Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Extra Butter

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I missed the food the most. Nothing beats a slice of New York City pizza. I was bummed out when I arrived home from the airport very late and missed a chance at eating a slice at the local pizza joint by my brother's apartment. They closed early on the weekdays -- at 11pm -- but I was pissed because it was not even Midnight and it was supposed to be New York City, you know, the city that never sleeps. Shit, I expected that weak-sauce crap to happen in L.A., when parts of the city shut down at 10pm.

Los Angeles is a weird place like that, shutting down early, considering it's such a big city. Good luck getting grub that late if you're hungry. 24-hour options in my neck of the woods are limited to Jack in the Box, or dealing with drunk hipsters at Canter's Deli, oh and if you're feeling really saucy you do L.A.'s version of running of the bulls, by surviving a meal surrounded by tweaking trannies at the infamous "Trannie IHOP" in WeHo. Nicky and Showcase dubbed it so a few years ago. They were brave enough to check it out a few times, late night, when the freaks roam the streets of West Hollywood, like some dystopian underworld that is right out of Larry Wachowski's dampest wet dream.

For the record, I've never been that adventurous or jonesin' for pancakes at 2am that I'd want to head to trannie IHOP. Now, if I knew there would be a better than 27.5% chance (better than 1 in 4) that I would see a potential riot among pissed off, drunken, pancake flinging trannies -- then I'd be there every fucking night hoping to score some high quality videos to post on YouTube. If any of those went viral, I could expand my Tao brand into a new field -- Tao of Trannie IHOP.

During my brief week in NYC, I spent a lot of time at the Greek diner in the old neighborhood grabbing breakfast sandwiches or a flame-broiled burger to go. The old Jewish guys sat in the back booth. They all bitched and moaned about a variety of sports-related subjects, mainly March Madness, the impact of the Melo trade to the Knicks, and the upcoming baseball season. Yeah, at the time it was hard to believe that Opening Day was a week away, yet it felt good to be in the Bronx and hearing life-long baseball fans kvetch about their teams chances this year.

I popped into the bagel store a couple of times. My local hood has two different bagel shops and this doesn't include the bakeries (three) and Starbucks, where you can also order a bagel. One of the bagel stores is located right across the street from my old Catholic grammar school.One morning after shrugging off the effects of a long day/night partying with my brother and watching/gambling/sweating March Madness games, I woke up foggy and groggy, waked-n-baked, then sauntered three blocks to the bagel store. About two-thirds of the way there, I realized I was retracing the same steps I took everyday for nine years (kindergarten thru 8th grade). It was sort of spooky and the flashback made me dizzy for a few steps. I realized that the majority of the stores on the block had changed, save for the Korean deli and the shoemaker, and the parking meters were no longer accepting coins and replaced by the "box" on the corner where you had to pre-pay for parking and place the slip on your dashboard to avoid tickets from the ticket Nazis that vigilantly patrolled that neck of Riverdale.

I dunno why the other bagel store in the hood (the one away from the school and next to the Greek diner) skimps on butter because it cost less than cream cheese. If you ask for cream cheese, they slop down a thick glob, but they barely butter half of a bagel. It's frustrating and even to this day, I have to boldly request extra butter to get any semblance of butter on a bagel. And every time, I'm met with the most disdain I have ever experienced from any service worker. It's as if I asked them to splice open their palm and drizzle an ounce of their own blood onto my Everything bagel.

For fuck's sake, stop being such a fucking pussy and load me up with some butter.

It's like the store owner whipped them in the back alley if they went over the butter rations for the day or something. Is my request too burdensome? All I want is butter, lots of it, so what's the problem with giving the customer what they wants?

Yeah, even though I haven't been home in a few months, something never change -- I'm also tilted by the bagel people.

The only other time I was tilted (not including my mother, which is implied tilt 24/7/365) during my trip to New York City happened when I attempted to cross Broadway at 86th street. I was headed to the bank to deposit a couple of paychecks. I had a a green light and attempted to cross the first half of Broadway, for non-New Yorkers, Broadway is six lanes wide (not including a lane of parked cars on either side) and divided by a small island in the middle of the historic avenue, with three lanes of traffic flanking each side. I walked East on 86th Street and passed through two of the three lanes when a white BMW with Florida plates drove West and attempted to make a left hand turn south on Broadway, and in doing so, she was on a trajectory to strike me. I was a few seconds ahead of a potential collision and had to think quick. In Los Angeles, cars actually stop cold for pedestrians because you can get a ticket for not allowing a pedestrian to cross the street. Even though that law doesn't exist in New York City, everyone is civil enough to let the pedestrian complete the route and reach the pedestrian island safely beofre they make the turn. Alas, I'm glad I noticed the distinct Florida license plate because the female driving was going a little too fast and I anticipated that the out-of-towner wouldn't slow down, so I sprinted through the final lane onto the pedestrian island, like a baseball player trying to leg out an infield hit. The Florida twat had the audacity to honk at me when I had the right of way and she reckless turned into the flow of pedestrian traffic.

