Friday, January 30, 2009

Aliens, Che, and Summer Tour

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I have to fly back to New York City this weekend to handle a personal business matter. This is an unexpected trip, but if I don't take care of this problem ASAP, it's only going to get worse. Luckily, I found a roundtrip ticket from Long Beach to JFK for under $300. Not bad for a last-minute fare. The only positive aspect of this impromptu trip is that I get to watch the Super Bowl with my brother on Sunday. That almost makes the trip worth it.

Coincidence? A headache developed on Monday morning (approximately eight hours after I got wind of the mini-crisis) and by Tuesday night the minor pains morphed into a migraine. It spilled over into Wednesday. I actually took some pharmies for medicinal usage instead of recreationally. The codeine dulled the pain and the generic Vicodin worked the best. Although I had some lingering affects as late as Thursday afternoon, the worst of it was over by the time I met up with some friends on Wednesday night to play some cards.

Stress related headaches. I used to get these bad stomach aches when I worked on Wall Street. In the last few years, my insomnia worsened when I was stressed out, but this was the first time I actually felt a physical ailment caused by stress. The main reason that I'm interrupting my writing schedule is to take the necessary steps to alleviate future batches of stress. I'm confident that everything will work out, but it's just the worst time for this to happen since I stated to get into a writing groove and adapted to my new routine. I guess I jinxed myself by gloating about the fact that I didn't have to get on an airplane for a six week stretch. Oooooops.

The writing has been smooth for the most part with a few bumps here and there. I'm pleased with the progress of Project Z and hope that I can continue to write with confidence. Some days are better than others, but I always write my best material when I'm in a good headspace. Instead of botching about the time away from the grind, I shall utilize two cross-country plane rides to re-read all of my work, take notes, and give it a relentless and vicious edit. And upon my return to Los Angeles, I'll put my head down and breeze through three long weeks of writing before I take a short hiatus from the project in early March. Then, I'll make a final push at the end of March and work my ass off for six weeks before I complete the entire project in early May.

I played live poker on Wednesday night. You can read the recap that I posted on Tao of Poker titled Cheviot Hills Counterfeit. Jen Leo and Schecky played in a rotating home game in the LA-area. They had the first game since their daughter was born. In fact, the game was hosted by baby Cora. It was a nice evening out and Nicky and I saw some friends that we had not seen in a while. The Mediterranean food was kick ass and I actually won the tournament. Yep. First place. Weeeee! I also put a drunken-foul-mouthed Rabbi on tilt during the evening. Fun times.

Over the past week, I spent my mornings and afternoons writing splitting time between my office and the dining room table. I usually stopped writing around dinner time and hung out with Nicky for the rest of the night. She cooked a couple of tasty meals such as her famous Turkey Chili that happened to be extra spicy (per my recommendation), not to mention a savory batch of Cajun-rubbed chicken breast (which I made into a sandwich smothered in Jack cheese and German mustard).

After our meals, we watched films on the nights that we didn't go to play poker. I caught Burn After Reading and both parts of Che. I was a tad disappointed with Burn After Reading. I'm a devoted fan of the Coen Brothers. Maybe I have to see the flick again to pick up on all the subtle ticks and traits involving the characters? But it really didn't click with me. I'm willing to give it a second viewing sometime in the future. Brad Pitt's performance stood out but everything else was sort of flat. Perhaps my expectations were too high?

Che was over 4 hours long broken up into two parts which were actually two different films shot simultaneously by Steven Soderbergh. Both parts were a little over two hours. Benico Del Torro played Che as the two parts centered on two different revolutions that Che took part in. Both parts were all in filmed in Spanish with subtitles. The Argentine was the actual title of Part 1 and focused on Che's involvement with Fidel Castro and the Cuba revolution in the late 1950s. Part 2 was titled Guerrilla and focused on Che's losing effort to overthrow the military dictatorship in Bolivia circa 1966-67. Che's attempt was thwarted by CIA involvement which help Bolivian government hunt down Che and kill him. Nicky fell asleep during the end of both Che's.

Benico hit a home run with the character although there were times when his Spanish sounded more Puerto Rican (where he's from) than Argentinian (where Che was born). Part 1 was shot in Mexico but Part 2 was filmed in and around the magnificent city of La Paz in Bolivia.

Insomnia struck a few nights. I have been reading Thomas Pynchon to pass the time. One evening, I stayed up late and played Badugi on PokerStars while I watched Pump Up the Volume. That Christian Slater vehicle is almost twenty years old and happened to be one of those flicks that magnificently captured the vibe and spirit of Gen X high schoolers. Plus Samantha Mathis has great supple tits.

My latest addiction? Pac-Man. Perfect for the insomnia. My Google home page has a feature that included random video games. I added Pac-Man and have been playing more than I should.

My Mysterious Google Home Page

Speaking of my Google home page, I got freaked out one night by the alien abduction version of the late night city scape theme with flying saucers and everything. It sorta freaked me out and a wave of hyper-paranoia swept over me. Maybe the Google overlords were trying to tell me something? I sent a screen cap to a few friends of mine and they all thought it was a little weird and bizarre. Wil thought it was awesome, while the Human Head felt it was a total psych-ops production.

On Friday morning, I almost put my fist through the wall trying to snag Phish tickets. I post a rant over at Coventry called Denied Phish Tickets... Again (Sub Title: Live Nation Blows Camel Balls). Live Nation's ticketing system sucked ass. But in the end, the persistence of my girlfriend paid off. She scored two Phish tickets out of nowhere (almost two hours after the release time) which made my morning. And then I got some amazing news from Daddy and Iggy. They had extra tickets to shows that I desperately needed. Daddy hooked me up with two tickets to shows in Alpine Valley, WI, while Iggy scored me a ticket to Deer Creek. They're all lawn seats, but I don't care. I'm happy to just get inside the door.

The real drama will entail trying to score tickets to the rest of the 11-show summer tour. I have tickets to almost half of the shows but I'm gonna need some more help from my friends otherwise I have to pay a ticket broker big bucks to see those shows.

In the meantime, I'm bubbling over with excitement because my summer plans are slowly coming together. I'll still be going to Las Vegas for part of the summer to cover the WSOP, but I'll also get to part take in Phish summer tour and catch the Bonnaroo music festival. Summer 2009 will be a nice and healthy balance. Everyone wins, especially me.

Otis noticed a change in my demeanor. Here's what he wrote...
I have many friends who are die-hard Phisheads. They count the number of shows they have seen by the dozen. When they learned the band was going back on the road, my buddies' normally fatalistic, existentionalist nature turned to something you might see from a 12-year-old girl when Mylie Cyrus shows up at her birthday party. I've never seen two malcontents so happy.
Otis was talking about myself and G-Rob. OK, I never thought that I was a malcontent, but I'm a card carrying member of the existentialist club. Alas, we're both super excited. I really haven't see G-Rob this fired up in a very long time and we had an epic time at last year's Langerado music festival. And I'm excited that my summer travels will take me to G-Vegas for an evening where I'll be crashing in G-Rob's guest bed room. I hope to get to see the gang including Otis and Bad Blood and their respective wives and children before I continue back on my wanderings.

