Monday, December 28, 2009

Year End Video: On the Road in 2009

By Pauly
Miami, FL

The 2009 video had to be split into two parts...


Sunday, December 20, 2009

4 x 4

Los Angeles, CA

Sometimes, you just have to feed your inner Fat Elvis.

The last two weeks have been what I call my "Fat Elvis Stage" where I stuff my face without any semblance of a conscience. I already know that I will embark on a life of clean living in January. That's my self-imposed rehab. I cleared most of my work schedule and will be fine tunning the last bit of Lost Vegas while I work out everyday, eat healthy, shed the excess poundage that I put on during the 10 week bender to end 2009. Mist importantly, I'm going to ween myself off the pain killers - for the third time in the last 12 months.

It's not going to be an easy task to accomplish all of my goals but I welcome the challenge. This will be the first January in I don't know how long that I will not be traveling to an exotic locale, so I'm using that time wisely in an attempt to stay off the grid for as much as I can while I repair so many things in my life... my back, my morbid addiction to pain killers, and most importantly... repair Lost Vegas before I put that out for public consumption.

Time has been my enemy in 2009. I'm going to make it my ally in 2010. I slowly came to grips with my limits and liabilities over the last twelve months. Now that I know my parameters, I have a better idea of what to expect in 2010.

Hence the 4x4. I always wanted to attempt the feat. I've eaten two 2x2's in the past which in essence is more food because of the extra bun. That's why I was confident in my ability to destroy 4 succulent patties and 4 pieces of cheese. Since I had some room leftover, I indulged in a chocolate shake. Yeah, that was overkill. But I have to enjoy it while I can.

The machines are winning the battle and yet they are essential in my life. My goal is to limit my slavery to said machines and explore as much time away from the laptops than in 2009. That means spending more time outdoors and thereby improving my posture, bad back, and eye strain. I understand that I have to find a happy medium to keep me sane.

But that 4x4? It was as delicious as it looks. It's making me so hungry that I might grab another one before the day is over.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


By Pauly
Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

This little stretch of beach is made up of millions and millions of tiny little shells...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Karmic Douches

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I needed to upgrade my phone to include global roaming.

With an imminent trip to Costa Rica and plenty of South American and European travel in 2010, I needed my phone to meet my international needs, except the current phone would not take a SIM card so needed a new phone.

I made a trip to the Verizon Store in the Beverly Center. Oh man, I've been there before and that place is a zoo. The lines are longer than the DMV, except that lots of people try to cut the lines, which means lots of tension. I made an effort to go within an hour of the store opening to make sure I didn't spend all day there. You have to sign up using a kiosk and I was 4th in line and told Nicky to go home because it was going to be a while.

I patiently waited and I scouted out the new Droid which was not capable of handling international roaming. I peeked at the latest Blackberry -- global friendly and it featured a $100 rebate. I really didn't have much of a choice. Only four or five phones were global ready and two of which were Blackberries. It took me five minutes to decide and I waited 45 before my name was called. In the meantime, I sat down and watched two horrendous displays of douchebaggery. Hey, we're deep in the heart of Beverly Hills or home turf for L.A. Douchebags. Those fuckers are crawling all over that part of town.

Both douchebags cut me in line. That's expected because that's what self-important L.A. Douchebags do. I was pissed at the saleswoman who allowed it to happen thereby condoning their behavior. And as a result? Wasted time and no commission. Both gave her tons of shit and they didn't buy anything. Meanwhile, another salesman helped me and picked up a fatty commission on my sale.

I sat quietly in the corner on one of two seats in the store waiting for my name to be called since I was next in line. The first L.A. Douchebag walked into the store, did not sign up, and headed right for the saleswoman while waving his phone.

"I'm low and almost out of juice. I don't have my charger and need to shop with my wife next door. Can you charge my phone for me?"

The douchebag and the saleswoman debated for five full minutes while I was next in line. He wouldn't leave until she catered to his selfish needs. That irked me because he wasn't even a paying customer.

He wuickly left and just as I was about to be called another L.A. douchebag cut the line.

"Excuse me," I blurted out and gave him the NYC stinkeye. "I'm next."

"This will just be a sec..." he said.

"I'll be with you shortly," scolded the saleswoman.

What the fuck? I'm the bad guy here for sticking up for myself?

Of course, that "just a sec" was 25 minutes. L.A Douchebag was tagging along with his model girlfriend who had a two week shoot in Australia. He must have said that two or three times to make sure everyone in the store heard him. He had a similar issue that I had -- he wanted to add global calling on his phone for an overseas trip. The saleswoman did everything in her power to help him and explain the charges, but all he bitched and moaned about the 29 cents a minute cost for Aussie roaming charges.

"But I have unlimited calling," he said over and over.

There was some stuff that the saleswoman was explaining about extra charges since he was out of the country and using a different network, but he ignored her and talked over her. He was just a flat out dick while she doing her best to help him.

At that point, my name was finally called and I lucked out and got the cool salesman. Very helpful. Lots of banter. He knew his shit. Meanwhile, I could hear L.A. Douchebag giving the saleswoman a hard time.

"This is stupid. This is so stupid. You're wrong."

The saleswoman was a young black woman and I couldn't help but think he never would have talked to a white woman like that. Not only was he a douchebag... he was a racist.

"You can step behind the counter and look at my screen," said the saleswoman who was obviously losing her patience but did her best to shrug off the obvious racsim, sexism, classism, and overall douchism.

Of course, crybaby spoiled L.A. Douchebag didn't get what he wanted -- to use his cellphone in Australia like he would in L.A. without extra charges. I would have suggested buying a top-up phone for $50 in Oz, but the fucker cut me in line so I was not about to help him.

After pitching a hissy fit, he stormed out saying, "This is so stupid. Customer service is a joke."

Meanwhile, my salesman was an amateur poker player and we were having a blast cracking jokes as he showed me how to use my new Blackberry.

While I walked out of the store with my brand new phone and accessories, I made eye contact with the saleswoman. I didn't say anything but I let my smirk do all the talking, "This is karmic payback for making me wait when I was next in line. You served two L.A. Douchebags who cut in front of me because they were pretty boys and I'm an ugly dude. Both of those pretty faces were non-sales. That's what you get for fucking me over and pandering to L.A. Douchebags."

* * * * * *


I forgot to add that my new piece of hardware has a decent camera. I will be abusing TwitPic like no other.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Advanced Packing and Travel Tips

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Packing is constantly on my mind while pondering my travel schedule for the last 10 weeks of 2009.... LA > Palm Springs > LA > Las Vegas > LA > Costa Rica > LA > NYC > Albany > NYC > Richmond > NYC > LA > Las Vegas > LA > NYC > Miami. The Palm Springs leg included a camping trip and over the next few weeks I'm heading to contrasting climates and different social situations (beach vacation, work functions, Phish, family holidays) so I need to pack wisely and effectively for each leg of my journey. At this point, I have a routine down pat. Lots of packing. Unpacking. Laundry. And re-packing.

It's time to share some pearls of wisdom...

1. What you wear to the airport is extremely important on your travel day. If you want to pack light, you can knock off two days of clothing by wearing the same clothes on your travel days. During flights, I prefer to wear comfortable clothes in multiple layers. There have been instances when I wore the nicest outfit in order to save space or not wrinkle my suit jacket, and I recommend that if you're on a business trip. On a roundtrip flights, I usually wear the same outfit inbound/outbound. Most of the times I have a standard travel uniform. There's a specific pair of pants that I only wear for traveling because it has a zipable pocket to keep my passport which means that it will never fall out of my pocket. My girlfriend wears her biggest piece of outwear (w.g. sweaters, jackets) and shoes (e.g. Uggs) on her travel days.

2. Carry-on luggage can be deceptive. Be realistic about the size of your bag. Never pack it more than 80% (save some room for items you acquire on the road). I'm shocked to see how people try to use every single inch of their bags and then the fucker won't fit into the overhead. These days, overzealous agents might force you to check your bag at the gate because it looks overstuffed. Plus, they're onto the scam where cheap passengers try to sneak a large bag onto the plane instead of paying to check the bag. Also know about the types of airplanes that you're flying and pack accordingly. Puddle jumpers have less overhead space than wide-body planes. And of course, know what times you are traveling. Holiday season is the time of the year to travel as light as possible. Ship your presents and go with a light carry-on.

3. Keep warm at 34,000 feet. On long flights, I always take a hoodie even if it's in the middle of summer. Airplanes flying at high altitudes get cold. Never rely on the actual airline to provide a blanket, and half the time I refuse to touch those disease-ridden rags. If you are a female who prefers open-toed shoes or a guy who always wears flipflops, I suggest bring a pair of socks with you. Nothing is worse than cold toes.

