Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Week in the Life
"My 'fear' is my substance, and probably the best part of me. - Franz Kafka
I've been in Los Angeles for a week. I had been losing so much money in the last few months so I decided it would be in my best interest to stay away from Las Vegas for as long as I could. In the past week, I completed my steroids cycle and my throat completely healed. The steroids were making me tired and around 4 or 5pm everyday, I'd need a nap. I discovered that I had been sleeping an extra hour or two per day. I dunno if the medications were making me tired. I got 16-18 hours of extra sleep in the past week since my arrival in Hollyweird which is something my wayward body needed.

I didn't write for almost a week and took a break from my daily grind as a freelance writer. After a few days off, I cranked out two well-paying articles this weekend and wrote a few other pieces but I primarily avoided the laptop as much as I could. There were stretches of time when I turned my cellphone off completely. I spent less than an hour online everyday, one of the goals I set for myself. I had been spending 16-18 hours a day attached to my laptop writing, reading various stuff, or playing poker. I took a hike up in Topanga state park and headed up to El Matador beach in Malibu in an attempt to get back in touch with nature. I would have spent more time outdoors but it had been raining for three days straight upon my arrival.

I needed to free myself from the addiction of being online and chained to my laptop, blogging, and playing online poker. I spent more time in the real world and away from the computer and feeding the fuel to my cyber celebrity status. Being in LA can be extremely humbling. I'm by far the least interesting person around and that's an inspiring feeling. Shit, on Monday morning I walked into Nick's Coffee Shop around the corner from Change100's apartment. Sitting at the counter was one of the dudes from American Idol. A few fans said some encouraging words to Taylor as he left. I wonder if he tipped well?

"You're catching him during the eighth minute of his fifteen minutes of fame," remarked Change100 who was flustered at his appearance.

In March during my last trip to LA, I spotted Rebecca DeMornay at Nick's. For a greasy spoon diner on Pico Blvd., it sure gets a lot of random celebs eating there. The breakfast there rocks and I'm a fan of their 2/3 pound bacon and Swiss burger.

* * * * *

Baseball season started last week, and I watched five out of the first six NY Yankees games during their West Coast swing through Oakland and Anaheim. I made plans to watch one game with JoeSpeaker, who is one of the biggest A's fans that I know. Change100 drove me all the way out to his house, about a good hour outside of LA. On the way up to the edge of the mountain where JoeSpeaker lives, there's a donkey crossing sign. Supposedly, wild asses trek down from on top of the mountain and wander through his neighborhood.

I walked into JoeSpeaker's massive yet empty suburban house. I felt as though I was stepping onto the field a day after the battle of Gettysburg. Instead of massive bodies piled up, the emptiness of the house was a vivid reminder of the harsh and brutal reality of divorce. Luckily he still had his big screen TV which was perfect to view the baseball game.

We drank beers and ordered pizza, while we watched the Yankees blow a four run lead against his A's. He suggested that his mother could get us Yankees tickets during their upcoming trip to LA to play the California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels. And she came thru for tickets to Sunday's game. Thanks to Mama Speaker!! Watching a baseball game is something that needs to be experienced with a dedicated fan like JoeSpeaker. Plus getting to see my favorite team in a stadium I've never been before was an added bonus.

On Sunday, we met JoeSpeaker and special guest AJ in Anaheim at Angels Stadium. AJ is JoeSpeaker's four year old son who's one of the most adorable kids you would ever meet. AJ is an A's fan just like his father. He refers to the Angels as "the stupid Angels" which made me laugh. AJ is like any four year old. He's initially shy but once he opened up, he didn't leave you alone. Watching JoeSpeaker with AJ made me realize that kids are exhausting to have and I developed a new found respect for parents everywhere who have to deal with little ones jacked up on sugar highs.

AJ and I bonded after he smacked me in the head with a blown up rally balloon. It was fun the first ten minutes but the fun got stale after the third straight inning of AJ using my head as a punching bag. I blame the cotton candy that JoeSpeaker bought him. Pure sugar makes kids go crazy. It's like pre-school crack.

Spending time with JoeSpeaker at the ballpark was one of the highlights of the week. Plus getting to meet his kid was also a special treat. The Yankees avoided a sweep and jumped out to a 10-1 lead, led by Jorge Posada's two HRs and a solo shot from A Rod. Change100 did her best to fake her interest in the game. I think the 24 ounce Corona's helped ease the boredom. When I showed my ID to the beer lady, she scoffed at my NYC address.

"We usually don't serve your kind around here," she joked.

I tipped her a buck as she handed over my $12 beer. I appreciated her sense of humor.

* * * * *

I met Wil for lunch in the Old Town section of Pasadena. It's experiencing a revival with plenty of hipster stores and trendy eateries. Old Town is also the location of Hooter's which plays a significant role in one of Wil's books, Just a Geek. His book leads off with him having lunch at Hooter's and experiencing an awkward moment with a Hooter's waitress.

