Friday, September 25, 2009

Red Line

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I love writing, yet loathe writing for others.

Even the clients that I like, I have a difficult time motivating myself to dig deep. The moment I open up a blank Word doc and scribble down my byline, it doesn't matter who is buying the piece or what the topic is for that matter. Any keystrokes that ensues is work. A job. And by definition, all jobs suck. It doesn't matter if I'm writing a bullshit report about a couple of social misfits and degenerate gamblers who played a pot worth over a half of a million dollars or if I'm hunched over a computer monitor and trying to cajole a know-it-all dentist from Tenafly, NJ to pick up 1,000 shares of some bullshit pharmaceutical stock (think 'Farrow Tech' from Boiler Room) that the overlords ordered me to dump onto my prospective clients, who were stupid enough to buy. Work is work.

I used to write solely for myself. Locked up in a dark room illuminated by a single candle. Loud music. Thick smoke. Without a net.

Most of the time, that's my goal, to write for myself. After a while, when I discovered a rapidly growing audience following my the words (with monetary ramifications around every corner) so I made an adjustment and wrote with the audience in mind. Over the long haul, that is a bad thing because you begin to pander to the lowest common denominator (e.g. the demise of network television or some newspapers). However, short term, it's an easy buck.

I vacillated back and forth between writing for myself and writing for an audience. There were mixed results and tons of inner conflict. Sometimes the words shined bright, sometimes they fizzled into the dark of night. That's the way it goes. But at least I was conscious of the two diverging paths and knew short cuts back and forth so I could jump on and off at different moments.

I no longer do that. I returned to the "writing for myself" mode because the bigger picture is more important to me than the short term consequences. That was a fancy way of saying, "I don't give a shit about money now. It's all about the art, man."

Which is not entirely true. But if I can get away with writing for me and still get paid for it, then I pulled off a successful coup. The guys with the guns usually have the power.

In the last month, I found my words at the mercy of two copy editors, which is a good thing. There are times that I have been catering the words towards their tastes instead of writing from the gut.

My recent goal has been -- not to get red-lined.

Long term, that will make me a stronger writer which is my ultimate goal. Short term? Sometimes I feel as though my pieces are too polished and lack a certain zest.

Balance. That's the most important word in all of life. Balance. It's essential in art. You need all the necessary components working in harmony in order to create a piece that impacts people. Sgt. Peppers. The Mona Lisa. The Road.

The editor in charge of Lost Vegas reminds of a German butcher.

Whack! Whack! Whack!

He's merciless and fierce, yet precise. Instead of tawdry piece of shit, were gonna have a sleeker volume of stories about Las Vegas. That's a good thing. No... it's an amazing thing and a sensational miracle. However, it's utterly brutal to see years of work flushed down the toilet like a foul turd.

The other copy editor is a respected journalism professor. When I hand in my work, it feels like being a Top Chef contestant and he's one of the celebrity judges about to critique my food. Since I already know that his expectations are much higher than the average copy editor, I know that I have to elevate my level of writing..

I used to be so spoiled and could get away with turning in a first draft. Not any more. I spend a significant time re-writing and re-writing. It used to be my least favorite thing about writing, but at this juncture, it's essential. The only good thing is that I'm so used to re-writing right now, so it's not as much as a chore as it used to be.

It's a daunting and near impossible task to write a flawless piece, but I like a challenge. In one way, these assignments are taking my mind off the fact that it's work. I'm welcoming the opportunity to have my pieces properly inspected by a professionals something that the poker industry rarely boasts.

Many of my clients allowed me to get lazy and I took advantage of their desperation. Easy money. I could turn in anything and some places would publish the pieces without even reading them. That massages the ego, but it makes me cringe when I see basic copy editing errors. In the end, we both look bad.

Sometimes, it feels good to write without worrying about the red line. But sometimes, it's good to know it's there.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Open Air Modern

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A friend of mine opened up a used book store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This one has a twist. Check out... Open Air Modern.
We've moved into a brick and mortar retail shop, still in the neighborhood at 606 Manhattan Ave.

Though we had loads of fun working outside on Metropolitan Avenue, we love our new spot. We've traded truck traffic in favor of trees, as we are at the head of McCarren Park now.

Our product selection has increased now that we have more space and permanent displays. It is still an accessible place to pick up a very good reading copy of classic and contemporary fiction. Also we have beefed up our art, photography, design, architecture, fashion and unusual non-fiction stock.

The furniture we sell, mid century modern is still priced very affordable and the selection is always changing.

