Monday, April 29, 2013

Books by Sunlight

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sunlight. I prefer to read by sunlight. I'll find any location to read (on the subway, on the bench in a park, in a cafe in Amsterdam), but if I had to pick a light setting, I opt for the natural light of that  glowing star responsible for illuminating our universe.

I'm suspicious of people who claim to be bored. It usually means they're one-dimensional philistines who don't read books. Avid readers with any bit of unstructured time fill those gaps with reading. It's like being an alkie. Instead of drinking beers at the local pub... it's opening a book and letting the mind wander.

Most of the stuff I read on the internet is junk food. Even my stuff. Especially my stuff. I'm the equivalent of a fast-food chef.  I can crank out deep-fried content on a variety of topics.

Books are like fine dining. Books are refined and contain deliberate words. I read crap on the web to fulfill my desire for junk food. I read books for a more hearty and wholesome gourmet meal. Of course I'm generalizing here and there are exceptions to both ends... I've come across web content that is like a seven-course meal and there's some books that are like a sloppy fast-food cheeseburger. But you're missing my point... the time you invest in a half-baked blog post is like grabbing a dirty-water dog from a street vendor and eating on the go, whereas a book is like a three-hour feast that requires a substantial amount of investment to consume the meal and then even some time afterwards to think about the manuscript and properly digest it all.

I read fiction to teach myself how to become a better writer. I read non-fiction to teach myself new things about the world I didn't know before I woke up that day.

I've always been a book worm and opted for a book over television. I still do. My only addiction is sports and that complicates things. Reading books is way healthier (for the mind) than watching TV or sports because I'm not bombarded with 15 minutes of commercials for every hour I devote to reading. I read books approximately two hours every day. If I devoted those two extra hours of my time to TV, by the end of the week I would have watched 3.5 hours of commercials. That's on top of the usual viewing I make. If I didn't read so much stuff on the internet and didn't read books a couple of hours every night, I'd be spending 5 hours watching TV, which means 80-90 minutes of commercials every day or a good 8+ hours a day. If you watch a lot of TV, you're spending the equivalent of a work day getting brainwashed by commercials and have all of your worst fears and insecurities manipulated by banksters, Big Pharma, and Hollyweird.

I prefer to watch the few TV via DVR so I can zip through the commercials. Even then, you still get visual recognition of logos and such. The shitty aspect about sports viewing is that I'm forced to watch commercials, which are recycled over and over and over. It's horrible during March Madness when I'm anxious about the game I bet on and I get to see the same fucking mobile phone commercial seven thousand fucking times that my head is going to explode.

The best part of NBA League Pass and MLB.TV is the lack of commercials. They are offer up local feeds (so I can get YES for Yanks games or MSG for Knicks games) but they block out commercials. MLB goes to a "Commercial Break" page and an MLB logo, while NBA shows you scores! I got spoiled sweating sports that way. The worst sport to watch is football because  of a nonstop blitz of commercials that makes you feel like Cambodia and Laos when they were getting carpet bombed by Nixon. The worst part of football on TV is that insane commercial before and after a kickoff, so you have to sit through six minutes of advertisements with a touchback sandwiched in between.

I prefer to read by sunlight. Natural light bouncing off of industrial-grade publishing paper is easier on the eyes. I try not to read books late night because of the strain on the eyes, even strong desk lamps. Mine broke a couple of months ago. Actually, the light bulb broke and the lamp is fine, but the lamp was an Ikea piece of shit and the bulb was a weird shape, which meant normal stores did not carry the bulb. It was difficult to buy in real life and super expensive to purchase it online. I found the bulb for... $23... not including shipping. What the fuck? For the price of a replacement bulb it was cheaper for me to buy a new desk lamp. In this case, planned obsolesce backfired. I found an alternative lamp for under $10 and it included a more common bulb.

Man, I'm starting to turn into that curmudgeon that says "They don't make shit like they used too."

Three books arrived on Saturday and two of which I needed to read for a work project. I picked up one of them was 99 cents and the other was a fucking penny. Yeah, two books for a buck. I wanted to jump right in and start reading but couldn't figure out where to start, so I read little bit of each book on Saturday. On Sunday morning, I picked one up by random and started reading in my office with the natural sunlight.

Enter the distractions. First the Knicks game, which tilt me (see below). Then my upstairs neighbor gave violin lessons on Sunday in the space right above my office. Fuck me. Her students are not-so good and it's torture to hear them stumble through violin screeching that sounds like two cats getting sawed in half. When she finally finished the lessons, the our nextdoor neighbors decided it was their turn to make a lot of noise. Someone in the building next door recently moved in and had a house-warming wine tasting party. Rough. 20-30 hipsters and their purse dogs congregated 20 yards away from my office. Bad music. The muffled conversation and yipping of dogs sounded like geese fucking each other with corkscrews.

I was already on tilt by the atrocious officiating in the NBA. I'm not betting on any of the playoff games, but from a fan's standpoint I grew increasingly angrier over the weekend at the horrible manipulation of games because 5 out of the 8 series were on the verge of a sweep and most of the games were lopsided and boring blowouts. I get it. The NBA is a business. A global empire. Sports entertainment. But the refs were blatantly obviously horrendously trying to help certain teams that it became unwatchable. My bud Shamus is one of the most clear-headed and academic minds I know and even he questioned what was going on in one particular game. Even Nicky, who constantly has to play the role of Agent Scully to my conspiratorial Mulder, noticed something was amiss. Then again, she has a deeper understanding of show business and TV ratings. In Hollywood terms, sometimes a TV show milks a specific storyline over a full season in order to keep the viewers engaged for the duration. In NBA terms, they want to extended their storyline an extra game or two in order to rake in more cashola from ticket sales and ad revenue. That's cool... it's big business... just try a little harder to not make it so obvious.

