Thursday, December 31, 2009

Break Outs and Bust Outs

By Pauly
Miami, FL

Show #188. As the Miami run gets deeper, the crew stays up later and later like famished vampires, which means we see less and less of the Florida sun. We took a bit longer to motivate, but we managed to grab grub at The Filling Station (delicious burgers where the hot waitress went to the same school as me) before we partied it up in the suite and four of us played a quick poker tournament. I was the first to bust. Benjo went out in third. Nicky was the runner up, while Wildo came from behind to win the Phish Fried Miami Poker Open.

It was Hawaiian shirt day, our theme costume, and we headed to the lots and parked in the same spot as Tuesday. Good folks around us including one fellow handing out Adderrall. I headed to the Shakedown to sell Dharma patches. The scene was mellower because of the lack of tanks and more undercover cops. But I knew that was temporary because the inmates eventually take over the asylum. The Joker set up shop and we ran into Ruben from Partyin' Peeps.

I had an awesome day sales wise. Cash sales plus several interesting trades. Seems like everyone had product to move and I was bombarded with offers to buy an encyclopedia of pharmacopoeia and other illicit wares. Roxys. Morphine. Klonapin. Headies. Fingerhash. And enough Yay to keep Akron lit for a month. One strung out whiskey tango chick loved the Joker's LOST tshirts. She didn't have any money but offered to trade her methadone for a Hurley shirt. The Joker declined. He had gotten a verbal warning from cops to scram and pack up his vending table. "I don't make the rules, I just enforce 'em."

Once the sun set, the tanks trickled out and a few ghetto birds patrolled the air. I got an email from my buddy Gil in Brooklyn who wondered about the swirling Lady Ga Ga rumors of sitting in with the Phish. Turns out that Jesse started those rumors -- which meant it wasn't true. Just another one of those Phishy mindfucks.

We sat Fishman side of stage about 20 rows back. The Joker and Strawberry Shortcake upgraded to behind the stage. For the first time, the 300 and 400 level sections behind the stage were opened up. The sections were previously blocked off.

The signs were out in force. Walls of the Cave. LaGrange. RocketMan. Birds of a Feather. Tela. Peaches. Which one would they play?
The Phish 12/30/09 American Airlines Arena - Miami, FL

Set 1: Soul Shakedown Party, Runaway Jim, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Dixie Cannonball, Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan, Corrina, What's the Use?, Tela, Gone, Rocky Top, Chalkdust Torture, David Bowie

Set 2: Sand, The Curtain With, Lifeboy, Back on the Train > Velvet Sea, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Free, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Antelope

Encore: Frankenstein
Set 1 kicked off with a Marley cover... Soul Shakedown Party. I usually place a high value in the opening song. If they go the safe route (like AC/DC Bag or Jim) then you know it's gonna be a vanilla show. But if they throw you a curveball, you can expect a night of delicious weirdness.

The first bustout of the show? Jesus Just Left Chicago. Gritty blues. Page tearing it up. Then it was Mike's turn to shine with a hick-inspired Dixie Cannonball. All I kept thinking about was Smokey and the Bandit.

Benjo and I were gambling on the setlist again. I had picked Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan and it was the only one I'd get correct. He would improve his lead when he nailed two more songs.

After a thrashing Faulty Plan, the boys followed up with a gentle Corrina which makes all the Phishy chicks wet and damp. Keeping with the bustout theme of the show, next up was the ambient vehicle What's the Use?. I'm a fan of dissonant static and loved the ambient jams of the late 1990s.

Unexpectedly, the elusive Tela appeared. The crowd erupted. Tela had not been played in 11+ years and Phish threw the Gamehendge nerds a sympathy fuck with a tasty Tela.

The Joker's reaction? "I hope this means that that asshole will stop screaming Tela in between every song. Teeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllla! Jesus, shut the fuck up, man!"

Tela segued into Gone, another debut before they embarked upon a high-energy Rocky Top. Strawberry Shortcake had been waiting to hear that since her first show in Knoxville. She was born in Knoxville and a huge UT fan, so the song has sentimental value. She used to perform karaoke versions of the song in malls when she was 8 years old. She got bruises on her knees from jumping up and down and banging them on the seat in front of her. Sometimes, I love it when my friends get to hear a song that they adore and have been waiting to hear. Glad that Strawberry got her song.

The capricious set ended with an overpowering one-two punch with an inspiring Chalkdust Torture and a pounding David Bowie,l which put a sense of normalcy into the quirky start that included a little bit of everything. The set was an Everything Bagel. I'm not saying that I didn't like it, just that the set seemed rough around the edges. I enjoyed the bustouts but the set lacked cohesion and smoothness.

Second set opened with a feverish Sand. Just a 13-minute version but intense. Thrilled to hear it since it's fallen out of the rotation. A group of five Paris Hilton clones in designer clothes and hand bags wandered by with cocktails. They seemed severely out of place at the show and I wondered how much coke they had stuff into their bras.

Another bustout. Lifeboy. Slow Phish. Gave me a chance to smoke up before a ground-shaking Back on the Train. Miami fried funk. The jam delved off the deep end into a daunting ambient jam as they wandered off the tracks.

Crowd during Velvet

After a lull with Velvet Sea, it was time for Fishman hijinks. The crowd was whipped into a frenzy with the first bar of HYHU as Trey jumped on the drums and Fish stepped up to center stage. He alluded to Trey's comment about Fishman's last vac solo of the decade was the other night. Alas, Fishman decided to have someone in the crowd play the vac.

He was looking "for someone dressed like me" and for a brief moment I expected to see Lady GaGa step out in a Fishman dress, but instead Fish pointed to a scruffy-looking fellow in the front row with a t-shirt that resembled his dress. The kid named Rich could play a mean vac and Fishman even handed over his coveted instrument. Talk about a serious souvenir.

The last three songs? Insanity. A barrage of ass-shaking music. Rocking Free. Funkified Boogie On Reggae Woman. And a fierce-driving Antelope which included several Boogie On and Roses Are Free teases.

The Frankenstein encore was something I had been waiting to hear again. I just love that cover. Fishman thrives on the drum solo and Page gets to feel like Trey for a song as he jams out on his keytar.

The second sets have been stellar, so I leave the shows with a huge ass grin on my face.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Feel the Heat

By Pauly

Show #187. Woke up early on a frigid Miami morning. The crew ambled about and motivated for lunch at The Filling Station. We played a Chinese Poker (in Euros) in the suite during the pre-party. We headed to the lot earlier than Monday. The light disappears quickly and the darkness descends around 5ish and that's when things get sketchier in the lots. Deviant derelicts crawling out of the shadows and invading the psychedelic carnival. Homeless guys drenched in urine and standing on the corner hawking bicycle wheels that they obviously pilfered. One local dealer pushed hard drugs to pay for a new pair of Jordans. But they were angels compared to hostile the thugs with the tanks. As we walked up to the lots, we saw the residual effects of our wasted generation... thousands of multi-colored used balloons cluttering the sidewalks and parking lots.

Joker and I headed to Shakedown during the daylights hours to maximize sales before the madness took over. The lot was slightly more organized than the previous day. I sold Dharma patches and bartered for grilled cheese sandwiches, beer, a heady crystal, t-shirts, and a ganja carrot cupcake. I thrive on the hustle and bustle and meeting new people.

I scored Adderral (thanks brah, you know who you are) and the girls were drinking rum and ginger ale. Rats the size of armadillos ran rampant in the weeds in the back lots. You had to bring a large stick with you when you pissed as protection so one of those nasty fuckers doesn't rip your pecker off in mid-stream.

Security check-in was significantly more thorough. I ran into Eric in the hall. He's an "insider" and relayed the sad news that the Miami shows were the last show til late-July and August. "Enjoy the last bits of Phish for a while," he said.

I bumped into Jesse, a poker pro that I know, and spotted another one. Odd when my work life spills into play time. Benjo, my girlfriend and I were in Section 117. It was super-crowded but we had a better spot than the night before.

I chatted up our usher with cornrows and a gold front grill. "You have fun last night?" I asked.

