Thursday, April 30, 2009

Argentina Montage

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I finally got around to splicing together a two minute video of my travels in Argentina.

Enjoy...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ghost of Jitters

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I quit cold turkey.

I didn't think I actually needed to, and I honestly didn't want to. But I made a promise to myself to get clean in order to prep for the upcoming WSOP. Clear the mind and heal the body. Over the last few years, the month of May was a healthy month for me where I actively worked out, massaged my mental faculties, read voraciously, honed my writing skills, spent as much time outdoors, and improved my eating habits in order to prepare for seven weeks of utter abuse in Las Vegas. This year is no different, with the exception of me entering into May with a heady addiction to pharmies.

I didn't realize how much I was ingesting until I stopped. Somewhere over South America, I popped a half of a pill after the rubbish American Airlines passed off as dinner. That would be the last traces of anything synthetic that I ingested, which I needed to maintain my sanity during a ten plus hour flight stuck all the way in the back of the airplane.

My first three days back in America as a pharmie-free person were a breeze. I didn't crave or think about pills at all. Then something happened to my mind and body over the weekend. I felt ill. And grouchy. Short-tempered. Irritable. I was sleeping substantially less than I usually slept and you can imagine what just an hour or two of sleep per night meant to someone who is chronically fatigued due to hellacious insomnia. I thought that I was coming down with a cold, or perhaps a mutated version of the Swine Flu that I picked up somewhere in DFW last week. Alas, Nicky curiously looked up the symptoms of Vicodin withdrawal. I suffered from every single one and was diagnosed with acute opiate withdrawal.

I was fine for 23 hours a day, but endured 3 or 4 incidents a day that last 10 to 20 minutes in length where I got dizzy and sick and and my vision was blurry and just wanted to crawl up in a ball and die. I dreaded those moments, which were luckily spread out, and all I wanted was a quick fix. Once the weekend ended, the symptoms died down and all the anguish subsided. By Tuesday night, or roughly eight days after I quit cold turkey, I felt almost normal. Sure, I still have the lingering and looming depression, but that's an ordinary feeling. Now, I can settle down and finish the re-write of Lost Vegas and ease into the WSOP.

I finally got that damn monkey off my back. I might celebrate with some pharmies.

* * * * *

I increased the amount of reading per day. And I'm not talking about the filth on the intertubes. Books. Physical books. Before they go out of style. On my flight from LAX to Dallas, I read an entire book on Argentina. Upon my return from South America, I finished off This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession which the Joker gave to me in Hampton.

As soon as I got home and settled in, I finished off a book recommendation from the Human Head. I'm way to paranoid to publish the name of that book or even the controversial author on the intertubes for fear that it would get both of us on a watch list. The don't burn books in America anymore, but they definitely take detailed notes about which individuals read (or even look up) certain books.

I'm currently reading McMafia by Misha Glenny. My buddy Haas recommended it to me and it's a haunting investigation into the criminal underworld in the post-Communist era... everything from human sex trafficking to cigarette smuggling to the billion dollar money laundering operations in Dubai.

I still have to finish off Outliers, the latest book from Malcolm Gladwell. I refused to buy it because of the ridiculous price. Instead, I bucked the system and read fragments in different airports, including the bookstore at the new JetBlue terminal at JFK. I also read bits and pieces at different Barnes & Nobles in New York City. I was about 80% the way through when I gave up. Jordan wrote a worthy review about Outliers (Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3).

Nicky and I went to see a flick at the Landmark the other day. I was highly disappointed with Adventureland. It had so much potential and fizzled right in front of me. Greg Mottola absolutely blew the hinges off the door with Superbad. Perhaps he had too many expectations riding on this personal project about a coming of age story set in Pittsburgh in the 1980s.

Hey, 1980s nostalgia is in. Just read Wil Wheaton's last piece in the L.A. Weekly about miniature golf. Wil absolutely nails 80s nostolgia in his blog and in his books and in his freelance pieces. He should have had a crack at the script.

I know, I know... I'm just mouthing off because I was irked that I did not get a shot at writing a script for the sequel to Wall Street, that somehow Oliver Stone is finally on board. I wonder how much hash and Thai hookers they threw at him in order to direct the sequel?

Anyway, back to Adventureland, Kristen Stewart was just awful in the flick. I dunno what all the hype is with that chick. (I didn't see Twilight but I watched ten minutes of it from over the shoulder of some college chick in an airport). Ms. Stewart's acting abilities were atrocious and muddled. She was absolutely stoned the entire movie (not her character, but the actual real life actress). It takes a stoner to know a stoner. Even Nicky could not stop remarking about how baked Ms. Stewart looked.

Back in the days of Friends, Joey was a soap opera actor and often praised the benefits of smell the fart acting. Lame trick that the public ate up. Well, it appears that Ms. Stewart has been abiding to the rip the bong acting. Another lame trick that the masses have been lapping up. Despite Ms. Stewart's bong-addled acting, the magnificent Bill Hader stole the show with his hysterical scenes.

I re-read the last couple of paragraphs and my review seems too harsh and negative. The flick wasn't all that bad... it just wasn't as good as I hoped. Some scenes were funny and others were outright dark and existential. But compared to epic flicks like Superbad or Pineapple Express or Tropic Thunder... this one just falls short of the mark.

Here's the trailer...


* * * * *

And before I go, you should check out a post from the Human Head titled You Got Swined.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Positive Affirmations

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.
I do not have the swine flu, I'm just suffering from lingering opiate withdrawal.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Haiku: RIP Bea Arthur

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA
Maude was underrated
Thank you for being my friend
Do you have a cock?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Great Pig Panic of 2009

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA


AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

I really don't know what to make of this Swine Flu stuff. Is it a blip on the radar? Or a tropical depression gearing up into a monster hurricane?

The cynic and skeptic in me thinks it's just a load of bullshit and just another one of many distractions to keep everyone's focus off of the real problems. The businessman in me thinks it's a well concocted media-backed pump-and-dump stock scam to juice up the prices of sluggish pharmaceutical stocks. The conspiracy theorist in me is smart enough not to spout off my honest thoughts about depopulation in a blog. Actually, I'm saving those thoughts for a new project that I'm launching with the Human Head... Tao of Conspiracy.

One thing is for sure... I'm not going to be paying much attention to the alphabet news networks. I encourage you to do the same. Do your own research. I know it's not going to be easy and instant which you are used to. But cultivate your news like it is food.

Here's an example. Everyone knows that the meals you cook at home are often cheaper and healthier for you. But why do we shovel shit like fast food and other processed foods into our system? Out of laziness.

So... cook your own news. Rather, don't automatically go to one of those fast food-oriented news outlets for a combo special.

For the Great Pig Panic of 2009, I'm going to rely on bloggers and Twitter to get the straight dope from people on the ground who are there... on the streets of Mexico City... instead of relying upon what a talking head in a studio in Atlanta is regurgitating which may or may not be force fed propaganda.

One Mexican blogger I started following had a few interesting things to say...
We got a number of taxis during the day, none of the drivers of which reported seeing anything out of the ordinary other than the eerie quiet I mentioned earlier. The theory of one of our drivers was that Mexico’s working classes pay such little attention to health scares and government-issued orders that it is only the dramatic kind of measures being taken by the Government now that spur them into action and taking precautions... More
In any case, I hope this all blows over, but just in case things get too freaky, I'm gonna be keeping my eyes on the local Mexico City bloggers to get the real skinny on the Great Pig Panic.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Douchebags, Thesauruses, and Twitter

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I simply posed this question to the Twitterverse...
"Seeking synonyms for the term 'DOUCHEBAG'. My editor for Lost Vegas book said I overused that word."
Within an hour, here were some of the responses...

@ChrisKPHall... If fuckneck and twatcandle don't win I'm gonna be pissed.

@CherieBomb... ToolBox / ToolHead

@wesjustice...The fact that you were asked to lower your d-bag count for this book is making me look forward to it even more.

@Lillian2611 I like "dink". As an insult. :eyeroll:

@gadzooks64...Out with douchebag and in with twathead says I

@Hokulea34... doucherocket was always one of my favs

@BobbyBracelet...Yank out your artists card and pull rank. D'bag is never used too often. Watch out or you'll be inserting a love story soon, too.

