Monday, November 30, 2009

Phish Albany Photo Dump

By Pauly
New York City

Here you go...

IronGirl made a sign for me at the train station

Our view from behind the stage

Page during "Coil"

The gallery has 19 photos. Click here to view my Albany Phish gallery.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seven Ghost

By Pauly
New York City

Show #181. The second night of Albany will forever be known as the Seven Below > Ghost Jam Session.

We parked in one of the darkened lots by the sketchy bus station near Shakedown Street. Perfect place to do a heroin deal during off-hours, but during that 48-hour stretch the area was invaded by Phisheads and their naughty habits such as public urination, wearing ironic t-shirts, and deviant usage of nitrous oxide. The parking decks housed the tanks as hissing sounds echoed from above. A couple of policemen rode horses down the street but for the most part they stayed away from the mayhem.

Shakedown expanded by 10-20% from Friday night and as per usual, the narrow walkyway was packed. A few entrepreneurs took advantage of the nippy weather and hawked wool hats and gloves. One guy set up a hot chocolate stand for $2 while a wook held out a bottle of Jager and offered swigs for a buck. Plenty of ganja goodies for sale. I was offered DMT the night before and the marketplace was over-saturated with molly on Saturday. A couple of guys were pushing doses but they looked like undercover cops. I raged on some lot food including a zesty garlic grilled cheese. One older hippie was trying to sell some sort of ganja-icing that I assume you put on cinnamon rolls and cupcakes.

"You only need a tablespoon to change your world," he promised.

Mostly everyone was looking for tickets under $30. I bumped into a scalper and he offered to buy IronGirl's extra (206 section) for $20. He said he was selling all of his tickets at face including a couple of 100 level. He showed me a thick stack of 20-30 tickets. It looked like he was ready to take a bath after the Phish ticket market bubble imploded. We knew that it would be tough to get face for our extra. Luckily we found someone who offered us $40. No hassle. No haggling. No problem.

We had tickets on the side of the stage again but not as close as we were the previous night. I was pumped to be raging on Page side. As our section filled up it was very evident that we were hanging out with hardcore drinkers. That would set the tone for the evening.

Rowdy. Drunkards. Feisty.

One young girl sitting next to IronGirl was already sloshed and slurring her words when she took her seat. She was already pounding a beer when she returned a few minutes later with three beers which she carefully lined up on the floor in front of her. That's a blatant display of hardcore alcoholism and devotion to Phish. She loved the band so much that she didn't want to miss any of the music, but knew that it was gonna take her three beers to get through the first set. Chicks from upstate New York know how to party.
11/28/09 Albany, NY

Set I: Party Time, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Uncle Pen, Sanity, Foam, Walk Away, NICU, Alaska, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Vultures, Backwards Down The Number Line

Set II: Seven Below > fry my brian jam > Ghost > kick me in the nuts jam > Cool It Down, Gotta Jibboo, Let Me Lie, Wolfman's Brother > Julius

E: You Enjoy Myself
Just when I thought I was too critical about the band's performance on Friday,... I quickly stood my ground after the first set on Saturday. I had high expectations for Phish because I knew they could play better -- regardless of their song selection. The second set on Friday and first set on Saturday reminded me of the high octane brand of Phish that the boys were capable of delivering some more significant that Friday's sloppy jizzfest.

The first set on Saturday included a healthy balance of newer songs from Joy and 3.0 jam sessions for heads in thirst of novel material. Meanwhile, the boys tossed out a couple of bustout covers, Uncle Pen and Walk Away, which catered to the jaded veterans. I dug it but was happy to hear a tighter sounding band from the night before.

Somewhere in the middle of Walk Away everything sort of clicked and Phish had finally hit their groove -- similar to the magic they were unleashing in Cincy. Although I didn't necessarily dig the song selection for the remainder of the set -- they quality of playing was top notch. To me, that's how I can tell if a band is on or not -- if they can win me over with a song that I'm on the fence about. OK, they couldn't keep my attention during Joy. I hit the head and attempted to buy a beer, but it seemed as though everyone else had a similar plan and the beer lines were backed up.

I almost got dinged in the head with an empty beer bottle at the end of set break. Good thing I stood up at the moment the bottle plummeted from the upper deck. My section also smelled like puke. I couldn't help but wonder if one of the drunks in the adjacent rows couldn't hold their mud and yaked up in the middle of Vultures?

I expected the second set to kick my ass but never saw it coming. And by "it" I mean the 50-minute span that left me speechless and made me wet my pants. As I explained to IronGirl, the Seven Below > Ghost and their ensuing jams were the primary reason why I went to see Phish -- and more importantly, why I dropped everything I was doing and traveled long distances and spent more money than I should on a single show. You never know what you're going to get. And in that case, you never know where Phish is going to take you ... and drop you off.

It's a different experience for different people. Even for me, it varies from show to show. But it's been a while since Phish beamed me back onto the Mothership. Sometimes you close your eyes and drift off... sometimes you break on through to that other side. Sometimes you get transported to the other side of the universe. Other times you get sucked into a blackhole and tapped in suffocating alleys inside your brain. That's the brute power of music... it transports you places that are not of this world, in this realm, and in this consciousness. Most spiritual people have to pray and meditate for hours to achieve that. Some druggies ingest different herbs and chemicals in order to transform their minds. For Phish, you simply have to allow yourself to be swept away (sometime it's easier with mind altering substances which help you cut those anchors which have been holding you down) with the music.

I lost myself twice on Saturday; during the Seven Below dissonance jam and the other time with the Ghost jam. I was so faaaaaaaaaaded during Seven Below that I almost face-planted into the row in front of me during an out-of-body experience. I had let everything go and got dragged around by the melodies. Luckily I caught myself at the right time and snapped out of my trance just as Fishman was pushing the boys towards Ghost.

And the Ghost trip? Shit. That's too heavy to describe. The Mothership metaphor is the best that I can do. Plus I wasn't even on psychedelics, which is why I was initially perplexed when I got snatched away for a few minutes. It had been a while but man, I was so happy to be back to "that" place. If you've been there, then you understand what I'm talking about. And if you don't, then I hope you get pulled down the rabbit hole one day and get to see it for yourself.

The jam out of Ghost into Cool It Down came out of nowhere. It was one of my favorite songs on Loaded and Phish preferred to play other Velvet Underground covers. Since Shoreline, Phish looked as though they scaled back the frequency of Rock and Roll and opted for Oh Sweet Nuthin'. Pleasant surprise to hear Cool It Down but it seemed as though Trey was teasing Gotta Jibboo and no one could figure out how to properly segued into it so they abruptly ended Cool It Down and started Jibboo. Sloppy, but it didn't matter. Trey did everything possible to keep the frenetic energy going.

The last three songs? Smoking as expected. There was one of those peak-crowd moments during Julius that was similar to Fluffhead from the night before. But I'm afraid those moments will be overlooked by the Seven Ghost Jams.

I could write on and on and on about the first hour of the second set of Saturday Albany, but what's the point? Go listen for yourself...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fluffhead and Page's Solo During Squirming Coil

By Pauly
Albany, NY

I shot this last night at the Phish show. Check out the crowd during Fluffhead...

And here's Page raging it up during a wicked solo at the end of Squirming Coil...

Phish Friday in Albany

By Pauly
Albany, NY

My 180th show. I went with IronGirl. She's like my big sister and this was just her second Phish show. She's like many Deadheads who were a little slow to embrace Phish, but finally came around and loving every second of the Phish experience. When I lived in Seattle in the late 1990s, I successfully converted many Deadheads who finally believed me when I said that it's not just Trey noodling... but rather it's intense and beautiful music. I enticed a few more Deadheads to join the tribe during 2.0 and IronGirl was one of the last converts to join the mix during the breakup.

IronGirl was cool enough to let me crash at her digs outside Albany and pick me up at the train station. I decided to Amtrak it from NYC to Albany. Only $50, but I'm a baller and paid the extra $20 to ride in business class... away from the unwashed masses, wooks, and screaming babies. Plus, the business class section had power outlets which allowed me to fire up my laptop and play online poker during the majestic ride along the Hudson River.

IronGirl met me at the train station with a "McGrupp" sign. We settled in and headed downtown to grab dinner at Jonathan's on Pearl Street a few blocks from the venue. Good pizza and chicken parms. Shakedown was down the street near the parking decks. We parked inside and wandered outside to check out the scene. Shakedown was small -- but compact. It was cold and windy, which meant a few vendors hawked hippie woolen hats and gloves.

I ran into a cutie named Holly from California who was hawking the "Keep Trey Sober" Tahoe stickers at 3 for $5. BBQ chicken sandwiches were going for $5 and kids with wicked Boston accents were selling PBR cans for a buck. I saw the new Moma Dance shirts. I dig the red Tweezer/Twizzler shirts and almost bought an Ocelot shirt.

