Friday, November 30, 2007

Lowest Day in Knicks History

By Pauly
New York City

Part of the reason I missed New York City so much was that I missed New York City sports. The fall is always the best because once baseball is over, the scene is dominated by basketball, football, and hockey. Not to mention random college sports, although NYC is not a college sports town. You know you are in trouble when Rutgers is considered out largest local college football team. I enjoy watching college hoops on ESPN, but it has been decades since St. John's was competitive, back in the days of Louie Carnasseca's Cosby-esque sweaters and Chris Mullin (before he became an alkie and a washed up pros hoops player) leading the Redmen to a Final Four.

It's a cold hard fact that New Yorkers don't pay much attention to college sports since there are so many pro sports teams to root for... two NFL teams, two NBA teams, two MLB teams, and three NHL teams.

Alas, upon my return to NYC, two of my favorite teams are in shambles (and I won't even discuss the Yankees debacle, for now). The Jets are bloody awful. The got lucky the other week against Pittsburgh and were aided by the bye week to help them prepare for the Steelers. And now they have to play the Fish, who have not won a game and smell blood against the anemic Jets. It's going to be an ugly game. I told Jerry it's going to be a 9-6 final, if we're lucky.

And then last night, well last night was ugly. I walked out of watching the Knicks game. My brother had to turn it off. Sure we've turned off Knicks games in the past when they blew a 4th quarter lead and we're getting blown out. But this was different. I'm glad that I missed the entire second half against the Celtics. The Knicks lost by 45 and it really should have been much worse. In short, the Knicks are a total embarrassment. I can't think of a worse NY sports team in a very long time.

Stehpon Marbury is a cancer and I was bummed out a few years ago when the Knicks signed him. He's an exciting player to watch, and very few point guards can blow right by a defender like Marbury can. However, the knock against him was that he was too selfish a player and would never be at the helm of a championship team. Shit, I wish Charlie Ward or Chris Childs or even Derek Harper (who is close to 50!) was still playing. Those guys never had the talent that Marbury has... but they have something that made them a better fit for the Knicks... they had heart and they hustled and they wanted to win so much that they were willing to score less and give up the ball to players that were hot. How many times did you see Crawford start to get hot and Marbury dribbles down the court and chucks up a three pointer? Too many times.

Marbury is just the tip of the iceberg. When I was a kid, some of the Knicks teams sucked. Horribly. But they did not have any decent players. The Knicks roster the last five season has been packed with excellent players. The bigger problem is Isiah Thomas who is ruining the Knicks franchise and has made them the laughing stock in the league. The more Knicks bashing I see in the media, the more excited I get because I hope that's the beginning of the end of the Isiah Thomas era in NY Knicks history. Even Charles Barkley had some not so nice things to say at halftime of the Knicks game last night. According to one source, even the Celtics fans were getting in on the Isiah bashing as they were chanting "Fire Isiah!"

And of course, the biggest turd of them all is Jim Dolan. The same guy who refused to carry the YES network for one year on his Cablevision empire. Of course he doesn't care about the fans, because if he did, he never would have let them run Patrick Ewing out of town like they did seven years ago. He never would have let Jeff Van Gundy leave. Ever since JVG left, the Knicks have been sinking deeper and deeper in the shithole. He never would have let the Knicks quit on national TV.

I'm so sick of the mess that I can't even watch the Knicks play anymore. At least the Rangers are winning. Chris Drury is having a slow start too and they are still winning, knocking off one of our rivals... the NY Islanders.

If I had one Christmas wish, it would be that Jim Dolan sold the Knicks to Spike Lee and Woody Allen, then they would fire Isiah, dump Marbury, then rehire Jeff Van Gundy, and then finally... everyone who is a Knicks fan would be able to sleep at night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Million Word Output

By Pauly
New York City

Two steps forward, one step back. That was my progress on Wednesday with the writing project. I cranked out almost 5,500 words but I cut 3,000 words from a few previous chapters. I have written in excess of 26,000 spread out over two weeks with about nine solid days of writing and several days off in between. I realized that NaNoWriMo is ongoing and that I could have started late and finished it... but I chose not to. I have nothing against NaNo (in fact they helped me write three of my previous novels), it's just that's not my goal. NaNo is in place to help/force people to write everyday. My main obstacle is not finding enough time to write, instead of lacking the discipline and motivation. Besides, my goal is to write slower and have better material at the end of each day. I want 2,000 great words instead of 5,000 average stuff.

If I counted up everything I have written this month on all of my blogs and freelance writing assignments, I'm sure I'm way past the 100,000 mark. I did some simple math and I crank out no less than one million words a year. According to my 10% rule (where I think that 10% of what I actually say is relevant; the other 90% is pure horseshit), that means 100,000 words were valid and represent my best work.

On Wednesday night, I attempted to go to bed early so I could wake up early to go running before I wrote. Instead, I stayed up very late and read older books. I have a hard cover copy of The Paris Review, which is a published version of the best of their publications. I read several selections from their luminous list of authors which included some of my favorites such as Nabakov, Toni Morrison, Truman Capote, Jose Luis Borges, Philip Roth, James Baldwin, and Paul Auster. Of course the heavy hitters are in there such as Hemingway, Thompson, Burroughs, and Keroauc.

I read a short story from Kerouac called The Mexican Girl or something like that. It started out very simple... Kerouac was in LA and waiting for a bus to take him to Mexico. He spotted a beautiful Mexican girl and he just went off for 15,000 words on a journey... all inspired by the site of the girl.

The next thing I knew, it was 4am and I had been up for three or four hours thumbing through old books. Research? Digging for inspiration? A little of both.

I passed out and woke up by 8am. I ran for a bit and then came home. I went back outside to the Greek diner. As I waited for my breakfast sandwich, I edited some of the stuff I had written the day before. Two old Jewish guys sat in a booth and discussed New York sports. These guys were better than Mike and the Mad Dog. One guy said, "Sunday is Eli Manning's last chance to prove he can play in the NFL. If he can't win, then he's done."

Then the two argued back and forth about the lowly Knicks. They wanted to string up Marbury and Isaiah Thomas. One of the guys said that the Knicks blew it and should have tried to get Kevin Garnett, because based on how the Celtics look, they might go deep into the playoffs. I snickered. I love listening to New Yorkers pontificate about sports. Everyone is a fuckin' expert.

I handed in one of my assignments today and it felt good to be done with a deadline. I have one more deadline on Monday morning, and of course, I have not started the piece yet. I'll get to it on Saturday. I work best when I have less than 48 hours to complete an assignment. I thrive on pressure.

I'm more than halfway done with the Saturday Night Live book. They are in the early 1990s during the Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley days. I should be able to finish the book by the end of the year. But it takes time to get through 600 pages. Some of the stories are gems, especially the random drug abuse that went down inside the hallways and offices of 30 Rock. It appears to be much more tame these days, but back in the 1970s, the seventeenth floor reeked of pot. Writers and actors were ripping rails of blow on desks to stay up late in order to write bits.

When I was a kid, I tried my best to stay up late to watch SNL. One of the first episodes I had ever seen was during the Eddie Murphy years. I guess I'm dating myself, because I can recall watching the skinny funny black man in a sketch where a group of guys were dressed like Arabs and kept saying, "We are from Middle East country, but not from Libya."

In high school, all the cool kids watched Letterman and SNL. I could swing the SNL, but Letterman was tough. When my family finally got a VCR, I would tape Letterman at night and wake up early to watch him. That was back in 1987-89 when Letterman was on NBC at 12:30. Of course the mid 1980s were some of his best years.

Back to the grind... I only have a couple of days left to write before I fly to the left coast and do serious damage to my liver and kill thousands of more brain cells...

Recent Writing Music....
1. Traffic
2. Miles Davis
3. Medeski, Martin & Wood with John Scofield
4. The New Mastersounds
5. John Coltrane with Thelonius Monk

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


By Pauly
New York City

I woke up early due to a weird dream. I could not fall back asleep and woke up. For some reason, the first thing I did today was that I weighed myself. It had been almost a week since I did that last. I was shocked to discover that I lost over ten pounds since my return to NYC. And that was after a holiday weekend where I didn't run much and stuffed my face. Instead of binging on bagels, I ate sludge again. Grape nuts and skim milk. Delicious. But I devoured a chicken parm for dinner and even ordered a Caesar's Salad. I ate about half of it. Vegetables disgust me.

I didn't start writing until 1pm. It was a slow start to the day, especially since I was up by 7am. No explanations. I just wasn't feeling it. And I chose not to rush myself so I dicked around for six hours. I ran. I went to the Korean grocery store to buy bananas. I sat around and read a book about poker strategy. Then I wrote a post for my poker blog. I gave myself a timed amount to write it. Like most of my posts, I open up blogger and start typing.

In a post titled Milestones, I wrote about my daily routine during late July of 2005 when I lived in Las Vegas and hung out with Grubby everyday. He didn't have a job... aside from gambling. And I had just finished an assignment and had tons of free time. We would hang out at buffets for several hours before playing poker then hit up strip clubs late at night before returning to the casinos to play poker or heading out somewhere to eat breakfast at 5 or 6am. Then it was time to crash and repeat the process, where I'd wake up around noon and write for a few hours while I waited for Grubby to call me.

I finally found motivation to get my ass in gear and got to work on the project. When I finally sat down, I cranked out 6,000 words in about four hours. The project is now over 23,300. I'd say about half of the material represents some of my better material. The rest of it is mediocre or just below average. I might hold up at 30,000 and go back and refine the weaker parts before I continue. Part of me wants to get as much down as possible, while my goal for this project was to write slower and pay more attention to editing every day. Of course editing is not as much fun as writing and letting the mind wander on the pages. In the end, I only have a couple of more days to write before I fly to Hollyweird next week.

I got an email from the Swedes and they gave me a few suggestions for my last three assignments of the year. They had a couple of good ideas, which I needed because I was stuck. Perhaps I can crank out two (even three) sometime this weekend to fulfill my obligation to them for the rest of the year. That way, I'll have the entire month of December free to relax and work on the main project when I get back from LA/Vegas.

Tuesday was afro-cuban and latin jazz day and I listened to a slew of Cuban music with a heavy emphasis on the Buena Vista Social Club. I even lost my shit during Oye Como Va by Tito Puenta. Then for some reason I dug up an old Johnny Cash CD and played that for an hour or so. Two totally opposite moods. The BVSC was upbeat and passionate and reminded of breezy tropical days in Jamaica. But the Johnny Cash spun me into a somber mood, like those depressing hot and humid days in Atlanta when I was a lost 19-year old adrift with mean eyes courtesy of all of the whiskey and scornful women in my life at the time. Powerful flashbacks and vivid sort of like pages from a Tennessee Williams play. I felt like I wanted to put my fist through a wall. So I stopped Johnny Cash. Instead I turned it off and listened to the radio. WFUV played a ccouple of Paul Simon songs from One Trick Pony. All I wanted to do was chill out and smoke pot. God bless Paul Simon.

I always wondered what the fuck Art Garfunkel was up to these days?

