Tuesday, March 31, 2009

las vegas > burbank

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

During my first night in Las Vegas, I was awoke by the sounds of people screaming. An argument transpired in the room next door. An Asian family. Sounded like three or more people screaming at each other for a few minutes before I heard the door slam and then it stopped.

The people on the other side of me were Bud Ice drinkers. I didn't know that they still manufactured Ice genre beers anymore. They left empties behind. A twelve pack of cans. Some kicked them over and a lone empty sat upside down in front of my door.

The Castle was surprisingly populated. Las Vegas has been feeling the crunch and the different businesses drastically slashed prices for hotels, restaurants, and airfare. The rooms at the castle were less than $40 per night. A sheer bargain. But the cheap prices attracted a lot of tourists with families seeking a good value.

And what can be more gluttonous than an all-day all-you-can-eat buffet? Yes, for $25 you can eat all day at the Excalibur buffet. I dunno who would actually do such a horrendous activity, since the quality of food at the buffets in Las Vegas has also drastically declined.

On Friday night, I attended a cocktail party for Dream Team Poker at Caesar's Palace. Over the last five years, I have been invited to many of these poker industry functions so I know what to expect. However, this time, I was highly disappointed with the lack of flowing booze. No open bar. Boooo. Their finger food wasn't too shabby though and made up for the lack of liquor. I caught up with some old friends while I pitched a few ideas and got pitched in return.

The entire concept of team poker is rather new and plenty of industry figures stopped by to check it out. I had not seen so many influential poker people milling around ins ome time (perhaps last year's November Nine). I think everyone was curious. At the same time, the vultures were circling looking to see if they could steal, borrow, or become a part of the Dream Team Poker concept. And then there were the desperate souls... who were on the verge of losing their job or feared that their positions were in jeopardy. They were on an employment scouting mission.

Yes, it was a time to schmooze and kiss ass. I did not do either. I hung out with some friends and then hit the road.

I bet heavily on the March Madness games all weekend. It had been while since I didn't even think twice about slapping down four figures on a game. Thursday was up and down and I wet 1-1. I woke up scared on Friday and reduced the sizes of my bets. I went 2-1. On Saturday, I stepped up and bet big again. The result? 2-0 by sheer luck.

With less than two minutes to go in the UConn/Missouri game, UConn held a three point lead. The spread was six and that queasy feeling invaded my stomach that I always got when I was about to lose an absurd amount of money on a single basketball game. After a time out, A.J. Price drilled a jump shot. UConn led by 5. Missouri missed a jumper and UConn's Kemba Walker snagged the rebound and Missouri quickly fouled the freshman guard from the Bronx. Walker averaged 9 points a game all year. He had scored 23 points in total after the first three March Madness games... and he equaled that number with a 23 point performance to lead UConn in scoring. Walker calmly hit four free throws down the stretch to put his team up by 9 with 50 seconds left. Matt Lawrence from Missouri dropped a trey to get within six. Missouri fouled and UConn hit two free throws. 78-70 with 41 seconds to go. Missouri missed a three pointer, secured the rebound and missed a layup before finally scoring. 78-72 with 23 seconds to go. Two more successful free increased the lead to 8. Missouri made me sweat the final seconds when Zaire Taylor drilled a three pointer. Are you fuckin' shitting me? 80-75 with 12 seconds to go. Missouri fouled Craig Austrie, who hit two of the biggest free throws in recent sports betting memory for me. 82-75 with seven seconds left. The spread was 6 fuckin' points and Zaire Taylor missed a layup with 0:02 on the clock. The final score? 82-75. UConn miraculously covered on a missed layup. Wow. That was a tremendous swing. Instead of breaking even for the day, I scored a nice chunk of cash.

Sunday? I continued the heater and went 2-0. It seemed so easy. I could not explain why it happened. As soon as I looked up at the Big Boards with the point spreads, I instantly knew who I was going to pick. No intense research and mulling over the stats. I went with my gut because the more research that I did... the more indecisive I became.

Suffice to say, I'm more than pleased with the results. I have not had a score like this... in a very long time. I'm gonna use the winnings for a couple of things including Phish tour and to help supplement the income that I missed out on for taking off a few months to write Project Z.

Dream Team Poker was a lot of fun because I got to play with friends and everyone was having a good time. I bet on basketball every day and I stayed out of the pits. Not one single hand of Pai Gow and I avoided the craps tables. I engaged in plenty of random prop bets. On Saturday, I ate for free... twice. Once at the Bellagio and the other at Caesar's Palace. We had a breakfast meeting at the Bellagio and Shaniac wanted to play Price Is Right for the bill. I picked the closest number and his pick was the farthest off so he had to pay the bill.

Later that night, I ate dinner with Michalski. It was an adventure because the waiter fucked up his meal. He asked for a Cuban sandwich and instead he got a Reuben sandwich. Michalski was so hungry that he ate half of the Reuben sandwich and all of the friends before the waiter checked up on us. Michalski mentioned the mistake and the waiter brought him a fresh Cuban sandwich. He was so stuffed eating both of them that he could not finish his Cuban and asked for a to go box. Part of me thought that he did that on purpose. Since he's a Las Vegas resident, he picked up a couple of angle shooting traits. Some would call it low brow, but others would say that he took advantages of flaws in the system. Anyway, Michalski taught me how to play 1 to 1000 and we played it to determine who paid for the meal. My stars were aligned because I won. Free meal again.

On Sunday morning, Friedman and his wife Jen took me on a hike to Red Rock Canyon. We went up to a point where I had never been before. We climbed up a decent amount and we stopped at a significant height. I took a few pic before we headed back into town for breakfast. That was one of my favorite points of the weekend. Nature always humbles me and I love touching the rocks because I always write better after I do that. I also centered myself while sitting up on the side of the mountain, as the gusting winds whipped around.

As Lao Tzu said, "Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind rest at peace."

Sunday night? More degenerate prop betting, which involved beer/generic vicodin bowling at South Coast. Even though I was crocked, I smoked Michalski int he first two games and he begged me for a buy out. I gave in and lost a few bucks on the last game. Overall, I won $60 and got free bowling out of it.

Monday was sort of a weird day. A couple of meetings were cancelled at the last minute and I had over seven hours to kill before my flight back to LA. I had a sizable amount of cash on me and worried that I'd lose it all. I grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the poker room at Mandalay Bay. I was lucky that I only lost two buy-ins while I played poker for several hours. It could have been a lot worse.

My flight was about 40% empty and I had an entire row to myself. We landed early in Burbank and it was good to be back in SoCal and see Nicky when she pulled up to the curb outside of Bob Hope airport.

This quick Vegas trip? Fun time. Heck, the last two Vegas trips were a ton of fun (including last December). I prefer heading to Vegas for the primary purpose of hanging out with friends than to go there for work.

Anyway, we recorded several new episodes of Tao of Pokerati. Head over to Tao of Poker to listen to the new episodes... Dream Team Poker Podcasts.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Pic Dump

By Pauly
Las Vegas

Here are a few pics from the last couple of days...










Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dream Team Poker - Tao of Pokerati's 420 All Stars

By Pauly
Las Vegas


I'm playing in the Dream Team Poker tournament over at Caesar's Palace today at noon where 170 teams (3 players per team) are vying for a nice chunk of change in the second installment of Dream Team Poker. Some teams? Defending champs Team Bluff Magazine (Matt Parvis, Eric Morris & Justin Bonomo), Yo Momma (Lacey Jones, Tiffany Michelle, Maria Ho), Team PokerListings (Liz Lieu, Matt Stout, and Quinn Do) and Wicked Chops Poker (Chops, Addict, and Jason Calacanis).

My team? Tao of Pokerati's 420 All Stars featuring Shaniac as our secret weapon and of course, everyone's favorite Texas blogger... Dan Michalski.

I'll be sweating my bets and hopefully playing poker deep into the evening.

A full recap and review will be posted on Tao of Poker in the upcoming days. We're also recording several Tao of Pokerati podcasts.

And if you want instant updates and half-baked commentary of my progress during the Dream Team Poker tournament, you can follow me on Twitter (taopauly).

Twitter Advisory: I update my Twitter feed regularly so please opt out for phone updates if you do not have unlimited text messaging.

Friday, March 27, 2009

burbank > las vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas

I changed my flight at the last minute. I was scheduled to fly out of Long Beach around noonish, which would have got me into Las Vegas in time to watch the March Madness Sweet 16 games. I arranged that flight before Phish announced their summer tour. They scheduled Red Rocks tickets to go onsale to the public at the same time. Red Rocks was going to be one of the hardest tickets to get... as bad if not worse than the Hampton shows due to the intimate setting of the natural amphitheater in Colorado. If Nicky drove me to Long Beach airport, that significantly reduced our chances at getting lucky. I switched flights and had to change airports. Nicky preferred the change since Burbank was much closer to where we lived than Long Beach.

Of course, we both whiffed on the Red Rocks tickets. We knew our chances were slim to none, and none smacked us in the face. Slightly rejected, I knew that my fate would be determined by the college basketball games. I broke my self-imposed betting restrictions in order to win enough money for three different things including paying for summer Phish tour (something that I had always done in the past) and winning enough money to subsidize Project Z. I turned down a significant amount of freelance work over the last two months and expect to turn down more work in the upcoming months. I still have bills to pay and hopefully March Madness can help supplement my decreased income.

My futures success depends on my ability to firmly believe in me, my artistic abilities, and my decisions.

We take so many leaps of faith in life with regard to relationships, religions, career, and politics... that we often fail to take the most import leap of faith with ourselves. We're at such an important crossroads right now. People are scared and confused and they tend to rely upon others to give them comfort and security. For some reason, I'm having a suspicious feeling about giving into those thoughts. I want to remain self-reliant and independent of the system. That means that the only one I can count on is... myself.