In the last few hours, I made hotel reservations in Asheville, NC and Weirton, WV. I chucked a bit. Last year, my travels took me to exotic locales such as Copenhagen and Budapest. This year? North Carolina and West Virginia and Wisconsin. Yeah, after four plus years of sexy international travel, I'm looking forward to some domestic adventures as I hit the highways of middle America while I follow the biggest roving party of the year and record the events as they transpire.

With most of my summer plans falling into place, I can focus on finishing up the book. My reward will be the summer tour with a stint in Las Vegas in the middle followed up by a second leg of summer Phish tour. Then I can worry about publishing the book in the fall and re-assess my freelance schedule for the rest of the year. Perhaps I can make a smooth transition into writing more about music? Or perhaps I'll return to the poker grind? Regardless, I feel as though I'm finally pulling the strings and making my own choices with regard to my career instead of my career running my entire life.

For a couple of years the retarded monkey took control of the bus. I'm back at the wheel... for now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Photo Dump

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Some visuals over the last week...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Action Jackson

By Pauly
Hollyeird, CA

"Technique is just the means of arriving at a statement," explained Jackson Pollock.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black Dynamite

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Am actor friend of mine, Jason, sent me this hysterical trailer of Black Dynamite. It's been making the rounds at Sundance...

I can't recall the last time I actually lol'd during a preview.

Monday, January 26, 2009

No Scallops

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

My week of raging solo came to a close on Saturday morning when Nicky returned from a week in South America. Although I missed her, I definitely welcomed the solitude. I also loved being away from the grind and no longer a bitch to the poker industry. The best part of my week involved not flying and having to get up early and head out to an airport and stand in ridiculously lengthy lines and stuck behind total morons in security. And, the lack of crying babies sitting in the row behind me also helped.

So for a week, I carved out my own little utopia as I holed up in our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills. I firmly believe that environment has a huge impact on artistic people. I once had a lengthy debate with Johnny Hughes about that topic. I must have been bitching and moaning about the vagabond lifestyle and that all I really wanted was a place to be in for more than two weeks at a time so I can catch up on writing and really make an impact. He felt that a true artist/writer can rise above that liability and churn our remarkable copy regardless of the environment.

I understood his point, but the bottom line is this - I prefer the quality of my words when they were created in solitude without any distractions. Writing in my office late at night or writing at the dining room table early in the mornings have become more than comfortable. Sort of like your favorite pair of jeans.

During the WSOP every summer, I was forced to write in a conventional media row with thousand of distractions mostly from total tools in the poker media with have emotional problems who need constant attention. The best pieces on Tao of Poker from the 2008 WSOP were written outside while sitting at the pool at Scheckytown between the hours of 5 and 6 am, with some kick ass tunes cranking and a bong within reach.

I unplugged for extended periods of time over the last week. I'm trying to find a healthy balance where I only connect for quick bursts. I still would like to have a couple of days even weeks where I completely unplug and avoid everything and jump off the grid for an undisclosed amount of time. Alas, that's nearly impossible since my livelihood is on the intertubes.

I'm in a weird spot where I'm trying to foster a positive climate while I'm in the middle of Project Z. Writing is the easy part. Even though I loathe editing, that's relatively easy as well. The difficult part is controlling the non-writing aspects of my life while I work on one of the most crucial projects of my absurd existence. It seems a lot of those things are not cooperating. Otherwise, I could have a seamless transition from plugged > unplugged.

I also have a luxury. Time is actually on my side right now. I'm trying to be vigilant with my freedom and avoid taking advantage of this large chunk of unstructured time. For example, in the past when I only had a short amount of free time to write, I forced the action. The words did not flow as organically as I would have hoped. Right now, I don't have the pressure of writing under a time constraint everyday. In fact, I took two days off in the last week (one because Nicky came home and the other because I was under the weather and enjoyed loafing on the couch).

I avoided the boob tube last week and did not watch any of the inauguration hype. I even avoided watching some potentially enthralling college hoops match ups. My main focus was writing and I purposely stopped reading internet news sites and the alphabet news networks on the TV. The only bits and fragments of newsworthy items that I read where shared items from Human Head's Google Reader. Oh and then there was the one night when I watched a series of mind-blowing 2012 videos, which spooked out both the Joker and my brother.

As the Joker said, "I hate watching those videos late at night because then I freak out and think there's an alien in my house."

I felt blah one afternoon and did not write. I slumped on the couch and ingested OTC meds and watched a few things that Nicky had Tivo'd like the latest episode of Top Chef. One of the European chefs slammed a fellow contestant about her choice of always whipping up dishes with scallops.

"This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop," he said.

I'm not a fan of scallops. Most seafood annoys me with the exception of a few items. I don't get excited when they're whipping up scallop dishes.

There was an earthquake on Friday night. I was writing at the time in the dining room. I felt something but it sounded like the guys upstairs slammed their front door really hard. I didn't think anything of it until I got a call from Nicky's mother. She left a message that there was a minor earthquake and she hoped that I didn't freak out. I barely noticed it and had she not called, I never would have known there was one so close by.

A couple of months ago, there was an earthquake during our breakfast at O'Groats. Everything paused for like 15 seconds and then everyone went back to work or eating. Business as usual. California can't sink into the ocean. The Governator won't allow it.

Anyway, in preparation of the big one, I have been slowly stocking up on supplies. It serves a dual purpose as I set up my Armageddon/Earthquake bag with necessary tools and supplies just in case the shit hits the fan. I'd rather have it and not need it then be ill-equipped. The only thing missing is a shotgun to ward off any potential looters and then I'm set. Bring on the chaos. I'm ready.

Nicky returned from Chile on Saturday morning. Her flight landed 40 minutes early. What the fuck? My flights are always delayed. She actually woke me up. I crashed at 4am. I set me alarm for 6:10am. She called at 6am saying that her flight landed. I jumped in the shower and was bummed out to see it raining outside. The roads were wet, but empty. Except, the surface street route that I wanted to take was blocked off by LAPD for an unexplained reason. I had to take an alternate route which meant the freeways... in the rain.

Southern California drivers don't drive well in the rain. Luckily it was early on a weekend so there was light traffic to LAX. I was a little late but Nicky didn't mind because she was happy to be home.

