Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Insomnia Blizzard

The insomnia has been heavy the last few nights. I have not slept much since Thanksgiving. I try to crash at 3 or 4am and don't fall out until 6am. I'm anxious and my mind can't stop thinking about many different aspects of my life.... personal, work, creative.

Part of that blitz of anxiety is due to the Australia assignment that I got which will send me down under for a month in January covering the Aussie Millions poker tournament. I'm not nervous about the trip or the work, but my mind races about the endless possibilities of that new travel experience to a country I've never been before.

I'm concerned about the future of my writing. Where do I go from here? I'm stuck in poker for at least a few more months, but what can I be doing to better myself as a writer and put myself in a position to have a smooth transition to whatever industry I end up? Will there still be work for me in poker a year from now? And if yes, will I still want to do it? And if no... then what?

The one question that haunts me is... When will I find time to work on a new book or screenplay? That bums me out.

I have no open slots until August 2007. The only thing I can do is write as much as I can in my free time and sacrifice sleep in order to free up more time.

I'm playing some of the best poker of my life, but I've lost close to $2K playing online poker in the last two weeks. I've won a tournament and have a couple second place finishes in that time, but even those victories can't overcome the losses at the tables. It's mind numbing... I'm making great decisions, but still losing. That's poker.

I've been reading books at an unprecedented clip. The diversity of topics I read about has seeped into my brain and triggered something inside of me. Reading stimulates your brain and after cranking out seven books in two weeks, my brain is a mental sponge soaking up all those words. That attributes to the over activity.

Plus as we entered the holiday season, there are extra added stresses of the family type as I also fend off seasonal depression. Traveling a lot helps quell that, but with Christmas and New Years coming up, maintaining focus on other things is hard to do with a big get together in Las Vegas with poker bloggers and then a trip to San Francisco for New Year's Eve.

With a hectic schedule, I'm trying to figure out work assignments and personal trips for 2007. As I laid out my potential schedule for the next eight months, I was blown away by what little free time I have and how many days away from NYC that I'll be. Trying to find time for epic adventures like Bonnaroo, Langerado, and March Madness are going to be tough. When will I find time to see people I love and admire?

And the hardest thing is trying to find time to spend as much time in NYC with my brother as possible and with Nicky in LA... despite the fact I'm going to be all over the world the next few months. That's why what little time I have... is important and I cherish every second focusing on the positive instead of the negative.

I got out of bed this morning at 11:11am exactly. I woke up around 9:30am and tossed and turned for twenty minutes before I passed back out. I've been up for exactly an hour and have to head out for a run after a quick wake and bake session.

Recent Writing Music...
1. Johnny Cash
2. Widespread Panic
3. Gomez
4. Lotus
5. Django Reinhardt

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Puppy Jerk

New York City
Spring of 2003

"I blew a dog once," she said.

Had that been a scene in a movie, the background music would have stopped and everyone in the bar would have turned around and starred at her in astonishment for several awkward seconds.

She took a sip of her drink, an overpriced Apple Martini, and I immediately thought, "Do all animal molesters drink Apple-tinis?"

"It's not what you think," she said trying defend her statement. "Why are you freaked out? You're the one who asked me the question. You're supposed to be the bohemian writer living on the edge, hanging out with criminals and low lifes. On your travels you've never once heard about someone blowing a dog?"

"A donkey, yes. Don't forget I've been to South of the Border to Matamoros. I saw a guy fuck a chicken once too. Uneventful. But I've never sat a few feet from an actual canine cock smuggler."

"Oh my God! You are totally freaked out. Must be that McCatholic thing, right?"

"I'm not freaked out. Surprised is a word that comes to mind. And I never asked you how many dog's dicks you sucked in your life. I believe the question was, 'What's your most bizarre sexual encounter?' I was hoping to hear about hot lesbian affairs or made a semi-erotic story about how you gang-banged three chain-smoking snail-eating French dudes in the bathroom of a bar in Montmartre. I didn't think you'd actually fess up to bestiality."

"Fuck you, McFucker!" she screamed.

"That dog was no beast. He was a beautiful animal and I loved every second of it."

"I don't believe you," I badgered her.

"It's true. I was nine years old and, and..."

"And what?" as I moved in closer.

"I only did it that one time. I was curious. Don't freak out on me now. Haven't you gotten aroused by doing something you shouldn't?"

"Of course, but chugging doggie cock wasn't one of them."

She sighed and had a long sip of her drink before she checked her cellphone. She had gotten a text message during our banter which she read then never bothered to answer back.

"How did you know I was lying?" she said.

"I didn't. It's what we call in poker a 'semi-bluff.' I sensed weakness because there was some doubt in your story. Someone truly ashamed of a sexual encounter with a dog would have not revealed that secret in a public place. And if you had no qualms about people knowing, you would have told your friends... and I would have found out months ago. Besides most tells and lies are non-verbal. You make the same face when you lie to your friends and say, 'I love those shoes.' They can't tell when you're bullshitting, but I can."

"Well, your semi-bluff is semi-wrong."

"Care to explain?"

"I never blew a dog. That's true," she said before she paused a beat. She sat up in her chair and glared at me. Without blinking she blurted out, "I never blew a dog but I jerked one off once."

"That's one lucky puppy," I added.

That time I knew she wasn't lying.

Photo credit: Flickr

Monday, November 27, 2006


My newest addiction is reading books. I can't stop. Inside of two weeks, I've crushed seven books and read several passages from The Paris Review Compendium which is 750 page rat killer of a hardcover collection of articles, interviews, and poems. They interviewed Hunter S. Thompson about doing drugs and writing and he honestly told them it was easier to write on acid than it was to write on weed.

I completed Philip K. Dick's biography, Divine Invasions. For the most of his career in the 1950s he wrote while jacked up on speed and other painkillers. Although he denied ever writing some of his stories on LSD in the late 1960s, he admitted to coming up with ideas during discussions on a few hits of liquid sunshine. Some of his short stories and novels are bizarre and he was clearly operating on a different plane. I admired his dedication to writing and his daily output.

Perhaps I should develop an addiction to speed? I'd sleep less and write more...

I read three poker books, two of which Hunting Fish and Why You Lose at Poker were written by people I know (Jay Greenspan and Russ Fox). My mind is poker friendly these days and the burn out is over. I still get miffed or frustrated sometimes about certain aspects of the game and the industry, but for the most part the time away from the scene ended up being a positive break. I enjoy almost every aspect of poker again which is necessary because without it, I'd be completely broke.

Chuck Klosterman has become one of my favorite authors and has become the example I'd use to explain what I'd like to do in the future with my writing. He gets to write books about music and pop culture like his latest book IV and he also has a column at ESPN. Yes, if there's a literary agent looking to sign me... I want the Chuck Klosterman deal.

Although if I can get anything close to a Jay Greenspan deal, I'd be more than elated. When you're super savvy and powerful like Jay, you get paid in blow and hookers. No paper trail, either, so the federalies can't tax you on your income.

Yes, sometimes I get bitter about the government making money off of my creativity. Sometimes I think we don't get taxed enough in some areas but then I see what they are wasting it on. But what sucks is waiting a few months to get a pay check from Fox Sports for two months of work and knowing that I can't even touch a cent of it because it's going to pay my taxes for 2006. Getting paid in hookers and blow makes sense. Heck, if the IRS wants either, I'd be happy to share.

I finally finished The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly. He's part of the Farrelly Brother's who have made hilarious flicks like Something About Mary and Outside Providence. Peter wrote a book about an East Coaster who got dumped by his girlfriend so he moved to Hollyweird to become a comedy writer. Hiijinks ensue in the fish out of water tale set in 1990.

BG gave me the book two summers ago and even wrote an inscription. I start-stopped that book twice and got as far as 100+ pages both times and never finished either for lack of interest or due to a hectic travel schedule. I always feel bad when I don't read books that friends give me AND took the time to write an inscription. So I sucked it up and started from the beginning. I cranked out 355 pages in two days and put that fucker away in a milk crate that stores other books that friends gave me over the years and wrote something nice in them. No matter how broke I go, I'll never sell those.

OK, that was a lie. For now, they're untouchable and that's all that matters. For now...

The cool part of The Comedy Writer was that the book had more relevance for me on the third attempt. I spent more time in LA this year than any other city aside from Las Vegas and the descriptions of LA are more vivid for me. Plus the main character lives in a studio not too far away from Nicky's apartment. When the author mentions La Cienega, I know exactly what he's talking about.

Next up... The Devil's Picnic that writer Storms Reback gave me at the WSOP. At this rate, I'll have it done by Wednesday night.

The weather in NYC was shitty last week... both wet and cold. I felt sickly all week, but never full on sick. I was always on the verge of either getting worse or better and got stuck in the blah phase for a full week. I skipped running for six days to rest my bum knee. Even without the exercise, I still managed to gain zero pounds despite the Turkey Day feast.

With extra time freed up, I jumped into book reading again. I have not been reading at this accelerated rate in years... easily since before 9.11. That's when I lived in my dark studio without cable TV and this was pre-blogging and I didn't even have a laptop.

I'd sit on my terrace and listen to old Jazz albums like Monk's Dream by Thelonoius Monk or Love Supreme by John Coltrane and read for several hours straight by candle light. Caught up in a terrible bought of insomnia and uninspired to write, my moody, broke, unemployed self had nothing to do except read and read and read. I was painting on and off during that time and that's only when I had supplies. Most of the time I painted until the paint and canvas ran out and then I sat around and tried to suppress the depression and insomnia with a book. Or two.

I read over a hundred books in 2001 and that's being conservative. I can't recall how many I started and never finished. These days, I cure the insomnia with writing or poker and I spend more time reading blogs, newspapers, and magazines online due to better internet access. But for the late 90s and for most of the early 21st century, that all I used to do was read. I got lazy, distracted, and forgot how addictive reading was for me. I used to get depressed about all the books I'd never read and decided that was pointless. I stopped wasting my energy crying about the situation and picked up a book. Then another... and another.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Last 5 Flicks

Here are the last five movies I saw...
1. Shopgirl
2. The Omen
3. Cinderella Man
4. Edmond
5. Thank You for Smoking

I read Steve Martin's novella Shopgirl shortly after it came out a few years ago and was skeptical about the film, directed by a virtual unknown Anand Tucker. The selling point for me was that Steve Martin can write both screenplays and novels. In this project, he executed a remarkable job in adapting his own novella to the big screen.

