Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ghetto Birds

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The ghetto bird buzzed our apartment building. I didn't pay attention to the first two passes. The third one was close. Too close, hovering over our apartment building.

"They know I'm here," said Benjo as he stood up and walked over to the window in our living room.

Benjo has been our house guest since Sunday. He's stayed with us a few times before in the slums of Beverly Hills. He's used to the idiosyncrasies of the neighborhood that's just a stone's throw away from Beverly Hills. He was half-joking but with a tinge of concern on his face as the ghetto birds circled overhead. Me? I was curious. Nicky? Seemed uninterested and more concerned with her game of Shuffleboard on her iPad, which at this point has become one of her appendages.

The slums of BH is a relatively safe neighborhood. If anything, we're probably the biggest threats on the block, but in this instance the police were looking for someone else.

Nicky and I hear helicopters all the time, usually the ones that we hear during the day are news or traffic copters. The intimidating sounds of police choppers whomp whomp above during the evenings and sometimes you'll see a spotlight shining down somewhere a few blocks down. The biggest drama we experienced happened a few months ago when someone was shot and murdered on the other side of Crescent Heights. Choppers, both law enforcement and entertainment related, buzzed for hours.

I walked out to the alley and my neighbor Mack was peering over the fence. He took a drag on his cigarette and pointed down the alley at the structure two buildings down. It was dusk, but the last buts of daylight were fading fast. A spotlight from the helicopter illuminated the back of the building. Two people in the building next door stood on their terraces and shifted back and forth to get a better look at the commotion.

"I'm sort of hoping to see someone start running down the alley," said Mack as the ghetto birds above us continued it's circular path turning right over us. Mack is in the entertainment industry as a cameraman by trade. He pointed out a news chopper nearby.

"Maybe we're live on channel 11?" I said. "That would be cool if we could be seen smoking in the alley while the cops tackled some dude that they were chasing."

We kept a close eye on the back of the building and the area highlighted by the spotlight. We stood along the fence for a few minutes as Benjo and Nicky joined us. I walked to the front of our building to see if there were any squad cars blocking off the street. A few curious neighbors were also doing the same including a young mother who held her child's hand as the little one, maybe four-years-old, pointed up at the ghetto bird.

Two police cars with their red and blue lights on, but sirens mutes, sped through the intersection. Six or seven curious bystanders stood on the corner. I wanted to join them but was sorta worried if one of the criminals, er alleged criminals, broke free and sprinted down the alley towards us. I wasn't worried for Nicky's safety -- I had my camera and didn't want to miss any of the hijinks.

* * * * *

We have a new neighbor. The place across the hall has been a hot potato. I wonder if whoever rents that place simply hates living next to us, or if they have higher standards than we do and get fed up with this dump of a building?

Our previous neighbor was a lawyer in her 30s. She was blonde and drove a grey Jetta. She was never here and spent six nights a week at her boyfriend's apartment. I guess she was making so much money that she didn't mind spending almost $20,000/year on rent in a place she barely slept in. Her smoking hot younger sister drove a BMW and often stopped by to feed her lonely cat. We used to hear the loud meows through the walls. Sometimes the cat stood in the window in front of the blinds flashing a sullen look at me as I passed by.

We liked our old neighbor because she was never around and didn't mind that we'd be up late and that the alley often smelled like Reggae Fest. She left because of the shitty condition of the building. She skipped out in the middle of the night when she and her boyfriend quickly moved out all of her stuff at like 2am. A few weeks later we noticed an eviction notice on the front door. The place had been vacant for several months while the landlord did a bunch of annoyingly loud repair projects like redoing and sanding the hardwood floors.

Our slumlord rarely fixes shit, which ticked me off because he never gave us any warning when the workers showed up, none of whom spoke English so it was tough to communicate with them because they always thought it was OK to park their vans behind us and block us in. The repairs were always loud and it sounded like they were blasting tunnels on some days, which made it tough to work (I was in the home stretch of the Lost Vegas edits at the time).

