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.

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

Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

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

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.

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

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!

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).

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.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mexico Sunset Pics

By Pauly
Neuvo Vallarta, Mexico

Here are a couple of gems...

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