@hippietex.... I was about to tweet the very same question. The power of douchebag is lost by its overuse-need a new word

@EdReif....I suggest showing respect... as in Mr. Douche Bag

@Irongirl01... how about touch hole, moron, tool, in place of douche bag mix it up

@ChrisKPHall... fuckneck, twatcandle, goober, dofus, felchbreath imo

@myttazzmyttazz... syn for douchebag = DB, tool & editor also works. try it & see. all are interchange100able

@kymb... Resplendent pile of bovine excrement ???

@Augbesian... Jerkoff, Jagoff, Jackoff, Jerkstore, all fall into the Douchebag category.

@drubin14... asshat, numnuts, dickbag

@monkeyhammer... assclown, jerkoff

@YorkyPuds...Could you use twat in place of Douchebag or would that be pushing it?

@StB08... would he accept fuckstick?

@mw4dice... dirtbag, mofo, SF Brains

@ChrisHiter..."Skippies" "Scooters" and an alteration to douchebag "Douche Wagon or Douchewagon"

@jencreason... What abt Jerkwad? twat?

@jtwrigleyville... I'm starting to become a big fan of douchenozzle. I don't think the nozzle gets enough respect. Asshat and Assclown are good too.

@JoeSpeaker... dickhead, dickwad, shit-for-brains, hipster

@ohcaptain... Thanks @taopauly - Twitter is now flowing with all the synonyms for douchbag. Some of these I never knew. I need to try each in a sentence.

@AlCantHang... But the real question. Did you call your editor a douchebag when he said that

@MattVolk... I'm partial to the term 'jagoff'.

@MacAnthony... I've always liked asshat, twathead and assjockey

@willythewise... frozen kumquat (who eats shit like that)

@akatkin... Dickhead and ass-clown are always good descriptors. I also agree w/@iggylicious on fucktard.

@peacecorn... jackhole (thought i made up that word in the early 80's, but saw it on the internet)

@SirFWALGMan... Sorry I fail. I used that word 3 times in my blog post today.

@Katitude... my dad's favourite: retroactive abortion candidate

@PokerVixen... You could change a few to "douche" instead of douchebag.

@MariaHo... how about tool, toolbag (which is like a hybrid of tool and douchebag)?!

@sellthekids... basically looking for the douchebagginess of the word for "donkey" - fucksticks? assholes? dipshits?

@good43... asshat, assjack (personal fav), hoosier, dipshit, dumbass, bag, failbag, loser, waffles, sirfwalgman....

@AlCantHang... Asshat http://www.alcanthang.com/poker/asshat.jpg

@Iggylicious... urban dictionary recommended one of my favorites: fucktard.

@AstinTO... assclown? dingleberry? saline sac?

@genebromberg... there are no synonyms for douchebag. The word conveys a simple, universal truth and there are no adequate substitutes.
Thanks gang for all your help.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Radio Free Pauly: The Poker Beat

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA


On Thursday, I drove down to an area near LAX to a studio in order to record an episode of The Poker Beat over at Poker Road Radio. I my first appearance as a guest on The Poker Beat, co-hosted by Scott Huff and John 'Schecky' Caldwell. The show featured journalists in the poker industry.... so of like Poker Road's version of ESPN's The Sports Reporters.

I was fortunate to be included in this week's discussions of the industry top stories including the WPT Championships and Annie Duke on the reality show Celebrity Apprentice. They also dedicated the last segment of the show to tribute Justin Shronk.

I spoke a little bit about my assignment at the LAPT Argentina to kick off the show. Michalski and I also discussed Annie Duke's blowjob and the fact that Joan Rivers went nuts and compared Annie to Hitler. I got a couple of good Joan Rivers/Hitler jokes in.

For the Shronk tribute, I told a funny story that happened to us on assignment in Monte Carlo two years ago.

Despite some nerves, I ad a ton of fun especially since I got to collaborate with one of my good buddies Schecky. It looks like they will have me back for future shows.

Click here to listen to this week's episode of The Poker Beat.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

mar del plata > buenos aires > dallas > lax

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It took 24 hours to get home.

On Monday morning, I stood in the lobby of the Provencal, a state run hotel in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Nicky checked out at the front desk and signed for her bill - 537 or so Pesos or $146 USD. That was the entire tab for the week which included raiding our mini-bar in the room, the breakfast buffet every morning (with proper bacon but something horrible that resmbled scrambled egg soup), and several nights of drinking at the bar in the hotel lobby. That averaged out to like $10 a piece per day.

Argentina was the least expensive country I had visited through poker including Mexico. London was ridiculously expensive as was Monte Carlo. It was refreshing to go at least $700 under budget on a trip, which I'm going to use towards funding a project during the WSOP this summer.

We stepped out of the hotel and I nodded at the policeman chain-smoking a cigarette. That was a very common scene... cops smoking while standing around on duty. Otis hailed a cab for four of us. We wondered about the luggage situation since Joe had a oversized bag filled with camera equipment. Our cabbie jumped out of the car and grabbed a bungee chord. Within seconds, the old guy fit every single bag into his tiny trunk in a deft display of trunk Tetris.

Argentinian cab drivers were notoriously known for driving fast. Within an hour after the bar fight early on Monday morning, Nicky and I were in the backseat of a cab and our driving wildly sped through the empty streets of Mar del Plata at 90mph. He blew a few red lights but there was not another person on the road.

Our driver weaved in and out of a heavily traversed two lane road hugging the coastline. Our stuffed taxi sped past old cars, trucks, buses, and even a few mopeds en route to the tiny airport on the outskirts of town.

We arrived quickly and the driver was pleasantly surprised when I gave him a tip. He smiled and actually bowed to me. I gave the guy like 12 pesos. Nothing special, but for him, it meant the world. I think he can buy his own cab company now with his new found bounty.

Otis, Joe, Nicky and I were on a 2:40pm flight that also included dozens of other people involved with the poker tournament including staff, players, and other media reps. We sat in the airport for a few hours because our flight was delayed. We did not need an announcement. It was obvious because there was no airplane... anywhere. The tiny two gate airport looked out on a cracked runway. There was not a single airplane to be seen. That's never good. We would only be able to leave as soon as the next flight arrived. That should had been hours earlier but the flight out of Buenos Aires was delayed.

Nicky and Otis took naps. They crashed in an empty row of seats. I shot the shit with Haas, a Scottish video producer, and he suggested a couple of books. I jotted down the names in my notebook. I welcomed all book recommendations from Canadians, Brits, Scots, Aussies, Kiwis, and the Irish. Pretty much everyone who speaks the English language that is not an American. After all those folks on the average read substantially more books than Americans.

Shecky called me with horrible news of Shronk's passing and I was a bit dazed while I waited for the plane to arrive. After a lengthy delayed, the plane finally showed up. They boarded us and we waited almost another hour. Why? There was no pilot. When he finally showed up and took his seat, we pulled out to the runway and took off towards Buenos Aires.

We arrived in the middle of rush hour traffic which was a potential problem since we had to switch airports in Buenos Aires. The regional airport was on the opposite side of the city as the international airport. Despite slight traffic, our second cab driver of the day got us across town as fast as he could.

There were some odd check-in procedures at the airport and I discovered that my departure taxes were paid, while Nicky had to fork over a couple of bucks. MeanGene took the bus from Mar del Plata and he arrived at the airport at the same exact time as us. We all ate one final meal (ham and cheese toasties with the crust cut off) and then said good-bye. MeanGene and Otis were on a connecting flight through Atlanta while we headed towards Dallas.

Joe is a member of the admiral club and he got Nicky and I invited. I sipped fizzy water and ate chocolate cookies while I penned a tribute to Shronk. I was one of the first people to board the plane and realized that I was in the next to last row. The worst part? When everyone went to sleep, the flight attendants gathered in the galley and yapped incessantly. They kept waking me up and I slept about an hour.

I watched Benjamin Buttons and it resembled nothing like the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story that I read decades earlier. Our flight arrived a few minutes late and the immigration officer at the booth said that he thought it was cool that I was a poker writer. Nicky had a short connection and I was booked on a much later flight to LAX. I hustled to the gate and tried to fly Standby. Luckily, they had a seat for me and I didn't have to fart around DFW for 2 hours while I waited for my connecting flight.

My flight to LAX featured Marley & Me and I read the Economist instead. I should have watched the doggie flick for a third time instead. Even though the dog dies, it's still a happier ending that the reality of our global economy.

