Sunday, September 30, 2007

Key West Pic Dump, Vol. I

Too tired to write. But I have enough energy to post a few of my favorite pics from the Key West and Miami trip. Stay tuned for another round of photos and some more stories.

Twin Eggs: Jessica and Jamie's Sunday Breakfast In Miami

The View While Driving to the Keys

End of the Road

AlCantHang's Pool

The Old Truck

Breakfast of Champions

Hemingway's Six-toed Cat

Hemingway's (Former) Writing Studio in Key West

Dog Looking Inside the Green Parrot

The Rain Does Not Deter BigMike

The Cocktail's Name? Jamaican Me Crazy

More to come...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ACHC Video

Here's a quickie video of the infamous AlCantHang Compound in Key West.

Click here to view the video of the ACHC (via Bloglines or any RSS feed).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

AlCantHang and I Walk into a Bar...

Key West. It had the vibe of a Caribbean island without the color. The streets were flooded with sunburnt white people clutching souvenir bags and digital cameras. The AlCantHang Compound (ACHC) was off the beaten path, down a secret alley off a side street, definitely away from tourist central.

A few hours after the Sunday arrival, the guys hung out in the pool while I sat in the shade with AlCantHang and Big Mike. We drank and swapped Amsterdam tales. Most of the crew eventually wanted dinner. AlCantHang's primary objective was booze. They went for food while we walked over to Irish Kevin's, a bar on Duval Street which was an AlCantHang favorite.

From the view outside on the street, Irish Kevin's was located in the first floor of a two story structure, but from the inside, only one humongous space existed. We wandered inside the narrow bar, maybe three tables or four tables wide, with high ceilings. It was one of the longest bars I had ever seen running almost the entire length of the property which was at least thirty or forty yards.

A guy in a blue t-shirt and cargo shorts stood on stage with am acoustic guitar. He played popular cover songs like Jack and Diane and Sweet Home Alabama in a wacky manner. He interacted with the audience and encouraged them to sing-a-long and participate in his random goofiness like busting on people from New Jersey, changing the words to the songs, and guilt-tripping pedestrians to come inside and get shitfaced with everyone else.

It was exactly 8:08pm when I entered an Irish Bar in Key West with AlCantHang. Whenever you walk into a bar with AlCantHang, you're immediately assuming full responsibility for your actions. You always know what you are getting yourself into. There's no false pretense. You will drink and drink and drink and drink as life unfolds around you. You surrender to the flow of the liquor.

One of our friends described AlCantHang as a walking party. And when the party plops down at an Irish bar, you're knee deep in the depths of a serious mind-altering drinking binge. The best you can hope for is that your liver manages to escape with minimal damage and that the hangover the next day won't be devastating where you're clutching the porcelain god at sunrise with the worst case of the dry-heaves that you've had since the earliest days of the Clinton administration.

I knew the three basic tenants of the AlCantHang party-like-a-rock-star rules.
1. Pace yourself.
2. Drink lots of water.
3. And eat as much as possible.
I followed two but not the third. I drank on an almost empty stomach and by the sixth or seven beer, I got hit with a sledgehammer. We were seated at the end of the bar next to a kid, who barely looked old enough to drink. He was with his pretty girlfriend and they sipped some sort of rum and coke drink.

The musician onstage asked who was in the military. The kid raised his hand and said he was in the Army. AlCantHang quickly bought him a shot. That's when he discovered that the kid and his girlfriend lived in the town next to AlCantHang's. Small world.

Enter the Germans. Originally we thought they were Irish since they knew all the words to Irish Rover. As soon as the song ended, they screamed out,"Johnny Cash!"

The Krauts were fans of the man in black and over the next hour, that's all they screamed. In due time, AlCantHang bought them shots. The one German kid almost hurled when he downed a shot of Jim Beam black label. He told us that he'd been in America for two weeks and saw a bunch of cities, but none more fun than Key West.

AlCantHang pulled a $20 out of his wad and rushed up to the stage. He tipped the musician $20 to play Johnny Cash. Ten minutes later, he busted into Folsom Prison Blues.

"Since I got tipped $20 to play Johnny Cash from AlCantHang," the guy on stage said. "I'm going to play two songs."

The Germans went nuts. The entire bar sang along. Inside of a couple of hours, AlCantHang became the King of the Bar. Even the owner was buying him shots. If you've done any drinking under the AlCantHang Experience, you fully comprehend his magical powers.

