Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Road 2008: Tao of Pauly Year End Video

By Pauly
New York City

I spliced together an eight minute video of some of the highlights of my 2008. I traveled extensively in 2008 from Australia to New Zealand to Denmark to Langerado to Las Vegas to Colorado to London to Amsterdam to Budapest to San Francisco to San Diego to Rhode Island and lets not forget places like New York City and Los Angeles. Here's just a taste...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Slow Crawl

By Pauly
New York City

Benjo called me from the airport on Saturday afternoon. He arrived at JFK. I told him to ditch any socialist newspapers that he might have imported from France. Homeland Security isn't keen about anything leaning too far left. Then I leaked some privy information that most NYC cabbies are fronts for Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. If Benjo said the wrong thing or made the wrong move, he'd get his throat slashed.

Lucky for Benjo, he successfully navigated immigration, customs, and a ride into Manhattan. I met Benjo and Johnny Mushroom in the East Village on Saturday night. The trio of us rented that swanky canal house in Amsterdam in August of 2007 and now we were all chilling out in the big city for a few days.

Johnny Mushrooms is originally from Australia. He's dating a nice gal who lives in San Francisco but most of her friends live in NYC. We met up with a group of 20-something girls from Cornell. Brights girls who like to party. We essential crashed Bree's party. Never met her before. Neither did Johnny Mushrooms. But her friends were friends with his girlfriend so it was totally cool that he showed up unannounced with a bottle of vodka, Benjo, and myself.

I had not played drinking games in a decade, perhaps the last time I visited Derek at school and hung out in his fraternity house. I routinely drink with AlCantHang and there's nothing quite like it. Drinking as a game is peanuts for a seasoned veteran like Al. For him, it's more like drinking... as life.

At first Benjo had a tough time adapting to the rules of Up the River. I kept a keen eye on Johnny Mushrooms. He's a poker pro and even though he never played the drinking game before, I gave him respect since he'd pick it up very quickly. Benjo eventually understood that the entire point of the game was to get as shitfaced as possible while getting everyone else in the game snookered as well.

A few more people showed up to the walk up on First Avenue. As the small group turned into a party, I naturally mingled with the potheads. Or rather, the Ivy league potheads instinctually gravitated towards me. I dazzled them with tales of Nicky's medicinal marijuana batches and a few Amsterdam stories such as the time I almost shit my pants.

I had to leave the party for a bit to head uptown to see a guy about a horse. Benjo tagged along. We took a slight detour to Gray's Papaya for hotdogs. Then we took a walk down 72nd Street to the Dakota where John Lennon was whacked.

We headed back downtown and ended up at Beauty Bar. The bouncer stopped us. He was funny and hysterical. The nebbish owner who gave me the gloss over before he reluctantly nodded to the brother at the door who finally allowed me entrance to a bar that I could care less about going inside. Lots of 80s music. The booze buzz wore off. I went home to get some rest before an exhausting Sunday of football.

Sunday was huge for me. I rarely sports bet anymore so I had everything (money and emotional turmoil) riding on the last 16 games of the season. Every game had significance since I was ahead by one point in the Pauly's Pub pool. I was sorta freaking out. I knew that I'd make the money and finish in the Top 4, but I was in first place since Turkey Day. I just didn't want to choke.

Lucky for me, I had a solid week. Only one person had more wins than me and I managed to hold onto first place. After an eight hour binge of football on Derek's couch, I headed downtown to meet up with Benjo and Johnny Mushrooms.

They were staying at the Pod Hotel. It's sort of like a high-end hotel for budget travelers with different types of rooms to fit various budgets. Johnny Mushrooms was in the middle of playing a couple of the big Sunday night online tournaments. It was work for him. While he played in the Pod, Benjo and I had a couple of beers in that odd neighborhood on the East 50s. The Sunday football game was on and I tried to explain the skinny about American Football. After drinking pints of Stellas at the Irish pub, I took him over to the East River promenade. I pointed to the water and explained to him what a floater was.

Johnny Mushrooms went deep in one tournament and won a few bucks. He was exhausted and decided to call it an early night. Benjo and I continued drinking at a different bar. At one point, a cougar had her eyes set on Benjo.

On Monday morning, I had to catch up with some work. Benjo and Johnny Mushrooms did some tourist crap like the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, and Chinatown. Johnny Mushrooms had to fly out to San Francisco and left in the mid-afternoon.

I headed to the West Side and checked into a swanky hotel... my home for four nights for Nicky's visit. I found a sick sick sick deal online which essentially got me four nights for the price of two including a seriously discounted rate for New Years Eve. Even the top hotels are hurting and if you know where to look, you can find some amazing values.

Anyway, I took Benjo to one of my favorite spots in the city... Strand bookstore near Union Square. Benjo is also a writer and frequently reads books in English. He had a lot of fun wandering the tiny aisles lined with massive shelves. He bought a couple of books. He had never read Women by Charles Bukwoski, so I bought that for him. I purchased two books. The Plague by Albert Camus was recommended by Benjo. A malcontent Frenchman recommending a novel by a French existentialist? Talk about cliches. I also picked up a book about John Coltrane's music called Coltrane: The Story of a Sound.

After a quick trip to the bookstore, we had to meet up with Derek and Nicky. Derek just got off work while Nicky arrived from LAX. We grabbed dinner at Big Nick's. That's a favorite eatery among the McGrupp brothers. I took Nicky there last summer and she loved it. And since Benjo is a fan of greasy spoon diners, we knew he'd love it.

We retreated to the P&G for drinks after dinner. We luckily snagged a booth and drank pitchers of Yeungling. Benjo and I got drunk and recorded three episodes of Tao of Pokerati. Two were good. One was stellar. Hopefully, those will be uploaded sooner than later.

The party ended early. Nicky pulled an all-nighter before she got on her flight and was exhausted. Derek had to work on Tuesday and Benjo had to get up early for his day trip to Washington, DC. He wants to take a photo with Obama. The Frenchies love the guy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Avoiding the Choke; Pauly Wins Pauly's Pub Football Pool

By Pauly
New York City

At the start of November, I couldn't believe that I was at the front of the pack in my annual football pool. I was in the Top 5 or so and had never been that high up so late into the season. On Turkey Day, I took over sole possession of first place. I was on the verge of winning my own pool as long as I didn't choke in December. Last weekend was tough and I agonized over the games. I actually whiffed and went 0-5 in the afternoon games. I overthought the process and imploded. I ended up with a below average week. Although I retained first place, a couple of folks picked up ground on me like Drizz and Storms. I had a cushion and lost it. The pressure was on for the final week of the season with Otis in hot pursuit.

I had less time for the pool than in previous years. I did not do any extra research and I usually did my picks on the fly due to a crazy travel schedule. My picking method was nothing sexy. Just old school formula... picking almost always chalk and selecting the home teams in extra close games. I guess it worked.

On the last week of the season, I tried not to fret over the games. I waited until an hour before gametime before I made my final picks and went with my gut. I didn't crunch the numbers and tried my best to figure out which teams would sit their starters. There were five or six tough games and many with playoff implications. I only made two last second changes and both games were winners; Houston and Miami. The biggest game of the week? Philly beating Dallas. I picked Philly while 90% of the pool went with Tony Romo and the inept Cowboys. That game sealed the pool for me.

Anyway, I got lucky the last couple of weeks and held onto first place. The top four places paid.I won $420. Fitting. I'm going to blow all of my winnings on Phish tour in 2009. That will buy me a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and other headies in the parking lot.

I also won the Brothers wagers. BG and myself were up against our brothers Derek and Bobby Bracelet. Our combined score was better.

And I feel bad for the guys who finished below Nicky. She finished in 14th place and had bragging rights over PKPNF, Derek, and BTreotch.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dive Bar Moving

By Pauly
New York City

One of my favorite dive bars in New York City is moving. There is a picture of P&G below in my post titled the Year in Pictures. You can see a couple of random pics taken in and around P&G in this NYC photo gallery.

When I took out-of-towners and seasoned alkies like AlCantHang and Iggy to the P&G, they absolutely loved it and never wanted to leave. I feel the same way. It's a total dump. A true dive in every sense of the word with an eclectic clientele.

