Monday, August 31, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I was so tired that I crashed at 9pm last night. Ah, a glimpse into my 65 year old self.

Of course, I woke up at 1am and was wide awake. I forced myself back to sleep and woke up every hour on the hour. I finally rolled out of bed at sunrise. At least I'm back on a better schedule. I prefer to wake up when it's still dark out to start my morning writing routine, especially when I'm on the left coast since when I'm milling around in the darkness of the apartment, people are on the verge of starting their work day in NYC. Hard to explain but I'd rather have my mind and body on East Coast time when I'm working on major projects on the West Coast.

I might have shoveled too much freelance work onto my plate, due to a negative.frightened reaction (or rather an intelligent financial hedge) to Lost Vegas. I'm bogged down in the final edits and most of the time, I'm feeling strong about the book. I made plenty of necessary changes to improve the flow and pacing of the story, but there are some fleeting moments when I have doubts. And those moments bubbled up to the surface when I was offered freelance writing work. For most of 2009, I pretty much said, "No thank you" and turned down assignments (when added up, I lost about 10-12K). I took a self-imposed paycut during a recession and in the middle of a gaunt period in the poker media in order to complete a self-masturbatory piece of art.

Sure, I took a few assignments so I could travel (like the Bahamas and Argentina), but for the most part, I simplified my work and writing schedule in 2009 so I could have more time to devote towards... Lost Vegas, my other websites, and Phish tour. Yet, this past week, I agreed to add a few more assignments to the mix. At the least, I'll be bringing in money and covering my ass just in case the book bombs.

On a good note, I'm excited that I'll get to write Op/Ed for Poker News. There was recently a huge shakeup within the company and almost everyone was let go. The folks who were there when I first started working for them in 2007, are no longer involved with the company (with the exception of Tony G). Several of my friends (Schecky, Gaz, Jonno, Damon) have moved onto different companies and projects and I honestly thought that I was done with Poker News... until another friend of mine was recently tapped as their new editor. A couple of years ago, Matt Parvis was the editor of Bluff and added me to the roster of writers and I've had a monthly column there ever since then. Well, he left Bluff and took the head honcho position at Poker News.

Parvis' vision of the company included a different philosophy on the website. He added both Nicky and Friedman to the mix in full time roles. I was happy that Nicky got some recognition for her loyalty, work ethic, and her ability. She's one of the better writers in the industry, but she her talents were unerutilized as an official tournament reporter with Poker News, which is a thankless task and relentless work. Her promotion came at the perfect time for her because she really had no idea what the future held.

When Parvis asked me to re-join the ranks at Poker News, I felt lucky and honored considering so many other friends of colleagues were let go from the writing roster. I quickly accepted the gig mainly because I admire and respect Parvis as a leader. Of course, a glimmer of self-doubt with Lost Vegas was a contributing factor.

In the end, I went for the conservative play. Now, I have to produce solid content but I have 100% creative control. I love a good challenge.

On the flip side of writing, while eating breakfast at the coffeeshop, I thumbed through a book that Nicky said was a freebie that accompanied an editing book that she bought. The free book? Portable MFA. Basically it was one of those books that cost $20 and boasts that it will save you $49,980 in tuition. Most of the advice in the book was obvious stuff to me, but then again, I've been a paid writer for more than half of a decade while I struggled for ten years prior. The best line in the book encourage its readers to use two-years of MFA tuition money and not go to school. Instead, move to a log cabin for two years and write non-stop.

In 1997, I was considering pursuing education to make me a better writer. I had zero technical skills and only took one English class in college. I preferred classes where I wrote papers over exams and quizzes, so I definitely wrote a substantial amount in college, but I had very little technical skills. Instead of borrowing money to take a core of introductory courses (eventually leading towards seeking an MFA), I decided to move to Seattle. I lived there for two years. While I was out there, I didn't do much literary wise, although I had a half-finished screenplay that I collaborated with a friend of mine.

But five years after the fact, I penned a NaNoWriMo novel based upon some of my experiences in Seattle. I also played a lot of poker then, which would become an integral part of my life today. You can argue that going to graduate school would have put me deeper into debt, but I would have had access to more connections in the publishing world. Some days I think about my decision to go the "life" route instead of the scholarly road. The Seattle experiences proved that was the right move for me.

That's what people still don't get. Education + Experience is what matters. Not one, or the other, but both.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles,CA

I had high expectations for Saturday and I fell short of the mark that I set for myself. I got lazy in the late afternoon and didn't push myself like I did the day before. I'm still on schedule with the re-writes but I missed an opportunity to stay ahead of schedule.

On Saturday morning, I met Bob for brunch at O'Groats. He had never been before and has been slowly adapting to life in LA. He's been here for over a month now and Nicky and I had to give him some background on earthquake kits. I told Bob to pick up a bunch of bottled water and a flashlight. That's like 90% of it. The rest is common sense.

I devoured my 2x2x2 breakfast at O'Groats, especially the chocolate chip pancakes.

On Saturday night, Nicky finally set up her new DVD player which she acquired for free by playing online poker. She accumulated enough frequent player points to earn a Sony DVD player. At least she got something for her addiction. Me? I played a shitload of online poker in the first half of 2009. I had enough points to buy a 120G classic video iPod. I got it for the massive amount of space to store music and I still have plenty of points leftover for a couple of bar stools. I know that Daddy and Derek wanted those.

After we set up the DVD player, we watched a couple of old Phish DVDs. The IT festival DVD featured commentary by an inebriated Trey Anasastio who was deep into his oxycontin phase at that point. You could see him scratching at random times, which got me all antsy. I started scratching and craved the same drug that he was abusing five years ago when the documentary about the IT festival was recorded.

Anyway, after we set up the DVD player, the cable went out when I accidentally pulled the plug out of the power strip. I plugged it back in and expected everything to be OK, except that this morning when we woke up, the cable service is fucked up. Poor Nicky has to spend her Sunday morning in customer service hell trying to pinpoint the exact problem even though everything appears to be normal.

Last night I had a horrible batch of insomnia. I guess I got too much sleep last week. I didn't want to get up when I didn't, but I had too much on my plate scheduled for today. So I forced myself to get up and start the day. Hopefully, a homemade batch of freshly brewed Earl Grey iced tea will do the trick.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I had one of the most productive days in recent memory. I can't explain why aside from the fact that I was motivated and ready to return to work after a significant time basking in the sun and rotting my brain away with numerous chemical substances.

I was up before the dawn and writing with the windows and front door open to the apartment. I knew that would be the only time to get any semblance of fresh air because Los Angeles was about to get stifling hot with temperatures soaring to over 100 degrees. In addition, wild fires raged out of control in and around the Los Angeles area. Nicky and I spent a little time the night before checking out the glowing orange fires of doom that ripped through ultra dry Rancho Palos Verdes.

I turned on the jazz music and sat down at the living room table. It had been a while since I did that. I scribbled down a few things and updated the trio of blogs (Tao of Pauly, Tao of Poker, and Coventry). I answered a slew of emails and I'm almost caught up after falling behind all summer..

One email included a green light for a new series of assignments. The new editor of Poker News was my former editor at Bluff Magazine. Parvis loved the concept of me writing Sunday morning Op-Ed pieces for Poker News. They needed weekend content and I was looking to collaborate with Parvis once again.

Ever since I was a little kid (don't forget newspapers were titans in the media industry and still meant something then cicra the late 1970s. Newspapers were the major source of news in that era before the change shifted towards TV and eventually cable news in the late 1980s and early 1990s). I always held Sunday Op-Ed writers in the highest regard. They were often feature writers (who didn't write for that paper) sounding off on a hot topic. I welcomed the opportunity to tackle a slightly different aspect of poker in hopes that someday this column is a stepping stone to writing Op-Eds in different publications.

