Friday, February 26, 2010

Uruguay Twit Pic Dump - Vol. 1

By Pauly
Punta del Este, Uruguay

Here are a few pics that I snapped with my CrackBerry...

The local beer

The $20 jamon y queso sandwich at the casino

Waiting for the shuttle

Monday, February 22, 2010

Celebrity Poker with William Hung, Real World Hussies, and Joe Toy

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

What a long strange trip it's been.

Robert Hunter penned that lyric in a well-known Grateful Dead song. I often find myself uttering those words when I find myself in unbelievable and ephemeral situations... like Saturday night as I walked into Commerce Casino to play in the WPT Celebrity Invitational.

"Look," cried Michalski. "William Hung is here."

All I saw was the back of an Asian man with an orange shirt.

"Dude, it's Commerce," I explained to my gawking colleague. "There's probably at least a dozen guys in here who look like William Hung. Stop being one of those racist Texans."

Just as I finished my sentence, the Asian man in the orange shirt turned around. Shit. It was William Hung. I quickly apologized to Michalski.

"He's the most famous person I've seen here," Michalski said as Bobby Bellande, a well-known constantly broke pro, scribbled down an autograph from an elderly fan wearing a white hat with a Lexus logo.

I caught former WSOP champion Jerry Yang out of the corner of my eye. I quickly tweet'd that I spotted Hung and Yang. I'm sure somewhere out there in the annals of the adult entertainment industry that Hung and Yang has to be the title of a really really bad low-frills tit flick.

Nicky overheard a bit of Jerry Yang's conversation with his guest, "Oh man. I should have probably worn my bracelet."

Probably so. That's the kind of petty shit that matters in Hollywood... what kind of car do you drive... what brand of watch do you have on your wrist... who are you fucking.... where do you work out... who is your agent... where do you get your cocaine... all of those seemingly annoying questions cause many micro-celebrities to hyperventilate at the thought of not having a cool and hip answer to that question.

I fuckin' love Hollywood for the absurdity and plasticity. Stephen Elliot, author of The Adderall Diaries, wrote that L.A. is the perfect place to be discovered and hide out simultaneously. I'm paraphrasing here... but since everyone in the City of Angels is desperately seeking attention, all you have to do is stand still and you'll disappear. That's one of the most accurate description of L.A. and Hollywood that I've come across. Elliot simply summed up one the main reasons why I migrated to the left coast and settled down in La-La Land -- it really is easy to disappear within the city limits and become invisible. Lost in the shuffle.

All I had to do was stand still at Commerce to harness my powers of invisibility... which is something I actually prefer to do most of the time. As a writer, I obtain better material when I can be the fly on the wall and record what I see anonymously. On Saturday night, I was surrounded by poker's aristocracy and a bevy of familiar faces in the entertainment industry. Some of the Hollywooders were genuine poker enthusiasts, while a bunch of them just loved the distinction of being a "celebrity" which entails walking the red carpet and having their photos snapped by paparazzi. For those seeking the warmth and adulation of being famous, it doesn't matter if it's Paris Hilton's dog's birthday party or a poker tournament, because they'll show up to anything if they think it will make them look cool.

The fabrication of cool. I can write a book about that. I've carved out a good life for myself because of my ability to fabricate "cool" within the poker industry. Some of your favorite poker pros that you see on TV are among the most immoral twats in the universe, but I'm very good at hiding their secrets and whitewashing their sordid past, sort of like how the White House press corp maintained a wall of silence during JFK's short reign. Bill Clinton got nailed for getting his cock sucked by one chubby intern. God knows the field day that today's voracious gossip hounds would have while lapping up fodder about Jack Kennedy's nightly beaver hunting trips.

While the pretty people of Hollywood and the titans of the poker industry rubbed shoulders upstairs in the tournament room, the unwashed masses on the gaming floor barely noticed the Gatsby-esque scenes raging above them. The Commerce Casino, like many regional casinos, generate their income on the degeneracy of locals. If you have never set foot inside Commerce, let me tell you, the facility is massive with dozens of rooms connected to each other with hordes of crazy Asian gamblers. The casino floor reeks of desperation, body odor, and Korean BBQ. At least Vegas has a semblance of normalcy (CUT TO... a young family on vacation pushing a stroller through the Bellagio flower observatory) and a sense of revelry (CUT TO... a rabid pack of frat boys chugging Jager Bombs at a black jack table). But sometimes, taking a stroll through Commerce at 2am is sort of like making the rounds at an insane asylum.

