Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wait, It's Thursday?

Since I don't work the conventional Monday thru Friday 9-5 lifestyle, I have a difficult time keeping track of days of the week. When I work in Las Vegas, I lose time outright and have no clue if it's the 26th or 27th or if it's Wednesday.

That's how I've felt this past week covering the LA Poker Classic. All I know is that today is Day 5 of a six day event and if it weren't for the headings on my blog, I'd have no idea the actual day.

Yes, it's the last day of February and I could not be happier because this month was one of the worst in recent years. I was sick for the entire month and had a lot of weird and penty of bad shit went down with the travel nightmare at JFK and other random things that I'd rather not discuss in an open forum.

If you include the huge hit that the stock market took yesterday, it added to the misery. I was stuck almost 3K by the end of the trading day with nothing I could do but watch as the Chinese stock market's 9% drop rippled through the world's financial markets. Luckily the bleeding was just temporary.

The only piece of good news I heard this month was my next assignment. Schecky at Poker News hired me to cover the European Poker Tour Championships in Monte Carlo, Monaco. I fly into Nice, France and then have to helicopter it in to Monte Carlo. I'm pretty sure that Otis will be there too which makes the gig even sweeter.

I'm going to spend a few extra days slumming around Europe after the gig which starts in late March and ends on April 1st. The month of March will have me on the road, in a lot of random airports, and fumbling around with another currency. I'm starting the month in Hollyweird for four days, then off to NYC for two days before a week in sunny Florida, followed by one precious week in NYC, then five days in Las Vegas before I fly a red eye back to NYC to get on another red eye flight to Nice, France. Wow, France and Monte Carlo? It has not sunk in yet. As a writer, I'm floored that I get to visit places like Australia and Monte Carlo within 80 days of each other for an assignment.

I've been eating Denny's once a day this past week and I'm officially sick of it. Although, their double-cheeseburger wasn't too shabby. I get a rare day off today before I have to go back to cover the final table of the LA Poker Classic tournament on Thuursday. First place wins... $2.4 million.

I ran into my buddy BJ Nemeth at the Commerce Casino last night. He's the best tournament reporter ever and paid me an amazing compliment about my end of day recaps over at I must say those words of validation coming from one of the best meant a lot since they are not-so-fun to write and I always wonder if anyone reads that stuff anyway. After a long day at work in media row, I have to stay up 4am or 5am every night in my hotel room writing them. Or, writing two-thirds of the draft until 5am and getting up at 8am to finish them. Regardless, it was a nice ego boost knowing that BJ had been reading. He even gave me a good note or two, which I was happy to utilize in my last article.

Check out two articles I wrote in the last two days:
LA Poker Classic - Day 3
LA Poker Classic - Day 4
Day 3's recap was by far my favorite of the bunch.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

10th Hour

I've been at work for 10 hours now at the Commerce Casino. It's just a little past 1AM and I anticipate another hour or so in media row before I get to go home... and do some more work. I have the end of day article due for Poker News which I started writing, but won't get to finish until I get back to my hotel room.

Nights like this are tough, but it's only an average night. Some instances I'm working 15... 16... 18 hours. Sometimes the other media reps drive you ape shit. One guy in particular won't shut the fuck up and I'd love to punt him across the ballroom. Luckily, the crew I work with are top notch and keep me sane. That's the only saving grace.

I've been drinking liquids at an alarming rate. Water and iced tea are a given. It makes me piss a lot, but when you constanty have to pee... it keeps you awake. I wait until I'm really tired before I bust into the Red Bull... which I just did.

I've been eating Denny's at least once a day since Saturday. I'm addicted to the Chicken Ranch sandwich on garlic buttered cibatta bread with bacon and ranch dressing.

For dinner, Nicky and I headed to Ozzie's diner, which is part 50s retro dinner and a truck stop filled with coffee drinkin truckers with mullets and beer guts and eyes wide open after being jacked up on crystal meth or other cheaper forms of speed. I ordered a chicken sandwich with chipolte sauce. It was so spicy that my bald spot was drenched.

My sore throat is almost gone but I stil have a 1/3 bottle of penicillin that I have to finish per doctor's orders. What I really need is my head checked. Why? Because I'm a fool for subjecting myself to this insanity.

Monday, February 26, 2007


My tonsilitis/strep throat has been downgraded to a scratchy throat. I can eat solid foods and drink liquids without any pain. Thanks goodness for penicillin and some Reiki done by Sparky. Today has been one of the best I felt in amost three weeks.

For a week, I moved into the Ramada Inn in Commerce, CA just outside of LA to cover the LA Poker Classic tournament. The hotel is about ten minutes away from the casino on side streets. The Ramada is OK but there's a Denny's attached to the front and if you order 24 room service... it's from Denny's.

Check out two articles I wrote in the last two days:
LA Poker Classic - Day 1
LA Poker Classic - Day 2
So I'm spending most of my waking hours in a casino. What a shocker. I should be done with this late Thursday night, but I have a deadline on Friday for an article which blows. Since the Valentine's Day blizzard cut my visit two days short, and I was sick all of last week, I have one day to hang out with Nicky and enjoy the decent weather.

I fly back to NYC on Sunday and then next Wednesday I'm off to sunny Florida to visit Jerry, Sarah and the twins. Then I partake in the Langerado music festival the rest of the time I'm there with the usual suspects.

At some point, I have to do my taxes, athough I'm not looking forward to writing a check that's going to be somewhere around $30,000 to the US fuckin' government.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Night

I didn't think I'd get to watch them, but I'm working the late shift from 8pm to 4am so I might actually get to see most of it.

Here are my picks:
Best Picture: The Departed
Best Director: Martin Scorsese - The Departed
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker - Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren - The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
I didn't see Little Children or Dreamgirls. But you have to go with Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears over Eddie Murphy for best supporting actor. Nothing against Eddie, but I think that the Acadmey is still slightly biased and although having three black winners in major categories would be a major accomplishment, it's more than likely only two (Whitaker and Hudson) will.

I wish I had more time to write, but I'm pressed for time.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


It's 3:38am and I'm still sick. My throat feels like there's a golf ball in there. It hurts when I swallow and I can't talk. I sleep for about twenty minutes before I wake up gagging and in pain. The most sleep I clocked in since Monday was three straight hours and that was thanks to an entire Xanax.

And then I found this picture of Mischa Barton smoking a doobie while driving around in Hollyweird. Makes me wanna puke because I could really use a toke right about now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Short Cuts

Before I got into the shower, I weighed myself. 172 pounds. Holy shit. I was 181 the day before at the clinic with my clothes on. I lost at least 18 pounds since I arrived in LA. Most of that was due to my illness and the fact that I had not eaten solid food since Monday. I went several days without solid food, pot, and sex. For the life of me I couldn't pop a chubby. That how sick I was. The last few days all I ate were vanilla milkshakes and soup.

I had a combination of the flu which I almost conquered in NYC but relapsed during the blizzard on Valentine's Day. That sickness festered the first few days in LA and morphed into strep throat by Monday. Maybe I should have had my tonsils taken out last year when the doctor in Las Vegas suggested it to me. As is, I knew what the symptoms of strep were... I had an outrageous fever and cold/flu meds were not working. My worst fear was a reality... sick only days before a big gig, the LA Poker Classic for Poker News. I have a ton of respect for them and did not want to let the team down by getting sick.

I had strep for the second time in 11 months. It hurts so much to swallow that you almost cry. It's like swallowing razor blades. Then the ear ache started escalating. My right ear felt it was getting pounded by a hammer. Any loud sound made me reel back in pain. I had two choices when I woke up on Wednesday morning... Cedars Sinai hospital in Beverly Hills which would cost me about $2K without health insurance or the free clinic in West Hollywood where all the indigents went for health care. I picked the free clinic peppered with homeless people, AIDS patients, 16 year pregnant girls, and people who didn't speak a lick of English. After two plus hours sitting in disease infested waiting room, all I got was penicillin, some extra-strength Motrin, and a possible case of scabies from the guy in front of me who looked like Abe Vigoda. But at least my conversational Spanish has improved.

Inside of 24 hours I went from experiencing some of the worst pain in my life to feeling a lot better. By late evening, my ear ache disappeared and the throat pain went from a 9 to a 6. Last night was tough but I gutted it out. I watched a ton of TV due to the insomnia. When you are sick, sleep is the best remedy. But when an insomniac is sick, it's pure torture. I thought about all the negative things in my life. Unable to speak to anyone, unable to do anything but try to fall asleep and wince in pain when I had to swallow.

I watched some basketball and then a few flicks including The Constant Gardener, Crash, and Short Cuts. Robert Altman's flick based on Raymond Carver short stories was a three hour and twenty minute epic. I hoped I would fall asleep during it but I managed to watch the entire thing before finally falling asleep around 4am.

Aside from a sore throat (pain is currently around a 4am and still unable to speak, I'm much better today. I haven't felt this good in weeks. No fever. No runny nose. No aches. No back pain. I'm skinny again. I ate solid food this morning and although I didn't finish my plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, I managed to get solid food down with minor pain. The hot tea with honey is a godsend.

Nicky did a wonderful job taking care of me. I'm lucky because she saved me. She even washed all my germ ridden clothes, drove me to the clinic, and went to the store and bought me supplies. She made me shakes and soup and tea. She kindly slept on the uncomfortable couch in her living room while she gave up her bed. And then she got up to make me breakfast. I think I freaked her out yesterday and she nearly made a command decision and rushed me to the ER room. I begged her not to... since the clinic was free along with the drugs they gave me. I can't complain about that.

