Tuesday, March 25, 2008

jfk >burbank

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I took a Xanax on Easter night and managed almost six straight hours of sleep. A small miracle. I even missed two text messages and two phone calls during my deep slumber. I never sleep through the sound of my phone ringing unless I turn the ringer off. The pharmies worked.

I woke up refreshed and packed the last 5% of my stuff. I got a call five minutes before the car service was supposed to arrive. It was the company telling me that the driver was downstairs. I didn't get my usual driver. It was a different guy. We didn't talk much, which was fine by me. I was too baked for chit chat. All he did was listen to the radio on the way to the airport.

And it was a beautiful morning. The sun poked its way through the sky and spewed various orange, yellow, red, and pink colors. It was around 6:05am, but Manhattan seemed so quiet and peaceful.

We arrived at JFK in 35 minutes. No traffic. But I gave the driver a $15 tip anyway. Mostly for leaving me alone.

Security line was backed up. As usual. I eventually got through with no problems. I grabbed a croissant and a water. I had well over an hour to kill. I read the newspaper and sat down at a different gate and people watched. Most people at airports take more shit than they really need to be taking.

* * * * *

"Could you hold this for me for just a sec?"

I glanced at the her engagement ring as she handed me her purple overcoat. An anxious line of passengers waited as she nervously shoved a generic black carry-on bag into the overhead compartment. I handed her the purple overcoat and she tossed it into the empty seat by the window.

She was in her late 20s and looked like the actress from the Scary Movie flicks. For a second I considered that it very well could be that same actress. After all, I was on a JetBlue plane bound for Burbank, California where most of the Hollywood corporate offices were located and where the studios churned out artistic feces for mass consumption. My brother once sat next to a random actress on a JetBlue flight from Las Vegas to New York City. Why couldn't that be happening to me?

I had been sitting in the aisle seat and stood up so she could scoot by. I realized that she wasn't that actress and simply a random chick who looked like someone famous. She plopped down a stack of magazines in the empty seat between us. Bridal magazines dominated the stack. She also slid a Lonely Planet travel guide for Bali into the seat pocket in front of her.

"Lemme guess," I said. "Honeymoon in Bali?"

She smiled and picked up the guide book. "How did you know?" she said as she fanned out the pages in a dramatic fashion like a game show hostess.

"Bali. Now that's a very romantic location. Magnificent and ravishing in the same breath. You're going to have the time of your life. Just don't go during the rainy season and keep your eyes open if you go to Kuta. Fundamentalist Islamic terrorists target tourists there. Especially Americans."

The once smile unfurled into puzzled look that quickly morphed into panic. That's when it hit me. At some future date, that young woman was going to walk down the aisle and gamble the rest of her life on a coin flip. Marriages in America these days are coin flips because about 50% of them end in divorce. Plus, she was about to take the biggest gamble of them all and book her honeymoon in a resort town that was bombed twice since 2002.

My flight was full with a handful of L.A. Douchebags and other industry types. There was so much botox on our plane that I thought the plane was going to explode over a corn field in Iowa.

I watched my new favorite show Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Or is it Disasters? Anyway, he got on the main chef's case for mixing salmon and strawberries in a salad. He only made it because his girlfriend thought it was be a great idea.

I watched a bit of Rattle and Hum on VH1-Classic. Wow, I'm starting to get old if U2 is considered Oldies music.

My flight managed to be a few minutes early. Nicky was still driving up Laurel Canyon when I called her from the tarmac. By the time it took my luggage to get spit out twenty-eight minutes later, Nicky was pulling up to the curb at Bob Hope Airport. Perfect timing.

We grabbed a quick lunch at Mexicali, one of my favorite restaurants in L.A., even though it's located in Studio City, which is technically The Valley. Nicky loathes going to The Valley, but Burbank is a little closer than Long Beach so she sucks it up.

While we drove out of the parking lot, I started to think, "Wow there's a lot of fake tits today."