Before I even left the apartment for breakfast at the coffeeshop, I had a highly productive day. It's also refreshing to have some sort of stability in my freelance writing schedule for the rest of the year. Now I can concentrate on finishing up Lost Vegas without worrying about having to scramble for work at a time in the industry when the jobs are slowly drying up.

It was good to return to the cofeeshop and be missed by the crew there. I sat at the counter and realized that I was surrounded by crying babies. Three booths behind me were filled with them. Wow, talk about a sobering experience to start the day as I glanced at the TV behind the counter and watched a helicopter hover over a lake on a golf course and suck up a bunch of water to spray on the fires in the Angeles National Forrest.

I returned to the apartment and headed into my office. I prepped for a long and hot day, so I whipped up a batch of iced tea. That's when I made one of the most crucial decisions since I chose to write Lost Vegas. I had been toying around with changing the beginning of the book and finally had the balls to give it a shot. All the feedback that I got was that Chapter 1 was a little slow. Chapter 2 is much more "active" and starting it off with some of those scenes packed a powerful punch. I spliced parts and sections of Chapter 1 into Chapter 2. The result was astounding. Not only do I like the new beginning, it's smoother and really kicks the door off the hinges. That's what I wanted.

It took me three or four months to finally pull the trigger. I'm glad I did because it really set the tone for the rest of the editing session. My goal was five chapters and I would do no less than three. I breezed through the first five and did seven in total. I'm ahead of schedule and I finished before dinner time.

Nicky whipped up dinner even though it was so fuckin' hot in the kitchen. I joked that I was going to write a Truckin' story before she could cook our dinner and plate the food. I was shit talking of course, but didn't back down. I ripped a few bong hits, fired up a Bob Dylan mix, and pecked away at the keyboards. I cranked out 700 words just as the pasta was done. I finished the piece (about a trio of siblings in Colorado who were drug dealers, users, and smugglers) after dinner, but I was in one of those rare batches of creativity when I couldn't stop so I didn't.

By the way, Nicky cooked organic wheat pasta with truffle oil and garlic-rubbed chicken breast. It's way to healthy for my standards, but it tasted awesome. She has a knack for cooking delicious yet healthy meals.

Once I finished my contribution to Truckin', I worked on the rest of the upcoming issue even though I set aside time on Monday or Tuesday for those edits. It felt good to be ahead of schedule and I completed about 75% of the next issue in that dead time while I was digesting my dinner.

I also spent time in my office working on an old painting. This was the third pass at it. It was just a test canvas for me to use to get back into the swing of painting. I had to re-teach myself all the things I forgot. So the first canvas was nothing more than practice. Nicky liked the colors and patterns but I knew it was just a junk canvas. She was horrified when I painted over it the first time. I made some minor additions but I knew it was nowhere close to being finished.

Since I was on an artistic binge, I decided to seize the moment and see what flows off my fingers. I worked on the painting for about an hour. It needs more work, but it's looking more like a Pauly painting than an old piece of canvas.

And I almost forgot.... about midway through my writing day, I had a meeting via Skype with a colleague from Moscow. He's one of the top poker writers (and a decent player as well) in Russia and he wanted to bring me into the fold of a new project that he's spearheading. He even offered me a full time position with his project, which I had to respectfully decline due to time constraints. However, I was able to offer him some consulting advice and will help him out in that area as well as write up a couple of pieces for him.

As the night slowly wound down, I had a feeling of satisfaction that I have not felt in a very long time. I secured work on two new projects which will keep me busy the rest of the year and give me something to delve into once Lost Vegas is complete.

The last round of edits started and I made tremendous headway which will get me all fired up to finish Lost Vegas. I'm on the positive slope of the mountain where I think the book is awesome. Sometimes (well, most of the time) I'm caught on the other side of the mountain looking down at the steep decline and looking up to the peak which seems nowhere close.

I also got ahead of schedule and worked on the new issue of Truckin'. Before the day started, I had just one story from my Norwegian buddy. As of now, the new issue is set and needs a couple more hours of fine tuning and it will be ready to go.

And I painted on a whim. Yeah, Friday was a good day. If I could have one of those every week, it would make me a happy (and wealthy) man. I know that these runs happen in spurts so I need to ride the wave until it crashes onto shore.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food, Inc

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Mind blown.

I saw this documentary film last night in Culver City. It was the only place in LA that still ran it. Incredible. Lots of stuff I already knew, but it's going to make you think twice about the origins of your food.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

jfk > burbank

By Pauly
New York City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yankee Stadium Pic Dump

By Pauly
New York City

Here are some pics I took yesterday...

Seats were removed from the old stadium

Click here to see a complete gallery of new Yankee Stadium photos.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


By Pauly
New York City

"You know, Doc. I usually have to pay big bucks to women in Las Vegas to inflict this level of intensified pain," I joked.

"Well, today is your lucky day because I'm not cheap," joked Dr. Rosen.

The first time I walked into Dr. Rosen's office was when I was in the 8th grade. The health field was on the verge of becoming corporate in the mid-1980s and in the heart of Reagan America. That was the beginning of the end of an era for when you went to a doctor when something was wrong and he/she fixed it for a nominal fee without any hassles or bullshit. When I was a kid, my father's insurance covered full medical and dental so we had the good fortunate of having access to adequate health care, until thins started to become the the clusterfuck we see today. Dental coverage was eventually dropped, but before that happened I visited Dr. Rosen every year from 8th grade through the summer before college.

When I walked into his office, he said, "Do you remember me?"

I actually did and his office had not changed since the late 1980s. Aside from the magazines on the coffee table, everything was as I remembered it. I recall being impressed with Dr. Rosen when I first visited him in the 8th grade. He wore jeans and a golf shirt, which I thought was more hip than my previous dentist who was a crotchety old German guy in a suit and tie.

When asked why we switched dentists, my father said, "Germans love to inflict pain."

In reality, the German dentist stopped accepting my father's insurance plan. Luckily, Dr. Rosen was around the corner and he accepted our insurance. The last time I saw him was for a checkup the week before I shipped off to college in 1990. And since then, I had only two visits... once in 1994 to the union dentist (yeah, I was in a union for museum employees) and the second time in 1998 in Seattle when I finally got health insurance at the museum where I worked. You might have noticed a trend in my 20s. I often took menial jobs with museums in order to get health insurance since cultural and non-profit institutions like museums often showered their low-waged employees with top-notch benefits such as health and dental insurance.

I have been uninsured for over a decade and broke while I lived on the fringe of society as a bohemian and wanna-be artist. As a result skipped the dentist until I finally made an appointment with Dr. Rosen. I was surprised he was still in the same location, but at the same time, I was sort of relieved to see a familiar face. Dr. Rosen someone who adhered to a different philosophy on health care. He was old school, to use a common term. We didn't bother with all the bullshit and he was there to help me... which is so rare these days. I went to the right guy.

The good news is that Dr. Rosen worked a near miracle and saved the embarrassing state of misery called my teeth. We were both amazed that they were in much better shape than we both expected and he said that the future could be bright (along with the shade of my teeth) if I followed a disciplined daily regimen.

The bad news is that there's lengthy of work that still needs to be done, which will take a while considering I'm not in New York as much as I used to be. It's going to be a painful and costly experience but that's the result of my neglect over the years due to lack of insurance, lack of money, and overall laziness and apathetic attitude.

And yes, it was a painful experience. I had back-to-back sessions and by the end of the first one, Dr. Rosen said that I was one of the toughest patients he's had in several decades.

"I have a high threshold for pain," I explained. "It comes from a lot of internal pain I carried around most of my life."