"Hell yeah! You white boys smoke the good shit!"
The Phish 12/29/09 American Airlines Arena - Miami, FL

Set I: Golgi Apparatus, Maze, Driver, The Connection, Wolfman's Brother, Ocelot, Reba, Access Me, Divided Sky, Cavern

Set II: Kill Devil Falls, Tweezer > Manteca Jam > Tweezer, Prince Caspian, Gotta Jibboo > Wilson > Gotta Jibboo > Heavy Things, 2001 > Slave

Encore: Sleeping Monkey, Tweezer Reprise
I gambled with Benjo again on the setlist. He picked six songs and I got four. He took a 2-0 lead on Monday, but I felt confident with my draft (Maze, Wolfman's, Moma, TTE). I was worried that he had AC/DC Bag but when they opened with Golgi, I knew that I dodged that bullet.

Page sizzled on Maze and the boys didn't waste any time with the first wave of intense jamming. Driver killed the momentum and the kid behind me begged, "Play Maze again!" Instead, Phish delved into the first of two songs off of Undermind. Hey, I'm a fan of some of those songs and was pumped to hear The Connection and a delicious version of Access Me.

Wolfman's included a raunchy punk-infused jam that were accentuated by CK's purplish lights. I wasn't on acid, but those series of lights made it seem like I was tripping balls. I wore my Oceleot shirt for a second night in a row and they finally played my favorite tune off of Joy. I can now change my shirt.

The Joker mentioned that this Reba was his favorite of the 3.0 era. The jam had several peak moments. I watched the crowd during Divided Sky. If you ever wondered if Phish was a cult? Just look around during that song. Phans were mesmerized. Lots of boners and wet snatches in the arena.

As per usual, Trey remembered all of the lyrics to Cavern. Ah, who am I kidding. Remember kids, free-basing and Oxy rots the brain. Maybe Mike, Page, and Fish need to chip in and buy Trey a teleprompter for Christmas next year?

Set 2 opened up with Kill Devil Falls, which was just mere foreplay -- sort of like grabbing your girlfriend's breasts while you're making out. The real penetration and explosions happened during Tweezer. I was floored by that jam. It was like Angelina Jolie salaciously making out with my favorite porn star Sasha Grey. I was speechless and had a scintillating erection.

The Manteca jam was sweet, yet fleeting. Caspian is usually hit or miss with me - but they hit a home run with an fiery jam out. The Gotta Jibboo > Wilson > Gotta Jibboo portion of the show was my personal highlight. At one point, I thought that they were going to seg into Good Times Bad Times but ventured into Wilson before an unexpected twist where they returned to the Jibboo jam. They fumbled Heavy Things and missed a bunch of changes. Luckily, that blemish was short-lived because the boys smoked the shit out of the joint with 2001 > Slave. The 2001 was pulsating and pumping with an inescapable ass-shaking groove.

The encore was a double-dip with an homage to Fishman in Sleeping Monkey and a searing Tweprise with a lubricious Trey spazzing out on stage to end the show. Everyone knows that I'm the jaded vet... so it's something when I say that this show rocked. As one guy behind noted about Phishtory, "December 29th will always be December 29th."

We headed to Shakedown after the show ended and were greeted by tanks on Biscayne Blvd. Wow, one guy's sales pitch? "No lines!" Millions more brain cells destroyed.

We headed back to the car and an impromptu jam session broke out with a fiddle player who was playing along to the 1980s party songs that the Joker was spinning on his amp.

We headed back to the suite... and that's when things went muzzy fuzzy.

Two down. Two to go.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Puke and Rally Monday

By Pauly
Miami, FL

Show #186. Much like life, a particular Phish show is driven by your mindset and fueled by the party favors that you ingested. Monday? I was bubbling over with excitement and in a positive head space. It would have been hard not to have a good show, but then toss in a mixture of party favors and the result... a fun evening with friends and Phish.

Half of us arrived on Sunday night and the rest of the crew rolled into Miami on Monday around noon. After a quick lunch in South Beach, we converged on the Marriot downtown. The Joker and Wildo booked us a suite so we could end the year in style. The suite had balconies and it was located a ten minute walk from the venue. After a mini-pre-party in the suite, we headed to the lots. We walked through Little Havana and drew odd looks and a couple of sneers from the locals who had no idea that the circus was in town.

Wildo had extras to sell. The Joker had t-shirts to vend, and I was hawking patches. We ambled through one of the front $40 lots. During the 2003 run, that lot was Shakedown central and much more organized. This year's version was a free-for-all. Random unleashed dogs roamed free while the molly slingers darted in and out of the crowd. Tickets were going for $20-30. A head from Boston sold me mushroom chocolates. The Joker set up shop in the $25 back lot behind the monorail. Talk about the other side of the tracks. The tanks were out in full force. Hissing sounds filled the air and salesmen were walking through the row of cars waving $5 balloons. The black guys were yelling "Whip its! Whip its!"

Benjo was inexperienced with the nitrous scene and curious about the affects. He watched in amazement as people lost their mud sucking and huffing on balloons like they were infants sucking on their momma's boobies.

I had a freak accident and dislocated my finger (old yet annoyingly recurring football injury). I had to pop it back and snap it back into place. It's not pretty and hurts like a motherfucker. Luckily, I was able to self-medicate with Vicodin and a few key bumps.

We headed inside and Nicky got flagged by security who saw her shroom chocolate in a piece of foil and asked her to open it up. She was told she couldn't bring it inside so she ate it on the spot! We headed up to the 300 level. It smelled like cinnamon and weed in the hallways. Beers were $13.50. Capitalist pigs. It took a while for the arena to fill up but by the time the boys took the stage, the arena was at least 80% full. We had a tough-ass security guard. She must have been a Nazi in a former life. The good thing was that TLAQuinn was in my section and PhanArt was near by.
The Phish 12/28/09 American Airlines Arena -Miami, FL

Set I: Sample in a Jar, NICU, My Soul, Roggae, Undermind, Bouncin, Poor Heart, Stash, I Didn't Know, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Possum

Set II: Mike's Song > Light > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Backwards Down the Number Line, Makisupa Policeman, Harry Hood > Contact, Character Zero

Encore: First Tube
Crowd pleasing Sample in a Jar to open the set, followed by an upbeat NICU. I love "Play it Leo!" songs and Page let loose. My Soul was the first bustout of the night. Last time played? Shoreline 10-7-00 when the boys ended their tour and last show of 2000 and the Phish 1.0 era. Trey let it rip at the outset of My Soul. A little sloppy.

Roggae was another bustout and included an unexpected extended jam. I dig the Fishman jam on Undermind with an funky interplay between Mike and Page. I headed to the pisser during Bouncin. I stood at a urinal in between two guys talking about the show.
Happy Fan: "Awesome show."
Grumpy Fan: "Whatever. This show sucks."
Happy Fan: "Sounds great to me. Maybe it's the Don Julio and molly speaking."
I got caught up in the snail-paced beer line. The vendor apologized and said that she had a contact high from all of the wafting weed. Solid Stash jam. I'm a fan of fat guys in dresses playing household instruments, so I was in heaven during Fishman's vac solo in I Didn't Know. Trey mentioned that it was the last vac solo of the decade. It sounded like Fish was calling out to the Mothership. A homing signal. They'll be stopping by to take all the space kids home after the NYE show.

Page shined on Beauty of a Broken Heart and the boys smoked on Possum to end the set. Seemed a bit safe with a few bustouts, but I knew that the boys were warming up.

I ate some shroom chocs at setbreak to catch up with Nicky who said she was as wasted as Katie Holmes in the movie "The Ice Storm". The second set kicked off with searing Mike's Song which I felt was a good omen. A noob chick behind us puked up against the wall. Then she started crying before she puked again. If I had any wook tickets, I would have issued her a citation. By the middle of Light she was taking swigs off a bottle of beer. Puke and rally. We were impressed. That's a bold move right out of the Disco Sister's play book. Puke and rally.

Her boyfriend asked to borrow my bowl a few times. On the last exchange, I handed him my piece and thirty seconds later he tapped my shoulder. "Sorry bro. I'm spun out. I forgot that I smoked all my weed during Mike's."

Danced heavy during Weekapaug Groove when all of the party favors kicked in and peaked during a merry Alaska and peppy Backwards Down the Number Line. Freakish version of Makisupa Policeman which featured an homage to Mike with "policeman comes to Mike's house."

The jam out in Harry Hood went pretty far off the reservation. For a few minutes, they wandered around aimlessly. Almost reminded me of a 2004 Oxy-jam. I wondered if Trey was back on the sauce with that muddled jam until Fishman pushed him out of the tail spin and they found their footing and segued into Contact. Funkified jam led by Page before they ended the set with a Trey spooge-fest and Character Zero. Rocking First Tube to end the show.