Nicky and I had almost 1000 Pesos left over and tried to cash them at LAX where they screwed us in the exchange rate. Rookie move there. I took whatever they offered me and headed for the taxi line. It was hot, near boiling at 9am in Los Angeles and it was only going to get hotter.

It was good to be back. I have about 5 weeks before the WSOP and Phish summer tour. I had a lot of shit on my plate and it was time to really go to work.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Argentina Photo Gallery

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I published a complete gallery of 68 photos that I took in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata.

Here are a couple...




Otis' Super Poncho


The local brothel


Placemat BINGO

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

R.I.P. Shronk

Pauly
Dallas, TX


Justin Shronk (1981-2009)
Image courtesy of Poker Road

I was sitting at an airport in Mar del Plata, Argentina after finishing up a work assignment when I got a call relaying me the tragic news of Justin Shronk's passing. We had exchanged emails on Friday afternoon when Shronk was hospitalize in Las Vegas due to a pancreatic ailment. He said that he was waiting to be released after a short stay and I took that as a positive sign. That's why the news of his sudden death completely blinded sided me along with his closest friends and the majority of the folks in the poker media.

I first met Shronk at Sydney airport in 2007. We were both hired by Poker News to cover the Aussie Millions. Although we both knew of each other by reputation, we had never actually met before. His previous employer had been a multi-media producer at Card Player and the Aussie Millions assignment would mark the beginning of a year long stint as the multi-media manager of Poker News. He produced and directed the earliest videos for Poker News when they launched their tournament reporting project and he would become an integral part of the 2007 WSOP coverage team.

During the two week long Aussie Millions assignment in Melbourne, I had the pleasure of getting to know Shronk. After all, when you sit next to someone every day for 12+ hours a day for two weeks straight, you really get a glimpse into what makes that person tick. And right away, one thing was obvious... the guy was hysterical. And his sense of humor was an asset especially during the lengthy grind of covering a poker tournament series. He definitely kept things light, particularly during the lulls and boring parts of the day.

It was in Melbourne that I learned of Shronk's fondess for Aaron Sorkin especially his work on The West Wing. He knew nearly every single line of dialogue from that long running series. Shronk had odd tastes for music and film and would often blurt out random lines from the BMX film "Rad." That pretty much summed up Shronk right there.

In Melbourne, I recorded an infamous video of a prop bet with Shronk... where he ate an entire packet of Vegemite. Check out the video here...


One of the funnier moments at the 2007 Aussie Millions involved Shronk's late night eating habits. He was often up until the wee hours rendering and uploading videos. He often ordered room service at 3am. There was a mix up with the our food allowance on that trip. The Poker Shrink and John Caldwell were given unlimited credit while Shronk and I got nothing. We worked around that obstacle and I would often charge beers and food to Caldwell's room while Shronk added items to the Poker Shrink's tab. When Shronk ordered late night room service, they often made an error and sent the food to the Poker Shrink's room instead of his. The Shrink would be fast asleep when there'd be a knock at his door. One night the Poker Shrink answered the door buck naked only to discover that Shronk had ordered a bowl of spaghetti bolognese and the kitchen sent it to the wrong room.

During 2007, I worked along side Shronk for several other international assignments (EPT Monte Carlo, EPT Barcelona, WSOP-Europe, and the Poker News Cup in Melbourne) and a few domestic ones as well (L.A. Poker Classic, WSOP Circuit at Caesar's Palace, WPT Championships, and the WSOP). Shronk admitted that he was a terrible traveler and hated being away from home, yet there he was traveling the globe while working for Poker News. He sacrificed a tremendous amount personal comfort out of sheer love of the game.

One of my least favorite stops on the tour was Monte Carlo. My French was tres mal at best and the snootiness of the entire concept of Monaco rubbed me the wrong way. Now, I thrived being on the road and costly in flux, yet if I had a tough time with being in the South of France, you could only imagine how much Shronk struggled. There was a small bar that served food next to the media room in Monte Carlo. Due to the long work hours, we frequently ate there out of convenience. Shronk loathed trying to order anything from the surly waiters and often pleaded with me to order his lunch or dinner. For the length of the Monte Carlo assignment, I frequently ordered overpriced food for Shronk and we both could believe that we were blowing though our per diem at a rapid pace.

"I have no idea what those French waiters are saying," Shronk said.

"That's because they are speaking French," I told him.

The road is a very unusual place, especially when you're on business trips. In Spain, we quickly learned how to avoided the local sausage and Shronk got a quick tutorial in how to use a European style shower after flooding his bathroom. And in London? Well, let's just say London was another headache for Shronk. We had been on the road for several weeks at that point (covering EPT Barcelona and WSOP-E back to back for almost a month straight on the road in Europe) and Shronk ran out of clean clothes. He had tripped on a slippery cobblestone and twisted his ankle pretty bad and unable to hobble to a laundromat. Instead, he opted to get his clothes cleaned by the hotel's laundry service. When he got his tab, the bill was over 400 British Pounds. At the time, the US dollar was at its lowest so that was work almost $800. Man, I wish I could have seen the look on the faces of the big wigs at Poker News when they read his invoice where he billed them $800 to clean his underwear.


The Tools of Shronk (Barcelona, Spain circa Sept. 2007)
His laptop and video camera when he sat next to me in the media room

Shronk eventually departed ways with Poker News and ended up as a producer at Poker Road and that seemed like the perfect fit for his talents and personality. He was genuinely happy to be a part of that gang as well as the eclectic group of people who make up the poker media.

Owen said it best...
"It's a world for the kinds of creative people who spent their teenage years feeling out of place and it's a haven. It's a welcoming environment in which individualism is encouraged and friendships are forged in hotel rooms and casino bars the world over.... It's a place where people like Shronk thrive."

The gang at Poker Road were deeply affected by his loss. Joe Sebok wrote a touching tribute to Shronk...
"He loved new media and I think, in many respects, he was able to live some of his dream by being a part of it in poker, whether that was for CardPlayer, PokerNews, or most recently right here at PokerRoad. He was an integral part of our family and we will miss him with all of our hearts. It had been our honor to call him a co-worker, and more importantly a friend.

BJ also penned something...
"But the humor I'll remember Shronk for is his sharp wit and his clever comments. Like his final forum post, he got maximum effect out of a minimal number of words. I know Shronk respected some of my technical skill as a writer, but that can be learned with time and practice. If I live to be 100, I don't think I'll ever have a wit as sharp as Shronk's."

Amy wrote...
"The tragedy of Justin Shronk’s death wasn't that he never lived his dream. He lived it every day. The tragedy is ours."

Needless to say, on those long nights during a tournament (especially during the insanity of the WSOP) Shronk kept me loose with his tremendous sense of humor and wit that BJ eloquently described. That's when I'm going to miss him the most on those late nights when the last thing I want to do is be sitting inside a casino, yet Shronk had the ability to make those brutal moments palatable.

Shronk, you were one of a kind. RIP, brother.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Vicodin Diaries Vol. 3: Stray Dogs, One-Armed Bums, Paint Huffers, and Bar Fights

By Pauly
Mar del Plata, Argentina

Editor's note: This portion of The Vicodin Diaries originally appeared on the Tao of Poker. Feel free to check out Vol. 1 and Vol 2...

* * * * *

Although the Brazilian models busted out on Day 1a, they returned on Day 1b and played in a second chance tournament. Those tables ran right in front of media row. Nicky scoffed at me as I wiped the pool of drool that collected on my clothes. Otis flatly refused to look up in order to avoid mega-braless-Brazilian model-tilt.

"Have you seen the amount of beer that those Brazilian models have been consuming?" said Otis at one point.

They chugged beer like it was apple juice. I was in awe.

The state run casino was housed in a sprawling complex of brick. You passed through heavy revolving doors and walked up a marble staircase, sort of like entering a palace. My hotel had similar doors and bellboys strategically positioned themselves in front of the doors. Their sole purpose in life? Pushing the revolving doors for patrons. Their extra shove definitely helped especially when you carried around a lot of gear.

There wasn't an infestation of feral dogs, but a handful randomly roamed around the square in front of the casino. One dog in particular, a gaunt German Shepherd, took up a position right in front of the casino. The starving canine laid down near one of the revolving doors. The security never bothered to shoo it away and the first time I saw the pooch, I honestly thought it was dead.