I also stepped on a tourdog's tail but did not see too many wooks roaming around. Low wook factor in Albany. It's too cold for shoeless wooks.

The police's makeshift observation tower was a bit scary, ominous, and something out of the Gulag. They had full surveillance of Shakedown Street from high in the sky. I noticed it, but a few heads were to spun out to look up and see that they were being watched and possibly filmed. The tanks were scattered in the parking decks. When it started drizzling, we headed into the decks to warm up near the car and watch the scene unfold. The tanks were located on an upper level so we watched dozens of phans wasted on hippie crack stumble down the ramp desperately clutching their green and red balloons. A guy dressed up like Jerry Garcia (wig and beard) asked me where the tanks were. I pointed up and said, "Listen to the music play."

We walked in the venue with a minimal patdown. We had seats in the second row right behind the stage. The hearing in my left ear is on the fritz after seeing over a thousand loud shows/bands/concerts in my life so I didn't mind the minimal sound set up behind the stage. I was excited to see Phish from a different perspective. In short, I got to see what Phish sees. And because of where we sat, I witnessed a truly spectacular moment.
Phish 11/27/09 Albany, NY

Set I: AC/DC Bag, Maze, Driver, My Mind's Got a Mind of its Own, Gumbo, Bouncing Around the Room, It's Ice, Two Versions of Me, Timber (Jerry the Mule), Limb By Limb, Cavern, Light

Set II: My Friend My Friend, My Friend My Friend> Golden Age, On Your Way Down, Fluffhead, Piper> Tomorrow's Song, Prince Caspian, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg, The Squirming Coil, I Been Around

Encore: Fire
AC/DC Bag was the standard opener. Safe, but it got the crowd to their feet. Maze ripped it up and kept everyone reeling. Page's solo had me smiling ear to ear. But the boys lost momentum with slower songs Driver and MMGAMOIO. I had not seen MMGAMOIO this time around. I tweet'd that it reminded me of a 1999 show. I caught them play it once during 2.0 era -- maybe in Deer Creek.

Phish saved the set for me with one of my five favorite Phish songs, Gumbo, but then lost me with Bouncin'. If I had to pee, I would have, but I didn't. I have a new CrackBerry so I checked my email instead during Bouncin' and read Phisheads' reactions to the Albany show on Twitter.

At that point, I felt the crowd was a bit tame and mellow. Lack of good drugs? Everyone was excited but not in a shitfaced frenzy. Maybe on Saturday night everyone will be lit up like Christmas. But on Friday, I think everyone was still shaking off getting stuffed on Thanksgiving.

I was sorta bored until a bong-rattling Timber Ho! caught my attention. It was fun to watch Fishman play during Limb by Limb. I have been most critical of Fishman in the 3.0 era, but he's finally back into form despite the man boobs and spare tire he's carrying around under his muumuu. I told IronGirl to keep an eye on Fish during Limb by Limb. That's one of the songs where he really gets to showcase his vast drumming skills. Trey once said that Fish was the equivalent of three African drummers, and Fish finally lived up to Trey's billing.

Cavern might have been the crowd highlight of the first set. Everyone in my section was jumping up and down like little kids. Even the drunk DMB chick from Boston shut up during the song. She was annoying the shit out of me during the first set and yapping the entire time. I wanted to kick her in the boobs, but I don't condone violence towards women, even drunken Dave Matthew fans.

Light was an unexpected bonus song that they tacked onto the first set. They could have ended with Cavern but we got an extra treat -- which really helped solidify what could have been the weakest set of the fall tour. I was not impressed with the song selection, and the songs that I didn't necessarily want to hear were average versions so they didn't win me over with Two Versions of Me and Light. I was spoiled with the sizzling Gorge version of Light, and every version since then has been sub par.

There were many key moments in the first set including the Page jam on Maze along with Gumbo, Timber Ho, and Cavern. Since I could see the entire crowd, I sensed that they were antsy and wanted more.

I expected a smoking second set and the boys delivered. My Friend was a tasty opener, but they threw everyone a curveball with a TV on the Radio cover of Golden Age. I knew it was a a first time played tune, but couldn't put my finger on the song. Back in the Luddite days of 1999 tour, it would take a couple of hours -- heck a couple of days -- before I figured out the origins of that song. With the Phish nerds sitting at home listening to the live streams and religiously refreshing Twitter, I was able to confirm that Golden Age was indeed a TV on the Radio tune by the time Phish finished playing it. The Joker and BTreotch were texting me their reactions at home.

That moment reminded me about the magic of Phish 3.0... the technology has opened up the ability for the music to reach thousands of more people who can't make the show. I even listened to the Cincy shows while I was on vacation in the jungle of Costa Rica last weekend. Sometimes the live streams are spotty. But, that technology will improve over the upcoming months and I hope Phish offers up an official live stream in 2010. Shit, I'd pay $100 for the entire tour if they created something of that sort. Have all donations go to WaterWheel or the Vermont Youth Orchestra.

Moving on...

Phish threw in On Your Way Down for a one-two punch with cover songs. Then it happened. The moment we had all been waiting for... Fluffhead.

As soon as I heard the opening notes, I tweet'd... Fluffhead of all Fluffheads to save the show. Boy, was I right. The crowd exploded into a collective orgasm. I had to check my pants to make sure I didn't not leave any semen streaks. I had not seen that much frenzied and kinetic energy at a show since the first night in Hampton. The crowd were patiently wading through the fluff in the first set until Phish stopped driving in cruise control like your grandmother on the freeway and let it rip like a NASCAR driver. They floored the accelerator for the rest of the show and did not let up.

That's why I travel long distances to see the Phish.

As we stood behind the stage, I could see what Phish saw... the explosion. The orgy. Grown men crying. Women furiously rubbing their genital areas. Wookies spazzing out in the aisles. Tour dogs howling in the parking lot. Night and day from the first set. How could Phish not feed off that abundance of incandescent energy?

Piper > Tomorrow's Song sent chills down my spine. They had redeemed that blah first set. Caspian was a bit rushed, but solid. At the end of the song during Page's solo, I kept a close eye on Trey. Like a QB at the line of scrimmage, he surveyed the rabid defense (the drooling crowd) and called an audible. He shouted, "Hood!" to Mike. Mike took three steps to Fish's kit and leaned in. "Hood," said Mike as he smiled and unleashed a dirty-funkified bass intro to Harry Hood.

Trey wanted to keep up the insanity and I watched in amazement as he called a second audible... Suzy. Yep, the boys were not fuckin' around. Even Coil was mesmerizing. Trey, Mike, and Fish left the stage for Page's solo at the end of Coil. Except that Page kept going and going and did not stop pecking away at the ivory keys. He solo'd for almost three minutes. The band returned to the stage which confused everyone. Was that the encore? Trey and Page engaged in some banter which set up I Been Around. I was pumped to see Phish end their second set focusing on Page. They took a bow, rushed off stage, and returned for the encore. Since it was Jimi Hendrix's birthday, Trey gave us his best Jimi-imitation and shred Fire to pieces.

And in a flash... the second set was over. The adage fits... time flies when you're having fun. I did not drink a sip of booze or jump down the rabbit hole in a sea of psychedelics during the show. I was faded though, super faded. I had not been that wasted on Percs in a very long time. I was so faded that I felt like Trey in Vegas in 2004. Luckily IronGirl is clean and sober these days so she was able to take on designated driver duties -- which is part of the reason why I wandered deep off the reservation.

To recap my recap... chilly weather, mellow shakedown and an even mellower crowd. Blah song selection in the first set with many highlights (Maze, Gumbo, Timber, Cavern) and a second set which knocked me on my ass. IronGirl had a blast and she was getting down and grooving for most of the night. She really wanted to hear Harry Hood, so I know that excitement that bubbles through your body when Phish plays a song that you're dying to hear.

I went into the Albany shows with high expectations -- which is never good because that leads to disappointment. I'm wiping everything clean tonight and going in with an open mind. I think the crowd was well aware of the previous five shows including the ragers in Cincy, so they too had raised the bar for Phish. Plus, in the past, I had never seen a bad Phish show at the old Knickerbocker Arena > Pepsi Arena. Some of my favorite Phish shows (all time) occurred in 199 and 2000 at Albany. They say that you should never miss a Cincy show, but as an East Coaster, I always felt... never miss an Albany show. The second set was why that's so true.

One Albany show down... one more to go.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Waiting on a Train

By Pauly
New York City

I just saw a cop haul off a black guy in cuffs. A little girl stood next to her mother and asked, "Mommy why is that man going with the cop? Is it because he's black?"

That made me chuckle. The mother too. She was black and nodded. Welcome to Penn Station.

I picked up my ticket and settled into the waiting area. I set up twitpic for Coventry on my crackberry so I can send pic/tweets from the Phish shows in Albany. Yes, I'm back on tour and catching 6 out of the last 7 shows on their fall tour.