I first drank there in my early 20s. It was the perfect spot to drink before and after a concert at the Beacon Theatre. I can't tell you how many times we had a pre-show drink there before an Allman Brothers concert or smoke one-hitters outside on the corner.

In my 30s, P&G became a bar where I'd go to escape from the daily grind or hide out from my friends. I dated a valium guzzling actress who lived around the corner and we'd often retreat there when we got sick the hipster-infestation in the other bars on the Upper West Side

Just last month, Yogi's shut their doors. Rents doubled. One dive bar down. No more slutty dirty chicks slinging you cans of PBR. P&G isn't closing up shop completely... it's just moving six blocks away. But you know, things won't exactly be the same.

One of my favorite nights in 2008 occurred at P&G when Iggy, GMoney, and StB visited NYC. We hung out at P&G and met some drunk dude named White Gold. He had star potential and became the subject of a series of YouTube videos.

Here are the White Gold videos...

Gold. I'll try to grab a beer or two before it closes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008: The Year in Pictures

By Pauly
New York City

Inspired by Benjo's the year in pictures post, I sifted through my Flickr galleries from 2008 and selected some of my favorite photos. These were posted in chronological order. Enjoy.

The Players Party at the Crown Casino
Melbourne, Australia

Flying over Lake Wakitupu
Queensland, New Zealand

Sunset over Lake Wakitupu
Queensland, New Zealand

Red Light murals
Amsterdam, Holland

The swans outside the Citadel
Copenhagen, Denmark

Rink at Kongens Nytorv
Copenhagen, Denmark

South Beach
Miami, Florida

Walking to the main stage during Langerado
Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, Florida

Outside P&G
New York, NY

Iggy's $10,000
Las Vegas, NV

How they party in Colorado
Denver, CO

Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

Pineapple Express? Pineapple + Trainwreck
Los Angeles, CA
(Note: This is also my most popular photo this year on Flickr!

View from my balcony in Soho
London, UK

Outdoor market
Amsterdam, Holland

Canal at dusk
Amsterdam, Holland

Budapest, Hungary

Near Gellert Hill in Buda
Budapest, Hungary

Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Inside the Judge's Chambers
Las Vegas, NV

To view more of my photos, head over to my Flickr galleries.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

By Pauly
New York City

34 years ago today

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story

By Pauly
New York City

I have been posting this every year as a Christmas tradition. Auggie Wren's Christmas Story written by Paul Auster, is one of my favorite short stories written by one of my favorite NYC authors. Enjoy it and have a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

long beach > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

On Monday morning, I stood next to the Christmas tree and gazed out of the window. A drenched can fairy shuffled through the alley en route to the dumpster pushing an old baby carriage, which hauled his booty that included a large black plastic bag filled with bottles and cans and various items he retrieved on his rounds such as a globe which sat in the baby's seat.

After a couple of minutes of rummaging through the recycle bin, the can fairy wheeled his net worth out of the alley and over to the next house. I'm gonna see more of that plight in the months and years to come. California will be broke soon. No even the Govenator or Manny Ramierz can save them. All of their movie stars have either snorted or flushed away the majority of their massive fortunes and whatever they had left was swindled in a Madoff's good old fashioned ponzi scheme. Shanty towns will spring up in the Valley. We'll have to put bars on our windows and hire illegals as private security guards. The streets of Los Angeles are going to resemble a Philip K. Dick speed-induced futuristic vision of society or something out of a bad post-apocalypse Kevin Costner flick.

I gazed out the window expecting to see glimpses of sunshine. Los Angeles was covered in grey wet blanket of wetness. It reminded me of being in Seattle. My thoughts quickly drifted to New York City. I missed my hometown and was actually looking forward to the holidays... with the exception of the dreary weather.

The cold. I managed to avoid that the last couple of years. I went to Australia in January the last two years. I escaped the winter in exchange for an Aussie summer. I also spent a lot of time in California and Las Vegas in December and February which meant that I skipped a decent portion of the bitter Northeast winter. Sometimes I miss the snow, but I loathe slush and the slippery wetness that's all around after the snow melts.

I wrote for a couple of hours on Monday morning while I listened to Justin85's Salmagundi 2008 Mix.

The only time I see movies in the theatre are in Los Angeles with Nicky. We were looking for something to see that did not involve us having to go to a mall, but alas, anything we wanted to see would be at Century City or The Grove. We narrowed down the choices to Slumdog Millionaire or The Day the Earth Stood Still. Showcase and the Rooster's Uncle both highly recommended Slumdog. Even Ryan gave the nod to Slumdog. I trust his taste in the cinema but in the end Nicky overruled me since she's in love with John Ham and he was in the flick. The Day the Earth Stood Still held my attention for the first two acts but took a nose dive in the last one. Should have seen Slumdog.

We also watched a couple more episodes of Sunny in Philadelphia. That is definitely growing on me.

I packed most of my gear on Monday night and finished off the last bit on Tuesday before I went to the airport. I actually overpacked this trip, which is actually two smaller ones spread out over three weeks.

There was light traffic on the freeway to the airport. Nicky dropped me off and she was excited because she'd be joining me in NYC in less than a week.

The airport was packed and everyone dragged around tons of bags and gifts in stuffed suitcases and shopping bags. Airlines are fucking over their customers and charging extra fees for checked luggage and multiple bags, so everyone was trying to buck the system and take several bags as their carry-on. They were not policing that at Long Beach, so it was jam packed with people with lots of bags which clogged up the security lines.

I waited outside at an outdoor cafe. I ate a chocolate croissant and played online poker to kill time. A family sat down at the table next to me. The mother looked dazed and confused. Jacked up on some sort of prescribed happy pill. Numb to the world around her. The grandma tried to keep the little terrier quiet but the dog kept yapping. Two kids darted in and around the table as the father did his best to police them. He was losing a battle despite his many bribes that included candy.

I don't have kids, but trying to reward kids for still behavior with candy and chocolate bars (which is essential cocaine for kids) is counterproductive because after they gobble down the candy, they get jacked up on sugar and can't keep still. Don't they have the equivalent of pot brownies for kids that will achieve a dual effect of nourishing little ones with tasty treats and at the same time lulling them into a very calm and relaxed and sedated manner where all they want to do is sit down and space out to Dark Side of the Moon? If not, I'd like to start manufacturing that tasty treat.

I'm a regular on JetBlue flight 212 from Long Beach to New York City. Some people grab the same 7:23am train from Port Washington, I'm frequently on the 1:00pm flight from LBG to JFK. I usually pick the same seat too. If anyone ever wants to whack me, all they have to do is set up some sort of shenanigans regarding that flight. In the last twelve months, I started utilizing Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. It's closer but Nicky hates going to the Valley... even if it is to pick me up. But even with diverting some of my flights to Burbank, I definitely spend a lot of time in Long Beach.

It was literally a zoo inside the small terminal with birds flying through the partial outdoor airport and little dogs roaming around. Why do people bring their dogs on planes with them? That's a group of people that make my list of Top 10 Annoying People I Meet on My Travels. They are number four. People with yapping dogs in little carry-on cages.

The gate was actually two gates squeezed into one. There were two doors. An angry group of delayed holiday travelers (some of them stranded for a couple of days) where rushing to finally board their ultra delayed flight, which was also the last one of the day to Chicago. At my gate, a flight from Oakland was de-planing at the adjacent door. That surge of people clashed with the the angry group trying to get onto the last flight to Chicago. It was a momentary clusterfuck. Lots of elbows and angry words exchanged. So much for holiday cheer.

I popped an Xanax that Nicky gave me in the airport parking lot. That would take off the remaining jagged edges of the hardships of traveling during the peak of the holiday season. I flipped through several pages of the Economist and I read about the real plight and injustices in the Congo.

I got lucky and there were no crying babies in my vicinity on the plane. That was an early Christmas present from Santa Claus and the travel gods. There was a yapping poodle a couple of rows back. Do they make Xannie dog biscuits?