With all the bullshit going on with the government and online gambling, I lost sight of some more important issues like the eroding civil liberties of our citizens and the clusterfuck called our health care system. If my government says I cannot play online poker... well I can accept that if that means when I'm sick with strep throat, I can go to any hospital and get affordable care. Of course that's not the case. Instead of worrying about people's hobbies they should focus more on education and health care. But those aren't sexy issues.

These days, the Clinton Camp is all in a hissy fit because their former Hollyweird chums are backing Obama instead of Hillary. Sure, Hollyweird backed the last two losing Democratic candidates in Al Gore and John Kerry, but this time they want to put their money behind someone who's not a career cunt. Obama is a fresh new dish and Hillary is yesterday's leftovers.

I gambled on not getting health insurance and I saved a few thousand dollars in the last year. Luckily, I was able to get out of this last illness without any serious issues. I know I'm going to have to suck it up in the future and eventually break down to get some sort of basic coverage. Part of me is simply too busy to sort through all the red tape. Maybe I'll finally have a few free days to find something solid and affordable. Until that day comes, I'm an uninsured taxpayer like several other millions of Americans. And the worst of it? I might have to pay anywhere from 30K to 40K in taxes and social security for my 2006 return. With that much money I giving my government, you figure they would give me free heath care? Of course not, that money is going to fund in a war on the other side of the globe.

So since I can't talk I've been walking around the apartment with a small notepad writing Nicky notes. I asked her to call a few people like my brother and Maudie to let them know I'm much better and on the road to recovery. When you lose the ability to communicate, it makes you appreciate proper health. But it also makes me appreciate the fact that I'm a writer and even without speaking, I can still convey a message with words. Now that I have the enrgy to write, my depression has evaporated and I have something positive to look forward to.

I'm supposed to start work on Saturday and was given the chance to skip it if I was still feeling blah. We'll let that be a gametime decision. For now... I'm feeling much better and waiting for all the swelling to go down so I can indulge in all my favorite things like a juicy cheeseburger from Nick's diner around the corner or French Toast at John O'Groats.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I've been sick on and off for two weeks. For the first 12 days, I felt the onset of a cold or flu. If total sickness was measured from 1 to 10, I hovered anywhere from 5 to 8 from the time I got back to NYC about two weeks ago. I felt crappy and sluggish, most with a stuffed up nosed, nasal drip, and a lingering cough.

My first day back in LA was 85+ degrees and I felt very good for the fist time in a long time. Day 2 in LA had me around 3 or 4 and I finally thought I was gonna kick my illness thanks to the California sunshine. Then on Sunday I started to feel like shit again. I figured it was a sinus attack because my nose was giving me issues. I played a poker tounament online and it took all my energy to focus. I ended up winning the tournament. And within an hour of the victory, I went to bed with any chance to celebrate. That was around 10:30.

On Monday afternoon, I developed a sore throat and started to get a little concerned. Nicky and I rented Pirates of the Caribbean 2 had I fell asleep about halfway through.

About 11 months ago, I had a terrible case of strep throat in Las Vegas which laid me up for almost two weeks and unable to speak for several days. I sucked it up Monday and Spaceman was in town so we went to dinner at the Farmer's Market. I wish I had more time to hang out, but I crashed at 8:30am praying that it was the lingering affects of the flu. For the next twelve hours I had a restless sleep. I'd fall out for twenty or thirty minutes and wake to piss (I had been drinking a ton of liquids) or to put vapor rub on my chest to help me breathe.

When I finally got up on Tuesday, I had a high fever, a worse sore throat, and an ear ache. I checked the intertubes for possible causes of my sore throat. Everything they listed... was something I had engaged in. Sore throats are a side effect of a cold or flu. Sore throats can happen when you are in an area with a lot of people, like all those thousands of travelers locked up at JFK airport after the blizzard debacle. Pets can be a cause of it, and since Showcase owns a dog sitting service, there are dogs occasionally in the apartment. Being around smoke is bad. Extra dry conditions can lead to sore throats, along with dust, mold, and fungi. And since I was all stuffed up the last two weeks, I breathed out of my mouth a large percentage of the time which didn't help. It could be anyone of those things.

I woke up Nicky and she was sweet enough to run to the drug store to pick up supplies like Motrin, cold/flu medications, and sre throat meds. I took everything at 9:30am and popped a Xanax. I was out cold for 8 hours until 5:30pm. Well, I woke up twice in that time frame and both tmes I had to change my clthes because I had sweat so much that I was lying in a pool of my sweaty germs. When I got up, my fever broke. I set outside on the couch for a few hours feeling better. but the sore throat lingered. Nicky made me soup and I watched Hereos and Studio 60 on TiVo. When that was over, I popped a half of Xanax, took the flu meds, four motrin, and the sore throat stuff.

For the first three hours, I tossed and turned. I eventually feel asleep to wake up at 4am in another pool of sweat. I cnahged my clothes and crawled back into bed. No more fever ot congestion, but the throat was worse.

But as it's Wednesday morning, I'm convinced I got strep again. Although all the other symptoms are gone... no more stuffy nose, no more headaches, no more ear aches, no more fever or coughing. Just a scratchy throat. The pain level was anywhere from a 3 to a 5, but now it's up to 6 and heading towards 7. When it got to 9 or 10 last year, was when I finally sucked it up and went to the hospital in Las Vegas. (ironically twenty yards in front of a casino). I had to wait three hours to get called and within thirty seconds the doctor told me I had strep. He gave me antibiotics and steroids. I was 90% better within 48 hours. I'm hoping for a similar situation.

I have to wait 15 minutes to call the free clinic in Beverly Hills to get an appointment. Let's see if they can take me today so I can get a throat culture to determine of I have strep or just the lingering affects of the flu.

I have a freelance gig starting on Friday and will be doing some radio commentary so I cannot afford to be sick anymore.

And yes, I do not have health insurance. Most artistic types don't.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Anatomy of a Britney Spears Breakdown: 32 Steps to Lunacy

1. Grow up white trash, preferably in a trailer park in the deep South.

2. Get sexually abused by a male authority in your life.

3. Get used by your stage mother who wants to play out her unfulfilled dreams about being a dancer and singer.

4. Get whored out to the Disney corporation.

5. Get a record deal after your mother blows three producers.

6. Wear slutty clothes as suggested by your sleazy manager.

7. Get implants per suggestion by your sleazy manager and stage mother.

8. Make several million dollars with record deal, but only get a few grand in spending money.

9. Turn 18 and hit the road playing all over the world, sleeping in strange hotels, and having your entire life planned out for you around a rigorous touring schedule which makes everyone around you tens of millions of dollars while you only get like 15% of total gross.

10. Start falling for the wrong guys; like abusive men, drug addicts, or closeted homosexuals.

11. Have a difficult high profile relationship with a famous member of a boy band who happens to like chugging cock more than you.

12. Have serious media hoopla surrounding relationship with very gay boyfriend, which makes it impossible to go anywhere.

13. Very gay boyfriend gets more and more famous then dumps you for a solo singing and acting career.

14. Sink into a morbid depression and commence binge eating, then overpay for a shrink who jacks you up with mood altering drugs.

15. Get drunk in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve and marry your childhood sweetheart at 4am in a crappy chapel in North Las Vegas.

16. Have your stage mother, publicist, lawyer, business manager, agent, and president of your record label freak out and scold you over a conference call while you are hung over.

17. Get marriage annulled while assclowns like Letterman, Stern, and Leno take jabs at you.

18. Go on tour to make the fat cats millions more and fall in love with a pothead and deadbeat dad that wear's wife beaters, sideways hats, and can't afford a belt to hold up his pants.

19. Marry stoner and deadbeat dad and get knocked up.

20. Move into seclusion in Malibu and start doing weird things that get photographed by paparazzi.

21. Get knocked up a second time by pothead deadbeat dad.

22. Squeeze out kid #2, then get plastic surgery.

23. Tell deadbeat dad to fuck off after he sells your underwear on eBay to buy a new XBox.

24. Hire a nanny with a criminal record and known immigration problems to take care of your kids.

25. Call up Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan and go on a Grey Goose and coke binge that lasts three days.

26. Get followed by paparazzi who post photos of your naked snatch which gets posts all over the web, even in Iran.

27. Get all the self-righteous nutjobs out there to question your stability as a parent.

28. Go to NYC and get shitfaced. Puke in your limo, do all your coke, blow some random guy for more coke, and pass out in his bathroom while his friends do "the train" on you.

29. Check into the same rehab place as Lindsey Lohan.

30. Leave rehab after one day because they don't have Cheetohs.

31. Lose your shit and wander into a tattoo parlor in the Valley.

32. Get a crappy tattoo and shave your head while paparazzi snaps photos.

Click here to view the video.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


It was hot when I walked out of Bob Hope Airport in Burbank yesterday. After freezing my ass off in New York City, I welcomed the sun as I shed all of my winter clothes why standing along the curbside of Terminal A waiting for Nicky to pick me up. I made her drive to the Valley and she was dressed like it was the middle of summer.

It gets hotter in the Valley than on her side of the Hollywood Hills. One of my favorite episodes of Entourage was when Johnny Drama protested to a trip to the Valley in the middle of summer due to the intense heat.

We grabbed a bite to eat at Mexicali. I always get the Rotisserie Chicken Cobb Salad burrito there. How can you go wrong with bleu cheese, bacon, and cheese? They have an interesting thing on your bill. It lists the tipping percentages for 15%, 18% and 20%. I left 20% because that's my standard tip.

It was a mellow Friday night in LA. I felt like crap most of yesterday with the lack of sleep and the lingering cold. Showcase gave me some medicinal marijuana to feel better such as Maui Wowie, Bubba Kush, Afgoo, Strawberry Sativa, and Purple Diesel.

