Los Angeles, CA
Many moons ago when I worked on Wall Street, I got screwed over by fellow co-worker. The short version of the story is that we had a big meeting and I did all of my homework, but one of my colleagues didn't and he literally stole a few pages of my notes and took credit for a few of my ideas. I was pissed off, but didn't make a scene over it. I didn't even rat him out to my sales manager, even though he knew what had happened. I learned a valuable lesson that resonated so much that I'm writing about it today.
During my first few months in the poker industry, a similar incident happened and someone stole my research. I also didn't make a scene about it even though I was wicked pissed. Again, I took the hit as a one of life's rough lessons and vowed that it would never happen again. For the individuals involved, I learned right away that they couldn't be trusted. Six years later, the some folks are still acting the slimy slithery snakes, but I managed to stay clear away from their dubious way of conducting business.
I work in a competitive industry but every summer, it moprhs into an ultra-competitive monster, not to mention over run by scensters. That's the time of year when you find out which friends are competitive assholes or who gets off on power trips. It's both hysterical and inherently sad because jobs and positions are extremely transient. Turnover is ridiculously high that some of my colleagues are on their second or third stints with an organization. Every few months people are jumping ship, switching allegiances between online poker rooms and media conglomerates. I've done what I can to remain neutral the last few years, but at the same time, when it comes don to two waring factions, I'm either ducking for covering or playing both sides.
I'm a mercenary. I do most of my (best) work in silence and in solitary confinement. One of the reasons I chose freelance writing to pay my bills is that it did not require me to wear pants or work in an office environment. I got into poker and originally moved to Vegas because of the attractive nature of the outlaw vibe of the gambling world. Within a year or so, it became apparent that I had more and more responsibilities thrust upon my shoulders. Even though that's not what I set out to do -- there's was too much money involved that it was foolish for me to bail. I had to re-evaluate and change my gameplan. At that point, I accepted that poker is big business and that I'd needed a different outlook, almost a 180 degree turn in my philosophical approach to my entire purpose in the short term and in the bigger picture.
Then the tides turned again. The industry went from a lawless bastion right out of the wild wild west to an uptight and strict, yet cut throat business environment. The biz eventually regressed into a bad John Hughes high school flick. Sure the corporatization of my initial foray into poker was atrocious to stomach, but at least there was a conscious effort to bring a level of professionalism to how everyone conducted themselves. All of that has disappeared and the industry is like an uncomfortable walk through the high school cafeteria. Yeah, the way things have turned out the last few years has been a real bummer. I saw it coming and it just got worse and worse. I used to be judged on the quality of my writing, but now all anyone cares about is who I'm friends with and who I follow, or don't follow on Twitter. Writing is more important to me than worrying about the high school pecking order of the poker industry not to mention the typical bullshit faux-office politics. I got into poker to avoid all of that, yet it's all come full circle. That's one reindeer game that I refuse to play, so I definitely pissed off a few people this summer as I continued to go my own way. Nothing pisses off attention whores and drama queens more than you simply ignoring them. But as the saying goes, "Fuck 'em."
I went out to Vegas to write a few good stories and gain more material for future stories. I had to remind myself that about halfway though the summer after I got sucked into a lot of unnecessary drama. Life is short, what's the point about pickering and bitching? Once I came out the other side, I refocused myself on writing. Super glad I made that decision.
Yeah, I'm glad to be back home and away from all of the negativity associated with some of the people I'm forced to deal with every summer. I even decided to take the rest of the summer off (skipping out on events in a few interesting locales) to ensure that I won't have to deal with any nonsense for at least another five weeks.
I found myself self-medicating more and more this summer as a buffer against some of the dipshits I have to be around. Once I'm away from the grind of Vegas, I have no desire to numb myself. I know that sounds like a bad excuse sort of like the list of "rejected children's book titles" that had my all-time favorite: "Daddy Drinks Because You Cry." For me it's: "Pauly Pops Pills Because You're a Loudmouth Asshole Who Won't Shut the Fuck Up." The most difficult part of the summers is being forced to interact with people who have zero respect for or others who have so may undesirable qualities that the mere sight of them makes me want to puke. I know, I know... I should be more stronger and act more like a Buhddist by exhibiting tolerance and acceptance. But that doesn't work with these asstards, thieves, and liars. Alas, a half of Vicodin makes the intolerable all of a sudden tolerable.
I know enough about addiction that stopping the bad behavior is just one of many steps in the road to recovery. To me, most of the addicts and drunks focus on the "stopping" part and not as much on "why are you using" part. When I'm seeking a sustained high that' snot recreational, then yeah, I have a problem -- but the root of the problem are certain people, or rather my inability to handle them. Since I can't avoid them, I self-medicate. If you remove them from the equation, then all if good. That's why I'm feeling great right now. No assholes, no pills to get as smashed as possible in order to not want to kill myself.
A few years ago, I used to binge drink on my dinner breaks. I stopped that past time. I realized that I engaged in that behavior because of the pressures of working for a specific company. Once I no longer worked for them, I lost the sudden urge to drink heavily on dinners. In fact, since then, I have spent progressively less and less time under the influence of alcohol during normal work hours. Prior to this year, pills weren't much of a problem, but then again, this summer was particularly bad as the number of people who were total morons and tools had multiplied.
The time away has been amazing and positively affecting my mental and physical health. It's been wonderful to take a step back from the echo chamber. My buddy Michalski has been having health issues the last year or so, and he spent the last week in the hospital. That was a sobering reminder about the fragility of life and I'm in a unique position right now, so I decided to extend my time away from the grind. I really want to limit my freelance schedule for the rest of the year -- only working on a few assignments mostly to fund Phish's fall and winter tour. The few things I do will be less about the money or location and more about who I'll get to work with.
Breaks are always good because I come back refreshed on the creative side. Plus, when I spend more time worrying about who I'll piss off or disappoint with something I wrote -- then I already lost the war before firing a shot.
You can't write scared because what comes out is utter garbage. The best stuff comes from the gut. Raw. No filter. I need a little more time to shake off those bad habits and mental baggage that followed me home from Vegas. I finally got Lost Vegas up and flying, and I want to start on the next book. In a few more weeks, I'll be in the perfect head space to begin. Until then, I'm just relaxing and letting so many things go...