This is the same slumlord waited a few days to fix leak in our bedroom room because it fell over Mother's Day weekend and the plumber he has on retainer was in Mexico visiting his mother. Anyway, while we were away for the summer, he fixed a bunch of stuff which means he wants to raise our rent so now he'll have justification. Plus, he got fined by a building inspector and had to fix some random window sills. They worked on those areas, and his crew did a crappy job on patching up the cracks and water marks on the ceiling of the bedroom. He did fix a broken window pane and installed a new bathroom floor. But that's like 1/3 of all of the things wrong with out place. I'm still going to resist a rent increase until everything is fixed. Heck, he should be giving us a discount.

Anyway, back to my original thought... since I started dating Nicky, the place across the hall has sat empty for long stretches of time. A female rabbi in her early 30s lived there for a bit and she bailed. We could tell she wanted no business with us, even though Nicky's former roommate Showcase is Jewish.

Our new neighbor moved in the day before we left for Vegas. He never bothered to say hello or even acknowledge me when we crossed passed in the alley. So he had a peaceful summer while we were gone for 2 months. When we returned from Vegas, we noticed our new neighbor pull up in a Beamer as he parked next to our spot. Ha, our neighbor is a suit and driving a luxury car.

"It's definitely a lease," said Nicky matter-of-factly. "That car seems fitting for our hood."

Just three cars down, a piece of shit that might as well be on cinder blocks sat covered by an garish baby blue car cover. In front of that sat an abandoned utility van. I used to think that the van was a weapons cache for the shady Middle Eastern men who lived across the alley. For a while I was convinced the van housed a bunch of Asian illegal immigrants a la Crash. I have no fucking clue what has been in there, but in four years it's never moved. Neither has the car on the cinder blocks behind it. Gotta love the slums of Beverly Hills. We have a Mercedes, Lexus, and BMW within a twenty foot radius of those two pieces of shit.

I've seen our neighbor a few times and he's yet to say a word to me. I wonder if I was using my powers of invisibility? Or if he's just an ass and typical LA douchebag blowing me off? Nicky nicknamed him "bitter BMW-driving suit" -- which seems accurate.

Well, if he wasn't so thorny, we would have told him to stop by the other night. A couple of colleagues (they actually worked with Nicky or for a subsidiary of one of Nicky's clients) stopped by for an impromptu party: Gloria is from Arizona but had a meeting in LA, while our two other friends, Alex and Remko, are members of the international press. Alex lived in Paris, but he'ss from Australia and Remko is a reporter from Holland. Good folks and it was cool to hang out with them on their last night in LA. So we were definitely loud but our neighbor never complained or called the cops, so deep down he must be an OK guy. Maybe "bitter BMW-driving suit" is just shy?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homegrown Foot Festish Video

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Raleigh. Late night. Post-Phish party. Here's what I shot from that evening...

All of you foot fetish freaks can thank me later.

Check out more of my videos.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Patch My Bones

By Pauly
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...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No to Diablo

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The summer in Las Vegas changed me. Happens every fucking year, and not for the better. I often spend the rest of the year repairing the damage to my mind, body, and soul. And when the new year rolls around, I spend every waking hour enjoying my time before I start prepping for the summer in Las Vegas.

I my life had a sun, it would be the summers in Las Vegas because my entire life (Nicky's too) revolves around it.

The overload on stimulus due to working inside casinos for seven weeks and intense brainwashing from living in Sin City definitely affects me in negative ways. I've done what I can to allow myself a mental cleansing on the ride from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, but that's just a minor step into rediscovering myself, something that is impossible under the circumstances. At best, I'm a changed person for the worst and I'm trying to recapture some of the things that will make me "good" again. That's why I always go to Colorado after the WSOP ends in order to spend time with hippie friends with a completely different set of social and moral values, not to mention less-material and more community-based lifestyle choices.

I spend so many somber and isolated moments in the summer. Sure, I'm surrounded by thousands of people at any given time, but aside from a handful of good souls, mostly everyone is a dark hole for everything corrupt in the universe. If anything, I'm constantly being suffocated by my own isolation. I just see things vastly different than my peers and everyone in my industry that I often find myself struggling to make similar connections with people. Weeks of this emotional isolation really wears you down which is why I welcome the journeys to Colorado to hang out with old friends. They help revive and remind me about... me. Well, at least the lost me, the person who got buried underneath a ton of grimy emotional rubble.

