Sunday, May 30, 2010

Podcasts in Vegas: Tao of Pokerati

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

My buddy Michalski at Pokerati and I started a podcast in the summer of 2008 which we dubbed Tao of Pokerati. We've had many guests over the years including Nicky, Derek, AlCantHang, and Benjo.

Tao of Pokerati is a low budget podcast that might be the shortest in the poker genre clocking in around 3.5 minutes per episode. That's what makes it so much fun.

Anyway, we returned to podcasting action with five episodes. We really got things cooking with Episode #4 and Episode #5 is already an instant classic.

Please listen in...
Episode 1: Amazon Reunion - Michalski and I snuck into the Amazon Room while preparations were still being made for the 2010 WSOP at the Rio.

Episode 2: Big Room - We wandered over to the Pavilion area where the satellites and cash games are currently running in addition to where most of Day 1s will be played out.

Episode 3: Pooling Resources - Michalski and I take our show outdoors... to the Rio's pool. We riff on a few subjects including a big meeting that we had just finished.

Episode 4: Late Fees and Gunfire - I gave Michalski shit for showing up late to things and for being a lazy ass uploading Tao of Pokerati episodes. We agreed on a $50 late fee/fine for every time he's tardy and we discussed what worthy cause should get the said fines.

Episode 5: Lesbian Kisses (featuring Benjo) - Benjo and I killed time in the press box by watching lesbian kissing videos on YouTube. We offered up analysis and play-by-play while pondering a future as professional lesbian kissing video commentators. Alas, there was a sudden and unexpected twist at the end of one of the videos that left everyone in the press box aghast (see video below)...

Check out more episodes in the Tao of Pokerati Archives.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Neglect Begins

By Pauly
Las Vegas

This is the time of year when I neglect the Tao of Pauly for two months while I work my ass off over at the sister site... Tao of Poker.

I always say that this year will be different and that I'll do a better job at writing in this space -- but that never happens. Sporadic posting at best is expected over the next two months. At least I'm being honest this summer.

So much has happened since I first moved to Las Vegas in 2005 to accept my first assignment at the WSOP. I've forged a career, have a book coming out, and got flown all over the world to cover other tournaments. As much as I complain... I have no reason to.

I'm pretty lucky that I get to return to the WSOP again this year. Plus, I'm calling the shots which makes me smile because I thrive on creative freedom.

Here's how I've changed physically in the last five summers...






Who knows what I'll look like at the end of this summer?

If you're a poker addict, then head over to Tao of Poker for seven straight weeks of nonstop poker coverage.

If you're following me on Twitter and can't stand poker... then you have been warned because expect a heavy flow of poker via @taopauly on Twitter the next two months.

That's it for now. The madness begins shortly...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The New Plight

By Pauly
Las Vegas

We officially settled into the condo when the cable guy arrived on Tuesday morning to set everything up. He was a chatty young guy in his 20s, an immigrant from Serbia, who know his European history in addition to his Eastern European professional basketball players. He hinted that China and Russia might go to war in the next decade, a scenario I had been contemplating for years. I told him we'd never let that happen because we need China to built us all of our stuff -- and Americans love stuff.

Speaking of stuff, Nicky and I packed super light because for $100 we could hit up the local chain retail mart and stock up our apartment. We rented a furnished two bedroom condo in a quiet part of Las Vegas far away from the Strip. The condo came with three couches, but no dining room table. I needed a desk as a main base of operations for the summer. We opted for a card table after we found four folding chairs in the closet that the owner had for some random reason. And yes, we have three closets, two of which are walk-ins and the size of some tiny NYC studios.

We have a balcony, which is only good when the weather is cooperative. The recent high winds have cooled off the city and we're welcoming the breezes before the transformation into triple digit Hades-like temperatures. On the down side, all the wind is kicking up tons of pollen and other gunk that attack my sinuses.

I'm taking notes on our neighbors... not to spy on them for Big Brother, rather for my own documentation. Since Vegas is a 24-hour city, people are coming and going at all hours, and it's been tough to get a read on everyone. I've been awake at different times, so I'm slowly figuring out who are my neighbors. There seems to be a 12 year old girl living upstairs. She bounces around a lot and I wonder if she's rocking out to MTV or if her Ritalin is just kicking in. I've only seen her mother once, which means she's a "latch key" kid. A couple of kids from adjacent condos come over to play - which is essentially them running up and down the stairs.

The corner condo is where the potential sketchiness goes down. Every day, there's a guy who just walks around in the street in front of the condos. He's talking nonstop on his cellphone and walks back and forth and circles adjacent buildings. Drug dealing? Human trafficking? I've never seen him without his cellphone. I assume that his roommate is another dude with a dog who shits on the little bit of grass in front of our condo. He cleans it up, and I'm always tempted to say something, but it's often best to gain more information on a potential nemesis/bad neighbor before I stir up the pot.

The other morning, Nicky and I heard a middle eastern guy screaming at the top of his lungs as he walked across the parking lot. He was on his cell phone and it sounded like he was talking to an IT guy about someone fucking something up and how he has to clean up everyone's bullshit work on his day off. The next thing I heard -- his car door slammed, his engine revved, and he pealed out of the complex.

Compared to the Redneck Riviera, our new condo is ritzy. We're considering buying a unit since there are dozens of cheap foreclosed properties in our complex. Nicky and I haven't come up with a nickname for it like we have for our summer digs in previous years.

Everyone knows (detailed in Lost Vegas) that I lived at a short-term rental/motel called the Redneck Riviera during my first summer in Vegas. My second summer in 2006 was spent in Henderson. I had been living with Grubby for a few months prior in a similar cookie cutter condo, expect our current walls are painted in a more chic Southwestern New Mexico motif instead of the standard eggshell white in Grubby's condo.

My third summer was spent at Del Bocca Vista, a gated complex less than five minutes from the Rio. Nicky and I both worked the most we had ever worked in the summer of 2007 and I dunno how we would have survived without living in something so close by. We considered renting a condo in the same complex last year, but the security and safety of the Del Bocca Vista had dramatically decreased since we moved out.

The fourth summer might have been our best accommodations... Scheckytown. Thanks to John Caldwell, he put up Nicky and I up at his fatty four bedroom house in Summerlin. We were also living with a pregnant Jen Leo at the time, which meant the pantry was constantly stocked with munchies and other food stuffs. We had a pool, hot tub, Wii, and they also set me up with a desk. I often wrote outside at night by the pool. I cranked out some of my best material (out of all my WSOPs) in the summer of 2008 -- much to the credit of the comfortable surroundings.

Last summer was a clusterfuck. Our digs at a faux-NYC loft south of the Strip was a headache from the get go. Security was super tight and I felt like a prisoner trying to get in and out. They always pestered us when we tried to go through the front gate. Plus, a lot of Nicky's co-workers (without cars) lived in the same complex, which meant that Nicky got stuck shuttling around her co-workers (at her own expense and generosity). All hell broke loose when the AC went out the day I came back from Phish tour. We were forced to live in two different hotels the rest of the summer. I spent the last two weeks of the WSOP inside the Gold Coast casino. In order to let Nicky sleep in peace, I often wrote inside the bathroom. I had no choice but to adapt to my surroundings.

That's why I vowed that we'd do a much better job with summer accommodations. No more writing while sitting on the edge of a toilet. I firmly believe that a positive creative environment leads to better work, and so far, our condo has been nothing but positive. In a short time, I've already cranked out a couple of quality posts...
Top 5 Summer Jobs
Top 10 Degen Gambling Flicks
Negative Ned and Negative Nancy
While Nicky and I are trying to come up with a nickname for our place, for the meantime, I'll just call it home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

hollyweird > lost vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas

The last week before I migrate to Las Vegas is always peaceful, yet stressful, and I waiver back and forth between moments of tranquility and utter depression. I've been through the Las Vegas meat grinder five summers in a row. I nearly died a couple of times. I've lost weeks of my life trying to recover in the ensuing months from the intense workload. In short, the last five summers have been hell -- which is the price I pay in order to have a pleasurable ten months.

Lost Vegas is about four of those summers.

My summers in Vegas are so crucial because I generate the majority of my income in those two months. That's also the prime time to make deals and set my freelance schedule for the rest of the year. The hallways offer up tremendous opportunity -- job offers, project collaborations, out-right exploitation, and the occasional bids to sell Tao of Poker. Yeah, the summers are the time of the year when I can't afford to make any fuckups creatively or on the business end. No wonder I'm so stressed. When I first started out in 2005, I had nothing to lose and I just focused on writing and getting to the end. Each year, I find more and more responsibility and expectations padding my summers when I've come to a point when I want less and less of that sort of stuff and want to return to the fun side of the equation -- writing.