The rest of the crew eventually joined us for a round or three in the back of the bar while a second musician took the stage. He was a black guy from New York City. He has some sick chops and was twenty-times the musician as the goofy guy, but he lacked the charisma of the first guy.

That's when AlCantHang said, "Time for some tits. And ass!"

Like Moses parting the Red Sea, AlCantHang darted through the crowd as the drunks in Irish Kevin's made a path for him to the front door. We walked fifteen meters and we reached the establishment that I will call, "The Classy Joint."

Editor's Note: I have been informed by my legal counsel to omit the actual name of the gentleman's clubs and change the names of the strippers in order to protect the innocent. Like they are giving me their real names anyway? I also refer to the first strip club as "The Classy Joint" because there will be a second establishment mentioned in this post that is made the first place look like the Rhino in Las Vegas.

The Classy Joint is located at the top of a slippery wooden staircase. Thousands of horny men and other wayward and desperate souls made the same climb. The cover charge was $5 but I got in for free since Lewey flashed his VIP card, which gave him and a guest free admission. I realized that the entire crew had a VIP card with the exception of me.

Big Mike scouted out a spot. The space was fairly large with a stage in the middle of the room with two stripper poles on opposite sides. Twenty or so chairs were around the stage while a long bar nestled against the back wall. There was a hallway off to the side which led to the Champagne Lounge. Next to that was a room with group of red velvet couches where the adult entertainers performed their infamous exotic lap dances under the sultry hues of red, purple, and pink neon.

We set up camp near the stage. One or two of us would take turns sitting at the stage and tipping the girls $1 bills. Except the AlCantHang crew were serious ballers. They were tipping a minimum of $5 or $6 and up to $20.

That's their game plan. It was the first night in town and they made it known that they were in Key West for a week. What at first seemed like they (well I guess it's the collective 'we') we recklessly splashed money around, it was all done on purpose to establish the fact that we were not cheap tourists looking to see some ass for next to nothing. As Big Mike explained, we were conditioning the natives. That way the next time we ventured inside, we got quick and attentive service. (And that would happen when we returned less than 19 hours later and you'll read about that in another post.)

Overtipping became the norm and within minutes our crew got all of the attention in The Classy Joint, even though it was crowded for a Sunday night. Everyone became secondary to the AlCantHang Experience. Big Mike took care of our waitress with a nice pre-tip. She was an attractive Cuban woman and didn't look as skanky as the girls on stage. That made her the most sophisticated lady in the club.

"How come you don't dance," asked Big Mike.

"I'm a mommy. Mommies don't dance. Would you like to see your mommy dance?" she said.

"Are you kidding me? The fuckin' whore? I'd love to see her actually get off her ass to make a dime," Big Mike honestly said.

The majority of the girls were average looking strippers. They would be working a second-tier club in Las Vegas or stripping during the day at one of the bigger clubs. But in Key West, they were the cream of the crop. And even though they were some of the better looking pieces of ass in town, they still had the wild reputation that Key West strippers have. The word "dirty" comes to mind.

Most strip clubs in Las Vegas implement a strict hands-off the dancer policy. The majority of the girls at the Rhino or Crazy Horse Too don't shower you with special attention unless you shower them with $100 bills. It's all business for the Las Vegas girls and if you want any sort of extra attention or groping, you have to fork over big bucks for an adventure in the VIP room. Of course, that's the biggest scam in Las Vegas next to the 99 cent shrimp cocktail.

At the Key West establishments, all you have to do is pay $20 for a naughty session which includes (and not limited too) crotch grabbing and getting your face used as a punching bag as the ladies slap their poorly designed fake-breasts into your face.

Sure, we all had fun. But our primary goal was to make sure AlCantHang had fun. And he did. Of course, we lost Lewey for sometime. He went into the back and didn't come out for a while. And when he finally reappeared he had a wry smirk on his face.

I befriended a stripper from the Czech Republic. She stood about five-foot ten with dark hair and natural breasts. She reminded me of Phoebe Cates and had a tattoo of a scorpion on her ankle. What looked like four cigarette burns peppered the inside of her thighs.

By the second lap dance, we had been discussing lesser known Milan Kundera books like Identity as she stood upside down on her hands and rubbed her shaved crotch on my chest.

