Friday, October 30, 2009

Before the Invasion

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

There's a ski bum from Wyoming snoring on my couch. Two other people are passed out on the floor. A Frenchman is sleeping on my office. Of course, I can't sleep. Anxious. I'm a kid who can't sleep on Christmas Eve.

Our apartment was the staging area for a desert invasion. We have a caravan of three vehicles that will sneak out of L.A. before sun up and make our trek towards Palm Springs. It's not quite the U.S. Marines marching towards Mesopotamia, but we have 10 individuals who have made many sacrifices to block off tree days and nights to let loose for Halloween.

In the last nine hours, I made two trips to LAX and one visit to In & Out Burger.

I bought six bags of ice and three lighters from 7/11.

I also made so many margaritas that my lapop keys smell like limes. Strawberry Shortcake likes hers with cherries in them.

The Joker carved a pumpkin. Nicky whipped up a batch of chili. Brospeh went to buy a bottle of Jameson in the Hood. We are cupcakes from Sprinkles in Beverly Hills.

DiscoSis1 bought over $100 worth of groceries for 3 days of camping. BTreotch only got 3 bottles of Gatorade and a bag of beef jerky.

I had two different friends give me full bottles of Vicodin. Generic, of course. One bottle I will stash here, the other I'll take and try to trade up or down, depending on how you look at it. I haven't even left for Festival 8 and I already scored some Aderrall.

The Yankees won. The Rooster and his lady friend stopped by to watch 4 innings. As soon as the Rooster left, Matsui hit a home run. The Yankees eventually won and I dunno if I'll be able to see the next two games because I'll be camping out.

Sleep. That's where I'm a Viking.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finally Vacation... Almost

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's been a wild 30 hours.

I finally have a chance to sit down and write. The first thing on my mind? Miserly bastards.

I have one client that I agreed to do work at a deep discount. Essentially I saved them $2,000 for two months of work. I didn't do it for the money either -- it was a favor. Now they are refusing to pay a simple $30 bank wire fee. Why would I want to give Citibank any more money than they deserve? Plus all of my other clients pay the wire fee as a courtesy. For some reason this client is nickel and diming me. Why am I pissed? Let's see... I save them $2,000 and how do they pay me back? By refusing to pay me $30. A simple thank you would have sufficed, but that never happened. Instead I got an email complaining that I added $30 on my invoice.

Greedy bastards. This is the primary reason why I work for myself and work with a few select clients that appreciate the value of my work.

I felt bad that a buddy of mine was caught up in the crossfire. But I have to stand up for myself or these corporations will run right over me. This is money that can afford to pay it -- they just choose not to -- that's why I stood up to them.

Anyway, that was the only unpleasant moment in the last 30 hours. It's been a fun time otherwise.

I got a call late on Tuesday night from the Joker. There was a huge storm about to hit Colorado. He was worried that his Thursday morning flight would be cancelled, so he decided to fly out on Wednesday morning before the huge storm hit Denver. He arrived 30 hours earlier which threw a huge monkey wrench into our plans. Nicky and I were going to use Wednesday to clean the apartment, which would be a launching base for about 10 Phisheads heading out to their three-day Halloween concert called Festival 8. We had two major groups coming in from Colorado and Florida, not to mention a certain malcontent-chain-smoking Frenchman living in London and how could I forget about Disco Sister #1 from North Carolina.

So the Joker and two friends arrived on Wednesday morning while we still had deadlines to work on and a half-cleaned apartment. We scrambled to make things work. The Colorado boys rented their own car which saved us from a dreaded LAX trip.

I took the Colorado boys to my local coffeeshop. The Joker reads about it here (just like you do) and he wanted to see it with his own eyes. At the end of our breakfast four LAPD officers strolled in to add a dramatic effect to the meal.

Nicky sent them to Venice Beach while we finish up deadlines. We also drove to Whole Foods in Beverly Hills to buy supplies for the weekend and for a Thursday night chili feast that Nicky would serve during the Yankees game. While wandering around Whole Foods, I saw Kate Bosworth. At least, I think that was her.

We watched the Yankees game. One of the Joker's friends, Home Fry, is from Wyoming and he's a Yankees fan. We bonged out on the couch and watched Cliff Lee make mince meat of the Yankees lineup, while the Yanks bullpen blew it in the clutch. The Joker left at the 5th inning to get In & Out Burger. The culinary highlight of the day.

After a long day, everyone passed out after the game. I was so tired that I fell asleep while playing online poker. I woke up to watch Top Chef with Nicky and I kicked her ass in this week's episode for Fantasy Top Chef.

Anyway, we woke up early and I took the Colorado crew to breakfast at O'Groats. Then we loaded up on supplies at Ralphs running around while Michael Jackson's Thriller played on the PA system.

Now, it's the quite before the storm. The Florida crew will be wheels down within the hour and Benjo arrives just before the first pitch of Game 2 is tossed out. We'll have around 12 hours before we have to get ready for a three-vehicle caravan to Palm Spring where we link up with a friends from San Diego driving an RV to Festival 8.