I passed out shortly after take off and woke up around Vegas. I watched college basketball for the rest of the trip. Butler upset Xavier and then ESPN Classic aired the 1981 Championship game between North Carolina and Indiana featuring a 50-year old Dean Smith and a young Bobby Knight. The star players were James Worthy pre-specs and Isiah Thomas with an afro. Al Maguire announced the game. Tons of flashbacks. I recall watching that on NBC. They were the big college hoops powerhouse back then before CBS snatched the broadcasting rights away from March Madness.

Despite a delay getting out of Lomg Beach, there was a hefty tailwind and we managed to land on time at JFK. It was a cold, wet. December day when I touched the ground at JFK. Snow was melting on the ground. Sounds like a U2 song.

There was no line at the taxi stand. More people were opting for the express buses back to the city or relying upon family/friends to pick them up. My driver was a 60-year old woman from Guatemala. That was a first. She was listening to talk-radio but left me alone. I prefer it when I don't get pestered with conversation.

When I returned home, I sorted through my mail. I had several packages including a snafu from I ordered one copy of Zagats NYC restaurant guide. I got four, but was only billed for two.

My toes were cold. I counted out loud the number of days until the Bahamas. Eleven.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday Photo Dump

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Here's a random batch of photos from Vegas, LA, and Carlsbad...

Schecky & Cora

Monday, December 22, 2008

Faded Weekend

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I make lists. It's something that I do. I'm checking it twice. Thrice. Many more times throughout the day. I need the lists. I forget things. The lists are my guide through live because I travel so much that I often forget the basic things like pay bills or hand in an article for another deadlines.

For example, I checked my To Do List for this week and totally spaced about a deadline on Friday. I also know that Tuesday is a travel day so I have to hustle on Monday to prepare for my departure. I have to do a load of laundry and pack for two trips; the first one is NYC for ten days and I also have to pack for almost two weeks in the Bahamas.

I basically ignored my lists this weekend. I had a shitload of work to do, but sometimes I decide that those things can wait. After a crazy bender in Las Vegas, I needed a mellow couple of days when I didn't get off the couch and caught up on the boob tube. Sports and TiVo. I had a couple of last minute assignments dumped onto my plate. Those deadlines were for Friday morning. I worked frantically on Wednesday and Thursday to complete the articles. As soon as I was done, I had zero desire to work.

On Friday, we drove down to Carlsbad. We went to see Jen & Shecky's brand new baby. I even took photos of me holding the baby. That's something you don't see everyday.

We grabbed lunch at a local Mexican joint and baby Cora slept through the entire meal. I'm not the biggest fan of babies, but I love it when they sleep. Peacefully. That kid is pretty mellow and we clicked right away. We hung out for a bit and talked some business with Schecky. I'm going to be working on a new project with him next year which should be fun for the both of us.

When we returned from Carlsbad, the last thing that I wanted to do was work. We watched a couple of episodes of Sunny in Philadelphia, which was definitely pretty funny. One of the downsides to traveling so much is missing out on a regular viewing schedule for programs. Since Heroes has been blah the last two seasons, I have been actively seeking out other things to watch. Shows like Top Chef and Summer Heights High have been filling the void for me, since Entourage and Weeds are on hiatus.

The other day we went shopping at Target for a Hanukkah gift for Showcase. A woman in front of us bought over $500 worth of absolute shit like a gingerbread train set. Somewhere in the kids section, I spotted Life. On sale. I picked it up and told Nicky that we could tweak the rules and figure out how to gamble on it. She was down with my scheme and we've been playing a couple of games every night. Heads up for $20 a game. We definitely amended some of the rules. For example, we added drug dealer and crooked cop to the potential occupations you can get at the start of the game. We also figured out a way to gamble on the wheel spins. I know, we're degenerates but I was also getting some random flashbacks from when I was a kid and used to play Life all the time.

I got a little too snookered on Friday night. Too much so that I woke up on Saturday still faded. I wandered into Jack in the Box for an iced tea. I spotted two lesbians all over each other. They were hot. One Latina. One black. And I could not stop staring at them. I stumbled back to the apartment with a big assed ice tea. I had two different poker tournaments to play and needed to sober up a bit.

I hosted Saturdays with Dr. Pauly, which is always fun. BadBlood won this week for the second time this year. We go waaaaay back to the old days on Party Poker. He's one of my oldest online poker pals so I was thrilled that he won twice this year. I also played in a satellite on PokerStars. The short story is this... the top 72 players won a ticket to the next level. Nicky finished in 74th and me? 73rd place. Ouch. I rarely get pissed about getting knocked out of a poker tournament, but I was steaming on that one. Nicky cooked me dinner which took the edge off.

I woke up on Sunday with a wicked hangover. I drifted in and out on the couch while Nicky worked for most of the day. She managed to multi-task and whipped up a batch of her famous garlic meatballs. She served them with German mustard and onions on a baguette. Tasty. I crushed the leftovers.

I got wind that the Rooster was indeed in Southern California. He had been promising to stop by during football and finally arrived at the end of the Sunday night game. He showed up with his Uncle Joe and we watched the exciting comeback from the Giants. I'm a Jets fan but I picked the Giants in my pool. I was in first place and sweating like a whore in church all Sunday. I whiffed the afternoon games and went 0-5. Lucky for me, most of the pool also missed those picks. I still held a one game lead over Storms and Otis. Storms picked the Giants, but Otis went for Carolina. If Carolina won, we'd be tied for first place going into the last week of the season.

Mixed emotions for me since I had DeAngelo Williams on my fantasy team. Lucky for me, Carolina missed a field goal and I got the best of both worlds. Williams had a sensational game and the Giants won in overtime. Yes, it's pretty obvious that Favre is overrated and that cracker Eli Manning can come from behind to win a tough and close game.

Showcase also stopped by to hang out and snag some music. He loved the Christmas tree and we caught up on old times.

It was an exhausting day of football. I essentially had action on every single game and by the end of the night, my body and brain were fatigued from sweating so many games. I literally passed out from sheer exhaustion. I woke up early on Monday morning when I heard a light drizzle. It was raining. Something sort of rare for Southern California, but Vegas got snow twice last week so I'm not complaining.

I wandered to the laptop and opened up my To Do List. I ignored it the last 48 hours and I have a massive load of stuff to do before I fly back to New York City. Well, I've wasted enough time as is...
Derek's Las Vegas Trip Report

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Derek eats at In & Out in Vegas

After reading Derek's latest masterpiece, his December 2008 Las Vegas trip report, I'm bummed that he doesn't post more. As always, it's one of the best recaps of the weekend. It's no bullshit and to the point and he manages to cover a five-day bender with relative ease. Nice work.

Read it here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pauly Holding a Baby

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Yeah, it's true. There is a photo og me holding a baby. It was posted over at Cora's blog. Read... One More Doctor if you wanna see the adorable pic.
Winning Keno Tips: Advice on Life and Gambling by PKPNF

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

"I don't play keno, I just listen to the vibrations of the universe," explained Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot.

Here's an excerpt from an instructional video that we recorded last weekend in Las Vgeas...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Last Waltz? Wall Street Profiles in Panic and Other Random Links

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

First of all, this is a must read... Wall Street: Profiles in Panic (Vanity Fair)

Here's a bit:
With Wall Street hemorrhaging jobs and assets, even many of the wealthiest players are retrenching. Others, like the Lehman Brothers bankers who borrowed against their millions in stock, have lost everything. Hedge-fund managers try to sell their luxury homes, while trophy wives are hocking their jewelry. The pain is being felt on St. Barth’s and at Sotheby’s, on benefit-gala committees and at the East Hampton Airport, as the world of the Big Rich collapses, its culture in shock and its values in question.
And then here are a couple of random tidbits that the Human Head pointed out...

Internet Cables Cut to the Middle East (PC World)
Yeah, it's true. Three major telecommunication cables hat connect Europe and the Middle East have been cut. That left tons of people without internet service. Severed. Cut. Blackout. India lost 82%. Egypt lost 50%. Who did it?

Banking on Steroids (
Satyajit Das discusses his take on the 'Greatest Financial Fraud in History'.

Ah, and yes... Phish will return to Red Rocks this summer.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Vegas and Wedding Pics

By Pauly

I posted a brand new gallery of photos. This batch includes my latest trip to Las Vegas featuring Gracie & Pablo's wedding!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

vegas > hollyweird

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had never seen it snow in Las Vegas.