So tough to walk that fine line, especially in a city like Las Vegas that tempts all of weaknesses. It's tragic to say goodbye to the people who love in your real life and then they get blocked out of the Vegas black hole. That's why I equate the summers to a stint in jail or shipping off to war. You hope for the best but you always come out of it changed and usually not for the better.

I feel helpless every summer when I see my girlfriend and my friends slowly turn into zombies and suffer multiple breakdowns. It happens to the strongest of minds -- a mental freakout -- because it's impossible to be inside a casino for seven straight weeks without losing your mud. And when you fall, you fall hard. Since I'm always trying my best to keep my shit together, I overlook everyone's anguish. I never realized how ugly it got until last summer. After 20 days away, I returned to Las Vegas (in a manner that Mean Gene aptly described in a recent post) and saw my friends souls sucked out and their life forces utterly demoralized. I was wrought with guilt because I was helpless and couldn't help them -- they had to help themselves and gut out the last three weeks.

I did what I can to prepare for the summer, and read books to give my mind a thorough work out. Nicky and I went to Zuma beach and soaked up the sun, enjoying the last bit of nature before we're huddled inside a casino. I also attempted to sleep as much as possible -- to rest up before the firefight.

I also didn't write much and attempted to unplug, which I did for the most part. I slipped here and there, but I was pleased with my overall effort to reduce all that time handcuffed to the machine.

I was packed and ready to go 16 hours before launch time. I don't have much stuff, but definitely a lot more than the first time I moved to Vegas. The morning of the journey, I woke up early, packed the car and was pleased to see that Nicky had packed lighter than ever. We actually had more room than I anticipated.

The drive is the same drive we've done too many times to count. We made good time and did the run through bat country in less than four hours. We met the leasing company rep and we finally had our summer home. The entire process was more stressful than I desired due to a couple of major snafus, which had me on edge for a week or so. Once we got the keys to the condo -- a huge burden was taken off my shoulders. We had our home base. And it felt like it was going to a positive place to write the next two months.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dylan Sessions

By Pauly
Las Vegas

I wrote a song about Bob Dylan. I wrote many actually.

The first one was conceived on a road trip from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles along the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Nicky was driving our rental car, a Prius, on the other side of the road and I was riding shotgun and making up lyrics on the fly. The basic concept is this... Bob Dylan's wife tells him that they need to put a pool in their backyard since he's too famous to go to the beach because he gets mobbed by lunatic fans. He agrees but doesn't know how to actually put a pool in his yard, so he drives down to the local Home Depot in search of day workers who will do the task. They work all day and most of the night while Bob drinks beer, eats chili, and supervises the project. Eventually the workers revolt, Bob Dylan kicks them off his property, and ends up hiring a contractor.

The second Bob Dylan song I wrote happened during a visit to Zuma Beach in Malibu. It's a ballad about the time he picked up a couple of hitchhikers: a guy, his girlfriend, and their tour dog, a puppy named Frog. They were stranded after their VW bus broke down, so Bob Dylan drove them back to his house so they could call for a tow truck. In the meantime, he treated his guests to a BBQ. The hippie kids insisted that they were vegans, and Bob Dylan insisted that he cooked up the best veggie burgers in the West. They agreed to eat his food and were amazed at his culinary delights. The best veggie burgers they ever had. That's when the girl hippie wanted to share some of her veggie burger with their puppy, Frog. But Frog was nowhere to be found. What they didn't know is that Bob Dylan killed the puppy, ground it up, added a Cajun rub, and tossed it on the grill.

I had a dream that inspired the next Bob Dylan song which takes place in a near dystopian future where a shady bio-tech corporation grows human organs on foreclosed farms in Montana. They sell these harvested organs to hospitals, insurance companies, and wealthy individuals. Sometimes, a bad batch of organs are spawned and those have to be supposed to be disposed of, however, a couple of junkie lab workers steal the defective organs and sell them on the black market. That's where Bob Dylan comes in -- he's a black market organ dealer using a world tour as a front to hide his lucrative operations.

The most recent Bob Dylan song I wrote is topical and political -- about Bob Dylan's reaction to the Draconian immigration laws in Arizona. He made a decision to hang out with Minutemen on the border to see the problem himself. He spends a weekend busting illegals crossing through the desert in the middle of the night. All is well, until Bob Dylan loses his night vision goggles and he gets lost himself, only to wander over into Mexico where he gets picked up by the local federales. Before they release him, he agrees to play three songs at the police chief's daughter's birthday party. However, with the help of a one-eyed nun, Bob Dylan escapes police custody and sneaks back across the border through a tunnel built by the drug cartels to smuggle in meth.

I have an idea for a fifth song, about Bob Dylan's encounter with a neighbor who is a hoarder and speaks to aliens. And a sixth song is beginning to take root inside my head about Bob Dylan's preference to drinking beer in cans and not bottles. Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Empty Island

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Empty beliefs.

That's the note I wrote down after I watched Manhattan. A selection of Woody Allen movies were on cable last week, and I made Woody Allen the exception to my TV ban. I re-watched many of his cinematic masterpieces -- Bananas, Manhattan, and Annie Hall. Most of the scene in Manhattan were mini-plays exploring a different beliefs involving one or more of the characters. And more often than not -- the final conclusion was that each person reach a realization point that they have an empty belief.

I guess you can say that a particular belief had a semblance of truth, but aside from that, it had a hallow center. Nothing more than a shell.

Do we live a life of action or reaction? Is man ruled by deliberate actions, or moments of passion which control those actions?

I had no idea that Woody Allen and I set out to find the same answers to the same questions thirty years apart in two different cities using two different art forms. No way I can compare Lost Vegas to Manhattan because I'd be foolish to do so, however, on a basic level Woody set out to figure out those answers using cinema (paying homage to his favorite directors). And that's what I'm trying to draw a comparison -- that I too attempted to explore philosophical questions using a different art form by sharing similar techniques about using the characters involved (in this case - real life people) to answer those tough question -- or at the least try to find out an answer.

I guess I'm saying that Lost Vegas is more than just a memoir about Las Vegas, but a philosophical exploration of life's bigger questions but set in a city of decaying values.

The opening scene in Manhattan always gives me flashbacks of my youth sitting in the backseat of my father's car as he drives through the caverns of the skyscrapers. Those feelings of being really really small and seeing hundreds of windows on forty, fifty, seventy storied buildings whiz by are still fresh in my mind. All of those windows were like flicker lights in the night sky which represented life on the other side of the galaxy. Well, those people living in Manhattan might has well been living on Jupiter or in another solar system. I grew up in an outer-borough even though I still lived inside the city limits, the island of Manhattan was its own entity. I seemed so distant and cut off from all of those windows, but my overactive imagination wondered and hypothesized about what each window represented -- possessions, dreams, despair, light, possibility, prisons, and wealth. All those things and so much more. I figured that each window represented a different person with a unique story and a life that's so far removed from my own. They all had their own set of books, and clothes, and the drank different brands of juice and soda and maybe their freezers had frozen Popsicles or some sort of Swanson's frozen TV dinner. Maybe they had children my age who also went to private school, with rooms full of toys cooler than my own, and those kids had free reign to draw on their walls and scribble down any image they wanted because they were rich kids living in Manhattan with maids who get paid to wipe the walls clean every morning so when the kids got home from school, they could deface the wall once again.

Seeing the shots of skyscrapers in Woody Allen films brought back waves and waves of flashbacks, mostly good ones, but a few bad ones. Sometimes I looked up at the skyscrapers and I had claustrophobic memories of being shackled to a desk. Part of me thinks that the buildings in Midtown were minimum security prisons where citizens do their time -- 35 year stints in the joint and then they finally get out with a plaque, a pension check, and aspirations to move to Florida. Is that the American Dream that the Baby Boomers bought into?

What was given to us Gen Xers? False hope. Glitzy TV ads at what life is supposed to look like, which brainwashed us into buying into that racket -- only to figure out the ugly truth -- and a system of empty beliefs that Woody Allen touched upon in Manhattan.

Life has turned into a bout of indigestion after a rough meal with much scotch.

Decaying values. Woody wrote a screenplay about it 30+ years ago and it still holds up today. Can I do the same with Lost Vegas? Will someone pick it up in 2040 and think that some of the struggles that I had coming up with answers to life's tough questions are still being sought after?

Or maybe I'm just chasing my own tail. Some things cannot be answered. They just are.

I read four books in five days and ignored Twitter during my mini-holiday, which is why I came up with the conclusion that Twitter is evil and trying to systematically snuff out the richness of language and literature.

Twitter is a mere bite out of a fast-food burger.

Thanks for stopping by the Tao, by the way. I appreciate that you appreciate a hearty meal. Soul food. My words come from the soul. It's hard to make that resonate in 140 characters or less. When I write, I'm spilling my guts onto the empty canvas, in this case, an empty word document. Sometimes you get a Pollock-like drip painting of splattered emotions, some days you get a nifty mosaic. Other days, just a cloudy ambiguous mist.

