Friday, January 23, 2009

Fucking Sally in the Alley

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I heard two people fucking.

It was 3:10pm on Thursday afternoon. I held a red Sharpie in my right hand and scribbled down edits on Project Z. My brand new printer was finally delivered by a guy who looked like Bo Jackson. I actually did a double take as I scribbled down my signature. Bo knows UPS.

For the first time since I arrived in Los Angeles after the Bahamas assignment, I had the chance to print up the entire project to date... all 37K plus words. For some reason, I edit better with words on paper instead of words on the screen. I discover more errors and mistakes that way. My eyes work differently. So does my brain. I really don't connect with the words until I see it on paper.

I worked at the dining room table with the window open that faced the alley. It was warm. I sat in my shorts and it was one of the rare moments this week when I actually had some sort of pants on instead of walking around in my boxers. There was a light sprinkle of rain and a distant pitter patter could be heard in the background. That was the only external sound. I plodded through the printed pages and mercilessly edited my own words with large red X's through paragraphs and lots of arrows and juggling around sentences. Ah, and then there was the slew of misspelled words, that spellcheck missed, which I circled.

That's when I heard the first groan. Then another. I put down the Sharpie and lowered the volume of the music. Ironically, the song that played was a cover version of Sneaking Sally Through the Alley by Phish.

Then I heard a yelp. Followed by a scream. Yeah, someone was fucking alright.

Laying pipe. Shagging. Banging. Knocking boots. Making sweet tender love. Exchanging bodily fluids. Riding the hoochie mamma.

The alley is always full of sounds. In the early morning, you can hear the clattering of cans and bottles from the homeless can farries rummaging through the dumpsters. There's an angry Asian lady who lives across the way and she's constantly at odds with her husband. She's always yelling at her husband in her native tongue. In he morning. In the afternoon. In the evening. Some of those screaming matches are just vicious as her screeching voice reverberates through the alley. I'm waiting for the husband to snap and chop the bitch up into thirty-six different pieces. Then one sunny morning, one of the can farries will find her severed foot in my dumpster and freak the fuck out.

The alley is always full of sounds. There's a Israeli guy who lives in the building next door and he's always speaking on his cell phone in the backyard. Who knows what he's saying, but it's loud almost on the brink of annoying as he screams in Hebrew. Sometimes, there's the merriment of kids playing. A couple of them play basketball at a portable hoop that didn't have a net. Lots of cheering and dribbling.

And every now and then, Ashley sings.

There's an actress/waitress who lives next door. She was fresh off the boat via Montana or North Dakota or one of those flyover states that's covered in ten inches of snow during the winter months. Ashley often kept her voice sharp and practiced her singing. Sometimes she'd sing along to whatever was blasting on her speakers. Other times it was acapella. It was inspiring to hear her melodious voice echo through the alley.

Sure Los Angeles is a plastic shit hole most all of the time, but this town indeed attracts hordes of talented people from all over the world who are chasing their dreams. There are thousands of young girls just like Ashley throughout the city and down in the Valley who are making lattes at Starbucks or waiting tables while they patiently await for their big break. And in between the lunch and dinner shift, Ashley often hones her craft as she sings and sings.

Ah, the last time that I heard two people fucking was... Ashley. And boy, she was a screamer. That was back in the day when her pothead boyfriend lived with her. He was your typical stoner with lots of jam band stickers on his car. moe was his favorite band and he also dug Widespread Panic. I actually went to see Lotus and Particle at the Knitting Factory with Ashley and her pothead boyfriend.

When I first started dating Nicky, they frequently stopped by the apartment to smoke up with Showcase. Alas, Ashley and her stoner boyfriend had broken up a year or so ago. I think that her career wasn't going anywhere and it was time for her to make the desperate decision to start chugging cock to get ahead. She dumped her boyfriend before she could hurt his feelings in pursuit of a career in Tinsel Town via the proverbial casting couch.

I had not seen him since. She used to come by and hang out but I haven't seen her in a long time. Of course, I hear her singing all the time but haven't physically seen her in a while.

And no, Ashley wasn't getting laid at 3:10pm on Thursday. For one, I could recognize her in heat anytime. She had a deeper and distinct moan. The fucking sounds that disturbed my editing process originated from the guest house right across the alley. The sounds trickled in through the open window. Unfortunately, I could not see anyone in the act. I was bummed out because I like to watch. I just heard the moans and goans and a few slaps. It was over fairly quickly.

I went back to editing and listening to Sneaking Sally.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The 5am Hour

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The only sound was the humming of the refrigerator. It was still too dark out which meant that the can fairies were not rummaging through the dumpsters... yet. They waited until a couple of minutes after sunrise to make the rounds through the slums of Beverly Hills.

