Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Zealand Food Pic Dump

By Pauly
Auckland, New Zealand

The titles explains it all. These were taken in Queenstown...

Nicky's Kiwi French Toast from Vudu Cafe

My breakfast at Vudu Cafe

King prawns and spicy chicken & chorizo skewers from Brazz

Brekky burrito from Stables in Arrowtown

Onion rings with spicy garlic mayo dip from Buffalo Club

The beer on the right is called Tui....

We ordered room service one morning and this is what I got...

Chips from Fredburger

My blue cheeseburger from Fredburger (with beet-root spread instead of ketchup)

Nicky's lamb pizza (with yogurt sauce) from Winnie's

My "Luigi" pizza with lots of meat...

Here's a random pic of plane food - some sort of gnochi - from on my flight from Sydney to Auckland last week

Garlic bread from Earth & Sea in Byron Bay, AU

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Amazing Adventures of Puke Girl

By Pauly
Queenstown, New Zealand

Everyone that has been to New Zealand has raved about it. Everything. The backdrop. The people. The fun. Most of the Aussies I know said that I'd love New Zealand more than Australia itself. Even Senor had been telling me for more than a decade that it's one of the most beautiful places he has ever traveled. I had never been before and like the majority of you, the only experiences I had with New Zealand was watching it in the background during the Lord of the Ring trilogy. Peter Jackson picked his home country as the primary location to film the epic series and after spending a few days here, it all makes sense because everything that I have seen is amazingly beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

We woke up early in Auckland for our Air New Zealand flight to the south island. The airport is very small and the only thing open for breakfast was McDonald's. I was starving and punked out by wandering up to the counter. I'm not much of a fast food person and try to avoid it at all costs, with the exception of In & Out and Subway with the occasional trip to Wendy's for their spicy chicken sandwich. I also know that I spend a lot of time on the road and there are instances where you have limited choices... and are sometimes forced to eat fast food. I was confronted with one of those instances and had no qualms about it. The funny thing was that my previous meal was at Hungry Jack's (Aussie's version of Burger King) in Sydney airport. I can't recall the last time I ate back-to-back meals at fast food joints.

The last time I had breakfast at McDonald's was when I lived in Las Vegas with Grubby. We hit up the drive thru one night (er, early morning) after a long session of gambling. We feasted on the 2 for $2 special on some sort of biscuits. In the Auckland Airport, I could not find any biscuits and went for the good old fashioned Sausage McMuffin with Cheese. I ate it all in less than 90 seconds.

Nicky and I wandered through the airport bookstore. I didn't see any books to my liking. I picked up the Australian edition of Rolling Stone and bought a map of Queenstown. We played Chinese Poker while we waited for our flight. I heard positive things about Air New Zealand. The planes were new and clean with leather seats. Nicky and I were not seated together. She passed out in the row behind me and I read a bit. During the drink service, I ordered a water. I took three sips and spilled the rest of it all over me. It looked as if I peed my pants. The flight attendant handed me a wad of napkins and I spent the rest of the flight trying to dry off myself.

The last twenty minutes of the flight was spectacular. I gazed out the window and saw mountains and hills and more mountains and valleys. Amazing. But it still looked like I pissed myself.

We picked up our rental car and drove less than ten minutes to our hotel, which was about a five minute walk from the center of Queenstown. The ski town not very large and sits on majestic Lake Wakatipu surrounded by mountains. It reminded me a little bit of Colorado mixed in with parts of British Columbia just outside of Vancouver. Since we're in the middle of summer, there was no snow and mostly everyone was doing something outdoorsy.

We found the local Flight Centre and booked a sightseeing tour of Milford Sound. Graham told us we can take a plane and/or helicopter there and even though it was expensive... it was well worth it. There are all sorts of different tours lined up for Queenstown. The most popular one was the Lord of the Rings tours of the locations where the films were shot. The prices were exorbitant and the tours were kinda lame according to what I read about on the intertubes. Basically, Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world with white water rafting, hiking, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, etc... And the Lord of the Rings ours were set up to cash in on the popularity of the film and suck money of the pocket of the geeky fans who had no intentions of spending their money on other parts of the tourism economy.

"Rape the geeks!" I screamed every time we passed the Lord of the Rings tour shop.

I was a fan of Tolkien's books and enjoyed the films. But I don't know every detail of the film to really get off on a Lord of the Rings tour. There's only one film where I'd like to tour the shooting locations... and that's Dazed and Confused.

"Oh my god, this is where Mitchy Kramer bought a six-pack for Mel!"

FYI, he's the token black guy in the film with the afro and by far the most under-rated character in Dazed and Confused.

Anyway, we avoided the rape the geek tours and opted for the Milford Sound package. It included a scenic flight from Queenstown to Milford Sound, a two hour cruise on the sound in a boat, and then a helicopter ride with an alpine landing on a glacier before we returned to Queenstown. Planes. Boats. Helicopters. Sounded like fun. It was super pricey for both Nicky and myself, but you only live once, right? I don't know if I'll ever be back to New Zealand, so I decided to pull the trigger. I also told Nicky that this was an early Valentine's Day present for her. So now I'm covered and can totally forget about the day without any scorn.

We booked the tour for the next day. That meant we had a full day to kill so we explored Queenstown. There's something called Bob's Peak and the only way to get up their is a Sky Gondola. There's a fancy restaurant that overlooks all of downtown Queenstown. It's an amazing view. But the main reason we were there was for the luge! When we told Ozzie and Angelica (a couple of weeks ago in Melbourne) that we were headed to Queenstown, they insisted that we had to do the luge. It's sort of like go-carts meets the Alpine Slide (from Action Park in New Jersey). It's so far up on the mountain that you need to take an additional ski lift after the Sky Gondola took you up to the main complex.

The luge track

They made you wear a helmet and had two tracks... the scenic track and the faster advanced track. They make you ride the scenic track first to get used to it. Then we got to ride the fast track. I spun out once on the scenic track trying to take a turn too fast. They have random yellow signs that say, "Slow Down!" Of course when I see those, that's when I speed up.

After the rush of the luge, we headed back down to town on the Sky Gondola and I took some more pictures. At the base of the mountain, there's an outdoor miniature golf course for $10 a round. Nicky was interested in playing so off we went. We figured out how we could have fun and gamble on it at the same time. I gave her a 18 stroke handicap. It ended up being too much. I won by seven strokes, but after the first few holes I started coaching her on how to hold the club and how to putt. She picked up quick and managed to keep pace.

The course was basic and not in the best shape. Lots of odd curves and worn out greens. But we had fun. Nicky had two holes in one including on the 18th hole, which meant she got a free round. We had so much fun, we told the old lady behind the counter that we'd be back for sure.

We grabbed a beer at the Buffalo Club and I drank Tui, which is a local beer that tasted delicious. It was sort of like a Sam Adams meets Sierra Nevada. After a couple of drinks, we headed over to Fredburger. I read about it in my Lonely Planet guide and we decided to check it out. They had all these hot hippie girls working there... including one chick with pink hair and a black girl who could be a model. I went for a bleu cheese burger which tasted weird with the beet-root spread they put on their burgers here. After dinner, we drank at and Irish pub and played Chinese Poker. We crashed early because we had a big day ahead of us.

I ordered room service for breakfast, something I only do if my clients are picking up the tab. It was expensive, but we didn't have to trek into town and could wake up later. It was a ton of food and we still had a bowl of fruit left over. Our tour of Milford Sound was scheduled at 10am and we had to call in at 9:05 to get a weather update. They said it didn't look good, but we should come out to the airport anyway.