I flew out to Vegas with a tinge of anxiety. I had not bet that much on a game in a while. The gravity of the consequences sat heavy on my shoulders as Nicky dropped me off at the airport.

I always check-in using a kiosk at the JetBlue desk. I double-checked my seat assignment. My flight was almost half full. I found an entire empty row and switched my seat. I'm used to flying on fully booked flights. It was weird to see so few people at the gate, where they don't have too many seats in the waiting area.

We boarded five minutes early and within ten minutes, everyone was seated. That's what happened when you did not have a full flight. A group of three very drunk Asian girls stumbled onto the plane at the last minute. They had been drinking because one of them must have muttered it out loud no less than fourteen times. They were headed to Vegas for a bachelorette party.

"So who's getting married?" asked a very flaming male flight attendant.

"The one with the rock!" shouted the drunk girl as the soon-to-be bride shot her hand up in the air so the flight attendant could inspect her ring.

During taxi and takeoff, the girls discussed whether or not her fiance should have spent more money on her engagement ring. I tuned them out and focused on the basketball game. One of the benefits of JetBlue were the TVs. The flight was around 35 minutes total. As soon as you reached cruising altitude, it was time to start the descent.

The hardest part about watching the game? It was on a plane and I like to pace frantically back and forth when I watch the games at home. You can't really do that on a plane, especially on such a short flight. Besides, these days, if you frantically walk up and down the aisles with a bewildered look on your face, chances are an overzealous passenger freaks out and tells the captain that you're a terrorist so when the plane finally lands, I'm warmly greeted by the federales and tossed into Gitmo... just because I was sweating the UCONN/Purdue game.

I watched the first half before we landed. When I exited the plane, I had never seen McCarran airport that empty at 5pm on a Thursday. I rushed outside and met Friedman who happily agreed to pick me up. He immediately commented on the vibe of Las Vegas during the current Great Depression.

"Vegas turned into a Thursday through Sunday kind of town," he said. "It's dead in the beginning of the week but starts to pick up now."

Friedman drove me to a sports book so I could put down more money on Memphis. I caught the score of the UCONN game at Red Rock casino before we drove to the supermarket. Friedman suggested a BBQ. Sounded like a good idea and we headed back to his house to watch the rest of the games. Memphis was down early ad that queasy feeling festered in my stomach, sort of that feeling you get moments before you throw up. Imagine that feeling for almost two hours.

I won my first bet and lost my second bet. I almost broke even for the day, but it was a devastating loss. Friedman drove me back to the Strip and I checked into my hotel. The girl at the front desk offered me a room on the 13th floor. She sort of asked for my permission before she assigned me the room. I told her that I didn't have Triskaidekaphobia... or a fear of the number 13. She smiled and handed me a wad of coupons. I got two free drinks and a number of other crappy promotions. I kept the drink tickets and threw out the rest.

I went up to my room and sat on the edge of the bed. I took a deep breath and said, "I can't believe I just lost (insert number here)."

Over the last six months, I took a massive hit in the stock market in the six figure range. I easily lost more money in different trading sessions in the last 180 days. However, I did not control my fate in those instances. The blood was on the hands of my broker(s) and financial advisers. On Thursday, I regained control of my money and put it into play in another form of gambling... March Madness. I started the day up a hefty amount and lost the entire day's winnings on one game. It hurt like a muthafucker. Like someone scooped out my testicles.

I had a short period of self-loathing before it was time to stop fretting about the past and focus on the future. I studied the Friday games and matchup for Saturday. I still had a game plan and I couldn't allow a minor setback knock me off course.

I woke up early on Friday and went for a walk. The first thing I saw? A pregnant woman smoking a cigarette while she sat at the 'Rich Little Piggies' slot machines. I missed the absurdity of Las Vegas.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thermal Bad

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had a dream early this morning. I originally woke up around 5:30am to take a piss. I went back to bed for less than twenty minutes and in that short time frame, I had the most vivid dream that I had experienced in several weeks.

...

I was in prison. Incarcerated for war crimes that I committed during two different stints on Wall Street. Shady bond trades in the 1990s and then churning and burning accounts of innocent Americans in the wake of 9/11 when I used to get on the phone use the patriot card to bully scared sheeple to invest in whatever bullshit stock that I was told to pitch that day. I used to be a slimy weasel on the phone and I got nailed for all of those injustices. I was thrown into a low security prison. A country club prison. The cells? More like a dorm room... without a lock on the door. I was free to roam the halls as I pleased and only a a series of large barbed wired fences kept me in.

Nicky was in the dream. She showed up for a conjugal visit. I told her that I was happy that I had been there for a few weeks and hadn't been raped in the shower. It turned out that everyone else in the prison were white collared criminals in their 40s and 50s. Crooked lawyers and accountants and other Wall Street types. They spent most of the time on the putting green around the corner from the tennis court.

I continued to update my blog and called up Otis to help me. I left voice messages and Otis would transcribes those and post them to the Tao of Pauly or Tao of Poker depending on the subject matter since we gambled a lot for cigarettes after dinner.

...

It was an odd dream and then I woke up. All that guilt had built up after two stints on Wall Street. I was naive and impressionable in my 20s and didn't know any better. However, I knew what was up the second time around and I was a glorified con man... in a better looking suit and with lamented business cards.

I worked on the latest issue of Truckin'. There are three writers who are at least 55 years or older. There are five scribes in total for the April issue. The other two? Betty Underground and myself. I gotta say that I'm excited for the next issue to showcase the talents of a trio of Baby Boomers.

I have been heavily distracted this week and managed minimal work on Project Z. Instead of freaking out, I accepted my fate this week. It just wasn't the perfect time to finish it up. Since I leave for Vegas on Thursday for four days, I decided to hold off for the last big spurt until next week. My new self-imposed deadline for the draft is April 5th... which is about a week longer than I originally anticipated. It could have been a lot worse.

And yes, I'm going to Las Vegas for several reasons. One is gambling, of course. I'm gonna try to win enough money to pay for Phish Red Rocks tickets which are going to cost me dearly since I whiffed on lottery/mail order. I'm heading out there for business reasons and have a couple of meetings scheduled. I'm also playing in an event at Caesar's Palace for Dream Team Poker. It's a tournament with teams of three players instead of just individuals. I'm playing with Michalski and Shaniac. Our team name is... Tao of Pokerati's 420 All Stars.

I found out the other day that I have been approved for press credentials at the 2009 WSOP. I will be moving to Las Vegas this summer for a fifth year in a row to cover the WSOP. This year is special because I have been credentialed under the Tao of Poker. I'm actually excited this summer. When I thought that 2006 was tough, I had the worst time in the summer of 2007. Parts of last year were fun, with the exception of the accident, but I went into last year looking forward to the summer because for the first time in a very long time I had 100% creative control. And I get that again this summer. That freedom does wonders for my writing and for my mental status.

Of course, I have to survive this impending trip first. I have 24 hours to get some work done before I fly out to Sin City, which means that I gotta go...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grills, Chills and Pills

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I squeezed in between an empty chair at the end of the counter in between two people; a 60 year old guy reading the LA Times while eating biscuits and gravy, and young woman with a intricate colored scarf with abundant greens, glowing reds, and charming yellows. She was trying too hard for a Slumdog Millionaire inspired hipster chic. I slowly read the daily specials written on a white board in a green magic marker.
2 eggs & 4 pieces of fried chicken with 1/2 order of apple walnut French toast 2 pcs & coffee --- 10.45
Wow. That special was so un-LA, and something that I'd see somewhere in Virginia. Usually the specials were a healthy version of something like an "avocado-chipolte burger without a bun." That's what I loved about Nick's, an old school greasy spoon diner, well within walking distance of our apartment. Nicky loved to drive to Nick's which was a block and a half away. She recently got a ticket when the meter expired and an overzealous metermaid shook her down. That was a costly breakfast on that morbid day and as expected she was wicked pissed.

"Come on! Fucking L.A. ticketing douchebags!"

I teased her to no end that she got the ticket out of sheer laziness. If we had walked, we never would have acquired said ticket. Then again, that's one of those unique things that made LA what it was, sort of how locals budget in parking tickets to their monthly expenses and the fact that every drove everywhere.

I usually brought something to read when I went to the coffeeshop by myself. Most recently, I edited pages at the counter while I waited for my breakfast. On Saturday morning? I had nothing with me to occupy the time so I watched the TV that hovered above my head. Women's basketball on ESPN. Freakishly tall women, tomboys, and lesbian types ran up and down the court and I zoned out for a few minutes as the a million and one things transpired at the crowded diner.

I heard a clanging sound of a knife falling to the ground. The strong aroma of coffee swirled around the crowded eatery. The busboy rushed to pour three waters into plastic cups. A baby screeched behind me. What the fuck? Was I on JetBlue flight #212 to Long Beach? I had not heard the mind-numbing wailing from a wee one since my last airborne sojourn. I sat still and sent mind-melding messages to the cooks to fire up my order next. As I waited for my breakfast as my stomach growled and howled like a dozen famished stray dogs. A trio of hipsters in ironic t-shirts crammed into the back booth and ordered their meals. I overheard a few key words like... chorizo. Over easy. Turkey bacon. Strawberries.

The busboy brought over a plastic cup with chocolate sauce that collected on the bottom fifth. He poured milk into the cup and the white liquid quickly darkened. He rushed the milk over to the crying kid behind me. The cook at the egg station flicked his wrist and flipped a couple of fried eggs. Sausages and chorizo and piles of finely shredded hashbrowns sizzled on the grill, as he muttered something in Spanish to the cook next to him working on an order of pancakes.