Nicky told me that the book was based on a real-life experience when the sleazy Steve Martin picked up a 20-something salesclerk, eloquently portrayed by Claire Danes in the flick. The novella does a better job at describing the awkwardness of not-so-perfect relationships between sad, lonely, and desperate people.

The best part of the production was the cinematography by the legendary Peter Suschitzky (his resume includes several David Croneberg flicks like Naked Lunch and The History of Violence along with Star Wars V and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) who captured the subdued loneliness and plasticity of L.A. perfectly. Overall Shopgirl was edible, especially for an afternoon cable movie.

* * * * *

When I first saw The Omen as a kid, I was naturally spooked especially when I encountered anyone named Damien. The remake of the 1976 version came thirty years after the original starring Gregory Peck and directed by Richard Donner. The updated version was re-written by original screenwriter David Seltzer who incorporated the tragic events of 9.11 into the screenplay.

The flick is ripe with imagery and symbolism especially the color red which helps paint the eerie Catholic themes of the imminent rapture.

John Moore, an Irish director, was at the helm for the remake which was shot on location in Italy as well as Dublin and Prague for the "London" scenes. Moore made his mark with Behind Enemy Lines and in a totally unrelated quirky Hollyweird story, Nicky and I smoked plenty of pot with one of the actors in the straight to DVD sequel of Behind Enemy Lines 2.

Damien's parents were played by Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber in the roles that Lee Remick and Peck made infamous. Schreiber is prone to delivery his dialogue with Shakespearean emphasis while Stiles pulled off the role as bewildered mother of the anti-Christ, shying away from her previous unchallenging romantic/teen/comedy roles.

* * * * *

If you like boxing flicks, Cinderella Man is better than average. I would have loved to have been in the pitch meeting of Ron Howard's Cinderella Man... "It's like Gladiator meets Rocky except we'll set it in the Great Depression."

Akiva "Froggy" Goldman (who didn't get $4 million to pen this screenplay) and Cliff Hollingsworth co-wrote the screenplay based on real-life tough guy James Braddock, a journeyman nobody who shocked the world after he took the world heavyweight championship away from Max Baer, who allegedly killed two men in the ring.

Russell Crowe did a bang-up job as Braddock and the overrated Rene Zellweger played his wife with a horrible 30s Brooklyn/Jersey accent. I secretly begged Braddock to beat up his wife, just so I could see Zellweger get punched in the mouth so she'd shut up for a few moments.

The real gem in the film is Paul Giamatti as Braddock's corner man Joe Gould. He got an Oscar nod for his performance, which was not as strong as his work in Sideways. The suits and nimrods at the Academy felt bad about snubbing Giamatti the year before and this might have been payback. He ended up losing to Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote.

* * * * *

Edmond was a brilliant play written by David Mamet that got trashed by so-called New York City theatre critics. He brought his play to the big screen and casted several big guns such as William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, and Julia Stiles. Mamet's wife Rebecca Pidgeon, Mena Suvari, Denise Richards, Dule Hill, George Wendt, and Debi Mazr all appear in cameos.

From the opening scene where he meets a fortune teller, Edmond (Macy) is told, "You are not where you belong," and from that encounter the tone of the flick is set forth as a man searching for... something in the vast darkness of the big city where empty souls and people with empty values run amock. There's an interesting twist to the ending but what bothered me the most was that the film was obviously shot in LA and not NYC, like it was supposed to take place in. You can get away with those liberties on the stage... but Mamet should no better than to try to pass off exterior shots of downtown L.A. office buildings as Midtown Manhattan.

Two scenes stand out... the one with Edmond and the pimp and scene with the cocktail waitress (Stiles) and Edmond. Mamet is one of the best dialogue writers of all time and he's not afraid to take chances with his characters. With most Mamet flicks in the DVD era, I watch it a second time with the subtitles on so I can gain a greater sense of appreciation of his words.

* * * * *

I caught Thank You for Smoking in the theatres when it came out in the spring. I thought it was funny and entertaining enough to see it a second time around on DVD. Jason Reitman hit a homerun adapting Christopher Buckley's novel about a Tobacco company lobbyist named Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart).

Pretty much everyone casted in the flick was dead on perfect in their roles. Eckhart shined as the guy who loved to hate, but loved anyway. Adam Brody played an ass-kissing assistant to an eccentric Hollyweird super agent (Rob Lowe) and older actors like Robert Duvall (Southern tobacco exec) and Sam Elliot (The Marlboro Man who has been diagnosed with lung cancer) provided solid foundations to this comedy that will make you think twice about spin doctors and DC lobbyists.

I heard rumors that TC and his Scientology thugs nixed Katie Holmes' nude scene with Eckhart, but I already saw her tits in The Gift, so I'm not missing anything. Some of the funniest scenes included Naylor and his fellow lobbyists for the alcohol (Mara Bello) and firearms (David Koechner) industries and his dealings with an anti-smoking Senator from Vermont (William H. Macy).

Friday, November 24, 2006

Clothes & Stuff
"There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past." - George Carlin
I feel like a new man wearing old clothes.

For the last two years, I've been constantly on the road spending anywhere from a week up to a few months in one place. My wardrobe was severely limited as I intermittently lived in hotels, on people's couches, in different crash pads in Las Vegas like the Redneck Riviera or Grubby's apartment in a gated community up in Henderson, or staying with Nicky in the slums of Beverly Hills.

And lucky for me, no one made fun of me for having the same rotation of clothing for the last year or so. Friends of mine who also cover poker tournaments might have noticed that I wore the same blue short twice a week, whether I'm in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlantic City, or Connecticut.

I adhere to the Senor rule of travel... travel light because there's nothing you need that you can't buy where you are going. It's a nice gamble... you get the luxury of swift travel... rushing through airports with relative ease having less luggage to haul around. And if by chance you need something, you fork over the few bucks to buy it.

Due to luggage limitations, I pack one pair of dress shoes, three dress shirts, five t-shirts, two weeks worth of underwear and socks, one pair of pants, one pair of jeans, and a jacket of sorts. I wear a suit jacket, pants, sneakers and a dress shirt on the plane in order to save space. That's been my standard packing gameplan with a few exceptions and deviations. For example, traveling to warmer climates like LA or Las Vegas would dictate less pants and more shorts and short-sleeve dress shirts. Colder climates like Colorado or Amsterdam in November would require more heavier clothing like an extra fleece or sweater.

I'm fortunate that as a writer, I can get away with wearing dirty jeans, a wrinkled dress shirt, and a suit jacket to almost any function and be considered properly dressed.

My old backpack has become my on the road storage facility and I know every inch of that backpack so I can eye ball a pile of clothes and know if it's going to fit or not. And this past year I have been overachieving at underpacking. I've been only using 75% of the capacity of my bags due to my propensity to acquire random items and books while on the road.

My toiletries kit has become a mini-drug store with plenty of cold, sinus, and flu medication both non-drowsy and nighttime doses. There are plenty of pain killers too, both perscription and over the counter some of which are used both recreationally and to help me sleep. Motrin is my best friend.

My carry on piece is simply my laptop bag and necessary plugs with reading and writing materials. I'm always discovering new ways to maximize that space and minimizing the amount of equipment I can take on the road. Storing plugs and wires in see through ziplock bags not only protects your items, it's easy to access if you need to quickly find something or just in case you get you bags searched by overzealous $8/hour rent-a-scanners.

When I'm in NYC, I specifically wear different clothes than when I take on the road. Since I'm wearing the same few outfits over and over due to the limited choice... I take advantage of access to my full wardrobe in NYC and wear clothing items that just missed the traveling cut. I almost feel like a new man wearing old clothes.

I used to store clothes at Grubby's apartment in Henderson, specifically summer type wear that I'd need when I was in Las Vegas. After we moved out of the apartment, I moved a few of those items to Nicky's closet in LA. She was kind enough to give me a hanger or two so when I travel to LA, there are a few less items that I don't have to worry about bringing with me.

Ideally, I'd love to be able to travel with no luggage and have clothes and a laptop waiting for me in the cities I spend the most time... which in the past 12 months have been LA, Las Vegas, and NYC.

Traveling voraciously the last two years made me realize that most material items are luxury items and for basic survival, I can get by with every thing I carry on my back. Who needs a TV, VCR, or DVD player when I can buy/watch/download shows and flicks and view them on my laptop? With the advances in digital music technology, I no longer need to have an extensive stereo system with hundreds of CDs and tapes. All of that has been reduced to a slim iPod which slides in and out of my shirt pocket, which has more hard drive space than my first three computers combined.

All of my life's work can be uploaded to a mini flash drive. No more bulky manuscripts to lug around. For the first time in my writer's life, I am no longer paranoid about losing my work. Flash drives have made it possible to store all of my data (screenplays, photos, manuscripts, short stories, poems, journal entries) at a very small price.

The only thing that can't fit on a flash drive are my physical paintings which are stacked up in a dark corner of my old bedroom in my mother's apartment. I've done my best to give as many away as I can. But even though I get the occasional request for a painting, I'm too selfish to part with the remaining. And those are the bad ones.

In the last few months, I've been throwing out old clothes, selling old books, and finally tossing away boxes of items which I collected over the past 15 years that had a faux-nostalgic quality to it. I've been having mixed emotions regarding some of those items. At first glance, the item is worthless... a ticket stub to a movie nine years ago, or a pamphlet to an art exhibit in San Francisco from 2002. But in some ways, those items are the trigger for flashbacks and memories. If I toss out those trigger items, will I be throwing away maps of those memories forever?

That's the philosophical mental wrestling match that I have every time I sort through a box of old shit. Keeping those material items are a way for me to retain an attachment to the past, while the realist in me is preaching to live in the now, where the past and future do not exist. Living too much in the past causes depression (either the past was much better than the now, or the past was so horrible that you are revisiting old wounds).

You can't take anything material with you into the after-life whether it exists or not. And a few days after you die, the vultures that you consider your family and friends come and tear apart your things looking for more useless stuff. The rest of your shit they throw in the trash and it gets hauled off to a landfill where it will be buried for all of eternity next to your neighbor's unfinished carton of General Tso's chicken.

In the end, all of your possessions at some point become trash. Better to clean it up now, then leave a big mess behind and make one of your grieving relatives clean it up for you.

