Friday, September 30, 2011

Morning Forums and Guns from Greys

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

The mornings are quiet at the Ice Palace, except for the gurgling of a bong, and whatever Jazz mix I put on. Most recently it's been a bunch of Coltrane CDs that G-Money gave me a few summers ago, but for some reason I love listening to it as I watch the fog fly over the back of our building.

The Ice Palace is the nickname for Halli's apartment that her friends came up with because it, no shocker here, gets super cold... even in the summers. The mornings are quiet, but chilly, and I often sit in the back of the apartment at the big desk and I embark on whatever I have to do that morning. I used to have to wake up and shill for the online poker industry, by writing mindless drivel about the genius of poker players, but that task doesn't pay as much as it used to with a horrendous economy, the DOJ stomping out online poker in America, and the sad fact that writers who generate web content for decent wages are becoming obsolete because some idiot out there will low ball your rate in a heartbeat. Yeah, my musings about poker have become few and far between these days. I've been writing up stories about my weekly home game, but even then I don't have the heart to publish them because I'm struggling with an internal conflict about publishing anything I write that has to do with poker. What's the point? Whispers one of the internal voices. I've written over a million words about the topic, do we need any more pollution? But another part of me keeps encouraging myself to write because some day I'll look back and be bummed that I didn't do it. Alas, for you the avid reader, you get the shit end of the shit because I've been writing but not publishing. Sorry about that. Then again, I'm probably saving you from wasting valuable time, right?

I hate repeating myself, but that's all I seem to be doing. I've become a derivative of a derivative. The only thing creative I've come up with this year has been tweeting/blogging haiku's about reality TV shows. What am I'm going to have to do in 2012 to top that? Start blogging about the future in quatrains.

Think about how much more money and pussy Nostradamus would get if he lived today and had a blog and weekly podcast?

Instead of shilling for the online poker industry or self-indulging in personal writing projects, I'm spending a couple of hours every morning entertaining myself by sifting through all of the intel, news blurbs, links about all things fear, which accumulated while I slept. Fear mongering doesn't monger itself. It takes a couple of hours of bringing myself up to speed so I can figure out what story I'm going to focus on and scare the shit out of you. Will it be WW3? Or rogue bankers? Or all the fish in the Pacific Ocean swimming in radiation soup?

I've been popping in and out of different forums (some conspiracy, others financial and political) in the early mornings, not to mention the late nights when I can't sleep. All forums are the same -- very little concrete content with a lot of lonely people seeking attention either as trolls or sycophants. But sometimes you find something valuable, which makes you keep going back again and again like a huge rummage sale, hoping to find a Picasso hidden among the Impressionist knock-offs.

I used to jump out of bed to read couple of poker forums (2+2, Pocket Fives, Poker Road)...even though I couldn't stand the majority of retards who posted/flamed others on there...but it was necessary for me as a poker reporter and wanna be "talking head" to monitor the pulse of the forum crowd. Thank God I don't have to do that anymore and I trust a few friends to do that arduous task for me and clue me in on any pertinent info, incendiary gossip or hysterical threads.

There was a time when I felt compelled to read music forums like Phantasy Tour in order to keep up with the daily happenings in the Phishy scene and other circles, but that got a little tiring. For something like music that is supposed to bring people together, the inbred nits still manage to create disruptions and cause rifts in something that in real life is an amazing, loving, community. Just like poker, luckily I have friends like Joker, B Treotch and Jonas who clue me in on any pertinent info, incendiary gossip or hysterical threads on PT.

More recently, I found myself browsing different financial forums, but that too got annoying, because everyone is either Jim Kramer or Warren Buffet. Bunch of fucking know-it-alls, right? Although one of my guilty pleasures is reading the comments on Zero Hedge, because I do appreciate the occasional commentary from savvy and informed investors, but it gets buried underneath lots of jibberish from the tin-foil hat crowd hoarding silver and bullets.

I know what you're thinking... "Pauly, aren't you one of those crazy people who comment on Zero Hedge and hoard silver and bullets?"

Um, yeah. But so what?

Even on the day I moved in, my roommate Halli asked, "You didn't bring your gun from LA, did you?"

I told her no. The one I have is just a fake, you know, one of those Hollywood props that I use to scare off the grey ETs that might try and pick through our garbage for orange peels and coffee grinds, which they use to lubricate their spaceships.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sleep Prived

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

I know what sleep deprivation is, but can you be sleep prived?

Is that such a word? Or am I so far gone and exhausted that I can't figure out if I'm making up words, or morphing Latin roots with slang. I have no idea, which is what happens when you reach a point of hideous sleep deprivation.

I don't like this state in between waking and sleeping. My eyelids weigh 20 lbs. each. No one wants to be not to be able to sleep and drift off into slumberland, but sometimes, this odd transitional period can be fun because you start tripping out like you're on a bunch of high potent blotter.