The gurgling machines stop in the middle of the street, blocking Jettas and Mercedes, as guys in florescent yellow vests haul away our trash. Orange rinds, coffee grounds, fast food containers, junk mail, and whatever useless crap we toss aside. Garbage is all around us. Woody Allen made a joke that in LA people away trash and turn it into TV shows.

A couple of hippie girls spammed the neighborhood trying to save the planet. The whales or the baby seals weren't this causing. Neither was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Rather, they were trying to get me to rally behind their cause -- a huge pile of floating garbage the size of Texas somewhere in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre.

They got no money. Just someone channeling their inner Bukowski and trying to leer while listening to their pitch. She had it down pretty good and didn't stumbled over her rebuttals. I was mildly impressed, but she was unable to sell me because I'm not one to give money to strangers who knock on my door.

I do what I can individually -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- but don't buy into this eco/green brainwashing that has been slowly going on behind the scenes over the last few years. I love the fucking Don Drapers of the modern advertising world who figured out that re-branding your product as Green or Eco-friendly is a sure-fire way to guilt-trip consumers into buying their product over a competitor who doesn't think twice about destroying Mother Earth.

All a sham. Club a baby seal. Spear a whale. Fuck those dolphins getting caught in nets. Not my problem.

Use more plastic bags and drink as much bottled water as possible. Fuck those hippies who are being brainwashed by the Man telling us that it's bad for the environment. Most bottled water is safer than the Fluoride-ridden tap water you're poisoning yourselves with. By the way, you know who introduced Fluoride into public drinking water? The Nazis. That's who.

Detaching myself from the internet and the blitz of news has done wonders for my brain. I can think more clearly and I'm not bombarded with propaganda and advertising with the sole purpose to de-humanize me and prey on my fears and exploit my weaknesses. Reading a book was so much more easier after taking 24 hours away from the constant buzz of the news cycle. Once you get into it -- that's all you want to do. Your brain is it's own little addict. Once it gets stimulation -- it needs more and more. Which is why i you feed it drugs or junk food, that's what it will crave. So if you feed it nonsense like Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, and entertainment news -- then that's all it plays and replays over and over and over.

But once you break that cycle and start feeding your mind books and knowledge, it actually grows and all of those decayed brain cells start to regenerate and you start being able to think clearly again.

I always wondered why I listened to jazz music first thing in the morning. Basically, the music flushed out any of those lingering parasites (thought terrorists as Charlie Shoten would call them) that suck out any creativity and turn me into a mindless zombie. I know in high school art class, the Jesuits used to play Mozart and other classical music because they stood behind the theory that the music spurred creativity and got the brain firing on all cylinders. It goes without saying that I added a few minutes of Mozart to my early morning listening music -- a daily brain laxative to flush out all those inane tweets and bad sentences that have turned my brain into a rotting house infested with termites.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

This might have happened ten years ago.

I walked into a sullen pawn shop across the street from the bus station in Albuquerque. You'll only find a more depressing pawn shop in the Southwest in only Las Vegas or Reno. Hank's Hock Shop reeked of desperation and urine; the urine had wafted over from the bus station because I've yet to actually visit a bus station that didn't smell like week-old feces and urine, and the desperation was vacuum-sealed inside the shop. Pawn shops are hospices for tattered dreams. It's where they go to die.

A plump man in his 60s greeted me with a suspicious head nod. He wore his greyish hair short, like a drill sergeant. He wore suspenders and a dreary brown plaid shirt. After a few steps inside, I realized that he was wheezing heavily. He struggled for air like a 3-pack a day for forty years vet. He stood behind a counter polishing a batch of jewelry -- previously owned by a 87-year old woman who had croaked in the middle of a Mahjong game. The paramedic who tried to revive her had also stolen her bracelet, watch, and two rings. He wanted $200 for $800 worth of goods. The miserly pawn shop owner offered him $75. The paramedic was about to leave when the owner mumbled a counter offer of $80 in between heavy gasps of breath. The paramedic took it. He needed to pay his bookie $1,200 and needed anything he could get.

The gun section was located in plain view in the back of the narrow shop that was no wider than two bowling alley lanes, but probably the length of two lanes put together. A dozen shotguns were locked in a cabinet while an assortment of handguns and revolvers were in a glass display case, next to a batch of hunting knives and ninja stars.

Electronics were on the left hand side - VCRs, DVD players, stereos - some previously owned by meth heads who pawned their material items for a fresh batch of crank. The majority of them were outright stolen by meth heads. The mumbling owner knows when an item is hot or not, which allows him to always lowballs the tweakers. They don't have a choice. They'll do anything for $10. Hank's Hock Shop was one of the only joints in town that accepted fenced goods -- no questions asked.

The plump mumbling pawn shop owner looked like a nebbish character out of a pulp novel. He had a shiny red nose, but was too old to be a cokehead, but just the right age to be a type of guy who brushes his teeth with whiskey with a Marlboro dangling from his lip. I could tell that he had half a bag on. Not that I cared. If I owned a pawn shop at the gateway to hell, I'd be shitfaced at all hours too.

I just wanted a guitar, nothing special, just something acoustic that I could use temporarily until my lost one turned up. I pointed to a couple, but was hard to understand what he was saying. The mumbling and the wheezing drowned out his voice. He wrote down the prices on a small pad with a chewed up pencil. The McIlroy was overpriced and he kept trying to push something that he insisted was Brazilian Rosewood, but he was full of shit and obviously not a music-guy. Some tweaker must have actually snuck a rare fastball past the owner.

I couldn't find anything, but then again, what was more pathetic? That the mumbling owner with emphysema was selling jewelery stolen from the corpse of a Jewish grandmas? Or that I was looking for a guitar at a pawn shop next to a bus station?

Drooping pride. Dissolving self-esteem.

I walked outside and a homeless guy who looked like Chris Rock's portrayal of Pookie in New Jack City begged me for $3 to buy a sandwich. I gave him a $1 and told him to spend it on beer instead. That's when he asked me money to buy a six-pack. I told him to fuck off.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unplug Me

By Pauly
Off the Grid

Taking a week off to unplug before I have to be on for the next two months of utter insanity which will include a move to Las Vegas for my 6th World Series of Poker, summer Phish tour, and the release of Lost Vegas.

Among my many addictions are the Internet and my inability to unplug. Like so many of you, I have an healthy compulsive obsession about checking my multiple email accounts. I also fanatically monitor multiple blog comments, fret over web-traffic meters, and voraciously consume fodder from different tentacles of the media machine. Those will always be there, I keep telling myself, yet I can't stop and I cave into my inability to unplug myself.

Hence, a vacation from all plugged things. If it has an on/off switch, then I'm gonna keep it off. It will be impossible, which is why I'm not going to bet on it, because I will write a bit on the laptop, unless I go completely old school and write with pen and paper.

I will give it my best efforts to abstain from anything connected to the grid for the new week or so.

Any posts that appear here, Coventry, or Tao of Poker will be pre-programmed, which meant I wrote it over the weekend and saved it for later.

I doubt that I can stay totally away from all things electronic, but you can always follow me on Twitter to find out what kind of shenanigans I get into if I get weak and decide to fondle my CrackBerry.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Oddities: Antelopes, German Ghosts, and Grilled Cheese Variations

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA,

The name of my fantasy baseball team is Marco Esquondoles. That's funny for like 15% of you. If you don't know, the Joker named his Honda Element "Marco Esquondoles" because it's happened to be a quirky lyric in the song Run Like An Antelope.

I went from being one of the first customers every morning when the coffee shop opened... to now, where I'm one of the last. They close in the last afternoon and that's when I've been rolling in the last few days.

I came up with a weird sandwich. Don't ask me why or how. It just happened. I've been ordering a grilled cheese with bacon on sourdough bread with a scrambled egg on the side. I season the egg with pepper and then stuff 50% of the egg into each half of the grilled cheese. I know what Jerry or my brother is going to say, "So tough guy, why don't yo simply get a breakfast sandwich with a scrambled egg instead of a fried egg, you dumb ass!" And to which I'd retort... it's just not the same. I like it this way.

I freaked out Nicky by telling her that ghosts love it when you play When the saints Go Marching In. A couple of weeks ago, I was rocking out to it like at 4am. Nicky was fast asleep and I was sitting in the dark, winding down the night after an intense writing session and fighting off a few day's worth of insomnia. That's when I felt those prickly burning things in the back of the neck -- but nothing painful, sort of playful. The little pokes perked me up for sure. I get those continuously when I play that song. I told Nicky that's my Spidey Senses picking up the spirits and ghosts in the area. They like that song because it's a call for them to head back to where ever they need to go. Since I told her that, she's been freaked out whenever I play it. She's asked me to turn it off because she fears that unwanted spirits will invade our flat in the slums of Beverly Hills.