I didn't reveal that I was also completely faded. After three weeks of non-stop partying on Phish tour, my body has been soaked in an encyclopaedia of chemicals. Even though I'm no longer using and abusing certain substances, there's enough still festering in my bloodstream. I popped a half of Vicodin and a half of a Xannie on the morning of the appointment, not to mention a couple of heavy smoking sessions before I stumbled into his office. I was crocked and that's part of the reason why I survived the agonizing dental work. We soaked through two bibs and he must have used three or four sheep worth of gauze as he chiseled through a decade of waste calcified on my teeth.

It was also a very Catholic thing to willingly accept the pain attributed to cleansing up my previous sins of neglect. Guilt tends to prepare your body for physical punishment. Even though Dr. Rosen was Jewish, his office was within a stone's throw of my old catholic grammar school and church. I was hard to escape the grasp of Catholic guilt.

That's what I get for spending a full week wandering around my old neighborhood and digging through boxes of memories. Sometimes, the place where you grew up was a black hole or time warp for all memories, both good and bad. Some will never disappear while other fade in and out of consciousness like a vaguely remembered dream.

As I left the office, Dr. Rosen suggested that I have a couple of beers to help take the edge off. At that point, I should have went in for the kill and asked for a prescription for pain killers. After all, I finally had a legitimate reason to use them. For now, I was well stocked after bartering for pills in different parking lots across America while on Phish tour. I'll wait until I return to Dr. Rosen and then I'll hit him up for a bottle or three. Yeah, once my inner junkie got wind that a dentist is a shortcut towards pharmaceutical heaven, he quickly made three future appointments.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sleeping Boxes

By Pauly
New York City

I spent a full week in New York City for the first time in... I can't remember when. I spent most of my free time in LA this year working on Lost Vegas so my time on the East Coast was limited. If Phish didn't play three separate instances (March, June and August, I might have only been back once to the East Coast.

I spent the most time sleeping in NYC. Sleep is such a rare thing for me. I never get enough of it and I'm always rushing against the clock for something so I cut down on sleep in order to get work done. It's been a profitable venture over the years, but right now, I've been hurting and aching.

This week, my body was begging me to slow down, so I listened and I slept twice as much as I usually do. Instead of three to four, I logged around seven of hours of rest every day. In the last six months, I pushed myself to the physical limits with kicking pharmies, completing the final draft of Lost Vegas, then a move to Las Vegas for the WSOP interrupted by 20 days on Phish tour before it was three intense weeks of the WSOP followed up by three straight weeks on the road in a whirlwind carnival of guilty pleasures including getting hooked on pharmies again.

I slept and loafed around when I wasn't in meetings about Lost Vegas and reading notes and edits while re-reading the manuscript. I'm very close to the goal line and my body needed a time out to rest up for the last spurt. Sadly, it would take me three or four months of inactivity in order for my body and mind to catch up on all the rest that it desperately needs. I can't stay unplugged for more than three days without getting antsy. How could I withstand three weeks or even three months?

Maybe when Lost Vegas is finally over, I can just shut everything off for a while.

On a side note, I found myself less attached to the machines than normal. I've spent a significant amount of time outdoors this summer and plenty more road hours inside a car as both a driver and passenger which limited my connectivity. My phone has limited web capabilities (mostly email and twitter and ESPN which is like 85% of my online usage these days anyway except blogger and porn). It was kinda cool to read two emails on my beatdown phone when I was sitting at the counter of the Greek diner waiting for my breakfast. It was even better that the emails were involved getting paid for services rendered this summer.

My goal earlier in the year was to spend more time reading books and less timereading trash on the intertubes. That experiment produced splendid results and I hope to return to that procudre upon my return to NYC. I tend to write better when I read a variety of top notch writing.

I spent a little time in Manhattan over the last week, aside from a few business-related lunches. It was just too friggin hot to be outdoors, so I stayed inside and enjoyed the AC and sorted through piles of snail mail and read thousands of backlogged email.

The snail mail never ends. Junk mail. Loads of it. Car dealerships. Credit card companies. American Express won't stop sending me stuff about their different colored cards. Plum. Purple. Fuchsia. Double Platinum. I got loads of stuff from my former educational institutions. My high school sent out a few alumni magazines and my college wants money. Lots of it. I heard the endowment took a huge hit in the last two years. Oh well. That's not my problem.

The mountain is actually a representation of the fruits of my labor. I have a stack of poker magazines that I write for or have written for in the past. Some paychecks are mixed up in the mountain of mail, some of which I earned for churning out drivel for the same magazines and newspapers. I fished out a few bank statements, credit card bills, and the dreaded portfolio update from Goldman Sachs or Smith Barney. These days, I don't have much in the market so I don't even bother looking at the statements. The market has been up slightly, but I'm still stuck a chunk of money that I dunno if I'll ever see again.

I also had to clean up my storage space in New York. Paintings from the early 2000s were scattered about and I had piles of books (both read and unread) that were stacked five and six feet high. I finally organized everything in banker's boxes and did a better job stacking my paintings to save space. Now I have white banker's boxes stacked high with old things and memories I still want to hold onto for a little while longer.

I also stumbled upon a box of old notebooks from as far back as 1994 and even some things I scribbled down in the early 1990s. The pen and the paper were the tools of the trade back then. And in the last few months, the physical notebooks I had with me were either soaked by the rain or lost by yours truly. I need to hire an assistant from India to scan every single page of old notebooks and journals.

I also found copies of old manuscripts including the re-write of the second go-around at Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. I also found the head-scratching screenplay version of Baby & Winky. I thumbed through pages of those including the last NaNoWriMo novel I completed in 2004 called Gumbo. I read it aloud, sometimes in awe of the lines strung together but most of the time I cringed at all of the mistakes or the amount of displaced angry that rattled through each word.

I also found an old box of concert tickets with a few stubs from Knicks and Yankees games. Lots of Phish and plenty of random show in New York City at Irving Plaza or Bowery Ballroom. I used to go see one or two concerts a week, sometimes more, when Senor and I both lived in the city. Times have changed. In LA, there are a few cool venues but parking and driving creates an added headache. The Mint is a few blocks from our apartment, but it always seems like we're out of town whenever someone we like is booked to play there.

At least I've been getting some writing time in usually late at nights since I've been sleeping a lot in the mornings. I haven't strayed over towards re-writing Lost Vegas just yet. I'm still letting those thoughts and changes fester and I'll work on those changes in Los Angeles. Right now, I've been trying to organize my thoughts from the this summer including the events covered in the three destroyed/lost notebooks.

Someday, I'll go through all of my old little sketch books that I used to write in when I worked at the museum. I'll use those as a jumping point for that book that I hope to write someday about working in the musuem world in the mid-1990s in New York City.

I realized that I'm in a good headspace because there's too much stuff I want to write about but not enough time. It's when those ideas run dry when I'm really in trouble.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

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

By PaulyNew York City

Back by popular demand! I've been riding the subways this week and here's what I saw...
Last 5 Books I Saw People Reading on the Subway...
1. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
2. The Holy Bible
3. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
4. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
5. House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street by William D. Cohan

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Willie Nelson, So What, and Memories in a Box Reprise

By Pauly
New York City

Kind of Blue is one of those albums that's on my list for desert island selections. It's probably my most listened to album mainly because I love writing to it. Since I try to write everyday, I might listen to it three or four or more times a week. Whenever I put on Kind of Blue, I get all fired up to write mainly because the album kicks off with an inspiring So What. Coltrane was in Miles Davis band in 1959 and he has a wicked tenor sax solo on it that one music writer once described as "arpeggiated nuggets."