We were picked up by a van which had three elderly couples on it. They were all retired and obviously had some money because those tours were not cheap. I have lived my life very hard and never expected to see 30, let alone 35 or even 65. I always said that I wanted to see the world when I was young instead of waiting until I was 65 to retire and shuffle around with those bus tours filled with old people. I had a semblance of inner content knowing that I'm finally doing the things I always wanted to do... and doing them now, instead of postponing them to a later date where most likely... they'll never occur. Of course, the elderly couples with us were the super adventurous types. Otherwise they would be on the bus to Milford Sound instead of take a walk on the wild side.

Our original 10am tour got canceled due to bad weather in Milford Sound. We got bumped to the noon tour. And then that was not complete... they had to cancel the helicopter ride back, which meant that we had a scenic flight, a cruise, then a scenic flight. We got a partial refund and Nicky felt relieved since she's a bad flyer and she was worried that the helicopter would make her sick.

At noon, we were ready for our flight. The plane was a seven-seater Cessna. Our pilot was a cute Kiwi chick named Becca. Nicky and I were with two other couples. Becca told us that we needed to balance the weight of the plane. Since I was the tallest, I had to sit up front next to her in the co-pilot's seat. I was excited and sang Peggy Sue as I slid into the front seat and fasten my seat belt. I also have a recurring dream where I die in a plane crash, and every time I step onto a plane, my heart sinks for about four seconds as I think... this could be it.

The plane took off and we were flying just above the surreal mountain tops. Sometimes we got so close you could almost touch them. I took tons of pics and videos (which I'll upload when we get back to Hollyweird). The flight was about 40-45 minutes and we got to see some of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever laid eyes upon.

Nicky seemed calm considering she hates flying. We had a few rough patches when we passed through some clouds. When we reached Milford Sound, Becca executed a wing-to-wing turn. It was freakin' cool and I got a slight rush. Nicky reacted differently. She blew chunks into the small puke bag. I didn't realzie it happened until we landed and she carried the bag off the plane.

"Is that the lamb sausage?" I asked since that's what we ate for breakfast.

She was not amused looked like she was ready to die. One of the women on our flight (she was a sweet lady from the UK) gave Nicky some motion-sickness pills. Becca got work from home base and said that there was a slight problem with the cruise and the weather. We could take the cruise, but we would have to take a bus back which takes four and a half hours. We'd get refunded for the missing part of the flight if we chose that option. Since the weather was turning for the worse, she needed to fly the plane back to Queenstown as soon as possible and couldn't wait for the cruise to complete to take us back. One couple went for the cruise and bus. The UK couple decided to fly back and skip the cruise.

Nicky didn't want to fly back. But she also didn't wanted to go on a boat and then get stuck on a bus filled with old people and Japanese tourists on a four hour ride through the mountains back to Queenstown. That would have killed the rest of our day. I didn't want to take the bus back either because I'd be bored senseless without my iPod or a book to read. I gave Nicky the option. Fly and possibly puke or take the boat ride and bus back. She sucked it up and picked the flight back. I was psyched because I wanted to fly some more. Becca told us that we'd get refunded for the cruise as well as the missing helicopter glacier landing. In the end, we managed just a round trip scenic flight which was half the price of the original... flight-cruise-helicopter ride. But that's the weather for you...

I rode shotgun again on the way back to Queenstown. Half-way through the flight, Nicky got sick again when we flew through a rough bit of wind. She lost her mud for the second time and that's how she got the nickname... Puke Girl.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

byron bay > auckland

By Pauly
Queenstown, New Zealand

Just arrived on the South Island of New Zealand in popular ski area called Queenstown. It reminds me of Aspen. Anyway, the internet is super expensive here, so I'll be brief.

The last few days in Byron Bay were spectacular. Didn't do much. I spent less than twenty minutes a day at the internet cafe and that was mainly checking up emails and making reservations for the New Zealand leg of the trip.

We eventually got on an early schedule where we'd wake up early and head to breakfast. Then be on the beach before 11am. Lots of topless chicks on the beach. I read a lot and finially finished up a book called Hotel California which detailed the music scene in Laurel Canyon in the 1960s. I caught a few hours of sunshine everyday, then walk down to the Beach Motel. They have an outdoor bar and at night they have live music. They aired the Australian Open finals matches on various TV screens, so we watched and drank beer and played Chinese Poker. We'd do that all afternoon then we'd go to eat dinner somewhere. Followed up by some night beach time and some Chinese Poker in our room.

One afternoon we drove up to the lighthouse. I'll post pics eventually.

Heath Ledger died while we were in Oz and he's been all over the media. They love Heath and it's been Heath week. On MovieOne (think the Aussie version of Starz or Encore) they showed a Hetah Ledger flick every night and ran a marathon on Saturday. I caught 10 Things I Hate About You on two instances. MovieOne also showed some other random flicks like Godsford Park, Dogma, Magnolia, and Invincible.

I watched a lot of Aussie Rules football and some rugby. I also have been soaking up the Australia/India test matches in cricket as well as the NBL. Lucky for me, we had FoxSPorts in Byron Bay so I could watch the NHL and the NBA.

I'm usually up way before Nicky and I have been writing. Nothing serious, just free writing. I started outlining my writing project (and taking notes - but nothing serious). I want be be able to start within a few days of my return to Hollyweird.

Anyway, on Sunday, we woke up early and walked on the beach over to the main street for breakfast and croissants. We packed up the car and drove back to Coolongata Airport. We had an 11am flight into Sydney. We had a three hour layover in Sydney which turned into almost four because of our delayed flight to New Zealand. I kileld time by eating Hungry Jacks (Aussie's version of Burger King) and I moaned about having to spend up to $30 for a book in the airport bookstore. The one I really wanted was $35, which I could get for half of that price on Amazon.

Anyway, we arrived in Auckland very late closer to 11pm. The kid in front of me smelled bad and needed a shower and the old lady behind me was hacking up a lung. I'm positive that I caught tuberculosis from her. We managed to ease through immigration and customs. We booked a night at a cheap airport motel since we had a 10am flight to the South Island. Yeah, New Zealand is made up of two big islands... Auckland and Wellington are in the north and lots of cool and fun stuff happens in the South. That's where we are now. The flight from Auckland to Queenstown was one of the most amazing I had ever taken... with all the mountains, hills, and other scenery.

Anyway, it's just about lunch time and time to explore Queenstown. I wanted to jump off a bridge, but there are some cool helicopter rides which are pricey but the views are spectacular.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bong Hits with Rachel Ray

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

I'm fascinated with Rachel Ray. It's not like stalkerish fascination where I'm digging through her garbage, tapping her phone calls, or breaking into her apartment when she's at work taping 30 Minute Meals and riffling through her underwear draw. Well, it hasn't gotten to that phase yet. It might, because as each day passes, I can't stop thinking about Rachel Ray. She had infested my mind like a scorching case of herpes.

Life is made up of small simple pleasure. If scientists wired me up and monitored my inner happiness levels to determine which of my daily routines brings forth the most emotion and joy... without a doubt, the results would be off the chart when I do one of my favorite things... ripping bong hits then watching 30 Minute Meals.

My body sinks into the couch as soon as Rachel Ray comes on the screen. Rachel Ray's smile is intoxicating and any mentioning of EVOO sends orgasmic chills throughout my entire body. And when she grabs a fistful of meat, I wet myself. Large stains of semen and Rachel Ray love juice stream down my leg as I lose all control of bodily functions. Her mere appearence turnd me into a bluthering zombie and all I want to do is eat.

