Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Acquainted with the Night, Pulling the Plug, and Nonplussed Dinosaurs

By Pauly
San Francisco, CA

I'm having one of those "I can't win" days.

Instead of punching holes through Halli's walls, I went for a long walk through foggy San Francisco to clear my head and get off mega-career tilt. Work stuff shall always be a royal pain in the ass (by definition, all jobs suck camel cock) and for as long as I traverse the path of a writer, I always struggle with art vs. commerce.

As Hyman Roth succinctly summed it up in The Godfather II, "This is the business we have chosen."

The life of a writer is deceiving -- it looks envious from the outside but it's wrought with agony, depression, self-loathing, alcoholism, drug abuse, and trepidation. And that's the fun stuff. You don't want to know about the horrific aspects that keep me awake at night. Hey, let's be honest, if you're not Stephen King or the British broad who writes the Harry Potter books, chances are you're struggling financially as a writer. Even the commercially successful writers have a small window in which they make a ton of money, then it's all downhill until the residual checks trickle to a halt.

When the writing gods chose me, I accepted a vow of poverty. I've gotten lucky so far, so everything else in life is gravy. Alas, in these woeful economic times and politically inept authorities fuck with my livelihood, the few jobs around don't pay much, but even settling for peasant-level wages, the process of writing is the most rewarded occupation I've ever had. That's why I do it to make money. Well, one of the reasons. Outside of Las Vegas and the poker/gambling industry, I'm basically unemployable. Whenever snarky right wingers yell at me to "get a job", I always respond: "Please tell me where these writing jobs are -- because me and a dozen of my friends will be the first ones in line." The media world has been consolidating over the last two decades. Cable TV expanded to over a thousand channels, yet there are fewer writers on the payrolls at studios than ever before. Sad. Very sad. Everyone gets their panties in a twist when a kitten dies, but no one sheds a tear when a writer gets a pink slip.

During my 20s I held shitty jobs all over the country including so many weird part-time gigs that Nicky encouraged me to compile a book short stories from all the craptacular McJobs. for a decade before I stumbled into poker, I scraped by doing anything short of selling my cock/asshole/hand/nostrils for sex in order to earn enough money for food and shelter. I humped shitty dead end jobs so I could spend non-work time on a novel or screenplay, and blow whatever money I had left over on travel and misadventures with Senor. Ah, I missed my 20s. Maybe I should write that book in homage to Bukowski's Factotum? Shit, I would... if I had time! But it's exhausting fear mongering and kicking off a revolution and betting on pro football. Then again, I spend most of my days writing bullshit for the oligarchs in the poker industry, or trying to self-promote myself to get jobs or sell my own books, and the rest of the work time is devoted to chasing down twats who owe me money.

Most of the creative people I'm friends with often work a day job (and/or two or three other part-time jobs) to pay their bills while pursuing their artistic dreams. I saw it firsthand when I worked at museums in Seattle and New York, when most of the security staff were artists/musicians. They answered stupid questions, directing people to the bathroom, while standing on their feet for 10 straight hours -- all in exchange for a min wage and health insurance. The food service industry in Los Angeles basically runs on two groups: illegal Mexicans in the kitchen and struggling actors/musicians/directors waiting their big break in Hollywood working as servers.

I wish I could find a high-yielding skill that pays the bills so I could donate all of my writing time toward honing my craft and nurturing creative endeavors instead of dividing what little time I have between personal writing and work-related writing. I'm stuck where I am knowing there's a lot worse situations out there, and from that perspective, I'm damn lucky. But on a shitty note -- I often write under duress, longing for optimal circumstances. Ergo, the quality of my work suffers. In short, I'm doomed. I always fall short of my expectations before I even begin, which really bums me out because I know I can do better -- if I just had more time.

The hardest aspect of my career is chasing down delinquent clients. Man, fuck you and pay me! The second hardest aspect is settling upon a fair wage. Negotiations tactics are a bitch. I'm fortunate to have a basic business background, otherwise I'd get exploited even more. That's why so many creative people get screwed over and taken advantage of, because their brains are not wired for the business side of the things. I see it all the time in poker -- and some morons are foolish enough to take the bait and hook. Alas, I often spend so much time trying to negotiate a rate and justify what I'm worth.

