Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sydney Pic Dump

Feel free to click on the pics to see an enlarged view:

Kings Cross at Day

Kings Cross at Night

At the Sydney Opera House

Sleeping Bats

Wedding Photos in the Botanical Gardens

Billards at the Pub in Glebe


Ice Kills

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Justin's Vegemite Prop Bet Video

During the Aussie Millions, I lost a prop bet with Justin Shronk from Poker News at breakfast. If he ate an entire packet of Vegemite, I would buy his breakfast. Here's what happened...

Click here to view Justin's Vegemite video featuring cameos from The Poker Shrink and Cory-Ann.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Almost a Golden God

On Saturday, I woke up in my hostel covered in skeeter bites. I passed out with my shirt off and the window wide open. They feasted on my flesh and when my bartender Kiwi roommate came home from work at 7:30am, he mentioned something about the series of bites on my stomach.

That was the last day in the hostel and as much as I wanted to stay due to social reasons (aka the hot German chick with no underwear and the cute nymphish chain smoking chick from the French Alps), I was happy to get out and find a different place to stay, with a better shower and a more comfortable bed. I had been sharing a room with only one other person who was never around, but I slept in the top bunk of a bunk bed and almost rolled over onto the floor in the middle of the night.

When I was in Byron Bay, I stumbled upon a travel website that boasted rooms at the Holiday Inn in Kings Cross for $150 Aussie per night. Since Brandon was going to be crashing with me for two nights, that meant the room would be not too expensive. I was way under budget and decided to splurge. Besides, most hotels in Sydney are around $200/night.

We wandered over to the hotel which was only a few blocks away. It was 10am and we had to wait until 2pm to check in. We were only there to stash our bags but luckily a room was available. We took it and I jumped right into the shower, a long hot shower where I spanked it twice. Brandon hopped on the internet and chatted up his lady friend while we figured out what to do for the day.

We headed over to Manly Beach and took a ferry from Circular Quay where we played thirty minutes of Chinese Poker. The ferries are green and yellow monsters that shuttle thousands of people from Sydney out to the northern beaches. Manly Beach was named so after one of the early British naval commanders floated by and saw manly looking Aborigines on the beach. (Oh, by the way Garth... I did some research and discovered that Australia Day was when the First British Fleet arrived in Sydney on January 26th, 1788 with 100 convicts, troops, and other colonists.)

Sculpture on Corso Street

Manly Beach is a mini-tourist trap, but there's plenty of small shops and eateries on Corso which leads you from the ferry terminal down to the beach. The beach was super crowded for a Saturday, especially on a three-day Aussie weekend holiday. Plus thee were different competitions going on... a lifeguard race and a rowing race which took up most of the beach.

We walked around and was bombarded by a nasty blitz of wind which kicked sand up and around everywhere. We picked the wrong day to head to Manly.

The best part of the beach was getting a cheap sandwich. There was a tent where they sold breakfast sandwiches. For $5, I got two sausages, two pieces of bacon and a fried egg with BBQ sauce. Yummy.

We looked at the map and decided to walk over to Shelly Beach where all the scuba divers were. Then we hiked into Sydney Harbour National Park. The climb up was not too bad and we had some amazing views of Manly Beach. We also experienced some wildlife such as lizards. We spotted on that had a tail that was three feet long.

This lizard freaked the shit out of us

After the hike, we decided to head back down to the beach. That's when Nigel called. He's is a publisher of a Australian Travel magazine and a devoted reader of my blogs who lives in Sydney. He invited me and Brandon over to his BBQ.

After we took a ferry back to Circular Quay, we headed over to Glebe to Nigel's place which was a few blocks from Ali's. Funny that we were hanging out in Glebe for two nights in a row, at a BBQ, drinking with strangers. But they weren't strangers... Aussies are extremely friendly and hospitable people. Nigel's friends were fascinated that Brandon was a "professional gambler" and that I got paid to travel the world and write.

Partying with fans. It was a surreal scene kinda like out of Almost Famous when the guitar player headed to a high school party and jumped off the roof into the pool exclaiming, "I'm a golden god!" Except that there was no LSD and no pool for me to jump into off the roof.