Turkey Day was as expected... a pain in the ass. My mother hates me and she was not shy at letting me know that. All she does is bitch bitch bitch that everyone sits on their ass while she slaves away in the kitchen, so I offered up my services this year. The result? A major blow up in the kitchen. All was going well until the booze kicked in. My mother made a mistake with a pasta dish. She dumped it out into a small bowl that she was convinced would fit. I knew otherwise and warned her. She never listens to my advice. Why would she? I know nothing, right? As expected, pasta spilled all over the counter. She responded with a blowup and blamed me.

At that point, I left the kitchen, went outside, got stoned, and quietly sat in front of the TV to watch the rest of the football game, counting down the minutes until Thanksgiving ended.

I bolted and headed to my brother's apartment. We watched football and hoops and played online poker. I hosted an annual tournament called Turkey Cup at PokerStars and it ran later than expected because we got 84 players. Even Nicky played from her parents' dining room. Her sister Mandy liked my PokerStars avatar... a picture of Arnold Drummond from D'ffr'nt Strokes.

I stayed up later than I wanted and packed my gear for a weekend in Albany. I'm crashing with IronGirl who was kind enough to put me up for the weekend. I can't wait to see the Phish shows with her since she's a new Phishead.

I woke up early, grabbed a breakfast sandwich at the Greek diner, then hopped on the subway. Lots of shoppers flooded Macy's and the surrounding stores on Black Friday. I rushed past all of them and headed to Penn Station, where I saw the cops cuffing the black guy.

* * * * *

Update at 11:07am....

I'm loving my decision to take the train to Albany and save a few $$ in the process (train was half the price of a rental car). I feel very European today, reading a newspaper and riding the rail to upstate NY. The path up the Hudson River is majestic something you never see when you drive the congested NY Thruway. Plus, I don't have to be sober and have to worry about fighting traffic on Black Friday.

As soon as I boarded the train, I popped a half of a Vicodin and read the complimentary copy of the NY Times. Once we got past Tarrytown, I fired up my laptop, and I'm loving the power outlets in business class. Yes, I'm a fuckin' baller and paid the extra $20 to sit in a bigger seat in business class mainly to avoid the peasants in coach. Well worth it.

Now, I'm gonna play online poker and try to win enough money to cover my train ticket to Albany.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

lib > mia > lax... long beach > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

I'm in one of those phases where I'm constantly on the move and spending a significant time in airports, on planes, and stuck in lengthy lines with moronic holiday travelers. Tis the season to punch cheap bastards trying to stuff three oversized bags into the overhead compartment - even though you are only allowed one carry-on plus "your laptop bag" which these days translates into "two bags" which is fine with me except during the holidays.

Ah, before I continue my rant about amateur travelers, let me tell you about how I successfully fled Costa Rica without getting anything taken from me... aside a $26 departure tax. Seems as though they wouldn't let me even see the ticketing agent without getting shaken down for a tourist tax. Nicky and I had to go to a window behind bulletproof glass while an armed security guard directed me to one of the windows.

Otis, Nicky, and I shared a taxi from Playa Conchal to Liberia airport which was a 45-minute drive on a two-lane road. We got to see plenty of sugar cane and what looked like a low-speed police chase. We arrived super early and sat in the only air conditioned spot in the tiny outdoor airport. We played Chinese Poker with a deck of souvenir "Florida" cards that Strawberry Shortcake gifted me when she visited us during Halloween.

I slow-rolled a straight flush on Otis which tilted him for sure. Dick move on my part for sure, but it was well worth the reaction.

Our flight to Miami was about 60%, but poor Nicky got stuck behind two screaming kids with parents who did absolutely nothing to quiet them down. I don't have kids, but plenty of my friends do have kids and travel with them frequently. They do everything in their power to minimize the outbursts -- and at the least -- apologize to those around them for the noise pollution in a cramped space. Look, I know babies cry. It's what they do and I give plenty of leeway when I see parents doing everything possible to calm a crying baby. I get pissy when parents say "Fuck it" and let the entire airplane suffer. Personally, I think they should have to "pay for the seat" and then dole out that collected money to the people around them who were most affected by the crying. Heck, I want to see flight attendant fine parents who can't keep their kids quiet -- and then hand over that money to the passengers (as a bonus) for enduring the insanity.

Flight to Miami was 15 minutes early which was necessary because of the clusterfuck trying to clear immigration and customs then re-enter the airport for our connecting flight to LA. We spent some time in the Admirals Club lounge where I sorted through hundreds of emails.

We got into LAX kinda late and hit up In-N-Out Burger for dinner. I was in a grumpy mood because I had a long list of stuff to do before I flew to NYC. Sure, I had a blast on vacation -- but that was justa temporary respite. I returned to a mountain of problems and issues and had that heavy depressive funk that hovers over moments after you return from your vacation.

I stayed up late trying to catch up with work. I crashed for a few hours so I could get up early and run errands. I had to replace numerous items that were stolen at San Jose airport. I spent my morning completing those tasks and when I got home -- I was pummeled with a relapse of the flu. I was so scattered brained that I almost missed a deadline.

I opted to go to bed early -- 8:30pm and slept for almost nine hours. For you normal folk -- imagine sleeping 3x your normal amount. So if you get 8 hours a night, imagine sleeping a full day. That's what the nine hours felt for me. I woke up better -- but still bleh. At least I could function and I banged out one article and finished packing before we ate a customary last meal at Nick's Coffeeshop. Then it was off to Long Beach Airport.

We arrived early because there was not as much traffic on the 405 as per usual. I guess it was the calm before the Thanksgiving Day storm. Shit, I was flying on Turkey Day Eve which is known as "the worst possible day to travel" and after my experiences, I'm starting to think that label is not entirely accurate. Like most things hyped up, the media fear mongers instilled the notion that air travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was utter hell. Heck, if anything, the Sunday after Thanksgiving is a horrible day to fly since everyone is trying to get home from their families.

Why do I think otherwise? First and foremost... the economy. More people are driving than flying. Second, Wednesday flights were actually cheaper than any of the days before. Word got out that Wednesday was a shitty day to travel so everyone jumped on the Monday or Tuesday bandwagon. Long Beach airport was full but it didn't look like anything other than a normal travel day.

My flight was delayed and I chatted up a guy who proclaimed, "I hate people" after a rich-bitch nearly ran him over trying to get to the gate, "Whatever happened to 'Excuse me' or 'I'm sorry?'" he bemoaned. That's when he uttered, "I hate people." I figured, this is the one guy on my flight I want to talk to. So we bullshitted about the downfall of modern civilization while we waited for our flight to finally board and we both prayed that the wailing baby at the gate would not be seated next to us.

"Hey, you play poker, what are my odds that I get stuck next to the baby?" he asked.

"Well, there's 27 rows on an Airbus with 6 seats across. That's 1 in 162 chance, or less than 1%. However, you have to take into account the screaming radius, which I estimate as three or four rows give or take. So that makes it 1 in 6 or 7 that you're seated in a danger zone. Roughly 15 to 18% that you're fucked."

He was amazed that I was able to spit out those numbers. I was amazed that I think in that way. Luckily, I was seated near the front of the plane part of my strategy so I could be one of the first passengers off the plane at JFK so I could sprint to the taxi stand and beat the rush.

During my flight, I watched a Top Chef marathon and realized how cocky the Voltaggio Brothers were from Day 1. They knew they were among the best and they managed to make the final four.

I wrote 85% of my Sunday column somewhere between Illinois and New York state, while I was amazed at the germ freak sitting across the aisle from me. he had two packages of sanity wipes that he blazed through during the flight. He was constantly cleaning his hands.

We landed 30 minutes late and I rushed off the plane, grabbed a slice of pizza at the food court, and rushed outside. I took one look at the lengthy taxi line when a dude with cornrows walked over.

"Taxi, mister?"

"You the driver?"

"I'm the owner. I have lots of drivers."

We negotiated a very good deal to Riverdale and I hopped in one of his SUVs. The driver was a guy from the Dominican Republic who had plenty of social commentary on the state of NYC and the turmoil of the entire country. A lot has changed since he moved to the US almost a decade ago. It was interesting to hear his perspective about America on the Eve of Thanksgiving.

There was zero traffic and he got me home in record time. I was happy to be sitting on my brother's couch and watching the Knicks game. The Knicks still suck, but I was finally home... for the holidays.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Costa Rica Pictures

By Pauly
Long Beach, CA

Hey kids... I finally uploaded a batch of Costa Rica photos over at Flickr.

Check out my Costa Rica Gallery.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vacation Writing: Save the Sharks

By Pauly
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

So I managed to write a piece while I was on vacation. It's about a charity tournament where the proceeds went to promote shark conservation in Costa Rica. While researching the article (and talking with marine conservationists), I learned a significant amount about the brutality of shark-finning industry.