I was betting on the setlist with Benjo. He took an early 2-0 lead, but I'll get it back. He We headed back to the lots and the tanks were hissing in the shadows. Daniel saw a sad scene -- a five year old kid huffing on a balloon. Sketchy for sure. We bailed as soon as possible and headed back to our suite for the post-party.

One show down. Three to go.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Year End Video: On the Road in 2009

By Pauly
Miami, FL

The 2009 video had to be split into two parts...


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

By Pauly
New York City

35 years ago today

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story

By Pauly
New York City

Here's a Tao of Pauly Christmas tradition where I suggest you read Auggie Wren's Christmas Story written by Paul Auster, which is one of my favorite short stories written by one of my favorite NYC authors.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 In Pictures

By Pauly
New York City

Since I whore myself out as a writer, photography is one of the purer art forms that I utilize. My friend Liz recognized that a few years back and she's been generously funding my Flickr Pro account. I try to snap photos as much as I can especially when I travel.

In 2009, I uploaded 16 or so galleries. You can view those galleries here.

I chose one photo per set/gallery to share with you plus one bonus photo. The last picture was taken behind my alley in the slums of Beverly Hills. Enjoy!

Paradise Island, Bahamas

Phish Reunion
Hampton, VA

Washington, D.C.

City Center Construction
Las Vegas, NV

Mar Del Plata, Argentina

Dream Team Poker
Las Vegas, NV

Bonnaroo Music Festival
Manchester, TN

Red Rocks
Morrison, CO

The Merry Prankster's Bus
The Gorge - George, WA

Seattle, WA

Yankee Stadium
Bronx, NY

Halloween - Festival 8
Indio, CA

Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Phish - MSG
New York City

Charlottesville, VA

Las Vegas, NV

Los Angeles, CA

Click here
to view all of my photos from 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

lax > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

25% chance my flight was going to get canceled. Those were the odds. The result? Flight went off but delayed an hour. At least I got out of LA even though I didn't mind the two-day delay for my Christmas holiday.

The balmy weather in LA, almost two perfect. 60 plus degrees. Everyday. That's the reason why people (and people meaning me) live in a city with cancer-inducing pollution, a former Terminator as our Governor, redunkulous amounts of traffic, and a severe lack of culture where everyone is waiting for their big break.

Although 60 degrees is considered the dead of winter in LA. Fashion whores look for any opportunity to wear something different, eager to showcase the winter lines of their favorite designer. I shake my head in disbelief at those morons. It's 60-fuckin-3 degrees and waif-like models are wandering around Beverly Hills sporting purple puffy jackets and cashmere mittens like they're about to race the Iditarod.

LAX was swarmed with people flocking back to their hometowns. They had presents. Lots of them. And bags. Big bags. With puffy jackets presumably, or whatever generic medicines that their maids were able to smuggle over the border from the pharamcias in Tijuana. You wanna make grandma smile during the holidays? Surprise her with a jar of blood pressure pills (her cost $300) that you got in Mexico for $5. But don't tell her that you also got a tattoo, bottle of tequila, a blowjob, and a drippy penis for $20 more.

The more that people carry with them to the airport for short holidays or vacations is an indicator of their personality. That's why the security line was backed up to the next terminal. The overpackers are weak, insecure, and need help. Less is more. Especially when you travel during the busiest time of year. The airlines are doing everyone a favor in charging them $25 a bag. If we didn't have to take so much shit with us, they wouldn't have to haul less crap around. I suspect that at least 25-30% of anything in any piece of luggage is not going to be used - a pair of dress pants, a sweater, a book, DVD player, whatever - but people need material items to be secure. To stay sane. They also slow down the travel process. Shit I was going on two (possibly three) trips and I traveled light (I only took a certain bag with me because I needed extra space for the Hawaiian shirts for Miami. Don't ask.)

Exit row. Aisle seat. At least I got a seat on the packed plane. I won the lottery after all the flights got thrown out of wack because of the winter storm over the weekend. The exit row meant that I got to pre-board. I escaped the throng of masses and frugal fight for overhead space with cheap bastards trying to jam overstuffed bags into tiny crawl spaces that barely fits a dead hooker let alone my sleak new TSA-approved bag.

I have had horrible seat karma the last couple of years. Crying babies. Annoying children. I'm a magnet for them. And that run badness continued with the family with two young girls that made me want to listen to The Shins and slit my wrists before we even pulled away from the gate. Jesus fuckin' Christ those hellcats were loud and spoiled little shitheads that couldn't sit still or keep their mouths shut for five seconds. The screams from the one girl were penetrating my Bose noise-canceling headphones. The father gave up and asked for wine. I wish he gave it to the kids. At least that would excuse their behavior.

Well, shit, my kids are drunk. Whaddya gonna do? Merry Christmas.

The young woman in my row in the tight brown Juicy sweats stewed in agony. She was a rookie. Just iPod buds and no pills. Thank god for the last sliver of Oxycontin I ingested that afternoon when my back flared up.

I watched a show called Hoarders and one episode where an old lady slept on piles of her own diapers in her rodent infested kitchen. That show was about the same people who were in line with me at LAX. Shit piles. Dead rats. Sounds like a Bukowski poem.

My flight landed at the height of morning rush hour. I got lucky and didn't have to wait long in the taxi line, but I drew the stanky cab. It reeked of sweaty feet and curry. I held my breath as I piled in and started reading my email. We barely moved on the Van Wyck. The drugs had worn off. I tried to listen to music on my iPod to keep me sane, but that couldn't make the traffic disappear. 100 minutes of torture.

The red eye guaranteed no sleep. I operated on fumes on Tuesday morning as I walked through the streets of the old neighborhood. Sign of the economic times. New apartment buildings and condos sat empty. No buyers. One construction project had halted as a skeleton of concrete slabs shot up out of the ground, and eyesore among the smattering of stores decorated for the holidays. The one video store on the block and the only bookstore in the neighborhood were vacant. Gone forever and driven out by rising rental prices. Even the kosher pizza place couldn't keep up and had to close their doors.

I ran into Vinny the Barber who told me that I looked like a bum. He promised to squeeze me in if I stopped by on Wednesday morning. I woke up early and even set my alarm. We spoke about a variety of topics from Tiger Woods to the international date line to the time he told me he ran 32 miles in a single day. He asked me what kind of poker stories I was writing about. I mentioned something about a potential cheating situation.

"You know about that guy they caught cheating at a poker game on Arthur Avenue?"

"No, when? What happened?"

"This was a couple of years ago. They caught him and chopped off his hand. With an axe."

"What did they do with the hand? Toss it in the East River?"

"Fuck should I know? Probably fed it to the dogs."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December Truckin'

By Pauly
New York City

Here's a new issue of your favorite literary blogzine that is super duper late. My apologies.

December 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 12

1. Stiff Santa by Paul McGuire
The Beverly Center had one strict rule -- never under any circumstances remove the bunny head in public. That would mortify young children. Josh turned to Ritalin to solve his problems... More

2. Christmas Money for Misty by Johnny Hughes
Misty laid her best story on Sam, her road story. She was temporarily broke, like most casino folks, but she was to inherit the historic Morgan Ranch, 473 oil wells, 47,000 acres, and a bunch of cows in the Texas panhandle... More

3. The Hobby by Milton Burton
The driver himself was a small-time coke pusher and wannabe heavy metal musician named Ronnie DeLoach who would never make it big, partly because he was void of any real musical talent. But mostly this sad fact could be attributed to his very limited life span... More

4. Dick-Hole, Part II by Bobby Bracelet
Most guys will yank it twenty times a week but they won't feel their balls for lumps. I see it all the time... More

5. Absence of Fear by George Tate
The turns became hard to handle and Gatlin knew it wouldn't take much to be over a guard rail and down the side on his back, load, tractor, and all. He suddenly cleared his mind and focused on the words, "Turn off the engine, that's it."... More

Enjoy the semi-Christmas issue. And thanks for all of your support!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Docs and Limbo

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm stuck in Los Angeles for another day. It feels like I've been in limbo for the last couple of days. Once I got wind of that major snowstorm (even though it's been 60+ degrees every day in Southern California), I knew that my trip back to NYC for Christmas was going to be hell and I fell into a state of limbo.