Last 5 Flicks I Watched on Cable...
1. Star Wars Episode II
2. Dazed and Confused
3. Galaxy Quest
4. 10 Things I Hate About You...
5. Inside Man

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bad Neighbors

By Pauly
New York City

New York City is infested with germs. Whenever I spend any time here this year, I get a sick. I flew back to NYC on a Monday. Within 48 hours I got sick. By Wednesday night, I felt blah and knew that a cold was coming. It invaded the next day and I had not been able to kick it for ten days. I wrote all last week clutching tissues, plugging the nasal drip, and I didn't exercise a few days and go jogging because of the crappy weather and my ill state. I have been taking it easy, so my guess is that I'd be even sicker if I was not relaxing and expending very little energy. I've also been taking multi-vitamins to boost my immune system.

The most difficult thing to do is rest because it tests my patience. Since I have issues with sleeping, trying to sleep through a cold or stay in bed to get some rest is practically torture for me, since I'm looking up at the ceiling knowing that I have a lot of writing to do and a stack of books to read and at the same time wanting to desperately get some sleep. Sleep never happens. Herbal remedies don't work and the higher end pharmacopoeia makes me do weird things like the time in Australia when I popped Ambien and several hours later, I pissed on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, Nicky stepped in it many hours later.

I have been sick predominantly during 2007, mainly because my stars are aligned in a way where I'd be prone to illness. My Chinese astrology chart for this year said two things... the first was that I would have an extremely prosperous year and the second that I would also be sick a lot. Talk about being spot on. Although nothing major happened aside from strep throat, it seems as though I'm constantly getting over a cold or experiencing some minor issues like a sore back or a aching neck or a pulled muscle in my arm or the finger incident in Sydney. Then there was the infamous Otis Rash that I got in Las Vegas this summer. I won't go into any more details. Time to segue into food...

I went to the Greek diner on the Saturday after Turkey Day. They were already playing Christmas music. I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese because I have not had too many since my return. I sat at the counter and waited for my order. The seat is next to the cashier, so I could see and hear how much people's bills were. I noticed that two of the customers left shitty tips. Cheapskates.

Over the last few days, I have been running into random people in my old neighborhood. Like the one dude who used to delivery pizzas. Or some kid that I played little league baseball with. A lot of people returned for the holidays. Of course, I do my best to avoid them. All they want to talk about is their kids, or they ask me a million and one questions about poker that I'd rather not answer.

There are good neighbors and bad neighbors. When I was in high school (almost twenty years ago), we had some bad neighbors. They made a lot of noise and wouldn't stop when you complained. Yet as soon as the volume on my stereo was raised ever so slightly, they'd bitch and moan. One day I got into trouble and the cunt ratted me out by writing a letter to the president of the building or whatever faux leader there was. He was a retired old Jewish guy and he let me tell my side of the story. He understood my plight because others in the building have complained about her relentless complaints. Then he kinda said something that I'll never forget, "There are good neighbors and bad neighbors. Unfortunately, she's a bad neighbor and you have to deal with it."

The bad neighbor had a daughter and five or six years ago I had an incident with her. I went to the grocery store for my mother and had a few bags with me. I opened up the front door and she whizzed by without saying thank you. I had stopped for a second to pick up the mail and she had gone ahead and got into the elevator. As I walked over she saw me coming and let the doors closed without holding it for me. Some people like riding elevators by themselves (me included), but I had a couple of bags with me and I held the front door open for her. It would have been polite to return the favor and hold the elevator for me. Instead, she quickly hit the close button. I jammed my foot in the elevator door and it sprung back open. She was surprised I did that and did not say a word. That's when I unleashed the Kevin Spacey line from American Beauty where he told his daughter some valuable advice, "You better watch out or you are going to turn into a real bitch, just like your mother."

The horrified look on the girl's face was something I'll also never forget. And guess what? Six years later, she turned into that horrible bitch, just like her mother, as I had predicted. And she got fat too. I overheard her screaming at her father the other day. As I walked by I smiled and looked her in the eye reminding her of our conversation in the elevator. I told you so.

The cuntette hath become a cunt.

That was some of the slowest karmic payback I had ever seen, but it was well worth the wait.

My mainstream media blackout continues. I have successfully avoided reading newspapers, television, and websites. I have not bought one newspaper since I've been back. It;s been hard to not read the Tuesday science section in the NY TImes or peruse the sports pages of the Daily News. And you know what? I didn't miss anything. I never realized how much time I wasted reading propaganda. The only exception has been ESPN, both the website and TV. And that's because I need to follow up on certain information to update my fantasy football teams and various pools.

My email experiment has been working as well. I no longer feel the urge to check my email forty times a day. I'm down to checking my multiple accounts only two or three times and there are moments when I got a day or even two without reading any. If I go over my alloted time amount, I simply stop and log off. Maybe this is a new bad habit that I'm getting... but I've only answered about 10% of the mail that I've gotten.

So what have I been doing with all that free time? Reading and trying to fight the cold by lying in bed and looking off into space. In addition, I have been spending several hours a day listening to older CDs that were buried in a milk crate underneath a bunch of other stuff.

I have been on a serious Phish kick recently. I got through phases a lot when I listen to one band a lot then I move onto another one. I received Vegas 96 in the mail the other day and have been listening to that a lot so I can write a review for the Phish blog. I have been also listening along to certain shows from 1997 and 1998. I can't get enough of The Year of the Funk.

I have been religiously writing to Miles Davis. I shift back and forth between Sketches of Spain and Bitches Brew. I can't get enough of either and it's the perfect background music.

My reading binge continued. I'm more than half-way through the 600 page Saturday Night Live book. I got through the first ten years. Lorne Michaels produced it from 1975-1980 then left for five years. He returned in 1985 and that's where I'm at.

Friday was productive but I purposely scheduled the day to work on my freelance stuff. I write an article for the Swedes and also whipped up a strip club review for LasVegasVegas. I wrote my Truckin' story for the December issue and edited some other stories.

The writing project has lost some steam. I only worked on it once in the last three days. I wrote about 1,900 words on Saturday and it was crappy stuff. I was distracted. I'll have to rewrite most of it today. I'm up to 14,200 words and I'd say about 10K are solid. I took off Sunday to relax and watch football.

Earlier this morning, I woke up after a few hours of restless sleep. I went to the post office and ate some breakfast, but was sicker than I had been the last ten days. I took some cold and flu medicine and went back to sleep. I eventually woke up at 3pm. I felt about the same and got bummed out that had been burning daylight and missed several hours of good writing time. The result? I cranked out 3,900 words in two hours. I pretty much re-wrote the majority of the 1,900 words that I worked on Saturday.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Little Chocolate Donuts

By Pauly
New York City

This video rocks on so-many levels. It one of those fake commercials from Saturday Night Live back during the early years (in the 1970s) featuring John Belushi. The legendary Marv Albert (former NY Knicks announcer) provided the commentary.

Click here to view the Belushi video via Rss or Bloglines

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Book Review: The Happiest Days of Our Lives by Wil Wheaton

By Pauly
New York City

Let me start this review with a disclaimer. I'm buddies with Wil Wheaton and got to know him very well when we both wrote for Poker Stars together during the 2006 World Series of Poker. And yes, he thanked me in his acknowledgments section. I was both shocked, humbled, and honored! Thanks Wil. Now, onto the review...

I'm a writer, but I'm also a reader and read as much as I can. The books that strike me the most are the ones that provoke thought... not just when you're reading, but after you put the book down. The most meaningful and profound books in my life are the ones that continue to evoke memories days, weeks, months, and years after your read it for the first time.

Very few authors are able to connect with their readers, but Wil Wheaton is not like most writers. His words are like a sleeper cell. You have no idea they have penetrated deep inside of you, then they spring to life and attack your senses when you least expect it.

I bought The Happiest Days of Our Lives and I was excited to find it in the heap of mail I sorted through after a long trip to Australia. Wheaton is a big fan of Pink Floyd and I was pleased to hear that he titled his book after one of the songs that appeared on The Wall. The Happiest Days of Our Lives was the fourth track on disc one in between Another Brick in the Wall Part 1 and Part 2.

The Happiest Days of Our Lives is Wheaton's third book. This current collection of short stories at some point appeared on Wheaton's blog over the last couple of years. While childhood and family (both then and now) are some of the common themes in these short stories, the main thread is dominated by the evolution of Wil Wheaton the geek.

As Wheaton explained, "I really like to write stories about those things that we all have in common. Our generation has a lot in common, no matter where we grew up."

Wheaton and I do share a lot in common. We were both born in 1972. We were children of the 1970s and were subjected to roughly the same pop culture experiences. We're also writers who found our voices in our late 20s and early 30s.

Much like Wheaton's formative years, we grew up without cable TV and the internet, so a lot of our childhood activities surrounded games and toys. One short story titled Blue Light Special stood out. When Wil was nine, he went to Kmart with his mother and siblings. He stumbled upon the Stars Wars toy section he found himself with a tough decision... buy a toy now or save up for one of the bigger playsets, like the Millennium Falcon.

In an interview with Boing Boing, Wheaton admitted that this story was also his favorite in the bunch. Blue Light Special trigged so many memories that I spaced out for over an hour thinking about trips to the toy store and agonizing over which figure I'd buy. It really became a problem later on when I grew out of my Star Wars phase and really got into G.I. Joe, and I had to decide on a figure or save up for a kick ass military vehicles.

In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Geek, Wheaton discussed his foray into Dungeons and Dragons and his love for his special dice. After I finished the book, I went digging through some old boxes trying to find my copy of Monster Manual and desperately tried to find my old set of D&D dice, which we used for Stratomatic baseball.

The last four pieces in the book are among the longest and strongest, starting with the Young Geek story. The most touching story happened a couple of years ago and involved the illness one of the family pets. For all you Star Trek fans, in The Big Goodbye, Wheaton wrote about his experiences returning to the Paramount lots to shoot some spots for the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD.

And Wheaton saved his best story for last. Lying in Odessa is about his experiences playing in an underground poker game in Los Angeles for the first time. It is probably his best piece of poker-themed writing and is among my all-time favorite Wil Wheaton stories. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he included that in his book.

Probably the hardest part about reading any of Wheaton's books is that I'm constantly day dreaming while I'm supposed to be reading it. My thoughts drift because his words instantly trigger flashbacks and old memories. That's a powerful gift to have.

My only complaint was that the book was too short. I wanted more. I equate Wheaton's style to Hemingway in the sense that he has an amazing economy of words. The result is short but powerfully loaded pieces. Although the book physically contains only thirteen short stories, the impact is much greater. The stories, images, and memories that Wheaton stirs up inside your head continues to fester and entertain and inspire you long after you're done reading his last page.

I have read Wheaton's other books and The Happiest Days of Our Lives is by far my favorite. Do yourself a favor and buy two copies; one for you and one for a friend. Heck, buy several. They'll make great stocking stuffers this Christmas.