The 5am hour in the City of Angels. Quiet. Near dead. I was the only milling around. In order to keep things quiet, I listened to music on my headphones. Cranking out the jams while I write. I can listen at high volumes instead of the hushed tones. There is an apartment above us and directly above my office is a bedroom. I try to be the good neighbor and not blast tunes at odd hours.

But once sunlight starts creeping through the apartment, I migrate to the dinning room. I write there, with the windows open, as some of my favorite Jazz musicians fills the living room and dinning room. The volume is low enough that Nicky cannot hear it from the bedroom, but it's loud enough that I can hear the melodies. That's why Jazz is so appropriate in the mornings. It's the perfect soundtrack to start my day.

And eventually when Nicky wakes up, she makes as dramatic entrance in the dinning room and exclaims, "It's the morning Jazz hour with your host Dr. Pauly!"

I have been working on a writing project. For lack of a better name, I'm referring to it as Project Z. I started this many moons ago. And stopped it more times that I can count. It's been a pain in the ass. My white whale. The hardest part was finding large chunks of time to work on it. I usually only had a free week maybe two weeks at the most in one place before it was time to take off again. Always on the move. Always fighting deadlines.

I'm fortunate that I had employment, so welcomed the travel abroad and the money and the experiences. Budapest. You can't pass up something like that. Free trips to London? Bahamas? Hard to say no. However, the momentum for Project Z was always halted every time I packed my bags and flew to some exotic destination.

I always bitched and moaned that I needed a block of unstructured and unfettered time to achieve some sort of breakthrough with Project Z. I must have worked on it on and off for two months or so in 2008. But those two months were plenty of start-and-stops. A half hour on a flight to Long Beach; one hour in New York City as I edited excerpts on the subway; an hour late at night in Budapest during a bad batch of insomnia; sitting in a hash bar in Amsterdam; and pecking away at the keyboards a couple of days in a row in Los Angeles while I sat in the same seat I am now.

I don't believe in writer's block and I wish I could come up with a good excuse on why I never finished Project Z. Time was my enemy. And I was simply focused on other things like my writing career and my side businesses and putting a lot of time and effort into building a meaningful and long-lasting relationship.

I finished plenty of other projects before and I was just as busy (e.g. Jack Tripper Stole My Dog and the screenplay for Charlie's Goldfish). The only difference was that I actually had a place to live then. I lived alone. And I also was on a set schedule. I knew that I had to be at work down on Wall Street at set times and I wrote around that schedule; on meal breaks and late at nights and on Sundays.

Having such a hectic schedule these days (and over the last couple of years) meant that there were no set schedules for me to write. I had to plug that project into holes in my schedule... which were always unpredictable.

I desperately craved a routine.

When trying to compare what I did many years ago today, it's hard for me to fathom. The hardest aspect to grasp is that when I wrote five plus years ago - I only wrote for myself and my words were void of an audience. Even though I had a blog(s), it was an afterthought because they were hobbies and pet projects. The Tao(s) were mere infants then. Today, my blogs and my words and my scribblings are moneymaking venture as I carved out a profitable freelance writing career.

These days, almost all of my writing is dedicated to maintaining the blogs and websites and fulfilling obligations to freelance clients.So even though I would have a free week to work on Project Z, it would only represent 50-65% of my total writing output for the week. I was desperate to change that. Change my focus.

Flash forward to today. I'm at the beginning of a six week period where I have no obligations save for a handful of deadlines. I'm finally in a position where I can say, "Fuck my blogs." They ain't going anywhere. Tao of Poker will still generate cash even if I'm not posting everyday. It was time to leave them alone and let them work for me instead of vice versa.

I'm finally able to detach myself from writing nonstop about poker poker poker and I can fully focus on the task at hand. I also blocked off a chunk of time between now and March 1st to write. No traveling for six weeks. That's a miracle. I will not be wasting my time standing in another airport security line. I'm not going to lose precious hours of my life stuck on a tarmac on another delayed flight. I finally have time off. A true hiatus and vacation from the life I have been leading.

Since early 2005, the only times where I was in the same place for more than six weeks is every summer when I spend two months in Las Vegas on an assignment. Aside from that, I'm never in one spot for more than a couple of weeks at a time. This rare instance is a blessing and I have been waiting for this opportunity for several years. Now, let's hope I don't choke and blow it.