The best news though is now it is much easier to shop with us. Our new shop has regular hours and we are still available to show furniture pieces by appointment.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Alley Sounds Reprise

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A cricket sings, but only at night.

At the Midnight hour, the alley sounds are a bit different than their day counterparts. The lack of warm sun changes the environment. There's the crazy Asian lady who constantly screams at her husband in her native tongue. I have no idea what she's saying but her husband must be one helluva fuck up that she's always calling him out on things. Either that, or he's deaf.

The guys upstairs stand in the alley, talk about football, and smoke cigarettes. The apartment building is a no-smoking structure. I should say -- no cigarette smoking -- because there's plenty of herbal toking going on. Sometimes they smoke twice an hour. Most of the time, it's about once an hour.

The out-of-work actress/waitress from across the alley sings at odd hours. Her vocals are better than your average karaoke lounge star but not quite American Idol material. In the mornings, she's singing pop in the shower. In the afternoons, she's practicing her scales. At nights? I assume she's just drunk and happy, one or the other, or both.

I haven't heard the moans and groans from the couple having sex in the pool house behind us. The lady unleashed shrill sounds -- sort of like a goat being shredded to death by a lawnmower -- which echoed across the alley and into almost every room in our apartment. She hasn't been riding the pipe recently.

And sometimes, just before dawn, you hear the can homeless people digging in the dumpster looking for something. Anything. There's more and more of that going around. I have been consuming an alarming rate of canned seltzer water. The result? At least a six pack of aluminum per day. We usually dump out our stuff to the recycle bin once a week, and on that day, the first bum who stumbles upon our dumpster hits the jackpot. And if the dumpster diver catches us on a Monday morning, he'll even luck into an even bigger score when you add in all the empty beer cans that the guys upstairs drink while they watch football on Sunday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thirty Years Later

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


I remember it as an innocent time, yet it marked the point when the tumultuous 1970s ended and the decadent 1980s were ushered in. 1979 was the pre-cable TV and pre-video game era. (I would get an Atari a few months later for Christmas). We had five or six TV channels on a TV set that was wooden and the size of two washer machines.

My parents listened to a lot of radio; my dad was a news junkie and played 1010 WINS in the mornings. Their tag line was "Give us twenty-two minutes, and we'll give you the world." That's how I learned about current events like the Russians invading Afghanistan and the Iranian hostages. Little did I know that those sound bytes from foreign correspondents (with impeccable British accents) would help shape my path as a writer. And my mother used to listen to CBS radio which aired popular music from the 1960s, which we referred to as "oldies" music even in 1979. That was were I got my musical primer with Motown legends, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan. It wasn't until I sat down to write this post when I realized that exposure to the radio heavily influenced my life in a very positive manner.

We had a rotary phone cemented into the wall of the kitchen. A long chord, that was always tangled up, was able to reach into three different rooms of our apartment. I have memories of trying to jump over the outstretch phone chord as my mom chain-smoked and chatted on the phone in the living room. I had no concept of an "area code" and our phone number began with two letters followed by five numbers.

Things seemed so... simple. But of course, life is never that simple, even when you're feeling a bit nostalgic and re-living life through rose colored glasses.

The late 1970s was a dismal time for the city of New York. The city itself was bankrupt. The subways only cost fifty cents, but they were dilapidated, covered in heinous graffiti, and rife with crime. Parts of Harlem, the south Bronx, and Brooklyn resembled Germany in 1945 after we bombed the hell out of it. Cops were corrupt. Politicians were more corrupt. The mob kept order in the city. You were more afraid of pissing off the wiseguys than getting in trouble with the police. Times Square was a cesspool of filth; junkies, whores, queers, hustlers. Well, that I kind of miss. After Rudy G took control of the city in the 1990s, he cleaned it up and now it's the center of corporate shilling for the industrial-entertainment-media-complex.

This photo was taken thirty years ago during my birthday party at McDonalds. If you can't tell, I'm the kid in the front with the striped shirt.

One of my parent's first huge fights occurred a few hours before the above photo was taken. They followed each other through the apartment screaming at the top of their lungs. My parents weren't even speaking to each other when my party started at McDonalds. That was probably the beginning of the end for them and I'm surprised that their marriage lasted as long as it did.

Everyone from my class attended, even the kid from the Dominican Republic who didn't speak English got an invite. Things seem so simple when you're in the second grade. I wanted to be a stunt man and crash cars and jump off of buildings for movies and TV shows. I never imagined that thirty years later I would actually live in the shadows of the hills of Hollywood with a beautiful woman and earn my living in the entertainment industry. Yes, I know, I'm the lowest rung on the entertainment ladder as a poker writer, but I can pay my bills doing something I enjoy so I'm very happy about that prospect.

