Thursday, December 30, 2010

Worcester Dispatches: Back on the Train

By Pauly
New York City

I almost didn't make the show. Benjo had both of my Worcester tickets, but he lives in France. He planned on flying into NYC on Monday morning and we were going to drive up to Worcester for both shows, then drive back to the city for the MSG run. Alas, the blizzard screwed up air travel across the northeast and European grid. Benjo's flight got pushed back to Jan 1st. He negotiated a hellacious flight into Boston (Brussels > London > Chicago > Boston) that would get him into the States almost two hours after the second Worcester show ended.

I wasn't going to make the trek by myself until my buddy Senor called and persuaded me to take the train to Providence (where he lives), and then he'd drive to Worcester (located less than 45 minutes away). Senor driving plus the train meant that I could get schwasted and not have to worry about being a responsible driver. How could I say no?

I pulled the trigger on the show at the last second. I was in NYC and hopped on a subway to Penn Station, then evaded a K-9 unit and thousands of disgruntled train passengers before I boarded an express train to Providence and ate some pharmies. Senor picked me up at the train station and drove right to Worcester. We got into town around 7:40 and parking was a bitch. We got the next-to-last spot in some shady lot behind a hospital.

Senor had two extras which he dumped for 20% below face. Most tickets were going for less, but Senor scored four killer seats. He didn't tell me how good the seats were until we got into the show. We were two rows off the floor on Fishman's side and about ten feet in front of the stage. Right away, I spotted the Rhombus and two signs requesting "Dog Log" and "Weigh."

We had to kick a couple of wooks out of our seats and got settled in a few minutes before lights went down. Kill Devil Falls might have replaced AC/DC Bag as an opener in 2011. By the time the chorus came around, our section was sprayed with a beer shower. Senor hopped it was beer. I told him not to worry at an indoor Phish show about an aerial urine bomb. At a Panic show, it would probably be piss.

I had a seat on the aisle and the aisle was packed. One girl couldn't stop gushing about the sound. "Soooo much better than seeing Phish outdoors," she continuously said.

The country Phish tune of the night was My Mind Got A Mind of Its Own, and I got faked out at the beginning, which sounded a lot like Uncle Pen. But I'm not a redneck, so all country songs sound similar to me.

Trey looked like a little kid playing around with his mini-voice recorder that had a bunch of pre-recorded barbs from Sarah Palin. He unveiled his toy during the opening section of Alaska. It was hard to hear everything through the audience speakers, but I'm sure it sounded much crisper in the live release.

After Alaska, Trey and Gordo had what Senor described as an "animated chat" that last for a good ninety seconds. She Caught the Katy ensued, and that tune was the first curveball of the night. Gordo sang the vocals for Katy, which offered up a bit of country and a bit of funk. Country-funk. I always think about the Blues Brothers (more so than Taj Mahal) when I hear that song. Page nailed a wicked solo.

The boys threw the crowd a bone with a heavy hitter in Wolfman's. Page seized control early on with a funkified clavinet orgy that inspired a glowstick fracas in the crowd. The deeper the funk -- the more the crowd went nuts and tossed around the glowsticks with an increased fervor. Wolfman's was one of the highest energy peaks of the show.

Trey spoke to the crowd about surprising Tom Marshall with a song that they co-wrote together called Pigtail. Tom had no idea Phish was going to play it. I have to listen to it a few more times to formulate an opinion, but my snarky gut says that it's much better than the uber-ghey Summer of 89.

Trey's voice sounded pretty scratchy. Someone (via Twitter) said that Trey had a cold, which was why he sounded bleh. At least it was not the result of freebasing. The last time Trey's voice sounded off like that was when he was crocked to the tits during the disastrous Vegas 2004 run.

First part of Stash was uneventful and I spent the time zoning out on the lights. That's one of the things about Stash -- if I get bored with the jam, I can easily amuse myself with the lights because CK5 gets a little crazy during Stash. The end of the Stash picked up a ton of steam and they finally got the jam cooking. Trey had his mouth wide open. I swear that I saw drool.

"Is this a new song?" joked Senor when Bouncin' got played. Nope, I said. It's a Pauly Takes A Piss Song.

Rift was a shot in the arm late into the set. Well placed and well done. Glad we got that gem. I thought a mediocre version of Stealing Time was going to end the set, but the boys huddled in front of Page's setup. They debated an acapella song and settled on Birdwatcher. Much better choice than Grind. Everyone on the floor in front of Phish busted out their cameras and cellphones to capture the moment as a puddle of glowing lights illuminated the area in front of the stage.

Set 2 opened with a thrashing and head-banging Carini. A wookette snuck into the aisle to dance. She was next to me and I was getting whipped by her natty dreads as she violently shook her head back and forth. I was bumming out a bit about the dread lashing until she finally moved up a spot and danced in the front row (blocked off from the floor).

Backwards was standard. Nothing to report otherwise until Back on the Train. The Worcester version had a bit of snow-funk thrown into the mix, which might have been one of my peak moments in the second set.

Senor was jumping up and down at the end of Limb by Limb. Because we were so close, I took advantage of being able to watch Fishman utilize every inch of his kit, as he demonstrated his version of multiple African drummers.

"I want to do this when I grow up," one guy next to me said to his girlfriend as he pointed at the stage.

I got whipped again with the wookette's dreads during the Wedge. It felt weird to hear the Wedge played somewhere other than Colorado. We got a spacey and rare Frankie Sez, and the low-energy tune morphed into an even slower, plodding cover of Neil Young's Albuquerque.

I figured that I'd get a Hood when we stopped just outside of Worcester and I saw a Hood milk carton. Sure, there's Hood milk all over New England, but that's just how my mind works before a Phish show. I seek out any Phish-related sign and make a connection (whether it fits or not).

The middle section of Hood got a bit lost. Here's my theory: Trey was tripping out on the wookette in front of me. She was getting down and dancing and Big Red was fixated on her. Check out the video and you'll see Trey staring off to his left. What you won't see is the hottie grooving out. After getting a better look, she was more attractive than I expected. Trey wouldn't stop staring. I was getting uncomfortable because the jam kinda stalled. At one point an anxious Page looked up and tried to figure out why Trey was lost. Yep, the magnetic pull of a Phishy chick mesmerized Trey until he finally pulled out of it.

I caught an intense version of Bug to close one of the sets in Alpine Valley this summer, and the boys attempted to replicate that feat in Worcester. I love to point at the band during the "overrated" parts. The Hood-Bug combo was an interesting and intense way to end the show.

The solo encore was Shine a Light and Trey didn't sound too good. Sure the song is soulful and a raspy, bluesy voice would be a nice compliment to the song, but Trey's scratchy voice didn't mesh.

Overall, I went into the show with very low expectations. Heck, I wasn't even supposed to go and only went at the last second because I rarely get to hang out with my buddy Senor. I have no clue what our schedules will be like next year, so I welcomed the opportunity to throw down in Worcester. We had fun. I got schwilly. What more could I ask for?

I really can't think of a better way to spend a Tuesday night aside from seeing a Phish show. Thanks to Senor for the hook up (ticket and the ride).

One down. Three more to go. Get ready for some MSG insanity to end 2010 and to start 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 - The Year in Photos

By Pauly
New York City

2010 was quite a year. I spent a lot less time on the international poker trail and replaced those wanderings with Phish tour. Along the way, I snapped photos and 2010 included a significant number of CrackBerry cam photos. The technology is improving and some of my favorite moments were captured with my handy mobile device.

You can check out different galleries that I created covering the porn convention, Uruguay, Mastodon, NYC, and Vegas...not to mention random stops on Phish tour like Telluride, Atlantic City, Atlanta, and Charleston.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from 2010, including 11 that stand out...

"Nalin Palin" actress was a big draw at the AVN AEE (aka the porn convention)
Las Vegas, NV (Jan. 2010)

Statues of Jesus above the hotel bar
Punta del Este, Uruguay (Feb. 2010)

Timmy at a frolf course during Mastodon 2.0
G-Vegas, SC (March 2010)

Random hotel elevator with Nicky
New York, NY (April 2010)

The Joker in the Phish lot on the Fourth of July
Alpharetta, GA (July 2010)

The Spectacle of Phil Hellmuth
Las Vegas, NV (July 2010)

The Colorado crew before Phish's show in Town Park
Telluride, CO (Aug. 2010)

Eurotrash Night
Broomfield, CO (Oct. 2010)

Morning View
Folley Beach, SC (Oct. 2010)

Saturday night throwdown in Chucktown
Charleston, SC (Oct. 2010)

Phishy Halloween
Atlantic City, NJ (Oct. 2010)

My favorite was the bright yellow one taken during a throwdown in Charleston.

