The last bits of fun in the sun and beach relaxation therapy have come to a close. The Memorial Day weekend is upon us and the last place we want to be is stuck with masses who are flocking to the various beaches in Southern California as we speak to bask in the sun during this three-day weekend.
Summer is officially here, but before all the hoopla began, Nicky and I visited Malibu four times in the last five days. A secluded Malibu. The best kind of Malibu. We welcomed and took advantage of the quiet before the storm. Over the last week, Zuma Beach became our morning destination and we worked out along the beach before we rested on the sand where I finished up the last bits of brain nourishment.
Even a couple of douchebag hipster surfers showed up. With their boards attached to the roof, they drove a golf cart into the parking lot and parked next to us. Yes, the signs of impending summer were all around. There was lifeguard training classes running on the beach. The sheriff's department were in the middle of exercises involving ATVs. And the spam planes were back. On Friday, Nicky and I saw the first batch of planes dragging banners behind them. They flew up and down Zuma in circles and hawked iced tea and advertisements for the new Terminator flick. I ignored the sky spam and buried myself into a book.
Alas, the book binge is also coming to a close as I rush to finish three books simultaneously before we move to Las Vegas. Two of those are re-reads and one I've been skimming one heavily since it's a monster of a book. The other re-read is supper slim and the choice of words is so eloquent and rich and that's why he's one of the best novelists in the 20th century. I'm being vague on both titles for my own personal reasons. I'm keeping those secret because I firmly believe that those reads will "tip my hand" and my strategy for the upcoming WSOP. Then again, maybe I don't even draw upon those themes at all. Who knows. The bottom line is that I wanted to be prepared to write about something just in case the first week is super boring and there's nothing going on.
The last couple of months included one of the most epic reading binges in the last five years. I had more time to read and made a conscious effort to block out and set aside two times a day to read. Amazing how much free times magically appears when you spend less time watching TV and less time dicking around on the internet.
The books that I read fell into several categories...
1. Re-reading classics.Of course, all of those books served a secondary purpose... sort of a required reading for what I'm trying to achieve this summer as I embark on multiple adventures to cover both the WSOP and Phish's summer tour. It's almost like fighting a two-front war, which as history indicates, very few nation-states were successful in achieve supreme victory on both sides. That's why I needed all the help I can get both physically (friends and hired guns to help me out and yes, I realized that the Tao of Poker All Stars is sort of like me outsourcing my WSOP coverage to Blackwater special ops) and mentally (reading all those books on different subjects) to prep me for an all-out war this summer.
2. Recommendations from friends.
3. Current (global) events
5. General interest
I'm ready from the written side of things. Working on Lost Vegas since January (heck, over the last four years) made me a better self-editor and the results have been amazing. I usually write the first draft in my head and the second draft comes out when I unleash the words through my fingertips. Very seldom do I go in for a third draft and sometimes things are a little hectic and sloppy. If the energy is there, then that matters the most. But technically speaking, there are some flaws in even the best drafts. Over the last few weeks, I recognized my biggest flaws. Some were evident and others were shocking (and humbling) to discover. On a good note, now that I have more self-awareness in my writing, I have been actively taking steps to eliminate those deficiencies in my scribblings. I have Nicky to thank a lot for that during our tedious line-by-line read through of Lost Vegas.
I also guess that's why the last ten chapters of the book contained the least amount of edits. By that point in writing the book, I knew what to trim before I even wrote it. In the end, that saved both time and energy. I trimmed almost an entire NaNo book from the original draft to the current draft. People go nuts over writing 50,000 words inside of 30 days. I spliced that off and rejected a similar amount of words in a matter of days. It took years to write but just a second to hit delete.
I guess what I'm saying is that the book did not make me a better writer, but it made me a much better editor, which in the long run will make me a better writer.
And reading helps. If you want to be a top chef, you have to eat food prepared from the best chefs in addition to sampling different dishes from a variety of influences. If you want to become a better writer, you have to read. And I'm not talking about the garbage out there on blogs. Real literature. The big boys and girls. That's why I have been jumping back and forth between fiction and non-fiction and switching from business marketing to international politics to social sciences to economic theory to military strategy to rock-n-roll and music criticism. I have been devouring words from some of the best scribes in their individual fields.
The best part? With the exception of one or two books, I enjoyed every single book that I wrote. And that's why I keep wanting to keep reading. OK, I was a tad disappointed with Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis. It's a collection of essays and articles about the major financial crashes since the 1987 stock market crash. It was not as in depth on the current situation as I had hoped. His contributions were spot-on and were some of my favorite pieces in the book. Then again, the book wasn't billed as something of that sort... more of a primer and a thorough recap of the previous situations which created panic and instability in our financial markets.
Ryan recommended a book called Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization by John Robb. He's a former air force intelligent officer and heads up the Global Guerrillas blog. You hear a lot of partisan and religious chatter about the various wars on terror and other skirmishes in the world, and Robb gives a different perspective on things specifically how technology has enabled smaller groups to effectively wage war on larger and better equipped adversaries.
And then sandwiched in between, I read the book about my favorite burger joint...
In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman. Which means that I wake up every morning craving In & Out burger!
And yes, I had it twice this week. Once when Nicky lost a bet to me and the other on the way back from Zuma. I have to give Nicky tremendous credit about her discipline to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. She went through the drive through and did not order anything as much as I knew she was dying to bite into a juicy burger drenched in cheese and grilled onions. Yeah, my special order is a 3x3 with grilled onions and spread... no lettuce or tomatoes. I'm considering getting a 4x or maybe 4 patties with just 3 pieces of cheese. That would make it a 4x3. Or a 3x4? I have no idea since it's off the menu and have never ordered it before.
Oh, and I've been brewing my own iced tea using extra mason jars that we acquired over the last couple of months. The first batch was Green tea with mint flavoring. It was a success and then I tried Earl Grey since we had an entire box that was never used. That ended up being the best of the bunch. I also used distilled water. The entire point of brewing your own iced tea is to create a cheap and healthy beverage. Sure the bottled water increases the expenses incurred to make the tea, but it's worth it. The tea tastes better when brewed with bottled water than the local tap water. Shit, I might brew up another batch as soon as I hit publish.