I'm not an overly superstitious person, but the mere act of stepping over a dead dog to enter a casino could not have been good mojo. Alas, my fears were nixed. The dog was sleeping or that was his way of trying to hustle some scraps of high quality yet overcooked Argentinian beef from sympathetic gamblers.

The casino had three separate revolving doors and a one-armed panhandler sat on a milk crate inside the doorway. The simpleton mooched cigarettes and random food stuffs. Again, I was sort of surprised that the chain-smoking heavily-armed security did not usher him away. That sort of plight would never be tolerated in Las Vegas.... today. However, if the current economic state of affairs continues to spiral downward towards complete financial collapse in the Untied states, I'm envisioning that sort of desperate scene becoming common place in Las Vegas. Bums and hungry dogs camping out in front of the valet at the Bellagio being ignored and passed over by the few wealthy elite would could afford to pay passage to and from Sin City. Next thing you know it, there will be hungry kids hustling for pennies at traffic lights on Las Vegas Blvd. and lepers taking up shop in front of McCarran airport.

Oh, and did I mention the casino security included chain-smoking cops that were armed to the hilt? In Vegas, you might see the occasional rent-a-cop security guard sporting a six shooter, a taser, or billy club. In Argentina, the security forces were not fuckin' around.

At one point on Day 2, a couple of mean-eyed law enforcement officers stood behind Mean Gene and I as we covered the tournament. They wore black military fatigues with semi-automatic pistols on their hip. I took special notice of their extra ammunition. They were prepared for a serious fire fight if by chance one broke out.

Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst.

A couple of police officers were stationed in front of our hotel (located next door to the casino). There were also two sparkling shiny new ambulances adorned in red ribbons. They contained some PokerStars branding on the side and a sign explaining that they were donated by PokerStars. A nice gift to the local officials to ensure that the tournament ran smoothly, especially after the fiasco in Mexico last December.

I heard a couple of stories about trying to score party favors from different locals. Supposedly the windshield washers at traffic lights were the primary source of yerba. At one point, I was offered to huff paint out of a paper bag. Although I considered the option for a brief moment, I respectfully declined. I have not huffed paint thinner on a street corner since the summer of 1997 (that's a very long story that I'll save for another time) and I had no intentions of going that far off the reservation... at least while the tournament was still running.

On the first night in Mar del Plata, I noticed a sign across the street that said, "Friends." I mentioned that to one of my Costa Rican colleagues and asked if it was a strip club. He said that it looked like a hair salon. Fair enough. But less than 24 hours later, I discovered that the joint was a brothel. The girls cost 80 pesos or roughly $24.

Wha?

And then there was the guy in the market place selling knives. I almost bought three. By reading enough Jose Luis Borges short stories, I learned that having a bigger knife during a potential mugging almost always thwarted the alleged assailants.

"Dude, you're gonna need this, especially walking around at night," as I stealthily handed Otis and MeanGene a seven inch blade.

I decided against it because the last thing I wanted to do was send those guys on mega-knife-fight-tilt. But just in case something happened to Otis, he asked me to deliver his watch to his first born son back in G-Vegas.
"The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He'd be damned if anyone was gonna put their greasy hands on his boy's birthright... And now, little man, I give the watch to you."
I'm glad we didn't have the knives because someone would have gotten stabbed at the wrap party.

We went to a club. Free booze. Lots of weird late 80s music. Everyone was celebrating the end of a tough assignment. Everything was groovy until around 3:30am. I was about to leave when something happened. Apparently there was a drunk guy (not a player but the brother of a player) hanging around the tournament the last few days harassing all the models and some of the female staff. He crossed a serious line at the party and groped someone he should not have been touching... particularly a friend's wife.

When the drunken nimrod was repeatedly warned by my buddy and told to stop, the drunk responded with a sucker punch. It caught my friend off guard and the two tumbled over a couch and fell onto the dance floor right in front of me. I was caught up in the middle of it as everyone on the dance floor parted as the music continued to blast in the club and the two grappled on the ground. My buddy's wife tried to intervene and I was trying to pull her away so she didn't get hurt. Sometimes, things are best left to two guys settling a problem themselves. A near brawl ensued. I expected the security to break it up, but no one was in that part of the club. As soon as another friend pulled my buddy away, the drunken molester bolted. He tried to run into the bathroom with an angry mob of Costa Ricans and Argentinians in pursuit. Luckily the club security caught the drunken molester before the angry mob tore him to pieces. The drunken scumbag was quickly 86'd from the club. Everything happened so fast and there was a ton of confusion. I was glad that Nicky and my friend's wife were not harmed in the fracas. As soon as the fight ended, the dance floor quickly filled up with people dancing... like nothing happened.

Stray dogs. One-armed bums. Chain-smoking federales packing heat. Paint huffing windshield washers. $24 harlots. Beer guzzling Brazilian models. And a good old fashioned bar fight.

Just another Sunday night in Argentina.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Otis Likes Argentinian Nipple Art

By Pauly
Mar del Plata, Argentina

We shot this clip on Wednesday night... and we were both sober.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Argentina Pic Dump

By Pauly
Mar del Plata, Argentina

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


Downtown Buenos Aires


On the beach in Mar del Plata


Downtown Mar del Plata


Mel + Maridu


Otis loves art


Argentinian bacon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Don't Cry for Me....

By Pauly
Mar del Plata, Argentina

Some things never change.

First day of work for an assignment and I'm slightly hungover. Quilmes is the local brew and we became well acquainted over the course of an evening which included a welcome party and then a booze-fest at the bar in our hotel lobby as really bad 1990s music blasted through the sound system.


There was a mixup with media credentials. My six person team? No one of them had a press pass waiting for them. When I made attempts to clear this up, I was blown off a couple of times. The person in charge actually asked, "What is Poker News? Is it an online site?"

And to complicate matters, the video guy and our on air talent are without luggage. The wizards at Delta lost their stuff. So now our film crew is without camera and video equipment. Delta said it would arrive at 2pm local time. I'm betting against that. They are heading out shopping this morning to pick up clothes and as much equipment as they can find.

On a good note, Otis and MeanGene arrived safely. And my buddy Rey from Costa Rica found me someone who can translate Lost Vegas into Spanish.

Awesome start. Par for the course. Good times. Bad times. You know I've had my share...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

lax > buenos aires > mar del plata

By Pauly
Mar del Plata, Argentina

I can't recall ever being in such horrible head space on an important travel day. Sure, there have been times when I left an assignment or holiday totally hungover and completely ill, but that was at the end of a trip and I was on my way home after a late night of partying. On Monday morning, I was physically ill (the effects of the tainted Indian food which slayed me for 48+ hours and left me with a bloody arse) and on mega-Citibank tilt. That's no way to start a 24 hour journey just to get to where I needed to go for a week long assignment in Argentina.

I was flustered trying to leave the apartment. I was on the phone and doing my best to not to unleash a tirade on an outsourced call center person. Look, at this point I expect that major companies will outsource their support staff. However, they should at least make sure their operators speak English clearly. I honestly couldn't tell what the person said until I was finally transferred to someone with better communication skills. These days, if you give your bank an opportunity to fuck you over... they will. Luckily I caught the problem before I went out of the country.

Anyway, while I was on the phone I rushed out of the apartment and forgot to bring a couple of chapters of Lost Vegas that I printed out. That was considered a non-essential items. While on the road, if the shit hits the fan, I only need one thing... my passport. Everything I take on the road with me is expendable even my precious laptop. Obviously it has to be a live or death situation for me to make the decision to ditch my baby. But stuff like notebooks, ipod, and clothes? All replaceable.

I also try to pack as light as possible. However, on a work assignment there are two types of items that I bring along... essential items (passport, laptop, credit cards, cash, camera, and underwear)... and non-essential items (books, iPod, extra clothes). You get the picture.

I had a super tight connection. My flight from LAX to Buenos Aires connected through Dallas, since that's American Airlines hub and the point of origin of several South American routes. I'd have less than one hour to make the connection. As a gambling man, I figured that I was 3 to 1 against making the flight because of the limited connection time which left very little leeway if my flight from LAX was delayed. And if you ever flown on American, you know how awful they are for on-time performance and that flights from LAX can be a clusterfuck. Plus, DFW is a huge airport and I was worried that I'd get stuck in a different terminal and have to take a train to the correct terminal.