For more pics, check out my galleries on Flickr.

Monday, December 27, 2010

LAX > JFK and Christmas Whipping Post

By Pauly
New York City

December of this year in Los Angeles reminded me of living in Seattle with its continuous grey sky and intermittent showers that were interrupted every few hours by a sudden downpour. The winter is when I actually enjoy living in Southern California the most because of the lack of bitter cold that turns your testicles and brain into a painful gruel. I don't complain about the weather during trips to NYC, mainly because I have no reason to complain because I'm fortunate enough to soak up the SoCal rays of sun for the majority of the year.

If anything, the hardest adjustment is that my body is ill-equipped to handle the frigid New York winters, which is why I usually get sick when I head home for the holidays. My lack of winter preparedness makes me paranoid, and I have to overcompensate for the lack of familiarity with excess clothing as I wander around underneath multiple layers, usually at least two more layers than I actually need. As a result, I'm too warm and break out in a sweating fit as waterfalls of sweat cascade off my forehead and nose like Patrick Ewing shooting a free throw. In short, living in SoCal has made me soft when it comes to the Northeast winters.

I packed light for this two week trip. That's how I usually travel, but the weather was of utmost concern, so I packed the warmest jacket that I had in LA with me, but that meant I had to carry even less with me than I desired in order to make said jacket fit into my small bag. Luckily, I have a wardrobe in New York including a two week supply of underwear and socks, not to mention mostly winter clothes and "non hip" items that failed to make the cut when I migrated out West. I'm fortunate that I have enough clothes on both coasts that I could technically walk onto a plane without any luggage. I only needed my laptop, but then again, I had a laptop (three actually) in New York, so there's was really no need for that particular laptop, aside from it being a safety measure and something to keep me sane at LAX if we experienced a lengthy delay.

Before I headed to the airport, I enjoyed the aroma of pines needles inside the apartment. We had gotten a tree the day after I returned from Vegas, even though I'd only get to enjoy it for a week. That was good enough considering the amazingly low price. I didn't even have to negotiate at the lot -- something that I was bummed out I didn't get to do because sometimes I like to haggle, an activity that placates the used car salesman and former broker inside me. The tree people quote me a price so low that it was almost too hard to believe, yet, and a number too low that I felt like I was really ripping them off if I went any lower.

Nicky dropped me off LAX with a small bookbag. The bulkiest item I carried with me was a heavy fleece jacket. I packed two t-shirts, a long sleeve-short and a pair of underwear. That was it for clothes. I also packed a carton of smokes and a Monet desk calendar -- both items that would be making a one-way journey because they were Christmas presents for my Mom. Aside from my laptop and plugs/chords, I also carried a single book. I wasn't going to take a book at all to save space, but Nicky gave me a book for Christmas before I left. Hardcover books are a chore when you're trying to travel light, but I made an exception for Michael Lewis' The Big Short, which was an epic tale about few people who were bold enough to bet against the entire sub-prime mortgage market. I had read a few excerpts of Lewis' story either while killing time in airports or reading articles/columns he wrote about the sub-prime bubble, but wanted to sit down and read the entire book. I had no idea but the book was so good that I'd read every single page on the flight from Los Angeles to New York City.

I flew the redeye and wasn't tired at all so I read the entire way. Good books make time fly because you can't put the book down and lose all concept of time. Flight went smooth. Even though we were delayed by 40 minutes, the pilot made it all up in the sky and landed close to the scheduled time just before 7am.

It took over 2.5 hours to make my way from JFK to the Bronx. I was too cheap to pay for a taxi to sit in morning rush hour traffic, so I opted for the Air Train to the subway. I just missed the first Air Train, which set off a chain reaction that made miss two connections down the line because I'd miss the A train by a few seconds and got stuck waiting for a bus in Inwood. The journey through four boroughs took about half the time it took to fly across the country, but it only cost me $7.25 and I saved over $60 plus tolls by sticking to public transportation.

By the time I got home, it was 9:30am and I had been up for over a day. Within moments of walking in the door, my mother picked a fight. She goaded me into it and I never saw her spring a trap. Guess I was too tired to be paying attention to the question she asked me because it was a loaded question that gave her a springboard to go off on a rant about one of my least favorite topics. When I realized that I got ambushed, I bailed from the conversation, simply too tired to argue. I skipped Thanksgiving, so my mother had a month of backed-up venom that she felt the desire to unleash upon me as soon as I walked in the door. Home for the holidays and I paid for this abuse. I'm glad I saved $60 on the fucking cab.

I was up for over 40 hours when I finally pulled the plug and went to sleep. I spent most of my time on my first day back sorting through two huge piles of mail. I tossed about three small bags worth of junk mail and a three foot high stack of poker magazines, mail order catalogs, alumni magazines, and other junk rags.

Between the time I landed in NYC and Christmas, I watched a lot of sports with my brother including tons of basketball. I had a few bucks on random games like Boise State in their bowl game, a couple of college hoops games, and the Knicks. I even bet the Knicks on Christmas, something that I thought would be bad mojo, but the spread was too juicy to ignore.

I helped my mother clean her apartment for Christmas and she wondered what "Lauren" was doing for the holidays. Of course, she calls Nicky the wrong name, even after I corrected her a dozen times.

Christmas was tepid. I got zero material items which made me content because my family has a habit of buying me clothes that I never wear. I bitched and moaned about it and they finally wised up. On the flip side, I had to pick up a bunch of stuff for them, which I did through (where I made for 90% of my gifts purchases). I definitely didn't spend as much money as I did last year, but I also didn't have as good of a year as a freelance writer as I did in previous years. I took off most of the year to finish Lost Vegas and didn't have a heavy freelance schedule. Plus, unless you're the chick who writes Harry Potter books, most authors barely break even after they get a book published. I wondered if my family thought I was being cheap, but hey, at least I gave them something material even though it goes against most of my principles because Christmas consumerism has gotten outta control.

The worst part of Christmas dinner was getting needled by my uncle. He's a lifelong Mets fan and detests the Yankees, which by proxy, means that he loathes me. He didn't even take his jacket off and he was already ripping into the demise of Derek Jeter. It's not that I can't take a ribbing about sports, but he didn't even bother saying hello before he went right for the jugular. My mom had to say something to him because he was too focused on giving me shit than opening up his gifts. I said something like, "Hey it's Christmas. Be polite and open up my mom's gift first, then you can give me shit all you want."

After a while my brother got sick of the unnecessary and unprovoked bullshit and told my uncle to stop the badgering.

"I don't talk shit to you. I never walk into your house and tell you how bad the Mets are. But you can't let it rest for one minute. When will you just get over it already. We know you don't like Derek Jeter. But you know what? None of that is going to change the fact that he has won championships and he will still go into the Hall of Fame, no matter how much you hate him or not. None of that is going to change."

I was surprised, because my brother actually shut him up the rest of the night. Ironically, my brother said that Turkey Day dinner (which I skipped) ran very smoothly and my uncle didn't talk smack about Jeter or the Yankees... even once. I told Derek that was the case because I wasn't there. Since I showed up at Christmas, my uncle felt as though he had a right to just act like a dick.

Here's the thing that he's yet to learn -- giving me shit about a "sports team" doesn't tilt me. I love the Yankees, but trashing them or any other team that I root for, or trying to berate a player that I respect is not going to affect me negatively. I usually laugh because the hater thinks more about what he hates with a stronger passion than something I love. Yep, that stems for a serious insecurity issue. I'm not one of those fans that gets easily insulted about their team getting picked on. Sometimes fans can be uber-sensitive, so much so that it's like you're pissing on their pancakes.

I have a well-rounded life and confident in my likes/dislikes, so a bush-league attempt at trying to tilt me makes me feel sorry for the so-called hater. But on Christmas, something in me clicked. I was irked at my uncle's disrespectful behavior because he was purposely trying to be malicious from the moment he walked in the door. e saw the holidays as an opportunity to give me guff. That's why I flew out from LA... to be a whipping boy. I made a decision to be non-confrontational with my family this holiday season so I kept my mouth shut (in that instance and at least a dozen other incidents). But by me staying quiet, my uncle saw that meek behavior as a sign of weakness and amped up his vitriol. That's when my brother stepped in and called out my uncle for being a dick.