"Your country was invaded my the Soviets," I rambled on during the fourth lap dance. "They set up a puppet government that eventually crumbled after the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Your formerly behind the Iron Curtain nation-state was broken up into two republics and instead of staying behind in your new land of freedom, you fled to Key West where you strip for a bunch of old farts who are in town for a few hours when their cruise ship docked. Or you're grinding away for horny servicemen on leave taking every cent of their slave wages that our government pays them?"

"I like the warm weather," she cooed. "And I'm trying to earn enough money to bring my mother here."

Of course, she was trying to sell the old routine, "I'm only let potential serial killers and politicians pull my hair and fondle my breasts for $20 a pop so I can bring my mother to America."

She was a hustler, a decent one at that. The vixen almost had me convinced. But I've been around the block a few times and been to enough strip clubs that I could write a book about it. The American bimbos use law school or business school as their faux cover. The foreign ones like to bring up their mothers and highlight the hardships in their motherland. This one was down here to hook a big whale. Perhaps a lonely and well off retired businessman with a yacht and a multiple million dollar homes.

"Everyone loves their mothers," I said. "Don't you love money?"

"Of course," she said as she continued to dance to a random hip hop sing with fellatio lyrics.

"But do you love money more than your mother?"

She paused and said, "I love them equally both."

"But your mother is still washing dirty underwear for tourists in Prague, right? Because if you really loved her, she'd be in paradise with you, washing dirty underwear for tourists in Key West."

She didn't blink and tried to get me off the topic. She grabbed my junk for four long seconds and twisted my nipples until I begged her to stop.

I don't recall how long we spent at The Classy Joint. I was shitfaced drunk when I left the Irish bar and drank steadily at the strip club. We finally left and walked down the street. We made a turn down a dark alley next to a couple of abandoned buildings. A faint pink light could be seen and that was the strip club on the other side of the tracks.

The Dive was a step down on the stripper food chain. A couple of rungs. It reminded me of those horrible and sad clubs in shitbag towns and third-rate cities where career strippers end up when they hit 40 or on their last breaths before they croak from a speedball OD in the tiny bathroom of a no-tell motel freaking out the chubby married business man from the Midwest who hired the strung out vixen to suck his toes for $20 a toe.

"This is the place where strippers come to die," said Landow in a straight face as we walked inside.

There was no cover charge. For obvious reasons. The place looked the basement of my fraternity house, except with a stripper pole. There was one dilapidated stage off to the left and a tiny bar to the right. Several old guys sat at the bar. Two of them had girls sitting on their laps. One was atrocious looking as her double-D sized books spilled out of her top. The better looking one seemed out of place until she smiled and I realized that she was missing three teeth. I didn't want to touch anything because I was afraid of contracting an STD.

As soon as we walked in, the best looking dancer in the club wandered up. She looked gorgrous at first glance, but underneath the lights, the wrinkles gave her away. Twenty years ago she was the hottest stripper in town. The Dive is like her retirement home.

"Aren't you AlCantHang?" she asked.

AlCantHang told her that he was and she mentioned that one of the girls they knew was due to dance on stage next. Years ago, the crew befriended a stripper. I guess we'll call her N. When N saw AlCantHang and his crew, she bubbled over with excitement.

For the next hour or so, they all caught up over a couple of beers as I watched the various dancers take turns running to the bathroom to rip a few lines before it was their turn to dance.

The Dive was sketchy because they cut off all songs at the 2 minute and 10 second mark. I counted. So if you got a lap dance, you got cheated. The standard lap dance at traditional clubs is about three minutes or so. I refused to go into the back room with those ladies. At some point you have to draw the line somewhere. For me, it was The Dive.

I don't recall leaving the second strip club. I vaguely recall trying to find a slice of pizza. Then I blacked out. I woke up in my bed at the hotel. A fuckin' rooster woke me up. There are all these free range chickens and roosters wandering around Key West. One in particular caused me to awake from a dead sleep.

My head was ringing. I had a category three hangover on the verge of dehydration. I managed to avoid puking and chugged the rest of the water I had as I quickly popped two Motrin and one generic Vicodin. I looked at my digital camera. It was a scene out of Momento where I had to piece my life back together using a couple of random images, mostly from the Irish bar. The strip clubs had a no photography policy, so there were no shots of that debauchery.

I grabbed the wad of cash out of my pocket. It looked healthy until I unfurled it and began counting. Wait, were did all the hundreds go? And all those twenties were replaced by singles. I did some quick math and figured out between the Irish bar and the two strip clubs, I had blown about $420.

