Wednesday, March 31, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

March was a very selfish month.

I finished the final draft of Lost Vegas in February and submitted that manuscript to both of my editors as I eagerly waited for them to finish up their notes and comments. For the majority of the month, I did things that I wanted to do. That's it. I got all of my freelance work out of the way and I focused on personal projects -- strengthening up the blog empire. I somehow completed a forced migration of three blogs and whipped up three basic, yet new templates. And now we're in the process of doing the same with Coventry. I never really saw that as "work" even though for a week straight that's all I did in my spare time. Sometimes, things are simply more pleasurable because it's for something that is entirely your own instead of something you're doing for someone else.

At the same time, I reinvigorated myself with collaboration projects like Truckin' and Coventry. I'm a hired thug in the poker media world and go where the money flows. I work a lot of solo gigs and occasionally in a small unit (much like the special forces they send us to remote areas to get a job done). All that solo mercenary stuff pays the bills, that's why it's cool to work together with friends on more fun projects and more creative ventures. Inspiration through collaboration.

My only major work assignment for the month of March was canceled because of an earthquake, so I was left alone in LA to delve deep into an end of month bender that included eight days (thank God they were broken up into two four-day segments) of nonstop gambling and basketball. I don't do that much anymore -- sit endlessly in front of the TV for hours on end and scream like a madman. If it weren't for Twitter I wouldn't have much contact with the external world during these binges.

I guess I engaged in behavior typical of the average American, who digests four or five hours of the boob tube a day and twice as much on the weekends. I guess people don't have the stomach to sit in bars and drink every night, or simply can't afford to go out and entertain themselves. It's not like anyone is going to open up a book and read for fuck's sake so the TV is a cheap alternative for entertainment. Shit, these days you're shelling out $100 a month to the cable companies, so you might as well sit down and enjoy a couple of hours.

I guess that's why marijuana and TV go hand-in-hand. I simply can't watch regular TV unless I'm stoned to the tits. The only exceptions: when I'm flying JetBlue and if I'm watching a sporting event in a sportsbook or bar, which means I'm probably drinking or just returned from smoking weed outside. I guess that's why I can't watch network news and the alphabet networks inform me of the happenings. Either I see through their bullshit, or it's old news to me and I'm outraged at the watered down and filter version that eventually hits the airwaves.

But cartoons are fantastic when you're stoned an they suck me in, that's why I avoid those channels at all costs. I try to avoid reality shows and limit myself to random food shows (reality food shows are acceptable because the food is the actual star). As soon as commercial comes on, my instinctually fingers goes up or down on the remote. So the most compelling thing to my stoned gourd gets a ten second trial. That includes anything related to science, space, oceans, and the History Channel.... Nicky and I watched a bit of ancient aliens, then some of Psychic Kids, a few minutes of Blow with Johnny Depp (we always catch it at the same fucking scene when he meets Pablo Escobar), before I figure out that three minutes have passed and I fumble for the next two looking for the channel where ancient aliens was on.

I'm gonna miss the TV. I don't expect to hang out much more with it once April arrives and I embark on nine months of nonstop work and traveling.

The beginning of April is gonna be tough. Easter with the family. Watching opening day for the Yankees with my brother. Tax stuff. Finance crap. Work assignment. Blah blah blah. The rest of the month is devoted to publishing Lost Vegas because the month of May is set aside for WSOP preparation, freelance work, and getting ahead as much as I can with other projects. The first month of May is brutal but it eases up at the end when I unwind for a few days and relax during the calm before the storm.

I guess that's what the last couple of weeks were... the calm before the rainy season. The constant craziness of life takes over and will not stop until January of 2010 and shit, today I got an email that pseudo-confirms that I'll be in Europe at that time promoting the French version of Lost Vegas. Now, if I can finally get the edits complete...

I actively set aside a couple of days in March to work on Truckin'. Not "hours" like I usually do, but setting aside half-day sized chunks of time where all I did was write fiction. New stories. I wrote about four new pieces and re-wrote two. I also had more time to work on updating the author archives, which were a pain in the ass to create, but well worth the blood & sweat when I saw the finished product. I've been fortunate to collaborate with many talented friends, which in itself is truly inspiring which is part of the reason why I continue to Truckin' tradition. God knows how many times I wanted to give up and stop publishing.

The short fiction form appeals to my fragmented time. Time is my enemy these days and I never have enough. I really wish I had more time to work on major projects (hence why it took five years to write Lost Vegas), but I made an effort to maximize my time with Truckin'. I wanted to improve my storytelling ability and create content for Truckin' at the same time. Each short story that I wrote this year germinated from an exercise in a different style, tone, or technique. Plus, I'm a much better editor these days which means I'm no longer posting first drafts of short stories that I whipped up in an hour on the morning of Truckin's deadline. The only thing more lazy is when I cut and paste old blog entries -- with the only editing being a more thorough spellcheck.

I diligently worked on April and May's issues last week and I'm eagerly awaiting submissions for the summer issues. I already wrote four stories for the three summer issues, well four and a half... because and I still have a story from Uruguay (inspired by a trip there last month) tinkering around inside my loins. I still have about six weeks until the deadline, so I'm hoping I can get at least ten submissions in that time.

Everyone has a funny or somber story to tell. What is yours?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Paranoid Android: The Impending Jack in the Box Diaries

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

What goes on inside your fridge when you're not looking? That's the one answer that drives some people bat shit crazy and their OCD doesn't let them sleep at night unless they can open up and close their fridge 14 times before washing their hands twice and finally going to sleep.

I wonder what goes on in the other alleys on the other streets on the other fringe blocks in the slums of Beverly Hills? I assume it's the same sordid characters, just picked by a different casting director with a new batch of tenacious souls.

I can't recall if I wrote about the bum who hurled a glass bottle over three lanes of traffic on La Cienega just a block south of the Beverly Center. I was driving solo and stopped at a traffic light in the far right lane where I noticed a homeless guy in a long coat rummaging through a garbage can at a bus stop. The next thing I know, an empty glass bottle flies over the roof of the red Jetta in front of me and crashes into the side of a blue garbage truck.

What the fuck, you crazy fuck?

I made sure my doors were locked and turned down the volume on a live version of Radiohead's In Rainbows and tried to hear what the deranged guy was screaming. The light changed green and I sped off.

I recognize a street hustler who makes the rounds in different adjacent neighborhoods. This guy is in his 40s, tall, sort of a less-debonair version of Will Smith and he's holding a gym bag. He doesn't look too bad off which is why his scam kinda works. I first came across him in the parking lot at In-N-Out a couple of months ago. He was walking up to people in their cars and asking to borrow a buck because he needed to pay a locksmith to get the keys out of his locked car. Kinda slick, but I knew he was crooked. Since he didn't look like a guy who slept on the streets, I assumed that he was a junkie trying to score a few bucks for his daily fix.

A couple of week ago, I saw the same guy with the same gym bag while he was working the parking lot at my local Jack in the Box. He asked me for a few bucks and I declined. He followed me for about ten yards then stopped. I uncomfortably picked up my pace and grew more and more paranoid with each harried step.

What if he trails me back to my apartment?

I made an abrupt stop, almost a fake out like a wide receiver trying to juke a corner back. I darted down the alley that ran behind Jack in the Box and almost knocked over a Smart Car that sped down the alley. I circled around the block twice and made sure I wasn't being followed by him, any Kabbalahist, or any Google Earth cameras before I went home.

Yet, I'm still worried about a white catering van has been parked about 150 yards away. It hasn't moved in four days and it's starting to freak me out. I'm considering the old "banana in the tail pipe" trick to smoke them out... that is if someone is on a stakeout. Maybe I'm waaaaaaaaaaay too paranoid and it's not me they are after (at least, not right now). Just maybe they are after the speed freak/cokehead across the street?

I could write a book about all of the randoms hit that happens at my local Jack in the Box. I guess Bukowski wrote about all the losers he encountered in LA bars, but since I'm not an alkie and instead a reclusive pothead, my daily reporting of the plight is limited to the people I encounter at Jack in the Box. I'm a frequent patron, at least five days a week to pick up a BIG ASS iced tea, and come across a fair amount of sketchiness during my visits.

One week ago. 10:30am. After filling up my self-serve cup, I avoid eye contact with everyone in the joint and make a beeline for the front door. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a miniature Christmas tree sitting on top of a table while a disheveled guy in the booth chugs a tall boy of Budweiser. The tree is about two feet tall. Fake, of course, and light purple.

What the fuck is someone doing with a fake purple Christmas tree in a predominately Iranian-Jewish neighborhood in March?

The owner of the tree (well presumed owner and I have to assume he stole it or found it in the trash) was wearing a weird hat, something you might find an old guy in Moscow wearing on a frigid winter morning. The hat and the tree combination really threw me for a loop.