She had been craving comfort food. That's the hardest part about covering poker tournaments in exotic locales. You never get a say in when or what you get to eat. Alas, we headed to Nick's for breakfast. Nicky is not a morning person and she rarely eats at Nick's that early. Me? I like going there when they first open up and I prefer to sit at the counter and read.

On Saturday night, we headed out to Canter's Deli because I had eaten up all the food supplies in the fridge. I saw the flaming waiter who always hits on me when we go there. He likes to touch my arm and back and shoulder. I'm flattered, of course. But Nicky lost it when he sprinted by our table with a slinky in his hand and a small child running right behind him. They headed for a stairwell where they played slinky. I wish I was making this stuff up. Anyway, he wasn't in my section. Our waiter was very attentive and brought over a wide selection of mustard for my Pastrami sandwich. My favorite mustard was mixed with horseradish to give it a nice kick.

On Sunday, my mother went down to Atlantic City. She had a free room and went down to celebrate Chinese New Year. She sat down at her first slot machine at Bally's and hit a jackpot worth $1,150. She got that on one pull that cost $0.25. Unreal. Winning early on in a gambling excursion is never good because you inevitably lose a hefty percentage if not all of your winnings. I just hope she stashed away a couple of hundred.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Recent Twitter Links: Grilled Cheese, MLK, the NSA, and the Fleet Foxes

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I link up a lot of stuff on Twitter. The majority of those things are links to recent posts on Tao of Pauly or Tao of Poker. However, over the last week or so, I managed to link up a bunch of other random things...
I always knew that they were potheads... you'd be shocked to see some of your best childhood friends are ganja addicts. (Photobucket)

With the girlfriend in Chile, I had to cook for myself and whipped up a sexy grilled cheese one night. (Flickr)

On Friday night, we had an earthquake in LA. Nothing too big, just a 3.4. The epicenter was approximately 4 miles away. (USGS)

Some guy who went to my high school directed an indie film that just came out called The Marconi Brothers. (

A whistle blower suggested that Big Brother has spied on everyone particularly journalists. (Raw Story)

What's wrong with this picture that Mean Gene took last summer in Las Vegas? (Flickr)

One of my favorite sports writers, Steve Rosenbloom, made fun of his hometown Bulls when they lost to the Knicks. (Chicago Tribune)

On MLK Day, I linked up his last speech ever. Wonder if he knew he was going to die the next day? Seemed like he was speaking with a sense of urgency there. (YouTube)

If you like the Fleet Foxes, here are videos of their two performances on SNL two weekends ago. (Coventry)

And for the Phisheads, I can't stop listening to Halley's Comet from the Hampton, VA show on 11.22.97. (
That's it for now.

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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

See You Next Time

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Sunday afternoon was a fun day for me. I essentially had a bachelor's life in my place of cohabitation. It was only a couple of hours after I dropped Nicky off at LAX. As soon as I returned to the apartment, my pants disappeared. The bong was within reach. Playoff football flashed on the TV screen. The Grateful Dead's Row Jimmy blasted on the speakers. I fired up a couple of online poker tables.

I was raging solo.

And then I fried up some meat to make an official guy's guy day. By the end of the afternoon (one of the benefits of watching football on the west coast), I had won both of my bets. One was small (with Otis) and the other was kinda big (that is to say, big for today's standards, puny compared to what I was wagering two years ago at this time). Yeah, I really fleeced Otis during the NFL playoffs. In all fairness, I was riding the hot team, Arizona, while he was constantly on the other end of those gentlemanly agreements.

Otis' money is the sweetest money.

Nicky had a tough trip to South America. Lots of headaches. LAX. Delayed flights. Small transfer windows. DFW. Broken airplanes. Lost luggage. She arrived safely in Chile which is the most important thing. And her luggage arrived 24 hours after she did. At least she got her clothes and things in a timely matter.

Two Canadian friends of mine are in Australia right now for work assignments. They both had their luggage misplaced. Heck when Marty was in the Bahamas, his luggage arrived five or six days late. We gave him shit because he wore the same pair of cargo shorts and a selection of cheesey souvenir t-shirts that you would never be caught dead in yet you buy them for family members. Anyway, Marty finally got his clean clothes two days before he was supposed to leave Paradise Island and return to Vancouver.

Ah, the downside of business travel. Now if Boeing and Airbus just built planes differently, we could have more space in the overhead. But what do I know? I'm not an engineer. I'm, just a guy who has been flying once a week for the last four years.

Except now. A rarity. I will spend a good month without getting on one plane. I don't hate flying. The bullshit involved with domestic/international air travel in post 9/11 America is a total farce. The reason I get so wasted before I fly is not because of a fear of flying (or even a morbid fear of dying). I slip into the depths of inebriation to deal with the inbred nits, the dullards, and all the retarded people you encounter at the airport while waiting in line after line after line.

And then there's the plane crash in the Hudson, which happened less than 24 hours from the time I left New York City. Folks and pundits all around were calling it a miracle. It totally was and then some. There has never been a water crash landing involving a wide-body jet that did not include a fatality. The Hudson crash was historic because no one died. That pilot saved his crew, his passengers, and the aeronautical industry in one swoop.

I rarely get nervous when I'm on a plane. My fate is in the hands of the pilots and the crew who maintained the plane. If I die, the blood is on their hands, not mine. And I'm highly confident in pilots. The majority of them are former military pilots or fighter pilots with some combat experience which means they are cool and calm in the most dire of situations.

Alas, who knew that a flock of geese were so deadly? That's the Canadian version of a surface to air missile. Yes, when in doubt, if you can't blame the terrorists, then blame Canada.

Here's something that I never wrote about in my jfk > burbank post from last week. When I was eating breakfast at the food court at the brand new JetBlue terminal at JFK, I spotted a JetBlue pilot sitting at an adjacent table. He looked familiar. I didn't make anything of it. We both finished our meals at roughly the same time and happened to meet at the garbage bin. The pilot pointed to my backpack that included a PokerStars patch. That's when I recognized him. He's been my pilot on the JFK > Burbank/Long Beach run on a couple of occasions.

When you disembark the plane, the pilots and flight attendants stand up front and say goodbye. Upon my exit, the pilot saw the PokerStars patch on my backpack... more than once... that he had to say something to me. I suspected that he thought I was a pro.

At this point, I fly JetBlue so much that I recognized some of their flight attendants. I know as soon as I step onto the plane if I'm going to get an attentive one or a rookie. Now, I'm recognizing pilots and vice versa. The pilot said that patch is what stood out. He used to play poker a lot when he was in the air force, but not so much these days. He wanted to know if I was a poker pro. I told him that I was much far south on the poker food chain. I was just a lowly poker writer.

And here's a little tid bit that I picked up on my travels... if you overhear a flight attendant tell a passenger, "See you next time!" they are actually saying something totally different.

"See you next time" is just a code.

C U Next Time = CUNT.