After dinner ended, I took a nap (at least went into another room to lie down and watch Collapse and other Peak Oil videos on You Tube) until my uncle and aunt finally left. When I talked to Nicky later that night about her fantastic Christmas dinner in LA, I questioned whether or not I really wanted to return to NYC next year. Why do I constantly pay for this abuse year-after-year? I gotta be honest, Phish playing New Year's Eve in New York City was what sealed the NYC/Christmas deal for this trip, much like Turkey Day 2009 when Phish played NYC right after Thanksgiving, which is the only reason I fly to NYC on the day before Turkey Day.

So, if Phish doesn't play the northeast next Christmas time, I might consider skipping my first Christmas in the city. What good is paying jacked-up ticket prices, fighting TSA cock checks, elbowing retarded amateur travelers, only to return home if all that's gonna happen is that my mother and uncle have free opportunities to shit on me?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lost Vegas for Kindle, Nooks, and iPads

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Merry Christmas to everyone. Were you a good boy/girl and did Santa hook you up with a new Kindle, Nook, or iPad? If so, you're in luck because the e-book version of Lost Vegas is only a few clicks away!

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for Kindle and iPads

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for the Nook

For print copies, you can always head directly to page for Lost Vegas, or if you want to save a few bucks, right now through December 31st, you can get 10% off of print copy of Lost Vegas via Lulu using coupon code: PEARTREE.

Thanks for your support.

Merry Christmas!

By Pauly
New York City

36 years ago today

The Annual Re-Telling of "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story"

By Pauly
New York City

One of my favorite NYC authors, Paul Auster, published something many moons ago titled "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story." I re-read it every Christmas. So should you.

Click here to read Auggie Wren's Christmas Story.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Return of the Bears and JP Morgue's Silver Manipulation

By Pauly
New York City

The Bears are back with some shocking and revealing info about more hijinks with silver manipulation...

Head over to Tao of Fear for more videos like this one.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cats and Dogs... Wet Cats and Dogs

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm not used to lots of rain in Southern California at this time of year. Sure, in January and February, it's the winter season which means temps might dip below 60 degrees with more rain than usual. But all of that rain arrived in December, a little earlier than expected. Every since I returned from Las Vegas, it's been raining non-stop with perpetual grey skies. Man, fo a moment I got flashbacks from living in Seattle, but the thing about Seattle is that it might sprinkle on and off during the day with a fine mist that never seems to go away. It doesn't rain hard, like those heavy downpours with sheets and sheets of rain falling faster than you can imagine. That's the type of rain I was used to in New York, or as the elderly generation would put it, "It's raining cats and dogs."

So it was a bit disturbing when the skies opened up and never stopped. Cats and dogs are an understatement. Part of the reason I ultimately sucked it up and moved to LA was because of the weather at this time of year. I've been watching football games and that's my only outlet to the frigid weather in the Midwest and Northeast. Sure, I have to head back home for ten days around Christmas, but I'm trying not to think about those freezing temperatures and wintry mixes that make walking around outside utterly miserable.

I don't mind the grey skies because it makes me hunker down and write better.Sometimes, when it's too sunny outside, that can be distracting and I get the urge to step outside and soak up the sun. That's when I pop my head out and get greeted by pollution and/or chemtrails that have been zigzagging over the skies of SoCal. I always wondered what those planes were spraying. I've been told by my friends who are hardcore conspiracy nuts that the chemtrails either fall under one of two categories: weather manipulation and/or poisoning the masses. Sweet Jesus, that can't be true. Or can it?

Who knows for sure. But I never noticed chemtrails over Los Angeles until a few months after Obama got elected and all of those Obama/Joker posters began popping up all over LA. Someone was hired to tear them down, but more would pop up over night. And then -- that's when the white lines appeared in the azure-tinted skies. Zig zag patterns. Xs above the slums of Beverly Hills. If I woke up early enough, I could see them hard at work. By the time most of the locals woke up and began their commutes, the trails dissipated into what looked like an ordinary layer of Los Angeles smog.

I didn't think anything of it until I noticed that the Las Vegas valley was being sprayed as well. I have no idea what is going on. One of my friends who is an engineer suggested that we create a weather balloon to fly up into the atmosphere to test what odd chemicals are up there. Sounds good in theory, but something like that can get Men in Black showing up at your door and carting you off to a re-education camp with a slew of American Talibans.

See, the grey skies and rain makes me think about strange things. I'm sorta bummed out at the rainy weather because it would have been nice to enjoy the warmth of SoCal before my trip back home for Christmas. Even though I have been looking at the weather report for NYC, the 20 lows/32 highs is not terribly bad, but for someone who had their blood thinned the last few years, even moderate winter temperatures are going to take a while to get used to.

In the past week, I have been frantically finishing up freelance work for the rest of the year, in addition to trying to pound out a couple of advanced assignments so I have a smaller workload on my plate when I fly back to LA in early January. I was in a rut last week -- an unmotivated rut -- and I cite full blame on the pharmies.

Painkillers kill my motivation and I only have a small window where I can function in a creative manner before the warm fuzzies win the battle and I get sucked into the couch. I don't necessarily numb the senses with the boob tube, but I sorta lose motivation to cross off the items on my "To Do List" and decide that procrastination is the better route to happiness. The opposite occurs when I'm jacked up on Adderall because all I want to do is work. Even when I finish every task on my To Do List, all I want to do is start writing new lists! Talk about complete polar opposites, because in one corner the painkillers suck me into the couch and in the other corner, I can't sit still with Addys pumping through my system.

Meanwhile, during my faded phases, I have been reading the last pile of books for 2010 (and eager to start a new pile in January). I have also been catching up on a backlog of financial articles on the web and offering up tutorials to Nicky about complex financial matters. I discovered that she understands the financial meltdown if I use poker/gambling terms or find appropriate Hollywood analogies. She's a fast learner. Just the other day she deadpanned, Wow, so Wall Street is just like gambling?" Well, no duh. And more hauntingly, she said, "And this financial game is fucking rigged?" Finally, she's finally catching on.

Over the weekend, when I was not sweating random sportsbets, I finally watched a dozen or so documentary films (both on the financial system and aliens) that various friends recommended. I'd say that 50% of it was a crock of shit, while 25% is debatable, but it's that last 25% that freaks me the fuck out!

I need it to start being sunny again, so I can focus on non-distracting work.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Trip Report and the Monday Morning Blue Pill

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Rather than repeat myself, it's easier if I just pointed you to different corners of the web.

I posted the first Monday morning link dump on Tao of Fear, which we branded as the Monday Morning Blue Pill. I talk about shotguns and Wikileaks warning Bank of America about an upcoming round of retaliation.

Over at Tao of Poker, I posted the first part of a Vegas trip report titled WPBT Moving on Up, Part 1: The Dream, Moving the Line, and Stay Away from My Sister.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Huddle Up

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Man, where did the last two weeks go?

Fog. That's how I describe it. I blame the recent rainy weather in LA, the clutches of a pharmie bender, and the looming doom of the 2011 financial crisis.

My apologies to the six of you who have been awaiting to read regularly scheduled posts on Tao of Pauly. My life is anything but regular, so I often go through periods of time when I get stuck in one gear and I'm unable to downshift out of my current situation. Alas, that rut has finally subsided. The last two weeks have been a little strange, frightening and empowering. I went on an epic bender, gambled a shitload (both on sports and commodities), scoffed at a bit of political theatre that enraptured my peers, spearheaded a new group project, and fought off the Vegas flu. That's been the behind the scenes battle from yours truly the last two weeks.

On a positive note, I will be moving most of my fear mongering and financial doom rants to a new corner of the web titled Tao of Fear. You knew that was coming based on the content I had been posting this month. Luckily, I will have some friends helping me out with that project as we try to educate our colleagues about the slow burn that will eventually cook all of our gooses.

I returned from Vegas earlier in the week and felt bleh for a few days. Part of it was shaking off the dreaded Vegas flu that I always catch during short sojourns to Sin City. I also got a bit depressed after this most recent trip. Without going into too many details, my malaise was rooted in one of those waves of nostalgia-ridden guilt that I know that the annual December trip lost some of its luster and will never be like it used to be in the mid 00s. At the same time, I have a bleak outlook on the world's financial situation, and I cannot help but think that Vegas is going to take another massive blow in the upcoming year once the dominoes begin to fall because of the current European sovereign debt crisis and the looming state/municipal debt crisis ready to strike in 2011. Maybe I was saddened at the prospect that we might not do one in 2011, and if we do, it will be even more stripped down than previous years.