On Monday morning, Friedman and Lacey mentioned that they could see the show from their houses. I was on the Strip and at best I could see a wintry mix of mostly rain with some remnants of wet snow splattering against the window of my suite at the MGM. Way out in Summerlin, the snow accumulated. Two to four inches in some areas. For locals, that was a big fuckin' deal. It maybe snows once a year, but rarely sticks. And in the last couple of days, the recent storms dumped snow on Sin City twice inside of a week. Flipchip has lived in Las Vegas for several decades and mentioned that a decent dusting of snow happens once every seven or eight year, but snow twice in one week has never happened.

Ah, maybe Las Vegas might get a White Christmas. Hey Al Gore, what the fuck happened to global warming?

I ate breakfast in the cafe at the MGM with Nicky, ProKeno stud Neil Fontenot, BG, and Zeem. BG mentioned that his flight back to Chicago was delayed because of the weather. PKPNF's flight back to Denver was also delayed. I did not expect the bad weather to affect our drive home to Los Angeles, until Nicky got a message from her father telling her that the Cajon Pass was blocked.

We decided to stay an extra day until the roads cleared. I was feeling blah and needed some rest and time to recover from an epic bender. We crashed early on Monday and woke up early on Tuesday to clear skies and snow-capped mountains. We made good time getting out of Nevada. The roads were empty, save for an army of trucks that had to stop because of the storm. During one of the many mountain ranges we had to cross, we spotted the snowfall. In lots random places. Nicky was super excited since she rarely got to see snow.

We stopped in Barstow for lunch at In & Out Burger. Around Victorville (just before the pass), a nice layer of snow covered the surrounding areas. That was around 4,200 feet altitude and in a spot where snowfall could do some damage. Lucky for us the roads were cleared. However, our friend Kristy would get stuck there on Wednesday during the second leg of the storm front. A four hour drive from Vegas to LA eded up being 11.5 for her. After hearing her horror story, I felt better knowing we did the right thing and stayed the night.

We made it through the Cajon Pass without any problems. Nicky had to pee, so we stopped at In & Out Burger in Rancho Cuccamonga. I believe that was the same eatery that JoeSpeaker frequented. I picked up a chocolate shake there. Two different In & Outs inside of a one hour period. Awesome.

We rolled up to the apartment around 3pm. A good 20+ hours after we originally wanted to leave. I was a little blah, but lost my voice which sounded horrible. About 40% of what I wanted to say was coming out. The remainder was raspy and gargled.

We had a dinner scheduled with Nicky's family. It was her father's birthday and we went out to an Italian joint in Westwood called Pastino's. Back in the heyday of the 1980s, that same restaurant was under different management and featured Cajun food since that was the rage back then. The eatery was a hotspot among celebrities particularly the LA Lakers. They frequently hosted their championship dinners at the same spot.

The food was delicious, but the service was outright awful. The waiter (a very flaming guy with an accent) forgot one of our appetizers. He brought out everything except one. I had to flag down the busboy who helped us out since our waiter was AWOL. The drink situation was a nightmare. And then he fucked up the desserts. It took forever to take our order. He sent the busboy at one point to take our order but when we had some questions about the menu, he had to fetch the waiter. And when he finally showed up, he apologized for the delay and offered us a free dessert plate. Of course, he had yet to bring out coffee and tea and when the desserts finally arrived, he also forgotten the most important dessert... the one for Nicky's father. Again, we wrangled up the bus boy and he fetched out our missing dessert.

I was furious but did not make a scene. Nicky's father seemed like he was having a good time, so I didn't want to disrupt the flow of our meal. It really felt like I was eating in Europe because the service was so atrocious.

Since I picked up the tab, I made sure to stiff the waiter. I hoped that a manager or owner would stop by the table to ask about our progress because I would have ripped our server a new one. Alas, I never actually saw someone in charge, so I had no one to complain to.

Of course, when I returned to the apartment, the Knicks/Lakers game was over. The Knicks were up by 15 points against the hometown Lakers and blew the lead. I was already in a bad mood and slipped deeper into a bitter funk.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Tao of Pokerati Episodes: Welcome to the Tao of Kenorati

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

It wasn't planned, but during the blogger gathering in Las Vegas, Michalski and I managed to tape several new episodes of Tao of Pokerati, the shortest poker-related (and these days... more hooker-themed than actual pokery content) podcast on the intertubes.

We had several special guests including my brother Derek. There were cameos from MeanGene, the Human Head, and of course... Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot.

And what would a Tao of Pokerati episode be without a special guest appearance from a Las Vegas working girl?

Here's what Michalski wrote...
A full moon was closer to Earth than usual, naturally enhancing the funk. Dr. Pauly busted out the portable satellite Tao of Pokerati studio, and before you knew it, our recorded commentary degenerated into lunar analysis of semi-annual drunkfests, slumped-over gambling addicts, donk-ass keno play, and, of course, hookers in a down economy on the late-night Vegas prowl. Recorded live from an extended weekend's worth of bars, sportsbooks, bedrooms, bathrooms, and casino floors... with guest appearances by Derek, Human Head, Bobby Bracelet, Mean Gene, and PKPNF, before and after his unsuccessful relationship with Betty Underground.

Episode 6.1: Gathering of the Geeks (2:31)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the sportsbook bar at MGM. Derek makes his first appearance, while Michalski and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot get off to a rough start.

Episode 6.2: Hooker by Numbers, 1-2-3 (3:52)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the sportsbook bar at MGM. Michalski shares a hooker story. Featuring Derek and MeanGene.

Episode 6.3: Hookers, Keno, and Meth (2:27)
Pauly's description: Recorded in my suite at the MGM. PKPNF talks about his initial experiences with poker bloggers.

Episode 6.4: Crushed Venetian Dreams (2:19)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the Venetian... mostly in the mens room. Michalski followed me in and we recorded most of this episode at the urinal during one of the breaks in the blogger tournament. Yes, he snuck a peek at my junk.

Episode 6.5: Keno'ed Address (1:41)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the Venetian soprtsbook bar. PKPNF explains how he busted Michalski. The word "pussy" is used to describe his play.

Episode 6.6: Hooker Q&A (feat. "Valerie") (2:40)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the MGM. Michalksi and I described the late night scene at the MGM when we were interrupted by not one but two hookers.

Episode 6.7: Existentialist Hooker Theater 3000 (3:39)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the Zuri lounge in the MGM. Derek and the Human Head are back with some observations of the late night hooker scene.

Episode 6.8: Hooker and Muthafugger Buffet! (3:05)
Pauly's description: Recorded at the Zuri lounge in the MGM. Derek and the Human Head discuss even more observations of the late night hooker scene.
Enjoy! And if you want to listen to older episodes, visit the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Las Snow

By Pauly
Las Vegas

It snowed in Las Vegas on Monday. Nothing special, just a couple of inches mostly around the foothills of the mountains and in Summerlin where I lived this summer.

The bad news was that certain parts of I-15 were shut down, specifically Cajon Pass which we need to take to get back to Los Angeles. We had alternate routes but with the rain and bad weather, it would have taken us at least twice as long. Who wants to be driving in shitty weather for 8 hours?

Instead, we decided to stay in Vegas one extra day and will drive out in the morning. The positive side was that I got to have dinner with Flipchip and the Poker Prof at Burger Bar, which has some of the best burgers in Las Vegas. I also bet on some basketball. I hot a three-team parlay and won a big bet on the Magic. I turned a slight profit gambling in casinos during this trip. The downside is that since we arrived on Wednesday, I lost about $500 playing online poker in my hotel room at the MGM. That number was much higher, but I cranked out a winning session last night to lower my overall online losses.


As the dawn of the new day began, I gazed out of my room at the Excalibur and snapped this photo...

Click on the photo(s) to see an enlarged view. Also, in the pic above, you can see tiny little Red Rock Casino (the shiny thing on the left side about 1/5 into the frame).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Las Vegas Micro-Blogging

By Pauly
Las Vegas

Yeah, I forgot to blog on Tao of Pauly this weekend.

