Friday, January 22, 2010

Karmic Refunds

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Seattle-like rain that swept through SoCal the last week has been affecting my brain. Positively. I'm writing better, well at least the words are flowing. The usual non-stop sunshine previously warped my brain and sometimes I struggled with trying to play the notes inside my head. But the rain makes me focus.

That explains why everyone in L.A. is a dumb as shit. Too much sun.

The rain comes and goes, but mostly comes. I'm waiting for the frogs to start falling from the sky. When the rain momentarily stops, little bits of sunshine poke through the light grey sky. I sneak outside to run errands and apparently so does everyone in the neighborhood with a dog. I rarely see people wandering around the streets of the slums of Beverly Hills... but as soon as the downpour stops and the rain pauses, people sneak outside to let their dogs urinate, before the skies open up again and everyone scurries inside to watch TMZ and the Jersey Shore.

I had to make a run to 7/11 and waited and waited for a break in the rain. I also needed to stretch my legs and clear my mind with a column (well, three actually) coming up. I don't have much in the way of ideas or topics so I needed to brainstorm. Walking helps. Rattles the brain I didn't get much as far as inspiration, but I saw lots of puddles and people walking their dogs.

The guy behind the counter at 7/11 gave me the wrong change... in my favor. So fuckin' rare. My stuff (club soda and stoner food like Sun Chips and a Hostess cherry pie) cost $7.02. I handed him a $10 and scooped two pennies out of the cup. I unintentionally said "Here's $20.02." I wasn't angle shooting but should try that again in the future because it fooled him.

He automatically assumed it was a $20 bill without looking. He handed me back a ten and three ones. I didn't notice it at first. I shoved the bills into my pocket and rushed out the store. It wasn't until I got home and realized that I finally came out on the good end of a fuck up. Usually it's the other way around.

I can't tell if that's a karmic refund or something bad is around the corner?

* * * * *

I was waiting for a phone call with good news. Actually, it never happened. News is currently in purgatory. So, now I'm sitting here, waiting for my man. Dunno what will happen. Might have to walk the line with a lot less fire power.

Parts of the wall are smooth, other rough, lots of chiseled plaster. Looks like someone got bored and carved different symbols, words, markings at random intervals. The head popped up through the toilet bowl. Had no idea if it crawled through the pipes or fell in backwards. The eyes were not where they should have been. Instead, rearranged like a Picasso painting of one of his former lovers. Disjointed and fragmented eyes. That's the subtle way of telling you that the world is never what you see and sometimes if you peer through shifted eyes, you might see it the way it was meant to be... whatever that is.

Jesus extends his hand from the ceiling with a choir of archangels tooting their horns. You can't really tel it's Jesus because just his arm is extended from the heavens through the roof of the cell. The time off was the empty hole in his hand. Not a bloody stigmata, just a hole about the size of a silver dollar.

The Devil did not want to be out done and sprung up from the ground flipping off the stuck up crew from heaven. He was slogging it out with all of the masses while Jesus and the angels were kickin' it in heaven watching movies on Jesus' new BluRay and eating deep fried Fig Newtons dipped in chocolate and wrapped in bacon sprinkled with cheese and Marachino cherries.

Oh, and they apparently have good coffee in heaven. None of that Starbucks shit. Heaven is anti-corporate. Self-serve coffee. The never ending cup. Ice cream is not free. You have to pay extra.

* * * * *

Lots of jazz playing non-stop when I'm writing (Monk and Coltrane, Miles, Sonny Rollins, et al). A little live Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan (with and without The Band) in spurts and when sitting around playing a bit of poker. I've been good and avoiding the boob tune and sports this week, and holding off for the Jets on Sunday. TV rots the brain. Just like the California sun. Maybe I'm beginning to see the light?

A few nights ago... I woke up in the middle of the night screaming because of a Charlie Horse. That fucker hurt, like someone stabbing you, the metal piercing your flesh. I was in agony for about thirty-seven seconds until I was able to attempt to walk it off. Seems as though I was dehydrated but that fucker still hurts. I wonder if horses can have charlie horses?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Arks, Arcs, and Noah's Sunspot Dome

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Noah continued to build his ark three doors down.

The Kabbalahists around the corner thought Noah was crazy, but he didn't need their approval. He knew it was coming, so he continued to follow what he knew. The storm was coming. He had to prepare and gathered all the necessary supplies, and more importantly, a cache of weapons to ward off looters, loosely formed criminal gangs, roving cannibals and rapists, and other miscreants who happen to survive the Big One.

Noah was building his ark not because of the recent rain that dumped on Southern California... rather he built the ark for when the earthquake of all earthquakes wipes out all of humanity in California. If he survives (and whatever family members and pets do as well), he'll need his ark because he expects most of the city and Southern California to collapse into the ocean forming several tiny islands. The new California Islands, one of which, he hopes to safely dock and claim as his own.

Noah always wanted his own secluded island.

Next up will be the dome. Over his house. To help deflect the sunspots. Those are coming too, probably sooner than the big quakes.

