Sunday, May 23, 2010

Empty Island

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

Empty beliefs.

That's the note I wrote down after I watched Manhattan. A selection of Woody Allen movies were on cable last week, and I made Woody Allen the exception to my TV ban. I re-watched many of his cinematic masterpieces -- Bananas, Manhattan, and Annie Hall. Most of the scene in Manhattan were mini-plays exploring a different beliefs involving one or more of the characters. And more often than not -- the final conclusion was that each person reach a realization point that they have an empty belief.

I guess you can say that a particular belief had a semblance of truth, but aside from that, it had a hallow center. Nothing more than a shell.

Do we live a life of action or reaction? Is man ruled by deliberate actions, or moments of passion which control those actions?

I had no idea that Woody Allen and I set out to find the same answers to the same questions thirty years apart in two different cities using two different art forms. No way I can compare Lost Vegas to Manhattan because I'd be foolish to do so, however, on a basic level Woody set out to figure out those answers using cinema (paying homage to his favorite directors). And that's what I'm trying to draw a comparison -- that I too attempted to explore philosophical questions using a different art form by sharing similar techniques about using the characters involved (in this case - real life people) to answer those tough question -- or at the least try to find out an answer.

I guess I'm saying that Lost Vegas is more than just a memoir about Las Vegas, but a philosophical exploration of life's bigger questions but set in a city of decaying values.

The opening scene in Manhattan always gives me flashbacks of my youth sitting in the backseat of my father's car as he drives through the caverns of the skyscrapers. Those feelings of being really really small and seeing hundreds of windows on forty, fifty, seventy storied buildings whiz by are still fresh in my mind. All of those windows were like flicker lights in the night sky which represented life on the other side of the galaxy. Well, those people living in Manhattan might has well been living on Jupiter or in another solar system. I grew up in an outer-borough even though I still lived inside the city limits, the island of Manhattan was its own entity. I seemed so distant and cut off from all of those windows, but my overactive imagination wondered and hypothesized about what each window represented -- possessions, dreams, despair, light, possibility, prisons, and wealth. All those things and so much more. I figured that each window represented a different person with a unique story and a life that's so far removed from my own. They all had their own set of books, and clothes, and the drank different brands of juice and soda and maybe their freezers had frozen Popsicles or some sort of Swanson's frozen TV dinner. Maybe they had children my age who also went to private school, with rooms full of toys cooler than my own, and those kids had free reign to draw on their walls and scribble down any image they wanted because they were rich kids living in Manhattan with maids who get paid to wipe the walls clean every morning so when the kids got home from school, they could deface the wall once again.

Seeing the shots of skyscrapers in Woody Allen films brought back waves and waves of flashbacks, mostly good ones, but a few bad ones. Sometimes I looked up at the skyscrapers and I had claustrophobic memories of being shackled to a desk. Part of me thinks that the buildings in Midtown were minimum security prisons where citizens do their time -- 35 year stints in the joint and then they finally get out with a plaque, a pension check, and aspirations to move to Florida. Is that the American Dream that the Baby Boomers bought into?

What was given to us Gen Xers? False hope. Glitzy TV ads at what life is supposed to look like, which brainwashed us into buying into that racket -- only to figure out the ugly truth -- and a system of empty beliefs that Woody Allen touched upon in Manhattan.

Life has turned into a bout of indigestion after a rough meal with much scotch.

Decaying values. Woody wrote a screenplay about it 30+ years ago and it still holds up today. Can I do the same with Lost Vegas? Will someone pick it up in 2040 and think that some of the struggles that I had coming up with answers to life's tough questions are still being sought after?

Or maybe I'm just chasing my own tail. Some things cannot be answered. They just are.

I read four books in five days and ignored Twitter during my mini-holiday, which is why I came up with the conclusion that Twitter is evil and trying to systematically snuff out the richness of language and literature.

Twitter is a mere bite out of a fast-food burger.