If there's one ghost I'd like to chat with, it would be J.D. Salinger.

I can't tell if Nicky believes me that I spoke to her dead German grandmother one early morning after coming down from the tail end of 50-hour adder-vico-al-din bender, when we had a conversation. Whether it happened or not in this reality, I will never know, but I had a brief chat with her grandmother, who spoke mostly in German and I couldn't understand those words, obviously, because I only know like eight words in German and 12.5% of them are curse words. She seemed happy to see her old furniture that Nicky had acquired/inherited, which includes the sturdy oak dining room table that's almost 80 years old and storing plenty of memories and past energies. I love sitting at the table and writing early in the morning with the windows open and the music floating on by with the breeze. I think she liked the fact that I liked her table so much. Nicky doesn't know what to make of that incident. I'm sure she's having one of two thought, or maybe both...
"OMG, my boyfriend is fucking crazy!"
"OMG, my grandmother is watching me wake and bake!"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Background Beats

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

My buddy Jonas is a drummer and he compiled four volumes of mixes that he called Background Beats. This is perfect music to have playing in the background for so many things... driving to work, playing online poker, working out, pulling tubes, chilling out with friends, or during an intimate night with the object of your affection.

...continuing theme of the deepest, laid back grooves weaving between Jazz, Funk, Hip-Hop, and Chillout.

And if you can also go to the above link to download the first three volumes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Burning the Dawn

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I was up for 24 straight hours. That's not uncommon for me these days with insomnia and the particular industry that I work in.

"It's what we do," as Otis would succinctly say.

I get paid to watch a bunch of degen gamblers from all over the world play poker... online. It's an easy job. I'm not bragging about it, just stating the simple fact. I've had dozens of jobs in my day and all of them sucked.

Out of all of my previous freelance assignments in poker, this is a cake work.... No travel nightmares. No maids busting into my room at 6am. No need for me to even wear pants. I can blast tunes as loud as I want while I write and don't have to work inside a casino filled with old smelly people, fat gamblers, and drunken nits who ask too many stupid questions.

In short, this great cushy assignment makes me feel lucky and grateful that my client re-hired me for this specific two week festival of online poker. The hardest part of this assignment is staying up and having to deal with the fatigue of the "hurry up and wait" mentality. But that's a small price to pay for being able to sit at home in my boxers, pulling tubes, and listening to Miles Davis while watching a bunch of Brazilians, Germans, Russians, Scandis, and 20-something North American kids playing a "video game" for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I got Atari for Christmas when I was in the 2nd grade. I remember bringing it over to my grandmother's for Christmas dinner. I sat in the living room the entire afternoon trying to explain to relatives the concept of Space Invaders.

"When I grow up, someone is going to pay me to watch people play video games for money."

I didn't say that, of course. But I can see the 8-year old version of myself announcing that to the family. By the time New Year's rolled around, I had become a full blown video game addict even though I had only two games (Combat and Space Invaders). I'm petty sure that I considered becoming a professional video game player even though that title did not exist in 1980.

Today, I know dozens of people who make six figures a year money playing online poker. One of Benjo's buddies used to be a rock star in Korea because he moved from France to Seoul to become a professional gamer. When he discovered there was more money in online poker than playing Starcraft, he quickly ditch those video games for a another type of video game.... poker.


I overslept as Monday bled into Tuesday. It was my day off, so I got shitfaced and slept 11.5 hours. I never do that. Maybe once or twice a year... and I need help. Something strong like a elephant tranquilizer. Well, the thing is that I was kinda sluggish all of Wednesday and when it hit Midnight, I was super sleepy after eating dinner and then I took an allergy pill to clear up a sudden onset of burning eyes and a sinus headache.

I caught my second wind around 3am Thursday and was rocking out to the porn funk. By 7am I began the finishing touched. Once everything was done, I celebrated with a black and white cookie. Nicky had bought it for me as dessert, but I was so full from dinner that I put it aside. I totally forgot about it until moments after I closed the lid on my laptop and saw the bag sitting there.

Behold, the black and white cookie before thee.

And you know what? I enjoyed every savory bite. Sort of like downing an ice cold pint of beer after a long day of work.

Benjo took the week off from his job to exclusively work on the translation for Lost Vegas. He's been an amazing fact checker, in addition to being an extra set of eyes. He had a few notes for me. It was mid-afternoon in Europe and he had slaving over a couple of chapters. Anyway, I took his notes and worked on Lost Vegas for a bit. When I finished that... I was still awake.

Yep, I couldn't fall asleep because of too much rest. I had two attempts and both times I ended up back on the couch, ripping tubes, and watching Gordon Ramsey drop F-bombs at half-baked chefs.

It wasn't until I was up for the 24th hour in the row that I was able to crawl into the futon in my dark office where I slept for 2.5 hours.

* * * * *

Keith Richards is still alive. All of those hackneyed drug jokes over the years always got to me. Here's the deal... the reason he's still living is simple... he's was never alive to begin with.

Keith Richards is a zombie. The undead. You can't even cut his head off with a machete. It would grow right back. In 1970 Richards went to New Orleans but OD'd on a bad batch of black tar. One of those rock and roll doctors was called in to revive him since you can't have that sort of shit in the newspapers. He was unable to revive him, so one of those Mambos who practice Haitian voodoo was brought in to perform a ritual with snake blood and tearing out the heart of a chicken while it was still alive.

The mambo turned Keith Richards into a zombie and he'll be roaming the Earth until eternity. That's why he can drink, snort, smoke, shoot, and decimate any drug, spirit, or foodstuff that is put in front of him.

Sometimes when I can't sleep I wonder if I got turned into a zombie and I'll be in a perpetual state of hell... unable to live.... unable to die... just caught in that middle ground where I wander around in a daze wanting to eat chocolate chip pancakes and muttering lyrics to Pusherman.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Late Night Porn Funk

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I use music for so many things. Music is the soundtrack to my life. The last week or so, I've had to spend many nights fighting back the urge to go to sleep. Sometimes 5-hour shots don't work and instead of eating speed, I'm forced to find creative ways to stay awake. Drinking a shit-ton of water helps, but then you're pissing every seven minutes. That's why I turned to the porn funk...

Thanks to Lou and Giorgio for keeping me awake so I can work as night bleeds into morning.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Pitch

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... I interviewed at a couple of different firms while seeking a job on Wall Street. I ended up wanting to trade bonds mainly because I really liked one particular firm that was located within steps on the NYSE. The energy was overflowing at that spot. So much history in that small one block radius. Heck, on the steps right next door to the old Federal Hall, George Washington was sworn in as President. Sadly, during one of the darkest moments of our nation, slaves were brought off ships near present day South Street Seaport, dragged a few blocks in chains to the steps of Federal Hall, where they were auctioned off on the same steps where our first President took his Oath of Office.

Events, both good and bad, occurred in that tiny area which is why that street is an epicenter of tremendous energy. I can never do justice explaining the explosive feeling that I used to get when I waltzed down Nassau Street and hooked a left onto Wall Street... like your first hit of cocaine, while doing a shot of tequila and letting chocolate covered bacon melt in your mouth while you're getting a blowjob.

It was a rush. Just walking down the street gave me a fucking stiff woodie.

I felt the energy. It aroused and intoxicated me. The ghosts. The demons. The angels. The titans of capitalism. The commies wanted to shut it down. The terrorists wanted to blow it up. Wall Street was the crossroads of the world and I wanted to be a part of it. And I was, for a brief time. There's not a day that goes by where I don't have a flashback of sitting in the trenches deep in the shit with a stomach full of bile because I failed to close a sales call.

During the initial interview process, I went to a six or seven different firms ranging from the big boys to the boutique brokerage house. I already had seven months experience as a runner on the floor of the commodities exchange during an internship for the last half of my senior year in college, and when that was over, I got hired on that summer. I was doing such a good job that the owner of the firm offered to give me a full time job instead of going to college. He felt that I could be a great floor broker one day and wanted to show me the ropes. I graduated from high school when I was 17, so I was floored because how many snot-faced 17-year-olds get offered a full time job? I declined it, of course. I wanted to leave NYC and go to college. I wanted to party and get laid, and not put in 60+ hours a week when I was still a teenager.

Although I had my foot inside the door, back in the 1990s, anyone could get a job as a broker trainee. Anyone. The job was so tough and brutal that only a few people could stomach it. 50% quit after the first week. 75% don't last a month. Who wants to start off making $100 a week and that's it for 80+ hours of hell? That's the starting pay, so the firms opened their doors to anyone who wants to take a shot. In the end, 99.5% of the applicants quickly bail after the first ninety days. The few survivors end up having a shot at becoming on the Masters of the Universe.

But what about going to college? Or Harvard Business School?