Eat. Eat. Eat.

No one sane can explain happiness or guilty pleasures or why certain things appeal to some people and the same thing totally disgusts others. For me, Rachel Ray has become a state of mind. I often wander the streets of foreign cities with a growling stomach in search for food wondering, "What would Rachel Ray do?"

Rachel Ray has influenced my everyday vernacular more so than Snoop Dogg did in the 1990s, even though I still randomly interject "wizzle" and "Shiznit" from time to time. However, with my recent emotional attachment to Rachel Ray, I can't wait to get into conversations with snooty high society types and drop Rachel Rayisms like "Yum-o!" and "Sammies" in there.

Don't be confused. This is not a sexual fascination. I don't want to fuck Rachel Ray. I don't think anyone can actually fuck Rachel Ray because she gets off, way off, on simple things like produce and spices, how the hell can someone expect to bring someone like that to an orgasm? Maybe if you shove a few chorizo sausages up her ass and pull them out really quick.

I'm turned on by Rachel Ray's knife work. She has her own line of knives. I always wait to see if she splices her finger off. That would be one of the most talked about shows ever... the one where she loses a tip... and doesn't stop. The show must go on and even with 9.8 fingers, Rachel Ray managed to whip up some sort of pasta and cheese concoction.

Before this year, I have never bought a cook book in my life. I have read cookbooks and borrowed them, but I have never actively purchased one for myself or as a gift. I have now bought five different Rachel Ray cookbooks and given them as gifts. Mostly everyone is sort of curious about her so they get excited when they find out that I marked a special moment (birthday, Christmas, or Kwanza) with an authentic Rachel Ray cookbook.

I love to share the love. And no one cooks better love than Rachel Ray.

I found myself thumbing through her cookbooks whenever I'm at a bookstore like Barnes and Nobles in New York City or at Borders in Hollyweird or at a random bookstore in some random airport. I flip through the pages and look for pics and it's like I'm reading porn magazines. Food porn. And Rachel Ray is my Traci Lords. OK, so maybe I do want to jack off on Rachel Ray's tits as she makes me a mushroom burger.

I noticed that there's a Rachel Ray recipe called Sloppy Joqauins. I'm not making that up. I saw it in one of Nicky's cookbooks that Showcase bought her fro Christmas.

Nicky said she had two different dreams the other night, both with Rachel Ray, although they were playing two different characters.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Phish Blog = Fan Site of the Month!

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

Just found out from the Joker that it's official... Coventry: A Phish & Music Blog was recently honored by as their fan site of the month! Check out the article... Fan Site of the Month.

All the credit goes to the Joker's recent contributions over the last two months which includes a heavy range of musicans and artists and tons of links to free music all over the intertubes. With the addition of BTreotch to the mix (to the already long list of previous contributors like GRob, IronGirl, and Nicky) and with more free time on my hands, we have a shot at doing something special withour group music blog over the next six months. Traffic has been growing everyday and we're not close to Tao of Poker numbers, but Phish Blog gets the second most traffic out of any of my blogs, yes, even more than Tao of Pauly.

Anyway, congrats to everyone who helps write for Coventry: A Phish and Music blog, and special props goes out to the Joker for his killer blogging skills. We never would have gotten this far without his hard work.

If you haven't been checking out the site, or think it's just about Phish and don't like them so you've been avoiding the site, well then you're missing out. I'd say the cotnent is about 10-20% Phishy these days with a stronger emphasis on other bands and musical interests including links toheady music and lots of videos. In the past week there have been posts on Jorge Ben, Pearl Jam, Sound Tribe Sector 9, The Disco Biscuits, The Trucks, Radiohead, Page McConnell, Michael Hurley, Widespread Panic, AC/DC, and of course.... Phish.

Go see for yourself... Covwentry: A Phish & Music blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

melbourne > byron bay

By Pauly
Byron Bay, Australia

We had a 7am flight out of Melbourne and had to wake up at 5am to finish packing and catch a cab to the airport. Our cabbie was a tall lanky white guy that smelled something fierce. He dropped us off at the wrong Quantas terminal (the domestic terminal was just 100 meters in front of us) but since he smelled so bad, I wanted to get out of the cab and walk the rest of the way.

We had a flight to the Gold Coast with a layover in Sydney. Our Melbourne to Sydney flight was full of business commuters, sort of like the same groups of folks you'd see on the 7:14am train leaving the Oyster Bay LIRR station. Lots of dark suits and laptops. Evryone had a newspaper under their arm and a black laptop back underneath the other. I was one of the non-suiting wearing males on the plane. That gave me a slight rsuh. I was done with my work assignment and completed the terms of my six mont contract with Poker News. I was a free man embarking on my vacation.

Our fligth from Sydney to the Gold Coast was a different mixed bag of elderly people (similar to the migartion of old folks at LaGuardia heading to Flrodia) and young families with lots of small children. I was seated in front of a crying baby and thank god our flight was only an hour.

Coolongota Airport is what services the Gold Coast... the luxurious beachy real estate in Queensland between the airport and Brisbane. Last year, Brandon and Schecky and I headed up to Surfer's Paradise and check out Bug Day Out up on the Gold Coast. For this leg of our trip, Nicky and I were headed south, out of Queensland and back into New South Wales so we can hit up one of my favorite places... Byron Bay. Nicky rented us a car and she got to drive on the other side of the road for our hour trip down the "Pacifc Highway."

I found a decent place on Shirley Street, only a couple of blocks from the main drag in Byron Bay. Our place has beach access and you have to walk through a mini jungle for a few minutes before you crawl up and over a dune... and behold the beach magically appears.

Everyone told us to check out Nimbin, a bucolic enclave about ninety minutes inland from Byron Bay. It used to be a hippie haven, but has become overcomemrcialized in recent years and lurking in all the murky shadows are stone-cold junkies who are selling overpriced weed and t-shirts to tourists to fuel their morbid addictions.

Many moons ago Senor went to Nimbin and told me that an eight-year old kid offered to sell him weed, along with a grandmother. Nicky, being everyone's Hollywerd pothead, wanted to go to Nimbin. We didn't waste anyt ime. We checked into ourt room in Byron Bay, unpacked, changed, and hit the road.

We drove backroads to Nimbin over hills and windy roads. It reminded me a bit of Vermont and reminded Nicky of Northern California. We finally arrived in Nimbin and the first thing that struck me was a sign that said, "Alcohol free zone."

Nimbin was two blocks of old stores and headshops with drug freaks running rampant in front of the bigger stores, trying to sell you various forms of pharmecopia.

We parked the car and I told Nicky to browse in a clothing/head shop while I negotiated a purchase among the local vendors. A sketchy looking black guy in a New York Yankees hat (picture a short Aboriginal who reminded me of The Rooster) asked me if I was looking for buds. I turned him down and talked business with a skinny skater-looking freak with a trucker's hat. He pulled me into the Hemp Museum and I was passed off to another skater-looking freak with dirty fingernails and dark circles under his eyes. He was far gone on some spaced-out trip, living life on a different operating system, most like a dragon-chaser lost in the mist in the land of kangaroos. He showed me the product and boasted, "The best weed in Australia."

I told him that I was from California (a semi-bluff) and the we had the best shit in the world. He wasn't impressed and didn't blink. I felt like uttering the line from Pulp Fiction John Travolta and Eric Stoltz were discussing a smack purchase, "I'll take the Pespi test!"

