Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to the Early Morning Sessions

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

One of the best things about returning to LA is getting to jump into an old routine that brings me endless joy. And no, it's not whacking off with a plastic bag on my head while Van Morrison's Caravan plays on an endless loop. Not even close. The creative process is probably boring (or pretentious) in your eyes, but I don't give a shit what you think about the fact that I love to write during the hour when night bleeds into day and light begins to creep out of the darkness. For some reason, that is when I am my most productive.

There's two ways to go about to maximize that time period... a) stay up all night and begin writing around 4am or b) crash around Midnight and wake up around 4am. During the summers when I live in Las Vegas to cover the WSOP, I don't have a choice and I stay up all day, slogging around in the bullshit, ignoring all the petty high school-ish gossip, and desperately waiting until the late hours arrive so I could sit down and write about what happened that day. On Phish tour, I was often conflicted. I wrote when I could, but sometimes the party was raging too much for me to slip away. Alas, would do what I could the proverbial morning after, with full knowledge that the better stuff I write happens at that odd hour between 4 and 5am.

Since my return to LA, I've been crashing early in an attempt to catch up on all of the sleep that I lost the last few weeks due to excessive partying and exhausting traveling. Falling asleep is the easy part. And waking up is not hard either, since I usually wake up several times in the middle of the night. I simply make the decision to get up to write instead of trying in vain to fall back asleep.

Benjo crashed in LA for almost two weeks after the WSOP ended. The space was available because I was in between projects and to be honest, I wasn't in a good enough headspace to write. I staggered out of the WSOP with a few salty experiences and I wanted to spend my waking hours thinking about anything other than poker and writing about poker. While I was caught up in a peculiar spot creatively, Benjo slept in my office and pretty much used the same desk to write the French translation of Lost Vegas that I used to write the manuscript. I often wondered if my office was a comfortable place for him to write? Or if it was horribly intimidating? It's probably a little of both. While Benjo lived in my office, I migrated to the living room table, which I enjoy equally as much to use as a work space. Yeah, I like writing at the table in the mornings and prefer the office in the afternoons and early evening.

The early morning writing sessions are the sole reason I'm on this planet, or at the least, that's what I tell myself. I sit down at the solid table that weighs like 150 pounds. Oak. Solid oak. It belonged to Nicky's grandmother, and old German woman absolutely loved the table before she passed away a decade ago. At least, that's what she once told me one late night during a paranoid-induced speed binge, when I had the first of many conversations with the wispy apparition. Whenever I told Nicky about my paranormal encounter, she got either spooked out and didn't want to talk about her dead grandmother, or she'd roll her eyes and say, "This is what happens when you eat too much think you're talking to my dead Grandmother."

But, I am.

And she speaks a lot of German, so most of the time I don't know what she's saying. The conversation begins in English then trails off into German. Regardless, she likes the fact that I dig her table. It's a solid anchor and is a perfect base for my writing operations. The chairs are flimsy, though, and falling apart, but the table has a lot of history and energy. Most people think that's bullshit, but then again millions of people think God lives in the sky, so who am I to judge people? I just don't want them to judge me based on my conversations with a dead German woman.

They don't make furniture like the oak table anymore. Heck you could probably break up this friggin' table and make 14 pieces of disposable Ikea kitchen tables. When you rap your knuckles on the table it echos. Loudly. That's the sound of strength and promise. That's why I prefer to write here as the sun slowly sows itself upon the City of Angels.

The two stoners who live upstairs have officially moved out. One of them got a job teaching English in Korea and the other moved to the Valley to be closer for work as a camerman. We liked them a lot because they stayed up late, smoked tuff, and played video games. They were both Tampa Bay Bucs fans for some reason (I think one of them grew up in Florida) and every Sunday during football season, they sported Bucs jerseys. Anyway, they were always cool about our nocturnal habits. They never got freaked out if I was blasting Sketches of Spain at random times. We just wish our new neighbors are equally tolerant.

During my time away, I noticed that the other vacant unit upstairs was rented out to someone driving one of those hybrid vehicles. I saw a university sticker on the back, so I have to assume it's a student of some sort. I caught a glimpse of our neighbor -- just the back of her as she walked out around 10am wearing a collared white shirt and black dress pants. Yep, I'm guess she's works in the food and beverage industry in some sort to help put her through school, or it's her first job after she collected her degree. With an abundance of out-of-work actors and actresses in Los Angeles, the food industry is cluttered with pretty people, many of whom can't wait on a table worth shit.