Sleeping helps. It's really strange for me to enjoy sleep because I struggle to get 2 or 3 hours on an average night, so whenever I can get five or six solid hours, I view that as a true victory. My body was begging for a shutdown. Even though I took off nine days this summer, those nine days were spent traveling cross country and/or partying my ass off at Phish shows. Even though I had a mental break away from the grind of Las Vegas, my body was still worn down. On one of the last days before we left Vegas, I slept almost 12 hours. I never do that. On a bad week, that's all I get in total. Alas, last week was a time of sleep for me and more importantly without any pharmaceutical enhancements to knock me out. I was that run down that I did not need any. That's how severely low my tank was. I'm glad I did the wise thing and decided to fill 'er up.

I had many other things that I wanted to do last week during the slumberfest (like answer over 1,000 emails), but I stayed in bed as much as possible. By the end of the weekend, or roughly seven days after my assignment officially ended, I was refreshed and recharged. I hadn't felt this good in weeks, let alone months. I didn't do anything else except sleep and most of my catch-up work got postponed, but for a worthy reason. Sleep is luxury item that I am unable to buy, so I seize the opportunity when I get it.

I also didn't write at almost a week. I just couldn't bring myself to sit down at the laptop. A few times I sat down, looked out the window at the alley cat (his name is Diablo) and then I got up to do something else. I wanted to avoid the machines after being handcuffed to one for up to 20 hours a day, and for seven straight weeks. I was having too much fun dicking around on Nicky's new iPad and trying to beat Angry Birds. I really didn't have an urge to fire up the laptop and play online poker for hours on end (a former post-WSOP activity).

I also didn't want to write... just yet. I took plenty of notes on stuff, themes, and stories that I will eventually write. At the least, I was organizing my future writing schedule. As per usual, I have too much to write and not enough time. I signed up for a freelance project in September, but decided to take the rest of the summer off save for one column that I have to write which should not take more than three days (one day each of research, writing, and editing). But most of the stuff I want to write will not earn me a paycheck. I have this space to keep up because I feel uber-guilty about neglecting Tao of Pauly over the last few months. I have fall issues of Truckin' to put together (including new short stories to write). Plus, I still use writing as therapy and I still have all of those random thoughts and lingering issues from this summer that need to be worked out during my morning writing sessions. I wished that I could have totally left behind some emotional baggage in Vegas, alas, one or two pieces showed up on my doorstep.

Instead of writing, I spent decent amount of time catching up with the DVR. I don't watch much TV these days, but three programs that I keep tabs on had begun new seasons: Top Chef, Entourage, and Mad Men.

I'm not a reality show person, and loathe them on principle because I always wanted to be a sitcom writer and reality shows killed the sitcom market. With less writing jobs available, I had zero chance to get into a niche that I had to overcome overwhelming odds in order to get a shot in the first place. So I'm not much of a reality show person, however, I'm a food pornographer. I'm hooked on Top Chef, especially because I figured out how to gamble on it thanks to Aussie Garth who devised a point system which allowed us to have a fantasy Top Chef pool.

Entourage has always been a favorite, and ever since I loved to LA and started dating someone who used to work in the entertainment industry, I now have a deeper appreciation for the show and laugh at the LA-themed inside jokes and I'm even starting to get the obscure Hollyweird references. This town is filled with Johnny Dramas, and Lord knows how many poker equivalents to Johnny Drama that I know.