I negotiated the price down by 20% and put in an order. The vampire-skater-freak disappeared into a back room. That's when the sketchy looking Aborignial Rooster came back over.

"Need trips, mate?"

Um, no. Like I'd be stupid (or courageous) enough to drop acid (most likely paper dipped in rat posion) from a stranger in the middle of nowhere. I'd do that in my twenties, but I'm less apt to gobble up pyschedelics from potential serial killers.

"Need strong stuff?"

He flashed me a small bag of Ice. I smiled and declined. He went on his way when a small barefoot kid, maybe ten years old, wandered up and asked me if I needed to be sorted out. I told him that I was fine. My guy eventually returned with a scale. We completed the transaction and I quickly found Nicky. We walked down the street and an 80-year old woman asked us if we wanted to buy "marijuana, cookies, or cakes." I wondered if that was the same woman who sold Senor weed a decade ago.

There was a public toilet that we used. We were thinking about grabbing a quick drink at the croner cafe, but the place was creeping me out. I got bad vibes, strong ones too. I didn't feel right about the place when a three-legged German sheppard linped past me as I waited for Nicky to finish up her toilet run. I took the three-legged dog as an omen. As soon as Nicky re-appeared I snatched her arm and said, "Let's get the fuck out of here."

On our way to the car, it started to rain. I told her about the three-legged dog and how it freaked me out. She agreed that I was not being paranoid as she sped off back to Byron Bay, out of the demonic wasteland and back to our beachy paradise.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Dancing in Cages and Aussie Millions Party Pics

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

After the Aussie Millions final table ended, I headed up to the player's party at one of the nightclubs in the Crown Casino even through I had a rough 24 hour span... starting from the night before when I went on an eight hour bender and drank waaaaaaaaay too much and paid for it on Sunday morning. I struggled through a category 7 hangover all day and made myself puke before the final table started so I could actually function. Best decision I made in a while.

Of course, once my assignment was over (around 10:30pm). I jumped right back on the horse and continued my bender. I dunno when I'll be in Australia again, so I took advantage of the open bar and partying with some friends from the Poker News crew, especially some of the newer folks (all Aussies) since they were a lot of fun to work with.

Yeah, I went a little nutty and ended the evening icing up my black eye. Falling down is not something that happens to me... at all. I've hung with AlCantHang's crew and managed to always stay on my feet, despite the obvious damage to my internal organs.

Yet, at the end of the night, I experienced an Otis-esque spill after drinking a Jagerbomb, when I fell down after I tripped over a lounge chair. The result? A banged up knee and a black eye. Luckily I didn't break my glasses or my camera.

But before that I drank and drank. Open bar. Free Heinekens. No complaints. There were these two cages with dancers in them. They had gone on a break and Johnny Mushrooms tried to offer me a $100 casino chips to jump up on stage and stat dancing in one. Nicky did the same. Mary and Kirsty wanted me to go do it too. I pussied out because I was afraid that I'd get bounced from the party. I had just gotten there and want to drink for free. Brandon Schaefer had the same qualms but he decided to go for it.

Yes, that's Brandon

Anyway, I posted lots of pics from the party over at my poker blog. Go check them out.

Eventually, I'll add them to my Flickr Australia 2008 photo gallery.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

St. Kilda and Food Pics

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Last weekend, Nicky and I headed to St. Kilda with Jules and Graham for dinner. It's a cool neighborhood by the beach, which sort of reminded me of the East Village in the mid 1990s... somewhat seedy with lots of hipsters. Anyway, they took us to Malaysian food. It was pretty yummy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hungover Reprise

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

I woke up drunk and somewhere in the middle of my morning shower, the hangover hit me like a ton of bricks. I nearly puked in the shower, but I managed to hold my mud.

I tried to retrace my steps from the night before. I drank three Stellas at a local's pub (where all the casino dealers hang out).Then we headed to the Las Vegas bar in the casino and things got blurry. We started doing shots of B-52s and Nicky and Kirstie wanted to go to karaoke. I know that I was drinking with Heath and Brendan until almost 3:00am when a fan of my poker blog wandered up to introduce himself. At that point, I lost all semblance of consciousness.

I shuffled off downstairs to the food court with Nicky and almost threw up when I ate a breakfast sandwich. I had to do color commentary for the final table of the Aussie Millions. I went upstairs and Schecky told me that I looked like shit. My stomach was churning and I had to do something about it. Time to pull the trigger.

I snuck off to the bathroom and did the deed. Boy, I felt 10000000% better. I gargled some mouthwash, drank some fizzy water, and grabbed a slice of pizza since I puked up my breakfast.

Now, I feel a lot better and can actually work without worrying about spewing bile onto my keyboard.

You can follow the Aussie Millions final table live coverage via Poker News by clicking here. Nicky is doing the play-by-play and I'm doing color commentary.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quoted in a Cricket Story

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Shane Warne (photo by yours truly, courtesy of PokerNews)

I got quoted in an AFP article about Shane Warne's five minute penalty at the Aussie Millions in a piece titled Texting trouble sets back Shane Warne's poker career.

Shane "Warney" Warne is basically the Michael Jordan of cricket and one of the biggest Aussie celebrities. I think maybe a handful of readers (Garth, Irish Jim, and Conrad) know who Warney actually is.

Anyway, to give you some background info, a while back, Warne got busted sending a text to his girlfriend, but he accidentally sent it to his wife instead! It was a huge scandal down under. Anyway, on Day 1c of the main event, Warne got a five minute penalty for texting at the table. I didn't think it was a big deal since it happens at tournaments a lot. However, in Oz it was huge since Warne is one of their top celebs and he was busted before in a text messaging scandal. Anyway, all the mainstream media outlets went nuts. One international press outlet (AFP) called up the poker room for a quote and somehow one of the floor people handed me the phone. I chatted with the writer for a couple of minutes about poker penalties. Hence, that's why I was quoted about an Aussie cricket player.

As Conrad (a friend from the UK who is a huge cricket fan) wrote me, "Wow! I salute you. First American in the history of history to supply an authoritative quote on a cricket story. And it's a good quote. You absolutely nailed it."

You can read the article here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Prop Bet: Who's Taller... Amanda or Annette_15?

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

I made a massive prop bet with Nicky. She said that Annette_15 was taller than Amanda. I picked Amanda. We finally settled the bet during a PokerNews interview. It's currently Day 1c at the main event of the Aussie Millions. We snagged Annette_15 during one of the breaks for an interview. At the end of it, Amanda and Annette_15 sqaure off. I make a cameo at the end to officially find out who's taller...

If you are viewing this via Bloglines, Google Reader, or an RSS feed... you have to head to the Tao of Pauly to view the video.

If you don't know Annette_15 is a 19-year old Norwegian girl who is regarded as one of the best tounrmanet players in the world.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Last 5 Hilarious Random Google Referrals...

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

I really can't make this stuff up. People type shit into Google and find themselves here. Why? Because they search for things like...

1. Shaving your ass and stopping the bleeding with a tampon
2. Monkey sex with Tina Fey
3. San Francisco hooker blog
4. Teenaged Hungarian sperm swapping movies
5. Pics and videos of peeking up horny catholic school girls dresses

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Best of 2007 - Popular Pics

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

My Flickr account tracks how many views a particular photo gets. Here are the Top 5 clicked through photos from 2007 in my Flickr Gallery.