We hung out in the kitchen and drank heavily as they made mojitos from scratch. We got shitfaced and one of the guys wanted to challenge Brandon to a head-butting contest. I suggested that Brandon don't do it. He had size on everyone but Aussies are world champion head-butters. One drunk named Henry carefully inspected Brandon's head.

"I can't seem to find a weak spot," he said and dropped his offer to butt heads.

When the liquor ran out, Nigel yelled, "Off to the pub!" And about 20-25 people stumbled out into the streets and wandered into the pub a few blocks away. The basement had slot machines (or pokies as they call it).

Brandon and I played pool against Nigel and his buddy Gavin and it's safe to say the the Yanks are dominate pool players after we beat the Aussies 2-0. The bar upstairs was an actually fish tank where they served the drinks on. Trippy for sure. The bathrooms used Barbie and Ken dolls on the doors to indicate what sex bathroom you were supposed to go in.

The fish bar

When the pub closed, we headed to another bar down the street and sat in the back. We drank Coopers Pale Ale and played poker. Actually it was $2/hand and we'd all go in blind pre-flop. An Irish guy wandered up and joined us. We played four-way for a bit and the winner of the hand would take down $8 in $2 Aussie coins. I cracked Brandon's J-J with 6-5s after I rivered a flush. Nigel had Kings almost cracked by Brandon's A-Q. The flop was an Ace but Nigel rivered a two-outer to scoop the pot.

I ended up the big winner and won enough for cab fare back to King's Cross where the strung out hookers sit outside on milk crates looking for johns. When we stumbled out of the cab we could not get into our hotel. They make you ring a buzzer before they let you in.

"Please state your name and room number."

"McGrupp," we both blurted out.

Except we didn't know what room we were in.

"Somewhere on the first floor," I screamed.

"143!" shouted Brandon.

"I'm sorry sir. There is no room 143."

"Fuck! My name is McGrupp and I'm on a room on the first floor. Here's my key," as I placed it up against the glass door.

"143!" Brandon kept shouting.

They eventually let us in and we wandered down the hall. Our room was 162.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Aussie Day Pic Dump

Here are some random pics from Australia Day:

Wave that flag...

A view of Sydney from Darling Harbour

The Opera House from underneath the Harbour Bridge

The Opera House

Ali and Saram's BBQ

Sign on Ali's front door in Glebe

Sticker on my door in the hostel

Signs on Bondi Beach

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Australia Day

Friday was Australia Day and it celebrates the union of all the states into one sovereign nation. I have no idea if that is true or not because a very drunk guy told me that's what Aussie Day was and I'm too lazy to look up the correct definition on Wikipedia. In this instance, a local drunk's knowledge is all I need.

Australia Day is a national holiday similar to the Fourth of July. Plenty of flags, BBQs, and everyone gets off from work. Since Aussie Day was on a Friday, everyone had a three day weekend. The festivities started on Thursday with everyone getting shitfaced, including us.

I woke up hungover on Friday and wandered into Brandon's room where his two French femme roomies were busy getting ready for the day. We went to an internet cafe a few blocks from Hyde Park and checked email while I verified Ali's address in Glebe. Ali and I worked together for PokerStars in Las Vegas during the summer and I got to hang out with her in Melbourne. She invited us to a BBQ and Australia Day celebration and thanks to Google Maps, I figured out how to get to her house.

We had several hours to kill and wandered down by Darling Harbor. The area was packed with tourists and locals with plenty of kids running around and folks with temporary tattoos of the Australia flag on their cheeks or arms. We took photos of the harbor before we spotted a ferry. People were lined up in front of the Maritime Museum getting on the boat.

"Let's go," mentioned Brandon as he got in line.

"Where's it go?" I asked.

"I have no idea," he answered.

And that's one of the cool things about traveling in a place you've never been. The most exciting moments usually happen when you don't plan anything and go where the day and moment takes you. Brandon is an adventurous guy and is fun to travel with because he's willing to do things off the beaten path which are not included in guide books. There was a boat about to leave the Darling Harbor so we hopped on. It ended up being one of the coolest things we did in Sydney.