We watched the earthquake episode of The OC, then got caught up in a weird indie flick called Primer written and directed by Shane Carruth. It was made in and around Dallas, TX for as low as a budget as you can get at a paltry $7,000. That's less than my poker bankroll. Most Hollyweird flicks spend that much everyday in food.

Despite the fact that Carruth had no idea to make a film, his first attempt opened a lot of people's eyes. Primer won a Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 2004 and beat out Garden State (Zach Braff/Nat Portman wank fest with tons of whiny indie rock music as a soundtrack). Primer was also nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards.

Primer was slow to start and it sucked me in. I couldn't change the channel despite the fact I had no idea what was going on most of the time. It had plenty of problems. Flawed screenplay. Blah acting. Serious pacing issues in the first act. Hectic and frantic last act. Below average production quality that had awful lighting, muffled sound, and parts of the flick were out of focused. Carruth and his crew literally shot it in their garages. And you know what? You didn't care about that because the story held your attention. Both fascinating and confusing, you had to really delve deep and thing about serious issues like the paradoxes in time travel.

Primer reminded me of a Philip K. Dick short story without any of the drugs. Here's a plot spoiler: Two engineers making money on the side stumble upon a new way to use their invention where they manage to go back in time. It's been listed as sci-fi film and has the same production value of Pii. It's a thinking man's indie flick and makes you ponder about implications of time and what would you do if you could go back and how that ripple in time would affect the remainder of your life and the world.

I need to see it again because I still don't know what was going on. The story line is very confusing. Very. You need to see it four or five times to figure it out. Yet, there are zero special effects and the film blows the last three Stars Wars flick away.

Check out the trailer for Primer.

I woke up at 4am today and didn't get out of bed until 5am. I lurked around Nicky's dark apartment before I sat down at the dining room table. I fired up the laptop and checked email. I transferred some money, paid a bill, and read email. I noticed that the website to my high school was down.

I wrote for a couple of hours including a post for the Las Vegas Blog and the Tao of Poker. I uploaded a few pics to my Flickr gallery. I'm about 75% done with adding all of the Australia pics. I finally got up to Sydney, which was the last city on my tour through Oz. Maybe it will be done by Monday.

I watched two college hoops games back to back. Three top 20 ranked teams played. #16 Georgetown came from behind to beat Villanova. Jeff Green from Georgetown nailed a mid-range jumper to seal the game with 20 seconds left. Those are the types of plays and I like to look for in teams when gambling on them in March Madness, especially when they did it on the road.

UW played at #5 Pittsburgh. Pitt held on to the victory when they hit key free throws down the stretch. That's another great quality I look for when betting on the March Madness... late game free throws. Pitt converted in crunch time and won. Vanderbilt is on a rush and I missed their upset of top ranked Florida. I caught the highlights and at 18-8, Vandy is a legit threat after beating Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee, Alabama, and now Florida. Currently, I got the Michigan-Indiana game. Michigan is up by 2. I'm been jonesin' for college hoops. Sure I got to watch plenty of cricket in Oz, but aside from the Australian basketball league (NBL), I did not watch any other hoops down under.

Recent Writing Music...
1. James Brown
2. Otis Grove
3. Greyhounds
4. Taj Mahal
5. Delta Nove

Friday, February 16, 2007

LA Bound: Take 2

I slept for a couple of hours before my alarm woke me up at 4am. I hopped in the shower and was ready by 4:20am. After a goodbye smoke I went downstairs to wait for my cab in the darkness of winter.

It arrived exactly at 4:30am. My cab driver was Russian. The streets were empty. The city is a peaceful place at the dead hour of 4:30am. The Lincoln Town Car was nice and toasty. We cruised towards the airport when I got a call from Michalski. He was still up and an hour behind me in Dallas. We chatted for thirty minutes about people stealing the feeds from our poker blogs and then making money off of our work. We brainstormed and came up with a few ideas.

It took less than thirty minutes for a ride to JFK that's anywhere from 45 minutes to ninety minutes during peak rush hour. I gave my cabbie a $21 tip and he shook my hand. He gave me his card and asked me if I needed to be picked up when I get back.

At the JetBlue terminal, the check-in area was jam packed at 5am! The lines were literally out the door as I found an empty self-serve kiosk. It took about two minutes to check-in. My ticket did not have a gate assignment as of yet. There were only five flights on the board with a gate. And Burbank was not one of them.

Security took less than five minutes. The line at Dunkin' Donuts wrapped around the small stand-alone shop. People were sleeping in odd areas in the terminal. One lady was curled up in the shoe shine chair. Others were bundled in blankets and sleeping in chairs. One family had sleeping bags arranged in a circle with their luggage piled up in the middle.

Most of the travelers looked weary and ready to go home. I didn't ask how long many of them were here.

I bought a few items to prep for a lengthy wait. I purchased the standard survival items for a cross country flight; a bottle of water, gum, a protein bar, and a snack just in case I was stuck on the tarmac. I also got some mineral water to soothe my stomach and a copy of Rolling Stone to read. I'll go back up in twenty minutes to get a morning paper.

I sat down at the wifi hotspot in between dozens of sleeping bodies. And that's where I'm updating the blog. It's now 5:25 am. My flight is supposed to board in 35 minutes and depart in 80 minutes. Still no gate.

It's another random Friday that I spend my early morning in an airport. Instead of Long Beach, I'm headed to Burbank or that airport in the Valley! Nicky actually has to drive to the Valley to pick me up.

One coast to the other. I don't even blink at six hour flights. Anything over two used to be a chore. After Oz, anything less than five hours is a breeze. And with DirectTV on JetBlue, the flights are easy. Provided no little ones around.


7:12am... My flight should have left by now. The plane is here, but the crew is not. We're still waiting on one flight attendant and one pilot. What the fuck? Last night I told Nicky that I expect to get out to LA... but 90 minutes late. As of now, it looks like I might be 2 or 3 hours late. I may never get out of New York City.

7:45am... Dude, where's my fucking pilot? My flight was supposed to depart one hour ago. This experience has been trying all of my patience. The chick at the desk keeps sayind, "We don't know when our crew will arrive." The angry mob is ready to pounce on her and rip her skull out. Some folks have been here for 2 days.

8:25am... I won't get into Burbank until at least Noon at the earliest and that's if we board in the next twenty minutes, which ain't happening. I'm currently looking into taking a train to another city and flying out of there or renting a car to drive down south and fly out of Nashville, Charlotte or even Atlanta. That's how pissed off I am right now. I thought I made a slick move by opting to change my flight to Friday morning instead of Saturday night. Now, I'm wishing I picked Saturday. I'm grumpy. I'm pissed off. I've been sick since Feb. 6th. I haven't slept much the last few days. I can't get a few of my freelance clients to pay me and for the last month the government has frozen 34K of my money in an off shore account. I haven't been this suicidal in years.

4:20... Finally made it to Hollyweird. I'm off JetBlueBlizzard tilt. I had to sit next to a 3.5 year old kid. He was well behaved. Rare. His parents were cool and told me not to worry because they "raised their kids well." I laughed and thought she was shit talking. She was correct. His dad produced TV shows and we talked about competitve eating from Colorado to California. It's hot as fuck out here. It's at east 83 or 84 degrees or 60 degrees cooler.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Snowed In

I should be in Hollyweird this morning waking up in The Standard Hotel on Sunset Strip. I'm not. I'm freezing my ass off in NYC with flu-like symptoms and a burning fever. I've also been on hold with JetBlue for 55 minutes now waiting for the next available operator to figure out my seat assignment for a new flight on Friday morning.

Before I left for the airport yesterday, I went to JetBlue's website and my flight was on time. I arrived at JFK airport at 10:10am for my 11:30am flight. The roads were crappy and it took about 75 minutes to get to JFK.

I checked in and my flight to California was scheduled to board at 11am and depart at 11:30am with a 2:43pm arrival time in Long Beach, CA. I got through security without any problems and hopped on the shuttle bus to the new JetBlue terminal. When I walked in there, it looked like a refugee center. Every seat was packed with disgruntled travelers. They were headed to sunny destinations like Florida, Aruba, and the Bahamas but their flights were delayed or bumped.

An announcement boomed throughout the terminal, "Due to current weather conditions, there's a ground stoppage at JFK. No flights are landing and none are taking off until further notice."

My ticket said Gate 24, the last gate in the terminal, so walked the entire length of the new terminal as I saw all the unhappy faces on passengers. Some folks were sleeping on the floor. Parents were doing their best to entertain their restless kids. Business travelers fought over the few power outlets in the terminal as they sat huddled around their laptops.

At my gate, there were two flight loads of grumpy people there waiting to go to Las Vegas in addition to my flight to Long Beach. That was not good.

The rep at the counter said that the plane at the gate was for Flight 209. That was my flight! As soon as they were cleared to leave, we would be one of the first flights out. I stood around and waited for a few minutes as looked at the plasma screens with departure information. The status of a couple of flights to Florida changed. That's when the entire screen flipped just like in the movies. All of the flights went from "On Time" to "Canceled." Well, all except two; a 3:30pm flight to Austin, TX and the 11:30am flight to Long Beach.

Did I just get super lucky?

Hordes of passengers started leaving their seats and headed to the Ticket Change counter in the main terminal. I had walked past it a few minutes earlier and it was about 150 people deep.

"Maybe I should get in line?" was my proactive thought. Just in case my flight was canceled, at least I had a place in line. At that moment, the status of my flight was downgraded from "On Time" to "Canceled."

I noticed that there was a smaller ticket change counter in the new terminal and stood in line there. About twenty or so people were in front of me. There was a guy standing in line behind me who looked like Bill Parcells. We chatted for a few moments. He was also on Flight 209 to Long Beach and was going to see his grandkids. I pulled out my cell and called Jet Blue's customer service. There was a message saying, "Due to heavy call volume, we are unable to answer your call. Please visit us online at"

Bastards. I texted Nicky and told her the bad news. She called back five minutes later. I could tell she was not happy. At the time, I was furious but doing my best to calm down since I knew that I had no control over the situation.