1. Brandon Pissing Behind a Bush (Manly Beach, Australia)

2. Yellow Dildos (Amsterdam)

3. Horse Sex Fever (Amsterdam)

4. Twin Peaks(Las Vegas)

5. 23 Euro Cheeseburger (Monte Carlo)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Somedays, I Love the NFL

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

I went 4-0 in the NFL playoff games this weekend. I woke up early to watch the Giants-Cowgirls game, which came on Monday mornign here in Asutralia. I had picked the Giants with the money line and with the points. Both ended up hitting for a nice score. I basically won enough money to pay for my trip to New Zealand at the end of the month. Because of that, I told myself that I would not bet on any more games and just book the win.

Ah, who am I kidding. I'll bet the games, but not too much, just a small taste. Plus, Schecky and I are still betting on random NBA games.

Man, I can't stop thinking how much I would have cleared if I didn't cap my betting limits. Of course, you can't think about what ifs and things beyond your control.

Sadly, I'm getting my ass kicked in the stock market, ever since I flew down to Australia. It's fucked up when you think that "safe gambling" like the stock market would be less profitable than degenerate betting on sports.

The main event of the Aussie Millions started today. We're almost at the dinner break. I have basically 6.5 more days of work left then I get roughly four months off. I'm trying to stay focused and in the moment. It's tough of course, since I keep talking to friends and co-workers about what I should see in Queenstown, NZ.

I have been getting addicted to lamb samosas. They sell them for $2.50 at the Indian joint in the food court. Best value there. I love getting them for a quick snack, which hits the spot.

Speaking of food, the Aussie I work with love my food gallery on Flickr. They found it entertaining and fascinating. I will be updating it shortly.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flipchip'S AVN Photos

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Derek describes the AVN expo in Las Vegas as "the porn show" which is something I agree with. Well, Flipchip was at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo with his camera covering the event for LasVegasVegas.

Oh. My. God.

Strippers + Pornstars = Chubbies

God bless Flipchip. Great work, sir.

Here's a link to AVN Day 1 gallery.

And... AVN Day 2 gallery.

And... AVN Day 3 gallery.

Lastly... AVN Day 4 gallery.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hungover Thoughts

By Pauly

I'm hungover... again.

After a bitch of a day, where I worked a tough and grueling 15 hour shift, I hit up the Las Vegas bar in the poker room and thought I'd be having one drink. Well one turned into several and I ended up stumbling back to my room at 6am completely snookered.

Last night was Ozzie's birthday and he was getting plastered. We sort of crashed his birthday celebration and drank with him and his girl and several of his friends who work at the casino. Fun times. He taught me Aussie slang like "poo jabber."

Here's how wasted I got... I passed out for six and a half hours. I never sleep that much. I missed the first NFL football game. I had bet Green Bay and won that. I woke up at halftime of the Pats-Jags game (ongoing in the background as I write), only to discover that my bet on the Jags is looking good. Heck, they have an outside shot to win. I'd like the win, but in all reality, I just want them not to lose by more than a dozen points.

Yeah, I'm betting on sports again. Albeit, small bets. I started betting on the NBA with Schecky. He's pick a random game on the card to bet on. We'd look up the point spread and he'd let me pick a side. So far I'm 0-1 because Memphis fuckin' blew it against Golden State.

Channel 8 in Melbourne is Fox and in the mornings they run The Simpsons. I think they air like five or six episodes in a row. Amazing. I wake up every morning and write with the Simpys on in the background, while Nicky is fast asleep. I managed to see one episode that I never saw before... the one when Marge befriends the prisoner who's a gifted painter.

Jay Greenspan is here, and as a Brooklyn guy, he's also a big Knicks fan like myself. We talked a bit about how horrible they are. Greenspan, who has a voluminous vocabulary, was speechless when I asked him what he thought about the future of the Knicks. I think the one word he used was "frustrating."

We feel each other's pain.

Anyway, I have my first day off after eight days of work. I must have logged at least 100+ hours and my head hurts too much to do the actual math. I have to work seven more days starting on Monday, and then I'm done... for four months. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I spent some time this week making arrangements, flights, and hotels for the New Zealand leg of my journey. It looks like we're doing Queenstown, since the Kiwis I know suggested it and most of the Aussies I work with tell me that I'd love it.

Ah, I have some catch up work to do over the next few hours before Nicky and I meet up with Jules & Graham. They wanna do dinner tonight and I can't wait to see them.


I went to grab a slice of pizza to soak up all of the booze in my belly. On my way down to the food court, I ran into a famous tennis player and his entourage. I think it was Nadal.

Also... although the Pats won, they didn't cover and I went 2-0 to start the week. I'm free rolling for tomorrow's games. Weeeeeeeeeeee....

Friday, January 11, 2008

Best of 2007 - Pauly's Popular Videos

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

According to YouTube, here are my five most popular videos (ranked by number of views) that I published in 2007. Interesting to note that three of them are music related... two from Langerado music festival in Florida and one from Big Day Out in Australia. Enjoy...

1. Galactic at Langerado

Click here to view the Galactic video via RSS or Bloglines...

2. Shronk's Vegemite Bet

Click here to view the Vegemite video via RSS or Bloglines...

3. Medeski Martin & Wood at Langerado

Click here to view the MMW video via RSS or Bloglines...

4. Amsterdam Apartment

Click here to view the Dam apartment via RSS or Bloglines...

5. Big Day Out (Gold Coast, Australia)

Click here to view the BDO video via RSS or Bloglines...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mountain Man

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Whenever I go away on a work assignment, this blog languishes and I focus more on my poker blog. For some reason, I have posted every day here and I only wrote two posts on Tao of Poker since I've been in Australia.

Sometimes the hardest thing in life is disciplining yourself. It's so more appealing to take the easy way out. But I've been pushing myself a lot the last few years... at times harder than ever. The results have been mixed... but on the high end of the spectrum, I have a lot to show for my relentless hard work. Millions of words both seen and unseen in print and online, some here and other places, and sometimes under names you have no idea that I wrote under.

I dropped a few clients who I cranked out content for using pseudonyms. It's hard to pass up free money from someone who wants you to write for them. But it finally came to a point where I had to drop them, and that started happing slowly over the last few months. A buddy of mine write film reviews under a nom de plume and he's been able to make a god living out of that.

So when poker/gambling websites and magazines approached me to write for them and they couldn't pay me my rate - I offered a discount to write under a fake name. If you want Dr. Pauly, you have to pay top dollar. If you want content, any content, and don't have much cash... you get one of several other pen names. The best part about that is... I can write something that's shit and never have to worry about it coming back to me.

Even Nicky or my brother or even Jess (who helps edits a lot of my stuff) had no idea about those extra secretive gigs. I guess most of you had no idea either and I just let that cat out of the bag.

I anticipate some of you who are bored at work will be trying to scour the intertubes for poker websites with content that seems somewhat similar to my writing style. Good luck at that.

With the fake names also comes a slightly different style. That was the fun part was trying to write differently in a genre I have lost passion writing about. But shit, in the end, a paycheck is a paycheck.

Most of my close friends know my original pen name... Tenzin McGrupp. I wrote five novels under that name. I'll never forget the shining moment when I finished my first novel (part of NaNoWriMo in 2002) and I printed up the cover sheet that read... Jack Tripper Stole My Dog... a novel by Tenzin McGrupp.

In addition to the novels, I wrote Truckin' stories for years under that name. It wasn't until I started achieve success and popularity in poker that I shifted from writing from the shadows to revealing my real name. It helped with Truckin' and more people started reading it when I attached my real name and dropped Tenzin McGrupp. Yeah, poor Tenzin got no love, while the my real name drew all the traffic.

