Tuesday, December 09, 2008

puerto vallarta > lax

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

On Thursday night, Nicky went to bed and I continued to drink with Otis. It was his birthday and we pounded free drinks until the wee hours. At the all inclusive resort, they gave us Sol beer in industrial strength plastic cups, sort of like the cups you'd find in the dining hall of your college. They'd keep bringing over those cups with the occasional shot of tequila.

When I stumbled into the room, the vapors from my breath woke up Nicky. The beds were small as is... but we had two of them in our room. She begged me to sleep in the other bed because she didn't want to get drunk from the booze in the air.

I passed out and woke up when my alarm rang. That's so rare. I often set alarms but I always wake up before they go off. We had a few hours to kill before work started. We went for breakfast at the buffet.

The buffet would have been the equivalent to a low end Vegas buffet. I focused on three items; eggs, hash browns, and bacon. I slopped all three onto my plate and drenched it in pepper. Nice little breakfast scramble that was drenched in grease. That was my cure for the hangover.

And I dug the bacon. I've eaten bacon all over the world and the locals whipped up a proper batch. Bonus points.

Nicky and I decided to take a walk on the beach. We wandered up and down for a bit. I sweated out a lot of the booze and it was time for a quick shower.

My hangover dropped to a category 1 hangover. That's the lowest level. I can function but still feel it. Otis was hurting a bit more and rightfully so, it was the day after his birthday.

The tournament seemed to be going on smoothly. They started on time which is rare so I was impressed with the setup. I only knew a handful of pros and like most countries and regions where I travel for work, I rely upon the local press and my local contacts to help familiarize me with local players that rarely set foot in Vegas.

I worked with one guy who wrote for my client's Portuguese version of the site. The Brazilian reporter was a couple of years older than me and his English was poor. When he found me, he said, "Ah you are the Pauly?!" He had a strong emphasis on the which cracked Nicky up.

He thought that I spoke fluent Spanish and we'd have conversations (actually he'd speak and I'd nod and pretend like I knew what he was saying) in broken Spanish and Portuguese. I think we got along great considering I had no clue what he was talking about. He was a funny guy. My friend Felipe from Portugal was essentially his boss and told me that he might be as crazy if not crazier than me. And the dude was a little nuts, but in a good way. He spent a lot of time outside of the tournament room snapping photos of random hot girls.

Late into the night on the first day of the tournament, things seemed to be going as scheduled. The hungover was gone and I was looking forward to the end of the night. With about 90 minutes left to go, the tournament was interrupted by local gaming officials. The kicked everyone out of the room. We were told to grab our things and leave.

You can read about what happened over at Tao of Poker on a post titled.... Shakedown Street > Mexicali Blues.

Anyway, for about two hours, we were holed up in the business center. And for like ninety seconds, I had a brief freakout. Someone suggested that we remove our press badges. For a couple of moments, I was on edge and extremely concerned at the safety of Nicky and myself and my fellow media reps like Owen, Otis, Joe, Alex, and everyone else. I never thought that I'd get tossed into prison in Mexico for a non-drug charge! Forty-five journalists were killed in Mexico since 2000. According to Reporters without Borders, Mexico is considered the most dangerous country for journalists with the exception of Iraq.

I got plenty of emails, calls, text messages, and IMs from concerned friends. Our safety was never in jeopardy. But it was best that we didn't prance around the resort with media badges dangling from our necks. We didn't want to stick out and opted to blend in. Our cover story was that Otis and I were gay lovers on a long weekend holiday. They'd believe us too because Otis was not wearing any underwear. He forgot to pack skivvies and socks when he left G-Vegas.

Anyway, after being in limbo for a few hours, the tournament officials told us to leave and return at noon on Saturday. We packed up our gear, dropped it off in the rooms, and headed down to the outside bar where we drank until 5am. The mood was weird. Odd. Almost like a funeral, but without a dead body. Some of my friends suggested that the tournament was over and that there was no way it would continue. I guess you can say that poker in Mexico died that day and we were celebrating it's brief and short life.

I woke up on Saturday with a similar hangover to Friday morning. We continued the routine and shuffled down to the buffet where I ate my trifecta of a breakfast/hangover cure.

Bacon. Hashbrowns. Eggs. Add lots of pepper and consume.

I wandered over to the meeting and we were told what exactly happened, although those details were still very vague. We were then told to come back at 5pm where a final decision on the future of the tournament would be made. I went up to the room to write and played a bit of online poker. When I returned at 5pm, the tournament was officially canceled. A couple of drunk Venezuelans were stirring up shit and nearly caused a riot. I stayed at the back of the mob and left when I thought it might explode into a free-for-all.

