, and the playoffs haven't even begun. Just don't forget that the incident related in its opening paragraphs, in which Brady F-bombs McDaniels on live television, happened a month after Garoppolo was traded and Brady "seemed liberated" and "especially excited." History is seldom written by sour Raiders fans but when it is they end with a flourish: "…their collective will to stave off the fall." Bravo! And don't forget about John Jastremski and Jim McNally!

Up next: "Those interviewed describe a lingering sadness around the team." Meanwhile, twenty others missed the playoffs. Cheers!