4. Packing cubes save space. I can't get enough of the cubes which help condense my clothes. About ten years ago, a couple of Japanese friends introduced me to space-age air tight vacuum bags. I used those for years (those are amazing space savers for bulky winter clothing) but now I'm hooked on the cubes. However, I prefer the vacuum bags to seal up dirty clothes - it contains any foul odor of smelly clothes.

5. Plastic clear baggies are your friends and they are TSA friendly. If by chance you get pulled out of a line, your inspection will go much faster if most of your shit is in clear baggies. I primarily use two baggies; one for toiletries and the other for electronic shit. Pre 9/11 I had a really cool toiletry kit but in the post-9/11 travel world, I opted for a simple ziplock baggie because it is see-through. I pull the baggie out and put it in a bin for x-ray. The other baggie houses all of those smaller wires and chargers for my iPod cellphone and other miscellaneous electronic equipment. It takes only five minutes to neatly pack these items before you arrive at the airport. It can save you valuable time if you get flagged. Also, don't skimp and spend the money and buy the top of the line Glad ziplock ultra strength bags. Those bags are waterproof and you won't realize how clutch they can be until one of your liquid-based toiletries breaks open in transit.

6. If you check your bags, bring at least one pair of clothes in a carry-on. Airlines lose luggage so make sure you bring an extra outfit. Never underestimate the significance of bringing an extra pair of underwear with you. I can go a week wearing the same outer clothes if need be. But dirty underwear starts to rot after the fourth day.

7. In the age of cellphones, it's important to remember specific phone numbers. I also write down key phone numbers of business contacts and hotels just in case I lose my phone or my battery runs low.

8. Charge everything before you travel. Never leave home without a full charge. You never know when you might get a chance to do it again. This includes laptops and especially iphones and those fancy noise-canceling headphones. What good is having Bose to drown out crying babies if you forget to charge to suckers? For work assignments I bring a backup battery for my laptop and on camping excursions, I bring an extra battery for my cellphone.

9. Bring your own converters and ethernet cables. Make sure you have the proper power converter if you are an international traveler. I always have at least two travel converters because sometimes hotels don't provide them for free and I have to charge a cell phone and a laptop. Also, a friend of mine is an professional poker player who makes the bulk of his income playing online poker. He's never without a wireless aircard and an extra long ethernet cable. Most hotels provide cables -- but more often than not, they are torn and frayed and often very short. If you bring your own, you never have to worry about that hassle.

10. Bring a book. You never know when you'll get stuck and bored to death. Long security lines. At the gate waiting for a delayed flight. Stuck on the tarmac. Backed up in an immigration line. Waiting for a taxi. Random idle time can be frustrating and utter torture for travelers, so take advantage of the forced free time and read a book.

11. Have cash especially small bills. This seems so simple especially when traveling abroad. Get some foregin currency before you arrive and avoid changing cash in airports. They will fuck you with horrible exchange rates... because they can.

12. Think light, travel light. Don't be afraid of under-packing. After you pack your bag, re-pack and remove five items. You don't need three books and five magazines. You don't need three suits or seven pairs of shoes for a weekend away.

13. You can buy almost everything you need where ever you go. Unless you're going to the fucking jungle. Then again, I'm sure you'll be able to buy machetes there.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Restaurant Wars

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Padma the co-host of Top Chef

When I started dating Nicky a few years ago, she and her roommate Showcase religiously watched a reality show where 12 or so of the best chefs battled it out in the kitchen for the honor of being crowned... Top Chef. I loathe reality programming as a general philosophy because for every reality show, at least five writers don't have a job... or some WGA-inflated statistic like that. Most of that reality fodder is junkfood and I only stumble up on a few compelling shows. But I caught one episode of Top Chef... and I was hooked.

In the middle of a crazy travel season, I pieced together viewings of Top Chef Chicago (the year that Stephanie beat out the freaky guy with the hair and the lesbo with an attitude problem) via the intertubes and TiVo. I quickly became a convert and religiously watched last season of Top Chef New York when Hosea (the bald dude from Colorado) came from behind to upset Stefan (the bald Fin raised in Germany) who the supreme chef among a gaggle of fry cooks. Stephan is the best of the best that I had seen on the show in the last three seasons -- but he choked in crunch time when it counted the most.

I recently discovered that friends of mine are also Top Chef freaks including a few who are gambling on the outcome of this season of Top Chef Las Vegas. Garth created a Fantasy Top Chef league and Daddy is a part of that contest in DC. Wow. What an ingenious concept! Nicky was impressed and inspired by Garth and Daddy, we engaged in a heads-up Fantasy Top Chef Pool. With 10 chefs to go in this season, Nicky and I drafted a team of 4 chefs a piece. She had first pick.
Nicky's Team Volt: Bryan V., Michael V., Ashley, Mike
Pauly's Team Chorizo: Kevin, Jen, Eli, Laurine
Undrafted: Ash (the gay guy) and Robin (the cancer survivor who won;t shut the fuck up)
Nicky scooped up both Voltaggio brothers while I anchored my team with Kevin and Jen. The oldest Voltaggio brother, Bryan, is the best chef of the crop. Let's be blunt... Top Chef is his to lose. Older Voltaggio's problem is that he's too technical and too perfect that his food and approach is almost too boring. He lacks the imagination and fearlessness that drives his younger brother. Michael is clearly not as skilled in all areas of the kitchen as his old brother, but he has a wider vision and a compulsion to take those risks to meet his vision. If Michael can nail one of those attempts... then little bro will finish ahead of old bro.

I liked my first pick.... Kevin knows how to bring flavor to a meal and put a high brow twist to traditional Southern cooking. It's hard to beat a fat guy who loves pork because his food is consistently bursting with flavors. Jen was a solid second pick because she's the most classically trained and has a firm grasp of old world cooking. Plus, she paid her dues in Eric Ripert's kitchen which means knows how to "wow" the British and Euro-trash chefs who are guest judges. She also has tremendous mood swings and I'm convinced that she's a cokehead, while Kevin and Eli are the two potheads in the group.

On the first week that we kept score, I beat out Nicky 11-2 when Jen won the Elimination Challenge (EC) to take an early lead. I scored a huge break when Ashley got booted (crappy prawns and salty gnocchi) and my Team Chorizo gained an advantage. Nicky's Team Volt was playing 3-handed and I continued my run during the second week when Kevin won the EC and I opened up a 20.5 to 7 lead.

Coming into the Final 8, Nicky was desperate for a big week from the Voltaggio Brothers especially since we reached the exhilarating Restaurant Wars where the contestants pair off into two teams and open their own restaurant within 24 hours featuring a menu with three courses. Disaster or success ensues. The crews who work the best together usually win while the teams screaming, whining, and moaning fizzle out.

But before Restaurant Wars began, the episode kicked off with a twist where the Quickfire Challenge divided the eight chefs into two teams for a blind-folded tag-team cook off with Rick Moonen (has a fish joint at Mandalay Bay) as the guest judge. Tag-team. Difficult challenge for a chef walk into a kitchen with ingredients on a stove and not know what's going on. Chefs drew knives and Jen won the chef lottery and secured the first pick for the Blue team. Jen immediately picked Kevin, followed by Mike, and Laurine. Michael was the captain for the Red team; his brother, Eli, and Robin. Interesting to see who was picked to close for both teams... Kevin (Blue) and Bryan (Red). The two top dogs to anchor the challenge.

Jen kicked off the the first leg and returned from the pantry with Alaskan black cod and scallops. Mike and Laurine kept it moving along and Kevin finished strong with a butter-fried fish dish instead of a poached fish dish as original conceived by Jen. Eli (aka the fat kid with glasses who lives with his parents) went with beef dish. Robin seemed clueless as per usual, but everyone seemed a bit clueless going in blind so she wasn't really at a disadvantage. If anything, I expected the Voltaggio Brothers to push aside her work and go with their instincts. They final product? Asian beef dish.

Moonen is a fish guy and naturally preferred the fish dish. Ergo, the Blue team won. Three of my fantasy chefs were on that team and I picked up a few points. As a bonus, those chefs won a $10,000 M Casino chip with a choice of letting it ride... if they won the Restaurant Wars, then they'd get $40,000. 4 to 1 gamble on a coin flip? Fuck yeah! I loved that added element to this season in Las Vegas. In previous years, Quickfire winners were awarded lame prizes like a new set of knives or day trips to Sonoma. Cold hard cash is way better for chefs who don't make much money anyway and the ones who own restaurants are probably leveraged to the hilt. Letting them gamble on themselves for money is more exciting.

With $40,000 on the line, the Blue team made two crucial mistakes before they even stepped into the kitchen.... Laurine in charge of front of the house and omitting a dessert on the menu. Mike, the most talkative of the bunch, would have a perfect candidate for schmoozing guests. When designing the menu, Jen opted for a conservative route and didn't want to fuck up a dish that ended up the demise of teams in the past. They picked Mission as their name, but it seemed as though they were on a mission towards failure. During the prep, they fell behind schedule and it seemed evident that they did not have enough time to handle the rush. Little did we know that Jen would be steaming clams to order... instead of cooking up batches before they seated anyone.