Thanks for stopping by the Tao, by the way. I appreciate that you appreciate a hearty meal. Soul food. My words come from the soul. It's hard to make that resonate in 140 characters or less. When I write, I'm spilling my guts onto the empty canvas, in this case, an empty word document. Sometimes you get a Pollock-like drip painting of splattered emotions, some days you get a nifty mosaic. Other days, just a cloudy ambiguous mist.

The gurgling machines stop in the middle of the street, blocking Jettas and Mercedes, as guys in florescent yellow vests haul away our trash. Orange rinds, coffee grounds, fast food containers, junk mail, and whatever useless crap we toss aside. Garbage is all around us. Woody Allen made a joke that in LA people away trash and turn it into TV shows.

A couple of hippie girls spammed the neighborhood trying to save the planet. The whales or the baby seals weren't this causing. Neither was the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Rather, they were trying to get me to rally behind their cause -- a huge pile of floating garbage the size of Texas somewhere in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre.

They got no money. Just someone channeling their inner Bukowski and trying to leer while listening to their pitch. She had it down pretty good and didn't stumbled over her rebuttals. I was mildly impressed, but she was unable to sell me because I'm not one to give money to strangers who knock on my door.

I do what I can individually -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- but don't buy into this eco/green brainwashing that has been slowly going on behind the scenes over the last few years. I love the fucking Don Drapers of the modern advertising world who figured out that re-branding your product as Green or Eco-friendly is a sure-fire way to guilt-trip consumers into buying their product over a competitor who doesn't think twice about destroying Mother Earth.

All a sham. Club a baby seal. Spear a whale. Fuck those dolphins getting caught in nets. Not my problem.

Use more plastic bags and drink as much bottled water as possible. Fuck those hippies who are being brainwashed by the Man telling us that it's bad for the environment. Most bottled water is safer than the Fluoride-ridden tap water you're poisoning yourselves with. By the way, you know who introduced Fluoride into public drinking water? The Nazis. That's who.

Detaching myself from the internet and the blitz of news has done wonders for my brain. I can think more clearly and I'm not bombarded with propaganda and advertising with the sole purpose to de-humanize me and prey on my fears and exploit my weaknesses. Reading a book was so much more easier after taking 24 hours away from the constant buzz of the news cycle. Once you get into it -- that's all you want to do. Your brain is it's own little addict. Once it gets stimulation -- it needs more and more. Which is why i you feed it drugs or junk food, that's what it will crave. So if you feed it nonsense like Facebook updates, Twitter feeds, and entertainment news -- then that's all it plays and replays over and over and over.

But once you break that cycle and start feeding your mind books and knowledge, it actually grows and all of those decayed brain cells start to regenerate and you start being able to think clearly again.

I always wondered why I listened to jazz music first thing in the morning. Basically, the music flushed out any of those lingering parasites (thought terrorists as Charlie Shoten would call them) that suck out any creativity and turn me into a mindless zombie. I know in high school art class, the Jesuits used to play Mozart and other classical music because they stood behind the theory that the music spurred creativity and got the brain firing on all cylinders. It goes without saying that I added a few minutes of Mozart to my early morning listening music -- a daily brain laxative to flush out all those inane tweets and bad sentences that have turned my brain into a rotting house infested with termites.


  1. Benjo2:44 PM

    <span>Good stuff. Who knows, France might welcome you as a their new, non-Jewish Woody Allen.</span>

  2. Fantastic Post Pauly.  Best of luck with everything at the WSOP

  3. Ernest11:37 AM

    Great post as always.
    The first four minutes of Manhattan is the greatest opening of any movie ever.  Quintessential New York from the late 70's, beautiful cinematography in glorious black and white, Gershwin music, and funny too.
    As for L.A......
    "Tip the world on it's side and everything loose will land in L.A."
    -Frank Lloyd Wright

  4. Pauly5:22 PM

    Everything loose -- includes me.