Click here to buy
Wil Wheaton's The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

Friday, November 23, 2007


By Pauly
New York City

Ten years ago, I spent my first ever Turkey Day away from my family. I was in Seattle and did not have enough money to fly home to NYC. I also had to work that weekend afterwards so I didn't have any time off. Instead of sliding deeper into credit card debt, I saved a few vacation days for Christmas. I stayed behind and missed my first Turkey Day in 25 years on Earth.

Some friends were kind enough and invited me to a vegan Thanksgiving dinner. Only in Seattle. Fuckin' dirty hippies. Anyway, since I knew there would be nothing of substance, I decided to eat a huge lunch.

At the time I lived a big house in the University District and the house had a BBQ. I fired up the grill and made two of the biggest and fattest cheeseburgers I had ever made. Random people walked by and thought I was crazy for grilling up burgers on Thanksgiving.

I was glad that I ate the burgers because when I showed up to my first (and last) vegan Thanksgiving, I was greeted by a nut squash casserole and a tofu turkey. Fuckin' hippies.

This year was not so bad, unless you count the horrible performance from the Jets, on national TV too. My mother made a lasagna with sausage and meatballs along with a turkey. I ate two servings of the pasta and I could not have been happier. Usually the turkey is dry, but this year it was juicy and I had three pieces instead of just one. I'm not a fan of turkey. The cheesecake that my mother bought in Little Italy was tasty for sure. Derek bought some Russian cinnamon cake from the local bakery that was blah. I had one bite and never finished the rest.

Anyway, I expected to take all of Thursday off an not do any work and just relax. I woke up earlier than I wanted and could not fall back asleep. I went jogging for about forty minutes and realized that it was unseasonably warm, over 60 degrees. I walked for another half hour.

When I was in the shower, a couple ideas popped into my head for four future columns for one of my clients. I constantly struggle to generate original content, not just for my sites, but for my clients as well. Usually I'm out of ideas and have to force myself to write. However, all of a sudden I had a flurry of ideas. When I got out of the shower, I jotted down my four ideas. I wrote for an hour about something completely different. When I was complete, I looked at the list and decided to write up a first draft with one of the ideas.

I quickly finished one column (which would be due one week from today). I looked at my calendar and realized that I only had three deadlines left for this year for that particular client. I glanced at the list of ideas and cranked out not one, but two more articles inside of an hour. It was unreal. I had never worked at that frenzied pace. Pleasantly surprised for sure, especially since I only had to correct a few minor things. Talk about getting lucky. I was supposed to take the day off and ended up knocking off three columns before noon. I was in the zone for the first time in a very long time.

Ah, and the writing project is up to 12,300 words in about four days of real writing time. The first 10,000 words were crucial for me. I needed to get to this point before I made the decision to keep going forward or scrap the entire project. I have about six days to write before I fly to the Left Coast to hang out in Hollyweird/Las Vegas for a bit. Then I have another five or six days just before Christmas and that's it until I return from Australia in February. I'm shooting for 30,000 and praying that I'll still be passionate about the project in a couple of months. I'd hate to bust my ass for the rest of the year and end up shelving the project.

Late last night, I got to play poker with my brother and some friends. We had not done that in a very long time. As DonkeyPuncher joked, "This feels like 2004."

When I woke up on Friday morning, I put on Fordham University radio, and the first song they played was Loving Cup by the Rolling Stones. It appeared on Exile on Main Street which was released in 1972, the year of my birth. Hearing Loving Cup got me all fired up, especially since it was 35 degrees and the last thing I wanted to do was go running. But I decided to give it a try. The crappier the weather, the faster I run. Fifteen minutes I told myself. Any sort of exercise is good after Turkey Day.

Last 5 Flicks I Watched on Cable...
1. Rounders
2. Boogie Nights
3. Star Wars Episode I
4. Mean Girls
5. Thank You for Smoking

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

By Pauly
New York City

I have a lot to be thankful this year, especially the people in my life I consider my friends. Thanks for supporting and inspiring me!

Circa 1979

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pharaoh's Dance

By Pauly
New York City

I completed an amazing writing session on Tuesday. It might have been the best session I had since my return to NYC and one of the best I had this year. I can't explain why. I was still sickly when I woke up but in a short burst, I cranked out over 4,800 words... raising my overall output to 9,100 for this new project. I wrote more on Tuesday than I did in the four previous days, and I did it in such a short spurt that I had several free hours to work on other stuff.

My philosophy for this project is to write when I feel like it, but at the same time, I'm not writing in the comfortable style that I usually do. Which is, I start pounding the keyboard and never stop, not even to catch my breath. I guess you can say, I write like a freight train out of control and I ignore the errors or syntax issues and just plod away trying to get everything down and I become one with my stream of consciousness and I just unleash myself onto the pages. Then when I run out of steam, I go back and edit. Which I always hate doing.

With the new project, I'm more careful and I'm taking more and more time tightening everything up before I proceed. That's why the first 4,000 words took four days to write. I had the bulk of it written in the first two days, but I edited for the majority of the last two. It's a new approach and I think it works. For example, today I hope to write only a little with my goal slashing and tightening what I wrote yesterday, so I can take a day off and relax for Turkey Day. Then I'll devote Friday to catching up with other freelance work and answering emails. My one day work week.

I wrote exclusively to Miles Davis on Tuesday. At times, I just left Bitches Brew on repeat, particularly the two tracks Pharaoh's Dance and Miles Runs the Voodoo Down. Dark. Funky. Dirty. Sloppy. Some of Miles best stuff and a sheer inspiration to write to.

I got a package in the mail and it was the latest release of the Live Phish series called Vegas 96 which documented Phish's first ever visit to Las Vegas in December of 1996. It is a three disc set, with one bonus disc and also came with a DVD. I expect to be listening to that in the background today, along with selections from their infamous 11.21.98 Hampton, VA show. That happened nine years ago today.

I love a good Phish segue. The Joker has been hard at work the last week or so updating the Phish and Music Blog regularly. He's put up a variety of posts and included links to free music. If you haven't been in a while, I suggest that you check it out. Just a few months ago, I was struggling for content, and now we have so much to say. Let's hope this streak keeps up.

Since my return to NYC, I have been working diligently on various websites and freelance work. I posted two pieces on Phish Blog today.

I also write something for Las Vegas Vegas called Things to Do in Las Vegas When You are Broke.

I worked on the December issue of Truckin'.

I updated Pauly's Pub and of course, Tao of Poker.

In addition to maintaining the websites, I wrote articles for Poker Player Newspaper and the Ongame Zone, which is owned by the Swedes. I also started my column for Bluff Magazine, but then I stopped since it's not due for another two weeks.

And I completed my latest gallery on Flickr, called Australia II. It includes pics from my trip last month.

Oh, and I finally bought my ticket to Australia in January. We're definitely heading to New Zealand for a few days after my work assignment is over in Melbourne. Nicky bought her ticket as well and we shall return to Hollyweird in early February after spending a good month down under. I briefly thumbed through my New Zealand travel book, but I haven't had the time to focus on that trip. I still have a Las Vegas adventure in two weeks. Once that trip is complete, I can start to think about the OZ/NZ leg.
Uncle Jodd's Band Clinches Playoff Spot! and other Pauly's Pub Updates

For just the second time in four seasons in the Lamont Jordan Fantasy Football League, Uncle Jodd's Band has advanced to the playoffs. We clinched our spot after a victory this weekend as our record improved to 9-2. We're in second place overall despite losing Ronnie Brown mid-way through the season. His replacement, Earnest Graham (TB), is actually putting up decent numbers and our second RB Maurice Jones-Drew (SD) is finally coming around.

The heart of our team is our WR corp. We have four WRs and any of them could start for any team in the league. Unfortunately, we were unable to trade any of our WRs for a RB. Our MVP thus far has been TJ Housmazaddah (CIN). I know I spelled it wrong and I'm too lazy to look up the proper spelling. Anyway, if TJ has a big week, we usually win. One of our two losses came during his buy week. And the other loss was by a mere .25 points.

We still have two games left this season and we're crossing our fingers hoping that no one else gets hurt this season. At the same time, we have our eye on a first week bye so we need to win the last two games.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bitch Me Out

By Pauly
New York City

Wet snow. That's what I saw when I stumbled out into the cold Monday morning and crossed the street. Not rain, but wet snow. Or something that hip weather forecasters like to call wintry mix these days.

I reluctantly set my alarm on Sunday night. My entire philosophy for my time in NYC was no alarms. Sleep when I'm tired. Wake up when I wake up. Write when inspiration strikes. And read and listen to music when I'm not writing. Sounded like a good game plan and the best way to maximize my creative juices.

Alas, I had to meet a friend of mine. He was leaving town for Turkey Day and Monday morning would be the only time I'd get to see him. Except the fact that he lives in Forest Hills, so I had to trek out to a different borough and take two trains and a bus to see him. I didn't mind the long commute since I had a book that I wanted to finish. I also printed up several pages of my recent project, so I could look them over and edit them. It brought back warm memories of the first few novels I wrote... how I would print up pages I wrote from the night before and redline them as I rode the subway all the way down to work in Lower Manhattan the next day.

I stopped off in the diner on my way the subway. The Greek guy hadn't seen me in almost a month, but that did not deter him from asking, "The usual?" as soon as I walked in and we made eye contact. I nodded back and he whipped up a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a kaiser roll. As he worked the grill, I gazed out the front window and watched the large flakes of wet snow float through the air. One by one, they dissolved onto the wet pavement. Solid into liquid.

I should have still been sleeping. I think I only passed out two hours earlier... sometime between that 5am and 6am dead zone. But I was up and missed the majority of the morning rush hour, as I stood on the subway platform at 9:05am. I was really at the tail end of the madness, as most of the people on the train were either late for work, or didn't have to be in until 10am.

I read my book and lost myself for a bit as the #1 subway raced downtown. I got off at Times Square to transfer to the E train. There's a underground tunnel that connects the 7th Avenue subways and the 8th Avenue subways for a free transfer. It runs an entire city block and is always packed with commuters. Many of them are coming from the Port Authority bus terminal and catching the various subway lines in Times Square. That tunnel seemed like it was under constant construction for the last decade. Somewhere during the last few months, they completed whatever project they were working on.

It took me almost two hours to get from the Bronx to Queens due to signal problems on the subway line in Queens. The trip back was not as bad. When I switched trains from the E to the 1, I walked the tunnel again. Usually the area is filled with random musicians. An elderly Chinese guy with white hair played a bow stringed instrument that might have been a Erhu. He had a small box in front of him and I noticed a bunch of change and two $1 bills. About twenty or thirty yards away, another musician played. You could hear him play, but he was not far away enough because the Chinese guy's playing was still audible. The second guy poorly played a ukulele. He was in his 50s with grey and black scraggly hair and wore an old olive green army jacket. He looked more like a pedophile than a musician. He wasn't doing so hot judging by the amount of change he had collected. Not even a buck in change. That can't even get you a cup of joe anymore. At the end of the tunnel, a black guy was passed out (or perhaps sleeping) in a portable camping chair. There was a cardboard sign next to him that said, "Bitch me out" and he was charging 25 cents. I almost woke up and bitched at him for falling asleep on the job.

