Friday, April 16, 2010

Dispatches from New York & Connecticut, Vol 2. - Soused in New England and Faded in the City

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's some more bullet-pointed bits from my recent sojourn to New York and Connecticut. Thanks to my brother and Hemingway for inspiring the succinct style...
-- Due to lack of available rooms at Mohegan Sun casino, Nicky and her colleagues were moved off campus to a different hotel down the road. Usually, it's best to be staying in the same hotel/casino where the tournament is held because you reduce commuting time (er, more time for sleeping and drinking). I didn't mind being housed off campus in this instance (we were less than 5 mins. away) only because it meant that we'd leave the sprawling casino property once work was done. That's the problem sometimes with assignments that are longer than one week -- we're prisoners stuck inside the same complex since casinos are specifically built to keep people on premises. When imprisoned inside a gambling hall, you're prone to gamble and drink more, which only pads the pockets of the casinos.

-- Senor drove down from Rhode Island on my first night in Connecticut. He took Nicky and I out to delicious dinner at Bar Amercain. I enjoyed my meal, someone got the duck, I forgot who, but whoever it was they said that the succulent duck was amazing. Senor also showed us his favorite bar -- a martini lounge at the top of some structure inside the Casino of the Sky. Mohegan Sun is a Native American reservation made of up several mini-casinos with naturalistic names. The curved ceiling with tinkling stars and clouds was supposed to replicate an outdoor setting. Kinda cheesy, but different.

-- I ate fairly well at Mohegan Sun including three visits to Bobby Flay's Burger Palace. I devoured his bacon blue cheeseburgers on two instances. Since Bobby's opened up at 11am, Nicky and I actually ate "breakfast there twice" since she started work around noon every day. A bunch of us ate Frank Pepe's pizza. I heard good things, but was skeptical. However, I was quickly won over with their bacon pizza. Vinny the Barber said they have a restaurant in Yonkers somewhere. He approved of their pizza. If Vinny the Barber, who's from Sicily, gives the pizza his stamp of approval, then you know it's legit.

-- Every night after Midnight, we were able to sit in the breakfast room of out hotel and drink our BYOBs. The hotel was fairly new and the staff was over-accommodating my alkie friends. The woman who worked the front desk would even set aside chips and salsa for us while my crew swapped stories about drunken friends who either pissed or shit themselves. I'm used to working foreign events with Otis and Joe, which means we always retire to our hotel lobby bar to drink the local brew until closing time. In this instance, they didn't really have a bar per se, but we had a supermarket and liquor store in a strip mall across the street which gave us opportunity to load up on supplies for the week.

-- When I headed to work on Thursday morning, I was more focused on watching Tiger Woods' opening round at the Masters. Normally I'd just watch the Sunday round of The Masters unless I had nothing else better to do aside form sit on my couch, smoke weed, and watch opening rounds of golf tournaments. Investing time and energy into viewing Thursday and Fridays of a four-day tournament is kinda pointless, like wondering who's the chip leader in a poker tournament after the first break. However, this time there was plenty of reasons to check out the Masters since it was the return of that sex-freak Tiger Woods.

-- Ah, then there's the Phil Ivey phenomena. For some of my non-poker readers, Phil Ivey is the greatest poker player in this solar system. Ivey is often compared as the Tiger Woods of Poker because like Tiger, he's also light-skinned black man, but the two could actually be brothers from a different mother. I have a theory that they are both alien hybrids which is why they look alike. Just their mothers were captured by the Mothership and impregnated with alien DNA which is why Tiger and Ivey are the best of the best. Anyway, Phil Ivey made wagers with several of his peers. Who knows how much he bet, but he was getting 5.5-1 odds betting on Tiger, so if Tiger win, Ivey could have easily won over $1 million.

-- Yes, so it's obvious that I watched a lot of golf in the media room on my laptop. ESPN3 had coverage along with I was impressed with both of their coverage. Too bad NBC couldn't do the same with the Olympics. I had bets all over the place including one on Phil Mickelson to win it all. I also bet that Tiger would shoot 70+ on his first round back. I was a little off with that one, but ended up with a small profit.

-- One of the night in Connecticut was our buddy Joe's 50th birthday. We celebrated in true fashion by binge drinking and closing out an Irish pub. After last call, we retired to the breakfast room of our hotel where we drank to past 4am and swapped stories about working in exotic locales. Not only is our British colleague Howard an amazing scribe, he's a brilliant story teller. It must be the accent. Joe used to work in rock & roll (more like heavy metal) and he had hundreds of insane road stories as well.

-- One of us had a fall (not Otis) and acquired a UDI... unidentified drunken injury... a rug burn on the forehead after falling down drunk. I don't want to out the person, but let's just say he looked like Gorbachev for a few days, with a huge red mark on his forehead.

-- On Friday night, the casino was swarming with soused cougars in town to see Chelsea Handler's show at the theatre. Packs of them were on the prowl. On Saturday, a horde of fishermen were mingling around the convention area for a deep sea fishing convention. Yes, it smelled like fish all afternoon, which is sort of an inside joke for poker media people.

-- I craved breakfast all week. The closest I came to a breakfast was eating a bacon egg & cheese from Johnny Rockets. I struggled to get it down on the morning after Joe's 50th birthday. I was wicked hungover, but the grease helped ease the pain. By the way, the LATHER the breakfast sandwiches in mayo.

-- I watched pretty much all of Tiger Wood's four rounds, well, as much as I could. I wanted to watch on Saturday, but got sucked into the Yankees game because CC Sabathia was throwing a no-hitter. It was hard to pull myself away from that deep run.