Mad Men is a show that I got into over the last year -- but only by default. It's a weird story so here it goes... I usually have one random show that I follow, and only one due to lack of free time and the fact that I don't have a conventional Monday thru Friday/9-5 schedule. Since I was never a Lost fan, it was Heroes for me. The show came out just when I started my job in poker so I used to watch it on the road, a few episodes at a time on my laptop while stuck on airplanes or in random hotel rooms. I quickly got bored of Heroes when the writing went to shit, so I jumped over to Breaking Bad and got sucked in after the first season. For some reason, I kept losing more and more interest in the one-dimensional characters and redundant storyline as season 2 progressed. I went from being a hardcore junkie waiting for it to come one every week to someone who would dick around on the internet with it on in the background, either online poker or reading email while Nicky attentively watched it. It came to a point when I stopped watching completely. Around the same time, I switched AMC dramas and got hooked on Mad Men. Nicky knows the actor who plays Don Draper (friends of friends), and he had struggled for a decade before he caught his big break. Despite knowing one of the principles, Nicky also mentioned that a lot of the production crew and writing staff were vets from The Sopranos. Mad Men slowly warmed up to me I guess the opposite happened to Breaking Bad -- I started hanging out in the living room when Nicky watched it, but not really paying too much attention while I grinded out a few online poker tables. After a few episodes of Mad Men, I started paying more and more attention. Since I caught the bug smack in the middle of season 3, I did what anyone else would do -- I bought season 1 on DVD and eventually watched it all. I had to postpone my Mad Men addiction while I finished up Lost Vegas. As soon as I was done, I sat on the couch and smoked hash for 2 days straight as I watched all of Season 2 and re-watched Season 3 in order to get up to speed. Heck, even before the new season began, Nicky and I watched the last 2 or 3 episodes from last season just to jog our memory about the storylines.

After I caught up on the boob tube programs, I finally tore into Hack, a book that I've been wanting to read that was penned by a former NYC cab driver, who happens to be a Jewish lesbian from the burbs. I used to read her blog before she became one of those fortunate bloggers who landed a book deal off of the content on her site. I was a little jealous, but at the same time thrilled because I always thought she was a compelling storyteller. Lucky for me, I read most of it while my feet were buried in the sand at Zuma Beach in Malibu. The waves were crashing all around me as I turned the pages, staining some of the corners with oily residue leftover from applying suntan lotion. I eventually finished it when I got home. It was formerly in the "TO READ" pile but I since moved it to "SEND TO FRIENDS" pile.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Catch Up to the Catcher in the Sourdough

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Where to begin?

I have too much to say and not enough time to say it. Shit, it's 2:13am and I'm racing against time in so many variables. I could ramble on and on until sunrise but that's what I did yesterday. I didn't post a single word even though I cranked out a good 3,500 or 4,000 words in a short period of time in between beating Angry Birds and listening to a Coltrane bootleg.

I guess that's the most pressing thing on my mind -- I'm overloaded. Overflowing is a better word. My mind is like an overflowing sink with internal content that needs to be worked out on the pages (and the pages being the blank spaces on my laptop which I did last night). I can't recall the last time I actually wrote on a typewriter -- I think a poem or two in the wake of the 9/11 era of gloom. But that was the last time. It was like trying to recall the last time I actually loaded a VCR tape -- that was not a porno. Sweet Jesus, now we're going back almost ten years. Times are a changing, especially the means to which you slap your salami.

So, where to begin?

Las Vegas. Sixth summer in a row when I lose myself and my sanity and my identity in the meat grinder of Sin City. I survived, barely, but managed to come out of this with a shred of dignity, unlike so many other souls I saw get decimated along the way. I dunno why I subject myself to the grind. Well, I know why and if you don't know I'll give you a clue, it's two words. First word is Lost. Second word is Vegas.

I'm a glutton for merciless torture that I volunteer to do year after year. I don't even do it for the big paycheck anymore, which is freeing in so many ways, but I often wonder why the fuck am I fighting a senseless war that can't be won? I could justify my actions if I was a brainwashed grunt in the field because he doesn't know any better, or actually savored the Kool-Aid so I'm following in line with everyone else. Perhaps if I was just a thug for hire and a true mercenary going where the money flows, but then and only then could I justify wandering through the killing fields of Las Vegas where the mindless get ambushed every few minutes and lose every single dollar in the pocket by any and every means necessary.