Then I remembered that I was in the shadows of Hollyweird.

When we got back to the apartment, the girl next door was practicing her singing. She pays the bills waiting tables and spends her free afternoons singing. Her talent falls somewhere in between a sensational happy hour karaoke singer and American Idol finalist. She might have been the hottest and most talented girl from her hometown in Wisconsin, but in Hollyweird, she's just another waitress.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday Mornings

By Pauly
New York City

When I was really young, like seven or eight years old, I hated Sunday mornings because my father would wake my ass up and drag me to church. I used to pretend to be asleep or come up with a dozen excuses why I didn't want to go to 9:30am mass. My mother didn't go and I used to cite that as a reason why I did not have to go. My father vaguely explained that she had to stay at home and watch my brother, but that excuse grew paper thin as my brother got older.

My mother has never been a religious person and rarely attended church. She often said that the ones sitting in the first rows in church were often the biggest sinners in the parish and they were only going to church to keep up appearances. Years later, my politically ambitious uncle would be among the hypocrites sitting in the front row. The rest of the family grew more and more disenfranchised with the Catholic church and we started sitting farther and farther away, until we all stopped attending services.

I guess it was that twenties-ridden-angst or the fact that every Gen Xer rejected their parent's religion, but I couldn't even handle cafeteria Catholicism. For almost a decade, the only time I stepped foot in a church was for a wedding. That abruptly ended and a morose trend began with a slew of empty coffin 9.11 funerals. Since then, it seems that the only times I stepped inside a church is for a funeral.

I also have a suit that I call the Grim Reaper suit. For a while, I only wore it at funerals and weddings. And at the five weddings I wore the suit (between 1997 and 2001), only one marriage lasted. That's a 80% failure rate. I'm afraid to wear that suit to anything but a funeral.

In the fourth grade I became an altar boy and my stance on church changed drastically. All of a sudden I looked forward to Sunday mornings. For a while, I'd get up early and serve the 8am mass so I could enjoy the rest of my Sunday.

The late 1970s and early 1980s where the dark ages as far as computers and the internet. My only relationship with the outside world were the Sunday papers. There was the local paper which came with the Sunday comics. Then there was the massive pile of newsprint called the Sunday Times. My father would slowly sift through the pile. The older I got, the more sections I read. Little did I know that an innocuous Sunday tradition were the origins of part of the reason I am a writer today, as I read about subjects that I was eons away from comprehending, like the fall of the Shah in Iran or the energy crisis.

When I lived in Atlanta during college, NBC used to broadcast doubledheader NBA games. That was back in the mid-1990s during the NY Knicks halcyonian years with Pat Riley at the helm. The almost always played the noon game. We had a routine where we'd watch the games in Jerry's room. He and I were among the smattering Knicks fans in our fraternity house, which seemed to be dominated by Bulls and Sixers fans. Sometimes he'd get a big crowd for the Knicks game and it would be standing room only. And of course, the peanut gallery almost always the majority rooted against the Knicks.

My favorite part of Sunday was what we did before the games started. Either Rib or Jerry would wake me up at 11am. I'd be wicked hungover and they'd drive me to McDonalds. That was back in the days when you could eat like a king for $3. We quickly devoured our fast food, washing them down with cheap beer and bong hits before tip off. I loved Sundays when I lived in Atlanta.

When I lived in Seattle, I held four crappy jobs and had to work on Sundays at the museum. Most of the time, I got baked in the parking lot and just stood around making sure the post-church and post-brunch crowd kept their grubby mitts off the paintings. Sunday nights were the fun times. My friends and/or housemates would gather in my room for bingers and a viewing of The Simpsons and the X-Files.

And at the beginning of the 21st century, when I lived in New York City, I had a Sunday routine with my brother during the autumn months where we religiously watched the Jets games. I'd arrive at his apartment at noon with bagels, just in time to watch the pre-game NFL shows. We'd do last minute adjustments to our fantasy football rosters, make a last minute pick on our sheets, or get a bet it just before kickoff at the 1pm game.