I sipped ice tea and admired the cooks who diligently worked in synchronicity, sort of like the duo of Grateful Dead drummers. They were true artists and the heart and soul of the breakfast rush. If they had an off day? Everything got fucked up. Nothing was worse that waiting for an hour to eat breakfast and then getting a shitty meal. That's no way to start the day. They were the pebbles that rippled through the pond.

I had been up for a couple of hours writing God knows what sort of shitstorm on an empty word doc. My head was weighed down in pharmaceutical hangover. It craved more. It craved less. After the standard binger for the road, I locked up the apartment, shielded my eyes from the California sun, I stumbled down the palm-tree lined street baked to the tits, past the "FOR RENT" signs that peppered every other lawn on my way to the coffeeshop.

The coffeeshop lost a couple of tables after the car smashed through the front last weekend. They still haven't fixed everything and made due with what they had. The show must go on. It's always packed on weekends and six hungry customers stood outside waiting for an open table. Six more people huddled near register. One of the waiters saw me walk in and pointed to the end of the counter. There was one empty seat and it was mine for the taking. No wait for me. Eating solo meant eating faster. And I tipped those guys so much that I was almost guaranteed to get my order bumped to the front of the line.

I didn't even need a menu. He brought over an iced tea and I ordered a breakfast sandwich.

"So easy," he said and gave me a high five.

That's when the old guy fell down behind me. I dunno if he slipped or lost his balance. I heard a thud and one of the waitresses shrieked, "Are you OK?"

I took a deep breath. The first high of the day, wow, you can't beat that. And after a 2 day bender of basketball and bong hits. I had been raging solo all night long peering into my own inanity. Sometimes you don't know how wasted you really were until you went out in public and were in a situation around sober people. Sort of like being in a bar and drinking with other drinkers. You don't know how shitfaced loud annoying drunkard you are until you wander into church or a tile store.

Cottage cheese. Who the fuck eats that with an omelete? The waitress carried a plate with a mound of cottage cheese sitting on one end. An excessive eyesore. In a pageant of grease and artery clogging great American food stuffs, some LA-actress-model-whatever type needed to watch her slender figure.

Where do those people come from? There's a whole lot of them at 9:43am on a Saturday. I probably should have stayed home and gobbled down a bowl of Kashi cereal while I sat in my boxers and blasted Art Blakely. At least Kashi is better than that Grape Nuts gravel and sludge that I used to eat every morning. And nothing beats the love, compassion, and savory outbursts of every single morsel of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.

The bagel is the perfect breakfast pastry, and I wished that the surrounding area had a proper bagel place. And we live in a Jewish neighborhood, which is a shame that you can't find a decent bagel. That's a travesty in my mind, and makes me miss NYC more. I don't miss spring snow, but hot damn, the sunshine is infectious.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Scouting Hoops and Locations

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I forgot how much I missed the insanity and absurdity of March Madness and how someone like me gets to fully appreciate every aspect of the opening round when I can do nothing for four straight days except sit on the couch, rip bong hits, and recklessly gamble money on meaningless basketball games.

Oh, what might things arise from such trivial pursuits!

I went to Nick's coffeeshop and walked in and it was crawling with cops. They were on Obama motorcade/traffic detail. The President was in town to tape Leno and the LAPD had to play second fiddle to secret service, while the all mighty Obama got to crack retard jokes and dodge arrows from guys like Coach K from Duke, who was pissed that the Chief picked intra-state rival UNC over the Dukies. Boo hoo. Dean Smith would not have given a rat's ass. (At least Duke repsonded with a victory... and more importantly, they covered too, which hooked me up big time.)

I quickly ate my breakfast and rushed back to the apartment. I put in the last of my bets and then fired up the TV. I rarely sit on the couch and veg out for hours on end, so it was a treat to have the TV on from 9am for over 12 straight hours. I even watched several games online since CBS always fucked me and aired a game on TV that I didn't want to watch and all the games that I bet on happened to be online.

Commercials. Too many commercials. That set me on tilt, but since Showcase's commercial might come on, I sat through hours and hours of them. Yeah, I was hoping to see Showcases commercial, and I caught it twice in nine hours. It might have been on more, but I have no clue. He even stopped by for an hour of so while he was dogsitting. I had not seen that particular dachshund in a year or so. If you don't recall, the little hot dog loved to nibble on his nuts. Swear to God. The dog went to town on his weiner and then popped a massive chubby. He spent ten minutes straight chewing on his balls and cock. Of course, this went down while I watched the games as Showcase eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of his commercial. Sadly, it did not air during the time we hung out.

He asked if he could use my office to shoot a short film. He needed a location for a scene that took place in an office. It was perfect due to geographical limitations. The guy who lived upstairs was a cinematographer. He was going to shoot one of the scenes of the short film in his apartment and then run downstairs to my office and shoot that scene. It really simplified the shoot. I agreed and supposedly the director wants to stop by on Friday to "inspect the location."

How about that? The once barren room that Nicky renovated will be used in a film. In addition, I hope that they leave my paintings up on the wall... or at least one.

When Showcase left, I had to appear on Lou Krieger's radio show. They called my cell and we did the show that way. Of course, I had been partying all day and was a bit faded by the time we did the show... live... and I stumbled the first ten minutes, like I usually do because of nerves, but after that, everything flowed and I calmed down a bit. We talked a little bit about March Madness and a lot about highs takes cash games. Of course, I was a tad distracted with keeping my eyes on the game in the background.

And yes, during a sudden rabid case of the munchies, I ate an entire bag of Mint Milanos and drank an entire carton of Arnold Palmer's own iced tea/lemonade mix called... Arnold Palmer.

Just as March Madness ended on Thursday night, I hit three bets in a row that saved my ass. Instead of being down $500, I turned a small profit. It made me sleep like a baby.

So I keep tabs of Phish chatter on twitter. The funny thing is that late nights, most of the chatter is dominated by non-Phisheads and people who are eating Ben & Jerry's Phish Food and tweeting about their Midnight munchies... where as once the morning comes around, the Phishy chatter pops back up.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Up Before the Dawn...

By Pauly
Hollyeird, CA

Wednesday was a rollercoaster of emotion. Lots of gnarly highs and a couple of lowly lows. I got caught up in hours of self-expression and then found myself involved in a maelstrom of uncertainty after a compute glitch. In short, I thought that Santa Claus dropped off a present early... when in fact I discovered that Santa Claus did not even exist.

So now its Thursday morning. 6ish. The skies are still dark and inklings of sunlight are on the horizon ready to burst through as a garbage truck roared down the street and I pecked away to the faint sounds of birds chirping. Ah, the early bird gets the worm and I'm ready to pounce today and make some money. I have not earned much of a living over the last two months compared to previous years. I stopped covering tournaments (except for the Bahamas) and turned down several assignments so I can finish off Project Z. Only a couple of monthly columns and Tao of Poker are keeping me afloat... and yet, I'm still chasing down late checks from different clients.

I had my best writing session of the week on Wednesday. I made some serious headway and cranked out two chapters. I wrote about a painful experience (physically and emotionally), something that I had been dreading ever since the incident happened. I guess I finally have some closure. At this point, I'm back on my 5K/day word pace and completed five new chapters. The end is near. The mission is clear. It's later than you think.

I took a dinner break and ordered a Philly cheesesteak from the pizza joint around the corner. I left my apartment and got a call from the Joker. He said that Phish tickets for Red Rocks were onsale. They were scheduled to be sold next weekend, but he found out that they released them and he jumped online and snagged two four-day passes... including one for me. Holy shit! Aside from the reunion shows at Hampton, the four night run at Red Rock at the end of July was going to be the hardest ticket to secure on their summer tours.

The sale was short-lived and shut down in 15 minutes. Rumors raced all over the intertubes about what happened. I speculated that Phish decided to screw over the ticket scalpers and released tickets early to ensure their fans got them. Others insisted that it was a glitch. While a few hopefuls assumed that it was an inside job and that there was a wookie sleeper cell deep in the bowels of Ticketbastard and they flipped the switch so fans could snag tickets before the brokers and scalpers.

I was floating on air for a couple of hours until the reality sunk in. I had to prepare myself to not get tickets just in case it was a glitch because in those instances, Ticketbastard had been known to cancel tickets. That's when I got word from the Joker around Midnight Colorado time. Our Phish tickets were cancelled.

Dreams crushed.

Oh well. Talk about an emotional evening.

I spent the rest of the night in gambler's mode. On the eve of March Madness, I was finalizing the last bits of the Pauly's Pub pool and I expected that this year would set new records. I researched my picks for Thursday games and crunched the numbers. I'm gonna be spreading around my money... small bets on long shots and big bets on sure things. I'm looking to grind out a small profit over the next four days and then I'm gonna bet heavily next weekend in Vegas and try to make some real money. The proceeds will go to fund the rest of Project Z and to pay for Phish summer tour.

I also played a Mookie's weekly poker tournament. I rarely play tournaments these days and stick to cash games, but I wanted to mix things up and prep myself for next weekend when I play in the Dream Team poker event at Caesars Palace. I fared pretty well considering I was a bit rusty. I finished in 15th place out of 83 and only made one minor mistake.

As soon as I busted out of the tournament, I jumped into Nicky's car. I had not driven it since I dropped her off at the airport on Sunday morning. Almost 3.5 days without driving. Most people in LA would scratch their heads at that concept... but as a New Yorker... I walked everywhere that I needed to go. Except that the Ralph's was kinda far away and I needed the car to haul all the groceries. I needed to stock up for four straight days of March Madness. I loaded up on necessary supplies. Now I don't have to leave the house and have enough drinks, food, and buds to last me until Sunday afternoon when Nicky returns from South America.