Anyway, I was sickened about the state of the NBA and all I wanted to do was tear through a couple of books that I need to read before I started a new work project mid-month. With a limited window of time, I felt like I was banging my head up against the wall to the soundtrack of soused hipster chatter and irksome screeching violins.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Giant Fucking Robots (Fiction)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

2015. Silver Lake. Two middle-aged men dressed like 15-year old skater kids stand in front of a vegan Malaysian-Tex-Mex taco truck.

"I haven't seen you in a couple weeks. You look paler than usual."

"Been busy. I'm almost finished with a screenplay."

"You and three million assholes in this shit hole of a abhorrent city."

"Mine's different."

"That's what all those shit-for-brains shitstains say."

"Seriously. Mine is different. It's about the inequality of wealth in the world."

"The inequality of whats-a-who?"

"Wealth. Inequality. You know, the rich keep getting richer. The shrinking middle class."

"Why the fuck did you write that kind of pinko-commie bullshit? You don't get it do you? Why waste your time with some sort of social injustice crap? You'll never sell it in a million years. This is not the town for that type of commie bullshit. Grow your hair out and move up to Berkley and adapt it as a stage play and get some naked hippie chicks to act it out in the middle of Golden Gate Park."

"Keep talking shit. After you finish reading it, you'll apologize because it will change your view on the world and how we're complicit in helping the rich trick the middle class into blaming the poor about all of their problems. Divide and conquer. It's the oldest trick in the book, except I wrote a post-modern version."

"Post-modern-whats-shit? Dude, are you back on the sauce again? How long you've been living in this fucking town? Ten years? Fifteen years? Stop using more than two-syllable words to describe your script. You know all of those exec-u-monkeys suits at Warner Brothers are fucking brain dead morons. Explaining a simple concept to any non-creative is like trying to explain nuclear physics to fucking Corky."

"They'll want to read this. Even the dumb ones. It's one of those once-in-a-generation scripts. It'll create buzz. I'm thinking so out-side the box that someone will want to take a chance on it."

"Are you snorting bath salts again? Lacing your joints with rat poison? Drinking floor polish? Shoving vodka-soaked tampons up your bung-hole again? What the fuck happened to you? Were you kidnapped by aliens or something and replaced by a total fucking self-righteous shit-for-brains?"

"When you're done with your ornery rant and get off your soap box and finally go home, please check your email. I sent you the latest draft."

"What did you agent say?"

"She hasn't seen it yet. You're the only person I sent it to. The only person who read it was Juanita, my cleaning lady and she loved it."

"Whaaaaa? Your fucking maid read your script?"

"She wrote two spec scripts already. She's been asking me to show them to my agent."

"Geez, that's how fucking bad it is in Hollywood, eh? Even illegal maids who can't even fucking speak English are writing a script. Now you know why I'm working in the non-script reality genre. Writing reality TV is hard fucking shit. It's impossible enough to get real fucking actors to say your lines without changing shit up or stepping on the jokes. Good luck getting shit-for-brains reality TB douche-queens and dick-cheesers to follow the fucking general outline."

"Maybe if you wrote about real-world issues instead of fake-world issues, you might feel a lot less angry about yourself?"

"I can write whatever the fuck I want, but in the end, it's tough to sell anything anymore without taking it in the ass. Seriously, please save yourself the embarrassment and humiliation and delete that script. Don't show it to your agent. Don't show it to anyone. Burn the fucker to the ground. Even if it's the greatest social inequality script in the world, not a single fucking suit will be foolish enough to even broach the incendiary subject in public. This is the golden age of excess and over-consumption and giving dumb mother fuckers their 15 minutes of fame. The dumber, the better. If you want to write about social inequality, then start a Tumblr and post pictures of starving pot-bellied children from third-world countries."

"You're usually very supportive, yet you're now being mean. What gives? Even when you wrote for that shitty reality channel, the one that had 24-hour coverage of the Kardashians, I never gave you shit. When you wrote for the spin off show that followed their dogs, I still respected you. I never gave you shit. I could have, but I knew you needed to pay the rent like the rest of us."

"Fuck off, dude. That fucking dog had fucking puppies and now there's three fucking spinoffs and a fourth one fucking coming. I gotta keep milking those fucking Kardashians-fucking-clowns for every cent I can. Those vapid beasts are gonna pay my kid's college tab. Get with the program. Stop with all this inequality crap. You're biting the hand that feeds you."

"People don't like to talk about wealth and the grossly absurd division of wealth for a reason. I can judge by your reaction. You're proving my point exactly. That's why this script is going to be huge. It makes people angry. That's my point. They should be enraged. If you're not angry, then you're not paying attention."

"This town is a bastion of snobbery. Stop fighting against the world you're a part of. If you want to sell a screenplay, you better write a Spider-Man spec script otherwise, it better have zombies, vampires, or giant fucking robots. Better yet, how about all four? Spider-Man fights zombies, vampires, and giant fucking robots. Think smarter. Giant. Fucking. Robots."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Broken Ikea Lamps, Ambushed by Sprinklers, and Westbrook's Knee

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sometimes you wake up and know right away if you're going to have a good or bad day.

I fell asleep around sunrise. I had a rough time sleeping the last week especially. I think it has a lot to do with the fact I watched more "TV news" in the previous week than I had done all last year. I was captivated by the Boston Bombing and somewhat paralyzed because I could not get any real work done.

Nicky had to get up early for work, so I didn't crawl into bed until I was ready for sleep around sunrise. I passed out for a couple of hours and woke up around 8am because I heard the first leaf blower. My neighbors hired gardeners to make their lawns look pristine. Image is everything in the Slums of Beverly Hills. Most of those guys are paid peanuts while the landscaping company rakes in big bucks. In order to turn a max profit they force their workers to fire-up loud machinery early in the morning. Normally when the machines go off, I'm in my office writing or researching or reading and I get irked that they are disturbing the peace. This instance, I was in bed when I heard the annoying motor from the leaf blower next door.