I couldn't ignore the tumultuous financial forecast which is why I felt rather guilty indulging myself while in Vegas. I kept fighting back and forth between the wise cynic and the party guy who says, "Fuck it. Party it up. Live it up while you can because you'll regret that you didn't have more fun."

The roughest part of the Vegas trip was not having Nicky along. Yep, I had to drive from LA to Vegas by myself. It's not the first time I've done it, but obviously, I had to remain sober for most of the weekend if I wanted to be in decent head space to safely drive back. Maybe that's part of the reason I didn't have as good as time as I usually do -- because I had large bouts of sobriety while in Vegas.

Nicky threw out her back and was under doctor's orders not to travel. Not only is Nicky one of my best friends, she's also great at group gatherings and cocktail parties, not to mention handling the complexities of me. I spaced out on a couple of things in Vegas -- and I know that wouldn't have happened if Nicky was with me. One of those fuck ups included losing my wireless aircard. I'm kicking myself in the nuts for not insuring the piece of equipment for $3 a month. I'm also wicked pissed that I booked a hotel room and I used it for less than an hour considering that I didn't get into Vegas until after 3am (due to a bad wreck in Victorville) and had to leave by 9am for a meeting. I raged solo gambling by myself for four of those hours and tried to sleep for an hour, which never happened. But in that short time I was in the room, I still managed to lose my aircard. Of course, the room where I left it in was serviced by a maid (or someone in hotel's housekeeping staff) who snatched it up and never reported it as missing.

The trip was also rough because a number of my close friends were not in attendance. That's always tough because the main reason I head out to Vegas in December is to see those folks along with my brother. I'm fortunate that I get to travel a lot for work and Phish, so I can squeeze in time with friends when I'm in their neck of the woods. But the Vegas trip is a weekend when we can all hang out together. This year's crew was a bit smaller and Derek and I adapted by spending a lot more time chilling with each other -- alas, we definitely missed Nicky, GMoney, and the rest of our friends.

Once I returned from Vegas, I fell off the wagon. Actually, I jumped off the wagon and was happy to do so, but I got caught up in numbing my senses and lost the desire to publishing anything on the interwebs. I wrote a bunch, but the subject material was not for public consumption. If anything, I spent more time catching up on sleep and rest the last five days logging almost twice as much sleep that I get on an average week. Pharmies are bad in the long run, but in the short term, I get much more sleep, something that I wish I could get more of.

Time and sleep. I don't have enough of either and can't spend money to secure enough of both.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming to a City Near You! The Greek Riots

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

This is what should be happening all over America, but it's football season and we're too concerned about what was written on our Facebook wall.

Alas, then again, maybe everyone else who isn't a sports fan or doesn't have a Facebook account will throw fire bombs at the police?

This is Greece. This is now. Will it be America tomorrow?

H/T to Zero Hedge.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tao of Greed: Ben Bernanke Is God, Buy the Fucking Dip Sheeple!

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Bears are back and this time they summed up the atrocious interview with the head of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, when he appeared on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago.

Yes, buy the fucking dip.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Mini-Cooper

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm pressed for time, but I'm doing that "ten minute" blogging routine that I often tell my friends they need to do when they get into a blogging rut. So, now... I'm on the clock.

I live in a semi-religious neighborhood. It's a mixture of hipsters, Orthodox Jews, and a few Kabbalahists dressed in while. So it's not unusual for me to see cars driving around with oversized menorah's on the roofs. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx and got used to see that around Christmas time. Since it's so sunny outside, I think that the locals go out of their way to display their holiday cheer because it's easy to forget you're in the middle of a holiday season when it doesn't feel like Christmas (or Hanukkah).

The one thing that freaks me out are the hipsters who dress up their cars in Christmas decorations -- specifically Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. One of those tards lives on my block. They also drive a Mini Cooper that is decked out with antlers on the roof and a big red nose on the front grill of the car. I saw at least two other cars dressed very similar while running errands the last two days. I guess that's better than gaudy Christmas light displays. I haven't seen any on my block, but the folks across the way have an elaborate display of blue-themed Hanukkah lights.

I really wouldn't know it's Christmas in Los Angeles, because I avoid most retail outlets and the malls, so I don't get bombarded with all of that consumer-driven holiday cheer disguised as cheesy decorations. I get random reminders when I'm at the coffeeshop and a Christmas song comes on the radio. This morning, it was Bing Crosby singing Silent Night as I devoured a plate of chocolate chip pancakes. I wore my sunglasses while all of this went down. I know, sounds like a douchey thing to do, but when I sit at the table in front of the big window, there's too much light for me to deal with especially early in the mornings when my vampire self is struggling to adjust to the radiant California sun.

Yes, I can't get into the holiday spirit in SoCal. This is a blessing in disguise because the holiday that was supposed to celebrate the birth of Jesus has been hijacked by corporations -- all of whom properly brainwashed our citizens into acting like barbarians especially on the even of Black Friday when people line up in the middle of the night to buy stuff, and then they bum rush the doors and trample anyone in their way. A religious holidays has been turned into a consumer frenzy. Much how St. Patrick's Day used to be a holy day in the Catholic Church, it had been hijacked by beer and booze companies to promote binge drinking.

Oh, well. The Catholic church used to be one of the most powerful entities on the planet. Their power has since waned and priests have become fodder for late night talk show comics, who toss out the occasional altar boy/pedophile joke. I know one or two, but I'll save that for another post.

For now, the sun is breaking through the curtains in my office and I'm shocked that it's December. My allotted time has now run, so now it's time for me to be on my way and finish up a shit ton of errands and writing before I head to Vegas this week to spend time with my brother and some other close friends.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Lost Vegas - Christmas Shipping

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

FYI... right now through December 15th, you can get 15% off of a print copy of Lost Vegas via Lulu using coupon code: STOCKING305. Books are print-on-demand, so I suggest you order in the next few days to guarantee a Christmas delivery of Lost Vegas.

Click here to buy a copy at Lulu. Use coupon code STOCKING305 at checkout to get 15% off all orders.

If you're going the Amazon route, you can procrastinate a little longer. Here's the page for Lost Vegas.

Oh, and some stunning news... the e-book has been on Amazon for almost two weeks and Lost Vegas cracked the Top 10 in a few categories.

Thanks for your support.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Truckin - December 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 12

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Rare! I published Truckin' early this month. I'm hoping that I can deliver 2011 issues on the first of the month. That's my goal!

Anyway, many thanks to everyone's support in 2010. It's no bullshit when I say that I think this has been the strongest year to date in the supreme quality of stories from the eclectic group of scribes on our roster. Please help support us by spreading the word about your favorite stories.

December 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 12

The year-end issue includes a couple of Christmas-themes stories. Happy holidaze!

1. Christmas Bird by Paul McGuire
Shap drank whiskey and soda but with no ice. He'd nurse two or three drinks in five hours and sat the end of the bar for hours on end attempting to finish the NY Times crossword. When he was done with the puzzle, he'd engage in spats with Sully, the resident encyclopedia of sports statistics and knowledge of everything sports... More

2. That Musical Christmas Meeting in Jail by Johnny Hughes
When Sheriff Dink staggered across the room with Lonnie's guitar, both men pulled guitar picks from their pockets. Ryan reached out and grabbed the guitar. He picked a few notes, tuned it, and then quickly demonstrated that his finger picking style was more advanced than Lonnie's cording and strumming. Then he launched into House of the Rising Sun, and he and Lonnie stood facing the others, singing together, obviously delighted... More

3. Santa's Vice by Mark Verve
They were replacing some of the couches that line the walls. The old ones were in the alley when I arrived. The crushed red velor was torn, soiled, and stained with spilled drinks and god knows what other types of fluids. No one would ever consider sitting on them if they knew... More

4. NY, NY by Ernest
Most of the peep shows and porno theaters were already deserted, so the city had sponsored an art exhibit. The lobbies and display cases of the theaters were filled with crazy sculptures and graffiti pieces, and all the marquees had cool phrases or haikus on them... cool Basquiat type shit... More

5. Hell Pro Support by Sigge S. Amdal
Did you know that most of the tools and drivers our technicians use are available on our website? Just go to support dot euro dot hell dot com. Your call is important to us, thanks for holding. We'll soon find an available technician to answer your call. The conversation may be recorded for training purposes... More
Thanks again for your continued support.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tao of Greed: Xtranormal Explanation of J.P. Morgan's Manipulation of the Silver Market

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

This Xtranormal video is gold... well, silver... well, you know what I'm saying. It almost makes me miss my old job.