I went up to my room to finish up a recap. I have covered hundred of tournaments all over the world and I had never seen anything like that happen before.

Nicky and I joined a couple of friends for the sunset down on the beach. That was followed up by dinner at the buffet (it was Italian night) and we returned to the outside bar. More beer. Bad cheese fries. And tequila.

I woke up on Sunday and guess what? Breakfast buffet. Otis had left. Most of my other friends were either departing or trying to find flights out of Mexico. Owen had to fly from Mexico to Prague for work. It would have cost $1,600 to change his flight. Nicky and I hung out on the beach for a bit. I wandered up to my room to watch football and check the scores. The resort aired local NYC stations like CBS, NBC, and ABC. And the football was dubbed in Spanish. It was funny to watch Los Gigantes and hear a lot of Spanish and football terminology mixed together.

At halftime of the Giants game, I decided to pull the trigger and look for flights out of Puerta Vallarta. It was pricey but I had such a bad vibe from the place that I wanted to get out of there. We had to drive to Vegas on Wednesday, so an extra day in LA would have been welcomed since I'm way behind on some projects. Nicky was ambivalent. She could have stayed on the beach and read, but she also saw the benefits for leaving one day earlier. So I booked us a flight on Alaskan Airlines. The last flight out of Mexico.

I'm glad that I left in the middle of the disaster of the Jets game. When we got to the airport, I noticed that there was no X-Ray machine for our checked baggage. Instead a couple of security guards with gloves conducted a hand search of my bag. I dunno what they were looking for. They avoided all the "real spots" that I would hide something. I didn't have anything to hide but if I did, I would have packed whatever contraband into certain spots that they overlooked.

Anyway, we survived security check in despite the fact that the ticket I had booked included a typo in my last name. The federalies didn't notice. We watched the end of the Cowboys/Steelers game at the bar. The flight was not full and Nicky and I had a row to ourselves. I completed the Swing Voter of Staten Island. Parts of it dragged and other parts were fantastic. I was happy that I finished it so I could move onto the next book in my pile that was penned by an old friend, Schanzer.

Our flight landed at LAX early. Immigration was a breeze and my backpack popped out as soon as I arrived at the baggage claim. I changed the rest of my Pesos and got a shitty rate but I didn't care. I was happy to be back in America.

The shuttle bus dropped us off in the parking lot and as Nicky and I made our way to her car she asked, "Is this the happiest you have been to see LA?"

I told her no. It was maybe the second or third happiest. The first was at the end of the 2007 WSOP when we left Vegas after a brutal 7 week assignment. And the second time was when I returned from Australia for the first time after being away for a month. The funny thing was that both those instances involved me being away for at least a month. I was in Mexico for only a couple of days and was glad to be back.

How did we celebrate? We immediately got wasted and drove to In and Out Burger. I had been going through ganja and iced tea withdrawal. At the end of devouring my 3x3, I managed to spill a newly topped off cup of iced tea all over Nicky's expensive handbag.

I shrugged and said something like, "If I ruined it, I'll buy you a new one."

"They don't make these anymore!" she shrieked.

She drove home to the apartment and it really was good to be back. I stayed up to write and Nicky crashed. Monday was a free day for us because we thought we were going to be losing it as a travel day. I wrote most of the morning and in the afternoon, I read the first three chapters of Schanzer's book Hamas vs. Fatah.

We also decided to buy a Christmas tree to spruce up the apartment. Nicky found a small lot on Olympic. We wandered around and inspected several trees. She found one that she liked within minutes. Her only requirement was that it had to be at least my height (or six feet). The tree we liked did not have a price tag. Nicky thought the real value was $40 or $50. When we pointed out the tree to the salesman he told me that the price tag was $65.

"How about $40."

"How about $55?" he said then he paused for a second and then muttered, "$50."

"Come on, you can do better," I said.

"$45," he said.


A young Mexican kid hauled the tree over to Nicky's car. He placed a strip of old carpet on the roof and tied the tree down. I tipped him $5 and his eyes widened. I'm guessing that was his biggest tip of the day, which I thought was standard, but he thought it was a lot.

Nicky sped home and realized she should be driving a little slower with a tree on her room. We set up the tree very quickly and within minutes, the entire apartment smelled like pine needles and marijuana.

When I woke up early this morning to write, I was greeted by the scent of Christmas.

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