The ferry stopped at a few wharfs and ports and eventually went underneath the Sydney Harbor bridge where we could see people climbing the bridge. It costs $200 to do that which is a ridiculous price but there were dozens of people doing it. Eventually the ferry passed the famous Sydney Opera House before docking at Circular Quay, which is the Grand Central Station of ferries.

We still had some time to kill and hopped on a ferry back to Darling Harbor. Since it was Aussie Day, there terminal was packed with people. Perhaps we don't quite understand the system, but Brandon and I thought the ferry lines were a chaotic mess. We ended up getting on an express ferry to the Aquarium which was close to where we needed to go. Since the harbor was jammed with yachts, boats, and passenger ferries, we had to wait several moments before we docked.

We walked from the Aquarium to Glebe and picked up a bottle of wine at a bottle shop, which is the local version of a liquor store. Small bottles of SoCo were $30 and AlCantHang could consume that inside of an hour. We found Ali and Saram's house even though we thought we got lost. Glebe is one of the oldest sections of Sydney and lots of university students live in the area.

Ali was getting the food prepped while her husband Saram was showing us his new toy... a Wii system. Throughout the afternoon and evening, plenty of golf, tennis, and bowling would go down.

I met a ton of people and tried my best to remember everyone's name. They came from all walks of life and like most Aussie's I met, they were happy to meet Americans willing to come down under and travel in their amazing country. I chuckled when I heard a few AC/DC songs blast out of the stereo. AC/DC at a BBQ on Australia Day while drinking like a fish... that kinda summed up my afternoon.

I drank a lot of beer and the food was amazing. Lizzie worked the BBQ and there was plenty of lamb, steaks, and sausages. We sat out in the backyard and before the night was over, I was bitten a few times by either spiders or mosquitoes. The backyard was surrounded by gum trees with the eucalyptus leaves that koala bears eat.

We got very banged up after drinking for 8-9 hours straight and experiencing an authentic Aussie BBQ on Australia Day. Jules and Graham first introduced me to Aussie BBQ in Melbourne and I got to see one on a larger scale.

We headed back to the hostel and played some more Chinese Poker while the hot German girl with the white shorts and no underwear was hanging out and folding up her laundry as the bats continued to fly around. I think the German girl sent Brandon on tilt, because he didn't play very well. I was still lit up after he crashed and hung out talking to one guy from England, the chain smoking French girl, and an Aussie backpacker who has been traveling the world for two years. I must have passed out around 4am. My roommate, the Kiwi bartender, finally came home at 7:30 and woke me up. Of course when I went to take a piss I noticed all the bug bites. I was brutally attacked in my room. I passed out with my short off and must have been divebombed by the same skeeter a dozen times. Combined with the bug bites from Ali's backyard, little red bites peppered my entire legs and torso. I even had bites on my toes.

The hostel was a cheap alternative ($25/night) for lodging and getting to meet other travelers is always an enlightening experience, but after the bites I was ready to get out and pay a few extra bucks for a nicer shower and a room that was bug free.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thursday in Sydney

At first glance it appeared that Brandon got the better room in the Wood Duck Inn, a hostel on William Street a few blocks from Hyde Park in Sydney. He had two hot French girls in a four bunk room while I drew a guy in my two bunk room. After closer examination, I came out ahead.

"Dude talk about a bad beat," muttered Brandon. "That is, unless one of them blows me tonight."

Yeah, Brandon got the two snooty French girls while my roommate was a gregarious Kiwi who happened to be bartending at one of the cooler bars around the corner called The Gaff. We hit it off from the moment I introduced myself and he told me to come on down to the bar.

"It's Ladies Night," he said. "Free champagne from 9 to 10 in honor of Australia Day."

* * * * *

We had to find the STA travel office because Brandon left his UW student ID back in Seattle. He needed it to get a major discount on a train trip to Alice Springs so he could see Ayers Rock. We wandered around Chinatown looking for the office. He also needed a haircut. There were plenty of barbers with signs that read, "$10 haircuts."