This is witty and hysterical and you gotta see it. Even if you're not investor savvy, the video explains (in layman's terms) what JP Morgan has been doing in their attempt to manipulate the price of silver... not to mention Goldman Sachs involvement. If you don't get the inside jokes, at the least, you'll get a lesson in naked short-selling and manipulation of the futures market.

H/T to Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge's post: The Goldman Sack Blows The Whistle On The JP Morgue Silver Manipulation Scheme.

Tao of Greed: All You Need to Know About Investing: Buy Fucking the Dip

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Thanks to the Human Head for pointing out this gem about "buying the dip."

I used to talk to some of my clients just like this... "Buy the fucking dip!"

Friday, December 03, 2010

I Don't Give a Fuck, That's the Problem

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Who knew that MC Ren was such an astute observant of my vacillating view on politics. I don't get involved in debates and arguments, because those are futile. I'm more of a man of action. I can get behind a movement whenever they are really trying to bring about change -- and none of this fake change that so many friends swallowed in gallons when they drank the Obama Kool Aid (and saw a savior who was nothing more than a puppet for all his Wall Street buddies -- which is why I'm perplexed when the folks on the right stirring up paranoia that Obama is turning America into a socialist state when he handed out billions in welfare checks to banks, insurance companies, McDonalds, and dozens of international corporations... oh, and I almost forgot about using our tax dollars to bail out foreign banks without our consent), and I'm definitely not buying into those teabagging movements because most of them were cleverly rebranded stalwarts from the GOPs.

What concerns me is the whispers that the former members of the IRA (Irish Revolutionary Army) are ready to blow shit up -- especially banks based in London. Ireland is under an economic shit storm with rampant unemployment and property prices plunging when their real estate bubble burst. The Anglo Irish Bank had too much exposure gambling on loans to developers. It became nationalized (sound familiar?) with total bailouts funds around 30 billion Euros. Ireland is in deep trouble, and the EU and IMF bank offered them bail out packages. Once the IMF steps in, historically speaking, the country is doomed because of the ridiculous interest attached to the loans and other harsh realities of their iron-clad austerity packages. That's what Bono has been on his soap box rallying against the last few years -- to make the IMF absolve loans to third world countries (Africa and South America) who spend most of their GNP on juice from those loansharks. Now, Bono is going to have to beg the banking elite since Ireland is on the verge of becoming a third world country.

The citizens of Ireland are outraged and on the verge of civil unrest because their politicians sat around and did nothing but shovel money to the banks. Sound familiar? Bankers got funds. The people got zilch. Now, the government is about to sell them into slavery with the IMF. Instead of attacking British tanks like they did in the 1980s, the rogues that used to be in the IRA are dusting off their bomb making materials and hitting the banking industry. Man, if word gets out that the Irish are blowing up banks, what will the reaction be in America?

When I was a kid growing up in an Irish/Jewish neighborhood, that's all you would heard about -- the IRA. At some point in the 1970-80s, if you drank a pint in any Irish pub in New York City, chances are you were helping launder money for the IRA. There were rumors that the "second collection" in our Catholic parish often went to buy arms for the IRA -- to help eradicate the Protestants in power. Right after 9/11, there's was a huge backlash against taxi drivers and bodegas, because the fear mongerers warned that every newspaper you bought from a brown person or cab ride contributed to funding the American Jihad.

The truth lies in the middle. I'm sure there are a handful of bodegas in the New York Metropolitan area that send money to mosques somewhere that teach anti-American rhetoric. And yes, in the 1970s, it's was well documented than many bars sent their proceeds to Ireland to help their Northern Irish brothers and sisters break free from British rule.

But what about today? Every Irish Car Bomb you drink at the local bar helps fund another bank getting blown up in London.

When I was a kid, we didn't have as many outlets to obtain news like we do in the internet age. We were stuck on news cycles -- the early morning paper or later morning paper and the evening news. That's it. The only 24-hour news outlet was on the radio, and that was about the only medium that you could tune into that gave any sort of news around the clock. If you weren't religiously glued to that dial, you had to wait until nighttime to turn on the boob tube to watch the local news and then wait for the national news which slotted a few minutes for international stories. Sometimes they talked about Northern Ireland. I occasionally got a glimpse of the ravaged streets of Belfast, where citizens clashed with Brits often throwing rocks and homemade bombs at Her Majesty's soldiers. My non-Irish mother would often toss in a barb at my Irish-father, "Those micks are never going to win because they are so drunk they don't know they are using rocks to fight against armed soldiers." My father was never one to get into a heated political argument, so he would silently leave the apartment and head down to the Leprechaun, the corner pub. Who knows for sure how much his drinking habit had indirectly funded the IRA. He was not politically active and didn't care about "The Troubles" in Ireland. Both my father and grandfather were born in America and neither had ever visited the Emerald Isle.

If anything, my father (a former U.S. marine stationed in Germany) was more concerned with a potential two front war -- with the Russians and the Iranians. I grew up during the Iranian hostage crisis and images of bounded Americans with pillow cases over their heads appeared in the newspapers. In 1980, my father was worried that if the Russians didn't bomb us, then we'd get bogged down in a Vietnam-type of war of attraction in the Middle East.

"Those religious zealots in Iran," he said, "are the real threat to your future."

Those are some harsh words for an eight year old.

The Berlin Wall would topple within a decade of that conversation and the Russians were no longer a threat. But never underestimate the wisdom of an alkie. My old man's prediction partially came true -- thirty years later, our troops are bogged down in a hundred year holy war that might never end, and to complicate matters there are rumblings that the next front will open up in Iran.

Talk about a bad idea. Our country is broke and we simply don't have the resources or man power to invade a third country in a decade. And let's not forget the hobbit despot in North Korea. Depending on which slanted-coverage you read -- the latest clash between North Korean troops and South Korean military doing joint exercises with the US -- is the others' fault. It football terms, it's an offsides call. But we don't have an impartial referee to determine if we're offsides or they encroached us. One thing is for certain, that's one skirmish we can't afford to get involved in. We already fought one proxy war with China in the 1950s. Do we need another 60 years later in the middle of fighting a holy war?

As one political writer chastised one of his knowledgeable readers in a recent post, "What do you mean you're worried that WWIII is going to start? It's been going on for nine years."

There's plenty of facts. The hard part is connecting the dots. The media used to help citizens connect the dots, but these days, you can't really trust anyone in the mainstream media -- because they have strayed from journalistic integrity that made them the Watchers and true guardians against those misbehaving in power. So many media outlets have their own agendas that come first before servicing the people -- solely operating to generate income, or act as propaganda wings for parent corporations, and/or influence public opinion for well-connected politicians and intelligence agencies.

That's why it's really up to the individual to do their own due diligence. But there's too much stuff that's it's overwhelming, so the end, you have to do your own homework. There's a quote that stands out a lot when I think about the vagaries of the media business...

"There's my side. There's your side. Then there's the truth."

Don't be lazy and listen to one of the talking heads. Take the time and seek out the truth for yourself.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Random Brain Droppings: 1am and Waiting for the Xanax to Kick In

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I ate a salad for dinner. It's sorta happened by accident. Nicky had a sore back and I gave her a painkiller, which meant that she was not able to drive. We ordered dinner from the local pizza joint around the corner, except that I didn't want pizza and ordered a chicken Cesar salad. No bullshit. I woofed down the salad in record time. I was hungry, more hungry than I thought because I got the salad because I didn't think I was hungry because I had been writing all afternoon and still had a ton of work on my plate before I called it a night. I wanted to skip dinner and work through it, but as is, I had a bet on the Clippers game and wanted to sweat some of it, so I ordered in with Nicky and inhaled the salad while the Clippers surprisingly held onto win their game. Not only did I bet them with the points, I also hammered them on the money line. Fine line between genius and utter stupidity. I'm always falling on the side of the fence with the stupid.

Speaking of fences... the mean dogs next door run up against the wooden fence separating our properties. The dumpster is right along the fence and whenever homeless people going dumpster diving, the dogs go insane and getting running starts and smash into the fence. One of these days, the fence is going to come down and one of the homeless dudes is going to get mauled by a pissed off dog.

The dogs don't bark as much anymore because of the dog zapper. It doesn't quite work as effective as it did, but overall, the dogs yelp and growl instead of the incessant barking that echoed down the alleys. It was the best $30 I spent in a while. I wish I could get those devices for humans and zap people who can't stop talking (this would be most effective in public places when self-absorbed idiots prattle on loudly on their cell phones without any respect for your well being).