Some people need coffee for their morning boost. Other need bumps of blow. I just need the right music to give me the writer's shove. There's something special about mixing the warm California sun and the right amount of Miles and Coltrane.

Sometimes Nicky wakes up at the tail end of my writing sessions with music flowing through the apartment. She announced in an extremely theatrical, yet NPR-ish voice, "You've been listen to the morning jazz hour with your host Dr. Pauly."

Most of the times I listen to Kind of Blue and have flashbacks about living in Park Slope over fifteen years ago. I lived on the top floor of a brownstone just a block away from the park with my friend Ursula, who was an artist. We shared a railroad apartment that was converted into a three-bedroom apartment. She lived in the front part overlooking the street and I lived in the back overlooking the boxed-in backyards to the other brownstones in the neighborhood. Somewhere in the middle of our elongated apartment were two little rooms that opened up into each other. That was the third bedroom. It was perfect for artistic types who could have a bedroom and a small studio/office/practice space. For some reason that middle bedroom constantly changed over tenants.

When I first moved in, a British musician named Simon lived there. He had recently joined a band named Uncle as their replacement drummer. We rarely saw him because he was crashing at the studio, or on the road, or shagging groupies off the premises. After being the phantom roommate for several months, his replacement was another musician, this one a girl from New Mexico named Laura. She played in two different bands including a a stint as the bass player in an all-female punk band called Trixie Belden. She had a mattress on the floor in one room and in the other? An amp and stands with two different basses and an acoustic guitar.

Some of the most inspirational moments for me as a writer included the period of time in lived in Brooklyn with Ursula and Laura. Ursula often sketched in the living room and I could hear Laura strumming on an acoustic guitar in the middle rooms. We were all in our early 20s and living the simple life and were individually creating in our own ways. That fired me up to write at a time when I was taking my first steps towards being a writer.

I loved it when my roommates were at work and I could crank up the tunes and let Kind of Blue echo trough the entire apartment. Those sounds and the energy of the apartment were the driving force for me wanting to be a writer instead of constraining myself to the trenches on Wall Street.

* * * * *

I found a journal that a friend had given me for Christmas in 2002. It was so nice with a Tibetean theme (Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hum) that I only wrote one entry in it... on 12-25-02. I thanked Molly for the gift and even said that it was too beautiful to destroy with my rubbish. That's what the internet is for.

In the past, other friends have given gifts that included leather bound journals and other writing books. Most of them are too cool looking and too nice that I don't want to ruin their original beauty either.

What I do need on an every day basis are smaller notebooks that can fit in my pocket. Phish tour swallowed up three Moleskins. I lost one on the lawn at Camden, NJ. The second casualty got soaked through during a storm in Deer Creek, IN. And just the other night, the most recent notebook was drenched during an unexpected pissing in Saratoga, NY.

* * * * *

I discovered an travel journal tucked away inside the pocket of an bag I had not used in almost a year. The front of the Moleskin had a sticker that said WILLIE NELSON. That was the name of an award winning strain of marijuana that blew the socks off of everyone who smoked it. I didn't think it was as good as the G-13, but it was some of the best stuff I had tasted in Holland.

On the inside of my notebook, I had the number for my UK mobile phone. Just in case I got too wasted in Amsterdam and lost my notebook, I hoped that someone would find it and call me up to get it back.

I had one note that I scribbled on the flight to Amsterdam, "Three annoying Hasidics sitting in row in front of me and arguing Talmudic law the entire flight and constantly changing seats while I watched I Am Legend > Jumper > Sarah Marshall."

Apparently, I had been working in Europe extensively covering EPT events. I flew KLM so much that I recognized one of the flight attendants on my flight from JFK. My flight was an hour early and the apartment I rent wasn't ready yet at 7:30am, so I wandered around Amsterdam at a time when most of the locals were waking up. Only on coffeeshop was open and I wandered into Barney's. I drank a green tea and purchased a gram of Willie Nelson for 13 Euros. It was enough for three joints and I smoked one and a half and got crocked. I walked through the Jordaan neighborhood and polished off the second one.

During that trip, I was convinced that I was being followed by someone from an intelligence agency. I had an odd encounter with a British ex-pat living somewhere on the Pacific Rim and working as a journalist for Al-Jazera. He had plenty of wild stories to tell. I suspected that he was MI-6. We hung out at two different coffeeshops. When we left the second one, he said that I was being followed and pointed out the guy. He was right. I was spooked the rest of my time in Amsterdam and kept looking over my shoulder where ever I went. At that point, I decided to eat mushrooms and ride the trams and hide out in museums.

My travel notebook included notes from a work assignment in London. After reading a few pages about the flat I shared with Nicky and Gloria, I remembered how much I loved the samosas from Sainsbury's across the street. I also loved riding the subway to work and listening to Radiohead's In Rainbows while walking around different sections of London and passing the hordes and hordes of people.

Nicky and I went to Amsterdam after London. Inside of a three week period, I had gone to Amsterdam twice and sandwiched around an assignment in London. Nicky had a longer assignment and only got to visit Amsterdam with me on my second pass.

After we picked up the keys to our apartment, the first place we hit up was Barney's so she could try the Willie Nelson. One day during that half-baked holiday, I visited 16 different coffeeshops. I detailed the names of every single one.

And apparently, the free red wine on my KLM flight back to the States? It sucked.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Seattle Pic Dump

By Pauly
New York City

It's been a week since I left Seattle. Here are some pics...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Soggy SPAC

By Pauly
New York City

Phish is back. And we're not talking about a weak batch of new tunes and oxy-induced Trey jams that the band passed off as live music from 2003-04. I caught several amazing shows this summer that restored my faith in the band. I have zero expectations going into Hampton and expected the band to be a little rusty. Once summer tour began in June, I wondered if they could maintain a certain level of consistency while keeping the fans sedated with crowd pleasers, classics, and bustouts... and at the same time, satisfying their own artistic and creative urges with new songs and material.

And the Phish party/lot/traveling circus scene? The dark side reared its ugly head on many a night, but that was to be expected. Some of the same problems that plagued the scene in the late 1990s and during the 2.0 era are evident. At least this time around, the music has been overwhelming positive and full of high energy that the brightness overwhelms the darkness.

My first show this summer was second night at Jones Beach (I only missed three shows since then... St. Louis, Chicago, and Darien Lake) and if you were at the Jones Beach shows you know about the rain. I also endured the lightning storm at Deer Creek that was followed up by monsoon like conditions. It even rained one night at Red Rocks. Yeah, it was fitting that the rain would factor into the tour closer at SPAC.

I had my rain gear and left it in the car because I had a balcony seat. It never occurred to me that the skies would open up as I made my way into the venue. Inside of a 15-20 minute period, I was as soaked as I was at Deer Creek. The only two items that were not soaked? My ganja and my cellphone. My ticket was soaked through and the old lady at the gate didn't even bother scanning it. My notebook with all of my tournotes and setlists from the second leg of summer tour was destroyed. My lighter? Kaput. Even my half of a Vicodin in my pocket was quickly washed out leaving only a sticky paste and goo in my shorts. But I didn't care about any of that. I was simply happy to get to see Phish one last time before they stopped touring this summer.

I was exhausted before the show even started. I made a roundtrip journey from NYC to Merriweather the night before and drove solo both ways. With traffic and construction, the total time was 11 hours invested just to see one Phish show. I got a couple of hours of sleep before I picked up my buddy Bruce. We left NYC at 1pm and arrived at the lots sometimes around 5pm. We had to park along the sixth fairway of the golf course.

I found IronGirl and we wandered around Shakedown. She was on the verge of seeing her first Phish show. There was no way I was going to let her sit up on the lawn for her first encounter. I had a floor seat somewhere around 30th row and made sure she took that ticket, while Bruce and I hung up in the fourth row of the balcony.

