Monday, August 12, 2013

The Circus of Light; First Wave of Flashbacks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


Recovery formula: one full day for every week on the road.

I was gone for almost four weeks and needed at least four days to decompress. Sleep and lots of liquids. Much easier to recover from Phish tour than the Vegas grind (which was more like 2.5 or 3 days of recovery for every week I wandered around soul-less in the desert).

I'm getting old. I can't handle 20-day benders like I used to.

The tour ended around Midnight on Monday at the Hollywood Bowl. Last year, a segment of summer tour began in Long Beach, CA. Yet, this summer the tour ended in our backyard. Our guests (from San Diego and Austin) departed late Tuesday afternoon. I slowly sobered up over four days and slept a ton. It took until Saturday before I was finally back on level ground. I dunno how Nicky was able to return to work for a couple of days, but she's a fucking trooper. I was still jiggy from the lingering affects of the nonstop party during the last 11 days of the tour. As an insomniac I don't dream very often, but I had some of most vibrant dreams I experienced since my first trip to Australia in 2008. I missed having nightly dreams, but each one was more surreal than the next. Heck, all I had to do on most nights was just close my eyes and watch the visual show on the inside of my eyelids. Pretty far out, shit. No wonder I saw a ghost in Tahoe.

I spent the past weekend dipping my toes back into the writing waters and cranked out a recap of the San Francisco shows. I wanted to dive right back in, but I knew the creative process would be difficult. I was too fried. Too frazzled. Too many memories and the mind racing too fast to keep up with my fingertips. I needed to let most of that internal chatter simmer down before I could tackle the strongest memories. I acquired a novel's worth of material during the last four weeks following the psychedelic circus (beginning in Chicago and then heading westward).

On Friday, I unpacked and put mostly everything away including our camping gear. I even washed my clothes, which usually brings back a floodgate of memories. When you travel, your clothes retain the smell of the last place you packed them. You can often catch a faint aroma of the past. It's awesome when you just came back from an epic journey and you want an instant flashback. Your senses are powerful ways to jog the memory. But the smell-flashback only lasts a second before it vanishes. It's like belching up breakfast several hours after the fact. Of course my clothes smelled like a cheap chain motel in the edge of the Tenderloin in San Francisco, but oh the memories of getting crazy in the TL with Nicky, the Joker, Wildo, Doctor Scotch, and Leslie Fireball!

I went through my pockets to make sure I didn't miss anything. Specifically money and drugs. Especially drugs. I found a mini-straw in one pocket. Ah, I missed my cokehead friends from San Francisco... and we'd stay up all night talking about who knows what and I'd have them in stitches while trying to make up lyrics on the spot for random classic rock songs and early 90s hip-hop. I found a chocolate. Special chocolate made with magic mushrooms. Ah, holy shitballs, Batman! You know the saying... only users lose drugs. Glad I found it before the washing machine gobbled it up and started tripping balls. I'll stash it away for a rainy day. After getting the moniker "Captain Trips," the one and only Jerry Garcia stopped doing LSD in the late 70s. He mentioned he liked taking mushrooms every few months to "clean out the pipes." I'm with Garcia on that one. If you haven't took a trip down the rabbit hole in a while, it's refreshing, like taking a mental dump. You really clear up your head and get all the gunk out, you know, all that meaningless shit that weighs down on you for no reason. It's the perfect way to reset your mind and get back to basics, ya know, the important stuff. Whenever I have a crazy psychedelic-induced experience and the walls start melting, it's usually the first time I tripped in a while because my brain is overloaded and I'm caught up in silly, petty bullshit that is slowing me down. Taking small doses of psychedelics is really like pressing CTRL-ALT DELETE on your consciousness and soul. You start fresh. From scratch. Reboot.