I fuckin' love that. I have used that a couple of times already in public to rude nits. It's my subversive way of calling people a cunt.

See you next time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Won't Get Fooled Again

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Words of wisdom from Pete Townsend...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Breakfast of Champions, Porterhouse for Two, and Tour Chili

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

One of my upstairs neighbors has cigarettes and Red Bull for breakfast. Every morning. He wanders down to the alley where he smokes and sips cocaine in a can. Dare I say, the breakfast of champions?

It has been a few years since I read Vonnegut's epic novel Breakfast of Champions. Friends of mine in Seattle had a jazz band that was named after one of their favorite literary characters... Kilgore Trout. In some weird unrelated tid bit, Jerry Garcia once owned the film rights to another Vonnegut novel... Sirens of Titan. It was his favorite novel and Vonnegut willingly sold him the rights. For many years, Jerry tried to figure out how to turn that into a workable flick. Jerry tinkered on a screenplay with Tom Davis, former SNL writer who was frequently teamed up with Al Franken. Alas, Jerry died before he could make any headway with the film project. Vonnegut promptly bought back the rights after Garcia's death.

On Friday, I woke up super early and wrote and wrote and wrote. I was way ahead schedule so by the time Nicky awoke, I suggested that we see a flick. I have been wanting to see Slumdog Millionaire for a month or so. Both Showcase and the Rooster's Uncle Joe both recommended that to us during our impromptu-Christmas party last month in LA. However, the next day we caught The Day the Earth Stood Still instead. Since that mistake, Slumdog Millionaire has been on my mind ever since.

Of course, I tried to put all this Oscar hype out of the way when we finally went to see Slumdog Millionaire. Everyone gushed and fawned and jizzed all over the film. It's impossible to ignore all of the awards hoopla, even in these trying economic times, when you're behind enemy lines and living in Los Angeles. Hollyweird types are very needy people and they have the utmost desire to be relevant. Hence the lengthy and over hyped award season.

The Landmark on the West Side is a rather new movie theatre with super comfy seats and friendly ushers who show you to your seats. You actually get to pick your actual at the time you purchase the tickets. That means you don't have to show up twenty minutes before the show (sometimes more) to stake out a good seat for a popular flick. Nicky bought the tickets online approximately ninety minutes prior to showtime. She selected our seats and we arrived at 12:02 for a noon showing. We only missed a few seconds of the first preview and settled into our near prime seats.

Slumdog Millionaire was a solid film across the board. The cinematography was the cat's balls and Danny Boyle accurately captured and depicted the streets of Mumbai. I particularity enjoyed the style and structure in which the story was revealed with all the subplots criss-crossing throughout every scene. I must admit that I'm not hip to the Bollywood biz, but Nicky mentioned that most of the major actors were some of the top Bollywood stars. The ending included a traditional Bollywood song and dance number as the credits rolled. The entire audience stuck around to watch it.

After the flick, I was starving and craving a juicy cheeseburger. We had to figure out a suitable place where I could get my meat fix and Nicky could eat something healthy. We opted for Swinger's diner but we got caught in the tail end of lunch hour traffic in Beverly Hills as all of the studio execs were returning from lunch meetings and rushing back to the office.

The jack cheese burger with onion rings was spot on. Nicky opted for a salad with Ahi tuna. As I stood at the cashier and paid my check, our waitress asked me if I enjoyed my meal. Now, the waitresses at Swinger's dress up like slutty Suicide Girls. Lots of fishnets and sleeve tattoos and hooker boots and black lipstick. Our waitress fit the stereotype. I couldn't figure out if that's how she really was in real life or if she was an actress waiting tables and dressing up to play the part.

Anyway, the waitress asked me if I enjoyed my meal. I mentioned that I woke up craving a cheeseburger.

"Does that happen to you? You wake up and have to have a certain food or you will die?" I said out loud as I signed the credit card slip.

"Hell yes," she said. "I was a vegetarian for six years. I woke up one day and I was craving a juicy steak. I went to the closest steak joint, I ordered Porterhouse for two and ate the entire fucker. Then I called up my vegan friends and taunted them, 'Dude, you guys have no idea what you are missing!'"

I love it when we can turn a vegan to the dark side. Eat the meat. Use the force.

On Saturday morning, I was up way way early. Again. I worked on Project Z for a bit but need some brain fuel. I walked over to the coffeeshop... without Nicky. I couldn't wait for her to wake up. I sat at the counter and read the rest of Schanzer's latest book Hamas vs Fatah. I also watched in amazement as the short-order cook whipped up a batch of scrambled eggs with chorizo. Then he wrapped the entire thing into a burrito. That guy is a true artist.

When Nicky finally woke up, we made a trip to the grocery store. I escaped with only paying $98 and acquired a ton of food. The run to the store was mainly for me to stock up on food stuffs while Nicky went away to South America on an assignment. She also picked up enough ingredients to concoct her famous turkey chili. I must say, she's an excellent chef and the chili was delicious despite too many offensive vegetables that I could do without. I ate two bowls and there's a bunch still leftover which I intended to snack on during the football games.

Anyway, there's a good chance that if Phish does a west coast tour at the end of the summer, that Nicky will be making tour chili to sell to all the neo-hippies and Phishkids in the parking lot.

Speaking of Phish, the Joker posted the Ultimate Phish Compilations over at Coventry. It includes links to various "Best of" versions of your favorite Phish songs. Some good shit featuring selection from the Year of the Funk.

Aside from watching the initial reports of the plane crash in the Hudson, I avoided the boob tube since my arrival in LA. Nicky TiVo'd Saturday Night Live mainly to see the Fleet Foxes performances. I watched a bit of the North Carolina/Miami college hoops game on Saturday mainly because I had a bet on it.

After I dropped Nicky off at LAX for her flight to Chile, I returned to the apartment in time for the NFL playoffs. I watched the games pantless and with a bowl of chili. I obviously had a few small bets down which would be the only reason I was welcoming the distraction instead of writing. I refused to watch the pre-game hype from those annoying talking heads on the various channels. Man, I used to love the pre-game NFL shows when I was a kid. Alas, since then they have morphed into this annoying collection of static and statistics that go nowhere.

Tin foil hat time... sometimes I can't believe some of the things that those NFL experts are saying on the pre-game shows. The fix is in because the big time bookies and the Vegas sportsbooks are feeding those clowns certain scripts to say so they can influence last minute gamblers and sway they to bet the opposite positions. Maybe it's a stretch but I wouldn't put it past a Vegas casino to buy-off one of the on-air talents.