Check out... Save the Sharks.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


By Pauly
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

This little stretch of beach is made up of millions and millions of tiny little shells...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vacation Musings

By Pauly
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Life is significantly better since the last time I posted. Shooting guns had a little something to do with it.

I finally feel like I'm on a vacation. I know that sounds weird, but even when I'm following Phish -- it's work since I'm taking notes on a future book. So even though I might be camping out in the middle of nowhere, I'm diligently at work.

I've been to so many countries over the last four or five years that I lost count. Most of the time I'm there for work with a day or so here or there for my own personal amusement. Sure, I'm a freelancer and that's an advantageous life, but I also own and operate my own websites which helps pays the bills and funds my lifestyle. Even when I'm taking time off -- I'm always on a working holiday. It's hard not to put in a couple of hours of work in on the road -- no matter what country that I'm in. That's the major drawback about working for yourself and owning your own business... you can't phone it in and have a slack day and more importantly, you're always working. My job is 24/7.

The last time I actually had any semblance of a "vacation" was New Zealand in January of 2008. Since then, I've been longing for the time when I can finally say... don't bother me. The frustrating thing is being pestered when people know I'm on vacation. I dunno how many hints I have to give on the blogs or Twitter, but some people are just selfish. You have no idea how infuriated I got when I'm trying to deal with the airline after my shit got stolen -- and then I'm getting bombarded with work-related solicitation emails. Ah, that passive-aggressive bullshit... "I know you're on vacation, but..."

But what? Go fuck yourself. Leave me alone Do your own fuckin' homework.

Some day, I'm just going to take off. For good. I've been working my ass off over the last five years like a monkey on the grinder to make enough money so I can say Fuck You to the assholes and douchebags in my industry and finally go off the grid where no one can find me. I think that will be the point when I'll finally unleash my best writing... because I'll have no one bothering me because there's no possible way to reach me.

I really wanted to unplug while I was in Costa Rica. Of course, I haven't fully but I definitely spent less time handcuffed to my laptop and spending most of my time outdoors. Heck, when I'm writing (late nights/early mornings) I'm doing the majority of that task outside on our balcony while listening to the critters (raccoons and monkeys) in the tree line across the way.

Having my power adapter to my Crackberry stolen was the best thing for me, well at least I'm trying to look at the positives. Because I'm in "ration" mode with little juice (and those fuckers at Blackberry make different plugs for different phones. I have the newest version and none of the older versions adapters fit), I'm not paying attention to my cell phone. Most of the time, it's locked up in a safe.

It's an odd, but freeing feeling to wander around without a link to the outside world. For the first time in a very long time... I felt free and finally off the grid.

Last night, I wanted to plug in and found myself checking in on friends' Twitter feeds (Daddy, Iggy, Lori, Whit, GMoney) who went to see Phish in Cincy last night. Man, talk about a smoking show. I skipped out on those two shows in Ohio and opted to take a holiday in Costa Rica instead. After my first 6 hours in Costa Rica, I was miserable (shaking off the flu, newly acquired stomach bug from something I ate in Miami, and the off-kilter reaction to finding my shit stolen) and regretting my decision to come down here.

At this point, I'm glad that I made the trip. Plenty of new writing material, plus I made a key business contact with a local sports book. Also, I always worry about Otis, so I try to keep him sane and cheer him up during the down time. I freaked him out the last two evenings when I picked the exact meal he would get off of the dinner menu (Italian and Asian-fusion).

"There's something to be said about our bromance."

I just know Otis' culinary tastes. Nicky? I failed to correctly guess her main course on both nights.

I befriended a group of cool Costa Ricans from my other travels on the poker tour. Those guys (and gals) are cool as shit and did everything possible to make sure that Nicky and I are having a good time.

Last night we found myself drinking with Brazilians into the wee hours. Those cats are hysterical and taught me a few more Portuguese phrases.

Nicky and Otis are working 10+ hour days and they also have been putting in a few hours after their shifts working back in the room. Shit, Nicky has been holding down two jobs here and she's been a workhorse. The good thing is that I have been able to have dinner with them every night. It's been the same "dinner for five" featuring your hero, Nicky, Otis, Shirley and her boyfriend Sos.

Shirley is a poker pro from L.A. and she was here "working" which means she was playing in the tournament. I was excited when I heard that her boyfriend was tagging along. I met Sos last year during an event in Mexico and we hit it off. I had someone to pal around with at the resort while everyone else was working.

Shirley was put up in the swanky section of the resort which came with a full service butler. Every morning Sos tells the dude to hook us up with reservations at the restaurants on the property. Nicky and I don't have a butler, but we do have 24-hour room service (all inclusive) so it's kinda cool to pick up the phone and get whatever you want... at now cost... aside from a $1 tip. Before I left the States, I did my best to horde small bills for tips.

Heck, I haven't even used an Costa Rican Colones since my arrival... except to pay off a gambling debt to Otis when I whiffed on a round of lime tossing. We were drinking on an outside deck that overlooked a lake. On the other side of the lake was the golf course. I had to throw a lime across the pond and make it land on the green. I missed by a few inches.

During the days, I have been relaxing and enjoying my time off the grid. Wow, I finally shook my addiction to Twitter which is something I desperately needed to do. Sos and I hung out at the activities center during the afternoons. We played pool and there are these college-age kids who get paid to play games with the guests. That's the coolest job at the resort. The two locals shot pool with us then challenged us to a match of ping pong. Sos and I took on the Costa Ricans. I quickly learned that it wasn't just a fun match. Sos is a highly competitive dude (formerly military man who played some football in college) and he was a pretty sick ping pong player. Luckily he was my teammate because I was the weakest out of the four. On our first day we ended up tied 2-2 in matches. We couldn't finish a tiebreaker because we signed up for one of the afternoon activities... rifle shooting... and one of our ping pong opponents was also our instructor.

A bunch of us headed to the shooting range for target practice and a tournament. Sos is a former Marine sniper and gave me some valuable tips. Of course, he nailed a can on his first attempt (stay tuned for the video) and went on to win the tournament. Me? I tied for last place with the only female in the contest. Plus she was from Canada. There are no guns in the Great White North, so I lost to someone from an unarmed society. Sos and company gave me a lot of guff over that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Welcome to Costa Rica...

By Pauly
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

What a 48 hours where I must have experienced every single emotion possible.

We flew the redeye out of LAX on Tuesday night. I got about an hour of sleep combined on my flights from LA > Miami and Miami > San Jose, Costa Rica.

Everything was going smoothly when we arrived in San Jose. Our flight was on time and the airport had plenty of Americana eyesores at every turn including a Burger King and Schlotzky's Deli. On the way to the immigration hall, there was a sign warning visitors that sex with underaged girls was illegal. I guess they are trying to guilt-trip deviant pedophile gringos flying to Central America to have sex with minors.

We had to switch terminals for a domestic flight to the northern part of the country or the Guanacaste area. My Costa Rican friends say that part of Costa Rica is where they go to party but over the last five years it's been built up and attracts a ton of gringos.

Nicky found out the the terminal for Sansa, the commuter airline that would take us up north to Tamarindo airport (15 minutes from our resort at Playa Conchal) was located just a few minutes outside of the baggage claim. As soon as we stepped outside, we were swarmed by cabbies. I just pointed and said, "Sansa" and the left us alone. One junkie/homeless guy insisted on showing us the way -- even though it was literally right next door. He was pissed when I didn't tip him well. I gave him the equivalent of 75 cents... or all the coinage I had gotten when we bought Colons. We passed through a small parking lot and the terminal was essentially a tiny little check-in desk.

I went 100% carry-on for this trip, especially since I know the dangers of checked bags when heading abroad. Plus, dozens of colleagues (including Nicky) got fucked on trips before when the airline misplaced their bags. I pride myself on being an experienced traveler so I wanted to put everything in a new carry-on that my aunt and uncle had bought me for my birthday. I ditched the old school backpack that has been around the world with me the last two or three years and went for the sleeker piece of luggage. All of my gear fit but at the last second I opted to take Nicky's messenger bag to put my laptop, iPod, camera, and Bose headphones with me. I had a feeling that the puddle jumper might not have room for an overhead and wanted to be prepared.

When we checked in at the tiny terminal for Sansa, they made us weigh our bags. Then the guy told us in advance that our bags might not make the trip. That had never happened before. usually airlines promise the bags safe passage then fuck up afterward. This guy was telling us up front that we're not going to get them. Our plane was too small (12 seater) to carry heavy bags and they would have to send it on the next flight where a bigger plane could easily handle the heavy bags. I understood what they were saying, but I was suspicious. I thought he was looking for a bribe or tip to ensure our bags made it on the flight. Obviously there was nothing that I could do so I checked the bag without a bribe. They only thing of value besides clothes and toiletries? $200 (in ten $20 bills) that I broke up and hid in two spots somewhere in the bag in case of emergency (like if I got robbed or lost my wallet) and a plastic ziplock baggie of electronics -- mostly power chords (Blackberry chord & camera chord), iPod/USB plug, my wireless modem, a wireless mouse, and my voice recorder. I also had a pack of AAA batteries and a head-lamp that I would need in case of emergency. You never know when power will go out, especially in Costa Rica which is a high seismic area.