Nicky booked on the same flight from Dallas to Buenos Aires, but she selected a much earlier flight from LAX to Dallas in order to give herself breathing room. My company could not fit me on that flight since they tapped me for the gig just last week and arranged travel plans on short notice. Alas, I had to take a different flight from Nicky. I tried to change the flight or get on the list for standby but they wouldn't let me because of some bullshit about altering a ticket for a international travel after 9/11 blah blah blah.

Nicky and I arrived at LAX at the same time and she left on a flight one hour before me. We said our goodbyes. I mentally prepared myself and expected to get stranded in Dallas since there was only one flight per day heading to Argentina.

Oh, and here's the worst part of the journey. My assignment is located in a beach resort town south of Buenos Aires approximately 5.5 hours. I had to book a separate domestic flight from Buenoa Aires to Mar del Plata on Tuesday morning which flew out of a different airport in Buenos Aires (similar to arriving at JFK and then having to head to LaGuardia to finish up your journey). All of the other Buenos Aires > Mar del Plata flights were sold out on Wednesday. So if I missed my Monday night flight to BA, then I'd have to fly to South America on Tuesday night and forced to take a 5.5 hour bus ride after I landed on Wednesday morning.

I discovered that Otis got fucked over in a similar situation. His flight from Greenville to Miami (connecting to Buenos Aires) was cancelled because of shitty weather. Act of God. He had to postpone his journey by one day... which meant a five plus hour bus ride awaited him when he eventually cleared customs in Buenos Aires.

Originally, my client arranged me to travel on a bus from Buenos Aires > Mar del Plata. I could only imagine what a bus ride in South America would be like... chickens flying around, crying babies with snot crusted on their face, holes in the floorboards with dust swirling all around... not to mention, a gaucho with a blade in the back row challenging anyone who wanted to use the toilet to a fight to the death. So instead of riding on a dilapidated bus without AC while sitting in my own warm piss, I decided to avoid a scene out of a Jose Luis Borges short story and I paid money out of my pocket for a flight to Mar del Plata to avoid the plight with the unwashed masses.

I caught a little wave of luck and my flight out of LAX was only delayed by ten minutes. Nicky waited for me at the gate when I arrived and I caught another break because the flight to Buenos Aires was leaving only three gates down. I had enough time to load up on energy bars and pick up a couple of thousand Argentinian pesos at the exchange booth.

There was a mob scene at the gate. I picked up a "blend in with the locals" guide book to Argentina and one chapter highlighted the cockiness of Argentinians and how they were too cool to wait in lines. Alas, when they called pre-boarding, a huge surge rushed towards the door which included an entire youth-group soccer team. Nicky had elite status on American Airlines so she boarded in the first group. She ran into a ticket agent on a power trip who refused to let her take a carry-on bag onto the plane. Nicky went on mega-tilt. She purposely carried on her bags because American Airlines lost her luggage on the way to Chile a few months ago. Sadly, she lost the battle with the bitchy agent even though she carried on the same bag on plenty of other journeys. Nicky unleashed a F-bomb and the agent was offended and chastised her for using foul language against FAA rules.

"When did this turn into a fuckin' Communist country?" she screamed.

Actually, we currently live in a socialist country with fascist undertones. But it was no time for semantics. Alas, Nicky had to check her bag at the gate and she boarded the plane in a huff.

Hourly Wage Slave 1, Nicky 0.

I waited fifteen minutes in the middle of the mob until I finally boarded the plane. Nicky had Row 25 Seat A. When it was time for me to select my seats online last week, I picked the closest to her... Row 25 Seat C. It was an aisle seat and we figured whoever was next to Nicky would switch since they also had an aisle seat. Except a grumpy old guy refused to switch. He didn't want to sit in the middle row with five other seats. As he explained, there were two or more people who had to climb over him during the 10+ hour flight. If he kept his seat next to Nicky, it would only be one person. When I sat down, I asked him to switch a second time.

"Any chance I get to sit next to my girlfriend? She's a horribly nervous flier."

"No. And I thought she was your wife? She said that you were her husband?"

"Ummm.... wishful thinking," I said.

Nicky purposely said husband because she thought that more people are sympathetic to married couples than boyfriend/girlfriend. Alas, I buttered the guy up a bit and engaged in small talk. When he noticed that no one was sitting next to me, he warmed up tot he idea of switching. In fact, there were two empty seats next to me. When the doors closed he agreed to finally move and I got to sit next to Nicky.

We were on a newer plane and American Airlines offered up individual TV screens and free movies-on-demand... much like my two other favorite international airlines... KLM and Qantas.

The dinner sucked, a dry piece of rubber chicken and cold rice infested with disgusting veggies. I was starving so badly that I actually ate the side salad with yellow lettuce although I tossed Nicky the tomato. The dinner roll was the highlight of the meal only because I dropped half my cookie on the floor somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico.

Unable to sleep, I popped a half of a pharmie and settled in to watch flicks. First up? Valkyrie... the Tom Cruise vehicle where he played a German colonel during WWII who was part of the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. Better than I expected with cameos from top British actors Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Kenneth Branaugh. Fitting flick since I was about to embark on a side trip to hunt down ex-Nazis living in Argentina once my assignment ended.

Next up... Marley and Me. Everyone loves puppies. I didn't watch the end because I knew that the fuckin' pooch died in the end. And I switched to Frost/Nixon. Best one I watched in a while. The last flick that I watched The Express a bio-pic about Ernie Davis, who was the first black player to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Dennis Quaid played the coach of Syracuse.

When it was over... four flicks down.

I tried to sleep but the attempt failed. Nicky passed out for a few hours and I was engaged in deep thought about making some changes to Lost Vegas.

We arrived on time at Buenos Aires and we met up with Joe, a photographer who works with Nicky and Otis. He helped arrange a private car service to take us across town to the domestic airport.

As we walked out of the airport and followed our driver, a swarm of cabbies bombarded me with offers to drive me. I politely declined their assistance and instead hit them up for party favors instead.

"Donde esta la mota?" I blurted out a couple of times.

No response.

We hopped into a Ford Focus and our driver quickly sped off. There was wicked traffic since it was Tuesday morning rush hour. Our driver took us on a short cut through 9 de Julio Avenue, which is sort of the main drag or Buenos Aires' version of Broadway.

We arrived at the domestic airport and grabbed breakfast while we waited for our flight to Mar del Plata. It was a quick 45 minute flight and I actually slept 90% of that flight... or more time that I actually slept on my flight from Dallas to Buenos Aires.

As soon as we exited the baggage claim from the tiny airport, two stunningly attractive model types in black dresses walked towards me. One of them handed me a PokerStars brochure. I told them that I actually worked for Stars in the past and that I was media. One of them told me about the free shuttle bus to our hotel which was located next to the casino.

We jumped in the shuttle and it whisked us away to downtown Mar del Plata. It was much bigger than I expected with random dogs wandering the streets along side the ocean. After two taxis, three lights, five airports, and a shuttle bus... I finally arrived at my intended destination.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Least Easter

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

"He doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. Been snorting too much blow again," I said moments after I hung up the phone.

Nicky whizzed down empty Pico Blvd. past the Fox lot en route to her parents' house in Westwood for Easter dinner. I felt like crap for the previous 20 or so hours leading up to Easter Dinner. The night before, we had ate Indian food. Bad mistake. I wretched in pain all Saturday night. I took something to knock me out and I actually slept for almost seven hours... which was the total sleep I had gotten in the previous three nights combined.

Dinner was lovely. Nice Italian dish. Nicky's father relentlessly teased me about the Yankees and repeatedly commented that Joba Chamberlin was a fat drunk. I showed him Joba's DUI test that was posted on the Smoking Gun which seemed to appease him.

A book that I ordered was mailed to Nicky's parents house. It was several weeks late and finally arrived. I wish that it came a couple of days earlier because I already selected my travel books for the upcoming trip.

A couple of friends of mine co-authored a book that is due out next month. The Poker Shrink and Amy Calistri sent me an advanced copy of their manuscript. I was fortunate to catch one of the first glimpses of the book. Honored, indeed.

I read the book over the last couple of days and devoured the first 177 pages in one sitting during an insomnia-riddled evening. I read the "prison chapter" while I sat at the counter at Nick's and finished the rest of it off on Sunday morning.

I posted a review of Check-Raising the Devil: The Mike Matusow Autobiography over at Tao of Poker. Check it out.