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.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Flipchip's AVN Photos and the Poker News Industry Round Table

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I participated in a industry Round Table over at Poker News with various personalities in poker such as WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, high stakes pro Barry Greenstein, super agent Brian Balsbaugh, industry whistle blower Nat Armen, and Matt Parvis managing editor from Bluff. I was honored to be among that elite group of poker people. Check out what everyone had to say on a variety of topics about the current status and future of poker...
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 1
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 2
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 3
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 4
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 5
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 6
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 7
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 8
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 9
The 2009 Poker Roundtable, Vol. 10
Flipchip had a good week. He snapped photos of porn stars and strippers at the adult entertainment expo in Vegas. Here's a shitload of NSFW pics for all you porn enthusiasts...
2009 AVN AEE Day 1 Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 2 Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 3 Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 4-A Photos
2009 AVN AEE Day 4-B Photos
God bless Flipchip.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Great Cruve

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I have been in California for 24 hours now. I was a few hours into my new routine and then that plane crashed in the Hudson River and I fell off the wagon a bit as I watched breaking coverage of the plane crash in New York City. Yeah, that's why I never fly US Air and try to stick with JetBlue.

My hopes of avoiding the boob tube and all forms of media over the next few weeks (save for the NFL playoffs as my sole distraction) failed miserably on Day 1. Better today than next week, right?

Last year, I read a book by Tim Ferris called the 4-Hour Work Week. Some of it was rubbish but a few things stood out about time management especially with a backlog of emails and time wasted reading/watching current events. I'm back to only reading my email twice a day at the max and more like once an evening. I'm also trying to avoid things like my cellphone (turning it off completely) and reducing reading Twitter (except to send updates) and Bloglines throughout the day. I'm setting aside an hour at night to take care of all of that addictive "I have to be connected" bullshit. If I can successfully put off emails, phone calls, and blog reading to a small period, my productivity and independence away from having to e connected at all times should increase.

It's like a bad drug, man. And this is my time over the next six weeks to dry out. It's a retreat of sorts from the life I carved out over the last five years. Clean living. I finally got what I wanted... some time to stay at home and patch my bones and write unfettered for the next six weeks. Then it's off to the Phish Reunion in Virgina where I return to California for another six week writing stint.

My first day back in LA was a good one. It started off slow but I was up early and writing in my favorite morning spot in the dining room by the window. The weather was warm, sweltering by Midwest standards, and I was very fortunate to wake up without freezing my ass off. One of the benefits of LA. I live in a plastic city, but the weather is great.

Nicky woke up and we headed to Nick's for the first time this year. I was starving a killed an omelete and hash browns. Absolutely destroyed it. I also ate half of Nicky's omelete and half of her toast. I needed to fuel to write. I tried to lock myself in my office, but the plane crash happened and I kept popping my head out to follow the updates on CNN that Nicky was closely following.

Amidst the distraction, I cranked out two short stories for an upcoming issue of Truckin'. It felt joyous and momentous to write fiction for the first time in a while. It wasn't forced either and I submitted first drafts to my own blogzine.

I also completed two freelance assignments. One was a magazine deadline for today and the other is a deadline set for next Thursday. I was an eager beaver and got next week's work out of the way so I can focus on working on the writing project all of next week.

I realized that I have acquired a small collection of books in the LA digs. Nicky has a few of them in her bookcase, but next to my desk, there's a pile of 13 books. Seven of those were given to me and five of those were poker or gambling related. The elusive non-poker books were Dumbocracy by Marty Beckerman (which I have still yet to review) and Hamas vs. Fatah by college classmate Jon Schanzer (which I'm 75% done with but have yet to review). I guess I'm reading three books right now if you count Schanzer's and then there's Lie Down in Darkness by Styron and The Plague by Camus. Maybe I'll set aside some time tonight to polish off Schanzer's book.

My 160GB portable hard drive arrived in the late afternoon. Always fun to get an unexpected package. I ordered it when I was in the Bahamas and totally spaced about it. I acquired the hard drive for next to nothing and now I have a device on the west coast to back up all of my music, scribblings, pics, and videos, especially with the new/old project.

Last night, we watched Full Metal Jacket. Nicky had never seen it before and I was astonished. Typical that a former Hollywood development exec would have never seen a Stanley Kubrick classic. Shocker. I told her it was like two different movies rolled into one. I saw it so many times when I was in high school that I had essentially the entire opening scene memorized.

During my last night in New York City, I watched Boiler Room with my brother. We always used to joke that Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot worked in a boiler room operation back in Dallas and that's why he skipped town and moved to Colorado. Anyway, the flick brought back a flood of memories, both good and bad, of my time down on Wall Street. Sometimes I miss being on the phones but the biggest thing I missed was gambling large sums with other peoples' money. Man, I fuckin' crave that rush sometimes.

These days, I'll be content with winning a $20 bet from Otis in a football game. Otis' money is the sweetest money.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

jfk > burbank

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I had a 48 hour stint in New York City, but it felt like 4.8 hours. The time races by so quick. The city is just an aircraft carrier for me.... floating runway where I land, refuel, check out a mail drop, and take off again.

I felt blah upon my arrival in NYC. I think my body was not used to the winter and whatever bug I acquired post-Bahamas slowed me down a bit. Perhaps it was simple withdrawal symptoms. I'm on a non-drinking spell right now and maybe my detox is what ails me.

I completed about half of the amount of work in my inbox. I pushed off a deadline until I was feeling better. I read a lot and watched a bunch of sports and TV with Derek. The Knicks still stuck.

I caught up on the latest episode of Top Chef, which should be interesting since they got that angry British bald dude as one of the judges for the rest of the season. That guy does not pull any punches.

I became fascinated with women's luge. I think it's the whole Nordic blondes in slippery latex fantasy that gets me all hot and bothered. One thing for sure, the Germans and Austrians fembots dominated the world championships save for one Norwegian hold out.

I whiffed in an attempt to score Grateful Dead tickets on Tuesday afternoon. There were a dozen or so cities that I could have chosen to catch them. I had my eyes set on two in particular; New York City and Los Angeles. I also considered seeing them in San Francisco, Denver, Albany, Meadowlands, and Nassau. The only catch were that the tickets were ridiculously expensive.... like $99 for a ticket at Madison Square Garden. What the fuck? It's not like they brought Jerry Garcia back to life and the old fat man is playing again.

Due to the outrageous prices, I limited myself to a couple of shows. Unfortunately, I got shut out of MSG and only scored two tickets to the Dead in Los Angeles over at the Forum. Nicky and I considered driving up to Mountain View to see the closing night of the tour, but decided to save some money. Phish summer tour is just around the corner.

Derek and I ate Chinese food one night for dinner. I had not eaten that garlic chicken in a while. Since I knew that I would not be back in NYC for six weeks, I took the opportunity to enjoy my favorite NYC foods. I also visited the Greek diner a couple of times. I went there for a breakfast sandwich one morning and the old Jewish guys in the back booth were predicting a Steelers/Cardinals Super Bowl. And I stopped by one afternoon for a good old fashioned NYC diner cheeseburger.

