Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Pic Dump: Early May Version

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

Here are some pics that I took over the last week...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beach, BBQ, and Quakes

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I love this time of the year in LA.

During the last three years, I spent the week before Memorial Day in Southern California. It's the perfect place to prep for a lengthy assignment at the World Series of Poker. Since I'll be indoors most of the summer stuck inside a casino surround by utter degenerates, I welcome the chance to soak up the sun and listen to the waves roll up on shore. Outdoors. Nature.

It's the time that I spend at the beach with Nicky that matters the most. We understand how special and soothing the beach time is for us. We relish the calm before the storm. It's one of the only times when we just relax and read books and look out into the ocean and just sit and unplug and stay away from the intertubes and being chained to our laptops. We travel so much for work and have such a weird lifestyle that getting time together to do nothing is rare.

Nothing is more magnificent than an empty beach. Isn't that what everyone wants? A secluded beach all to themselves. Alex Garland wrote a book (that was turned into a Leo flick) about that quest for a secluded utopia. It's so hard to find an empty patch of beach in Southern California without douchebag meatheads acting like jagoffs trying to pick up chicks, or a day without a family who pitched a couple of tents with a dozen rugrats scurrying around in between. And the worst inhabitants of Malibu? Annoying Daddy's Little Princess from the Palisades yapping on their cell phones.

I prefer, the sounds of the ocean and that squishing sound of your feet twisting into the sand. Everything else is just static and exactly what I've been trying to avoid during a pursuit of the simple life.

We drove up to Malibu and hung out at Zuma Beach over the last two days and never managed to actually be completely alone. It was still off-season though, and the beach was nearly empty, even on a Sunday morning. And on Monday? Even fewer souls around. They consider this "winter time" and it only costs $6 to park at Zuma.

Zuma will become more popular starting this weekend and the Memorial Day rush, but by that time, Nicky and I are already on our way to Las Vegas. So basically, we strategically planned to take advantage of the last week before the official beach season begins to bask in the warmth of the sun and enjoy a sparsely populated beach.

I thought that I was going to read Lost Vegas, but I haven't had the urge to pick it up once. I can't get excited to read it. I'm really sick of it all. I won't force the action, but I definitely need at least one read through before I hand it off to a few chosen proofreaders/previewers. That needs to be completed before I leave for Las Vegas in one week.

I'm almost finished with Shock Doctrine trying to read chapters at the coffee shop in the mornings and at the beach in the afternoons. I also printed up news stories that I haven't had a chance to read. Finally caught up on a slew of backlogged reading. Now, if I can only hire a virtual assistant to sift through all that e-mail and all that Twitter-shit clogging up my TweetDeck.

Before we actually dig our toes deep into the sand, Nicky and I have been working out up at Zuma Beach. On Sunday and Monday we completed a three mile jog along the beach. We ran harder on Monday. The overcast skies over the last two days made it perfect workout weather and it wasn't too hot or humid. Kinda cool with the wind whipping off the water. Nicky preferred the locale than working out inside a gym with hipsters there to be seen. I have a long summer ahead of me and I've been trying to get myself prepared for a mentally and physically challenging assignment. After kicking pharmies, I might be in the best shape I've been in, in well over a year. Definitely the best since the accident last summer.

On Sunday, we visited Nicky's parents in Westwood for a BBQ. It was a combination of a Mother's Day dinner, along with a welcome home celebration for her sister Mandy who was in Mexico for several months shooting the Real World. And of course, it was a goodbye party for Nicky who won't be around for two months.

Mandy had plenty of dirt to dish about the Real World and what it was like being behind the lines when the Swine Flu beta test was unleashed. I bought steaks at Whole Foods and Nicky prepped the food on her father's grill. She also made shrimp. Pretty tasty.

We were home for about thirty minutes and lazily digesting the BBQ. I heard a ruckus. It sounded like the guys upstairs were jumping up and down and then fell over. The ceiling shook and that's when I realized that we were having an earthquake.

It was my fourth since being in L.A. full time. The first one happened during breakfast at O'Groats. It felt like a subway rumbled underneath the restaurant. The second one happened when Nicky was away on assignment. I was sitting at the dinning room table when I thought I heard the guys upstairs making noise while playing video games. Turned out it was a mini-quake. A couple of weeks ago, there was another mini-quake. It felt like a truck raced down the street. Nicky was driving down to Hermosa Beach and didn't feel it in her car. I was sitting in the same spot at the dining room table and I barely noticed it.

However, the tremors on Sunday night last about fifteen seconds. The first five were when I looked up at the ceiling and wondered what sort of shenanigans the guys upstairs were doing. Then the ceiling shook and Nicky bolted for the doorway leading to my office and our bedroom. My instinct was to grab my laptop on the dining room table and duck underneath. Instead, I stopped and ran towards Nicky and the doorway until it stopped.

The guys upstairs wanted to bet on the magnitude. Nicky, the quake-veteran put it on the low 4s. I figured 4.8. The guys upstairs went with 5.2. We quickly checked the earthquake site that all California natives have book marked. I have it bookmarked too.