Stay tuned for more info on Festival 8 and Phishy Halloween. Definitely check out Coventry Music Blog for updates. You also should follow me on Twitter along with our Coventry feed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amazing Race Recaps

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Trisha Lynn was cool enough to write recaps of this season's Amazing Race. I don't watch reality TV shows, especially the Amazing Race, but I happen to know two of the contestants via poker so I welcomed Trisha Lynn as a guest poster to the Tao of Poker. Ins case you missed her recaps of the first five weeks, check out...
Week 1: Letters to Pauly: The Amazing Race, Vol. 1 - Suckout
Week 2: Letters to Pauly: The Amazing Race, Vol. 2 - Vietnam VCRs
Week 3: Letters to Pauly: The Amazing Race, Vol. 3 - Cambodian Monkey
Week 4: Letters to Pauly: The Amazing Race, Vol. 4 - Digging Through Sand & Snow in Dubai
Week 5: Letters to Pauly: The Amazing Race, Vol. 5 - Rowboats, Hookahs, and Water Slides in Dubai; Tiff-Ho Move into Second Place

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Restaurant Wars

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Padma the co-host of Top Chef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dispatches from the Weekend: Boxers, Making Margaritas, and the Pop Overs

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I have 21 pairs of boxers. I should clarify. I have 21 pairs of good boxers with a six-pack of "less than good" buried in the bottom of a drawer somewhere in LA. They "missed the cut" and I only wear those when I'm desperate and too lazy to do laundry.

I counted 20 when I did laundry on Sunday morning. I counted 20 as I folded. The pair on my body were #21. That made sense. The last time I did laundry was about three weeks ago. I can go three solid weeks (and push it to a fourth) if I want to wear fresh underwear everyday.

As a frequent traveler, underwear is the one thing that I cherish the most on the road. I also learned four different ways to extend a pair of unwashed underwear. An Aussie colleague (who travels more than anyone I know) gave me the tip. He once had his luggage and money stolen while on holiday in Bali and had to make due with a mere pair of skivvies. Front. Back. Inside-out front. Inside-out back. You learn valuable information from travelers that come in handy when you're totally fucked... like using your belt as a weapon if you get cornered by a bunch of drunken Brits at a night bus stop at 3am.

21 pairs. I have at least 14 in a drawer in New York City. I'm a wealthy man not because of my net worth. I'm a wealthy man because I can live for 5 weeks on both coasts without having to do laundry. And If I employ the methods of the Aussie 4-ways to wear underwear without washing, then I can go almost a half a year without doing laundry.

* * * * *

We have a few bottles of tequila in the apartment that were collecting dust. I'm not a boozer anymore. Despite the thick cloud of smoke constantly hovering in the apartment, the last five or six weeks have been a model for clean living. I drank one beer at the Thom Yorke show a few weeks back and aside from that overpriced Stella, I consumed the same amount of booze as a devout Mormon.

CherrieBomb gifted me a bottle of Patron at the WSOP this summer that has been calling my name. Nicky had a bottle of pricey tequila that her mentor in Hollywood gave her. The bottle was a "I'm sorry for fucking you in the ass" gift that Hollywood exec types send each other after they stab them in the back. It's there way of saying, "Nothing personal. Business is business. Here's an expensive bottle of booze to numb the pain."

I have some friends coming into town from Colorado and Florida next weekend for Phish's Halloween festival so I wanted to put the tequila to good use. I shook off the cobwebs from my old bartending days and had a goal to make the perfect Margarita. We had plenty of tequila, but there was one problem... the mix.

All the Margaritas I had previously concocted behind the bar utilized a special bulk Margarita mix or some sort of sour mix. It was cheaper and faster instead of using fresh lime juice. Most of those pre-fab mixes are loaded with high fructose corn syrup which gives the cocktail a sweet taste, yet over the long term it's bad for you. I'm a purist of sorts and went the natural route to generate the mix. After all, my friends are neo-hippies. They dig that sort of shit.

Limes. I went to the store and bought a shit load of limes. The locally grown organic limes were pricey compared to the ominous gigantic pyramid of limes (from Mexico) that intimidated the rest of the fruits and vegetables.

I wanted to use freshly squeeze lime juice as a major ingredient. My next step was to acquire the right liquor. In the bars, they used triple sec. High end joints use Cointreau. That stuff isn't cheap which is why bars use triple sec in bulk.

With the Cointreau and locally grown limes in hand, I was ready. Nicky was my test subject. I whipped up four batches using different variations in the ingredients. I'm a 3-2-1 Margarita guy.
3 parts tequila
2 parts Cointreau
1 part lime juice
Dash of sugar
Pretty simple. You chuck all the ingredients into a mixing cup with ice. A half of a lime is good per one drink. Squeeze out the juice without straining so you get little bits of pulp involved during the mixing process. If you don't like pulp, the bigger pieces get strained during the pour. I also add a dash of sugar for sweetness. Organic sugar to please the hippies. If you like Margaritas very sweet, then add more sugar to the mixing cup. The Cointreau is a much sweeter liqueur that generic triple sec so you don't need as much sugar.

Salting the glass is important. I only salt half the glass unless otherwise instructed by customers. Old trick I learned... first, rub a lime wedge over half the rim and turn the glass upside down. Use a spoon sprinkle the sides of the glass with salt. When you shove a glass into salt dish, you'll get too much salt on the inside of the glass. The spoon trick keeps the salt on the outside.

Shake. Shake. Shake. Add ice to the glass if it's on the rocks. Then pour. Add lime wedge to the side and serve.