That's important for making upwards moves and using your connections to get into rooms and conversations you would never normally otherwise have the opportunity to sit in on. Here's the thing... Wall Street is just like the military. The grunts are the guys who apply for jobs through the NY Times or Wall Street Journal, like kids walking into US Army recruiting offices in Times Square. Now, only a small number of officers come from the pool of enlisted men and the majority of officers them came from the military academies. That's what those Wharton and Harvard MBAs are like -- officer training. Those "suits" are going to be the ones with actual offices and vacations in Provence, and not schlepping it out in the trenches with the grunts for six days a week, 18 hours a day.

I was a visionary in my early 20s. I had a plan. I was going to learn the business, pay off my school loans, then get my firm to pay for B-school. If they balked, I was going to find a new firm that would do that in exchange for trade secrets and my roster of clients. Once I secured my MBA, then I could move up in the financial sector and no longer come in every morning and pitch stocks and bonds to dentists and widows. I was going to let them use me, so long as I used them back to pay for my education.

Of course, I got sidetracked on the original plan about one year in. As much as I enjoyed many aspects of the job, it wasn't my true calling. I left to pursue writing and embarked on a troublesome, yet exciting road. Yes, I would quit again every single time.

Flash forward to today where I'm sitting in the slums of Beverly Hills 15 years later thinking back at those initial interviews. The recruiters at these firms were slick motherfuckers. They knew how to press the right buttons. They too were working class kids from Queens and Brooklyn. Some of them were grandchildren of Ellis Island immigrants and a few were first-generation Americans. They tried to make me feel comfortable too... that they understood what it was like to come from humble beginnings but with a desire to get a shot at the big time.

They often vacillate between their former poor self and the current baller. I'll never forget this one guy at a brokerage house in Midtown. He looked like the actor/director Peter Berg. He told me that when he started, he had only one white collared shirt that he used to wash in his sink every night. He went to Chinatown and bought five ties for $10 so he could at least have a different tie on everyday. All of his co-workers made fun of him and nicknamed each tie a different day of the week.

"This one I'm wearing?" he said, stroking a magnificent Italian silk tie like it was his erect cock, "This cost $200-something."

He shared commuting bad beat stories about living on the outskirts of the Queens/Long Island border because he couldn't afford a cheaper place. He had to get up so early in order to get to the office that he was mugged a couple of times because it was still dark out when he went to work.

"Now, I have a penthouse around the corner. It takes me longer to wait for the elevator up to the 32nd floor than it does to walk home."

And then he told me about his Porsche. His dream car. He bought that with his first six-figure bonus check that he got withing two years of working at the firm. He used his first seven-figure bonus check to buy his apartment. His next one? He showed me a brochure for a retirement community on a gold course in Florida. He said he was buying three houses... one each for his divorced parents and their spouses, and a third so he had a place to stay when he went down to Florida to golf with clients.

He was planting the seed. Greed is good. We all want a better life. Cool things. Respectability. Validation. His firm was the path to that salvation. All I had to do was rape, murder, and pillage for his crew and they will share the spoils, so I took could wear $200 ties, drive a Nazi-sled for a car, and obtain low-interest mortgage on a kick-ass apartment in Manhattan. After all, once you had all those things, they'd be a line of women out the door waiting to fuck me. Right? The city is crawling with gold diggers looking to sink their claws into a sugar daddy.

All I had to do was swallow the pill and jump down the rabbit hole. Millions were within my grasp. Sounds so fucking easy. Then again, at 22, I was young, dumb, and full of cum. If I saw the potential to make money in the military, I would have joined the Marines, just like my old man. But one of the few words of advice were to avoid the armed services. He told me that he wasn't smart enough to be anything other than a grunt, but that I was different. I would only make a shit ton of money if I owned my own business. I always kept that in the back of my head.

I knew that I needed help to get to that point (working for yourself) due to limited resources. Sure I had a piece of paper that said I graduated from a Top 25 university, but that meant nothing. I lacked the necessary skills to survive in the real world, because college doesn't teach you those things. I'm glad that I put my time in at the trenches and learned the ins and outs of high finance, international banking, money laundering, Ponzi schemes, manipulating people with fear, and most importantly -- how to have fucking balls. You have to stand up every once in a while for something you believe in and have the testicular fortitude to take what's yours.

Shit, in many ways, training on Wall Street was just like boot camp, where they break you down and strip you of everything you learned in society up until that point. And once the tabula rasa is wiped clean, those evil suits brainwash you and transform you into a trained assassin in a Brooks Brothers suit. Killing machines. Perfect soldiers.

For a while I was one of those, but just like in The Bourne Identity, I snapped one day and didn't see the entire point to it all -- well, I should say, I didn't see the point of me being involved. The notion of Wall Street had become romanticized by movies and the mass media. The reality of it all was actually quite depressing and utterly frightening when you learn how some things really work. I currently work in a the gambling industry, but poker players are small potatoes compared to the degenerate gamblers on Wall Street. Some of my former peers pressed the action at the slightest hint of an edge while gambling with millions of dollars of other people's money. And if they didn't have an edge, they'd create one.

I guess I got scared learning how the financial sector operated, kind of like going to a slaughter house for the first time and finding out what's really in your sausage. It's easier to just bite into your breakfast and not think about how that food was processed from a living being to a savory piece of fuel.

Similar things happened to me in poker. I used to view poker as this sector of coolness in the world that I only saw on TV. It still trips me out sometimes that I went from watching poker at home on TV while ripping bong hits... to actually roaming the sidelines and covering the action for the poker media. When I was a kid, I never said that, "When I grow up, I want to be a poekr writer."

That was never my intention, which sums up life because you never always arrive at your intended destination.

But once I saw how much money was involved, my old Wall Street training kicked in. Billions of dollars. People were giving it away in 2005-06. All I had to do was stick out my hand and grab it. The money tree has since stopped shedding its leaves and these days, I spend exhausting and countless hours shaking the money trees like a fiend as hard as I can hoping that a couple of $100 leaves will flutter to the ground.

I wonder if that Wall Street recruiter ever made it down to Florida himself and finally decided to bail out of the business, take his money and retire. There's so much sun to be enjoyed in Florida, not to mention the year round golf. Who knows. Maybe he's still doing what he's been doing, and that is, trying to persuade poor twenty-something kids to work their asses off for $100 a week in the chance that one in a hundred turns out to be a perfect weapon.

I have a Wall Street novel in me. Someday I'll sit down and write that. Not now. Not in five, or even ten years. Maybe when I'm 50, if I make that long. Too bad I never got a crack at the screenplay to the Wall Street sequel. Everyone has a story to tell and I have hundreds of tales about annoying clients, insane co-workers, eclectic partners, and of course... my mentor who is a dead ringer for the Ben Affleck character in Boiler Room.

Now you know where I get that cut throat instinct.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sugar Thieves, Indoor Rain, and e-Future

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Stuck in a rut with working and juggling life stuff. I'm not one to let things pass too long without documenting them, so I'm gonna be throwing together this post over a 24 hour period, a couple of sentences and fragmented thoughts at a time.

* * * * *

I caught an old lady stealing sugar packets from Jack in the Box. She's one of those crazy old ladies with smeared eye make up and lipstick. She grabbed a handful and looked around to see if anyone was watching... I was and she missed me... and she dropped that batch into a plastic bag and then went in for two more fistfuls before she walked up to the counter said something and walked into the back. She looks like she might be completely bat shit crazy or perhaps she's a former starlet stashing away $3 million in a savings bonds locked in a lockbox underneath her ottoman.

Of course, that wasn't the worst thing I saw during that afternoon trip to secure a BIG ASSED iced tea. That would be the drooling guy who was nodded out in the back booth. He had an empty tray with a thousand of torn up little pieces of paper and two twisted straws that looked like a puppy had been using it as a chew toy. I couldn't tell if he was an old junkie nodding off in between spikes or if he was just an deranged person slumped over because of his high-potent anti-psychotic prescription pills.

* * * * *

"Do you hear that?"

It sounded like drops of water, like when you don't tighten the knobs in your shower and a little bit of water trickles out minutes after the fact. Except that sound did not come from the bathroom. Instead, it was in the bedroom. I went to investigate and saw the ceiling dripping. Heavily. A rushed to get a bucket from underneath the sink and when I returned it was raining inside the bedroom. We got luck because the majority of the concentration was in a small unused area in between Nicky's massive-sized dresser, her desk and the foot of the bed. Six or seven inches in any direction and we would have had serious damage to personal stuff. As is, the only things we lost were a perfectly good towel, it really could have been a lot worse.

I went upstairs to the neighbor's apartment and they didn't have a leak from their shower or bathroom. It was in between the floors. Must have been a busted pipe somewhere in the bowels of our slummy apartment.

Nicky called our slumlord. It took him one hour to get here. It's Mother's Day, he told us as an excuse. Of course, instead of turning off the water right away, he decided to poke around in the attic. When he discovered the issue (a broken pipe in the attic that was dripping through the walls), he called his plumber. Of course, he has a special plumber and didn't bother calling a different one for this emergency. He had to use his guy, but his guy was not available.