We refreshed a couple of times until the official report was posted at 8:39pm PT. Originally it said 4.7. A few minutes later it was upgraded to a 5.0. On Monday, then downgraded to a 4.7. I was closest and won.

The epicenter was near Inglewood and less than one mile from where the Lakers used to play their games. In the hood! That quake was the closest I've experienced. Maybe that's why we felt it.

The next hour including reading different reports on Twitter and waiting for aftershocks, which I wanted to bet on as well. I have been reading a lot about disaster capitalism in New Orleans post-Katrina and in Iraq post-invasion, that it seemed inevitable that I'd try to capitalize off the act of God.

Monday, May 18, 2009


By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I first noticed the peculiar flatbed a year or so ago.

The engine was loud. You expected it to break down in the middle of the palm tree-lined street. It was out of place in my mind, but more common that I thought in this part of L.A. Every once in a while, an older Mexican guy in a black hat and a long sleeve blue denim shirt drove a beat-up flatbed truck through the neighborhood. On the back of his truck, two or three shopping carts were strapped down, usually two metal ones and a red one from Target.

I always wondered what the old Mexican guy was doing with the shopping carts. He looked like he was from a dystopian future as he slowly made his way up and down the side streets and hauling around shopping carts.

It's not uncommon to see abandoned shopping carts in and around L.A., especially the slums of Beverly Hills which are peppered with lots of "For Rent" signs and random yard sales (more and more frequent every weekend in this atrocious economy). The neighborhood has plenty of side alleys and back alleys. The small apartment buildings have dumpsters and recycle bins which attract homeless people in search of cans. That's there main source of income. They are mostly harmless, very polite, and diligent at their task at hand. Most of them haul around bottles and cans shoved into trash bags and carted around in shopping carts. I used to think that they stole them from the stores, but who needs to when the streets were cluttered with them. It gave homeless dumpster divers a free source of transportation which in turn increased their earning potential.

How did the abandoned shopping carts magically arrive from the stores to the streets? Who stole them? And why?

It doesn't reek like alien involvement such as the cattle mutilations. But there's something odd going on for sure. My curiosity increased over the last couple of weeks. My paranoid self wondered about the random things in my eclectic neighborhood. In the past, I went into detail about the plight at Jack in the Box, the Chinese cooks sleeping in their cars, and the shady things going on next door at odd hours.

The abandoned shopping carts have been a mystery yet a growing problem in both L.A. and the surrounding municipalities. Uptight local neighborhood association types and overzealous politicians grew frustrated with the epidemic of abandoned shopping carts. They decided to hold the establishments responsible for the plight in the community. Glendale had such a bad problem with abandoned shopping carts that they fined stores money if their shopping carts ended up abandoned on the local streets.

A special enforcement unit was installed... the abandoned shopping cart police. They went around inspecting all of the abandoned shopping carts and handed out fines to Home Depot, Ralphs, etc. depending on the branding on the sides and handle bars. That sounds like a job that a pothead slacker character out of a Judd Apatow film would have, but it does indeed exist.

In addition, an abandoned shopping cart removal industry sprung up overnight. That's what the old Mexican guy with the flatbed truck did. He was an independent contractor and picked up abandoned shopping carts in the slums of Beverly Hills. He brought them in somewhere... where, I have no clue.

Some people, like the old Mexican guy, have interesting jobs in this world as a result of corporate incompetence (from companies like Ralphs) and the public's willingness to steal other people's property (even if it is a nameless faceless soulless multi-national corporation that exploits their workers) that's not locked down.

I thought that the old Mexican guy with the beat-up flatbed truck had a monopoly on the area, until, I bumped into his competition.

Not even one block from my apartment, an abandoned shopping cart sat idle behind a parked SUV. A white van abruptly stopped next to the SUV. A scruffy and huskier version of Oscar de la Hoya with work gloves on jumped out of the passenger seat and we made eye contact. For a split second I had that fight or flight moment where I was ready to bolt down the alley and scale the wall (I know my neighborhood very well and have planned escaped routes just in case of situations when guys jump out of vans and try to kidnap you).

He said hello to me and then opened up the back door. He grabbed the shopping cart in one swift motion and quickly closed the door. He waved at me and jumped back into the passenger side. Those guys were also a part of a local abandoned shopping cart removal service. The van took off and I overheard the Lakers game on the van's radio.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Shady Street

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The empty apartment across the hall sat idle for at least eight months, perhaps even longer. Every month, after unsuccessfully showing off the place to prospective tenants, our slumlord lowered the rental price by $25. But, to no avail. He should have slashed $200 off the rent to start with. Our two-bedroom apartment is relatively cheap but the plumbing is crappy in the entire building. Unfortunately, our seven-unit apartment building only has six parking spaces. The last tenant gets shut out and has to scramble for street parking which is a pain in the ass.