Red team went with a modern American food twist but picked a horrible name... Revolt, a play on their names (Robin - Eli - Voltaggio brothers). That sounds chic enough for a lounge in the East Village or in Silver Lake, but not a kitschy name for a hip eatery. During their prep... Eli took on front of the house duties, Bryan was in his own world, while Michael was bossing Robin around who didn't take too kindly to his barrage of insults and micro-managing of her dessert dish. I understood his intentions -- he doesn't want to loose on Robin fucking up a peach cobbler, so he's keeping an eye on the weakest link, but his desire to win unleashed his inner asshole.

During service, Padma was quick to bust on Revolt's menu and the name of their restaurant and that would be the only bad thing they had to say about them The first course... Arctic Char with beets & crispy potatoes was average, but Michael gave the judges a hearty boner and promptly gave Padma a wet deck with his chicken and squid concoction. "Lovely" was how Padma described the dish as she couldn't contain her food orgasm. Colicchio dug the chicken so much, he hogged Padma's.

"What the fuck, Tom? Why you stealing my chicken?"

"Models don't need big portions. Fat guys need to eat more."

The second course included the beef dish (NY Strip and short rib) and a fish dish (cod with zucchini and a croquette). Moonen jizzed all over Michael's "brilliant" cod that melted in the mouths of the diners, while his brother Bryan's beef tandem was tasty but served cold.

Michael and Robin feuded during dessert service over the portion sizes. Bryan didn't have time for that petty bullshit and wanted both teammates to take a more professional approach -- shit up and get the dish out and bitch about their issues after service is complete. Despite the spat in the back, Robin's Pear Pithivier impressed the judges, even the hard-to-please Toby. Bryan hit a home run with chocolate ganache with spearmint ice cream even though his brother thought it was a shitty dish when they were tossing around menu ideas the night before. As the judges gushed about the desserts, you pretty much knew that the gang at Revolt locked up the victory despite their shitty name and the bickering in the kitchen.

On the other side... Mission was fucked. They had to pull off a perfect evening if they wanted to have a chance at winning. Laurine seems like a sweet lady, but she looks stoned the entire time. That's cool when you're working the line, but I dunno if she was perky or sociable enough to run front of the house of Mission. It really looks like she just took a Valium or too to cope with the added pressure of Restaurant Wars. hit with $40,000 on the line for her team, you figured that she would have stepped it up. Instead, she wilted under the pressure.

Before the even sat down, the judges moaned about a lack of dessert at Mission. They were more than doomed. Laurine's crappy hostess duties didn't help the cause and she didn't even explain the dishes until Padma had to beat it out of her.

Mike's dishes in the first course looked kinda weak. Come on, an egg and asparagus for Top Chef? Plus the Arctic char was under seasoned that Padma actually asked for salt. Yet, compared to the ensuing dishes from his teammates, Mike's food was more than satisfactory.

Misson was slammed with back orders and the second courses did not arrive in a timely fashion for the judges. Those orders should pushed to the top of the list. Shit, as soon as they complained, I would have tackled other waiters and grabbed four dishes ASAP to send over to the table.

The two fish dishes had to be masterpieces in order to impress the judges when the food finally arrived. You don't make Colicchio and company wait on mediocre food. Alas, the Trout was so-so and the Halibut with clams severely disappointed the judges who had lofty aspirations of Jen's dishes. Even Colicchio took a dig at Jen and said that her mentor would not have been pleased with her piss poor performance.

To complicate matters, the third course also failed to impress. Since they didn't present a dessert, they needed to blow them away instead the undercooked lamb was the nail in their coffin. The Pork Belly was the only highlight for Mission as Kevin hit solo home run but he also fumbled the lamb (conceived by Laurine).

Revolt easily won Restaurant Wars with better service and better food. Michael's dishes were the highlight of the event and the youngest Voltaggio easily won the Elimination Challenge. Michael picked up a book as his prize and $10,000, but gained some karma points by splitting the winner's booty with his teammates.

Mission chefs got their asses reamed by judges. They were shocked that Jen admitted that she steamed the mussels and clams to order. Which would have saved her valuable time and gave her more time to properly cook the other dishes. Jen was mortified when she found out her sauce broke on the halibut. Yeah, she fucked up big time and all the talent in the world was not going to save her. She was on the verge of being sent home to Philly for a couple of crappy seafood dishes.

It came down to this... would the judges have mercy on her or kill off Laurine since she was the weakest chef on that team? Well, it seemed that Laurine took one for the team. She was booted due to her lackluster performance running the front of the house. She really took the bullet for Jen, who gets to redeem herself after faltering under pressure.

Nicky had two players on the winning team and racked up the most points during Restaurant Wars. She finally posted a winning week 11-8 and negated the four-to-three chef advantage. She picked up some ground but I'm ahead 28.5 to 18. With 7 chefs to go... the Voltaggio brothers are surging and Jen is a little rattled.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Morning Margaritas

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I uploaded a new video... How to Make a 90 Second Margarita.

If my writing career goes to shot, I can always return to being a bartender.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Klosterman and the Twitter Revolution

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

One of my favorite writers is speaking about the impact of Twitter...

And yes, you can always follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Los Crickets

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Disney brainwashed me into believing that crickets were green, and that they spoke English, and wore top hats, sang flaming show tunes, and did annoying shit. Well, the last part was correct.

I had never really seen too many crickets up and close and personal until I moved to L.A. of all places. When I first started dating Nicky, a cricket that lived inside the wall of her bedroom. Some nights it annoyed the fuck out of me during those edgy insomnia-ridden hours when I wasn't quite comfortable enough to sit around her apartment (because she had a room mate at the time). I'd have to bang on the wall to get the bugger to shut up otherwise, I'd lie in bed in utter agony.

Last fall was the first time that I saw a cricket inside our apartment. A couple of random ones that appeared late nights. They never made a sound but skipped around silently. They almost blended into the hardwood floors since they were a mixture of brown, beige, and euchre. I never knew how they gained access inside the apartment. One day they just showed up and they appear from time to time.

How do I deal with the illegal cricket immigration? I slaughtered them. I know, I know, I'm going to hell for the act and for even writing it. I'm probably going to get a bunch of hate mail from pro-insect activists who have nothing else better to do that scour the web for hate crimes against insects. I'm pleading insanity. The shrill sounds of crickets drive any human insane. If anything I was doing our society a justice by cleansing our community with loud-mouth insects.

Of course, some folks will tell me that I'm foolish to kill a cricket since they symbolize good luck. I should be swooning over the fact that crickets are gracing me with their presence. In Brazil, crickets usually symbolize impending wealth and money. Well, if that's the case, I'd sure as hell like to see more crickets.

As I write this, a couple of crickets are milling about in the alley outside the window of my office. They are communicating with one another. I don't speak cricket so I can't tell if they are bitching about the Angels loss to the Yanks or if they are relaying recon information to launch an attack on our apartment. Maybe they think I have their fellow crickets hostage since they have not seen them in days or months. Little did they know that their squished carcasses were flushed away and never to be seen again. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. No mas crickets.

I thought cats eat bugs. Where the hell are the alley cats? They can have a feast on all of the crickets having outside. Would homeless people eat crickets? They have some protein but you'd have to eat hundreds for it to make a difference. There's a bunch of bums who go dumpster diving by the Jack in the Box. Nothing says nutrition like the leftover food people toss in the trash at a fast food eatery.

It rained for a day and a half and came down heavily at some points, something that rarely happens and couple of bums makeshift home washed out. They were squatting on discarded box springs in the alley behind a mortuary at the far end of the alley where the Jack in the Box is located.

Yeah all of this plight is located within a block of my apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills -- Chinese food, kosher baked goods, a medicinal marijuana dispensary, Indian food (that I think is a front for the mob or a narco-terrorist organization because I have never seen a patron), a church, and a Catholic school. No wonder there's dozens of for rent signs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Derek!

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Today is my brother's birthday. Happy Derek Day!

Monday, October 12, 2009

October Breeze

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I missed feeling the breeze.

The morning breeze makes you reach for a hoodie for an hour or two until the Impressionist-grey-splotches of clouds that make up the marine layer burns off and the friendly California sun bakes everyone's brain from the rest of the day.

The sweltering summer is officially over in Southern California, as the October morning breeze flowed through the open door and escaped out the dining room window. This is the fall season. No foliage like the Northeast. The ground is not covered in multi-colored leaves save for a crinkled fallen palm leaf. The only way you can tell it's October in L.A. is the bombardment of Halloween decorations in various stores.