Who shops at Ralph's shortly before Midnight?

Stoners and pregnant women.

The store was almost empty... no more than ten customers total and I saw no less than three women who were carrying around buns in their ovens. Wow... 30% preggers. I figured that the rest of the customers were potheads aimlessly roaming the aisles looking for munchies. Two twenty-something chicks were stoned to the tits as they wandered up and down the cookie aisle. I was there debating which type of Pepperidge Farm Milanos to buy. These days, there are so many options, so while I weighed the benfits of the traditional mint Milanos versus the chocolate mint Milanos. I overheard them giggle when they turned around and realized that the cookie aisle was opposite of the Kosher food section.

The only stoner impulse buy that I got happened to be a piece of chocolate fudge cake for $1.99. I also bought more water. I'm sorta water paranoid these days and have been stocking up on gallons and gallons of water for the apartment. I have been slowly constructing my Armageddon closet which actually serves a purpose in a earthquake zone like LA, whereas the most likely scenario is a 6.0 earthquake knocks out water and electricity for a couple of days... so we'll be more than prepared.

So now it's super early, but the March Madness games start at 9:20am west coast time. I needed to get a couple of hours of writing in before I embarked on the gambler's binge.

Oh, and I created a new photo gallery on Flickr... Chop Marks & Currency. It's self explanatory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dis-tract-ed

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

On Monday afternoon, I got side tracked by a conversation that I thought would take thirty minutes but ran over to 2.5 hours. Time flew. I rarely speak on the phone, but I took the opportunity to catch up with an old friend. We both recommended documentary films to each other and we spoke about our takes on each one. That discussions spun off into other areas involving politics and philosophy and we eventually pontificated about the dystopian future of America.

As much as I enjoyed the conversation, part of me was purposely procrastinating. A few weeks ago, I would have never even considered leaving my phone on, let alone actually talking during day light hours. Alas, I was very slow to get back on the horse with Project Z and did not want to rush things. But at the same time, I wanted to remain disciplined.

I did not read the entire draft (39 chapters worth) twice over like I originally planned during the LA/NYC round trip flight. Instead, I read the last three chapters. I sat at the counter at Nick's coffeeshop on Monday morning and ate a breakfast sandwich while I made minor notes with a red pen. When I returned to the apartment, I struggled through the late morning and early afternoon. After I shook off the rust, I printed everything up and then tore it to shreds. On my second pass, I condensed three chapters into two. I wasn't pleased with my overall productivity and I settled on just 5,000 words and two chapters. Little did I know that I'd complete less on Tuesday.

On Monday night, I spoke with the Human Head. He always has some interesting things to say and after our talk, I always leave with a bunch of quality book suggestions. But I gotta say, I'm always a little paranoid after our talks. It's the heaviness of the subject matter. I make sure the door is locked and I peek out the window shades to make sure no one is watching me.

It's like when I talk about 2012 with the Joker. He told me that he hate watching those videos on YouTube late at night because he freaks out and thinks there's an alien hiding in his closet.

I found myself distracted in a good way on Tuesday morning. I woke up to a flurry of text messages and emails about the Phish at Fenway rumor. Kid Dynamite insisted that they were going to play on June 1st after a friend of his in the Red Sox organization confirmed the rumor. I quickly penned a post for Coventry and spent an hour or so fielding emails. Senor was super pumped when he found out the possibilty of a show in his neck of the woods, as he should be since he was a Red Sox fan.

I wandered over to Nick's for breakfast. I printed up the two chapters that I wrote the night before and sat down to edit. Halfway through my edits, I got a call from the Joker. He said that Phish released their late summer tour dates. I gobbled up the rest of my egg white omelete and rushed home. I quickly placed my mail order/lottery selections and hoped that I'd fare better this time around than the first leg of summer tour when I virtually got shut out.

I was sorta surprised with the venues and the dates. It's a short 12 show tour but the shows are spread out, making it almost impossible to see every show by a car caravan. Even with flying in between shows, it would be tough to do the entire tour, especially since I'm not getting any younger. Just like the first leg of summer tour, I had to make a hard decision and skip a show based on geographic complications (I had to skip St. Louis and decided to drive to Cincy and get a day of rest before the last four shows). For late summer, I decided to skip Chicago in order to see the other 11 shows. I essentially split the tour into West Coast and East Coast legs.

The late summer tour kicks off in Denver with four shows at Red Rocks then heads to Northern California for one night and then two shows at the Gorge in central Washington state, before the tour skips to Chicago for one night before they finish up four shows on the east coast (Buffalo, Hartford, Baltimore/DC, and upstate NY).

Back in the day, Phish would spread out 20+ shows over 4 or 5 weeks, which gave you the opportunity to drive the entire tour. Not this time around. Yeah, it's gonna be one tough trip. I'm going to fly from LA to Denver, then fly back to LA to drive up to San Fran with Nicky, then drive 800 miles to the Gorge, before we drive back to LA. Then, I'll fly to NYC so I can finish out the rest of the tour. I could have squeezed in Chicago, but that's just too much flying, too much money, and I'd be cutting it close. If the Hampton shows sucked, I would not be going so crazy to make this happen. Since they blew the roof off the Mothership, I didn't blink about blocking off the rest of my summer for Phish tour. Plus, I have been hearing conflicting rumors about a multi-day festival in either Vermont or perhaps outside of Austin.

I had hoped that there would be a show at the Hollywood Bowl in August, which was heavily rumored but failed to materialize, since we wouldn't have to travel too far for the show. At least we'd get to see four shows in Denver and crash with the Joker and party it up with his crew. I always love going to Colorado after a long summer in Las Vegas. I did it three out of the last four years.

Anyway, most of my morning and early afternoons included some serious trip planning, budget crunching, and wheeling and dealing for tickets. When I looked at the time, I was shocked that it was almost 2pm. I had been up for 8+ hours and did not write a single word.

I forced myself to peck away at the keyboard. I wrote a chapter and ended up erasing the entire thing. It wasn't because I was distracted, it was because the content sucked, so I trashed it all. That was not the start I had hoped for. By 3pm, I found my groove and two hours later I completed a brand new chapter. Solid stuff too, and much better than anything I wrote on Monday.

I stopped for an early dinner and ordered a pizza. For my name, I used one of the guys from Phish.

I chatted with my brother and watched the World Baseball Classic. Team USA was on the brink of being eliminated. I tried to avoid the boob tune since I knew I'd be stuck in front of it for four straight days during March Madness.

On Monday night, I watched the first two episodes of the new season of Breaking Bad about a chemistry teacher who gets terminal cancer and decides to cook up meth to make some money for his family. I never saw the first season (shortened by the writer's strike), but Nicky raved about it. Out of the two episodes that I saw, I gotta say it's much better than I thought. More dark and violent than the half-baked Weeds.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slumdog LA

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I woke up at an extraordinary hour on Sunday. I sat in the still darkness as I pecked away at the laptop as music played at a very low volume. I fell asleep early for West Coast standards, but I was drained after a travel day and the painkillers (from my bum knee) made me sleepy.

When Nicky woke up around 7am, she finished packing. It was a travel day for her and she'd be in transit for the next 24 or so hours as she flew to Uruguay for a work assignment.

We drove to Nick's Coffeeshop. I had not been there in two weeks. As soon as we pulled into a parking space in front of the place, we noticed the huge pieces of plywood over part of the front window. As we walked inside, we noticed more damage. The owner's son was cleaning the window and explained what had happened. Supposedly on Friday night after they had closed, someone lost control of their car. It skipped the curb, busted through a parking meter and then crashed into their front window. Luckily, no one was hurt and the restaurant did not suffer from severe structural damage. They were forced to delay opening up for the breakfast rush by three or four hours, but as soon as they could, it was business as usual.

I left for two weeks and all hell broke loose. And our slumlord rented out one of the two vacant apartments... to someone with a DOD sticker on their truck. Holy ape tits!

I dropped Nicky off at LAX and slowly drove back to the apartment with all of the other Sunday drivers. I'd be raging solo for a full week while she headed to South America. I welcomed the solitude especially since I'm in the final stretch to complete Project Z.

I spent most of Sunday afternoon writing other stuff. I was reluctant to re-start Project Z and instead, I focused on a couple of short stories. I wrote a story about a brownstone in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago, but then could not find where it was on my laptop. After a frantic search, it turned up in an unexpected place. Thank God. I really liked the tone of the piece and I hated to think how difficult it would be to write it again from scratch. I edited the first draft and then cranked out a second draft which was Truckin' worthy... perhaps even for the next issue.

I also penned another short story inspired by a thread on Phish message board about one kid's encounter with a Redneck couple in front of Popeye's on his way down to Hampton. He posted a couple of sentences which inspired me to write a full on short story with a similar theme.

Speaking of Phish, I wrote exclusively to Phish on Sunday afternoon. I couldn't believe how crisp and tight the band sounded at their reunion shows. One week later, I had enough time pass to allow the music to sink in. I also had the chance to listen to each of the shows a couple of times... in the car on the way home from Virginia/DC and while I wrote. It felt cool to crank up the volume and blast the ever funky MoMA Dance in the empty apartment.

Daddy even called to tell me about the high quality of playing of the reunion shows. He blasted the shows on his car stereo while he was driving home. He had to call me to tell me how much he dug them... and how excited he was for summer tour.

I took a break from writing to watch the NCAA selection show. March Madness was a blessing and a curse. I kinda wished that I had one extra week before it started so I could get a lot of work in before tipoff of the college basketball tournament. I have three solid days before the March Madness consumes my life for four straight days.