The beer? Not so much. Tall boy-pounding freaks slumped in corner booths at Jack in the Box in mid-morning are the norm. I'd be more worried if he just had the purple tree and wasn't drinking.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pico Blvd. Blues

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Weirdness abounds at the 6am hour in the City of Angels. It's that grey area between the light and the dark -- between the denizens of night slackers converge with the A-type personality go-getters. The streets are still empty but it's the calm before the storm. Within minutes, the first steady trickle of rush hour commuters and large orange buses start buzzing down Pico Blvd.

I used to be the guy staying up all night and wandering around the streets of Beverly Hills at dawn with the other vampires, insomniacs, pothead writers, speed freaks, and coke fiends. But I've flipped my schedule. I'm crashing before Midnight and waking and baking at 4:20am to start my day. The coffee shop opens at 6am and I like to get an hour of writing in before breakfast. That way I can come home, put in a couple of hours of work and already by 9am, I've had a productive day.

Ah, dawn in LA... reminds me of being all doped up in a dreamlike purgatory between sleep deprivation and reality. That's when the paranoia burrows deep under my skin. The auditory hallucinations torment me and I start hearing things that are not there. And actual noises freak me the fuck out. That's why when I'm wide awake (and for the most part relatively sober) at 6am, I barely react to the noises. To me, it's just part of the morning routine. The birds start chirping. Someone's alarm clock goes off across the alley. The bums start looking through the trash and you hear the distant echos of bottles clinking against one another and the cracking of aluminum cans smashes against each other.

At this point, I recognize about 75% of the trash diggers. I see them out the window when I'm sitting at the dining room table during my morning writing session. There's an old Mexican guy in an old school Army flack jacket who waddles down the alley carrying two huge IKEA-bags filled with cans. One a day, an old black guy with a grey goatee and white hair pushes a shopping cart filled with newspapers and empty spaghetti sauce jars. I'm assuming that guy is just deranged.

I don't think they are all homeless. For example, one morning I was walking to the coffee shop and ran into a guy who had a pick up truck that he double parked in front of our apartment. He was very dark skinned and spoke in some weird accent, maybe the Caribbean? Angola? Another guy in a stained hoodie rides through the alley on his bicycle. If there's any one of the dumpster divers who I worry about robbing us -- it's that guy, which is why I took a stealth photo of him --just in case. My theory is that he's a junkie who sorts through trash but also cases out different places to rob. Most robberies happen because you made it easy for a thief to rob you -- like something so simple, yet stupid like leaving a door or window unlocked. Anyway, the junkie's bicycle is the perfect getaway vehicle. Ah, then again, maybe I'm totally wrong and he's just an ambitious law-abiding junkie who collects bottles to pay for his daily fix?

The other morning, I actual saw one of the homeless dude dive into a dumpster. Usually they open it up and shift around garbage, but they mostly key in on the recycle bins. However, this dude opened up the top hatch and jumped in!

Anyway, I encounter random neighbors. There's a four-story apartment building down the street. On the second story porch, it's rare not to find a guy sitting up. Most of the time, two twenty-something dudes are sitting down on plastic chairs and yapping on their cellphones. Who are they talking to at 6am? On Monday, they were smoking a joint while talking on the phone. I didn't notice at first -- but then my nose caught the smell. The pungent aroma. I nodded at my approval. Only one of them nodded back.

On Tuesday morning, I witnesses the tail end of a drug deal. I noticed one of my neighbors from across the street was standing outside smoking a cigarette when I left at 6am. No big deal. I always see him doing that -- compulsively wearing dark jogging pants and a white hoodie. When I returned from the coffee shop 40 minutes later, he was just stepping out of a pimped out ride driven by a young guy who was sporting some serious bling. We have three weed stores within a three block radius. We have five or six more within a ten minute walk. There's no way he was buying herb. Made me wonder what sort of druggie that guy was. Coke? Meth? It's important to know if you have any serious drug fiends in the area.

Some mornings, I come across neighbors walking their dogs. On my way back from the coffee shop, I sometimes run into a cougar with a huge rack wearing flip flops and pink sweat pants, while letting her dog take a shit on a patch of grass in front of Jack in the Box. I make sure I don't walk on that grass because she never cleans it up. I'm guessing that she's a former porn worker and she has fucked up lips because she told her cheap-ass plastic surgeon that she wanted to look like Angelina Jolie but she ended up looking like Rihanna in those TMZ photos after Chris Brown used her face as a punching bag.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tao of Hockey Fights: Goalie On Goalie Violence

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Let's return to a new theme here on Tao of Pauly... hockey fights. I found this one on Huffington Post. Two goalies from the USHL went at it. OLD TIME HOCKEY! Here are two videos of the same fight from different angles...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Leftovers: March Madness, KGB, and JLo

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The worst thing about watching 42 hours of March Madness coverage on CBS is the commercials. God, I hate those fuckin' commercials. Even the quirky funny ones get annoying after seeing it for the 43rd time. During a four-day period, I must have seen over a hundred or so total commercials (both national and local). Out of the 100 or so, CBS bombarded me with the same dozen commercials over a hundred times.

Shock and awe.

My head hurts. I wonder who is the post-modern version of Don Draper who came up with the idea of creating the same two 30-second commercials and airing them during the same commercial break as the first and last one you see. Genius. That's what I say. The guy is a friggin' genius, but that still doesn't change the fact that I owe him a swift quick in the junk.

How about two quick kicks instead of one long one?

Look, I get it. Commercials are essential, especially when funding the live stream on the internet. Advertising and sports have gone hand-in-hand since the Romans tossed the first Christians to the lions and the Roman version of Don Draper figured out that he could sell space in the hallways of the Coliseum. To reduce expenses on paint, they used the blood from Christians after they were mauled to death. Soak a couple of rags in blood and you have an ancient-version of a magic marker.

March Madness is a spectacle. I'm a fan and a contributor. I'll never be content with CBS' coverage but at least their philosophy is thousands of times better than NBC and their coverage of the Olympics. Sure, I bitch and moan about not getting to see the March Madness game that I want to watch (mainly because I have some sort of vested financial interest), but the CBS suits at least give you a "regional" game with minimal human-interest bullshit. That's much more edible than the faux-live coverage of the Olympics.

CBS allows the viewers at home to see March Madness. NBC allows us to see NBC's vision of the Olympics. Maybe someday, ESPN will snatch up the broadcast rights to the Olympics and then we'd see significantly more coverage of almost all of the events (and not just watching the Americans compete in "popular" sports). Anyway, thank God that the Olympics are over, mainly because I can't bet on every single event like I can with March Madness.

Moving on...

During the March Madness bender, I watched a shitload of commercials, but the one that perplexes me the most is... KGB. I have no idea what that does. What is KGB? When I was a kid, KGB was known as the Russian's version of the CIA. When I was in college, KGB was an acronym for Kind Green Bud. But today... CBS is touting commercials for something called KGB. I'm not even sure if they are talking about Is it even a website. I'm clueless, but the commercial annoyed me after a while because of my inability to figure out what the fuck they were selling me.

Knowledge. That's what the folks at KGB are selling you. The ability to know what they know very fast. You can't put a price on that. Or can you?

Yes, for just 99 cents, the people at KGB (or is it just a webbot?) will send you answers to your questions via text messages. Isn't that just the laziest thing you ever heard? Who would be stupid to actually spend that money? There's something called the Internet. It has a lot of porn but always has plenty of answers to our questions. Shit, Twitter is far more useful in a quick pinch. Just ask any question on Twitter and you're bound to get a few quick replies.

Over four days, I saw lots of commercials for different CBS prime time programs. I don't watch any of them unless Wil is making a guest spot on one of the comedies or hour long dramas. I'm told that Doogie Howser is gay in real life but he plays a straight character for his sitcom. He made a Twitter joke in one of the commercial spots plugging his show that I've never seen. I must have heard Doogie's Twitter joke 213 times, so much so that I wanted to delete my Twitter account for it officially jumping the fail whale.

The trailer for the new J. Lo movie really ticked me off. First of all, who the fuck would want to get involved with a chick when they are pregnant? That's the one of the Top 5 reasons why most guys ditch their girlfriends -- because they get knocked up.

Who in their right mind wants to be the boyfriend of some crazy ass Latina spinster who couldn't find Mr. Right, nor she couldn't find one of her gay friends to impregnate her, so she turned to medical science and artificially insemination... but wait... then she meets a guy and the two fall in love. What kind of bullshit movie is that?

Holy fucktards, Batman. Are studio suits that fucking egotistical that they think they can ram a sloppy shit sandwich like that down our throats? Do they really think that people will flock to the theatres to see it? For fuck's sake, Jim Cameron has blue people in 3D blowing shit up. How can they compete with that?