There are slightly nicer apartments in the vicinity for substantially cheaper rent. Heck, I pass signs for dozens of empty apartments on my way to the coffee shop every fuckin' morning. If you really want to live in L.A. right now, you have a decent selection to choose from, but our neighborhood is simply overpriced because its on the fringe of Beverly Hills.

Our slumlord finally filled the other empty apartment a couple of months ago. That one sat vacant for almost six months. Too bad he didn't let us grow buds in the empty apartments to supply the local medicinal marijuana dispensaries. We all could have made some serious cash.

And today? I think a hot chick moved in across the hall. For the first time in almost a year, the entire building is full. I wonder how long they will last? The inhabitants in three out of the seven apartments keep rotating. There was a female rabbi who lived upstairs before she moved. I think it was the heavy ganja smoking from Nicky and Showcase downstairs that drove her away or all the screaming and drinking coming across from the twenty-something guys across the hall. For whatever reason, the female rabbi bailed. When I first starting dating Nicky, there was a freaky actress-type who lived up stairs in that apartment. She frequently made phone calls while pacing in the alley and often chain-smoked outside since we technically live in a non-smoking building. That would be tobacco smoking. The lease said nothing about ganja. Loopholes.

There's a female law student living upstairs in that apartment, and the world definitely needs more lawyers. We don't see her too much but she comes and goes at odd hours. She spends one night a week at the apartment, maybe two nights at the most and crashes with her boyfriend, who rides the lamest of motorcycles. It's one step up from a fuckin' moped. But he must have a cooler apartment because she's never here.

And then there's the chick with the BMW. She's going out with the dude who drives a hummer and has a DOD parking sticker on his car. I'm convinced that he's a spy and I haven't seen his hummer in a couple of weeks, so I gotta assume that he's down at Gitmo doing something to one of the suspicious looking occupants in the building across the way.

We live in a building in between two other similar buildings... six or seven apartments carved out of an elongated two-story structure constructed in the 1960s on plots that were original pre-war family houses which were razed and these ugly shit-boxes popped up everywhere. Sure there's a palm tree out front to spruce it up, but we're still in the middle of the slums of Beverly Hills.

The building to the left is where the singing actress lives (who used to smoke pot with us until she decided that Showcase and we were a bad influence on her pothead boyfriend who had no goals whatsoever aside from working in a marijuana dispensary so he can get free pot. They have since broke up and we never see her, but we hear her practicing scales and singing in the shower all the time when her neighbor's dogs are not raising hell in the backyard.

The building to the right has a broken down car parked in front and covered in a brightly colored blanket. Behind the covered car is a van with a PLUMBING painted on the side and a number below it. The paint is very faded and you can hardly make out five out of the seven digit phone number. I have never seen the sketchy van move in three years. Not once.

Anyway, some of the people who live next door are very shady individuals. They are up to something and have odd people of various ethnic persuasions stopping by at odd times. I know, because I'm up at odd hours and you can hear cars pulling up into the drive way and screeching off five minutes later. It could be a safe house or some sort of counterfeiting ring. Definitely criminal. Maybe political? Religious extremists? There's one elderly woman who constantly does the laundry. During the days, she waddles down the alley with a large basket of clothes and sheets and does that like four or five loads in a single afternoon. It could be as simple as all of these guys are dropping off their clothes and the old lady cleans them. Or it could be a great front for a dope smuggling ring. Or perhaps there's a brothel next door catering to Middle Eastern men and the old lady is washing all the sheets and towels from the previous nights jizz-fest.

Sometimes the older men stood in the alley by the dumpster and spoke on cell phones in different languages. Farsi? Who knows? I always had a feeling that as soon as they ended their calls, they tossed the disposable cell phones into the trash. That's why they made the calls outside. They definitely stick out because we live in a predominately Jewish neighborhood, even though there is a Catholic grammar school up the street. But seriously, what's up with the Plumbing van that hasn't moved in three years. I always wanted to look inside and see what's stashed in there. Weapons? Ricin? Hashish? Sex Slaves? Old VCRs?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Return....

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

The return of the Buddha is both joyous and sad.

The Buddha is back, which makes me happy, that we have the Buddha to look over our humble abode in the slums of Beverly Hills. However, the return of the Buddha means that Showcase is leaving L.A.. He took the Buddha with him last year around this time when he moved to West Hollywood. Now, he's moving to NYC and can't lug the Buddha with him. It won't fit in his carry-on bag. Alas, the Buddha returns to the apartment.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Lou Reed's Porn Funk

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I have been watching this video a couple of times a day ever since I stumbled upon it last weekend. I linked it up on Coventry and I go crazy if I don't watch/listen to it at least once every five or six hours.

Man, I'd love to have seen this show live in Paris in 1974. Lou Reed's Sweet Jane kicks off with a heady porn funk intro. Dig those stashes on his band. And the funkified intro? Almost sounds like Phish circa 97 when the boys threw down with cow funk.

And yeah, Lou Reed was a freak circa 1974 during the phase when he was totally smacked up and completely infatuated and in love with David Bowie.