When I got back from Las Vegas last Monday after our annual outing, I was spent. Crushed. Beat up. My body had run the gauntlet as I ended week six of a six week bender. I needed rest. Shit, I probably should have checked myself into rehab, but I needed to catch up on a shitload of work that I neglected. I had a few end-of-year projects that I needed to attend to. Truckin' was late. Shit, all I wanted to do was sleep. Sleep. Sleep. But the work was piling up.

I had a rare moment when my body agreed with my mind. I was able to get four and five hours of sleep per night without any problems. I decided to go with the flow and listen to what my body was telling me. Slow down. Recuperate. Let the wounded back heal. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

But of course the extra rest didn't jive with my schedule. I had to make a tough decision and change my Friday flight. I didn't want to go anywhere. Shit, walking two blocks to the coffeeshop was a chore. We bought a Christmas tree and I wanted to enjoy the fresh smell of pine needles that filled the apartment when I woke up in the morning. I loved writing in the dining room before the sun came up in the darkness -- save fore the muted glow of the Christmas lights.

I was comfortable and didn't want to leave. You see, when I fly from West to East -- it fucks up my entire schedule because I essentially lose a day with the three-hour time change going from LA to NYC. Throw in a six hour flight and two plus hours dicking around the airports and another ninety minutes of commuting to/fro and the next thing you know -- my entire day is shot.

For $150 change fee my problems would have been solved, plus I would have one less day of my mother nagging at me in the frigid conditions of New York City. That was well worth the price. Several months ago, I originally booked a Friday morning flight out of Burbank and on Wednesday, I changed it to the red eye on Saturday night out of LAX. It gave me an extra 1.5 days to bask in the warmth of LA's sunshine, plus I could enjoy the tree and relax. The new flight would have gotten me into NYC at 6:30am with time to spare before the Jets game at 1pm and a day of football at my brother's apartment.

But then the snowstorm fucked everything up. I was on travel tilt a full day and a half before my flight asI listened to the weatherheads pontificate about the blizzard. I had to "wait and see" before I made a decsion (or a decision was made for me) which never bodes well with me. I prefer to make lightning quick decisions and move on with my life. But the storm was just in its infancy. Who knew if NYC would get bombarded or if it was just hysterics from the fear mongers and the city would only get a light dusting? Of course, my mother would not let up with the calls and emails. She had a point (a rare point) but she was nagging me nonetheless because I was in limbo.

My flight was scheduled to leave as the snow hit the city but land after it stopped. The gamble was this -- would JFK have their runways cleared by 6:30am? Another question... would there be cabs at the airport to take me home?

On Friday night, 24 hours before my flight, I monitored the storm which dumped a decent amount of snow on the Virginia/DC area. They got pummeled and the path was headed towards NYC. I scrambled to change my flight before JetBlue officially canceled my flight. The result? I could only find a flight on Monday night -- 48 hours later. I had no choice. I switched to the Monday night red eye. I managed to finagle an extra row aisle seat, which was better than humping a red eye in the middle seat.

By the time I woke up on Saturday, JetBlue had offically canceled my original flight. I'm glad that I was proactive and switched before everyone else got fucked. Otherwise, I might have been flying on Christmas day in a middle seat squeezed between the fattest guy on the plane and a crying baby.

I was in limbo the last few days, sort of like a refugee, but with better luggage. My bag sat half-packed on the futon in my office. I was unmotivated to write for the first and only time in 2009. Burnt out is a good description. I was inspired, but couldn't bring myself to lock myself in my room and peck away at the keyboards.

Instead, I decided to do what most of America does... self-medicate and watch movies.

I asked Nicky out on a movie date. She quickly accepted. We had not seen a movie in the theatres in a while. We used to go see one a week, but these days we've been super busy with traveling, and simply did not have the time. What little time we had were devoted to catching up with the DVR/TiVo and old Top Chef episodes.

Up in the Air was in limited release over at the Landmark Theatre. We went to the matinee and were the youngest people in the theatre by thirty years. The octogenarian next to Nicky fell asleep mid-way and started snoring, much to the dismay of his very Jewish wife who kept yelling, "Wake up! Stop snoring!" That distraction was nothing compared to the old black guy who shouted out religious messages at the screen whenever someone cursed. He stormed out of the theatre before condemning everyone else inside. To sum up, he said we were going to hell. Even Goerge Clooney.

I blurted out, "Merry Christmas."

Up in the Air is a book that was made into a film starring George Clooney. Parts of the film echoed my life. The constant travel. Living on planes, in hotels, and in airports. Clooney played a suit who spent 300 days on the road racking up 10 million frequent flier miles. I finally had a character that I could identify with as he lived the unconventional life constantly in transit and living out of his carry-on bag for his adult life. Shit, that's what I've been doing since 2005. But the sappy love story killed the flick for me. I wanted more on the road hijinks.

Dejected by the sappiness of said film, I turned to documentary flicks to soothe my pain. For the next few days, all I did was pop muscle relaxers to dull the back pain and pharmies for the buzz as I sit on my couch in a daze and watched documentary after documentary. That does not include the random video surfing on YouTube where I found a lot about the alien disclosure project and all these 2012 doom/gloom videos.

I had a few documentaries on my list but I also took the keen suggestions from friends after a email plea to Iggy, Ryan, and Otis. And through the miracle of Twitter, a few other folks sent me their suggestions ("Man on a Wire" was mentioned the most).

Here's what I watched in a short amount of time...
King of Kong
The Story of Anvil
Jerry Garcia: Can't Take It with You
Kurt & Courtney
Stoned in Suburbia
The Union
Miles Davis (some French doc)
I posted the video to King of Kong in a previous entry. That was the best of the bunch. You can find it on YouTube.

Four of the docs were music-based documentaries. There was a French take on Miles Davis and he was surly as hell.

Can't Take It with You is a BBC doc about the estate war between Jerry Garcia's greedy widow and his ex-wife, Mountain Girl. Hippies fighting over money and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Although I'm not a heavy metal kinda guy, I was enthralled with Anvil, the story of two 50-something ex-rockers who had their fifteen minutes of fame in the early 80s then faded into obscurity. Yet, they were still chasing the dream. So hard not to root for those guys.

Kurt & Courtney iss another BBC doc that focuses on the suspicious death of Kurt Cobain. I used to think that Courtney either killed him or hired someone to do it -- but after seeing the flick my theory changed into... Kurt killed himself but Courtney drove him to do it. I dunno. Maybe she hired someone? That's still shady any way you look at it.

Of course, the two other flicks were about... marijuana. The Union dealt with prohibition. And I loved Stoned in Suburbia which detailed increased marijuana use in British suburbs mainly by housewives and grannies. Funny ass shit seeing 80-year old British women discuss the properties of skunk and Northern Lights.

I also had a comprehensive list that my friends suggested, but we think alike because I had seen most of them!
Otis Rec's:
"CSNY: Deja Vu"
"Festival Express"
"Word Wars"
"Paradise Lost"
"Cocaine Cowboys"
"Enron: The Smartst Guys in the Room"
"A/K/A Tommy Chong"
"Super High Me"
"Hearts of Darkness"
"The War Room"

Ryan Rec's:
"Shadow Company"
"Fog Of War"
"This Film Is Not Yet Rated"
"Our Brand Is Crisis"
"Driver 23"
"A League Of Ordinary Gentlemen"
"Who Killed The Electric Car"
"The Corporation"
"Once In A Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story Of The New York Cosmos"

Iggy Rec's:
"42 Up"
"Devil's Playground"
"Fog of War"
"The Story of Anvil"
"No Direction Home - Dylan"
"The Union"
"Touching the Void"
"Word Wars"
"The Kid Stays in the Picture"
"Man on a Wire"
As you can see, there was some cross-over selections.