After the selection show ended, I walked over to Jack in the Box for a big assed iced tea. I wanted something to perk me up while I wrote. The place was almost empty except a few people at a booth in the far corner. There was no one at the counter when I walked in so I had to use the self-serve kiosk. They encourage customers to use the kiosk and even pimped a promotion that included two free tacos to anyone who used the machines.

I touched the screen and started to place my order... large drink and a chocolate cake for dessert. A kid ran up to me. He looked like he was 2 or 3 at the most. He wore pajamas pants and stood in front of me barefoot. Eye boogers dominated his eyes as snot ran down his face. He clutched something in his hand, which looked like a half-eaten egg roll. He watched me place my order and then bolted. Less than two seconds later, someone took his place, a sibling who looked like the first kid except that he was exactly twice his size and had a dirty face. He looked like he was 5 or 6 year old. He also wore pajamas pants and stood barefoot. He carefully watched me finish up my order on the kiosk.

"Would you like two free tacos?" said the voice from the kiosk.

Two boxes popped up... yes and no. The kid said, "Yes! Two free tacos!"

I looked at him and he glanced up at me with big droopy eyes. At that point his younger brother darted towards me. They both said, "Tacos! Tacos!"

I hit the no button and the older kid screamed something at me and then ran away. The little kid dropped his egg roll on the dirty floor. He looked at the floor, then looked at me, then looked at the floor before he picked it up and took a bite.

"What the hell? Is this L.A.'s version of Slumdog Millionaire?" I mumbled.

The kids were starving and hustling for free tacos. I wonder if their mom put them up to it? Or were they there by themselves? They obviously knew about the promotion and waited for someone who didn't want the free tacos and hoped that they could get them. I considered getting them the tacos, but quickly decided against the act of generosity. A middle-aged guy handing out free food to barefoot kids in Jack in the Box seemed overly suspicious. It was textbook behavior for pedophiles and I avoided the trap. I quickly escaped the plight and raced back to the apartment.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

jfk > burbank

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I woke up on Saturday morning in utter darkness. Friends in Las Vegas were sending me drunken texts. It was not that late their time but super early for me. I put on a couple of old Jazz records, the only thing that pierced the silence, as I wrote while the sun slowly awoke with the rest of the city.

I walked a couple of blocks to the bagel store as soon as it opened. I was starving and wanted to feast upon one last authentic NYC item before I split for the West Coast for an undetermined amount of time. I honestly don't know what my schedule will be the next two months. I might pick up a freelance assignment or two while I finish off Project Z... or I might stay put in LA while I finish it off.

I quickly packed my gear on Saturday morning. I acquired a couple of new things on this journey and I also left behind some items for the next Phish tour. Kinda cool to know that I'll be covering both poker and Phish this summer. I had been waiting a very long time for that to happen. I'll finally reclaim my summers back after being a whore in the poker industry for the last five years.

I stopped off at the Greek diner and picked up a couple of bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for me and my brother for lunch. I realized that my knee was stiff as I walked back to his apartment. It had been creaky all morning. I slept on it wrong and a bum knee was the last thing I needed on a 6+ hour flight to the left coast. I actually popped a half of a painkiller to dull the pain.

My cab driver was five minutes early. My favorite driver was unavailable, and instead, I got the chatty guy. I hoped for no traffic to JFK because I knew that would be five to ten minutes less of inane conversational that I would have to engage in. Within ninety seconds, he asked me about Twitter. He told me that it's his new addiction. I didn't tell him that I have an account.... because then I couldn't make fun of him. Awww, just kidding. He was a nice guy and got me to the airport kinda fast. It was interesting to hear his views on the latest rage in the social media world. He was in his 40s and not quite the tech-geek type. He used Twitter to follow his favorite porn stars, who have also embraced the Twitterverse. I wish that I acquired his username so I could check out the porn stars who he followed.

Somewhere on the Triboro Bridge, he told me about the different shows that he TiVo'd. He covered the shows by the days of the week starting with Sundays. He would spend about three minutes on the virtues of each show, before he moved onto to the next program. He said he loved Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and 30 Rock. That's when I sent Nicky a text and pleaded her to call me to save me from the banality.

Luckily, there was no traffic for a Saturday afternoon and we arrived super early. I had two hours to kill and I tried to get on the flight before mine that had been delayed an hour. There was only one seat left... it was a middle seat. Nothing else was available, so I opted to stay on my flight. I would have gotten in LA one hour earlier, but stuck in the middle. Nothing is worse on a cross country flight.... especially with a bum knee. If it bothered me, I wanted the option to stand up and stretch.

As I wandered through the airport, I quickly noticed the influx of young women wandering around in packs of five to eight. They were everywhere... at Jamba Juice... at the food court... in line at the gift shop. The airport seemed crowded, but it wasn't as bad as Thanksgiving week. It was just that the stores and shops had a reduced staff, so long lines were the norm with only one cashier in some places.

There must have been some sort of volleyball tournament because a different groups of girls dressed up in athletic outfits. And then of course, there where hordes of horny young women about to go on spring break to sunny destinations. Fort Lauderdale. Aruba. Cancun. Santa Domingo. San Juan.

A group of chicks in Columbia sweatshirts and Uggs, carried around copies of the Economist and US magazine and couldn't wait to get loaded and post tit shots to their Facebook pages. A group of three of them were huddled around a laptop and watched bootlegged version of Twilight.

I sat down and watched college hoops. The conference championships were the last chance to see teams play before the March Madness tournament. I liked to scout out teams at this juncture and figured out who I'm going to wager on in the upcoming weeks.

I put in a bet against Syracuse. Their magical run would need even more magic if they wanted to beat Louisville. I based my decision on the rest factor. They played seven overtimes in the previous two-games versus a Louisville squad who was well rested. Made sense to me to bet Louisville heavily.

I kept an eye out for Showcase's beer commercial. He filmed it last year and he thought it was shelved forever.... until he got a few emails last weekend asking him if that was really him in a beer commercial during a college basketball game on CBS. He's hoping that it gets heavy rotation during March Madness. That could translate into some big bucks. Of course, I watched a blow out in the Purdue game just to catch a glimpse... but I missed it. As soon as I boarded my plane, they aired it.

I watched the Pac-10 championships on CBS to catch a glimpse of Showcase's commercial. They aired it, but I missed it. My TV service went out ninety minutes into my flight. I was bummed out and called over a male flight attendant. I told him the truth...

"Bro, I have a big wager on the game. Any chance you fix my TV?"

The TV could not be fixed, but he offered to find me a new seat. There were no aisle seats available, but Seat 1A was empty. It was a window seat with no one in the middle. I grabbed my headphones and trudged up to the front of the plane. By that point, I had popped the other half of the painkiller. My knee still bothered me, but they rest of my body was set for smooth sailing.

I missed the commercial but luckily, Nicky TiVod it. I watched USC upend Arizona State and then Louisville finally pulled away from Syracuse in the second half... just as I hoped would happen. Dead legs.

I watched a couple of other things such as some special on the History channel about Aliens in ancient cultures including the bible. I'm a big believer in those myths and assertions that a lot of the gods from different cultures were actually aliens. Interesting program to flip back and forth to during timeouts in the hoops game.

For some reason, my flight was over 40 minutes early. We flew below 18,000 feet for about twenty minutes before we landed. Apparently, my cell phone worked and I was able to send Nicky a message. She had been following my flight online and knew that it was due to arrive at Bob Hope airport in Burbank much earlier than scheduled. For once, she was actually early... even though our flight arrived super early.

It was good to be back in California. When I walked into my office, I put my things down and remembered that I still had a lot of work ahead of me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

hampton > dc > nyc

By Pauly
New York City

There was some drama that invaded our crew late on Sunday night as it bled into Monday morning. What's a Phish tour without a little side drama? It reminded me of the late 1990s... with bodies sprawled on the floor of a hotel room in a town that we had never been before and would probably never return unless Phish passed through there again... and having to deal with some sort of personal crisis.

Daphne lost the keys to her rental car. She had a 7am flight out of Norfolk back to Colorado and planned on returning her car before her flight... except her keys were nowhere to be found. We had given her a ride to the show and frantically searched our car a hundred times. After calling the company and arranging a tow the next morning, she found a ride to the airport. A couple of hours later, the Joker discovered her keys in a secret pouch in his bag. Ooooops. They canceled the tow truck and Daphne saved $200 on a lost key charge.

That was the biggest drama of the weekend (which happened after the shows ended) and we pretty much got lucky. Out of the five of us, four saw all three shows because Daphne missed out on Saturday. Aside from that bummer, many potential disasters were avoided. No one got deathly ill, although our friend the Wookie almost bit it a few times. No one got arrested. although we had a couple of close calls. No one got conned in the lot ot acquired bunk drugs. All in all, everyone had a fantastic weekend, and we were ready to leave Hampton on a shiny happy positive note.

Nicky and I were on a tight schedule and had to leave Hampton around noon. In four nights in Hampton, I ate exactly four sit-down meals... all at Waffle House... the same Waffle House across the street from out hotel, where the waitresses knew my name. I was a big tipper. $2-$3 extra per ticket went a long way.

On I-64, we saw a sign for food. I pointed at Cracker Barrel. I preferred WH to CB, but I was looking for some variety. Nicky had never been before but her parents raved about CB during a trip to Asheville.

We pulled in and random elated Phisheads gobbled up their breakfast before the headed back to their lives. I ordered one of those everything breakfasts with biscuits and gravy, grits, ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, and a hashbrown casserole.