There should be a national day when everyone eats mushrooms (how about August 1st... Jerry Garcia's birthday?) and the entire nation takes a collective mental dump. We'd really be a lot less  angry at each other and understand we're all in the same boat, but the Man is using divisive tactics like hot-button political issues to keep everyone fighting amongst ourselves instead of uniting together to bring down failing institutions, while kicking out all the tyrants and corrupt officials who sold our souls to ruthless corporations and leveraged out future to slithery banksters. Ah, sorry for that tangent. I'll step off the soapbox and return to hijinks...

I sifted through my pockets to make sure I didn't leave anything valuable in there. I forgot to do that in Oregon a couple weeks ago and I accidentally washed a mini-iPod during a stopover in a random motel. This was one of the few mementos from my days as a daily online poker player. One Christmas, I swapped in all of my frequent player points at a well-known online site and bought mini-iPods for myself, my brother, Nicky, and a couple of business associates. Even had mine engraved. I fucked up and forgot to check my pockets... and a washing machine destroyed it. It was a backup iPod that I used when I worked out or rode the subways in NYC. It's not expensive and can be replaced, but that's not the point. A memento is a memento. It reminded me of how much freedom we used to have before the government and Fun Police shut it down. I'll hold onto the broken mini-iPod. It'll get tossed into a box somewhere and I'll forget about it for a few years until one day I randomly open up the box and get drowned by a tsunami of memories of those halcyon days of online poker and how it got destroyed during a crazy month on the road following around one of my favorite bands.

While unpacking and prepping for laundry, I carefully inspected each pocket. I found a couple of fliers for after-shows in Tahoe and after-parties in Chicago. I also found a slip of blue paper with the phone number of a prominent member of the nitrous mafia. He was a grizzled ex-con from Philly who promised to deliver a tank of laughing gas to my front door (including hotel rooms). Doctor Scotch encountered a rival member of the nitrous mafia in San Francisco. He was remotely interested in acquiring a tank, but then he came to his senses. Well, his mob contact kept texting him back all weekend, but the price of the tank kept dropping. It got so low that I insisted we buy one. Hate to walk away from a sick deal.

* * * *

A few items were scattered on my desk. Visual reminders of the sojourn. Stickers ("Keep Tahoe Jibboo"). Scraps of paper with setlists scribbled down, including a classy buckslip from the W Hotel in Chicago. A broken mini-iPod. Gas receipt from somewhere in Oregon. Seattle hotel bill. UNO card with an R2-D2 sticker on it.

And then there's the nut pin. It looks like a walnut. Leslie Fireball gave it to me. "It's supposed to be Trey's left nut," she said. When Trey was tossed in jail (for drug possession), he had a moment of clarity and said he'd give his left nut to play You Enjoy Myself again. He vowed to get clean, reclaim his life, and get his broken-up band back together. He did all those things and for the last five summers, Phish tour has been the most important time of the year for me. This passion became problematic in 2009, 2010, and 2011 because I had committed to covering the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, yet my mind was elsewhere. The WSOP is where I made the bulk of my income (one year, 90% of my annual freelance income was generated from covering the WSOP or deals I made while in Vegas at the time). But that gravy train had dried up and summers in Vegas were not as lucrative, nor as much fun as they were when I first got into the online poker racket. Last summer was the first summer in a very long time when I did not go to Vegas and work 100+ hours a week for seven straight weeks. Instead, I focused all of my energies on Phish's 2012 summer tour. My poker friends don't want to hear the truth, but 2012 was really the best summer I had in a very long time. And in some regards, this summer was even better than last summer.

I opted for fewer shows because I wanted to catch some of fall tour. I made a geographical decision and decided to do all the West Coast shows, but I hopped on tour when the carnival reached Chicago and then followed the caravan out West. I picked Chicago because it was the best time for different groups of friends to pick a weekend to see Phish. But the Chicago run was tough because Mr. Fabulous' wife got sick and he and Iggy couldn't make the journey. I had been catching the Midwest run with the Cincy crew since 2009, but only G-Money could make the trip and it didn't have the same feel as previous summers. They were both with me in spirit.