I never thought that I'd ever get a chance to play in a WPT event, yet somehow that's what happened. I'm used to being on the media side of major events, so this rare experience was sort of like the help getting invited to the feast. Matt Savage, tournament director extraordinaire, is running the show at Commerce including their highly popular L.A. Poker Classic tournament series. Savage extended an invitation to the WPT Celebrity Invitational for a few of us in the media. It was an awesome gesture and demonstrates why Savage is one of the most popular figures in poker.

It wasn't officially official until I checked in at the desk. I always have a moment of panic when the person with the list flips through pages in search of my name. Yep. I was indeed invited and they handed me two wristbands; a black band with my table and seat assignment written in a silver Sharpie, and a grey band for my +1 guest. I gave Nicky her +1 wristband and headed upstairs to the free bar and swanky buffet spread. The first person I spotted was Thor Hansen, the Godfather of Scandi poker. Did he want any side action on the rest of the Olympics? I'll bet against any Scandis in any event except the biathlon.

I arrived at the heart of cocktail hour. The key to surviving these in Hollywood is to drink heavily and surround yourself with a couple of your friends so you can stand in a circle and make other adjacent circles highly uncomfortable by laughing uncontrollably. Nothing freaks out Hollywood hipsters than someone having a better than than themselves. I circled the wagons with Parvis, Nicky, Laney, and Michalski as a sullen Eskimo Clark walked by us in slow motion. Eskimo is one of the worst degenerate gamblers in poker and he clutched an unlit cigar that I saw him bum off of someone in the hallway before he wandered towards the buffet and piled his plate with chicken satay before he disappeared into a crowd, ignoring the wine-induced conversation around him.

I devoured a couple of tepid yet tasty Kobe meatballs... passed on the prawns because as a rule of culinary thumb, I avoid shellfish inside casinos... watched one female pro bust Michalski's balls for posting erroneous info on his blog... wondered if our buddy Stapes' +1 was a Craigslist hooker... and then I hopelessly attempted to make eye contact with Tia Carrere, the object of Wayne's obsession in Wayne's World, a flick popular among Gen-X stoners such as myself.

Instead of linking up with Tia, I stood face-to-face with... William Hung.

I don't pester people for photos, but this was a rare opportunity to make a few friends of mine in the music industry chuckle. William Hung politely agreed to be photographed. I think he was happy that someone noticed him as he wandered around the buffet area in a slight daze with not a soul paying attention to him. Nothing against Hung, but he's the byproduct of one of the worst facets of the sensationalistic media after the producers on American Idol aired his horrendous audition when he butchered Ricky Martin's smash hit She Bangs.

Hung went on to record an album because of his astronomically high Q-rating buoyed by the trainwreck value of his atrocious singing. The freak is far more entertaining than the melodious voices of the best amateurs because the current American past time is reveling in the dismay of others. Fifty years ago, you usually had to do something good or accomplish a noteworthy achievement to draw attention in the press. These days? Just do something stupid, moronic, or retarded and you'll achieve immortality on YouTube.

A bunch of people in the tournament room fell into that category, while the majority of the other celebrity players were hard-working actors constantly worrying about their next job. I couldn't tell you the names of dozens of somewhat familiar faces that I came across. In my notebook, I scribbled down things like "the dude from Freaks & Geeks" or "Wil Smith's brother in the Fresh Prince" or "Joe Toye from Band of Brothers."

I discovered a pecking order among actors. Many of them loathe reality TV stars. I overheard a couple of snarky comments at my table about fame and reality TV. But these days, the lines in Hollywood have been blurred. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two. With that said, the meatheads and the spray-tanned orange chick from The Jersey Shore were not in attendance, which meant that I'd have to find some other celebs du jour to mooch drugs from.

I made my way through the tables inside the black-draped tournament room at Commerce Casino. Record-setting field of Johnny Dramas and Troy McClures. 567 players in all including a few big named pros. I passed a couple of the Van Patten clan including the elder Dick Van Patten from Eight Is Enough fame. I spotted a few more pros that I knew including Joe Sebok, Liz Lieu, and Kristy Gazes. A few pros wandered around checking out the hot tail inside the ropes. They were not used to seeing so many glamorous people at a poker table.

I took my seat and the adjacent table featured L.A. Lakers owner Jerry Buss, which meant that one of the many Asian girls in his harem would be sweating their sugar daddy. In case you're wondering... Buss wears white Nike socks. But does Buss gets Nike socks for free, or if one of his bitches fetches a new package for him every week?

Trishelle from the Real World Las Vegas took a seat at the table behind mine. She established herself as one of the original reality show trollops after a steamy threesome in the hot tub. Trishelle is a Swahili word for "mountainous regions", which was apparent after I got a close up of her twin donuts. Wow. Lemme tell ya... them some tig ol' bitties. No fancy lighting or camerawork there. I salute her plastic surgeon.