I get auditory hallucinations once I reach the 36-hour mark of being up. Whenever I hit the 40-hour lark, I get dizzy and slur my words and shake like a Parkison's patient. But somewhere around the 30-hour mark, you feel pretty groovy and it's like being completely chemically imbalanced.

The difficult part is reminding yourself not to make an rash decisions once you surpass the 24-hour mark. No one should be held accountable for their actions after being up for a single day, even though that happens to me at least once a week because I simply cannot fall asleep. I'll wake up at 5am and be up until... 6am the next day.

I always attempt to sleep, but most recently I often nod out in a pharmie-induced coma, where I have these lucid dreams about running laps in a swamp with a bunch of redneck albino gator hunters, while being chased by Jim Croce's ghost

Sometimes, I have no control at what comes out of my inner hallways of my mind when I'm this far gone. That's why everyone needs sleep, even insomniacs.

Then again, I clean up the entire apartment this morning because I couldn't sleep. We had a home game last night and lots of liquor was consumed. While Nicky and Halli slept, I waited until the downstairs neighbors went to work before I cleaned house. At least I did something productive other than troll conspiracy forums.

Yeah, I just outted myself as a forum troll. In the last few months, whenever I can't sleep, I'll head over to random conspiracy forums and rattle the cages of a few 9/11 truthers, and poke fun at completely unhinged tin-foil hat wearing freaks claiming they were abducted by aliens, and sometimes trade recipes with Armageddon compound survivalists on how to cook gourmet meals out of canned goods.

I dunno why I started reading those forums -- out of boredom actually -- and some of the threads are friggin' hysterical like someone claiming to be a time traveler from the future. I got a couple of great screenplay ideas for sure, and I'm not what you call a total Sci-Fi geek and can't tell you which solar systems and planets are the source of alien life -- like which planet did the Reptilians came from and where the Greys call home? However, I stumbled upon a few far-fetched conspiracy theories that are worthy of an expanded literary exploration. For shits and giggles, of course.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Flash Crash and the Now Moment

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Have you ever had a near death experience?

I was involved in a car accident and for a few seconds after impact, I thought I was dead. I know that sounds spooky and out right scary, but because I didn't see any blood anywhere, I assumed that I died and passed over into the next life. When I climbed out of the wrecked vehicle, I could barely feel my body. It was like I was floating. Of course, that was all from the shock and trauma of the incident, but during that minute or so before I started shaking and had "sea legs" and needed to sit down on a curb, I kept thinking, "Wow... so there's a seamless transition between life and the, one second you're alive, then WHAM!!!!!! SUV plows into you and you die just like that."

It really took a couple of hours before I stopped asking myself, "Wait, am I really alive?"

That realization coincided with aches and pains all over my body. If you've been in an accident, you know what I'm describing -- how it takes a couple of hours or even a couple of days for the weirdest spots on your body to ache. Once the pain pulsated through my body, I knew that I was still alive. You feel no pain in death right? That's why so many people commit suicide, or so many terminally ill people want assisted suicide -- to get over the intense pain they have in every day life -- to null it, to void it, to become one with nothingness. Of course, the soul is eternal and no matter what, you'll still harbor a bit of pain for eternity until you make peace with yourself.

Then again, the more I thought about the accident, I started to think that maybe I did die and I was feeling pain because I was shipped off to hell. After all, I lived a life that was less than angelic. I called Sin City my home for a while, and heck, I lived in the modern day Gomorrah every summer for two months. I might as well have a Nevada driver's license. Surely those in charge of the afterlife know my vices and proclivities to not-so-pious lifestyle. Maybe I was experiencing hell? After all, it was hot as balls and looked a lot like Las Vegas. Maybe hell is what you despise the most? Sartre thought hell was other people. Maybe hell becomes your greatest fears. For example, if you hate Dave Matthews Band in real life, but when you die, then you get stuck being a roadie for DMB in your alternative hell.

During the millisecond of impact during my accident, I had a strange flash. It wasn't the white light. I want to say I saw sparkles, but it wasn't as cosmic or dramatic like that, rather it was burst of the windows shattering into a million little shards. I didn't have the white light or a have a million warm and fuzzy memories flash before me. It's not how some people describe it -- you know -- "your life flashes before your eyes." Rather, I had a what I would describe as a quick burst of... love.

That's right. Love.

I'm not what you call a sappy person. I respect the past, but I'm someone who lives in the moment. The now. But at the moment of impact in the accident, it's hard to describe that moment which triggered an outpour of deep, emotional feelings of love because I had immediate, almost concurrent thoughts of three people: my brother, my mother, and my girlfriend. I had an immediate memory burst of the people who obviously mattered to me the most, but not so much in the mind, but I kinda felt it all over my mind and body. I guess you can say it encompassed me.