IronGirl swapped me her lawn ticket which I was looking to sell. There were thousands of people looking for extras but no one with Adderall. I got offered plenty of molly. One guy even offered me shark tranquilizers, which I considered snorting for a few seconds, before I turned him down.

I found one Phishy chick wandering around with a party hat on her head. I asked her if it was her birthday and she said it was her 2-year old daughter's birthday. Her husband and her friends scored tickets but she was the only one in her group who was left out. She looked totally bummed out and on the verge of giving up. I inquired about a trade for pharmies but she had nothing of interest. In her right hand, she tightly clutched three $20 bills. Her right arm and index finger was raised in the air and she sighed as she said, "I only have $60."

"I guess I can do my extra lawn for $60."

Before I could finish the sentence, she burst out in tears. Tears of joy trickled down her cheeks.

"$60? Seriously? These scumbag brokers want $150 and $200. You will do it for face?"

I handed her the ticket and she swallowed me up with one of the hardest hugs I have ever gotten. She kissed me on the cheek four times very quickly. She wiped away the tears and turned to the crowd and shouted, "This guy is the fuckin' shit!"

She ran through the crowd jumping up and down and screaming and crying at the same time. I knew right away that I sold my extra ticket to the right person. And that's when it started to rain. IronGirl, Bruce, and I quickly made our way inside but go caught up int he clusterfuck security line. They did their best to get is through quickly. I didn't even get a pat down, but luckily wrapped up my ganja with a tight seal because it escaped the downpour.

We had a fun section. Bruce befriended a couple of Canadian heads and the guy next to me from Boston loaned me his lighter so I can smoke up. Thanks for saving my show!
8/16/09 Phish at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY

Set 1: Llama, MoMA Dance, Guyute, Anything But Me, Cars Trucks Buses, Chalkdust Torture, Golgi Apparatus, David Bowie, Cavern, Possum, Ocelot, Antelope

Set 2: Backwards Down The Number Line > Twenty Years Later, Halley's Comet > Rock and Roll, Harpua > I Kissed A Girl* (Katy Perry Original) > HYHU > Harpua, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Grind, I Been Around*, Highway to Hell
I have been waiting for a Llama opener for a very long time and I was blessed to catch it right off the top. I forgot about how the balcony sways during high energy tunes, especially during Llama. I've been digging hearing MoMA Dance in the first set. Bring the funk early and often. On the drive up, Bruce called Guyute and said that in almost 12 shows, he had never seen Golgi before and hoped that they would play it. Sure enough, they played both those songs.

Anything But Me was a Top 5 Pauly's Gonna Take a Piss Song circa 2003-04. I was sung along and puffed tuff this time, but it was one of the only moments in the first set when the balcony was not swaying. It was the lowlight of the otherwise rocking set. I would have preferred a Fast Enough for You or a Brian & Robert for a slow song choice.

On the NJ turnpike, there's tons of signs that say "Cars Trucks Buses" and when I passed them late on Saturday (make that early on Sunday morning) driving back to NYC, I sort of joked to myself that Page would see the same sign and tell Trey that they had to play it at SPAC. Sure enough... they did. I loved the back-and-forth jam between Fishman and Page. Funky.

David Bowie and Chalkdust are two songs that I have seen the most in 177 shows. I used to bitch about seeing those songs, but I save my ire for Time Turns Elastic. So I just groove out to those classic songs even though I hear one of those every other show it seems.

Cavern and Possum was one helluva way to end the set.... so I thought. They through use a bone, well actually, two bones with Ocelot and Antelope to close the first set. Both song titles fit in with the animal theme of the first set. Pigs, Llamas, Antelopes, Ocelots. I really dig Ocelot and it's one of my favorite new tunes.

The second set had several high points with a few lulls. The set began with almost 30 minutes of new material with Backwards Down The Number Line > Twenty Years Later. I've seen almost every live version of Backwards and for me, it's either hit or miss with the success depending upon the jam out. For SPAC, I was digging it and Twenty Years Later has grown on me.

I would have preferred to hear 30 minutes of Halley's Comet > Rock and Roll instead. It wasn't even a complete segue. It sounded like they just cut short the jam out of Halley's and started Rock and Roll. I've been digging the exploratory jams that the Rock and Roll platform has given them. I was happy that they played Halley's because it was one of IronGirl's favorite Phish tunes.

And then we got the moment that every Phish nerd has been waiting for... Harpua. I won a lot of money at Red Rocks and the Gorge because they did not play it. Of course, the one night I was not booking action against it... Phish busted it out. I wondered if it had anything to do with the large balloon that sat on the stage in front of Trey most of the night that said HARPUA.

Little Jimmy was back and getting into new hijinks. I saw a couple of noobs furiously masturbating to their first Harpua as Fishman took center stage for a rendition of I Kissed A Girl before he took a lap around the stage and gave high-fives to everyone in the front row. No vacuum this time around.

My favorite line of Harpua is how I explain Phish to friends who don't get it... "We're coming to your town... we'll help you party down."

Trey said he'd give his left nut to play YEM every night so it did not surprise me that they ended the second set with bong-rattling version. Mike went off the deep end a few times with a few bombs. The vocal jam made me wish that I did not lose my pharmie to the rainstorm.

A friend of mine (name withheld) said that Grind was lame and a waste of time since they play it way too much. I disagreed. I understood the significance of the accapella tune because the boys like to sing how many days they have been alive.

For the second of three encore tunes, Phish debuted the only other song from their new album that they had never performed live. It was a Page tune and it was pretty good. I loved the lyric, "I threw down..."

The band closed the show and the tour with an AC/DC cover... Highway to Hell. Loud. Rocking. Everyone going nuts. Trey gave away his mic stand at the end of the song. He's a fuckin' rockstar. And that was it.

I only missed five Phish shows since they returned in Hampton. Every time the boys play, they are improving ever so slightly and at the same time, regaining their edge that made them who they are in the first place. Their level of play this summer has surpassed anything that they unleashed in the 2.0 era (including the Miami NYE run in 2003). Trey is sober. Everyone is listening to each other on stage and it shows. I dunno if they can ever recapture the magic of 1997-00, but they're definitely heading in the right direction.

Some of my favorite shows from this summer? Asheville, nights 3 & 4 at Red Rocks, second night at the Gorge, and Hartford. The first set at SPAC is up there with my favorite first sets of the summer.

I had an unbelievable time this summer chasing Phish all over the country, so much so that I don't want it to end even though I'm utterly exhausted and on the verge of checking myself into rehab. I have not had this much fun in a very long time and all of that has to do with Phish bringing together old friends and giving me a chance to make new friends along the way. I'm nothing short of excited for the fall tour and Festival 8. I'm going to be thinking about the next show every single day until it happens.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


By Pauly
New York City

Phish had an off night when you compare the Merriweather show to Hartford, second night at the Gorge and the last two nights at Red Rocks. They had several peak moments in Maryland, but for the most part, the show was not up to snuff considering they have been melting faces across the country wherever they have been playing. Hartford was such an amazing performance that they outdid themselves. No matter what, Merriweather was going to be stale compared to the magic that transpired the night before.