By 8:15, my table began to fill up. I sorta recognized the guy next to me but like so many actors and actresses in the room, they looked vaguely familiar. Seat 4 was a loud fat guy who did voiceovers for cartoons. Seat 6 was Erik Palladino from ER. Seat 8 was my local weatherman in LA and Nick Gonzalez sat next to me in Seat 9. I quickly found out that Nick was the runner-up in last year's WPT Invitational. He held the distinction of being the last celebrity standing. That juice goes a long way in celebrity poker playing circles, and anyone in this town will tell you that any type of buzz is good buzz, especially since he was running around for auditions sweating it out during pilot season.

Nicky went downstairs to play cash games and I sent her a text inquiring about the actors at my table. I figured that I'd consult the former Hollywood exec about the background of my thespian tablemates.

"Palladino got fired from ER after two seasons for mouthing off to the show's producers," she texted me. "And Nick is a hipster actor who was in The OC and the new Melrose Place."

Ah, that's where I remembered Nick, from his role as D.J. the yard guy who was schtupping Mischa Barton's character in The O.C.. Like most of the actors that I meet in Hollywood, I was much taller than him in person. Since Nick Gonzalez was the celeb who went the deepest the previous year, he garnered a significant amount of attention from the cameras. For the first couple of levels, the WPT film crew hovered around our table. A constant flow of photographers snapped photos and I accepted the fact that my ugly mug would be the "most cropped" photo at the WPT Invitational.

"You look familiar. How do I know you? You a pro?" asked Nick Gonzalez.

"No. I'm a writer. Do you read Bluff Magazine?"

Nick Gonzalez mentioned that he had just met my editor at Bluff, Lance, when he played in a PokerStars Celebrity Charity tournament less than 24 hours earlier in Las Vegas. The drunk guy from ER sitting across from me was super drunk and kept apologizing for his high state of inebriation. He wanted to know where else I wrote. I told him that I'm also the author of Lost Vegas.

"Lost Vegas? Oh, I read that. Good stuff," barked the drunk guy from ER as he took a swig of his vodka cocktail.

I didn't have the heart to call his bullshit. I picked up an obvious tell... Lost Vegas hasn't even been published yet, but that's the sort of shady shtick that the denizens of Hollywood sling back and forth. Even if you have no idea who someone is, you always tell them that you admire their work. It's such a terrible Hollyweird cliche, but deep down actors really want to know that they are relevant... even if you have to lie to them to massage their egos.

"Thanks," I said. "You're no slouch yourself. You practically carried ER during your time on the show."

That was a low blow on my part, but sometimes writers have to put actors in their place.

The continual cameras were my least favorite part of sitting next to Nick, although that's just a relatively minor gripe because I certainly understood the purpose. And hey, who knows if I get on TV so my mom can see me. Regardless, the positives of sitting next to Nick far outweighed the negatives. For example, Nick is a handsome actor who knew an impressive number of actresses in the room. A steady stream of starlets stopped by our table to flirt, schmooze, and sneak in a few seconds of camera time. I didn't mind the starlet parade one bit.

Trishelle sat only a few feet away and spent a lot of time leaning over to talk to Nick, but of course, always within camera shot. I can't tell you how many times I turned my head to be greeted by Trishelle's misty mountain tops. I snuck a few peeks down her dress like a leering deviant out of a Bukowski poem. Judge me all you want. You would have done the same fuckin' thing. Magnificent. The melons are currently in season.

One starlet, who played one of the cheerleaders from Friday Night Lights, became a frequent visitor to our table often bouncing by with the grace of a ballerina. She had recently gotten engaged and happily showed off her ring.

"How many carats?" asked drunk ER guy.

"3.4," she proudly announced.

Jaws dropped. Silence. Even drunk ER guy was at a loss for words. The rock on her finger was the size of a bull's testicle. If she sported that on the NYC subway, she'd get her hand lopped off in seconds. God knows how many miners from Botswana shed blood for that warped symbol of eternal love.

The table banter was fun, friendly, and at times kinda loud with most of the chatter was down on my end between ER guy, the weatherman, and Nick. The looseness of the tournament equated into less hands per hour. The action was slow. Seemed like everyone was Hollywooding it up on every hand for the cameras. Gah. Fuckin' actors. The excruciating pace might have driven me nuts if I didn't have Twitter to keep me occupied during the downtime or the fragrant-smelling starlets buzzing by Nick to keep us distracted.

I lost a hand early on to ER guy and lost about 40% of my chips within the first ninety minutes. Due to the lack of cocktail servers, the drunk ER guy took matters into his own hands and fetched beers at the cash bar. He took a huge chiplead after he won a pot on a sick beat. ER guy jumped out of his chair. Cameras swooped in. Beers were spilled. One of the girls from Jerry Buss' harem curiously wandered over.