A lot of people wondered how I got that pen name. And there was an international story which just happened that is somewhat related, so it inspired me to just write about writing under fake names.

Sir Edmund Hillary died today. It's big news down under since he's a Kiwi. If you don't know who he is, he was the first ever person to climb Mt. Everest and reach the summit, something he did 55 years ago. The second man to do it was his sherpa, a man from Nepal named Tenzing Norgay. For decades, there was controversy over who really was the first man to reach the top of Everest. Some said it was Tenzing Norgay, while others insisted it was Edmund Hillary.

Anyway, I dropped the 'g' from Tenzing and that's how I got Tenzin. And the McGrupp part is a play on my last name inspired by one of my favorite Phish songs... McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters.

I always felt that writing is like climbing a mountain and that someday I would reach the top of the mountain. I guess in some regards, I have grown restless and bored in poker, because I reached the summit of that mountain. It's not the biggest mountain in the writing world, but it's the top of one nonetheless. I have my sights set on bigger mountains and I wonder if I'll have enough energy and skill to reach those apexes.

Ah, and just yesterday, I was offered a job to write about sports betting. Although I wasn't looking to take on more freelance clients, at least it's a topic that I'm remotely interested in that's not poker. I may or may not use a pseudonym or perhaps I'll write under my real name. Or maybe, I'll use both?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Man, am I wicked hungover today.

I woke up and a small pile of multi-colored Australia money sat at the edge of the desk. Purple are $5. Blue are $10. Reds are $20. And Green are $100. A mountain of coins sat near the bills. Lots of 20 cent pieces and a few kangaroo $1 coins.

When I woke up initially... I was still drunk. An hour later, the hangover invaded my brain. Head throbbed. Mouth was parched. Stomach churned.

This is how drunk I was.... at 3am, I went in search of food, and don't recall much. Nicky told me I should have ordered room service before she passed out. That was the last thing I remember, because the only thing open was Chinese food at the foodcourt or McDonalds. I assume I went for McDs which I never ever eat, only under extreme circumstances. Drunk and desperate, I went for the fast food giant. I don't even recall going, but the distinct brown McD's paper bag sat on the floor at the edge of my bed with an uneaten batch of french fries in there. The grease had seeped through the bottom and left a stain on the carpet of my swanky room.

I don't even remember going there... and it's a nice five-seven minute walk from my hotel room. Alas, I was in the middle of a semi-blackout and drunk food scavenger hunt.


Nicky and I got off work early. Super lucky. Our assignment ended after a few hours. We had the shortest day since we arrived. I barely ate dinner and started drinking and playing poker. Nicky sat at my table with a lot of horrible poker players. One crazy Asian guy tried to bluff me and I picked him off and took all of his money. Some old Greek guy tried to do the same. I made a sick call and took all of his money. I had the most chips at the table and cashed out. I headed to the bar and drank with some young Aussie pros as I kept my eye on my Amsterdam roommate... Johnny Mushrooms. He cashed in the day's event and had gone deep. (Side note: He managed to make it to day 2 with 14 players left).

Anyway, after drinking, Nicky and I almost went to the Rhino. We got sidetracked courtesy of poker pro Gavin Smith. I ended up playing poker with a couple of drunk pros (Gavin and Paul Wasicka who have several million dollars in career earnings combined). The stakes were small, but everyone was drunk, so I felt the field was leveled.

You can read about the hijinks over at my poker blog.

Alas, I lost $300. A small price to pay for a ton of fun. And I got enough material for my Bluff column. So that's always a plus.

Time to try not to puke in the shower, shove some undercooked Aussie bacon in my belly, drink a bunch of fizzy water, and jump back in the trenches. Of course, I get a wicked hangover the night before a 16 hour work day. Well planned, dipshit.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cake for Breakfast

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

If you wanna a random celebrity sighting in Melbourne, just head on down to the Crown Casino.

I just ran into Jen Tilly in the poker room. She had a casino host with her and I cut through a crowd of people and nearly smashed into her. I assume she's down under to play poker in the Aussie Millions. Of course, Michael Vartan is still here. He's been hanging out occasionally in media row. He liked the stuff that Nicky wrote about him in the coverage for poker news. And yes, Amanda and Nicky are still swooning whenever he walks by.

There's a rumor that Pam Anderson will be in town too to play. Someone asked me if Shannon Elizabeth will be here. She attended the event last year, but no word on whether she'll show up. Of course, she briefly dated an Aussie poker pro, so I have some interesting stories and dirt about her... that I'll save for a book someday.

Schecky said that he saw Andy Roddick here. Of course, the tennis pros are in town for the Australian Open and a lot of them are staying in one of the two hotels here. Last year, I saw Roger Federer and rode in an elevator with Maria Sharapova.

My buddy Brandon Schaefer is in town to play in some events. He's being staked by an 18-year old internet pro from Canada. Too bad that we can't do some traveling this time around since he has to get back to the States for a wedding.

My Amsterdam roommate, Johnny Mushrooms, is here. We hung out one night and got smashed. He's been playing a lot of the tournaments and I'm pulling for him and Brandon do go deep and make at least one final table each. And if they win... maybe they'll throw a victory party at the Spearmint Rhino down the street.

I bought a piece of chocolate caramel cake for breakfast. Because I can. Australia is similar to Texas in that everything is "big" including the dessert portions. The slice cost $7 but it's really two slices of cake. Yummy. Delicious. Orgasmic.

I also found some decent iced tea in a bottle. Nestea Lemon Flavoured... is what it's called. It's not quite like American iced tea, but it will do. It cost me #3.90 for the 500ml bottle. What a rip off, but I was jonesin'.

Most of the Aussie I know dig American culture include entertainment (music, books, movies, TV), sports (NBA + NFL, and even MLB), and especially politics. The buzz in Australia is about Obama. Everyone's been asking me if that's going to be our new President. Bush isn't the most popular guy in the world and they are hoping we can get a change in the White House and help improve our faltering image overseas. I thought it was interesting that the average Aussie knows more about our political process than most Americans. What a shame.

Anyway, my slice of cake is almost done (I crushed it in Daddy's vernacular) and I slayed the iced tea. I drank 80% in one gulp. Time for me to shower, then write for a bit. It's just after 12pm and I don't have to be at work until 3:30pm or so. If I can get my shit done, I might head downstairs and play cash games before my shift begins. That's what I did yesterday. I played for about a hour or so and won $170 before I split.

Heck, maybe I should just quit right now and play poker for a living?

Monday, January 07, 2008

It's Tuesday Here and Monday There

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

I always get confused when I'm in Australia. When I work on my laptop, it's set up for ET, so I always know what time it is in NYC since it's the center of the universe. Poker sites base their events on US ET. As do all sporting events (which I may or may not bet on).

I also rig the clock on my laptop so I know the time to make sure I meet specific deadlines. So I'm looking at it and it says 7:25pm on Monday but it's 11:25am on Tuesday in Australia. I know. I know... just add 8 hours and subtract a day to figure out what time it is in NYC.

I preferred living/working in Europe because we were ahead of the US by five or six hours. I could actually make phone calls at 3am because friends were still up back in the States.

My new friend has been this site... World Clock. Some of my clients are based out of Las Vegas. One is based out of Sweden another in the UK, and then I also do work for an Australian based company. My friends are scattered about the US in various time zones, my girlfriend lives on the West Coast, and my brother is in NYC.