I got out of bed. Foggy and groggy. I took a long piss and heard more annoying sounds -- upstairs neighbor blow drying her hair and the leaf blowers. I walked into the living room and promptly knocked over a lamp. It was one of those cheap Ikea lamps in which you assemble yourself. Flimsy. The energy-saving bulb crashed onto the hardwood floor and shattered in a million pieces. Shards everywhere. Everywhere. Fuck me.

Nicky was about to head out the door and go to work. I told her I'd clean it up and trudged to the closet to get a broom to sweep up the broken light bulb. The lamp was broken and I'd have to buy a new piece of shitty lamp from Ikea and wasted four hours trying to figure out what the fuck I want. The shelf life on Ikea products are usually under 24 months, so I should be grateful this lamp lasted twice as long.

After sweeping up the glass, I was up for good and would not be able to fall back asleep. especially because I was blitzed with a memory of something I once read that suggested the new energy-saving bulbs used mercury. Was that just conspiracy fodder, or a legit claim? I was too tired to look it up.

Just when I thought things couldn't get worse... my Blackberry went on the fritz. Sometimes it glitches up. Sometimes my friends joked I'm getting spied on by the government or I'm getting directions from the Mothership. The reality is not as sexy. I run the fucker into the ground because I use it more than I should. Once the Boston Bomber got caught, I put my CrackBerry aside and turned it off for most of the weekend. It was very productive! When this week started, I kept a safe difference between me and my mobile device. The less time I spend on it, the more time I will not waste time dicking around.

Alas, I woke up and the phone wasn't working. My emails did not come through. I changed the battery and waited for it to reboot. That's when I tried to remember the phone number from my last landline. I only recalled the prefix. It's been nine years since I last had a land line and it's been almost 11 years since I got m original mobile number. Yeah, I'm one of the last lucky few from NYC to have gotten a 917 area code.

I showered and changed and walked down the street with the intentions of grabbing breakfast at the diner. I got about three or four houses down and that's when the sprinklers turned on via a timer. Four little black nubs shot up out of the ground and drenched the sidewalk. More water was going on the pavement than on the grass. My jeans wee soaked.

Another bad beat and I had not even walked half a block. I guess things couldn't get any worse, right?

As soon as I sat down at the coffeeshop, I glanced at my phone which had properly re-booted. I was swarmed with a shitload of emails and text messages. I read the bad news first. Russell Westbrook blew out his knee and he's done for the year because he needs surgery. Westbrook played for Oklahoma City and they were the only team that could potentially beat the Miami Heat. The only big bet I had made for the NBA playoffs was a futures wager on OKC Thunder to win the NBA championship this year. They lost to Miami last year (4-1 in the NBA Finals) but I thought this was the year they upset Miami. In addition to the wager I made before the season began, I doubled down when the regular season ended last week. two bets on OKC to win it all. Looks like those bets are dead in the water. Unless Kevin Durant can score 70 points every night, I doubt OKC will even return to the Finals.

I returned to the apartment after breakfast. My big bets were toast. My jeans were still wet. And I needed a new Ikea lamp. All things considered, it wasn't as bad as I thought. Sure, no one likes to sweep up glass while completely groggy and no one wants to get drenched by sprinklers and no one wants to see a premier athlete go down with an injury. Yeah, the day started off rough, but if that's the worst thing that happens today, then I'll be a very lucky person.

With that said, the Jets are a couple of hours away from making their second round draft pick. I really hope they make the right choice and don't go after Manti Teo. Then again, I'll really feel sorry for  Geno Smith or Ryan Nassib if they get drafted by the Jets Circus. I thought I was having a bad day, shit, dealing with Ikea is peanuts compared to your life being ruined by getting drafted by the LOL-Fucking-Jets.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Agony, Sorry and False Hope (a.k.a. Life As a Jets Fan)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I put the misery out of my mind for a couple of months. The malaise of being a Jets fan is like a seasonal depression. Once the playoffs began, the Jets no longer existed. I didn't have to think about the Jets over the last couple of months and blocked the past season out of my memory. I did not want to have to re-live the misery. But since the draft is tonight, it was impossible to ignore all the chatter. I was on the verge of blowing the entire thing off until I watched the latest 30 for 30 documentary about the 1983 NFL Draft and the agent who repped both Dan Marino and John Elway.

Elway was a golden boy from the get go and got picked #1 (by the Baltimore Colts). My hometown NY Jets passed on Dan Marino and picked an unknown QB from UC-Davis (a Division II school) named Ken O'Brien who excelled during his workouts and dazzled scouts with his arm strength. at the time, the word on the street was that Marino was a cokehead. His senior year's stats were nothing compared to his stats from his junior year. Everyone suspected he was on the sauce. A couple of local cops looked into the story but they came up empty. The school gave Marino drug tests during his final year and he passed them all. The truth was that Marino was not a cokehead but it was impossible to quell those rumors so his stock dropped to the back of the first round. Even the Pittsburgh Steelers passed on Marino. It's hard to fault the Jets. They went with their (wrong) intel and it came back to hurt them because Marino is fucking Marino. Kenny O'Brien had a good career, but it wasn't anything like Elway's or Marino's, so Jets fans are haunted with another memory of "what if we picked Marino instead of O'Brien?"

Nicky saw part of the documentary and was shocked the Jets passed up on Marino. She had no idea about the Jets horrid past with their draft picks. For every one that turned out a superstar, they had a dozen of busts. This morning I saw a montage clip of Jets fans booing their first round picks from different drafts from the 1980s and 1990s. It's funny in many ways, but incredibly sad in others. It's painful to watch because you see the franchise make horrible pick year after year after year.

I wrote something about the utter torment Jets fans must endure to cheer on a team that let's us down year after year after year. Check out: Lamentatons: The LOL-Jets on Draft Day.You can see the montage video with all the Jets' fans booing their picks.