I called JetBlue again and that time I got in. I waited and waited and waited. The line barely at the new terminal moved while I was on hold for thirty minutes. Eventually, I was connected to an agent. She said all flights to California on Wednesday and Thursday were booked, as were most flights on Friday. I asked to fly to anywhere in California... San Diego, Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario, Oakland, and even Las Vegas or Portland. After ten minutes of looking, no such luck. The earliest she had was Saturday and that was a Saturday night flight into Burbank connecting in Oakland or a flight to Long Beach connecting in Washington, DC.

Beep. Beep.

That's when my cell phone made that horrible sound to let me know that my call was dropped.

"Fuck!" I screamed.

The old lady in front of me smiled and said, "It's OK. Calm down."

I told her about the dropped call and she said, "Well fuck. That was a waste."

That's when a young black woman tried to cut the line. Bill Parcells said something and I quickly backed him up.

"You cut the line. What's up with that?" I said in my confrontational New Yorker voice.

That's when she pulled out the race card and accused me of being a racist. I should have punched her twice. Once for cutting the line and the second time for improperly tossing out the race card.

"I don't care who you are or what you look like. We've been standing in line for over a half hour and you just cut us," I snapped back as several hundred people stopped to watch our spat.

"You're a racist and only doing this because I'm black," she screamed.

That's when an older black man standing behind Bill Parcells spoke up.

"Get your ass to the end of the line and stop acting like a fool," he fired back.

She mumbled something under her breath as she looked at the line which had grown to over 100 people.

I waited for forty more minutes in that line. There was another incident when three people in wheelchairs were wheeled to the front of the line. A couple of people behind me were furious and a security guard had to be called over to quell the near riot.

When I finally got to counter, I discovered that there was a 6:30am flight leaving JFK on Friday morning headed to Burbank. That was 36 hours earlier than the flight to Burbank on Saturday and it was a direct flight so I snatched it up.

My new flight was scheduled to leave 43 hours after the original flight. I could have gotten a seat on a 7pm flight on Wednesday night, but they said there was a 90% chance that doesn't leave and I'd have to get back in line again to get another ticket. I didn't want to sit in the airport for another six hours to find out a second flight was canceled, so I took the sure thing for Friday. It ended up being the right choice. That flight was grounded because the plane had too much ice on their wings and couldn't take off.

Overall, it took 75 minutes to wait in line and rebook a flight and during that time I was accused of being a racist and had one of the worst dropped calls since I ever got a cellphone. I took the shuttle bus back to the main terminal and fired up my laptop. That was where I had the hotel info for The Standard. For Valentine's Day, I booked two nights in an extra large room in the swanky LA hotel with the most famous pool in Southern California. They had a strict cancellation policy and I was only able to cancel one night. They charged me for the first night and whoever was on the other end must have been having a bad day because they were unwilling to help me out.

Talk about getting kicked when you are down. They even had the balls to ask me if I wanted to rebook this weekend. I told them I would book a room, only if they gave me a free night instead of charging me for Wednesday. They said no, so I hung up.

I had been at the airport for about three hours and didn't have a bite to eat sicne I woke up at 6am after three hours of crappy sleep. Aside from a small bottle of water I drank while waiting in line, I was starving and thirsty and jonesin' for a toke. I should have gotten something to eat, but I wanted to get the hell out of JFK.

I didn't dress warmly for the airport. I got a ride and assumed that I was going to sunny California. I traveled light. No hat. No gloves. No thermal underwear. The winds kicked up. The wintry mix of sleet, freezing rain, and snow swirled around as I walked over to the cab line. Packed. There were only a handful of cabs in line too. I had no choice except to take the monorail to the subway. 1pm. Welcome to three more hours of hell.

Nicky and I were supposed to spend two nights at The Standard. Alas, my chic Valentine's Day plans were ruined. Nicky sent me some pics of the flowers she got from yours truly. I went with the tri-colored roses. Nice touch.

After being on hold for one hour and tweny minutes with JetBlue this morning, I finally got through and found out I had a middle seat and could not change it. I'd have to wait to get to the airport to do that. I waited 80 minutes to talk to someone for ninety seconds only. What a fuckin' waste of my time.

Here are some links to JetBlue JFK horror stories:
10 Hours on JetGlue (NY Post)
Nightmare for JetBlue Passengers (

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Sometimes I want to retreat into hermit mode and not bothered by external forces. It was easier to seek the refuge of hermitdom when I was totally broke, without TV, very few friends, limited to dial-up internet access, and isolated in my dingy studio. I had nothing except to be entertained by my freakish thoughts and delve deep into a kaleidoscope of books while listening to my extensive music collection on worn-out cassette tapes and scratchy CDs.

My technical writing skills are better today, but my imagination was richer and more exuberant then. Deeper. Vivacious. The creative juices raged through me as I would barely sleep for several days straight. I had high-concept ideas for hundreds of paintings, but could not even afford to buy acrylic and canvas.

For most of last week, I grew ill and unable to write. I glanced through old files and word documents as I backed up two laptops (six years worth of writing) onto a new external hard drive. I sat in awe, part astonished and shrouded in jealousy, because those words were powerful. They were mine. The sentences were thickly layered with my voice and my personality.

The words I wrote in anger in a poorly lit studio pre-9.11 as I lived on the fringe of society are the ghosts that I've been chasing for a few years. I get paid to write now and those words which I'm compensated for have never come close to what I wrote during that blue period or even during the last days I worked on Wall Street when I was overworked, pissed off, emotionally jilted after a tempestuous relationship, and completely lost in the early days of the 21st century.

While walking along the beach in the middle of the night in Australia, I gazed up at the Southern Cross and was blindsided by a realization that I while I have improved in some areas of writing, I have grown stagnant in other areas. Part of the reason is that I simply have less time to hone my craft, write creatively, and read books. I can barely get a few days alone to myself these days. Even this past week in NYC has been ruined as I picked up a nasty head-cold that has lingered for several days, killing four full days of precious writing time as I floated around in a daze of generic Vicodin, over-the-counter flu medication, and cheap marijauna.

There were times in my late 20s when friends would not hear from me for days or weeks at a time. I was living off of Snapple and tea biscuits and jacked up on painkillers writing for hours on end or painting over old paintings. That solitary time was crucial for my development as a writer. There were moments of sheer depression and desolation, but that's what drove me to write and create. I pushed myself because I knew that the only way out of that spot was to... write my way out. Since then, I've been able to write myself out of debt and into the spotlight.

With email, a cellphone, and updating several blogs... a complete withdrawal from society is impossible these days. Throw in maintaining a relationship, business obligations, columns and deadlines, a healthy travel and work schedule, cultivating new work projects, and finding time for friends and family... I have less control over my life than ever before. Sure, I can kinda steer the ship in a specific direction, but I'm still unable to create my own personal utopia.

I'm 34 years old and if I could go anywhere in the world... it would be back to that shitty ass studio. I can afford to fly anywhere I want to right now. Paris. Antarctica. Portland. Dubai. But the one thing I cannot buy... is alone time. If I were to shut out everything and everyone in my life for a couple of months... a lot of things that I worked hard to build up would come crashing down. The websites. The blogs. The business relationships. The friendships. My mind has been racing to find a solution where I could do both.

Like many others before me, I figured that making some money would alleviate many of my problems, especially creatively. Some older problems have disappeared, but new ones have popped up like asstards stealing my content and passing it of as thier own to make money. With more income being generated, more responsibilities have popped up (like higher taxes) and it's tougher to find a healthy balance of work and fun. The money I've made allowed me to take several months off at the end of the year to rewrite Jack Tripper Stole My Dog and to make amazing trips to Vegoose and Amsterdam. But I was unable to fully unconnect.

I'm a very fortunate person and things are much better today than they were one year ago. I have a better semblance of who I am and where I want to go. Although, I still find myself handcuffed from time to time... wanting to either lock myself in a room for a few months to become a better writer and read about a hundred or so books that I've never had the time to read. I have dozens of short stories and a couple of screenplays and book ideas inside of me and I wonder if I'll ever find the time to get them out. Or will they just die in the conceptual stage inside my brain?

After being in Australia for a month, I caught the travel bug again. I finally have money to travel, but no time to visit the places I'd like to see. It's when you are in a different place, thousands of miles away from home that you find out who your truly are. The one thing that was an interesting topic of conversation with Aussies that I met was... "Where do you live?"

I always gave a complicated answer because for the last three years I have never spent more than 2-3 months in one place without traveling somewhere else. And that does not look like it's going to change in the next six months. I'd say, "I'm from NYC originally but due to work, I've been traveling a lot and spend most of my time in Las Vegas and LA."

That's when I realized there was a direct correlation between my stagnation as a writer and my lack of a specific place to call home. I need to find a new studio again.

My in-the-field writing skills have vastly improved in the last 12 months. I can sit in a room with thirty other people yelling and yapping and crank out 1,500 words for a deadline for a magazine or Fox Sports, which I was forced to do in the WSOP media room last summer. I've been able to complete rush assignments (or last minute pieces) where I have less than 24 hours to write on a topic that I don't get to choose. I never went to school to learn those tricks of the trade. The eventually evolved by getting thrown into the mix.

My journalistic skills might be below average when compared to mainstream writers, but that has not mattered to the people who regularly read what I write and more importantly, that does not seem to bother the folks who sign my paychecks. I often get notes from those who do pay me to "write more like you do on your blogs" and less like a journalist or established writer.

Sloppy and raw is what they want instead of polished prose. And that demand is something that I'm constantly trying to rediscover. The sloppy and raw writer within. Maybe if I had more time to myself, devoid of the world, I can start writing like that again.