"You won't see this stuff in LA," I joked to Nicky. "Grease has been outlawed."

We reached DC in decent time because of the lack of traffic. We drove past the Jefferson Memorial on our way into the city. I found a super cheap hotel ten minutes away from DuPont Circle near all the embassies. When we arrived, there were a ton of cop cars nearby keeping an eye on the protesters. Our hotel was across from the Chinese embassy/mission and a bevy of Tibet protesters were scattered all about. No wonder our hotel was 1/3 of the price of other hotels mainly because folks were spooked out by the prospect of a Tienanmen Square fracas spilling into the lobby of our hotel.

We caught up on some work in our room. They gave us a room in the back, but we could still hear the faint whistles and cries from protesters out front.

We met up with Garth for dinner at a French bistro. He lived in the neighborhood and took us to one of his favorite places. Eating French food in DC with an Aussie? Yep. He even picked up the tab.

After a quick dinner, Garth took us to one of his favorite dive bars. We grabbed a booth and drank pints for a few hours, while a gaggle of geeks sat at the bar and watched Heroes on the big screen.

Since Nicky had never been to DC before, she wanted to check out the sites. We hopped on the subway and got out at the Mall. The next few hours were filled with lots of walking and picture taking. The Monument. The WWII memorial. The Vietnam Memorial. Lincoln Memorial. Korean War Memorial. The White House. The Capitol. The Air & Space Museum.

After a full day of sightseeing and criss-crossing the Mall, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. And the protesters also returned. That time, there were twice as many people pissed off about China's treatment of Tibet.

After dinner, I had a ton of work to catch up on including uploading pics and videos. Nicky wanted to watch American Idol but could not find FOX on the TV. She frantically called down to the front desk and they told her it was located on the far end of the dial. Disaster averted. I sat in the bathroom and edited videos so I didn't have to listen to Michale Jackson karaoke.

We woke up early on Wednesday to take a quick trip to the Jefferson Memorial since he was my favorite President and it was one of the many things that Nicky didn't get to see.

We got a bit lost trying to exit the city and eventually got on the Baltimore Parkway. It was a slower road out of town but completely empty aside from a couple of intimidating governmental cars from different alphabet agencies.

Somewhere just outside of Baltimore, we stopped for a late breakfast at.... Waffle House. I had to get it in one last time. I won't be back to the South for another three months. Nicky? She didn't know when she'd be back so we stopped at one that had a special... for $6 you got a bacon, egg, and cheese on Texas Toast with double hasbrowns and a drink. Daddy and Derek would have gotten two of those.

We made great time back to NYC and had enough time to swing by mother's apartment. She was not around so Nicky got to check out where I grew up and inspect some of the many mementos in my messy old bedroom, which had become a storage room for my brother and myself.

We headed downtown to our new favorite hotel. They gave me another great deal and even upgraded us to a room with a king size bed. We met my brother for dinner at Big Nick's before we hung out with him all night.

Nicky flew back to LA on Thursday and I stuck around for 48 hours to finish up my taxes before I flew back to LA to finish off Project Z.

Uggggh.... I have to mail my taxes in a couple of hours and cut a check to the federalies. That's always one of the saddest day of the year. And it's Friday the 13th. Ominous.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Phish Hampton Montage

By Pauly
New York City

Here's a complete montage (almost ten minutes worth) that I shot from all three days of Phish in Hampton.


Click here to view more of my Phish Hampton videos.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sunday Phishy Videos

By Pauly
Washington, DC

I took these on Sunday. Highlight? Frankenstein with Page on the keytar...

Frankenstein



Tube



Sanity

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Saturday Phishy Videos

By Pauly
Washington, DC

I shot these videos on Saturday...

Gumbo



Character Zero



Lawn Boy



Limb by Limb (with glowstick war)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Blast Off... Sunday Funday in Hampton

By Pauly
Hampton, VA

By the third day, we had a general idea of what to expect from the Reunion shows... and at the same time, we were overflowing with excitement for the last and final show of the epic weekend at the Mothership. After the first two shows, the Hampton run had already exceeded anything that I witnessed in the Phish 2.0 era including both IT and the Miami run at the end of 2003. I definitely had flashbacks from 1998 when I Phish smoked the hell out of every single venue they played.


Daphne in search of an extra

Sunday night in Hampton was the gravy. The cherry on top of the sundae. By Midnight Saturday, all of my expectations had been met and I was free rolling the rest of the weekend. I had been relatively sober all weekend... and yet, the music fried my brain. It was much harder for me to write about the shows than I anticipated. I'm still digesting.

I woke up Sunday to a typical scene on Phish tour... bodies sprawled out on the floor of my hotel roo... and people jumping into the shower/bathroom in shifts. While the crew got ready, Nicky and I went to Waffle House across the street. In four days, I ate a total of four sitdown meals... all at Waffle House.

According to one waitress, "The Phish brought in $5 million to local economy. Plus all the court fees from the people thrown in jail!"

They were swamped that weekend but happy for the influx of people with money. I heard a lot of that from the locals. At this point in the economy, everyone needs cash.

When I woke up, three of the five of us had tickets. By the time we left, we had four tickets... and scored a ticket in the lobby of out hotel. And by the time the first set started... Daryl had scored a ticket and got into the show.

We arrived at the lots exactly at 2pm and hung out for several hours. During the first two days we spent most of our time waiting in line as early as 2:30... which we realized was a futile effort... so we chilled out in the Hampton lot near the model homes in the back. Drank. Smoked. Ate. Mingled with other heads including a couple of cool guys from Cape Cod.

The Joker picked up a ton of t-shirts and stickers in Shakedown street, while it seemed as though everyone was looking for a ticket but not one person was selling for anything less than $500.

One guy pushing a stroller offered to sell me both molly or doses. His kid was fast asleep and I wasn't going to judge the guy at all. I mean, he had an excellent cover. How many tour dads would be slinging doses in the lot? But shit, times are tough these days. Phish tour gave everyone the opportunity to earn income in creative and non-conventional ways.

The Joker and I made a list of the songs that we thought they'd play on Sunday night. There were obvious ones such as Slave and Wilson but we wondered about the random bustouts. The one thing I noticed was not what Phish played... but what they didn't play... specifically Sand and 46 Days... which were in heavy rotation for any given Trey Band show over the last few years.

While we stood in line to get inside, a drug dog in front of the coliseum was going nuts as its trainer held the dog back on the leash. God knows how much stuff it was smelling. Sensory overload.
The Phish 3.8.09 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

Set I: Sanity, Wilson, Foam, Bathtub Gin, Undermind, AC/DC Bag, My Friend My Friend, Scent of a Mule, All of These Dreams, Maze, She Thinks I Still Care, Army of One, Tube, Cars Trucks Buses, Free, Frankenstein

Set II: Down with Disease > Seven Below, Horse > Silent, Twist > 2001 > MoMA Dance, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Velvet Sea, Slave

Encore: Happy Birthday to Fishman's Dad, Contact, Bug > Tweezer Reprise
We had the same spot on the floor as the night... with the same crew... including the South African guys and the Colorado crew. Of course, the Wookie was back and he promised us that he'd be in more control.

My buddies Jay and Josh arrived for their one show. Not everyone was fortunate enough to go to all three nights, so at any given time, someone around you could not contain their exuberance since it was their first chance to see Phish.

First set kicked off with a very-personal story from Trey in the form of Sanity... where he lost his mind a couple of times. I know the feeling. There was a big balloon at the back of the coliseum that was released at the end of the Sanity... before they launched into Wilson!. I missed winning the opener bet by one song. I wagered heavily on Wilson to open the third show.

Yes, Wilson was another high energy crowd pleaser. We had a lot of that over the weekend... moments when the crowd went berserk to hear their favorite song for the first time in 5 years. Bathtub Gin was another example of that insanity and mayhem and jubilation in the first set.

The first curveball of the night included Undermind... which started off a little sloppy and tightened up by the time they completed the debut of the title track from the last Phish album.

My favorite bit of the first half of set one included AC/DC Bag and My Friend. Light and fluffy contrasted with dark and deviant. Phish always had those moments where they could take you far down the rabbit hole. They never went too far off the deep end in Hampton, but we caught a glimpse with My Friend. I got chills when they did the psychotic laughing part at the end.

I wrote a big checkmark next to Maze. That was one of the highest energy peaks of the weekend. Listen and decide for yourself.

The first set had plenty of peaks with a couple of stagnant points such as All of These Dreams and the county song cover followed up by Army of One. Technically speaking, all three songs were executed well... but the energy level on the floor retreated a bit during those songs. It perked right back up during Tube and didn't stop for the remainder of the first set.

The last four songs of the set were among my favorite batches during the weekend... Tube, Cars Trucks Buses, Free and Frankenstein. I'm going to be playing those songs to death on my iPod over the next few weeks.

If I had to give an MVP for the weekend? Page. Our favorite balding piano player absolutely crushed all three nights. Ma, I really missed Page. The last bit of set one was a perfect example of his exquisite playing.

Page stepped out from behind his piano and keyboards and played a hand-held keyboard during Frankenstein as he joined Trey at center stage. The boys smoked the shit out of that cover and ended another powerful first set.


Page during Frankenstein

As expected, Down with Disease opened set two. Tight. Nice improvisation in the jams. Not too dark... but I definitely fell for a 2001 tease. Alas, I was wrong and the bows drifted off into Seven Below. The Joker called that tune.

The Wookie went down hard. When I saw him at setbreak, he looked fine but I guess something kicked in and kicked his ass because he fell to the floor. He's so big that it took three security guards to haul him off the floor. Luckily, he was OK.