"Tomorrow morning," he said.

"Why not now?" I pressed.

"It's Mother's Day. He's in San Diego."

All good sons visit their mothers, especially Mexican men who hold their mothers in the highest regard.

"San Diego means Mexico," I said calling his bluff.

"Si. Manana," said the slumlord.

"Great. What if he gets detained at the border? He might not show up?"

I couldn't win this argument. No sense in trying to use jedi mind tricks to get him to turn off the water. I had to wait until morning to get the leak fixed. Until then, all I had was the bucket.

I was up until 4am working. Nicky slept in my office. The futon can fit two, but uncomfortably. I slept in the bedroom with the drips hitting the bucket at the rate of five every three seconds. Sometimes the water droplets were soothing, but other times, terrifying, like the Tell Tale Heart. I couldn't fall alseep, even though I was exhausted and drained after a long weekend, and even a long week of other pressing mental disasters. When I finally fell asleep, I was woken by the alarm. 6am. Time to inspect the ceiling and wait for the plumber. At sunrise, the paint on the ceiling began to bubble for over 25% of the entire ceiling. The dripping has expanded a couple of inches and started to miss the bucket.

And I waited... and waited.

6:30am. Nothing. 7am nothing. 7:30am, my slumlord arrived but no plumber. What if he was detained by the border patrol or minute men? What if he doesn't show?

At 8:27am, the plumber finally showed up and he took one look at my ceiling and said, "That's bad."

No shit, Sherlock. We called the night before for a reason.

The first thing he did? Shut off the water. Why our landlord didn't do that, I'll never know. After a couple of hours, the plumber emerged from the attic with the broken pipes. He fixed everything and the dripping finally stopped.

"So when are you going to fix the ceiling?"

"It needs to dry first."

"So this weekend?"

"How about the end of the month?"

Face palm. This is what I get for paying cheap rent in the slums of Beverly Hills. We'd pay $1,000 more for the same place two blocks north, but then again we'd have an actually Beverly Hills street address and we'd have a proper landlord who attended to our basic needs... like not having it rain in our fucking bedroom.

* * * * *

I have an odd assignment... sort of a "hurry up and wait" kind of thing. I'm essentially always on-call and waiting to spring into action, so I can't stray too far or get to lit. In short, it's been a challenge to stay sober because during huge periods of boredom is usually solved by a wee bit of inebriation. The catch here is that that lull can keep going on and on and on and in essence a wee bit here and there all of a sudden turns into a steady buzz and accumulated over a long time makes it harder to stay awake.

So I've been reading a lot and catching up on thousands of articles and blogs that I had bookmarked over the last few months. I cleaned out my Bloglines folders and did some serious purging. I shifted how I view news drastically. I rely on the Google overlords to send me the NOW/INSTANT/GOTTA STAY CONNECTED TO THE GRID news to my iGoogle page which has three columns specializing in things that I need to know right now. Bloglines used to be my go-to venue, but no longer. It has become a place for feeds and stories that are non-essential, more like non-time sensitive Salon and Wall Street Journal articles. I go to Bloglines to catch up. Adjusting the Bloglines settings for my CrackBerry has been wonderful because it gives me something to read at the coffeeshop.

I also have a couple of bookmarked websites that I also go to check news, so my connectivity is essentially a six-pronged approach...
1. iGoogle news feeds
2. Bookmarked news feeder websites
3. Twitter
4. Word of mouth (emails, texts, IMs, calls)
5. Bloglines
6. TV
Notice that TV is last because I never watch it, especially for news. Twitter has been all I need these days, ironically. In the last few days, Twitter is where I learned about the slide in the stock market, a perfect game in the making, the death of Lena Horne, and Betty White thrashing it up on SNL.

I analyze how I seek out news in order to better prepare myself in the future as someone who is a freelancer in the media and someone who has a couple of pieces of valuable (and unquantifiable) web real estate. How do others seek out their info? And can I insert myself in that genre and get paid to write?

Content will always be king on the internet. I keep telling myself that someone will need good writing down the line. The lightning fast new sites with vanilla blurbs have no need for my services. They hire bland typists who will work for no pay. Hopefully, a few avant-garde publications will pay a living wage for "literature-minded" pieces and journalistic long-form, but those are few and far between, especially because I'm not looking for journalism work. So my future looks like this... the gravy is in being able to do the zippy blurbs, which will pay the bills... and fund the passion for lengthier projects -- which caters to people who actually want to sit down and lose themselves in writing, or those who have the extra time on their hands to read, instead of fast-food news which is what has been driving the news cycle the last few years. The titans of media are losing their ability to horde advertising revenue as the entire paradigm shifts.

These are things that keep me up at night.

In ten years, the e-publishing world will be so instant that I can literally write "THE END", hit publish and within ten seconds the novel will appear on your shelf as a virtual book to be read anywhere in your house, on your phone, on the train, on an airplane, on a computer, in your car, on the shitter in the stall in your office. If the eco-nazis take over this world and outlaw books because they kill trees, then I'll be forced to exclusively write e-books. Which means the days of 700-800 page screeds are over. Time for the novella to make a huge comeback next decade. I'm banking on it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sugar in My Bowl

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

2:29am. Nina Simone echoed through the apartment. She was included on a mix that BTreotch had assembled and shared with our group of friends (and the internets as a whole when he wrote about it over at Coventry). I think about BTreotch often because he's in Antarctica. The notion that I have a friend living and working on that continent baffles me. I mean, how many people are in Antarctica on a daily basis? 1,000? 10,000? 420,000?

If I had one of those virtual assistants in Banglore, I'd ping him right now and get him to pull up population stats for Antarctica. I could do it myself, but I'm too lazy, but more importantly, it would disrupt the flow of writing. These days, it's hard to get a good flow going, because as soon as I do, there's other work to be done and my allotted time has expired to write for myself, the free writes, and to just let 'er rip and ramble on and on.

2:35am. Nicky is hard at work. She's still working on an assignment. A half dozen of my friends are also on the same project. Sometimes they are up until 6am. Sometimes until noon. I guess that we're lucky that we're on the left coast and it's not as hard adjusting to the bizarre hours. All I know is that Nicky was brewing up a pot of coffee at the start of Saturday Night Live. I got a flashback to friends from Brooklyn who used to cut up lines and let 'em rip during the cold open of SNL. That was in the 90s when Chris Farley and Phil Hartman were gods among men. Both artists are no longer with us, which makes the world a lot less funny and I fucking miss Lionel Hutz cameos on The Simpsons. Phil Hartman absolutely nailed the heart and soul of the slithery alkie ambulance chaser. And he did that wit just his voice. He was a true artist.

I got shitfaced once my assignment was complete. I had too. It's the only way I can sleep these days. I'm having trouble sleeping. It's all stress induced. I should probably eliminate the stress in order to get better sleep, but if I had no stress, then I would have nothing keeping me up in the middle of the night worrying about the world imploding and getting flushed down the toilet like a grumpy turd.

I watched Citizen Kane the other afternoon. I had a couple hours of down time, part of one of the benefits/drawbacks of this project, because at times I can be sitting around for a couple of hours waiting and waiting to spring into action and write the story -- but sometimes the story doesn't unfold until much later than I'd like -- but such is the nature of news. We can anticipate it happening, but it's not until it happens before we can actually document it. And then, depending on who is signing our paychecks -- either whitewash it, spin it, applaud it, bury it, stroke it, walk all over it, investigate further, or throw a Molotov cocktail at it add watch it explode.

A good story to me is something that has an element of surprise.... Hell's Angel saves grandma from choking in diner. Shit like that. Paraplegics climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro could be inspiring, but sometime I think it's not news, they are just showing off, or rather it's the Man trying to remind us that we're lazy fucktards because if we had any ambition for exercise or athletics, we'd be training for a triathlon, or climbing our own mountains instead of eating cold pizza, ripping bong hits, and flipping through the channels.

2:48am. The music has switched to Lack of Afro, sort of a postmodern funk band from the U.K. that my buddy Homer introduced me to. It's perfect writing music, driving back beats, and lots of funk riffs.

So anyway, I started talking about Orson Wells and I got side track. I first saw Citizen Kane in a film class in high school. I had to view it again for two different film studies classes in college. During certain scenes, I got flashbacks of sitting in darkened classroom in high school with the projector flashing (our teacher was a Luddite and refused to show the classic film to us on a TV using a VCR). I remember that I used to get stoned in the bushed behind White Hall before film class. That's where all the stoners puffed down prior to screenings, well, come to think of it, it's where they got high all the time.