I had never made a Margarita from scratch before (not using the pre-fab mixes). I whipped up four (two on the rocks) varying the ratio of ingredients. Nicky mentioned that the first one I made was the most tasty and that's because I stuck to the recipe.

Nicky got sloppy and saucy. She started singing Glee songs. The Margaritas obviously worked. Nicky nicknamed my cocktail... The McGarita.

You can see the video below in yesterday's post...

* * * * *

We don't have many guests at our place in the Slums of Beverly Hills. I have wanted to hosted a poker night for almost three years but there's simply no parking in the area which puts a damper on things and killed any notion of a regular game.

For the most part, our home is both of our offices so it's more of a place of business than anything else which is why we rarely entertain guests. It's not as exciting at our digs as you think. I'm usually locked in my office and when I'm not, we're ripping bingers on the couch.

When I heard the Rooster was going to be in L.A. I was skeptical. The Rooster is a cagey mofo and a bit mysterious. No one really knows what is going on. My friends and I have theories which we joke about but no one has figured out his murky past for sure. So when he said he was going to be in town, I was excited. When he and JoeSpeaker said they were heading to Commerce to play poker, I was less than thrilled.

Poker is my day job and I spend a significant amount of time during the week immersed in poker. When I'm not writing about poker, I'm playing online poker. When I'm not doing that, I'm discussing poker politics, industry news, and gossip among my peers. Poker. Poker. Poker. Sundays is my non-poker day when I shut out that world and watch football. A trip to Commerce would have put a damper on my day of rest. Luckily, the Yankees game was on after 5pm. I invited them to pop on over to watch the game as they closed out the ALCS and continued their march towards the World Series.

After playing poker for a few hours where Speaker got tilted by an old guy with a hearing aid, they showed up on time and brought beer. The Rooster also brought a date. Yep, he brought a lovely woman to his "pop over" and she was very cute and very cool. She didn't mind the fact that I consume copious amounts of ganja while watching baseball, nor was she freaked out that I pace a lot and blurt out disparaging remarks directed at the umpires, opposing team, the Yankees coach, and of course the announcers.

The gang hung out for a few hours. Nicky ordered food from the deli and we all caught up on the latest musings in our lives. Even though Joe Speaker lives in Southern California, he might as well live in Montana since the Inland Empire is not a place we hang out much. He convinced us to embark on a dive bar pub crawl in the Valley, which mortified Nicky. She loathes he Valley. She only drives over the lush hills of Hollywood in order to pick my ass up Burbank Airport or to pick up "medicine" in bulk quantities. I'm going to have to convince her to check out the local pubs in Speaker's neck of the woods.

The Rooster said he'll be in SoCal for a few weeks. So who knows if we'll cross paths again...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Morning Margaritas

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

If my writing career goes to shot, I can always return to being a bartender.
Dusting Off the Charge Card

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

After being holed up for the last few weeks, I finally ran a slew of errands on yesterday morning.
5 Things I Bought on Saturday...
1. Vinyl gloves
2. Cointreau
3. Sunflowers
4. Limes
5. Bleeding heart Jesus candle

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday Morning Thought Farts

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm in one of those moods where my brain is scattered into one thousand different fractals and I'm trying to juggle too much information at the same time. The result is sensory overload.

I'm gonna pull a page out of my brother's style of blogging. He's a true Hemmingway disciple. Less is more. Short powerful sentences.

I scored tickets to all three Phish concerts at Madison Square Garden the week after Turkey Day. I'm pumped to take the subway to the show instead of having to travel lengthy distances to see my favorite touring band. One night, Nicky and I will be sitting behind the stage.

I woke up with sun shining on a happy sunny Saturday. The weather in NYC is not as peachy keen at the present moment. The weatherheads expect rain today which might affect tonight's ALCS match up between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of USA of North America of Earth. Game 6. If the Yanks win, then they return to the Word Series. If not, it's Game 7 with CC on the mound.

My buddy Chicago Bob came over to watch the football games last weekend. We watched the highlights on a snow-covered field in New England, while sitting in shorts and a t-shirt, Chicago Bob remarked, "This is the time of the year that I'm glad I moved to SoCal."

My latest addiction is apple fritters. I buy them in Little Ethiopia. A shooting went down yesterday only a few block from the spot where I shop. The suspect was on the loose and running through the streets of the slums of Beverley Hills. LAPD copters hovered in the chem-trail free sky above our hood.

I started using a mouse with my laptop. I have never done that before and thought it was lame. Man, was I wrong. So many benefits. However, a mouse becomes unusable in tight situations (like firing up my laptop while sitting in a row of seats at Gate 4a at Long Beach Airport) or when I sit on the crapper and sift through my email.

I trimmed some fat on Twitter. Malcolm Gladwell says that 150 is the tipping point for groups. I current follow 228 people/entities on Twitter after making a huge cut over the last few days. I also added a couple of folks. 228? That's about 78 too many. I discovered that there were people who stopped following me so that made the decision easier for me to cut them because I only followed them initially because they started following me.

I don't care if someone follows me or not. But that's not the case on the other side of the fence. Sometimes those high school antics of social media is one of the reasons why I loathe the entire concept. I feel trapped and unable to unfollow them. I guess that I have feelings after all?