However, you can go back and reconstruct the history of events via my Twitter page... check out my Twitter feed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

hollyweird > las vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas

I'm an expert traveler. At least, I'd like to think so. I spend my life on the road and constantly packing and repacking my gear. When I returned from Mexico, I unloaded all of my stuff (which entails dumping everything out of my big back back) and did a wuick load of laundry. When I folded my laundry, I'm essentially packing for the next trip and stuffing my clothes back into my backpack.

Nicky drove me to the cleaners to pick up two dress shirts and a funky tuxedo jacket, the ones we wore in Langerado. I slid all three items into a garment bag. I never travel with the garment bag with the exception of Los Angeles to Las Vegas trips. Nicky tosses a few items in there as do I and we pack it into the car.

We grabbed our customary breakfast at Nick's Coffeeshop before we left the City of Angels. Nicky needed to put air in her tires before the journey began. At the gas station, I realized that I forgot something. My poker bankroll. I left it in the apartment. Nicky got her hands dirty adding air to her tires and she wanted to wash her hands. We returned to the apartment. I grabbed my roll and Nicky cleaned up. We left about 20 minutes later than originally intended.

Of course, we left without bringing the garment bag. This was the one trip that Nicky did not pack anything in there. So I left it dangling on a hook in my office. I didn't realize I had forgotten it until I started unpacking in Vegas.

Yes, I pulled an Otis. Except, I still had plenty of underwear and forgot a couple of nice shirts and the funky tux jacket. That's what I'm really bummed out about. I don't care about the nice collared shirts. But the funk? That will be hard to replace.

The drive out of LA was smooth. We missed the hectic traffic. Around Baker, Derek sent us a text and said that he arrived in Las Vegas. His flight from JFK was early. We got into Sin City just before 3pm. My room at the MGM wasn't ready. I requested a smoking junior suite and the only ones they had available were non-smoking ones. That would not be possible. I was about to grease the guy $20 when he asked me to wait until 5pm to check in because that's when the suite I wanted would be available. Luckily, Derek had a room at the MGM so we hung out there for a bit until my room was cleaned.

We dropped our stuff off and met FlipChip and PokerProf for dinner at the Wynn. I picked teh Wynn buffet because I knew we could sit around for 2_ hours and talk without feeling rushed out of the place. There was no line for the buffet which was surprising. In fact, most of the Wynn looked... dead.

"Las Vegas is a ghost town," mentioned Flipchip. "And when the cowboys leave when the rodeo ends, it will really empty out."

Derek absolutely killed the buffet and got two or three times his money's worth. He had no less than five platefuls of food. The buffet was remarkable and I rarely eat buffets(with exception of the Wynn and Bellagio), especially in Vegas because that's a reminder about how awful Western civilization has evolved into. The longest line was for the seafood section, particularly the Alaskan king crab. We sat nearby that station and could see random people wobbling away with crab legs piled high on their plate.

"It's like they are walking away with the world's deadliest catch on their plates," said Nicky.

She and PokerProf poked fun at the unwashed masses waiting in line for the seafood and would laugh uncontrollably when someone wearing a gaudy or garish outfit had an excessive amount of crab legs dangling off their plate, like the guy decked out in Joey Buttafucco pants and a t-shirt that said, "I fish naked." Another guy scooped out liquid butter into a drinking glass. He has at least 8 oz. of pure butter in a glass that sloshed its way around as he stumbled away from the seafood station.

I needed a nap after the food coma that the buffet induced. I woke up when Maudie arrived before Midnight. We hopped in a cab for the Imperial Palace. Our cabbie made fun of Jews on the way, but apparently it was kosher since he was Jewish. He even showed us his yamika when he had hidden underneath a baseball hat.

"Sammy Davis? Now he was a good jew. Danny Gans? Bad jew. I once saw him eating pork chops."

I forgot what the scent of desperation smelled like until I stepped onto the casino floor of the Imperial Palace. We had a few drinks with Maudie. Caught up on old times. Derek spotted a couple of hookers, but the joint looked empty, save for a few cowboys wandering around. We left when the Tina Turner impersonator began belting out Christmas songs.

We headed back to the MGM to catch up on some rest. When most of our friends arrive, we won't be sleeping much. Best to get some shuteye when we can. Of course, I stayed up and played poker and lost $300. I ran into Aces three times! One guy had them twice in the same orbit and I lost to him both times. Of course, my Aces did not hold up. Rough night at the poker tables.

And yeah, I woke up this morning by getting punched in the nuts... in a non-sexual way. Nicky rolled over and wham! Good morning, Las Vegas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good Times, Bad Times

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had a conference call yesterday. It was bittersweet news for me. Good times. Bad Times. Looks like one project will be coming to a close. Bad times is no more gravy train. Good news... I was offered up the potential to delve into a new project and that's something I have to think about over the next few days. I have two drives to/from the desert over the next week and I'm sure that will be something I wrestle with internally as we speed through bat country and I talk to some of my closest friends who have become my artistic advisers.

Of course, with the old project ending, the gaps in my hectic schedule would allow myself to complete and strengthen older projects. That's good news, but alas, the older projects are personal and don't pay. That's bad news.

I mean, manuscripts on spec... are just that. I'm writing stuff with the hopes that I can sell it at a future date to a bunch of suits who have no concept of art which they often have to have spoon fed to them.

I'm a gambler and I'll have to make a decision soon. Will I be bogged down in the first part of 2009 working on spec? Or do I take a paycheck and work on new projects with old clients?

The industry where I work is always changing. Every few months there's a shakeup and restructuring of things. Friends are jumping jobs. Some are getting promotions. Other demotions. And I know a couple of folks who just fuck up every opportunity they get, yet they are still a round.

I always told friends of mine to stick up for themselves in this brutal industry but at the same time, don't burn bridges because the industry is small and you never know what douchebag we loathe might be in charge in some other project down the line. The poker media is a business with lots of revolving doors and I've been extremely careful and exhibited a lot of restraint especially because a lot of the peers are simply scensters and inbred dipshits.

Well, maybe the time has come for me to just let loose and not give a shit anymore and start calling people out for being crooks and assholes and incompetent nits. Ah, but why rock the boat? I have a good thing going so I might as well focus on what I've been doing... entertaining the masses... something that I seem to do well.

Now if we can just expand that concept and instead of half-baked blog posts, I'll be able to do that same sort of entertaining in the form of a mass-market paperback or a motion picture. It's one thing to be a big fish in a little pond, and it's something totally different to be a piece of plankton floating around in a massive ocean ready to get gobbled up by a friggin' sardine.

Anyway... times are a changin' and I'm trying to spin it in a positive way. More free time for my projects. I wanted 2009 to be the year when I made some serious changes and they way things are falling into place the last couple of days, the path ahead of me is getting more and more clear.

There is a road out and I'm on that path. Just a little more time and I'll be in a new dimension.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

puerto vallarta > lax

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

On Thursday night, Nicky went to bed and I continued to drink with Otis. It was his birthday and we pounded free drinks until the wee hours. At the all inclusive resort, they gave us Sol beer in industrial strength plastic cups, sort of like the cups you'd find in the dining hall of your college. They'd keep bringing over those cups with the occasional shot of tequila.

When I stumbled into the room, the vapors from my breath woke up Nicky. The beds were small as is... but we had two of them in our room. She begged me to sleep in the other bed because she didn't want to get drunk from the booze in the air.

I passed out and woke up when my alarm rang. That's so rare. I often set alarms but I always wake up before they go off. We had a few hours to kill before work started. We went for breakfast at the buffet.

The buffet would have been the equivalent to a low end Vegas buffet. I focused on three items; eggs, hash browns, and bacon. I slopped all three onto my plate and drenched it in pepper. Nice little breakfast scramble that was drenched in grease. That was my cure for the hangover.

And I dug the bacon. I've eaten bacon all over the world and the locals whipped up a proper batch. Bonus points.

Nicky and I decided to take a walk on the beach. We wandered up and down for a bit. I sweated out a lot of the booze and it was time for a quick shower.

My hangover dropped to a category 1 hangover. That's the lowest level. I can function but still feel it. Otis was hurting a bit more and rightfully so, it was the day after his birthday.