2:54am. Time for me to finish off a slice of cold pizza that has been whispering my name the last three hours. I'm at the part of the night when I make a decision to rage it up until dawn and stumbled into the diner to beat the church rush, or ease off the pedal a bit and wind down for the rest of the night, get a good night's rest, so I'll be fresh and rest for another assignment tomorrow. I should, but I know better. The 3am hour is when things really get cooking. It's when vagrants and drunks into the most trouble and when some of world's problems are solved by late night brain storming sessions, or from just folks worrying about their biggest fears -- and coming to grips with a method on how to solve it. Yeah, 3am only comes around once a day. How many times are you up for it? When the alley dogs bark in a frenzied reaction to the lunatics roaming the slums of Beverly Hills and howling at the moon. Beware of the cougars suffering from Botox poisoning. Once that shit seeps into your brain, you suffer from zombie-like effects, walking around with the undead trying to bite off the heads of small pets, rodents, and municipal workers.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Photos of Interest... But Who's Interest?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Flickr hosts all of my image galleries and photos from all of my international adventures. Liz Lieu is a true patron of the arts and she funded a "pro" account for me on Flickr.

During my quarterly "google me" search, I came across a search engine which indexed thumbnails all of my "interesting photos" on Flickr. If you are not a Flickr user, there's a function that ranks your photos in order of "interestingness"... which I have yet to figure out how exactly that is determined and quantified, but I assume it's a bot crunching data incorporating photo views, number of comments, and times the photo has been labeled a favorite.

Anyway, for a heart laugh, check out the most interesting photos from my (NSFW, OBV) Flicker galleries.

Each page includes 50 or so thumbnails of the most interesting photos in my vast collection. I love the irony of the first page which is essentially an ensemble of four things...
1. Marijuana
2. Porn Stars
3. Money
4. Food
What does that tell you about the Internet's thirst for those images? And is it a shocker that those pics are the most eye-catching subjects? Anyway, click here to see what the bots consider "interesting"... and you'll have to go to the page 2 and 3 to see some non-weed and boob photos.

By the way, here's my complete collection on Flickr.

And in case you were wondering, here's what the bots consider "interesting" in Nicky's galleries.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Money on the Dresser

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I once befriended a hooker.

That didn't come out right. I should say that... I once became chummy with a call girl.

OK, now I'm really starting to dig myself a hole and my girlfriend is ready to grill me with a thousand and one different questions. Let me clarify even more... I had become acquainted with a high end call girl from New York City. We never actually met officially. Just lots of emails back and forth. She was an avid reader of this blog, and a sometime commenter of Tao of Poker. She even submitted a short story to Truckin'. She seemed rather ordinary with one exception... she had sex with men for money. She did make any excuses about it. She enjoyed sex and had no problems selling herself. And her cookies weren't cheap.

Her philosophy was simple. Society was hypocritical and pointing fingers at prostitutes when they were all prostitutes themselves.

Look, we're all whores at some time in life. Some of us less, others are more. Sure we might not be taking it in the ass in the literal sense, but who among us hasn't been royally fucked over?

If you ain't a pimp, then you're a whore.

I didn't say that. Neither did Shakespeare or Bob Dylan. It might have been Ice-T or Ice Cube, Pete Nice from 3rd Bass, or one of the crew from Wu Tang? I forget exactly who, but the source of the quote doesn't matter as much of the simplicity of the underlying fact of the statement. It actually goes back to something I have written many times before... we live in a use and abuse society. If you ain't using someone, then you're getting abused by someone.

Pimps and hos. Royalty and peasants. The haves versus the have nots.

No matter what city I lived in, or what industry I worked in, I've always come across a section of people who will do nothing short of trying to exploit you. It's the nature of the game of life. Politicians do it all the time... all they want to do is use us to get into office and once that happens they will keep using us to stay in office. They're not really looking out for our interests, rather, they're concerned with their careers and their legacies. Oh, that and paying back the juntas and companies who funded their campaigns to begin with. To them, we're that cute piece of ass that they want to nail... and will do anything possible to get us in the sack. Once the deed is done... that's it. They are going to fucking sleep. The worst thing is that they didn't even pay you. You did it for free.

Big Business entities are the most ruthless pimps on the planet. Come on, you don't actually think they care about your well being and compensating you for what you're really worth? To them you're just a number. If they could outsource your job or hire an illegal Mexican... they would. That's why it's important that you're are the ideal employee in their eyes -- to be blunt -- a fuckin' sheep. Otherwise, you have to be truly talented and indispensable. That's the only way they will put up with your bullshit and demand for higher wages.

A couple of years before the drugs war exploded in towns along the US/Mexico border, I first heard about the feminicidios... horror stories about scores of missing young women who were later found raped, murder, and missing body parts. During my first visit to Juarez, I noticed all these pink crosses at the side of the road. I asked my friend from El Paso about the origins of the pink crosses. That's when she clued me in on the feminicidios. The crosses were memorials constructed at the sites where dismembered bodies were discovered.

The feminicidios began in the mid-90s and escalated through the millennium. Some religious feared that the missing women were part of ritual killings during fin de siecle. A few journalists were certain that the murders were the evil doings of a the worst serial killer of all time. Some enforcement types thought that the murders were a precursor to the drug wars. The exact number of feminicidios varied from 500 to 5,000. Who knows for sure.

I once heard a theory that many of these murdered young women shared something in common... they worked at maquiladoras... or massive sweat shops and factories doing work for international corporations. I read one theory that bus drivers were the ones doing the killings. Most of these workers had to be bussed from Juarez city center to the factories. When the girls refused the sexual advances of the bus drivers, they were raped and killed.

However, the most compelling theory is the most haunting. One journalist suggested that the young women were killed because they were getting out of line at the work place... demanding higher wages and better working conditions. When they attempted to unionize, they were quickly "removed" from the factory and never seen again.

What really happened in Juarez in the 1990s and early 2000s? No one knows for sure. My grand hypothesis is that combination of "all of the above", but specifically the theory about the factories killing off workers who showed any dissent.

The ruthless suits don't quite resort to those gruesome tactics in the American workplace... yet. But more and more we're learning every day what happens to good citizens who are fed up with the system, unplugging themselves from the Matrix, and demanding their true rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, you upset the herd when you roam the other way. Anyone outside of the box or decide to march to the beat of a different drummer is a target for ridicule. Our fear mongering society is quick to point them out to authorities. Once the federales get involved, who knows what happens next.

Yes, we're mostly a world of whores. Some of us grow up to be pimps, which is sort of like the lesser of two evils. Sadly, that's the supreme goal in life... to be the one exploiting a stable of prostitutes... instead of being the whore, turning tricks for peanuts.

In the end getting paid is still better than doing it for free. Sure, I do plenty of stuff for free but that's all part of a greater master scheme to turn Tao of Pauly and Tao of Poker into a pay wall.

Drug dealers have been using that business model for decades...
1. Give it away for free.
2. People get addicted.
3. The next time, you charge.
4. When people try to quit, they get even more addicted.
5. That's when you raise the prices.
By the way, you can play free poker on PokerStars. Sign up for an account today!

So kids, to sum up... just remember that only sluts do it for free. Pro whores do it for the paycheck.

Please leave your cash on the dresser before you go.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Short Cuts

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I have an odd assignment today, so I have only a few moments every once in a while to write. I don't have a chunk of time to write, so I'm just going to pop into this post at different times and write briefly about what pops into my head.

I began a two week assignment on Monday, which is broken into 12 individual assignments. I never have more than 2 in a day and these are spread out over a two week period. Nicky and I are both working for Otis, and a slew of our other friends are also on this project. None of us expect to get any semblance of sleep, but it's good practice for the WSOP coming up at the end of the month. I get rusty when I don't cover tournaments, so this is like Spring Training for me... shaking out the cobwebs.

* * * * *

My first day back was brutal. I have to admit that I prefer being a hired thug working mostly for myself. The freelance world is grueling in its own right, but just when I start to reconsider my chosen profession, I get a stark reminder that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Since I own my own business, I never have a day off. Even when I'm on vacation, I'm either working on something and if I'm not, I'm worrying about work. Alas, I can never break free of these shackles. However, I do set my own schedule and I'm able to work three hours one day and 13 the next... if I so choose.

That's not the case with my current assignment. Due to the fickle nature of poker tournaments -- you never know when it's going to end. When they go quick, it's the easiest job in the world. When tournaments stretch on for hours and hours on end, you start to get pissy and cranky due to sleep deprivation because you realize that for every hour the event continues, your hourly wage decreases.

I'm been fortunate so far. But my first day back, I had to cover two different events with one guaranteed to run to sunrise. Not only was I rusty, but I was also not used to working that much for someone else. I was definitely out of work shape, which might have something to do with the fact that I'm actually a few pounds over my preferred fighting weight. I usually diligently work out in April and May, eat healthy, and shed the Winter blubber in order to prepare for a summer of hell in Las Vegas. This year has been different mostly due to coping with stress surrounding a few personal issues (non-blogworthy, sorry folks) and trying to preserve my sanity during the home stretch of Lost Vegas. In short, I've been eating extremely unhealthy and barely exercising. You don't wanna see my tox screen.