Sports is supposed to be uplifting and inspiring. It's supposed to promote teamwork and overcoming obstacles and pushing yourself to achieve something you never thought was physically possible. But when your team sucks, like the Jets do, it's hard to get inspired by a bums of morons running the team into the ground. I'll spare you all of the Jets bad beat stories, but I sincerely doubt they can turn the franchise around with this upcoming draft. It's nothing except false hope.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Killing Spiders

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I killed a spider. Quietly. Like a ninja assassin. I didn't remain silent to sneak up on the spider, rather, to not wake up my girlfriend. She hates spiders. HATES. They freak her out. She screams like a little girl and then I swoop in to the rescue and save the day.

The spider knew I was there because it could feel my heart beat. It knew I was close. I totally missed it when I stepped into the shower. I first saw it in the upper corner. I looked up and saw something I thought was a stray wire. After the water got out of my eyes, I saw a pretty big, nasty spider with long-ass legs.

If Nicky saw it, she'd freak out. Go crazy. Make a scene. She hates spiders.

I finished my shower and when I was done I made sure to not make a big fuss. Nicky was still sleeping so as long as she was still in the bedroom, she would never have to know about the spider. All I had to do was liquidate the pest and harmonious life could continue.

But killing spiders is bad, according to Buddha. We're supposed to cherish all life. But then it's cool to eat cows but not kosher to kill spiders. I don't get it. Life is hypocrisy.

I think one of the primary reasons my girlfriend has stuck with me through the years is my willingness to kill whatever pest freaked her out. When we lived in San Francisco with Halli, I pulled double duty and had to remove pests whenever either lady came upon one. It was pure comedy for me. Sheer terror for them. At least I had some purpose in life. Just when I thought I was aimless, directionless, rudderless, and not feeling good about any of my petty accomplishments, at least I can add arachnid slaughter to my resume.

 In this case, I used a baseball bat and let the spider crawl onto the end and then shook it off into the toilet and flushed it down the drain. It could still be alive somewhere in the vast Los Angeles sewer system, or maybe it was breakfast for whatever rats were living down there.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

German Speed and the Early Beatles

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I couldn't sleep and watched a little bit from a Beatles documentary. I was particularly interested in their early days after they got a job working in Hamburg, Germany in August 1960. Over a period of 15-16 months, the Beatles played on and off all over Hamburg before returning to Liverpool, England.

The Beatles didn't start out as the "fab four", rather this incarnation had five guys and Ringo was still playing with a more popular band. After the Germany run, the bass player (Stu Sutcliffe) returned to art school (Paul McCartney took over on bass) and the drummer (Pete Best) was replaced by Ringo.

 In the early 1960s, Hamburg was more like Amsterdam is today. It was only 15 years after the end of WWII and Hamburg had become a destination for debauchery and raunchy sex. The Beatles played in different strip clubs and brothels, eventually paying their dues and working their way up the proverbial ladder. They started out providing background music for strippers. After a while, there were good enough that they could play one of the bigger venues in town (almost 2,000 seats). More importantly, they finally graduated from titty bars and whore houses.

Why was Germany vital? For one, the band played nonstop seven days a week. If they didn't have any chops yet, they eventually developed it in Germany. It's that whole 10,000 hours rule about it taking that long to become an expert at a specific task. God knows how many sets. They played four or five sets a night (and made around $25/week each). They played from sundown to sunrise on most nights and eventually mastered their instruments. They used their money to buy cheesy leather jackets and American-made cowboy boots. They looked like hoodlums or extras from a greaser motorcycle gang. I guess they had to look a little tougher if you were playing for a bunch of drunks, who did not take kindly to a dainty and poncy atmosphere.

The band slept in a store room next to a bathroom that old German hookers (both regular and transvestites) used regularly. Yep, every band has to pay their dues and the Beatles suffered with the constant aroma of trannie urine.

Lennon and McCartney had not yet become a songwriting dynamic duo. The Beatles played covers. Nothing but covers. But the later it got in the night and the emptier the clubs got, they were able to play their favorite covers -- mostly delta blues -- from legendary southern bluesmen. They even tossed a few Elvis covers into the mix. Those Germans fucking loved Elvis.

The band was jacked up on speed the entire time in Germany. Heck, the Germans helped invent speed. The club owners gave the band Preludin tablets (a.k.a. Prellies) which helped keep them playing late into the night. There was no Red Bull in 1960. It had yet to be invented. An energy drink for them was a glass of warm beer and a small Prellie pill that put a bunch of pep in their steps.

Everyone has to start somewhere. The Beatles got their humbling break in Germany by cranking out frantically fast blues covers for tourists, while crocked to the tits on speed. You net your ass when they finally returned to England, they were grateful for the chance to not have to bunk next to jaded German whores.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Fiction: Shadows

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

She was 43 years old when she first contacted me. I worked at a small-time newspaper in Bellingham. The editor printed my phone number at the end of my column. That's how she got my number.

"Can we meet... in person? I don't like... talking... talking... over the phone.... like this... it's not good. We must meet."

The way she said it made it sound like she was pleading for her life.

"You know the Horseshoe? It's a coffeeshop around the corner from the newspaper."

"No. I don't want to do this in town."

She picked a random McDonald's twenty or so miles outside of Bellingham. I met her around 9pm. With the exception of a trio of high schoolers stoner kids goofing off in the corner, we were the only ones inside.

She looked like one of those anti-drug ads for meth heads and they show a before/after picture of a once beautiful woman who was afflicted by drug abuse. Well, she looked like the after photo. Worn down. Gaunt. Thick, perpetual dark circles around both her eyes. Long, stringy hair. She reeked of cigarettes and the faint aroma of wine. She drank McD's industrial black coffee with several sugars. She eyed a couple of shriveled up fries on my tray. It wasn't like the same goofy look your dog gave you when he wanted your food scraps. She was locked in on the fries to avoid eye contact with me.

"I told this story to different people," she said. "No one wanted to help me. No one in my family  believed me. My friends stopped talking to me because they thought I was crazy. My husband insisted I see a shrink or he'd leave me. The drugs didn't work. Made me crazier. I kept seeing more shadow people. It was only worse. The doctor and my husband were conspiring to keep me drugged up. Whatever the doctor gave me was too strong. I begged him to lower the dosage. He wouldn't. I stopped taking the meds and left. That was last summer."