Yes, it gets confusing sometimes, but the World Clock instantly tells me what time it is in that particular city, so I know that my emails will get answered during business hours in that particular time zone or if it's too late or too early to call someone. Without it I'm lost. For some reason I always fuck up making time calculations when jumping the international dateline.


My vivid and bizarre dreams have returned. For some odd reason, I recall more of my dreams in Australia. This is my third trip inside of 13 months and that's been the one theme that has been common among all he trips. Nicky experienced the vividness during her last trip and she's experiencing the same thing on this trip. Conversely, when my friend Ali (who's from Sydney) travels to America, she has extremely vivid dreams. I think it's some sort of dream exchange program with Aussies and Americans.

Then again, I also think that working inside a casino messes up your head. I logged 16 hours the first day, 12 hours on the second day, and 14 plus hours yesterday. 40+ hours of work in three days. Fun. Fun. Fun.

I have been getting some sleep, mostly because my body is tired by the time I crawl back up to my room. But the beds are comfy. The Crown Casino has two different hotels... a nice one and a swanky one. In my previous two trips I stayed at the Promenade. It's one of the better hotels that I stayed in over the last few years. It's not quite the Bellagio in Vegas or Le Meridien in Monte Carlo or the Princess in Barcelona, but it's close. However, I'm staying in the swanky "Towers" on this trip which compares to those other places.

The room at the Towers is a few notches up with a fat ass Plasma screen. There's a very comfortable reading chair where I have been sitting and thumbing through my New Zealand guide book every morning. We also have an actual "changing room" with a big closest and space for multiple sets of luggage. That's also where the safe is located, just in case you wanna break into my room and steal my iPod and bankroll.

Ah, you can tell the opulence of a hotel by the size and detail of the bathroom. The Towers has an amazing bathroom set up. It's spacious and bigger than some bedrooms I've lived in during my life, with marble floors and a jacuzzi/bathtub. There's a "private" shitter inside the bathroom with a glass door, along with a separate shower which is as big as some NYC studio apartments. I mean our entire bathroom from our apartment in Barcelona could fit inside the shower here.

We also have a scale. It lists weights in Stone and Kilos. It's slightly off, but according to the scale, I lost almost a 1/2 a stone since I arrived.

Our friend Jules played in the tournament that I covered on Monday. She busted out shortly before the dinner break, but it seemed like she had fun. I got to snap a cool pic of her. Sometimes you get lucky and can capture someone's personality with a picture. I managed to do that yesterday.

In the first three events in the Aussie Millions, an 18-year old kid from Canada who wore braces took second place in Event #1; a local famous fashion designer won event #2; and 20-year old internet pro from Illinois won Event #3. Yeah, that's poker.

I have the late shift tonight, which means I have the next seven hours to kill. That's perfect time for me to catch up on some work and figure out plans for New Zealand. We have flights to and from... but no accommodations just yet. That's #1 on my to do list.

Unlike Otis (who's working a tournament in the Bahamas), I might actually get to eat two meals today... a proper lunch and an actual sit down dinner since I don't work until 7pm.

Ah, I forgot to mention that at any given time, either cricket or The Simpsons is on the TV in my hotel room. There's was a controversial match the other day between Australia and India which seems to be making headlines down under. I'm still a cricket novice but I'm slowly learning how to gamble on it. It's the beginning of the end for me.

On the NFL playoffs, I went 2-2 yet managed to turn a slight profit although I'm not betting the insane amounts that I did in 2007. I have a softer and milder approach to sports betting this year, in hopes to curtail my degenerate behavior.

That's it for now, my time is up. Go read this post on Tao of Poker called Art and Masturbation.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Aussie Food Pic Dump

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Here's some pics of food that I took over the last few days...

Sashimi... Ocean Trout, Yellowfin Tuna and Hiramasa Kingfish with organic soy dressing from Rock Pool

San Daniele Prosciutto from Rock Pool

Aussie "iced tea"

My Morning Breakfast

Brekky roll... bacon & fried eggs on a ciabatta roll

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Back to Work

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

On Friday night, we had a staff dinner at the pub. Each tournament that I cover (depending on the location) there's a different crew. For this Aussie Millions, our team is made up of a few local Aussies and a bunch of Americans. I have worked with a couple of the Aussie in October but we had a couple of new hires to get to know.

Dinner was short followed by drinks in the Velvet Lounge. Jen Leo made the trip down under and tagged along with Schecky. In the past, Nicky, Schecky, Jen Leo and I have played Chinese Poker in a sort of couples night out in Hollyweird. We resumed our roving game in Australia at the lounge.

My roommate from Amsterdam showed up. Johnny Mushrooms rented an apartment across the street from the casino and was tanked when we finally met up. He's a poker pro and has a similar grueling traveling schedule like mine. He's from Adelaide, Australia and said that he spent a total of 10 weeks there in 2007. He wanted to scale back the travel this year and I don't blame him.

Anyway, after the Chinese Poker game broke up, we got smashed with Johnny Mushrooms as we recanted stories about our time in Amsterdam and how I almost shit my pants and took a dump in between two park cars along the side of a canal or how Benjo would fetch him fresh croissants every morning or about the hookers who worked around the corner from our apartment.

I woke up on Saturday morning with a minor hangover from the night before. I had only been in Oz for a couple of days, I have almost drank a case of wine and a keg of beer. Alas, that's what I do down under... drink. A ton. I'd say that 75% of my total alcohol consumption in 2007 occurred in Australia.

I was at work by 11:30am and the action lasted until way past 3:30am. It was a typical 16 hour day, but I had not worked in a couple of months so I was rusty. By Midnight, I was dragging ass. At least, I managed to eat two meals. Sometimes I only get to eat one when I'm working, but on the first day, I was up early enough for a brunch. I also ate ravioli for dinner. It was tasty for sure, but the special treat of the day was a slice of chocolate and caramel cake that I devoured for dessert.

The big buzz of the day was that actor Michael Vartan (best known from Alias although I only saw one or two episodes of that show... but I know him better from flicks such as The Pallbearer and Never Been Kissed) was playing in the first event of the Aussie Millions. Since his current show had halted production due to the writer's strike in Hollyweird, he flew down under to play some poker. He admitted that he developed an addiction to poker and said that he played a lot of online poker.

Of course, both Nicky and Amanda were swooning over his appearance at the poker tournament. They couldn't stop talking about him and we snagged him for an interview with Poker News. Too bad, but the pretty boy busted out early, yet Nicky and Amanda still kept talking about him.

I managed to put a few bets on the NFL playoffs with one of the local bookies. I woke up early on Sunday to watch the games. It's technically Saturday afternoon right now in the States, but it's Sunday morning down under. I have to be at work in a few hours but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch one of the games that I have money on. Although the games are on NBC, the local ESPN affiliate carries the game. The last time I was here in November, I had to wake up early to sweat the MLB playoffs.

I'd write more, but my ten minutes to blog is up.

Friday, January 04, 2008

lax > melbourne

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

I woke up somewhat early on New Year's Day and finished up several last minute projects, like Truckin' and an article for Bluff magazine. I also uploaded some free music over at the Phish blog. So if you want a copy of Trey Anastasio's latest instrumental album or want to hear one of the greatest James Brown concerts of all time (Paris 1971), head over to the Phish blog to download some kick ass tunes.

When Nicky finally woke up on New Year's Day, we walked over to Nick's for breakfast. It was one of the few places open in Hollyweird on Jan. 1st and I always had a tradition where I'd eat at Nick's before I left LA.