I flipped her off and let the words, "Fuck you twat!" roll off my tongue like they were heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

BMW lady could have killed someone. What if an old lady was walking? She would have been toast. Leave it to an out-o- town driver to cause havoc on the Upper West Side.

I rode the subways and forgot how much easier it is to get around a vast metropolis, and it made me curse the sprawl of Los Angeles and reminded me that I'm less mobile in LA because it's a pain in the ass to fight traffic and deal with parking. But in NYC, I'm cover more ground and much more active because of the all mighty subway system. Plus it encourages inebriation because I don't have to be sober to operate a motor vehicle, so I can rip bingers before I hop on the train or nibble on a sliver of oxy before I head out to a museum.

I also experienced the benefits of the Kindle app on my CrackBerry. I read a collection of short stories (blah) and started an anthology of contemporary music writing (hit or miss, but when it hit, I was floored). I wondered if I would ever sink as low to buy a Kindle and be one of those people on the subway. At the moment, the CrackBerry app was appropriate. I dunno if I could endure an entire book or novel on the small CrackNerry screen, which is why short stories were perfect because I'd read a story or two per trip.

On my way back to LA, I took two subways to get to the AirTrain which eventually led me to JFK. I was delayed 20 minutes because I had gotten on the wrong train, actually it was the correct line, but it was heading to a different destination, so I had to get out and wait for the right one. Security line was light for JFK airport, which made up for my lost time on the subway. But that didn't matter, because our plane arrived a few minutes late and the "security check" of the plane was taking longer than usual. As a result, we were delayed almost thirty minutes. That's when I dug into a book by Warren Ellis that I started to read a few years ago, but never finished reading because I lost interest after the first 20 pages. At the time, the book received a lot of hype from friends so I really wanted to love it, but it turns out that the more people rave about something, the less I enjoy it because I allow those expectations to taint my experience. I can cite a dozen or so films and books in the last decade that fell into that category, which is why I try my hardest not to hype up something that I recommend to a friend.

Anyway, I allowed a few years to pass and I totally forgot about the Warren Ellis book until I saw it in a box in my old bedroom in the Bronx. I picked it up and decided to give it a second shot, mainly because of it's compact size -- much smaller in height and width than the average paperback. Since I was traveling light, it was the perfect size and page length. I began re-reading the first 20 pages at the gate while I waited for the delayed flight to finally board. I forgot all of my previous disdain for the book. I guess that I was in a better head space, or just in a better mood to read Ellis' prose.

My flight boarded later than everyone wanted and I lost airplane bingo and got stuck two rows in front of a wailing demon baby and right behind five rows filled with spoiled teenagers from Santa Barbara who were on some sort of class trip to NYC. A few of the girls were jailbait potential, but they were too annoying for me to drool over them. They were so fucking slow to get settled into their seats and wanting to switch back and forth playing musical chairs that the (very flaming) flight attendant got snippy and surly and called out the highschoolers over the PA. They eventually settled down, the plane doors were closed, and the plane finally pulled away from the gate. The baby screeched at the top of its lungs, sort of like a war cry before trying to bayonet your enemy on the pocked battlefields of WWI. I ate some Xanax and dove into Ellis' book while the plane sat on the tarmac for thirty minutes caught in the height of JFK rush hour of 7pm.

I finished the book somewhere over Colorado, and yes, I'm bragging that I killed two books on cross-country Jetlue flights... The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion by Matt Tabbai and Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. Highly recommend both as airplane books.

I spent the last couple of hours of my flight in a faded glaze, watching a reality show about haunted animals on Animal Planet before my plane finally landed in California. I never wanted to get off the plane faster, but the high school kids were lagging, once again and I was ready to hipcheck a few out of the way and make my way off the plane.

I rushed outside and waited for Nicky to circle around the LAX complex and pick me up at the curb. The warmth of the SoCal evening was much more welcomed than the wintry mix that greeted me when I stepped outside JFK airport a week earlier.