I think our palm-tree lined street got blocked off at the end of the block for a Hanukkah parade. I live in a sprawling Jewish neighborhood (with pockets of Iranian Jews) and that would make sense if all that honking I heard earlier in the night was not a bunch of pissed off road ragers on tilt, but rather, all that commotion was the annual parade when the rabbis drive around with a Menorah on top of the roof of their car.

I've been pushing myself since Monday to get as much work done this week so I can take off the rest of the year. I knocked off three future columns and got them ready to go in the can. I'm hoping that I can do another three before Sunday -- that is as long as I limit my distractions. Hopefully I can begin work on a few fun creative projects next week -- which will happen as soon as I finish off the rest of my work and clear out the inbox. So close... I can see the light.

On a good note, I'm back into a steady groove writing wise, which is amazing for me because I can get into a rhythm where I'm cranking out two different writing sessions a day. The majority of the work has been no-poker writing although I've been in an hour or so a day on something for freelance clients. And these are solid prolonged sessions. I'd be lucky if could squeeze in a half a section during a day -- bit I'm committed to enjoy my trip to Vegas and back home for Christmas with as less work stress as possible.

My desire is to unplug completely for a month. I have a gut feeling that I would rite better without the distractions. Maybe I'll have the balls and pull it off in January?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I read books in phases and clusters. Most recently, it's either been non-stop book reading or nothing at all. When I'm devouring books in LA, that often coincides with positive writing streaks. It's no secret that I find inspiration in books, and at the same time, I often write better when I'm reading well written material. I suppose my brain is a sponge that adheres to the "you are what you eat" school of thought, but in this case, "you write what you read."

Sometimes, the internet gets most of my reading time, which I often compare to fast food reading mainly because my diet is blogs and some media outlets (mostly meta-sites with lots of link dumps). Even the most long-form pieces of journalism on the net clock in at a few thousand words, which is hardly a hearty meal compared to what you can devour when you pick up a book.

When I'm on the road and traveling (especially spending lots of down time in airports), I might be able to knock off a couple of books a week, but because I'm mobile, I'm not writing as much. But the road is also where I pick up new books or discuss books with people I meet along the way. I always write down book recommendations. I don't always act upon those, but that list comes in handy when I'm in search of new material. About once a month, I create a pile and stack four or five books on top of each other on the desk in my office. Those will be the "books of the month" and my reading list. On average, I'll finish three out of the five. I'll lose interest in one very quickly, and the last one is often one of those books that I pick up, put down pick up again, and put down again -- but for some reason -- I don't go back to it because when the new month comes around, I have a new pile of books.

Once a year, I'll create a pile of start-stop books -- books that I started to read and stopped, but I really want to finish. Sometimes, it takes effort to plug through to the end of the book that has been slowing you down. Otherwise,, you have to be an expert skimmer.

Christmas is always a good time of year for me because I'm the recipient of a lot of books along with giftcards to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My reading pile every January includes a dozen titles, and nothing is a better start to the new year, then delving into a stack of new books.

Nicky has been voraciously reading the last two months -- exclusively on her iPad. The Kindle app is good, but it bothers her eyes, and now she's looking into picking up a real Kindle. I'm not that jazzed about e-books. I've warmed up to them after I realized that e-copies of Lost Vegas were in high demand. I was sorta surprised when e-book sales eclipsed print copies shortly before Thanksgiving. But once Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit -- print sales took a healthy bounce upward and regained the top spot.

I'm a luddite when it comes to books. I want to read a physical copy. I want to turn the pages. I want to have a proper book mark. I want to be able to flip back and forth if I want.

I also get off on buying used books. I'm not a bargain hunter mainly because I don't buy too much stuff. Most of my disposable income goes toward traveling, music/entertainment, and funding my own art. However, I'm an avid book hunter. I'm partial to the smell of mildew from books stashed away in someone's basement. I think that stems from parts of my childhood when my mother was an avid flea market attendee at Yonker's Raceway, so while she browsed for different items, I found myself digging through splintery wooden crates filled with used books for as little as a penny (presumably those books were found in an attic somewhere or inherited from a dead relative).

When I lived in NYC, I used to stop at street vendors and inspect every book in their collection. I've bought a few gems on the street for $5 and $6 over the years. When I was completely broke, I used to spend a full day inside Strand bookstore off Union Square and find a secluded aisle and read books that I was too cheap to buy. When I really got into poker and wanted to improve my game, I devoured different poker and strategy books (with aided my poker education -- for free) at different Barnes & Noble throughout the city.

Late nights, I get a rush hunting for bargains online for less than $2 through Amazon's used book sellers. The big scam involves shipping. Well, not much a scam, but how those sellers really make money is over-charging anywhere from $3 to $4 for shipping and then go the cheap route at the post office and send it media mail. So a $2 book is really $5 plus -- but the only downside is that it might take up to two weeks for the book to arrive, but I don't care too much about that because I'm excited to get any book for under $5. I recently picked up Scandals of '51, a book about the 1951 college basketball point shaving scandals for $1.38. I read the first four chapters and already got my money's worth.

In May of 2010, I became a member of's Prime Shipping club, which offers up their members free two-day shipping for an annual flat fee of $79. My buddy Ryan said that it was the best deal on the interwebs if I devoured books and DVDs as much as he did. I decided to give it a whirl and I definitely made out in that deal by the beginning of the summer. I also found myself shopping for non-book items (like household items such as fly traps and plumbing tape) on Amazon because I got free shipping.

But, maybe I'm not the one who is taking advantage of Amazon? For one, they get discounted shipping from the big boys, so what they would normally charge me is an inflated price to begin with. At the same time, I noticed one slight problem -- the Prime shipping affected the amount of used books that I buy because Amazon offers up new copies of books at super-deep discounts.

For example, I wanted Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, a collection of essays from David Foster Wallace. Used copies were going for like $6. I don't get free shipping on third-party sellers, so that book would cost me around $9. For an extra $1.25, I can get a brand spanking new copy on Amazon (and get it delivered in two days).

Maybe that's the catch? I found myself opting for the upsale on more than one instance. I need to do a better job at tracking those transactions in 2011, because I'd really like to see how much extra money Amazon got out of me over the long run.

But for now, I'm more than satisfied with their Prime service, especially with Christmas three weeks or so away.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"Are you sure the screenplay has to be about hookers?" said Nicky as she snapped back into her former development exec role. "If you use hookers, then the film will get an R-rating."

I stood my ground. I'm going to write my screenplay the way I want to write it. If a studio wants to buy it ( if we ever get to that phase), then shit, you bet your ass I will make whatever concessions that need to be made in order to cash a check.

Most not-creative people think that writing entails the physical act of writing. What they don't realize is that that is just the next-to-last-step (and the last step being editing what you write, which is something that NEVER HAPPENS HERE, which is why I love blogging, because I can be lazy and just turn on the mic, pollute the airwaves with my propaganda, and then exit stage left). Writing encapsulates many layers of pre-writing. This is what happens when I'm walking down the street, flipping through the channels, reading a book, or discussing a potential screenplay with my girlfriend. Most of the writing is done inside my head -- that is to say, only on thought out pieces because my afternoon writing (freelance stuff) is more calculated.

However, there are times like right now, when I just go for the stream of consciousness and open up a blank page in Blogger and begin typing, and that's what I think people think is writing, when that's more like dictating -- the pundit inside my head is preaching and I'm acting like a court reporter and just jotting down all that excessive verbage. I thoroughly enjoy that free-form for writing which I get to do most of the time in the early mornings. I can't think of a better way to start my days. I usually do my best writing after a free-write and a break when I can gather my thoughts into a more coherent structure before I sit back down to write a second session.

Even though I was not actually sitting down to write late last night, in just one thirty-minute conversation, I trashed two potential drafts as a screenplay and then decided to take the story in an entirely different direction. That's one of the benefits of living with someone who spent a decade in the entertainment industry, but then again, one of the downsides is that guidance can often hinder the creative side and all I start thinking about is commerce instead of art.

I had an idea to write a futuristic dystopian thriller about a zookeeper, but the humans are the animals so he's enslaving his own race, meanwhile a cross-bred race of human and reptilian-aliens are controlling the world. The zookeeper falls in love with a hooker seeking redemption -- one blow job at a time.

