New York City
I began preparations for a three week trip to Australia. I fly to Hollyweird on Monday then fly to Oz on Wednesday. I have to work for ten days in Melbourne covering the Poker News Cup and then I get 12 off to explore. Nicky is coming with me on this trip and we've been figuring out what to do with our free days. We're going to drive the majestic Great Ocean Road and visit Sydney for a couple of days. We're both returning to Australia in January and we'll work for two weeks for the Aussie Millions and take two or three weeks for some side trips to Byron Bay and New Zealand.
The New Zealand leg of this trip was canceled a couple of weeks ago. I had Moscow and now New Zealand canceled. I had mix feelings for both. Sure, I wanted to go, but I was physically tired and mentally drained from all of this recent travel. If New Zealand happened, I would have lost a week of writing. If Moscow went down, I'd have to skip Turkey Day. We're going to add New Zealand to our trip in January, so everything worked out for the best.
I finished a batch of laundry and will pack my bag later tonight. Shit, three weeks is a short trip compared to the six-week European sojourn or the two months in Las Vegas this summer. I have everything else all set up and rented a global phone so all my calls will be forwarded. The process worked during my six weeks in Europe... except that it was extremely expensive.
I also reloaded my iPod with a batch of fresh music. I've been digging The Duo Tones, which is two acoustic guitar players. I stumbled upon the them by sheer accident. Their Surf Music Unplugged is perfect writing music. Amazing stuff.
I have also been on a Medeski, Martin, and Wood kick including all of their side projects. John Scofield frequently sits in with the Brooklyn-based trio. He cut an album with them after their tour of Japan together. I have been getting into Chris Wood's side project with his brother Oliver aptly called The Wood Brothers. And when The Wood Brothers are on tour, the other two-thirds of MMW, got together and continued to create music. That's where Mago comes in. I've been writing to those guys all week long.
Just when I get used to having a daily schedule, I have to hit the road again. The last two weeks have been highly productive but relaxing at the same time. I started a new freelance project with a Swedish gaming company. I also caught up on my other projects and blogs without having the pressure to rush my work. I was able to take my time and write when inspiration struck instead of forcing myself to write, which is what has happened for the majority of this year. I work better when the words flow naturally. The articles I wrote in New York over the last two weeks are some of the best stuff that I wrote this year.
I also got to watch a ton of sports. Sure the Yankees blew another October post-season but it simply felt great to watch those games with my brother. Even though the Jets suck, I'm thrilled to watch ever down on Derek's couch. The NHL season kicked off and even though the Rangers won their first game, and can't score a lick, it's still fun to get to watch those games again. I missed sports. Especially New York sports and watching my teams with my brother.
I'm looking forward for the three weeks after my trip is over where I'll be able to spend more time in NYC and set aside a large chunk of time to finish up the project with the Swedes and do some personal writing.
I wanted to write yesterday but I'm sick. At first I thought it was allergies. Then the weather abruptly changed from the 80s to the low 50s. My body got caught up in the mix. I woke up on Friday with a nasty head cold. It's been lingering since then. Better now, than when I get to Australia.
The hardest part about writing when I have a cold is gravity. A nasal drip falls right onto the keyboard. Sometimes I'm so stubborn or caught up in the zone of writing that I ignore what's happened and a waterfall of snot tumbles out of my nostrils and runs down my face and chin. A small pool collects on my laptop and I ignore it. The words are more important that bodily fluid. That's dedication to one's craft.
I wrote a check for almost $19,000. That was not the largest check I ever wrote. I sent the IRS a fatter check this year for taxes, which completely pained me to write. The one I cut this week went to pay off my school loan. I'm officially out of debt. I simply stopped paying my loan in 1999. It went into default and no less than a dozen collection agencies tried to get me to pay. While that went down, interest accumulated. By the time the Department of Education stepped in, the juice was almost 50%. I sat down with them and worked out a deal. I'd make small payments of $300 a month for a full year as I rehabilitated my loan. Once that process was complete, they would reinstate my loan (and be able to sell it). That finally happened. The new lender jacked up my interest rate so I decided to pay it in full. Now I am 100% debt free and I have one less bill to worry about.
I never thought I would see the day when that happened. I honestly thought the only way I'd get out of debt as a writer is when I sold my first screenplay. The last two years has been a tremendous ride and I finally started making some money, enough to pay off my school loans. I took a job on Wall Street right after 9.11 because I thought that was the fastest way for me to earn enough money to get out of debt. When I left in 2003, I figured that I'd be carrying around debt for the rest of my life. Four years later... the impossible happened. All because of something called the Tao of Poker.
Everyone has one idea inside them. The million dollar idea. I stumbled upon mine by pure accident. The blog that started out with a handful of readers (Senor, Derek, and Jerry). Then poker exploded. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I went from an unknown to one of the top writers in my genre in just a couple of years. I've been traveling and working so much that I don't realize what really has happened the last few years. It wasn't until I wrote that check to pay off my loan when it all hit me.
I'm living the dream.
I'm also a free man. I'm no longer obligated to play the game anymore. The man doesn't hold debts over my head to keep me in check. I managed to get debt-free by working outside the system, something that is extremely rare. No debts. No mortgages. No car payments. Shit, I don't even pay rent because I'm on the road so much.
In the last three years, I saved up enough money where I can quit writing in the poker industry today and take four years off to write and set up another studio in New York City. I created a safety net or a golden parachute. If I wanted to live in a cheaper town in the middle of nowhere, I could have a six or seven year sabbatical to write. Shit, if I moved to Thailand, I could live and write for ten years without having to work a single day.
I saved out of fear more than anything else. I honestly don't know if I will ever make that much again as a writer. Even the best artists, musicians, writers, actors, etc... have a small window where they reached a financial pinnacle. My window has been wide open the last two years but I can see it slowly shutting.
I also don't know if I can breakout into mainstream writing and achieve the tremendous success that has come my way in the poker industry. Poker is a small pond. I'm a big fish. I'm hoping that several business decisions I made over the last few months will allow me to focus on writing and not worry about finances.
I'm stuck in the poker industry for at least another year or so, or until the money dries up. Whichever comes first. I guess that's why I decided to work with the Swedes. It was my way to branch out.
When the time comes for me to leave poker (if it's three days, three months, or three years), I'll take some time off to write a couple of books and a screenplay. That day can't come sooner.
I'm waiting for the time when I can finally say, that this has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way.
Link of the Day: Hunter Thompson on Films is a collection of clips of journalists at a symposium on the late Hunter S. Thompson. Thanks to Sparky for the heads up.