Los Angeles, CA
The summer in Las Vegas changed me. Happens every fucking year, and not for the better. I often spend the rest of the year repairing the damage to my mind, body, and soul. And when the new year rolls around, I spend every waking hour enjoying my time before I start prepping for the summer in Las Vegas.
I my life had a sun, it would be the summers in Las Vegas because my entire life (Nicky's too) revolves around it.
The overload on stimulus due to working inside casinos for seven weeks and intense brainwashing from living in Sin City definitely affects me in negative ways. I've done what I can to allow myself a mental cleansing on the ride from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, but that's just a minor step into rediscovering myself, something that is impossible under the circumstances. At best, I'm a changed person for the worst and I'm trying to recapture some of the things that will make me "good" again. That's why I always go to Colorado after the WSOP ends in order to spend time with hippie friends with a completely different set of social and moral values, not to mention less-material and more community-based lifestyle choices.
I spend so many somber and isolated moments in the summer. Sure, I'm surrounded by thousands of people at any given time, but aside from a handful of good souls, mostly everyone is a dark hole for everything corrupt in the universe. If anything, I'm constantly being suffocated by my own isolation. I just see things vastly different than my peers and everyone in my industry that I often find myself struggling to make similar connections with people. Weeks of this emotional isolation really wears you down which is why I welcome the journeys to Colorado to hang out with old friends. They help revive and remind me about... me. Well, at least the lost me, the person who got buried underneath a ton of grimy emotional rubble.
Sleeping helps. It's really strange for me to enjoy sleep because I struggle to get 2 or 3 hours on an average night, so whenever I can get five or six solid hours, I view that as a true victory. My body was begging for a shutdown. Even though I took off nine days this summer, those nine days were spent traveling cross country and/or partying my ass off at Phish shows. Even though I had a mental break away from the grind of Las Vegas, my body was still worn down. On one of the last days before we left Vegas, I slept almost 12 hours. I never do that. On a bad week, that's all I get in total. Alas, last week was a time of sleep for me and more importantly without any pharmaceutical enhancements to knock me out. I was that run down that I did not need any. That's how severely low my tank was. I'm glad I did the wise thing and decided to fill 'er up.
I had many other things that I wanted to do last week during the slumberfest (like answer over 1,000 emails), but I stayed in bed as much as possible. By the end of the weekend, or roughly seven days after my assignment officially ended, I was refreshed and recharged. I hadn't felt this good in weeks, let alone months. I didn't do anything else except sleep and most of my catch-up work got postponed, but for a worthy reason. Sleep is luxury item that I am unable to buy, so I seize the opportunity when I get it.
I also didn't write at almost a week. I just couldn't bring myself to sit down at the laptop. A few times I sat down, looked out the window at the alley cat (his name is Diablo) and then I got up to do something else. I wanted to avoid the machines after being handcuffed to one for up to 20 hours a day, and for seven straight weeks. I was having too much fun dicking around on Nicky's new iPad and trying to beat Angry Birds. I really didn't have an urge to fire up the laptop and play online poker for hours on end (a former post-WSOP activity).
I also didn't want to write... just yet. I took plenty of notes on stuff, themes, and stories that I will eventually write. At the least, I was organizing my future writing schedule. As per usual, I have too much to write and not enough time. I signed up for a freelance project in September, but decided to take the rest of the summer off save for one column that I have to write which should not take more than three days (one day each of research, writing, and editing). But most of the stuff I want to write will not earn me a paycheck. I have this space to keep up because I feel uber-guilty about neglecting Tao of Pauly over the last few months. I have fall issues of Truckin' to put together (including new short stories to write). Plus, I still use writing as therapy and I still have all of those random thoughts and lingering issues from this summer that need to be worked out during my morning writing sessions. I wished that I could have totally left behind some emotional baggage in Vegas, alas, one or two pieces showed up on my doorstep.
Instead of writing, I spent decent amount of time catching up with the DVR. I don't watch much TV these days, but three programs that I keep tabs on had begun new seasons: Top Chef, Entourage, and Mad Men.
I'm not a reality show person, and loathe them on principle because I always wanted to be a sitcom writer and reality shows killed the sitcom market. With less writing jobs available, I had zero chance to get into a niche that I had to overcome overwhelming odds in order to get a shot in the first place. So I'm not much of a reality show person, however, I'm a food pornographer. I'm hooked on Top Chef, especially because I figured out how to gamble on it thanks to Aussie Garth who devised a point system which allowed us to have a fantasy Top Chef pool.
Entourage has always been a favorite, and ever since I loved to LA and started dating someone who used to work in the entertainment industry, I now have a deeper appreciation for the show and laugh at the LA-themed inside jokes and I'm even starting to get the obscure Hollyweird references. This town is filled with Johnny Dramas, and Lord knows how many poker equivalents to Johnny Drama that I know.
Mad Men is a show that I got into over the last year -- but only by default. It's a weird story so here it goes... I usually have one random show that I follow, and only one due to lack of free time and the fact that I don't have a conventional Monday thru Friday/9-5 schedule. Since I was never a Lost fan, it was Heroes for me. The show came out just when I started my job in poker so I used to watch it on the road, a few episodes at a time on my laptop while stuck on airplanes or in random hotel rooms. I quickly got bored of Heroes when the writing went to shit, so I jumped over to Breaking Bad and got sucked in after the first season. For some reason, I kept losing more and more interest in the one-dimensional characters and redundant storyline as season 2 progressed. I went from being a hardcore junkie waiting for it to come one every week to someone who would dick around on the internet with it on in the background, either online poker or reading email while Nicky attentively watched it. It came to a point when I stopped watching completely. Around the same time, I switched AMC dramas and got hooked on Mad Men. Nicky knows the actor who plays Don Draper (friends of friends), and he had struggled for a decade before he caught his big break. Despite knowing one of the principles, Nicky also mentioned that a lot of the production crew and writing staff were vets from The Sopranos. Mad Men slowly warmed up to me I guess the opposite happened to Breaking Bad -- I started hanging out in the living room when Nicky watched it, but not really paying too much attention while I grinded out a few online poker tables. After a few episodes of Mad Men, I started paying more and more attention. Since I caught the bug smack in the middle of season 3, I did what anyone else would do -- I bought season 1 on DVD and eventually watched it all. I had to postpone my Mad Men addiction while I finished up Lost Vegas. As soon as I was done, I sat on the couch and smoked hash for 2 days straight as I watched all of Season 2 and re-watched Season 3 in order to get up to speed. Heck, even before the new season began, Nicky and I watched the last 2 or 3 episodes from last season just to jog our memory about the storylines.
After I caught up on the boob tube programs, I finally tore into Hack, a book that I've been wanting to read that was penned by a former NYC cab driver, who happens to be a Jewish lesbian from the burbs. I used to read her blog before she became one of those fortunate bloggers who landed a book deal off of the content on her site. I was a little jealous, but at the same time thrilled because I always thought she was a compelling storyteller. Lucky for me, I read most of it while my feet were buried in the sand at Zuma Beach in Malibu. The waves were crashing all around me as I turned the pages, staining some of the corners with oily residue leftover from applying suntan lotion. I eventually finished it when I got home. It was formerly in the "TO READ" pile but I since moved it to "SEND TO FRIENDS" pile.