A Sunday routine has been void from my life the last few years. I kinda miss that. What I don't miss is the dreaded Sunday Night Blues.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

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

By PaulyNew York City

It has been a while since I posted the latest installment. Here you go.

Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...
1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
2. The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever by Christopher Hitchens
3. The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
5. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NYC Picture Dump

By Pauly
New York City

I took these over the last week or so...

Almost empty #1 subway

Bakery in Grand Central Station

My small collection of travel guides

Poster in a subway station

Bruce gives an outdoor drum lesson

Monday, March 03, 2008

Ghosts on the Subway

By Pauly
New York City

I've kept an odd schedule over the last six days in New York City. Several nights during last week, I crashed hard around 11pm or Midnight and and woke up by 3am. I had a smoke and tried to go back to sleep, but it never worked. I spent the hours between 4am and 6am writing. By noon, I put a full day of writing in.

I wrote a series of poems. I haven't done that in a very long time. It was inspired by Jamie Lynn Spears recent pregnancy. I titled them Ode to Juno Lynn Spears. It's the story about how 16-year old Juno Lynn Spears gives up her baby for an adoption to a nice couple (God-fearing Baptists from Peachtree City, Georgia). But at the last minute, Angelina Jolie swoops in and adopts her baby instead. Maybe I'll re-work the poem into a short story format.

I finally finished the L.A. issue of Truckin'. It includes one of my better short stories in a very long time. Although the last twelve issues have been on time and featured a wide variety of styles and authors, I have definitely been slacking in the quality of my submissions. I almost always end up publishing a "best of" piece from Tao of Pauly, snagged from the archives of the previous month. I rarely had time to sit down and write new stories.

Luck for me, I had plenty of time to work on Next to Mama Cass. I really don't like that title, but went with it anyway. I wrote a first draft of Mama Cass at the end of December, in Hollyweird during an early morning session while sitting in Nicky's living room with the windows wide open.

The other day, I re-wrote most of it but keeping only the same characters and themes. And I even had the time to re-write a third draft! I rarely get a chance to write a second draft of anything these days, let alone having the luxury of another re-write. Extra time allowed me to to publish a high quality piece.

The first week of the month is always the busiest for me. I'm trying to sort out invoices, pay bills, and catch up with a nasty backup of unread and unanswered email. Oh, then there's always a couple of big deadlines including Truckin' and Bluff.

Ideally, I'd like to get all my business affairs done in the first week of a month, to allow me to be free of those entanglements for the rest of the month. I'm more productive that way and in a much better mood when I'm thinking about non-annoying work things. When that doesn't always happen, so I've been setting aside just one day a week for business matters, in order to have a harmonious remainder of the week. Six days of free of mega-work-tilt. Sounds like heaven... when I can get that to happen.

When that doesn't work, I allot myself one hour every day for business bullshit. I implemented a basic philosophy... instead of being a slave to work and dictating the rest of my life around business matters... I flipped it... and I'm squeezing work into my life. It's been an amazing process reclaiming my life back. I've been more than content, but I can be a pain in the ass for those who are constantly waiting on me to get back to them.

Like the email issue... I spent too much time wasting away with checking my email forty-seven times a day. I've been trying to do the "once or twice a day" email thing (and never first thing in the morning and last thing at night because you need to give yourself a relaxing hour away from technology to start or wind down your day).

March is another month of transit. It's not until April that I can spend a good three weeks in New York City. For the first time in... um.... I dunno when.

Over the weekend, I got all my shit together for the upcoming trip to Florida and completed errands like multiple trips to the post office and the bank. I went running a couple of times when it wasn't too cold.

I spent a decent amount of time walking around the old neighborhood. But it's always weird being in the place you grew up decades later. You see lots of familiar faces. Passing glances. Ghosts. memories bubble up to the surface. 5 years. 10 years. 15 years. 20 years.