I saw a lot of that on Sunday. A bevy of wasted souls. Lack of sleep. Last night to do all your drugs. Sloppiness all around. People seemed in much more control on Friday compared to the sheer lunacy of Sunday.

The second set picked up with an infusion of funk shortly after Twist when they finally launched into a long-awaited 2001. Ass shaking mayhem. Everyone on the floor got down and dirty. And Phish didn't kill the buzz with a cheesy tune and kept up the high energy with MoMA Dance. That one-two punch was the highlight of the set... of the show... and of the weekend. I'll be re-living those fifteen minutes of that night in Hampton for the next fifteen years.

And Phish did not let up with a cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Over the entire weekend, they consistently nailed all of their most popular covers (Loving Cup, Day in the Life, Rock & Roll, Frankenstein...), and they continued that trend with WMGGW.

I didn't pee during Velvet Sea. Page made up for his teary-eyed performance at Coventry. The Joker was ready to leave and he turned around when he heard the first notes to Slave to the Traffic Light.

Slave is my favorite Phish song. Nothing is more special in life when you go see a band and they play your favorite song. Out of all of the disastrous performances of songs at Coventry... Slave was one of the few that they boys didn't completely butcher. However, I only listened to that version two or three times since Phish broke up. And I pretty much stopped listening to other versions of Slave since then. Maybe ten or twelve times total in five years? Can you do that? Only listen to your all time favorite song on an average of twice a year? Well, that's what happened. It hurt too much to listen to any version knowing that Phish was toast...

... until they magically sprang back to life. Fitting way to quell my inner demons when Phish ended the set with my favorite song. I'm glad they made me wait so long. Completely worth the effort.... which included everything that I endured over the last five years specifically the obstacles that I had to overcome to pull off the Hampton weekend.

I had a bet in that the encore would be... Frankenstein > Contact > Tweezer Reprise. Almost. They threw Bug in the middle of Contact and Tweprise.

As expected, all of the balloons fell to the crowd during Tweprise. As they played the last thirty seconds of the song.... all I could think about was that the Hampton performances were what I had hoped Coventry would have been. Alas, what happened... happened. But the boys returned to the stage with a powerful statement and message. They're back and focused on playing to the best of their abilities. That's why I used to follow Phish around all over the planet. I hope that they continue to keep up the pace, energy, and diligence. Because if they do... then you're not going to want to miss a single show from summer tour.
Sunday Phishy Pic Dump

By Pauly
Hampton, VA

Here are some pics that I took on Sunday...











For more Phishy pics, click here to check out my Phish Hampton photo gallery.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Second Show Back... Phish at the Mothership

By Pauly
Hampton, VA

Pressed on time and there's a lack of consistent internet connection, so I'll be brief and to the point. (Also sorry about the lack of videos - I'll have to post them en masse when I return to NYC).

The second night of Phish in Hampton? Phenomenal. After sticking to the script for their first night back, the boys from Vermont loosened up and extended their jams a bit. They played a slightly shorter show and much like the night before, they nailed all of their classic tunes, but they also let it rip a few times particularly during a mind-blowing Ghost > Piper > Birds of a Feather and Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove.

We had a similar start to Saturday... Waffle House for breakfast with dozens of Phisheads... then to the Food Lion for supplies. Nicky made sandwiches for the wait in line. Clutch move. I also got in my prop bets with G-Rob. High stakes gambling on Phish songs. Utter degeneracy.

The Joker and Daphne headed to the poster show while Nicky and I arrived at the lot at 2:15-2:30. We hung out in the lot for a bit before we stood in the line to get in. Met a cool guy named Jack from North Carolina (who now lives in LA) and we hung out for 2.5 hours with his boys discussion how the Dead achieved perfection in 1977 while the Phish did the same thing twenty years later. The crowd gathered and flocked while thousands of ticketless freaks wandered around in search for a golden ticket. The security guards did their best efforts to keep everyone in line before everything broke down and thousands of people surged towards the entrance around 5pm. At least the clusterfuck was slightly better than Friday's show.

We rushed into to the floor (center court Page side) with a group of 8-12 of us... mostly from Colorado and the South African crew. Even the Wookie was hanging out with us... the Joker knew him from the 303 area code.
Phish 3.7.09 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

Set I: Back On The Train, Runaway Jim, Brian & Robert, Split Open and Melt, Heavy Things, Punch You in the Eye, Gumbo, Reba, Mexican Cousin, Ice, Halley's Comet, Beauty of a Broken Heart*, Guelah Papyrus, Lawn Boy, Antelope

Set II: Rock and Roll, Limb by Limb, Ghost > Piper > Birds of a Feather**, Wolfman's Brother, Prince Caspian, Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero

Encore: Day in the Life
The boys took the stage at 7:50pm. Page and Trey fed off each other a lot in the first set. Lots of communication between the two... musically and non-verbal. Lots of smiles. Helluva way to kick off the first set. Trey took off the training wheels during Jim.

We thought we were going to lose the Wookie. He was pretty faded on a multitude of things. The Joker described it a an "everything bagel" and during Melt we thought that the Wookie was going to come crashing down. A waterfall of sweat cascaded down his locks and beard. He stumbled so much that he looked like a giant redwood ready to topple and smash anything in its path.

Melt fried my brain and I dug the freaky UFO lights. The Joker bought a couple of Pollack posters before the show and he was using the brown tube to play air guitar for most of the night.

A personal highlight from the first set included Gumbo... mainly because I desperately wanted to hear it. Glad that the boys brought it back.

Everyone around me seemed perplexed and pissed about Mexican Cousin, but I didn't mind it one bit. Phish converted the Joker who was previously a Mexican Cousin hater. I think that' just because he's from Texas.

I was impressed with the new song Beauty of a Broken Heart, the best tune from Page's solo album. The jam at the end was delicious. I could really get into that song more so than Backwards.

Mike stepped it up for Ice and they went off the deep end for a few minutes. I thought that Phish were going to segue into 2001, alas, that was wishful thinking and just a dark and spacey jam (one of the first of the run) that went back into Ice.

Nice to see Page croon the crowd with Lawn Boy. The pretty sparkly lights returned. The crowd went apeshit to the tits during Antelope and the entire room peaked out energy wise during the "high gear of your soul" section. Sizzling way to end the 1 hour and 50 minute set.

The floor was disgusting and slippery with spilled beer but I was so tired that I saw down anyway during setbreak. After almost two hours, my body was pummeled with musical goodiness. Although I was sober (and yes, it's my version of a sober show... just herb and a half of a generic vicodin - only to ease the stiffness in my thirty-something year old back), the grind of the back-to-back shows took a toll. The music was overwhelming at times and I needed to collect my space before the second set.

At that point, the Wookie sobered up substantially. He told me that he knew what was going on and he kept trying to stay focused and not pass out.

"Stay awake!" was what the Wookie routinely told himself during his peak fuckedupness. "Stay on your toes or you'll wake up in the hospital!"

That's mind over matter. The Wookie avoided the hospital and lived to see the second set.

Rock and Roll is one of my favorite Velvet Underground songs and I always welcomed Phish's version with Page in lead vocals. There was a mini-glow stick war during Limb by Limb and I'll post the video shortly.

The highlight of the run so far had to be the 25 minute stretch that included a sizzling and smoking Ghost > Piper > Birds of a Feather. That's why I drop everything in my life to go see Phish. The melt your face Ghost jam might have been the actually overall highlight of the weekend.

Of course, they followed that sandwich up with a crowd pleasing Wolfman's Brother before they were ready to launch the Mothership into the cosmos with a highly anticipated Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove. I also shot some great video of Character Zero It will be worth the wait.

Phish nailed the Beatles' cover of Day in the Life and I was surprised that they walked off the stage. Short and sweet. They know the first rule of show business... leave the fans wanting more. And the bastards did just that...

... I have a ticket to Sunday's show and I can't wait. It's the cherry on top of the massive hot fudge Sundae that I have been feasting on with my friends the last 48 hours. We have been waiting a long time for a savory treat like Phish. They might be the phinest in the nation.
Saturday Phishy Pic Dump

By Pauly
Hampton, VA

Here are some pics from Saturday...










For more Phishy pics, click here to check out my Flickr Hampton gallery.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Return of the Phish

By Pauly
Hampton, VA
Waffle House waitress: "You going to all three shows? Aren't they going to play the same songs?"
Phishead: "I hope not."
I waited 4.5 years for Friday night. I never expected to see my 152nd Phish show. And as much as I went into the weekend with the lowest of expectations, the boys from Vermont topped anything I could have imagined... and that's after one single show. For once, I am a loss for words. I doubt that I can fully describe everything without needing more time to reflect, but I'll do my best.

Pre-show... I went to the Food Lion near our hotel to load up on supplies like food and beverages, while Nicky finished up some work in our room. I bought a cooler, which was clutch, for the icey cold beers in the lot. Nicky and I arrived about 30 minutes early and we couldn't get into the Hampton parking lot. We pulled into Target's lot and that became the pre-lot hang out area. Everyone that I met was about to jizz in their pants. And at least 50-70% of the people I spoke to did not have a ticket for Friday's show. The people who did score tickets paid a hefty price.

The Joker and his crew arrived (from their hotel in Norfolk) and they were one of the first groups inside the lot. Nicky and I got caught in a mini-traffic jam and eventually made it in by 2:30pm. By 2:35pm, we found the Joker in front of the fountain where the art crew were setting up smiling block heads. The Colorado crew (which also included a couple of guys from South Africa who flew in for the shows) were already waiting in line. Some phans arrived as early as 10:30am to get in line. That's dedication.