Her accent was British, but she said she lived in Canada for most of her adult life before getting married and moving to Seattle. After she left her husband, she lived in a cabin outside of Bellingham.

"It's been frustrating. I didn't think anyone could help me until I read your article."

A few months earlier, the town was buzzing due to a UFO sighting. Several witnesses including a deputy's wife had posted videos on YouTube. UFO sightings were common in the Pacific Northwest.  Belligham PD fielded a dozen or so every year. The locals chalked it up to secret test craft from Boeing's mad scientists or some black ops military project. Both Boeing and the Air Force denied any involvement in the UFO incident. I didn't think anything of the story. It was one of 14 articles I filed that week. When she initially read it, she jotted down my phone number but she waited two months to finally call me.

Sometimes when you interview someone, you're not a reporter and more like a dentist and you're pulling teeth and it's a painful process in order to extract any pertinent information. Other times you can't get the person to shut up and they ramble on and on and on and they think they're providing you with tons of juicy intel, but the downside is that most of it is hot air. Every once in a while, you hit the jackpot and come across someone in which everything they say is valuable. Out first meeting at McD's was just that. She asked that I do not record her and even asked to see my pockets to make sure I was not hiding any devices. She was uncomfortable when I started taking notes with pen and pad. I apologized and listened, nut took mental notes.

She was obviously distressed and needed help. I sat and focused on every word and every sentence. I was doing everything possible to divulge the truth and watched her body movement attentively, almost like a poker player, trying to gauge any hidden emotions. She was telling me two stories. One with words and another with her non-verbal communication. She could twist the truth with words, but it was harder to hide her body language. Her hands tensed up when she spoke about the sleepless nights. She tapped her nails on the table in successions of threes whenever she shared details on her constantly being followed. A vein on the left side of her neck bulged when she spoke about detectives unwilling to assist her.

Sometimes hurt people just want someone to talk to. But she didn't want someone to just listen. She wanted someone who could help her. I couldn't tell if I should be contacting a Native American shaman, a Hollywood script writer, or a local shrink.

Friday, April 19, 2013


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

TAD was a band from Seattle that was spawned in the late 80s and lived until the late 90s before they broke up.  They were fronted by a guitar player and lead singer named Tad who looked like a 20-something, head-banging, stoner-version of Tony Soprano.

Flashback. Early 90s. Rainy Seattle.

Yes, I'm forcing you at gun point to hop into the Tao of Pauly time machine where we jump through the wormhole and visit the early 1990s and the Pacific Northwest. The loudest band in Seattle at the time was TAD, and this was still a few years away from the entire city getting turned upside after Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden hit the airwaves and blew up the Northwest. TAD was one of the more popular bands during the pre-grunge era and played an intense and loud version of thrashy-punk-metal. They never expected to hit it big, but they loved music and wanted to have fun, so whenever you went to a TAD show, you expected to see four dudes who got shitfaced backstage then stumbled onstage and rocked out as loud as they could. Their goal was to make their fans shit themselves. They wanted to play a "brown note," or a note so loud, dark, dirty, nasty and explosive that it would incite uncontrollable bowel movements.

In 1989 or 1990 (I'm too lazy to look it up), TAD co-headlined a European tour with Nirvana, but Kurt Cobain's band opened for TAD on most nights. The two bands shared a van and zipped around Europe together. Nirvana was a newer band and sort of like TAD's younger brother. Nirvana lacked a significant presence overseas in the U.K. and Germany, whereas TAD had been around the block a few times. The indie press and some underground radio stations in random countries took a liking to TAD, which helped generate a bit of buzz for the Seattle's heavy metal troubadours. Music writers (from England to Germany) had keyed in on TAD because they were the opposite of those cheesy hair bands from the 80s. I'm sure the Euro press were fascinated with the heaviness of the music (loud, bloody ears, bong-rattling Pac-metal) and the heaviness of the lead singer Tad.

Someone with a sense of humor from Sub Pop, TAD's record label from Seattle, had tweaked the band's bio which is why writers referred to Tad as a former butcher, while others pointed to his career as a long shore fisherman or even a logger. In reality, Tad was a guy who looked big enough to play offensive lineman for the Washington Huskies, but he had magical fingers and could shred the guitar like Stevie Vai. The rest of the band resembled pretty much every other band from the Pacific Northwest -- long-haired stoners who look like they slept in their dirty clothes.

TAD was loud, chaotic, boisterous, raucous, and deafening. Did I mention how loud there sounded? There was heavy metal and then there's was fucking TAD, which was 150x louder than the loudest metal band you ever heard. Bloody ears. You can't listen to TAD for more than a set before you're ears start to bleed and you have a throbbing headache from your brain getting smacked up against the inside of your skull courtesy of TAD's thunderous sound.

Most of it was an act. TAD was never a butcher, nor a psychopath with a chainsaw. He was originally a drummer who decided he wanted to learn how to play guitar. He teamed up with a guy names Kurt, who was an English major and a poet. Kurt's penetrating yet catchy lyrics and Tad's vast knowledge of music theory gave TAD a solid foundation. Throw in tons of booze, drugs, and Gen-X cynicism and you have a perfect recipe for comedic angst.

Here is the documentary about TAD titled TAD: Busted Circuits and Ringing Ears that I caught the other night. This doc chronicles TADs rise and fall including a ton of bad beats like getting dropped by a couple of record labels and getting sued by a couple of Jesus Freaks...

If you dig the last wave of cool punk-mental (none of that hair band crap, I'm talking speed metal, punk thrash from the late 80s and early 90s), then check out Hype!, a documentary by Doug Pray (I embedded the 'Hype!' video in this previous post), who did an excellent job explaining how Seattle went from a sleepy town to the epicenter of grunge overnight during a media blitz, bombardment, and money grab that the city had not seen since the original Alaska-Klondike gold rush in 1898-99.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wind Chimes, Wind Choices

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The winds arrived. The Native Americans absorbed the winds as messages from the spirits and nature gods. If you don't know how to decipher those warnings and tips, then you were doomed to struggle during the tumultuous times ahead.