Near the entrance to stairs down to the #7 train, a group of Jesus Freaks took over that area. Back in the day, that was where illegal Mexicans laid out bootlegged DVDs and CDs on blankets and sold them for $5. They'd stay in business until a cop busted them. But the next day, there would be a couple of more illegals selling more bootlegs. They were gone and replaced by the Jesus Freaks. I was irked when I saw all these white cardboard signs, about thirty of them, all quoting different scripture passages. I would never push my religion or philosophies on someone else, yet they operated out in the open. I wanted to deface one of the signs and write, "Free your mind. Smoke God's herb." But I didn't have a Sharpie on me. Otherwise, I would have.

On my ride home, I completed Let It Blurt a biography about Lester Bangs. That was the third book I read since my return to NYC one week ago. Since I stopped reading online newspapers and cut down on blog reading and wasteful internet surfing, I have had more time for books and music. I'm also about 100 pages into the book about the history of Saturday Night Live. It's over 600 pages, but I'm 1/6th of the way there. At this rate, I should finish it by the end of the year.

I have two new books I'd like to read and there's also a short book I'd like to re-read (The Subterraneans by Kerouac) and I want to finally finish Positively 4th Street which a friend gave me almost six years ago. The book is about the lives of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and I never got around to finishing it. I still have 100 pages to go and might start again from the beginning. Then Gracie sent me a Michael Chabon book, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, so that's in my pile of books to read as well.

I wasn't feeling too well and popped some cold medicine. I passed out and took a nap that lasted 2.5 hours, which was almost the same amount I had slept the night before. I guess it couldn't be considered a nap at that point, right? When I got up, I was too blah to write so I decided to read a bit, then I watched the pilot episode of Weeds. I bought the first two seasons on DVD. I missed the first couple of episodes of Season 1, now I can catch up.

Watched some of the Monday Night Football game and was pleased that one of our WRs scored a touchdown. We ended up winning our fantasy football game and now Uncle Jodd's Band is 9-2.

I also discovered that the Joker sent me a Radiohead DVD of their performance at Bonnaroo last year. We were at that show and got obliterated that night. Great to experience a slightly different version (and much more sober version) of the events of that night.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, feeling blah for the sixth day in a row. I still motivated myself to exercise, despite the crappy gray weather topping out at 42 degrees. I opted for a brisk walk instead of jogging. Just as I kicked the shin splints, my back bothered me a bit, so I walked for about an hour trough the wet leaves and listened to different selections from Miles Davis (stuff from Miles Smiles and Milestones). When I got back, I showered and ate sludge (my concoction of Grape Nuts, skim milk, and bananas). I fired up Goats Head Soup and Sketches of Spain and wrote for about ninety minutes organizing the thoughts that seeped into my head during my walk.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Evolution of a Drink

By Pauly
New York City

During catholic grammar school, I drank a can of red Hawaiian punch. Every day. Sometimes, my mother threw me a loop and gave me a Capri Sun tropical punch instead.

In high school, the cafeteria sold Quick chocolate milk. That was my morning drink of choice. I'd always get a Quick to start the day. They also sold bacon and egg sandwiches. I asked for them with just bacon. Nothing but a kaiser roll and six or seven greasy layers of bacon. Quick + bacon sandwich is how I recall every morning of my high school days.

I went to a college that was nicknamed Coca Cola U since the founder of Coke had sent my college millions and millions in donations. The result? Coke machines all over campus. I think they sold cokes for as little as 25 cents and as high as 50 cents. I drank a ton of coke. I also drank a lot of Mr. Pibb, which is Coke's version of Dr. Pepper.

My cocktail of choice was Jim Beam (what we called The Nectar of the Gods) and diet coke too. I can't drink diet coke anymore because it reminds me of drinking too much Jim Beam. Too many rough nights I'd like to forget.

We also drank a lot of Barton's vodka which came in shatter proof plastic bottles and was so strong that it could eat the paint right off your car. The older guys in my fraternity made this drink called Bullfrogs, which was Barton's vodka, OJ, and Wink soda (a version of Sprite sold at Piggly Wiggly).

I also drank a lot of beer courtesy of being a frat guy. I liked Moosehead but I think that's just because Rocky's liquor store always had specials. We drank a ton of shit beer including but not limited to Natural Light, Beast, Beast Lite, Schaefer, Bud Light, and even Coors Light. I also developed a fondess for Killian's Red and Red Stripe, which I considered high end beers. Dooley's, one bar I frequented, had pitchers of PBR for $2.50 on Tuesday nights.

Towards the end of my four year stint in Atlanta, I grew fond of sweet tea. I continue to drink iced tea to this day. I switch back and forth between sweet tea and unsweetened tea. Sometimes, I just wanna control my own level of sweetness. But whenever I'm in the South, I go for the local sweet tea.

After college, I moved back to NYC and drank vodka. My mentor on Wall Street told me that it's tougher to smell vodka on your breath, so it's a perfect thing to drink during lunch. Vodka tonics after work were my drink, or vodka and grapefruit juice when I was drinking during the day hours.

I drank a ton of coffee between the ages of 22-25. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Gourmet like Ethiopia Yrgacheffe. Or shit sludge from the coffee machine at the office. I used to get Hazelnut coffee in a large Styrofoam cup from a tiny coffeeshop on Nassau Street. They also made me bacon and cheese sandwiches on a Kaiser roll.

I started drinking Brooklyn Lager when I moved to Brooklyn because I wanted to be a hipster and because the bodega around the corner sold Lager at a discount.

I moved to Seattle and drank more green tea because that's what the hippies drank. It's funny that I quit drinking coffee when I moved to Seattle. But that's what happened. I also dug Henry Wienhard's lager since it was so fuckin' cheap for a 12 pack. I drank a lot of local brews. Some of them were good. Others gave me the beer shits. The hippies liked to pass around a large jug of cheap red wine and I drank that a lot. I preferred the local homegrown weed to booze though. When I drank soda, I drank generic cola that I'd buy from the Safeway down the street.

My friend Ty bartended at a restaurant in downtown Seattle. He introduced me to Absolute Citron and 7-Up. That stuff tasted like gold and went down so smooth. I was quickly hooked and he'd only charge me for every other drink I ordered and even then, he rang me up as a well-vodka drink.

When I moved back to NYC, I developed a wicked addiction to painkillers, so as long as I popped a couple, one drink would make me loopy. I drank a lot of Arizona iced tea which came in these large light green bottles.

At that point, my brother had some acid reflux issues and gave up drinking soda. I joined him and quit. That's at the same time I began to consume a ton of water and only iced tea. I gave up hard liquor and only drank beer. I got hooked on Carlsberg.

Then I went through a Snapple iced tea phase and I'd drink three or four a day, sometimes more. It was getting out of control for a while.

I met a girl who liked drinking gin and tonics and I began a gin phase. That ended quickly. Gin hangovers were as bad as red wine hangovers. Vicious. I vowed to never drink gin ever again.

After a Phish show at Deer Creek in 2003, I was parched after partying all day and night. The Joker fished an Orange gatorade out of his cooler. It had been sitting in there all day and was extremely cold. I'll never forget that moment. One of the best satisfying drinks I ever had. I was hooked on Orange Gatorade for several years.

I met AlCantHang and started drinking SoCo. I drank SoCo during my freshman year in college and I'd make the girls a concoction of lemonade and SoCo. It got them drunk and frisky. Anyway. AlCantHang reintroduced me to SoCo and I started drinking SoCo in the rocks everywhere I went.

I started to ween myself off SoCo and shifted towards Makers Mark and gingerale during the 2006 WSOP. My buddy StB drank those as well. It gave a bigger punch than SoCo and the gingerale settled my stomach.

In Australia, Graham introduced me to James Boags Lager, which was a Tasmanian Beer. I drank it wherever I went in Oz. I started drinking Perrier because of the crazy hangovers I got when I drank too much then had to go to work the next morning during my assignment in Oz. I discovered that the Perrier settled my stomach the next morning. I've been drinking a lot of that ever since. I drank a lot of Shiraz when I was in Oz and the best part of that red wine is you can drink a bottle or two of it and not get a horrible hangover.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nap Boy and Writer's Strike Videos

By Pauly
New York City

I always get sick when I return home to NYC. I felt blah on Thursday and knew what was coming. I couldn't stop it. When I woke up on Friday, the blahs morphed into the fuckin' blahs. I decided not to run and instead, I read for an hour. I ate my Grape Nuts sludge for breakfast and could not stop thinking about real food. I've been hungry ever since I went back on the low-carb diet.

I turned on the radio and listened to WFUV (Fordham University) which eventually motivated me to pound the keys. I wrote about 2,000 words and then popped some cold medicine. The Sudafed made me drowsy and I took a nap as I fell asleep to random Beatles tunes. I never take naps. Yet, there I was at 1pm napping for two hours. I eventually woke up a couple of hours later. I still felt like shit. I printed up what I wrote and made a few corrections.

The Joker called me and spoke about the future of the Phish and music blog. I told him that unless Phish gets back together, there's simply not enough material to make it an everyday Phish blog unless we continue to expand. Most of the content over the last two or so years has been about shows and concerts we attended (Phish-related or not). It's technically a group blog although the majority of other members don't post regularly. The Joker vowed to post as much as he could over the next few weeks as we try to take the project to a new level. I'm glad that he's stepping up. Although I don't think I can ever get the music blog as popular as the Tao of Poker, that's not our goal. We're just going to try a few different things and keep it updated five times a week in an attempt to build a broader community of other music lovers. Let's hope it works.

I wrote another 800 or so words and finished up with a total of 2,880 or so for the day. Not too shabby considering I felt sick most of the day, got off to a late start, and took a nap for two hours.

I met my brother for dinner and we ate pizza. I was so hungry that I ate three slices. I forgot that I had signed up for a poker tournament and played in that for like 2.5 hours before I busted out like 547 out of 1057 players. I played some cash games and won $150 inside of 15 minutes so I quit.

After that, I just sat around and dug through an old box filled with CDs. I found all of these cool bootlegs that I had been missing like two sizzling Medeski, Martin & Wood shows. One featured Trey Anastasio on guitar (circa 2000) and the other had John Scofield on guitar in a show they did in Holland in 1998.

I also found a ton of old Dead bootlegs on CD such as their infamous Giza show from the pyramids in Egypt and a ton of material from 1977, the year that I think the Dead achieved absolute perfection. Ironically, twenty years later many Phisheads point to late 1997 and the Year of the Funk as the exact point in the cosmos when Phish achieved perfection. I'd like to think that they started to hit their stride about ten years ago and that lasted until late 1999.

I also found a couple of CDs featuring Miles Davis from Paris and a couple of Widespread Panic shows from Germany and Belgium. Talk about stumbling onto some gems. Instead of writing, I spent most of Friday night listening to selections from those CDs I discovered. It was like having conversations with old friends. I was flooded by waves and waves of flashbacks and memories. I set aside a dozen or so discs and uploaded them to my iPod. I want to not have some of those precious musical moments with me at all times when I'm on the road.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and ran for about twenty minutes before I stopped and walked for the last thirty minutes. My shins were still hurting a bit and it sucked running with a runny nose. But man, it was chilly this morning, in the low 40s. I should have not been outside since I was still blah, but I really needed to. Over the long term, running gets my body into shape and repairs all the damage I did to it over the last year. However, over the short term, the best part about running is clearing my head and thinking about what I want to write about when I get back home. By the time I sit down and hammer away at the laptop, the first draft has already been written inside my head.