Day 1 went off without a hitch. I edited the first 12,000 or so words that I had previously written. I trimmed about 3,000 words and added 1,000 or so words of new material. I still think I can trim a little more. My initial goal is to make the first 10,000 words near perfect. I can take liberties with the rest of the project. It's sort of like a pro football team scripting their first dozen or so plays. It's the foundation and it needs to be rock solid. Once I can sign off on that section, then I can proceed and have some fun.

Writing is fun for me. I lothe editing and re-writing. Other writer friends of mine prefer that part. Not me. Maybe I'll let them edit my stuff and re-write and re-tweak everything. The fun for me is when I'm pulling stuff out of thin air. Making something from nothing. Maybe that's why I like the blogs so much. I just open up the blank page and start typing, not caring about grammar or punctuation. Maybe the computer picks up my errors. Maybe they are overlooked. In the end, the magic of writing is when I just fill an empty page. The hellacious parts of writing include a pile of printed up pages and a red pen sitting on top. I know that I have to slash and burn and refine the excessive babblings from my innards. But it's such a chore.

Alas, that never happens in the early mornings. The 5am hour is set aside for me to fill a blank page. Maybe at the 5pm hour, I'll print up stuff and break out the red pen. For now, it's still early enough before the birds wake up and start chirping or the can fairies start digging around the dumpster.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bahamas Photo Dump

By Pauly
New York City

I uploaded a new photo gallery from my recent trip to the Bahamas. I didn't take as many pictures as I usually do...

Monday, January 12, 2009

bahamas > nyc

By Pauly
New York City

It had been a while since I cavorted around the Islands with people of ill repute. Decades have passed since my Island hopping days. Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Jamaica, Bermuda, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas were just a short flight away from New York City or Georgia. Back then, I was a thrill seeker looking for adventure, a cheap buzz, and even cheaper women. But now, I was heading back down to the warmth of the Caribbean for a work assignment. A working holiday, if you will.

I made the mistake and failed in an attempt to maintain a speedy drinking pace with the Germans. One of my German colleagues entertained us with tales about interviewing Bob Dylan for a radio show decades ago after a concert in Germany. The guy had breakfast with Dylan for fucks sake. When he offered me a cigar I could not decline his generosity.

Neil, photographer from London, and I wandered through a labyrinth of slot machines in the casino. It was late and we were in search of Otis. We eventually found him sitting at a blackjack table getting cold decked by a dealer who resembled the Haitian from Heroes. He was down to his last two green chips. I encouraged him to bet it all. He was due for a rush. And then it happened. Otis pushed one hand but one the next four or five. He dodged a blackjack from the dealer on one hand and managed to run his chips back up to even.

"Breaking even is better than winning. Time to cash out," I said.

Otis agreed and left the table. The next thing I know, a surly bouncer unlatched a rope and ushered us up a stairwell and inside a club. Yeah, I ended up at a club at 3am... with Otis. If you were to pick the last place at the Atlantis Resort where I’d be (aside the chapel) it would be the nightclub. Even when I was younger, I never particularly cared for that scene. I only went because someone gave me a wristband that gave me free entrance to the club and access to the VIP area.

Otis and I both enjoy knocking back a few brews but club guys we are not. However, it was one of the few places still open and serving booze. I have purposely avoided places like that but sometimes you gotta go with the flow. With the exception of two nights that we were in the Bahamas, we managed to close down at least one bar... every night.

I slipped out of the club. Too many friends to say goodbye to with the music blaring too loud to have any sort of meaningful farewell. And of course there were too many people to persuade me to keep on partying until the sun came up. I did that all week. I did that all month. Heck, I've been doing that for half of my life.

We all had several hundred dollars left on our spending allowances for the trip and ever since the tournament ended, the beers and cocktails flowed at a rapid pace. It was hard to keep up and I was double-fisting Kalik's most of the night. But the time had come for the partying to end. I wanted to wind down the rest of the night and rage solo before I settle down into some quiet refection, with the only sounds being the waves, and the only light being the illumination of the moon.

I sleep with the terrace door wide open so I can hear the waves roll up on the beach as I drift off to sleep. It'also the first thing that wafts into my ears. I have been constantly on the move the last half decade or so and often wake up disoriented in an uncomfortable bed, in a unfamiliar room, in God knows where and I freak out because of temporary amnesia. The waves were a quick reminder that I was in the Bahamas.

The wake up call shook me from a weak slumber. I had passed out a little after sunrise and was exhausted. It took me twenty minutes before I motivated and rolled out of bed. I packed my gear in less than fifteen minutes and glanced at two different bills that were slid under my door. One was the bill for the actual room and the other was my total room service, minibar, and food bill. I only spent half of my allotted per diem, but that did not include the drinks from the night before. I figured that I was in the clear and would be able to escape without having to dig into my own pocket.