I had already seen many including of the suggested films... Fog of War (McNamara is pure cold-hearted evil and the original "Cigarette Smoking Man" from X-Files lore). Devil's Playground is about young kids having a year of sex, drugs & Rock n roll before the return to the Amish faith. No Direction Home is something I watched in Australia a couple of years ago. I was on a mountain climbing doc fix for a while and saw Touching the Void. A few years ago, I saw the Robert Evans biopic which put a new perspective on that dude and Hollyweird in general. D!g is one of my favorite music docs that chronicled two 90s indie bands. The Dandy Warhols hit it big, but Brian Jonestown Massacre floundered due to their inner turmoil. Shadow Company is an eye-opener about mercenary armies in Iraq. Super High Me is more stoner fodder. The War Room chronicled the Clinton era. I saw the Enron flick while I was in Australia. Cocaine Cowboys was in heavy rotation on cable a few months ago. Festival Express is an old favorite of mine with Janis Joplin, The Band, and The Grateful Dead touring Canada on a train. And Hearts of Darkness is a film by Francis Ford Coppola's wife as she gave you the backstory about the struggles Francis endured in making his epic film about Vietnam.

And here are my suggestions...
Art & Copy
American Movie
Food Inc
Straight No Chaser
Off the Grid
Union Square
Off the Grid is an insane tale about people choosing to unplug and live in nowhere New Mexico. Straight No Chaser is a Clint Eastwood flick about jazz legend (and one of my heroes) Thelonius Monk. Union Square is about NYC heroin addicts and reminds me of an Arthur Nersessian book. Surfwise is about a doctor who pulled his kids out of school, dropped out of society, and drove around in an RV while he taught his kids how to surf. American Movie is about one man's struggle to make art in small town America. And Food Inc is an indictment on the big business food industry.

Many of these documentaries can be found on YouTube or Google Videos. The rest are on Netflix and some you might be able to find on the interwebs.

Next up for me? Man on a Wire.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sometimes, you just have to feed your inner Fat Elvis.

The last two weeks have been what I call my "Fat Elvis Stage" where I stuff my face without any semblance of a conscience. I already know that I will embark on a life of clean living in January. That's my self-imposed rehab. I cleared most of my work schedule and will be fine tunning the last bit of Lost Vegas while I work out everyday, eat healthy, shed the excess poundage that I put on during the 10 week bender to end 2009. Mist importantly, I'm going to ween myself off the pain killers - for the third time in the last 12 months.

It's not going to be an easy task to accomplish all of my goals but I welcome the challenge. This will be the first January in I don't know how long that I will not be traveling to an exotic locale, so I'm using that time wisely in an attempt to stay off the grid for as much as I can while I repair so many things in my life... my back, my morbid addiction to pain killers, and most importantly... repair Lost Vegas before I put that out for public consumption.

Time has been my enemy in 2009. I'm going to make it my ally in 2010. I slowly came to grips with my limits and liabilities over the last twelve months. Now that I know my parameters, I have a better idea of what to expect in 2010.

Hence the 4x4. I always wanted to attempt the feat. I've eaten two 2x2's in the past which in essence is more food because of the extra bun. That's why I was confident in my ability to destroy 4 succulent patties and 4 pieces of cheese. Since I had some room leftover, I indulged in a chocolate shake. Yeah, that was overkill. But I have to enjoy it while I can.

The machines are winning the battle and yet they are essential in my life. My goal is to limit my slavery to said machines and explore as much time away from the laptops than in 2009. That means spending more time outdoors and thereby improving my posture, bad back, and eye strain. I understand that I have to find a happy medium to keep me sane.

But that 4x4? It was as delicious as it looks. It's making me so hungry that I might grab another one before the day is over.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

You Tube Recommendations: King of Kong and Phantom Menace Review

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In Costa Rica, Otis suggested that I see a documentary about the two top Donkey Kong players. That game was the centerpiece of my youth, so I was intrigued. Turned out to be a compelling tale of fame, competition, heartbreak, and geekdom to the nth degree. I thought my fellow poker bloggers were a bit nerdy until I saw this film. Those gamers make my friends look like rock stars.

Check out King of Kong via You Tube...

Mean Gene suggested a hysterical video about a guy who reviewed the first Star Wars movie. Essentially, the narration was telling you specific reasons why the film sucked donkey balls and how George Lucas ruined all of the prequels. "Nothing in the Phantom Menace makes any sense. It comes off like a script written by an 8-year old," is just some of the gems you will hear. Our hero reviewer knows his film 101 and scatters dead hooker jokes through his deconstruction of the Phantom Menace. If you're a Star Wars fan, this seven-part series on You Tube is a must see...

Friday, December 18, 2009

On the Road Yearly Videos

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In 2006, I started documenting my travels in a year-end video montage that highlighted all the exotic and random places I visited during that calendar year. Since then, I spliced together a video every year. The YouTube Audio Police silenced two of my videos for music copyright issues. Bleh. But the videos are still up -- just without audio.

I'm currently on tech tilt as I edit the 2009 video. Who knows when that will be done. In the meantime, check out the last three years...

Stay tuned for 2009.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Las Vegas Recaps

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I spent the last couple of days looking at photographs, deciphering my notes, and re-reading Twitter in order to write a three-part recap of the Las Vegas trip. Trip reports are never easy to write, but I finally finished them and posted the three-part series on Tao of Poker. Check it out...
WPBT Vegas Part I: Taste the Fear
WPBT Vegas Part II: Friday Night Amateurs and Astin Wins the 6th Annual WPBT Holiday Classic
WPBT Vegas Part III: Sunday Sunday
And as per usual, my brother hit a grand slam with his recap. He really only writes one thing a year -- and it's by far the best trip report out of our group of friends. You can't miss it...
Derek's Holiday Classic Recap
And yes, I posted a gallery of photos...
WPBT Vegas 2009 Photos
And don't forget about the movie!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vegas Video

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's a video using footage that I shot this weekend...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vegas Food

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas specializes in culinary delights from every end of the spectrum... to the shit-your-pants-within-15-minutes-of-eating buffets to fast food joints to chain family restaurants to establishments boasting the top chefs in the world... Las Vegas really has it all.

During the previous four days and nights, I indulged in foodstuffs. I have a couple of year-end dinner with my brother, work colleagues, and some old friends. I took a few pictures this time.

Nicky and I arrived in Vegas late on Thursday but well in time to hit up the buffet at the Wynn. Normally, I despise buffets because it represents the downfall of modern civilization. I'm also a "picky eater" and don't stuff my face, so buffets are usually wasted on me. In short, the casinos make money when I eat there. However, I do make a handful of exceptions. The Bellagio and the Wynn are two of the best buffets in Las Vegas, and I usually hit up the Wynn once a year.

The highlight at the Wynn were the game hen. I was sorta shocked that I actually piled one on my plater, but was immediately satisfied with my choice. They added an "Indian" food station which I sampled, but did not heavily indulge in. The best feature of the Wynn's buffet has to be their high end desserts. Since you rarely have room for desserts at the end of a buffet binge, I also take time out and eat them at "half-time" or during my second trip.

Here's some of the desserts...

The next morning, we decided to drive way off the Strip to one of my favorite breakfast places in Vegas... The Cracked Egg. They have the best breakfast sandwich in town and their specialty is homemade coffee cake.

Thursday night, we went to Burger Bar. AlCanthang owed me a dinner in order to pay up on a World Series bet after my Yankees beat his Phillies. Burger Bar is a Thomas Keller joint that specializes in gourmet burgers. AlCantHang added foie gras to his burger. Me? I loved my Kobe burgers. Derek and I ordered shakes before the burgers arrived. You can make you own or go for the special shakes. AlCantHang went for a "Twinkie" shake. No pics there. Sorry.

On Friday morning, I ate brunch with Maudie at the Bellagio Cafe. They cook some of the best omeletes on the Strip. Pricey, but worth it. They have an applewood-smoked bacon omelete. It's the shit.

For Friday dinner, I owed Kat bigtime for helping me with the Lost Vegas image and cover. At the last minute, I was able to call in a favor and get us a table at Emeril's place at the MGM. I'm not a huge fan of seafood, but the steak dishes caught my eye. I ordered a peppered filet. Savory. The mac-n-cheese is insane. Made with rigatoni and bacon. We had no room for the jambalaya. But I managed to get down some bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Wow.

No pics there. Sorry.

On Saturday morning we ate breakfast at the Hash House. I was bummed because they were not serving the kind of hash I had hoped. Instead, it was overstuffed and oversized breakfast foods. My pancake was the size of a small pizza. Derek's doubleburger had mashed potatoes lathered in between the patties.

Since we played poker on Saturday, I only grabbed a Sicilian slice at Cessar's Palace food court. I'd have to wait until Sunday to eat again.