Wait. That's bullshit. I should unfollow those people that don't mesh with my personal tastes. It just clogs up my feed and makes it harder to sift through the static. I might be doing them a favor. "Why don't you follow me anymore?" The responses are so many. Too many tweets. Too much whining. Some of my favorite tweets (@SnailTrax for example) are like delicious and nutritious meals. While others are junk food. I need to go on the Slimfast Twitter Diet.

We have less than one week to Halloween. I have less than 72 hours to get all my work done. Otherwise, I'm fucked.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Selective Voices of Reason

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm a news junkie. Well, I should say that I'm a recovering news addict and spent the last few years in rehab. I've been a news hound since I was a wee one. I loved newspapers during their golden era. My father bought two papers every day and the NY Times on the weekend. I saw TV news as "breaking news" and news being reported upon as it is happening instead of reading large pages of black and grey ink that sometimes made my hands dirty.

CNN's coming out party was the first Gulf War. I watched it on TV while drinking cans of beer during my freshman year in college. From that moment on, CNN became one of the primary places to get your news. Ted Turner's former claim to fame was airing episodes of The Andy Griffith Show at 5 minutes past the hour on his "superstation" and trying to colorize classic movies that were shot in black and white. But no one remembers that anymore, at least I don't when I think about Ted Turner, who these days is trying to wrangle control of his old media empire. Old Ted got bored with trying to own 96% of all non-government property in New Mexico and wants to get back into the news business. So much has changed in the last two years let alone the last twenty.

As the alphabet news programs grew -- so did the static and the underlying angle shooters in the government or big business who were manipulating the media outlets to get slanted coverage in their favor (or at the best slanted coverage against their mortal enemies). Over the last twenty years, cable news has morphed into a lucrative business and tremendous tool of spreading propaganda and brainwashing the masses.

If it's on CNN, then it must be true. Right? Those bullets and tracers whizzing through the Baghdad sky in 1991 were real. But Balloon Boy? It can't be a hoax? Weapons of mass destruction? Nah, our government wouldn't lie or mislead the world? Neither would journalists since they have a sense of morality, integrity, and adhere to a code of honor -- that is the ones who are willing to do work for no pay.

Otis strongly argues that Balloon Boy is your fault. I never left a comment on his post. I wanted to say, "I shouted out, 'Who killed the Kennedys?' But after all, it was you and me."

At this point, I really don't care about cable news because it's all static. The media was supposed to keep an eye on the government. As the Latin saying goes, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" That is loosely translated into... "Who will watch the watchers?"

When I turn on CNN in a foreign country, I always say, "This is the shit that America wants you to believe as the truth." I say a similar thing in a British accent when I watch BBC overseas, "This is the shit the Brits want you to believe is the truth." Except there's a little more truth and a significant amount of un-biased reporting -- but it's still the major propaganda wing of the British Empire.

If I can't trust the boob tube or the internet, then what? It's simple. I have to seek out the news on my own through my own personal filter. Thankfully, I programmed Google Reader and Bloglines are able to pick up news blurbs from outlets and journalists who I trust will paint me a better picture of the world we live in. Plenty of business writers (who knew how to read a balance sheer) were in hot pursuit of the Master of the Universes who gambled heavily on credit default swaps, while others were fleecing millions of hard working Americans out of their pension money with different ponzi schemes. But none of the majors wanted to touch that story. The complicated schemes were too difficult to understand -- even for career business newsmen. Plus, they felt that the criminal entities involved were "too big to fail" yet we know how all those dominoes began to fall. And let's not forget, some were paid off or part of the conspiracy.

By the way, hat tip to Human Head for the link to Jesse's Cafe Americain who summed up tour financial ruin the best...
The US financial crisis is always and everywhere caused by the triumph of short term greed in support of Ponzi schemes and frauds, perpetrated by a handful of Wall Street bankers and their accomplices in the political process and the media, facilitated by the wholesale weakening of the American mind and character and European and Asian greed and gullibility.
That's why America stopped for two hours last week and dropped everything they did to watch balloon boy, while career criminals were bailed out by our Government and the masses buried their collective heads in the sand.

Before I go, check out something that the Shrink wrote titled Wandering the Interwebs. Fascinating.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles,

Once I'm up... I'm up.

It's hard to fall back asleep. I crawled into bed around 4:30am late last night/early this morning. I had just won a few bucks playing online poker and I finally caught up on reading a shitload of articles that friends recommended. I was up by 6am and tossed and turned for the ensuing 60 minutes before I gave up and shuffled off into my office.

The laptop was running slower than usual so I decided to run an entire system check -- which rendered the laptop unusable for a couple of hours. I kinda wished that I did that maintenance before I went to bed. Without a specific task on my agenda, I was a bit lost and tried to take a nap in my office but that attempt failed.

My office is the darkest room in the apartment whereas the bedroom attracts the most sunlight (even with blinds). It's brutal in mid-morning for a few hours. If we can sleep through that batch of sunlight, then we're fine. If not, then trying to sleep with the glare is impossible.

I opted for a big breakfast. I was sluggish as I walked to/from the coffeeshop, sort of like a British zombie in a partial daze. I'm used to stumbling in at odd hours while I'm jacked up on pharmies, but I don't do that anymore, although I had a similar buzz that came from natural causes. Sleep deprivation.