A few minutes past the lifting darkness of the 7am hour, the birds who live in trees in the alley had started their chorus of chirping an hour or so earlier. The birds are the only ones up except a few dumpster-diving bums. The smart ones know that guys consume a significant amount of booze on the weekends, especially on Sundays during football season, so hitting up the recycle bins early on Monday is a sure-fire way to strike gold. The lucky bums cart away their booty while the unlucky ones nibble of rock-hard scraps of crust from a discarded Papa John's box.

I wasted a full Sunday devoting myself to the baseball playoffs and sweating all of my fantasy sports teams. I barely left the couch with one hand clutching the bong and the other maniacally flipping the "last" button on the remote as I toggled back and forth between football and baseball. The only moments of mobility included getting up to piss, getting up to retrieve more beverages from the fridge, and the odd times that I walk over to the dining room table to check the scores. On some Sundays, I paid more attention to the laptop than the games. I vowed to flip that around.

I welcomed the day off from the grind of being chained to my laptop, so I sprung out of bed on Monday to return to the old routine. First thing? I turn off the ringer then hide my cell phone. Bury it under a pile of clothes. The world will have to wait until I finish a writing session and I come up for air.

I open up the front door and windows, which airs out the apartment and lets the morning coolness instead. I wake and bake with a random jazz mix on low in the living room as the first inklings of morning light burst through the open curtains.

I set up shop at the hardwood table and the chair creaked as I sat down. The dining room set belonged to Nicky's deceased German grandmother. She ate thousands of meals off of the table. I wonder if she knows that I use it as my morning desk?

Although I have a small office (that my girlfriend was kind enough to redecorate for my birthday last year), I prefer to write at the dining room table in the mornings. For some reason, it shields me from distractions. These days, there are so many to ignore -- the news updates, overflowing email, Twitter, and urge to browse the abundance of content on random sports sites.

I usually stay in the same spot for an hour, maybe longer. Sometimes Nicky wakes up which is a cue that it's time for me to move from our common areas and retreat to my office for the rest of the day. She likes to work in the living room and since she also works from home -- she gets free reign.

Sometimes I write for several uninterrupted hours until the landscapers arrive at the houses or apartment buildings of the few clients that can afford to pay them for their manicuring services. The landscapers fire up their shrill-sounding machines. The echos reverberate down the alleys. Some days, there's a barrage of hammering and it sounds like they are constructing the Bridge Over the River Kwai. I've heard their loud sounds as early as 7:30am. I snicker but never say anything. Those illegals are armed with machetes. I turn up John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins loud enough to drown out the gargling sounds of leaf blowers and weed whackers. They have work to do and so do I.

The early morning sessions are the best sessions of the day because most of the time those words are not for anyone -- except myself. 90% of the time that effort gets shoved into the trash. Sometimes I save bits and once in a blue moon that fodder ends up here. For example, I can't believe I wrote almost 800 words about what happens in the mornings when I get up early to write. More importantly, I can't believe you actually read it.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Lunch Counter

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"You're late today."

That's what the waiter told me at the coffee shop when I walked in just before noon. I'm usually there in the early morning hours. Before 7am, a time when most people in the neighborhood are not even out of their beds.

"Late night," I said.

I was up later than usual the night before. A little wired. Unable to sleep. I spent the dead hours of the night staring insomnia in the face and digging around YouTube. I ended up watching an entire episode of Dinner for Five. Usual host Jon Favreau was not there for some reason and Kevin Smith took his spot. The rest of the dinner table included Stan Lee, JJ Abrams, Mark Hamill, and Jason Lee. They all told fascinating stories about the entertainment industry and I really wish that show still existed.

I kinda stumbled into the coffee shop, something acceptable at daybreak when the place was empty, but not-so-much so at lunch rush. I sidestepped a sprinting busboy and a trio of customers exiting. I took a seat at one of three empty stools at the counter. I had a breakfast book, something that a friend had written, and I usually get a full chapter in before the food comes. That day it would be a lunch book.

I glanced at the open grill behind the counter. Mostly lunch foods. The cook in the Dodgers hat who usually manned the egg station was on duty at the deep fryer. I went with the lunch flow and ordered a cheeseburger.

"Throw some bacon on there," I said at the last second.

I opened up the book and heard the chatter behind me. Three booths. Three different conversations. Two guys were in the first one. Three hipsters (two girls and a flaming guy) sat behind me. And in the corner were three huge guys, two of which were black.

I actually recognized one of the guys in the back booth. He worked as a security guard at the medicinal marijuana dispensary on the same block. Two new "weed stores" had opened up in the last month and it looked like they had some big ass mother fuckers standing guard at the front door. No shenanigans there.

The hipsters behind me? Full of nostalgia and talking about what their grandmothers made them for snacks as little kids.

"Did your nanna cut the crusts off?"

None of them were from L.A. and two of them were from Missouri, at least they found out that their grandmothers lived less than 50 miles away from each other. I drowned out that chatter. Well, I didn't really control that because of the voluminous dudes in the first booth. They weren't pretty boys, wore t-shirts with ironic sayings, and hadn't shaved in weeks. Writers. Like everyone else in L.A. they weren't from California. By the ton of their sports-themed conversation, it didn't take too long before I figured out one was originally from Chicago and the other was from New England. All I wanted to do was read a pulp and I had to try extra harder to block them out.

Of course, their conversation immediately changed when the MAW (model/actress/whatever) sat down in the empty stool two to my right. She sat right in front of the writers, who stopped their conversation for the first time since I had arrived. They ogled for a few seconds as she floated on by before they immediately segued into industry talk. Their scripts. Who they met with. By the looks of them, they were out of work, or probably like me and humping online media jobs. Didn't matter. They were trying to show off to the MAW. But, she was oblivious.

I had seen her at the coffee shop before, but always earlier in the day. She was an early riser and ate there in before/after a morning workout. I had to contain myself from laughter one morning when I rolled in there crocked and faded to the tits as she tried to negotiate a meal that consisted of a single blueberry pancake.

Her hair was purplish with hints of auburn, a much different shade than I remembered, but her distinct tattoo on her left shoulder blade gave her away. Some sort of green circle with Mayan markings. Kinda spooky.

I read my lunch book and nibbled on fries. Crinkle cuts dusted with a special cajun seasoning. MAW ordered an orange juice and some sort of egg white omelete with spinach and peppers. She flipped through Variety until her phone rang and she answered. That's when I tuned her out too. Magical Mystery Tour was playing on the oldies station and I let me mind get fixated on the Beatles.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ruskie Origins

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I never really took English classes, which might come as a shock to some of you.

I can only recall three specific English classes during that eight year period of high school in New York City and college in Atlanta. I only took once English class in college to fulfill a requirement. If you took classes with a lot of papers, then you got "composition credit" and did not have to take a shitload of English classes. Usually one of my poli sci or film studies classes required a lot of paper writing so those courses saved me from sitting through required English classes.

I'm glad that I didn't take any creative writing classes because it probably would have made me not want to be a writer. Then again, in college, I thought that I was on my way to law school or a job as a political consultant -- when I wasn't trying to construct a bong out of household items.

In high school, only one English class stood out. Our school was divided into trimesters. I skipped the final trimester of my senior year and went the internship route. Instead of sitting in stuffy class rooms on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I opted to be a runner on the floor of the NY Commodities Exchange. Yeah, I took the subway to the World Trade Center every day instead of going to class. The trading floor was inside one of the Twin Towers. That's where I learned the ways of the Bull and the Bear as a runner. I glimpsed at my future and acquired a bevy of life's lessons during my time there.

For the other two trimesters, we had electives and were required to take at least one English elective per trimester. During the first trimester, I signed up for a class only because the teacher was the most lenient grader in the English department. I believe the class was the 19th Century novel. I can't even remember what we read. That didn't really affect me as the second class.... Russian Literature.

I had become a fan of Gogol a few years earlier when I read one of his most famous pieces of work... The Overcoat. When I realized that he was one of the featured writers on the syllabus -- I quickly signed up. It ended up being the smallest class that my school offered. Not even ten classmates were interested. And the ones that were? Some of the brightest kids in school.

I'm just trying to picture the classroom, actually it was so small of a class that they made us use one of the conference rooms. So the teacher sat at the head of a long table and nine of us sat in swivel chairs around the table. Those kids went onto Ivy League schools. Every single one of them with the exception of me. I was more of an athlete in school and not known for my academic excellence due to my utter laziness to study. I preferred working on my three-point shot than spending time in physics lab. And home wasn't the most conducive place to study and I spent more time playing video games and watching taped movies than hitting the books.