The winds swirled. Whirled. Whipped. Sliced. Howled. Penetrated. The winds kick up tons of pollen. Flowers. Leaves. Pollen everywhere. Millions. Billions of microbes.

Charles Peirce once used a razor metaphor to describe the harsh winter winds of Minnesota. It's still SoCal in the mid 60s, so even the most intense winds didn't drop the temperature by more than a few degrees. These winds were nothing close to a frigid torment of winter when dealing with your skin. Your nose and eyes were an entirely different battle. If you had any allergies, you were screwed. Even if you wore goggles and plugged your nose, drank Allegra smoothies, and injected Zyrtec into your bloodstream, you still couldn't avoid getting attacked.

The winds facilitated a pollen invasion. But once you got hit, you had a shitty day and bounced back the next day as the winds still whipped against the palm trees on the street.

These winds blow in from the ocean. Its origins thousands of miles away into the heart of the Pacific. That's where the spirits exhale from and the winds whip all the way to the California coast and scatter into Death Valley.

On a good day, the winds blow away all the toxicity of Tinsel Town. It blows out all the trapped pollution and smog and whatever chemtrails were leftover floating above the skies of SoCal.

Sometimes the winds arrive just in time to blow away the lingering stench of the past that you can't quite shake. I thought the lord had taken away the gift had had given me, but after the winds slapped me in the face as a harsh, yet tough-love reminder that it was always there but my vision had gotten so bad I couldn't see it had never left.

* *

My girlfriend teases me whenever I'm watching a jazz documentary (which is like every other night).

"And then... he got addicted to heroin."

She thinks every jazz musician is a junkie and at one point had their career was derailed by heroin abuse and $80-a-day habits. Most of the time I have to correct her with statements like... "Monk? Not a junkie. The cat was straight up crazy and floating around Pluto most of the time, but Monk wasn't a junkie, just weird."

We're all addicts in some way or another. Most of all, we're addicted to the status quo. It's the comfort of familairity and routine that makes the every day drudgery somewhat palatable. Shaking things up can send you into a fit, like a scene from Rain Man.

Daily life is a series of routines. The excitement (either anchored by wretched anxiety or curious enthusiasm) is within those moments you deviate from the path of familiarity. The largest shitstorms of stress happen when we have to deal with obstacles in our path or make choices that take us out of our comfort zone. Someday you'll realize it was silly to waste all that useless energy on worrying about those choices you thought were life altering because you had less to say in the matter than you foolishly thought.

It's when we break out of these mundane routines, dreaded responsibilities, and pointless tasks when we feel "alive" for the first time in ages. Alive again. But in order to be re-born, you would had to have died... and returned to the void before you get spit back out and reborn. From light to dark and back to light again.

Choice is an illusion, like a cheap magic trick you see from a Vegas street urchin. Life dumps you off at a used car lot where you get duped by a series of elaborate bait and switches and instead of leaving with a brand new car in your favorite color, you're sputtering away in a lemon with bald tires, and feeling so damn lucky to be driving such a piece of shit.

Sometime you can work hard and outrun variance to end up on the the plush end of Easy Street, but by the time you get there, you're so numb from busting our back and running the rat race that you can't sit back and enjoy the entire ride.

The bigger picture choices have been made for you. You can only control what you control... which is how you handle the mind fuck of knowing you're being funneled into an existentialist meatgrinder of gross over-consumption, planned obsolescence, and cognitive dissonance. Yeah, resistance is futile, so why freak out about the ride when we have not choice where it goes, so just sit back and enjoy the ride instead of whining about it?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Puke Secret

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A friend, stuck in a writing funk, flat-out asked via text message, "What's the secret?"

I answered quickly: "Not to sound like a stoned Yoda, but either you do, or you don't. There is no try."

A blank page is intimidating if you let it. I look at blank canvases and all I see is color combinations. When I look at a blank word document, I see a huge ocean that I have to swim across in order to tell a story. It's daunting. It's scary. But that's the way it is. If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it. Simply put...  I open up a blank page (for blogger or M-Word) , take a deep breath (or toke), close my eyes, and then puke words.

That's what it's all about. Puking words. I have to figure out how to expand that 2-word sentence into a 300 page how-to book so I can sell it for $20 to lost writers with a serious block or some other impediment.

That's the secret. Puke words. It's not really a secret. It's all puke, no talent. You just have to have the courage to puke... everywhere. There's so much puke out there that you don't have to be good, rather you just have to be not the worst puker out there. Sounds sad, but it's true. The standards are so low that even I can be exceptionally mediocre enough that people actually pay me money to puke words and suck less than everyone else. That pretty much described my entire career in poker. I might have been awful at times, but I was less awful than the average awful. That's how I paid my bills. That's how I continue to pay my bills.

It says "writer" as the occupation on my tax returns, but I know better. It should say "word puker."

Every morning I have a free write and its essentially free puke. For the Tao of Pauly, I used have a set time (15 minutes) and go for it. Blog puke. If I have extra time to put more into it, I'll give it twenty or thirty minutes. Sometimes I'll take a second pass or even rip through a rare third draft. With a few exceptions (David Foster Wallace essay or The Accidental Coach), the structure of Tao of Pauly is like a late-night set at a seedy jazz club. It's dark and smokey and lots of improvisation while trying to drain out the background chatter of uninterested drunks.

This corner of the web is always evolving. Looking back to when I first created Tao of Pauly, I realize what I used it for in 2002-03 was what I use Twitter for today. Along the way, it has morphed into longer form writing although it was seriously neglected during the peak years for Tao of Poker 2006-09. Just when I thought I had figured out what to do with this space, some weird things happened in life, and I say this like a lot of things I started in my life -- it became a burden -- and the last thing I wanted it to become. I took some time off and came to the realization that this is and will always be the most important soap box for me, or the perfect stage for me to puke words five days a week.