And yes, we actually ate at Hooter's. Our waitress looked a little bit like Molly, except Molly is way cuter and has bigger and more beautiful eyes. Our waitress was also not very bright and didn't recognize Wil. I ordered the Buffalo chicken strips, which is an amazing invention because I can experience a Buffalo chicken wings without getting my hands super messy. The cheese fries were average. And we decided that sex with the waitress would have been less than stellar.

We walked around the corner and checked out Wil's favorite bar called Lucky Baldwin's. Change100 and I sat in the back at a large wooden table with Wil as a random English League soccer went on in the background. They have plenty of British flags hanging from the rafters and the exposed brick walls were a nice treat. I drank a pint of Stella and bullshitted with Wil for an hour or so.

* * * * *

I spent a ton of time wasting away watching movies. V for Vendetta did not appeal to me as much as I hoped it would. I fell asleep a few times. That whole relationship between Hugo Weaving and Nat Portman put me to sleep. The political undertones are blunt, but the flick had serious pacing issues. They could have made the 2 hour movie and cut it down to 1:40 and I would not have fallen asleep at a few points.

Thank You for Smoking was one of the funniest films I had seen in a while. Too bad Katie Holmes didn't show her tits in her sex scenes. It's about a lobbyist for the tobacco companies played by Aaron Eckhart. He was great as the lovable scumbag.

The Aristocrats was hilarious. It's a documentary about 100 different comedians telling the infamous Aristocrat joke. It featured some of the biggest names in comedy and Robin Williams had one of the best one-liners in the flick.

The Squid and the Whale was written and directed by Noah Baumbach. It's an interesting indie flick with Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels that is somewhat based on Baumbach's life. The movie draws it's title from an exhibit at the Museum of Natural History where a sperm whale fights a giant squid. It was one of my favorite parts of the museum and has been for over twenty-five years. The flick is about the life of a divorced couple, both writers from Park Slope circa 1986. I lived in the Slope about 10 years after that, and most of the flick was shot on location. The best character by far was Frank the youngest son, a confused ten year-old (played by Owen Kline, the son of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates) who flips out about his parents divorcing. He's left unsupervised for large chunks of time part of the casualty of a newly divorced dual household. He walks around his mother's apartment, shirtless and drinking beer out of a can. He also knocks back whiskey and is a chronic masturbator. Some of the most hilarious scenes are some of the most disturbing. Frank jerks off in the school library and wipes it all over the books. He also jerks off into his hand and spreads his love juice on the locker of a girl he has a crush on. Funny and disturbing. That's how I'd describe this flick and Owen Kline stole the show.

* * * * *

I've spent a large amount of time watching the Food Network. I've been on the road so much the last year and a half, it's been hard to get large chunks of time to do absolutely nothing except get stoned and ogle at the Food Network, which is basically food porn for food addicts.

I've also been eating very well. I put on all that weight I lost last week.

On my first day in LA, Change100 made me a garlic meatball sub, cooked in a mustardy beer and onions sauce. The next night, I cooked her cheese and roasted garlic tortellini in a light creamy pesto sauce with extra parmesan cheese. We had some nice Vermont cheese spread on a baguette as an appetizer. I rarely drink soda, but I bought a bottle of Dr. Brown's black cherry soda.

I ate at John O'Groats for breakfast one morning. Change100 is addicted to the Oreo FrenchToast. I'm a fan of their regular French Toast. It might be the best French Toast in LA because they use slices of cinnamon bread! I always get a plate of home fries and a full order of bacon in honor of Daddy. They give you four thick slices of crispy melt in your mouth bacon. Yeah, O'Groats has some of the best bacon and French Toast in all of LA. That's why it's always crowded and you have to wait for a table.

The day after Showcase's birthday, I made him and Change100 breakfast. I used EvaCanHang's French Toast recipe with nutmeg as the secret ingredient. I used honey baked bread because it was sliced thick and soaks up the mixture. I used extra cinnamon which made my French Toast sweet. I added two slices of bacon for substance and a couple of fresh strawberries for color.

I ate Thai foo one night from a place down the street. The chicken panay was OK. I liked the Beef Waterfall, which is spicy beef sirloin tips in a chili and lime sauce with red and green onions plus carrots.

Change100 and I ate at the Framer's Market next to the Grove. The donuts at Bob's are scrumcious. I also can't leave without getting a chocolate shake at Bennett's. In the back, there's a Cajun place off to the side called The Gumbo Pot. I ate a blackened spicy chicken poy-boy with a Creole mustard sauce. I also ate a side of red beans and rice with andouille sausage. Change100 got the Gumbo Ya Ya and it looked tasty.