The tournament seemed to be going on smoothly. They started on time which is rare so I was impressed with the setup. I only knew a handful of pros and like most countries and regions where I travel for work, I rely upon the local press and my local contacts to help familiarize me with local players that rarely set foot in Vegas.

I worked with one guy who wrote for my client's Portuguese version of the site. The Brazilian reporter was a couple of years older than me and his English was poor. When he found me, he said, "Ah you are the Pauly?!" He had a strong emphasis on the which cracked Nicky up.

He thought that I spoke fluent Spanish and we'd have conversations (actually he'd speak and I'd nod and pretend like I knew what he was saying) in broken Spanish and Portuguese. I think we got along great considering I had no clue what he was talking about. He was a funny guy. My friend Felipe from Portugal was essentially his boss and told me that he might be as crazy if not crazier than me. And the dude was a little nuts, but in a good way. He spent a lot of time outside of the tournament room snapping photos of random hot girls.

Late into the night on the first day of the tournament, things seemed to be going as scheduled. The hungover was gone and I was looking forward to the end of the night. With about 90 minutes left to go, the tournament was interrupted by local gaming officials. The kicked everyone out of the room. We were told to grab our things and leave.

You can read about what happened over at Tao of Poker on a post titled.... Shakedown Street > Mexicali Blues.

Anyway, for about two hours, we were holed up in the business center. And for like ninety seconds, I had a brief freakout. Someone suggested that we remove our press badges. For a couple of moments, I was on edge and extremely concerned at the safety of Nicky and myself and my fellow media reps like Owen, Otis, Joe, Alex, and everyone else. I never thought that I'd get tossed into prison in Mexico for a non-drug charge! Forty-five journalists were killed in Mexico since 2000. According to Reporters without Borders, Mexico is considered the most dangerous country for journalists with the exception of Iraq.

I got plenty of emails, calls, text messages, and IMs from concerned friends. Our safety was never in jeopardy. But it was best that we didn't prance around the resort with media badges dangling from our necks. We didn't want to stick out and opted to blend in. Our cover story was that Otis and I were gay lovers on a long weekend holiday. They'd believe us too because Otis was not wearing any underwear. He forgot to pack skivvies and socks when he left G-Vegas.

Anyway, after being in limbo for a few hours, the tournament officials told us to leave and return at noon on Saturday. We packed up our gear, dropped it off in the rooms, and headed down to the outside bar where we drank until 5am. The mood was weird. Odd. Almost like a funeral, but without a dead body. Some of my friends suggested that the tournament was over and that there was no way it would continue. I guess you can say that poker in Mexico died that day and we were celebrating it's brief and short life.

I woke up on Saturday with a similar hangover to Friday morning. We continued the routine and shuffled down to the buffet where I ate my trifecta of a breakfast/hangover cure.

Bacon. Hashbrowns. Eggs. Add lots of pepper and consume.

I wandered over to the meeting and we were told what exactly happened, although those details were still very vague. We were then told to come back at 5pm where a final decision on the future of the tournament would be made. I went up to the room to write and played a bit of online poker. When I returned at 5pm, the tournament was officially canceled. A couple of drunk Venezuelans were stirring up shit and nearly caused a riot. I stayed at the back of the mob and left when I thought it might explode into a free-for-all.

I went up to my room to finish up a recap. I have covered hundred of tournaments all over the world and I had never seen anything like that happen before.

Nicky and I joined a couple of friends for the sunset down on the beach. That was followed up by dinner at the buffet (it was Italian night) and we returned to the outside bar. More beer. Bad cheese fries. And tequila.

I woke up on Sunday and guess what? Breakfast buffet. Otis had left. Most of my other friends were either departing or trying to find flights out of Mexico. Owen had to fly from Mexico to Prague for work. It would have cost $1,600 to change his flight. Nicky and I hung out on the beach for a bit. I wandered up to my room to watch football and check the scores. The resort aired local NYC stations like CBS, NBC, and ABC. And the football was dubbed in Spanish. It was funny to watch Los Gigantes and hear a lot of Spanish and football terminology mixed together.

At halftime of the Giants game, I decided to pull the trigger and look for flights out of Puerta Vallarta. It was pricey but I had such a bad vibe from the place that I wanted to get out of there. We had to drive to Vegas on Wednesday, so an extra day in LA would have been welcomed since I'm way behind on some projects. Nicky was ambivalent. She could have stayed on the beach and read, but she also saw the benefits for leaving one day earlier. So I booked us a flight on Alaskan Airlines. The last flight out of Mexico.

I'm glad that I left in the middle of the disaster of the Jets game. When we got to the airport, I noticed that there was no X-Ray machine for our checked baggage. Instead a couple of security guards with gloves conducted a hand search of my bag. I dunno what they were looking for. They avoided all the "real spots" that I would hide something. I didn't have anything to hide but if I did, I would have packed whatever contraband into certain spots that they overlooked.

Anyway, we survived security check in despite the fact that the ticket I had booked included a typo in my last name. The federalies didn't notice. We watched the end of the Cowboys/Steelers game at the bar. The flight was not full and Nicky and I had a row to ourselves. I completed the Swing Voter of Staten Island. Parts of it dragged and other parts were fantastic. I was happy that I finished it so I could move onto the next book in my pile that was penned by an old friend, Schanzer.

Our flight landed at LAX early. Immigration was a breeze and my backpack popped out as soon as I arrived at the baggage claim. I changed the rest of my Pesos and got a shitty rate but I didn't care. I was happy to be back in America.

The shuttle bus dropped us off in the parking lot and as Nicky and I made our way to her car she asked, "Is this the happiest you have been to see LA?"

I told her no. It was maybe the second or third happiest. The first was at the end of the 2007 WSOP when we left Vegas after a brutal 7 week assignment. And the second time was when I returned from Australia for the first time after being away for a month. The funny thing was that both those instances involved me being away for at least a month. I was in Mexico for only a couple of days and was glad to be back.

How did we celebrate? We immediately got wasted and drove to In and Out Burger. I had been going through ganja and iced tea withdrawal. At the end of devouring my 3x3, I managed to spill a newly topped off cup of iced tea all over Nicky's expensive handbag.

I shrugged and said something like, "If I ruined it, I'll buy you a new one."

"They don't make these anymore!" she shrieked.

She drove home to the apartment and it really was good to be back. I stayed up to write and Nicky crashed. Monday was a free day for us because we thought we were going to be losing it as a travel day. I wrote most of the morning and in the afternoon, I read the first three chapters of Schanzer's book Hamas vs. Fatah.

We also decided to buy a Christmas tree to spruce up the apartment. Nicky found a small lot on Olympic. We wandered around and inspected several trees. She found one that she liked within minutes. Her only requirement was that it had to be at least my height (or six feet). The tree we liked did not have a price tag. Nicky thought the real value was $40 or $50. When we pointed out the tree to the salesman he told me that the price tag was $65.

"How about $40."

"How about $55?" he said then he paused for a second and then muttered, "$50."

"Come on, you can do better," I said.

"$45," he said.


A young Mexican kid hauled the tree over to Nicky's car. He placed a strip of old carpet on the roof and tied the tree down. I tipped him $5 and his eyes widened. I'm guessing that was his biggest tip of the day, which I thought was standard, but he thought it was a lot.

Nicky sped home and realized she should be driving a little slower with a tree on her room. We set up the tree very quickly and within minutes, the entire apartment smelled like pine needles and marijuana.

When I woke up early this morning to write, I was greeted by the scent of Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Shakedown Street

By Pauly
Hollywerid, CA

Shakedown Street is a song by the Grateful Dead.

Shakedown Street is also the name of my team in Pauly's Pub football pool. I'm in first place and shitting bricks as the season roars to a close.

Shakedown Street was a partial title for a post I wrote on Tao of Poker regarding my weekend in Mexico for a work assignment. Check out... Shakedown Street > Mexicali Blues.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mexico Sunset Pics

By Pauly
Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico

Here are a couple of gems...

