Monday, October 08, 2007

Back in the Bronx

By Pauly
New York City

I have been in New York City for a full week and I couldn't be happier. Sure, the weather is not optimal. It feels more like the first week of September than the first week of October. I expected to be wearing a fall wardrobe with lots of sweaters and jeans and stuff. Instead, it's shorts and sunglasses during an unexpected heat wave.

I missed most of the winter. I spent all of January in Australia... where it was summer. The only hint of winter I experienced was the brutal Valentine's Day storm when I was trying to fly to Los Angeles and I got caught in limbo for two days. I spent the majority of February in Hollyweird on a work assignment. I also headed to Las Vegas for a week during March Madness and a enjoyed a week in Florida at music festival. I missed the tail end of winter. Aside from a couple of chilly weeks in December (I had spent a week each in Hollyweird and Vegas then as well), I practically skipped the winter season in 2006-7.

I missed all my favorite local foods. Over the past week, I have indulged in various NYC comfort food. I should have been exercising and eating healthy, but I lost a little discipline. I exercised about 50% of the amount I would have liked to (e.g. every other day instead of every day). Alas, it was hard to stay away from food. Like the local Chinese take out. Nothing beats their chicken in a spicy garlic sauce. Then there's the local pizza place. My brother and I ordered from them twice last week; once for chicken parm heros (I also got a Caesar's salad) and the other time for a mushroom pizza.

Then there's the diner, actually there are two that I frequent. I call one The Greek Diner which is a small diner made up of eight booths and a counter. The Big Diner is about 10 times the size of the Greek Diner and it's also owned by Greeks. The Greek Diner is where I go for my breakfast sandwich. If I walk in before Noon, the old guy behind the counter knows what I want.

"The usual?" he asks.

I always nod my approval, sit down at the counter, and I thumb through the Daily News sports section. Less than three minutes later, he emerges with my breakfast sandwich... a fried egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich on a Kaiser roll with salt, pepper, and ketchup. Breakfast of champions. No one makes a better bacon, egg, and cheese.

There was a moment where I ate bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches for three straight meals spread out over two days. I went out looking for breakfast and wandered into the Greek Diner around 9am. Later that night, my brother and I ordered take-out from The Big Diner. Five minutes after I placed the order, I realized that I ordered the same thing I ate for breakfast... a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a roll. It's not as good as the Greek Diner since they make it with scrambled eggs, but it came with a side of waffle fries.

I had fallen asleep around 1am and woke up at 5am. By 6:30am, I was starving and craved an everything bagel. I went downstairs to the bagel store and found out it was closed due to a Jewish holiday. I had to settle on the Greek Diner which was located next door. And that's how I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese and ate my third consecutive sandwich. I think during college, I once ate cheeseburgers for seven consecutive meals.

The last seven days have been extremely productive writing wise. I completed a column for Bluff Magazine that was due on the 5th. I started it on Monday and had the opportunity to work on it every day for four straight days. I also had three different people proof-read it. I never have time to find extra sets of eyes and have the luxury of several days in a row to work on any assignment with my crazy travel schedule.

That's been the big benefit of being home... that I can take my time with assignments and not feel like I have to crank out copy in order to meet a deadline. Usually I sit down at my laptop and write quickly until the piece is finished. I edit it and usually get Jessica or Nicky to take a peek at it. Sometimes I don't have their assistance and I get a little sloppy when I have to sacrifice time.

The result for this magazine assignment was something I actually liked. I usually don't dig the stuff I write. However, this instance, I approved. The only bad thing? The first draft was 3,500 words for my column that I was told by the editor should be "about 1,000 to 1,500 words." I had to go back in and slash and burn and tweak it. The second draft clocked in at 3,000 words. The third and final draft finished up at 2,450. I couldn't cut anymore and turned it in at that length. I'll let them figure out what to cut. Maybe they'll leave it as I submitted it. I'll find out in December when the issue comes out.

I had the rare opportunity to print stuff out that I wrote and edited my work on paper as my article progressed. I never get to do that anymore. I thought about getting a travel-size printer to take with me, but that's another bulky thing that will slow me down. Finding working printers in hotels is difficult and most business centers charge you a ridiculous amount to print stuff. I had gotten used to editing on the fly and with out a net. Historically, I always catch more mistakes when I see something on paper and in an entirely different context. That extra layer of editing process had been eliminated from my daily routine and a small percentage of my overall writing has suffered. I don't think anyone who pays the bills has noticed. They rarely do and are more concerned about getting stuff in on time than overall content. However, I notice all the flaws and choppy sentences. Hopefully, I can figure out a solution to this problem and discover inventive ways to get more time to write per assignment and find more printers.

I caught up on 97% of my email. I also pre-wrote one future column for Poker Player Newspaper and would like to get at least two in the can so I don't have to worry about those assignments when I'm in Australia. I caught up on several other side writing projects. I published Truckin'. I wrote a strip club review for Las Vegas Vegas. And I finally updated the Phish and music blog. I forgot how much time I waste being on the road, stuck in airports, stuck on airplanes, or checking in and out of hotels.

I played a ton of online poker in the last week. I played a couple thousand of hands which I had not done in almost a year. I'm down but I played better than average... so no complaints. I'm hoping that I can find some more time to play during the rest of the year. I have only one major work assignment (in Australia) and that ends on October 29th. I'm taking the rest of the year off to focus on writing, side projects, and playing poker. My only obligation are three columns a month until I have to cover the Aussie Millions at the Crown Casino in Melbourne in January.

I had a couple of long TiVo sessions. My brother recorded a bunch of shows like the World Series of Poker. I caught up on 20-30 hours of programming. Nicky also hooked me up with the first five episodes of Weeds. I caught two and will eventually finish those off by the end of this week.

During those insomnia hours, I immersed myself in books and music. I finished Atomised by French writer Michel Houellebecq, which my friend Benjo gave me as a gift. I also burned through Death to All Cheerleaders by Marty Beckerman. Funny shit. I re-read and completed Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins on my way home from Key West. Right now, I'm re-reading The Bronx Zoo by Sparky Lyle and Peter Golenbock, which is about the 1978 NY Yankees. I started reading parts of Live from New York, a monster 600 page uncensored history of SNL. I read excerpts in book stores over the last couple of years and my aunt bought me a copy for my birthday. That's a book that is too big to carry along with me on the road, so I have to leave in NYC and read it in pieces over the next couple of months.

I also have three other books ready to go as soon I'm done with The Bronx Zoo.
1. Black Spring by Henry Miller
2. Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends by Barney Hoskyns
3. Miles by Miles Davis
I hope to get to one of those before I leave for Australia. I read Black Spring a decade ago. I'm thinking about taking Miles with me to Oz. I got it used for under $3.

I have been jumping back into the music listening to a couple of albumns non-stop such as Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers Band, Goats Head Soup by the Rolling Stones, and Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan. I also have been playing a lot of Phish from their 2000 tour. Seven years ago, they completed a fall tour before they went on a two year hiatus. I was following Phish on their last seven shows of that last tour. My group consisted of three Japanese Phisheads in America for the first time. Two of them were musicians I met in Japan months earlier when I followed Phish there with Senor and Beano. I got some heady flashbacks listening to the 2000 Shoreline and Chula Vista shows.

I wanted to write about the Yankees and the bugs in Game 2 and their victory in game 3, but I'm out of time. Maybe later.

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