I won a big hand against Nick with pocket Aces. I avoided elimination and doubled up. Of course, the one time I win a pot against Nick, the camera crew had taken a break.

My buddy Chicago Bob stopped by to sweat the event and Nicky was kind enough to grab me water on one of the breaks. Michalski and I recorded a podcast where I described the tournament area as a "room full of cliches."

Nick busted out shortly after the break ended, and the drunk ER guy bitched at the guy who busted him, "Way to go. You just knocked out the pussy magnet."

The starlets and busty Trishelle weren't stopping by to see us... they were there for Nick... well more for the cameras surrounding Nick.

I won another hand against drunk ER guy and he begged me to show him his cards, which I refused to do unless he gave me $100 in cash. He declined my offer and declared that I was his enemy.

I pulled off a huge bluff and went on a rush. I won three hands in a row and was finally above water when the actor who played Joe Toye from Band of Brother joined our table...

Joe Toye and I quickly were involved in a hand together. We got it all in on the flop. He had the best hand with a set of nines, but I had a flush draw. I took the lead on the turn, but he took it back on the river when the board paired. My flush lost to his full house. Out in 390th place or so.

"At least I got busted by Joe Toye," I said as I shook his hand.

Toye smirked and said thanks. He put my chips to good use and ended Day 1 fifth overall. He went deep but buted out before the final table. Inc ase you were wondering... Trishelle from the Real World advanced to the final table of the WPT Celebrity Invitational. The apocalypse is near. Cue the raining frogs.

Editor's Note: Excerpts of this post originally appeared on Tao of Poker.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lost Vegas Podcast: Episode 3

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Nicky and yours truly dish the dirt with the behind the scenes of Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

Lost Vegas Podcast

Episode 3 - Inspiration Inebriation... Nicky ambushes Pauly about the real inspiration behind Lost Vegas, and she gets him to reveal trade secrets.

Don't forget that you can follow @LostVegasBook on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Salsa Fries, Dead Junkies, and Marv Albert's Rug

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Valentine's Day. Sunday. Early morning. Too early. Nicky and I ate breakfast at the coffee shop, packed as per usual on the weekends. The first breakfast shift (pre-11am) is mostly families with young children and the Church crowd. The second shift consists of hungover hipsters, the post-Church crowd, and everyone else in the neighborhood who decided to sleep in.

The owner's son waved us towards the only available area... the counter. Two empty stools. I sat down next to an elderly woman. Old. Very old with some wrinkles on her face that were older than me and Nicky combined. She was at least in her 90s and wore pink pajamas. Seriously. I guess when you are that old, you can roll out of bed and go eat breakfast in your PJs and no one is gonna say shit.

The teenage granddaughter of the coffee shop's owner sauntered and stood in front of the old woman. She took her order, but I couldn't understand what the old lady requested. The young girl nodded and scribbled something on her pad. She returned a minute later with a small container of fresh salsa and butter. The old lady muttered something. The girl quickly returned with another container of salsa.

The old lady turned to me and said, "I took two buses to get here."

"This morning, I took two bong bits before I came here," I said.


"I took two buses to get here, too."

Seven minutes later. A huge plate of crinkle cut fries appeared in front of the old woman, with a hint of grease glistening in the SoCal sunlight that rushed through the front window. The old woman picked up a fry with her left hand and scooped up salsa with a spoon in her right hand. She carefully covered the top side of the fry with salsa and then inserted said fry into her mouth. Repeat.

Two minutes later, a plate of dry wheat toast arrived. The old lady spent the next several minutes lathering up her toast with butter before she returned to her careful routine of painting the tops of her fries with a layer of salsa.

I ate my scrambled eggs and grits while I looked at my CrackBerry (more specifically UbetTwitter) glossing over all of Kevin Smith's ire after getting tossed from a SouthWest flight for being too fat.

The other morning I walked to the coffee shop just as it opened. A couple of Beverly Hills police officers had arrived at the same time to eat their breakfast. Their vehicles were... two Smart Cars. Seriously. One cop per Smart Car. I had never seen an American police force use Smart Cars. In Europe, sure, but never here.

* * * * *

I spend a significant amount of time at the local Jack in the Box when I have a craving for a BIG ASSED ICED TEA. The plight inside the fast food eatery is always abundant, especially during non-peak hours. I dunno why, but that join attracts all the freaks in the slums of Beerly Hills. On my last trip, taken around 2:30pm in the afternoon, the place was somewhat crowded with normal-looking late lunch eaters. One guy in a suit sat in a booth eating a burger. In the adjacent booth, a 50-something-year old guy punched away at his laptop. I assumed he was a writer of some sorts who set up his office inside of Jack in the Box for that particular day. The only power outlet was located in the ceiling above his head. His plugged in anyway and his laptop's power chord dangled from above while he sipped on a shake. Foolish to display any hardware inside the store if you ask me. He's asking to get jacked by hooligans.