I missed my hood but being New York reminded me of what it used to be like living in a proper neighborhood. The best thing about NYC is that the basic necessities are within a five block radius, or just a phone call away with a delivery service. NYC is awesome in that you can order a pizza, hooker, or get your dry cleaning delivered to your door at almost any hour of the day.

I'm back in LA for at least five weeks, maybe six. No travel. Nothing, aside from the jaunt up to Malibu to go to Zuma beach with Nicky. It'll feel good to stay put for a bit and return to the old routines. I have an upcoming freelance assignment spread out over three weeks that allows me to stay home and I even worked out a clause that gave me Sundays off to watch football.

The last few days in LA have been devoted to three things: sleep, writing, and watching random shit on the DVR. I finally caught up with episodes of the few programs that I follow... mostly Mad Men, Top Chef and Entourage. I've also got hooked on two new programs Rubicon and Hard Knocks.

Entourage has been hit or miss the last few seasons, but the show is less than thirty minutes so it's not much of an effort to watch it. Plus, I'm a sucker for gratuitous beaver shots (this instance, Sasha Grey) and glorified drug use (ecstasy, weed, cocaine, painkillers -- or what we call the "breakfast buffet" on Phish tour).

Mad Men is my new favorite drama that has since replaced Weeds and Breaking Bad after both of those programs disappointed me the last year or so. Mad Men is one of those programs that you have to watch each episode at least twice to pick up on all of the background detail, symbolism, and nuances in the characters. And man, can't believe they really went to that taboo place -- little Sally Draper diddling herself after cutting her hair off. Nicky mentioned last year that Sally is being set up to be a complete hellion and force of counterculture -- if they show, which is currently set in 1965, is still around in a few years. Heck, the mid-1960s was a watershed year for numerous movements that it's going to be interesting to see how characters develop or resist the massive tidal wave that is about to hit America. Even Peggy Olsen is dragging weed, hanging out at art parties downtown, and befriended lesbians.

Inspired by Garth's ingenious method of creating a scoring system for a Top Chef fantasy league, Nicky and I have been doing fantasy Top Chef the last two seasons. I usually scorn reality programs, but this is more like food porn and I have a tremendous amount of respect for some of those chefs -- they are true artists when it comes to culinary vision. That's inspiring in many ways, for me as a writer and as someone that has trouble deviating from the norm when it comes to food because I'm a meat and potatoes and cheese kind of guy. I'm also kicking ass in my pool. I have five chefs remaining with six to go -- Angelo, Ed, Tiffany, Vanessa, and Kevin. Victory is imminent after Nicky caught a bad beat and Kenny was knocked out during Restaurant Wars.

Since I'm a Jets fan, I checked out Hard Knocks and Rex Ryan doesn't curse as much as everyone said. That's how coaches talk -- they drop f-bombs. A few email threads have popped up about Hard Knocks including the NYC Sports thread manned by my brother and sent out to Jerry, the Rooster, and myself. The guys in the Lamont Jordan FFL are also talking about it. The biggest topic? Not the Revis holdout. Fuck him. We're all goofing on Antonio Cromartie's desire to plant his seed in as many women as possible.

"Wait, it's six kids by seven women in five states?" was one comment.

If anything, Hard Knocks got me fired up for the Jets this season, especially since they have a huge target on their backs this year. I lucked out and got to see at least 10 games last year on the west coast. My theory is that Mark Sanchez was an USC alum and since LA's only football team is USC, Sanchez and the Jets were a huge draw so CBS aired many of their games. Let's hope that half-baked theory holds true this year.

Before I bail for the day, I gotta tell you about Rubicon, a new show on AMC that popped up on my radar. If you like plodding conspiratorial thrillers from 1970s cinema like Alan J. Pakula's Parallax View or Coppola's The Conversation, then give Rubicon a shot. Most of it is filmed on location in NYC near South Street Seaport. It what my brother would call an "thinking man's action hero" type of a series. It's the opposite of '24' and you won't see shit get blown up, and I don't think I saw a gun until the end of the second episode. I sat down and caught all four episodes on Sunday, and I'm hooked for now. Give it a shot.

That's it for now. Gotta go write about other stuff.

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