A month after the accident, I had a Reiki Master tell me that I lost part of my soul in the accident because it's a natural thing that sometimes the soul jumps out of your body during accidents or traumatic incidents -- as a means of self-preservation. Whether or not it's true, or whether you believe that hokey spiritual mish mash, it doesn't matter because the person who told me was deadly serious, and I knew something was wrong with me -- I wasn't quite there. Luckily, I was about to see a few Phish concerts, and the band is highly inspirational. I hoped the music or a mind-melting party favors would get me back on track. And yeah, the band and the concerts helped get my soul back. I didn't have to hire a soul retrieval specialist. I just took matters into my own hands.

It's hard to describe that "life flashes before your eyes" moment any other way. It's taken me a few months before I could even begin to write about the accident. And yes, I've been afraid to ask any of my loved ones if they felt a jolt of energy at the precise moment of impact. I don't want to freak them out. The accident was crazy enough and they worry about me as much as is, so I really don't need to be digging into other people's psyches.

Life is strange. The mind is even more bizarre. As I try to find more answers, the more I come up empty handed. But I flirted with the life's razor's edge for a brief moment and walked away with my soul outta whack, my hip all kinds of fucked up, little nicks on my hands and arms, bruised ribs, and a piece of windshield glass that got stuck in my palm for several weeks before I managed to pull it out with tweezers. At that point when the shard was expelled from my palm, I knew it was time for me to mentally heal myself, because I knew there would be a major event happening in the ensuing year or so. I needed to get healthy to help prepare for that defining moment -- whatever it might be.

Now, that defining moment is drawing close. The event is nigh. I can't explain it any other way but the chronic insomnia is as worse as it's ever been. When I do sleep, I'm bombarded with the most bizarre dreams that are too intricate for me to even begin to analyze.

With that said, it's important to take time this week and really figure out what's important in life and stop being irked by the little things. Because when the proverbial shit inevitably hits the fan, you're gonna be kicking yourself in the gonads thinking, "Why did I even waste all that energy on that, when I could have been spending time with the people I care about, or the things that bring me the most happiness."

If I told you a flash was coming soon, what would pass through your mind? Loved ones? Moments of glory? Pangs of guilt on the things you didn't do, or the people you might have hurt along the way?

I know this is a lot to think about, especially from me. Shit, just the other day I posted a video about titties and carrot cake, and now I'm asking you to go hug your kids and step outside and enjoy the moment.

The moment, the now, is all we got.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The City

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

My roommate Halli posted this on Facebook, and I'm snagging it for Tao fodder....

The City from WTK Photography on Vimeo.

This is some amazing time lapsed photography of San Francisco, which visually displays some of the reasons why I bailed from L.A. to migrate up north to the Bay Area.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Soundtrack for the Apocalypse

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

I couldn't sleep. Put my iPod on shuffle and "Gimme Shelter" popped up. It really got me thinking about different songs to usher in the Apocalypse.

Here's the half-baked list I came up with off top of my head while scanning through my iPod...
1. Gimme Shelter (The Stones)
2. The Dogs of War (Pink Floyd)
3. Bad Moon Rising (CCR)
4. Ride of the Valkyries (Richard Wagner)
5. Life During Wartime (Talking Heads)
6. Sabotage (Beastie Boys)
7. Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix)
8. What's Going On (Marvin Gaye)
9. Floods (Pantera)
10. London Calling (The Clash)
11. Where I End and You Begin (Radiohead)
12. Enter Sandman (Metallica)
13. The End (The Doors)
Thanks to Chris Tessaro for Track #2!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fear Mongering

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Yeah, I fucked up Truckin' and haven't published an issue in a couple of months. I'm ashamed and embarrassed about letting that blog project flounder, but it's better to burn out than to fade away. Right?

On a good note, I'm about to ramp up the fear mongering over at Tao of Fear. I decided to ease off the pedal with poker this summer in order to embrace the last quarter of 2011 as a staging point for the 2012 -- which is right around the corner. Yeah, I'm having a balls out time scaring the shit out of the sheeple with subversive videos about the collapse of the U.S Dollar and other random tidbits about the impending apocalypse.

Tao of Fear also has its own Twitter feed -- @TaoFear.

If you have never visited Tao of Fear, or haven't stopped by in a while, then I encourage you to check out a couple of weekly columns -- The Monday Morning Red Pill and This Week in UFOs.

The Monday Morning Pill is a link dump of non-fluffy news stories that give you the straight dope about some of the insanity that the powers to be don't want the masses to know about. This Week in UFOs is self-explanatory. I just started this new weekly link dump of UFO videos and mainstream media reports mainly because the number of UFO sightings have increased at an exponential rate. At this point, it's hard to ignore that something weird is happening.

And don't forget about those adorable, hysterical Silver Bears -- who have been warning us about the collapse of the USD and other fiat currencies for the last year or so.

Here's the first episode (of seven) of the Silver Bears...

If you liked the Silver Bears, check out the other episodes.

* * *

Oh, and if you miss my (derivative) musings about poker, you can read about my reaction to the latest drama bomb -- the U.S. top cops at the DOJ called Full Tilt Poker a ponzi scheme.