Another sober show for me. We had like 12th row Fishman side. Great sound. Not too much space to dance. By itself, Merriweather had several highlights including a few hard-rocking bustouts like Axila and The Sloth. The show also marked the debut of a new Fishman tune called Party Time which got everyone shaking their ass (compared to the emotional trainwreck and schizophrenic Time Turns Elastic where 1/3 of audience sits, 1/3 talks or checks their email, and the 1/3 heads to the bathroom or beer line). It sorta reminded me of a MMW-tune. Here's the thing... the band is named after Fish for a reason. The band really operates through him as much as Trey is the frontman and loves to steal the show. Fishman wrote Party Time, so it's something that has been festering inside him that he wanted to unleash. It's his music (not a complex Trey composition like TTE or weird Mike country tune or one of Page's ballads) so he played it with tons of passion and high energy. The rest of the band fed off that and we were treated with a gem. I hope Fishman writes more tunes in the future. I'd rather hear Party Time played three times in a row than sit through another anemic version of TTE.

Getting to the show was a royal pain in the ass. I made a rookie move and never factored in NJ Shore traffic and overall I-95 malaise. A 4-hour drive took 6 hours and I was on traffic tilt from the time I left NYC. My only solace? Lots of weed and a trip to Waffle House in the middle of nowhere, Maryland.

G-Rob and his brother flew up from the South and were in the lots just as they opened when I was still in South Jersey cussing away at all the moronic drivers. I finally arrived sometime after 5pm and had less than an hour of lot time. I found G-Rob and Andrew and we were ready to throw down for Phish's next to last show on their summer tour.
8/15/09 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD

Set I: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Axilla, Foam, Esther, Ha Ha Ha, Party Time, Tube, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Time Turns Elastic

Set II: Tweezer > Taste, Alaska, Let Me Lie, 46 Days, Oh Sweet Nuthin', Harry Hood

Encore: Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise
Andrew would have won $20 if they opened with Kill Devil Falls. I had a feeling they were going to open with it but the band huddled for a few seconds before the start of the show and played a head-scratching Crowd Control. I told G-Rob that they should play TTE to start a show because everyone is so happy to see Phish that the first 5-10 minutes is a wank-fest anyway.

Andrew and my buddy Daddy both feel that KDF is a sibling of Chalkdust Torture. You can call it Chalkdust Lite or Chalkdust, Jr. I have been waiting for The Sloth since I last heard it at Camden in 2003. I heard Axilla at Coventry, but I refuse to listen to those shows so it's been a while since I rocked out. I think I hurt my neck because I was headbanging pretty hard.

Trey rushed Foam. He seemed disinterested and distant sort of like when I attend family dinners. Esther was a miss but Ha Ha Ha and Party Time were hits in the juicy part of the show that included a funk-induced Tube and a stellar version of Stealing Time. I really wish I had some liquid for the insanity of Ha Ha Ha. I also love it when Page sings and he gets the Phishy chicks wet with Strange Design. However, TTE killed the first set. Fizzle. Thud.

We were gambling on the songs, as per usual. I lost $20 to G-Rob when they opened the second set with Tweezer. Solid version, but the guy next to me was shitfaced on beers and molly and he tried to dance on the blue folding chairs using me as a balance. Um, yeah, that didn't work. I was very annoyed and punched him in the kidney. Luckily, his buddy told him that he was being a dick and everything settled down about five minutes into the song.

I love Page's work on Taste, but it lacked the bite that it used to have. Sort of like drinking a flat Bloody Mary. Needed more booze and more spice. Alaska was better than average but then the set lost any of it's momentum with Let Me Lie. It's the new Velvet Cheese.

When Phish broke up, I used to go apeshit when Trey Band played 46 Days. It was methadone and I needed any sort of fix. They finally broke it out this leg and this version included a strange and eerie jam that started off mellow and quiet and built to a crazy crescendo.

I was floored when I got to see/hear Oh! Sweet Nuthin at Shoreline and jizzed myself for this tighter version. I'm a huge fan of Velvet Underground and it's a nice change up from hearing Rock and Roll (although the boys jam the fuck out of R&R!). I just like to hear Page sing.

Harry Hood saved the up and down show. Yes, Hood to the rescue. I was sort of bummed that I heard Good Times Bad Times and Tweprise again. Didn't I hear that at the GORGE? Ah, I'm just being petty. I can hear those two songs every night. After several misteps during the night with some questionable song selections, Phish closed out the Merriweather show with four solid songs. Too bad two of them were covers.

Overall, it was a solid show but could not compare to Hartford or some of the shows out West. Phish had outdome themselves. I was spoiled. We were spoiled. I had tons of fun and was glad to catch a show with G-Rob and Andrew. As we walked out, all four of Phish's tour buses passed us. Trey's was first and he waved.

Well, now it's just one more show to go. The Mothership picks everyone up at SPAC. See you there.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hartford Psycho

By Pauly
New York City

If Phish plays a mediocre first set, they have been following that up with a monster second set. I've seen it happen too many times already since their return, so at this point, I'm almost expecting an average first set because I know that insanity will ensue for the second half of the evening. Hartford was a prime example where the first set had several special moments but lacked the spice and punch of previous shows. However, the second set was phenomenal because Phish smoked the shit out of Hartford Meadows.

Seriously, if you have friends who are new to Phish or on the fence about Phish, then you have to play them the second set of 8/14/09. If they don't convert to Phish by the time Pyscho Killer comes around, then you have a lost cause on your hands. If someone cannot appreciate the oodles of frenetic energy that was encapsulated in the second set at Hartford, then you need to de-friend them on Facebook immediately.

For most of the show, I was raging solo and the other bit I hung out Javier and his friends from Connecticut. I drove up from NYC and parked in one of the pay lots near the car dealerships so I could get out of dodge once the show ended and I could get back to NYC at a reasonable hour. I wandered around Shakedown while I waited for Javier to arrive. I brought three used books with me to sell in Shakedown... one for each night. It took me only ten minutes before I sold a book by Alan Watts. I didn't even have to haggle and I got $10 for it.

I used some of the proceeds to buy a bag of blah weed. The guy told me it was G-13 but I lived in Amsterdam for a short period and my girlfriend had a medicinal marijuana card in L.A., so I had access to the most primo stuff on the planet. That was not G-13 he was slinging, but I didn't argue on semantics in the middle of Shakedown. I told him that $40 was too much and I'd pay $30. We settled on $35. That's when I heard the kid whispering "Pharmies!" I'm always in search of Adderrall but that kid only had morphine pills. I declined him for two reasons...

1. The pill was worth no more than $15.
2. The last thing I need is a morphine addiction.

I turned him down along with the spun out old guy who looked like Bill Kruetzman who tried to sell me doses and Klonapin. I politely declined. I failed in a quest to secure Adderrall. The back of the free parking lot included a decent Shakedown with a few vans with tanks of nitrous. Balloons were going for $10 a pop. One guy refused to give discounts until one of Javier's friends pulled a fast one on the nitrous dealers.

"They never look at the bills," explained one of Javier's friends. "That's because they make so much money and have to worry about frozen tanks and cops busting them that they grab your money and put in their pockets without verifying."

He paid $6 instead of $30. He showed the guy a $10 and a $20 and gave him a $5 and a $1 as a bait and switch. I admired the balls on Javier's friend as he blatantly robbed a nitrous dealer.

One wookette took off her shirt and wandered around topless. At first I thought her boobs were painted over, but just her stomach had paint on it and she was exposing her breasts. She was screaming, "Cash or trade for your extra."
8/14.09 Phish Hartford, CT
Set I: PYITE, AC/DC Bag, NICU, Col. Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Birds of a Feather, Lawnboy, Stash, I Didn't Know, Middle Of The Road, Character Zero

Set II: Down With Disease > Wilson > Slave To The Traffic Light > Piper > Water In The Sky > Ghost > Psycho Killer > Catapult > Icculus > You Enjoy Myself

E: While My Guitar Gently Weeps
The boys didn't take the stage until 8:43pm so everyone on the lawn was nice and juiced up by the time the show started. I was Fishman side on the packed lawn. It looked like they oversold the place by 5,000 people. The sound was blah where I was standing and decided to sneak into the pavilion for the second set.