I had a small mountain of change and coins to sort through including currency from the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, Sweden, and the almighty Euro. I quickly picked out the US coins and plucked out $2 in quarters. That's perfect for laundry. I stopped buying newspapers, so the remaining change gets donated to Nicky's LA parking fund which I refill every time I get into her car. I had a couple of pounds worth of British money and a couple of random coins of Aussie change. The Swedish money is odd looking and I have several hundred Kronors and I have no idea if that's worth anything. I made a tiny monument and stacked them as high as I could. If/when I return to Sweden, I'll have some pocket change.

Then the Euros... I have been sitting on a few grand in hard currency (bills). That's gone up in value since I left Europe in September. But I forgot about the loose change. I had 5.75 in Euros. Since the dollar is getting hammered, that amount is worth like $3,000 US or something outrageous like that. (Editor's Note: Before I have a couple of smartass readers correct my math in an email or comment, you guys literally have no sense of hyperbole or exaggeration for comedic purposes, I know the exact amount what the Euro/US conversion. Roughly 5.75 Euros is closer to $2,700 US.) Who knew that a few coins that most Europeans toss away at bums, street performers, and lepers were worth more than what someone at Walmart makes in an entire month.

I reluctantly dicked around before I finally decided to write. I read some of Let It Blurt and I have been reading about 10-15 pages of Live from New York every day since I've been back. Right now, I'm up to the second or third show of the first year of Saturday Night Live, which was originally called Saturday Night. I forgot that the first episode had four musical numbers and only a handful of sketches. George Carlin hosted the first show and did three stand up spots. Interesting to see how that show evolved over the first season and eventually into the show/format that we see today.

In the previous ten months, I would force myself to write due to time constraints. I'd be like, "Shit I only have two hours... get to work." But now, I have the entire day to write, so I can ease into it. That's why I wrote this post first before I started the frenzy of pounding the keys until my neck got sore and I needed a break.

I got a huge chuckle when I saw this video by the striking writers from the Daily Show. I noticed that Wil blogged about it too.

Click here to view the writer's strike video... via Bloglines or RSS

Stop by the Untied Hollywood blog for all your WGA writer's strike news and videos.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway and in Airports...

By Pauly
New York City

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...
1. The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
2. The Holy Bible
3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
5. Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on Airplanes...
1. World Without End by Ken Follett
2. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
4. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
5. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Last 5 Books I Read...
1. The Happiest Days of Our Lives by Wil Wheaton
2. The Biggest Game in Town by Al Alvarez
3. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
4. Miles by Miles Davis & Quincy Troupe
5. Death to All Cheerleaders by Marty Beckerman

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Talking Timbuktu

By Pauly
New York City

I barely slept on Monday night and was exhausted when I woke up on Tuesday. I had a meeting in midtown. I walked to the subway and read a few chapters in The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. I arrived early and wandered around Grand Central for about fifteen minutes and killed time in the newsstand. Then I headed over to my meeting.

I hired an asset management company to handle my finances. I decided that I would only managed 10% of my savings and hand over the rest to professionals. It was a decision that I had been grappling with for several months. I had to swallow a lot of pride because I used to manage money for a living. I was only doing slightly better than the market and didn't have the time to keep up with everything to be a savvy individual investor. So I sought professional guidance and outsourced my financial future to a bunch of Wall Street thugs. My money is in better hands now. And the transfer to an asset management firm has given me more free time. I used pay close attention to my positions and holdings and read hundreds of articles and reports a week. By alleviating myself from the responsibility, I'll be saving time and making more money in the process. All that extra time I can now allocate towards personal writing projects.

After the meeting, I met Senor for lunch. He was in the city because he also had a meeting in Midtown. It worked out that we could hang out, if only for an hour.

I spent the rest of the day catching up on random work and sorting through my mail. I discovered several freelance checks and a stack of catalogues. There were a couple of alumni magazines and tons of junk mail from credit card companies. Several books that I ordered arrived such as The Happiest Days of Our Lives by Wil Wheaton, Let It Blurt by Jim DeRogatis, and a Lonely Planet's New Zealand guide book. I also have Hotel California next up on my reading list. Books are the only material items that I seem to buy these days. And when I'm done, I'm always trying to give them away to friends.

I crashed around 3am and woke up just after 10am on Wednesday. I slept for seven hours straight. That's a miracle because I did it without any drugs. No Vicodins. No Xanax. No Unisom. No Ambien. Nothing. I guess my body was so tired that it shut itself down. That's the most sleep I got in a very long time.

I eventually got up by 10:30 and went jogging. I ran about a mile before I stopped. It had been a while since I went running. The weather was decent, a shade under 60 degrees, and the leaves on the trees had been changing colors for several weeks. I rushed past fallen leaves of all colors with dirty yellow and light brown being the two most predominant.

I showered and started a load of laundry. I walked to the grocery store. I had not been in there in months. They started a renovation and a lot of shit was moved around. I found the cereal section and picked up Grape Nuts. I'm back on the diet which means plenty of Grape Nuts. I bumped into someone I knew and blew him off. He's the father of one of my brother's childhood friends. I had no time for small talk in the middle of the dairy section. I made a quick exit. I walked across the street to the Korean grocery store and bought a batch of bananas.

I finished up my laundry then wrote for a bit before I cranked out two articles. I have a deadline on Thursday and finished that assignment quickly. For my Monday deadline, it took me a bit longer but I finished a first draft of over 2,000 words. I put it aside to let it marinate as the phone rang. My brother was calling me. It was 5:30 and he was leaving work. Time flew by so fast. Once second it was noon and then it's 5:30pm.

We ordered dinner from the diner and I got a basil pesto chicken sandwich on foccacia bread. Good stuff. We watched the NY Rangers game and they beat the Devils in NJ. I also watched a close game between #1 rank UNC versus Davidson. The spread was 11.5 and the game was in Charlotte. UNC was behind by a few points most of the game, but pulled away in the last two minutes for the victory.

I played an online poker tournament and finished in like 40th place out of 112 players. Ever since I got back from Australia, I'm up a few bucks playing online. It's been a while since I could play everyday.

I intended on writing late at night, but I decided to listen to music instead. I stayed up for a few hours longer than I wanted, but it had been a very long time where I could sit in the dark and the mind wander as I played some of my favorite musicians, both jazz and non-jazz, including The New Mastersounds, Miles Davis, Widespread Panic, and Ali Farka Toure.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Everyone Loves Koalas!

By Pauly
New York City

Here's a video that I shot and spliced together involving cute koalas.

Click here to view the koalas video via Bloglines or RSS....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

hollyweird > nyc

By Pauly
New York City

I spent a lot of my insomnia driven hours listening to John Coltrane and writing weird stuff in Nicky's living room. Nothing essential. Just practicing. Expanding. Experimenting. I'm trying to get my writing mind in top shape to sit down and have a short and productive stint when I get back to NYC. I figured that I can get seven solid days of writing in - if I blazed through catch up work done while I was still in Hollyweird and got my entire shit together within 48 hours of returning to NYC. It's a long shot, but I'm doing what I can.

Nicky cooked for me on Sunday morning. Just at the same time Showcase's very Jewish Long Island mother popped in. She was a sweet person and not as horrible as they both described. I'm sure they were hamming it up for dramatic effect. Anyway, I was up and writing when Nicky woke up and headed to the kitchen. She whipped up bacon and eggs with English muffins. The eggs were fluffy and sprinkled with chipolte cheddar cheese. I put them on the English muffin and added bacon for an impromptu breakfast sandwich.

Showcase's mother left and they headed to see a movie. I watched football and uploaded over 100 pics from Australia. I took several hundred more, but have been much better about selecting certain shots for the gallery.

In an random side note, I have been interacting with random people in the Flickr community since I joined up last year. I have been getting random mails from moderators of certain groups to join or they request that I add a certain photo to their group page. I always oblige. Most recently, I've been approached by random editors of travel guides if they could use my photos for both websites and travel book publications. Most of them are given away for free with attribution and I have been offered a few bucks for others. Nothing of significance. The most recent picture picked up was something I took at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

So weird that has been happening. And it's the pics that I thought were mediocre or blah that others found fascinating. Photography is much like writing. The stuff that I create which I think is the cat's balls often gets overlooked. And it's the stuff that I consider "throw away pieces" that end up getting the critical acclaim and are instant hits among the masses. Once again I have absolutely no comprehension of the public's assessment of my creative work. Then again I actually do know the formula. If I think it is great, they won't. If I think it's shit, they'll dig it. If it were only that easy.

I've been too busy to explore and familiarize myself with that bustling photo community over at Flickr. Someday I will. I've had some of my poker photography published before in poker magazines but, I was more concerned with the writing in those issues than the pics. But the most recent interest in the travel pics baffled me. It's nice to sell a photo, but I have yet to sell a single travel story to a non-poker or gambling publication!

On Sunday afternoon, we headed over to Whole Foods to pick up supplies for dinner. Nicky was going to grill up filet mignon for myself and the rest of her family at her parent's house. I've been over a few times for BBQs and it's not as big as a drama as Nicky expects it to be. Anyway, she prepped all the food and made a similar dish that she did before we left for Oz. She made filets which sat on a bed of onions, green beans, and shitake mushrooms with bleu cheese sprinkled on top. I picked out the bleu cheese at went for an expensive batch of Roquefort (see photo above). It was so good I kept spreading it on bread. Anyway, the dinner was a complete success.

We got back and Showcase said there was a great episode of Iron Chef on. It was Rachel Ray vs. Giada De Laurentiis but they added a twist and Ray teamed up with Mario Batali while Giada teamed up with Bobby Flay. Their secret ingredient were cranberries. I knew right away that Rachel Ray was going to win because she's a fast cooker. Giada might make more high end Italian dishes, but Ray's "30 minute meals" abilities were better fit for the Iron Chef competition. I found out this random nugget.... although she was born in Italy, Giada went to the same high school as Nicky in Westwood, except they attended at different times.

Woke up early on Monday and wrote for a bit before Nicky got up and we went to Nick's Coffeeshop, which I always do on the day I leave Hollyweird. Since it was Veteran's Day, Nick's grandkids were working and bussing tables, ringing up the register, fetching drinks. It was cute but Nick's kids have been working there since he opened up three decades ago,

I had a stress free travel day. It was about time I had one of those. No traffic to Long Beach airport. No lines at check in. A slight wait at security was the only problem. My JetBlue flight from the Left Coast to NYC left on time and arrived on time. I watched Monday Night Football (Niners defeated in an ugly blowout couresty of the Seachickens) and the latest episode of Heroes. I also killed time with a rockumentary on The Who. Keith Moon was a fucking animal, man.

