Monday, April 16, 2007

Ten Day Week

I've spent ten straight days in NYC. That's the third longest stint I've had in 2007 where I've logged consecutive days in one place. The other two were LA at the end of February (15 days) and Melbourne at the beginning of the year (16 days). March was a crazy month. I started out in Hollyweird for work, flew to NY for less than two days, spent a week in Florida for Langerado, a week in NYC, followed by another week in Las Vegas for March Madness with Senor, then an intense week in Monte Carlo for work and a few days in Amsterdam before a much welcomed ten day reprieve in NYC.

During my second day back in the city, Shecky had called and asked what I was doing.

"I'm sitting on my brother's couch, yanking tubes, and watching the Yankees game. I'm about to order in a pizza," I said.

"That's very American of you," he joked.

"It's one of my favorite past times."

I'm caught in the middle of strange routines where I have a few moments of anxiety every morning because I forget what city I'm in. I'm constantly fighting for elbow space on cross country flights. I'm checking in and out of over-priced hotels at odd hours and fielding the most asked question that I seem to get these days from friends, "Where are you and where are you off to next?"

Usually I'm looking forward to getting to the next destination or I'm bummed that I have to leave a particular place. This past week I've been content with not going anywhere. The only traveling I've been doing is swiping my Metrocard to hop on the subway. And of course in less than 24 hours, that's all over for a while as I fly out to Hollyweird for a couple of days then drive to Las Vegas for two weeks and two assignments. I eventually get back to NYC in early May and will have anywhere from two to three weeks of non-migration. I'm anticipating that being the longest stretch of time this year that I don't go anywhere before I have to move to Las Vegas for two months to cover my third World Series of Poker.

I'm looking forward to that time next month to explore NYC in the spring. That was supposed to be the last ten days, but there was a bitter chill followed up by a Nor'easter that has dumped buckets and buckets of rain and wind onto the city. It may or may not threaten my JetBlue flight tomorrow. I was caught up in their Valentine's Day Debacle, which ruined my V-Day plans with Nicky and it took me close to 60 hours to finally get the fuck out of freezing NYC and to where I wanted to go... the warmth of the California sun. I was one of the lucky ones who actually got out of town the Friday after the blizzard struck and almsot destroyed that entire airline. I had never been happier to be in the Valley. That's where the only flight to the Left Coast that I could find landed. At Bob Hope Airport in Burbank of all places.

The best part about being home (aside from watching A-Rod shoot his load for the .500 Yankees) and watching the Yankees or Rangers playoff games with my brother, is getting to watch the first two episodes of The Sopranos and Entourage. I've been critical of The Sopranos over the last season which has been spread over three years. There are individual scenes and bits of dialogue in every episode that remind me why that was an amazing show. But overall, they missed the target. The shows are edible and have delicious moments, but where's the outstanding feast I'm used to dining on? And as Derek mentioned, those cancer scenes last night were uber-depressing.

I wanted more scenes with the mobsters making horror flicks. I think that should be an amazing spin off. Here's my pitch... a group of New Jersey thugs move to Hollyweird and start their own production company, where they launder money from back East and wash it through various studios. It's also a fish out of water tale where the brash tactics of the mob meets the sleazy underworld of Hollyweird. Sort of a mixture of Entourage meets The Sopranos meets Get Shorty.

Benjo, a fellow journalist that I met in Monte Carlo happens to be French and a huge Sopranos fan. He told me that he helps transcribe the episodes into French subtitles. That helped him to learn better English as he picked up on some slick slang. He told me about his admiration for the camerawork and how certain scenes are framed. I must give Benjo props for pointing that out. And I must give them credit on the aesthetics of the show. It's as beautiful as ever... I mean how can you really photograph the burbs of New Jersey without having it come out like slop? The DP and camera crew gets credit there.

Overall, the first two episodes were average. Since it's the last run, I had expected it to be packed with non-stop action. I think that was everyone's expectations. Perhaps I've been spoiled with a show like Heroes which delivers a punch every few minutes. In fact, I can't wait for the final episodes of Heroes to wind down Season 1. They saved the cheerleader. Now it's time to save the world.

I have to lower my standards for the remaining Episodes of The Sopranos in order to enjoy the last bit. I don't have to do that with Entourage. The first two episodes met my expectations as Johnny Drama steals the show every week with some of the best lines. I think you could spin off an entire series and call it Johnny Drama where it's just him and Turtle getting into hijinks.

Maybe I've been spending too much time in LA, but I appreciate some of the inside jokes a little better and savor the thickly layered dialogue. It helps when I watch the show with Nicky, who's no stranger that the entertainment industry and points out the more obscure references and random homages to old Hollywood that are peppered throughout the episodes.