I have a shitload of work that I'm not 100% prepared to delve into. I tend to lose all attention to detail when I'm fatigued. The screen makes my eyes even heavier and it becomes a chore to even read the screen. I end up with my head down and focused on my fingers striking the keys. The result? More misspellings and syntax errors than usual. Hence the notion of the cat nap to recharge my senses.

When the nap failed, I tried to find ways to perk myself up. A fresh batch of iced tea. Soul anf funk selections on my iPod. I played a little poker to keep my mind sharp and then wrote a bit here in order to keep my fingers moving and the words flowing. I'm doing what I can to jump start my brain so I can blaze through the lengthy list of assignments. As we used to say on Wall Street, "We're burning daylight."

The alternative is to gut it out, which I'll end up doing, but then the quality of copy suffers a bit as I reach the fourth or fifth hour into the writing session. Catch-22. I could always knock myself out with the help of Mr. Xanax and sleep all day, which is another enticing option where I can stay up all night to catch up on work, emails, and the daily grind.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Klosterman and the Twitter Revolution

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

And yes, you can always follow me on Twitter.

Monday, October 19, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I was drowning in work. I lost the balance and things went from crazy to hellacious over the last week. I had so much on my plate that I had no idea what exactly I needed to do. I got way off course and fell behind schedule with other projects. It was sort of like running an ER and being over run with patients, except that I was wasting my time pulling out splinters from people's asses while there were patients with multiple gunshot wounds that I was ignoring.

I took an entire day and triage the workload in order to make sure the most serious assignments and deadlines were met. It's a ruthless business. I fired a client. I lost a client. I gained a new one and I lost out on a gig because someone undercut my rate.

I made a stand and figured out all of my assignments for the rest of the year -- that I know about. I assigned an amount of time that I think it would take to write each piece. Then I added the time it would take to write a dozen miscellaneous assignments on top of that. Once I got that ballpark number I knew that I was fucked. There's not enough time in the next 10 months to do everything that I'd like and that's incorporating my insomnia into finding an extra hour or two to write.

That's always my biggest complaint -- lack of time. I wish I had more of it and some days I really wish I had a speed addiction so I can catch up with all this backlog of personal projects and freelance work. I'm glad that I sat down and figured out how much work I had because it would have gotten uglier if I didn't shake things up.

Once this month ends, I'll be in constant motion for the rest of the year. Indio. Vegas. Costa Rica. New York City for Turkey Day. Albany. Richmond. Los Angeles. Vegas again. New York City for Christmas. Miami. Then... ? Yep, after a couple of weeks of being in the same place, I will be hitting the road again. Living out of my backpack. Airports. Delayed planes. Crying babies. Same old shit.

I have to pre-write assignments and get as many in the can as possible in order for me to enjoy the next few weeks. The best way to do that is to get into a rhythm and crank out a bunch of assignments in rapid-fire succession. Once you get the first one done, the second one comes easier then the third and the fourth. The next thing you know, you knocked off six or seven in a single day. That's over a week's worth of freelance work condensed into a single writing session.

I only delve into those monster churn 'em and burn 'em sessions a couple of time a year and it's usually in April and May before I moved to Las Vegas for the WSOP. Over the last few years, I wrote more short stories in those months than in the summer months because I was so swamped that I didn't have time to write fiction.

This week will feature split time between cranking out pieces and the re-writing the final chapter of Lost Vegas. This was the week that I was hoping to have last week -- but things didn't work out in my favor. I'm back in control, which is refreshing and a confidence-builder. Most fear comes from the unknown and I was scared shitless that I'd have deadlines looming over my head during the worst times -- partying hard for Halloween and bogged down with the November Nine.

I'm distracted too easily these days. With that said, I might be taking a few days off from the grind of the intertubes while I catch up on projects. If there's another Balloon Boy, well then I'll have to miss it. In the meantime, I spent the late night hours pre-writing several items for my websites and for a few clients. I made a tiny dent -- but at least it's a step in the right direction.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Los Crickets

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 17, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I inherited two things from my father: a wicked jump shot and his Irish temper.

One I never use anymore and the other bubbles up to the surface and rears its ugly head about two or three times a year and almost always in Las Vegas. That's where 90% of my emotional breakdowns occurred in the last half of a decade. You can imagine the surprise when I lost it in sunny Los Angeles yesterday.

I was pulled and tugged in a million directions over the last ten days when all I desperately wanted was to be left alone because I have a mountain of work on my plate. It's been a troubling week capped off by one of the worst days of 2009. How bad was it? I almost broke my hand punching a wall.

I reached my breaking point yesterday. I won't delve into the details and specifics. For poker players it's like complaining about a bad beat. The reason I'm even writing this is to give you a thought to ponder...

What exactly would drive you so insane that you'd want to put your fist through a wall (without health insurance)?

Oh, and I'm totally fine today. Mr. Hyde is lone gone and we won't see him for another 90-100 days. Life is weird like that.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Birthday... Dan

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I took this pic of Michalski in 2006.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Derek!

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I can't recall the last time it rained in Los Angeles.

That's the entire point of living in this plastic City of Angels riddled with mind-numbing traffic. Blue skies. Abundant sun. That's the Southern California experience. It's really tough being a miserable writer when it's always sunny and 76 degrees outside.