As I walked out with my BIG ASSED ICED TEA, I peeked down the alley behind Jack in the Box. Two twenty-something white guys in a blue Altima were in the middle of a ripping lines of coke.

The other day, I walked inside Jack in the Box and one disheveled junkie with his mouth agape looked like he was sleeping in a booth. I approached the counter to order my BIG ASSED ICE TEA, and the cashier, a 50-something squatty Mexican woman with a lisp, instantly screamed, "Oh my! Ith he dead? He'th dead! He'th dead!"

"Uh, no ma'am," I reassured her. "He'th just nodding off."

* * * * *

The Olympics. Sigh. NBC can suck my big root. The entire notion of watching the Olympics on TV in America is ruined because of Twitter. I'm in LA. Pacific Coast. Same time zone as the Olympics in Vancouver. Yet, I'm on a tape delay from the East Coast feed. All my friends in that time zone are tweeting their reactions as they watch it three hours ahead of me. I don't care about the spoilers as much as I can't see what the fuck they are talking about.

Plus, friends in Canada, Norway, or Australia are getting extensive live coverage in their respective countries and I'm super jealous that they can view the Olympics without all the bullshit , commercials, and cheesey stories that NBC layers their nightly watered-down coverage.

And don't get me started about Bob Costas. What the fuck is up with his hair? I guess he's taking Clyde Frazier's advice and dying his head. Sometimes it looks like Costas is buying his toupees at the same rug store where Marv Albert used to buy his.

On a good note, I prefer to turn off the sound and Twitter, and watch the Olympics with music blasting. Makes curling and luge much more interesting. I did it today when I watch the opening hockey matches for USA and Canada, which are essentially a pair of NHL all Star teams, with a handful of other stars scattered among the Scandi countries, Russia, and Eastern Europe.

I have a couple of prop bets against Canadian and European friends that I'm sweating, so as much as I think the entire Olympics as a whole is a farce... I'm gambling on the daily outcomes of that farce.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lost Vegas Podcast: Episodes 1 & 2

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

On a total whim, Nicky and I decided to experiment with a Lost Vegas Podcast. We recorded two short episodes around 3 minutes each, in which we reveal some of behind the scenes details regarding Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers, and the World Series of Poker.

Lost Vegas Podcast

Episode 1 - Final Draft... The re-write is over and Nicky explains how she knew how/when Lost Vegas was finally done. She even tosses a Wonder Boys reference into the mix, while I remain moody and evasive.

Episode 2 - Lost Translation... Nicky and I discuss the French version of Lost Vegas, which is currently being translated by Benjo. Chapter 1 in French is complete and we figure out how my favorite (yet grossly overused term) "douchebag" gets properly translated.
In case you were wondering, the due date for Lost Vegas is sometime before the WSOP. The French translation will be released later in 2010. The re-write phase is over and the book is in the hands of two trusted editors. When this current phase is over, we can start the next phase... publication.

Don't forget that you can follow @LostVegasBook on Twitter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ski > Shoot > Ski

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Simpys in Danish

Out of all the places I traveled, Copenhagen in 2008 was the only trip where I purposely spent a significant time inside my hotel room. I never do that. I'm an active traveler. But that trip had unique circumstances.

Denmark in February is miserable, dour, and depressing. The winter of discontent. I fought off a head cold and bogged down in a bad funk at the time caught up in one of those cycles when I hated everything to do with poker. I never should have gone and probably would not have, but Nicky had an assignment covering a poker tournament in Copenhagen. The plan was that I'd visit her in Denmark and crashed in her free hotel room.

I figured that I'd put in a couple of hours at the tournament every day and gather enough material for a magazine column. Heh, that never happened. I just couldn't bring myself to hang out and watch Scandis play poker.

Copenhagen was a last minute trip. I was in New York City for an extended time visiting my brother and family. I found a super cheap round trip flight from JFK to Amsterdam and an even cheaper round trip flight from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. Total cost was around $400. I decided... what the heck? I flew to Amsterdam for a couple of days to rage solo before continuing onto Copenhagen. I thought that I was going to edit a dozen chapters of the previous incarnation of Lost Vegas (back then it was called the Untitled Las Vegas Book). That never happened. Instead, I wrote a bunch, smoked a shit load, and ate mushrooms.