I sat down at the table near the window overlooking Duval Street. Despite the hangover, I fired up the pipe and the laptop and began writing about the previous 48 hours. That's when the tour trolley stopped in front of the hotel. I looked out of the window and a guy on a microphone pointed to the hotel. He muttered something about this being, "a historical landmark almost as old as Key West itself."

One woman snapped a quick photo. I wonder if the tour guide stopped his trolley at The Classy Joint or The Dive and said the same thing?

Monday, September 24, 2007

nyc > miami > key west

It took me less than five minutes to pack for an eight day excursion to Florida. I condensed everything into my small backpack which is the size of a traditional book bag. Last November, Nicky and I spent a week or so in Amsterdam and all I brought was the small bag. I know that any trip under four days can be accomplished with the smaller bag. I proved that I could do up to six weeks with just the bigger backpack.

I went with a third option, a medium bag for this trip. It fits in the overhead compartment on any plane so it really wasn't a problem to take with me. I had some beachy materials I wanted to bring to Florida along with a book for Jerry and something for AlCantHang. I also realized that if I acquired any items on my journey... I'd have no space for them with the small bag. I upgraded and had plenty of room in there.

The cab picked me up in front of my brother's apartment. I was already there when I went downstairs five minutes early. The streets were empty and we got to the airport in record time. JetBlue flights to various destinations in Florida out of LaGuardia. So I didn't have to trek all the way out to JFK, which is like $20 more and up to forty-five minutes to an hour longer depending on traffic.

The flight to Ft. Lauderdale was on time and half-empty. Or half-full. I had only two people behind me on the plane and I was about 2/3 down in seat 20. I watched the History of Rock & Roll on VH1 Classics before I shut it off to listen to the Yankees game on XM radio, while I thumbed through a Tom Robbins book that I brought with me.

The rental car was super cheap and it took longer to walk from the gate to the rental car building than it took to check-in and get out of the airport.

AlCantHang assigned me a special mission. He sent me an email that went something like this:
2 handles of Soco
2 handles of Stoli
1 fifth of Jack Daniels
1 fifth of Cuervo
1 fifth of Bacardi Rum
big honkin bottle(s) of whatever you want
He wanted me to load up on supplies before his arrival to Florida. I didn't ask if that batch would be just for the ride from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West or if that was just the first day of provisions. I just followed orders. I looked up liquor stores via Google and found one.

I didn't realize that I had driven into a sketchy part of north Miami. If I had been paying attention to the desperation on the street or all of the random folks milling around, I would have spotted that I was on the wrong side of the tracks.

I was too busy finding the proper address. I pulled into a gravel parking lot with a small store. It was pink with big black letters that read, LIQUOR, except that the Q was worn down and it looked more like LICUOR. Unless that's was the artist's original intention and the joke was on me.

As soon as I left the car, three young ruffians approached me. I had about two seconds to size up the situation. I stopped and they sped up. I whirled around and briskly returned to my car. I one swift motion, I opened the door, slid into the seat and started the ignition before I could even close the door. The rental car had automatic locks and as soon as I heard that click, I slammed on the gas and headed for the parking lot exit. Disaster averted.

I drove back towards Jerry's house and decided to go buy a few hundred dollars worth of booze in a safer neighborhood. Luckily I found one about three minutes from his house. The staff was friendly and wore the same t-shirt. One big dude about the size of an NFL lineman quickly found the bottles for me and packed them in a box. He even offered to walk me out to the parking lot. The roving band of ruffians often jump people walking back to their cars. I had an security escort, with a big can of mace dangling from his side.

He placed the bottles in the trunk and I offered him a $10 tip for the assistance.

"Whoa man!" he said as he put his arms up in horror. "Don't flash money like that here. We can both get shot."

He backpedaled and quickly walked back inside the liquor store, glancing over his shoulders twice.

I sent AlCantHang a text message telling him that the mission was accomplished and how avoided a potential flare up with enemy combatants.

Jerry and his family were celebrating the high holidays outside of Miami and wouldn't be home until the early evening. He told me to make myself at home, which I quickly did. I fired up college football on his TV and played online poker. I went out to grab a bite to eat. I drove around and found a Denny's. The service was atrocious, but that's par for the course at Denny's. But even the worst food service you get in America is better than the best service you get in Europe. I had become super patient after eating out a lot during my six-week trip and wasn't expecting constant attention from my server.