If you add up everything in that ziplock baggie -- it's a bit pricey. But individually, they were useless items for a thief. There was nothing in there that could be fenced or pawned like a camera, iPod, or laptop. That's why I left the baggie in there. Had I taken my bookbag (which I traditionally take everywhere with me) that baggie would have been with me. But the messenger bag was too small. I made the (bad) decision to leave the ziplock with my carryon.

Fifteen minutes before the flight took off, the check-in guy found us at the gate. The gate was essentially ten chairs and a surly looking dude in front of a rope with a gun and a wand (mental detector). The guy told us that Nicky's bag would be on our plane, but my bag was not going to make the trip. He assured me that the airline would fly it up and then transport it to out hotel.

"When will it arrived?"

"5 o'clock. The latest."

"5pm today?"

He paused and nodded his head. At that point, I expected my bag to show up the next morning. I was still queasy from puking at Miami airport. I hadn't slept. I was tired and starving and didn't want to make a scene.

"Whatever," I said.

The puddle jumper has 12 seats and I knew before we got on that Nicky was gonna puke upon landing. She blew chunks twice during a sightseeing flight of Milford Sound in New Zealand and doesn't do well on small planes. Me? I love that sort of adventure. I was pumped to see parts of Costa Rica that I wouldn't otherwise during the 45-minute flight. Lots of green. The country is lush and magnificent.

I passed out for about five minutes for a cat nap even though Nicky was holding onto dear life. I woke up a few minutes before we made our approach into Tamarindo airport. I saw the ocean ahead of us and the beach below. I knew that we'd be making a hard right or left at any moment and went to grab Nicky's hand, but she was already clutching the puke bag. As we banked right, she hurled and continued to puke upon landing on the choppy pavement. At least it was paved, I told Nicky. Five years earlier it was probably a dirt patch and the perfect place for drug smugglers.

Nicky's bag was the only "checked luggage" that made the flight. The rest of the passengers did not have their bags including me. We grabbed a cab to the resort and we soon realized that our resort at Playa Conchal was secluded and heavily guarded. In short, I didn't fear at all for our safety and I understood why the venue was selected to host a "high stakes" poker tournament.

We checked in and the front desk could not find Nicky's reservation. The hotel was under my name and not Nicky's but we didn't know that at first, which was odd considering that Nicky was hired by PokerStars to cover the tournament and I was tagging along for the free ride. My buddy Thomas suggested that it's a cultural thing -- and that the hotel put the reservation in the "husband's name."

Nicky and I are not married, but in Latin America, we're considered husband and wife. Our friend Maridu from Brazil for years has been introducing Nicky as "Dr. Pauly's beautiful wife." It's quite funny to hear her say it in her slight-Brazilian accent. I'm sure Nicky gets a kick out of it.

The complex is 2,400 acres. Paradidus is the actual name of the resort and it includes a Bobby Jones designed golf course. Since the resort is so huge, there are these transport vehicles (imagine a golf cart that fits 10 people that's welded to the top of a pickup truck) that are all over the place. It's sort of like flagging down a taxi except it's free and they will take you anywhere on property.

Our luxury hut is actually a two story condo with eight units. We had the top floor of one unit and discovered that Otis was in the luxury hut next door. Our friend Shriley and her boyfriend Sos were put up in "the towers" which is a suite that comes with a butler.

Yes, a fuckin' butler.

Otis, Nicky, and I were without a butler, but the resort was all-inclusive, so we took advantage right away and ordered room service while I waited for my bags to arrive. We had a "welcome party" at 7pm and had to kill three hours. I took note of the tree line right behind our luxury huts. That's where the monkey's lived. I told Otis that we'd engage in monkey lime tossing. He was down for it.

My bag finally arrived at 6:15pm. I unzipped it and knew right away that my stuff had been gone through. Yeah, my entire bag was tossed. The packing cubes were in tact but everything in the side pockets were rummaged through. $100 was missing. They found one of my hiding spots but not the other. That's when I noticed that the ziplock baggie was missing.

I went ballistic.

Like I said, that bag had nothing of value for the person who stole it, but it had things that I needed to live my life on the road and be creative - like my voice recorder that I wanted to record a few podcasts or my camera charger which means that I an unable to document the second leg of our trip because the batteries will die midway. Plus, since all that shit got jacked, I have less than 36 hours from the time I return to LA and fly to NYC for Thanksgiving and I was angered that I knew I'd have to waste some of that valuable time to replace the items. I'm essentially on the road the rest of the year and can't replace most of those items until I get back to LA since I'm in the middle of a remote jungle. My spare time is precious and you can't put a price on it. Running around LA picking up multiple chords and other shit is gonna be a pain in the ass. I hate running errands in LA as is.

Uggggggggggggh. I was having a bad day and it got worse. The worst part was that I knew that I was taking a risk but some dumb ass saw the baggie and thought it was valuable. He probably kept the batteries and head-lamp and ditched everything else. I betcha it's in a trash can at San Jose airport as we speak.

Calling the airline was a pain in the ass. They were not helpful because they hung up on me when I called and have yet to answer an formal complaint email that I sent them. By the way, boycott Sansa airlines. Those fuckers hire thieves to handle/transport their bags.

Bad beat for sure. I'm in ultra conservation mode now with my Blackberry and camera.

At that point, I jumped in the shower hoping that the water would calm me down. That usually helps but I was miffed so I got wasted. Shitfaced. We found our friends Shirley and Sos, along with my Costa Rican friends.

Rey angrily shook his head when I told him the story. He felt horrible, like it was his fault that he forgot to tell me to be careful with Sansa. But my other Costa Rican friends know me pretty well and they gave me some of the "local produce" in order to calm me down. I ended up smoking a doobie with a couple of semi-famous Mexicans and I finally let everything go. I might have bitched about it on twitter or in a few emails, not to mention taking out my frustration while I wrote this piece. At this point, I'm over it but would still appreciate an "apology" from the airline. Shit, a simple recognition of what happened would be nice.

In poker you take bad beats all the time and have to spring back and not let it ruin your day. My vacation started off horribly and I knew that it could only get better, right? How can I complain? I'm in one of the swankiest resorts I have ever had the pleasure of staying. Plus some close friends are here. While most of my colleagues in poker are here to work, I'm here for fun.

And most importantly... my only hard copy of Lost Vegas was inside an envelope and stashed in my carry-on bag. I forgot to mention that was priceless. Either the thief had no fuckin' clue what he passed up on -- or he actually read a few pages and decided that it wasn't worth stealing. I'm trying to figure out which scenario makes me feel better?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

lax > mia

By Pauly
Miami, FL

I just puked in the toilet of the Admiral's Lounge in Miami International Airport. I blame their microwaved breakfast sandwich which contained a bland egg and a sausage patty ground up bits of shit they scrapped off the killing floor of the slaughterhouse. It came up as fast as I ate it. I knew that it was sketchy yet I was starving and that was the only non-apple or mini bran muffin to munch on. Shit, I've eaten better food in vending machines.

Back in the day, the frequent fliers lounges hooked you up with free food and free booze. No longer. You get stale cookies and cubes of cheese for free and the tepid cup of coffee. Everything else you have to pay for. What's the point really? Does a complimentary copy of the fourth-grade reading level USA Today really get people off? I used my copy to wipe down the toilet seat. Fuckin' suits can't even have the decency to lift up the toilet.

At this point, the only benefit is sitting in the lounge that is not with the huddled masses in the terminal. All those screaming kids and moronic travelers who annoy the shit out of seasoned travelers and businessmen constantly on the road. Sure, you escape that plight and no longer have to mingle with the riff raff. They sell these memberships for a fee otherwise you have to grind out thousands of miles of air travel in order to enjoy this perk.

As you can tell, I was unimpressed with the cutbacks in food and beverages. Tap water? Are you kidding me? That's what I drank this morning when we stumbled into the lounge after our red eye from LAX to Miami. I didn't even get to finish my glass before a busboy snatched it up.

The seclusion from the rest of the airport is my only solace. That and all the plugs to charge stuff. That's a neat bonus. But aside from that -- this frequent fliers club is vastly overrated.

We hung out in the Admirals Club in LA. The waiter wanted to charge me for a sparkling water. Luckily he clued me in that soda water was free. I had two of those and played online poker to kill time before our red eye flight from LAX to MIA. Ah, this is just the third time I've been in the Admiral's lounge and the novelty has already worn off.