The pre-war buildings are losing the battle to stay alive. Gaudy condos are replacing the older buildings in another phase of rip down and re-build in New York City. Neighborhoods go through cycles every 15 to 20 years. Ethnicities change. Class distinction changes. The crime levels. The coolness factor. Immigrants. Old people. Families. Hipsters. Hoodlums. Drug fiends. Yuppie scum.

The streets stay the same, but the stores, buildings, and people are slowly shifting. Dying off. Moving away. A pet store today used to be a pharmacy five years ago that used to be a bicycle store in the 1980s and before that a fire burned up what used to be a bar in the 1970s. But the address remains the same.

I have been eating healthy and avoided bagels. I only ate at the Greek diner once. When I was paying for my sandwich, I recognized a guy who used to be an altar boy with me. He was eating breakfast in a booth with on older relative. We sort of nodded to each other, but I got lucky and avoided the dreaded "I have not seen you in (insert number of years here) years conversation" that I hate having.

I managed to have an eye-to-eye meeting with a guy in the neighborhood that Derek and I think is a total serial killer. He's gonna snap one day. Anyway, I saw him carrying a huge load of laundry across the street. The more I think, it could have been pieces of a person that he hacked up and smuggled out of his apartment in something as ordinary as a laundry bag. Hmmmm...

As we passed in the street, he looked right at me. Most normal New Yorkers avoid eye contact and snub you. It's a given and I'm a big fan of the "let's just snub each other" encounter on the street. We're New Yorkers, right? No time for bullshit. Go fuck yourself.

Anyway, the serial killer looked me in the eyes. I almost lost my cookies. I kinda nodded to him and he looked away. I wonder if I'm on his "To Kill Next" list?

I discovered that my mother is a part of a cabal of gossip queens in her building with two elderly women, one Irish and the other Jewish. Lord knows that they don't have anything else better to do. Maybe I need to upgrade my mother to a better cable TV package?

My brother had a horde of Dominican kids living down the hall from him. They run around at odd hours. He's waiting for the spring to come so they can run amuck in the streets of the Bronx.

I headed to Vinny the barber for a haircut. It had been a while, the longest in I can't recall when. I last saw him in December. We had lots to talk about including Atlantic City. Las Vegas. Roger Clemens. Hillary Clinton. And even a little golf. He knew that I went to Denmark. He bumped into my mother and she told him that I spent a week in Europe.

On Monday morning, I ran for about two miles and then walked another mile. I wanted to keep going but I had a few thoughts that I had to write down before I forget them. I got most of my work done before noon, so I took the subway down to Columbus Circle. I then walked north along Broadway before I went west on 72nd Street. I wandered around Riverside Drive and Riverside Park. I spotted lots of nannies on the job. Hundreds of brown and black women pushing white babies in strollers.

I eventually made my way around Columbia University. I walked south and eventually got back on the subway at 103rd Street. I sat in the first car. It was practically empty aside from an older black guy who looked like a 70 year old version of Samuel L. Jackson. At first, I paid no attention to him talking non-stop, and focused on my book. One subway stop later, I looked up and noticed that the old guy was talking, but there was no one in the seat where he was directing his conversation. That made me wonder if he was a crazy old man or if he was one of those freaks who could see dead people. New York City is an city that is centuries old. It would not be unreasonable to think that ghosts ride the subways at odd hours.

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

By PaulyNew York City

Back riding the subways again. Here's what I saw people reading...

1. The Innocent Man by John Grisham
2. The Holy Bible
3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
4. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Flying in New Zealand Video

By Pauly
New York City

The bad news first... I don't have video of Nicky puking on the plane. Twice.

The good news... is that I have over ninety seconds of footage from our scenic flight in a seven-seater Cessna. We flew from Queenstown to Milford Sound and back to Queenstown. Magnificent view of the majestic mountains of southern New Zealand.

Click through to Tao of Pauly to view the flying video...