It started to rain on Tuesday morning and hasn't really stopped. The last time I saw rain in SoCal? At least since May. I got dumped on plenty of times while meandering on Phish tour this summer. It was sprinkling in Seattle, I endured a downpour during two nights at Jones Beach, survived an insane lightning storm in Indiana which destroyed our camp site, gutted out one rainy windy and cold Colorado night at Red Rocks, and got pissed on during an excepted monsoon in Saratoga. Aside from those stints with Mother Nature -- I spent a significant amount of time in rain-free Nevada and Southern California.

I don't mind the rain. God knows we could use it but no one knows how to effectively drive in it. SoCal is riddled with terrible drivers to begin with, who drive even worse in the rain. Accidents spike at the slightest hint of rainfall. If there's a time not to be on the roads, it's during the first big rainfall after a dry spell.

This week started out in the worst possible way -- with the heavy machines next door ripping up the floor. I was too busy on Monday to really complain and kept my head down. On Tuesday, we had to evacuate because the illegal immigrants on our slumlord's payroll were sanding the entire floors in the adjacent apartment. The shrill sounds were to stomach but the little particles were enough to drive us out of our apartment for the day.

We took up shelter at Nicky's parents house for the entire afternoon and set up a makeshift office in their living room. I got about the same amount of writing done (had I stayed home) because I worked at a quicker pace even though I felt a bit out of my element for the entire time. I had to wear pants. No Miles Davis. And I couldn't rip bingers in the dining room. I had to excuse myself to step outside for a smoke and most of the time Nicky and I sat at opposite ends of the dining room table and wrote. It felt more like we were working in a library that our normal routine.

Several of my friends work at home. I prefer to be alone when I'm working but there are times when it's nice to have some one else around. I'm selfish in that matter. When I'm in the zone, I don't want anyone to bother me. I reduce the number of distractions and tune out the outside world. You would be amazed to learn how much more productive that I am when I turn off my cellphone (and hide it so it's not in plain view), log off of email, and don't even consider firing up Twitter. No birds and fail whales. No texts. No emails. Nothing. Just me wandering down the cluttered hallways of my mind and trying to create something from nothing.

On those instances when work is kicking my ass, it's nice to have some one to chat with for thirty seconds before I returned to work. I like having the ability to sound off ideas and concepts. Nicky is perfect for allowing me to interrupt her work to ask those random and odd things. But the majority of the time, we don't bother each other and stay out of each others' way. I like that. When my door is closed -- it's a powerful message. Don't fuck with me.

Ah so now it's Wednesday. Hump day. I'm treading water with today's deadline. I have to spice it up before I submit it to my editor. I have another deadline tomorrow, but I wrote 95% of that yesterday and all I have to do is give it one final polish and send it off to that editor on Thursday morning. Friday's deadline? I haven't even started the column. I don't even have a topic -- but I have some ideas after a quick brainstorming session with Nicky at lunch. She liked the story that I pitched her and we decided that it could actually be two different stories. I have direction. I just have to finish the other two pieces before I can tackle that one.

I have another deadline on Saturday for a European publication. The assignment fell into my lap on Monday. It's difficult to say "nyet" to the Russians. In these strange economic times, it's also hard to turn down free money. Plus, there are only a handful of people that I admire and respect in my industry, so I tend to gravitate towards those people... and vice versa. I'm thrilled to collaborate with a Russian editor friend of mine, but, one year ago I would have declined the last-minute assignment. Times are changing.

The shorter the time period for a particular assignment -- the greater edge that I have over my peers -- because I'm a faster writer and can effectively work without sleep. Imagine if I were an actually speed freak? The overall quality of my copy would diminish, but I would be able to tackle dozens of more clients and assignments per week that in the end I'd end up making more money. Sheer volume.

My client in Russia paid me for last month's work before I had the chance to invoice the magazine. Let me tell you... that never happens. These guys must have a positive cash flow. Or they probably knew that they were about to pull a shitty move and dump a last-minute assignment on me when they know that I'm swamped with other work, so they decided to pay me for last month's work as an appreciation of my stuff. Regardless, I was thrilled that they paid me before I asked for it.

When I get paid in a timely fashion, I snap to it. Most of the time I have to wait several months to get paid for freelance work. I always have nag clients to pay me on time. Shit, Fox Sports took me nine months once to pay me and they finally paid me after I hit them with a late payment clause.

A handful of delinquent clients try to make me seem like the bad guy for harassing them -- but I never let them bully me. They set a writing deadline and I met their needs. Why can't they do the same with a prompt payment? In the last 18 months, I dumped those extremely late clients. It wasn't worth my time.

And when things got rough, I played hardball and hit clients when they are the most vulnerable... under the gun as a deadline is rapidly ticking down. I call this the "Fed Ex" move which I resort to drastic circumstances. When I reach a threshold with a client who hasn't paid me for months, I send them an email three days before my next deadline saying that I am withholding my piece (I tease them with an excerpt) until I am paid in full within 72 hours. The result? An apology followed by one of two things; 1) immediate transfer to my online poker account or 2) they forward me a receipt for a Fed Ex tracking number for a package send by their billing department containing a check for past due services.