My ride to the airport on Wednesday morning was 12 minutes late. I called at the ten minute mark and the dispatcher said, "Oh shit! Someone will be there in two seconds." My driver was late but at least he left me alone and didn't try to chat me up at 5:57am.

JFK was packed and I got stuck in a couple of testicle-numbing long lines with the most retarded travelers on the planet while despeerately waiting to drop off my baggage and scoot my way past security. A lot of people were escaping the frigid weather headed to warmer climates and most of them acted like they had never been in an airport post 9/11 before.

I ate a greasy biscuit at te food court and played online poker at 7am against a couple of Europeans. I won $5. Didn't even cover my breakfast. I found a used copy of the NY Times and breezed through that instead of actually paying for it. When I was done, an older gentleman asked me if he could read it. I found a couple of sections of the Wall Street Journal. I read one article that gave me the jitters. I have a feeling that the bond market will burst in a few months. A big storm is a brewin'.

My flight was about 75% full but there was a unsufferably annoying screaming baby three rows behind me. I tuned out the kid as best as I could and listened to John Coltrane as I finished the last forty-five pages of the The Sound of John Coltrane. I still had no fuckin' idea about 25% of what the author discusses about since I didn't play tenor or alto sax. The rest of book was fascinating. Too bad the heroin really fucked Coltrane up. Then again, did it help him get to some of those places that his peers could never think of going?

I finished off the rest of Heat by Bill Buford about his quest to work in Mario Batali's kitchen. Nicky read it on the beach this summer and I sped read through the first few chapters at some point in August. I stopped reading it at the short ribs chapter and picked it up from there. For the first time in a long time, I did not watch any TV on JetBlue. Instead, I immersed myself into Heat and finished the last pages we passed over Utah and into Nevada.

I'm definitely interested in reading Buford's book on soccer violence. I'll add that to my reading list. Alas, I have four or five books on deck to read including The Plague by Camus and a Bill Styron book. I also forgot that I wanted to re-read Gravity's Rainbow in 2008 and never got a chance to. I remembered my failed quest when I was wandering around Strand book store and a spotted a copy of Pynchon's epic novel.

My flight was on time and without fail Nicky was late to pick me up at the airport. It was OK. After all, how could I complain? It was 82 degrees or a good 62 degrees warmer than when I departed New York City.

We drove over the Hollywood hills via the winding Coldwater Canyon and passed all those funky little houses and cabins nestled in the lush hills before the road let out into the posh Beverly Hills past all the mansions on palm tree lined streets where the fretting inhabitants inside were freaking out about the economic storm on the horizon.

Tragic day when uber-rich folks have to make a decision to fire their live-in maid and have her only drop by twice a week. Tough times in the city on Angels, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's 82 degrees and as Dylan said, "The town has no need to be nervous."

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?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tao of Pokerati: Benjo in NYC

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

Shortly before I headed to the Bahamas, Benjo visited New York City for a couple of days and we taped a couple of episodes of Tao of Pokerati. Episode 7.1 is by far my favorite.
Book 7: Big Apple Benjo
Episode 7.1: Jailhouse Rocks and Maniacs (3:15)
Michalski went AWOL and we speculated his potential whereabouts which eventually led to a discussion on poker in prison.

Episode 7.2: The (French) Year in Review (4:49)
A serious episode. For once. I asked Benjo to give me the 2008 highlights in the French poker world.

Episode 7.3: Hookers around the World! (5:06)
Benjo shared his stories about working girls in Marrakesh and I let him on about the ads in the back of the Village Voice.
And don't forget that you can always check out the Tao of Pokerati archives.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

"Today feels like a Sunday," said Joe, one of the photographers I work with.

He was right. Then again, every day feels like a Sunday in the Bahamas.

"Why haven't you posted?" asked Benjo.

I thought for a second and really didn't have an answer. The intertubes is spotty in my room. Most of the time, it's down. The only access I have is downstairs at the media desk and even then it drops out frequently.

But for the most part, I haven't felt the urge to post. After being here over a week, I have fallen under the spell of Island Time. I'll get to it when I get to it. Like the blogs. I'll post... eventually.

I have been writing. Excesses of random dispatches. I just haven't been posting those. I have been writing between 3am and 5am by the illumination of the moonlight with the exception of the night that it rained. I have been waking up early to walk on the beach and then retire to my room to write and gaze out at the ocean. Then it's off to work for a lengthy day before I hit the bar with Otis and drink until they run out of Kaliks.

I have a hole in my jeans. A small one formed on Wednesday and it ripped yesterday. My only pair with me. I also have a blood stain on my polo incurred during a near brawl at Dodger Stadium this summer. I forgot it was there until I pot on the shirt this morning while the steel/reggae band below belted out a cover of Red Red Wine.

I have just a few moments before the start of the final table. There are eight players left in this poker tournament. First place pays out $3 million. Not a bad payday if you ask me. Of course, with televised events, there is always a delay due to technical difficulties. I decided to kill the time by writing a brief post and watching 150 Great Goals: Ipswich Town. It was given to me by my UK colleague Simon who happens to be a huge Ipswich supporter. I was giving the Brits a tutorial in American football and they in turn gave me a highlight reel of goals.

150 of them. Goals. 150? Yes.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

New Tao of Pokerati Episode - Bahamas Edition Featuring Benjo

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

On Sunday night, we taped what might be the last ever appearance of Benjo on the Tao of Pokerati. You see, everyone's favorite chain-smoking malcontent Frenchman is going on strike because he's demanding higher wages. No word yet on whether or not Michalksi will cave into Benjo's demands.
Book 8: The Islanders
Episode 8.1: International Hotspot (3:25)

Anyway, here's how Michalski described the latest episode of Tao of Pokerati...
Pauly and Benjo escape from the bitter gray snow of NYC to report from the high-70s breezes and clear ocean skies of Paradise Island at the Atlantis Resort, where what looks to be the biggest poker tournament outside of the United States in all of history — the 2009 PCA — is getting underway. If poker is dying, that word clearly hasn't made it yet to the Bahamas.

Follow the on-table action at PokerStarsBlog, and the off-table adventures at Tao of Poker and LV-OTR. Or just listen to Pauly's report for a conchilicious taste of all the pokery gayness goodness going down right now in the Bermuda Triangle as the ever-French Benjo threatens to disappear sans a contract for podcast big-bucks...
Stay tuned for more developments in this new found drama.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Truckin' - January 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 1

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

And we're back with a spanking new issue!

January 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 1

Welcome back to the first issue of the new year.