So there I was, seventeen years old and sitting in a Russian Literature class with nine future Ivy League schmucks. Actually half of the class went on to Yale and the other four kids went to Harvard, Penn, and Princeton. One classmate boasted a perfect SAT score and early admissions to Yale. Yawn. Not that the number intimidated me. Most of my classmates were surprised at my boards with a near perfect score in math. In fact, I was nipping at their heels in the standardized testing department which bothered my teachers. They used to tell my parents that I lacked the drive and discipline to reach my full potential. They were correct. I just didn't give a shit.

But Russian Literature? I picked the class because that's what I wanted to learn about. I didn't get a chance to pick my classmates. My private school had stringent academic requirements to get in. So basically in the entire city of New York, the elite special forces of nerds, geeks, and other social misfits sat across from me in the conference room for English class.

We had to read a significant amount of books. During high school, I was a Cliff Notes and skimmer kind of guy. One of my friends used to steal Cliff Notes from Barnes & Nobles and then sell photo copied pages for $5. That scam was not going to work with that class. I used to read the newspapers during the morning commute and that changed as I had my faced buried into Puskin, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and of course Gogol. The Russian experience is peppered with conflict, tragedy, and genocide. Yet, I learned more about Russian history reading these books than anything I could learn in a series of history classes. The characters told the stories about the daily struggles of Russians, their complex political/financial systems, and the quest for answers to the bigger questions.

The reading assignments were the easy part. The toughest? class participation. Think if the most annoying person in school who raises their hand and blurts out answers to every question and cuts off other students and hogs the floor and loves to ramble on and on and on. OK, now picture a six or seven of these people engaging in hour-long discussions about the symbolism of blisters on the hand of one character. And there's me trying to get in a word or two so my teacher doesn't flunk me for shitty class participation.

Maybe I was wrong. That wasn't the worst part. Reading each others papers and critiquing them was bloody awful. If I knew that my writing would be under constant scrutiny, I probably would have skipped the class and taken Advanced Shakespeare with the rest of my friends where they get to act out their favorite scenes.

The quality of my copy was poor. I was the worst writer in the class and my classmates were not shy about red lining my assignments that I often turned in on loose leaf paper. Of course, all of them had home computers and printed out their papers. Me? I was writing most of them in the cafeteria in the early morning on the day that they were due. We also had difficult creative writing assignments as well where we had to use themes learned in the books we were examining. I got shelled on those.

The teacher did not grade the papers... we did. Yeah, we graded each other. And we didn't use numerical grading. We used letters... HH (high honors), H (honors), M (merit), S (satisfactory), U (unsatisfactory), F (failure)... and the equivalent failing grade? 75%. Yikes. Talk about tough. The teacher tallied up the average grade and usually made the decision to round up or round down based on the consensus.

Sometimes, the truth hurts. I had a room full of Ivy League dickheads telling me that my writing sucked and they were merciless about their (correct) assessment of my stories. Lots of U's, but never an F. Everyone else was pulling M's and H's. Instead of letting that get me down, it inspired me to write better and more importantly, take the necessary time to write something satisfactory. Heck, I was an athlete after all and I thrived on competition. Once I started pulling those S's, I focused in on the next level. I wanted to write something of merit. I diligently worked during the last weeks of the class.

I'm pretty sure for the final grade, I got an S for the class or a satisfactory grade. For my very last paper, which I had actually typed on my Commodore 64 and printed it up because I wrote several drafts, I was floored when I saw my grade. M-. Shit, it was the lowest rung of merit, but I completed the class on a high note after being torn to shreds all semester. Not that it really mattered. My original attraction to the class was to read some cool authors, but for the first time in four years at my high school, I harnessed the competitive nature in me and applied it to academics. The Jesuits were proud but a few of them shook their heads, "What took you so long?"

These days, I have it easy. Even my editors (including Karl the German Butcher) are not as harsh as those nine high school seniors. I never ever have to worry about that morbid fear that I used to have about being crucified in that conference room. I have a much tougher skin because of that experience but I left that class with a very important reminder -- that if I wanted to be a writer in the future, it takes a significant amount of time and dedication. More importantly, there was a vast difference between satisfactory writing and something that merits the highest achievements.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Thom Yorke Phones Home

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Before I begin, I have to explain a theory first.

This is an unproved theory that I developed over the years, but many friends tend to agree with me. You see, the universe? It's full of life. We're not alone. Aliens are here. They have been here way before the dinosaurs. We can't see most of them because they're in hiding -- underwater bases or deep beneath the Earth's crust.

There are even a few aliens hiding among us. Some in plain sight, like Sam Cassell who played with eight different NBA teams over his professional basketball career. Other aliens include that Japanese guy who eats all the Nathans hotdogs and Thom Yorke from Radiohead.

Thom Yorke
Photo by: Joydoy197

With that said, Radiohead is one of my favorite bands. The rest of the band members are humans. Brits to be exact. Why Thom Yorke chose to hide out in Oxford, we will never know. Maybe he liked all the intellectuals, or maybe he found a group of musicians that understood his plight... that he was an alien stranded millions of miles from his own home.

Even if you think I'm full of shit about the alien stuff, just think about those worst moments in life when you felt uncomfortable with everyone else around you -- especially yourself and your own body. Most people call those terrifying moments "high school" and others call it social anxiety disorder. For me? It's called... every day. But you make the best of your weirdness and the weirdness of the people around you. Sometimes I think I'm the human and everyone around me has been possessed by aliens. Some of you might think that I'm an alien, which if that is the case, it would make a lot of sense.

Anyway, as I stated earlier, Tom Yorke is an alien. He's a very sad alien because he can't go home. But while he's stuck here, he can't understand the human condition - why we're so destructive to nature and ourselves and the universe. Music is essentially math, and math is universal which is why Thom Yorke gravitated to music - it's the most real entity in the universe and that gives him a semblance of happiness.

Thom Yorke recorded a solo album a couple of years ago named Eraser. I'm sure you can find 1,001 meanings, symbols, and other mystical shit by over analyzing the name of the album. For musicians who play in a famous band, their first solo effort is a true statement of their artistic vision. The band? A group creative consciousness. The solo album? A glimpse into their subconscious.

I took Thom Yorke's solo project with a grave understanding that that is the music he wants to play. In other words, we all have a soundtrack playing inside our heads. Our own musical melodies. Eraser was a chance to peek into Thom Yorke's alien mind and listen to what's playing on the loudspeakers. The music -- the chatter inside his head -- was always changing yet never deviating too much from one central boulevard of poignant and spastic energy. At times the dissonant moments were overcome by serene harmony. The majority of the time, we got to see what made Thom Yorke tick, or rather, what made his synapses fire. He simply cannot sit still and has to move around contorting back and forth while singing or bouncing up and down while strumming on the guitar like a little kid jumping up and down on his parents' bed.

Thom Yorke assembled a group of musicians that he had never played together before Thom assembled them. They didn't even have a real name. They were simply four guys backing up Thom Yorke.

Nigel Godrich, a trusted chap from the Radiohead family as the producer of the music we love dearly, varied from keyboards to guitar... essentially playing whatever instrument was needed at the time since Thom Yorke was alternating better a piano and guitar.

Flea was Thom Yorke's bass player. The last time I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform, Flea was buck naked with the exception of a white sock that he used to cover his junk. Flea was fully clothed this time around and just like Thom Yorke, he took advantage of a spacious stage where he could pogo, bounce, shake, and jog around.

The other two musicians have been around the block before; Joey Waronker (drums) played with Beck before while Brazil's Mauro Refosco (percussion) frequently jammed with the legendary David Byrne. Refosco was a jack-of-all-trades on the stage and must have had a table full of random items (like metal bowls) to make odd sounds that Thom Yorke had used computers to create on his first album.

Nicky had a blast. She loves Radiohead and was impressed with the quality of our seats -- second row mezzanine in the center -- so close that we could see Thom Yorke's droopy eye. The art deco theatre held less than 2,000 people and it's claim to fame was that Judy Garland once performed on stage during the Great Depression.

Anyway, since this was not a Phish-show and a band with a very low hippie-element and non-existent-wook-factor, Nicky had blast making fun of the hipsters. We kept an eye out for random Hollyweird celebrities that might be sitting in the side boxes - or even in the row in front of us. The night before Spiderman, Don Johnson, Anne Hathaway, and Ed Norton caught the gig.

Sadly, the parking lot scene was lame. No hippie chicks in butterfly wings selling veggie burritos. No nitrous mafia hawking over-priced balloons. No wooks with tour puppies slinging molly. The only people I saw in the lot were a car load of hipsters getting drunk off of their own angst.