I traveled super light this leg. It's been part of my new philosophy in life to simplify things as I've taken on a more minimalist approach to almost everything I do. I ditched my bulky thick wallet that used to look like George Costanza's monster. BG suggested I try a slimmy wallet and I bought one last Christmas. I used it a lot when I went overseas and since I spent 40% of 2007 overseas, I got used to using the slimmy.

I also left my big backpack at Nicky's place. I had been traveling extremely light. especially during my six-week trip to Europe and this past assignment in Australia. I decided I didn't needed to lug all that stuff to NYC since I would be back to Hollyweird in three weeks (then drive to Las Vegas) and fly back to NYC for Christmas, then back to Hollyweird for NYE, then I have to go back to Oz in January. I had plenty of clothes in NYC, so in order to skip the lines at baggage claim, I went to the airport with the clothes on my back and a small carry on bag with me with only my laptop, a book, a fleece pullover, and iPod. I walked off the plane and headed right to the taxi line at JFK.

I was swarmed by gypsy cab drivers who were looking for a fare. I got close to the taxi stand and saw about a dozen people waiting... with no cabs at all in the line. This one Middle Eastern guy asked me if I wanted a ride.

"Hey there's no cabs here," he said as he pointed to the stand.

He was right and I asked him how much would it cost to Riverdale.

"How much do you want to pay?"

"$60," I said.

"$75," he shot back.

Time to haggle. $65 was my counter offer. He wouldn't budge. By then two other drivers wandered over. By their accents, I could tell one guy was Jamaican and the other was Haitian.

"Which one of you guys wants to take me to Riverdale for $65?"

There was an uncomfortable silence for about thirty seconds when the Haitian blinked first. He stepped forward and pointed to his Lincoln Town Car.

"Let's go," I said.

Back in NYC for less than five minutes and I was already dealing with hustlers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Last 5 Hilarious Google Referrals...

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I wish I was making this stuff up. Here are some Google searches that landed people here...

1. How many days does it take Vicodin to flush down the system?
2. Nipple squirting
3. Asian rub and tug West Hollywood
4. Lime green pimp suits for rent in Las Vegas
5. Foot fetishes have become rampant in America

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Studs of Poker Interview Part II and Getting Quoted in ABC News

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

A reporter from ABC News tracked me down in Australia. He wanted some info on the underground NYC poker scene after the recent shooting that caught the mainstream media's attention. We spoke for a few minutes and the most retarded thing I said during our interview was quoted. Oh well. Last October, I got quoted in Business Week about the UIGEA.

The only thing that sucks was that I was listed as "a reporter from" instead of getting the Tao of Poker mentioned.

Anyway, check out the article... Underground Poker: A Deadly Game?

* * * * *

Michele Lewis added Part II of her Studs of Poker Interview with yours truly. Check it out.

I published a new gallery of 145 Aussie pics over at Flickr. Check out my Australia II gallery which includes photos from Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, and Phillip Island, along with random shots of Sydney and Manly Beach.

Also updated... Pauly Food Gallery and the Tao of Bacon.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

sydney > l.a.

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I was in a good mood during my last day in Sydney. Usually, I'm flushed with a anxiety before a travel day, occupied with eager emotions of anticipation of the next place. Plus I'm conflicted with a wave of separation anxiety over the place I'm about to depart. Not that time. I had a great time in Sydney but wanted to leave. I would be returning to Australia in less than eight weeks so I knew I was coming back. I found myself happier than I had been in days on the verge of a hiatus where I could finally relax and write at my own pace.

The US dollar hit a new low when I was in Australia. During my trip in January, the dollar traded at $1.20 AUD. At the casino cashier, I got $1,200 AUD for $1K US. When I went to change currency a couple of weeks ago, I only got back $1,030 AUD. The US dollar had sunk to $1.03. To paraphrase one of my bosses Tony G, "The US dollar is like a third world currency these days." That's coming from the same guy who won $6 million US playing poker against neo-oil-rich Russians in Moscow.

Anyway, on our last morning in Sydney, we checked out of the hotel and walked down Victoria Street back to Fellini's Cafe. We had eaten there for dinner less than 12 hours before, but their breakfast was delicious and inexpensive. It was also the only place I found that served a bacon, cheese, and fried egg sandwich on toast. Good stuff.

We arrived at the airport over 3.5 hours before our flight to make sure Nicky had an aisle seat. A travel agent for PokerNews booked her tickets at the last moment and she got stuck in a middle seat on our way down to Oz. When Nicky checked in at Sydney airport, she discovered she had an aisle seat one row in front of mine.

We killed time in the terminal and played Chinese Poker. I almost bought a bag of kangaroo jerky from one of the souvenir shops. It came in two flavors; regular and spicy. I didn't think I could get it past customs, so I decided not to buy it.

Despite the almost even exchange rate, I completed the journey under budget for $340. I held onto the Aussie bucks because I would need again in January. There's always a weird moment before I get on a plane to a different country where I perform a ceremonious changeover of currencies. Gone were the multi-colored Aussie bucks and I inserted America's third world currency into my wallet.

The flight from Sydney to LAX was not full. I was seated on the aisle in the middle section and there was no one to my immediate left, definitely a plus on a long distance flight of 14 hours. We left Sydney at 3:20 on a Thursday afternoon and arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday morning at 10am. Yeah, I got onto another time machine as I embarked on the second longest day of my life.

You lose a day flying to Oz. I left on a Wednesday and arrived on a Friday. I got that extra day on my way home after we crossed back over the International Date Line. I decided to try my best to sleep but didn't make it a priority. I had a tough time sleeping in a comfortable bed, let alone on a plane.

I was engrossed in an autobiography about Miles Davis, co-written by Quincy Troupe and called Miles. I stumbled through it when I arrived in Melbourne. My original plan was to read and finish it in Hollyweird before I left for Oz. I was trying to travel light and wanted to avoid lugging around a thick and bulky book of over 450 pages. But I only read a couple of pages in California so I was forced to take it with me. Although it was the heaviest thing I packed, my new plan was to finish the book and leave it behind in Oz. I did that last time with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Egger which I left behind in my hostel in Sydney.

I didn't have much time to devote to Miles Davis in Melbourne and read about 10-15 pages a day. I started hitting a reading groove on the plane from Melbourne to Sydney and was almost done when it was time to leave. I wanted to finish it, so I brought on the plane with me instead of leaving it behind.

The book covered the highlights and low points of Miles Davis' career according to Miles Davis, so you get a one-sided version. Despite the slant, he's brutally honest about his drug abuse, beating his wives, and being a bad father. The best chapters were about Davis' early days when he moved from East St. Louis to New York City after he was accepted into Julliard. He spent more time watching Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker playing in Harlem and on 52nd Street than actually in school. He eventually starting playing in the clubs and quit Julliard all together to focus on playing full time. He was not even 20 when he was on stage with legends like Bird and Dizzy.

Eventually Davis got caught up in heroin like his idol Bird. He was a functioning addict for a couple of years when his habit got worse and nearly ruined his career. He tried to quit on a couple occasions but had a tough time getting off the junk. He finally conquered it but admitted that he drank a lot and snorted a lot of coke - so he was not completely clean. He just wasn't a stone cold junkie anymore.

Some of his best material was recorded in those first few years after he got clean when he began exploring with modal music. Sketches of Spain and Miles Ahead when he collaborated with Gil Evans. Those albums came before the Kind of Blue years.

I also dug the passages about Miles Davis opening up for the Grateful Dead in the late 1960s and hanging out talking music with Jerry Garcia. The one thing that stuck out of the entire book was Davis constantly talking about random nights he stayed up all night talking and discussing music with his friends and other musicians. When he wasn't shooting up, he was constantly listening and playing and expanding and taking chances. The late night discussions are something that I don't exactly have with other writers. Writing is a solitary pursuit and not something I talk about too much. I guess that's why I have been writing about it a lot here.

Moving on... I read Miles for a couple of hours until the food service. That's when I closed the book and watched a movie instead while I ate. Quantas has a cool inflight entertainment system with plenty of music and over 40 flicks including a dozen newer ones. They also had several TV shows on demand. Nicky pointed out that Transformers was in the rotation. I put that on as I barely touched my dinner... a lukewarm rubber chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, lima beans, and a really bad salad.

Nicky opted for red wine and Xanax. She passed out while I watched Transformers. I can't explain my morbid attraction to Michael Bay flicks. I enjoyed every second of Transformers, which was a perfect airplane movie. It held my attention and killed almost two hours of flight time.

I popped a second Xanax and watched The Simpsons Movie. I saw it in the theatres and wanted to check it out again. I made it almost half-way before the Xannies kicked in and I passed out. I woke up ninety minutes later and the flick was over. I started it over and watched it all the way through.

By that point, I realized that everyone was asleep. I sat alone in the darkness of the cabin, with the only light the warm blue glow of the TV screen embedded into the seat in front of me. I wanted to read Miles but was slow to turn on the reading light. I'm a considerate flier and did not want to wake anyone. That's when I remembered about the comfort pouches that they handed out which included a pair of socks to keep your feet warm (which I used when I took off my shoes). Sock over socks. They also included a sleeping mask to keep out the light. I flipped on the light and read a few chapters.

Then I watched Oceans 13. I think I originally saw it on a KLM flight to Amsterdam? Or was it from London to NYC? I forget. But regardless, it's a great airplane flick and one of those flicks that gets funnier the more you watch it.

During the flick, the crew woke everyone up for breakfast service. I ate a blah omelete and there was this weird beans with fish. I read for a bit then fell asleep during the last thirty minutes of the flight. I woke up as the plane landed and the tires screeched as we made contact with the tarmac.

We quickly deplaned and flipped off a framed photo of W that greeted us as we walked into the immigration hall. Two Australian women walking behind me thought my gesture was hilarious and couldn't stop laughing. Immigration went quick and we got our luggage and cleared customs inside of a few minutes. We caught a cab on the way back to Nicky's apartment. We checked out her car which was covered in a filmy layer of dust and ash from the California fires that raged while we were gone.We quickly ran inside and fired up the bong. Heaven at last.

Showcase brought over three dogs that he was walking and they ran amuck in the apartment. I was starving so we walked to Nick's Coffeeshop. We slid into a booth and I couldn't wait to taste the iced tea. After a four week trip to Oz in January, my boss Schecky had said something like the one thing he missed the most about America was the iced tea. It's so true. I must have gobbled up a quick glass and drank three or four at Nick's. I also ordered a bacon cheeseburger. I had been craving proper bacon and not that pink-almost-raw Canadian bacon crap they try to pass off as bacon. I slowly chewed my burger and savored every bite. I'm a fast eater. Usually. Not that instance. I prolonged the religious experience as much as I could.

When I got back from the meal, it was almost 1pm. I forgot to weigh myself when I got home. When I left for Oz, I was 188.8 according to Showcase's scale. Upon my return I was 193.3. I added 4.5 pounds. Not too bad.