CJ organized a private skybox at Emeril Lagasse's Stadium/Sportsbook at the Palazzo. Very cool. We had a huge room with a pool table, four TVs, and a video game machine. The menu was designed by Emeril. I ate the pulled pork sandwich. Derek went for the crabcakes and the sausage stromboli.

Late night, I went to grab dessert with Iggy and StB. The Hash House was open and I was bummed that they did not serve cake. I got a "Snickers" bread pudding. Not as good as the WYnn buffet's or Emeril.

And yes, I've put on 10 pounds since I arrived in Las Vegas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vegas Via Twitter

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I don't have time for a complete write up of the last four days of partying it up in Las Vegas. For now, you should simply check out my Twitter feed (I'm @taopauly) and piece together the happenings of the previous days by clicking through to my Twitpics and then check out some friends' Twitter feeds.

At some point I'll sit down and just write about this trip and how a cool Canuck named Astin won the WPBT tournament on Saturday, not to mention all of the hijinks, the fisticuffs, near deaths, the near arrests, and the time when I had to call IP security to check up on AlCantHang to make sure he was still alive.

I'm resisting the urge to crank out 3,000 words as we speak, but I'm short on time. Stay tuned. Until then, check out Twitter.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

jfk > burbank

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I woke up sick. Nasty head cold. I thought it was "Vicodin withdrawal" but I know the difference these days between the common cold and losing my mud because of the lack of pills. I did what I could to boost my immune system, which was odd, because I spent most of Tuesday morning compiling notes for an article about germs and poker rooms.

Since it was my last morning in NYC, I decided to hit up the bagel store and the Greek diner. I got myself an Everything bagel with extra butter and the usual breakfast sandwich, which I washed down with Dr. Brown's Black Cherry soda. I'm not a soda drinker, but I friggin' love Black Cherry soda.

My uncle drove me to the airport. All he did was bash the Yankees (he's a Mets fan) and couldn't stop ragging on the latest three-team trade as we listened to the Mike Francesa show. He gave me $100 to bet on the NY Mets to win the 2010 World Series. I wanted to book the bet myself -- since it's a suckers bet -- but he wouldn't let me. He's convinced the Mets are gonna win and he's gonna collect $2K.

The JetBlue terminal at JFK airport played non-stop Christmas music. That drove me nuts. I finally knew what it was like to be a Jewish person around the holidays. When I was a kid, society waited until the week before Christmas to start the bombardment of Christmas music. I had to tune it out and listened to Widespread Panic instead.

The airport was not crowded for a Tuesday afternoon. No line for security. That was a shocker.

I bought a sandwich from the Boar's Head Deli. No line either. Loaded up on snacks for the flight; coffee cake and a piece of chocolate poundcake. I devoured the poundcake before I even walked over to the gate.

I played online poker while I waited for my flight. I usually run good at JFK airport. This time, the internet was spotty and it cost me a few pots. The youngest DiscoSister was sweating me during an off-performance. I lost $50 but was stuck a shitload more!

I got good news about one of my assignments... shorter length than I expected. The piece is not done and is already twice as long. It's better to run long than come up short. On another assignment, I got some not-so good news. Nicky read a first draft and told me it wasn't up to snuff. I had to re-work a few things. The note was... "be more funny"... um, shit.

My brother attended a Christmas Party at the Yale Club while I flew to California. Funny thing is that he's going to arrive in Las Vegas before me -- even though I left one day earlier.I told ya, I fucked up this leg of my trip.

My flight was 6.5 hours because we had to do an end around all of that crappy weather in the Midwest. We actually flew north to Buffalo and flew over Canada to get to Southern California. No wonder my flight took so firggin' long. Luckily there were only 3 empty seats on the entire flight... one of them was in my row. I had the aisle and there was no middle seat.

The young lady across the aisle in the row in front of me is an exec at a well-known shoe company. I know this because she was writing work emails on her laptop in a HUGE ASS FONT. I now know her work email and everyone else in her department. Guess what? They make their shoes in China or Mexico and then ship them to the US, Canada, and the UK. I got all that as my eyes wandered over her shoulder.

I watched almost four hours of Paranormal State... a bunch of college kids from Penn State who are ghost hunters. They work with a psychic and try to solve haunted houses and shit like that. Kinda spooky. At first I thought it was real, now I'm starting to think it's semi-scripted. Who knows. I definitely believe in many weird things that might make your head spin. Ghosts and ETs are among those things.

I had a wicked headache the entire flight. There were not one, but two screaming children within earshot (even through the Bose headphones). I wonder if the headache and kids have anything to do with each other?

It was chilly when I landed. 42 degrees. I dunno if I have ever experienced colder weather in SoCal. Luckily I was prepped for the weather. Nicky picked me up at Bob Hope Airport. As I waited, I scoffed at the Christmas music being pumped outside. That irked me. Bah hum bug.

Bob Hope Airport was my 10th airport in less than two weeks. If I weren't driving to Las Vegas this morning, then I'd say that Las Vegas would make airport #11.

Nicky drove me to In & Out Burger in Hollywood. I missed that local comfort food. When I got home, I noticed a bunch of packages. Christmas came early this year. I got a couple of cool Phish pins and there were two other surprises....

I'm friends with Doyle Brunson's publicist and she hooked me up with an autographed copy without me even asking! I'm very jaded in the poker world. I despise and detest it most of the time. But I gotta say, that was a pretty fuckin' cool thing that Lara did for me. Thanks so much, honeypie! You rock.

And not to be outdone, Drizz sent me... beer in the mail. Seriously.

Thanks bro. See ya in Vegas.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ill Timed

By Pauly
New York City

I really should have altered my travel schedule. I'm a savvy traveler and I cannot believe the bind I got myself into. I woke up in Virginia on Sunday. I need to be in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Logic would have suggested that I fly directly to Sin City. Um, no. I flew from Richmond to New York City for a layover of 36 hours, then I fly from NYC to Los Angeles (well Burbank to be exact). I'm in LA less than 12 hours before Nicky and I drive to Las Vegas.

Yeah, talk about a tight window. Plus I have three major writing deadlines and the new issue of Truckin' to crank out before we depart for Las Vegas, which at this point is something like 30 hours away. I'm going to be pecking away at the keyboard like crazy while sitting at the JetBlue terminal at JFK and even on my flight to the left coast. I'm praying that there are no crying babies around or annoying passengers that would distract me from hunkering down with these deadlines.

The sad part is that many of my close friends will not be in Las Vegas this year -- due to scheduling conflicts, family stuff, and lack of funds. That bummed me out, along with my brother and Iggy, while we discussed the roster of this year's trip. It's not going to be the same without the Nardi brothers, Sweet Sweet Pablo, and GMoney to hang around with. Plus, no PKPNF this year. He's serving house arrest time.

On a good note, I might actually get some sleep this year and not be completely ragged after the Vegas sojourn. Plus, I'm pretty ragged as we speak and bogged down in another battle with pills. I've been on a massive bender since Halloween. November was sort of a blur in many respects with the November Nine trip to Vegas and the Swine Flu which knocked me on my ass for a few days. Throw in Costa Rica and Phish tour -- and you know what? I'm beat up. Alas, I have to rally for one big surge this weekend before I can take a short breath before Phish and Miami.

Planes. Trains. Automobiles. Subways. Been on the road nonstop since the end of October. Some times I wake up and don't know where I am. But I do know that it's freezing in NYC and I'm headed to warmer climates in frigid SoCal and Las Vegas.

My mind is on Las Vegas, but I'm in New York and have to fly to California then drive through bat country to get to my intended destination. That's just another day in the life.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Charlottesville Pic Dump

By Pauly
New York City

Here are some pics from my 24 hour bender in Charlottesville. Click here to view the entire gallery.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Snow, Naked Guys, and Phish

By Pauly
Charlottesville, VA

Show #185. I woke up on the floor of my hotel room in Charlottesville, VA and slowly pieced together the happenings from the previous 24 hours. I recalled how all of this had begun... waking up before sunrise on Saturday morning only a few hours after Phish ended their three night run at MSG in NYC. I hailed a cab on Broadway and my driver was drunk and/or incompetent. He somehow got me to JFK airport in time for my flight to Richmond, VA. I arrived on schedule but my ride did not. The Disco Sisters were delayed from their North Carolina departure. Plus the oldest Disco Sister has a bladder issue (it's small) and they made many unscheduled stops along the way. They were two hours late so I dicked around the airport, wrote, and played online poker.