Overall, I'm proud of my accomplishments and could not be happier knowing that I finally got paid to write after a decade of despair. However, I know I can do a better job. The last year or so I struggled to gain my sanity back while I focused on the business-aspects of my sites and my writing. The only real improvements I made came in late 2006 when I made a concentrated effort to lose weight, get in shape, and take more time to mediate. The results were staggering because I wrote with more ease and I was able to endure several major party situations without getting sick or majorly hungover. With Amsterdam, Vegoose, Bloggers Gathering in Vegas, NYE in SF, and a month of drinking non-stop in OZ... my body survived all that travel, lack of sleep, and partying all because of the major overall I put myself through.

I hope to continue that healthy trend as soon as the weather improves. When I am unable to exercise regularly, that I need to eat smaller portions and avoid certain foods. I've lost a few freelance clients in the last few weeks and I vowed myself to use that time to find new work and take that time to hone the craft.

The entire poker industry is at a crossroads with the recent monkey wrench thrown into the mix by the US government as they have a hard-on for keeping online poker in the dark. I have no idea what the future is going to be after the 2007 WSOP. I've adopted a wait and see approach. Even in a world where the poker media is reduced to the bare bones, I can still envision myself among the few writers who are still around. I know that I will not make anything what I did the last two years, but I could still find some work if necessary.

In some ways, there's a part of me that welcomed the recent poker mess. Poker pulled me out of debt and made me recognizable, but it had be pushing me away from the creative outlet of writing as I thrust on a path of business-related writing. The money was too good to leave and the government cock-blocking online poker in America might actually give me a chance to settle down and find that unfettered amount of time where I can sit alone and write and read. Like I used to.

I'm in the process of trying to work out a budget where I take off five months at the end of the year to write and travel. I'd travel in August and hunker down in the fall to work on a book about Las Vegas. If I don't get to go back to Australia, I'll pen a screenplay next winter. Of course that's what I want to do today. In three months my priorities might change after new job offers or I might end up still working and traveling around covering poker tournaments.

I'm waiting for poker's popularity to die down so I can start writing about other things. While it's still alive, I stuck chasing that dragon while gobbling up as many crumbs as possible. For now, I'm longing for a time when I can ignore the outside world and not have to think about firing up blogger or picking up my cell phone and answering emails, when the only thing that matters is a pile of books, pen & paper, and an empty MWord file.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Meet Showcase, Free Pet First-Aid & Safety Presentation, and The Zen Pooch

Nicky's rommate Showcase is the owner of his own dog care service in LA called The Zen Pooch. He's hosting a free pet first-aid and safety demostration on Saturday in West Hollywood Park. If you are an animal lover or want to meet Showcase, he'll be there and will sign autographs upon request.
What: Free Pet First-Aid & Safety Presentation
Where: WEST HOLLYWOOD PARK (647 San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069)

Topics covered will include: Rescue Breathing & CPR, Approaching Injured Animals, First Aid Kits
The safety presentation is provided by Denise Fleck of Sunny-Dog Ink. There will also be a Pet Adoption Fair sponsored by Molly's Mutts & Meows and Best Friends Animal Society. In addition there will be... Gourmet Doggie Treats, Valentine's Surprises, and Face Painting for Kids.

For more information or if you are in need of a top notch dog walker and care giver to your pets in the LA area, stop by The Zen Pooch for more details.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Church Bells, Al Green, and Sunday Mornings

A large percentage of my life is mundane. It's just the other 10% that's overly interesting and about half of that is actually weird and wild stuff. Which means 95% of the time... you'd be pretty bored with the way of Pauly. And that's why it puzzles me that people stop by (some of them everyday or several times a day).

I'm not fit to raise children. I was about to write "breed" but Mother Nature has already messed with my head on at least two instances and luckily I don't have any little ones running rampant. My reasoning on the raising children issue can be explained by the single example of what I did within 10 minutes of waking up.
1. Rubbed one out.
2. Ripped a bonghit.
3. Ate a slice of chocolate cake.
4. Took a dump while reading Fleshbot. (Thank God for Wifi!)
5. Listened to Al Green's Greatest Hits while smoking more pot.
Any of my friends with kids tell me that undertaking four out of those five things without any interruptions are impossible in an entire day, let along the first ten minutes of waking up on a Sunday of all days. And yes, I heard morning church bells ringing in the distance as I climaxed wondering if I was indeed the father of Anna Nicole's baby.

Al Green is now blasting on my laptop courtesy of GMoney. He gave me a couple of CDs burned with a ton of MP3s when we hung out in Vegas in December. The problem was that I never had the chance to upload any of those to my laptop or iPod. The 60 gig hard drive on my laptop was reaching full capacity as the discs collected dust in my laptop bag.

One week into the Australia trip, I encountered my first issue with lack of space. I had to run CCleaner which deleted a slew of temp files. I then went in and started erasing tons of unwanted photos that I had taken in the last two years. Poker photography took up about 2/3 of my actual photos and I was wasting an hour everyday trashing various files. I made it through Oz without any more problems.

Sometime in LA last weekend, I encountered the same issue. The laptop was full with various multimedia items like videos, music, and pics. I started erasing music files and trashing more photos. I had less than 1 gig of writing content. Which makes sense because before I left for Oz, I was able to transfer and backup every novel and screenplay I had ever written along with almost a hundred Truckin' short stories onto a 1 gig flash drive. Flash drives are my latest obsession. I own three and carry around two at all times. The third is left in a safe place just in case I die and includes the complete works of yours truly and my pen name Tenzin McGrupp.

When I got back to NYC, I wanted to transfer some of the older pics from the 2005 WSOP onto my iBook. Here's when I go off on a geek-induced flashback. I'm a Mac person but didn't start that way. My first computer in 1983 was a Commodore 64. In 1984, my Catholic grammar school bought TRS-80s, which where these ugly computers from Radio Shack and the Tandy corporation. When I started high school in 1986, I was introduced to an Apple IIe for the first time. In college, my freshman roommate Skippy (aka Dave from The Daily Dave 2.0) had a Macintosh SE. I also worked on Macs in the computer lab and that was the computer of choice in my fraternity house.

When I bought my first post-college computer in 1995, I went for a Mac. My buddy Bruce who I worked with helped me pick one out. I had that for six years before I acquired my first laptop... a white iBook. My grandmother bought it for me for Christmas one year. She thought I was a bum because I didn't have a real job and she died not knowing about my limited success. I wrote four novels and two screenplays on that iBook. I also started writing my first blogs on there. I have a ton of history together with that iBook even though I was old school running OS IX for several years.

When I was hired to cover the World Series of Poker in the Spring of 2005, I had just started a steady freelance career covering poker. I didn't want to get my laptop stolen in Vegas especially with so much sensitive material on the hard drive and the fact that I'd end up living at the Redneck Riviera. That's when I saw a sweet deal for a Dell laptop. I knew that Dell's were disposable computers and I'd toss it within a few years. I liked about what I bought because the laptop was small and lightweight and if it got lost or stolen, I didn't care.

I had been shopping around for computers for about two weeks just around the same time Full Tilt Poker started up operations in early 2005. I had an amazing run on their site and cleared a bonus worth $500 and went on a rush. In a few weeks, I won a few grand in the Spring of 2005. I proudly used those winnings to purchase a new laptop. Now it's two years later and I still have the computer that I won thanks to the fish and donkeys on Full Tilt.

The Dell has been all over the world with me. It looks about ten years old with a worn out spot on the mouse and flakes of marijuana imbedded in the keyboard. I still have the iBook and it's white and shiny and looks pristine. I like the screen's quality better and I use it to watch DVDs and porn when I'm home. I also have an extensive music collection on there with several hundred hours of bootlegs from my favorite bands and jazz musicians.

When I fired up my iBook for the first time in almost six weeks, I discovered that it had less than 1 gig of space available. I erased a few items and secured another paltry 1/2 gig. I filled my portable 1 gig flashdrive with old photos from the Dell and shipped them over to the iBook. What a pain in the ass, I thought. That's when I decided to buy a portable external hard drive. I found an 80 gig Iomega drive for under $90. I had a coupon so when it was all done, I was able to get next-day delivery and 80 extra gigs for under $70. I paid $0.87 per gig. Not too shabby.

I guess that official made me a computer geek when I bought an external hard drive. I even named it... Al Green. My iBook is called Whitey. The Dell laptop is Grey. See the theme? Actually the hard drives are labeled Homer (iBook), Homer 2 (Dell), and now Homer 3.

I quickly backuped up my entire Dell including writings, pics, videos, and some music. That took a few hours. Last night, I backed up the iBook which took twice as long. I have less than 20 gigs of space left on Homer 3 aka Al Green but now I can start clearing both laptops that everything has been safely backed up. More room for poker pics, music, and porn.

The Dell has almost 4 gigs of free space and I was finally able to add new music such as a Radiohead CD that my brother got me for Christmas and GMoney's discs. GMoney hooked me up Greatest Hits from Al Green and Bill Withers in addition to a Derek and the Dominoes album, Modern Times from Bob Dylan, Sailin Shoes from Little Feat, and the biggest gem in the collection... Bruce Springsteen live in London in 1975.

When I lived in Seattle nine years ago, we used to listen to a scratchy imported bootleg of that show. It was great to hear the crisp CD version of a sizzling 17 minute version of Kitty's Back. And Rosalita is my favorite Boss tune and the anchor of that two-disc live concert. In Byron Bay, I had a heated discussion with Shecky who has 15 years in the music industry under his belt. He hates Bruce Springsteen and thinks that Velvet Underground is one of the most overrated bands of all time. I dig the Velvets but conceded the second point. I fought tooth and nail for the Boss. I wish I had that CD to play for him. He might have changed his mind.