I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger version of myself that someday I'll get paid a shit load of money to write stories about adults playing video games. I'd also tell myself to watch less TV, read more books, and don't stress out about women.

Back to the above photo...

The kid on the left was one of six kids in an Irish family and his dad was a cop. No shocker, there. It was weird that my dad was one of the only Irish dads in my grammar school who was not a cop or fireman. The kids teased me that my dad didn't get to carry a gun to work because he was a suit at an big-time insurance company in midtown Manhattan. Little did they know that suits in insurance companies would be responsible for some of the most heinous crimes against humanity.

Both kids on the right are Italian. One kid's dad had a store in the neighborhood that laundered money for the mob. The other kid's dad was a fireman who worked nights so he was always sleeping during the days.

Guess which kid spent a stint in prison in his early 20s?

Guess which kid had a serious bout with cancer? I wonder if he's still alive to this day.

I stopped talking to the kids in the picture after I graduated from Catholic grammar school in the Bronx and went to high school in Manhattan during the end of the 1980s. Talk about the collision of two eras. No wonder us kids from Generation X were so.... jaded.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Memory jolts rattles my brain at random times. What happens during the actual jolt is hard to describe aside from everything stops for a milisecond. A memory flashes to the front of my brain and I become encapsulated by that exact moment, sort of reliving it in real time. Sometimes these jolts happen while waiting for a subway or walking down the aisle at Target or taking a seat at the local diner.

A few of those memory hiccups included...

... sitting in the back seat of a cab while caught in morning rush hour traffic on Avenida 9 de Julio (9th of July Avenue) in Buenos Aires.

... eating breaded chicken sandwiches smothered in melted American cheese and spicy mustard at 3am on the corner of 34th and Madison after talking to the street hookers a few blocks south during those pre-9/11 years. My buddy asked one of the working girls, "Are you gonna blow me on the stoop?"

... walking past the historic Chelsea Hotel (circa 1995) in a sullen state after getting into an argument with Sabine, who used to put me on tilt for weeks at a time.

.... blind guy tossed old yogurt at me in order to stop me from smoking pot.

Yeah, those memories might be strange, but not as strange as the two pyramid dreams I had this week. The first one occurred during a pre-dream. I had not really fallen asleep yet and dozed off while listening to my iPod. I woke up with clarity of a series of pyramids with electric bolts shooting out of the tops of the pyramids and striking the other pyramids.

I looked up pyramids in those vague random dream interpretation glossaries. I discovered that pyramids...

... are a positive symbol of fulfillment or accomplishment.

... represent "mental regeneration" of sorts.

... indicate that a major change is about to take place.

One can only wonder what the fuck is going on.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hood Pic Dump

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

From the slums of Beverly Hills. These were all taken within a five block radius of my digs...

This pic epitomizes the slums of Beverly Hills
(click to enlarge)

This guy's job is to collect these abandoned shopping carts

Monday, September 07, 2009

Five Block Radius

By Pauly
Los Angeles,CA

I watched a hipster chick do a face plant in the street, just off of Olympic Blvd. I snickered and didn't offer to help her up.

She was too busy texting while walking from the sidewalk to a double parked black Prius, driven by one of your prototypical L.A. Douchebags with too much hair gel blasting the latest Kings of Leon album. As she crossed the street, she was preoccupied with writing a text, maybe even a Tweet, and tripped on a piece of cracked pavement.

Her iPhone flew a few feet in front of her and slid underneath a parked car, she fell on her side and jumped right back up. I was surprised that she didn't stay on the ground and start crying. That's what I would have done. I think she was going on a date or something and she didn't want to be embarrassed by her lack of coordination. Her date jumped out of the car and freaked out.

ER doctors are experiencing a wave of injuries caused by people texting and doing other things. The most fatal antics include driving and texting. The most routine injuries? Falling down while texting. A couple of years ago, one famous poker player tore his kneee up pretty badly when he tripped down a flight of stairs in his own house while trying to answer an email on his BlackBerry. He didn't watch his step and BAM!

Of course, that wasn't the oddest thing I saw all week while walking around my neighborhood. That would be the dudes with the rug.