I went back and hung out with Jerry and Sara while we watched the end of the Alabama/Georgia game. I eventually fell asleep and woke up around 5am. I sat at the dinning room table while everyone was still asleep. I logged onto PokerStars to play Pot Limit Omaha. Jerry's cats scurried around looking for attention. I spotted a tiny grey lizard and pointed it out to the cat. With one swift move, the cat pounced and tore the lizard's tail off. The lizard limped off and ran towards the wall. The chase ensued with the cat trapping the lizard in the corner.

I looked down at my feet and say a tiny piece of tail flopping around. It was trippy. I went to pick it up when another cat came over and swallowed it whole. Cats eating lizard tails. Just another Sunday morning in Miami.

When the twins woke up, we went to a local dinner. Amazing omelete with bacon and sausage and cheese. Back at home, I read Curious George books to the twins. I didn't bother to explain to them the horrible racial undertones and the subdued homosexuality of the man with the yellow hat.

I eventually packed up my gear and went to the airport to meet AlCantHang's posse. I dropped off my rental car and joined Al's van that would safely guide us to Key West.

He rented a house and I opted for a hotel room. I wanted to have some space to write without any distractions and could hang out at the house for the other 90% of the time I didn't want to be alone. The hotel was located in the heart of Key West. It was perfect because I could frequent the bars then stumble home shitfaced and it would only be a block or two away instead of a fifteen walk to Al's pad.

I checked into my room, jumped in the shower, and headed back to the AlCantHang Compound to watch the end of the football games and to... party. Hard. Like rock stars. The first day of a seven day bender commenced.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Aloha means hello and good-bye. I'm in a constant state of Aloha. Meeting new people, then saying good-bye. Catching up with old friends, then saying good-bye. Seeing Nicky, then saying good-bye. Seeing my brother, then saying good-bye.

I have been in NYC for about 60 hours and now I'm leaving for eight days in Florida. I guess this brief stint in NYC was a refueling stop. I did a batch of laundry and ran around the city doing errands and things that backed up over the last six weeks. I didn't get everything accomplished and had to focus on the most time sensitive items while I decided to put somethings off until my return to NYC at the end of the month.

I never have enough time, it seems. I'm constantly rushing things and attempting to squeeze stuff in. Rarely do I ever get to say, "Ahhhh, I'll do that tomorrow."

I had to buy a new aircard for my laptop. The old one was two years old and I stopped the service two months ago. I went with a new model that featured an USB attachment. The old aircard made the laptop get super hot and I always feared that it would fry everything. Since I already have a Verizon cell phone account, the monthly charges are about $20 cheaper a month. They also waived the activation fee. I was in and out in less than fifteen minutes. And yes, the aircard works in New York. Let's hope it works in Florida, specifically down in Key West.

I did not have much time to write during mt layover in NYC. Just short and little spurts. That bothered me, but I had no other choice. My goal over the next week in Florida is to set aside about two or three hours for work related stuff and to write every morning. Then I have the rest of the day to hang out.

Jen, one of the British writers that I worked with in London, mentioned something like, "Holidays don't have the same meaning in our nomadic lifestyle."

I guess that's why I didn't get overly excited about my birthday. Most of my friends thought I was still in London. I wish I could say that I got shitfaced drunk in NYC dive bars like last year. In 2005, I had to drive to Atlantic City for work. 2004 is a blur.

Skippy managed to post a very nice tribute on his blog. Thanks, bro.

I got wrangled into going out to dinner with my family, which sucked. Not only did I not get to pick the place, I couldn't even pick the time I wanted. I just got drunk on cheap red wine and looked at the clock on my cellphone every eight minutes awaiting the end of dinner so I could get the fuck out of there.

An old friend was in town for the past two weeks. His wife was attending a training session and he tagged along. DJ Tom (in the past I might as referred to him as Kung Fu Tom) and I were great friends when I lived in Seattle over a decade ago. After I moved from Seattle to NYC, we saw each other a few times (usually once a year). That cycle ended after he stopped coming back to the East Coast for holidays. He always made an effort to come down to NYC on those trips. Since he had not been back in several years, and because I had not been back to Seattle myself since the late 1990s, it had been almost seven years since we hung out.