Friday, December 05, 2008

lax > puerto vallarta

By Pauly
Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico

I'm having one of those weeks where I'm constantly in motion. Tuesday in New York. Wednesday in Los Angeles. Thursday in Mexico. Heck, next week it's going to be a bit of the same. Monday in Mexico. Tuesday in Los Angeles. Wednesday in Las Vegas.

I got hired to cover the Latin America Poker Tour. I'm writing an article for Bluff and I'm also providing live updates for PokerNews. Nicky was hired by PokerStars to work with Otis on the event. That was good news for her since she dreaded her last assignment in dreary Poland. And considering she grew up in LA, she said she had never been to Mexico, which I found out to be a shocker.

Anyway, we had to get up super early to head over to the airport. LAX can be an insane place, especially the international terminal. Lucky for us, we missed the big rush. I'd really hate to get stuck at LAX during the holidays.

At the airport, we bumped into Shirley. She's a friend and also a pro who was headed down to Mexico to play in the tournament. She was on our Air Mexicana flight with her boyfriend and Nicky was randomly seated next to them. I sat in the back and read a bit of The Swing Voter of Staten Island. I also took a twenty minute nap and ate a piece of rubber chicken.

As soon as we exited the baggage claim, we were swarmed with dozens and dozens of people trying to get us to use their car service. I ignored them and headed straight for the taxi stand. I negotiated a price for all four of us and one of them grabbed a couple of our bags to take to the taxi outside. I darted after him to make sure he wasn't doing anything shady. He loaded the bags into a mini-van and it was apparent that he wasn't the driver. He kept holding his hand out and shaking my hand. A lame attempt at securing a tip. I blew him off and reserved the tip for the driver.

Otis arrived around the same time as us and he was celebrating his 35th birthday. As he mentioned, having your birthday at an all-inclusive resort where the drinks are free can be pure evil.

Nicky and I grabbed a couple of drinks at the bar in the main lobby while we waited for Otis. We headed up to one of the nicer restaurants on the property and had a nice feast. Afterwards, we got smashed at the PokerStars welcome party for all of their players and media. They had some local entertainment and we continued to drink heavily.

Ah, then it got a little ugly. The chicks with the whistles and bottles of tequila found us. One of them poured more on my shirt than in my mouth. After that party ended, the drinking continued at the bar in the lobby. After an hour or so, they cut me off... from beer. They simply ran out of cerveza. They continued to serve us, but only... whiskey or tequila. When in Rome, right?

That bar closed up and they chased us out. We found another bar, which was outdoors near the pool. We drank there until we closed that down and they chased us out. Otis stumbled back to his room but did not fall down. Nicky had crashed a couple of hours earlier and she was aghast when I rumbled into the room reeking of cheap tequila.

I eventually woke up, caught in that murky area in between still being drunk and not quite hungover yet. These are the times when you're supposed to continue drinking. Alas, I have to be at work in three hours. I'm hoping that the hangover is a category 1 or 2 at the most. Pray for me. And for Otis.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Truckin' - December 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 12

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

And we're back with your favorite literary blogzine. We have a special year-end issue with a couple of Christmas themed stories. I contributed two stories this issue; a piece about my neighborhood in L.A. and the other is a dramatic Christmas story about a dysfunctional family that might resemble your own.

Truckin' - November 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 12

1. The Last Christmas by Paul McGuire
I adore the way you look. But your mother disapproves. It's that black shoe polish you have on your lips. When I was your age, the only people who dressed like that were the whores who stood on corners down in the Mission.... More

2. I Remember Christmas by May B. Yesno
I looked down at my cup, lifted a hand to the waitress for another coffee and started looking around the joint, noting the yellow brown walls a glass could stick to, if you placed a glass on it, and listened to the Christmas music being piped in... More

3. American Half-Breed by David Peterson
It is bitter cold and everywhere around me is ice and dirty snow. At my side is one of my prized possessions, an American Standard Fender Precision Bass Guitar. I don't want to do what I'm about to do, but I've run out of options. I open the pawn shop door and feel a blast of heat and the smell of tobacco smoke and desperation... More

4. Of All The Bars In NYC by Betty Underground
You know when you see someone and maybe it is the job you do or the frequency you travel to the same places, but you sort of recognize them and for some reason you can't put them in the context of where you are right then... More

5. Corner of Hopelessness by Paul McGuire
I have this odd fear that I'm going to get shanked by a gangbanger with a spork or mugged by one of the homeless people who live behind the dumpster and feast on half-eaten Jumbo Jacks and pieces of raggedly yellow leaves that they pass off as lettuce... More
Thanks to everyone for their support with Truckin' in 2008. I especially want to thank the writers from this issue and every issue this year. Your bloodwork is an inspiration to us all.

Don't forget to tell your friends about your favorite Truckin' stories!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

jfk > long beach

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Was 90 minutes of my time worth $65?

That's what it all boiled down to. If I took the subway and express bus to the airport, the total cost would be $15 (not including $2 for the subway). If I hired a private car service to JFK, it would be $80 with tips and tolls... but I'd get to leave later. Since I was traveling super light with just one bag with only my laptop and the clothes on my back, I opted for the cheaper route to the airport. The $65 I saved would go towards a free batch of medicinal. Times are tough. Trying to cut back.

I left super early and grabbed the subway. I had roughly 15 pages of my own work to eyeball along with the last two copies of Rolling Stone magazine. The subway took a little longer than expected. The guy next to me on the downtown express read My First Five Husbands an autobiography by Rue McClanahan. The shuttle to Grand Central was also supper packed with a mixture of tourists, a school group, and suits. The group of suits were discussing get new blackberries for their department in January. They were all excited.

I scurried out of the subway and grabbed a black and white cookie in Grand Central Station at Hot n' Crusty before I wandered outside to the alleyway where the airport expresses buses picked everyone up. The ticket line was about seven or eight people deep. There was one bus ready to depart for JFK. The driver was closing the luggage compartments and making a last call for JFK. He pointed to the back of the ticket line and asked if any of us were headed to JFK. I told him that I was but didn't have a ticket. He waved me over away.

I saw this as an opportunity to get a discounted ride. He was hoping to get a cash fare and pocket the fare. The ticket to JFK cost $15. I had a $10 bill. I told him, "I wanted to pay with a credit card and only had a $10 bill."

He was obviously on a tight schedule and said, "This is your lucky day." He snatched the $10 bill out of my hand and let me on the bus. We all won. I stiffed the man. The working class guy got to pocket $10 and I got a discounted fare to the airport. I saved $70.

And you know what? We caught a break getting out of Manhattan and through Queens. There was light traffic out to JFK as I listened to a Widespread Panic bootleg. We arrived in less than forty minutes which gave me three hours to kill in the brand new Jet Blue terminal.

Security was a bit delayed. I had a slow-moving family in front of me with a loud-mouthed guy from Long Island with his even louder wife and two young kids. They looked like they were going on vacation somewhere and held up the line.

After I finally cleared security, I headed up to elevated computer lounge area which included power outlets in the floor. I played online poker for an hour and got my ass kicked.

I ate breakfast around 9am when I headed to the Greek diner for a breakfast sandwich, and aside from the black and white cookie which I devoured on the bus, I was kinda hungry. JetBlue only gives you a snack so I grabbed a late lunch; a Buffalo Chicken Caesar wrap at the Boar's Head deli. Good stuff.

I wandered into the bookstore and I looked for Malcolm Gladwell's new book. I read the first 100 pages in Barnes and Noble the day before and wanted to finish reading it without having to pay the outrageous $27.99 price tag. I couldn't find a new copy and I thumbed through a book about car traffic. The line that stuck out the most was, "You're not in a traffic jam, you are the traffic jam."

I headed to my gate and read one of two copies of Rolling Stone I had with me. The first one chronicled the top 100 singers of all time. Aretha Franklin was number one. The day before, I heard her perform a cover of The Band's The Weight on local Fordham U. radio.

My flight boarded on time. I had an exit aisle seat and they called my row first along with old people and families with kids. The exit row had a bot more legroom. And no babies anywhere! They were all in the front or back of the plane. The guy next to me took a bad beat the first two hours or so because his TV screen did not work. They finally fixed that problem. I mean, that's the entire point of flying JetBlue, right?