"Maybe I should go to the gay part of town," Brandon suggested. "I will get a better haircut at a salon there."

The gay-lesbian part of town was far away and Brandon settled on one store. I snapped photos while he got a new haircut.

I was told to try Hungry Jacks which is the Aussie version of Burger King. For 4.95 we got an extra value meal... a double cheeseburger with a ton of mayo. It wasn't too bad.

We explored more of Sydney before the lack of sleep finally caught up with me. We went back to the hostel and I took a nap. Afterwards we headed to Kings Cross for dinner.

We stopped at the Fountain Cafe. It looked nice with cute waitresses. The bad part was that we were seated at a table next to a loud asshole. He was the first bad Aussie I met in over three weeks.

"Where the fuck is Crown Lager?" he shouted at the waitress. "What is this Perth? I expect that shitty service out there. Not in fuckin' Sydney."

"I'm sorry sir," the one girl said trying to muster up enough courage to stand up to the angry guy. "We ran out."

"That's fuckin' false advertising. I want to talk to your manager."

Another hot chick came back over and calmly explained that they ran out of Crown Lager. She brought them a complimentary bottle of champagne. But he was not satisfied and the verbal tirade continued.

"This is bullshit," he screamed. "False fuckin' advertising. See over there at that table? He's drinking Crown Lager. If you print that you have it in your menu and don't serve it to me, then it's false fuckin' advertising. Are you too fuckin' stupid to understand that?"

He did not give up and kept screaming about it like a spoiled little kid throwing a tantrum. We had already ordered our food and the place was crowded so we could not leave or switch tables.

"What a dick," mumbled Brandon under his breath.

Brandon is one of the most laid back guys you will ever meet. He attributes that to growing up in Hawai'i for the first 12 years of his life. He's totally chill but for the first time since I've known him... he was visibly rattled.

We scoffed down our dinner and quickly left. That guy's bad vibes ruined our meal. Bastard.

* * * * *

We went to The Gaff on Oxford Street located a few blocks from our hostel. We walked up to the bar and spotted several tables packed with young women waiting for the free champagne hour to kick in.

My roommate Ricky wandered over. We drank a jug (pitcher) of Toohey's and watched the tennis match. He told us that he's been traveling all over the world for eight years and doesn't meet too many Americans. He had some interesting political views and mentioned that out the US of A gets a bad rap overseas.

"Several Muslim countries were deeply affected by the tsunami," he said. "Yet, how much money did the Muslim countries donate? Very little. They didn't even care about their own people. Yet America was the biggest contributor to aid."

Ricky knew everyone in the bar, from the Swedish guys and German girls at our hostel who stopped by and the hot Brazilian bartender who served us more beer. We eventually started drinking with these two guys from the Aussie military. They were special forces and cool as shit. They recommended a few bars to visit. The girls started getting hammered and dancing on tables.

Irish poker pro David Callahan appeared out of nowhere. He randomly walked past the bar and saw a bevy of hot chicks and decided to investigate. We drank beers with him before we decided to leave.

We headed back to the hostel and drank up on the roof while we continued our heads-up Chinese Poker match. A few bats circled around above us as I picked up a few points on Brandon, the self-appointed semi-pro poker player.

"Are you Brant-dan?" said one of the girls who was cleaning the tables on the roof. "I have zor key."

Brandon lost his key and luckily, the staff found it. She was a nymphish twenty-something brunette with a funny accent. Time for another prop bet. Brandon picked France and I said Israel. We plopped two red $20 bills on the table.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Alex," she said in an accent that hinted of French. I knew I was doomed.

"Where are you from?" inquired Brandon.

"France. Zee French Alps," she said as Brandon scooped up the money.

I really suck at "Guess what country." I should stop those prop bets. But I'm an action junkie. Alex was way cooler than Brandon's French roommates. She hung out with us while she chain smoked cigarettes. Total cliche. Alas, it happened.

"Vat are zoo playing?" she asked.

"Chinese Poker," I answered.

"Vait. I thought I recognized zoo," she said after taking a long drag. "I have zeen zoo on TV. Brant-dan, zoo won a poker tournament on TV in France, c'est vrai?"