We lost touch about four or five years ago and he's not what you call an internet person. He's online about ten minutes a week and that's just to check his email. He rarely reads the blogs so he had no idea about what I had been doing. Then last June he called me. I was trying to score bud at Bonnaroo at that precise moment of reconnection. It was a brief but fun conversation. He told me that he had finished up his master's degree and got married. A lot can happen to your friends in three or four years. I think the last he had heard of me, I was completely broke and homeless after getting tossed out of my studio. He had no idea about the recent success in the poker industry, so I had to explain the amazing ride that has happened over the last three years.

Seattle in the late 1990s was an interesting time, just before the dotcom bubble burst. Most of my friends were not involved in that area. They were artist and free spirit types. We were slackers and didn't have much money and relied on each other for entertainment. Maybe it was the rain or the fact that we were broke, but we often gathered in groups of five or six people and sat around having intense discussions while we got wasted and listened to weird music in the background.

DJ Tom would come over to my house and we'd order pizza, drink sixers of Henry's on the big porch, and watch the rain fall. Sometimes we'd watch the X-Files and the Simpsons like every other pothead in the greater Seattle metropolitan area. DJ Tom was studying Kung Fu at the time and he'd often show up to my house with random bruises that he incurred after a long training session. He taught Kung Fu on the side to help pay for his training. He showed me how to throw an effective punch, especially in close quarters.

He was a musician and also go into spinning records, hence the moniker DJ Tom. He'd make me these interesting tapes that were a delicious mixture of all different genres of music in... from West Coast jazz, reggae, classic rock, African tribal music, zydeco, and deep house. During one of my infamous parties during the summer of 1998, he spun records in our living room. That was a bitchin' party. One of my work friends, using his harmonica, almost beat the snot out of an annoying kid who tried to steal someone's bottle of tequila. I hooked up with one of my female housemates and some random dude passed out in the shower. And yeah, DJ Tom spun music until the morning hours.

We're ten years older now and are on different journeys through life. We both managed to get our shit together, and finally reconnected after many years. I'm fortunate that our friendship can simply pick up where it left off. I'm at a dangerous point in my life where I don't have the time to constantly work on my friendships since I'm rarely in the same place for more than a few weeks. Some relationships have already suffered, while others are floundering. That's been one of the biggest regrets about the last couple of years. Being on the road means being away from your friends.

DJ Tom and I started drinking around 4pm on Friday. I took him on a tour of my favorite dive bars starting with the P & G on 73rd Street. We drank pints while the old guys sat at the bar and kept their eye on the ponies that were on the OTB channel.

We drank and talked. Sometimes we told old stories and recounted memories of people we knew about in Seattle, like Crackhead Stu and Fat Naked Guy and Brian the Plumber. He told me how much the city has changed since I lived there. I told him about being on the road for the last three years and visiting places like Australia and Monte Carlo. We spoke about our brothers, who were both three years younger than both of us. He told me about his wife, who grew up in Hawaii, and how they met. I told him about Nicky and the story of us over the last two years.

Then it was time to go. Time flew by so fast. We said our good-byes and promised to see each other again. I keep meaning to return to Seattle. Now, I finally have a good excuse.

Of course, I can't think about that right now. I'm headed to the airport to jump on a JetBlue flight to Ft. Lauderdale, then a quick drive to Miami in my $15.99/day rental car to hang out with Jerry and his family.


I'm at the airport. My cabbie got me there in 15 minutes. New record. I think the roads were empty due to the Jewish holiday. My cabbie dropped me off behind a bus that just let out a massive group tour of 50 or more geriatric couples trying to squeeze thru the revolving doors into the terminal. I feared they were headed to the JetBlue counter and ran inside another entrance to beat them inside. They were lined up at the Continental desk. Over 200 of them. Insane. I used the check-in kiosk and was done in two minutes. Went downstairs to the food court and got a slice of pizza. Now, I'm killing time playing online poker.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

london > (amsterdam) > nyc

The last 48 hours in London were bittersweet. Rarely do I look beyond the moment (or the day at hand). I wanted to soak up the last days in London since I didn't know when I'd be there again. However, I couldn't wait to return home. Well, I really don't have a home. Alas, I wanted to get back to America, or at least NYC, which one of my favorite writers Spalding Gray once described as that tiny, yet eclectic island off the coast of mainland America.

The last two days in London involved squeezing in as much stuff as possible. Monday was shot since we slept in late. We spent a lot of time in the lounge area of our hotel on the internet. I caught up on 75% of the email that built up over the past six weeks. I uploaded some pictures to the London gallery and made a bunch of lists. I didn't write much but at least I know what I want to write about.