It's tricky trying to maximize your value when the marketplace is offering a notch above minimum wage. Sadly, I get lowballed left and right for inbred hacks. Sure, it's a cut throat business but there's zero honor against the selfishly hopeless undesirables in my peer group driven by gambling addictions and the desire to stay relevant. It's one thing if I was up against sincere, passionate artists that wanted to write about poker so badly that they'd do it for free. I can respect those people, but getting undercut by a broke-dick who just needs some dough to stay in the game is out right pathetic. And don't get me started on the scensters.

Ah, I'm venting more than usual. I've been around the block a few times to know to hunker down and return to the basic game plan -- work hard, stay loyal to friends, just roll with the punches, ignore the shallow leeches, and write every day. Every day. And more. Sometimes I even write a second daily session at night instead of sleeping because the biggest edge over my colleagues is my motivation to improve while they spend their waking hours in fruitless tasks of gambling, partying, or embarrassingly trying to act cool via social media.

Keep writing... keep writing. That's the best I can do under the dismal circumstances, and pray that someone out there will miraculously offer me a fair wage. Someday. Until that fateful day comes -- I'm back to grinding out a meager income, diligently writing for a few clients, and spending the rest of my time digging up work.

I wrote for a decade without earning a dime and that's gonna be my future as it comes around full circle. We're witnessing the collapse of the media world and the shifting of the entire paradigm in how people acquire information. It's not just poker that's in flux. Hollywood, the music industry, and the publishing world are in the middle of a revolution and civil war wrapped in one giant burrito.

Poker has been the bane of my existence for the better part of my 30s. Poker is one giant blessing and menacing nuisance. In fact, I often think I'd write better if I had less time to worry about petty office politics, chasing down delinquent clients, churning out drivel that's barely more edible to monkeys like fecal-covered bananas. I'd love to wake up and write on my own schedule instead of having to work around industry timetables and client schedules. Dreams. That's my dream. I thought I was working my ass off for seven years so I can get to a point and make my dream a reality? Nope. In a perfect world, I'd be able to take time off and write -- but not the case after a debilitating car accident this summer, shady backroom deal with DC snake oil salesman in April, and ongoing global economic turmoil.

I've always had a dream -- unplug from the enslaving aspects of maintaining a virtual life. I will never be artistically and mentally free until sever ties to the machines (laptops and CrackBerry) and wiggle away from my energy-draining addiction to the internet. Once I unplug everything, I can fully write with limited distractions in a more natural environment, unfettered of a horrible co-dependent relationship with technology.

Man, I almost sounded like the Unabomber with this post, which might someday get used against me in a court of law, so I should probably shut up and end it now. Then again, once Obama signs the internet kill switch into law, the federales will instantly shut down all of my blogs -- except the Tao of Bacon because as we all know, there's nothing subversive about bacon. Bacon keeps the sheeple happy and keeps them in line by stuffing their faces with savory pork products so they won't question their supreme authority.

Let them eat bacon, screamed the Queen before the chopped her head off.

Bacon writing passes the censors, but everything else is bad. The Man doesn't want me to write incendiary rhetoric about internet censorship, nor are the blog police kosher with my attempts to educate friends about the rampant corruption in the financial sector facilitated by the jag-offs in DC with pockets lined with bribes, kickbacks, and other perks of being puppets for the corporate schmucks whom own everyone.

The truth is this -- I can never spend more than a few minutes away from my laptop or CrackBerry. I'm an addict. A tech junkie. Facebook. Twitter. Blogger. Google Reader. You Tube. All evil. We're all tech.info.net junkies these days. I look around at everyone around me that is under 60 years old -- and everyone is hooked. This is dangerous. The machines have won.