Pregnant J.Lo. Romantic Comedy. Hilarity ensues. This is why I want to work in Hollywood.

No wonder I prefer basketball, or sports for that matter. Plenty of drama. In the moment. Real. Now. Plus, you can bet on it.

Illustration by: Dyna Moe

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Four Days of Straight Delirium Mixed with a Touch of Sloth

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I sat down at my desk on Monday morning for the first time in four days. It felt like a fortnight had passed since I pecked away at the keyboard with the door to my office shut and the music cranking.

A four day bender zoomed by in a dreamy blur.

After the first day, the new routine (not writing) became the old routine. Soon enough the old routine got viciously broken on Monday morning, to my dismay, which put me out of my comfort zone. Usually I'm uncomfortable when I'm not locked inside my office, but in the last couple of weeks, I found more comfort away from my desk and the office. I was stricken with Spring Fever. After holing up all winter writing and re-writing and editing, I was feeling the urge to spend as much time outdoors -- that is until March Madness' arrival because all I wanted to do was get high, gamble, and watch basketball for 42 hours .

Here's the thing... March Madness was not supposed to happen for me this year. I usually got to Vegas with my brother and Senor during the second week of March Madness, but I had to work this year with an assignment in Chile covering a poker tournament at Vina del Mar. I was going to also spend a couple of days with Nicky bumming around and checking out the country which meant that I was supposed to miss the first week of March Madness game and some of the second week.

Alas, the work assignment and the entire trip was canceled after the 8.8 terramoto that rocked Chile when we were in Uruguay. After watching the rioting, looting, and images of severe damage in different cities in Chile on local Uruguayan TV, we knew that our impending trip was going to be canceled.

Initially, I was bummed out about the cancellation of Chile. I could always use money because I outsourced or passed on a lot of freelance work over the last few months in order to finish up Lost Vegas. But, I was really looking forward to visiting Chile with Nicky and Otis. The only downside to that trip to South America would be that I'd miss the entire first and second rounds and half of the Sweet 16 games.

When Chile got the ax, I realized that I could catch all of the March Madness games. I already had over a week blocked off; any work projects, deadlines, and meetings were scheduled before or after the trip. I decided to use that unexpected free week for an epic guilt-free bender -- lots of basketball, gambling, card playing, bong-toking, and other illicit activities -- without even leaving my couch. Most people save up all their money and book a trip to an exotic destination. Me? All I wanted to do was to stay home.

The adventurous pre-bender began on Wednesday. Nicky reminded me that morning that it felt awesome that we didn't have pack our bags and rush off to LAX in order to board a flight to Santiago, Chile. While most of my friends were getting snookered for St. Patrick's Day and/or avoiding getting puked on, I was supposed to be in transit. Travel days. They blow. If you're a frequent reader of Tao of Pauly, you know about my disdain for air travel these days -- the least enjoyable aspect of what I do for a living and the hardest and most stressful obstacle to overcome when traveling for holidays and vacations.

You bet your ass I was dancing an Irish jig on St. Patrick's Day because I didn't have to stand around with the other inbred cattle at the security lines at LAX, quivering in fear of the security theatre, and moaning when the dipsit in front of me forgot to take off his shoes, and belt, and remove the cellphone from his pocket. I gained an extra day, shit two extra days (traveling to/fro Chile) when I thought I was going to be flying or locked up inside airports. Free time is more valuable than money.

I spent St. Patrick's Day with my own version of green beer -- the Northern California medicinal batch called Holy Water because it was grown by a priest. No bullshit. I played online poker and crunched the numbers of the opening round match ups for March Madness. I filled out all of my brackets and diversified my picks in different pools. It's kinda cool that diverse circles of friends in my life have embraced the March Madness spirit. Some of my former colleagues on Wall Street run a high-stakes pool with $23,000 going to the winner. No bullshit. I couldn't afford the buy-in directly and had to invest in a "mutual fund" of other sheets. If I win outright, I still clear a few grand for a minimal investment. I also joined a pool run by one of my fraternity brothers -- which is the only contact that I have with these guys since I'm not on Facebook. Of course, I'm running a Pauly's Pub pool but I also started one up on Coventry. Who knew that almost 80 Phisheads and other hippie-types were heavy into hoops?

Wednesday before Thursday's March Madness games is sort of like Christmas Eve. I had trouble sleeping that night and woke up when it was still dark outside on Thursday. Games started at 12:20pm ET or 9:20am. I was up almost five hours before tip off in the first game because I couldn't contain my excitement. I felt like I was 7-years-old and waking up on Christmas morning to tear into my presents.

The routine for four days...

Wake up before the dawn. Then it's an hour or so of the morning writing workout. I try to squeeze in ten minutes on Twitter, ten minutes of work emails, and ten minutes of reading current events while I'm eating my breakfast at the coffee shop. I'm one of the first batch of customers and return back to the apartment before 7am. I have two hours to game tipoff and I check to see if the lines moved. I consult a few gambling websites, confirm my older bets, and I place new ones. Then I settle down on the couch with two laptops, a mason jar full of Holy Water, a half of a Percosett, and turn on the TV. Nicky drove me to the grocery store the night before so I could load up on supplies -- munchies, chips, hummus, cookies, granola bars, and a shitload of club soda. I don't move from the couch expcept to piss or go to the fridge to secure more food or beverages. I turn off the sound on the TV because the announcers are so annoying (plus I have to blow out the sounds of the commercials to avoid brainwashing and subliminal advertising). I crank up my iPod because I'd rather listen to Jerry Garcia Band, Widespread Panic, and Phish than the talking heads on CBS. I stream two other games on my two laptops. Without fail, the game that I have the most money on at the time is not the one being aired on CBS, so I have to sit through the not-so-perfect online live feed. Sometimes my browser crashes or the video player freezes and I have to reboot. That's why I have my CrackBerry open to sift through Twitter and check up on scores. When Nicky has a free couple of minutes, we play twenty or so hands of Big Deuce. During lulls in the hoops action (or when I don't have ongoing wagers on a game), I play online poker because I'm trying to win money to fund Phish summer tour. I only leave the apartment midway through the March Madness session (around 3pm when they air a break) to walk down the street to Jack in the Box to buy a BIGASS ced tea. I shuffle back to the apartment and resume the above activities for the next six plus hours. When the last game is over, I open up my sports book account to make sure that I got paid. I place a couple of bets and check out the progress of my different brackets before I crawl into bed completely exhausted after a lengthy day of grinding out a living as a sports bettor.

I repeat the process for Friday et al.

On Saturday, the games started an hour later which meant I got a little more sleep to cure my exhausted body. Saturday's games were only 10 hours long instead of 12+. I anchored myself on the couch from 10am to 8pm and cranked up the tunes. On Sunday, the games resumed at 9am and ended by 5pm. By that point, I welcomed the shortened eight-hour day. Four days of constant gambling and riding that intense adrenaline high definitely takes a lot out of you. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually.

I woke up on Monday morning in a daze.

I wanted to resume the routine that I developed four days prior but there were no games to bet on until Thursday. Reality set in, followed by frustration, anger, and soon met by depression. I technically didn't have to go back to work, but I had a few things that I postponed (like a guest post on Upstate Frolfer and trying to find an apartment in Las Vegas for the summer) and should get my ass into gear. I woke up Nicky and suggested a round of frolf before noon. She agreed, but needed to an hour or so to eat breakfast and check work email before we could drive down to Manhattan Beach. So, I wandered into my office, closed the door, sat down, and cranked out this post.

Monday, March 22, 2010

More Hockey Fights

Nice little brawl from the Ontario Hockey League. Thanks to Tyler for pointing out this gem...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Inglorious Pancakes

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I wandered into the coffee shop in the down time after breakfast and just before the lunch rush hour. I prefer to get in before the breakfast rush, but I had stayed up pretty late the night before due to an intense writing session. I crashed at a time when I'm usually waking up.

I discovered that the struggling artisans linger at the end of breakfast rush. Since they don't have an office job, they can enjoy a prolonged and relaxing breakfast including an extra cup or three of coffee.

During this gap in between rushes, you will almost always find two booths occupied by three Hollyweird stereotypes.

The first booth: big ass security guard from one of the dozen weed stories within a five minute radius. Most of them open up between 11am and noon and the guys the size of NFL lineman squeeze into the booth a shovel plate loads of food into their ginormous mouths.

The second booth: two starlets picking at fruit and cottage cheese. They were the hottest girls in their respective small towns, high schools, and colleges. Boys lusted after them and masturbated to their MySpace photos. But in LA, the small-town princesses are among the hordes of non-working actresses humping the dinner shift at Sushi Roku while sitting through a couple of cattle call auditions a week. I don't like to eavesdrop on the starlets' airy conversations, rather, I make a point to sit very far away and tune out their static.