On a positive note, I only lost a few hundred playing Pai Gow in the pits, but hit a couple of clutch World Cup bets on Spain and Holland which covered any of those degen gambling loses. If anything, most of the money I spent was on overpriced (blah-quality) food and water at the casino because I'm stuck there during work hours. Casinos are built to keep you trapped inside and they gouge, so I take it in the ass. Every fucking summer. I do what I can to reduce my expenses by eating 'off campus' and bringing my own bottled water instead of the inflated mafioso-type prices, but I still cringe by just looking at my American Express bill.

Despite those headaches, I experienced new highs, had the pleasure of meeting new people (and hanging out with old friends), and engaged in a couple of powerful and meaningful conversations in those two months in exile. The conversations about writing are always the ones I cherish the most, and I was lucky to have a few with Shamus and Jesse May. I guess that's part of the reason why I do what I do -- the people. The sad part is that I gotta deal with 99 asstards in order to get a chance to cross paths with one genuine soul. But it's worth the hassle.

But yeah, people suck, especially weak-minded people who are unable to handle the grind of Vegas, not to mention all of the fame whores, career liars, and other psychopaths. The worst moments of the summer were times when I got bogged down in the drama of others. That's the hardest thing for me to admit -- that I could have avoided all of those pitfalls but for whatever reason (usually stubbornness and my inability to underestimate those around me), I got suckered into the quagmire.

I lost my shit a couple of times, as expected, with some newly added pressures and a couple of uncontrollable run ins with inept dipshits. I had one ugly incident that I'm sure I would have handled in a more professional manner if I was better rested and not at the tail end of a five-day binge. Alas, I flew off the handle, and let that Irish temper get the best of me. On the positive side, once I realized my mishandling of the situation, I was able to funnel all of that energy into a specific goal -- not worry about others and focus on writing the best stories that I can. As much as that incident sucked camel balls -- it really lit a fire under my ass. Instead of coasting through the last 2 weeks of the WSOP, I pushed myself. I got a couple of decent pieces out of it, so it all ended up coming out good.

OK, enough of all of that nonsense. The summer assignment in hell is in the past, and behind in Las Vegas. I want to leave it there, which is perfect since I'm in LA and it's a good 40 degrees cooler. That's the toughest aspect of the summer assignment -- t he fucking desert heat. You can't leave anything in your car. Weed will get vaporized. Pens explode. I had two copies of Lost Vegas get ruined when they stuck to the bottom of a gym bag. It almost melted in the trunk of Nicky's car. Forget about anything electronic. We have to hide iPods elsewhere otherwise they get fried -- and this is with a carport in the condo and a sunscreen in the car.

The condo in Vegas worked out well. The location was optimal because we were located near two of my favorite breakfast joints. Quality non-casino-industrial food to start the day was essential for me. The drive to work was average due to traffic during the day, but we zipped home at night. Any problems at the condo were minor (like the mailbox key not working because the lock warped by the searing heat and our loud upstairs neighbors). The AC was deafening loud at times, but it worked. I never felt uncomfortable at all -- like we had to endure last summer when the AC went out at our place and we had to spend the last two weeks holed up in a hotel.

I always want to stay in Vegas for a week or so to play cards and catch up on meetings with people I never got to see because of the intense workload. But after the WSOP ends, I always feel the same way -- get me the fuck out of town. Nicky also feels the same way, which is why we bailed as soon as we could. I know that I've been in Vegas too long when I can't wait to see the plastic hills of Hollyweird and I imagine driving in slow motion down my pal-tree lined street with the sun shining ever so brightly while something from Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy blasts on the radio.

I'm back in California and I'm still shaking out the Vegas cobwebs.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Random Vegas Photos

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

This used to be home for almost two months, but I'm glad I'm no longer living in Vegas and back in SoCal (for the moment).

I posted a galley of random photos that I took in Las Vegas over the summer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 7

By Pauly
Los Angeles,CA

Finally! The late edition is here...