Update: Check out Nicky's piece that she wrote Full Tilt Poker's New Brand Identity: Ponzi Scheme.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Titties and Carrot Cake

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Disco Sis wondered if I got any titties and carrot cake for my birthday. I got me some titties, but it was red velvet cake that Nicky picked up and not a carrot cake.

In case you were wondering about the unusual inside joke, this video will catch you up to speed...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Same Religion

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Some days I'm astonished at what I've accomplished, while other days, I'm befuddled at why I haven't been thrown into jail or why I'm not lying face down in a gutter, like so many other vagrants that I see in my new city.

Crackheads aplenty are strewn in the streets of San Francisco. I often worry about how close I am to actually living in the streets. I'm not trying to be overly dramatic, but all I keep thinking about is that scene in Wall Street when Bud Fox is driving around in Gordon Gekko's limo while contemplating whether or not he has the stomach and balls to delve into insider trading and shoot angles on Wall St. to become uber-wealthy. The limo pulls up to a corner on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and two people are standing there -- a suit with a briefcase and a homeless person digging through the trash. Gordon Gekko points to both men and uses them as an example of free will vs. determinism to Bud Fox.

"You really think the difference between this guy and that guy is luck?" said Gekko before he tells his driver to pull over to let Bud out. "When it comes to money... everybody's of the same religion."

Bums. Suits. It don't matter. We all worship the all mighty dollar, well, what's left of the fiat currency that we have in our pockets. Some of my Wall St. buddies are convinced the USD is going to bust, while others think the mighty greenback will bounce back because the cabal who run the Fed won't let that happen. They'll keep printing money with Ben Bernanke's printing press, which is the exact reason why the USD is worth the same as toilet paper.

The only difference between the America in 2011 and Argentina of a decade ago -- is Ben Bernanke's printing press. Well, that and the fact we never had a soccer player who could carry Diego Maradona's sweaty socks.

Are we collectively doomed? Probably, which is the cause of the underlying layer of malaise that I can't shake. I drank through this tropical depression with rum drinks earlier in the year. I had a brief respite from doom and gloom after this summer when I miraculously walked away from a car wreck. I was so fucking lucky to be alive that my entire perspective changed, but even that fleeting moment has worn off, and now I'm back to roaming this planet with a bit of knowledge that I've been trying to share with friends for a few years now. They won't listen, and that inherently makes me sad. It's not an ego thing -- I don't get off in being listened to -- rather, a wave of melancholy washes over me because some people I love dearly refuse to wake up.

In short, I've been trying to unplug them, wake them up, and pull them out of the sheeple spiral. Alas, it's not working and I'm ready to give up trying to save everyone. The sad part is this fact -- sheep get slaughtered.

Oh well. Dennis Miller snarked it the best, "You can't save everyone, folks."

At this point, I question whether or not I can save myself. Do I even want to be saved? Should I just give up, get microchipped, and zone out in front of the boob tube while embracing Sn00ki,The Situation, and the Kardashians as my new Holy Trinity -- the almighty Lord and Savior?

Religion used to be the opiate of the masses, but now it's reality TV. I have friends in Hollyweird who write for reality TV shows. Yeah, they ain't real. Nothing is anymore, except the searing pain that rockets through my body every time I gaze out into the sea of humanity and see so much wasted potential. No wonder we're going to get stomped in the revolution. It's easy for the powers to be to pick off the troublemakers because they easily stick out as the black sheep in the ginormous fluffy, white herd.

Somedays I think about that scene from Wall Street with the suit standing on the corner with the bum and wonder if I'm headed on a path toward prosperity, or I'm headed toward the street. You'd be surprised at my answer. After all, we all worship the same religion, but then again, the Church of St. Sn00ki seems more and more appealing every day.

I might start drinking again. Heavily.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wake of the Flood; Phish Returns to Vermont for Benefit Concert

By Pauly
Burlington, VT

Editor's Note: This originally appeared on Coventry Music.

Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011

If you've ever been to Burlington and engage in conversation with the locals, it seems that everyone holds the members of Phish in the highest regard, but more importantly, they all seem to know one of the boys personally or professionally. Vermont is a small state and even though it's a college town, Burlington has a small town mentality -- essentially everyone knows everyone. Trey is still called Trey, and even though we regard Trey as a mythical rock star, in this part of the Vermont, Trey is a local hero similar to a high school quarterback in a desolate West Texas town -- he might go onto bigger and better things, but he's still their "home boy."

I made the journey from San Francisco to Burlington via a red eye from Oakland to JFK, where I switched planes to fly to Burlington. At least 85% of my plane were heads and I was seated to one of the few civilians on board. She was a woman in her 50s and we made some small talk as I buckled in. I told her that I was a writer who is flying out to cover Phish's benefit show.

"They are such nice boys for doing this," she gushed. "My husband is a contractor and he once worked on Page's house."

I snickered. She had no idea about the running inside joke from this summer about "Page's house", so I clued her in. I don't think she fully appreciated it, but she smiled anyway.