I have never had to call out the big guns... which is a phone call to my brother and The Rooster. Those two guys are extremely effective at debt collection. Yes, don't invoke the wrath of my bag men.

Which reminds me, those assholes at High Roller magazine stiffed me for at least $4,000. (I know -- the irony of a magazine billing themselves as "High Roller" that can't even pay their writers). They better watch their backs because The Rooster and Derek are cagey mofos.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disquiet Commotion

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I spoke too soon.

Yesterday morning, I gushed about the awesomeness of writing in the October with the morning breeze soothing my soul. Within an hour of hitting publish, I was kicked in the junk.

Living in the slums of Beverly Hills also means that we have a slumlord. Cheap is a strong word, but it aptly describes his spending ways trying to upkeep of his luxurious seven apartment structure that I'm worried won't survive anything over a 5.0 quake.

There was a leak in the basement last month. I could hear the hissing sounds underneath the floor boards in my office. It was a scene out of the Tell Tale Heart. Hissing at odd hours. I know that I was not having auditory hallucinations. Nicky confirmed the sounds, which confirmed my sanity. Parts of the floor boards started to curl up, which wasn't good, yet my office did not incur any more damage than a few warped floor boards. The apartment next door is a different story.

The apartment sat vacant for at least six months, maybe even as many as nine. A thirty-something female rabbi lived there for a while. I don't think she liked all of our devil's music and the random aromas of medicinal marijuana wafting through our windows. Maybe she didn't like the guys upstairs screaming at the TV during random sporting events or playing Guitar Hero to the wee hours. Who knows for sure, but the female rabbi bailed and our slumlord could not find anyone to take up the one-bedroom apartment with shitty plumbing.

I guess the economic crunch did not affect our slumlord in his ivory tower. Why else would he raise the rent of a one-bedroom apartment when the Rabbi left? There are much nicer apartments... on our block... let alone in a five-block radius of our neighborhood literally on the demarcation line of Beverly Hills. Since our apartment building is more ghetto that urban chic, he thought he could charge a couple of hundred over the mean-price of other apartments. The result? The over-priced apartment sat empty for months, despite the large For Rent sign in front. He even tried to hire a third-party real estate agent to try to rent the apartment. That didn't work. That's when he finally decided to lower the rent. But since he's a miserly slumlord, he reduced his price by a whopping sum of $25.

It wasn't even worth $1,200 let alone $1,700. But did he really think he could find someone to jump at $1,675? The next month he reduced the price by $25. Then another. And another. And another. After the ninth month, he finally found someone who was rich or desperate enough that they didn't care about the rent... a young business woman who logged long hours and barely spent time at home.

I'd be pissed if I were her... paying money on an apartment she's never in and then to come home one day and see the entire floor boards in her bedroom warped and destroyed by a leaky pipe. That's what happened over the weekend. The slumlord arranged a crew to fix it on Monday morning. Par for the course, he never told us anything about it. We found out the hard way.

I first heard the guy in the straw hat loudly talking on a cellphone when he loudly knocked on the front door of the apartment next door. When I went to investigate, I noticed two thuggy looking Mexican guys in hoodie stroll past my window and peak around the corner of the building. Just in case they were thinking about casing the place (in these parts of L.A. there have been an increase in break-ins with the theieves posing as landscapers and/or construction workers), I made my presence known. I gave them the patented-NYC-subway stink eye. They stopped in their tracks and scurried back to the guy in the straw hat who continued to bang on the door.

The slumlord's assistant showed up and that's when I realized that the guy in the straw hat was the contractor and the guys in hoodies were the illegal workers doing all the grunt work. A few minute laters, there was a knock on our door. The slumlord's assistant asked me if we could store our neighbor's table while they worked on the entire hardwood floor in the apartment. Mind you, he never said that they were going to do work nor did he apologize for the eruption of noise that was about to come our way. He just wanted to use our apartment because it was supposed to rain that day and he couldn't leave any Ikea tables outside. I agreed. Did I have a choice?

The slumlord's assistan invited me into the sparsely furnished apartment. All of the woman's furniture was stacked to the ceiling in her tiny kitchen -- minus the table that was moved into my apartment. The remainder of her apartment was empty. The contractor showed me the twisted and mangled bedroom floor. It looked like a week's worth of work yet I was told that work would be going on through Wednesday.

The slumlord's assistan never bothered to ask me if I work at home. In fact, both Nicky and I work from home. The ear-piercing sounds began at 10:30am and didn't stop until 5:47pm. I did what I could to drown out the bedlam from across the hall. Lot's of power saws. Lots of hammering. Lot's of sanding. All the music in the world cranked up at the highest volumes could not tune it out.

Nicky and I gutted through our assignments and made plans to work somewhere else on Tuesday. Of course, this could not come at a worst time. I mean, the writing gods out there are plotting against me. I'm on the last few chapters of the re-write for Lost Vegas. As if I didn't have enough bullshit and obstacles and setbacks to deal with over the last four years, I was blindsided by a "worse-case-scenario" for someone who works at home -- construction next door.

I'm used to working in cramped spaces or hectic environments. I accept those drawbacks when I'm on the road. For home? I expect a higher level of comfort. After all, I'm at home. That means writing pantsless, blasting music, and smoking copious amounts of dope while I write. I like to pace. I like to wander throughout the apartment in order to kick start my brain when I hit a stagnant part. All of those activities become hindered if I work in a different place such as a library or Starbucks. I'd love to sit at Starbucks but I don't think they'd along me to bring me bong. Would a library let me blast John Coltrane?