When I arrived in Copenhagen, I avoided the poker tournament and spent the mornings wandering around the city. Dreary. Overcast. Light rain. I felt like a walking version of a Sylvia Plath poem. I hung out with all the junkies in Christiana aka Free Town. I wandered around the mile long shopping street. I went to find the Little Mermaid. I took a bunch of photos and ate a lot of fast food because the local cuisine was brutal. The Danes made the Brits look like culinary experts. The beer was top notch, but the local food was... barely edible.

I spent my afternoons holed up in Nicky's hotel room and smoking a shit ton of weed. Danish TV aired a biathlon championship event and women team handball. When I wasn't watching odd Nordic sports, I spent the rest of the time watching The Simpsons with Danish subtitles.

I only checked out the tournament once. I blew it off the rest of the time. Plus, I never wrote an article for my column. That was the first and only time that I dropped the ball with a story. I came home story-less.

Technically, I didn't fuck up my column because I have the (rare) freedom to write whatever I want every month. I had pitched my editor a story about Scandi poker. After the trip, I attempted to write my article but quickly veered off topic and I spent a few rambling pages describing the volatile race relations in Denmark at the time. Copenhagen and other cities were riddled with riots between police and young immigrants of Arabic descent. Denmark was a volcano. Who cared about poker? Let's not forget that Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, nearly ignited an all out jihad in late 2005 when they published a series of political cartoon depicting Muhammad in a manner which deeply offended the Islamic world.

Anyway... I thought my article was way off topic for a "poker" magazine so I did not submit it. I feel as though that I failed as a writer and blew the assignment because I was not able to relay my sentiments about freedom of speech, religious tolerance, and immigration and weave that into the fabric of the Scandinavian Poker Championship. Instead, I emailed my editor an article about playing poker with degenerate gamblers in a casino in New Zealand.

Since I barely hung out at the tournament in Copenhagen, I knew that my editor would not want to pay me to write about why the drug dealers in Christiana wear masks and why you don't want you to photograph them otherwise risk getting stabbed, or how I spent most of my time smoking weed in my hotel room and watching biathlon on TV. It's just a bunch of Scandis in tights ski, then shoot, then ski, the shoot, then ski, then shoot, then ski.

Why am I writing about Denmark?

The Vancouver Olympics are in full swing and on Sunday afternoon, I got a flashback to two years ago when I did the same exact thing -- smoking weed while watching a bunch of Scandis in tights ski, then shoot, then ski, the shoot, then ski, then shoot, then ski.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

West L.A. Hideaway

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Stephen Elliot wrote something about how L.A. is the perfect place to be discovered and to hide out at the same time. I'm paraphrasing here... but since everyone in the City of Angels is desperately seeking attention, all you have to do is stand still and you'll disappear.

That's an accurate description of L.A. that I've come across. Elliot simply summed up one the main reasons why I migrated to the left coast and settled down in La-La Land -- it really is easy to disappear within the city limits and become invisible. Lost in the shuffle.

I needed a place where I could hole up and write with minimal distractions. L.A. sorta fit. Everyone insulates themselves from the rest of the world by riding around everywhere in cars. When they aren't in cars, they are attached to their cell phones, sort of like a post-modern security blanket. And when people go home, they hide behind the walls of the internet.

I love New York and think about returning to my hometown every single day, but the city is expensive and a difficult place to hole up and write and hide out. NYC is really just a bunch of small islands connected together by the most amazing public transportation system in the world. Too many chances to bump into people who I don't want to see. I have over three decades of ghosts, former lives, and dozens of different circles of friends and classmates festering in a couple of the five boroughs. NYC is the base for my family. With the exception of my brother, I don't miss seeing any of them at all. The only way I might be able to avoid known acquaintances is to live out on Staten Island or on the outskirts of Queens. Who the hell would want to do that?

NYC offers up too many distractions. Too much to do, so much fun to be had. I'm not a daily drinker anymore, but I love hanging out in dive bars strewn across New York. On the other end of the spectrum, L.A. is devoid of culture and I'm not tempted by the dreary plastic nightlife. I rarely wander into that world because the douchey denizens who frequent the bars and clubs make those places unattractive. Instead of wasting my time and money in those black holes of intellect, I surrounded myself with good books and funky music and holed up in an anonymous apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills.

Over the last couple of years, I looked at L.A. as the place where I'm going to sleep and recuperate after a long bender or lengthy stint on the road. It's the place where I went to work on Lost Vegas. But now what? Ideally, I'd love to have two apartments -- one in LA and the other in New York City -- but that utopia isn't cheap.