1. Everest by Paul McGuire
What was supposed to be the family room was completely unorganized clutter -- bags of clothes, empty containers, Betty Boop memorabilia, canned goods, grocery store fliers, and boxes of Christmas decorations. Everything was piled on top of each other like ever shifting sand dunes... More

2. Baby Boo and the Canyonlands Motel by Katitude
The sun is blazing into your eyes, and no matter how you squint, you can't really see what's up ahead. You can feel the mother of all headaches begin to take up residence between your temples. You're hot. You're tired, and tired of being on the road... More

3. The Lonehorseman by Ernest
The extremely pregnant woman did a shot of Jagermeister, and then started slowly sliding off her barstool. The bartender ran around the corner of the bar and caught her just before she hit the ground. That’s a sound I was glad I didn't have to hear. The sickening thud of a drunk pregnant woman hitting the floor... More

4. Art of the Bluff by Waffles
I was a little bored when one of those Facebook web cam whores came on. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones with hot pictures who call you baby and tell you how hot you are while trying to get you to enter your credit card information on their webcam sites... More

5. Free by Paul McGuire
That abrupt shift in reality does not happen over night. It's a gradual decline as your brain slowly loses touch with reality. It was as though he had been hanging on by one last little thread for many weeks before it... snapped... More

Sunday, July 18, 2010


By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

My assignment ended at 5:41am during an 18-hour work day.

Well, not technically. I'm still at work and probably will be up until noon writing my last dispatches for a full 24-hour work day and then I can crawl into bed with Nicky knowing that when I wake up, I will no longer have to return to the Rio Casino and go to work. After 52 days of the World Series of Poker... this portion is over.

And man, I got my ass kicked this summer. I will write more in depth about this drama later on when I get back to LA and allow myself to unwind. But for now, I was faltering a week or so ago, but super pumped that I finished strong. I gotta say that the Phish shows in the South inspired me at a time when I wasn't finding any passion in my job as a poker writer. At least the music got me fired up to write to my best ability while having fun and being in the moment. The times that I fucked up the most or had the most problems is when I allowed silly drama to get a hold of me and that sucked out all of my energy.

That's all over now. Thank God.

After cranking out thousands and thousands of words over the last two months on Tao of Poker, I look forward to returning to this space and writing everyday again.

I missed this place. I can't wait to return full time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Favorite 20 Episodes - Tao of Pokerati

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Here they are, some of my favorite moments from this summer while recording the Tao of Pokerati with Dan and Benjo. Even Nicky (aka Change100) has a few cameos. Enjoy!
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 with Benjo - We 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.

Episode 11: Benjo's Laser Promotion with Benjo - After two years of cameos and being a special guest, Michalski and Pauly finally decide to give Benjo the keys to the castle. Well, not exactly to the entire castle, just a couple of rooms. In this episode, we discuss Benjo's new and lucrative deal as a partner in Tao of Pokerati, Inc.

Episode 13: What's in a Douchebag with Change100 - We head off the strip and record an episode at our local breakfast joint on the west side of town. Change100 and Michalski discuss a Las Vegas invasion of douchebags via Jersey Shore.

Episode 20: 2010 World Cup: Benjo's Bets and Conspiracy Theories with Benjo - Pauly, Dan, and Benjo the upcoming World Cup. Benjo tells us about his picks and a couple of conspiracy theories that our favorite Bulgarian bartender shared with him. Pauly and Dan pontificate on the gross discrepancies in the World Cup lines between Strip properties and off Strip sports books.

Episode 29: Massage Girls Rubbing Massage Girls with Benjo - I followed Benjo into the Poker Kitchen and noticed a couple of massage girls sitting two tables away. One of them was working on the forearm and elbow of the other. I usually have to pay two women to tough themselves in front of me. We got a free show.

Episode 31: Chair Thief with Benjo - Pauly quizzes Benjo about what had been driving him nuts during the first three weeks of the WSOP. They discuss drunken railbirds stealing chairs, fruit salads belonging to the media, foul-smelling players, and "hourly restrictions" on updates.

Episode 34: Podcast About a Podcast About a Podcast - Here's a little something that you might have to consult Charlie Kaufman to help decipher this fugue. Michalski gives Pauly props for his stint on the 2+2 Pokercast last week. Meanwhile, Pauly suggests that 2+2 moderator Kevin Mathers is not an actual human being, but rather a piece of artificial intelligence created by Bill Chen.
Episode 41: Small Balls with Benjo - Sometime after midnight, we let it all hang out with the gang in the press box who engage in a silly, yet innocuous throwing things prop bet that began with Pauly and a single piece of wadded up paper. Before everyone knew it, Benjo, Shamus, and ten other bored members of the press (both foreign and domestic) were joining the fray. Degen prop betting often keeps the free press sane during those late night insane hours, as Tim the Intern took down the inaugural Small Ball Cup.