On Monday night, we hung out in North London where Snoopy and Jen live. They invited us to have sushi at one of their local haunts. It was late and the streets were almost empty. We walked by Jack the Ripper type alleys.

On Tuesday, I packed up my gear (less than ten minutes) and then hit up two tourists spots... The Eye and the Tate Modern. One was free and the other was about $30 US (per person). The Eye was cool since it was a clear day and you could see for miles and miles surrounding London. The Tate was also pretty cool since it was free. They had some interesting paintings (the Rothko room) and some other pretentious-wanna-make-me-puke-installation-art that I loathe.

Here are some last day in London and The Eye pics...

Nicky treated me for a birthday dinner for our last night in London. The high-end steak joint she wanted to take me was booked solid, so we settled upon an Italian restaurant where we got shitfaced on wine as we discussed our impending trips to Florida and Australia.

I had a few hundred British pounds leftover and cashed them into US dollars. It felt good to handle US currency again, even though a fistful is worth about the same as toilet paper in Europe.

We both had connecting flights in Amsterdam from London-Heathrow. In Amsterdam, my connecting flight headed to JFK, while Nicky took a different one to LAX. They both left about one hour after our arrival time in Amsterdam. Our flight from London was late about ten minutes. Lucky for me, my gate was just 20 meters away. Nicky's was in the next terminal. She had to sprint to get the only direct KLM flight to Hollyweird. She made it, while mine was delayed.

I had some Euros left and bought a water while I stood in a long security line. At Amsterdam airport, they often screen your carry-on stuff a second time at the gate.

Once I passed through security, I noticed about 80 or so Ethiopian refugees. They were mostly old women in tradition clothing and small children in matching running suits. They all carried some sort of bag from a humanitarian entity. I assumed they were en route to America, the land of opportunity, Starbucks, and 3,218 cable TV stations.

I had 17H, an aisle seat, something I prefer on long flights. I rarely sleep on planes and want to have the freedom to walk around and stretch my legs or get my laptop out of my bag if the creative juices strike and I want to write 35,000 feet up in the air.

The person in the seat next to me was a beautiful teen aged Dutch girl with cowboy boots and a jean skirt. She said hello and I settled in and read my book by Michel Houellebecq. Five minutes later, a grumpy old guy in a wrinkled blue pinstripe suit told her that she was in the wrong seat. She was supposed to be sitting two rows behind us in 19J and the old man kicked her out. That was the first bad beat of the flight.

The old guy smelled horrible and that enraged me. The young Dutch girl smelled like a field of flowers. The old guy smelled like three-day old fish as the scent of death lingered around his collar.

Enter the Ethiopians. My flight just got worse. They took over the entire middle section across from me. At that point, the entire plane smelled like goat shit combined with a sweaty jockstrap. I'm pretty sure that the main culprit was the old man next to me.

I jotted down something in my notepad... Did he soak his soaks in cat urine before he boarded the flight?

I was not going to sit through seven or eight hours of that madness. The Ethiopians were a plighted people. They got a pass in my book, but I was concerned that I might catch the Ebola or the bird flu from the runny noses of the little ones. Plus, the old guy was atrocious. I needed to escape the peasants and sit with the uber-rich business travelers whose companies were pissing away profits on a better meal and spacious chairs.

My drug supplies were low. I only had two generic vicodins left. I had to ration. I popped a half and asked the KLM stewardess in the powder blue uniforms if they could upgrade me to business class. I was ready to spend $3,000 to escape the malodorous old man and the foul scent of animal urine and feces.

"We're all booked sir," the KLM rep told me. "We have ice cream today though."

Great. My sanity for a cup of freezer-burned ice cream. Thank the Lord that KLM served free booze on their flights. As soon as drink service started, I busted into the Heinekens and popped the other half of the vicodin.

The Ethiopians must have been tired and freezing since they slept the entire flight with blankets over their entire emaciated bodies.

I watched three movies. The old guy next to me could not figure out how to work the entertainment system. He'd tap me on the shoulder every ten minutes to tell me that he shut it off by accident or that he didn't like what he was watching.

Then they served the meal. It was fish or pasta. I prayed that the old man didn't get the fish. He did. Ten minutes later, he had to rush for the toilet. The food service wasn't over yet, so I had to hold the trays as he fled to the bathroom. He's made a dozen more trips over the next three hours. At least he stopped pestering me about the movie system.