I have been listening to the latest album from the New Mastersounds. They remind me of Galactic circa 1998. Funky-ass-shit considering that 75% of the band are crackers from Britain. They added a female singer to the mix which added a much needed variety to their songs. Both the Joker and Johnnie Walker saw them in Colorado recently and raved about their shows.

The New Mastersounds were 'my new favorite band' in 2008. Previous winners of that prestigious award were...
The Black Keys (2005)
My Morning Jacket (2006)
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals (2007)
The New Mastersounds (2008)
???? (2009)
It's pretty obvious that Phish pretty much has that honor locked up, but after seeing Everest perform at Outside Lands Festival last summer in San Francisco, I was very impressed with their sound. Everest is in constant rotation for me, but in the end, I'm not spending a shitload of money to chase them around the U.S. this summer.

And yes, I was joking about the Steely Dan cover band on Twitter. Although a few people fell for it. And yes, I actually had a Steely Dan day when I played every single Steely Dan tune that I had in the depths of my iPod... 30 songs or so.

I forgot about Say Anything. I was a little faded late on Saturday night after trying to dull the stomach pain. I slumped on the couch and recited lines to Say Anything. I also happily sang along with "Joe Lies" chick as she sang her suicidal songs at the party.

Joe lies. When he cries.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Updating & Archiving

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I completed something that was long overdue. I updated my Publish Articles Archives for the first time in over a year. The index of various freelance articles that I churned out now includes items from the last twelve months or so.

You can check out the index/archive here.

Bluff Magazine added online versions of my monthly 'On the Road' column. You can check out the Bluff Archives here.

Check out the last couple of months of articles...
On the Road: Budapest
On the Road: Mexico
On the Road: Bahamas
I hit the road on Monday for my next assignment... Argentina.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Twit Link Dump

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Here are a couple of links that I mentioned in the twitterverse in the last week...
Dan, Liz & Pauly (Flickr)
The Dark Side of Dubai (The Independent)
Special Rosie (YouTube)
Playboy Playmates on Twitter (Pulver Blog)
Who the Hell is enrolling in journalism school right now? (Tech Crunch)
The Ultimate Trip: "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" Heads to the Big Screen (Rolling Stone)
And if you haven't figured out by now, I'm taopauly on Twitter. That's my main feed.


We also have a separate feed for Coventry Music & Phish blog.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lyricon, Volume 1

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The cafe was crowded. The background chatter fluctuated with the aromas of various coffee products. The unusually loud dub-reggae music made it difficult to converse among all the commotion, yet the two sat across each other in a contemplative silence for a few moments. She took a long sip from a large blue cup.

"It soothes you," he said. "Doesn't it? Like a lick of ice cream. Every time you take a sip, it's sort of a spiritual experience. Well, it is for me, to watch you drink coffee. You smile, do you know that? You smile every time you finish a sip."

"I sit at home looking out the window, imagining..." she paused, "It can't think most of the time. My mind is too cluttered. But when I'm holding a warm cup of coffee in my hands, my brain is able to function properly. I really cannot explain why that or why I work that way. Every morning, I stand in my kitchen and sip coffee and stare out the window and solve all those life problems that mounted during the previous days. There's a tree across the street in front of an old brownstone. And the leaves are waiting to bud. The moment before Spring."

"New York is nice that time of year," he said. "Almost as green as it is here. And the house up on the hill? Magnificent. The entire first floor reminded me of a poem from Dylan Thomas. Even the musty smell and the room with all those books and manuscripts. Centuries old. Layered in decades of dust."

"Such a pretty house. Such a pretty garden," she said. "I have to admit that I would never want to live in that sort of solitude, but I would have loved if a distant family member lived there and I would be able to visit for weeks in order to hide away from whatever I have been trying to avoid. When those phobias subside, I'd be ready to return to work again. Another assignment. You never told me how your last client ended up."

"In the back room she was everyone's darling," he snickered. "That was her problem. She spent more time seeking validation, love in the form of sex, so much so that that lustful pursuit destroyed whatever talent she had. I have no idea if we'll ever work again. It's not worth it. Those are the lost ones who self-destruct every time. I'd rather manage a heroin addict than a love junkie. I know you experienced some similar issues with the Colonel."

"His rival it seems, had broken his dreams," she said and paused to sip on the blue cup before she continued. "He was always dubious of anyone in a powerful position. But it was his inability to handle the inner jealousy that destroyed anyone's willingness to collaborate. Talent is a far more valuable commodity than likability, but if you're a raving psychopath, like Maggie Gottschalk, then no one wants to have anything to do with you."

"She spent all my money, playing her high class game. It nearly drove me to drinking again. mean, I was drinking wine in large batches, but I almost returned to the bottle of vodka an afternoon habit that plagued back during the 1998 strike."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Website

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Lost Vegas finally has a little corner of the web to promote itself.

Thanks to a few friends for the blurbs.

I had to censor Professional Keno Playa Neil Fontenot's blurb. It was worthy of a peek here....
"Pauly put down the bong long enough to write this, so I figured the least I could do was to put down the dice and lay off the meth long enough to read it. This book is as real as all my illegitimate children in Reno. While I was reading it I forgot for a little while about the child support I owe and felt sorry for all the other losers in this book, and that was awesome." - PKPNF

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Porno Hot Sauce

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Tuesday was Showcase's birthday and he invited us to a dinner party. Originally the theme was going to be sushi, but he called yesterday and asked to change restaurants. There was a new BBQ joint around the corner from his place in West Hollywood and he wanted to try it out.

The original Baby Blues BBQ was located in Venice. It was a hybrid-BBQ joint that took bits and pieces from regional styles... Memphis ribs and New Orleans influenced shrimp. Their sauce "hails from the western region of North Carolina."

A second restaurant opened up on Santa Monica Blvd. off of Fairfax. As much as I enjoyed sushi, I knew that BBQ would be a heartier meal and welcomed the change. I found the menu online and got even more excited when I saw that they proudly served sweet tea.

As I penned this post, I blurted out something to Nicky... "How do I delicately describe West Hollywood?"

"Very very gay with fags dancing their way down the street on the way to drag clubs," she said.

"Um, yeah, definitely reminded me of the West Village," I said.

"Positively Christopher Street," she said.

Nicky used to live around the corner from Baby Blues BBQ (when it was a Mexican restaurant) and 7969, the most notorious tranny club in town.

"Drag queens used to roll out of that joint at 6am and piss in my bushes. Thank God I don't live in West Hollywood anymore."

After Nicky parked the car and we walked a block or so to the Baby Blues. As soon as I walked inside, I realized that Showcase arranged his birthday dinner at a gay BBQ joint. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"It's not a gay BBQ joint per se," said Nicky, "Rather, it's a BBQ joint that happened to be on the gayest stretch of the gayest street in L.A.."

And yet, the waitresses? Smoking hot. Every single one of them, out-of-work actresses slinging sides of hush puppies and mashed sweet potatoes to a predominately gay clientele.

I ordered the pulled pork platter which came with cornbread and two sides. I opted for mac n' cheese and something called "chicken smoked rice." The cornbread was so greasy that it near slipped out of my hand as I snatched it off my plate. The cornbread featured actual pieces of corn. Made from scratch.

The pulled pork was a little dry but the super hot BBQ sauce called XXX or "Porno Hot." The cherry red sauce added serious heat to the dish. There were at least five different sauces on the table ranging from a Thai chili sauce to traditional Louisiana hot sauces

The sweat tea was sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

"Too much molasses," said Nicky.

For L.A. standards, the BBQ was above average. For hardcore BBQ fans or snobs? They would probably be super disappointed. The service wasn't great once the place filled up, but that's par for the course in L.A..

During the dinner, we were blessed to have witnessed two random celeb sightings. Nicky and Showcase were going nuts over Leslie Jordan who sat at an adjacent table. He was most famous for his role on Will and Grace, but I had never seen a single episode of that show, so to me, he was just another dude. And the dude was short.

The one person I noticed was Donald Fasion. He and his girlfriend passed by us on the way out. I don't watch Scrubs, but I know he's most famous for being the token black doctor on that show. His most memorable role in my eyes was the drummer in the band at the big house party scene in Can't Hardly Wait.

After dinner, we headed back to the apartment. Nicky watched American Idol while I played online poker for an hour or so at the dining room table. The contestants performed songs from the year of their birth. Man, did that make me feel old. Lots of tunes from when I was in grammar school and high school.