Of course, if I were trying to get a gig in Hollyweird, I'd be writing young adult screenplays about mopey vampires, or trying to write a spec script called Hangover 4: Puking in Prague, rife with plenty of homophobic jokes, S&M humor, and non-shaved nether regions on Eastern European women because most of the flick is filmed inside a Czech brothel.

These days in Hollywood, the bean counters only want to fund established brands, sequels, and whatever is trending. That's why everything kinda sucks or you see so many re-makes. I dunno how many times I've moaned, "For the price of this bomb, they could have funded ten indie flicks." And yeah, six or seven smaller indie films might be self-indulgent fodder, but I betcha you will find two or three compelling stories told in a unique and artistic way that doesn't involve any CGI or three-story high explosions in the sky.

And just so we're on the same page -- I love Michael Bay as much as Noah Baumbach. The thing about Bay is that he knows what he is doing is total bullshit, so he just decides to crank it up to the Nth degree. Instead of the Spinal Tap analogy of "11", Bay pushes it to 111. Meanwhile, Baumbach pushes the limits in his own nerdish-intellecutal New York mishmash. My point is this -- you can make three Baumbach films and five Jim Jarmusch films for the same price as a Michael Bay production -- but the bean counters in Hollywood don't want to gamble their money on spreading around the wealth. When they bet, they want to bet huge -- which is why so many sequels get a juiced-up budget compared to the original.

But I do like to see things blowing up -- mainly because I don't write about stuff blowing up. I don't think I can write a screenplay about that sort of stuff, which means I don't expect to find a job as a screenwriter in this town anytime soon. I know my screenplay concept is a derivative of "Blade Runner meets Pretty Woman meets Planet of the Apes", but that's not going to deter me from writing my "dystopian, Reptilian overlord, zookeeper falls in love with a hooker" tale.

Save a hooker, save the world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

SoCal Turkey

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Despite my proclivities to wander around aimlessly, I have spent every Thanksgiving in New York City aside from three instances. That's a surprising stat as I approach four decades on this planet.

In the late 1990s, I spent a Turkey Day in Seattle and another in Texas. When I lived in Seattle, I couldn't get the time off from work and when I was in Texas, I was too broke to fly back to New York, so I stayed put. My Seattle Turkey Day was strange indeed, which is what happens when you're friends with hippies and vegan hipsters. My friends had a vegetarian Thanksgiving, which meant zero meat products. I woke up that morning, went to the front of my house, fired up the BBQ, and got strange looks from my neighbors as I grilled up burgers on the morning of Thanksgiving before I headed to my first and only veggie Thanksgiving.

I spent the last five or six years on the road for poker, but I still managed to return to New York in November, even if it was just for a day or two. But sometimes, you have to alter tradition. For the first time in 10+ years, I skipped a NYC Thanksgiving.

I'm not going to bullshit you -- last year was a disaster in NY because my mother flipped out around 1pm (after she polished off 2/3rds of a bottle of Amaretto) and accused me of ruining Thanksgiving (even though it had only just begun) and the rest of the evening (and holiday weekend) was bloody awful. I ended up eating painkillers to dull the excruciating silence as my mother shunned me the rest of the day/night.

The worst part? I paid big bucks for that misery because airlines rape their customers during peak holidays, then toss in a couple of pricey cabs to/from JFK, and when I see that number flashing in my head, I get pissed because I could have used those funds to travel elsewhere or to fund Phish adventures. In addition to the hit in the wallet, I flew on the worst day of the year to fly -- the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I'm an expert traveler but the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, brings out the worst in people. Airports are flooded with amateur travelers and cheapskates trying to buck the system and not pay for checked luggage and they lug oversized bags as their carry-ons. I kept telling myself that the money and arduous travel was a small price to pay to see my family -- more specifically -- my brother. But when I was absolutely shit on by my mother for no reason whatsoever, she brought me to an easy decision -- no more Thanksgivings.

2010 had the added stress of TSA cock checks and radiation scans. Luckily, I made my decision to remain in California before any of that stuff really blew up. But if I were traveling, it would just be another layer of bullshit that I'd have to endure just to see my family and be ridiculed by my mother.

At some point, you have to make a stand. If my family were paying my flight, then this would be a different story because I'm getting paid to get shit on. I have to do that with freelance work -- essentially I get paid to be abused by whoever my client happens to be at the time. Family misery is not a paid gig, unfortunately. I'm a whore for the buck and I understand that life is short, so I made the easy decision to skip Thanksgiving.

Here's the thing, my family is always crazy, but they get hyper crazy during the holidays. So, I knew that I was going back East to see Phish for Halloween, so I added a week or so in New York City to see my brother and watch a few Yankees playoff games. Derek is the only reason I head home for Thanksgiving, so I just moved up that time by a month. The rest of the family was not as stressed out, so they didn't give me too much guff when I was home in October. If anything -- the flights were cheaper and it was less stressful. Too bad we couldn't do Thanksgiving in October.

By the way, I put up with the bullshit for Christmas, mainly because you get gifts at Christmas and you get nothing but heartburn for Thanksgiving. Besides, nothing is quite like New York City during Christmas time. It sounds cheesy, but the song Silver Bells is somewhat accurate when describing NYC. And the more time I spend in Southern California, the more I can't wait to go back to NY in December to soak up the scent of pine needles and capitalism.

Here's what drives me crazy about LA at this time of year. It's sunny and 60+ degrees. It's only a few days after Thanksgiving, but the radio stations are cranking out Christmas music. If you go to the Grove, Beverly Center, or Century City -- all of those malls have been transformed into outdoor winter wonderlands -- except you're in Southern California so like so many things in Los Angeles, Christmas is plastic -- it looks nice, but just doesn't fit. Because the SoCal weather reminds you of the opposite of Christmas, vendors do everything possible to fabricate a cheery Christmas vibe, which is just utterly disgusting and disingenuous because no one wants to take a photo of their kid with a jaded and out-of-work-thespian in a Santa Claus outfit sporting sunglasses, a spray tan, and a guild card.

Fucking Hollywood, man.

Moving on...

I got way off topic. I wanted to write about the first ever California Turkey Day. It also marked the first holiday that I spent with Nicky. We've been going out for almost five years and we have always been apart during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nicky was well aware of the problems that I had back in NYC, but she was also hoping that I'd join her with her family's Turkey Day festivities mainly because (these are her numerical bullet points)... 1) they "love me" more than her, and 2) they won't ask her as many annoying questions.

It's true -- her parents like me, especially her mom (who was also born in New Jersey and migrated to the left coast) because she's a lifelong Yankees fan. I instantly won her over when she found out that I was from the Bronx and also a diehard Yankees fan. Yes, that was enough to make Nicky's father distrust me since he bleeds Dodger's blue, but he's taken a liking to me as well, mostly attributed to the ability to make him laugh with all the off-color jokes and random stories I tell them. At least I hope so; her family is mostly German, and they've taken all the Gestapo jokes in stride.

I spent many meals with Nicky's family (BBQs at her parent's house in Westwood or at the local Italian joint around the corner) and they have always been fun and not as stressful as most in-law experiences and horror stories that my friends shared with me over the years. At heart, Nicky's parents are good people. Nicky thinks that all of her personal issues stem from the darkside of parent-children relationships -- and that might be true for all of us -- however, some of the more endearing qualities that she and her sister share have origins in the fact that her parents are good people.

Luckily, I was able to share Turkey Day with them, and I wasn't lying when I said it was the best that I had in years. I know my brother is cringing as he reads this now because he knows how crazy my mother gets during the holidays when you toss it all the booze, it's a recipe for disaster. I hoped that my brother's Turkey Day back in NYC was a lot less stressful this year because my mere precense is a volatile chemical that causes an explosion whenever I'm withing a hundred foot radius of my mother. Without me in the equation, you would think that things would have gone much smoother.

But it's not me, because Nicky's family didn't go crazy because I showed up. We had a pleasant meal and they were more than accommodating to have multiple TVs on so I could sweat my bets on the different football games. Man, talk about getting the red carpet treatment. For any degen gambler like myself who paces constantly, that's as good as you're gonna get -- multiple places to watch a game and understanding people who won't give you shit for wanting to watch sports during a holiday. Shit, betting on the NFL on Thanksgiving is more American than watching the Macy's Turkey Day parade. If they start booking bets on which balloons deflate first, then I'll pay more attention to the parade. Until then, I'm betting the Cowboys game every fucking Thanksgiving. It's tradition -- Turkey, gravy, pumpkin pie, and a c-note on the Cowboys.