The Chicago shows were the only shows Senor could catch this summer. Plus, it was perfect timing for Benjo, who had just finished covering the WSOP and he stopped off in Chicago before returning home to Paris. Benjo is one of the only French Phishheads I know, so it's difficult for him to see Phish play live. Chicago was his first shows since the NYE run at the end of 2010 and I had not seen mon petite frere since the summer of 2011 when we shared a house together.

The Chicago shows were plagued by shitty weather and poor planning by the promoter. Hey, shit happens. That's the risk you take with going to outdoor shows. Then again, Phish was jinxed in the first half of the tour. It rained at almost every stop along the way and they were forced to cancel/reschedule a show in Toronto due to flash flooding that knocked out parts of the city's power grid. Luckily they got all their bad mojo out during the Chicago shows because the rest of the tour was smooth.

The first show in Chicago was cancelled midway due to a dangerous storm that was headed our way at Northerly Island. Our friend Boogie lived in Chicago and she had friends who were at the Pearl Jam concert on the other side of town at Wrigley Field. That show was postponed until the weather broke. Pearl Jam and their fans rode out the storm in a 100+ year old baseball stadium that was equipped for rain delays. Phish and their devoted phans were stuck in the middle of a park without any shelter. They told us to go home before the rain began. We got stuck exiting the park when the downpour began. I thought my phone was gonna get drenched but I somehow managed to keep it dry in the same baggie I had stashed my nugs. Being a pothead saved my phone from a quick death. Pearl Jam returned to the stage around Midnight, while Phish was done for the night. That angered a lot of folks. Twitter and the forums blew up with the outrage. I headed back to the hotel and partied it up with friends. Yeah, I was in town for three Phish concerts, but I was also hanging out with friends I never get to see.

Last entry in my notebook before it got destroyed in the monsoon
For the next 12 hours, phans were dazed and confused about what would happen on Saturday. Around 3pm, or roughly 4 hours before show time, the band finally announced they'd play three sets (instead of the usual two) because city officials extended the curfew. Phish came on early and ripped off three sets. The middle set was the best of the entire run. Tickets were going for as much as $150... and for crappy lawn seats. On the last show of the run, we got blitzed by a monsoon. We couldn't do anything except... laugh our asses off. That's a memory burn. Our small group laughing hysterically while Phish blasted through Stevie Wonder's Boogie On Reggae Woman. Even Benjo tried to smoke through the torrential downpour. Felt like someone turned a hose on us and the rain was coming up from every direction. "I thought... something is wrong here," joked Javier. "I mean the rain is coming sideways and from below us!"

At the last show in Chicago, I ate choco-shrooms and an old Deadhead gave me acid. Tripping balls is an understatement. I brought rain gear to that show and special ziplock baggies for my phone/notebook, but Mother Nature won. That bitch kicked our ass. My notebook was toast. I used a price Moleskine to write down setlists and jot down notes (for the eventual book about Phish I'm writing). But the notebook was water-logged. Destroyed. At least the pricey Singo pen survived. I'm shocked my phone survived the assault because the baggie leaked. Somehow, my weed and phone were safe. It was truly a fucking miracle.

My clothes were soaked. I had to ditch a few pairs of socks and a nice pair of cargo shorts because they weren't dry in time for an early morning flight to San Francisco. I had to go through ORD's security with wet running shoes. I expected to get pulled out of line by surly TSA, especially in my condition, yet I breezed through.

During the road trip, almost every piece of equipment got fucked up. My laptop died (it ended up being an adapter issue) in San Francisco. My mini-iPod was destroyed. My voice recorder almost got ran over by an SUV when I dropped it. Heck, my favorite belt broke in Seattle and I ripped another pair of shorts. It reminded me of hell-raising trips to Mardi Gras during college. I found out the hard way after my first trip to New Orleans that I needed to bring an old pair of sneakers and clothes to wear the entire weekend because anything nice you own will get destroyed during that crazy weekend of debauchery. During other trips to NOLA, on the last day I'd ditch my party clothes and put on a fresh batch for the trip home. Something similar happens on a prolonged Phish tour. Your shit is going to get fucked up. Nicky specifically brought along disposable sun dresses that she knew she'd be able to wear once or twice before it got ruined.