I really didn't know what to do with myself when I finished the re-write to Lost Vegas. The book is still not complete, but this stage is finally done. While I wait to work on the next stage, I had a open window. Small, but it was open. I could have fucked off, but I didn't want to lose momentum so I decided to take four days off and begin a new project on the Monday after the Super Bowl. The new goal is to crank out as much as I could before I fly to Uruguay at the end of the month and the German Butcher finished reading/editing the latest draft.

It felt odd to do nothing. I scheduled the Super Bowl as a day off but that left three free days. I'm not one to simply rest and do nothing because there's always some sort of work to be done. If I'm not working, I'm partying, and sometimes the lines are blurred between the two. But I made a conscious effort to do nothing -- meaning no writing, no work emails, nothing related to that world.

What did I do? I barely left the couch. I smoked hashish for three straight days and embarked on a Mad Men marathon.

Molly sent me a gift card for Christmas which funded the first season of Mad Men on DVD. I watched season 2 and 3 on my laptop via the intertubes -- 39 episodes in all over that three-day period. I only left the apartment to walk to Jack in the Box for a BIG ASSED ICED TEA. I rarely left the couch except to retrieve cups of Jell-O pudding from the fridge as my only food stuff. The Hash and Pudding Diet. Try it some time. Much healthier than cigarettes and gin.

During the foggy bender, we had two unexpected visitors at the front door. We never get drop ins. That's why I was startled. I was too faded to get paranoid. I was mostly annoyed that my Mad Men marathon had to be paused.

The first knock on Friday night was from Nicky's parental units. I hid the smoking apparatuses and gave Nicky the OK sign to answer the front door. They decided to drop on in and check up on Nicky because she hadn't returned her parents' calls. They were worried that something bad had happened. Maybe they saw that episode of Intervention about huffers and thought Nicky was passed out after huffing too much pine-scented Pledge.

Well, they had nothing to worry about because Nicky finished off a rather boring and ordinary work week. Nicky did not hide her discomfort of the parental pop in as they invited themselves into the apartment. The TV was on with the Lakers/Denver Nuggets game about to tip off. Nicky's father wondered if I had money on the Lakers. I told him the truth.

"No. I don't like to bet on the NBA, even though I'm going to put a few bucks down on Oklahoma City against Golden State tomorrow night. I always bet against Golden State."

Nicky's mother wandered into my office. The door was wide open and she noticed a picture of Derek Jeter with his fist pumping in the air. That photo captured his reaction as he rounded the bases after he hit his infamous November 1st home run in the 2001 World Series (of Baseball).

Luckily, they didn't stay long and only moderately killed my buzz. I told Nicky that I would have politely kicked them out had I been writing.

I returned to my routine like nothing happened until a second knock on the door almost 24 hours later. Alas, it was your typical L.A. blonde in distress. The flowery fragrant 20-something sister of our neighbor across the hall had locked herself out of the apartment. My neighbor was out of town and her younger sister had cat sitting duties. After feeding the feline, she went outside to make sure she parked her brand-new tomato red BMW in the right parking space. In the process, she accidentally locked herself out and left her phone inside the apartment. She knocked on our door seeking a wrench and/or to borrow our phone to call a locksmith.

I gave her a wrench and watched as she unsuccessfully tried to unscrew a locked window. I told her it wasn't going to work and offered to see if I could break into the apartment via the alley. Sometimes my neighbors on the first floor foolishly leave their bathroom or bedroom windows open -- but not that time. No open windows to squeeze through. I was too high to try to pick the lock, but not high enough to think I could kick the door in. I couldn't save the day.

She borrowed Nicky's phone and called a locksmith as the loud meows of the cat from inside the locked apartment increased in volume. She gave the locksmith my number, which was important because he had to call back twice. He originally took down the wrong address and called the first time to verify where he was headed. Twenty minutes later, I got another call. He couldn't find the building and went to the wrong unit next door.

The locksmith showed up and he looked like Bobby Bracelet -- but with a nervous twitch. Not shitting you. I did a double take and wondered if it was the hash fucking with my head. L.A. Twitchy Bobby was happy to help out the young blonde which is why he took twice as long to get the job done.

Another crisis averted in the slums of Beverly Hills.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Final Stretch

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The routine.

Wake early as possible. If it's dark, that's a good thing. The darker... the better. I hate burning daylight. Since I've been avoiding the distractions of the phone, email, Twitter, TV... I jump into the process right away. No attachments equals less distractions. I usually start reading. For a while, I read a bit of the Phish biography every morning. My brother gave it to me for Christmas. I had to write a review on Coventry at some point, so I was killing a few birds with one stone. Plus, reading about some of my favorite musicians inspired me to get my ass in gear. I moved onto the Rolling Stone Magazine anthology, and then embarked on a daily re-read of a collection of conversations from Woody Allen.