My cabbie had nothing but amazing things to say about the Burlington music scene. "Phish is the band that put Vermont on the map, but there's plenty of other great (bands) in town. Grace Potter... she's a sweetheart. I know her parents. But Trey and the rest of the band do so much to promote music. Trey's even a part owner of the Higher Ground."

When I checked into my hotel, the pimple-faced kid at the front desk mentioned that his mom and step-dad were Trey's neighbors who lived "about 35 minutes from here."

* * *

I had frequent flier miles on JetBlue that I stashed away for a special occasion like the Vermont show. I got shutout in lottery, but luckily a cool guy from Minnesota named Trent hooked me up with two extras, which meant I could see the show with one of my closest and oldest friends, Senor. We've seen over 50 shows together including the infamous Japan tour in 2000. He's got a wife, mistress, two kids, and a job that requires long hours so he doesn't get to see as many shows as we used to. The last time we saw Phish together was the New England run last October (Providence, Worcester, Manch-Vegas and Amherst). He didn't have time to see the boys this summer, so he was super stoked when I told him I scored tickets.

"Well if you're flying all the way out from San Francisco to see one show," he said, "Then I can make the trek up from Providence!"

I rarely get to see shows with Senor in 3.0 so any time I hang out with Senor I know it's gonna be a raging time. On a more selfish note, I wanted to see Phish in Vermont to help exorcise those haunting Coventry demons. My friend Molly from Texas and I hiked in three miles to see that shit-stained trainwreck of a last waltz during a mud-riddled clusterfuck with Trey super schwasted and Page crying during Velvet Sea. The band walked off stage at Coventry under a cloud of gloom and misery.

Seven years later, Phish an opportunity to avenge the biggest blemish on their storied career, and at the same time, assisting their home state in a time of crisis by helping raise $1 million. Vermont was devastated by Hurricane Irene which caused severe wind damage and massive flooding. While the alphabet news networks focused on the hurricane reaching landfall in the Carolinas and the hysteria surrounding the clamping down of New York City, little old Vermont was barely mentioned by the mainstream media. Phish has always had a history of altruism and community service, so playing a benefit concert in Vermont seemed the appropriate thing to do.

I caught every Phish show since Super Ball IX and the band was en fuego by the time they arrived in Chicago. Toss in the three sizzling shows in Colorado and the band reached their pinnacle of the 3.0 era. The perfectionists in Phish wanted to collectively erase the last time they performed in Vermont. Plus, the gig was going to be at the Essex County fairgrounds, a mere stone's throw from their hometown in Burlington. Back to where it all began.

If you've seen the setlist or watched the stream, then you already know the benefit show fell into a "greatest hits" category. They omitted a couple of heavy hitters that were skipped in Colorado (most notably YEM, Wilson, and Mike's Groove). They played many of their classic songs and kept the far-out jamming to a minimum (with a few exceptions like Gin, DWD, Carini and Wolfman's).

Senor and I arrived at the lots around 6pm. A mini-Shakedown was set up on the far side of the fairgrounds and a fair amount of extras were floating around. We hung out for a bit before we made our way into the show and got stuck in a slow-moving line to get into the venue. That's when we heard Gordo and Vermont's governor greet the crowd. Gov Shumlin remarked about waiting seven years to see Phish play a gig in their home state.

The venue was a little bigger than the Tahoe set up with a massive grandstand opposite of the stage. The floor was cramped during the first few songs. Lots of drunks barreling through once the lights went down for the Chalkdust opener. Fish sported a special "Hurricane" muumuu for the occasion.

Photo courtesy of Gordo

The boys brought the "cow funk" early with Moma Dance in the second slot, followed up by a bubbly NICU. The crowd enthusiastically responded when Trey belted out, "Play it Leoooooooooooo!"

Everything fell into place with Funky Bitch batting cleanup before a crowd sing-along with Sample in a Jar. The guy behind me in a Red Sox hat was screaming the lyrics off key. We were treated to a rare mid-set Cavern (seems like it's been a set closer or deep into the first set as of late). Even Senor noted the early appearance of Cavern, which lacked the frenzied energy if it ended a set.

One of the jamming highlights of the first set included Bathtub Gin, accompanied by a roaring response from the crowd during the "We're all in this together, and we love to take a bath" segment. They lost me a bit with the jam, but Fish managed to pull Trey and the rest of the jam out of a dead end with a spectacular finish.

Alaska popped up and all I could think about were the rumors floating around the internet that Sarah Palin slept with former NBA star Glen Rice when he played at Michigan. It was a bizarre story for sure and as my mind wandered during the jam, I wondered if Palin ever got backstage during a Phish show in 1991 and gave Fishman a handjob at setbreak.