I had not sit on a couch in weeks. All I wanted to do was numb myself. We caught up on stuff that Nicky had on her TiVo like Heroes and Weeds. Nicky fell asleep in the afternoon. I had been going on about two hours of sleep after the flight but was holding up fairly well. I cranked out the latest issue of Truckin' and blazed through over 100 emails. I also made a list of randoms hit I needed to do while in Hollyweird and planned out the next week in NYC.

Showcase left the kitchen a mess including several weeks of dirty dishes. The kitchen door was closed and the place was infested with flies. I opened the window and tried to shoe as many out while I went on a killing spree. I committed heinous acts of insect genocide. It was like a scene out of The Exorcist or something with all of those flies.

On Friday morning, I went to O'Groats for amazing crisp bacon along with the best French Toast in Hollyweird. On the way to and from O'Groats, we passed by the Fox lot and saw slew of striking writers. When we left LA, it was on fire. When we returned, the writers were on strike. TV shows, variety shows, and major motion pictures all shut down. Expect more crappy reality shows over the upcoming months as hundreds of writers were picketing.

Nicky and I drove to the Grove and caught American Gangster. I really dug it, especially because it took place in Harlem in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as it told the rise and fall of Frank Lucas who allegedly made $1 million a day selling heroin on the streets on NYC. His shit was so pure that it blew away his competition's product. Lucas got it direct from the source in South East Asia and had it shipped in coffins of American soldiers that died in Vietnam.

Nicky had read the original script and several other versions of the script. She mentioned that they ended up shooting the entire original script and didn't go for the changes. She also mentioned that Frank Lucas (who is out of jail) was consulted when making the flick. Unreal.

We picked up Zankou Chicken and went back home and watched two documentaries. One on the evils of Walmart and the other was the Monterrey Pop Festival. Jimi Hendrix was cooking that night. I wondered how many hits of liquid sunshine he was jacked up on at the time? Hard to think that was over 42 years ago. I played online poker while the documentary ran in the background. Nicky eventually passed out. I must have been up to 3 or 4am watching really bad movies such as 50 Pills, a straight to DVD flick about a kid who has to sell 50 hits of ecstasy. Awful. But I couldn't turn away.

I woke up early on Saturday morning and wrote for a couple of hours. It seemed like forever since I got to do that... sitting at Nicky's dining room table with a breeze rushing through an open window and pecking away as the room was lit by 100% pure Southern California sunshine. After my session, I sat outside and finished the Miles Davis book. Finally. I can leave it in Hollyweird and return to NYC empty handed. I have a bunch of books waiting for me there and can't wait to tear into those.

Nicky has been exhausted since our return. Jumping time zones messes with your head. She slept into mid-afternoon and I gave her a ton of shit when she finally rolled out of bed.

"I'm not a freak of nature like you," she shouted. "Most of us don't function on three hours of sleep."

I probably slept about 1/4 of the time she has since we've been back. I'd like to sleep in but I've been working a few hours everyday, trying to get a lot of stuff out of the way to give me more time to write when I get back to NYC.

We headed to Nick's again for a late lunch. I had been up by 7am and by 2:30pm I was famished. There were no tables available when we walked into Nick's and sat at the counter instead, in front of the grill where I watched in amazement as the two guys whipped up dozens of orders in a matter of minutes. I got a quick tutorial in omelete construction and was in awe when I caught a glimpse of their bacon drawer which was essentially a huge slide out bin in a fridge that was filled with bacon, sausages, and other pork products.

The best thing about Nick's is that they treat their employees very well. There's very little turnover in staff which means that they are professional and you get top notch service. That's rare in Hollyweird where every waiter or waitress is an out-of-work actor and a crappy food server. Plus I'm known as the good tipper at Nick's so everyone is very nice to us when we walk in.

Nicky wanted to see Ben Affleck's directorial debut in Gone Baby Gone, which was originally a novel by Dennis Lehane about two cops investigating a missing girl. Ben did not appear in the flick. No Matt Damon cameos either. Ben's brother Casey played the lead character and he was backed by heavyweights such as Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and the fat guy who played Taggert in Beverly Hills Cop. Not bad for a debut. Casey did a wicked job. I liked American Gangster better but they are two totally different flicks.

We went to see the flick at Century City, the outdoor mall were I bumped into Posh Spice the day that I left for Australia. No celeb sightings on our way to the movie theatre this time, but I thought it was funny to see everyone wearing winter jackets when it was like 62 degrees.

I went home after the flick, and sat down to write this post. I was almost done when it got eaten by mistake. Uggggh. Hate when that shit happens.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Truckin' - November 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 11

And we're back with a new issue of my literary blogzine! This is a great issue which is about 60% Key West themed short stories, including submissions from AlCantHang and Change100. Veteran Truckin' authors Sean A. Donahue and Sigge S. Amdal are also back.

Truckin' - November 2007, Vol. 6, Issue 11

And we're back...

1. Existentialist Conversations with Strippers: The Afternoon Shift by Paul McGuire
The club was just the type of seedy place where you might find William Kennedy Smith or any other soused heirs to the Kennedy name, knocking back cheap scotch at 3 pm while aggressively fondling the sketchy girls with visible c-section scars and multiple fresh bruises all over their cracked-out bodies.... More

2. Lonesome Cowboy Bill by AlCantHang
My comfort zone is a dive rock club where I can chain smoke, power drink, and have my head assaulted with decibels equivalent to a jumbo jet taking off. The next step down the ladder would be the pubs and bars the exist for sole purpose of its patrons getting blitzed on various hardcore drinks. Then comes the sports bars, strip clubs, snooty yuppie bars, and hotel watering holes. Near the very bottom would generally be any place that plays country music... More

3. Seven Minutes with Olga by Change100
Olga led me all the way to the back and sat me down. She took her top off and grabbed my hands, placing them on her very soft, very real breasts... More

4. The Sleep Deprived Memoirs of I by Sigge S. Amdal
I might as well go to sleep, I thought. And I thought about sleeping forever, the eternal sleep, and how it could feel – was it cold or was it cozy – had it not been for facts contesting life after death in terms of subjectively sensory experience... More

5. Their Father's Love by Sean A. Donahue
Tying to explain the differences and the complaints of a failed marriage is too complicated for a four-year old to understand. I think I heard the phrase, "But why daddy?" more than I ever thought I could. But it wasn't my kids' fault... More
If you like these stories, then please tell your friends about your favorites. It takes a few seconds to pass along Truckin'. The writers certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again to everyone for wasting your precious time month after month with Truckin' and for your continuous support. Until next time.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Several Days in Sydney

By Pauly
Sydney, Australia

When Nicky and I were figuring out what to do with our extra time in Australia, I suggested Sydney for a few days. She was reluctant. Since we were on a budget and would be coming back again in January, I suggested that we spend several days in Sydney to get it out of the way. I could sense that she wanted to do some other stuff but since she was on a tight budget she eventually agreed.

We arrived in Sydney on a Saturday afternoon and moments after we checked into our hotel room she started to fall in love with the city. She kept saying that it reminded her of San Francisco. I could understand where she got that. To met it reminded me of a mixture of Seattle/SF.

In January, Brandon Schaefer and I took the train to Sydney after spending a week up in Byron Bay and on the Gold Coast for Big Day Out. We stayed in a hostel near Kings Cross and we got to know the area pretty well as we roamed the streets durng the day and stumbled around them drunk at night.

I remembered a delicious and inexpensive Italian restaurant named Fellini's on tree lined Victoria Street and took Nicky there. I ordered the penne calabrese with chorizo, chilis, and bacon. We drank a ton of red wine then wandered around Kings Cross. It's an interesting area with a mixture of yuppies, hipsters, and travelers (both backpackers and tourists). It also has a seedy element like the East Village used to have. There were lots of hustlers and dope addicts not to mention the aloof street hookers who stood on Darlinghurst Road right in the open.

We found ourselves at a cafe near the fountain with a covered awning. It was aptly called the Fountain Cafe. We sat at one of their twenty or so outdoor tables and played Chinese Poker. Then the sky opened up and rains came pouring down. We were sort of stuck there until the rain let up. But it never did and we continued to drink and drink while we waited out the rain. One of the waitresses was a cute German girl who looked like Cate Blanchet. She had been making eyes at me since we sat down. She dropped off our drinks and then got real close up to my face and asked what we were playing. I told her it was Chinese Poker. She said she didn't know how to play and wondered if I could teach her. That quickly tilted Nicky, who was ready to gouge out her eyeballs.

When I woke up on Sunday morning, my body was paying for all that Shiraz and bottles of Carltons that I consumed. Hungover in Sydney. That's something that happened a lot during my last trip. Since I was unable to score any herbal supplements, I spent most of my time in Oz drinking like a fish. Most of my mornings involved some sort of hangover.

I did what I could to shake off the pounding headache and tumultuous stomach and decided to bet on sports. I befriended a Swedish fan of my poker blog who used to play professional hockey in Sweden. All he does these days is play online poker and watch hockey. He gives me tips from time to time on Allsvenskan Swedish Hockey League game. His advice helped me run my account up to a profit of over 2K Euros. Time to cash out. Take the money and run. I'll use those funds for a trip to Vegas in December.

Nicky eventually woke up and we got ready to meet my buddy Nigel down at the Sydney Fish Markets for Sunday yum cha, or dim sum. Nigel is the editor of a Aussie travel magazine who lives in Sydney. He is an avid reader of my sites and in January, we met for the first time after he invited Brandon and myself over to a BBQ at his flat in Glebe where we had our Almost Famous moment as we mingled with real locals and made mojitos in his kitchen. We were both looking forward to hanging out again.

I hailed an idle cab in front of the hotel and as I jumped in the cab, I slammed the door on my hand and my pinky quickly dislocated. It's a recurring injury that I've had ever since college. Josh Webber originally knocked it out during my fraternity's flag football practice. Since then it has popped out during hoops pick up games and other random times like when I was moving to Seattle or once during rough sex. It had been almost two years since it last popped out so I was actually due.

I usually pop my finger back in place but that instance wouldn't budge. The second bone on my finger was wedged above the third bone. And it hurt like a motherfucker. In the past I would slide back into place after a hard yank. But I couldn't get it to snap back.

I was distracted for most of our lunch and excused myself to the bathroom. I ran into a stall and tried and tried to snap my finger back. No luck. I gave up. I needed the help of a professional. Upon my return to the table, I asked Nigel if he could recommend a good doctor or perhaps the closest ER. We quickly finished up lunch and then took a taxi to the ER near Sydney University.

I don't have health insurance and in the past if I made a trip to the ER to get my finger fixed and it cost me over $2,000. That's why I always popped it back in myself. To save money. Lucky for me, Australia has an amazing health care system. Even though I was not a citizen of their country and even though I was without health insurance, they treated my injury and didn't make me feel like a piece of shit. The last time I went to the ER in America and said I didn't have insurance, they put me at the bottom of their list and barely paid attention to me.

All I had to do was pay a $100 fee to see a doctor in Australia. Compared to a $2K bill at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC or $3K bill at Cedars-Sinai in Hollyweird, that was a sweet deal. Nigel was enraged that I had to pay one cent. He was used to the amazing free health care system in Australia and felt I should have been given free care. I explained to him the god awful situation of the health care fiasco in the US and suggested that he see Sicko.