Episode 48: Fecal Matters - This is arguably the most disgusting podcast ever recorded at the Rio. This is your warning and disclaimer: we talk about fecal matters. Michalski delves deep into his sudden assplosion the other night. Yes, he shat himself and Pauly is aghast at the descriptive images of Michalski's weapons of ass-destruction. (Editor's Note: Don't listen to this while eating. Seriously. It's that horrendous. You might puke.)

Episode 52: Phreindly Lost Vegas Update - During the last few minutes of the dinner break, Dan asks Pauly about the first week of sales for Lost Vegas. And then out of nowhere, a familiar song begins to play over the sound system and a few of the dealers get a little giddy.
Episode 53: Porn Stars, Hookers, and Poker Players with Benjo - While sitting in the press box, Pauly and Benjo notice that their favorite massage girl is working today. The discussion veers off into running a hooker ring out of Europe to coincide with various poker tours.
Episode 54: Day 1D Pharmaceutical Report - Here's Pauly's solo report where he give a quick rundown of street prices for pharmies and other illicit narcotics.

Episode 57: Scents and Subtle Sounds of the Main Event with Snoopy - An impromptu episode (with our British colleague Snoopy) to further discuss odor emissions -- stemming from loose bathing habits, flatulence, pungent reefer, and a growing desire for luck -- as the main event progresses.
Episode 59: The Party of the Year with Benjo - Benjo arrives to the party a little late and Pauly gives him a run down of what he missed. Meanwhile, drunks stumble around a few folks fall into the pool while everyone wonders: 'Where the fuck is Michalski?'

Episode 60: Fumigation and Boners with Chip Bitch - Pauly asks Chip Bitch to share his assessment of working the WSOP as a floor reporter. Chip Bitch does not hold back and revealed his plot to fumigate Phil Ivey's table, along with his frequent spontaneous erections that pop up while ogling girls on the rail.
Episode 66: Bubblicious - Pauly and Dan were hanging out in upper level of the Jack Links' beef jerky lounge keep tabs on the entire Amazon Ballroom from the high ground when the bubble burst. They captured the announcement of Tim McDonald's 748th place elimination thereby becoming this year's Bubble Boy. They also recorded the jubilant celebration from the players who made the money in the 2010 Main Event.
Episode 68: Fun with Names: Fokkin Bonkers with Benjo - After realizing that Dutch pro Fokke Beukers has the best name left in the Main Event, Benjo and Pauly search the remaining players list and attempt to pronounce the truly obscure and difficult names.
Episode 69: Cutting Loose with Change100 - Dan and Pauly give Change100 a little guff for working "Michalski hours" after showing up at 9pm. Her WSOP assignment is official over, but she's at the Rio to check out the last bits of Day 7 as a self-admitted scenster. A potential elimination hand occurs during the beginning of the episode and Pauly ditches the crew to cover the action inside the ropes. Meanwhile, Dan and Change100 have a leisurely chat about how much more enjoyable the WSOP is when you don't have to be running around like a madman covering hands.

Episode 71: Vampire Weekend with Benjo - During the last break of Day 7, the agents were slithering around the Amazon Ballroom and the hallways sucking the blood out of anyone in still alive in the Main Event without an endorsement deal. Benjo and Pauly discuss the sleazy side of poker and their plans to take over the live updates and become the biggest player management agency at the 2011 WSOP with
For more episodes, visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where I Work...

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

If you were wondering what the two-level pressbox looked like, here's where I've been working almost every day since the end of May.

Les Miserables - the French press

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Radio Free Pauly: Lost Vegas Edition

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

I recorded a couple of radio spots over the last few days.