Brandon shrugged his shoulders. Not only is he a rock star in Germany, but hot French chicks working in hostels in Australia recognized him.
Random Byron Bay Pic Dump

Here are some pics from Byron Bay. Feel free to click on the photos to see an enlarged view:

Byron Bay, a view from the Lighthouse

Breakfast at The Balcony

Byron Lighthouse


Ummm... no comment

Down by the beach...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Night Train

We bought first class tickets from Byron Bay to Sydney. The last time I did train travel was in Japan when I followed Phish with Senor and Beano. We had first class passes on the bullet train and that was an amazing way to travel through Japan.

There is no train in Byron Bay and we had to take a bus to a town called Casino. There are no casinos in Casino, just the station where we could catch the night train to Syndey. The drive from Byron Bay to Casino was on a small two lane road with plenty of curves, twists, and hills as we navigated through lush farmland. It reminded me of Northern Vermont and I chuckeld when I saw signs that pointed out Koala crossings.

We finally got on the train. The snack bar was opened for about 15 minutes before they sold out of hot drinks and hot meals. I snagged a Lasanga before they ran out. Brandon opted for the meat pie. I had one in Melbourne and they are tasty.

We played Chinese Poker and I looked out the window before it got too dark and you could not see anything. I pondered life's mysteries and tried to visualize my next few months. I have no idea what the future holds with some recent wrinkles that my government has thrown into the money making machine of the online poker industry. The federalies are cock-blocking my livelihood and as they jerk around more and more online sites and banks and companies affiliated with online poker... I see my freelance clients dissapearing one by one.

I'm a writer trying to earn a living wage and in America that's almost impossible. Without poker, I struggled for a decade being dirt poor as I racked up 5 figures of debt. With the poker boom, I was able to climb my way out of misery and had a semblance of hope. I found several amazing friends and launched a freelance career and have been able to travel all around the world. Now it seems that all of this is slowly slipping away.

I anticapted this end of the party after the Republicans cowardly rammed the Internet Gambling Act down our throats in October when they attached it to the Port Security Bill. And that's why I saved almost every penny I made the last six months. The rainy day I was worrying about is on the horizon. There might be sunny skies again sometime in the future. But I can't sit and wait for that to happen.

I'm not going to give up writing. I will die as a writer, most likely deep in debt without any major works published. I accepted that as my fate when I chose to follow the calling to be a writer. I might never make what I did in the last six months, and that's OK. The good side is that I will have more time to travel the world and write about non-poker things and improve myself as a scribe and spend more times with friends and my brother.

I will eventually write a book about Las Vegas at the end of this year. If all goes the way I want it (and life never does), I can afford to take 2 years off to write that book and pen a screenplay. One of them has to be a hit. If not, I'm royally fucked and would have depleted my savings.

Moving on...

The train was nice but the trip was tough. I slept one hour total. The old man and woman behind me both snored in stereo whikle a little kid in the back of the car would not shut the fuck up. I tried to read and listened to music but could not fall asleep. Instead, I sat in the dark thinking about the next few months and the last three weeks (and how lucky I am and humbling this trip as been).

We arrived in Sydney at 7:10am and hopped a cab to the Wood Duck Inn on William Street a few blocks from Hyde Park. Our beds were not ready yet so we dropped off our bags. We were greeted by a smoking hot volumptuous German chick. Our jaws dropped when she let us inside. Drool soaked my shirt and I noticed that Brandon had to shift his erection so she would not see it. She led us up to the roof deck and I could not stop looking at her ass as we walked up several flights of steep stairs. She wore white shorts with no underwear. My, oh my. She spread out breakfast and invited us to eat. We had an amazing view of the city and ate toast. No vegemite.

We wandered through the park and ended up at an internet cafe. I checked my email and I have over 1,200 pieces of unread mail. I'm also exhausted. I haven't slept much since I arrived in OZ and the last few days have been rough. I don't expect to get much sleep the next few nights in the hostel, especially if that German chick wants to party. I have to be a good wing man for Brandon. He's got lots of fans in Germany after he made two final tables on the European Poker Tour. He's huge in Europe. He's like the David Hasslehof of poker players in the Motherland.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Can't Leave

Still in Byron Bay. Amazing place. Shecky left this morning after a good-bye breakfast at The Balcony. We are here for a few more hours. Then we have to take a bus to a town called Casino where we will get a night train to Sydney.