Alas, I had a big writing day planned for Tuesday with four looming deadlines (Wednesday > Thursday > Friday > Saturday) in addition to the last leg of Lost Vegas. I don't have a choice today and must gut through the noise or hope that our alternative office -- Nicky's parents house -- is a better alternative. When we go there, I have to wear my pants and I'm not thrilled about that prospect. Of course, we have to bail before Nicky's father gets home from work. He's a life-long Dodgers fan and hates the Yankees.

Monday, October 12, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I missed feeling the breeze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And the Things They Twitter'd

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

If you don't follow me on Twitter, here are some of the (non-self whoring) things that I linked up over the previous week. And if you do follow my static, then you might have missed one or two of these...
Gore Vidal says "We'll have a dictorship soon in the U.S." (Times Online)
Testicle hurts. Afraid to see the doctor. (Phantasy Tour)
Trailer: Where the Wild Things Are (You Tube)
RIP Irving Penn (NY Times)
Jets trade for Edwards (ESPN)
Do Schools Kill Creativity? (You Tube)
an open letter to the guy who put just a geek the audiobook on his website for people to steal (Wil Wheaton)
That's it for now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I Heard You Say It's Raining All Over the World

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

After a long Friday riddled with distractions, I didn't get as much writing as I had hoped. However, I caught up on crucial life matters -- more importantly -- my schedule for the rest of 2009 final became crystal clear. I seized that opportunity to make travel arrangements and balance my budgets.

Most of the evening was spent working magic on travel websites. In a few hours, I booked a series of flights (JetBlue is my friend), made hotel reservations, and even reserved a rental car for a trip to upstate NY. And... the total cost? Next to nothing. As my friend Girtz would say, "It's like free." I actually used a free flight for the NYC to Burbank leg after Thanksgiving. I booked my flight from Burbank to LA for Christmas... which I gotta say was cheaper than I expected. "It's like free."

Ah, the holidays with the family. I'm glad that I'm so busy the next few weeks that I don't have time to fret over that possibility. I'll be spending almost 2 weeks in NYC for Turkey Day and Phish tour and I'll return to the big city for another week during Christmas.

I crawled into bed late on Friday night (so late that it was actually Saturday). Nicky had been asleep for a while. I closed my laptop as a winner after a winning session of online poker. I had a mini-windfall against the Friday night amateurs. It was unexpected because I didn't expect to play.

A significant amount of poker players get caught up in a pissing match trying to outdo each other. I never fell into that trap. Playing against better players helps improve my skills, but the majority of money that I can make comes from horrible players, or more specifically, players underneath me in the gambling food chain.

Against most pros, I'm the mark and I'm out of my comfort level. But against a field of amateurs? I hold the edge. As Friday night bled into Saturday morning, I was on a good run of cards and had the urge to press my luck, but I knew better. I closed the laptop, listened to some music, zoned out, and then crashed.

I still had that itch to play when I crawled out of bed. It was only a few hours earlier that I had booked a nice score on two different sites, so PokerStars was one of the first sites I checked as the first inklings of daylight seeped into the apartment. I noticed that there was a satellite tournament to an event in Costa Rica that I was remotely interested in attending. I went for it.

I had only one thing written on my "To Do" list for Saturday... Lost Vegas. I would not be distracted by the baseball playoffs with today being a travel day for the Yankees, so I had set aside the entire day to write, yet called an audible at the last second and decided to play poker. If my good luck continued, it would be an awesome way to start the day. If I had a shitty session, then I can accept that my fleeting luck had come to an end and it was time to hunker down and write.

Instead of the morning Jazz mix, I dusted off an old "playing poker mix" that could be a playlist from any major classic rock station in America. Lots of Neil Young, Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers, Talking Heads, and the Beatles.

The windows were open in the living room and the sounds of a domestic dispute from across the street, those shrill shouts died down and were overtaken by the sounds of children playing. Wait, at 8am? Roaming the slums of Beverly Hills? Then again it could be some kids on their way to Hebrew school or temple services.

By the time I made the final table of my tournament, it was mid-morning. The sun was out. The marine layer was burning off and the first glimpses of baby blue skies were bursting through the grey cover. There were kids still outside playing. Screaming. Chasing after each other.

The tournament results were not that I imagined. I busted out in 8th place and got my money in good. The real cheesecake were the top 4 places. Even if I had won that hand, I still had a lot of work ahead of me. At any rate, my decisions were good. The results were poor, but such is life. I shut off the poker... for now... and will return later in the evening. Games and leisure time were over. It was time to head to work. I was burning daylight...

I changed music and selected a writing mix, the one in particular, a third volume of a Bob Dylan mix (from studio albums, live recordings, and performances with The Band). There were major sections of Lost Vegas that I needed to re-write. Dylan was my steroid choice of the day.

Friday, October 09, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Lunch Counter

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"You're late today."

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

"Late night," I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did your nanna cut the crusts off?"

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ruskie Origins

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Thom Yorke Phones Home

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

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

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

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

Thom Yorke
Photo by: Joydoy197

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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