Col. Forbins > Mockingbird was historically significant and I respected the bustout, although musically speaking, it was average at best. Mike was the MVP on those songs though as all of the Gamehendge-freaks collectively jizzed their pants. I was more excited about hearing Birds for the first time since Hampton. Page dedicated Lawn Boy to the huddled masses on the lawn. Stash was sort of strange but had several dark moments and I always dig a Fishman vac solo on I Didn't Know. Javier thought those hijinks kill the momentum of the set. I strongly disagreed. That's why we go see Phish... to see a fat guy in a dress play a vacuum.

The first set was just an appetizer for the second set feast. I found a much better spot after sneaking up close. The only lowlight was Catapult only because it was just too weird for me and I was stone cold sober. This was a sober show for me (compared to the mind melts in Colorado and the Gorge) so I was a little impatient with Trey's spastic dance during Catapult.

Now, Icculus was a fuckin' sincere treat. I caught one at Oswego many moons ago. Trey scolded the spacekids and told them to "put down their iPhones and read a fuckin' book." The personal significance was uncanny. I'm in the final stages of my finishing my first published book Lost Vegas and both my brother and the Joker were reading copies of the final draft at their respective homes during the show! Plus, I brought used books with me to sell in the lot. It was all coming together.

Highlights of the second set? Ghost and Piper jams along with a curveball cover of Psycho Killer. The crowd wet berserk and it was one of the most amazing moments I had ever seen at a Phish show when the entire crowd was singing along to the chorus. It was one of those "you had to be there moments" that will not translate onto a recording. Mind blown.

And any time Phish plays my favorite song, Slave, I'm a very happy man. It's as if they played it personally for me. Shit, I drove from Seattle to LA then flew to NYC and drove to Hartford to see Phish... sober. That's how much I love the band and it's like they rewarded my difficult journey with my favorite tune.

WMGGW was the cherry on top of the sundae. I knew it wouldn't/couldn't top Pyscho Killer, but I'm a sucker for Beatles covers. I wandered out of the show with a shit-eating grin on my face and ready to snag a grilled cheese before I made the trek back to New York City so I can crash for a few hours and make the journey to Maryland so I can repeat this process.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seattle > LA > NYC

By Pauly
New York City

I started the week in Seattle, drove most of the length of the Left Coast to LA in the mid-week, then flew out to New York City for a weekend of Phishin'. Just two weeks ago, I was in the middle of a five-day bender in Colorado that I survived somehow. On the heels of the Colorado trip, we had the epic party at The Gorge which was one hell of a journey to get there from Southern California.

I didn't go all out during the previous two weekends (I'd say just 95% balls to the wall) because I was trying to save up a little energy for this weekend. I definitely need it with 3 more Phish shows. My mind had been fried fourteen times over and my body has been put through a meat grinder. Oh, and while all that went on, I was being pulled from all angles while work and life intercede. Ah, and I have a looming deadline... Lost Vegas. Just as this is inching closer and closer, I'm learning who are my real friends are and who was waiting to sabotage me.

Ah, just another day in the life. But my life was much weirder in the late 1990s, especially when I lived on the fringe of society in in Seattle. Nicky got to glimpse into my past during a quick trip to Seattle after the Gorge. She has two friends from high school living there and I had a handful of friends still there after I moved out of Seattle over a decade ago.

We stayed in the infamous U District since I got a sweet deal on a hotel there. Ironically, I lived in the same neighborhood and we even drove past my old house where I lived for almost two years. After the initial glimpse of the house, I was bombarded with flashbacks which continued constantly during my brief time in Seattle. We would drive around and I'd see things that brought back a flood of memories, while most of the time I was sorta lost and overwhelmed with both good and bad feelings. Seattle was where I originally found myself and my voice as a writer. It was an important time in my life when I rejected the life that I was told to lead and flipped my reality upside down. That's when I finally realized that it's my life to live and nobody else's and I started doing things that I wanted to do instead of what was expected of me. In short, it was the most crucial point in the development of me as a writer. Seattle is where I initiated my daily writing workout and soaked up hundreds of books that I had never read before.

Seattle was also tough in many ways for me. It represented the poorest time of my life when I humped several shitty dead end jobs just to make my rent. I lived paycheck to paycheck and sometimes didn't have money for food, booze, or weed. And when I did, I ate PBJ, smoked shitty weed, and drank cheap-ass beer. Luckily, my friends were an amazing support group (like Singer, Ty, and TC). I can't recall how many times they helped me out when I had absolutely nothing. That generosity always stuck with me and to this day, I always try to go beyond the definition of a friend to those close to me.

During our quick trip to Seattle, I took Nicky to Gas Works park. It was lovely for a Sunday with big white fluffy clouds in the mostly blue sky. It was one of those nearly perfect summer days in Seattle (except that you could not see Mt. Rainer). I told Nicky that Seattle had awesome weather for 2-3 months then it was absolute misery for the rest of the year. That would be the only decent day of weather while we were in town.

On Sunday night, we met my buddy TC for dinner. The kung fu instructor/DJ grilled up steaks for us in a delicious multi-course dinner which included plenty of wine. On Monday morning, we ran around trying to squeeze in tourist stuff and meeting up with our friends. I showed Nicky the Public Market on Pike Street and we wandered through the masses of tourists and glimpsed at fresh seafood and other food stuffs.

We met Nicky's HS friends for lunch near there. One of them was pregnant and brought her two kids. The other just had a baby and brought both of her wee ones. Yeah, it was Nicky and myself (still a little jiggy from all the party favors I had ingested during the weekend festivities at the Gorge) along with two mommies with 4.5 kids. Her friends were as I expected; down-to-Earth and intelligent women who shunned the SoCal lifestyle and now live in the Pacific Northwest). They had great senses of humor and exhibited amazing patience with the little ones running amuck. I sat in between a 4 year old and a woman breast-feeding. That's what I did last Monday from 90-minutes. And the kid decided to make frozen french fries by taking two ice cubes and putting it on his plate then cutting a fry in half, then soaking the fry in the melted ice before he scooped it up and handed me the soggy fry.

After Nicky caught up with her friends and glimpsed into motherhood, we continued sightseeing. I took her to the Space Needle and the EMP and the Sci Fi museum. I wish we had more time to see both, but we were on a tight schedule. The Muppets exhibit was cool for sure. We rushed over to Capitol Hill so I could show Nicky Traveler's. It's a store with an Indian theme (art, imports, and foods) that an old friend named Leon owned. We were there to meet up with another old work friend, Noonan. Leon made us a batch of Chai tea and we chatted for almost an hour joking about old times and filling in the blank spaces. I could have sat there for four or five days, but we were short on time. I had a baseball game to get to.

Luckily, Seattle is not that big of a city and we were able to get to the ball park rather quickly. Nicky and I got busted by the parking lot attendant firing up a fatty. I tipped him $5 and he smiled. We met Brandon and Dr. Chako for the game. Brandon knows Ichiro's translator so that guy hooked us up with free tickets! It was cool to catch up with Dr. Chako and Brandon and we drank Manny's ale and ate some high-quality ballpark food. That was my first time at Safeco. They were building the new stadiums when I moved away from Seattle.

I knew one of the official scorers. Zeem works for the Mariner's and he was sitting in the press box and we met up with him when the game ended. After the game, Nicky wanted to have a drink at the Blue Moon, a dive bar near our hotel in the U District. I told her that famous writers and poets used to hang out there like Tom Robbins, Dylan Thomas, and Allen Ginsberg. It's a true dive and we played a round of Trivial Pursuit, which we changed the rules and turned into a drinking game.