1. The Mollification the Foul Temptresses by Paul McGuire
The hookers at the Rio were a combination of famished vultures and parched vampires ready to pick apart any carcass. Any john. Any drunk. Anybody in their path. They were evil personified.... More

2. The Orchard by Joe Speaker
I reach for her hand, probing, touching it delicately. We don't form a fist when we come together, nothing like the taut intertwine of fingers you see lovers form, those Gordian knots, unwieldy like a stone fortress. Our fingers hang off each other's loosely, three of mine, two of hers, vice-versa, and they dangle. Spider webs in the wind. Tenuous connection... More

3. Hector by David Peterson
I remember clearly when the cops came and took Hector's mom away. He seemed rather nonplussed by the whole thing as we stood on the curb watching a bedraggled and wild-eyed woman being escorted from her home in cut-off jeans, a loose-fitting white tank top and handcuffs... More

4. Flight #22 to Denial by Sean A. Donahue
Her eyes were black as the night. Her black hair cascaded near her high cheekbones and tanned complexion. Her body wasn't made for sin but for pleasure, and the glasses she wore on her head framed her face perfectly. The only thing that didn't make sense was that it was raining over her head... More

5. Running it Twice by Andrew Moxon
There are, however, certain points of opportunity. Soft places in time, when the cockpit door comes open and we second-timers can take over. That's when things can change. Sometimes, every so often, we walk through that door and start flipping the switches... More
This issue features five stories which includes the debut of Andrew Moxon. The always venerable Joe Speaker returns with a zesty piece titled The Orchard. Sean Donahue is back after a short absence and David Peterson makes a splash in his second consecutive issue. And of course, I share a tale that has been told many times before involving Las Vegas working girls.

Don't forget to tell your friends about your favorite stories. As always, thanks for your support!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

jfk > bahamas

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

Friday was a tough day. Reality had set in. 2008 and the party was over and 2009 was upon us as a light dusting of snow flurries fell upon the city. Weather is always used by writers and film makers as a device to illustrate a change in mood and tempo. The flurries reminded me of that subtle change.

Nicky flew home to Hollyweird and Derek returned from a short trip up to Maine for New Years Eve. I sat on his couch in a daze. Half sick. Half hungover. We watched random movies like The Green Street Hooligans as Derek mentioned how happy he was that he didn't have to work until Monday.

Of course, a wave of bittersweetness overcame me. On Saturday, I had to leave town for a work assignment... in the Bahamas. I knew that I'd be spending the better part of my trip inside of a casino however, the casino was in Paradise. Paradise Island in the Bahamas to be exact. Heck, it can't be that bad can it? I'd be working with some great friends including Otis, who would be making his fifth sojourn down to Atlantis for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

I was frazzled when I packed on Friday night. So much so, that I woke up a little early to make sure that I re-packed all of my gear. I had to pack for a warm climate in addition to some warmer clothing because they jacked up the AC in the tournament room.

I also had some free time to write which was the first time in a couple of days. I scribbled down my lazy thoughts about Benjo's trip to NYC and NYE with Nicky.

I miscalculated the ride to the airport. I arranged one about thirty minutes too soon. Since there was no traffic on Saturday morning, we got to JFK super quick. My driver said hello to me and that was it. We didn't say two words to each other until he pulled up to the JetBlue terminal.

I was super early. So much so that they were making a last call for the morning flight to the Bahamas. The lady on the intercom called out two names. They were holding up the flight. I recognized them since they were both professional poker players. Fitting.

I took advantage of the free wifi at the new JetBlue terminal. I guess it's not so new to me anymore because I've flown through there almost a dozen times since it reopened in November. I grabbed breakfast and stocked up on Cliff Bars. The cashier joked around with me and asked if I was going to be on a long flight. I had to explain that I was a writer about to embark on an assignment where I never knew when I'd get time to eat. Cliff Bars were my fuel.

I farted around for an hour or so. I read a couple of chapters of a book about John Coltrane and realized that it was going to be tough to read because I'm not a musician and some of the lingo is heavy-handed. That was good because I have to learn.

I wandered around the terminal and saw that a Brett Favre #4 Jets jersey was on a super-discount. Otis pinged me and wanted to know what games I liked in the opening day of the NFL playoffs. He picked all of the away teams (Indy & Atlanta) and I went with both home dogs; Arizona and San Diego.

I eventually arrived at my gate and saw Matt, one of the PR guys from PokerStars. We'd be on the same flight to the Bahamas... if we ever took off. The chick at the gate mentioned that the flight was delayed indefinitely due to a mechanical situation. Almost ninety minutes later, they gave us a new plane at a different gate on the other end of the terminal. We migrated down there and waited another thirty minutes before we boarded.

The flight was 50% full with a handful of online poker players heading down to play in the tournament that I was about to cover. I had an entire row to myself. I watched the playoff game on one screen and watched a flick on the other. Since we were delayed for such a long time, they comped the pay-per-view movies. I watched Eagle Eye. One of Nicky's friends did a re-write on that flick. Parts were cool while others were absolutely horrible.

I watched the sun set from 38,000 feet in the air. There was a ton of cloud cover, so we were soaring about the clouds and a fuzzy orange orb was dipping below the horizon. The light reflected all over the clouds and turned them shades of red, orange, and yellow. I thought about grabbing my camera for a picture, but some things are best left to be enjoyed by myself. It was peaceful and magnificent in the same breath. I was fortunate that I got to see that glimpse of heaven on earth.

I watched the first half of the Arizona and Atlanta game, but we landed just as the players left the field for halftime. Immigration is notoriously long at Nassau airport. Benjo arrived a day earlier and said his trip was a breeze and that there was a steel band playing in the immigration room to entertain everyone while they waited and waited.

I survived immigration and Matt and I found our bags. We breezed through customs and headed outside. Airports can be tricky, especially in places where all of the locals are trying to hustle the tourists. I negotiated a fare to Atlantis with a driver before we got in the cab. I got a decent deal for the both of us and we sped off into the darkness. By the time we arrived it was night time. I could hear the waves but barely saw them.

We arrived at the swanky Atlantis resort. My first time there. I waited at check-in. I was sweaty, jonesin', and eager to find out the score of the game. My room was on the other end of the sprawling complex. It took me several minutes just to locate my tower. The room was freezing because the AC was jacked up. The room included a king size bed. Half of the lights did not work but I had a terrace with an ocean view.

I was starving and ordered room service. $22 Mayan cheeseburger. I also drank an iced tea. With a $2 surcharge and an automatic 15% tip, it came to almost $40. Sweet Jesus! I got a $100/day per diem and within five minutes of my arrival, 40% was gone on just a simple snack.

But, at least I had an ocean view.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Year End Musings

By Pauly
New York City

On Tuesday, Johnny Mushrooms flew to San Francisco and Benjo headed down to DC for a day trip. He boarded a bus filled with Italian tourists as he visited our nation's capitol. Derek was at work and Nicky had never been to the Guggenheim. So after a diner breakfast, we headed across the park to check it out.