I didn't sleep on my flight which is the source of my cranky mood. I had a nice lady next to me, but she was overly chatty and kept asking questions. I tried to pretend to fall asleep in mid-question but that did not deter her.

So now it's 9am and I have ninety more minutes to kill before I board the second of three flights. The next leg is to San Jose, Costa Rica then we have to jump on a puddle jumper to take us to Playa Conchal. Otis is a lucky fucker. He's flying directly from the US to a tiny airport in Northern Costa Rica.

Gotta go find some stomach meds before the next flight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LA > Las Vegas > LA > ??

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Tao of Pauly is my favorite blog. If my sites are like my children -- I hate to say it, but this is the favorite son. Yet this space gets neglected during heavy work times in Las Vegas. Tao of Poker pays the bills and funds my luxurious lifestyle so I have to give that space (and other poker-themed freelance work) first priority.

I had a shitload of content ready to go for Tao of Pauly. I encountered plenty of stories -- I just didn't have the time to write all of them with looming deadlines and the flu bug that I picked up almost a week after all of my friends were stricken in Las Vegas. I'm starting to think that I acquired a different strain of the flu in LA, instead of the bug that literally demolished Nicky, Benjo, Otis, and a few others.

Benjo was deathly ill at one point and had to go to a hospital in Las Vegas. I've had mixed results in Las Vegas. Luckily Benjo had a positive visit to a clinic. He scored TamiFlu but it cost him over $100 since he was a French citizen (living legally in London where he works). Healthcare is low-cost (basically free) in his host and home countries. The Euros have it right, but he didn't care about the price of the meds. He just wanted to get better.

Funny story here. We took Benjo to the drug store to pick up his meds. Standing in line behind him? A very hagged out Carrot Top. He looked pretty beat up like he was at the tail end of a 72-hour bender but I overheard him say that he had a scratchy throat.

Benjo had a flight out of LAX - which was postponed one day so he could be in safer condition to fly. We drove him back to LA and he slept most of the way home and almost the entire time he was here. He basically got up to smoke a cigarette every few hours. Shit, even the swine flu can't prevent a Frenchman from enjoying a smoke.

One Benjo left, Nicky was hit hard with the bug. She spent the rest of last week laid up in bed while I barely slept and raced to complete a slew of deadlines. I had some problems last week getting pulled and tugged in so many different directions. Phish announced New Years Eve in Miami and all of my Phishy friends were going nuts. And understandably so. But I really couldn't think about that trip with work on my plate and three big trips before Miami. Shit, I had to finish all of my poker columns and articles before I could even unpack from the Las Vegas trip and start packing for Costa Rica. After that trip, I'm only in LA for less than 36 hours before I fly to NYC for Turkey Day and Phish tour. Then I fly back to LA for less than a day before we drive to Vegas for an annual gathering. Then I head back to LA catch my breath before I fly home to NYC for Christmas... and eventually Miami for New Years Eve.

I'm one who lives in the moment and can only focus on the "next trip" in front of me. I couldn't be bothered by anything beyond today and the Costa Rica trip. So I put everything else out of my mind -- those were serious distractions. I can't think about play when I have all this work in front of me. So I withdrew completely. The people who pay me don't give a shit about my social life. They want their articles on time so I had to pull the plug on so many things (like email, cell phone, Twitter, et al) until I caught up. And the moment I shipped off my last big assignment -- the flu quickly invaded.

I think it was more like those germs kindly waited until I finished my work before they decided to fuck up my world. For that - I thank them - but as a result, I spent the last two days in utter misery and unable to enjoy the Sunday football games. I was also unable to write a dozen or so stories about the Las Vegas trip. I'm hoping to find some time in Costa Rica. Otherwise those stories are lost forever.

I slept 8-10 hours on the three different instances in the last three nights. As an insomniac, ten hours is sometimes as much sleep that I get in a week. Yeah, I was pretty run down after a three-day bender for a Phishy Halloween and two all-nighters in Las Vegas.

Hopefully, I'll be healthy by the time I arrive in Costa Rica on Wednesday morning. Nothing is worse than being sick on vacation.

Time to finish packing and sweating out the rest of this nasty bug.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Karmic Douches

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I needed to upgrade my phone to include global roaming.

With an imminent trip to Costa Rica and plenty of South American and European travel in 2010, I needed my phone to meet my international needs, except the current phone would not take a SIM card so needed a new phone.

I made a trip to the Verizon Store in the Beverly Center. Oh man, I've been there before and that place is a zoo. The lines are longer than the DMV, except that lots of people try to cut the lines, which means lots of tension. I made an effort to go within an hour of the store opening to make sure I didn't spend all day there. You have to sign up using a kiosk and I was 4th in line and told Nicky to go home because it was going to be a while.

I patiently waited and I scouted out the new Droid which was not capable of handling international roaming. I peeked at the latest Blackberry -- global friendly and it featured a $100 rebate. I really didn't have much of a choice. Only four or five phones were global ready and two of which were Blackberries. It took me five minutes to decide and I waited 45 before my name was called. In the meantime, I sat down and watched two horrendous displays of douchebaggery. Hey, we're deep in the heart of Beverly Hills or home turf for L.A. Douchebags. Those fuckers are crawling all over that part of town.

Both douchebags cut me in line. That's expected because that's what self-important L.A. Douchebags do. I was pissed at the saleswoman who allowed it to happen thereby condoning their behavior. And as a result? Wasted time and no commission. Both gave her tons of shit and they didn't buy anything. Meanwhile, another salesman helped me and picked up a fatty commission on my sale.

I sat quietly in the corner on one of two seats in the store waiting for my name to be called since I was next in line. The first L.A. Douchebag walked into the store, did not sign up, and headed right for the saleswoman while waving his phone.

"I'm low and almost out of juice. I don't have my charger and need to shop with my wife next door. Can you charge my phone for me?"

The douchebag and the saleswoman debated for five full minutes while I was next in line. He wouldn't leave until she catered to his selfish needs. That irked me because he wasn't even a paying customer.

He wuickly left and just as I was about to be called another L.A. douchebag cut the line.

"Excuse me," I blurted out and gave him the NYC stinkeye. "I'm next."

"This will just be a sec..." he said.

"I'll be with you shortly," scolded the saleswoman.

What the fuck? I'm the bad guy here for sticking up for myself?

Of course, that "just a sec" was 25 minutes. L.A Douchebag was tagging along with his model girlfriend who had a two week shoot in Australia. He must have said that two or three times to make sure everyone in the store heard him. He had a similar issue that I had -- he wanted to add global calling on his phone for an overseas trip. The saleswoman did everything in her power to help him and explain the charges, but all he bitched and moaned about the 29 cents a minute cost for Aussie roaming charges.

"But I have unlimited calling," he said over and over.

There was some stuff that the saleswoman was explaining about extra charges since he was out of the country and using a different network, but he ignored her and talked over her. He was just a flat out dick while she doing her best to help him.

At that point, my name was finally called and I lucked out and got the cool salesman. Very helpful. Lots of banter. He knew his shit. Meanwhile, I could hear L.A. Douchebag giving the saleswoman a hard time.

"This is stupid. This is so stupid. You're wrong."

The saleswoman was a young black woman and I couldn't help but think he never would have talked to a white woman like that. Not only was he a douchebag... he was a racist.

"You can step behind the counter and look at my screen," said the saleswoman who was obviously losing her patience but did her best to shrug off the obvious racsim, sexism, classism, and overall douchism.

Of course, crybaby spoiled L.A. Douchebag didn't get what he wanted -- to use his cellphone in Australia like he would in L.A. without extra charges. I would have suggested buying a top-up phone for $50 in Oz, but the fucker cut me in line so I was not about to help him.

After pitching a hissy fit, he stormed out saying, "This is so stupid. Customer service is a joke."

Meanwhile, my salesman was an amateur poker player and we were having a blast cracking jokes as he showed me how to use my new Blackberry.

While I walked out of the store with my brand new phone and accessories, I made eye contact with the saleswoman. I didn't say anything but I let my smirk do all the talking, "This is karmic payback for making me wait when I was next in line. You served two L.A. Douchebags who cut in front of me because they were pretty boys and I'm an ugly dude. Both of those pretty faces were non-sales. That's what you get for fucking me over and pandering to L.A. Douchebags."

* * * * * *


I forgot to add that my new piece of hardware has a decent camera. I will be abusing TwitPic like no other.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Advanced Packing and Travel Tips

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Packing is constantly on my mind while pondering my travel schedule for the last 10 weeks of 2009.... LA > Palm Springs > LA > Las Vegas > LA > Costa Rica > LA > NYC > Albany > NYC > Richmond > NYC > LA > Las Vegas > LA > NYC > Miami. The Palm Springs leg included a camping trip and over the next few weeks I'm heading to contrasting climates and different social situations (beach vacation, work functions, Phish, family holidays) so I need to pack wisely and effectively for each leg of my journey. At this point, I have a routine down pat. Lots of packing. Unpacking. Laundry. And re-packing.