I read the other copy of Rolling Stone while we waited forever on the tarmac at JFK. I thought we were going to be late, but we magically made up time in the air. We'd arrived 15 minutes earlier.

After watching a bit of the food channel (Bourdain and Rachel Ray), I watched three documentaries about three different drugs. The first one was about heroin production in Afghanistan. They are producing 30-40% more heroin post 9/11 than before. Of course, North America doesn't get the majority of their smack from that locale. Most of it enters via the Triad or through Mexico. Afghanistan smack ends up in Central Asia, North Africa, and in Europe. Did you know Iran has the most opium smokers per capita?

And then there was a documentary about crystal meth. The best line? "If you know how to cook chocolate chip cookies, then you have the fundamentals to cook up a batch of crystal meth."

Holy shit, really? Why haven't I been doing that all along? I should sell those on Phish tour next year. "I got Meth cookies! One for $3. Two for $5!"

By the way? The majority of the crystal meth in the US comes via Mexico. The drug cartels down there import a shitload of mixing agents from Chinese chemical companies despite drawing the ire of the DEA and other US law enforcement agencies. The Chinese ship their various chemicals and agents to chemists in Mexico who mix it up south of the Border. The cartels employ drug mules to carry them up to the states. Most of the meth gets distributed via motor cycle gangs to the Northwest and Southwest, including California and Las Vegas.

And the last hour of drug documentaries was my favorite; Marijuana starring Lisa Ling. She went on a DEA raid of a growing operation in a national forest. She also went up to Canada to check out a legal grow operation.

Man, after watching three hours of non-stop programs about drugs, all I wanted to do was get high! Nicky picked me up at the airport and I was jonesin'. We had less than 40 hours to spend in Los Angeles before we have to fly to Mexico.

Time to finish up some writing including Truckin'. The new issue comes out... soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

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

By Pauly
New York City

And yes, I rode the subways a couple of times. The last time? A young woman sat down and opened up the Bible.
Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...
1. The Holy Bible
2. Momma's Boy by Bubba Bala
3. Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
5. Affinity by Sarah Waters

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hot Pants

By Pauly
New York City

Take it on down. Down the slippery slopes of melancholy. Holidays induced sorrow. Seasonal depression. Mostly rooted in traumatic experiences from previous gloomy holidays and the onset of a cold and bitter winter. For many years, I always wondered why I was bombarded by the blah's from early November through early March. Part of it was the winter weather but the other direct cause? The holidays (Turkey Day, Christmas, New Years Eve, and Valentine's Day) and the forced interaction with family.

Over the last ten years or so, I've done a lot to alleviate the year end blues. I scheduled trips to warmer climates. About a decade ago, I frequently followed Phish in the later months of the year which always had me on the road. Sometimes I headed down to Florida to visit Jerry and get away from the East Coast for a few days. Over the last two or three years, I frequented sunny California and hung out with Nicky during the winter months or I worked down in Australia (where it was the middle of the summer) and then stay an extra week or too to enjoy summer in January.

Sunshine is an amazing thing. The warmth on your face elates the soul. When I eliminated the harsh winter parts of the year, a major component of seasonal depression was removed. However, the confrontation with family types were inevitable during family meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ganja helped. I'd just show up stoned to the gourd and zone out in front of the TV. And if I had to talk, I was way to high and inclined to keep my mouth shut (and thereby avoiding any arguments incited by yours truly) which allowed the elders to pontificate about the last things on the planet that I wanted to talk about.

The holidays will always be stressful and unwelcomed, but I finally transformed decades of morbid and suicidal thoughts into a dose of everyday misery. Merry fuckin' Christmas. However, I'd love to combine Thanksgiving and Christmas into one long holiday. Why don't they push back Turkey Day to late December and give everyone the last week of the year off?

And perhaps I'm exaggerating the misery a bit. There were a couple of good times and bad times and lots of medium times in between. I'd say that most of the time, the holidays were medium times. They could have been greater but at some point an insane family member brought down the festivities.

There's always a high probability of bumping someone into you know on the streets of New York City. And during the holidays, that chances increase exponentially. When I'm around on Turkey Day weekend or before Christmas, I definitely bump into people I haven't seen in a very long time. Maybe they migrated outside of the city to the burbs or to another city and they're returning to see their families. Or maybe they moved to a different borough and checking out the old hood.

Luckily this year, I managed to go undetected. It helped that I didn't go out much. I went downtown a couple of times; once to meet Derek for lunch and the other to hang out with a buddy of mine. For the most part, I spent the last week inside. I read a bunch of books, watched sports, and worked on some projects. Even on Turkey Day morning when I finished off edits on a column.

I devoted the rest of the weekend to re-writing an old project. I was merciless and tore the previous manuscript to shreds. That was something hard to do when I was in the middle of writing it, but I've had several months away from the project and the detachment allowed me to make the correct decision and let pages and pages fly out the window. Alas, it had to be done.

The first 15-20 pages or so were tweaked and refined and spliced and stitched together as a new draft emerged from the rubble of the previous Frankesteins. I smoothed off the edges on some older material and I added a few new lines. I'm essentially telling a new story that's a derivative of the older story. I simply flipped the back story and the front story. The second story is far more entertaining and it will take the entire project down a different path. The elusive path to completion... and the one way that will lead me out of this jungle. Someday, I'll see the light.

I'm trying to work on that while I can. I doubt that I'll have time for it at all this week. I have to finish up the December issue of Truckin' and I have a couple of travel days this week which always throws a monkey wrench into things. I fly to LA on Tuesday afternoon and fly down to Mexico on Thursday morning for an assignment. Warm places in December.

Anyway, I got a haircut on Friday with Vinny the barber. He was excited about completing the NYC marathon with minimal training. It took him five hours but he finished without hurting himself. Not bad for a guy who is 30+ years older than me. He said his goal was to run it when he was 70 years old and to do it in 4 hours and 20 minutes. I laughed. 4:20. He had no idea why I was laughing at the time.

He told me that he got a comped room at the Water Club down at the Borgata and wondered if the Jets can keep it together for a Giants/Jets superbowl. And yeah, we found out the answer to that. In a game at home that they should have won, Brett Favre played like shit and the Jets lost an ugly game played in the soggy Meadowlands.

I was tied for first place in the Pauly's Pub football pool and took the lead by one point on Thanksgiving when I went 3-0. There were three tough games on Sunday. I lost 2 out of 3 of those. I changed two of those picks (Greenbay and San Diego) at the last minute. If I stuck with my gut, I would have expanded my lead. As is, I didn't do so badly and I still have a one point lead over the pack behind me.

I finally posted a decent score in Sundays with Dr. Pauly over at Fantasy Sports Live. I actually came in second in my contest and cashed!

Tonight is a big game for Uncle Jodd's Band over in the Lamont Jordan Fantasy Football League, because Senor and I will find out what seed we have for next week's playoff berth. We essentially clinched playoff spot and have to figure out if we're 4, 5,or 6. We had a decent season and finished up 7-6. We lost one game by 0.4 points and only two other teams had more wins than us. We won the weekly high score twice this season for a cash bonus. And we made the playoffs for another year.

Most of the other owners in our fantasy football league are whiny thirtysomething lawyers who bitch and moan about every little detail and decision from the commissioner. Takes the fun out of the game sometime. Heck, all of the time. Most of them are super geeky fantasy football guys and spend their entire summer charting players. Right after the draft, they always trash Uncle Jodd's every year, yet we always seem to go to the playoffs.

Although we have never won the league championship, I think we have a legitimate shot this year depending on the playoff match ups. Uncle Jodd's Band posted the second highest point total of the season - and that's with both Tony Romo (broken pinky) and A. Bouldin (broken eye socket) sitting out for a few games with injuries. Our first round RB, Larry Johnson was suspended for a bit too for being a stupid drunk and beating up chicks. And our TE Jeremy Shockey was also sidelined for a few games. Despite the injuries and mishaps to our starters, Thomas Jones and Santana Moss shouldered some of the weight and posted some big games for us this year. Uncle Jodd's Band can be an offensive juggernaut. Let's hope we see that next week... and over the next three weeks.