I used to think that I was a shitty person because my family didn't like me, but it had more to do with my choices to escape the shackles of Wall Street and pursue a career as writer which they took as an insult and indictment on their philosophy of life. I don't give them shit for living the way they do, so why should they give me shit? Alas, that's what happened over the years until I finally made a stand and broke away from the herd mentality.

So it's not me that's evil. It's just my mother's reaction to me. Maybe she really hates me, or maybe she sees my father in me which happens to be her least favorite person in the world. If anything, she's projecting that negativity of her failed relationship and marriage onto me. That shit happens all the time. It's unfair, but it's never going to change. That's why I opted out of my family's holiday gathering. No cock check at the airport. No kick in the junk at Thanksgiving.

Sometimes people just don't get along, and that's why the holidays are extremely stressful because you are forcing people to mix together who normally wouldn't speak to each other if they didn't have the same last names or shared a significant amount of DNA. Hollywood makes movies about it all the time. Books are written on the topic. Blog posts, Facebook updates, and tweets fill up the twitterverse about the stresses of the holidays. I suspect that we're all addicted to food because that seems to be the only reason people put up with the hectic travel, annoying relatives, and heartburn. They love food more then their loved ones.

My Turkey Day 2010 kicked off with rolling out of bed at 9am because I stayed up super late (past 5am) listening to old school rap videos on You Tube and playing StarFall on the iPad. Football was on at 9:30am because games started at 12:30ET on Thanksgiving. I wasn't even up an hour and was already sweating my first betting action of the day. Nicky woke up and whipped up two side dishes for the meal. One of those involved a corn dish with bacon, so Nicky cooked up an entire pan of bacon bits. Her dish got ruined by all the veggies she added to Emeril's corn/bacon recipe. When the first game was over and the side dishes were ready, we made our way to the West Side. LA is amazingly empty during Thanksgiving weekend because LA is a city where most people are transplants and the ones that are born and bred have bled to the burbs. The city is empty and a trip that could sometimes take 30 minutes to drive took less than ten.

The turkey, stuffing, gravy -- all top notch -- but it was the pie that stood out as the highlight. Nicky's mom bought me a special pie -- chocolate satin -- and I got to take it home with me. I ate most of it within 24 hours including a slice for breakfast on Friday and two slices for dinner later that night.

I watched the Jets game because Nicky's parents have a dish with the NFL network, so I was able to watch a rare instance when the Jets played on Thanksgiving. Once the game ended, we returned to our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills to play online poker. I host a tournament every Thanksgiving and this year I actually hosted two. My brother played along with a lot of other friends seeking to wind down a long day with a little poker.

Who knows...maybe I can sneak my brother out to LA next year so he can experience a stress-free Turkey Day?

Thanksgiving is over. I survived. It's 60 degrees outside and sunny. Cue the puke-inducing Christmas music.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tao of Hockey Fights: Scott vs. Westgard

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Tao of Hockey fights return with a doozy from last night's Kings/Blackhawks game. I considered going, but prices for decent seats were too high. I watched it on the boob tube instead.

Here's a little scuffle between Scott and Westgarth. One of them leaves bloodied up, but I won't spoil it for ya. As the announcer snarked while blood trickled down his face, "He's going off for repairs."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Battle of the Taos: Pauly Edges Out Poker

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's the results of the pool...
Tao of Pauly - 42%
Tao of Poker - 33%
Coventry Music - 16%
Tao of Bacon - 3%
Truckin' - 3%
Thanks for voting.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lost Vegas for 15% Off; Now On

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Great news. After months of waiting, Lost Vegas is now available on! If that's where you do the bulk of your Christmas shopping, then stop by my page and pick up a copy or two.

If you would like to save $3, you can buy copies of Lost Vegas for 15% off via At checkout, you use coupon code STOCKING305.

The 15% off coupon is valid through December 15th. Don't worry... the discount comes out of the publisher's pocket and I get my full cut.

Just a reminder... Lost Vegas is cooked to order, which means it's Print-On-Demand (POD). Due to high volume of orders with my publisher, I encourage you to buy the book before December 5th to ensure a Christmas deliver.

The e-book version is $10. Right now, I only have PDF's available, but an ePub version will be released shortly.
Click here to buy an e-Book.

Click here
to buy a copy on Amazon.

Click here to buy a copy on Lulu. Don't forget to use code STOCKING305 for 15% off.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Random Brain Droppings: The Crystal Version

By Pauly
Compton, CA

For the second time in three nights, I found myself in Compton after Midnight. This is a neighborhood that's gotten a bad rap over the years for its propensity for gang violence. Most of that gore has subsided, but still, this is a part of LA that I usually don't hang out in after dark, let alone after the Midnight hour.

I ate McDonalds for the first time in I can't remember when. That's what happens when you're in a working class/poor neighborhood because fast food joints are usually the only available options for food. I do what I can to avoid McDs as much as possible and only eat it out of necessity -- usually when I'm traveling and there's limited options, or it's super late when I'm on the road and there's nothing else open.

I got something in the mail from my buddy Jonas. He asked me for my address the other day and it occurred to me that I omitted the apartment number. Luckily I noticed the package left out by our mail box (not in it, mind you). The postal worker never bothered to read the inside of our mailbox to figure out that's who the package belongs to. Luckily, no one stole a special shirt designed by JT, a friend of a friend, who created Dance Police t-shirts for different party people in Colorado.

I have five books that I want to read, but I've been too busy the last two weeks to pick them up and rip through 100+ pages a day. I'm looking forward to the next few weeks, because books are on the Top 5 things on my agenda for the remainder of the year.

I had to fill out like 12 custom forms at the post office to mail five books to a bookstore in London. Man, it's just the UK! What the hell was all that paper work for anyway? The post office is always an unpleasurable experience, but I'm prepped for a horrible time before I even set foot inside. So on the rare days the lines move fast, I'm incredibly elated. Low expectations usually lead to more pleasant experiences. Shit, the post office is actually a breeze compared to some of the hell I'm reading about regarding cock checks at domestic airports by the TSA.

I finally caught up with Empire Boardwalk. I was sick on Sunday and once football was over, I fired up the DVR and watched six episodes. Man...did I really do that? Maybe it was five? No, it was six. The pacing definitely picked up. I had a couple of episodes of Rubicon in my queue, but ever since I found out that that show got canceled, I lost any urge to watch those episodes collecting dust in the DVR's memory banks. When I left for Phish tour at the start of October, I all but stopped watching anything on TV, especially those hoarding shows that I got hooked on and couldn't stop watching. When I was in NYC, I caught up with the final two episodes of this season of Mad Men via online torrents.

I bought tickets for the Knicks-Clippers game at Staples Center for Saturday night. The seats were $60, but I got them for $23/each. All three were $69, or just $9 over face.Most of the time, my friends seeking Phish or Yankees playoff tickets are getting raped on Stub Hub. In this instance, I made out like a bandit on Stub Hub. Shit, I could have gotten tickets as low as $11. Sure, they were cheap seats, but that's insane. No one in LA wants to see the Clippers play, let alone play the anemic Knicks. Most locals rather watch the Clips on cable. it's much easier than paying good money for tickets to watch futility, not to mention the downside of dealing with traffic and paying $25 for parking. Shit, the more I think about it, maybe I should have just stayed home and watched the game on TV because I can't smoke weed inside the hoops arena!

I went to work on Thursday and as soon as I attempted to set up my laptop in the press area, I realized that I forgot my power chord. I was pissed on two accounts.... 1) I was heavily distracted with negotiating a potential work assignment, and 2) the last time I went to work and forgot my laptop's power chord -- Vegas in the summer of 2008 and I got into a car accident on the way back from the retrieval. Luckily for me, I was 100% safe. No accidents, despite having to navigate three freeways (each way) to get from Compton > Slums of Beverly Hills > Compton. The drive takes 25 minutes with no traffic and about 35 minutes during the late morning when we had been heading there. My journey home took over 75 minutes. Yes, it was light traffic too. On my way back to the casino, I had to abort the trip -- 20+ minutes in due to heavy congestion. It took ten minutes to get two blocks from my apartment, then took another ten just to get on the freeway. I got a call from Nicky who had been checking and noticed that most of my journey had all red routes. Yes, red is bad. So, I turned around, headed back to the apartment, and wait until the rush hour commute was over. Kinda bummed out that was the case, but then again, I was glad I didn't get stuck in a bumper-to-bumper road-rage inducing jam.

That's it. I'm outta stuff to say. The little tap inside my head is getting turned off in 3...2...1...