This post reminds me of that old George Carlin bit, "Your house is just a place to keep your stuff. If people didn't have so much stuff, they'd be walking around all the time."

Which sort of sums up the last two years of my life.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

I have a lot to be thankful this year, especially the people in my life I consider my friends. Thanks for supporting and inspiring me!

Circa 1979

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pieces of Pauly

Back by popular demand!

What did I eat on Tuesday? Breakfast was a banana with a bowl of Grape nuts and skim milk. Lunch was two pieces of bacon and two slices of wheat bread with a slice of chocolate bunt cake and a Snapple Iced Tea. Dinner was a six-inch Tuna on wheat bread from Subway.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

15 Minutes

Editor's Note: Exceprts of this originally appeared on my poker blog yesterday.

In 1968, artist Andy Warhol said that, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes."

He didn't mean that literally. He used that phrase to pinpoint the absurdity of fame and the media's relentless pursuit of it. Famous one minute. Banished into obscurity the next. Just ask anyone who participated in the Surreal Life. They can better explain to you the existentialist rollercoaster of fame more so that I can.

Every month, a new alumni magazine from my high school or college arrives in my mail box. It's peppered with pleas for donations and updates on how famous alums are doing. In the most recent issue, one alumni designed a video game and now he's a billionaire. In another issue, the editors highlighted a profile with an Oscar winning writer despite the fact he's openly gay and graduated from a stuffy and rigid all-boys Catholic high school.

I got an email from a friend who is the Alumni Liaison for my graduation year. It's his job to collect information on our classmates and forward it over to the editor for publication. He wanted to know if I had any updates or news to share.

This is the post-modern version of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame quote. In the future, everyone will get their one or two sentence mentioning in their alumni magazines. And that's it.

The scary thing is that I know people who live their lives just so they have a good sentence to tell. Female friends from college have been waiting years for the moment when they get to announce their recent nuptials. Some of them diligently worked on possible names for the children for endless hours hoping that their peers won't laugh at their name of choice upon reading it in the latest issue.

"Myles? With a Y?"

Probably the most embarrassing moment any one of my friends had involved a wedding announcement. A buddy got married in the fall and by the time he submitted his update, it was almost nine months after the fact. For some reason it didn't get published to almost a year after his original wedding date. Here's the fucked up part... one month before the alumni magazine was published... his wife filed for divorce.

Talk about getting kicked in the junk. Moral of that story... make sure your marriage last long enough to get recognition in your alumni magazine.

Back to that email my former classmate sent me. He basically wanted me to sum up my life in a sentence, no more than two. Like I said some guys live their lives and are motivated just so they can have a sentence in the alumni magazine that says... Joe Mullen was recently named partner in the Roscoe, Green, and Moore law firm. Or Suzy Greenberg has been named Associate Editor of In Style Magazine.

These mentionings are as much for bragging rights as they are ego boosts. In some way, those sentences can neatly sum up the skewed perception of your life. Of course, your complex life cannot be summed up in one sentence or twenty sentences.

For most of us, that's what we want our peers to see us as... a successful venture capitalist, a bubbly soccer mom of two, or a recent Ph.D. candidate. That's a way for people to justify their existence. They might struggle internally on the meaning of their specific life, but when you see yourself doing better than your peers... it's hard not to feel good about yourself and you cling to that notion of existence.

I am... somebody.

Alumni updates are a form of propaganda set forth by your former schools. It's necessary for them to brag about their most successful alumni because they want to be associated with success and accomplishment. Just ask Derek who got a fraternity alumni magazine last year with Fossilman on the front cover. He quickly noted, "Hey, Greg Raymer and I were in the same fraternity!"

Alumni updates are also a sick and twisted way of your alumni department using deeply rooted psychological tactics to get you to donate more money. When you see and read announcements about your peers becoming more successful than you, the alumni big wigs hope that jealousy will make you work harder in order to show them up. More success equals bigger paychecks. Bigger paychecks equals more alumni donations to your schools.

So the next time you get an alumni magazine and you get pissed off that a dumb ass moron that couldn't even jerk off properly who is all of a sudden a real estate mogul in Macau with a modelesque wife and a private jet, remind yourself that none of this matters.

Like David Mamet said in his play Edmond, "No one is keeping score. No one cares."

Actually he's wrong on that. There is someone keeping score and there is someone that cares... and it's you. And unless you let those notions go, you are going to be living your life in a way that's not your own. You'd be living a life that is motivated by getting a blurb in your alumni magazine. In short, that's pathetic.

You cannot read other people's minds, so stop worrying about what other people may or might not think about you. Most of the time we're way off base and if someone thinks you're a loser or asshole... then so what?

I have interviewed several big-time poker pros and always asked them about their motivation to play. Most of them quickly say... "I play for the money." Fairly simple reasoning. They want to be rich. A few of them lied to me because they want the fame but are too embarassed to tell someone in the media. For them, the money is not as important as being recognized. While some of them are addicted to gambling while others are genuinely in it for the challenge.

So what is your motivation to play poker?

Are you playing for that one sentence blurb in your alumni magazine?

Are you blowing through your bankroll playing MTTs and satellites to WSOP, WPT, and EPT event for the sole purpose to get on TV and show up your friends and family?

Are you trying to get back at an ex-girlfriend, former spouse, or one of your parents? And think that poker is your shortcut to happiness, revenge, and self-fulfillment?

It's OK if you don't know why you play. Your reasons to play and your inner motivation shifts every day. That's why you need consistently question yourself why you play. But never sit down to play unless you have a clear objective.

I have an old friend that I'll call Stephanie. She's a total hipster and scenester. She's never done anything original in her life and she's part of that first wave of invaders whenever a new trend is set. She's a nice girl but is totally misguided. She lacks originality and is programmed by trends life a zombie consumer pissing away her money on the trend du jour.

In college, she was totally into Seattle grunge bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Then as soon as their hype boiled down she got really hard-core into Dave Matthews Band just when he got really famous and mainstream. Now 10-14 years later I can guarantee that none of those bands are on her iPod today.

Stephanie has lived in happening places like San Francisco and Williamsburg but if you told her that Rolling Stone announced that Toledo or Des Moines were the coolest cities in America, she would have moved there.

When Old Navy commercials said she should be wearing vests, she bought one. Now, The Gap is telling her to buy a hoodie. She just bought two. After 9.11, no one was a bigger flag waver than Stephanie. Now, she openly attacks George Bush because everyone else is doing it.

Stephanie traveled to places that used to be cool two years before she showed up. Remember when Prague was the place to be in Europe? She organized a big trip just after college. At some point she got into Swing Dancing in the late 1990s and even tried to drag me to one of her events. Since then, Stephanie has been involved with e-dating, yoga, speed dating, Friendster, pilates, Kabbalah, picking up strangers off of Craigslist, knitting, Feng Shui, MySpace, Sodoku, blogging, and now poker.

Yes, she asked me for lessons during the WSOP and I blew her off because I'd be wasting my time. In a few months she'd be into something else like Keno, Scientology, or Hula Hooping.

Stephanie represents the traditional American scenester. She adds virtually nothing to the scene and is takes more away than she gives back. If anything, Stephanie and the millions of people like her are a cancerous affliction set upon this earth to gobble up everything that is cool and by their mere presence... make it virtually uncool.

Is her appearance on the poker scene a sign of the apocalypse? I don't want to say she's a jinx... but a few months after she wanted to get into poker... the UIGEA happened. Coincidence?

Stephanie is the grim reaper of pop culture. The good news is that if she is a jinx, then we're experiencing the last three or four minutes of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of fame.

The reason I wrote this post was not to trash an acquaintance but to give you a clear example about how innocent and semi-intelligent people succumb to the persuasive powers of the mass media. It's hard to go against the flow. That's why highschool is usually the worst four years of anyone's life.

What motivates me to play poker?

Some days the empiricist in me takes over as I approach poker like a new subject and I'm the student. When I sat down at the Triple Draw tables this past week, that's what went through my mind... the learning process and gaining education through experience. I paid attention to the little things and the freshness of the game reinvigorated the simple love for poker and attaining knowledge.

Some sessions I'm motivated specifically by the urge to make money. The more money I can make through playing poker means that I do not have to implement traditional ways of earning income (that dreaded 9 to 5 gig), the majority of which would hinder the artistic process and suppress my individuality and creativity. That's why I grind it out at the 5/10 and 10/20 Limit tables because I know I can beat that level over the long haul. The more money I can earn at the tables means that I can continue to cherish my freedom and live my life the way I want to... for one more day.

Some days I play poker as a form of escapism and for social enjoyment. I love playing poker for fun with friends in blogger tournaments and messing around at the micro tables. When I play in someone's homegame, I'm there to drink, smoke, tell dirty jokes, blow off steam and have fun. The harsh brutality and uncertainty of every day life often evaporates when we all share in a good laugh.

And some days, I'm simply a stone cold junkie. I crave the rush. I need the excitement. I fire up those PLO tables because there are no airplanes for me to jump out of, or there are no race cars to drive, and because I don't do heroin. I need the rush somehow that reminder why I'm alive and once in a while poker fills that void.

If you can walk away from this post understanding the following two statements, then I effectively got my point across:
1. Know why you play poker before you play it.
2. Don't live your life to impress your peers.
Life is too short to worry about what other people are thinking. Most of the people in my life are confused, completely lost, unhappy, and self-consumed.

In the end, that girl who I fooled around with for two weeks sophomore year really doesn't care about if I lost a $400 prop bet with Otis or did shots at the Playboy Mansion with AlCantHang.

In case you were wondering, what did I send my Alumni Liaison?


If my former classmates really want to see how I'm doing, they can always Google my ass.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sickly Monday

I felt the inklings of a cold coming on on Sunday morning after my run. Perhaps I should not have been jogging in 39 degree weather.

I woke up this morning around 6:30am totally foggy, groggy, and with a runny nose. This is the first time I've been sick since I started working out. I was virtually untouchable during two unhealthy benders in Vegas and Amsterdam. The germs bounced right off me. Now it's different. The drastic change in tempatures did me in. 65 one instance. 45 the next.

I skipped the run this morning and wrote for two hours instead. Writing with a severe nasal drip is not fun and gets very sticky. I only felt better after the wake and bake.

In the past week, I've come in 5th, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st in different online poker tournaments. Sounds somewhat impressive, but I only cashed in one of them. I missed the money by one spot twice (including last night) and by two spots once.