Brandon got shitfaced last night and drank a bottle of wine and 1/2 bottle of gin. We had a hot waitress serves us at an Italian cafe where we ate dinner. We gambled on where she was from. Brandon said Italy. I was convinced she was from Portugal. Shecky said Spain. We all tossed three red $20 bills onto the table.

"So where are you from?" asked Brandon.

"Spain," she answered.

Shecky slammed his hand on the table and scooped up $60.

We went to visit Byron Lighthouse. Brandon snapped this photo...

We saw sea turtles and took pics at the Eastern most point of Australia. Both Shecky and I have lady friends back in LA. We pointed out to sea and snapped photos in homage to the fact we are missing Nicky and Jen dearly especially since there are topless ladies running rampant on the beach. We can look but didn't touch. Brandon touched himself though.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Byron Bay

Senor and Friedman told me that I'd fall in love with Byron Bay. And they were right.

We rented a car and drove from Surfer's Paradise in the Gold Coast and drove down to Byron Bay. Our motel has beach access and my room with Brandon is spacious. Shecky needs his own space and has his own room. He's a workaholic and gets the shakes when he's unplugged for more than a few hours.

Like a junkie needing to score a fix, Shecky found an internet cafe in town. That's where I am at 9am after crashing at 4am and popping generic vicodin while downing bottles of Boags. Shecky crashed early and Brandon and I headed down to the beach. There was a bonfire with about 30 people partying and we walked around checking out the bright stars in the southern skies. I spotted a few constellations that you never get to see in my neck of the woods. That was cool.

It's good to see Shecky get outside and get some sun. He bought a football so we can toss it around on the beach. Our plan today is to rent mopeds and drive up to the lighthouse. I also want to go to Nimbin to score some herbal supplements. That's where all the hardcore hippies and Aussie wookies live.

We played Chinese Poker at a beach side bar last night and I'm down for the trip. That's been the only gambling I've done. I played live poker a few times in Melbourne and only played online poker once since I arrived. Plus I haven't been smoking much weed. I guess I'm weening myself off two of my vices. The result... I'm putting on weight because I'm drinking a shitload of beer and eating more.

I got to watch the Pats-Indy game and was pleased to see Indy come from behind to win. Brandon and I wacthed cricket last night and he explained it some more to me. I think I finally have a basic understanding at what the fuck is going on.

We have one more day in Byron Bay. Shecky will be leaving us and flying back to Melbourne. Brandon and I will be taking a train to Sydney. We're staying in hostels the first few nights, including one near the red light district. On the things to do in Sydeny is to head over to Manly and Bondi beaches.

We're supposed to hangout with my friend Ali for Australia Day on Friday. She's having a BBQ and inviting friends over. That should be cool to celebrate with locals. Brandon heads back to Melbourne on Saturday and I want to head out to the Blue Mountains on Sunday. I'll book a swanky hotel my last two nights mostly because I'm under budget for the trip and more importantly so I can have some peace and quiet to write.

I'm supposed to go home in a week, but I really struggling with those emotions where I say, "Fuck it!" and stay here for another few weeks or pull the trigger and follow Brandon to Veitnam.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Big Day Out - Video

Here's a quick video of Big Day Out. We were not supposed to take photos or video backstage, so I had to be super slick and shoot while the surly security guards were not looking. It features performances from The Killers, John Butler Trio, Jet, and Muse.

Click here to view the video via Bloglines or an RSS feed.

Shecky was supposed to get three tickets to Big Day Out for us. It had been sold out for months, yet he knew Tool's manager who said he'd put three tickets aside for us. When we showed up at Tool's hotel, there were only two tickets for us. Shecky was pissed and called up the manager. He apologized and not only gave us three tickets... but we got backstage passes. Talk about getting the hook up!