The crowd's energy level dipped with Alaska, but quickly recovered with Possum. It felt weird to hear a Possum non-show-opener, but the crowd soaked it all up. The last two songs -- Wolfman's > Julius -- might have been one of the more magical moments of the show, which punctuated a 90-minute opening set. At one point I had my eyes closed during the juicy Wolfman's jam and when I opened them I saw Senor jumping up and down with his arms in the air. That's one of my favorite moments at any concert -- when you see your friends getting down and rocking out. Senor and his brother used to make fun of me in the late 1990s when I was all wook'd out with a ponytail and a scraggly beard. They often referred to me as the Wolfman, so whenever we hear Wolfman's in 3.0, we always have a big laugh at the olden days.

At setbreak a drunk girl muttered, "When does Dave Matthews come on?"

"He's playing a solo acoustic set behind the port-o-potties right now!" I blurted out.

At the beginning of the second set, Trey noted that they saw lots of old friends in Vermont with the exception of two -- Pete and Tara. Pete was Fish's former drum tech otherwise known as Carini. Yep, you guess it... Carini opened up the second set. I wondered if they would throw us a bone with a Dicky Scotland Reprise?

The stretched-out Carini had a couple of dark moments before I heard a few teases and blustery notes sounding like the intro to Down With Disease, and sure enough, Carini slipped into DWD. On a random note, I recieved an email during DWD offering me a writing assignment to cover a poker tournament in Medellin, Colombia. Seriously. I saw that as an ominous sign!

DWD was left unfinished as Trey sort of rushed the band into Slave to the Traffic Light, which popped up much earlier in the set than expected. Slave usually anchors the back end of a second set, but I wasn't complaining. It's always a good night when your favorite band plays your favorite song. I always think the band plays it especially for me as a "thanks for making the journey with us."

Senor was a little schwilly by Rock and Roll. He became the "woooooooooohooooooo" guy and unleashed one of his trademarked screams every few minutes. Senor's all-time favorite Phish show was Vegas Halloween in 1998 and the musical costume of Velvet Underground's "Loaded." He said Rock and Roll always gives him instant flashbacks to that epic night. Page always shines on covers and he stepped it up, but just when Rock and Roll's jam got cooking, Trey pulled the rip chord during an abrupt seg into Twist. Trey's ADD got the best of him again and they bailed out of Twist in favor of Backwards Down the Number Line. I remember seeing a TAB show at Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel in Providence with Senor right after Phish announced reunion shows at Hampton. Trey played Backwards that night and I remarked that it'll probably be one of the new songs Phish introduced in the 3.0 era.

Gordo unleashed the fight bell at the beginning to Theme from the Bottom. Senor was pumped because he couldn't remember the last time he heard it. During Suzy Greenberg, a couple of Phishy chicks in front of us were doing dippies and jumping up and down. I thought Suzy would end the set because of the rumored 11pm curfew, because if they were going to play a 20+ minute YEM encore, then they needed to end the show immediately after Suzy. Alas, the boys snuck in a reeling Character Zero to close out the second set.

I wondered if Phish was going to go past the 11pm curfew. After all, the Governor was at the show and surely he could bend the elasticity of the rules for Phish, right? Everyone wondered if the benefit show would also feature guest appearances ranging from Jen Hartswick to Grace Potter to the Giant Country Horns. Alas, this gig was 100% pure Phish. No sit ins. No Santana.

The show ended with a single encore song and a cover of the Rolling Stones' Loving Cup. Sadly, no YEM for all of you YEM-maniacs.

Senor walked out of the venue just like everyone else -- all smiles. Even though he recognized the greatest hits theme, he mentioned, "One of the better shows I've seen since Phish returned."

* * *

I thought I saw my 151st and final show in Coventry, Vermont in 2004. At that point, I was done with Phish and the demoralized scene. By the end of 2004, I stumbled into the poker scene and spent the better part of the last seven years as a gambling reporter following around different tournament circuits in Las Vegas and internationally. It's a different type of traveling circus, but I missed being on Phish tour. Every. Single. Day.

Phish returned to the fray in 2009 and I racked up 89 shows since the reunion shows at the Mothership in Hampton. The Vermont benefit show might not stand out musically (or gimmicky) compared to some of the smoking shows from this summer, but this particular show will always have a special spot in my heart.

Phish is a tremendous source of inspiration. The friends that I met through the band give me hope for humanity. Trey is a personal hero because I also struggle with some of the same (pharmaceutical) demons that he dealt with over the last decade or so. It's not easy being Trey, and it's even a thousand times tougher to walk the line of sobriety while feeding the creative beast within you and trying to entertain and show everyone a good time without being redundant. Despite the deviant obstacles, Trey and the rest of the band continue to share their collaborative musical talents with whomever is bold and crazy enough to follow them along for the ride. Phish was born in Vermont in the mid-80s when a bunch of geeky college students decided to form a band. It took 240 attempts, but I'm fortunate that I got to finally see a good show near their birthplace.

Coventry's demons have finally been exorcised.