That's poker, or so the adage goes. It is slightly frustrating because I haven't played this well in a very long time and even though I made great decisions and am at the top of my game... I still had a horrendous losing session over the weekend.

Just like in life, you can do almost everything flawlessly and come out behind. Conversely, you can fuck up a million things and come out ahead. I guess that's why you have to enjoy the good days and shrug off the bad ones.

I've been working on the second draft of JTSMD since Thursday paying specific attention to grammar edits that Jessica made. I hope to have five solid days of editing before I leave for LA/Las Vegas at the end of the month.

With one book read last week, my goal is to knock off another this week. I'm way behind my goal of "reading 50 books in 2006." But if I finish out strong and read 5 more books, I would have gotten close to 30 under my belt this year with two dozen or so books I started but never finished like Devil's Picnic (Taras Grescoe), Blue Blood (Ed Conolon), Take Me to the River (Peter Alston), Divine Invasions (Larry Sutin), and Rock Springs (Richard Ford).

All of those unfinished books sit on a pile on my desk like a junkyard of literature. As of now I'm 1/4 through Mainlines, a Lester Bangs book and have been alternating between that and the Philip K. Dick bio called Divine Invasions.

Time for me to fight the long lines at the post office this morning. I have to mail Jodd a belated birthday present that I got when I was in Amsterdam.

Recent Writing Music...
1. Art Blakely
2. Widespread Panic
3. Medeski, Martin & Wood with Trey Anasastio
4. Radiohead
5. Tea Leaf Green

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tao of Pauly Rewind: Thursday

I woke up at 6:04am on Thursday and shuffled off to the bathroom. I had to wear my Birkenstocks because the tile floor in the bathroom is as cold as the ice in a hockey rink. I finished taking dump while I read the Sharper Image catalogue. I might consider buying $150 head phones but realized that I'd end up losing them or discover some overweight ad salesman from Maspeth sat on them by mistake on my next flight to Las Vegas.

At 6:25am, I quickly checked my email and to made sure my poker blog was still there. Something I have been doing nonstop since it got hacked last Thursday. Five minutes later, I laced up my sneakers and headed out for a run before I ripped three bong hits.

While jogging, I listened to Okonokos, the live album from My Morning Jacket that was recorded from the Halloween show in 2005. They are great driving music and the perfect music to run through a dark and grey morning. I passed a dozen or so New Yorkers rushing to catch the subway. One ethnic looking woman in a dark pants suit wore the same perfume that an ex-girlfriend wore.

I showered and weighed myself. I was at the same weight when I got back from Europe. I'm still 22 pounds lighter than when I began my diet/exercise routine a month earlier.

Starving, I devoured a banana and skipped the Grape Nuts. I ripped three bong hits then wrote for an hour while listening to The Grateful Dead. I read email after I ripped three more bong hits.

Around 9:29am, Derek sent me an email that said:
"i made it into work on time today but am really hung over... didn't get home until after 2am and i puked pretty hard this morning around 4am..."
I sent a reply to Derek saying, "Drink gingerale," before I wrote for another hour after I taking three bong hits.

At 10:50am, I arrived at the subway station and have only $2 left on my Metrocard. I bought a new $10 one.

On the No. 1 train, I sat down across from a black woman who read the NY Daily News. I opened up my subway book, IV by Chuck Klosterman, which I was more than halfway through.

At 96th Street, a guy wearing a yellow raincoat and a black eye patch walked into the subway. He stood in front of me and held the pole with one hand. he looked like J. Peterman from Seinfeld. He had a pin that said, "Dissent is patriotic."

At 72nd Street, the guy with the eye patch got off. He was replaced by a very very very gay man wearing a pink sweater, a scarf, and $300 leather shoes. I got off at Times Square and I rushed past a school group trying to get on the subway.

The Shuttle to Grand Central Station was covered in an advertisement pimping the 50 Greatest Moments in Madison Square Garden history. An image of NY Knicks guard Walt "Clyde" Frazier greeted me when I entered the subway car. When I exited the shutle at Grand Central, I quickly got irked with the slow walking pace of the people I was stuck behind.

I eventually met Jessica on corner of Lexington and 42nd Street for lunch and we walked over to a diner on 40th and Third, where I ordered a cheeseburger deluxe and an iced tea. Jessica pointed out some corrections for the latest draft of JTSMD that she edited.

On my way back from lunch, I finished Chuck Klosterman's book on the subway. Actually I skimmed the last 30 pages which is sort of a fictional piece called You Tell Me that he wrote about being a movie critic in Akron. It's not as witty or amusing as his music writing so I took the liberty of skimming the rest, just so I can say I read all of his books cover to cover.

When I got home, I emailed one of the publications that I write for my biweekly column after reading it over twice. I knew it was a C+ at beat but I didn't care. Most of the other writers for the same publication are hacks and my shitty work is better than their greatest hits.

At 3:27pm, I got an email from my friend Ryan who had an interesting investment opportunity. He admitted, "You're entitled to exclusive entry in my latest harebrained get-rich-quick scheme."

The last time I partook in a business venture with him, we ended up turning a small profit. While there is no guarantee that we'll have the same results, I was immediately interested in getting involved in another joint business venture.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon compiling the necessary data for the updates for various Pauly's Pub fantasy pools while I watched My Morning Jacket's DVD version of Okononos. I have tickets to two different MMJ concerts over the next six weeks in NYC and San Francisco. Seeing the DVD got me fired up to see my new favorite band.

I stumbled upon the trailer for Rocky 6 aka Rocky Balboa, which I sent to Derek and The Rooster. Five minutes later, the Rooster responded by saying he was doing push ups while watching the trailer for the sixth consecutive time.

Within fifteen minutes of the Stock Market closing, I checked my investments. By then it was 4:20 and I was ready for a smoke break.

Ten minutes later, The Rooster sent me an email explaining the female psyche...
"I wanted the old reliable session...let me pull your hair, keep those tall black boots on from J. Crew and let me pull down your Victoria secret/La Perla panties down to your ankles, pull up that cute Ann Taylor loft skirt that your folks got you for x-mas and let me fuck the shit out of you and jizz on the skirt like Slick Willie did to Monica."
I decided to reread Otis' piece called A Drunkard's Dream and wept.

I bought a ticket on JetBlue leaving JFK on the morning of December 30th and arriving in Long Beach later that afternoon. My tickets to MMJ's New Year's Eve show at The Fillmore in San Francisco arrived the day before and I also got a sweet deal on a hotel room one block from Union Square. All Nicky has to do is rent a car (no way her Satun can make the trip from Hollyweird to Frisco and back) and we're set for NYE.

I also bought my uncle a Rachael Ray cookbook for Christmas via Amazon. He has no idea who she is but his cooking skills could use a boost.

Derek eventually came home from work and bought me a six inch tuna sub on wheat bread. I watched The OC and played in a private tournament that my buddy CC set up. The OC was lame, but Summer is pretty hot.

I eventually went on to win the tournament... which was special because I have not won a tournament in sometime. In the past week I finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in two other tournaments. I guess you can say going 1-2-3 is not too bad in the bigger picture.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...

1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
2. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
3. The Magus by John Fowles
4. The Collectors by David Baldacci
5. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream by Paulo Coelho

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tao of Flickr

I spent most of this week working on photo galleries for two of my blogs. I decided to partner up with Flickr and opened accounts for both the Tao of Pauly and the Tao of Poker. My filing system will be pretty easy... all poker photos will be stored in the Tao of Poker photo gallery and the rest will go over to the Tao of Pauly gallery.

Here are the Tao of Poker's new photo galleries:
Tao of Poker's Flickr Page
2006 WSOP Black & White Photos
2006 WSOP Main Event
2006 WSOP Vol. I
WPT Championships (May 2006)
WPT Invitational (Feb. 2006)
LA Poker Classic (Feb. 2006)
Borgata Winter Open (Jan. 2006)

These are ongoing projects and should be considered works in progress. If I have time this weekend, I'll complete the Tao of Poker photo gallery and include various WPBT events, WPT, EPT, and the 2005 WSOP. Stop back from time to time to glimpse at some of the best photos that I snapped while covering various poker tournaments.

By the way, click here to view one of my favorite pictures from the 2006 WSOP. Good stuff, Wil.

Oh, and I got one comment. In case you were wondering, the first ever comment on my Tao of Pauly Flickr page was... Liz Lieu!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Another Amsterdam Photo Dump and Flickr Pauly

I finally broke up with Buzznet. I'm now seeing Flickr. I uploaded some photos from Vegoose and Amsterdam over to my new photo blog aka flog at Flickr. Take a peek at:
Amsterdam 2006 photos
Vegoose 2006 photos
Tao of Pauly Flickr
And here are some random pics that may or may not appear on Flickr:


My Morning Breakfast

Poster at Grey Area

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


By Pauly
Amsterdam, Holland

I didn't sleep much the night before. I spent those insomnia-driven hours between 4 and 6am playing online poker and writing from the desk in our room at The Victoria. I eventually passed out around sunrise, which is like close to 8am in Holland. That's when I took the picture to the right.

I woke up starving a few hours later after smoking myself sober for the first time in days. Nicky and I headed out to Dam Square to take part in what had become our daily ritual. We bought kaas sandwiches on baguettes and a chocolate croissant at the French bakery and sat on benches in Dam Square warding off the attacks of hungry pigeons and watched all the other tourists mingling around. Like everything European, even the pigeons in Amsterdam seemed way more sophisticated and cooler than their American counterparts.

We had no set plan for that Thursday. We spent the better part of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons around the Southern Canal belt over by the museums and Leiseplein Square. We had already visited the main attractions... the Heineken Brewery, the Rijks Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum and were not interested in the Anne Frank House, which I had seen twice before. That left the entire day free... and the best activity I could come up with was, "Hey let's go to ten hash bars today?"

Nicky shrugged her shoulders and motioned, "OK."

I didn't think we'd actually do it and when the night was over, we'd go to twelve in all. Twelve hashbars in twelve hours? I'm glad I did that because records are meant to be broken. The intent on the plan was to visit different coffeeshops that we skipped on this trip or that I had never been to before.

12:15pm Abraxas

One of those new places was Abraxas, located just steps away from Dam Square. I went there on my second trip to Amsterdam and got lost trying to find it after that. And it's not easy to find, hidden off a twisting alley on Jonge Roelensteeg Street which was tough to pin point even with the help of Google's maps.