Since most of the bands we wanted to see were late afternoon and in the evening, we headed backstage and sat in a huge tent adjacent to the dressing rooms. There was free food and drinks and we found a table to sit down and play Chinese Poker. It was a little strange because members of random bands would be walking past us while Brandon Schaefer, Shecky, and I were gambling. The guys from Chemical Romance, Jet, The Killers, and Tool passed us at one time or another.

Shecky started out hot and I went South quickly. I had a 32 point swing in the first ten hands while Shecky picked up 16 quick points. Then Shecky went on severe BCPT (Backstage Chinese Poker Tilt) and was getting his ass kicked by Schaefer. Shecky's -36 swing destroyed him as Shaefer went on a rush. I wanted to end the game to go see John Butler Trio's set. The band had walked past us and headed on stage, but Shecky would not let me leave until he won a hand. That went on for about 12-15 hands and we ended up missing the first fifteen minutes of John Butler Trio. Bastard.

I had only been backstage at a major concert once... and that was Phish in Arizona in 1999. The Big Day Out backstage experience was unreal and surreal. When Kate Hudson walked past us, our jaws dropped. She's apparently banging the lead singer of Jet. At one point she bent over in front of me and squated for a few minutes so she could see Muse. Shecky poked me in the ribs and said, "That's the closest Kate Hudson will ever get to your cock."

Two feet away. Surreal. I was jotting down notes and the setlist and just like the scene from Almost Famous, I expected Penny Lane to take the pen out of my hand and toss it away. And yes, she's amazingly smoking hot in person.
Big Day Out Pics

We had an amazing time at Big Day Out. Shecky hooked us up with free tickets and a backstage pass. We got to watch several of them bands... on stage. Unreal. Big Day Out was huge, like almost 100K people partying their ass off. Here are some pics:

The first thing we saw when we walked in...

Backstage during John Butler Trio

Brandon eats corn

Shecky eats corn

Hanging with the crowd during the Killers set

"Dude? You can't find me? I'm waving the kangaroo?"

Too bad they didn't flash us...

Brandon during Jet's set


More Muse

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Gold Coast Day 1

After two long weeks at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, the Aussie Millions finally ended around 9pm on Friday. That's when Gus Hansen from Denmark beat a 19-year old internet prodigy (who dropped out of high school to play poker full time) from Champaign, Illinois named Jimmy "Gobboboy" Fricke. Hansen won $1.5 million Aussie bucks while Gobboboy won $1 million. Unreal.

When I was 19, I was smoking weed and drinking my eyes out while sitting on the porch of my fraternity house trying to finger shitfaced sororitiy girls.

After the final table ended, I went to dinner at a steakhouse with Tim and my boss Shecky. We ate there once before and it was overpriced, but an excellent meal. Our table was not ready, so we headed to the bar and bumped into some friends of Shecky. One of them is an Aussie named Ralph who is a well-to-do businessman who is sickly wealthy. He bought us a bottle of wine that cost somewhere near $2K. He doesn't just have a "black" Amex card... Ralph is such a high roller that he has a "Titanium" card and supposedly there's only like 50 of those on the planet. That card is literally made out of steel and comes with a 24-hour personal assistant... free of charge. I think his assistant is named Wang.

Anyway, Shecky told Ralph that we were having problems finding a room on the Gold Coast. Since we were so busy the previous two weeks, we kept putting off finding a room. It is the middle of summer and with the Big Day Out music festival nearby, there were no rooms available. Ralph picked up his mobile phone and dialed Wang and told him to set us up.

We eventually had dinner and I ordered the Black Angus porterhouse with a bernaise sauce. After dinner there was a big "players party" at one of the clubs in the casino. I got hammered and wandered around snapping photos of Gaz (one of my colleagues who is one of the more popular figures in Aussie poker) who hired me as his personal photographer.

Gaz, Pauly, and the Rooster's favorite Aussie... Cory-Ann

Of course I was hammered and passed out for a few hours before I had to get up, pack, check-out, and finish two articles which I had a deadline. One was for a magazine and the other for Poker News. I cranked out 1,500 and 3,900 words in less than three hours. I had already pre-written most of both pieces, but I worked as fast as I had ever worked hungover to all hell.