I secured tickets via Ticketbastard because the Joker told me about the tickets five minutes before the sale time. I could only get two and lucked out. I had so much bad ticket karma this year trying to score Phish tickets online -- so I guess I finally had some good vibes coming my way because not only did I score tickets -- I scored some of the best tickets in the house.
10.5.09 Thom Yorke, Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

Set 1: The Eraser, Analyse, The Clock, Black Swan, Skip Divided, Atoms For Peace, And It Rained All Night, Harrowdown Hill, Cymbal Rush

Encore: Lotus Flower / Moon Upon A Stick, Skirting On the Surface, Super Collider

Encore 2: Paperbag Writer, Judge Jury and Executioner, The Hollow Earth, Feeling Pulled Apart by Horses
The first set was all of Eraser. There were sevens songs performed over two encores including two Radiohead tunes (Thom threw everyone a bone with a rare Super Collider and Paperbag Writer) and five songs that represented new material that Thom Yorke had written during his time up in a house in the Hollywood Hills near Laurel Canyon. Lucky mofo. That's where I want to live, and Thom spent the last few weeks there rehearsing and writing new material.

The first three songs of the encore were just Thom Yorke solo. He played guitar for Lotus and the piano for Skirting On the Surface and Super Collider. In between songs,a few people shouted from the crowd. One guy particularly annoyed Thom Yorke and he snapped, "Hey loudmouth! Shut the fuck up!"

You don't hear too many Brits dropping f-bombs, which is why I loved it. Genuine emotion. The guy is a tortured artist and an alien unable to get home. All he wants to do is play music and not have some drunken jerkoff request Radiohead songs.

The show was rather quick but an intense 80-85 or so minutes. Thom Yorke seemed upbeat and in good spirits. I was thinking that these concerts in L.A. were nothing more than he trying to contact the Mothership to pick him up. Sort of like E.T. phoning home, but Thom Yorke is calling out to the universe with his solo tunes. Maybe he knows something about this 2012 hoopla and found a small window where he might be able to hitch a ride back to his home planet.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Six Seconds of Amen

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Stumbled across this enlightening video, explaining how six seconds of one song sent ripples through the musical cosmos...

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Couple of Couples

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A priest and a nun. A pimp and a hooker.

I saw both sets at the coffee shop. I can't make this stuff up. The priest and nun sat in the back booth with two other people. They might have just come from weekday 8am mass. A few minutes later, an older gentleman sat down. He wore khakis and tucked in a black golf shirt over his bowl-bowl sized pot belly. I dunno why but when he sat down I got this image that the guy was a used car salesman who spent the last few years unsuccessfully running a rug store. Yes, he went from cars to rugs.

A lanky guy with cornrows, wearing black jeans, and old school Michael Jordans walked inside with a young Asian woman in a jean skirt and halter top. They sat down with the used rug salesman. After that... I stopped paying attention. It was none of my business what was going down, all though I was pretty fuckin' interested if that was some sort of prostitution ring or human trafficking.

On the way back from breakfast, I walked down the street and watched a landscaper pull out a machete and hack apart fallen palm leaves. That was a good reminder why I should never yell at the landscapers when they start trimming hedges at 8am. You don't want to fuck with people who regularly handle sharp objects.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Red Line

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I love writing, yet loathe writing for others.

Even the clients that I like, I have a difficult time motivating myself to dig deep. The moment I open up a blank Word doc and scribble down my byline, it doesn't matter who is buying the piece or what the topic is for that matter. Any keystrokes that ensues is work. A job. And by definition, all jobs suck. It doesn't matter if I'm writing a bullshit report about a couple of social misfits and degenerate gamblers who played a pot worth over a half of a million dollars or if I'm hunched over a computer monitor and trying to cajole a know-it-all dentist from Tenafly, NJ to pick up 1,000 shares of some bullshit pharmaceutical stock (think 'Farrow Tech' from Boiler Room) that the overlords ordered me to dump onto my prospective clients, who were stupid enough to buy. Work is work.

I used to write solely for myself. Locked up in a dark room illuminated by a single candle. Loud music. Thick smoke. Without a net.

Most of the time, that's my goal, to write for myself. After a while, when I discovered a rapidly growing audience following my the words (with monetary ramifications around every corner) so I made an adjustment and wrote with the audience in mind. Over the long haul, that is a bad thing because you begin to pander to the lowest common denominator (e.g. the demise of network television or some newspapers). However, short term, it's an easy buck.

I vacillated back and forth between writing for myself and writing for an audience. There were mixed results and tons of inner conflict. Sometimes the words shined bright, sometimes they fizzled into the dark of night. That's the way it goes. But at least I was conscious of the two diverging paths and knew short cuts back and forth so I could jump on and off at different moments.

I no longer do that. I returned to the "writing for myself" mode because the bigger picture is more important to me than the short term consequences. That was a fancy way of saying, "I don't give a shit about money now. It's all about the art, man."

Which is not entirely true. But if I can get away with writing for me and still get paid for it, then I pulled off a successful coup. The guys with the guns usually have the power.

In the last month, I found my words at the mercy of two copy editors, which is a good thing. There are times that I have been catering the words towards their tastes instead of writing from the gut.

My recent goal has been -- not to get red-lined.

Long term, that will make me a stronger writer which is my ultimate goal. Short term? Sometimes I feel as though my pieces are too polished and lack a certain zest.

Balance. That's the most important word in all of life. Balance. It's essential in art. You need all the necessary components working in harmony in order to create a piece that impacts people. Sgt. Peppers. The Mona Lisa. The Road.

The editor in charge of Lost Vegas reminds of a German butcher.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

He's merciless and fierce, yet precise. Instead of tawdry piece of shit, were gonna have a sleeker volume of stories about Las Vegas. That's a good thing. No... it's an amazing thing and a sensational miracle. However, it's utterly brutal to see years of work flushed down the toilet like a foul turd.

The other copy editor is a respected journalism professor. When I hand in my work, it feels like being a Top Chef contestant and he's one of the celebrity judges about to critique my food. Since I already know that his expectations are much higher than the average copy editor, I know that I have to elevate my level of writing..

I used to be so spoiled and could get away with turning in a first draft. Not any more. I spend a significant time re-writing and re-writing. It used to be my least favorite thing about writing, but at this juncture, it's essential. The only good thing is that I'm so used to re-writing right now, so it's not as much as a chore as it used to be.

It's a daunting and near impossible task to write a flawless piece, but I like a challenge. In one way, these assignments are taking my mind off the fact that it's work. I'm welcoming the opportunity to have my pieces properly inspected by a professionals something that the poker industry rarely boasts.

Many of my clients allowed me to get lazy and I took advantage of their desperation. Easy money. I could turn in anything and some places would publish the pieces without even reading them. That massages the ego, but it makes me cringe when I see basic copy editing errors. In the end, we both look bad.

Sometimes, it feels good to write without worrying about the red line. But sometimes, it's good to know it's there.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Open Air Modern

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A friend of mine opened up a used book store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This one has a twist. Check out... Open Air Modern.
We've moved into a brick and mortar retail shop, still in the neighborhood at 606 Manhattan Ave.

Though we had loads of fun working outside on Metropolitan Avenue, we love our new spot. We've traded truck traffic in favor of trees, as we are at the head of McCarren Park now.

Our product selection has increased now that we have more space and permanent displays. It is still an accessible place to pick up a very good reading copy of classic and contemporary fiction. Also we have beefed up our art, photography, design, architecture, fashion and unusual non-fiction stock.

The furniture we sell, mid century modern is still priced very affordable and the selection is always changing.

The best news though is now it is much easier to shop with us. Our new shop has regular hours and we are still available to show furniture pieces by appointment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Alley Sounds Reprise

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A cricket sings, but only at night.

At the Midnight hour, the alley sounds are a bit different than their day counterparts. The lack of warm sun changes the environment. There's the crazy Asian lady who constantly screams at her husband in her native tongue. I have no idea what she's saying but her husband must be one helluva fuck up that she's always calling him out on things. Either that, or he's deaf.

The guys upstairs stand in the alley, talk about football, and smoke cigarettes. The apartment building is a no-smoking structure. I should say -- no cigarette smoking -- because there's plenty of herbal toking going on. Sometimes they smoke twice an hour. Most of the time, it's about once an hour.

The out-of-work actress/waitress from across the alley sings at odd hours. Her vocals are better than your average karaoke lounge star but not quite American Idol material. In the mornings, she's singing pop in the shower. In the afternoons, she's practicing her scales. At nights? I assume she's just drunk and happy, one or the other, or both.

I haven't heard the moans and groans from the couple having sex in the pool house behind us. The lady unleashed shrill sounds -- sort of like a goat being shredded to death by a lawnmower -- which echoed across the alley and into almost every room in our apartment. She hasn't been riding the pipe recently.

And sometimes, just before dawn, you hear the can homeless people digging in the dumpster looking for something. Anything. There's more and more of that going around. I have been consuming an alarming rate of canned seltzer water. The result? At least a six pack of aluminum per day. We usually dump out our stuff to the recycle bin once a week, and on that day, the first bum who stumbles upon our dumpster hits the jackpot. And if the dumpster diver catches us on a Monday morning, he'll even luck into an even bigger score when you add in all the empty beer cans that the guys upstairs drink while they watch football on Sunday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thirty Years Later

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


I remember it as an innocent time, yet it marked the point when the tumultuous 1970s ended and the decadent 1980s were ushered in. 1979 was the pre-cable TV and pre-video game era. (I would get an Atari a few months later for Christmas). We had five or six TV channels on a TV set that was wooden and the size of two washer machines.