Maybe it was because I was dead sober or perhaps it was luck, but we found Abraxas and walked inside as the sliding glass doors opened in front of us and the aroma of pungent marijuana instantly greeted me.

Abraxas is a two story coffeeshop that consists of several smaller themed rooms. The first room that you walk into was a lounge area with the weed counter close by. I purchased one gram of the Kushage for 10 euros while Nicky went into the next room to buy drinks at the bar. The bar room also had a few computers so it doubled as an internet cafe.

After Nicky paid for our drinks (coffee and hot chocolate), we wandered up one of two sets of spiral staircases that were located on opposite ends of Abraxas. We settled on the Turkish themed room with colorful couches and benches.

When you walk into a hashbar in Amsterdam, you'll almost always meet other American potheads. Not that time. The room was filled with Europeans getting hammered. The Greek guys next to us rolled a joint the size of John Holmes' crank. They never finished it. The table across from us had two Swedish girls who couldn't stop giggling the entire time. And a Euro-wookie with newly formed dreads sat by himself while he rolled two joints mixed with tobacco, hashish, and weed.

1:20pm Grey Area

Our second stop was the Grey Area, which had become one of my favorite coffeeshops because of their house strain called Grey Haze. That instance I wanted to try the Recon, which sold for 12 euros for one gram compared to 10 euros for the Grey Haze. The Recon is a hybrid of the L.A. Confidential Strain and something else (I forgot the name). It had a sweet taste and a stoney high, but it wasn't as good as Grey Haze.

During our previous visits to Grey Area, I had to stand while Nicky took the only remaining stool by the wall of stickers. More good luck found our way when the corner table opened up. There were only three tables in the tiny hashbar which the entire operation could fit inside the bathroom in one of the suites at the Bellagio.

Two American wookies sat at the table next to us. One was a young guy and the other was a little older and looked like Lou Reed circa 1977 (except with dreads). They kept taking bong hits. Since Grey Area is owned by Americans, several glass bongs were on hand for bong-centric Americans.

The other table opened up and a fat guy from Staten Island and his wife lumbered in. He looked like an extra from The Sopranos. Imagine Big Pussy walking into a hashbar in Amsterdam, with some bling dangling off his neck and wearing a black leather jacket. He bought something at the counter and packed a bowl in one of the bongs. He took two quick hits before he got up and brought the bong back to the counter with about 75% left of that bowl still fresh and green. Then he left.

We stayed at Grey Area a long time because we had prime seats. When we finally left, we wandered through the quaint and quiet Jordaan neighborhood, parts of which reminded me of the West Village in NYC. Those empty streets were free of tourists and I got a glimpse of the subtler and serene side of Amsterdam. I snapped several pics of houseboats, trees, and slanty buildings before I glimpsed at the map to navigate our way back towards Central Station.

2:30pm Pink Floyd

We turned a corner and stood right in front of the Pink Floyd. My shortcut worked thanks to the accurate street map I bought last year. We had plenty of weed to smoke but were almost out of hash. The Pink Floyd was the home my favorite hash... Umma Gumma. Ironically, it was the only Pink Floyd albums that I never bought either on vinyl, cassette tape, CD, or on iTunes.

With Umma Gumma in hand, we went up to the third story. We visited Pink Floyd everyday and always hung out downstairs. I opted for the third floor to mix things up. The second floor overlooked the bar downstairs and had a couple of huge couches and an area with a computer station.

The third floor consisted of six tables and two couches by the windows. We snapped more photos of the street. I took what ended up being my favorite picture of the entire trip and one of the Top 10 photographs in my life.

What's great about it is that the average person will think it's ordinary and nothing special... which is why I love it even more.

We continued our marathon game of Chinese Poker and I fell behind early when Nicky scooped two hands in a row and took a 8-1 lead. I came from behind to only lose the session by one point as we smoked tough and dented the hunk of Umma Gumma that I had bought an hour earlier.

3:50pm Doors

The Doors was one of those places we skipped everytime we walked by. I did not intend on going but when we saw it on the corner, Nicky said, "Hey let's stop by there."

The Doors reminded me of a dive bar in Seattle with hardwood floors and an actual bar that is almost a hundred years old. A group of Brits sat at the big table in the front sipping on beers and cokes while we sat down at two empty spaces at the end of the bar. We didn't buy any smoke there and settled upon two pints of Heineken for 7 euros.

An old blackboard behind the bar dubbed as a menu. In pink and blue chalk, they list all the drinks and their prices. I chuckled when I saw, "Whiskey (Good) 3.50" and "Whiskey (Better) 4.00." Yeah for 3.50 you can get Jack Daniels and for fifty cents more you can get Johnnie Walker.

Nicky was fascinated with MTV that played on the small screen above the bar. She watched an entire episode of Yo Momma with Dutch sub titles while I rolled a joint mixed with Umma that we smoked at 4:20.

They have a tap of SoCo ready for AlCantHang's arrival.

4:30pm Pablow Picasso

Yes, Pablo... we got you a souvenir at Pablow Picasso. And no... it's not hash or weed. Picasso was another one of those hashbars we walked past a dozen times and never went inside. I'm glad we did because I enjoyed the relaxed vibe of the place.

The Dutch guy who worked the counter wore a ruffled purple shirt ala Austin Powers. He bowed to us before he took our order. I wanted the house bud, Picasso, but they were virtually out of it... with only some shake remaining. That was fine since I wanted to roll joints. We wandered up to the second floor which had several tables with chess and backgammon boards embedded into the tables.

I bought enough shake to roll two fatties. A middle-aged French couple sat at the table next to us and they smoked hash while we played another round of Chinese Poker. Someone's dog ran up the stairs and hung out by our table for a while and would disappear and reappear sometime after.

A long-haired American at an adjacent table and talked shit about politics. The other American at the table didn't care and seemed like he was just placating the guy who ranted on and on about the latest election results. He then proceeded to tell the guy about his idea for a comic book involving demons and ghost hunters. That's when I guessed correctly that he's older than me, living in his mother's basement, and flew to Amsterdam to get high and bang a few hookers during his vacation.

7:05pm 420 Cafe

With five hashbars out of the way, we took an hour off to find food. After our break (I ate fries with Dutch mayo and a half baguette sandwich), we went right to Nicky's favorite spot, the 420 Cafe. They serve liquor there and have SoCo. The 420 Cafe is an Amstel bar which means no Heineken. It doesn't matter which beer they have... the Heineken and Amstel out of the tap taste much better overseas.

My favorite hot Dutch bartender worked behind the bar as we walked past her on our way to the back counter to buy one gram of the NYC Super Diesel for 10 euros. I went to the bar and bought a round of Amstels while Nicky waited for a vaporized balloon, a cool contraption where they hook up a big baggie to a vaporizer. All the smoke inflates the balloon and you inhale from the end of it. Because it was vaporized, the smoke is much purer and you get higher than normal.

A group of American kids sat at the table in the back and they talked about how much better the coffee is in Europe. The stuff we'd get for 1.50 euros in hashbars was better than the stuff you get at Starbucks.

7:45pm Dampkring

The Dampkring was always a popular hashbar that grew even more famous after Soderberg shot a portion of Ocean's Twelve inside which included the hilarious scene with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. Because of the new found popularity, the place was swamped.

We couldn't find a seat and stood in the middle of the Dampkring. I bought another gram of Buddha's Sister which only cost me 9 Euros. Aside from the Grey Haze and NYC Diesel, my other favorite strain was Buddha's Sister. We smoked a bowl in the middle of the bar while several flat screen TV's played the Dampkring Scene from Ocean's Twelve on a loop.

8:10pm Bulldog

We quickly left the Dampkring because of lack of seats although I wanted to stay. We headed back to the Bulldog to play more Chinese Poker. A group of older Americans sat next to us. Two of them were a forty-something married couple who had not smoked up since 1989. I listened to parts of the conversation and figured out that she was a college professor of sorts. The hash hit her hard and she kept singing along to the music playing in the background.

"Oh my Prince! I haven't heard Raspberry Beret in years," she screamed.

We spent over an hour at the Bulldog before we exited and eyed Haagen Daz, which is actually not an European ice cream like you think. It was invented by a guy from the Bronx in 1961 and they employed foreign branding tactics to market the high end ice cream. Sorry for that odd tangent... I ordered two scoops of Belgium chocolate and I nearly had an orgasm by the second bite. Get the Belgium chocolate overseas. You won't be disappointed.

We sat in front of the ice cream shop and watched the late night scene unfold before we walked around Leiseplein for a bit. We almost went into a bar with live music, but the fiddle sounds scared Nicky.

9:45pm Rokerij

Rokerij is a popular hashbar chain. I went once and but haven't been back to the main one since because I couldn't find it. A newer franchise sat next to the Doors but we skipped it. We stumbled upon the original hashbar on Leidsestraat Street by sheer accident and were happy we did.

The weed counter is the first thing you see when you walk inside the place designed to look like a temple out of the far east. I bought one gram of Sour Diesel. Showcase gets that stuff in Hollyweird from his medicinal marijuana source and it's a high quality buzz. We eventually found seats at the bar and I order more beer while I rolled a joint.

The bar is long and dark with a DJ mixing delicious tunes in the back room. The floor is covered in mosaic tiles with Hindu and Nepali artwork adorning all the walls. There are tiny stools to sit on near the floor and tables with chairs along the wall that runs parallel to the bar.

The Rokerij was the party place out of all the hashbars we visited that night and packed with travelers, tourists, locals, and wookies. Maybe I was super wasted at that point, but with all the random and odd characters mingling around, the Rokerij reminded me of the Cantina Bar in Star Wars IV. The only thing missing was Greedo's dead body slumped on a table in the corner.

Because the scene at Rokerij was hopping, we stayed a little longer. Plus they played the best music (aside form Pink Floyd when they actually played Pink Floyd) and it was difficult to leave the warmth of the place. I joked around with Nicky that some of the bands that we like to see such as Particle, STS9, and Lotus are bands trying to replicate those same beats using a live band instead of a DJ with a mixing table.

11:15pm La Canna

The hoods invaded La Canna and every night they take over the top floor of the three story coffeeshop. There are pool tables up there and the entire place was packed with lots of Dutch immigrants from West Africa. We weren't getting a good vibe from the place and got away with sitting down and not ordering any drinks. La Canna is more pricey than the rest of the places we hung out at.