We woke up slightly hungover and then made the arduous journey from Seattle down I-5. We ended up somewhere in the middle of the state after making great time through Oregon. We had dinner in Medford and there was a tweaker who caused a scene in the restaurant. Man, Oregon is full of old people and tweakers.

We crashed at a tweaker hotel somewhere near Nonwhere, CA. Before we pulled off the highway, we noticed two cops cards had pulled over a pickup truck while a drug dog was inspecting the vehicle.

We eventually got into LA around 4pm on Wednesday. I had less than 20 hours before my flight to NYC. I knew the routine. I emptied my bags, did laundry, re-packed and squeezed 12 hours of work into 3 hours even though I'm supposed to be on vacation.

I want to write more and more about Seattle and the long drives with Nicky and the hijinks at the Gorge and tell you 10 crazy drug stories and about my flight from Burbank to JFK, but I'm short on time. I have to drive to Hartford in a few hours.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gorge Videos

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here are some Gorge videos that I spliced together.

The first one is a montage (approximately 4 minutes) featuring a mixture of our hijinks along with performances from Phish's two shows at the Gorge.

The second and third videos are expanded versions of two smaller clips from the montage.

The first one is all about Panda. We think he's an alien and yes, we camped all weekend with Panda. He's a trip and wanted to go for the Triple Play.

And here's Makisupa Policeman where Mile and Trey switched instruments...

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Gorge Part 1: The Arrival

By Pauly
Seattle, WA

It was going to be impossible to top what I witnessed during the four-show run at Red Rocks. But you know what? Phish threw down at the Gorge and almost pulled off a coup. It was only two nights, but there were moments when the band equaled and even surpassed the events from Colorado. In short, Phish is getting better every night they play, something I noticed from the outset of the first leg of summer tour. My biggest concern was if they could keep up that intensity and consistency for the rest of the summer. The Gorge shows proved that the band could do both.

The music was top notch, the venue is simply breathtaking and spectacular, and our camping crew was tons of fun. We had all the necessary components for an amazing weekend at the Gorge and we're all glad we traveled lengthy distances to get there. Some of our crew drove from Colorado. A few folks flew in from Denver and elsewhere. Change100 and I drove up from Shoreline. Talk about one bitch of a drive and we crashed the night before somewhere in Oregon after a 14 hour driving stint, while our advance team of the Joker, Wildo, and DiscoSis1 arrived at the campgrounds to set up shop.

We finally arrived around 3pm day of the show and set up camp. We brought some of our gear up from LA, while Wildo decided to rent camping stuff from Wal Mart.

"I didn't know Walmart rents stuff," I asked.

"They don't," said Wildo. "I'm just going to return everything on my way back to the airport."

By 5pm, Jonas and Katie arrived via Spokane and there were over a dozen tents, three sun tarps, and five or six vehicles in out little corner of the premier camping area. Everyone was ready to rage, but didn't have much time for an extensive pre-party. We pretty much set up our camp and ate Adderral to get ready for the show. I was lucky because DiscoSis1 hooked me up with a bottle of Vicodin. One of the best thing about tour, is that I can hop on with nothing and leave tour with an entire pharmacy.

As we got closer to the venue, the prices for extra tickets reduced dramatically. It went from $20 in the camp ground to $10 on the walk in. Guys where holding up tickets and saying, "Name your price." I even spotted free tickets left in the fence flapping in the breeze. I was glad that I was able to sell my extras for $40 a piece in the lot at Shoreline.

We found a spot on the floor of the Gorge, Fishman side, near the back and had enough room for like 15 random people from Colorado including the infamous Denver Boyd.
8/7/09 Phish, The GORGE, George, WA

Set 1: Down with Disease, Ocelot, Pebbles & Marbles, Possum, Sleep, Destiny Unbound, Stash, Page takes a piss jam > Sneaking Sally > Cavern

Set 2: MoMA Dance, Light > Tatse, Fluffhead, Joy, Bathtub Gin, Harry Hood

Encore: Slave to the Traffic Light
Wildo and I were gambling on different Phish songs, particularly the set openers. Neither of us picked Down with Disease. They played it at Red Rocks and at Shoreline two nights earlier. It was even on our radar which is why Phish is who they are. They can double up or even triple up and they don't care because it's what they want to play. A heard a few heads bitch and moan about the DWD opener because they saw it already this tour (heck, I saw it three times and I was not complaining). My only criticism was that it was a little too short for my tastes logging in around 9 minutes. I like my DWD dark and dirty and at least 20 minutes of bong-rattling jams.

Ocelot is one of my favorite new songs and I couldn't have been happier. That would have been a better opener. I used to loathe Pebbles & Marbles during the 2.0 era mainly because of Trey's oxy-jams during the song. However, I once heard Trey perform an acoustic version and I was blown away. Since then, I've developed a better understanding of the song and welcomed the Gorge version. Jonas mentioned,"They obviously practiced it because it sounds tight."

Possum was rocking as per usual. Stash had several spooky moments. Destiny Unbound was a sincere treat as the winds picked up a bit and I watched the lighting rig sway back and forth as the last remnants of sun disappeared.

Page left the stage for a few moments because he had to take a piss. Before he could even sit back down at the keys, Mike and Trey had begun the first notes to Sneaking Sally. Listen closely. That's one of my highlights from the entire Gorge run which included a minor vocal jam. It was definitely one of the funkified high points from Friday's show, especially since they followed up with a searing version of Cavern.

The boys brought the funk to open up the second set. MoMA Dance set the tone. I wasn't too thrilled with Light.. initially. However, they won me over with that amazing jam which morphed into Taste. Page was on fire for the first half of the set.Taste included lots of Thelonius Monk-inspired pecking. Fluffhead was fun and fluffy. The Hampton version was technically spot on, but over the last few months, the band is taking a much looser approach to some of their classics, which I prefer. Joy is starting to grow on me, but Dave's critique of the new song was hysterical.

"Joy? Sounds like Christian rock."

The boys were fucking around when the closed the set with Gin and Hood back-to-back. The Gin jam was one of my favorites this summer. Slave to the Traffic Light is my favorite Phish song. They won me over with a version at the Gorge in 1997 and I've been dedicated ever since. When ever Phish plays Slave, I consider it a great show because they don't play it every night. Nothing is more special than seeing your favorite band play your favorite song. Plus, they treated us to a top notch version, and one of the best I've seen in the 3.0 era.

We headed back to camp for a bit until I got hungry and decided to cruise Shakedown with Wildo and Dave. Yes, it was an impressive Shakedown area, especially thriving at 2am. I never saw the entire thing because it kept going back and back. I saw one wook do a key bump of Special K next to the guy selling Jerry rolls. I bought a nice hand-blown piece for $15 even though the guy wanted $30 for it. I love negotiating in Shakedown. Ironically, at the 2am hour, the drug sales were slow. Everyone kept asking me to sell them stuff. One guy in a NY Yankees hat pestered me for blow as a wookette with a broken foot (in a soft cast) passed in front of me. She was sitting in a baby's stroller while her lot boyfriend pushed her from behind as they navigated the densely packed Shakedown. We ended up going back to camp where I talked about the finest strains of marijuana with a well-known Colorado grower, while one of the kids in an adjacent campground was smoking DMT. I recognize that smell anywhere.

I eventually passed out around 5am only to be woken up by Panda screaming at the top of his lungs at 7am. He was in the middle of an epic bender after pulling off something called The Triple Play. As the Joker described it, "Panda promises to do the triple play this weekend: Molly in the mouth, the nose, and the ass. 'Don't worry,' he says. He washes his fingers."