My parents listened to a lot of radio; my dad was a news junkie and played 1010 WINS in the mornings. Their tag line was "Give us twenty-two minutes, and we'll give you the world." That's how I learned about current events like the Russians invading Afghanistan and the Iranian hostages. Little did I know that those sound bytes from foreign correspondents (with impeccable British accents) would help shape my path as a writer. And my mother used to listen to CBS radio which aired popular music from the 1960s, which we referred to as "oldies" music even in 1979. That was were I got my musical primer with Motown legends, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan. It wasn't until I sat down to write this post when I realized that exposure to the radio heavily influenced my life in a very positive manner.

We had a rotary phone cemented into the wall of the kitchen. A long chord, that was always tangled up, was able to reach into three different rooms of our apartment. I have memories of trying to jump over the outstretch phone chord as my mom chain-smoked and chatted on the phone in the living room. I had no concept of an "area code" and our phone number began with two letters followed by five numbers.

Things seemed so... simple. But of course, life is never that simple, even when you're feeling a bit nostalgic and re-living life through rose colored glasses.

The late 1970s was a dismal time for the city of New York. The city itself was bankrupt. The subways only cost fifty cents, but they were dilapidated, covered in heinous graffiti, and rife with crime. Parts of Harlem, the south Bronx, and Brooklyn resembled Germany in 1945 after we bombed the hell out of it. Cops were corrupt. Politicians were more corrupt. The mob kept order in the city. You were more afraid of pissing off the wiseguys than getting in trouble with the police. Times Square was a cesspool of filth; junkies, whores, queers, hustlers. Well, that I kind of miss. After Rudy G took control of the city in the 1990s, he cleaned it up and now it's the center of corporate shilling for the industrial-entertainment-media-complex.

This photo was taken thirty years ago during my birthday party at McDonalds. If you can't tell, I'm the kid in the front with the striped shirt.

One of my parent's first huge fights occurred a few hours before the above photo was taken. They followed each other through the apartment screaming at the top of their lungs. My parents weren't even speaking to each other when my party started at McDonalds. That was probably the beginning of the end for them and I'm surprised that their marriage lasted as long as it did.

Everyone from my class attended, even the kid from the Dominican Republic who didn't speak English got an invite. Things seem so simple when you're in the second grade. I wanted to be a stunt man and crash cars and jump off of buildings for movies and TV shows. I never imagined that thirty years later I would actually live in the shadows of the hills of Hollywood with a beautiful woman and earn my living in the entertainment industry. Yes, I know, I'm the lowest rung on the entertainment ladder as a poker writer, but I can pay my bills doing something I enjoy so I'm very happy about that prospect.

I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger version of myself that someday I'll get paid a shit load of money to write stories about adults playing video games. I'd also tell myself to watch less TV, read more books, and don't stress out about women.

Back to the above photo...

The kid on the left was one of six kids in an Irish family and his dad was a cop. No shocker, there. It was weird that my dad was one of the only Irish dads in my grammar school who was not a cop or fireman. The kids teased me that my dad didn't get to carry a gun to work because he was a suit at an big-time insurance company in midtown Manhattan. Little did they know that suits in insurance companies would be responsible for some of the most heinous crimes against humanity.

Both kids on the right are Italian. One kid's dad had a store in the neighborhood that laundered money for the mob. The other kid's dad was a fireman who worked nights so he was always sleeping during the days.

Guess which kid spent a stint in prison in his early 20s?

Guess which kid had a serious bout with cancer? I wonder if he's still alive to this day.

I stopped talking to the kids in the picture after I graduated from Catholic grammar school in the Bronx and went to high school in Manhattan during the end of the 1980s. Talk about the collision of two eras. No wonder us kids from Generation X were so.... jaded.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Memory jolts rattles my brain at random times. What happens during the actual jolt is hard to describe aside from everything stops for a milisecond. A memory flashes to the front of my brain and I become encapsulated by that exact moment, sort of reliving it in real time. Sometimes these jolts happen while waiting for a subway or walking down the aisle at Target or taking a seat at the local diner.

A few of those memory hiccups included...

... sitting in the back seat of a cab while caught in morning rush hour traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio (9th of July Avenue) in Buenos Aires.

... eating breaded chicken sandwiches smothered in melted American cheese and spicy mustard at 3am on the corner of 34th and Madison after talking to the street hookers a few blocks south during those pre-9/11 years. My buddy asked one of the working girls, "Are you gonna blow me on the stoop?"

... walking past the historic Chelsea Hotel (circa 1995) in a sullen state after getting into an argument with Sabine, who used to put me on tilt for weeks at a time.

.... blind guy tossed old yogurt at me in order to stop me from smoking pot.

Yeah, those memories might be strange, but not as strange as the two pyramid dreams I had this week. The first one occurred during a pre-dream. I had not really fallen asleep yet and dozed off while listening to my iPod. I woke up with clarity of a series of pyramids with electric bolts shooting out of the tops of the pyramids and striking the other pyramids.

I looked up pyramids in those vague random dream interpretation glossaries. I discovered that pyramids...

... are a positive symbol of fulfillment or accomplishment.

... represent "mental regeneration" of sorts.

... indicate that a major change is about to take place.

One can only wonder what the fuck is going on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hood Pic Dump

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

From the slums of Beverly Hills. These were all taken within a five block radius of my digs...

This pic epitomizes the slums of Beverly Hills
(click to enlarge)

This guy's job is to collect these abandoned shopping carts

Monday, September 07, 2009

Five Block Radius

By Pauly
Los Angeles,CA

I watched a hipster chick do a face plant in the street, just off of Olympic Blvd. I snickered and didn't offer to help her up.

She was too busy texting while walking from the sidewalk to a double parked black Prius, driven by one of your prototypical L.A. Douchebags with too much hair gel blasting the latest Kings of Leon album. As she crossed the street, she was preoccupied with writing a text, maybe even a Tweet, and tripped on a piece of cracked pavement.

Her iPhone flew a few feet in front of her and slid underneath a parked car, she fell on her side and jumped right back up. I was surprised that she didn't stay on the ground and start crying. That's what I would have done. I think she was going on a date or something and she didn't want to be embarrassed by her lack of coordination. Her date jumped out of the car and freaked out.

ER doctors are experiencing a wave of injuries caused by people texting and doing other things. The most fatal antics include driving and texting. The most routine injuries? Falling down while texting. A couple of years ago, one famous poker player tore his kneee up pretty badly when he tripped down a flight of stairs in his own house while trying to answer an email on his BlackBerry. He didn't watch his step and BAM!

Of course, that wasn't the oddest thing I saw all week while walking around my neighborhood. That would be the dudes with the rug.

I can't really explain what I saw. but these two guys were driving down the street in a green pick up truck. They looked like construction workers. The young guy was white and the older guy was black. They stopped about a half a block away from me so I watched this go down as I approached them. Both guys jumped out of the truck and pulled a rug out of the back. It was wrapped up with one of those bungee chords. They plopped it on a patch of grass next to a palm tree. The young guy said something and the black guy started screaming at him. The young kid pulled out his cell phone and dialed the phone. As he put the phone to his ear, the black guy bitch -slapped him. He surprisingly did not drop the phone.

I decided to cross the street just in case one of them pulled out a gun. Both guys yelled at each other for about fifteen seconds, then they abruptly stopped. They didn't say another word and bent over to pick up the rug. They threw it in the back of their pick up and drove off.

Sometimes I see the same homeless guy wandering down Pico Blvd. I've seen him plenty of times before by the post office or in front of the Jack in the Box. He looks like he's in his 60s with a weathered face like an old catcher's mitt. He wears dirty jeans and an old courdory blazer, the one with patches on the sleeves. He looks like he could have been a college professor in the 1970s and lost his job and wandered around the streets of L.A. ever since while wearing the exact clothes he used to teach in.

As I stood on the corner and waited for the light to change, traffic sped past us and he peered into a trash can at the bus stop. He rummaged around for a few seconds before he pulled out a newspaper and a box of Jack in the Box fries. It was 85% full, too. I have no idea how old they were, but he stumbled upon a major food score in the trash.

I ran out of printer paper and made a run to Staples as soon as they opened up in the morning. I forgot that it was a Saturday on a holiday weekend just a round the time kids went back to school. Yeah, Staples was flooded with kids running amuck in search of school supplies. All I wanted was paper and a hole puncher. I also bought a binder and a pack of red pens and waited in line which seemed like an eternity since there was only one cashier ringing up a store full of shoppers.