Oh, and when Anna Nicole Smith died the other day, I could not help but smirk. I played poker in the casino part of the hotel where she died. I think she was whacked. I love a good conspiracy theory. It could be a great screenplay idea or at the least, an episode of Law & Order.

I've been sick the last few days and it's been tough to concentrate and write for extended periods of time. That did not deter me from having one of my most productive stints. Within a 24 hour period, I cranked out my column for Poker Player Newspaper and updated seven blogs. Four of them were mine... Tao of Pauly, Tao of Poker, Truckin', and Coventry, a group Phish and music blog. I also updated three of the LasVegasVegas blogs, including... Poker Prof's poker blog, the Las Vegas Business and Politics blog, and the general Las Vegas and entertainment blog. I also have been adding Oz pics to my Flickr page.

It's Sunday morning and I don't know what to do without football. I leave for LA in a few days and have a ton of crap I have to do since I'll be gone for close to two and a half weeks. I'll be home in NYC for two days in early March before I head down to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to visit Jerry (in Miami) and attend the Langerado Music Festival with Nicky, The Joker, Sweet Sweet Pablo, and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. Since Bonnaroo is held during the 2007 WSOP, I will have to skip it this year. Langerado will be my Bonnaroo. I prefer the smaller festivals.

After Florida, I'm in NYC for a few days before I head out to Vegas. The next seven weeks are going to be fun, tough, and frenetic. Of course, 10% of that time is. The other 90% is mundane and yawn inducing like me sitting around in airports answering emails and deleting seventeen different versions of the same photo of Max Pescatori playing in the 2005 WSOP.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

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

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...
 1. The Accidental Virgin by Valerie Frankel
2. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
3. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
4. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
5. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on Airplanes...
1. A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
2. The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier
3. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
4. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
5. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Artist Spotlight: Rachel Hall Kirk

A friend fo mine has a brand new website called Rachel Hall Kirk.

You can view plenty drawings and paintings including one of my favorite morbid paintings called Dead Bear. Then there's the hilarious Consuelo series. Take a peek.

Ah, I almost forgot. She's also the author of a blog titled... Radiant Rachel.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Recent Hilarious Google Referrals...
1. Amish donkey bong bong chicks
2. Nicky Hilton crotch shots
3. True fuck me daddy stories
4. Wealthy middle age women that flock to tourist resorts to get fucked by black male escorts
5. White young girls showing their pussy and big tits on a free videos and no downloading
Page McConnell Solo Album

Solo Page! My favorite member of Phish, Page McConnell is releasing an album on April 17 on Legacy Recordings. Page's album has nine songs and Fish, Trey, and Mike all make contributions.

"I started working on it about two years ago, not with an end goal in mind, but for the joy of the process," said Page. "As the project evolved, I realized the songs held together as a body of work with some recurring themes, especially that of new beginnings. The last few years have been a time of great personal and professional transition, and I think that’s reflected in the album."

Here's the song list:
Beauty Of A Broken Heart
Heavy Rotation
Maid Marian
Close To Home
Runaway Bride
Back In The Basement
Rules I Don’t Know
The Complex Wind
Everyone But Me
Lori pointed out this clip on YouTube.

Click here to view the video of Page.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Back in NYC

I woke up fairly early on Monday considering it was the day after the Super Bowl. Benefits of watching the game at an earlier time on the Left Coast. Shortly before crashing we watched the original Star Wars dubbed in Spanish. Fitting for LA.

The bright sun penetrated the blinds in Nicky's bedroom as I looked out between the slits at the palm tree in the alley. I've been on the road for the last 2.5 years so it is not uncommon to have a thirty to forty-five second lapse of cognitive abilities every time I awake in a different place.

"Where am I?" usually rattles through my brain until I remember.

The palm tree is one of those trigger objects that reminds me that I'm in Hollyweird. One day I'm going to slip into that character in Momento and wake up with total amnesia.

My backpack was peaking maximum density after the four weeks in Oz. I decided to leave it behind because I will be returning to LA for about three weeks. Instead, I borrowed a smaller carry-on bag from Nicky and packed for eight days in NYC along with my laptop bag. With plenty of winter clohes in NYC, I knew I could travel light. I packed all the souvenirs I bought for my family, my thick Aussie guidebook, a few pairs of underwear and my heaviest clothes. I only had a fleece pullover and I accumulated a PokerNews hoodie in Melbourne which would come in handy. That would be my only protection against the single digit temperatures in NYC. I layered what I could. It was too hot in LA to wear anything except a t-shirt.

We walked two blocks to Nick's Coffee Shop on Pico Blvd., which happens to be one of my favorite diners in LA. A gaggle of cops sat in the back booth and Nicky glared at them hoping to find the asstard who gave us a jaywalking ticket 11 months earlier.

At the end of the summer, Nick's cut back in hours and is only open from 7am to 4pm. No more late night runs to Nick's and we'd end up at Swinger's Diner on Beverly which is usually open to 4am. We had been eating a ton of breakfast at home, so I opted for lunch. I knew that my flight to NYC arrived in JFK after Midnight. There would be no places open to eat and aside from a brief snack on the flight, I'd pretty much go the rest of the day without another major meal. Nick's 2/3 pound burger jumped right out at me. I skipped the bacon and went with hashbrowns instead of Nick's trademark crinkle cut fries.

The lunchtime cook tends to rush hashbrowns at Nick's which means the hashbrowns are more to my liking... burnt to a crisp on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside. The morning cooks are used to making hash browns en masse, whereas the lunch cook makes hashbrowns per order. I was a happy camper. It's a routine that Nicky and I eat at Nick's on my way to the airport for my traditional last meal in Hollyweird.

Long Beach Airport has only four gates and is a small little complex compared to the mega-airports like LAX or JFK. JetBlue pretty much is the bulk of their business as Long Beach gets the spill over flights into LA from DC, NYC, and Las Vegas. JetBlue offers self-check-in kiosks and all you have to do is swipe your credit card to get your boarding pass. Without any luggage to check, I went from curbside through to security in less than ten minutes.

Since I travel so fuckin' much particularly domestically, I expect the worst at the airport with lengthy security lines and the such. I'm very TSA-compliant with plastic bags housing my toiletries and various electronic equipment like chords and cables. I never carry weed with me any more, so if they want to search me, I'm totally cool with it. If they really wanna bust my balls and confiscate a couple of painkillers that I take with me for emergency purposes (e.g. young kids screaming in the seat next to me... they drugs are either for me, the kids, or their parents), the mini-wage rent-a-cops can go ahead and take them.

In Oz, I was stopped twice and had my bags inspected for bomb making material. Both times the guard doing the check said that Americans are used to that sort of hassle and never gave them guff, whereas local Aussies, Kiwis, and Brits were uncomfortable and usually pissy about it.

I packed super light and for my return to LA next week I might just bring my laptop bag back with me. Traveling light in domestic American airports is the way to go. On the flight, I slowly started adding layers of clothing to prep for the cold... a long sleeve thermal shirt followed by a dress shirt. When the plane landed, I added the fleece and the hoodie on top.

The flight to JFK was only 70% full which meant that I had the entire row to myself. Since JetBlue has DirectTV service, I sat in the middle seat and watched the normal programming on my TV. I turned on the other TVs on either side of me. Left was the Map (which gives up to the minute update of the progress of the flight) and right had ESPN which aired rivalry week college basketball games. I watched UConn take on Syracuse before I caught #7 ranked Texas A&M win their 21st straight game at home en route to a victory over Texas.

I also watched an episode of High Stakes Poker on the Game Show Network and caught up on back-to-back episodes of Heroes and Studio 60 on NBC. Like Wil wrote in his blog, Studio 60 sucked donkey testicles while Heroes kicked ass featured George Takei whom Wil happens to know through Star Trek. I missed the random Star Trek reference. Wil wrote:
"I don't know how many viewers caught it, but when George gets into his car, the license plate was NCC1701, which made me leap up and holla (holla? that's what you damn kids today say, right?) which confused the hell out of my kids who have threads of geek running through them, but not necessarily the Trekkie threads..."
The flight from Long Beach to JFK was less than five hours thanks to a strong jetstream. The temperature when I left LA was 83 degrees. It was 11 when I arrived in NYC with a wind chill of about zero. I rushed off the flight and was the first person in line at the taxi stand. The Pakistani guy must have been there a while because when I slid into the back, the seat was ice cold. My ass froze within minutes and I had to take out a stuffed kangaroo souvenir to sit on in order to keep my ass warm.

I had to sort through five and a half weeks of mail. I have a routine and sort the magazines from the junk mail. I pick out the bills and the paychecks and place them in a different pile. I sort out the bank statements and financial statements from Edward Jones.

Then there's the random pile of mystery items which is usually junk mail but you never know. I then tear into the packages. I get random books, DVDs, and music CDs mailed to me from publishers hoping I can review them on my blog. This instance, I had a package that contained a poker documentary film called No Limit. I also got a press kit for an emo-punkrock-garage-band from Brooklyn which included a six song CD and a special message from the bass player.

It took me close to two hours to sort through the mail mess. I had several W-2s from various freelance clients such as Fox Sports and Poker Player Newspaper. I also got a couple of 1099s from various investments that I earned interest on. The disturbing one was from John Hancock and the insurance money that I inherited after my grandmother died two Decembers ago. I'm taxable on $10.16 of interest. What a waste.

Jerry sent me a Happy New Years card featuring his twin girls who both have names starting with J. I just noticed that. I found a new credit card in the mystery mail along with fourteen other credit card applications. There was an invitation from my college alumni group to see a jazz concert at Lincoln Center of a quartet I never heard of before. When I saw the price, I tossed it aside. I was also invited to an alumni event for my high school at a swanky bar in Midtown. I would not be able to attend since I have to work at the end of the month in LA. I trashed that too.