The triage nurse checked out my finger and told me that I had only a few people ahead of me. The entire trip to the ER took about ninety minutes and that included treatment. As I waited to see a doctor, a second nurse came out to the waiting room and handed me two pills and a cup of water.

"Take these," she said.

I quickly popped them and mentioned, "Er, so what am I taking."

"Oh," she laughed. "I guess I should have told you that they were pain killers."

"Why didn't you say so," I blurted out. "I could really use two more."

She said to wait until they kick in. I didn't want to tell her that there were instances when I'd pop two before I got out of bed that day. I was a veteran pill popper and needed a higher dosage.

Another nurse appeared and took me to get x-rays. That would cost a fortune in America. In Australia, the cost was... free. The radiologist said that nothing was broken and that the doctor would see me shortly. Five minutes later, the doctor appeared and asked me to call him by his first name. He peeked at the x-rays, gave me more painkillers, and asked me if I wanted a local anesthetic to numb my finger.

He pulled out a huge needle and I fuckin' hate needles. He shot me up and he accidentally hit the bone and a sharp pain rocketed throughout my body. Instantly, I became lightheaded and woozy. I wasn't looking at the doctor injecting the needle because that would have freaked me out. Instead, I focused on the curtain in the examination room. It had a trippy pattern and as soon as he took out the needle, I had a vivid acid flashback. The entire curtain rippled in a psychedelic kaleidoscope as I uttered, "Sweet!"

I had not seen that many vibrant colors since I followed the Grateful Dead. The doctor let the injection sit for a couple of minutes as my entire hand went numb and most of my forearm up to my elbow. That's when he snapped the finger back into place.

I thanked the doctor and asked about check out procedures. He told me to just walk out the front door and that if I owed the hospital anything, they would send me a bill. I had used Nicky's mailing address, so maybe they'll send me a bill for $100. Nigel thought that they wouldn't even bother billing me and that I probably got treated for free. Ship it!

I just had a $2,000 swing. Had this happened in America, I'd be stuck with an expensive ER bill and they would have only given me extra strength Tylenol. As is, I was treated extremely well by the Australian health care system and became even more angered at our politicians and the suits at insurance companies for fucking us over. I'll save that rant for another time.

The painkillers had kicked in and I was floating about a foot off the ground. Nigel, Nicky, and myself had made plans to visit the Star City Casino after yum cha and play poker in the worst poker room in the world. Although we had a brief detour to the ER, we decided to continue with our plans. We caught a taxi out front of the hospital and headed straight to the casino.

Star City's poker room has the reputation for being the worst poker room in the world. Ask the locals and they will tell you. The wait list is always long. The players are atrocious. And the rake (the amount they charge to play) is insane. Since there is zero competition, they own the monopoly.

There was a huge wait so we put our names down. I intended to play the 2/5 NL game, but since I was shitfaced and could barely see straight, I opted for a smaller stakes game. They text you when your table is ready and we used Nigel's mobile to get our update. We headed to the bar and started pounding beers.

Nicky's name got called first and she headed over to play. Nigel and I continued to drink. I told him that I needed some quick instant gambling action so we walked over to the sportsbook and bet on the greyhound races. We thought it was a greyhound race, but we ended up betting on the ponies from Hobart in Tasmania. I picked a horse named Miami Jack that went off at 9-2 and it won by two lengths. Before I left, I put a bet in on am NBL game. The South Dragons were a -7.5 favorite over the Wollongong Hawks. I thought it would be a lock. (Sadly, Wollongong only lost by seven and I lost my bet by a friggin' half a point!)

We left the sportsbook and I stumbled back to Nicky's table. She went up $350 in the first hour of play. I finally got called for my game and got seated next to Nigel. I didn't play very well. Sure I was extremely wasted at the time, but the players were so horrible that I should have made a profit. Instead, a slew of crazy Asian gamblers walked away with my money. Unreal. These players were willing to gamble and piss their money away. But I didn't catch any cards in three hours and when I got my money in ahead... I couldn't keep the lead. I ended up losing about $300. The painkillers wore off and I decided to leave.

Nicky was up a bit and cashed out. She had been on a good run playing in Oz. Me? I played twice. I had won a tournament with a bunch of drunken dealers in a casino employees bar in Melbourne and got my ass handed to me in Sydney by CAGs at the worst poker room in the world. Thank God for Swedish hockey and the amazing health care system in Australia. If it weren't for both entities, I'd be stuck big time.

We left the Star City Casino and headed back to the hotel room. I popped a couple of Vicodins and drifted as Nicky watched Breakfast at Tiffany's. I liked the flick but was angry that the film version of the book omitted the fact that Audrey Hepburn's character Holly was actually a prostitute. I eventually feel asleep muttering, "She's a fuckin' hooker! George Peppard is in love with a hooker."

* * * * *

The weather was wet, windy, and unpredictable in Sydney. It would be sunny out and five minutes later it would start raining. It reminded me of Seattle. One block was dry while another was drenched. We grabbed breakfast and then took the subway downtown to Circular Quay. I wanted to show Nicky a cool place called Manly Beach, which was much better than the overrated Bondi Beach. You have to take a ferry to get there, which is a lot of fun since you pass the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. Perfect for taking photos. When we got to Circular Quay, we were told that the ferries were not running at the moment due to nasty seas. They suggested a bus. I told Nicky that we should go back another day. The funny thing was that the skies were blue with some clouds. It was raining all morning but stopped.

Since we were close to the Opera House, I told Nicky we should explore that area which was adjacent to the botanical gardens. We wandered around and took a lot of photos. Tons of school groups and bus loads of Asian tourists descended upon the Sydney cultural and architectural icon. At one point I was stopped by a little Korean kid. He was there with his school group and had to ask random visitors a series of questions. He would ask them in near perfect English, but wrote down my answers in Korean into his little notebook.

We wandered through the gardens and the park for a couple of hours before we walked back downtown to catch the subway home. As we arrived at St. Marin's Place, there was a TAB tent set up. TABs are like OTBs in Australia. It was the day before the $5 million Melbourne Cup horse race. It's like the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness all rolled into one. Since it's on a Tuesday, everyone wants to bet on it at the last moment. The TAB folks came up with a smart idea to put a mobile betting tent in St. Martin's Place so all the downtown office workers can go bet on their lunch break.

When we got back to Kings Cross, we headed to the TAB around the corner from our hotel. It was actually next to the subway entrance. It was Monday and put a few bets in for the Tuesday race. There were signs everywhere that read... Avoid queues and bet early.

We had dinner at an Indian joint called India Down Under. I went with the chicken vindaloo and that was a hot fuckin' dish. I couldn't stop sweating. I needed to eat ice cream afterwards to cool down. We went back to the Fountain Cafe for late night drinks and a few hands of Chinese Poker.

On Tuesday, we wandered around Darlinghurst and Kings Cross. We also walked through New Hyde Park and found ourselves back down at St. Martin's Place around lunchtime. It was race day and the Melbourne Cup went off at 3pm. The entire area near the mobile TAB stand was packed with thousands of people, most of them suits or secretaries, trying to get in a bet. The Melbourne Cup is so big that everything stops for the few minutes and everyone watches the race.

We headed back to Kings Cross and found a table in a sports bar in front of a big screen. The place began to fill up. The bar had drink specials and the bartenders were dressed like jockeys. They walked around with trays of free sandwiches. The TAB nextdoor had lines out the door. Everyone was getting in on the action and everyone in the bar was getting shitfaced.

I had bet on two horses, one named Zipping and the other Sirimone. Nicky went with Purple Moon and another horse that I forgot the name. Her horse ended up going off as the second favorite behind Master O'Reilly. Well, Purple Moon got off to a slow start but it took the lead about 3/4 of the way through the 3200m race. It was leading until the last couple hundred meters when Efficient came out of nowhere to win. Nicky's horse finished second but she bet it to win. So she got nothing.

On Wednesday, we were determined to get to Manly Beach. We got up early and ate breakfast then took the subway to Circular Quay. The ferries were running and we hopped on the next one. We sat outside so Nicky could snap photos and get a magnificent view of Sydney Harbour.

We wandered around Manly Beach and took a hike up in a nature preserve nearby. Afterwards we sat in a pub overlooking the beach and drank while we played Chinese Poker. That seemed to be the main activity in Sydney... drinking and Chinese Poker. We did it a lot in Amsterdam in the coffeeshops and we did it a lot in the cafes and bars in Sydney.

After our trip to Manly we took the ferry back to Sydney and returned to our hotel. We did a thorough pre-pack to prepare for our departure on Thursday. We also verified our flights. I decided to leave a few more things behind to lighten the load. I also charged up my Bose headphones and iPod so I'd have entertainment for the long flight back to the States.

We had a final dinner at Fellini's on Victoria Street. We liked it so much the first time that we went back. You can't beat the price... $55 for two pasta dishes with wine and garlic bread. Nicky spoke about returning to Hollyweird where there's currently a writer's strike. I told her that I was happy to finally get to spend time in New York after another long season on the road.

I estimated that I spent 40% of 2007 (so far) outside of America. I lived in hotels/hostels 40% of this year. The longest I was in one place in 2007 was seven weeks in Las Vegas covering the World Series of Poker. I took a month long trip to Oz in January, almost eight weeks in Vegas in the summer (interrupted by a three-day trip to NYC to see Widespread Panic), six weeks in Europe, and just completed another three plus weeks in Oz. I spent smaller trips that were one to two weeks in length such as a week in Florida... twice (Langerado in March and Key West in September) along with a week long trip to Vegas for March Madness, two plus weeks in LA in February, two weeks in Vegas at the end of April and beginning of March, a week in Monte Carlo. I had a couple of two week stretches in NYC over this year and enjoyed those immensely but it seemed as though I was holed up working on assignments and pre-writing columns. I had a few trips to Amsterdam and Hollyweird that lasted a couple of days each, not to mention the random days I spent in NYC in between assignments. Nothing more than brief two or three day pitstops to sort through my snail mail to dig out paychecks, pay my bills, and do laundry.

I took several long journeys in 2007 and the rest of my life gets thrown out of whack while I'm gone. I'm used to traveling so much that it only takes me a day to get re-acclimated to my surroundings. I'm spending a few days in Hollyweird to get my space together and work on the next issue of Truckin', upload pics to Flickr, and edit a few YouTube videos before I return to NYC for three straight weeks on Monday night. I would like to just hole up and write but in reality, I have to catch up on a lot of shit, and then there's my least favorite day of the year... Turkey Day.

I'm sure I have a mountain of mail to sort through and a stack of new books waiting to be read. I have hundreds of emails to answer and dozens of phone calls to return. There are a few bands I want to see in NYC. I have a few deadlines on the horizon and I have a trip back to Oz in January to plan in addition to a side trip to New Zealand. I might be off assignment for two months but it seems like I still have a lot of shit on my plate. Perhaps I can get everything out of the way in less than a week so I can get ten days or so to write. I've been waiting for that alone time for a full year.