The hangover didn't hit me until I was about to leave my room. I slung one bag over my shoulder and felt the nauseous pains rattling around my body. I have been in this position many times before… checking out of a hotel while completely hungover and not knowing if I'd puke up bile or shit my pants. It's a fleeting nightmare that comes with the territory.

I exited the room and a maid stood in the hallway next to her cart.

"Did you like it?" she said.

Like what?

"Your trip. Was it good?"

Well of course, that goes without saying. Except for the hangover part. I struck a deal for a ride to the airport. The driver wanted $30 and I got her down to $20 plus a tip. She was short. Very short. And looked like the mother from What's Happening. She wore a bright green jacket and matching skirt and drove a big van with four rows of seats. I hopped in the back row with a couple from France who sat in the second row. We lazily made the trek off of Paradise Island over the eyesore slab of concrete that makes up two bridge expanses that connect the main island to Paradise.

Traffic was heavy on Elizabeth Street, a two lane winding road that was cluttered with limousines and airport vans. It was rush hour for tourists since it was peak checkout time and hordes of tourists needed to be herded to the airport. We eventually converged on Bay Street, the main drag on Nassau.

My driver pointed out Anna Nicole Smith's grave. The French couple gave each other a bewildered look, like they should know who that is, but don't. Hey, it's not like ANS was Simone de Beauvior. She was a tramp, a famous one at that, and unleashed a karmic path of doom. The gold digger dug her own grave and became a tourists attraction for the ravenous appetite of the many visitors who got bored of swimming with dolphins. Alas, her end was in the Bahamas and we whizzed by on the way to the airport.

Aside from pointing out the grave, my driver was silent. Benjo's cab driver was a lot more interesting. When he was picked up at the airport last weekend, the guy asked him if he preferred gin or rum. Then the taxi driver poured himself a huge glass of gin into a cup… while driving. Benjo was pissed that he wasn't offered any. When Otis arrived his cab driver told him about how to avoid getting rolled by hookers who pull the old, "You're too big and hurting me routine."

I thought that's what lube is for?

Bahamas is on the fringe of the Bermuda Triangle and infected by Island Time where the locals and service people shuffle along at a snail's pace whether it's checking you into a hotel, or bringing you food, or while waiting in various lines at the airport. The first line was to check into JetBlue. That was the fastest moving line of the day. Next up was a first round of security. I managed to cut the lengthy line by sheer accident. I took advantage of the situation and ended up jumping in front of EPT hostess Kara Scott.

"You cutting me, Pauly?" she said with a smile.

I shot her a hungover look and she winked and let me pass. I survived two lines and then came the dreaded customs/immigration line which you have to clear before you get on your flight so when you land in the States, you can simply exit. Immigration was held back by all the international passengers who needed to have their palms scanned. I saw one of Benjo's colleagues get harassed by the overzealous border guards.

Lucky for us, someone figured out that they needed to open a US Passports ONLY line. Lucky for me, I was one if the first persons picked out of the long line to get funneled to the new line. I saved a good forty-five minutes.

The immigration guy grilled me about how much money I had. He kept asking if I had more than $10,000.

"How much do you have?"

A couple of grand.

"How much exactly is a couple a ground?"

Two or three.

"I'll ask you one last time, how much exactly do you have on you?"

$2,870. I failed to mention the Euros I had on me, but he never inquired about those.

I stood in a second security line and when I survived that I was finally inside the departure area. I wandered around the small and crowded gates. I spotted a handful of poker pros heading out. Some where off to the next stop on the tour whether it was Mississippi, Atlantic City, Los Angeles, or even Las Vegas. Chad Brown, Ylon Schwartz, Brian Townsend, and Marcel Luske milled around the dozens and dozens of hungover and sunburned souls on vacation.

The food court resembled the cafeteria in high school with the worst possible food available on the island. I was starving and opted for a bag of Amos cookies and as much water as I could drink to stave off the second wave of the hangover. The filthy floor was sticky and I positioned myself at a table behind a pole so no one I knew would stop by and bother me. I wanted to zone out and write a bit while the Giants/Eagles playoff game was on a small TV above the cashier in the food court. The insufferably annoying voice of Joe Buck echoes through the food court as I frantically scramble to organize all these tattered thoughts and whip them up into one cohesive post.

What the fuck is in a Bahama Mama anyway?

Friday, January 02, 2009

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

By PaulyNew York City

The first installment of the year...
Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...
1. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
2. The Holy Bible
3. The Stylist by Cai Emmons
4. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
5. Salvation in Death by J.D. Robb