We didn't buy any bud their either since the smallest amount you could buy was 20 euros. We smoked the rest of the Buddha's Sister and the Umma Gumma before we made a quick exit. We saw one guy was getting in a fight in front of La Canna on our way out.

11:35pm Kroon

With ten hashbars in the record books, we wandered into Kroon, the first coffeeshop we visited upon our arrival almost a week earlier. We had not been back since and the stoned cat still slept on the counter.

I bought 1.4 grams of AK-47 for 14 euros and we rolled a couple of joints. By that point, we were both exhausted from all the walking and smoking and our colorful conversations died down to next to nothing as we listened to the gangster rap that blasted on the speakers.

12:05am Kadinsky

The twelfth and final hash bar ended up being a tiny coffeeshop called Kadinsky located in an alley off of Dam Square. I wanted to go because it's named after one of my favorite painters. Their sister store is a much larger bar just across the alley. We sat in one of the smallest hashbars in Amsterdam. Yes, there was an actual place smaller than the Grey Area.

I bought the Kadinsky Special which was one gram for 7.20 euros. I rolled up a joint and we were the only people inside. We sat up front by the window and watched the people that walked by in the alley.

By the time we stumbled out of Kadinsky, it was way past Midnight. I suggested more hashbars and Nicky insisted that she was done for the night. On our way back to the Victoria Hotel, I stopped off at McDonald's and ate a McBacon which cost only 2 Euros. See the video below which captured the hijinks.

Nicky posted her version called Twelve Bars (Part I).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Amsterdam Videos

Here are two videos called McBacon and Amsterdam. The McBacon (length is 0:40) is self explanatory as I jump off the deep end and eat a McBacon. The other Amsterdam video (length is 5:04) includes random clips taken around the city including bits of the Heineken Brewery tour. Enjoy!

If you are reading the Tao of Pauly through Bloglines or a feedreader, in order to view the You Tube videos, you have to click through to my blog or click through these links: McBacon and Amsterdam.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Grey Haze

During my first trip to Amsterdam in the mid-1990s, I spent less than a week here and I filled up a small notebook with notes, thoughts, memories, and priceless quotes from Senor.

This particular trip, my notes are barely seven pages in total... not including one page that listed all the strains of mary jane I smoked, one page that itemized the majority of my daily purchases, and another that I used as a scorecard for my heads up Chinese Poker matches against Nicky. That leaves only four pages of actual notes that are peppered with three and four word entries like, "1:58pm... I thought I lost the hash."

I'm not even taking a ton of photos. My memory is better these days but my focus is more on living in the moment that trying to record what's been happening. I'm in the middle of a well welcomed phase of "Live now, write later." Even this entry is rushed as I gave myself less than an hour to read email and update both the Taos.

My first meal of the day has been pretty much the same thing for the entire trip. Nicky and I wake up around noon and head over to the French bakery a few blocks from our hotel on the Damrak. We pick up baguette sandwiches and eat them while sitting on benches in Dam Square as we make fun of the street performers and shoo away the pigeons that swarm at our feet nibbling at flakes and crumbs that fall to the stone plaza ground.

For 4.75 Euros I get the equivalent of a foot long sub, except the sandwich is an inch or two shorter on a freshly baked baguette with a couple of slices of ham, salami, and two kinds of cheese... Dutch kaas and French brie. You can order it with Dutch mayonnaise or French mustard (more of a dijonaise). Sometimes I opt for a chocolate croissant as a dessert, which melts in your mouth. I could not think of a better combination of sweet and smooth Dutch chocolate baked into crispy croissants.

I got ripped off buying 200 euros at Newark Airport because I was lazy and never made it to my bank branch on Fifth Avenue in NYC which offered a much better rate. I cashed $500 at an exchange place near Leiseplein on Monday away from the overpriced tourist traps near Central Station and got a much better rate (500 US for 362 euros).

Nicky misplaced her wallet before she left LA last week. She left it in the rental car that we used to drive to Vegoose and Las Vegas. Without an ATM card and no credit cards, she borrowed money and showed up to Amsterdam with 300 euros to her name. Between the two of us we started with 862 euros. We have about 250 left and want to see if we can last through Friday on that.

I had a hectic fifteen minute stretch at the Bulldog the other day. I smoked too much Silver Haze as a Paris Hilton song played on the stereo and I freaked out when I thought I lost a baggie of hash I carried in my jacket pocket. I didn't care about the bag or the monetary cost of the lost drugs. I was worried that I misplaced it and the hunk would end up in the pocket of my jeans or in a different pocket and I'd unknowingly take it home with me and get busted at a security checkpoint or in customs while sweating my ass off like Billy Hayes in the airport raid scene from Midnight Express who had several kilos of hash duct taped to his ball sac.

I went to the Rijks Museum despite the ongoing renovation. The collection was sparse and they featured a special exhibit of Rembrandt's sketches. Those were basic throw away sketches that he never intended to show anyone. It's remarkable that pieces of paper he wanted to toss had artwork on it that's 95% more powerful than anything has come along in the last 370 years. To experience that exhibition was both humbling and inspiring.

I had one of the best hot chocolates I've ever drank at the Other Side coffee shop near the flower market. It wondered if they melted real chocolate into milk? I finally found the Grey Area, which is owned by two Americans. My brother went there a few years ago and it's off the main drag, tucked away off a canal. It's a tiny tiny tiny coffee shop with just three tables and a few stools. There's never any space to sit as the place is always crowded no matter what time of the day it is. The walls are splattered with various stickers. I saw plenty of Widespread Panic and String Cheese Incident stickers, along with a Phish poster plugging their gig at the Paradiso in 1996.

Some of the best bud I smoked in Amsterdam was the Grey Haze which you can only get at the Grey Area. It wasn't the most expensive but it sure was the best high. One bowl got the always stoned Nicky baked.

In the late afternoons, we succumb to the munchies and are unable to ward off their advances. That's when I go for something sweet like a chocolate croissant or chocolate covered waffles. There's two things that there's an abundance of in Amsterdam... chocolate and cheese. Mostly everything has either of the two incorporated into it. I also dig the Belgium fries or frites with mayonnaise. I can eat an entire serving in less than three minutes.

My dinner meals included a fillet at an Argentinean steak joint. It seems that all of the steak places in Amsterdam are run by the Argentineans. Another night, I ate Italian food with Nicky. She got a four cheese creamy sauce with tortellini while I devoured pasta with arrabiata sauce that was so spicy that my bald spot became devastatingly drenched with sweat like the Ninth Ward in New Orleans was flooded after Katrina hit.

I decided that Umma Gumma is my favorite hashish. You can only get it at Pink Floyd's coffee shop and we've been there every day since our arrival. The Umma Gumma is a mellow body high that doesn't make you tired. It's speedy, which is perfect for dusting bowls and joints throughout the day.

The Heineken Brewery tour is well worth the 10 euros admission. Since we're in town during the off season, the Brewery wasn't super crowded and we went on the tour at our own pace. I drank three beers for free and Heineken tastes different in Holland. It's hard to describe aside from the fact it's smooth. Smoother. I can drink it like water.

After the tour, we smoked and played Chinese Poker at the Bulldog. We sat next to a couple from Greece. The guy looked like writer Arthur Nersesian and his girlfriend was at least half his size and half his age. They got hammered and fumbled through their map before stumbling out of the bar.

I stopped off at the Grey Bar to pick up more Grey Haze and a sketchy looking Asian gangster guy was passed out at one of the tables. He looked like he was riding the H train and kept nodding in and out of consciousness.

Nicky's favorite joint to hang out is the 420 Cafe. It's one of the few places that serve beer and liquor in the same area as you can purchase and smoke weed and hash. The glasses of Amstel are 1.90 euros and the bartenders are Dutch blonde beauties. They have a good selection of herbal supplements and also have a vaporizer. When we stopped in, the place was crowded with old American hippies... about a dozen of them mostly from Texas. They were loud, obnoxious, and doing shots of tequila. One of the chicks kept talking about Bill Nershi leaving String Cheese Incident and the band breaking up at the end of the Summer of 2007.

The Victoria Hotel offers up a free breakfast buffet from 6:30 to 10am, but we've never been up in time to partake until this morning. They had a hybrid Dutch and English breakfast which included beans and toast. We got up early this morning and went, which meant I ate weird eggs and potato pancakes with Vienna sausage, raw bacon, and baked beans. I also had some Dutch cheese and made a raw bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. The freshly squeezed OJ hit the spot but I'm still shocked that Europeans eat their bacon raw and barely cooked. They must toss it on the grill for less than a minute. I like my bacon burnt to a crisp.

I bought a lighter in a vending machine and opened up a huge lead playing Nicky in Chinese Poker. She got pretty pissed off at me yesterday and refused to talk to me for an hour after I sent her on tilt. She's over it now... and we even played a few hours ago. The other day, we sat through an hour of horrendous migraine inducing Eurotrash techno pop at the La Canna coffee shop that would make Dieter's (from Sprockets) nipples stand erect as three wasted girls from Spain wearing tight jeans with big white belts at the table next to us couldn't stop screaming. I couldn't tell if it was the Himalayan hash or the music that whipped them into a trance-like frenzy. The voguish club tunes didn't faze Nicky, who put up a good fight despite the ovbious distraction.

We went to the Van Gogh Museum and had another one of those humbling/inspiring experiences which I'll write up when I get back to NYC. We ate the Mexican cubensis shrooms and got pretty jiggy. Nicky got a little too wasted and couldn't handle being in public so we left one of the coffee shops and hung out in the hotel room and listened to 90% of Widespread Panic's Vegoose set which was almost three hours long. Eventually, she had come down to a more serene point of her trip and we wandered around in the rain. We ate some Belgium frites and walked over to the Red Light District. Nicky checked out more of the hookers and the shady guys on the intersections of the bridges along the canals who were selling hard core drugs. One guy was pitching Viagra. And I thought... "That's fuckin' genius!"

Pop a blue pill. Than bang a hooker. Why didn't I think of that racket first? That dude selling penis pills in the heart of the Red Light District was swamped with clients.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Amsterdam Pic Dump

Here are a few pics that I took the last two days, which included a tour of the Heineken Brewery. Feel free to click on the pics to see an enlarged view.