* * * * *

My landlord knows how to piss people off. The apartment across the way has been vacant since the end of March when the lawyer bailed in the middle of the night. Of course, the day that Nicky and I both start working odd hours (sleeping mostly in the late mornings and early afternoons), our landlord decides to have work done on that apartment. He never fixes a goddamed thing in our flat, but he needs to make sure the other apartment is pristine in order for him to rent it out.

Alas, the last two mornings have been hell. We're actually sleeping on the futon in my office because the room is much darker and less sunlight comes in which makes it easier to sleep during the day. We start out in our bedroom, but when it gets too hot, I migrate into the office, sleep there for an hour and after I get up, Nicky takes my spot until it's time for her to get up. That would work in theory except that the office shares a wall with the apartment where all the fucking construction is going on. Even earplug don't work. We are forced with two options -- sleep in the hot room with lots of light or sleep in the cooler, dark room with the sounds of wallpaper scratching.

* * * * *

I have been an early morning regular at the coffee shop. Sometimes I throw them a curve ball and order a burger at 6:30am because that's what I'm craving. However, whenever I come in after noon (once every ten days), they quickly assume that I want a burger. It happened yesterday. I walked in and before I could take my seat, one of the waiters was already scribbling down a ticket for me.

"Swiss Burger, right? No lettuce, no tomato."

He knows me too well.

Today, Nicky and I wandered into the coffee shop around 2pm. I was a total zombie at the time. They must have thought that I was really fucking wasted on pills and probably blazed a doobie before I wandered inside. Usually, that's the case, but today, I was just frazzled due to sleep deprivation (fucking landlord's hiring of illegals to sand paper the apartment nextdoor) and because I'm on mega-tilt due to some bureaucratic bullshit where an error in judgment could cost me $1,425. Yeah, I'm not thrilled and that bit of anxiety has attributed to the insomnia, along with the construction, and serious lack of sleep due to working late nights. In short, I was a total zombie when I stumbled into the coffee shop, barely able to speak.

I conjured up enough words to tell the cooks that I wanted breakfast at 2pm. Scrambled eggs with cheese. Sourdough toast with butter. Hashbrowns... extra crisp. And two spicy Italian sausages. I wolfed it down in five minutes before Nicky could take two bites of her veggieburger.

I went home and passed out for two hours. My afternoon nap was just as much sleep as I had gotten the previous night. I had a dream that I was smoking weed with Philip K. Dick in a suburban parking lot somewhere. He was telling me a story about how aliens actually caused the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. When I woke up, I had a huge craving for ice cream.

Some people think that dreams are when we zap ourselves into alternate realities. So if that theory is correct, then I was actually smoking dope with one of my favorite authors.

Monday, May 03, 2010

How Do I Cancel My Subscription?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Big businesses with shady policies generate millions of dollars a year because of your laziness, stupidity, apathy, and fear of confrontation. That's why so many companies with a prominent web presence make you call them up to sever your relationship with them. It's in their benefit to make it as easy and quick as possible to take your money with the Internet, but they'll never want to give you that same instant access if you want to ditch them, especially for a competitor.

What they didn't know that I was a former Jedi warrior on the phones. I've done almost every type of high-pressure phone sales including the pitching bonds and stocks in the big leagues. I've also worked the phones for real estate scams, club memberships, my college's alumni fund, and even a pyramid scheme when I lived in Seattle.

I'm well versed at being able to read the person on the end of the phone very quickly, plus I know how to really hotbox someone. I haven't done it in years, relying on passive-aggressive emails instead, mainly because I'm too lazy to get into my Boiler Room character. But it only took a few seconds before I was back in the swing of things.

I knew that there would be three or four different lines of defenses that I needed to get through before I could cancel my subscription to TiVo. Actually, it's not even mine. It's my brother's but I had purchased the service five years ago (almost to the day) when I moved to Las Vegas for work. I bought a TiVo at the time in order to record some of the shows that I'd miss while away for the summer. Little did I know that that assignment would be a springboard to a career in the poker industry and that I'd spend the better part of four years constantly on the road. Whenever I returned from a journey, I sat on my brother's couch and caught up on programs that I missed.

Five years later, my brother wanted to ditch TiVo for a DVR with his cable company -- for something more modern and cheaper. Fine with me, considering that I was paying for the service every month on my American Express card. All I had to do was cancel the subscription, but as you'll soon discover, the TiVo people didn't make it easy.

The first line of defense was the ambiguous website itself. There's no flashbanners going off or quick links to CANCEL SUBSCRIPTION. I don't even bother trying to navigate the site because I knew I'd get a dead end. I simply hit the search engines. Within one click I found a forum which detailed the exact steps to cancel my account. There were no quick links to go to because I discovered that I had call them up and get a live operator on the phone -- who will do and say everything possible to persuade you not cancel your subscription. Luckily someone else posted this info, so I totally knew what was coming. I prepped for a verbal spat with a sales rep. Notice that I didn't say customer service rep, because these companies fill those positions with hardened salesmen. They have one directive -- do not let the customer leave.

I mentally prepped myself for a jousting match on the phone. I concocted a "cover story" why I did not need their service anymore, nearly foolproof, so that they had no angles to pursue. And if they still would not relent, I had the ultimate weapon -- the ability to deny the charges on my credit card. I actually pulled that dick move a few years ago with a different company when some slithery asshole on the other end kept running around and trying to get me to re-up with. I told him that if he didn't cancel my subscription (for the 10th time I asked), then I would simply call up my credit card company and deny any future charges. I would then have him personally prosecuted for credit card fraud because I specifically stated ten times that he no longer as authority to process future charges. I knew it was a total bullshit bluff, but he got scared. He finally gave in. Sometimes you gotta play hardball with these slimy fuckers.

Anyway, I was expecting an outsourced customer service rep or some slick cokehead former used car salesman. And, I was pleasantly surprised to have a young woman as my rep (obviously an American and according to the accent, somewhere from the South). Young white women are much easier to sweet talk.

Within five seconds of telling her that I wished to cancel, she tried to up-sell me. Hah, I already saw it coming. I told her no thanks, please let's go ahead with the cancellation process.

"Why do you wish to cancel?" she asked.

"I'm moving... out of the country."

That was my angle. They can't counter-argue against that because I can't take a TiVo with me. Luckily, she never asked where. If she did, I was going to say, "Iraq." I had other potential answers, but those might have seemed to suspicious or she might have had good rebuttles and we'd be engaged in verbal ping pong for fifteen minutes. I just wanted to end the call as quickly as possible and rip a bong hit.

She didn't ask why I was leaving the country either. If not a "deployment to Iraq," I would have said claimed, "For tax evasion. I'm one of those Tea Baggers you see on TV."

Instead of pressing the leaving the country angle from yours truly, she attempted a different approach and tried to get me to pawn off my subscription to a family member. I told her, "They all have DVRs."

I really sensed weakness with this rep. I was a tad disappointed. I was expecting a full-out brawl, but she gave up without much of a fight. She approved of my request to cancel my account. I won this battle.

Pauly 1, Big Business 0.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

May Truckin'

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Early. For once, eh?

Truckin' - May 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 5

1. Uncle Louie by Paul McGuire
He used to be full of life and love and generosity, but no more. These days, he was capable of saying horrendous things that made you feel like you were three inches tall. He had the madness of an angry blind dog... More

2. State Line by AlCantHang
It has never once failed me when I yell "OY!" and look like I'm going to eat your next born. People generally shrink away even though I barely reach 5-foot-nothing. Not once in my life had it failed, that is, until the "old dude" took a fucking swing at my gourd... More

3. If You're Gonna Lose, Lose Big by Broseph
I was starring at their boobs and I got the idea of maybe trying some threesome action. It's a tough bridge to cross, and I had no idea where to start. I decided to just start making out with Gwen and hoped that would work... More

4. American Hero by Dawn Summers
The skies were just this shade of pitch black at nine in the morning. The rain was slamming against my windows. And the wind, oh the wind huffed and puffed and tried to blow my house down... More

5. Self by Drizz
With a "normal" middle-income life that most Americans live grinding out work for the man and making enough scratch to satisfy the needs and wants, there’s hardly time to take a step back and enjoy this existence... More

6. In Between Fighting Souls by Tenzin McGrupp
My quagmire of a life resembles
A wretched Fox sitcom,
A Shakespeare play,
A black and white Woody Allen film.
Except that Joey Buttafucco is the lead actor
And stands forty-five pounds overweight... More

Thanks in advance for the support and the pimpage.

We are also seeking submissions for the upcoming summer issues. Plenty of space available. Please shoot me an email if you are interesting in contributing to Truckin'.