It's time to share some pearls of wisdom...

1. What you wear to the airport is extremely important on your travel day. If you want to pack light, you can knock off two days of clothing by wearing the same clothes on your travel days. During flights, I prefer to wear comfortable clothes in multiple layers. There have been instances when I wore the nicest outfit in order to save space or not wrinkle my suit jacket, and I recommend that if you're on a business trip. On a roundtrip flights, I usually wear the same outfit inbound/outbound. Most of the times I have a standard travel uniform. There's a specific pair of pants that I only wear for traveling because it has a zipable pocket to keep my passport which means that it will never fall out of my pocket. My girlfriend wears her biggest piece of outwear (w.g. sweaters, jackets) and shoes (e.g. Uggs) on her travel days.

2. Carry-on luggage can be deceptive. Be realistic about the size of your bag. Never pack it more than 80% (save some room for items you acquire on the road). I'm shocked to see how people try to use every single inch of their bags and then the fucker won't fit into the overhead. These days, overzealous agents might force you to check your bag at the gate because it looks overstuffed. Plus, they're onto the scam where cheap passengers try to sneak a large bag onto the plane instead of paying to check the bag. Also know about the types of airplanes that you're flying and pack accordingly. Puddle jumpers have less overhead space than wide-body planes. And of course, know what times you are traveling. Holiday season is the time of the year to travel as light as possible. Ship your presents and go with a light carry-on.

3. Keep warm at 34,000 feet. On long flights, I always take a hoodie even if it's in the middle of summer. Airplanes flying at high altitudes get cold. Never rely on the actual airline to provide a blanket, and half the time I refuse to touch those disease-ridden rags. If you are a female who prefers open-toed shoes or a guy who always wears flipflops, I suggest bring a pair of socks with you. Nothing is worse than cold toes.

4. Packing cubes save space. I can't get enough of the cubes which help condense my clothes. About ten years ago, a couple of Japanese friends introduced me to space-age air tight vacuum bags. I used those for years (those are amazing space savers for bulky winter clothing) but now I'm hooked on the cubes. However, I prefer the vacuum bags to seal up dirty clothes - it contains any foul odor of smelly clothes.

5. Plastic clear baggies are your friends and they are TSA friendly. If by chance you get pulled out of a line, your inspection will go much faster if most of your shit is in clear baggies. I primarily use two baggies; one for toiletries and the other for electronic shit. Pre 9/11 I had a really cool toiletry kit but in the post-9/11 travel world, I opted for a simple ziplock baggie because it is see-through. I pull the baggie out and put it in a bin for x-ray. The other baggie houses all of those smaller wires and chargers for my iPod cellphone and other miscellaneous electronic equipment. It takes only five minutes to neatly pack these items before you arrive at the airport. It can save you valuable time if you get flagged. Also, don't skimp and spend the money and buy the top of the line Glad ziplock ultra strength bags. Those bags are waterproof and you won't realize how clutch they can be until one of your liquid-based toiletries breaks open in transit.

6. If you check your bags, bring at least one pair of clothes in a carry-on. Airlines lose luggage so make sure you bring an extra outfit. Never underestimate the significance of bringing an extra pair of underwear with you. I can go a week wearing the same outer clothes if need be. But dirty underwear starts to rot after the fourth day.

7. In the age of cellphones, it's important to remember specific phone numbers. I also write down key phone numbers of business contacts and hotels just in case I lose my phone or my battery runs low.

8. Charge everything before you travel. Never leave home without a full charge. You never know when you might get a chance to do it again. This includes laptops and especially iphones and those fancy noise-canceling headphones. What good is having Bose to drown out crying babies if you forget to charge to suckers? For work assignments I bring a backup battery for my laptop and on camping excursions, I bring an extra battery for my cellphone.

9. Bring your own converters and ethernet cables. Make sure you have the proper power converter if you are an international traveler. I always have at least two travel converters because sometimes hotels don't provide them for free and I have to charge a cell phone and a laptop. Also, a friend of mine is an professional poker player who makes the bulk of his income playing online poker. He's never without a wireless aircard and an extra long ethernet cable. Most hotels provide cables -- but more often than not, they are torn and frayed and often very short. If you bring your own, you never have to worry about that hassle.

10. Bring a book. You never know when you'll get stuck and bored to death. Long security lines. At the gate waiting for a delayed flight. Stuck on the tarmac. Backed up in an immigration line. Waiting for a taxi. Random idle time can be frustrating and utter torture for travelers, so take advantage of the forced free time and read a book.

11. Have cash especially small bills. This seems so simple especially when traveling abroad. Get some foregin currency before you arrive and avoid changing cash in airports. They will fuck you with horrible exchange rates... because they can.

12. Think light, travel light. Don't be afraid of under-packing. After you pack your bag, re-pack and remove five items. You don't need three books and five magazines. You don't need three suits or seven pairs of shoes for a weekend away.

13. You can buy almost everything you need where ever you go. Unless you're going to the fucking jungle. Then again, I'm sure you'll be able to buy machetes there.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Index - Tao of Poker's November Nine Coverage & Tao of Pokerati Episodes

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's an index of the Tao of Poker's coverage of the conclusion of the 2009 WSOP Main Event called November Nine...
November Nine Quick Stats
November Nine Bios
November Nine Final Table - Live Blog
From Nine to Two; Cada vs. Moon
November Nine Heads Up - Live Blog
Joe Cada Wins 2009 WSOP Main Event & Becomes Youngest Champion

And here are a couple of Las Vegas-themed posts that were non-November Nine related...
Conceptual Alienation
Dilettante Pai Gow

* * * * *

Michalski and I recorded new episodes of Tao of Pokerati, which is the quickest poker podcast on the intertubes. We recorded the November Nine episodes inside the Penn & Teller Theatre at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas...
Book 12: The November Nine
Episode 12.1: Pre-action Action (1:45)
Episode 12.2: Homme-team Advantage (1:45)
Episode 12.3: For Those about to Rock, We Saout You with Benjo (2:25)
Episode 12.4: Hall of Fame Dinner: Voter Hesitation (1:13)
Episode 12.5: Hall of Fame Dinner: Touched by Sexton (2:45)
Episode 12.6: Not-so-Last Call (3:36)
Episode 12.7: The Final 3 (2:56)
Episode 12.8: Wave the Flag with Benjo (4:02)
Episode12.9: Cutting down Moon (1:58)
Episode 12.10: Cada’s Commencement (1:25)

French Fried Poker with Benjo & Pauly
Episode 1: The Scarf
Click here for the Tao of Pokerati archives.
Funky Video: Doc Ellis's No Hitter On LSD

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I wish I had some LSD right now.

The Doc Ellis story about throwing a no hitter on LSD in 1970 is one of my all time favorite sports stories. Check out this video which features animation over an actual radio interview that Doc Ellis did a couple of years ago. I wanna say that the audio is from NPR, but I'm not 1000% sure.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Halloween Videos

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here are a bunch of videos that I shot two weekends ago during Phish's Festival 8. The montage already has over 5,500 views!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Las Vegas Scribblings

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I wrote something that has a lot less to do about poker and more to do about the deviant side of humanity.

Check out... Dilettante Pai Gow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

24 Hours Wears the Body Down

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I'm going to sleep heavily as soon as I am done with a slew of deadlines.

In the last 10 days, there were at least five instances where I was up for more than 24 hours at a time and two stretches where I surpassed the 30-straight-hours mark topping in at 33 hours at one point. Even as an insomniac, the lack of sleep has been brutal.

Since I arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday night, there have been two instances where I was up for 24 hours without any rest and I wish that I can say that I was on an epic bender. Alas, both instances were work-related. I chatted with a friend of mine last night who owns multiple businesses and we both vented about our inability to properly outsource our work since we're both unique and can't find anyone who can do what we do. Maybe it's a trust issue. Who knows.

Regardless, I'm a one-man-show and with meetings and more meetings and I didn't have the luxury to pass off any work onto minions. I was fortunate that Nicky wrote a poker fashion piece for me on Tao of Poker. She cross-posted the Fashion Report on her site and you should check it out. But aside from that, I was raging solo.

Hopefully, I will sleep soon. I'm trying to crank out as much work as I can over the next three or four days so I can enjoy an upcoming vacation to Costa Rica where I hope to finally unplug.

I had to be a slave to my email and cell phone over the last few days and I'm sick and tired of hearing those "beeps" indicating a new text or voicemail. Just a brief look at my inboxes made me nauseous. I have over a thousand emails to read and don't have the time to do it. Maybe now is the time to outsource an "email reader" who can sift out the spam from the nuggets of gold.

In the meantime, I might unplug completely in order to catch up with work.