It made me wonder about some of the songs that were on the air waves when I was born. After a little research, I was fascinated with the list of popular songs originating in the sacred year of my birth. Some of those songs continue to be in my listening rotation today... Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Superfly, The Harder They Come, Tumbling Dice, Blue Sky, Old Man, After Midnight, Down On Me, and Layla.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bowling for Dollars - New Tao of Pokerati Episode

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Hijinks at the bowling alley. Here's the latest episode...


Episode 10.7: Bowling for Dollars... According to Michalski, "I blame it all on a text that put me on tilt for about four critical frames... regardless, to close out his most recent visit to Vegas, Pauly and I went bowling at the South Point casino for an intense heads-up match and some prop-betting education... and because he's not on Facebook and we couldn’t wager status-update control, we had to play for cash."
Thanks for listening to the shortest and laziest poker podcast on the intertubes. For first time listeners, head over to the Tao of Pokerati Archives.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Opening Day Rush

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The last 240 hours or so? Pleasant. Fortunate. Sunny skies. Upbeat. Funky. Like a very palatable Donavon Frankenreiter tune.

In gambling, there are winning streaks and then there's something called a rush... when everything in the world going right for a gambler, they're riding a sizzling streak. Blackjack. Craps. Sports betting. Poker. Whatever. Mathematicians insist that rushes do not exist, but gamblers in the middle of riding the highest and mightiest financial crest they have ever seen will tell you otherwise. It's during those rare moments during a rush when you have to maximize your edge. Keep pressing your luck.

For some reason, the stars aligned over the last ten days or so and I was humbled to be alive by the ll the little bundles of random coolness that had been popping up. I've been trying to soak up every bit of those good vibes. A storm is a coming and I'm living in the moment as much as possible before the rush halted. Losing gamblers will tell you that they have been waiting years and decades for any sort of a mini-rush.

I had a nice score in Vegas and that will fund the rest of Lost Vegas and some of Phish summer tour (and the boys announced yet two more shows... Fenway and a third night at Jones Beach). And for the first time in a very long time, I did not lose any money last week in the stock market. Gasp. Shocker. What the fuck? My IRA actually earned money much to the chagrin of that coke fiend Jim Kramer. I'm expecting another downturn in the market over the next 60 days, so that's only a temporary boost. However, for a brief moment, it felt good to see green numbers (indicating an upswing) next to my account balance. Maybe I'll cash it all out, move to India, and live like a king for a decades.

The unexpected bursts of coolness continued when I picked up an overseas assignment in South America. I'm back to covering the Latin America Poker Tour, where it's never a dull moment. The next event? LAPT Argentina. I had never been to that country before. The best part of the assignment? Nicky will be there with me, but covering the event for a different entity. She had the assignment booked for several weeks and I assumed that I was going to be raging solo for another week. Nope, no longer the case. I get a free trip to South America. No complaints. Plus, both Otis and Mean Gene are working the event. A fun crew to hang out with, I must say. Hijinks shall ensue. I told Mean Gene that we'd go on a couple of side trips on an ex-Nazi hunting mission. He seemed... remotely uninterested in those sorts of sojourns.

The assignment is located in not the most convenience of places. It shall be a tough journey to reach my intended destination. There are no direct flights to Buenos Aires from LAX, so I have to connect in Dallas. DFW? Yes... at least it's not Atlanta or Miami, those two or arguably the worst airports to have a tight connection.

The resort/casino is located several hours away on the Argentinian coast south of Bueons Aires which means after a 12 hour flight from the States, I gotta suck it up on a long ass 4-6 hour bus or train ride, because my client booked me on the train to save a few bucks. I can take a puddle jumper, but I would have to pay for that out of pocket. Hmmm....

With less than a week before my trip, I have even less time to devote towards Lost Vegas. The fourth attempt in four years at a complete draft is like 99% complete. I should have been in the rewriting stage at this point and I'm behind schedule (by at least a week). The crunch closing in. I'm feeling the pressure now. Yikes.

I cleared off Monday afternoon to watch baseball and the college hoops final. It was opening day for the Yankees as they took on the Baltimore Orioles, in Baltimore, which meant that VP Joe Biden tossed out the first pitch since Obama was currently jet-setting around Europe and hooking up heads up states with new iPods.

The Yankees got off to a slow start and trailed 61 before they rallied and made it a game. Alas, same old shit. They fizzled in crunch time and their bullpen failed to hold the lead in the late innings. Blowout. I turned it off when the score was 10-5. I immediately had buyers remorse about my brand new mlb.tv subscription... which I only got so I can watch the opening game at the new Yankee Stadium when I'm down in Argentina.

I went to Crack in the Box for a big assed iced tea. It's the most ghetto fast food eatery in the slums of Beverly Hills and it's located at the end of the block in an area that does not have a BH zip code. in the The kiosk inside Crack in the Box was broken so I had to go to the cashier. The change was 27 cents. She gave me back three coins... two pennies and what didn't feel like a traditional quarter. It was thicker. Upon closer inspection, it was a 50 cent Singapura piece from Singapore. I kept it because I knew that we had a better exchange rate. Turned out that that weird coin was worth almost 33 cents. Wow. I made 8 cents by just going to Crack in the Box.

And since I had been on a rush, there were no shoeless kids running around Crack in the Box begging me to buy them free tacos. Plus, 8 cents.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Debut

By Pauly
Hollywierd, CA

A couple of weeks ago, Showcase asked me if he could use our apartment to shoot scenes in an indie short film about online dating that he was working on with some friends. The cinematographer was our neighbor and actually lived upstairs. The director specifically wanted to use my office for a couple of scenes. I originally said yes because I thought I was going to be in Las Vegas playing in Dream Team Poker during the shoot. Plus, Showcase was floating on air after discovering that his Bud Light commercial garnered serious air play during March Madness hoops games and even during Saturday Night Live.

I got the dates wrong. The shoot was this weekend instead of last weekend... a horrible day because I was behind deadline on Lost Vegas and the Final Four games came on Saturday afternoon (on the left coast).

Alas, the apartment was locked up for the shoot so I juggled my schedule to accommodate everyone. All for the sake of art. The motion picture business is a sham and the big studios crank out watered down piece of shit after piece of shit. However, there are thousands and thousands of talent artistic types working in different fields around town. That's the part of L.A. that I'm attracted to... not the vain douchebags and attention-craved starlets... but the professionals in their individual fields.

Loaning our apartment for a location shoot was cool enough to know that I could help facilitate the creative process. The film that Showcase was shooting had the slimmest of budgets (um, none and most likely funded on someone's credit cards...) and won't go anywhere except end up YouTube. But that's what was great about the project... done for the sheer love of doing it... and they had my full fledged support so much so that I'd give up my working space during the homestretch of the Vegas book.

On Friday afternoon, Showcase and the director stopped by for a bit to discuss the scenes. Before they left, Showcase said, "Oh, by the way, Pauly, do you want to be in the film? You get one line. 'Hey! Fuck you, lady!'"

Nicky looked and me and excitedly nodded.

"Sure," I said. "Why not?"

"Awesome," said the director. "You'll be great for the part."

Quite a shocker that I landed a small role in the film. A speaking part nonetheless.

"Actors go years waiting to land a bit role in any film," gushed Nicky. "And you got offered a part in between bong hits."

Nicky was exaggerating about the bong hits. I was actually in my office deep into writing Chapter 50 when there was a knock on the door and Showcase and the director asked to check out the room.

When everyone left, I tweeted the good news. I got plenty of advice from thespian friends and other folks in the entertainment industry.

"Try, "HEY, fuck YOU lady!," because going, "Hey, FUCK you LADY!" sounds stilted. Try it in the mirror if you have to," said BG.

"Stand on your mark. Say your lines. That's all there is to acting," said Johnny Hughes.

"Remember: less is more," advised Kym en route to seeing Leonard Cohen in Dallas.

I practiced my line all night long. "Hey! Fuck you, lady!"

Sometimes, I fuckin' love Hollywood.

We crashed early on Friday night because the crew would be arriving around 9am. Early meant before dawn. Mac the cinematographer and the director arrived first to discuss the shots and the lighting. The moved stuff around before the actress/set designer arrived with a big Target bag filled of pink stuff to make my office seem more... feminine. Lots of pink. Feather boas. Pillows. Pink.