The third booth: two or three guys, who if they lived in any other city, you'd call them hipsters, but here, they might be mistaken for a L.A. Douchebagsicus, but a closer inspection would reveal that they were even a lower form on the evolutionary scale -- they were Industry Douchemperious. At least one or more of them is an actor and the rest are (yawn) writers. They all look similar: unshaven, wearing an ironic t-shirt, and decked out in $120 jeans. Oh, and every single one of them is working on a screenplay.

The loudest in the third booth booth dominated the conversation. Typical insecure actor who fed off the attention from others. He found it necessary to show off his chops to the starlets in the first booth. Shakespeare said all the world is a stage, so Alpha-actor used the coffee shop as his Globe Theatre. He sprang up out of the booth and annoyingly projected ten seconds of dialogue from Inglorious Basterds.

Fuckin' actors.

No one clapped at his shoddy performance. Alpha-actor's friends looked embarrassed and shrunk a few inches into the booth. The starlets were unimpressed, barely paying attention to their own vapid conversation let alone the impromptu sketch.

I stuffed a chocolate pancake into my mouth and sifted through UberTwitter on my CrackBerry as the Alpha-actor sat down and then shifted the conversation to his screenplay. He attempted to dazzle his out-of-work friends with a teaser of his current screenplay, which he had to put on hold while he heavily auditioned during pilot season.

Here's the deal... I overhear almost fifty or more screenplay pitches a year in LA. Everyone in this fuckin' town is writing one, shopping one, or thinking about writing one. Since everyone loves to talk about themselves, I eventually hear a few pitches. I could be stoned out of my mind and wandering the cereal aisle at Whole Foods when I stumble upon two people discussing second act structural issues in their version of Steel Magnolias set against a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

I hear at least a dozen screenplay pitches inside of the coffee shop while minding my own business. Most of them are horribly lame (like the one guy who sent his vampire script to Christina Ricci and she never returned is calls). I really wanted to hate Alpha-actor's screenplay because of that cheesy move with belting out lines from a Tarrantino flick. But I gotta say... it wasn't a bad idea... it was actually... compelling. I smirked when he started off with the typical mobster movie spiel. But he quickly won me over when describing a couple of characters and the main plot. His screenplay somewhat appealing, so much so, that I decided to lift some of his back story, tweak it a bit, and write myself a better screenplay!

I pulled an ultimate stoner move on my way back from the coffee shop. Since I needed to get back to the apartment to put in some bets, I drove down the street. I forgot to roll up the windows after I parked and left the car like than for a few hours. Luckily no one stole the car or any of the contents. We had nothing in there anyway save for a Radiohead CD, a couple of Phish bootlegs, and a crank-wind-up flashlight.

I was pleased to finally see the abandoned Christmas tree finally picked up by the local trash collectors. Whoever originally owned the tree tossed it out at the end of February. It was yellowing at that point. The dead tree sat parked in between two cars for over two weeks when the eyesore finally disappeared sometime before St. Patrick's Day. We live on a predominately Jewish block and I wonder if someone dropped a dime on those damn Christians cluttering up the neighborhood with their ritualistic trash.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why People Suck, Vol. 218

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Read the comment thread on this YouTube video that I posted the other day. In total, 130 comments and I had to delete a bunch. Some are hysterical while others are simply sad.

The internet brings out the worst in humanity; the viciousness that is bred because of the anonymity of the web. It also shines a light on self-centered assclowns, many of whom (both Phisheads and non-heads) decided to chime in on the comments.

Here's the thing... I posted the video (actually me filming the TV) specifically for a buddy of mine in Antarctica. No joke. The video was for BTreotch who didn't get to see Phish covering Genesis No Reply At All during the 2010 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. When I woke up the morning after, only one other video (of the first of two Genesis songs that Phish played) was available on YouTube. So I took it upon myself to do a quick recording before I began my day and went to work.

I uploaded the video and then posted it on Coventry Music blog and our Twitter feed. I figured that a couple of things would happen by lunch time...
1. A better HD quality copy of the video would surface and I could kill mine.

2. The YouTube Police would get a call from some media conglomerate and shut the video down.
But, neither happened. In fact, no one else uploaded any videos which meat that my video racked up almost 10,000 views within the first 24 hours and another 5,000 in the last 24 hours. Talk about viral!

Alas, it seems every hardcore Genesis fan in the world weighed in on the video of Phish's lukewarm performance. Plenty of Phish haters joined in on the dogpile on and a horde of defensive and brainwashed Phisheads who see that their heroes can do no wrong quickly rushed to their defense.

I only took umbrage to a few comments, specifically ungrateful morons who complained that I ruined the recording because I was toking during the taping. Ha. Of course I was. What part of wake-n-bake don't they understand? Plus, this was supposed to be a video for one person -- and they happened to get lucky and stumble upon something of interest. Maybe there are a lot of sullen souls who are envious of potheads?

Seriously, I ruined the video by pulling tubes? Tough shit. Get a life. Go upload your own. Leave me the fuck alone.

I should take down the video just to fuck with the ingrates. But before that happens, read all of the comments and reactions from the angry, bitter, and socially maladjusted twats who troll YouTube.

View the video and read the comments here.

Yep, more proof that people suck.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SoCal Frolf Adventures and Nasty Nose Gunk

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Monday was rough. I jumped trough the ring of fire without thinking things through.

I was too eager to do any real research about the disc golf course near Dodger Stadium and jumped at the chance to check out the closest course from our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills. Nicky was curious to see what all the fuss was about and she agreed to drive me to Elysian Park -- the grounds surround the lush ravines around Dodger Stadium. When you see those huge hills in the outfield shots of Dodger games -- well that's part of the park.

I could even see the stadium from one of the elevated holes on the course. That's how high up we were. The views were pretty cool, especially of downtown LA. But the charming vistas made for a difficult course. When we got home and looked up the difficulty rating, it came in at 9/10. Yeah, no shit. Probably should have paid attention to that fact before we started playing and lost two discs on the first hole!

Bit of an oversight on my part. I was too excited and failed to plan this excursion out, which is something that I rarely do. I'm usually prepared for any sort of obstacle, but this instance, I allowed my excitement to get the best of me. As I stood on the first tee hanging off the side of a ravine, I realized that Nicky had never thrown a disc. Sure, we got a couple of tosses in on the baseball field on our way over to the first tee, but that was it. Shit, I knew we were in trouble when I glimpsed at the narrow dirt path. To the left was a sloping hill with trees and bush. To our right, a thirty foot drop. Basically, unless you parked your disc in the middle of the narrow path, you were fucked. Hence why this course was constructed for true pros and the best of the best... and not for a couple of eager potheads.

A couple of lesser traveled paths led down the side of the ravine, but that was only helpful if you happened to get your disc anywhere in that vicinity. Otherwise, you were buried underneath three feet of brush. I lost a disc or two in those conditions. While I trudged through the tall grass, I could not help but wonder if I was going to stumble upon someone's marijuana grow operation or a makeshift meth lab. I found a couple of lean-tos. Homeless Vietnam vets like to camp out in the parks and one of their sleeping spots was well-hidden off the side of the ravine on the first hole.

I came across a black dog hiding in another batch of weeds. Part of me felt... maybe this isn't the safest place? I got paranoid and began thinking that the area was booby trapped.

The only people we saw were a coupleof Korean teenagers making out in an SUV and the old queer with two tiny dogs. He walked by me on one of the secluded paths. He seemed amazed that I was actually playing on the course. He even said, "So that's how this works."

He mentioned he saw all the metal nets but had no idea what they were for. Not too many frolfers come up to play on one of the tougher courses. No wonder it was empty and we were the only ones.

I found a couple of easier holes on the back nine -- and by easier I mean low potential that we'd lose our discs. I used the time to teach Nicky how to putt. We walked most of the course and decided to skip the tougher holes. We went down to the baseball field to throw the discs around. Nicky wanted more practice and it felt nice to be outdoors in the shadows of Dodger Stadium and frolicking in the warm California sun. Nicky mentioned that we're lucky to get to do things like that since we didn't work in offices. I told her that's one of the perks and benefits of being a writer. For every late check that we have to wait and wait to arrive, we have special days when we can do random stuff.

When we got home, I took a spin up to the local sporting good store to scout out frolf discs. One of the old guys had no idea what I was talking about but I wandered over to the golf section and luckily found a small display of about a dozen discs. I picked up Nicky a pink driver and ordered a couple of cheap discs online.