-- I left on Monday morning,while Nicky and Otis had to cover a second event. Nicky would stay in CT and fly back to LA via Hartford, while I had two full days in the NYC. Drove back to the city with F-Train and Elissa. Made great time despite tree cutters slowing down traffic on Merrit Parkway. I got pulled over the second I exited West Side Highway. Shakedown. Ticket for some senseless moving violation. Fastest ticket I ever got. 3 minutes total.

-- On my next to last day in NYC, I woke up early and wrote. I returned the rental car and ate breakfast at a diner I know well on Broadway. After the breakfast sandwich, I popped a Percs then walked through Central Park as the pill worked it's magic. I began to float past all of the joggers and bike riders. The park is teaming with health-freaks at that hour and I was just another junkie to them as they whizzed by.

-- I walked past Regis, my old high school, and realized that I skipped my 20th high school anniversary. On the date it was being held, I was drinking at a Chili's in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut with work colleagues, some of which I consider good friends. I don't talk to anyone I went to high school with anymore. My last contact was from a classmate a few years ago who emailed me because he was trying to recruit former Varsity hoops players to play for our class' alumni hoops team. He was probably the best baseball player in my year (lefty with a wicked curveball) and he was the captain of the alumni team. It felt good to be missed and my deft three-point shooting skills were in high demand. Alas, at the time I was in Australia for work so I skipped on on the alumni tournament. That was my last contact with anyone from school.

-- My colleague Howard insisted that I pick up a book by Nathanael West that featured a character named Homer Simpson. That character partially inspired Matt Groening's main character in The Simpsons (well, that and his father's name was Homer as well). I wandered into Barnes & Nobles on 86th Street. As I disembarked from the escalator, I noticed a film crew. They were shooting b-roll of a huge wall filled with Oprah's controversial biography written by Kitty Kelly. There was also a press junket near the cafe. I guess a bunch of media outlets sent reporters to check out the public reaction to Oprah's bio. I quickly found my book and was pleased that the copy also included another novel from West, so I got two West novels for $11.95. Unreal. He's one of America's most underrated novelists and penned probably the best book ever written on Hollyweird, and his books are selling 2/$12.

-- The museum didn't open for another half hour. I grabbed an iced tea and sat down at a Strabucks near the subway station. It was 9am and I was faded to the tits. I accidentally dropped my change into the wrong tip jar. Instead a bunch of change rattled into a cup with plastic spoons. The cashier frowned. I was just another asshole that she had to deal with that morning. I took a seat at the window and looked out onto Lexington Avenue. I watched Upper East Siders trickle into the subway on their way to work.Men in striped suits clutched their children's hand as they rushed to the curb, and told the kids to stand still as he stepped up into traffic to hail a taxi cab, which would take them to whatever private school he was paying for. As I left Starbucks, two of the workers were debating whether or not an old man slumped on the couch had fallen asleep or had died.

- I climbed the steps to the Met about five minutes after it opened. That's the best time to visit the museum... early in the morning on a week day. I prefer museums, especially the Met, when it's nearly empty. I wandered around in a daze as my buzz kept getting stronger and stronger. I wanted to peak when I arrived at the museum and I had perfect timing. I found myself in 19th Century painting when a group of Japanese grandma's were trying to take photos near the Degas room. I offered to take a pic of all three women with one of the ballerina sculptures. They thanked me and asked me where they could find Van Gogh. For the next twenty minutes, I was their guide in that section showing them Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Cezanne. I think only one of them spoke English very well and the rest of them just nodded as I pointed and told half-truths about the paintings. I tried not to make anything up and I might have fudged a few facts here or there. When it was over, they offered to buy me tea. Very sweet, but I declined.

-- I bumped into two old friends: Mark and Emilie. I used to play poker with Mark 15 years ago and Emilie used to be good friends with my ex-girlfriend. She's an amazing artist and we caught up on the process and how difficult it is to squeeze a real job into an artist's life.

-- Since it was super early, I caught a docent talking to herself in front of a Jasper Johns painting. She was rehearsing her tour and I got to be a test subject for a few minutes. I checked out a couple of the special exhibitions and really dug a series of contemporary Aboriginal paintings. I also dug Richard Hamilton's prints and Romare Bearden's exhibit.

-- My time at the museum was limited. I gave myself two hours before I had to leave and go back to my brother's apartment to watch the Yankees home opener at 1pm. I walked through park at a much quicker pace than I had three hours earlier. I hopped on the subway, yelled at a Dominican woman for yapping on the phone while I was trying to read my Nathanael West novel, switched cars, watched a bum pass out int he corner and drool on himself. I picked up a couple of slices of pizza and hung out with my brother to watch the Yankees. His apartment was without water and plumbing which is why he had to skip work that day. At least we got to hang out and watch the game.

-- I had a 6pm flight out of JFK, so I had a half a day in NYC. I woke up, wrote, and went to the main drag to discover that the Greek diner was up and running. It had been closed by the board of health and re-opened once the check cleared. I devoured a bacon, egg & cheese on a Kaiser roll then wandered over to Vinny the Barber's joint for a haircut and conversation. I went to my brother's apartment and watched another Yankees day game and called for a car service. It arrived in the 6th inning and my Indian cab driver had the Yankees game on a low volume inside his sedan. I asked him to turn it up, which he happily obliged. The Yanks lost, but at least I got to listen to the game while he navigated traffic to JFK. I said goodbye to the city as the skyscrapers faded away into the distance.
That's it. I'm done.

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