On Monday morning, I appeared on a very special episode of Poker Road Radio -- The Gavin Smith farewell episode. For non-poker people... Gavin Smith is a hysterical hard-drinking Canadian pro who has been one of the long-time host of Poker Road Radio (along with co-host and hetero-life-partner Joe Sebok). He's stepping down and the gang gave him a send off. I appeared at the end of the broadcast to plug Lost Vegas.

Listen to Poker Road Road's Gavin Smith Farewell Episode. My interview starts just before the 41 minute mark.

Over the weekend, I sat down with the venerable Jesse May (who wrote the best piece of poker fiction in the history of gambling literature - Shut Up and Deal) for his program, The Poker Show. We chat about Lost Vegas

Click here to download the show
. (Right click and Save As)

Click here if you just want to listen to the show and read more background info. My spot starts at 31:50.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Free Shipping for Lost Vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Click here to buy Lost Vegas. There are free shipping options available for U.S. residents. Take advantage of that discount and order your copy now!

You can officially buy a copy of Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

If you have any questions, please visit the FAQs section.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Eating Flowers for $20

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

We got bored the other day and paid one of our colleagues $20 to eat a flower...

Monday, July 05, 2010

Phishy Fireworks

I captured these videos in the parking lot after the 4th of July show in Alpharetta...

Wook Patrol Podcast: Southern Battlefield and Trey Orgy

By Pauly
Alpharetta, GA

Fourth of July. Phish. Freakfest in the lot after the show amid an onsalught of fireworks. Broseph and I recorded a brief episode about the new Southern revolution.
Episode 5: Southern Battlefield with Broseph - Pauly and Broseph survey the scene in the lot after the show, amid an onsalught of fireworks. Broseph warns us about the new Southern revolution.

Episode 6: Trey Orgy - Meanwhile, we conducted a "man on the street interview" with a female Phishead who explained perfectly what Phish is all about.
Listen to our other episodes!
Ep. 1: Wook Patrol: Dispatches from Raleigh with Jonas
Ep. 2: The Church of Joker
Ep. 3: Charlotte - The Party Bus & Supermodel Sex
Ep. 4: Don' Taser Me, Brah! with Broseph

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Photo Dump: Southern Fried Phish, Part 1

By Pauly
Alpharetta, GA

Check out my gallery on Flickr for 2010 Phish summer tour pictures.

Here's some of my favorites from the North Carolina shows...

Check out more of our Phish summer tour pictures.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Wook Patrol Podcast: Don't Tase Me, Brah!, The Party Bus & Supermodel Sex

By Pauly
Alpharetta, GA

One of my new project is the Wook Patrol podcast, where my friends record a quickie podcast in the parking lot of Phish shows. We recorded two new ones.
Episode 3: Dispatches from Charlotte - The Party Bus and Supermodel Sex - Pauly and the Joker recap the pre-party BBQ to the partybus to the Charlotte show and back onto the party bus for a dance party. The Joker also explains what it's like to sleep with a supermodel.

Episode 4: Don't Tase Me, Brah! with Broseph - The local law enforcement were keeping an eye on invading wook who were trying to sneak into the show. Pauly quizzes Broseph, our citizen reporter, who witnessed a tasering when a shady fan attempted to gain entry to the show.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Wook Patrol: Video and Podcasts

By Pauly
Raleigh, NC

I'm on the road for four Phish shows (only regret is I'm without Nicky). Anyway, we recorded a few multi-media bits from the parking lot of the Walnut Creek venue in Raleigh, NC.

The Wook Patrol is Coventry's new podcast project. We recorded two episodes in the Phish lot at Walnut Creek in Raleigh.
Episode 1: Wook Patrol: Dispatches from Raleigh with Jonas - The Joker and Pauly give the play-by-play of the shenanigans in the lot at Raleigh. While on wook patrol, Jonas and "WilliamMiller" caught a frat boy smashing bottles and were quick to intervene.

Episode 2: The Church of Joker - Pauly interviews the Joker who recaps his first night back on tour since NYE. He admits that he loves Velvet Sea for the first time and was thoroughly enjoy the overall live experience, ergo the feeling he forgot.
And thanks to Dan from for FTP hosting.

Here's a video report of Jonas conducting Wook Patrol...