I watched Pirates of the Caribbean 3 which was just OK. Ocean's 13 was amazing. Much better than Ocean's 12. That was a nice treat. I stumbled upon The Factory about Edie Sedgwick, the drug-addled socialite who hung around Andy Warhols factory in Union Square. Sienna Miller played Sedgwick and Guy Pearce pulled off Andy. They had a character supposed to be Bob Dylan in there... played by Darth Vader himself. He sucked as Darth Vader and did a mediocre version of Bob Dylan. That was a nice surprise. Anyway, in case you didn't know, Edie Sedgwick was the inspiration behind Dylan's Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat from his album Blonde on Blonde, in addition to the mainstream hits Like a Rolling Stone and Just Like a Woman.

When the flight crew passed out immigration cards, the old smelly guy asked me to help him write his out. He handed me his passport. He was from Iran. I filled out the stuff and when I asked him questions about what he was carrying, he didn't understand and I left it blank. I started freaking out because I left my finger prints on an Iranian passport. I feared that the federalies at Gitmo would think that I was lending support to the evil doers.

When the plane arrived in JFK, I sprinted out of the plane faster than I had ever run in my life. The line at immigration was short and I waited twenty minutes for my luggage. My bag was the 32nd piece off the belt. Yeah, I counted. That's how bored I was.

I hailed a cab from a guy named Singh and rolled the windows down. The cab sped towards the Van Wyck as a breeze filled the back seat. An SUV driven by a fat Puerto Rican guy cut us off and the cabbie called him a "muthafuckin' cocksucker." It felt good to be back in NYC.

I went to my mother's apartment to pick up my mail. There was a stack of boxes and a large garbage bag filled with mail and magazines. I dumped it on the floor and started sorting them into piles. Checks. Bills. Junk mail. Magazines. Etc.

Whenever I get home from being on the road for an extended amount of time, it's like Christmas for me. I often spend minor holidays on the road. I missed Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. But when I dig through my mail... it's like Christmas in September.

I set aside the magazines that had my columns and would read them later. I quickly fished out the checks. Nothing is more satisfying than opening a paycheck. Well, perhaps opening up multiple checks. I did the work months earlier and had been on the road, so I was not sitting around to get paid. I ripped open three from one client and one from another. I also got a dividend check from one of my other sites and got paid out from a friend/poker player that I staked in a few tournaments.

Then I focused on the boxes. Three used books arrived that I ordered two months ago. I got them for a total of $5 and of course, it cost more to ship them. I have been on a Henry Miller kick recently. I wanted to re-read Black Spring and didn't have a copy. Now, I have a used one.

I also picked up Death to All Cheerleaders by Marty Beckerman and Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins. I started that one and never finished it. I recall selling it when I lived in Seattle, along with a dozen other books, so I could buy pot. Times were tough in 1998.

I met my brother at his apartment and we ordered from the diner. It felt good to sit on his couch and watch the Yankees game. I missed watching sports and the Yanks have been hot recently. I saw Matsui jack a HR and Andy Pettite win his 200th game. I kept nodding off, fighting super exhaustion from the two flights I took and the six-week grind of being away.

I had a short, but solid sleep and woke up around 5am. I wrote for two hours and read for a bit before I unpacked the rest of my stuff. I listened to radio, WFUV, one of my favorite stations. They played Bob Dylan and the Beatles back-to-back. I have no idea why Crowded House was tossed into the mix before they played Femme Fatal from the Velvet Underground. Andy Warhol asked the Velvets to write a song about Edie Sedgwick. That's what Lou Reed came up with.

I went to the bodega and bought the newspapers. Then walked across the street to the Greek diner for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.

Sometimes, you don't miss a place until you spend a lot of time away from there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday London Pic Dump

Let's start off with some food and other random items...

Chocolate and banana pancakes

Dinner at the local curry house with Peter Birks in Soho

Benjo's assorted meats & cheese platter

Ravioli with Bolognese sauce

Johnny Mushroom brought me strawberry Mojitos while I worked

Nicky's bruschetta

My garlic bread

Snoopy's chicken terryaki special

Chicken terryaki a la carte

Sushi in North London

Green tea ice cream

Tony G playing at the final table of the PLO event at the WSOPE

Tournament chips

Across the felt at the final table

What £1 million looks like...

Happy Snoopy -- drinking heavily within minutes after our ten day assignment was over

The Damage...

The Bizarre coffee table