Canal at dusk

Wall at Grey Area Coffeeshop

View from my room at the Victoria

Spock Heineken Ad


Brewing beer

Three free Heinekens

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dam Day 1 and Picture Dump

I met up with Nicky at Newark Airport in front of the Garden State Diner. Her flight from LAX got in an hour before I arrived. I would have been there earlier, but I had two hold ups. The security line was backed up and I got stuck behind about a dozen people who acted like they've never traveled in the post 9.11 era. But before that, I fucked up trying to check in. I attempted a shortcut by going to self-help kiosk since I traveled light and had two small bags including my laptop. I couldn't figure out how to scan my passport so I could verify my existence. I eventually figured it out fifteen minutes later and at exactly 4:20pm, I logged into the system. Fitting, I thought, considering I was embarking on a journey to Amsterdam.

KLM is a superior airline (which I flew last year) to Continental Airlines which I just flew. Our flight was ten minutes early and I was shocked to discover Continental offered dinner service and free movies. I skipped the movies and watched three episodes of Heroes that I downloaded to my iPod at the recommendation of my brother, Grubby, and BG.

Nicky popped a Xanax just before takeoff and passed out while I slept for less than an hour. The train from the airport to Central Station in Amsterdam took eleven minutes. The Victoria Hotel was located a block and a half from the train station and we didn't have to walk far. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we dropped off our luggage and went in search for a coffee shop and hash bar that was open at 9:30am.

We found one named Kroon ran by these sketchy Iranian dudes who let their cat lounge away on the counter. The entire time we were there, the cat slept or had passed out from all the smoke because the tiny cafe was packed with early morning stoners and travelers with lots of luggage smoking up one last time before they leave Amsterdam.

Nicky bought a couple of grams of NYC Diesel and I rolled two joints before we wandered around and stopped at a French style bakery. We sat in Dam Square and ate chocolate croissants as the Sunday morning city scene unfolded. Locals were heading out to go shopping while tourists were scurrying past us on their way home.

We stopped off La Canna, a coffee shop with pool tables. By 11am, I had bought 20 euros worth of Himalayan hash and downed a Heineken as we sat next to two female German teenagers getting smashed before their train left. By noon, I scored Mexican Happy shrooms for 15 euros.

Our room at the Victoria Hotel was ready around 2pm and my exhausted body fell out for a nap. I jumped out of bed two hours later when I heard pounding on the door. By accident the genius at the front desk assigned our room to an old Italian man with a cane who had been knocking on the door with said cane. Security came up and demanded to see my passport. The guard called downstairs and eventually the mess was cleared up.

First rip off of the trip? Having to pay 88 Euros for unlimited wifi in the hotel area (my room, lobby, bar, and cafe). But that's a business expense, so it's being written off.

We ate dinner at an Italian joint on Haarlemmerstraat Street for 19 euros for the both of us. I ate a bowl of pasta with Bolognese sauce and although the serving size was small, the sauce was surprisingly tasty. After dinner, we walked two blocks down the street to the Pink Floyd Coffee Shop. It's a sorta famous three story hash bar that happens to sell the highly recommended "Mother's Finest" for 10 euros a gram. Nicky noticed a strain called "Hot Tits."

"I named that after my wife," the Dutch grower behind the counter said as he took out a huge knife and cut off a chunk of hashish for a German guy in front of us. "She hated that name. She's now my ex-wife. But my brothers-in-law still come in about once a week and laugh whenever they see it."

We sat down at a table in the back. A middle-aged couple at a nearby table played chess while they smoked cigarettes spiked with hash. The stereo blasted music that was not Pink Floyd, and I heard The Killers hit Mr. Brightside before a block of Lenny Kravtiz songs came on such as Mr. Cab Driver and Are You Gonna Go My Way.

Nicky and I began a series of heads up Chinese Poker matches. We were playing 10 euros a point and would keep a running tally for the remainder of the week. After the first round of action, I opened up a 15 point lead over everyone's favorite Hollyweird blonde. You can stop by the Tao of Poker to monitor our Chinese Poker progress.

We left Pink Floyd's around 10pm and I took Nicky over to the Red Light District. She had never before seen the infamous hookers as they stood in the doorways with pink and red neon lights.

"They weren't scary. I'm glad they get to stand indoors and not have to hook out in the cold," she said about her first glimpse of the Red Light District.

I bought a chocolate covered waffle at dessert shop a few blocks from the hookers and we wandered into another hash bar. I spent a lot of time at the 420 Cafe last year when I visited Amsterdam. They serve cheep Amstel for 1.90 euros a glass and have a sizzling hot blonde bartender. I bought a gram of Neville's Haze for 11 euros and it ended up tasting better than the Mother's Finest and gave me a headier high. So far, the best stuff I smoked was the NYC Diesel. I'll have to pick up some more this morning before I head over to the museums.

Here are some photos I took on Sunday:

McBacon for Daddy

Mural at La Canna Coffeeshop

TC's Dutch HQ

Frites with Mayo

For Ryan...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Vegoose Day 2

The Joker rolled into our room around 6am as the eye piercing sunlight screamed through a tiny crack in the curtains. After catching STS9's late night show a few hours earlier, we were a little late getting to the second and final day of the Vegoose music festival. Most folks were heading to church, but thousands of spun out neo-hippies and indie rock hipsters were converging on Sam Boyd Stadium to soak up the last remnants of Vegoose.

On Saturday, we saw 16 different bands and musical acts. For Sunday, that list would be much smaller since there were specific artists that we wanted to see and wouldn't be wandering around as much. The Sunday lineup was much stronger and featured Widespread Panic closing out the festival with a three hour set scheduled on the main stage along with a highly anticipated Phil Lesh and Trey Anastasio collaboration that also featured John Medeski on keyboards.

We quickly showered and changed into our costumes. The traffic on Tropicana was light and we stopped off again to get Texas Toaster breakfast sandwiches at Sonic.

"We should get two," suggested The Joker. "Today's going to be a big day. We need the extra energy burst."

The Joker and I ate two each in a matter of minutes while Nicky only had one. By the time the night ended, she wished she had two.

We got into the lot later than expected and missed the tail end of Built to Spill. When I asked BTreotch his recommendations for Vegoose, Built to Spill was at the top of his list. Originally from Boise, Idaho, I first heard about Built to Spill when I lived in Seattle. I caught one show in the late 1990s in a shitty dive bar in Seattle and another show in San Francisco in 2001. They're often listed as indie rockers but their sound is more like a combination of Neil Young meets Modest Mouse.

Sadly, we missed Built to Spill but could hear the last few songs of their set as we wandered through Shakedown Street which was jumping with activity. I didn't take two steps into Shakedown before I was offered a plethora of party favors. The doctor's costume attracted a bevy of pill heads and kids slinging drugs. I couldn't walk for more than five seconds without hearing faint whispers of "Rolls. Pharmies. Heady nuggets. Opium. Doses. Molly."

I stopped one scruffy look kid with a tie-dye shirt. He had a Southern accent and I realized the influx of people in the lot were Spreadheads in town to Widespread Panic's Vegoose set and their Halloween show on Monday.

"Pharmies. Pharmies," he whispered.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Zannies bars," he answered in his twang

"Break for five?" I said.

"Five for 25," he answered as he put his hand into the pocket of his hoodie and cupped his hand over mine. I slowly unfurled my hand and saw five Zannie bars. I slid him a twenty dollar bill and a five spot and we both disappeared.

In case you don't know what went down, I'll translate that last passage for you...
"I'm selling pharmaceutical drugs. Are any of you law abiding American citizens interested in purchasing pharmaceutical drugs?"

"What are you selling?" I asked.

"Xanax. 2mg Xanax pills," he answered.

"If I purchase bulk quantities, can I work out some sort of discount?" I asked.

"Yes. I can sell you five pills for $25."
Yeah, I picked up a fistful of Xanax which helps insomniacs like me fall asleep after partying for a few days straight. A crusty chick sold me a couple of rolls and I scored some molly off of a sketched out kid with dirty fingernails and a STS9 hat which he wore sideways. We stocked up before the show and headed into the show, but not before I was stopped a dozen times by random people looking to buy drugs.

"Hey Doc, you got any nuggets?"

"Hey Doc, any pharmies?"

"You selling rolls, Doc?"

"Doc, I have back pain, can you hook me up with medical weed?"

That pretty much went on for ten straight hours as random people walked over to me to either try to buy or sell me drugs.

We got to the stage where Galactic was playing just in time to see them come out at 2:30pm. Nicky and I caught the boys from New Orleans a week earlier at the House of Blues in Hollyweird and I saw three shows at the end of the summer in Colorado with The Joker. Those four shows restored my faith in Galactic as they finally got their groove back after the Houseman left the band and after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their city, homes, instruments, and practice space.

Galactic opened up with The Moil as we noticed a group of chicks wearing all pink with pink boas and other feather like accouterments. They were part of the Pink Flamingo crew and we'd see them over the next few hours. Rich Vogel experienced technical problems with his keyboard so Stanton Moore did a quick drum solo while they corrected the problem. After Vogel's keys were fixed, they ripped into FEMA which is a dark and funky song with serious political undertones. The highlight was an ass shaking and slamming version of Doublewide.

The G-men introduced Blackalicious onto stage and he rapped while they played. Galactic got a bunch of hip hop artists to do vocals on their new album and we caught a glimpse of some of that collaboration. I dig Blackalicious, but I would have preferred to have seen Galactic play by themselves for an hour. He left after a few songs and they busted out Spiderbite before they introduced Ladybug Mecca from The Digable Planets. She sang on a few songs including a cover of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir to close the set.

We were buzzed on the verge of getting properly fucked up when The Joker told me about his idea for a costume next year.

"I want to dress up like Chewbacca and hand out stickers to everyone around me that say 'I partied with Wookies' or 'I danced with Wookies'," he said in a straight face.

I couldn't stop laughing. His idea was so good that I wanted to make t-shirts and sell them at various concerts and music festivals.

We skipped Guster at the Cabaret Tent and headed over to catch the second half of The Rhythm Devils featuring both drummers from The Grateful Dead (Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart) along with Mike Gordon from Phish, Jen Durkin from Deep Banana Blackout, Steve Kimock, and Sikiru Adepoju.