Puke words.

Seriously. That's it. That's the key to success. Step up to the laptop, open up the faucet and let the words flow through the tube-like fingertips. When it's done, turn off the tap and hit publish. Most of the time it's horse crap. But every once in a while it's edible puke. I'm very fortunate you want to spend a few minutes every day reading this tripe. Or, spending a half hour once a week on Monday mornings catching up on the last few days of posts while procrastinating. Or most likely in this modern age, you're problem reading my shit while you're taking a shit. Seems fitting. I always said Jack Tipper Stole My Dog was a great bathroom book. It wasn't a long-ass book so most people weren't too cranky with the ending. When you invest a significant time in a piece of work, you want a bigger pay off. The shorter the story... the smaller expectations. That's why Twitter is so easy. That's why Twitter is a cop out.

Anyway, I puke words. Other writers struggle and it's like drawing blood. Squeezing blood out of their soul one excruciating drop at a time. Don't fret over blood, just shove your finger down your throat and hurl away.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Binge Reading

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

It was almost 12:30pm and I opened up my laptop for the first time. That is super rare. I'm on my laptop from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed. But after the championship game ended on Monday night, I had barely been on my laptop over the next 40+ hours. I think I spent about an hour on Tuesday night on the machine and managed to scribble down a few half-baked thoughts before I felt the urge to close it and continue this mini-break.

The breaks are good. Good for my eyes. Good for my soul. Good for my independence. I've become a slave to the machines. The machines have won, but I relish in the brief moments that I can accomplish without the machines. One of these things is going for a long walk to have a chat with myself, and the other is reading a book. In both instances I'm forced to use my mind without the interference of technology or the machines.

I prefer to read as much of book as I can in one sitting, and then I like to polish it off as quickly as possible. Sometimes I read four books in a week. Sometimes I read four books in a month. It depends on how much free time I have, but the last year or so has taken on a specific pattern -- I binge read a book a week and then juggle eight to then other books in which I probably finish half of them. So over a month's time I probably read eight books -- four quickly and the other four were a labored effort that took a week or even two weeks trying to read it in small batches.

I'm the type of person who will rather devote two full days to finishing off a book, then to read it slowly a few pages at a time. It's just my personality. I can't wait for Arrested Development to dump all of their new episodes onto Netflix. Just like House of Cards, I will devour it all within a 48 hour period and sit on my couch toking hashish and watching everything in a nonstop bender like a true entertainment junkie. I'm the same way with books, or at least, I try to be.

I mean, I'm reading two types of book at any given time. The first category is a book I pick up and won't stop until it's done, sometimes taking one day (if I'm in a good rhythm I can read 50 pages in an hour). The second type is a book that I'm slowly reading over a couple of weeks. Sometimes the subject matter is too intense or too complex or something I have to re-read or look up stuff to understand what's going on, so I cannot take in more than an hour a day with that particular piece of work. Sometimes I juggle two or three books like this at a time and it feel more like college in which you read a few chapters of different books for different classes. I feel like those are books that don't completely enrapture me, but I feel obligated to read it for work reasons or for academic reasons or sometimes it's out of stubbornness if I committed myself to that book and invested time and emotion into it, so dammit I'm going to finish it!

I have piles of books I started to read but never finished. I used to feel bad about those aborted attempts. I felt like I was dishonoring those authors. But mostly, I felt guilty that I wasted my time doing other useless shit and I could have devoted more time to those books. Every once in a while, I actually finish a book from the start-stop pile and I feel even more guilty at the end for not finishing the book sooner and chastise myself for giving up on a book that had more promise than I initially thought.

Then again, a great story is a great fucking story. You want to read about it in one sitting. If any of those other books had something that hooked me in, then it wouldn't have gone into Purgatory and banished to the unfinished pile. As an author, your goal is to write a book that is so good that the reader doesn't put it down. Then again, I think about these massive books that were 800 or 1,000 pages in length and think... dear God... it's too daunting of a task to read those Mt. Everest of books. That's why I struggled with Infinite Jest. That's why I kind of which DFW broke it up into a series of three or four books, that way he could have spread that story out over a decade in a manner that even the most voracious readers could chew on without choking.

What I liked about Jack Tripper Stole My Dog was its size. It is more of a novella than a novel. The investment that readers put into it is minimal. So even if they fucking hate it, at least they can say... it wasn't that much of a waste of time.

In the end it boils down to this... I'm eternally grateful if you give me your devoted attention for a couple of hours, so I'm going to tell you a crazy, twisted story about some fucked up people that may or may not resemble people in your own life.

In the end it comes down to this... it's impossible to compete for people's attention, especially the written word. It's a form of entertainment that requires some usage of your brain. TV and sports is an easy choice because it does not require much effort. That's when when people come home at night after a long day of work or a long day dealing with their kids, so they want to zone out and have a smoke or a drink or just bask in the warm glow of the TV in the dark. The last thing they want to do is bury those nose in a book after a long day of work/kids, and the ones that do want to read, end up reading right before they go to bed, usually for the sole reason to make their eyes tired and they can fall asleep faster.

Authors spill their blood on the pages and they don't want to be the book on people night stands that puts them to sleep at night. You want to write page turner or the type of book that readers become so engaged in it that they forget to sleep and stay up all night reading it. Or better yet, you write a book that is so powerful and incendiary that the moralists are burning your book in a bonfire that is three stories high. Then again, at this rate our society is devolving into, we're probably 10-15 years away from public book burnings because knowledge is power and people get knowledge from books, where as they get brainwashed by the TVs.

Anyway, I got sucked into reading Open by Andre Agassi. I'm not a tennis fan but I had to read Agassi's autobiography for a work project. Several friends had recommended the book to me -- for different reasons -- but every one of them was right. I really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down. I spent the last two days engrossed in the book. I was even more excited to learn that one of my favorite authors, J.R. Moehringer, helped Agassi write the book. Even if you're not into tennis, the tennis scenes are super short and it's really am enthralling yet quick read.