Friday, March 11, 2011

5am Rum, Aliens Invade Santa Monica, and Wake of the Flood

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

5:10am. I'm drinking rum. Not sipping. Drinking. Semi-heavily in the eerily silent City of Angels. The only external sounds are the rumblings of a garbage truck a few blocks over. By the time the truck reaches my street, the tsunami waves should be reaching the shores of Hawaii. That's one of the reasons I'm sitting here at this hour and consuming rum like it's happy hour in the Bahamas. The same waves should reach the golden shores of California around 8:30am. The morning rush hour. I know some deviant fuckers are going to try to catch some gnarly waves, but a curious part of me wants to drive down to the beach and wait to see... what happens.

Nicky is up as well, very rare for her a this 5am hour, but she's been sucked into the drama. She grew up in California and survived the Northridge jolt, so quakes are indigenous for her. Right now, she's playing online poker, self-medicating with a strain called "Charlie Sheen" (no bullshit), while constantly flipping back and forth between different online news sites and Twitter. I rarely watch the alphabet news networks on TV, heck I've watched more Al Jazeera in 2011 than ever before, along with Russia Today and the BBC, so I have no desire to watch CNN or Fox. If I want to watch puppets, I'll turn on The Muppet Show.


A devastating 8.9 earthquake rocked Japan around 11pm Thursday night -- just as I was ready to head out to see the premiere of Battle: Los Angeles for a Midnight showing at Century City. The movie was Independence Day meets Cloverfield but with M-Rod and a cameo from a Tom Brady's baby's momma. At midnight, the theatre was almost packed. We had assigned seats, which I selected when I bought the tickets online. The theatre was filled with a lot of sci-fi geeks, stoners, and high school kids. Nicky wanted to see it because she 1) loves disaster movies, and 2) loves to see L.A. blown up on the bog screen. I nibbled on a little sliver, had a couple of cocktails, and was ready to escape into the fantasy world of Hollywood and watch aliens invade Santa Monica, meanwhile on the other side of the world, in the real fucking world, Japan is under siege from the worst earthquake that they've ever experienced (and the 5th strongest recorded since 1900). Yeah, as aliens stormed the beaches of Santa Monica, the same beach was expected to absorb the last remnants of the tsunami. I doubt the waves are anything more than a couple of feet, but expect the local news to go ape shit over it and have the alphabet news networks drooling over the change to get viewers to tune in.

Once we returned to the slums of Beverly Hills around 2:10am, I turned on our TV. The ensuing Tsunami post-quake was a good enough reason to watch cable news, especially since the entire West Coast the US was under a warning/watch/advisory. I'm a sucker for disaster porn (ahem, Tao of Fear), but I had to turn off the sound but welcomed the images. Instead, I have Al Jazeera's live feed (in English) running while I sit here and quickly ramble away before it's time to mix another pineapple juice and rum concoction and I lose all enthusiasm to write.

The last time a big earthquake hit -- the 8.8 terramoto in Chile -- Nicky and I were in Punta del Este, Uruguay on a work assignment. We actually slept through the earthquake. A few hours after it struck Chile, I stumbled into the tiny cafe area of our hotel and joined my colleagues (Serge from Sao Paolo and Rey from Costa Rica) for breakfast before we went to work. I was hung over to all hell and ate a croissant while the earthquake dominated the conversation. The next morning before breakfast, Rey knocked on my door to tell me to put on a local TV station. There were riots in Concepcion, well more food-inspired looting than actual riots. People were hungry so they broke into a grocery store and the shelves were plundered by thugs and starving people. When Nicky saw all that mayhem, it kinda freaked her out because there's always that looming fear of "The Big One" will strike L.A. and California will sink into the ocean. She thinks we can survive a bad quake, but that was the first time she saw the fall out -- chaos and anarchy. At that point Nicky finally acquiesced to my interest in owning a Mossberg.

Flash forward to now. Nicky flipped the channels and shrieked, "Oh my God, is that Geraldo Rivera?"

Um, was. He was one of the talking heads chiming in about the tsunami reaching Hawaii (I dunno if he was actually in Hawaii), but as I blurted out to Nicky, "If Geraldo is involved, then you know NOTHING is going to happen in Hawaii. Just like Al Capone's empty vault."

Well the one good thing about the tsunami is that it completely erased Charlie Sheen from the news cycle. By the way, as we're on the verge of entering into the Libya dispute for the third war (or military intervention) since the inception of American Idol, that's nothing compared to the Middle East tsunami that's going to hit shortly. With police in Saudi Arabia currently shooting protesters, and much larger and organized protests planned in the forth coming weeks. Saudi Arabia is home to Mecca and one of the largest oil fields in the world. But I'll save that rant for an upcoming post on Tao of Fear.