* * *

Before I go, I have a couple "special thanks" to two people. I called in a huge favor from my project manager at PokerStars (Otis is the man!) and he got me out of a writing assignment/deadline so I could see the benefit show. Also, thanks to Trent B. for finding me a pair of tickets. He's a good dude, so if you enjoyed the tweets from the show, he's responsible for hook up. If you ever see Trent or Otis in the lot, buy them a beer!

Lastly, Vermont is going to be struggling over the next months during their recovery. They still need your support. If you'd like to volunteer and get your hands dirty, check out Vermont Response website to see how you can pitch in. Also, you can still donate money for flood recovery by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sn00ki Gay for Trey

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

Jonas posted this gem on Coventry. Kangifrmed... Sn00ki is gay for Trey.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Almost the Routine

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

It's been a strange adjustment period.

I have yet to fit into a perfect groove with San Francisco because whenever I develop any semblance of a routine, I'm out the door and on the road for a few days or week or more before I finally stumble back into the Bay Area, and dump my dirty clothes onto the hardwood floor and try to make sense of my life that's in flux.

Since Nicky and I bailed out of Las Vegas at the end of July, we must have spent at least three or four segments in San Francisco for three or more days. It's hard to dig down and develop roots when you're constantly on the move... LA, Seattle, The Gorge, Tahoe, Chicago, and Denver.

I have yet to sit still in San Francisco for a week or more, but I expect that will change shortly. I really thought the bulk of summer traveling was complete but I have one last encore Phish performance to attend in Vermont. But once I'm back from that quick sojourn back East, I should be staying in San Francisco for at least a month, maybe more.

I crave the routine because I'm in the middle of a freelance project and ready to put in long hours writing for myself again. I miss the daily grind of writing in LA. In fact one of the things I actually loved about LA was the ability to close the door to my office or sit at Nicky's grandmother's dining room table and delve into a daily writing schedule for the chance to have two different writing sessions -- early morning or late night -- and depending on which way the wind blew. Well, more specifically, depending on the insomnia, because I always found a groove to write in LA no matter what time of the day. But outside of writing, LA was a tough place for a social life...everyone is so spread out and the average person is someone I have very little to nothing in common with.

At least in San Francisco, I'm usually the least weirdest guy walking down the street. I don't mind being a freak. I'd have it no other way, but sometimes it feels good to just be able to blend into the crowd. In a city of freaks, I'm almost invisible.

Developing a writing routine is going to be a little rough when I'm constantly on the move, so the next few weeks will finally give me that chance to find out when/where I like to write. The back room in Halli's apartment doubles as her office and it's also where we play poker on Monday nights. She rarely uses her desk, so she happily allowed me to set up shop and I have a pair of laptops sucking up power at all hours. Since both her and Nicky wake up super late, I have the entire back of the apartment to myself in the mornings. I can crank up tunes and no one can hear me in the front of the apartment, so it's the perfect spot for me to work.

I've had a couple of random afternoons when I got completely faded and wandered around the city listening to my iPod and soaking up everything around me from street corners, to random stores, and lots of people watching. I can expect more faded wanderings in the upcoming weeks... whether it's hoping on a bus and going to it's last stop and then finding my way back to the apartment, or walking around the neighborhood in random directions, criss-crossing different streets and checking out what's in a ten to fifteen block radius of our apartment. One of my favorite things to do when I visit a new city is to memorize the map, then get totally lost and try to find my way back. That's when you really get a vibe of a city by wandering down streets off the beaten path that are filled with locals and away from gaudy tour buses.

I haven't been brave enough to tackle the monstrous hills to the top of Pacific Heights. Some mornings I can feel the stiffness in my bum hip so I stay to flatter streets. That steep climb will eventually become a morning routine, but only a few brave souls ever dare doing that arduous journey up to the crest of one of the highest points of the city. The view is worth the physical exertion.

In the meantime, I had a wild few days sports betting again with the onset of the NFL season. Halli and Nicky have been more than accommodating but I have a feeling that turning the apartment into a full-blown sportsbook by week 7 of the NFL season is going to wear thin on them. Time will tell. Until then, action is action.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Paralyzed Decade

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

I can't write about 9/11.

I lived in NYC ten years ago today and the events of that tragic day are crystal clear. Yet, I'm paralyzed with anger whenever I try to write about the specifics of the day the towers collapsed, and more importantly, the fallout that ensued. Angry. That's what happens when I try to turn on the faucet and write about 9/11. Like "HULK SMASH" angry. I even turn shades of green and get so worked up that it takes me a few days to get off mega-tilt.

A week or so before every anniversary since 9/11/01, I've sat down at my laptop and pecked away at the keyboard and just let everything... every thought, every rant flow out of my brain and onto the pages. My friends that know me well know that I don't believe in writer's block and if you've seen the plethora of scribblings I've regurgitated on the interwebs, you also know I'm not shy about sharing my thoughts about anything... from aliens to poker gods, from aspiring Hollyweird starlets to embeddeding myself with hippies on Phish tour, not to mention strange short stories that I've whipped up on a whim. But when it comes to the events of 9/11, I always hit a snag early on in the writing session and I get so infuriated that I often want to throw my laptop across the room.