I was happy to see a couple of paychecks, but two freelance clients had not paid me yet. One of the editors apologized because they sent out unsigned checks a few weeks ago and told me not to cash it. I never got one, so problem solved. As is, those checks should arrive when I'm in LA, which means I'll cash them in early March for work I did at the end of November and beginning of December. Of course, I'm waiting on a monster check from PokerStars which most likely will arrive the day after I leave which means it will be sitting around for three weeks before I cash it, unless I get Derek to forward me the check in LA. I should have just asked PokerStars to send me a check to Nicky's address in LA.

On Tuesday, I was hit with a sick bug. It was a cold/flu combo and I knew I'd get hit after getting an extra month of summer and having a warm week in LA. My warm body was not prepped for chilling single digit weather. I spent most Tuesday feeling like crap and my writing output was diminished by 80%. I uploaded a few pics and wrote a couple of things, while I answered several hundred emails.

I visited my aunt and uncle and gave them souvenirs. I ended up talking to my mother for ninety minutes and getting the skinny on her throat surgery. That was the longest I spoke with my mother where we did not get into an argument or started screaming at each other. Usually I can't stand more than ten minutes with her before I wanna shoot myself. She would not show me the scar on her throat. She has too much pride because she even wore a scarf inside the apartment. I suggested that she retire soon because the commute into Lower Manhattan three days a week was a chore. She admitted that she wouldn't know what to do with all that free time.

I eventully ordered in Chinese food with Derek. I had been craving the garlic chicken for weeks and we watched the Knicks game. I wanted to go to bed early and found myself up until 3am writing after I felt much better when all the Contact flu meds kicked in with the combination of a generic Vicodin and a B-12 pill.

I guess that I was more ill than I thought because I slept an unusual seven straight hours. I didn't recall waking up once and had bizarre dreams about paddling kayaks in Atlanta. Apparently they purposely flooded all the MARTA stations and told commuters to paddle to work or their intended destinations. I finally woke up feeling blah but much better than the day before. I popped a few more generic Vikes and downed a Vitamin C and B-12 pill along with some non-drowsy flu medication.

I flipped on the stereo and discovered that The Beatles arrived in NYC 43 years ago today according to Fordham University radio, one of my favorite radio stations of all time that I find myself craving time to time while on the road. They played plenty of deep cuts off of Beatles b-sides all morning as I wrote. Lots of old blues covers and early 60s pop as compared to the type of music they evolved into once they became better musicians, toked a little weed, and dropped enough liquid sunshine to dose Des Moines, Iowa.

The morning DJs at WFVU play an interesting eclectic mix of classic rock, jambands, indie rock, and weird world music. It's not uncommon to hear an old Bob Dylan ballad, Rilo Kiley, Femi Kuti, and Umphrey McGee's in the same 15 minute stretch.

Time to head over to the local diner for a greasy cheeseburger.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Back in LA

It was raining when Nicky picked me up at LAX. I had not seen her in almost a month and she started right in with a constant flow of LA speak after she complimented me on my tan.

"Fuckin' LA drivers don't know how to drive in the rain. Too many accidents from too many retarded drivers," she said as she cut off a black SUV. "Oh and I saw Aaron Sorkin the other day in front of the Beverly Hills Library. He's apparently got blonde highlights and was with an unidentified blonde, who was too classy to be a hooker."

"Oh my God. I think some old guy had a heart attack at Wahoos Fish Tacos last night," she continued. "And the other day, some asshole in a Mercedes cut in front of me at the light near Olympic and I chased him all the way up to Fountain before I caught up to him and screamed, 'You obviously have a two inch cock, you LA Douchebag!'"

Nicky had been reading about my complaints regarding the Aussie version of bacon which is essentially Canadian bacon that's barely cooked. In Byron Bay, the cooks at The Balcony actually fried the bacon substantially a lot longer which made it the location of best bacon in Oz for me. Nicky bought a new package of bacon for me and offered up a scrambled egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on toasted Italian bread upon my return to America. How could I say no? I craved iced tea so much that I drank three Snapples inside of a few hours.

One morning last week, I made Nicky drive me to John O'Groats, the home of the best French Toast in all of LA. Their bacon is some of the most melt-in-your-mouth bacon you will ever taste in your life. And the iced tea was so delicious that I had three glasses. The service is always slow there, but after spending a month outside of the US, slow service here is as good as fast service overseas.

One night Nicky made Chicken Delmonico, which was breaded chicken breast served in a creamy mushroom sauce over a bed of garlic-mashed potatoes. I almost jizzed in my pants it was so good. On Saturday night, I made pasta... ravioli with an arrabiata sauce made from scratch with Spicy Italian sausages.

Chicken Delmonico

Ravioli with sausages

Breakfast Scramble

We made either omelets or scrambled eggs for breakfast with the leftover ingredients from dinner the night before... mostly onions, scallions, jack and cheddar cheese, portobelloo mushrooms or either bacon or spicy Italian sausage. No tomatoes or peppers for me in my eggs.

On Friday night, we met up with Jen Leo and Shecky for dinner at Cliff's Edge in Silver Lake. Leo had some good news to announce as she showed off her swanky new engagement ring. I had insider knowledge about the impending engagement as Shecky spoke about it a couple of times during our time in Oz together. Shecky scored the perfect rock for the perfect girl. And of course, they will be getting hitched on 7-7-07 in Las Vegas. Of course.

Silver Lake is LA's version of Williamsburg. A couple of years ago, new residents flocked to Silver Lake as that wave of hipsters slowly morphed into LA douchebags. It used to be a crappy neighborhood along with Echo Park, eventually regentrified, and now there's plenty of SUVs, fusion restaurants, tanning salons, and cafes.

Cliff Edge is a California/Italian/Mediterranean joint on Sunset Blvd., which is hard to find from the street. They serve most of the meals in a secret outdoor courtyard. It wasn't that cold, but since I was dining with three SoCal natives, we ended up eating inside. The food was moderately priced and we ordered crab cakes and brushetta to start. Since I returned from Oz a total alcoholic, I drank red wine while Leo and Nicky had mojitos. For dinner, I opted for a filet mignon with gorgonzola cheese and spinach. I did not even touch the spinach and Leo offered to eat it for me since she knew that the only time I volunteer to eat veggies if there's a prop bet attached to it. Shecky had the shrimp risotto, Nicky had the rib-eye and Leo ordered the lamb chops. After dinner we walked across the street to a micro-pub called Good. We drank Good's Blonde Ale while we played Chinese Poker. Of course, I got whopped and ended up down for the night.

For the super bowl festivities, Nicky made her infamous chicken and chirzo chili with grilled cheese sandwiches on Texas Toast. Talk about a kick ass meal to eat along side beers and red wine.

Chili and Grilled Cheese

Yeah, I only put on about six pounds in Australia, but I put on another six since I've been back in LA after stuffing myself with all the foods I missed like iced tea, crispy bacon, a cheeseburger from a diner, French Toast, and a good old fashioned US steak.

I did not have any jetlag and was back to normal within one day, whereas Shecky had jetlag for almost a week. I slept over 10 hours the first day back mainly because I barely slept on my flight home and was up for 36 hours straight. Also, my four weeks in Oz was essential a four week bender. The first two days back, I slept off my four-week hangover as I racked up an unusual amount of slumber.

I spent most of my waking hours answering several thousands emails that have cluttered my inboxes and checking out the thousands of photos I took. Been junking some, fixing others, and figuring out which ones to post to the blogs or upload to my Flickr. It's going to take me a few weeks to get all of them sorted.

Showcase went on two different auditions for commercials, while both he and Nicky embraced Black History Month and paid homage to "Sing like a black girl month" and performed several selections from Dreamgirls.

I also had a deadline for High Roller magazine. I must admit that I forgot when the deadline was. When my editor emailed me about the progress of the Aussie Million piece, I asked him when it was due. He said, "The deadline was today." Yikes. I promised him I would get it done in 48 hours and cranked out 3,100 words in less than a day. Now I heard that I might be the cover story. That's great news considering I found out that I'll be having to take another paycut with a different magazine that I write for.

Since Jen Leo loved Smokin' Aces, we went to see it at the Grove at 10:40 on a weekday night, a time that I knew would not be too crowded. For a two hour flick, Smokin' Aces went fast, which is Joe Carnahan's latest homage to the fast-paced quirky ensemble action flicks similar to the Quentin Tarratino, Guy Ritchie, and Tony Scott genre. The first two and half acts were great but it fizzled in the last twenty minutes or so. Aside from that, I could I not dig a flick where random hookers fall through glass tables? Ben Affleck barely gets any screen time and Jeremy Piven (aka Ari Gold) did a bang-up job as the Buddy "Aces" Israel the Vegas entertainer. Alicia Keys made her big-flick debut as one of the contract killers hunting down Buddy Israel.

I also watched Munich, Spielberg's flick about the Mossad agents who tracked down the leaders of Black September, a PLO terrorist group that masterminded the Munich Massacre at the Olympics in 1972. Inspired by true events and based on the book Vengeance by George Jonas, Munich was an entertaining spy flick. Lots of action. Lots of people dying. Lots of things to think about. The actor who plays James Bond (Daniel Craig) is also playing a Mossad agent along side Eric Bana.