Daddy and Larry had arrived in snowy and wet Charlottesville. Daddy scoped out a bar a couple of blocks from the venue and we decided to use that as a base of operations due to the inclement weather which would have put a damper on any Shakedown or lot-related activities.

Halfway on our journey from Richmond to Charlottesville, we spotted the first snowflakes. After a few minutes we were pummeled with tons of wet snow. Some of it started to stick to the ground and Disco Sis #1 asked me to drive. Her car did not have snow tires and she was nervous driving in snow. Since I grew up in NYC and had snow-experienced, she handed over the keys. I guided us the rest of the way into cold, rainy, snowy, and wet Charlottesville. We checked into our hotel and drove to Buffalo Wild Wings to meet Daddy and Larry. I told the rest of the South Carolina crew (Otis, G-Rob, Andrew, the lovely wives, and everyone's favorite weathermanUncle Ted) to meet us there. The next few hours were a blur. Lots of college hoops and football. Lots of drinking. Wing eating. Shit talking. Degen gambling.

G-Rob and his brother were in a high stakes pool. $100 to enter the show opener pool. G-Rob had first pick and went with Runaway Jim. Andrew picked Llama for sentimental reasons. They offered me a chance to buy into the pool knowing their picks. I wrote about this previously -- I always bet on AC/DC Bag and/or Runaway Jim as a safe choice. Yet, Jim was already spoken for and there was no way Phish would play AC/DC bag for a third time in seven shows. I went with Party Time.

The C-Ville Crew

We took off for the show and realized that Disco Sis #2 forgot her ticket in the car. I wrote her a wook ticket for attempting to enter the venue without a ticket in hand. On the way to the show, a frat boy bummed a smoke off of one of the Disco Sisters. Then he tried to pick one of them up.

"So I'll catch up with you after the show?" he said.

"Or not," matter-of-factly spoke Disco Sis #1.

Ouch. His weak-ass attempt was shot down in front of the venue by one of the Disco Sisters.

We wandered inside without any hassles but realized that the booze situation was a pain in the ass. Jesus, another move from the Nanny State trying to tell adults what they can and can't do. The venue strictly enforced a four beer maximum. Wooks were bumped down to two a piece. The beer vendors marked your wrist band or hand with an X after you purchased a beer. Four X's and you were cutoff unless you did a scrub job in the bathroom and tore off your bracelet. The lines to get an ID Check were insanely long -- mainly because there were only two inside the entire venue.

Since the show was in the college town of Charlottesville, the crowd included plenty of college kids. Yep, tons of frat boys filled the venue including a significant amount of high school kids. The party favor scene was mellow - which meant the crowd was not as raucous as I had seen at other shows. Yeah, the coke and molly snorters from the Garden did not make the trip down South.But where were all those boisterous Spreadheads sauced up on coke and whiskey?
Charlottesville, VA

Set 1: AC/DC Bag, Chalk Dust Torture, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Divided Sky, Naked Guy > Ya Mar, Sneakin' Sally through the Alley, Old Home Place, Cavern, Funky Bitch, David Bowie, The Wedge, Bold As Love

Set 2: Tweezer > Light > Piper > Free, Sweet Virginia, Harry Hood > Suzy Greenberg, Golgi Apparatus, Antelope

Encore: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise
Our crew was scattered all over the venue. Disco Sis #1 and I had the best seats out of the bunch -- only a few rows off the floor in Sec 114 raging it up on Page side. The lights went down and we lost Disco Sis #2 out on the floor.

Phish took the stage to a thunderous applause. The horseshoe-venue was significantly smaller than MSG, but the crowd was louder. Request signs hung from the upper deck; LaGrange, Tela, and Dog Log. Talk about a waste of time. Didn't these kids know it was going to be a "Repeat Show"?

AD/DC Bag left me saying "What the fuck?" Luckily, I did not lose my bet and we all pushed since no one picked Bag. That opener came out of nowhere. Shocked that they played that song for a third time in the last six shows that I saw since Albany. The Bag opener was foreshadowing the evening of repeats, but I was not thrilled hearing Bag for a third time (and I am fully aware that most of the people inside the venue were seeing it for the first time on this tour) and Phish could have used that time to strengthen one of their new songs -- many of which need "game time" experience in order for Phish to polish it off.

Chalk Dust Torture was rocking and kept the crowd moving but the show really didn't kick in for me until Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan. This is a hit or miss song for me and on this instance, it was a hit.

Disco Sis #1 thought that "Divided Sky was rushed." I agreed since they seemed as though they wanted to get it out of the way. Daddy was begging to hear some reggae and the boys responded with Ya Mar, yet they couldn't get a few seconds into the song before a streaker appeared on stage. Yes, a naked guy jumped on stage and hugged Trey. Two burly security guards appeared onstage. Usually they extract the streaker immediately, but the naked guy was agile with some quick moves. He ducked behind Trey a couple of times before he broke towards the end of the stage and was tackled behind Fishman's kit. The band attempted to play on especially Fishman who wasn't about to stop the beat. Trey cracked a joke and they re-started Ya Mar.

Up until that moment, I thought that the show was blah... like a re-heated meal the day after a feast. Not only were they playing greatest hits tunes -- they were bland repeats of spicier versions I had seen days earlier. However, the naked guy fired up the crowd which in turn kick Phish in the ass. They stepped up their playing for the rest of the show.

Sneakin' Sally through the Alley is a perfect example of the band stepping up. It was the highlight of the first set and for the first time all that night -- they boys let it rip. Old Home Place got all the locals and redneck Phish fans all teary eyed before the boys re-elevated the energy with Cavern.

Otis said that he wanted to hear one song... Funky Bitch... something that I told him had a good chance of being played. It almost as though they played it specifically for him.

The set could have closed with a better than average David Bowie with Fishman leading the charge. That song was lacking earlier in the year. Listen to versions from the first part of the summer. Fishman's drumming has drastically improved since then and it looks like he's back to his old self.

The boys tossed everyone two more bones with The Wedge and a cover of Jimi Hendrix's Bold As Love. I love covers where Page can display his chops, but as per usual Trey stepped on his toes and stole the spotlight with another self-masturbatory jam. The spun out heads in the first row enjoyed every second of the spoogefest.

Second set looked great on paper but was inconsistent. Tweezer opener made me smile. I knew that Tweprise was guaranteed as one of the encore songs and that Tweezer was a vehicle for a batch of heavy jamming. The greatest hits schtick had grown tired on me. I was eagerly awaiting the big jams like the boys unleashed in Albany and in MSG. Trey got pegged in the face with a glowstick. One of the Disco Sisters noticed that he winced in pain. Yet, Trey played on. By the way, if you threw that glowstick... you're a total dick and I owe you a swift kick in the nuts. Why throw glowsticks at the band? I save errant glowsticks for assholes whoa re talking too loudly. I throw glowsticks at them hoping to shut them up.

Light jam was one of the highlights of the second set. Piper had several key moments but seemed "rushed" which was a bad habit that the boys were doing a lot of the previous week -- rushing through songs and not allowing a jam to take on a life of its own. Disc Sis #1 thought she heard a few 2001 teases but I swore that I heard Free coming. Sure enough... they segued into Free.

Aside from festival 8, the only other time the band performed Sweet Virginia was in the state of Virginia. This version was tighter than Halloween and Fishman's shaky vocals were on steady ground. Nice work, Fishman. He got the MVP of the show from me and MIP (Most Improved Player) on this tour.

Harry Hood was fun and the crowd was extremely receptive. Mini-glowstick skirmish erupted, but the crowd danced themselves dizzy with a roof-shattering Suzy Greenberg. The entire band was firing on all cylinders.

Something happened to Mike before Golgi Apparatus. he had some sort of tech issue with his bass. The band started the song and he stepped around Fishman's kit to yell down to one of the roadies. They eventually cleared up that problem before Trey asked Mike to sing the bass parts.

Antelope featured more Trey masturbating on stage, but I couldn't stop dancing and watching random people in the crowd going ballistic. Trey included "naked guy" into the lyrics... "Do you have any... naked guy?"

Rub your balls on Trey and he'll sing a song for you. Trey also inserted, "Run like a naked guy out of control!"

The naked guy really affected the outcome of the show -- in a positive way.

Page and Trey hit a home run with Loving Cup. Trey wanted to keep that jam going but ended it in favor of another wankfest during Tweezer Reprise. That's how you close out a show... with all out smoke.