Food is a must. If I'm not feeding myself with cereal or Clif Bars, then I'm walking to the coffeeshop the moment that it opens up. I print up pages that I had written the night before and edit them while I wait for my breakfast clutching a red pen. Cops sit behind me. Sometimes an actress sits nearby with script. I eat as much food as possible. Fuel. I never know when I might eat next.

After the food, I think about what I'm going to write on my walk back to the apartment. Sometimes I stay outside until I have a clear and concise idea. Then it's time to crank up the music. Jazz music. Always in the morning. G-Money was kind enough to give me a portion of his jazz CD collection a while back. I created a G-Money Jazz Mix featuring tracks from John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Charlie Mingus. I also have a morning SoCal jazz mix that I play from time to time. Not really any California musicians, but stuff I like to listen to when I write in the mornings -- Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Sidney Bechet.

Nicky was kind enough to hide out in the bedroom/her office for the mornings and afternoons which gave me free reign of the apartment. The light is better in the dining room/living room and I prefer to write at the dining room table. Sometimes I start out with a free write. Kinda of like light jogging. Nothing special. Just getting the fingers loose and the mind wandering. Once I'm warmed up it's back to the grind.

We were in heavy editing mode, so I was doing lots of reading and redlining. I compare my edits to the German Butcher and proceed with cleaning up the chapters. Some parts are smooth. Others are still choppy. Instead of pounding out the blemishes, I scrapped entire sections and started from scratch. Re-writes. That's my favorite part of the editing process mainly because it's writing. It's a chore to read and edit and trim. But I'm slowly getting more and more used to that process. It's essential and growing on me. When I'm done with the edits on a chapter, I snatch up my laptop and rush into my office to print up pages. I inspect the printed pages for edits. My eyes catch them better on paper than on the screen. I dunno what that is... it just is. I redline any errors, then return to the laptop to fix them. The process repeats itself until I'm satisfied. Then I can finally move onto the next chapter. Some chapters take hours to edit, other chapters take days.

Then the next thing I know... it's late afternoon. Nicky is having a smoke break and inquiring about dinner. I'm usually too zoned in to think about food. I mutter "Whatever" and she whips up something a couple of hours later. While she's cooking, I migrate to my office for the rest of the evening. Nicky reclaims the living room and the rest of the apartment until she crashes.

I woof down food and shut the door in my office. Time continues to fly and it's 10pm. At that point, I passed the 12 hour mark a few hours earlier. I make the decision to call it a night or keep going. I usually take a break until Midnight and see what my body and mind is telling me. If I'm feeling up for it, I return to the grind. If not, I play a little online poker, listen to music, or read. Sometimes I still want to write -- but not the book -- so I open up a blank Word document and write about whatever has been waiting to come out. Otherwise, I try to sleep for a few hours and wake up in the darkness to repeat the process.

These sessions are long. Double digit hours. Intense. Focused. I haven't worked like this in a very long time. I finally unplugged and was able to walk away from the rest of the world and retreat into the words. The pages. No distractions. It's so twisted that I control the ability to connect and unconnect from the virtual world, yet spend most of my time unable to connect. Addictions. I have lots of them, and that's one of them. It took me a couple of days to overcome that fear of missing out on something and become more intoxicated in floating around in my own universe.

My lifeforce is like a sponge and I soak up whatever is around me. It's hard to block it all out the negativity. That's why I had to shut down completely. No cell phone. No email. No Twitter. No TV. No internet (except for research). That was the only way I knew how to control what filter into my senses. Everything on the TV is trying to brainwash me into buying something I don't need or think a certain way because that's what the powers to be want... mindless consumer sheep. It's a chore to create when all of that propaganda is floating around. That's why I have to block it all out.

Any down time is spent listening to music, thinking, and looking at certain photos to trigger dormant memories. Sometimes that works. I enjoy that exercise trying to use photos or music to conjure up memories, then using words to re-create them. I enjoyed having the time to think freely about the subject matter in front of me at that given time instead of constantly worrying about other petty matters that would rile me up on a daily basis.

I've been haunted and paralyzed by this project for almost five years and it's so close to getting done. There hasn't been a day when I did NOT think about it in some capacity. Some days, that's all I thought about and pulled out what little hair I had left on my head. I struggled on how to tell the story, and when I finally got the story out, there was too much of it and I had to spend the last six months lopping off days, months, weeks, years of previous work. Painful.

I vowed that I would never take more than a year on any more future projects. Life is way too short. I can't get myself bogged down in losing another half of a decade of my life trying to complete one piece of work. I have six new ideas/concepts and would love to get all of those out before 2020... that is if I/we/the world is still around by that time.