As we strolled through Central Park near the Reservoir, we saw the lengthy line at the Guggenheim which was wrapped around the block. The Met did not have a line and was much cheaper. I can get us in for as little as $1 a piece. We opted to tour the Met for a few hours. I still had a couple friends who worked there and besides, it is such a massive museum with constant renovations that there's always something new and old to see.

The Oceanic and Pacific Art section was closed the last time that Nicky and I went to the Met a couple of summers ago. It had reopened since then and we spent some time in that section gazing at the canoe room and all the various wooden statues.

We went in search of my friend and expressionist painter Chuck, but he was nowhere to be found.

The biggest highlights of our quick trip to the Met? Shigeyuki Kihara's photography and the Raquib Shaw exhibit. Shaw is actually younger than me. Born in India and educated in London, Shaw painted glittery images that were influenced by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim cultures.

In one of the photographer galleries, I saw the following message...

After the Met, we took the subway to midtown. I knew it was going to be a nightmare with the crowds (especially on the cusp of rush hour), but Nicky had never been to St. Patrick's Cathedral and the infamous Christmas tree was right across the street. And yes, the streets surrounding Rockerfeller Center were hectic and congested with tourists who don't know how to navigate through dense crowds.

We spent a little time inside the cathedral which was warm and cozy. We also braved the weather and watched all the mayhem outside around the tree inf ront of 30 Rock including the lengthy line of people who wanted to go ice skating.

We met Derek and the Rooster for dinner at the Palm. It's always a favorite joint of ours to have a nice meal. We were celebrating the end of the year and possibly the end of an era. We all anticipated a much slimmer lifestyle in the oncoming months. The majority of December had been a non-stop party for me with trips to Mexico, Vegas, LA, and New York City as I tried to get a few last gasps of party time before things get tough and tougher and odder and odder.

We migrated to the Westside Tavern for a drink once Benjo returned from his day trip to DC. The tavern served food and included a vast selection of beers. We had no idea that bar was closing. Didn't find out until we saw the sign on the door which explained that they will be closing on January 1st after almost two decades of service. In an everchanging town like NYC, that's an eternity.

If you include Yogi's and P&G... that makes three bars that I frequent withing a four or five block radius on the Upper West Side that is shutting their doors. Where will I find mellow places to drink?

We sat at a large table in the back near the fireplace and the Westside Tavern played tons of 60s and 70s psychedelic rock sucks as Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, and the Grateful Dead. I drank Belgium beers while Benjo told us about his day of sightseeing.

We stayed up late and woke up early to beat the rush at MoMA. We got in line about twenty minutes before it opened which was a clutch move. There was a special Van Gogh exhibit and you had to get a special ticket with a specific time period to see the show. We managed to get in right away. Within an hour or so, the reservations filled up and next available times were late into the afternoon.

My favorite bits of MoMA? Marlene Dumas portraits stood out. The South African artist migrated to Amsterdam and focused on portraiture. There was one gallery that included old faces on baby bodies and lots of dead bodies reminiscent of a crime scene photo. There was a smaller room with almost a hundred of portraits of models, but the painting with the Amsterdam hookers stood out the most. There was one particular one of a window girl that Benjo and I were fond of.

Other highlights included Van Gogh and Mikhael Subotzky. The Van Gogh night colors exhibit was well worth it, then again, we didn't have to fight the crowds to get glimpses of his masterpieces. The Mikhael Subotzky photos in South Africa caught me by surprise. He hung out among the hookers and tagged along with the cops to capture gritty and violent street scenes.

I had forgotten my concert tickets. Nicky and I were staying in the 70s on the West Side and I had to head back to Riverdale solo to retrieve the My Morning Jackets tickets. When I returned, Nicky was fast asleep in the middle of a siesta nap. I joined her for an hour because we had a big night ahead of us.

We had a mellow dinner at the diner and took the subway to Madison Square Garden. There was no line to get through security. There really wasn't any security. As one guy in front of me said, "If this was a Phish show, they'd be searching everyone."

We had pretty good seats in the 100 level and settled in for a bit before we headed to an Irish pub inside the hallways of MSG that was literally steps away. The bar was closer than the men's room. We grabbed a couple of $9 pints of Heineken served in souvenir Knicks plastic cups.

The last time I saw a New Years Eve show in Madison Square Garden was Phish in 2002 during their reunion show. Two years earlier, Nicky and I saw My Morning Jacket play at the Fillmore for New Year's Eve in San Francisco. That was one of my favorite shows from that year and still stands out as one of my favorite MMJ shows all time. With that in mind, I had low expectations and was simply happy to see one of my favorite bands play on NYE. It was a tough choice between Widespread Panic in Colorado or My Morning Jacket in NYC, especially since Panic was heading on hiatus in 2009. Alas, I have seen Panic too many times to count and in the end, the mystique of Madison Square Garden was the trump card.

Nicky got dressed up in a cape that she bought in the Haight during a trip to San Francisco this summer. I didn't wear a tux or a suit. I didn't even go for a costume this year. I figured with Phish returning in 2009, I would have plenty of opportunities to let me freak flag fly high.

The show included a mixture of older songs and selections from their latest album Evil Urges. Since it was New Years Eve, the band also threw a lot of cover songs into the mix and included several special guests including a horn section, Will Johnson, and Nicole Atkins. The covers included tons of funk and soul featuring Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Charles Wright, Marvin Gaye, Kool and the Gang, Dion, and Dolly Parton with Kenny Rogers).

MMJ played for two sets with a short break just before the ball drop. Overall, it was a fun show. The nailed their older material and I'm still getting used to some of the newer songs. The covers were hit or miss with plenty of tight and sloppy moments. I really didn't care about that technical part. I really dug the selection and variety including the addition of horns to the mix.

After the show, we caught the subway around 1L30am without any problems and headed back to the Upper West Side. Benjo had plans with some of his friends and went to a Brazilian and French place down in Soho for the NYE festivities. We met up afterwards and partied very late at Benjo's hotel. It was so small that it reminded me of a college dorm how everyone was packed in and partying it up and hoping not to get busted by the RA.

It was way after 6:30am and the first glimpse of sunlight crepped around the skyscrapers when Nicky and I stumbled out to grab a cab back to the West Side. Plenty of cabs were available, a rarity for NYE. I crashed sometime around 8am and logged twice as much as sleep as I normally get.

I was exhausted and drained and partied out. It had been a long night... a long week... a long month... a long year. 2008 was finally over. Lots of high points. Lots of low points. Lots of blah time in the middle. In the end, I tried to enjoy every day like it would be my last and the most trouble I had was when I worried too much about the future. That's something I need to work on in the upcoming months.