The played a couple of Dead and one Phish song which seems to be the "cool thing" these days as members of Phish and The Grateful Dead have been playing with one another and covering each band's songs. We caught a hot version of The Eleven which segued into The Wedge with Mike on vocals that got the crowd all fired up. They also played Fire on the Mountain and Lovelight (which they started at exactly 4:20pm) before they closed with Good Lovin'. The Joker was worried that we'd be seeing two hours of drums and space. We were pleased with their Phishy-Dead related efforts.

During the Rhythm Devils set, The Joker sought out more people in costumes to deliver packages to. We found two guys dressed as characters from The Big Lebowski, which included The Dude and Walter. They even had a red Folgers coffee can which they carried around with "Donnie's ashes inside."

The Joker also delivered a package to a bunny with big tits who was at the festival with a dude dressed as Jack from Jack in the Box. As I tried to scribble down notes about the Joker's deliveries and write down the setlist for the Rhythm Devils, I was stopped by people wanting drugs. Without skipping a beat, I turned my small notebook to a new page and wrote down a faux prescription.

This one frat boy ran over and began screaming, "Doc, I need you to hook me up. Vicodin. Percosett. Klonapin. Oxycontin. Doc, you got get me some oxycontin."

I wrote down, "100mg Valium," and ripped off the piece of paper from my pad.

The frat boy looked down and screamed, "What the fuck? Valium? Fucking Valium? Fuck you Doc! I want something stronger."

We walked over to see the end of Fiona Apple. Another fragile female singer/songwriter took the stage and just like the 100,000 people who show up to watch every Nascar race because they might catch a glimpse of a wreck... we went to see Fiona Apple to see if she had a meltdown on stage.

What we did catch was her announcing that would be her last live performance. Ever. I dunno is she's being melodramatic or bummed out at the low attendance on her most recent tour. Regardless, she's got more musical talent in her left pinky toe than Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson combined. I kept teasing Nicky asking her, "What's the name of this song? I know you know!"

She actually knew the titles to a few of the songs. I pretty much zoned out and smoked up or ran to the beer stand to get Sierra Nevadas as The Joker sought out possible deliveries and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot made fun of all the indie rock kids who were "too cool to wear costumes."

At 5pm, we met Friedman, JW and some of The Jokers friends at the Ferris Wheel. That included Ziggy Stardust, Rainbow Brite, and Alice in Wonderland. Except Alice wasn't in her costume. Instead she wore a red wig and had wings.

"Nice butterfly costume," I joked.

"I'm not a butterfly," Alice insisted. "I'm a fairy. The anti-drug fairy. I'm going have to report you because you look like you've been doing drugs."

We made our way over the the main stage to see Phil and Trey's set. Since Daylight Savings Time kicked in, the 5:15 set was under complete darkness when they took the stage. Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell played a series of shows in San Francisco in April of 1999 with Phil Lesh. It was only a few months after Lesh's liver transplant and a friend had given him a few Phish bootlegs to listen to when he was in the hospital. Lesh dug them so much he asked Trey and Page to be a part of Phil and Phriends for a three show run at the Warfield Theatre. I caught one of those epic shows and that was my first glimpse into members of my two favorite bands playing on stage with each other including each other's original material.

When everyone asked about Trey & Phil's Vegoose set, I told them, "A for effort but a C for execution."

They gave it their all, but without being able to practice with everyone parts of their set were sloppy, chaotic, and flat. But when they clicked, it was amazing.

Also in the lineup with Trey and Phil were Jon Medeski from Medeski, Martin, & Wood (keyboards), John Molo (drums), Larry Campbell (guitar), and Christina Durfee (vocals). It was a tight lineup and Molo was a part of the 1999 Phil & Phriends shows with Trey and Phil.

The crowd went a little crazy when the opened up with the Grateful Dead's epic song Shakedown Street before Trey played one of his solo songs that we heard a few nights before at The Orleans. They segued into Row Jimmy and Trey fucked up. He was playing/singing in the wrong key. He apologized and started over as the crowd gave him a round of applause for admitting his mistake. I dig Trey, but no one could play and sing Row Jimmy like Jerry Garcia.

There's an entry in my notepad where I wrote in extremely sloppy handwriting:
6:48 Take mushrooms
By that point, the roll had already kicked in and I hit peak fuckedupness of the entire weekend. I'd be chasing that high the rest of my time in Las Vegas. That was just around the same time when I found our group dancing in a circle around our stuff and I huddled everyone together for a group hug.

Trey played another one of his slow songs before they did a lukewarm cover version of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. Then the crowd erupted in jubilation as Mike Gordon took the stage. He started out playing Trey's guitar before he switched over to banjo.

"Possum?" JW said to me.

They started playing a jam which resembled the beginning to Possum when it took a turn and they played Get Back on the Train (Phish song). Mike left the stage and they closed the set with a Dead sandwich that included Bird Song segueing into Help > Slip > Franklin's Tower.

Like I said before, Phil and Trey get an A for effort but a C for execution. I'm harshly critical of Trey's solo band which I've often referred to as his Phish cover band. At Vegoose, I dug Phil and Trey's Dead cover band. But if I want to see Dead covers, I'd go see Dark Star Orchestra.

After Phil & Trey and just before Panic, the Vegoose organizers announced the three best costumes. One of them were these dudes who dressed up like Ghostbusters and had ghosts on poles chasing them around. The flight crew from Two High Airlines (who the Joker gave packages to) also won along with three people dressed as a BLT.

By the time Widespread Panic took the stage, my brain was waterlogged in a mental puddle. I told JW that they'd open with Surprise Valley. I wanted to hear it but would have to wait for the second song. Instead they opened up with Climb to Safety which would be the beginning of three straight hours of Widespread Panic.

If you have a chance, download the show because it's the best Panic show I've seen since Mikey Houser died. After a one-two punch of Climb to Safety > Surprise Valley, I knew we were being treated to a special musical performance. The boys from Athens, GA never let up. Because they played one set and didn't take a break, they kept momentum going.

As one Spreadhead admitted, "I love Jimmy Panic!"

He was talking about new guitarist Jimmy Herring who shredded it up and took Panic's jams to places they had not been to since Mikey died.

In the first hour they also played Henry Parsons Died and Pigeons and a I lost my shit during a seventeen minute stretch when they busted out a funkified Rebirtha featuring Dave Schools on bong-rattling bass and a high-powered Tallboy.

Everyone in our group was properly intoxicated after a few dippies and at one point Nicky turned to me and said, "Rainbow Brite just smacked me in the ass!"

Girl on girl action always gets me hot. The Joker's friends from Boulder brought in a bottle of Jim Beam and I'd pick it up and take a swig in honor of Mikey Houser. I'd walk over to people in our group and say, "As your doctor, I advise you to take a swig of the nectar of the Gods."

The bottle of Jim Beam brought more flashbacks of my college days. That was the drink of choice back then and the shots brought that early 90s wild streak out in me. I kept feeling the rolls and mushrooms in waves. Just when I thought I was sober, I'd be attacked by a wave of wastedness.

There was a forty minute stretch of intense insanity when Panic played just three songs: Fishwater, Conrad > Thought Sausage and I got blown away by how amazing Jimmy Herrring sounded and was astonished by how one musician could elevate a band. He's no Mikey. No one can ever replace him, but for the first time since he died, Widespread Panic actually has a bright future with Jimmy Herring in the band. I hope they lock him up for a few years because I'm looking forward to see more Panic shows in the future.

I called Senor's cellphone during Papa's Home because that's his favorite Panic song. I never heard them play Little Wing before and I was impressed especially as they segued into a nostalgic Porch Song which gave me flashbacks of sitting on my porch at my fraternity house in Atlanta and listening to Panic while drinking cheap beer and smoking even cheaper weed.

The soul-numbing and funky Ribs and Whiskey has become one of my favorite Panic songs and I saw the best version of Good People with lots of JoJo jamming. They had been playing Good People at almost every show I saw in the past year either in New York City, Red Rocks, or in LA and they finally sucked me in.

At one point, JW pointed to the Eastern sky and we looked at a dozen or so planes getting in line to land at the airport.

"Bags of money," he said. "Bags of money."

He was right. Those planes were filled with loser who were ready to lose their shirts in Sin City. But not us, we were dancing our asses off.

They ended the set with a dark and devious Chilly Water and I ducked everytime the chorus came around. I was one if the tallest people in my group and being tall at shows is great except during Chilly Water when everyone throws water and the rest of their drinks around. Then there's that Panic Urban Myth that southern frat boys piss into water bottles and toss it around during Chilly Water. I'm sure that's just an urban legend, but I didn't want to take any chances and get drenched in piss so I ducked during the "As long as there's water, chilly wet water..." parts.

They rushed Ain't Life Grand for the encore because I think they ran out of time. Three hours of Jimmy Panic? Unreal and the highlight of Vegoose and the entire weekend. Shows like Panic's Vegoose performance restore my faith in a particular band and gets me all fired up to see them again. And again. I had all but given up on the notion of Panic in Atlanta for NYE. But after that show, I put it back on my list of potential NYE parties to attend.

After Panic's set we headed back out to Shakedown and I scored some more supplies during the post-Vegoose firesale. I actually drove as The Boulder crew climbed into the backseat. Eight? Nine of us? I forgot how many people I drove to the Orleans, but I made it safely. That was the biggest gamble of the trip and I came out ahead.

We were at The Orleans to see String Cheese Incident's late night 1am show. Nicky had never seen them but Alice was excited because it was her favorite band. The Cheese are from Boulder and their fans are an eclectic mix of happy Colorado hippies, spun out wookies, and Cheesekids.

The stage was decorated with a jungle theme including two huge screens on either side of the stage playing jungle images and animals like chimps and other monkeys.

Hunter S. Thompson gets a package

The Joker handed out more packages and we hit the floor when Cheese took the stage. Balloon monkeys were dropped from the ceiling as the band dressed up in animal costumes. A few Cirque de Soliel dancers were suspended above the stage on swings.

The Cheese plays light jammy music which was perfect for me as I came down from a mind-bending day of music and getting wasted.

Our favorite LA girl was weirded out by the high percentage of wookies and hard-core hippies at the Cheese show. 90% of the crowd was dressed up, but most of them wore rave-related party costumes more so than Halloween costumes.

"The wookies are scaring me," mentioned Nicky as a dreadlocked girl in a pink Jellyfish costume (which included an umbrella and tentacles illuminated by glowsticks) wandered by us.

... to be continued