The cool part? They added a few of my paintings and kept a Phish Las Vegas poster in the shot.

Nicky and I left the 'set' and drove to O'Groats for breakfast to let everyone work in private. I was surprised that we were seated as soon as we walked inside. We usually avoided O'Groats on the weekends because there was always a lengthy wait. One of the rare positive aspects about the Great Depression is the ability to get tables without a reservation or waiting a long time at popular restaurants around Los Angeles.

We were seated right away and four tables encircled us. Two tables contained dads in polo shirts and hats bonding with their kids and eating Saturday breakfast while Mommy slept in or went to her botox appointment. The other table had a quartet of very fabulous guys enjoying brunch and across from them were their complete opposites... two middle-aged guys in baseball jerseys with magazines and printouts discussing their upcoming fantasy baseball draft.

Nicky and I returned to the apartment and the crew were ahead of schedule. We caught the actress filming the last bits of a scene. Weird seeing an attractive actress sit at the same Ikea desk where I have been writing Lost Vegas.


I smoked a couple of bong hits and played online poker while I waited to shoot my scene.

"Ready?" asked the director.

We walked outside in front of our apartment and he quickly discussed the scene on the palm tree lined street in the slums of Beverly Hills where the actress almost hits me with her car and I was supposed to slam my hand on her hood as she speeds away and I shout, "Hey! Fuck you lady!"

Yes, there was a minor stunt involved, which made the scene even cooler. The actress drove her actual car and the back seat was cluttered with her head shots and empty Starbucks cups.

The plan? Shoot the scene twice in a row. The actress drove her car around the block. Mac the cinematographer sat in the passenger seat and filmed the scene, while director sat in the backseat. When the car approached, I was supposed to jump out and pretend to get hit by the car. Mac shot part of the scene using the passenger side rear view mirror.

The actress drove off and I walked over to my mark as a tinge of panic descended over me. I didn't really give a shit about how I looked, but I didn't want to fuck up the scene for the crew and complicate matters. I unleashed couple of jumping jacks to shake off the nerves and I gazed up to the Hollywood hills.

The car slowly approached. My heart raced and I jumped out. I made sure that she didn't drive over my foot. I slammed my hand on the hood and screamed my line.

The car sped away. A group of three people stood in front of the house across the street looked horrified.

"Are you OK, did she hit you?"

I smiled. My chops worked.

"I'm totally OK. We're shooting a film. How did it look?"

"Convincing," said the guy.

Two minutes passed and the actress drove down the street a second time. I jumped out, slammed my hand on the hood, and screamed my line. Nicky said that she heard me shouting from inside our apartment.

They parked the car and Mac quickly played back both scenes for the director.

"Let's get one more and we're gonna drive slower this time," said the director. "Jump up and down like she ran over your foot. More arm waving."

I returned to my position and they drove around the block. When she got close, I jumped out, slammed my hand on the hood, screamed my line and faked the foot injury.

I nailed the scene on 3rd take. Acting debut completed.

Showcase arrived to shoot his scene... a sex scene with the actress in my office of all place. He promised it would not be gay porn, and it wasn't even regular porn. A simulated sex scene.

I returned to playing online poker in the living room as they finished up the last scene. They quickly rushed out of the apartment in order to shoot a scene at another location in West Hollywood and they left behind the gun for the final scene.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Truckin' - April 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 4

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Another fantastic issue of your favorite literary blogzine has been published.

April 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 4

1. Brownstone by Paul McGuire
Nothing existed for her before 1944. She was very vague with that part of her life during the war in Europe. She left behind something so incredibly horrifying that she wanted to erase those connections to that past. The vastness of the Atlantic ocean was far enough distance for her to feel safe enough to establish roots and start over a new life in Brooklyn... More

2. An Essay . . . Or A White Paper To Depravity by May B. Yesno
I watched Sister for some period, observing the color ebb and flow through her throat and those portions of her face I could see, as she bent over the papers. I knew she was just from the showers and spending time with Mother, and could imagine the warm glow burning in her veins. My pulse sped slightly... More

3. Grassy Knoll by Milton T. Burton
Oswald's third shot came about a half second before mine did, but he missed. It was then that I realized what I'd been hearing wasn't no motorcycle. Those two shots coming that close together are what screwed up the investigation and caused all that damn fool crap about the echoes and the acoustics in Dealey Plaza. It was my shot that got him, though... More

4. Red No. 5 by Betty Underground
It had been close to 6 years since he had pulled that custom made emerald ring of the pocket of his jeans, picked the lint off it and woke me from the dead of sleep to ask me if I would promise to spend a big piece of forever with him. A non conventional proposal but they were the exact words I wanted to hear. Forever was something neither of us believed in, but we both knew that we wanted to look at each other's faces over the newspaper for a ton of Sundays... More

5. The Sandstorm Scholarships by Johnny Hughes
When Henry was eleven, his father wanted him to spend time with Jiggs Monroe, the 90-year-old former foreman of the Foster Ranch. Jiggs insisted on sitting outside the ranch house on folding chairs in a raging sandstorm. Henry's two older cousins fled to the house. Jiggs said, "You can judge a man by a sandstorm. We'd watch a young cowboy, and see how he acted. We'd see if he complained. You don't complain. You are tough."... More
Thanks again to the writers for sharing their blood work. And help spread the good word about Truckin'!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Quickie: Sugar, Drug Mules, and Nazi Hunters

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Struggling with a couple of morbid things... addiction and art. A deadly combination. Helluva a time to have to purge my evil urges during the home stretch of arguably the most vital moment as a scribe. Perhaps that could be the plot of an upcoming book?

I have been heavily distracted the past week, some of it was welcomed, but I have been disappointed with my overall output since I returned from Hampton/DC. I should have finished Lost Vegas by now. I know that I'm getting pissy about only being a couple of days over deadline, but time is money and since my time is always so limited, it's highly valuable. A precious commodity.

I woke up today and told myself that I wouldn't make any more excuses and finish strong. Consumers don't care about the struggle within. They just want to be fed, and tragically, they want their art food sped to them in glops of sugar-coated crap.

I thumbed through a copy of L.A. Weekly at the diner. Why? I had no pages to edit because I did not contribute to Lost Vegas on Wednesday (hold on for an explanation). I sat at the counter and thumbed through the different pages. I read the cover story and was impressed with Courtney Moreno's piece titled Help Is On the Way about a rookie ambulance driver in L.A.. Pleasant surprise.

I also thumbed through the back pages and realized that both Yonder Mountain and Dark Star Orchestra were stopping through the City of Angels next week. Nicky frowned when I suggested the Yonder show. She has an aversion to all things twangy, especially banjos. She seemed interested in checking out the Dead cover band, but the show was already sold out.

I also read a review in L.A. Weekly about Sugar, a new baseball flick about a Dominican teen who tries to make the big leagues.


I didn't write on Wednesday because I got a call about a freelance job offer and I spent most of the day working out logistics and re-arranging my schedule to accept an assignment that is less than 2 weeks away. I'm headed down to Argentina to cover the Latin America Poker Tour. I'll be working with Mean Gene, as my partner in crime. He had never been to South America before and I told him that he had nothing to worry about, before I asked him to carry a bag through customs for me.

"Nuh-uh, I've seen Midnight Express, I know how that all ends," replied Mean Gene.

So much for using Mean Gene as a drug mule. However, he seemed interested in a side trip to hunt down ex-Nazis. I heard that a few still have a pretty penny on their heads. Who knows, we might be able to branch off into a new career as bounty hunters.

When criminals go underground and head to Argentina because of the lack of expedition treaties, who do you call? Again, could be an interesting idea for a Hollyweird flick with Russell Crowe and Wil Smith.

The Argentina trip is not the best time, but money talks. I could use a few bucks to help fund summer tour. Plus, Nicky is already going to cover the same tournament. She's working with Otis for PokerStars for that gig, so it's kinda cool that I'll get to hang out with her and other good friends. Otis was having a rough Wednesday, and it appears I lifted his dour spirits with the news of my impending appearance in South America for a round of Argentina lime tossing.

I explained to my mother that... "I'm going to Argentina in 2 weeks."

"Be careful," she said in her thick NY accent. "Don't do drugs. In South America, they throw people in jail for doing drugs!"

They don't put people in jail for doing drugs, I explained, just trying to smuggle them into America.