For now, I'm glued to AJ online and flipping back and forth between the different news stations. I'm on pace to be completely shitfaced when the waves reach California. Then I can call my mother to let her know that I'm alive and survived the tsunami, so she'll stop pestering me, and I can pass out because at that point, I would have been up for almost 28 hours.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Metamorphosis of a Horrendous Karaoke Singer

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I live next door to someone who was arrested for domestic battery. I found out by accident when I stumbled upon something that I wasn't supposed to see. Our neighbors leave out mail addressed to former tenants on top of the mail boxes. We have a special rubbish bin where we discard junk mail (those loathsome "RESIDENT" pieces and newspaper-like coupons). Because we live in a building that had lots of previous tenants, it's inevitable that you get mail in your box for someone else. Some of my neighbors have poor etiquette and leave that mail on top of the mail box, which is a passive-aggressive move and they'd rather let the mailman deal with it. The other day I noticed 2 pieces of mail addressed to someone in the building next door. I presumed that it got delivered to the wrong apt #8. Whoever found the mis-delivered mail in their box was too lazy to walk it next door.

I took it upon myself to do the right thing because... 1) it's the neighborly thing to do, 2) my karma will improve with a random act of kindness, and 3) if something important of mine was delivered to the wrong address, I'd want that person to do the right thing and make sure it got to its rightful owner (me).

During the twenty-five second walk down the alley and over to the building next door, I glanced at the mail. The recipient had just moved because both were addressed somewhere in West L.A. according to the yellow sticker from the post office that indicated forwarded mail. I wondered if he was the guy who moved into the apartment formerly occupied by the couple with the two big dogs? One piece of his mail was a generic bank statement. The other was from the LA county court system. The letter from the court shifted in the envelope a bit and that's when I saw something in the "open window" that revealed my neighbor's run in with the law -- "Domestic Violence Victims Fund, Past Due: $236." Depending on the city/county, sometimes the scumbags who beat up their wives/girlfriends are also slapped with additional fines that directly fund special programs that give support to battered wives and counseling and for children of domestic abuse. Apparently, my neighbor must let his fists fly against his girlfriend/wife. Great. That's all we need, right?

The odds were high that the victim of his domestic violence incident was probably still with him. And if that's the case, then the odds were even higher that another incident was imminent. Although I never met the guy and should give him the benefit of the doubt, it's hard to ignore the percentages. Once a scum bag, always a scum bag.

Sure, my reasons for not liking my neighbor are also rooted in my own selfishness. I really don't need the cops sniffing around next door at random moments. For the most part, my block is relatively safe aside from all of those barking dogs and the annoying cat that lives upstairs. I'm very lucky in that regard that even though I'm living on the fringe of Beverly Hills, I don't have to worry about my block being a magnet for the criminal element. But with the recent addition of a wifebeater next door, I can't help but wonder how long it takes before I see a squad car outside and freak out at the flashing red and blue lights. It's simply not fair -- I'm paranoid enough as is -- the last thing I need is even more heightened paranoia.

Then again, I'm one who prefers to practice conflict avoidance, but with a wifebeater next door, a situation might occur when I have to make a difficult decision. What happens if I hear stuff breaking and a woman screaming or crying? At some point in the future, I might have an ethical dilemmas where I have to make the tough decision to get involved in someone else's business and call the cops myself because maybe he's beating the shit out of his girlfriend/wife and I might be saving her life because she's too afraid to call. I'm really not thrilled that I might be confronted with that possibility of having to step into a domestic dispute. I'm a live and let live kinda guy. I want my neighbors to respect me and leave me alone to do my own thing in the privacy of my own home, and in return they expect the same thing, but beating the crap out of a defenseless woman definitely crosses the line.

At the same time, just because a man and woman are screaming doesn't mean that he's necessarily hitting her (or vice versa). Would I be dropping a dime on my neighbor if he's innocent and just involved in a raucous squabble with his partner? I wouldn't want my neighbors to call the cops whenever Nicky and I got into a major fight, or heck even during those brief, rapid-fire shouting matches that bubbled up to the surface every once in a while (anyone who has been married or lived with someone for an extended period of time), which are actually invaluable because they release any tension that has built up. But yeah, I'd be pretty pissed if one of my neighbors dropped a dime on me to the cops when I wasn't doing anything wrong.

Alas, the neighbor next door already had me on semi-tilt in less than thirty seconds of discovering that he was a wifebeater.

After I dropped off the mail in front of his door, I rushed back to my apartment. The windows were open to our place and I could hear the actress next door (who used to live with one girl who made a deep run on American Idol last year) rehearsing a song a capella. A couple of songs actually. Her angelic voice wiped away any violent and malevolent thoughts of the wifebeater.