Pressed for time, I was lucky that Cory-Ann, one of my co-workers, checked me out of the hotel and put all my room charges on the company credit card. It was somehwere close to $600 with over $250 in internet charges, plus over $100 in phone calls to fuckin'' Citibank or Neteller. The rest was mini-bar charges and room service. Oh then there was the $32.99 breakfast buffet that was good but overpriced. I must have put over $500 in charges on my boss' tab. I wonder if he noticed? I kept signing "Shecky" at the various bars or at the breakfast buffet.

I had one hour to kill and walked along the Yarra River to smoke up the rest of my herbal supplements. I also ate some ice cream and soaked up my last moments in Melbourne. I met up with Brandon Schaefer and Shecky so we could head out to the airport. Schaefer and I are going to travel the rest of my time in Australia together, while Shecky is joining us for four days. Our plan was to head up to Surfer's Paradise for two days and catch Big Day Out music festival which is like Bonnaroo, Cochella, and Lallapolooza rolled into one. Then we'll spend two days in Byron Bay (per suggestions of Friedman and Senor), before we explore Sydney before I leave Oz and go home at the end of the month.

At the airport, we played Chinese Poker and I got smoked. Schaefer is a professional poker player (although he'd tell you he's a semi-pro) and Shecky used to be a pro and is now an executive at a global poker news organization. I was playing against two solid players and would have to shrug off my hangover if I wanted to win. No such luck.

We flew on the Aussie version of JetBlue called JetStar and the seats were cramped. The stewardesses were hot and you had to pay for your drinks and snacks. We finally arrived and the Gold Coast looks a little bit like Southern California or Florida. Lots of beaches. Lots of sun. Lots of hot chicks.

Ralph's assistant Wang ended up booking the Palazzo Versace which is like 600/night. Shecky told him it was out of our price range since we were staying two nights. Ralph said, "No worries mate!" And he picked up the tab. We love Ralph.

The Palazzo Versace is a snooty swanky 5 star hotel with marble floors and glasses with the image of Donatella Versace embedded in them. Our room is a one bedroom suite with a huge bathtub and balcony. Pictures pending but Jen Leo posted some pictures of Palazzo!

I checked my email and Nicky had just gotten into Las Vegas. She was hired to cover an event and got a comped room at Caesar's. She emailed the pics of her digs (which she said was bigger than her and Showcase's entire apartment) and it looked swanky. I shot her an email back and told her how she'd love the Palazzo Versace. Ultimate luxury.

We headed down to a surfer's bar down by the beach as we overlooked the Ocean. We drank pitchers of beer. They call them "jugs" here and they were $10. What a bargain. We OD'd on nachos and potato wedges (mixed with sourcream and a sweet chili sauce). We headed back to the hotel and drank alongside the pool. The people there were dressed up in tuxes and sleek black cocktail dresses.

"I feel like the Beverly Hillbillies," joked Shecky.

We were out of place wearing our beach wear as everyone around us looked like they were dining out in Monte Carlo. That's when we busted out the playing cards and sat down to drink and play Chinese Poker. Keeping it real.

The stars were fantastically bright and a group of tanned 17 year old high school chicks in sundresses sat next to us. Schaefer could not stop checking them out as we played cards and I wondered if any of them had any weed. I was down a lot of money after that terrible session of cards in the airport and came storming back while Shecky lost a bunch of money. Of course, Schaefer was winning the most. And he should. He's the pro.

The girls eventually left and we stumbled back to the room. I woke up hungover. Again. That seems to be par for the course since I've arrived two plus weeks ago.

I fI ever write a book about Australia, it will be titled, "Hungover in Oz."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Aussie Food Pics

Here are pics of food to let you know what I've been eating or you can catch a glimpse of my friends' eating habits:

Penne Bolognese from Cervo

Brandon's Pumpkin Raviloi

Pizza with spicy chicken and bacon from Automatic

Dinner at Lucky Chances

Justin's Breakfast Buffet

Lamb Salad

Sorbet in Strawberry Soup

My Morning breakfast at Margo's