We planned on checking out a flatter nine-hole course in Manhattan Beach but something hit me hard on Tuesday. Allergies. Nasty fuckers too. I popped a Clartin, something I only had because I'm allergic to cats and I gobble Claratin when I crash at friends' houses who have cats (which came in handy when I spent time at the Joker's, Casa G-Rob, Friedman's, and with IronGirl). Sometimes LA is under a thick cloud of smog and it doesn't blow out and gets trapped. The downside of that in the Spring is that the air is filled with pollutants including pollen and microbes that I'm allergic too. The result is a constant nasal drip and my nose feels like it got bashed in with a sledge hammer.

I desperately wanted to play a round of frolf, but I sunk in deep into the couch. I even took a morning nap and waited for the Claratin to take effect. Once it got mid-afternoon, any hopes of playing were squashed. With two deadlines looming for today and March Madness occupying Thursday through Sunday, I'll have to wait until next week to toss a round.

Monday, March 15, 2010

50% of You Don't Give a Shit

Well, here's a bit of shocking news. Half of you don't give a rat's ass. Sweet!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll. I got a quick sampling of the readers and the masses have spoken.
Do you like the new template?
30% - Yes, it was long overdue.
20% - No, we fear change.
50% - I don't give a rat's ass.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Time Shift in the Hood

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I kept odd sleeping hours over the past week -- crashing before Midnight and waking up around 4am. I sorta like that schedule because I feel as though I put in a full day's of work by noon. That's the schedule I want to stick with over the next two weeks with March Madness looming and plenty of morning activities/meetings on my plate.

Normally, I wake in the darkness, but not this morning. The leap forward one hour meant that my body perked up at the first semblance of sunlight that crept through the alley. The clock in the bed room said 4:55am but when I went to fetch a glass a water, I walked through the living room and noticed 5:55am on the cable box. My CrackBerry said 5:56am. I forgot about the time change. I realized that my body was not on a specific clock -- but rather set to the rhythms of the changeover from night into day.

I noticed that Twitter was a bit messy. Server issues? Time issues? Who knows. I never fret in these instances when using free technology. On Sunday mornings, it is always fun trying to decipher the happenings of friends' wild Saturday night. The courageous ones are still raging on Sunday mornings when most sane folks are heading to church. When I'm on the East Coast, it's not uncommon for me to log onto Twitter at 10am and realized that folks in Vegas are heading into the final stretch of their big night out. Those inebriated rambling tweets and slurred speech (in the form of horrendous typos -- to which I was guilty last weekend during Mastodon) always give me a chuckle.

On this Sunday, I walked down the block to the coffee shop for breakfast when friends in Colorado were working off their party favors with a 8am game of kickball. Sweet Jesus. Only freaks in Colorado would engage in a physical activity after a night of debauchery. In Vegas, we'd end up at a Strip Club or a poker table, but in Colorado, they exercise.

I avoid the coffee shop on weekends because of the crowds. However, I knew that the time change would fuck with some people's routine, so if there was ever a Sunday to grab breakfast, it was this Sunday. I originally planned to cook my own breakfast (andouille and eggs), but I was lazy. After a quick wake-n-bake, I didn't want to waste time prepping for breakfast. At the same time, I didn't want to wake Nicky by rattling around the kitchen. Besides, on Saturday, my breakfast venture was a disaster. My meal was delicious but in the process, I nearly destroyed the kitchen. I was simply off my game and spilled yolk all over the cutting board and on the floor. I broke a glass. I dropped the whisk more times that I could count. I fucked up toasting the French bread and had the toaster oven on a wrong setting. Maybe all these mind-farts happened because I was sober? Anyway, my Cajun egg sandwich came out exactly as I had envisioned but the kitchen was a mess. I had a rough session which became a deterrent when I woke up hungry this morning. I opted to pay for my meal.

I also wanted to catch up on some reading -- specifically a couple of first drafts (column and a blog post) that I wrote and a couple of Truckin' stories that friends sent me. The facelift for Truckin' fired up a couple of friends and were struck with inspiration. I fielded a few "save me space" emails and a couple of "I got something coming" which is a vast improvement from what I'm used to -- which is me groveling and begging my friends for submissions. I even received two stories in the last 24 hours from Drizz and AlCantHang -- which means that the April issue is set and I'm almost done with the May issue. (Editor's note: In case you were wondering, Truckin' has plenty of space available for the summer months. We need 10-12 pieces for the June, July and August issues and the deadline for those are late May.)

Sorry for the tangents... I went to the coffee shop to read while I ate breakfast. A really nice family owns the restaurant that was originally established in 1946, which means that they have had regulars with several decade-long attachments to the eatery. One woman called up to ask what time it was. The owner's daughter answered the phone and said, "It's a little past 8."

Besides the "where-everyone-knows-your-name" atmosphere, I really love Sunday mornings at the coffee shop because the staff cranks up the oldies station -- KRTH-101-- which airs Breakfast with the Beatles and it's all Beatles all morning long every Sunday. Nicky said she grew up listening to that in her house before going to church on Sundays with her family. So it's kind of cool that Beatles for breakfast at the coffee shop is a Sunday tradition. I dig hearing some of my favorite tunes and even a few not-as-popular selections on Rubber Soul which always puts me in a good mood. Some folks need church on Sundays, I need the music.

The streets of LA are empty on the weekends, but at the same time during the weekday, Pico Blvd. is bumper-to-bumper with the morning rush hour traffic. I took my time to cross the street admiring the Hollywood Hills in the distance. I can tell if it's going to be a good air quality day by the visibility of the Hills. If I can barely see them, that means a thick layer of smog is trapped and hovering over the City of Angels. But on a morning like today, I could see the lush greens which always brings smile to my face. That's why I chose to settled down here.

I don't know my neighbors as well as I should. A couple of highly religious Iranian/Jewish families live in the building to our right. The building to our left is filled with hipsters and dog owners who let their dogs yap, growl, and bark in the backyard. The actress/waitress who constantly sings lives in that building. She and her pothead boyfriend used to hang out and smoke weed with Showcase. In a stark reminder about the small town nature of Hollyweird, our neighbor's former roommate is a current contestant on American Idol and among the final 10. Although LA is a plastic city attracting the most superficial of people (hence why LA is the epicenter for LA douchebags), the city also draws in the best talent from all over the world. There's a fine line between being a waitress and a finalist on America Idol, and the slums of Beverly Hills is the demarcation line which houses a lot of dreamers.

If I barely know the people in the adjacent buildings, I know even less about the people in the other six apartments in our seven unit structure. Nicky and I are only friendly with the guys upstairs. They're cool and fit in with our lifestyle -- freelancers in the entertainment industry who are either always working or have huge chunks of unstructured time. They smoke weed, drink beer, play video games, and love football. They smoke cigarettes in the alley so they are always keeping an eye on our place when we're not around. It's good to have nice neighbors like that. Plus, they never complain when I blast music at odd hours and conversely, we don't care when they go ape shit while playing Grand Theft Auto.

I barely know the woman across the hall. She's a lawyer who sleeps at her boyfriend's apartment six nights a week, which is why she has sparse items in her near empty abode. And only someone who is bringing in decent cash can afford to pay for an empty apartment -- save for a lonely cat that's constantly meowing. She comes home to feed her cat, hangs out for a bit, and then takes off. Her sister often keeps an eye on the kitty and that's the Beverly Hills blonde who locked herself out of the apartment last month and want to know if I could break into the apartment.

A law student lives in the apartment above the lawyer. I can't tell if the renter is a guy or a girl because about twice a week, I see a young couple come in and out. The woman has a huge book bag and an overnight bag, so I gotta assume that one of them lives here in theory while in reality they crash at their significant other's much nicer apartment. Maybe the law student and the lawyer should become roommates and save money since they are never around? My landlord is getting free money on people who barely live here. Same goes for us in the summers. That lucky fucker! What a racket. I don't blame my neighbors for not wanting to stay here. The building is a shithole and might not survive a 7.0 earthquake. Our slumlord rarely fixes stuff including the shitty plumbing. And hey, who really wants to live next to a couple of beer-guzzling video game geeks or two potheads blasting jazz music at all hours?

I have never spoke to the couple upstairs and we barely acknowledge each other with a head nod. I only know that one of them is in law school because I noticed a 2L parking pass hanging from their rearview mirror. The guy drives a motorcycle, but I've never seen him actually drive the beast. It has been collecting dust in the carport since he moved in last year.

The front part of the building has three units. A 50-something female artist rents one of the spaces. Nicky and I have an eternal debate on whether or not she lives there or just uses the studio apartment as a studio. Nicky has been inside and saw a bed, but that doesn't mean anything because I know a lot of artists who crash in their space from time to time. Her car is not around for days at a time so my theory is that she lives somewhere else and her studio is in the slums of Beverly Hills. Regardless, it's nice to have a bit of creative energy in the building to counterbalance the darkness of the legal eagles.

The upstairs apartment in the front of the building is a mystery to me. Always has been since I started dating Nicky. Again, I have no idea. I never see them. The front downstairs apartment is the one that has had the most changeover since I moved it. It has also sat idle the most. It's hard to rent that one-bedroom shithole. A hipster chick lived there for a few months. She drove a white BMW and used to bitch and moan that our place was "OMG so ghetto" which it is, but why did she move here in ther first place? She left before Thanksgiving and the apartment sat empty until this week. The landlord must have lowered the rent so much that somone jumped at the place.

I don't know much about the new neighbor except that they drive a leased Sebring convertible and smoke Capris. I can peek into the kitchen window. They have a huge circular bookcase that houses a ton of cook books but I have yet to see someone in the kitchen actually cooking. My theory is that this person is a chef or works in the restaurant business in some sort, which is why they are not around at nights but the car is parked during the days. Who knows. I'll do some more investigating.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Week in Food

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Well, I guess I could shed a bit of light on my week by posting pics of some of most memorable meals..

And you can always check out my food gallery on Flickr.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wait, Friday Already?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sheesh. it's Friday, already? That's what happens when it take three days to recover for a 50-hour bender. I'm getting old. It used to take me a few hours to bounce back and now, I'm out of action for a half-of-a-week. Mastodon Weekend destroyed my body and productivity. My mind is still the same insane entity, but I was hurting on Monday and Tuesday. Physically. Sluggish. All over. My shoulder was extremely sore from tossing 54-holes of frolf inside a 24 hour window. My liver still has dent marks from all the Southern Comfort.

I started to feel better on Wednesday and finally returned to a normal schedule. Wednesday was all about catch up work which spilled into Thursday and now, shit, it's Friday and I'm wondering where the week went. Most of my time was spent engrossed in code and the migration of my blogs. I really thought it was going to take a week (and should have) but I got antsy and decided to do as much as I could inside of 48 hours. In that time frame, I managed to have three of them up and running. I even overhauled Truckin' and it took me ten or so hours to label every story by author since 2002. Sweet Jesus. You can check out the full roster of Truckin' scribes here. It was cool to see who participated over the years and to see who contributed ten or more stories -- an elite group of 1o other scribes and I'm eternally grateful for their submissions!

I still have a couple of last minute touches to complete on Tao of Poker, but I'm glad that the overall transition went smoothly. Traffic is up slightly. It could have been a fuckin' nightmare. I guess I never realized how many problems with the code/templates that I had prior to the migration until so many of my former headaches were resolved when working on the new templates.

The blog tech tilt was a distraction that I had no choice but to embrace it. Jumping back into Lost Vegas was rough at first but after the first hour or so, I found my groove. Half of the book is complete and I'm waiting on the thoughts from the grammar police during the last two sections. Once that is done, I can print it up and read it from beginning to end for the first time. Nicky and I always sit down for a line-by-line read through which takes a few days. At that point, once I fix any of those blaring errors, I can hand out copies to proof readers and we can get the ball going.

I was deathly afraid of the self-publishing process the entire publishing and media world is amidst a revolution so anything is possible right now. The anti-establishment rogue in me loves the fact that I can buck the traditional publishing process and reap the financial benefits of my own work. I'd rather have final say and sell less books, then lose control of my message and have that reach a wider audience. The Luddite in me can't said to fondle my first book, but the tech-driven visionary in me is embracing the excitement of e-books and printing on demand. Just think that by the time I finish Jack Tripper Stole My Dog (as early as this time next year), within moments of me approving the final draft, it can be ready for download on our iPad or Kindle.

Anyway, lets not get too far ahead of myself. It's fun to think about the future, but I live in the harsh reality that today -- the book is still not complete. We're thisclose away. I can almost smell it.

Benjo spoke to Jerome, our French publisher, during a nice meal in Berlin (that was before the tournament Benjo was covering got robbed). Anyway, Benjo shared lots of positive news about the French version of Lost Vegas. They are working on a cover and art work as we speak with a mid-October target date. Pretty excited. Benjo joked that late night French TV often has writers on to talk about books and that I could be one of those guests. I doubt that will happen because I don't speak French, but maybe the both of us can go on and do our shtick. That could be fun. They let you smoke cigarettes on French talk shows -- like the old days in the US. Maybe I can get away with smoking a doobie?

Back in the day, before the Nanny State took over, everyone smoked cigarettes especially in films and on TV. Just do a youtube search for vintage talk shows and you'll find lots of chain-smoking guests yapping away. My favorite is an uncomfortable Jack Kerouac sweating his balls off and smoking while forced to read excerpts from On the Road while a drunk Steve Allen pecks away at the piano. Ah, 1959...

The clip from Kerouac makes me think about Mad Men and how everyone was drinking up a storm and smoking like a champ. These days, everyone's vices are cellphones and Facebook. What happened to our society in just one > two generations?

Ah, why am I rambling on about nothing when I should just sit down, rip a few bingers, and listen to twenty minutes of the audiobook version of On the Road. That always fires me up to write something of substance.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Joker

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

One of the most single influential person in my life was born today (over thirty years ago). Three cheers to the Joker.

I posted a couple of my favorite videos on the other blogs for the Joker's b-day tribute. Check out...
Tao of Keno: PKPNF Day
Happy Birthday, Joker!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dinosaurs and Blogger

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I started blogging in 2002 with the creation of this blog. For almost eight years, I used the same template for Tao of Pauly. I really didn't know anything when Skippy suggested that I start my own blog and directed me to I selected a generic template that looked different (and that no one else had) and I just started writing.

I'm one of those "Don't judge a book by it's cover" kinda people and prefer to be judged (or ridiculed) by the quality of my writing and not what my blog looks like. Which is one of the reasons why I retained the original template.

Oh, and I'm lazy to boot. That's a main contributing factor on why I never changed the look.

Shockingly, the Tao of Pauly actually looked acceptable on my CrackBerry and on iPhones, so I had very little incentive to switch it up for hand-held mobile devices and smartphones.

In addition, digging through the fragmented code in my templates always gives me a migraine. I once had a buddy of mine (uber-programming geek) take a peek under the hood and he just shook his head. "It's a bloody mess," he said. "You're better off starting Tao of Pauly from scratch, mate."

Miserly is another word that should be tossed into the mix. I was simply too cheap to pay someone to spruce it up and enjoyed the fact that the Blogger platform is free! I guess that you can call me a loyal customer. Sure, I've had a few headaches along the way, but those seemed like minor obstacles to overcome compared to the support nightmares that other friends have encountered with other publishing platforms.

But something happened over the last few weeks that forced my hand. Blogger is eliminating support for "classic templates" which is a nicer way of telling us old fogeys that we need to embrace the 21st century and use something more compatible in order to post our inane thoughts. Always the rebel, I was willing to be a lone hold out (mostly out of sheer laziness) but mainly because I don't have a clue about what I wanted Tao of Pauly to look like. I don't think about these things. I worry about what I'm going to say, not the aesthetics of the blog. Simply put, Tao of Pauly's classic template was original and I had never seen a blog like it (well, except for Tao of Poker but that definitely comes into play a bit later). I loved the fact that Tao of Pauly and Tao of Poker were extremely similar to each other with only a few minor differences.

But then, every blog owner's nightmare cropped up when the archives began to... disappear without a trace. Depending on the month, up to 50% of the Tao of Poker's archives were missing. AWOL. Nowhere to be found. On Tao of Pauly, up to 33% of the monthly archives had vanished. That was one of the consequences of Blogger stopping support for classic templates. At that point, I had no other choice but to migrate to a new template if I wanted to be able to see all of my older posts.

Alas, the old Tao of Pauly template was like riding around in your first car and you ran that fucker into the ground. So many things didn't work, yet it was able to provide the primarily function for what I was trying to do. But it's time for a new car. Blogger forced the change and I quickly jumped into action.

For the new template, I went with something simple for the overhaul because I needed something temporary. But after a few hours, I realized that I actually liked the temporary look. No frills. Very simple, yet with a few touches here or there, I could make it uniquely my own. I decided to embrace my temp template and it became my new home. So for eight grueling hours yesterday, I pulled the rest of the hair out of my head while I diligently worked on the transfer, tweaking the new template, and labeling mostly every post from this year

The immediate results of the new template were astounding especially with archiving and labeling of posts. The classic template did not support labels, but the new one has already been a godsend with easier navigation of posts. You might use "labels" once or twice a year as a reader, but for me, it's an essential tool when I'm trying to find information/photos/links very quickly.

Plus, the new archives are beneficial in so many ways. For one, the individual posts are no longer chronicled with a bunch of numbers. The new format is so much more SEO friendly and each post now has their own individual page.

Since I paid for a year of comments with Echo, I'm sticking with them and will reassess at the end of 2010. I use Blogger's comments for Coventry with mixed results.

So anyway, once I got over the fear and separation anxiety of moving Tao of Pauly, I began the migration of Tao of Poker. To be honest, I really dig the new look of Tao of Pauly, but I'm not thrilled with how Tao of Poker came out, so that will just be a temporary home until I can find something more suitable.

* * * * *

Update: I also overhauled Truckin'. And many thanks to Timmy for the coding help!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Mastodon Chronicles

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Moments after I returned from one journey (work assignment in Uruguay), I quickly washed a load of clothes and began packing for the next trip. A few days later, I found myself roaming around airports at odd hours in a Xanax-induced haze because I always fail in an attempt to sleep on airplanes. I hate layovers, but I know where to find a good BBQ joint at DFW airport. Those are things that I used to find peculiar, but now, seem to happen more and more frequently. Such is life on the road, always on the move, with barely enough time to stop and smell the roses. I'm a life-addict and I know that the preciousness of time inspires me to stop every once in a while to smell said proverbial roses, even if I'm allergic.

I am a seeker. I travel Earth in search of original experiences which is why I end up in some of the most remote and unexpected locations such as G-Vegas, South Carolina.

Bob Jones University is only a stone's throw away from the epicenter of debauchery known as Mastodon Weekend. Bible Belt country would be the last place I'd consider throwing down for wild rumpus, because had the Jesus Freaks known we were coming, our crew would have been met at the airport by an old fashioned lynch mob carrying torches -- or worse, an entire church group led by an overzealous minister angrily waving a sign wile shouting through a bullhorn, "Go home, Hedons!"

Luckily, those in power don't follow us Twitter, or we would have been denied access the the greater G-Vegas area. The gatewatchers would have had a legitimate concern.

The phone number of a local bail bondsman was passed around among my friends. Otis sent it out as a half-joke, but after living in the South for a few years, I know that there was a tinge of seriousness to his gesture. It's always better to have an important number and not need it, then to need a number and not have it. This group of gambling fiends have been gathering at random times on and off since 2004. At some point, one of us is going to jail during one of these excursions. It had yet to happen, but if there were any place where it had a high probability of occurring -- it would be in G-Vegas. After all, the carefree attitude of Las Vegas did not apply whatsoever. Freak flags are not encouraged; they are quickly town down and set ablaze. Then the sheriff's department tossed yer ass into jail with the fresh catch of the day -- usually methheads and buglers. Most of the time, they're both.

As is, twenty or so courageous individuals made the trek to engage in aberrant behavior that represents the complete opposite of those standing piously on the moral high ground. It is hard to describe the feeling about driving around the back roads of South Carolina en route to an underground poker game while passing a white-steepled church every half-mile as few grand in greenbacks bulges out of your pocket.

No wonder my girlfriend issued me a stern warning before she dropped me off at LAX. "Be careful," she said. "And please, don't get hurt."

But what's the fun in that? If I'm taking such a high risk of being in a locale that frowns upon my proclivities to gambling and substance(s) abuse, then I might as well go balls to the wall and enjoy every single second. For me, it was 50 hours in G-Vegas of all-out lunacy. Mastodon might become extinct some day, so that's why it was essential that I maximized the fun.

Axilla Part 2, a Phish song comes to mind, with an essential lyric that better describes the undertaking of Mastodon...
Never understood what my body was for
That's why I always leave it layin out on the floor
The shape a curiosity
Where different faces fit before

And tracing my image in the sand
To pass the time from slip to fall
The line I trace begins to weave
A tangled web from wall to wall
I missed the first Mastodon because I was holed up in LA last year attempting to finish Lost Vegas. It's still not done, but I wasn't going to miss the second incarnation. I had it squeezed in between two trips to South America. Uruguay > South Carolina > Chile. That was the game plan. An act of God caused one of those legs to be canceled outright. The 8.8 earthquake in Chile put a damper on a working holiday adventure, but the Almighty spared his wrath upon G-Vegas.

AlCantHang arrived on Wednesday with Caity, a good 48 hours before my puddle jumper was scheduled to land. I skipped out on the Thursday evening meatfest, but railbirded the meal via Twitter and Twitpics. When I boarded my 1am flight out of LAX on Friday morning, the chatter had died down. G-Vegas has a 2am last call. The blue laws prevent all-night benders similar to the December Vegas gatherings in a city where last call is absent from the local vernacular and you'll find friends drinking at the Geisha Bar at 7am -- some just starting their day while the vampires add more fuel to their all night ragers.

The 2am cap on booze consumption was a actually godsend and helped contain the insanity of the Mastodon Weekend. Had drinking establishments G-Vegas served booze any later than 2am, someone would have ended up in jail or in a hospital.

My flight from Dallas to G-Vegas arrived fifteen minutes early. Luckily G-Rob picked me up and the Dead were rattling around his car speakers as I slid into the front seat. I dropped off my sparse luggage (just my backpack with my laptop and only a handful of items) at chez G-Rob and we headed to Bad Blood's casa where I gave a tutorial on how to play and gamble on Big Deuce. My buddy Rey from Costa Rica had taught it to me game one week earlier in Uruguay, and I was already spreading the highly addictive and volatile action game.

That's when the white truck showed up. The Mayor was driving it. He's not the real mayor of G-Vegas but he might as well be the Mayor because he knows everyone and more importantly -- he knows how to get shit down. The Mayor loaded up Bad Blood's poker table into the back of the truck that was filled with a few other tables, chips, cards, and dealer's chairs. The Mayor asked us to drive directly behind him, just in case a bored deputy decided to punch the license plate into his SCMODS.

"I don't exactly have all the proper paper work and insurance stuff," said the Mayor.

"What the hell? Where did you get the truck? Did this truck fall off the back of a truck?"

"Something like that."

That's how they roll in G-Vegas and we followed the white truck to an undisclosed location for the poker tournament. Luckily, a sports bar was located next door, and a couple of the attendees arrived early for cocktails. Otis eventually rolled up in the Mayor's sleek black Mercedes. The only thing weirder than seeing Otis step out of a Mercedes would have been me driving the white truck.

We also picked up our Mastodon jerseys. Chilly's buddy whipped them up for us. I got the number I always wanted!

Quick note... if you want to read about the poker tournament (Otis won!) and ensuing cash game, then you have to head over to Tao of Poker to read that portion of the Mastodon Weekend.

* * * * *

I had not played frolf in fifteen years. The last time I threw a frisbee was in the parking lot of a Phish concert. But my friends are frolfers and I wanted to partake in the joy of being in the great woods of South Carolina while tossing an orange disc.

From the first hole, it was evident that G-Rob was not an amateur. He's a big guy with a powerful throwing motion. Timmy was equally skilled, but had a handicap, well, two actually. He had his two kids with him which held him back a bit. I dunno how he managed to keep an eye on two little ones, play frolf, and capture several amazing photos -- all at the same time!

I gotta say that it felt good to be outdoors. When most of these friends get together, we're hanging out in Las Vegas and stuck inside the prisons/casinos. Mastodon gave us opportunities to be outdoors and enjoy a bit of nature. Frolf gave us a little of both worlds -- a chance to compete and gamble and be outdoors.

The rest of the crew got off to a slow start and we played an entire round before they arrived. I finished 18 with a sore arm but I popped a half-a-Vicodin to take the edge off so I could play a second round. 36 holes in two and a half hours. That's a lot of strain on someone who never works out unless you consider ripping bong hits an Olympic sport then I'd be considered a world class pro.

G-Rob figured out how to gamble on frolf combining it with poker. We were all up for the hybrid contest that pitted our frolf skills with the luck aspect of poker. It came down to the last hole and I was heads up with Bobby Bracelet. I sucked out and prevailed winning the first ever Mastodon Frolf/Poker Open.

Frolf took a lot out of me and we headed back to G-Rob's to shower and get ready for the late afternoon pub crawl at 5pm. We stopped by Bad Blood's house and played a couple of hands of Big Deuce. I won almost $100, and those fuckers are addicted.

We headed downtown and everyone was already at the first bar -- Blueridge Brew House. I forced myself to wolf down a burger because I needed a solid base if I wanted to drink heavily and attempt to win the Pub Crawl Trivia Challenge. Here's the thing -- I'm not much of a drinker these days. Sure, back in my frat boy days I could drink the Prime Minister of Ireland under the table, but I have long since strayed away from the liquid spirits and have gone the herbal route in the 21st century. I can't run a marathon, but I'm can still bring it in a short sprint.

The rules were simple - drink a shot and answer a question. Whoever gets five wins $100 and the coveted trophy. The questions involved local G-Vegas history and blog lore. I spent part of my flight to G-Vegas re-reading the old archives on Up for Poker in order to brush up.

Right out of the gate, I misheard a question (The Mayor's underground poker room is known as?) and did not answer it properly (I said The Depot, the former name before the location moved and now it's actually The Home Depot). The judges did not notice the manner in which I answered. But Chilly did and called for a ruling. That meant I had to do a second shot. The fucker! I quickly called the floor for a ruling. Otis said that I had to do another shot. I protested and realized that this was going to be a serious event. I needed an attorney with me the rest of the night if I was going to avoid any future entanglements and shady rules violations. Luckily we had at least one attorney among us and I asked CK to keep an eye on things so I didn't get fucked again.

Shit, I had two shots and I didn't even leave the first bar. That might not seem like much, but I ate 10mg of Vicodin after frolf and popped another 10mg of Adderall before we started drinking. That in itself gets you pretty fucking faded so an extra shot that I didn't have to do was going to make me... sloppy. Well, more sloppy. Sloppier. Sloppiest.

The group migrated to the City Tavern, a dimly lit establishment which had a rhinoceros head above the bar. AlCantHang hooked me up with a shot and I was ready for the next question. "The Gooch" is what starting hand in Texas Hold'em? That was a gimme. I did my homework and knew that it was A-10. Ding. Ding. I was up 2-0 but consumed three shots.

I drank at Meatheads before during Bradoween in 2005. That's where paid BG money to drink a bucket of water that tasted like tin. It's a dive located in the basement. We walked down the flight of stairs and the place was empty save for the girl behind the bar talking to her bar back. As Otis said, she was not prepared for 30 people swarming at the bar seeking shots and beers. BG and G-Rob battled it out on the jukebox. Wu-tang vs. Phish.

Maigrey beat me that bar. She drank her shot faster than me. Dammit. Four shots down and only two counted.

We stumbled over to the G-Spot. The last time I was there (on Phish tour with the Joker), we were hushed by a stand up comic. Apparently, the bar decided to start their open mic night during one of our drinking binges. Anyway, the comics were nowhere to be seen. I got involved in a pool game with Drizz against Otis and someone else (Iggy, StB, Bobby?). The G-Spot featured girly drinks. AlCantHang bought me a shot. I was ready for the question. Of course, I fucked up and only answered it partially. The judges made me drink another shot. Bam Bam was already at the bar with a shot of SoCo in hand and quickly handed it over. I knocked it back. The judges approved of my second answer. Six shots. Four bars. Three correct. I only needed two more to win. But... I was... in no condition to walk, let alone speak in public, but somehow I got convinced to smoke a joint that was gifted to me by a very generous local (you know who you are!) and I shared the spliff with the stoners in our crew. We migrated to the next bar and I almost got trampled by a horse and buggy.

Stoned. Faded. Drunk. Jacked up.

I stumbled into Barley's Tap Room where the inhabitants looked like a J Crew photo shoot. We climbed a flight of stairs to a huge room with pool tables. That's when things got a little blurry. I vaguely recall chatting with BG and Bobby and I whiffed on winning the shot race. Maigrey took that one. I think that was the fifth bar, but there could have been a sixth. I have no idea. I know that point I was in for seven shots in less than ninety minutes and only had three out of five needed to win.

We ended up at the Irish bar that AlCantHang loved. Connolly's. A cop car was parked out front. I didn't know if the local po-po were finally onto us. Luckily, I had ingested every piece of contraband and was cleaner than a Mormon. If I were to go to jail that night, it would be on drug charges, and at the least a simple drunk and disorderly charge maybe even a public urination rap, and at the worst, I'd get a charge for inciting a riot.

The judges decided to let me go up against Maigrey with three questions remaining and the score at 3-2 in my favor. AlCantHang lined up three shots a piece. I heard a rumor that Maigrey knew the answer to the next question (where Otis worked prior to G-Vegas), so I'd be down 3-3 and needing the last two to win. The only way to beat her was drink my shot faster than her then look up the question on my CrackBerry. But that didn't happen. She downed her shot faster and got the answer correct. She tied it up.

Down to the final two. Bad Blood asked the question.... Who won the first Bad Blood New Year's Day Tournament?

I knew that one, but it was on the tip of my tongue. I played with the kid when I chopped the Bradoween tournament in 2005 He was a teenager and one of the best players in G-Vegas. He was Shep Smith's kid. But that was not an acceptable answer. They didn't make me do another shot -- but I had to elaborate my answer. That's when I blurted out, "Wolverine."


Shit. Nine shots down. Nine sheets to the wind. One more question to go. Maigrey had a good buzz going herself. Shit, we were both tanked at that point. What would happen is she got it correct? Would there be a tie-breaker? More shots? Good lord. I needed to win the last shot race otherwise I was going to have to get my stomach pumped.

But I knew the answer to the last question. It was about a guy known as the Trooper. He had moved out to Vegas to play cards for a living and I saw him from time to time. He always wore an Iron Maiden shirt. They wanted to know his codename and the inspiration. I knew it was "Eddie" but I fucked up and said "Eddie inspired by Van Halen."

The judges declined my answer. Maigrey couldn't answer the question and I was given another shot. How retarded am I. The Trooper always wears Iron Maiden shirts. Duh! "Eddie and Iron Maiden."

That sealed the victory. It was a close race. Maigrey was a worth adversary. We both put on a good show for the entire bar and the Mastodon Crowd. Just like the Oscars and the Presidential elections, no one suspected that the outcome was rigged. I love being on the right side of the fix.

Ten shots consumed. Trophy in hand. I returned the prize money to Otis and told him to donate it to Haiti. What could possibly happen next? Victory shot followed by an Irish Car Bomb race where I finished fourth of four.

That's when I lost time. My memory went blank. I can only recall one instance and that involved someone who was actually more wasted than myself. A friend of Mrs. Blood had a little too much to drink and sat on the curb. She was luggage and Bad Blood pulled up the minivan to take her home. Mrs. Blood was unable to get her friend into the vehicle and asked G-Rob and myself for assistance. G-Rob attempted to pull her up but he couldn't budge her. I grabbed her arm which was layered in vomit. I told Bad Blood to open up the other door. I ran to the other side and jumped in the van. I told G-Rob to push her into the van while I pulled her in. I dunno how we managed to get her into the seat (with a seat belt buckled too), but we did. The Egyptian engineers who built the pyramids would have been proud that we accomplished the feat without a sled or alien technology. We did our good deed of the day. I told BadBlood to give her a glass of water and two aspirin. Doctor's orders.

Then I lost time again. Blacked out. The next thing I remember, I'm standing in G-Rob's bathroom shedding my clothes. I stripped down to my boxers because I didn't want to puke on my clothes. But something odd happened... I didn't puke up anything despite trying and trying. I wanted to get it all out before I woke up on Sunday morning with the worst hangover of my life.

An hour later, I woke up on the floor of G-Rob's den and a made mad dash for the toilet. I yakked up nothing. Just dry heaving. Where did all the booze go?

Around 6am, I returned to the bathroom. That's when the bile spewed forth. I knew that was going to be the end. I crawled back into the den and G-Rob woke me up an hour later to go frolfing with Bad Blood. He said it would be good to walk it off and sweat out the booze. I originally declined before I accepted. I'm a frolf junkie but I had a Category Five hangover. I broke into my emergency hangover remedy -- codeine.

I popped one pill and we played frolf. I almost lost it on the 4th hole. I rallied on the back nine and started to feel somewhat normal. I got to enjoy the last few holes with my buddies and realized that I really dug frolf and was going to find courses in LA so I could play when I went home.

I shook off the hangover, ate lunch, and watched basketball. I thanked G-Rob and Mrs G-Rob for letting me crash at their house and then G-Rob dropped me off at the airport. My Mastodon Weekend trophy got flagged by TSA. It reeked of SoCo. I drank a victory shot out of the trophy moments after the victory. The agent asked to swab the trophy for explosive materials. I said sure. She asked me what did I do to win it.

"Binge drinking and useless trivia," I answered.

She congratulated me and handed the trophy back. I shuffled to the gate. I was still hungover, had a sore shoulder, and was out of pharmies. I had two long flights ahead of me, but I'm used to that sort of obstacles when I'm on the road. I just let the memories and pictures on my camera keep me sane until I was able to get back to the slums of Beverly Hills.

I survived Mastodon Weekend.

I dunno if it will ever happen again, or if I will ever participate, but I'm glad that I did. Sometimes, you just gotta live. Thanks to the guys, especially Otis, for giving me that opportunity to let it rip.