We live in a creative section of the Slums of Beverly Hills: one woman in my building is a painter, the girl above us plays the violin, the girl next door is an actress/singer, and Nicky and I are both writers. We just want to be left alone to escape into our own worlds and create something from nothing (even from that talentless out-of-tune wanna-be lounge singer across the alley practicing -- poorly I might add -- belting out show tunes with a karaoke machine). It's not as easy as you think and often requires a positive environment -- one that's void of cops and wifebeaters.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Disjointed - Dead Battery, Contaminated Magnolia Tree

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Dead battery
Contaminated Magnolia tree
Sloshed starlet slipped
Underneath the pollution-tweaked smug smoggy sunset
Short bus winds through the hills
Touristy tours to gawk at mansions and the
Ubiquitous Hollywood sign
Dragged down from the mountain top
Stained towels from No-tell motels
Passed out at the front desk
Empty bottle of gin rattling around the trash bin
World-famous for 15 minutes.
Yet world-infamous for decades.
Bloody gums triggered by the sadist
Controlling the grinding dentist's drill
The salty aftertaste
Amplitude of silence sounds
Misguided derivatives of conceptual art
Entwined pastiche of money grubbers, hanger-ons, and other parasitic wanna-bes
Acquisition of cash is secondary
The vitality of the moment is primal
Entwined fantasies driven by vanity
Circulated pamphlets by the self-righteous
Whom offer salvation for two hours a week
But you have to pay cash -- up front
While the enlightened Plutocrats lurk in the shadows
Wandering down corridors of marble
Remnants from the Gilded Age
Whimsical organisms
Inert government workers, slogging along at a luxurious snail's pace
Denying their fragile customers a broad range of plastic experiences
Sophistication behind the daily mass feedings of the slanted zombies
The off-the-rack suit-wearing middle managers bemoan
The decelerated production process
The cluttered pathways and
No new prospects irked the Oligarchs
Network of the wealthy is paved with gold, platinum, and other precious metals
The vacuous accumulation is secondary
Yet the insipid lives of leisure led by offspring of the Master of the Universe
Contribute emotionless and non-critical functions
Aside from money-driven pursuits of the lazy turds
The fleeting fixation of fame
Leads to sensory overload
Lack of peripheral vision,
Leads to more susceptible to occultism
The grotesquerie of the bourgeois hypocrites
And the undecipherable messages flaunting their fake lives on the internet,
Yet flailing miserably in every day real life situations
Spilled cups of coffee, delayed flights, crawling traffic
Old Jewsish lady that smells like cat urine who cuts you in line at the supermarket
While you're buying Clif bars and Sobe iced tea
You're invisible to her
Yet my unblinking curiosity wonders
"If I kick her in the side, would she feel it?"
The improbabilities of myself not getting incarcerated greatly rise
She consumes Old Grandad while dreaming of a freedomless state
Faulty autonomous fecundity
Incestuous convulsions leave automatic scrap marks
Junkies redefine the act of living
Splatter of blood, from a poorly fixed shot of pure heaven
Missed the spot
Kick start vicious cycle again
A broken record, a skipping CD
Caught in a time warp
The next fix matters
More than the last
More than world peace or 75 home runs in a single season
All worthy moments our society deems worthy of recognition
Mostly drug aided
Another dull celebrity dominated the marketplace
While the incendiary ones are kept the wheels greased in the promotional machine
Swiftly swaying, public sentiment
Dodging the ire of the cabal running Hollyweird
The cultural function of all participants in the City of Sunken Angels is to
Walk three blocks to find parking
Praying no tickets will pepper the windshield
Returning scanter swagger
And the tipsy walk down a not-so crowd streets
Wrinkled pigment
Prophesies ensemble distortion
Spoiled waywardness
Romping sensibilities
Congenial negativism
Irrelevant pristine purses
Mutant squids living in the darkness of a distant ocean crevice
Perennial dissertations
Gazing ineptitude
Neurotic traditions
Brilliant flashfloods
Sonic kinkiness
Celebratory seduction of Tom Jones
The dying tradition of masses in Latin
Downtown modern art, cackling at silk tears
Whispering falsettos, the horrible chord progressions
Mellow syllables, brash jive talk
Seventeen familiar stanzas repeated on a street corner
The jargon of a used-car salesman
Spinning the folklore
Blocking the vistas
Ambushing the minstrels
While arming the polemics
As the twitchy schizophrenic forgets where he left his medicine.