After breakfast, we did laundry and packed while I watched the NHL Winter Classic on NBC. Hockey outdoors. What a cool concept. It was a mix of rain, snow, sleet, and whatever else. I loved the concept and the game went into OT which was great for the suits at NBC.

After hockey and some random college football, we had last minute errands like the bank or the drug store. We drove over to Nicky's parents house so I could pick up my international cell phone. I had it delivered to their address and we spent a short time hanging out with Nicky's parents since she would not see them for another month.

We also went to see a flick... Charlie Wilson's War, based on a true story. Aaron Sorkin wrote the script and Philip Seymour Hoffman was the biggest surprise in it since he outshined Tom Hanks. I enjoyed it, but dug Juno much more.

We had seen Juno the night before and that was hysterical. Nicky had originally read the script many years ago. She dug through her closest and found an early draft written by Diablo Cody, a former stripper from Minnesota. I read the screenplay in an hour on NYE, so I knew what to expect. It did not disappoint me and was one of the best flicks I has seen in some time.

Check out the trailer for Juno...

Click here to view the Juno trailer via RSS or Bloglines...

My last meal in LA was at Canter's deli and I went with Pastrami on a kaiser roll and an iced tea. It was pretty packed since not too many things were open. The one thing I miss the most about leaving America is the iced tea. I knew I would not have a decent iced tea for a month and got my last fix.

Showcase dropped us off at the airport and we were pretty early. We farted around the bookstore and newsstand. I bought the year end issues of both Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. Check in was quick as was the security line. Our Quantas flight was delayed by about 15 minutes. For a New Year's Day flight, the flight was packed.

Nicky and I both had aisle seats. She was one row in front of me. We were in the middle section and both had people next to us. My guy annoyed the fuck out of me. He took up the entire arm rest and kept invading my space... and that was before we even took off. I knew it was going to be a long 15 hours. Say hello to Mr. Xanax to ease the pain.

I read one magazine and read an entire Jack Kerouac novel... The Subterraneans before we even reached Hawaii. I had not watched any of the inflight movies and was holding out to the last minute since I had seen most of them before.

After the meal service (a bad piece of rubber chicken and free red wine), I put on The Bourne Ultimatum, which I had already seen three times. I passed out halfway and ended up sleeping for almost three hours - which is almost the same amount of sleep I usually get.

I played some video games on the inflight system. There was a golf game that was confusing at first, but I finally got the hang of it. That killed a couple of hours.

I popped a second Xanax and passed out during the first few minutes of The Simpsons Movie. I woke up with about thirty minutes to go in the flick and was up for the rest of the flight.

The guy next to me kept spilling over into my seat. I got up a lot and walked around totally bored. I had finished the one book I brought with me and read both magazines I purchased. Nicky slept most of the flight so we didn't talk much.

At some point, I caught a cold on the flight and had a runny nose once we flew over the Fiji Islands. I listened to my iPod for the rest of the flight (I'm on a Sly and the Family Stone kick) and barely ate the crappy breakfast they served which included rubbery bacon, but a tasty muffin.

I got flagged at immigration because my visa didn't match my passport. I was told to sit off to the side while one guy snatched my passport and disappeared for about ten minutes. There was a slight error in the first initial of my middle name. My passport listed "D" but the visa said "T" and I had to wait until everything was cleared up. When the immigration official returned, he grilled me about why I was in Australia and where I was going. He wanted to see my return ticket, but I had an e-ticket so I showed him a printout of my itinerary (which has me flying up to the Gold Coast and then to New Zealand). He eventually approved my visa and allowed me in the country. Whew.

By the time I reached the baggage claim, Nicky had picked up our bags and was in line for customs which wrapped around the room three or four times. It was a massive line and eventually one roving customs agent asked to see our customs cards. Since we did not have anything to claim, he sent us to the express line. Ninety second later, we were outside flagging down a cab.

I had to pay for my own room the first night (the other 19 nights were paid for by my employer) and since the casino was too pricey, so we stayed a few blocks away at a Travelodge. We stayed there a couple of nights in November and it was better than average and inexpensive. Our room was ready on our arrival even though it was not even 11am and check in was at 2pm. We dropped off our gear in the room and went to find food. After a quick bite, we popped more Xanax and slept. We were supposed to meet up with friends for dinner at 7:30pm and wanted to get some rest to adjust to the jumping of time zones. Heck, we lost an entire day. We left on Jan 1 and got to Oz on Jan 3.

I was super tired since I barely slept on the plane. Nicky was asleep by 2pm and I couldn't sleep. I finally passed out around 5pm and The alarm woke up up at 6pm. I went back to sleep and Nicky jumped in the shower to get read. She woke me up again at 7pm and I finally dragged my ass into the shower and dressed. It took less than 10 minutes.

We were supposed to meet Jules and Graham for dinner at Rock Pool which is one of the best restaurants in all of Melbourne. They wanted to celebrate a few things... they both just got new jobs and had gotten married a few days earlier in Tasmania.

Rock Pool is an amazing steak joint featuring the best beef in the world. Most of my Aussie friends told me that I had to eat there. In my two previous trips, I never had the opportunity to eat there, so when Jules asked me if that's where we wanted to meet up, I quickly said yes.

I ordered a plate of San Daniele Prosciutto for my appetizer while Nicky went for sashimi consisting of Ocean Trout, Yellowfin Tuna and Hiramasa Kingfish with organic soy dressing. Jules went with grilled king prawns and Graham picked a ham and salami tasting plate with Spanish ham and the local chorizo.

For the main course, Jules and Graham ordered the Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Beef Rib-Eye on the Bone which was about 750g. It was a dish for two and we ordered the same thing. Delicious for sure. Our sides were their famous "Mac and Cheese" along with grilled mushrooms and onion rings.

We also drank three bottles of Shiraz (which Jules picked out) during dinner. We had no idea... but the dinner lasted almost four hours long!!! When we left, we ran up almost a $600 tab and it was almost 11:30pm. Time flew. We had so much fun hanging out and talking and catching up. Jules and Graham are tons of fun, and spending quality times with them are one of my favorite things about Melbourne.

In my previous two trips down under, I spent my first meal with Jules and Graham, which has become a tradition. In January, they took me out to an Italian place on Lygon Street then cooked me a BBQ the next day. In November, we went to their house for dinner and wine. So it was fitting that we ate together at Rock Pool.

After dinner, we headed up to a lounge and drank another bottle of wine. By then it was way past Midnight and we were all punchy and exhausted.

I was up early on Friday and wrote for a bit. Nicky eventually woke up and we checked out of our hotel. Check out time is at 10am at most hotels in Australia. With all of our gear, we walked a few blocks and moved into the Crown Towers, which is the swankiest hotel in all of Melbourne. The Crown Casino has two hotels and in my previous trips I stayed at the Promenade. It's nice, but the Towers is definitely a step up... sort of like the difference between the Mirage and the Bellagio.

Even though it was 10am, there was a room ready for us. We went downstairs for breakfast and ended up bumping into several of our co-workers down in the poker room. I cashed about 2K in US bucks at the cashier. Half of that was "playing poker" money and the rest was spending money.

We went back up to the room and I did some more work, as Nicky watched CNN and followed the results in the Iowa caucus. Obama won the Democratic side and poor Hillary took third. Slick Willy stood behind Hillary during her speech and looked humiliated, while the folks at Obama's rally seemed all fired up. Alas, it's still too early to tell and in the end, I honestly don't think it matters since politics is rigged.

I've been in Australia for almost a day now and I think my body has adjusted much quicker than in my previous two trips. For now... ask me again in a few days.