I can't really explain what I saw. but these two guys were driving down the street in a green pick up truck. They looked like construction workers. The young guy was white and the older guy was black. They stopped about a half a block away from me so I watched this go down as I approached them. Both guys jumped out of the truck and pulled a rug out of the back. It was wrapped up with one of those bungee chords. They plopped it on a patch of grass next to a palm tree. The young guy said something and the black guy started screaming at him. The young kid pulled out his cell phone and dialed the phone. As he put the phone to his ear, the black guy bitch -slapped him. He surprisingly did not drop the phone.

I decided to cross the street just in case one of them pulled out a gun. Both guys yelled at each other for about fifteen seconds, then they abruptly stopped. They didn't say another word and bent over to pick up the rug. They threw it in the back of their pick up and drove off.

Sometimes I see the same homeless guy wandering down Pico Blvd. I've seen him plenty of times before by the post office or in front of the Jack in the Box. He looks like he's in his 60s with a weathered face like an old catcher's mitt. He wears dirty jeans and an old courdory blazer, the one with patches on the sleeves. He looks like he could have been a college professor in the 1970s and lost his job and wandered around the streets of L.A. ever since while wearing the exact clothes he used to teach in.

As I stood on the corner and waited for the light to change, traffic sped past us and he peered into a trash can at the bus stop. He rummaged around for a few seconds before he pulled out a newspaper and a box of Jack in the Box fries. It was 85% full, too. I have no idea how old they were, but he stumbled upon a major food score in the trash.

I ran out of printer paper and made a run to Staples as soon as they opened up in the morning. I forgot that it was a Saturday on a holiday weekend just a round the time kids went back to school. Yeah, Staples was flooded with kids running amuck in search of school supplies. All I wanted was paper and a hole puncher. I also bought a binder and a pack of red pens and waited in line which seemed like an eternity since there was only one cashier ringing up a store full of shoppers.

There were three women standing in line in front of me but they had a total of 15 children and no less than half of them were little ones darting in and out of the line and screaming and crying that they wanted whatever items they say in front of them. We were in prime "impulse buy" territory and since the line didn't move, we were stuck in between two rows of random office supplies and candy. The kids were going apeshit and I wish that I smoked more pot before I wandered into Staples on a Saturday morning.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

80s Flashbacks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm short on time. Deadlines looming. Trying to squeeze a month of freelance writing into two days? Didn't happen. But I know that I can do it in four days if I really hustle and more like five days. That's fine. I'll accept that considering I need the rest of the month for edits. Edits. And more edits.

I'm exhausted and mentally drained at the end of the day every since I returned to Los Angeles. Nicky thinks it's the brutal heat. I think it's that along with the pressure of getting the book complete. Writing is easy for me. Editing and promoting? Not my strongest suits but I'm plugging through.

I finished the bathroom book that had me occupied in the mornings. Benjo gave me an out-of-print special edition book commemorating Rolling Stone's 20th anniversary. The book had plenty of photography of 60s, 70s, and 80s icons and plenty of one-on-one interviews. Two interviews that stood out? John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Both were extremely hard and critical of their fan base, somewhat on the verge of disdain and contempt.

A couple of articles stood out... one on Sly and the Family Stone. The other was about Kent State.

Two of my favorite authors who wrote about 80s decadence were featured including a clip from Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. The other was a piece on Roxanne Pulitizer by Hunter Thompson. Former Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner said that was one of Hunter greatest pieces of writing. Usually I disagree with Jann, but he's dead on there.

My favorite book that Hunter wrote was the first one I read... Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. The Vegas book was epic, but it didn't affect me as a writer and as a student (at the time I read it my Freshman year in college as a teenager with a deep interest in politics and a future pre-law candidate).

One of my favorite Hunter articles were the Kentucky Derby piece where he was teamed up with illustrator Ralph Steadman for the first time. Steadman had never done psychedelics before he met Hunter and he was spun pretty hard for most of his assignment. His drawings and sketches from that assignments were influenced by the mind-altering substances he had ingest for the first time. His dark and twisted and perverse drawings accurately captured the depravity of the Kentucky Derby that Hunter eloquently described in his piece.

The other favorite of mine was about Roxanne Pulitzer. I had been desperately looking for a copy and was happy to find it one morning during a bowel movement. I flipped the page and there it was. Hunter was perfect for the assignment. Since it was the 1980s, I wonder how much blow he consumed while covering the trial and writing the piece. In many ways, it might have been one of his last great pieces of journalism and writing. He hit a few home runs with some of his ESPN articles, but most of those were smaller gems like his reaction to 9/11 and his rules to changing baseball.

Anyway, now I'm onto a new bathroom book that the Human Head sent to me about Jack Herer and the conspiracy against marijuana. Should be an awesome read.