By the way, thanks to everyone who plugged my WSOP coverage on Tao of Poker, followed me on Twitter, and mentioned @taopauly in your tweets. You guys rock. Thanks for the pimpage.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Just a Reminder... WSOP Main Event Coverage on Tao of Poker

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

For the three people poker fans on Tao of Pauly who don't read the Tao of Poker, I have been in Las Vegas covering the Main Event of the WSOP otherwise dubbed as the November Nine.

I'll be live blogging and tweeting the action starting at 10pm PT Monday night or 1am ET on Tuesday morning. Head over to Tao of Poker and don't forget to follow me on twitter.

If you want to get up to speed, then check out the Tao of Poker live blog from Saturday and the recap that I wrote yesterday titled From Nine to Two; Cada vs. Moon.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

November Truckin'

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Here's a new issue of your favorite literary blogzine, featuring the debut of George Tate and the return of Bobby Bracelet!

1. The Stoop by Paul McGuire
I convinced him to meet me at shit hole in the East Village instead of stalking the hooker. He showed up to the bar totally rejected, like his heart had been ripped out of his chest and nailed to his forehead... More

2. A Young Man and Road Gambling by Johnny Hughes
One time coming out of Mexico with my pals, we had the cash stashed for the 300 plus miles home. Smuggling rum brilliantly, we had the backseat floorboard covered in bottles of rum. It was brutally cold, and we had our coats over the rum. The guys in the back had their knees up real high, and we got caught... More

3. Brain Storming by Betty Underground
One comment leads to another and like the winding road that brought him to that beach house, we are all over the mountain of topics that are just 'life'. The non-specific, yet charmed, lives of two souls who have a lot of blanks to fill in and it seemed this time I was doing a lot of the filling-in... More

4. Dick-Hole by Bobby Bracelet
Chlamydia is sort of like the strep throat of the genito-urinary system. It's killed by an antibiotic, but while it's there it causes symptoms that really aren't any worse than strep, just more embarrassing because of the area of the body... More

5. The Ride by George Tate
While fueling he noticed a young long hair in a robe and sandals looking much like a scriptural disciple who had begun to walk across the I-10 bridge then down the east bound ramp towards Phoenix... More

As always, thanks for your support.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Return to Las Vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I have a love/hate relationship with Las Vegas. I wrote a bit about it today on Tao of Poker in a post titled Conceptual Alienation. It's a worthy read and have very little to do with poker.

I'm in Las Vegas for work and covering the conclusion of the World Series of Poker Main Event. The halted the final table until November in an attempt to boost ratings on ESPN. The final table will air on Tuesday night and the taping will take place in two segments; Saturday and Monday. The final table begins on Saturday at Noon local time. When action is down to two players, the tournament will be paused and the heads-up action will resume on Monday night at 10pm.

You can get updates on the WSOP from me via two ways: Tao of Poker and Twitter.

I'll be providing updates on the final table via my Twitter feed (@taopauly). If you loathe poker and follow me on Twitter, here is your warning... it's gonna be heavy poker content starting Saturday and ending on Tuesday sometime.

And of course, since 2005, the Tao of Poker has been the place to get the straight dope and behind the scenes action of the final table of the Main Event. I'll be in position starting at noon on Saturday.

This is my last huge work assignment for 2010 then I'm taking the rest of the year off. No more traveling for work. And yet, I'll be on the road for the majority of 2009. I'm heading to Costa Rica in a few weeks for a vacation and more of a working/holiday but I'm not specifically going to cover a tournament. I'm thrilled that there will be no more work travel for the rest of 2009. Every place that I go will be for my own personal amusement (e.g. the Holidays in NYC and Phish fall tour & New Year's Run).

That's it for now. Back to work.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I did not write much about the Yankees in the playoffs this year because I'm a jinx when I write about them. In previous years, I wasted thousands of words per game only to come up short since the Tao of Pauly was birthed in 2002. Compared to the domination in the 1990s, the 2000s were the lean years with one World Series appearance and a string of disappointing finishes.

But this year was different. You had a sense that the old Yankees magic was back. It was a combination of three things; the new Stadium, the addition of top shelf talent, and the veterans of championship teams digging deep and looking to reclaim the top spot for one last time.

Oh, and let's not forget that Kate Hudson is regularly chugging A-Rod's cock. That's gotta count for something.

Derek caught a few games in the new stadium this year before I had a chance. I returned to NYC at the end of the summer to see a couple of Phish shows on the East Coast and to specifically visit the new stadium. As we walked around, we were both amazed at the structure but both were worried about the infamous ghosts of Yankees past. If you know anything about the other world, you know that ghosts tend to be territorial. Would they walk across the street? Could they walk across the street?

I'm a sucker for historical moments when it comes to sports that's why I was worried about the new stadium. I would have sacrificed comfort and shorter lines to the pisser if it meant a couple more championships. But those matters are out of my hands. The House that Ruth built is now just a skeletal shadow of its former glory, but that's still scared land.

The playoffs were a major distraction. I was in the middle of going a little mental with a ton of work and Lost Vegas going over deadline. Yankees games killed any sort of momentum that I had during the day. Plus the West Coast games meant that the Yanks were on around 5pm. Sometimes, games were aired earlier during the first round. That killed an entire day. It was nearly impossible to get work done after a game. Those bouts are mentally and physically draining. My mind is mush after 4-5 hours of baseball and pacing around the apartment cursing at Girardi's micro-managing and turning down the sound in order to not have to listen to those dipshit announcers.

During the playoffs, Nicky and I made up a game.... everytime Kate Hudson was shown during a Yankees game, we would have to rip a bong hit. Nice little added element to four-hour long baseball games. But by the times the games ended, I was wasted and unable to do any quality work.

But I couldn't miss a pitch. The Yankees were on the verge of something big. I had not been feeling this confident about the Yankees since 2001. I really thought they were going to win the World Series that year in wake of the 9/11 tragedies. The Yankees really pulled the entire city at the time and gave a lot of confused and grieving souls a welcomed distraction.

In the late 1990s, the Yankees were money. You could count on them coming from behind to win any game no matter how grave the deficit. Plus their bullpen was lights out and rarely lost a lead. No matter what the score was, you knew that the Yankees were going to rally to win late in the game or shut the door in the 7th inning if they had a lead.

The biggest regret was not being able to watch the games with my brother. The only solace I had this season was an email thread that I started in early 2009. It's been going on since then, which is amazing to think considering only four of us are on the distribution list; myself, my brother Derek, the Rooster, and my good buddy Jerry. The email thread was also a NYC Sports thread with the main focus on the Yankees. Since Jerry lived in Miami, we occasionally riffed on Florida sports, but for the most part we discussed the Yankees via email for the entire year.

Since Jerry was in Florida and I was holed up on the West Coast while I worked on the book, I thought the thread could keep us in the loop. The Rooster actually moved out of NYC mid-way which only left Derek behind as the true New Yorker in our crew. That's what made the email thread even more special. Sometimes after being on the road for a day or so, I'll log in and see over a dozen emails from Derek and the Rooster as they argued the benefits of Latina women and why they thought Joe Girardi was ruining Joba Chamberlin's mojo.

There were a few moments when we discussed inviting others to join in on the thread. We actually had a vote for one person --but he lost 2-2 -- and did not get a nod. We even considered giving another friend a 24-hour guess pass, but decided against it. I thought about opening it up to other friends who were Yankees fans, but they might go insane due to the high volume of email that gets sent out during afternoons when my brother has nothing to do at work, and we all know how much free time the Rooster has on his hands when he's not smuggling in illegals from Tijuana to keep his pimp business flowing.

A couple of the World Series games came at the worst possible time -- during the Phish Halloween festival. I watched the first two games in L.A., but I was distracted with guests who flew in for the festival. Games 3 and 4 were scheduled while I camped out in Indio, CA. Luckily, Phish set up a jumboscreen TV near the concert grounds to show the game. I only caught a few innings of Game 3 with a couple of Yankees fans in my crew and skipped Game 4 because of the show. Luckily Derek texted me updates.

I was hoping to catch Game 5 back on my couch in LA, but that never happened due to a huge headache in Palm Springs. Nicky got pulled over by CHIPS for expired tags. It was a snafu with the DMV and she never got her tags mailed to her. They were expired for over 6 months which meant that the car had to be impounded. We were stranded in Palm Springs for the day and didn't get back to L.A. until it was too late.

But finally... for Game 6.... I was able to watch the Yankees without a single distraction. I was kinda nervous once the games reached the middle innings and Pettite was pulled. I started to pack for Vegas in order to calm myself down.

Once Enter Sandman was played on the PA at the stadium, I knew that we were in good shape. Mo Rivera trotted out to the mound and the end was near. And like clockwork, Mo took care of business. The Yankees won the World Series on their home turf in the Bronx, and more importantly, they won it all during the inaugural year in the new stadium which is an indication that some of those ghosts make the trek across the street from the old Stadium.