Every few months, I grow super paranoid after I watch The Terminator. I go through a stage where I embark on a purging of all things harmful to my artistic soul after an anti-technology rant and sermon. I respond with drastic measures -- I limit answering email time to ONE HOUR per day and limit the amount of web time. During my anti-web diet, I force myself to read books and spend time outdoors. I usually lose weight and get in better shape during those non-web binges. I used to be a TV junkie, so I reduced the number of shows I watch to just a few guilty pleasures like Mad Men, Hoarders, and Ancient Aliens. Oh, and how could I forget sports seasons? That's a major suckage of time. I tried to do a little something different this year and listened to more baseball games on the radio -- that way I could still do other stuff with the game on in the background. The drawback was that the Yankees radio team is atrocious. Sure, they are better than Joe Buck and Bob Costas, but that's not saying much.

My addiction is fierce, which warrants a Draconian response. I must walk away from the interwebs and disappear from social media so I can focus on writing, and then resurface in a few months once I'm done with a new manuscript. Maybe.

I'm full of shit and spout off too many loud, boisterous empty promises. I can't recall how many times I screamed: "I'm gonna walk away and pull the fucking plug!" My bark is bigger than my bite. Some reason, I can never pull the trigger.

How can you have any pudding, if you don't eat your meat?

Exactly. But after a rough today like today, I keep shed the thought... what's the point writing all of this bullshit (on the web) anyway? It's mostly self-indulgent fodder anyway. Sure, I make few people laugh and that's always a good thing, but aside from that, I've probably done as more damage telling half-baked, crude jokes. It's not like I'm saving the fucking whales or something. What continue to pollute the cesspool? Why add more static to the echo chamber?

Maybe I've written too much. Less is more right?

Why was it a bad day? I can't get paid and no one gives a shit. I've written over a millions of words on the web in various forms/topics, but it's never enough to conquer the insatiable appetite of the parasites -- they consume and consume, yet never pay for their free meals and moan like spoiled trolls any chance they can get. I can't take time off different blogs (where I wrote for free) without getting called lazy. If I focus on a different topic/genre or personal project, then I get guff for being selfish. If I write for money, then I'm a sell out. If I refuse to write for slave-like wages, then I'm labeled "difficult" and blackballed.

Alas... I'm ensconced in anguish because of my decisions. Hyman Roth was right. I got myself into this mess. All of this is what happened when I decide to play the game. The Game. I used to live for it. I wanted to beat it. But why am I still playing the game? What's the point? To make a few bucks? To suck the last blood out of a parched stone? For what...fiat dollars that are worthless anyway?

What's the point? I paid my dues, rose to the top of my profession, and made some money. It's been an amazing run and I did it the old fashioned way -- hard work and without missing a deadline. At this juncture, it's all downhill with my career. The next stage is the dreadful decline. I'm embracing the reality that blogging hath become an old art form like the opera. It's probably wise that I go out on top and stay classy.... until I taint everything, pull a Brett Favre and get caught in a wretched penis pic scandal.

I was born a couple of generations too late (and in the wrong country) because America has become a nation of spoiled, mindless consumers that will buy every stupid fucking thing -- except books. Maybe I should move to Paris and write books, have Benjo help find someone to translate them, and then sell them to the French audience that reads more books in a year than Americans do in a lifetime?

Paris? Another piper dream.

The more I soul search, the more I keep running around in nauseating circles. I always reach the same dead end conclusion -- the written word is lying in a hospice. Death is imminent.

The dying medium is the message according to writing is on the virtual wall in 140 characters or less. The time has come to pull the plug, head off the grid, and walk away. Begging the question... do I have the balls to do it?


  1. The short version of the serenity prayer is FUCK IT :) Ive found strength in that prayer when standing on the cliff wondering if I should jump (the metaphorical cliff that is) As your big sis, I would love to tell you that everything will be alright and that you will be taken care of no matter what. But there are no guarantees. Life throws us curve balls. I just try to dodge and weave my way.

  2. Your writing brings pleasure to more people than you can imagine. Don't judge yourself by book sales.

    As for the vermin that don't pay......Name names

  3. There's very few good writers like you on the Internet (or anywhere). If you quit, I'll have a day worse than yours.

    Rodney, at the peak of his career,told me the bullshit never stops. You think it would, but it doesn't. It's just larger sums you have to chase.