Sometimes I think that if I don't write about 9/11, then the terrorists win. Sometimes I wonder if I actually write about 9/11, then the powers to be will think I'm a terrorist. It's really a no-win situation...kinda like 9/11 when you think about it. Those who have been deeply affected by 9/11 will never forget what happened, and there's definitely a lot of bat-shit crazy fuckers out there who wants to see America burned to the ground. But somewhere in the middle lies the rest of us. I just wish we had more people in power who could assess the situation with more logic and less emotion. Maybe then we wouldn't be bogged down in three wars (with a fourth on its way) which is draining the coffers and weakening the U.S. Dollar, while generating billions in Petro-Dollar profits to those manning the pumps. Alas, the fallout from 9/11 is making the U.S government broker than the worst degenerate gamblers I know in Vegas.

It's going to take me a fistful of pharmies and a bottle of rum to fully write about 9/11. I'm going to have to pick a random day of the year and just go for it. But at this juncture, I often wonder -- what's the point? 9/11 is what it is and conjuring up images and emotions from that fateful day only serves fear mongers, politicians waving the bloody flag (to get in office or stay in office), and corporations raking in billions in profits on those who have been able to manipulate the events of ten years ago today. I don't want to be a part of that junta, nor do I want to bring up bad memories for those whom actually lost someone special that day. But it's also not me to ignore the reality of a situation, which is why I'm bombarded with anger and frustration whenever I try to write about 9/11.

Then again, shouldn't I be mourning the death of America? Because that's what happened ten years ago today. The America of my youth is no longer in existence. America 2.0 is a twisted melange of Facebook sheeple, Snookis, Kardashians, X-Ray machines at airports, and bat-shit crazy politicians. These days, whenever I travel in Europe I find myself faking a Canadian accent so I evade any potential (un-winable) discussions on why America sucks, or whenever I'm in South America on business, I'm accused of being a CIA agent, and doing my best not to get kidnapped and tortured.

I haven't even touched the surface yet on 9/11 and I'm already in a bad mood. I told myself I wouldn't fall into the emotional trap of 9/11. I grew up in NYC and used to work in the World Trade Center on the 8th floor. I lived in NYC ten years ago and knew a broker who jumped from one of the top floors. The last thing he ever did was call home and leave a message to his wife and kids. His final words were: "I love you."

I can't write anymore about 9/11. I've already restrained myself from punching a hole in one of Halli's walls in her nice San Francisco apartment, and I fear I'll just end up breaking a few bones in my non-wanking hand. After all, it's typically American of me not to have health insurance, so even if I vented my anger and frustration over the last ten years, I couldn't even get an ER doctor to patch me up and send me home with a Vicodin prescription.

While I'm paralyzed with 9/11 anger, I'll point out that the U.S. Dollar has been tanking to its all-time lows and that U.S. Treasuries are now worth about the same as toilet paper. Silver was only $4.20 an ounce ten years ago and now it's over $40, meanwhile gold was trading at $271 a decade ago and it's now $1,860. Precious metals do not lie.

I'm going to let all this anger and frustration subside and I'm going to watch a lot of football today, because if we don't watch football, then the terrorists win, right? On 9/12/11, I shall get back to writing about more trivial things like poker and UFOs. It's safer for me to do so emotionally, besides the masses really just want to be entertained with mindless humor, and not reminded that the last decade of their lives have been hijacked in one of the most covert coups we have ever seen in recent history.

In the meantime, if you really want to read a few things about 9/11 written by much braver and better writers than myself, then I encourage you to check out...
To the Victims of 9/11... I'm Sorry by Otis
Five Years After 9/11 by Mean Gene
Fear and Loathing in America by Hunter Thompson
That's all I got for now. But I want you to take the time to read Hunter's column that he started on 9/11/01 and finished on 9/12/01. He eerily predicted the last decade of fear.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Opposition to the Machine

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

The wise words of Mario Savio (from almost 50 years ago) about the true meaning of freedom...

Fight the power. Clog up the machine.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Colorado End of Summer

By Pauly
Denver, CO

Man, I fucking love Colorado. Living here for at least a year is on my bucket list. I've been coming out to Colorado ever since the Joker moved out there. I also go out every summer after the WSOP because it helps me decompress after two months in Vegas. The hippie-world is the antithesis of the baller, gambler's lifestyle I cover as a poker reporter.

Anyway, I always have a blast in Colorado and party it up like it's 1999. Nicky and I survived three Phish shows to close out their summer tour. The boys from Vermont even played an entire show only with song titles starting with the letter S. Read my recaps and all about the hijinks with the Joker, the Party Bus, and the rest of the Colorado crew...
9.2.11 - The S Show
9.3.11 - Diseasetweeze
9.4.11 - Ghost-Forget
Summer fun has officially come to an end.