Last night, Change100 made me Italian marinated chicken in pasta with a spicy aribiata sauce. The garlic bread was also tasty. I'm finally getting decent food in this town and I took some pictures for Derek, which I posted on Sunday.

* * * * *

Showcase had some friends over for his birthday on Friday night. It was a pot party or a "smoke in" with twenty of his closest pothead friends getting wasted on the Purple Kush and eating munchies, all of which Showcase purchased five minutes before the party from the 7/11 around the corner. He had gummy bears, Oreo cookies, sun chips, peanut M&Ms and some sour green candy that I spit out after two chews.

Showcase told everyone the story how he ratted out one of his neighbors after 9.11. He called the FBI and reported his next door neighbor because he was "foreign looking" and "suspicious" Yes, Showcase freaked out about a young Arab male who lived nextdoor and took upon himself to fulfill his patriotic duty and reported him to the FBI. Right now, there's some guy sitting in Gitmo and wearing an orange jumpsuit because Showcase dropped a dime on him. I wondered if he ever sent him cookies?

Oh, and Showcase and Stacee are still knocking books six weeks after he picked her up at Sushi Roku. She bought lingerie for a striptease on the eve of his birthday. I could still hear her moaning...

* * * * *

My friend BJ went missing for a few days. Actually it was more like a few weeks. He's safe and sound right now and I'm still dying to know what really happened. I was so desperate to find him, that I searched kennels in Las Vegas and asking for his dog's name (Rhapsody) in a weak attempt to find him. That was my only lead. Luckily, BJ wrote me and his other friends to let us know he's alive and well.

BJ and I were considered the top two poker tournament reporters in the business. I burnt out months ago and don't want to cover them anymore and BJ had this most recent freakout incident. I'm chalking it up to the stress of the business. It's insane and very few people understand the pressure to perform for thousands on an instant basis, like both BJ and I have done for the past year. It's like being in the jungle for an elongated stint or soldiers deployed for a month too long. You develop that thirty-yard stare and nothing seems to matter except chip counts and bust out hands. I learned the hard way that there's more to poker than tournaments and there's certainly more to life than poker.

Which leads me to some of the reasons of my most recent freakout or mental breakdown. Too much of anything is bad. I love playing poker, and I thought I enjoyed writing about poker, but the bottom line is that when you are passionate about one aspect of something and have to be forced to deal with another aspect of the same thing but for work and your career, it doesn't leave you any wiggle room or breathing space. My entire life was poker, poker, poker and although I'm fortunate to get to write and be paid to write...writing and working in the poker industry was suffocating.

A friend of mine from Seattle is a clairvoyant. He hates hospitals because the ghosts speak to him and he senses pain and anguish on the souls of everyone there, even the staff. Although I have zero super natural abilities, I can sense the loneliness in the tortured souls of the losers that populate Las Vegas. All those bright lights are paid by loser's money and it's hard to have to get myself pumped up to walk into work everyday when I work in a casino environment.

The other hard part about my job was covering the fact that day after day the luckiest player won. It wasn't the best player, always the player who caught cards or sucked out or issued bad beats. Poker experts say that over the long run, the professional poker players will win more tournaments that the lucky ones. I've yet to see that happen. And the media, which I'm a central part of, extols these lucky fucktards and we willingly make them the new superstars. I have an issue with that, and I'm very hesitant to dub a new young player the next superstar just because he won a $1 million in a poker tournament. I'm a firm believer that tournament stats are an indication of short term luck, not a true indication of talent and success.

Of course, I can't be honest in the publications that I write for. I want to say, "This dipshit is the luckiest guy in the casino, heck in all of Las Vegas. He's so fuckin' lucky that if Britney Spears walked by him, she'd stop and give him a blowjob."

But I can't and the frustration sits in. That's why I toned down my travel and work schedule for this year. Unless I can rediscover the passion in covering poker tournaments, there's very little appeal for me to continue to do that activity in the future. The 2006 World Series of Poker might be the last tournament that I ever cover.

In the meantime, a break is necessary and that's where I'm at.

* * * * *

I was only going to write for ten minutes but ten minutes turned into almost ninety minutes. That's OK. Three thousand words in, I realized that I actually have something to say.

I'm enjoying my time in LA. I'm much better health wise and I'm sleeping more and eating well. I'm catching up on movies that I've been wanting to watch for almost a year. I'm also taking time to head out into nature whether it's the mountains or the beach and spending as little time on the computer as possible. I've been watching a lot of baseball and stopped gambling for now. I finally have large amounts of time to think about the direction of my life and where my writing is going. At the same time, the arduous task of finding a literary agent continues. But if I'm gonna find anyone competent to represent me, it's going to be in Hollyweird. I head back to Vegas in less than a week.

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