* * * * *

The entire crew met up after the show at Buffalo Wild Wings for another round of booze and food. Daddy and Larry had been partying heavily for 13 hours at that point. Larry was toast and asked to take a nap in the back of Disco Sis #1's car. We continued on with our post-party without him. Daddy was shitfaced and hitting on the waitress. At first she seemed mortified but then warmed up to his advances. It took him over seven minutes to describe how he wanted his potato wedges prepared by the kitchen including multiple cheese types and jalapenos.

I was wearing a Snailtrax t-shirt and had to explain to the Disco Sisters the significance of that original story by Daddy called... How to Fuck a Donkey. During his performance of that epic story, Daddy had actually dropped his pants in the middle of Buffalo Wild Wings. The dramatic effect enhanced the story but freaked out the Disco Sisters. They politely requested that he hoist up his trousers, which he did before he finished his story.

We closed out the bar and went outside. We hoped that Larry did not freeze to death in the back of Disco Sis #1's car. He fine, but out cold. It took several minutes to wake him up so we could pile in the backseat. When he finally opened his eyes, Disco Sis #2 sensed that he was ready to hurl. He opened up the car door and let it rip. Larry blew chunks.

Passed Out Larry

We eventually made our way back tot he hotel. Daddy was hushed by hotel security for belting out Soul Shakedown Party as loud as he could in the lobby. The heads in the room next to us had a nitrous tank. Larry passed out on the floor and we had two beds for four people. the Disco Sisters cuddled together which left the remaining bed for Daddy and myself. He's 6'3" and a shade under 235. I'm over 6 foot and 180. The twin bed was too small for us but we tried to sleep anyway. At 5am, Disco Sis #1 heard me screaming at Daddy.

"You fat fuck, stay on your fuckin' side of the bed!"

Then he unleashed the wet farts. I gave up and decided to sleep on the floor. I woke up an hour or two later and wandered into the bathroom. I realized that I was standing in cold piss. Someone in our crew peed on the bathroom floor! Was it Daddy? Passed out Larry? Or one of the Disco Sisters?

Yeah, just another day on Phish tour as I woke up on the floor of my hotel room in Charlottesville and tried to piece together the previous 24 hours.

See y'all in Miami for New Years.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

MSG Three

By Pauly
Richmond, VA

Show #184. This is gonna be a short review. I don't have much time to write while sitting at the airport.

Lights during the encore

Was Friday as good as Thursday? No. But it doesn't matter because it would have been nearly impossible to replicate Thursday's magic. But I'm viewing the Friday show as the third act of a larger ensemble piece. Three consecutive nights of MSG Phish is its own entity. The more I think about this... the more I realize how amazing of a treat that Phish gave us... an early Christmas present if you will.

I pre-partied at Senor's place. It felt like old times like the late 1990s when we would pack 20+ people into his tiny Murray Hill apartment before stumbling over to the Garden to throw down for Phish. That's one of the cooler things about Phish 3.0... all of the memories of yesteryear that spontaneously pop up.

We met Girtz in front of the entrance to Penn Station as tour rats and yuppies collided. He was mingling with all of the random ticketless wooks and other heads in search of a Friday miracle. Tickets were fairly easy to get on the previous nights but Friday's ticket was nearly impossible to find. Luckily we had four together in the first row of the 200 level.
MSG - Night 3

Set I: Heavy Things, Possum, Wilson, Kill Devil Falls, Glide, 46 Days, Bouncin', Reba > Dinner and a Movie, Guyute, Maze, First Tube

Set II: Scents and Subtle Sounds > Rock and Roll > Seven Below > Twist > Mike's Song > Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Horse > Silent In The Morning, You Enjoy Myself

E: Shine A Light
Heavy Things was a mediocre effort. Possum jam was smoking and got everyone moving and grooving as the ground tarted to shake. Lots of Trey wanking off during high-powered Wilson. KDF is hit or miss for me. When they let it rip -- I dig it. This time they sorta dicked around with the jam. Daddy calls KDF "Chalkdust Torture's little brother." Heh. No way. If Chalkdust is Greg Brady, then KDF is Cousin Oliver.

Glide was an unexpected treat and welcomed bustout. Good to hear it played by four emotionally sound men instead of that tear-jerking trainwreck in Coventry while I was knee deep in mud and tripping my balls off. My balls were the only thing NOT covered in mud that weekend.

46 Days was my favorite jam in the first set. Wish they kept it up but they had to cut the 46-Jam short to keep the masses sedated with spoon-fed fan favorites such as Bouncin' and Reba. I smoked tuff during Bouncin' and danced with Nicky during Reba. She loves that song.

Dinner and a Movie was another welcomed rarity. I'm sorta glad they don't play it every third or fourth show, because it still retains its edginess. I also welcome it with open arms.

My buddy Gil doesn't go to as many shows as he used to -- but when he does see Phish, Guyute is almost always played. It sorta happens like that. And yes, he was there last night and they played his song. Nothing is a cooler Phish experience when they happen to play your tune. For me, that's how I feel about Slave.

Maze jam got lost like a spun out wook trying to find his tent in the rain at Deer Creek. Looks like you're sleeping under the VW bus, brah.

First Tube started out flat then took off in a thousand directions at once -- sort of like being shot out of a canon, er, make that a thousand canons. A few minutes into the song, the crowd went bat shit crazy. Screaming. Yelling. Like everyones' drugs kicked in at the same time! A fat kid puked on himself. One emotionally distraught head pissed on himself. I had goosebumps and an erection. The band fed off of that incestuous fire and Trey ripped the proverbial shit out of the remainder of First Tube. I always feel bad for Mike on First Tube. He looks so... bored... while Trey is jumping up and down like a little kid. In true Trey show off/jack off fashion, he hoisted his guitar over his head and swung it around like a massive dildo. All of the sexually depraved fans hopped on for a quick rogering.

First set was almost ninety minutes long... a good ten minutes more than then previous two evenings. yet, the second set started off with a dud. Scents and Subtle Sounds? Blah. What is this 2004? We;re my fuckin' OXY? Scents opener was like watching your favorite football team attempt an on-side kick to start the third quarter... only to flub it and have the opponent recover the football for a touchdown.

The jam into Rock and Roll saved the direction of the set especially since it gave Page a chance to shine. There was another one of those "moments" during the Rock and Roll jam when the crowd exploded into a frenzied trance.

Seven Below gave me flashbacks of the Dec 2002 NYE show at the Garden when Phish reunited and they played Seven Below as it began to snow indoors. I got goosebumps whiel I basked in the warm glow of that memory burn. The Seven Below jam wasn't quite as triumphant as the Albany fuckfest, but the boys were not afraid to open it up and explore new territory. The Twist jam was juicy, like a thick and delicious piece of chocolate cake. Moist is another word that comes to mind.

The boys didn't let up and jumped off the deep end and into Mikes > H2 > Weekapaug. They weren't fucking around and the Mike's Song jam was easily one of the highlights of the second set. It was as though they decided to fuck with all of the acidheads for the first 40 minutes with intense jamming before they embarked into the Mike's Groove saga.

Senor called Horse > Silent the part of the show when Phish embraces their feminine side. It gave me a chance to sit down, catch my breath, and smoke a bowl.

YEM was a fitting closer to the show and the three-night run. Killer lights, as per usual, from Kuroda. The jam out was like a deviant session of S&M from a German dominatrix who wouldn't let up and kept whipping and spanking and pouring hot wax on your genital areas.

I have been praying to hear Torn and Frayed. It was my favorite song from Exile that Phish played at Festy8. I nearly jizzed myself when I heard they busted it out earlier in the tour and kept my fingers crossed for MSG. Plus there were all of those (bunk) Sharon Jones rumors floating around. I didn't see any hip black chicks walk onto stage at the start of the encore, so I knew that Phish was going to end the show with just the fab four. And instead of a Loving Cup or Torn and Frayed cover from the Stones, Phish treated us with Shine a Light. If you check my iPod you would see that song is the second most played tune from the Exile set. Yep, I quickly approved of the choice.

Amazing show despite a few blah moments. I can't complain one bit. It is unfair to try to compare it to Thursday, but I definitely had a ton of faded fun.

Three MSG shows down. One more to go in Charlottesville.

Get ready to RAGE, Virginia.