I'm also starting to recognize specific streets that they've been filming on. When I think about Hollyweird, I mainly think about navigating traffic while driving around a lot in Nicky's shitty Saturn (I should say... "used to" drive around). I spent a lot of time looking out windows and get an insulated feeling about the City of Angels, unlike Amsterdam or New York City where it's a pedestrian society and I'm forced to physically put my feet on the ground and explore the city under more genuine circumstances.

* * * * *

I've been writing much more since my return to NYC. I cranked out Truckin', wrote a couple of assignments, and did my best to keep up the blogs. Ever since I was hired by ESPN, I've found myself reading less blogs and online stuff and more books and literature. I spent about three or so hours in various bookstores last week such as Posman Books in Grand Central Station or at Barnes & Nobles in the Flat Iron district. I always gravitate towards the religion and philosophy books, but I found myself thumbing through books from my favorite authors. I'd pick out a middle page and start reading for about ten or fifteen minutes before moving on to a different author. It's sort of like a "mix tape" of my favorite books and writers... passages here and there.

It's important that I do everything in my power to be at the top of my writing game this summer. There is some pressure for me to be cranking out my best possible writing for any ESPN assignment. But I don't want to exclude any other outlets and crank out average and mediocre content for my other assignments and sites. I've been slowly scaling down my workload and trying to find a healthy place where I can give more time to each blog, column, or assignment and still have enough time to enjoy my social life and manage a couple of other projects and business ventures. I still have a long way to go.

Time management is my biggest headache. And I never seem to have enough time. Like NYC time for example. There are dozens of friends that I haven't seen in a while and want to. But I simply don't have the time when I want to catch up on The Yankees or finish a few assignments or have to catch up on family obligations.

I was fortunate to have a very nice celebration dinner at The Palm with my brother, The Rooster, and F Train. We've been having random meet-ups every few months. And the last time we gathered, it was just before Christmas and we headed out to Big Nick's for burgers and then barhopped with The Rooster as our trail guide. By the end of the night, we stumbled into Ethan Hawke's Christmas party and was eventually thrown out. I pissed on their side door and scared off Ethan while The Rooster wanted to fight the asshole owner of the Upper West Side joint that catered to NYC hipsters and Hollyweird douchebegas.

That was last December. We were in the middle of April and I was under the weather. We managed to have an amazing meal. We all ordered the filet mignon as The Rooster embarrassed me and told our waiter that I was ESPN's latest writer. He happened to watch "the poker" on ESPN all the time and asked about Phil Hellmuth.

After dinner we wandered down the street to Bamboo 52. That's a gay sushi joint in case you were wondering as Hell's Kitchen has slowly been morphing into the next Chelsea. When the West Village got too expensive, the gay community slowly expanded into moderately priced Chelsea in the early 1990s. And after that got too expensive, they continued the northern migration into regentrified Hell's Kitchen. When I was a kid, my father told me to avoid parts of the West 40s and 50s because that's where all the hookers, druggies, and the Westies (the infamous Irish mafia) operated. Now the Chelsea Army has invaded.

So yeah, The Rooster took us to a gay sushi joint that had tables in the back. He said he wanted to go because of their happy hour. Of course, happy hour was over and we went anyway. The Rooster was still the Rooster. He managed to get a Mento and a phone number from one 30-something women wearing a gaudy flowery dress that would have landed her on Nicky's Fashion Dont's list.

The night was tame compared to previous adventures like my birthday or Christmas. I was sick and we were all a little tired. We ended the night early which was fine by me. The last thing I needed was to have a two-day hangover.

* * * * *

I had a couple of New York moments in the past few days that made me miss the city. I was pretty pissed off when the first one happened. It was raining pretty hard. It was cold. The subway was approaching and I sprinted towards the station. That instance, it was an elevated track and I had to run up a good 1.5 stories of stairs past an old lady with a cane that I almost clipped. I managed to slip my hand in my wallet and remove my Metro card in one swift moment as I approached the turnstile. As soon as I swiped my card the subway doors opened. Of course the turnstile was still locked as it displayed the "Insufficient Funds" message.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

That was a waste of a subway sprint. Dejected, I shuffled off to the Metro Card machine to reload as the subay closed its doors and pulled out of the station.

Another moment happened on the subway when I was riding downtown with Derek. An ethnic mother and her two sons got on the subway with McDonalds bags. The kids were young and... fat. Chubby would be kind, but these kids were not fit at all.

"They are built like rottweilers," mentioned Derek. "And of course, they super-sized it."

The kids stuffed their faces as the subway raced downtown. At one of the stops, I heard a crashing sounds followed by a spilling sound. One of the kids walked over to the open door and threw his supersized drink. It hit the tiled wall of the subway station before it splattered on the platform. The fat kid would not stop laughing as the doors closed.

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