We hung out for about three hours and took turns returning to the car for drinks and smoke breaks. Oh, and pee breaks down by the water. I didn't see much of a Shakedown area, but then again, I was standing in line most of the afternoon. So many people looking for extras. Didn't see too many tour puppies... they were all grown up now... and turned into dogs. Since Phisheads are older, I saw a lot more phans with kids and nicer cars.

I met up with Noah, the documentary film director who was working on his project Maybe So, Maybe Not. We shot a quick interview and I checked out his base of operations. Impressive set up.

G-Rob and I gambled on different prop bets involving the songs. We were constantly drafting teams of songs for the show opener, the second set opener, and the encore.

The line to get in got a little freaky around 5:30pm, and the crowd surged a bit. It was highly claustrophobic for about a forty minute period until we finally made our way to the first checkpoint. Our group of a dozen people got split into two during the craziness.

There was a moment of uncertainty when I finally made it to the door. The lady scanned my ticket and it didn't register. I almost shit my pants. She scanned it a second time and she nodded her head. I ran past her and jumped up and down in between a circle of another six or seven Phisheads who were doing the same. Rejoicing. We made it inside.

Holy shit. Is this real?

Nicky and I bolted upstairs and could not find a spot on the rail. We lost our group and we had to make due. I found four seats in Row 19 on Page's side. Not the best seat in the house, but I didn't care. We could have had an amazing spot on the floor but opted for a seat on the first night. The Joker and his boys were down in Row 6, while I was hanging out with Nicky, Daphne, and Daryl.

About five minutes after I sat down, I got offered a hit of liquid sunshine. I politely declined. Not that I didn't want to do it... but I made a promise that I'd see all of the Hampton shows sober. And by sober I mean no chemicals substances. I didn't even have a sip of booze... just a little herb and a half of a painkiller to calm me down. I didn't need drugs because I couldn't sit still. My palms were sweaty. I slurred my speech. It felt like I was coked up or on ecstasy without even ingesting those party favors. The Phish reunion was enough to alter my senses.

The first thing I noticed about the coliseum were the massive balloons hanging from the rafters. Medium-sized balloons circled the Jumbotron and the Jupiter-sized balloons hung along the outer perimeter. Then I checked out the stage. Old school setup. Fishman's drum kit was back to where it began... on stage left (or from the audience's perspective, it was on the right side of the stage).

Lots of frenetic energy inside the venue. Every five minutes everyone started screaming and cheering. A guy in my section tried to get everyone to do the wave.
Phish 3.6.09 Hampton, VA

Set I: Fluffhead, Divided Sky, Chalkdust Torture, Sample in a Jar, Stash, I Didn't Know*, Oh Kee Pa > Suzy Greenberg, Farmhouse, NICU, Horn, Rift, Train Song, Water in the Sky, Squirming Coil, David Bowie

Set II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Tweezer, Taste, Possum, Theme from the Bottom, First Tube, Harry Hood, Waste, You Enjoy Myself (with a false start/joke)

Encore: Grind (acapella), Bouncin**, Loving Cup

* with Fishman vac solo and Trey on drums
** with balloon drop
The lights went down at 7:58. The boys took the stage at 7:59 to a thunderous applause. The ground below me vibrated. Screams. Cheers. Yelling. Whistling. Pure ecstasy Much like the NYE reunion show at MSG, it was hard to hear the first ninety seconds of the show. But I caught a few notes. Oh man... Fluffhead to open?

That was a powerful statement and was indicative of the reunion itself. The boys avoided the fan favorite during the Phish 2.0 years and as maturing musicians, they often scoffed at the notion that they'd stoop to the fans wishes and bust out a silly song from their youth. Yet, for the reunion, the gave the fans exactly what they had wanted. Phish returned to their roots... and the early day back in Vermont when they were still young kids... and took those memories and transported them to the present.


Photo credit of Phish.com

The tunes off of Junta were not improvised and intricately structured. They followed up Fluffhead with Divided Sky, another heavy hitter from their first album. They nailed the first thirty minutes of the reunion show with those two songs. It reminded me of a football team that scripted their first ten play -- then proceeded to come out and score a touchdown on their first possession.

After the first thirty minutes, Phish demonstrated that they were back... with a mission. Their diligent practices paid off and the result? A tight, smooth, and structural solid band.

Without hesitation, Trey ripped into Chalkdust. It was short and sweet and packed a tremendous punch, followed up by another short crowd pleaser... Sample in a Jar.

About fifty minutes into the show, the boys finally opened up a bit and entered the improvisational space for the first time in the evening. Clocking in at 12 minutes, Stash's launching point did not drift off into one of Trey's bizarre Oxy-jams. Instead, the jam out was cohesive and I was more than impressed with Page's Thelonius Monk pecking and filling in the melody behind Trey's solos. Much more appetizing at 12 minutes than a 20 minute dirty mind-fuck. I'm sure that by the summer, Phish will open up those jams and throw down like a 30-minute Stash at Alpine Valley, but for now, they regulated their jams.

And yes... I flew from LA to NYC, then drove 400+ miles to Hampton to see a 40+ year old guy in a dress play the vacuum. The band is called Phish for a reason... because of the zannyness of one John Fishman. I Didn't Know featured Trey jumping on drums while Fish played his first vac solo in 4.5 years. Hijinks. I missed that stuff. Trey introduced him as "dad".

When OKP began, I knew they were going to rip into something juicy... like a funkified Suzy Greenburg... which was my personal highlight of the first set. Page was on and the funk poured out of all of their pores and kicked me upside my head. Man... for a brief second, I had a flashback to the Year of the Funk.

The middle of the set lost some sort of continuous flow. They varied the songs... Farmhouse to NICU to Rift to Mike crooning with Train Song. Loved the "Play it Leo!" part and man, it was one of those little things that I missed about Phish.

Water in the Sky was a much slower version (similar to the early incarnations) than the version they used to play in the late 1990s. Coil was near perfection even though it's one of my least favorite songs. I thought that Coil would end the set... but they kept on playing... and when Fish launched into the high hat, I knew what was coming... David Bowie. Technically? They nailed all the changes. The few folks who were seated jumped to their feet and shook their asses. That smoking Bowie closed the set at 9:52. Wow... almost two hour first set. Welcome back.

Phish kicked off the second set with a new song. I dug the symbolism. The second set was about looking forward to a new era. That included some new material in Backwards Down the Number Line. I saw Trey perform that song twice with his band a few months ago. It was one of the new songs that Phish had been practicing. Although I wasn't the biggest fan of the song (and it really didn't blow me away), but I appreciated the effort and fact that Phish is working on new material. I figured that we'd get one or two new songs a night during the Hampton run. Will Alaska be next?

The highlight of the show was Tweezer. Shook me to the bone. I really hadn't experienced a musical moment like my mind melted and dripped out of my ears as my guts spilled out of my belly button in a very long time. With Tweezer's appearance, I knew that I was doomed to lose a big bet on the encore with G-Rob since he picked Tweezer Reprise, which they almost always played as the encore if they busted out Tweezer.

Page stepped up during Taste and Mike shined on Possum. Trey rocked back and forth during First Tube. After a lengthy hiatus, Trey finally got jam it out with Phish instead of the methadone versions of FT with TAB. I almost wet myself during the intense build ups as the floor below me shook.

Harry Hood featured some amazing disco/sparkly lights. Check out the video to see what I'm talking about. Hood was another intricate song with a lot of changes with sections where they could improvise. The reunion version was much like the rest of the songs... tight, cohesive, smooth and focused.

I really had to piss and ran down to the john during Waste. Guys in line for the urinals were singing, "Come waste your time with pee...."

Phish showed a sense of humor during their faux false stop of You Enjoy Myself. During the 2003 shows in Hampton, they had the infamous incident when they butchered the opening and they stopped and restarted. Oooops. The boys decided to spoof themselves in a self0depricating manner and played a few notes to YEM before they stopped 17 seconds in.

"We're starting this song again," joked Trey with a shit-eating grin running down his face. "This time it won't be like the last time we started the song. So there!"

And then they kicked our asses with a mashing YEM. I always judged a YEM by how loud the crowd went before the BOY! part. And the crowd erupted in one collective orgasm.

I think Trey flubbed the lyrics and said "Shit!" third instead of "God!" Then he shook his head and said, "God... shit!"

Mike went off on a bong-rattling bass solo before the lights went down and they embarked on an old school vocal jam. If I was on acid, that deviant shit would have freaked me out.

My biggest criticism of Phish of the years has been their weak and inconsistent encores. Thank God for no VelvetCheese! They did not disappoint us in Hampton with a three song encore that featured a little bit of everything... a fan favorite, a sizzling cover, and a bit of a cappella diddy with Grind including some amazing math skills from the band.

Bouncin' was special because the inner balloons fell one by one to the floor. One reached the stage and Trey popped it with his guitar. The remaining bits fell on Page's keyboard. You can check out the video that I shot of Bouncin'.

The closed the show with one of my favorite Rolling Stone covers... Loving Cup. I really missed Page.

They ended the show at 12:21am and we trickled out into the parking lot. I looked at the Mothership lit up and all I could think was how lucky I was to see Phish's return to the music scene. It's going to take me a few days and weeks to really write a little more about the reunion show... and their impacts personally, historically, socially, financially, and musically.

But for now... I really missed Phish. And more importantly, I missed the person inside of me who used to love this band. Since they broke up, I fell into a very murky and evil place in the gambling world and I although I was always conscious of the deviancy of my surroundings in Las Vegas, it wasn't until I arrived in Hampton that I truly realized just how black that darkness was until I saw the bright side of humanity resurface in Hampton. The indescribable energy floored me. I forgot about how special and soothing the Phish vibe was, is, and (I hope) will continue to be.