There were three women standing in line in front of me but they had a total of 15 children and no less than half of them were little ones darting in and out of the line and screaming and crying that they wanted whatever items they say in front of them. We were in prime "impulse buy" territory and since the line didn't move, we were stuck in between two rows of random office supplies and candy. The kids were going apeshit and I wish that I smoked more pot before I wandered into Staples on a Saturday morning.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

80s Flashbacks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm short on time. Deadlines looming. Trying to squeeze a month of freelance writing into two days? Didn't happen. But I know that I can do it in four days if I really hustle and more like five days. That's fine. I'll accept that considering I need the rest of the month for edits. Edits. And more edits.

I'm exhausted and mentally drained at the end of the day every since I returned to Los Angeles. Nicky thinks it's the brutal heat. I think it's that along with the pressure of getting the book complete. Writing is easy for me. Editing and promoting? Not my strongest suits but I'm plugging through.

I finished the bathroom book that had me occupied in the mornings. Benjo gave me an out-of-print special edition book commemorating Rolling Stone's 20th anniversary. The book had plenty of photography of 60s, 70s, and 80s icons and plenty of one-on-one interviews. Two interviews that stood out? John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Both were extremely hard and critical of their fan base, somewhat on the verge of disdain and contempt.

A couple of articles stood out... one on Sly and the Family Stone. The other was about Kent State.

Two of my favorite authors who wrote about 80s decadence were featured including a clip from Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. The other was a piece on Roxanne Pulitizer by Hunter Thompson. Former Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner said that was one of Hunter greatest pieces of writing. Usually I disagree with Jann, but he's dead on there.

My favorite book that Hunter wrote was the first one I read... Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. The Vegas book was epic, but it didn't affect me as a writer and as a student (at the time I read it my Freshman year in college as a teenager with a deep interest in politics and a future pre-law candidate).

One of my favorite Hunter articles were the Kentucky Derby piece where he was teamed up with illustrator Ralph Steadman for the first time. Steadman had never done psychedelics before he met Hunter and he was spun pretty hard for most of his assignment. His drawings and sketches from that assignments were influenced by the mind-altering substances he had ingest for the first time. His dark and twisted and perverse drawings accurately captured the depravity of the Kentucky Derby that Hunter eloquently described in his piece.

The other favorite of mine was about Roxanne Pulitzer. I had been desperately looking for a copy and was happy to find it one morning during a bowel movement. I flipped the page and there it was. Hunter was perfect for the assignment. Since it was the 1980s, I wonder how much blow he consumed while covering the trial and writing the piece. In many ways, it might have been one of his last great pieces of journalism and writing. He hit a few home runs with some of his ESPN articles, but most of those were smaller gems like his reaction to 9/11 and his rules to changing baseball.

Anyway, now I'm onto a new bathroom book that the Human Head sent to me about Jack Herer and the conspiracy against marijuana. Should be an awesome read.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

jfk > burbank

By Pauly
New York City

The last day or so in New York City was hectic, filled with nostalgia, a mouthful of pain and an unwillingness to leave. I missed living in New York City and I spent the longest stint there than I had in a very long time. Unfortunately most of that down time was spent recharging, detoxing (a problem considering I was trying to kick pharmies until the dentist visit gave me a real reason to ingest generic vicodin), and pulling my hair out over the last leg of edits for Lost Vegas.

I also hung out with my brother. We ate local NYC foods and we watched a Jets preseason game and a lot of baseball. He caught a couple of games at the new Yankee Stadium and I finally got a chance to sample the brand new field. I was impressed with the integration of new fan amenities and Yankee nostalgia. The food was top notch and there's a selection of foodstuffs beyond dirtywater hot dogs. Derek and I feasted on $10 pulled pork sandwiches from Brother Jimmy's. We would have gotten steak sandwiches from Lobel's but the line was too long. I took a pic of the butcher slicing meats behind the glass (see pic below). I heard that those cost $15 but are worth every cent.

Derek stained his shirt when he attempted to pour BBQ sauce on his sandwich and most of it ended up on his shirt. I went with the chipotle sauce and chowed down as I watched the tail end of batting practice from the Texas Rangers. We had fourth row seats in section 326 which was the lowest part of the top level. Not too shabby viewing wise, but a tad overpriced at $70 a pop. But hey, it's the new Yankee Stadium. Kaiser Steinbrenner has bills to pay.

We had the aisles seats (in a row of 25 seats) which was good because we could get up at anytime. Sadly, we sat in the family row. One guy had his wife and three kids in the middle of the row and they kept getting up. A twenty-something year old guy and his 4-year old son sat next to me. The little one kept having to pee and they were getting up a lot. The kid was funny and repeated the things the vendors yelled, especially the beer guy hawking Coors Lights. The kid kept screaming, "I want a hotdog. I want a beer! I want a hotdog. I want a beer!"

The Yankees got off to a hot start but Joba Chamberlin blew the lead when he gave up 7 runs... all with two outs. He couldn't shut the door on the Rangers and he got rocked. The Yankees attempted a valiant comeback in the bottom of the ninth, but fell short and lost by one run.

Derek and I walked around for the last third of the game and checked out different sections of the new stadium. We hung out in the standing room only area behind the bleachers and noticed some of the obstructed views, but even those seats out in the outfield had awesome views of the remainder of the field.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up early, wrote for an hour, then walked through my old neighborhood. I stopped off at the old candy store to buy the newspaper. $2 for the New York Times? I plopped down 50 cents for the tabloid rag instead. Better sports section in the Daily News anyway. I wandered over to the Starbucks in search of a free copy of the NY Times. At 8:30am, the Starbucks in Riverdale was filled with old people, unemployed guys my age who used to work on Wall Street that were looking up charts from their lap tops, a smattering of MILFs with carriages sipping on drinks with whipped cream, and two wanna-be screenwriters in the corner working on their romantic comedies who look like they haven't shaved in weeks.

I ate breakfast at the Greek diner and listened to the last bits of wisdom from the old Jewish guys in the back booth. They spoke loudly about the chances of success for the Jets rookie QB and why Derek Jeter should be the MVP this season.

I went back to the apartment and packed. I traveled to NYC fairly light, but accumulated several things on Phish tour. After cleaning up my storage space, I discovered a few items (books, clothes, running shoes, Halloween costume, old screenplay) that I wanted to take back to LA with me. My fairly light bag all of a sudden was an overly stuffed bagged which I had to check-in at the airport. It was too heavy to lug around the airport or carry-on.

My ride was 10 minutes early which was cool. They called just as I was about to leave the apartment. We got caught in traffic and the ride was twenty minutes longer. It took almost 70 minutes and I got stuck listening to talk radio. I could have requested that he turn it off, but then I'd be pressured to talk to the driver. I was way too stoned to have any sort of conversations. If anything, I relished the last bit of alone time as my thoughts drifted as we navigated across the outer boroughs to JFK.

I loaded up on foodstuffs at the airport for dinner (Buffalo chicken Caesar wrap)and the flight (Clif bar and a large oatmeal raisin cookie). I did not have any reading materials with me (all my books were in my checked bag) except the edits/notes that Derek made on his copy of Lost Vegas. He was one of the handful of people who read the draft. His initial reaction? "Needs more trips to strip clubs with Grubby and more Flipchip Vietnam stories."

I thumbed through a few pages before I boarded my JetBlue flight to California. There was lots to watch on the free TV, so I put away the Lost Vegas edits. I watched the Yankees game, some of the WSOP episodes, and the first two episodes of the new season of Top Chef: Las Vegas.

Our flight time on the ticket said 6:10. The pilot got on the intercom and said that the actual flight time would be 5 hours and 10 minutes with 35 minutes of taxi time at JFK. I was flying out around 6:30pm which is the busiest time at JFK airport because that's peak European rush hour traffic - when the red eyes to all destinations in Europe take off in order to arrive in the morning of the next day.

For some reason, we got lucky and bypassed the huge line which saved us thirty minutes on the ground. Our pilot made up more time in the air and we arrived 50 minutes early. That has only happened once before and that was a KLM flight from JFK to Amsterdam (similar situation... we had no waiting time getting out of JFK and made great time in the air). Nicky hadn't even left the apartment by the time my flight was wheels down at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

We left the Valley and drove over the hills of Hollywood en route to our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills. It was much cleaner due to a major overhaul that Nicky undertook over the last week. I realized that I spent a total of 15 days there since mid-May. Nothing is worse than paying rent on a place that you're barely at, but that's why I live in LA instead of NYC. It's much cheaper and a better value considering how much time I spend on the road.

At this point, I don't expect to go anywhere (except a few side trips to the beach up in Malibu) until Lost Vegas is complete. Until that happens, I have only one thing on my mind, locking myself in the my office and writing and editing until...