Hey, the more your clothes get trashed... the harder you're partying. if you have pristine clothes by the end of tour, then you ain't doing it right.

* * * *

I saw a ghost in Lake Tahoe. Almost a full-body apparition. I was holding Nicky's hand and we were walking down the street. We were coming back from partying in my friend's balla suite a Harvey's. I thought someone was walking in the road a few feet in front of us. It was around 3am and no cars were anywhere (we were a couple of streets off the main drag). It wasn't unusual to see wasted Phishkids walking in the street. But this image took a few steps and then... vanished. I did a double take. That's when I realized that whatever was walking in front of us was not human. Nicky didn't see it. I was not spooked at all. Thought it was pretty cool. I had never seen anything like that and was kind of jealous of friends who encountered ghosts, but that was my first instance. Then again, I don't think I want to open up the portal to the paranormal. I'm paranoid as is. I don't need the supernatural fucking with me. Seeing that ghost at that particular moment is something I'd like to leave in Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe has such a chill and relaxing vibe. Didn't really feel like a gambling town. The degen factor was minimal. I never want to live in Las Vegas again, but if I had the opportunity to bet on sports full time, I'd rather live in South Tahoe somewhere. That's the border of California and Nevada. The casinos are in Stateline, NV and the marijuana dispensaries are in S. Lake Tahoe, CA. Ah, yes... the best of both worlds. My poker bud Dr. Jellyeater lives up near Reno, but I'd rather live on the southern side of Lake Tahoe. Such a beautiful and magical nook. If I can cash in on the next poker boom, I'd totally buy a cabin in Tahoe. Within walking distance of a sportsbook, of course.

One night in Tahoe...Wildo, Joker, and Nicky played blackjack. Nicky was on a heater. She had just final tabled a charity poker tournament (we helped raise $7,200 for music programs for kids).  I was too spun and not in gambling mode. I sat back and watched all the freaks. Thousands of Phiskids and other wook-like creatures rushed into the few casinos at Stateline, NV. It was fun to watch the psychedelic circus crash the gambling scene. I wondered what the few civilians thought of the circus of light? I felt bad for the European family who had a cabin in our motel. They were surrounded by hundreds of neo-hippies tripping balls and partying until sunrise.

We watched schwasted people drop their drinks in the lobby. Psychedelics and casinos are an interesting mix. The various assortment of lights on different slot machines offer up endless entertainment. The heavy mind-fuck of the drugs allows you to see casinos as the destructive black hole it is. However, you're also attracted to the sparkly things. Doesn't matter how much acid you're on... you can't fade the glitz and glamor.


Anyway, while everyone played blackjack, I sort of sat near the sportsbook with our friend Carrie, who doesn't gamble. Carrie and I watched cheesy videos of 90s bands on the massive big screens. Shit, I couldn't recall the last time I heard Seether by Veruca Salt, let alone saw their video. Carrie told me all about her fascination with the Veruca Salt character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as we soaked up the nonstop horde of wasted Phishkids wandering through. We hung out at the Sigma horse-racing game. It had tons of blinking lights and attracted the most fucked up people in the casino. I was fascinated and wanted to get one of those machines for my apartment. But it's gigantic and I don't think it'd fit.

I could only imagine what the eye in the sky captured on tape. Heck, I'd pay good money to see the security cam outtakes of the weirdest, twisted shit that went down in Tahoe during the two nights Phish played at Harvey's. Take for example of couple of schwilly hippie chicks in butterfly wings who sat on the ground in the middle of the casino and took key bumps of a powdery substance, that I presuming is either molly, cocaine, or ketmaine. Maybe a combo or two, or all three. Shit, I thought I had an advanced degree with pharmacopeia, but those raging chicks were Rhodes Fucking Scholars.

1 comment:

  1. Think I ended up here form a Twitter link - well written article and a really enjoyable read. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete