Friday, April 30, 2010

Bribes Brings Out the Best in Lazy Fucktards

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I travel a fair amount overseas so there are many things that I truly love about America. Sure, there are certain things that other countries do that I wish America incorporated, but for the most part, I really do not want to live anywhere else (for an extended period of time), which is why I get frustrated sometimes, because this truly is an amazing country that has been hijacked by used car salesmen in Washington who have whored us out to the private sector.

I see America slipping into third world country gear every day. The system is eroding and outdated. The system has become corrupt. And most importantly, the cogs in the wheel (corporate slaves) don't give a shit anymore. That's why customer service (on all levels) is laughable. They are not existing to truly serve the customer and only go the extra mile if it means that they will lose their jobs. There's is no honor, no code, just working hard enough not to get fired and following orders out of fear. With that regard, a serious lack of professionalism has appeared across the board.

It's coming to a tipping point where you have to actually bribe people to do their fucking jobs. That's why I'm reminded of the third world analogy because that's how you get shit down, especially in Latin America. No is never an absolute answer when you have a $20 bill handy. My buddy in Costa Rica says that $20 will get you out of almost every traffic stop imaginable, even a DUI (although it might cost a few more if you happen to be a severely shitfaced gringo). Heck, some folks in third world countries become cops so they can shakedown citizens.

In America, those corrupt souls are called clergymen and televangelists.

Graft is out in the open in Latin America, which has both its advantages and disadvantages, I learned. One colleague hires a fixer or facilitator as a "consultant" to pay off the right people in order to have business run smoothly down there. Rampant corruption has become so legitimized that they issue invoices and everything.

I'm a good tipper and the folks at the coffee shop hooks me up. I rarely show up at peak times, like the weekends, but if I ever do I can get a seat a little bit quicker than the average hungover hipster. And in the mornings, when the place is crawling with cops eating before their shift begins, it's kinda cool that they staff always bumps my order to the front.

"We have a tremendous respect for law enforcement," I was told in confidence, "but you're a much better tipper!"

Money gets served before the guys with the guns and handcuffs. Interesting.

Corporations have very little face-to-face interaction with their customers versus say the family owned and operated coffee shop that I frequently write about in this space. The owner hangs out, mingles with his customers, drinks the same coffee and eats the same food as us. That's the kind of business and businessman that I want to get behind.

I guess that's why I prefer writing for myself especially in the poker industry because if pros, suits, or other industry people have a problem -- they can see me directly instead of having to deal with the corporate hierarchy of the McPoker media. In addition, they see me out there busting my ass instead of an army of grunts with their generals nowhere to be found. I appreciate the folks who notice that fact and treat me with the utmost respect because I'm a small businessman just trying to make a buck while doing my best not to get squeezed out by the cold, faceless, and evil media conglomerates.

I had an interesting situation the other morning. I needed a new battery for my CrackBerry and a car charger. Simple enough. I should have headed to my local Verizon store, but the one across from the Beverly Center is an epicenter for the self-appointed self-important citizens of Beverly Hills: LA douchebags, spoiled princesses, and rude suits who treats everyone like they are his servants. Everyone at that Verizon store is an angle shooter and cuts in line even though there is a queue system, sort of like the bakery. To buy two simple products is a fucking nightmare because even though the items are in clear sight and hanging on the wall, you still have to wait in line and have a rep handle your transaction.

Way lame, right? Plus I have to pay for parking. Which is why I went to Verizon's website. The homepage took longer than expected to load, and when I went to the buy accessories link, the page kept spinning and spinning and spinning. I tried again. And again. Same result.

Verizon was on the clock. They had a couple of minutes to get their website back and running otherwise, they were going to a lose a sale. I fired up I recently became a "prime" member which gets me unlimited 2-day shipping for a year for only $70. I turned to Amazon's search engines to determine if they would get my money over Verizon. In ninety seconds, I had completed my transaction. The Verizon website was still spinning and spinning. Oh, well. Those fuckers lost a sale. (By the way, later that day, the site was working and I checked to see how much the items I needed cost -- and I discovered that I made the wise choice with Amazon. They sold it them to me faster, with free shipping, and it cost like 20% less.)

Amazon 1, Verizon 0.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some Things on the Other Tao

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm busy with life stuff today and don't have much time to write. But here's a chance to head over to Tao of Poker and see a few things that I penned over the last week or so about topics ranging from Russian Roulette, casting for reality TV shows, what music I'd play if I ever made a televised final table in a major poker tournament, and what happened to me one afternoon while gambling in Las Vegas last week...
Intro Music
Mr. Pai Gow
Russian Roulette, Three Bullet Mow Mow, and Joseph Conrad
TOC Musings: The Real World
That's it. Enjoy. Savor. Retweet, if necessary.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Art/Life Imitation Dance

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sometimes I wish I had the balls to share some of the stories about the people I come across and the conversations that we have about politics, social media, and relationships. I do write about the important snippets in my journal, but never publish any of that fodder on the web for public consumption. I actually have a semblance of respect for the parties involved and they trust me enough to know that I exhibit an amazing amount of restraint when it comes to people's dirty secrets, which is why I'm welcomed in my friends' inner circles. I'm sure most of them breathe a sigh of relief the morning after when they see their names absent from my Twitter feed or a rambling post here.

I take notes on my daily encounters and eventually will weave some of the more bizarre instances into fiction pieces, either on Truckin' or in a future novel. I keep having all of these urges to write this novel about LA that I have kicking around my head. It's tough because I have a tight schedule to stick to with current and future projects. Maybe these urges are a sign to get this stuff down now and postpone other projects? While I grapple with the decision about the next project after Lost Vegas, I have been taking notes. I'm not writing a pre-draft, rather just taking notes on scenes, jagged pieces of dialogue, character bios and backgrounds. It's a portfolio of ideas that I'll flip through when I finally sit down to write this fucker.

Here's the thing... LA has some really fucked up people.

I know what you're thinking, there's fucked up people everywhere, especially in your hometown, but not to the intense level that I have experienced in the City of Angels. The general theme is about tweaked perception due to the desire to escape reality via inebriation, and God knows that LA has plenty of avenues to fulfill those needs. The main character is constantly fucked up in a city of fucked up citizens. Everywhere else he had lived, he was an obvious outcast and easy to pick out of the crowd as the burner, drunk, and wastoids. But after relocating to LA, he's quickly overlooked, dismissed as somewhat of a square because he's clearly not as mentally unstable as the people in his life, and nowhere close to being the most wasted person in the room in a city where the self-conscious denizens have a sushi delivery number, their personal trainer, and psychotherapist all on speed dial.

What's the difference between shrinks and drug dealers? Drug dealers don't take insurance.

It goes without saying that the town is flooded with pill poppers. It's my little secret, how I get ahead. So that's essentially the outline of the LA novel. Now I just have to get Lost Vegas published and then I can tackle this epic story.

In case you were wondering what Lost Vegas is about... well it's about a search for purity in an impure city.

A friend recently told me a story about being in a psych ward for a brief stint where he encounter a 7-foot tall patient who wore his boxers on his head. I could only imagine seeing someone as big as Shaq wandering through a hospital in pajamas jacked up on Thorazine with his skivvies on his head and shouting out random things.

I told him to write his story up for Truckin'. He wondered if it would be too much like Girl, Interrupted. I told him to write it up and we'll see. That's the problem with most writers and non-writers encounter -- already declaring the story a failure before they sit down to write it. How the hell will you know if you don't sit down to write it? And if it sucks on the first draft, well then it sucks on the first draft. That's writing. The good shit doesn't reveal itself until the third or fourth pass. The stellar writers can bang out a first draft and hand that in.

Anyway, sometimes people are worried about telling stories that are too similar to other stories, or they feel it's not as exciting or cool. It doesn't matter. It's important because it's your story. You will have no idea what people will think is cool, mundane, or exciting until they sit down and read it.

That Girl, Interrupted flick about the crazy teenage girls in a mental institution was captivating when it first came out. It was well written and had a couple of standout performances. I recall that Winona Ryder was wicked pissed when she was passed over for an Oscar by Angelina Jolie. Winona had been developing that script (based on a book) for years and researching the role for just as long. Alas, Angelina waltzed in and stole the show with those yummy breasts and delicious lips. She got all the attention in the media and everyone overlooked Winona's performance.

Angelina is damaged goods these days, but at the time the flick was released, she was prime spank material. Poor Winona never recovered for her one shot at acting immortality. Soon after that fiasco, she ended up whacked out on pain pills and shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

Pill popping starlets are a dime a dozen in LA, which makes my future novel a cliche-ridden affair, or a true glimpse into postmodern LA.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hoarding the Machete

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I caught a couple of random episodes of those hoarding shows over the weekend -- Hoarders and another one about being buried alive. Both shows are disturbing to watch on so many levels, yet like a wreck on the 405, I'm unable to look away when I pass by.

The one thing that doesn't resonate, even in HD, is the horrendous smell. I can only imagine what some of those dumps smell like with all that stale musty air, spoiled food, and dead varmints scattered about under neath five foot piles of debris. One episode featured a woman who didn't have a toilet any more so she had to use adult diapers. She would shit herself then toss the diapers on a pile in the kitchen.

Part of me wonders of hoarding goes much deeper than the superficial diagnoses from the dime store psychologists that appear on these shows. Yes, all of these hoarders are disturbed and suffer from some sort of deep emotional loss which is why they hoard. Each item is an endless gateway to emotions or possibilities. Some folks are lonely and get a little fucked in the head. Other are lazy apathetic slobs.

I can't help but wonder if hoarding is one of the nasty side affects of mass media marketing. The Don Drapers of the world are actually creating a hoarding epidemic as a result of constant bombardment (over decades and decades of commercials, subway ads, newspaper ads, etc.) to buy things we really don't need. Maybe some folks get too brainwashed and can't stop the consumer behavior.

When you hear stories about a 90-year-old lady with seventy cats hoarding stuff, well, that isn't as shocking as you think because let's face it... old people get senile and become shut ins. As filthy as their world is inside, it's still safer and warmer than the external world. However, many of these episodes of hoarding shows are about people my age or slightly older, which baffles me to no end. What compels thirty-somethings to keep buying stuff and then not toss stuff away. Well, being brought up by TV is an obvious answer.

Madison Avenue wins if we buy stuff we don't need then throw it away (in Hefty or Glad trash bags). I guess they still win if we buy stuff and hoard it, only to buy more. It's a disease, like problem gambling, and huffing paint thinner.

Sometimes, we don't hoard a ton of useless shit, but one or two random items. I guess this is how hoarding begins... with just one item, then another, and another. My grandmother had a weird thing about soap. In the upstairs bathroom at her brownstone, she had a medicine cabinet filled with bars of soap. Dozens and dozens. And not just one brand... multiple brands... like Irish Spring, Dial, and Dove. I have a feeling that grandma wasn't hoarding soap as much as she couldn't pass up a good deal when she saw it, which is why I used to hit her up for a bar of soap whenever I used to visit when I lived in Brooklyn.

When I moved in with Grubby at his condo in Henderson in late 2005, I noticed that he had an entire drawer in the bathroom devoted to casino soap. Dozens of bars. Dozens of bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Every time Grubby visited a casino hotel, he swiped the soap. Every. Time. He hoarded years of soap. Part of him felt entitled to the freebies because he had lost a shitload of money in those casinos and wanted to get something material out of it, albeit soap which slowly evaporates.

Here's one of my first YouTube videos, which now has over 6.7K views...

After four plus years of constantly being on the road, I drastically reduced my work/travel schedule. Since I've been spending more time in the slums of Beverly Hills, I have accumulated more stuff. Most of it is necessary items, but there are a few extraneous (like clothes and books). In the last year, I've found myself hoarding certain items that might be suspicious if I didn't live in an earthquake zone. I've been hoarding bottle water, canned foods, flashlights, MREs, Camping gear, and other tools necessary for surviving the Apocalypse. Since we live in an earthquake zone, these items are smart to have, so it's not quite hoarding as much as being extra-prepared.

I guess I won't officially have a problem until I start hoarding ammunition. I haven't gotten the green light for firearms, but I'm looking into picking up a machete. My colleague Jay suggested that I need to add a machete to my disaster/Armageddon closet just in case we're attacked by zombies.

Monday, April 26, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm not a pet owner, so I have no idea what it must be like to leave your dogs outside to bark constantly for hours on end and pester your neighbors while you run errands or do whatever like get a tan or have a long brunch at Toast. I dunno how someone in the immediate vicinity of our alley has not shot any of these yapping dogs that get left outside for hours on end.

In the building to the right, someone lets their tiny dogs roam free inside a patio-like area. After a while, they start whining, then crying, and then yelping. Sometimes, I slide into the depths of bad neighbor tilt with their incessant yapping. And when it's bad, it's LOUD. That's always the case, right? The little insecure doggie is the one causing the most trouble.

To the left of us are the hipsters with big dogs. They howl. They growl. They usually keep quiet until a bum approaches the trash bin and then they unleash their disapproval of the strange scent. As far as security or safety goes, those big dogs have some purpose, which is why I put up with their disturbances. Their owners don't leave the dogs outside too much, but once in a while those dogs can get worked up over squirrels climbing on the utility poles or scurrying along the phone wires. Oh, and sometimes feral alley cats take a wrong turn and end up on the big dogs' turf.

The little dogs that cause me the most trouble. The shrill barks are like nails on a chalkboard but while getting your balls nicked with a dull razor simultaneously. The only thing worse would be forced to have to watch The View in the live studio audience without getting wasted beforehand. Those little demon dogs won't shut the fuck up, especially because the owner puts the dogs out at the worst times -- when I'm trying to enjoy a nice afternoon writing session in the living room with the windows open.

Movies have been made about writers and distractions: The Lost Weekend, Funny Farm, Barton Fink, Adaptation, and The Shining. This is a real problem that Hollywood has tackled many times over since the days of Billy Wilder. The studio suits feel the scribes' pain, at the least, they feel as though they can make money by telling the stories about disturbed writers who are anguishing and longing to create but with one obstacle that stands in their way.

Who knows... maybe living in L.A. might drive me totally insane and in some pharmie-induced fit of rage, I'll snap one afternoon when one of the dogs just goes a little too far with the yapping, and who knows what will happen. I can only imagine what the headlines would say.

The LA Times might have something SEO-friendly like...
Writer drowns sack of dogs.

Well-known blogger and poker reporter, Pauly McGrupp, was arrested Monday morning by Beverly Hills PD after savagely drowning two Shih Tzu's belonging to an elderly neighbor. The soaking wet carcasses were found stuffed in a plastic bag underneath a Mini Cooper in a nearby parking garage.
But you gotta hope one of the NY tabloids will show my mugshot along with the boldfaced headline...

A graduate of a posh Park Avenue prep school is now in police custody after drowning two Shih Tzu's belonging to a neighbor. McGrupp was under the influence of prescription narcotics including Oxycodone, Adderral, and Xanax. According to a police spokesperson, Ketamine, a drug widely used by veterinarians as a horse tranquilizer, was also found in his possession. Investigators are trying to determine if the Ketamine was used to incapacitate the Shih Tzus, or if McGrupp has been using the drug recreationally.

When asked by reporters the reasons for his actions, McGrupp insisted that Son of Sam had left several comments on his blog encouraging him to commit the canine murders. In an ironic twist of fate, serial killer David Berkowitz, a.k.a. Son of Sam, suggested that howling dogs in his alley were the ones who gave him instructions to murder women in 1976-77.

Maybe I should just tell the cooks from the Chinese restaurant down the street about the annoying dogs. The cooks take naps in their cars down the street during the afternoons after a long morning of prep work. They could understand the necessity for some sort of civility and lack of yapping doggies. The cooks are also silent assassins, well versed in knife work, who can slice and dice the purse dogs in a matter of seconds. All they have to do is deep fry the doggie meat, and pass it off as pork rolls.

That's just part of the daily plight in the slums of Beverly Hills. Just like the lawyer from across the hall who rarely spent any time here. We noticed the eviction noticed taped to her front door when we returned from NYC/Connecticut. I thought she was moving out on the weekend before we left for the East Coast, but it looked like a rush job, which makes a little more sense now because she was trying to get the fuck out as quickly as possible. I wonder if she found a loophole in her lease or was just that fed up with our landlord that she decided to stop paying him until he did necessary repairs.

Our building was slated for inspection by the LA county of somethingorother. Guess what day they picked? That's right... 4/20. The worst possible day to have county officials and your landlord traipsing through your homestead... on the holiest of high holy days. I cleaned up my office, Nicky did the dishes, we hid the bong, and also removed the mobile meth lab and padlocked the dungeon where we hold all of the Thai sex slaves.

I'm dubious of everyone. Who knows who is a spy anymore working for an alphabet intelligence agency. Our fear mongering leaders have turned their constituents into mindless consumer-driven paranoid fraidy cats ready to drop a dime on anyone who looks suspicious or goes against the herd. Lord knows the new law they passed in Arizona is making anyone with brown skin jumpy in Southern California. Who knows when the Governator will sign an edict to round up all the illegals in LA and toss them into FEMA camps where they will be put to work building iPads for Steve Jobs.

Luckily, the city inspector with his clipboard and flashlight were in and out of our humble abode by noon. The inspector noticed a couple of trouble areas in our apartment which he pointed out to out our quiet, but guilty-looking landlord. I'd lay good odds that less than 50% of the blemishes that inspector pointed out will actually get fixed, not to mention the laundry list of other problems we have to live with on a daily basis. Maybe our landlord just did what everyone else does... grease the inspector.

Maybe I can hire the city inspector to snuff out the loud pursue dogs across the way? That could be a snazzy Law & Order episode with Danny DeVito playing a corrupt city official who has been covering up the fact that his staff members have been routinely executing barking dogs left alone inside NYC apartments. There's a self-righteous motive to all of this because the DeVito character feels as though he's saving these canines from their miserable imprisonment inside of cramped NYC apartments and forced to piss on fire hydrants and take dumps in filthy side streets. I always thought that the city was a horrible place to own a dog since dogs need to be free and run around and get exercise and not confined to 420 square foot cells and hurried piss breaks twice a day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Scarlett Boobies

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I was in the middle of destroying a pastrami sandwich when Nicky asked me how much would I pay to put my face in the middle of Scarlett Johansson's fleshy breasts.

"$1,000," I blurted out.

The follow up question was about two lap dances roughly 3.5 minutes apiece.


That happened to be the same price that I'd pay to spooge over Scarlett's boobies in case you were wondering.

I can't believe this was the topic of conversation last night, and that my girlfriend, a former studio-exec initiated the conversation. Only in Hollyweird.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Room Service Menu

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

8am. Las Vegas.

Nicky and I carefully scanned the two-page breakfast room service menu. I had a $20 per day food credit, courtesy of the Gold Coast Casino. Those shyster suits hoped that giving me a free room and free food would result in me donking off a couple of hundred bucks in the pits, specifically at the Pai Gow tables. I got the last laugh... I only lost $5 after a couple of binges. I gotta say that the few bucks I lost were probably in tips to the waitresses and dealers.

That makes me wonder why I would want to tip anyone who specifically wants to beat me and take all of my money is beyond me. At a normal cash game at a poker table, you usually tip the dealer $1 if you win a pot, or $2 or more if it's a monster. But at a blackjack table or Pai Gow table, why would you want to tip the dealer since they are my enemy? Why give them more money? I don't tip my opponents at the poker table, so why would I tip the Pai Gow dealer? In the end, I'm tipping the person who is humping the dealing job and not my adversary, but part of me feels as though it goes against the rules of engagement to tip the dealer.

Sorry for the tangent....

Nicky and I carefully scanned the two-page room service menu. We wanted to order exactly $20 worth of stuff. Not a cent more. Room service food on the whole is sub par and usually cost ridiculously inflated prices even though it's the same friggin omelete you'd get if you ordered it downstairs at the cafe. Alas, hotels generate revenue by raping their customers' inherent laziness, those who order room service instead of getting off their asses and going to eat elsewhere. I understand the convenience of late night room service when you have limited food options, so you're paying extra due to lack of availability. But to order it any other time is sort of a unnecessary expense.

Anyway, we didn't want to use my comp to eat the dysentery-inducing buffet, however the breakfast options on the room service menu weren't very appetizing. After several minutes of deliberation, we ordered a Continental Breakfast (half carafe of coffee, muffin and a cheese danish), oatmeal, and an iced tea. $19. Thanks God I wasn't paying for it.

Twenty-three minutes after we ordered, I opened the door and stood face-to-face with a young woman in tight black clothes. She wore an earpiece attached to a dangling wire leading to a radio. That's when I saw the red and white striped napkins. I had forgotten that the casino had outsourced their room service meals to TGIFridays, which had replaced the former 24-hour cafe. So one of the hostesses at Fridays wheeled my breakfast up to the room.

Room service workers are used to seeing weird shit according to Showcase who did that exact job at L'Ermitage, when he first moved out to LA to become an actor. One evening, he took up an order up to a suite of a very popular TV producer. After handing over the check, the producer eyed his junk and invited him to stay for a game of Hide the Salami. Showcase declined, left the room, and quit the job.

In Hollyweird movies, it's always the good guys/bad guys who dress up or pose as room service workers to pull off a heist or execute a mob figure.

I can only imagine some of the stories that Vegas room service employees encounter on a daily basis. Dead hookers. Mountains of blow. Random $100 black chips scattered about. Room reeking of weed. Naked passed out fat dudes handcuffed to the bed. You know, standard shit. That would be a good book to read someday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Trauma Engulfing My Dream

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It's been a weird 48 hours, well not that kinda of peculiar-weird, but some interesting and strange times, with plenty of anxious highs and lows, and lots of in between. A trip to Las Vegas is never without an abundance of emotions. It's hard to have a sojourn to Sin City without experiencing the gamut of emotional turmoil.

Nicky and I drove out to Vegas for less a quick trip lasting less than 36 hours. The purpose of our trip -- to scope out condos for the summer. Last year was a disaster because the A/C broke at our apartment and the ensuing clusterfuck with inept people promising to fix it, which never got done in a timely process. We spent the last three weeks of last summer living inside a hotel room at the Gold Coast Casino.

In order to give Nicky some privacy while she slept, I spent countless hours writing inside the bathroom of our hotel room. Sometimes, you have to make due with your circumstances. I would have preferred to be sitting down at a sturdy desk with melodious tunes on in the background, but that wasn't the case. That's why I was on a mission this year to make sure that did not happen this upcoming summer. I refuse to write in Las Vegas bathrooms, more so, I refuse to pay big bucks and be forced to write in a bathroom.

Las Vegas bathrooms are specifically designed to defecate, urinate, snort blow, and the occasional tryst. And not used to work on a writing deadline.

Because I dropped over 2K on hotel rooms last year (total bill for two different segments; three weeks in the summer and one week in November), the Gold Coast was eager to give me two free rooms. They had been sending me promos all winter long, which had piled up in a box back in NYC. I finally sifted through all those casino promotions during my recent trip to NYC and found a dozen expired promos and one active one. I figured that I'd go to Vegas to inspect condos while using the free rooms at the Gold Coast, so the total cost of the trip would be a tank of gas each way (or roughly $65 total).

The Gold Coast had an ulterior motive. They also knew that I was a degenerate gambler, specifically with Pai Gow, and that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play. Alas, they are right. The cost of two nights to them was insignificant compared to the thousands that they could earn if I happened to veer off into MPGT (or Mega Pai Gow Tilt). Just to be clear, the Gold Coast is mentioned a few times in Lost Vegas, and is the location of the Otis/Keno crayon affair from four summers ago. Hard to think that it was that long ago, because it seems like it was yesterday.

In November, AlCantHang and I played a marathon session of Pai Gow where we didn't move for over six, seven, maybe eight hours. I lost track, but Al was counting how many Greyhounds he drank by setting aside the straw for every single one of his cocktails. He collected a pile. By the end of the night, it was in excess of 24. And you know what? Al was dead sober, probably because those drinks are seriously watered down. Regardless, the casino preyed on our weaknesses in order to suck every single dollar out of my pocket.

On this trip, I played the game, and took advantage of free room, got all of my business meetings out of the way, and then headed into the bowels of the casino to... gamble. I shunned the sports book. I made a promise not to bet on any NBA games unless it was one of those "locks" or "bet the farm" picks that I get from friends of mine who are so-called professional sports bettors. At the present moment, I've kept true to my word and did not bet on any sports during my brief stint in Las Vegas.

Pai Gow? That's a whole other story, which I'm about to sit down and write once I'm finished this post. You can find those degen tales over at Tao of Poker sometime in the future.

On a good note, the commute was smooth both ways; less than four hours door-to-door on both legs. Vegas traffic wasn't too bad either, even though I had to crisscross the city on Thursday morning doing administrative stuff for our summer housing. It was raining too, which is odd for Las Vegas, but at least Vegas drivers actually drive slow on the surface streets. In LA, not the case which complicates matters because selfish/retarded SoCal drivers do not have experience driving in inclement weather, which creates even more accidents.

I hate to say this... but I was happy to get out of Vegas and return to LA. I'm looking forward to enjoying every moment that I am here. I have a two-week work assignment (luckily which I can complete from my office, pantsless and bong-in-hand) but do not expect to travel anywhere for five weeks, save for another quick run to Vegas to take care of any condo snafus.

As you can tell, I'm not looking forward to living in Las Vegas for eight weeks (for a seven-week assignment). I have two weekend getaways planned, both Phish-related side trips to the East Coast, but I'm spending no more than eight or nine days away compared to 20 last summer.

* * * * *

I don't get embarrassed much.

Ashamed? Shit, all the time.

But I'm rarely embarrassed unless I'm bunched together with some colleagues who are barely hanging on and only working because a significant amount of outlets are operating on shoestring budgets and they pay these hacks next to nothing. I get a squeamish when I'm mentioned in the same breath as those folks. Yes, I'm being a snob, but you'd also loathe being grouped in with unprofessional amateurs.

As much as there is a significant amount of dead weight in any media genre (pick a field), the poker media seems to have more schelps mainly because you do not need a journalism background to gain an entry-level position. Sure, I took advantage of that loophole and caught a break, along with many of my other friends. However, there is no coincidence that many of the top reporters in our business are former journalists.

But just because you have a journalism background doesn't necessarily make you a top notch reporter in poker. You see, the poker media is also full of journo-rejects who couldn't hack it in the real world, which is why they ended up somewhere on the circuit.

The poker media is sort of like a rag-tag team of minor leaguer baseball players. A handful of scribes got a taste of the big time, and a couple of them are waiting for a call back up to the big leagues. It's not if, just when. However, like any minor league baseball team, only one of two players are going to become a true professional with a storied career in the big leagues. Unfortunately, the rest of the team is peppered with players who are simply chasing their dreams. They don't have what it takes to join the ranks of the pros; they have peaked out and will never advance. And much like your local AA affiliate, you have a surly washed up vet in there who is just holding onto life mainly because they have no where else to go.

If you look in the right place, a corner of the poker media is comprised of a small group of talented writers and reporters, not to mention several highly creative people. Most of those stellar scribes are the Brits, whom I hold in the highest esteem. I've been told by a few peers that they wish they could write like me, which is funny I tell them, because I often wish I could write with the ease of the Brits. After all, they created the bloody language and us Yanks butcher the shit out of it.

When my colleague Howard from London suggested a book title, I jumped all over it and didn't think twice about picking up Day of the Locust by Nathanael West. One of the reasons the Brits are such exceptional writers is that they are also voracious readers and consume literature. And it's a staple of high end lit and none of this dumbed-down fast-food-generated news that we read in America.

I suppose that some of the Brits have a similar disdain about me... "Why is that hack Pauly lumped in with us?" Which is a fair assessment, because I am realistic about my abilities and know that they at least a mile ahead of me (or make the 1.6 kilometers), which is to say, that the Brits are miles and miles ahead of the herd, so far ahead, that most of the herd doesn't even know they exist.

God bless the Brits. They inspire me to become a better writer. Shit, the best book ever written about poker and Las Vegas was written by a British poet. A. Alvarez. He's my hero.

I'm from the school of thought that you should treat people as you want to be treated which is why I give everyone a fair shot. You only get one shot with me, sometimes two, and rarely three if I'm in a forgiving mood. I want to be treated as an individual instead of lumped together with a group -- since it's impossible for me to fully be with anyone other person who is anything like me, let alone a dozen, a hundred, or a even nation. I know that I tend to group people together, but only after I give them a chance to prove to be an original entity and original personality, however the moment I sense otherwise, I write them off until they can prove to me that they are worthy of being treated differently.

In short, you don't start out as a sheep in my eyes, but if that's your behavior and tendencies, it's hard to to call a spade a spade. Welcome to the herd.

The genesis of all of this hoopla is that a foreign non-poker journalist lumped me in with the herd and I was embarrassed. In their eyes, my abilities were no different than the worst writer in the business who write the same shit day after day and year after year. I've always pride myself on ever-evolving and attempting to produce a wide variety of content, doing my best to not repeat myself. Yet, none of that mattered.

I shouldn't care what this person thinks, yet I vowed to change that person's mind in the only way I know how...write better. I know that I can, and I'm gonna do it. In the end, not for them, but for myself. If I'm fired up to work harder to save myself from future embarrassment, then that's what I'm doing. Let's hope that Lost Vegas does the trick.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Guidos, Ghosts, and the Lost Van Driver

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Deep bass shot out of the black Jeep. Laughter ensued.

I peered into the driver's side without trying to make it look like I was scoping them out. Peripheral vision. I saw a white kid with slick back hair and a chain around his neck. If this was back in New York, I'd say he was a Guido-in-training, but this was the slums of Beverly Hills, so he was just another spoiled rich kid waiting to score something on his lunch break.

The passenger seat was empty and two other teenagers sat in the back. Whoever was riding shotgun had run into one of the apartments to score something... not weed because you can get weed at five different dispensaries within a five block radius. Doubt it's meth because these kids were a little too pretty-boyish, in short, they weren't dressed like tweakers. By process of elimination I figured that they were on a cocaine run.

Casey Jones you better watch your speed.

I hoped that the wheel man was smart enough to park a block or two a way from the actual drug house. By the looks of him, I assumed the opposite. Dumb ass, blasting hip hop in front of his dealer's crib. If I was the dealer, I'd go outside and pistol whip the Guido and tell him to turn down the fucking music.

* * * * *

Overheard at the coffeeshop...

"Don't take this the wrong way," said the Dentist, "But you're too intelligent to believe in that horseshit."

"What do you mean? Ghosts or aliens?"


"Nah. I believe in both of them. I have a special theory about ghosts, you see, they are not actually attached to the ground, they only appear when there's enough energy to make them appear. What that energy is, it's hard to say, that's why they are floating apparitions."

"Well, how come there's never been proof."

"I saw one on tape. First ghost every caught on video."

"I want physical proof. I want to see a ghost in a box or a cage. Like from Ghostbusters, when they stored all those ghosts in the traps."

* * * * *

The driver had no clue where he was going. I had the sneaky suspicion the moment he asked me where I was going and he just looked right through me, like a grunt spending too much time in the jungle. I sensed that the driver was filling in for somebody. He barely spoke English, and looked Middle Eastern or Eastern European. He was swarthy and sweaty. He reeked of cigarettes. Maybe he was Persian or Bulgarian? Who knows.

I dunno why his van wasn't outfitted with a GPS. With those suckers, it's so fucking simple to get places. I figured that a share ride airport van would have a GPS system to speed up their trips in order to eliminate delays from getting lost. You think... that would be the case.

And if they were Luddites, how about a fucking map?

The driver got lost in East Hollywood when he dropped off the first guy which added fifteen minutes to the trip that was already costing me more than the $25 I spent. Somewhere off of Vermont, while we sat at a red light, I a saw two idle police cars with their lights blazing behind an empty convertible. Two officers stood on the sidewalk with three bad guys next to them in handcuffs and facing the wall.

I dunno how our inept driver got us to Sunset, but I figured everything was back on track. I was one of two passengers that he had left. It was an old guy in his 80s. He had no idea where he was going but he insisted his stop was just north of Sunset on Doheny.

Yeah, everything was going right until we got lost in the winding streets in the hills north of Sunset. It was dark, approaching Midnight, and the driver couldn't find the correct street, let alone see any addresses. He almost clipped a Lexus and he kept getting caught in the same dead end despite my instance he go the other way. Three fucking times. I was pissy and grumpy and had a hellacious flight from JFK that included two screaming babies. That's when I hijacked the van without actually pulling a weapon. I snapped.

"Enough. Go back to Sunset. Drop me off at the Standard. Now."

He dropped me off and I told the driver to ask one of the valet guys for help. That's the price I pay for trying to save a few bucks on a cab from Burbank to the slums of Beverly Hills.

* * * * * *

I have been diligently working on issues of Truckin'. May is going to be a month of lunacy for me with very little unstructured time due to a two week work assignment, in addition to the home stretch of Lost Vegas. Once I move to Las Vegas for the summer and slip into World Series of Poker mode, I have very little free time to devote to anything outside of poker.

Over the last couple of weeks I had been working on and polishing a couple of short stories that will be featured in Truckin' over the summer months. I made a conscious effort to work on fiction at least one day a week in an attempt to strengthen my overall contributions to Truckin'... which had been slacking at times and extremely inconsistent. I'm not proud of the odd month here or there when I was short on time and I took a shortcut under duress -- I cut and paste old blog entries on Tao of Pauly and submitted them to Truckin'. Sure, those were the best of the best and I fixed up the spelling, but it sorta felt as though I was cheating... that I wasn't creating something new, something special for Truckin'.

Speaking of which, I came across a slew of old poems that I wrote circa 2002-03 (under a dark veil of depression). I'm gonna add a few of my favorites to Truckin' in to mix things up a bit and add a little flavor to the summer issues. It's always interesting to peak into my former madness. I'm shocked that I survived those trying times.

Monday, April 19, 2010


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

After two weeks on the East Coast, I returned to LA with a couple of shows to catch up on. Well, only one show really... Pacific. I had high hopes but was quickly disappointed. I fell into that category of hardcore Band of Brothers fans whose high expectations were not met. I'm told that it's a "different war" but that doesn't change the fact that some of the things that made Band of Brothers an epic are noticeably absent... like believable actors and characters that I actually give a shit about.

For some reason, I haven't abandoned the series. I don't watch too many programs which is why I get a little grumpy when I invest time into a specific program only to be disappointed. Luckily I came across Treme... and from the opening scene, it which captivated me. The new series is created by the folks from The Wire which is set in New Orleans three months after Katrina.

I'm a music enthusiast and many moons ago before I got into poker, New Orleans used to be my playground. In the 1990s, the Big Easy was my favorite destination, something that had gotten trumped in the 2000s when Las Vegas became the focal point of my deviancy.

Treme has an essential element that Pacific lacks... rich characters delving deep into social commentary. And yes, the element of music is an integral part of the series. In fact, if the city itself is the main character, than the sounds of music should be nominated for Best Supporting Role. Music is an integral character in Treme which is much soother on the soul than say the gratuitous violence of Pacific. Yes, war is hell and the battle scenes are sensationally shot, but by the fifth episode of Pacific, all of the battles have become derivatives of the same fucking scene that I saw in the opening episode. There comes a point when I become desensitized to the violence, gunning down of wave after wave of Japanese soldier, and sort of tune it out.

However, with Treme, the music digs deep into my soul. The jazz slam funk invigorates me and gets me shaking my ass. The music moves me. I was overloaded with emotions when I watched the first episode (and even the times I watched it for a second and third viewing). Yep, I found a new favorite series. At this point, I don't care if I miss the remainder of Pacific.

During the second episode, Galactic was featured and they jammed out Blackbird Special. Kinda cool to see my favorite drummer, Stanton Moore, get some face time. He's an alien, if you didn't know, and the most rhythmic white guy you'll ever come across.

Music is a gateway to the emotional side of my being. Melodies trigger so many memories which is why I constantly prefer to have music on in the background while I write. Good music puts me in a better head space when I write, which is why I like jamming out to a bunch of jazz mixes during my early morning writing sessions.

The funky sounds of New Orleans fires me up to live life. I can't explain it any other way. Maybe because all the times I spent in New Orleans, I was partying my tits off in someway or another with Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.

I haven't been back to New Orleans since 2001 or pre-Katrina. I can't. It's hard for me to explain. I had no problems wandering the surrounding streets of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan often volunteering to take out-of-town friends on a sightseeing tour of the area. But for some reason, I can't go back to New Orleans. It's too painful. The closest thing I can describe to that peculiar behavior are two situations...
1. When Jerry Garcia died, I found it difficult to listen to music. It took me a good year or so before I could conjure up enough courage to see a live band. When Jerry OD'd, the music died for me. All music died for me. Jerry Garcia and the Dead meant so much to me at the time that thinking about a life without Jerry. I eventually got over it, but to this day, I struggle with seeing the rest of the members of the Dead play concerts without the fat man.

2. After Phish broke up in 2004, I did not listen to Slave to the Traffic Light for almost five years. I might have been on the background at a friends place or in a friends car, but I never actively wanted to hear the song. Slave is my favorite Phish song and the next to last song performed before they broke up. I can't explain the devastating memories that would crush me if I sat down and gave it a listen. That was a path that I didn't want to journey down. I know that sounds strange, but I loved something so much that I refused to let it in my life because it would drown me with a flood of bad memories. The scars were deep.
I'm sure I'll be back to New Orleans. Seeing parts of the city in Treme is bringing back memories, both good and bad, but mostly good. If I didn't have a work assignment next month, I'd be tagging along with the Joker for Jazz Fest. Now that I have NOLA back on my radar, I want to make a conscious effort to return to Jazz Fest in 2011. After all, once I finished the final draft of Lost Vegas, I finally had closure on the city of Las Vegas. I feel as though I can move on with my (creative) life and focus on other projects, including a return to New Orleans (which at that point will be ten years).

If you want more info on Treme, you should read a Salon article by Billy Sothern.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Did You Ever Want to Write for Truckin'?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Do you have a story to tell? Did you always want to collaborate with myself and other scribes? Well, you now have your chance.

Truckin' is seeking submissions for the upcoming summer issues. I have space for July and August. If you have a personal travel story (non-fiction) or you have a short story rattling around your head, then feel free to contact me.

Click here for submission guidelines.

Click here for a list of Truckin' authors.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dispatches from New York & Connecticut, Vol 2. - Soused in New England and Faded in the City

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here's some more bullet-pointed bits from my recent sojourn to New York and Connecticut. Thanks to my brother and Hemingway for inspiring the succinct style...
-- Due to lack of available rooms at Mohegan Sun casino, Nicky and her colleagues were moved off campus to a different hotel down the road. Usually, it's best to be staying in the same hotel/casino where the tournament is held because you reduce commuting time (er, more time for sleeping and drinking). I didn't mind being housed off campus in this instance (we were less than 5 mins. away) only because it meant that we'd leave the sprawling casino property once work was done. That's the problem sometimes with assignments that are longer than one week -- we're prisoners stuck inside the same complex since casinos are specifically built to keep people on premises. When imprisoned inside a gambling hall, you're prone to gamble and drink more, which only pads the pockets of the casinos.

-- Senor drove down from Rhode Island on my first night in Connecticut. He took Nicky and I out to delicious dinner at Bar Amercain. I enjoyed my meal, someone got the duck, I forgot who, but whoever it was they said that the succulent duck was amazing. Senor also showed us his favorite bar -- a martini lounge at the top of some structure inside the Casino of the Sky. Mohegan Sun is a Native American reservation made of up several mini-casinos with naturalistic names. The curved ceiling with tinkling stars and clouds was supposed to replicate an outdoor setting. Kinda cheesy, but different.

-- I ate fairly well at Mohegan Sun including three visits to Bobby Flay's Burger Palace. I devoured his bacon blue cheeseburgers on two instances. Since Bobby's opened up at 11am, Nicky and I actually ate "breakfast there twice" since she started work around noon every day. A bunch of us ate Frank Pepe's pizza. I heard good things, but was skeptical. However, I was quickly won over with their bacon pizza. Vinny the Barber said they have a restaurant in Yonkers somewhere. He approved of their pizza. If Vinny the Barber, who's from Sicily, gives the pizza his stamp of approval, then you know it's legit.

-- Every night after Midnight, we were able to sit in the breakfast room of out hotel and drink our BYOBs. The hotel was fairly new and the staff was over-accommodating my alkie friends. The woman who worked the front desk would even set aside chips and salsa for us while my crew swapped stories about drunken friends who either pissed or shit themselves. I'm used to working foreign events with Otis and Joe, which means we always retire to our hotel lobby bar to drink the local brew until closing time. In this instance, they didn't really have a bar per se, but we had a supermarket and liquor store in a strip mall across the street which gave us opportunity to load up on supplies for the week.

-- When I headed to work on Thursday morning, I was more focused on watching Tiger Woods' opening round at the Masters. Normally I'd just watch the Sunday round of The Masters unless I had nothing else better to do aside form sit on my couch, smoke weed, and watch opening rounds of golf tournaments. Investing time and energy into viewing Thursday and Fridays of a four-day tournament is kinda pointless, like wondering who's the chip leader in a poker tournament after the first break. However, this time there was plenty of reasons to check out the Masters since it was the return of that sex-freak Tiger Woods.

-- Ah, then there's the Phil Ivey phenomena. For some of my non-poker readers, Phil Ivey is the greatest poker player in this solar system. Ivey is often compared as the Tiger Woods of Poker because like Tiger, he's also light-skinned black man, but the two could actually be brothers from a different mother. I have a theory that they are both alien hybrids which is why they look alike. Just their mothers were captured by the Mothership and impregnated with alien DNA which is why Tiger and Ivey are the best of the best. Anyway, Phil Ivey made wagers with several of his peers. Who knows how much he bet, but he was getting 5.5-1 odds betting on Tiger, so if Tiger win, Ivey could have easily won over $1 million.

-- Yes, so it's obvious that I watched a lot of golf in the media room on my laptop. ESPN3 had coverage along with I was impressed with both of their coverage. Too bad NBC couldn't do the same with the Olympics. I had bets all over the place including one on Phil Mickelson to win it all. I also bet that Tiger would shoot 70+ on his first round back. I was a little off with that one, but ended up with a small profit.

-- One of the night in Connecticut was our buddy Joe's 50th birthday. We celebrated in true fashion by binge drinking and closing out an Irish pub. After last call, we retired to the breakfast room of our hotel where we drank to past 4am and swapped stories about working in exotic locales. Not only is our British colleague Howard an amazing scribe, he's a brilliant story teller. It must be the accent. Joe used to work in rock & roll (more like heavy metal) and he had hundreds of insane road stories as well.

-- One of us had a fall (not Otis) and acquired a UDI... unidentified drunken injury... a rug burn on the forehead after falling down drunk. I don't want to out the person, but let's just say he looked like Gorbachev for a few days, with a huge red mark on his forehead.

-- On Friday night, the casino was swarming with soused cougars in town to see Chelsea Handler's show at the theatre. Packs of them were on the prowl. On Saturday, a horde of fishermen were mingling around the convention area for a deep sea fishing convention. Yes, it smelled like fish all afternoon, which is sort of an inside joke for poker media people.

-- I craved breakfast all week. The closest I came to a breakfast was eating a bacon egg & cheese from Johnny Rockets. I struggled to get it down on the morning after Joe's 50th birthday. I was wicked hungover, but the grease helped ease the pain. By the way, the LATHER the breakfast sandwiches in mayo.

-- I watched pretty much all of Tiger Wood's four rounds, well, as much as I could. I wanted to watch on Saturday, but got sucked into the Yankees game because CC Sabathia was throwing a no-hitter. It was hard to pull myself away from that deep run.

-- I left on Monday morning,while Nicky and Otis had to cover a second event. Nicky would stay in CT and fly back to LA via Hartford, while I had two full days in the NYC. Drove back to the city with F-Train and Elissa. Made great time despite tree cutters slowing down traffic on Merrit Parkway. I got pulled over the second I exited West Side Highway. Shakedown. Ticket for some senseless moving violation. Fastest ticket I ever got. 3 minutes total.

-- On my next to last day in NYC, I woke up early and wrote. I returned the rental car and ate breakfast at a diner I know well on Broadway. After the breakfast sandwich, I popped a Percs then walked through Central Park as the pill worked it's magic. I began to float past all of the joggers and bike riders. The park is teaming with health-freaks at that hour and I was just another junkie to them as they whizzed by.

-- I walked past Regis, my old high school, and realized that I skipped my 20th high school anniversary. On the date it was being held, I was drinking at a Chili's in the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut with work colleagues, some of which I consider good friends. I don't talk to anyone I went to high school with anymore. My last contact was from a classmate a few years ago who emailed me because he was trying to recruit former Varsity hoops players to play for our class' alumni hoops team. He was probably the best baseball player in my year (lefty with a wicked curveball) and he was the captain of the alumni team. It felt good to be missed and my deft three-point shooting skills were in high demand. Alas, at the time I was in Australia for work so I skipped on on the alumni tournament. That was my last contact with anyone from school.

-- My colleague Howard insisted that I pick up a book by Nathanael West that featured a character named Homer Simpson. That character partially inspired Matt Groening's main character in The Simpsons (well, that and his father's name was Homer as well). I wandered into Barnes & Nobles on 86th Street. As I disembarked from the escalator, I noticed a film crew. They were shooting b-roll of a huge wall filled with Oprah's controversial biography written by Kitty Kelly. There was also a press junket near the cafe. I guess a bunch of media outlets sent reporters to check out the public reaction to Oprah's bio. I quickly found my book and was pleased that the copy also included another novel from West, so I got two West novels for $11.95. Unreal. He's one of America's most underrated novelists and penned probably the best book ever written on Hollyweird, and his books are selling 2/$12.

-- The museum didn't open for another half hour. I grabbed an iced tea and sat down at a Strabucks near the subway station. It was 9am and I was faded to the tits. I accidentally dropped my change into the wrong tip jar. Instead a bunch of change rattled into a cup with plastic spoons. The cashier frowned. I was just another asshole that she had to deal with that morning. I took a seat at the window and looked out onto Lexington Avenue. I watched Upper East Siders trickle into the subway on their way to work.Men in striped suits clutched their children's hand as they rushed to the curb, and told the kids to stand still as he stepped up into traffic to hail a taxi cab, which would take them to whatever private school he was paying for. As I left Starbucks, two of the workers were debating whether or not an old man slumped on the couch had fallen asleep or had died.

- I climbed the steps to the Met about five minutes after it opened. That's the best time to visit the museum... early in the morning on a week day. I prefer museums, especially the Met, when it's nearly empty. I wandered around in a daze as my buzz kept getting stronger and stronger. I wanted to peak when I arrived at the museum and I had perfect timing. I found myself in 19th Century painting when a group of Japanese grandma's were trying to take photos near the Degas room. I offered to take a pic of all three women with one of the ballerina sculptures. They thanked me and asked me where they could find Van Gogh. For the next twenty minutes, I was their guide in that section showing them Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Matisse, and Cezanne. I think only one of them spoke English very well and the rest of them just nodded as I pointed and told half-truths about the paintings. I tried not to make anything up and I might have fudged a few facts here or there. When it was over, they offered to buy me tea. Very sweet, but I declined.

-- I bumped into two old friends: Mark and Emilie. I used to play poker with Mark 15 years ago and Emilie used to be good friends with my ex-girlfriend. She's an amazing artist and we caught up on the process and how difficult it is to squeeze a real job into an artist's life.

-- Since it was super early, I caught a docent talking to herself in front of a Jasper Johns painting. She was rehearsing her tour and I got to be a test subject for a few minutes. I checked out a couple of the special exhibitions and really dug a series of contemporary Aboriginal paintings. I also dug Richard Hamilton's prints and Romare Bearden's exhibit.

-- My time at the museum was limited. I gave myself two hours before I had to leave and go back to my brother's apartment to watch the Yankees home opener at 1pm. I walked through park at a much quicker pace than I had three hours earlier. I hopped on the subway, yelled at a Dominican woman for yapping on the phone while I was trying to read my Nathanael West novel, switched cars, watched a bum pass out int he corner and drool on himself. I picked up a couple of slices of pizza and hung out with my brother to watch the Yankees. His apartment was without water and plumbing which is why he had to skip work that day. At least we got to hang out and watch the game.

-- I had a 6pm flight out of JFK, so I had a half a day in NYC. I woke up, wrote, and went to the main drag to discover that the Greek diner was up and running. It had been closed by the board of health and re-opened once the check cleared. I devoured a bacon, egg & cheese on a Kaiser roll then wandered over to Vinny the Barber's joint for a haircut and conversation. I went to my brother's apartment and watched another Yankees day game and called for a car service. It arrived in the 6th inning and my Indian cab driver had the Yankees game on a low volume inside his sedan. I asked him to turn it up, which he happily obliged. The Yanks lost, but at least I got to listen to the game while he navigated traffic to JFK. I said goodbye to the city as the skyscrapers faded away into the distance.
That's it. I'm done.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

1984 > 2014

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I was almost 12 when I read 1984. My reading comprehension was a bit more advanced for most sixth graders, but I definitely didn't get all of the fascist undertones. I was under the impression that 1984 was Orwell's dystopian future... if the commies won. When I was 12, America was at the height of the Cold War with Russia and I missed most of Orwell's social commentary because I didn't understand it. I had read Animal Farm and knew that was a subversive novel about communism, so I assumed the same with 1984.

Orwell's original title was 1948. His publisher was worried that the haunting images of the immediate future would be too much for British citizens who just thwarted Hitler after WWII. In the end, the publishers were looking out for book sales rather than publish a piece of literature criticizing our leaders ability to manipulate the populous.

I have not re-read 1984 since the original reading. I saw the movie a couple of years after it came out, but 1984 has been one of those book that's I'd like to re-read but never got around to actually reading it.

My buddy sent me a clip of the trailer to 1984. It really freaked me out...

Fuck this 2012 bullshit. I'm more concerned about Orwell's themes of doom and gloom than Al Gore's weather forecast. Maybe it should be re-titled and re-released as 2014?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dispatches from New York & Connecticut, Vol 1. - The Brain Dump

By Pauly
New York City

I really wanted to write more about New York and even my week in Connecticut, but man, I've been so busy that I haven't had the time to do it all. I forgot that East Coast living prevents unstructured chunks of time (six to eight hours) in which I do my best work. Seems like I haven't had more than a free hour of unfettered time because there was always something going on, something to do, someone to see, memories to job, things to do, yadda yadda yadda.

Even now, I have less than an hour to get out a couple of weeks worth of living. That's impossible to do. I just probably just post pictures of the scribblings in my notebook, but those are often incoherent phrases and trigger words for bigger stories and events. I also write in code just in case someone steals my notes or I lose my notebook. It's happened many times before.

Anyway, I have to write like Hemingway today and using my brother's bulleted point style to blogging. Both are highly effective since I'm pressed for time.
-- Money. Money. Money. The first full day back included financial crapola. Taxes. Future. Blah blah blah. I did my taxes. I don't wish to discuss my disdain for that process. Let's just say, my political views often change as I'm writing the check

-- I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood which meant that one of my favorite bagel stores was closed for the entire week of Passover. Instead, I ate at the Greek diner. Savory and juicy burgers. One of the best burgers in the city. (I later discovered they were shut down by the board of health, which seems to happen once a year. They have a cat roaming around at night, their form of pest control.)

-- On one of my first nights back in the city, I hung out with my brother and ordered a mushroom pizza. Now, that's not the best pizza in the Bronx, let alone the entire city, but compared to what I get in California... it is the fuckin' tits. I also added a loaf of garlic bread. They make it with chunky pieces of garlic and olive oil. It might be one of the unhealthiest things to eat, which is why it's so damn delicious.

-- Nicky spent a few days in NYC, but we only stayed at the same place for a single night. I crashed in the Bronx with family, while she split time between Showcase's digs in Hells Kitchen and her high school friend's loft in Williamsburg. She had a free room one night at a swanky hotel near Lincoln Center the night before we left for Connecticut. That's where we saw Kim Kardashian in the elevator. She was doing the Regis and Kelly show and they put her up at the same hotel.

-- I had to miss Showcase's birthday party because I watched the Final Four with my brother. I heard it was a raging party, but not quite my scene. A little too flamboyant for me. So, I took Showcase out to lunch as a consolation prize for not being able to attend his soiree. He tagged along with a scheduled lunch at Eatery that Nicky and I made with Armando and Jeremy. They are both moving to Africa for work. Unreal, I thought, because I have to return to Vegas this summer for a sixth summer in a row which is not as nearly as epic as a transition to Africa. I envied their exotic destination. Of course, I probably should ditch the WSOP and Phish to explore that continent while the World Cup is going on, but as impulsive as I am, I know that I can't pull that off as smoothly as I'd like. But still...

-- I didn't win as much money as I hoped during March Madness, but I didn't lose any money. I finished with a profit which will help fund my summer excursion to Telluride, Berkely, and a few other destinations. I watched the Final Four games with my brother and the championship game in a bar in the East Village. Friedman won the Pauly's Pub Pool while Otis' kid submitted a sheet that finished in third place. SICK. The kid is the next Dalai Lama. Degenerate gamblers from the farthest corners of the universe will be showing up at Otis cul de sac seeking the wisdom of Lil Otis.

-- When I couldn't sleep, I watched documentary films. I revisited Gimme Shelter and got sucked into Dope Sick Love a documentary about two sets of couples from the East Village who were junkies. Fascinating and stunning. No commentary, just a camera following them around hustling and shooting.

-- I spent sometime in my old bedroom at my mother's apartment. Essentially, it's my storage space, mail room, and walk-in closet. In someways it's a shrine or mini-museum. I took a couple of twit pics of paintings that are almost ten years old. I flipped through books I hadn't read in years. I dusted off a copy of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail.

-- The day before we left for Connecticut, Nicky and I went to the Guggenheim. She had never been and every time we tried to go, the lines were around the block. We finally had our chance early afternoon on a Monday. I wasn't impressed with anything that I saw, but it felt cool to just wander around a museum. LA is completely devoid of culture and The Getty is sort of a pain in the ass to check out, so we were content with the circular wanderings through paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, and the interactive films.

-- Post-museum, we wandered through Central Park and hung out in the Sheep meadow. I pointed out places I either bought weed or smoked weed. I lost track.

-- I got a sweet deal on a weekly rental car and drove up to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Nicky had to work for seven plus days and I planned on spending almost a week up there, supposedly working, but more there to bullshit and network. I drove, which is rare since Nicky usually drives, but since I knew the route well, I took the wheel. She had never been to Connecticut before. "A lot of trees," she remarked. "Looks just like The Ice Storm."

That's it for now... stay tuned for Volume 2.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Random Food & Spirits from Connecticut

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

Due to lack of time and energy, here are a couple of pics of food and other things like booze...

Bacon pizza from Frank Pepe

Bobby Flay's...

Friday, April 09, 2010

Writing Something Else

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

Wow, been too busy or too drunk/hungover to post here. I have plenty to say, just not the time to say it.

Anyway, I was supposed to write about a poker tournament and ended up writing about something else. Ironically, I get paid to do that often. Anyway, in this instance, I wrote about Tiger Woods and some dude that they call the Tiger Woods of Poker because I spent more time watching golf yesterday than watching poker.

Check out Dispatches from Mohegan Sun: NAPT Day 2 - Phil Woods.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Random NYC Pic Dump

By Pauly
Uncasville, CT

I took a bunch of random pics with my CrackBerry since my return to NYC. Here's a couple...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Salt Flash Pepper Blast Ketchup Memories

By Pauly
New York City

Memory blast.

That's the best way I can describe the last few days in New York City. I have been under a constant bombardment of memories. Around every corner. With every step. On every block. Flashbacks from as far back as kindergarten. I can't explain why I'm oversensitive during this particular trip. Maybe my mind is fresh because this has been the most I've been sober in a month. I'm not one to live much in the past, so perhaps I'm just feeling nostalgic, but why now?

The memories are mostly good with a few glimpses into the painful past. And even when those do pop up, I can quickly make them fade by grasping onto another halcyon moment.

I presume that I'm under too much stress during trips to New York in November and December, so my mind is preoccupied as it prepares for a mental siege from my mother. This trip was a lot different, so I wandered in without the emphasis on another failed family holiday. Sure it's Easter, but because it's religious at the core and even though we grew up Catholic, we're essentially Cafeteria Catholics which means we don't care nor recognize any religious significance to Easter aside from the fact that I had to wear a suit to church that day. Christmas and Thanksgiving are family holidays and any semblance of religiousness is stripped away, so we gather to eat food, dodge insults while re-hashing wounds and pick off scabs from former skirmishes from two and three decades earlier.

I can't recall the last time I was home for Easter. It had to be when my grandmother was still alive. Six years? I think it was 2004 because in 2005, I spent Easter in Las Vegas. Grubby and I went to a couple of strip clubs that were empty because of the holiday. I wrote a short story about how I encountered a lush who gave me the worst lapdance in my life. That was God's way of punishing me for visiting a strip club on Easter -- a drunk stripper.

Anyway, after disastrous holidays in 2009 (Turkey Day and Christmas), we had a welcomed surprise with a smooth Easter. I escaped unharmed and was in a relatively pleasant mood. So perhaps I was in a good mindset to absorb the flashbacks and allowing the memories of the old neighborhood to dig in. Deep.

I went to the Greek diner. Business as usual for them, but it was a special treat for me. I sat at the counter and ordered a cheeseburger.


The owner speaks fast, and with a thick Greek accent even though he's been in the Bronx for almost forty years. He works six days a week and take a month off every other year to go home to Greece. He owns the diner with his brother, who also works six days a week and gets to go to Greece on the year his brother doesn't go.


He wanted to know if I wanted salt, pepper, and ketchup on my burger. I nodded and settled in with my CrackBerry. Back in the day, when they still had newspapers, I would sit at the counter and thumb through the Daily News, from the back to the front of course, because I always started with the sports pages. These days, I read news feeds from my CrackBerry and that morning I was reading about how the Knicks on their west coast roadtrip when I got a flashback about the old set up of the Greek diner. The grill used to be near the front when you walked in and you used to be able to stand at the window and watch the guys cook up burgers on their special grill. That flash was a good 25 years old.

The place next door used to be a pharmacy. Old school pharmacy with a soda jerk and everything. They got beat out by the chain drugstores and eventually closed up shop. They turned that space into a pet store for a while, then just a pet food store and then a vet. Two doors down used to be a bar where my old man used to frequent. Heck, sometimes my mom and her friends would go there. It was a true neighborhood bar. The JV basketball coach at my grammar school used to tend bar there. Sometimes, he'd be late for practice and one of us would have to walk inside the darken bar and find him. When I was a kid, I used to think he was working. When I got a little older/hipper/wiser, I realized my JV coach was knocking back cold ones before he ran our layup drills. I don't remember when, but they closed down the bar and turned it into a beauty salon.

Monday, April 05, 2010

LGB > JFK: Ship of Fools

By Pauly
New York City

Travel days always begin the same, with a forced enthusiasm mixed with apprehension. I try to stay as positive and flexible, with the lowest possible expectations. I prep myself for a grueling trip because it's far more pleasurable to expect the worst. If/when I expect a smooth journey, I consider that a nice little bonus in life. I traveled so damn much that I know anything can go wrong at any second, especially when you don't expect/prepare for setbacks, because the littlest of problems can morph into a monster and ruin a potential journey.

I ate my customary last meal in LA at Nick's, devouring chocolate chip pancakes, a popular West Coast breakfast dish for yours truly, but I rarely (if never) eat that in NYC where bagels and breakfast sandwiches from the Greek diner start my day. I figured I'd get my fill of LA foods as a group of surly cops waltzed in and set up shop in the back booth. After breakfast, Nicky drove me to Long Beach airport and traffic continued to be light all week (Spring Break for most of the kids and Passover/Easter holidays). I got to the airport with more time to kill. I was ahead of schedule all morning -- which is far more relaxing than rushing against dwindling time. I said a brief goodbye to Nicky because she was flying to NYC a mere 24 hours later.

I checked in to my JetBlue flight using a kiosk and despite being on the road for 2 weeks, I had a single bag. I packed so light for the trip that I only had my carry-on wheelie (no backpack) and tossed my laptop inside one of the pockets. I can pack light to NYC because I have some clothes stashed. I love it when I can travel as light as possible and I scoff at all of the materialistic nits who overpack for weekend getaways.

Security was a breeze without a line. Life was good until I arrived at Gate 4a, which was overflowing with my fellow passengers. Long Beach is a tiny airport (which is why I travel the extra distance to use Long Beach instead of Burbank and/or LAX) with twenty seats at the gate. Hmmmm, twenty seats for 150+ passengers? People were standing up, slumped against walls, and sitting down all over the ground. It took a while to navigate to an empty spot. The gate looked like a refugee center and I was ninety minutes early. Wait a sec, I thought, is this SoCal or India?

I took note of a few warning signs of a potential disaster, for example, the dozen or so strollers. That meant no less than 12 children, at an age when uncontrollable fits crying is common and inevitable, were on my flight. I'm sure most of them were going to be fine, but it takes just one baby to ruin a cross country flight. Alas, there were more rambunctious children, fifteen to twenty more, and my gate had turned into Romper Room with babies crying, little kids running around, begging their parents for food, and a girl with purple bunny ears constantly asking when they get to go on the plane. Yeah, I unknowingly stumbled into a slew of families flying home after spending the week in SoCal -- either taking the kids to Disneyland on Spring Break or heading to visit relatives for Passover Seder.

I reached for the Vicodin, something to dull the pain of being on the kiddie shuttle to JFK. I don't mind kids running around in a park or playground, but kids can't let loose on an airplane which is why they get antsy and are prone to outbursts that tilt me to no end. Sitting on planes is not fun, which is why adults get to drink booze or pop pills to reduce the stress and strain. Even the free TV on JetBlue isn't enough to contain kids' fickle attention spans, which is why I wanted as many of them to run themselves ragged at the gate so they would be tired during the flight to JFK. But as some of you with kids already know -- there is no down time because kids are on and they stay on until the go to bed. Since I was on a noon flight, chances of sleep were slim to none -- unless sly parents were spiking their kids' juice boxes with Xanax and/or Benadryl.

We had an almost-full flight with only two empty seats. I lucked out and the seat next to me was empty, but that was the only good fortune I would find. Why? Two babies in the row behind me. Shortly after take off, when it became apparent when one was not going to stop crying and the other shit its pants so fierce that it felt like I was flying in a septic tank, I popped a Xanax to calm myself down. I wasn't anxious, but rather on the verge of lashing out at the parents and telling them to lock their babies in the bathroom because it was so friggin' loud that my Bose headphones and the roar of the engines could not drown out the incessant static. Plus, the stench of baby shit was a reminder why I don't want to have kids until I'm rich enough to hire a team of British nannies to wipe their arses clean.

The Xanax prevented me from saying something that would get me in trouble (with weary parents, the TSA, FBI, et al) and the Xanax/Vicodin one-two punch allowed me to sink in deep in my seat and focus on the TV in front of me. After a while, somewhere over New Mexico, I got used to the crying, wailing, screaming and the baby who busted ass got a clean diaper. I settled in with the History channel and the Nazi's determination to win the battle of the skies after the US entered the WWII.

After an hour or so of stock footage of dogfights and computerized re-enactments, I watched a VH-1 Behind the Scenes special on Heart. I was too young to know the 1970s version (and original incarnation) of Heart, and I caught them during their chart-topping days in the mid 1980s when you couldn't listen to Z-100 in NYC for an hour without hearing a Heart tune.

* * * *

Upon my return to NYC, I immediately begin the arduous process of sorting through my mail. A banker's box spilling over with a three months' worth of crapola greeted me. Bills. Junk mail. Catalogs. Alumni magazines. Casino offers. Credit card applications. Travel brochures. Poker magazines. Save the whales.

My routine is the same: smoke a doobie and then dump the batch of mail on the floor. I seek out checks initially before I continue on with the sorting process. Once I get everything into piles, then I can toss out the bullshit, shred the incriminating mail, and open up the rest.

I spent most of Friday reading through the last quarter of financial statements and collecting all of my 1099s. I did a preliminary round of tax prep before I left LA and I needed another full day or so before I can tackle the burdensome task. No one likes paying shakedown money, especially me, but sometimes you gotta suck it up an pay the baddest motherfucker on the block, which in this case is the IRS. It's decriminalized extortion, but I'd rather be very diligent at paying The Man, Uncle Sam, and the Boogie Man their cut, than incur their wrath.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

April Truckin'

By Pauly
New York City

We have another issue of Truckin' ready and willing...

April 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 4

1. Lovers' Whirlwind by Paul McGuire
I don't know if you want to know the real answer. You're a new arrival. It's not proper to ask all these questions on your first day. The real answers are not important... More

2. The Dog Lover by Sigge S. Amdal
I had a chat with my pet fish and decided to check out the local pet store to see if they had frozen larvae – a delicious to hungry Kili fish that'll make 'em fornicate like swine given the opportunity... More

3. A Hermit Faces the Drunken Public by Jonny Vincent
People are still - generically - boring as all fuck. Guys are still - generically - pathetic in their desperate and pitiful sleazy crabbing for attention when placed in the vicinity of the Unfair Sex... More

4. Pie by Katitude
Her gray hair was caught up in a bun that had become untidy and thin wisps had escaped it to frame a pale face. A much-washed pastel pink t-shirt proclaimed her to be the "World's Greatest Grandma"... More

5. Crazy Colonel Ranald MacKenzie by Johnny Hughes
In the scene in Dances With Wolves where Kevin Costner rides around between rebel and union lines trying to get shot, that was based on Crazy Ranald. He was brave like only a crazy man can be. He got shot with bullets and arrows. He was also called Bad Hand because he lost two fingers in combat... More

6. Hip-Cat Jargon by Tenzin McGrupp
I secured a one-way rental. $300 for the week. Would it take me a week? Maybe more? I had no idea. I'd probably want to make a couple of spontaneous stops along the way. My new life in California would have to wait a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks. Who knows, maybe I wouldn't even end up there at all... More
Thanks in advance for the support and the pimpage.

We are also seeking submissions for the upcoming summer issues. Plenty of space available. Please shoot me an email if you are interesting in contributing to Truckin'.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Upstate Frolfer

By Pauly
New York City

Thanks to the gang at Upstate Frolfer for adding me to their roster of contributors. I'm honored and excited to be their west coast correspondent. I wrote three pieces already.
Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach
The Pink Disc
Chavez Ridge at Elysian Park
Stay tuned for more frolfing adventures!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Free Refills and Queers for Jesus

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I guess that the subtitle of this post is... Addendum to the Jack in the Box Diaries.

I heard an intense conversation originating from the corner booth. Four women and o ne man. All in their 50s and 60s. One of the women, with short grey hair, sat on a chair at the end of the booth with her arms crossed. She looked... angry. The male, a black dude in his early 50s, was the obvious ringleader and he lectured while the rest of the table listened. As I waited to place my order, I eavesdropped on their chatter which sounded like a Bible study of sorts.

I forgot it was Palm Sunday, which makes it one week before Easter.

Everyone at that table was dressed in their Sunday best, but something was slightly off. about the group of people. That's when it occurred to me that this specific Bible study was specifically for gay Christians. Yep, homos and lesbos for Christ. Why they chose Jack in the Box, I'll never know. Perhaps I was catching the extension of the post-church Bible study session? Maybe I stumbled upon a Sunday routine and the five always retreat to the fast food hell hole to discuss Christian values while chomping down on a Jumbo Jack cheeseburger?

Usually, a deranged guy in his 70s occupies that booth while gumming an order of fish and chips and muttering to himself in Polish. I dunno if he'd be too happy if he wandered into Jack in the Box and found his favorite booth invaded by Jesus Freaks.

I always wondered why I don't recycle one of the plastic cups that I get for a BIG ASS iced tea and sneak a free refill. I've been mulling this over for several weeks. I've seen at least five people do the free refill scam during previous visits. The first time it happened, I was blown away by the ballsy attitude of the postal worker who calmly walked into Jack in the Box, passed the counter, and headed to the self-serve drink machine. She washed out her cup with the tap water button, filled her cup with ice, and then put a new lid on before she walked out.

On Palm Sunday, a young kid about 8-years old snuck by the cashier and filled up an old 7/1 Big Gulp cup. He was wearing vintage Air Jordans and did the same thing as the postal worker did -- he washed the cup, added ice to the brim, and then filled up his cup with Sprite. After he put the lid on tight, he bolted out of the store.

Last week, on one of the hottest days of the year, a pretty young thing waltzed into Jack in the Box. I had not seen anyone that good looking inside the joint before and I gotta say that I popped a half-a-wood while I waited on an order of curly fries when she walked passed me. She looked like she was in college, but had a tinge of white-trashiness to her which indicated that she attended a few classes at CC... at best. She wore a wifebeater, a tight jean skirt, and proudly displayed a tramp stamp on her lower back and a daisy tattoo on the side of her neck. She carried two cups: one of them was a Jack in the Box cup, and the other was a used clear cup from Starbucks. She rinsed both out and filled them up with coke. She walked by me a second time and I popped another half-wood. She pushed the front door open with her foot and walked across the parking lot to a black Acura.

Wow... now, it doesn't surprise me that a couple of people found a loophole in the system. The store recently installed a self-serve kiosk to order your food thereby eliminated a cashier. The machines are eliminating jobs, but they can't bust refill angle-shooters. That store only hires a single cashier and most of the time they are running food. The understaffed team of underpaid workers of don't give a rat's ass about people stealing free drinks.

And the clever denizens of the slums of Beverly Hills figured this out.

Well, except me. I'm too wasted during my visited, besides, with my luck, the one time I attempt to steal a refill of a BIG ASS iced tea is the time I faded to the tits on Percs and the place is crawling with cops.

Sometime life moves too fast to even tweet about it. For example, I just had a flashback about something that happened the other day. A homeless guy in purple sweat pants passed me on Pico Blvd. hauling a pillow case filled with who knows what. He was singing We Will Rock You.

Yeah, that was totally random, but it gives my neighborhood flavor. That's what I dig about the slums of Beverly Hills. Like finding two sets of speakers tossed out on the sidewalk. Each speaker was found approximately 150 feet away from each other with wires strewn about. Across the street from the abandoned speakers is a discarded toilet. The base is wrapped in a black garbage bag with the lid closed over the top of the bag. The used toilet has been sitting next to a palm tree for over a week. Still. It hasn't moved. I wonder how long before the broken shitter gets dumped?