"And when the sunspots do," he said, "you don't want to be on a cellphone. Your brain will fry. That's why the aliens stay underground. The sun. It's too powerful. They used to look like us, but they had some sort of gene defect that made their skin shrivel up like a raisin. That's why the aliens are grey."

He wondered if I thought he was crazy. I told him, mostly no. Noah is a visionary. His view of the world is bleak. Probably has his own 2012 channel on YouTube. I don't mean to judge people, but some folks have wandered too far off the reservation, while others are firmly planted -- yet can't see or comprehend anything outside of three mile radius of their home.

Noah is a crackpot. Or genius. Depends on who you talk to, on how you view the world. Noah is my most prepared neighbor on the block, or the "crazy guy" that we tell stories about to KTLA reporters.

You just never know. About anything. If I could accurately predict the future, I would make substantially more money as a sports gambler and securities/commodities trader.

* * * * *

The writing sessions this week have been long. 12 hours. 13 hours. 10 hours. Stamina is strong. My concentration is better. My editing skills are sharper. I'm locked in. Focused. Blocking out all the chatter and distractions. Zoned in on the task. Fine tuning the bigger picture.

I'm more aware of my most common errors and those have been jumping right off the pages. Over the last two days I re-wrote a chapter entirely. It seems as though I'm cutting more and more poker scenes that slow the pacing down.

Less is more, right?

I used to hear stories about writers or painters or musicians who supposedly work three, five, eight, ten years on a single piece of art... a film, a painting, an album, a novel, a screenplay, whatever. I always thought how absurd it was that someone would be toiling on one thing for so long. They would go crazy. Want to die. Get addicted to something. Pills. God. Taco Bell.

And then... it happened to me.

Jesus, I'm hoping to finally publish Lost Vegas a few months shy of five years from the day when I was first approached to write a book about my experiences in Las Vegas. Half of a decade. I've been chasing a fucking ghost. Five years? One of my buddies is on his third of three wives in that he met in the same time span. He had three weddings and two divorces. And I can't finish this fucking book.

As the original story goes, one publishers expressed interest and I cranked out a quick 75,000 words... the original draft... but that book deal fell through and thank God. I was not ready. The material wasn't ready. I had yet to get a firm grasp on Las Vegas and needed more time. The draft sat idle. Life intervened. It was more lucrative to write on Tao of Poker and for other people. Books are becoming extinct like dinosaurs and New Wave bands.

No one reads anyway. What's the point? The hippies will only get pissed because I'm killing trees buy printing actual books with pages filled with endless off-color remarks about homosexuals, Jews, and retards. The zealots on the right will scorn me for denouncing organized religion and glorifying internet gaming, illicit drug use, and sexual deviancy.

I can't win.

Thank God for the French. They're the only ones bold enough to offer me a book deal. And that was before the book was done... in English. They haven't even read it in English yet, let alone the French translation. That's faith. I couldn't be more inspired. It's a sincere honor because Europeans actually read books. Real books too. None of this teenage vampires or Oprah book of the month shit. Real books.

Over the last few years, I always seemed to burn out around the same time every year. I get in one of those "fuck the world" modes when I feel the urge to just lock myself in a room and creative something. On all but one occasion, I tinkered with the Las Vegas book. I kept re-writing the beginning parts. As years passed, I had more material to draw upon and it seemed as though at every pass I spent 50% of my time toiling on the original section and the other half of the time penning new material.

I had stories. Plenty of them. What I never had was an ending. Life ends when you die. Everything else is just continues. Without some sort of conclusion or story arc, I really didn't have anything concrete. But then a couple of things happened in the last part of 2008. I mustered up the courage to move forward with the book and hoping that I'd figure out the end as I went along. But then I got a bit of luck, on a drive leaving Las Vegas and heading towards LA of all places... I found an ending. Right around the state line of Nevada and California. A symbol. An epiphany. The elusive ending fused together in my head.

Now all I had to do was write the story.

And I did. But I had too much material but unable to cut. I invested too much, energy and money into that monster manuscript. I was that character from Wonder Boys. I set out to write a 200 page book and ended up with 2,000 pages. OK, maybe not that much, but a good 1,000 pages.

I essentially became one of those head cases on the show Hoarders. Instead of packing my house with garbage, empty boxes, and stuffed giraffes... I was cluttering my manuscript with unnecessary shit. Like those old ladies who can't bare to throw away a stainless steel soup ladle, I found it difficult trying to slash words, sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters. Thousands of words needed to go. More than I ever imagined.

That was a good thing. It's easier to edit down then fall short of the mark and not have enough. The hard thing was that I had no idea what to cut. Everything seemed important to me. That's when the German Butcher stepped in and whacked it up and pointed out areas where I needed to rewrite and other spots where I needed to expand.

I guess that's the golden rule of show business... leave the audience with them wanting more.

As I'm writing this, it makes me want to go back and cut even more. Shit, I might just do that. The German Butcher would love that. And since we're self-publishing that's a few cents per book that we save on printing fees.

Less is more. Time to channel my inner Hemingway. I'd love to eat a fistful of Adderall and finish this book by the end of the month. Sounds like a lovely idea.

By the way, you can follow Lost Vegas on Twitter. It's @LostVegasBook.