Nicky had a the latest episodes of Heroes, Studio 60, and The OC on her TiVo. I slowly caught up on all of those shows while smoking tough on her couch. I fly to NYC tonight on JetBlue and will be in the air for the most recent episodes of Heroes and Studio 60. In Australia, The Simpsons were on for like three hours every morning during a summer marathon and then I'd find myself watching cricket for random periods of time on one of three Fox Sports stations. Aside from an episode of Dawson's Creek, that's pretty much all I watched in OZ.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

More Byron Bay Pics

Been sorting through several thousand pics trying to figure out which ones will make my Flickr gallery. Here are some of my favorites taken in Byron Bay, Australia. Click on the pics to see an enlarged view:

Trippy Sky

Banana Pancakes from The Balcony


The view from the outside bar at the Beach Motel

The corner of Lawson Street

The Balcony at Dusk

Cheesey Garlic Bread

Random Liquor Store

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I spent my last morning in Sydney eating at a cafe in Kings Cross. Brandon and I ate breakfast there twice. The food was moderately priced, the slender Kiwi waitress was super-cute with a nose ring and a back tattoo, and they served iced tea even though it was Lipton in a bottle poured into a glass with three semi-melted ice cubes.

I slipped past a tranny hooker wearing pink hot shorts standing in front of a stationary store and bought a newspaper before I sat down outside at the cafe. I rummaged through the cricket pages of the sports section as several backpackers lugged their gear past me after leaving of one of the many hostels on Macleay Street. Over the previous four weeks I got a crash course in cricket and watched as much cricket matches as my brain allowed. I achieved a basic grasp of the rules and was ready to begin my intermediate lessons on cricket which included attentively watching highlights on Fox Sports and reading the boxscores and articles.

I ordered a chicken breast sandwich with avocado and bacon smothered in aioli sauce on Italian wood-oven bread. The Kiwi waitress asked me if I wanted it grilled, which I agreed to let her do. I also ordered a hashbrown on the side. Service outside of America is always 20-50% slower depending on the country and if your server actually likes Americans. Most Aussies that I met were Yank-friendly but since it's a no tipping society, I had grown used to longer meals with several gaps of fifteen or more minutes when I never saw or heard from my server. Adjustments were made. If I had a deck of cards, we'd play. Since I was solo, I read.

I still had a couple hundred Aussie bucks left and spent the last hour or so looking for over-priced souvenirs. That's always a chore and I knew that the airport could be my last resort. The ride in the cab to the airport in a foreign country often comes in contrasting emotional experiences. Either I'm extremely giddy with excitement to get the fuck out or I'm morose, somber, and desperately wanting to stay a few more days.

A cloud of gloom hung overhead (I wanted to stay another month) as my cab driver performed an impromptu exit interview with me on the twenty minute ride to the international terminal at Sydney airport. He asked the standard questions like...
Where are you from?
What were you doing in Australia?
How long were you in Australia?
What places did you visit in Australia?
My uncle lives in America. Do you know where Milwaukee is?
When I got to the United desk, I asked about an upgrade to Economy Plus. They had 5-6 extra inches of legroom. I flew in Economy Plus on my flight to Sydney and I had ample room. The two kids around me sucked emu testicles. The price for that upgrade was $150 AUS. I asked about the cost of an upgrade to Business Class. As the lady pushed a few buttons and waited for the computer to spit out an amount, I calculated in my head that I'd do it for anything under $750 US, which meant if I was close to $1K, I'd have a tough decision to make.

"$865," she said.

"Australian or US bucks?" I asked.

"$865 Australian," she said. "Would you like me to upgrade you?"

I quickly did the math in my head. It would be under $700 US and I handed her my credit card. I had gone under budget for the trip and decided to indulge in a more comfortable flight home after a month long of drinking, no sleep, and a grueling two-week assignment. I'm glad that I did. I've only flown First Class once and that was on a short flight. Pacific Ocean trips of 12+ hours made Business Class enticing. Senor has flown Business Class to and from Asia and told me two things... "It's an amazing experience and totally worth it, but once you fly Business Class, you'll never be able to fly coach again."

My upgrade enabled me to enter the United private lounge. It reminded me of the Diamond Club members lounge at Harrah's casinos in Las Vegas. I'd go there with Grubby to get free meals and drinks. The layout was similar, with plenty of finger foods and lots of comfortable places to sit. I almost expected to see Grubby magically appear near the cookie platter. The drinks were self-serve in three large glass-doored refrigerators. That was the first time I had seen gingerale in Australia and grabbed one. I also drank two cans of Toohey's beer and ate two cookies and a couple of rolls with cheddar cheese.

I enjoyed every second of the upgraded perks, especially getting my luggage tagged which meant it would be the first luggage off the plane. United is known for crappy service so I can only imagine what Business Class on a better airline like Singapore Airlines or Quantas could be like. I was one of the first group of people on the plane and originally seated in an exit aisle. That meant even more room. One stewardess offered me a selection of ice water, orange juice, or champagne. She knew my name and threw me a curveball.

"Would you like beverage, Mr. McGrupp?" she asked.

I picked the champagne. Another stewardess politely asked if she could move me back two rows.

"Mr. McGrupp, there would be nobody sitting next to you and then we could use that space for our service carts."

I agreed and she carried over my drink and iPod to my new seat.

"More champagne, Mr. McGrupp?" the original stewardess asked.

While the commoners in coach slowly made their way on the plane, I was offered a hot towel to clean my fingers and given a dinner menu. The left side listed nine different bottles of wine and champagne and a note that, "Starbucks Coffee will be available throughout the flight."

The right side of the menu listed the dinner choices. The appetizer was Parma ham and marinated prawns with roasted vegetable salad and red capsicum coulis. The also served a big salad with a choice of creamy herb dressing or a beetroot vinaigrette. I went with the creamy herb and ate 35% of my salad. When they served the appetizer with the salad, I opted for a glass of Australian wine as my beverage. I'd end up drinking an entire bottle of Shiraz by the end of the meal.

They also came around with a basket of bread. There were three different types and the wheat looked good as did the garlic bread.

"I have a tough choice," I joked.

"Well you can have both," the stewardess said with a smile and I cut her off before she said, "Mr. McGrupp."

"I'll have the whole wheat roll and two pieces of garlic bread," I blurted out.

The main course was a choice of meat, chicken, or fish. I almost did the Macadamian nut-crusted chicken with mango lime sauce and rice pilaf, but chose the filet mignon with a shiitake cream mushroom sauce instead. The sides were asparagus in a lemon brown butter (which I barely touched) and parmesan potatoes which I devoured.

The dessert was a choice of Brie cheese and fruit or a triple chocolate mousse cake. The cake was the obvious choice. For my after dinner cocktail, I went for the mineral water. After a bottle of wine, two glasses of champagne, and beers at the airport lounge, I was ready to slow down a bit.

The chairs were extra comfortable and almost folded out into a bed. There was a personal reading lamp, foot rest, and a real pillow with a real blanket. I didn't miss those ecoli and anthrax infested blankets in coach one bit. Instead of having to watch a movie at a set time, there was a personal entertainment center. Every two hours or so, the movies rebooted. There were six or seven channels playing simultaneous movies with three or four language options per movie. Each would start out with an Ebert & Roeper review of the film so you got a minor introduction to the plot.

I ended up watching four flicks and parts of two others. I started with The Last King of Scotland with Forrest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He's the favorite to win the Oscar this year and he blew me away as the charming yet maniacal dictator. The second flick was All the Kings Men starring Jude Law and Sean Penn as a politician who runs for governor of Louisiana. Penn's character is loosely based on the eccentric populist Louisiana politician Huey Long. I heard it got bad reviews, but it held my attention for that leg of travel in between Fiji and American Somoa.

I also watched a poorly executed romantic-teen comedy called Accepted with some dorky kid who didn't get into any colleges so he started his own. Hijinks ensue. Then there was the football flick with Marky Mark called Invincible, based on the true story of a bartender from South Philly who went to open tryouts for the Eagles and made the club for three seasons. It was predictable and not as much as a tear-jerker as Rudy. However, I didn't fall asleep during it so it must have been decent.

I also watched several scenes from Neverwas and an hour of The Queen. Helen Mirren is the favorite to win the Oscar for her performance and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about.

There was one flight attendant who reminded me of the Japanese version of Richard Gere who would walk the aisles and pour me cold bottled water into a glass. Every other hour, he'd give me a new chilled glass and offer a different beverage.

"More mineral water, Mr. McGrupp? Some more wine? Perhaps one of our selection of beers?"

Even when I'd nod off for about twenty minutes, I'd awake to find a full glass of water. I barely slept on my 13 hour flight. I tried a few times, but would only fall out for less than 30 minutes before I'd wake up and end up watching a movie hoping to fall asleep during it, which never happened.

Breakfast was served more than halfway between Hawai'i and LAX. I drank two glasses of orange juice and two cups of coffee. The choices were a fruit plate with yogurt for the cold breakfast or a hot breakfast of a chicken and mushroom crepe with Lyonnaise potatoes and a baked tomato. It also came with a croissant. Since Business Class was half full, I asked for another croissant. I was offered two and some fruit.

The flight arrived thirty-five minutes early. Nicky was still at home when I called. I told her to give me almost an extra 45 minutes to an hour after I landed to deplane, clear immigration, and pick up my bags. The upgrade cut that time in half. I was the third person off the plane and third person to go through immigration. My luggage was the tenth bag to be spit out at the baggage carousel, which never happened before. I was the fourth person in line at customs. All in all, it took less than thirty minutes to go from leaving the plane to standing outside in the rain waiting for Nicky to pick me up.

For the first time in a month, I adjusted to winter temperatures. It was 50 plus (freezing by LA standards) and I actually dug through my bag to find a fleece pullover. I got to skip a full month of winter as I snuck in four weeks of Summer in Australia. I left Sydney at 4:15pm and arrived in LA the same day, except six hours earlier. I lost a day going to OZ after crossing over the International Date Line. By crossing it on the way back, meant that I'd get the day that I lost back as I was stuck in living the longest day of my life.