With that said, I have a couple more chapters to read and I'm eager to finish it off, so I can pick up the next book in my pile.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Pie Crushers

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The pie didn't have a chance. In approximately 26 hours, the pie went from a freshly-baked gourmet delight to being utterly destroyed and decimated.

Cherry pies are rare at this time of the year. You really have to know which bakeries are making them in the Los Angeles area, then again, the types of mom and pop bakeries that would bake homemade pies are shrinking. Every time you turn your back, another one is going out of business or dying off, as corporate-owned mega-bakeries muscled in on the baked goods racket.

Supposedly Marie Callender's (like a crack dealer, Marie's has me hooked as the only place in the neighborhood that sold cherry pies) is no longer selling cherry pies due to some sort of dispute with their cherries distributors. I have no idea if that's the truth, or if the chick at the counter was fucking with me and made up this story in order to make me feel better about their lack of pie production. If it is true, then you have no idea how bummed out I am to get caught up in this dispute. Man, I never knew cherries were so expensive that a company (itself struggling to pay its own bills) would make a tough decision and decide to postpone indefinitely the production of one of their specialty pies in order to save a few bucks. The cherry farmers hoped that the consumers (e.g. me) will direct their anger and ire at Marie's, while Marie's suits hope angry and jonesin' cherry pie eaters direct their anger at the cherry farmers.

Ah, caught up in the crossroads of commerce. Who knew my passion for cherry pie could be so complicated and painful?

I bought two pies for Easter dinner at Nicky's parents' house. Actually it was a BBQ, a rare Easter BBQ, which pleased because I'm someone who can appreciate grilled meats, especially to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ham just doesn't do it for me, but nothing says Easter better than a fresh and juicy steak. I was responsible for the dessert and bought two pies. I actually bought three. I kept a key lime pie for myself (and Nicky) and I bought two other pies (chocolate creame pie and a French apple pie) for the Easter festivities. I was more than bummed out when I discovered that Marie's did not sell cherry pies. Although I anticipated getting shut out because cherries are not in season, I was floored when the pie lady informed us about the cherry dispute. The more I wrote about this, the more I think it sounds totally absurd and total bullshit. Then again, I haven't seen many cherry pies anywhere. Bogus cherry strike?

On Saturday afternoon the doorbell rang. No one ever rings the bell. Usually friends knock. But the doorbell startled me. It could have been the landlord so I expected to see him when I peeked through the peep hole. Instead, I saw Nicky's mother standing there with some sort of box in her hand.

We opened the door and Nicky was surprised that her parents "popped on over" without telling her. Actually, they sent her a text message wondering if we were around, but Nicky blew off the message and never answered her phone so she had no clue that's what was going down. Anyway, they had gone out to a late lunch in Santa Monica and saw a bakery. But it's not just any bakery, this was one of those special Vienna bakeries that specialized in specific delights. Nicky's parents saw a fresh cherry pie being put out by the baker. They swooped in and bought it for me and was kind enough to drive from Santa Monica to the Slums of Beverly Hills to deliver the cherry pie. It was truly a kind gesture, and perfect timing too because it was halftime of the first Final Four basketball game.

I inhaled a quarter of the pie before the first game ended. I ate more after dinner and destroyed a half of a pie in just a few hours. Solo damage. Nicky doesn't like cherry pies and she was kinda bummed out that her parents did not bring her anything. I told her it was a karma thing. I brought two pies for Easter and I got one back within six days.

I could understand her frustration -- here's her parents dropping off a pie for her boyfriend but showing up empty-handed for her. Then again, maybe they both assumed she liked cherry pie too and that we'd share? I was pumped my girlfriend did not like cherries because that meant I had the entire pie to myself.

On Sunday morning Nicky was still fast asleep while I sat on the couch and ripped bong hits and watched the opening quarter of the Knicks-Thunder game. I ate another chunk of the pie during the game. At that point, I had decimated 75-80% of the pie. I finished off the final quarter right after dinner while we watched the season premier of Mad Men).

RIP cherry pie... crushed to death. Devoured. The poor fucker never had a chance.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Turning on the Tap While Someone Watches

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Yesterday was one of those days when I thought I did very little while the day was going on, but by 2am, I was exhausted and passed out on the couch after am extended Wednesday in which I had accomplished a significant amount more than I expected.

On the work front, I had a brief meeting about a future project that I'm trying to nail down time to devote to research and interviews. After that meeting, I sat down to watch a documentary film somewhat similar to the topic so I can get any ideas about the project when I start working on it this summer. I also received a contract from a new freelance client, which is refreshing because the clients with contacts tend to be the ones who give you the least amount of hassle and most importantly, they pay you on time.

On the creative front, I recorded a fun podcast with Shamus (he'll eventually write more about tomorrow and we'll share the link). I thought it was going to take twenty minutes but the next thing I know, it was 2 hours and 20 minutes later! We had a great conversation about college basketball and could have talked another two hours, and would have if we didn't both have stuff to do. Time flies when you're having fun, right? Plus, I love collaborating on fun projects. When it's fun, it's doesn't feel like work.

Late night, Nicky and I got sucked into a mini-marathon of Mad Men and we watched several episodes from the previous season of Mad Men (via Netflix) to refresh the memory in anticipation of the season premiere on Sunday. One of the characters committed suicide at the end of last season, so it was interesting to keep an eye on that troubled person from the start of the season to see if there were any clues or trigger points along the way. Plus, it was fun and felt good to watch something with Nicky that was not sports. I seriously tested her patience the last month with nonstop college basketball and turning our living room into some sorts of mini-sportsbook meets a hedge fund office. I moved my entire office into the living room and move the TV from the bedroom into the living room so I could have dual TVs. She spent most of the last few weeks reading a bunch in our bedroom (which also doubles as her office), or experimenting with new dishes that she came across through one of her foodie apps or cruising YouTube in search of recipes. In the last month or so, Nicky hit a few home runs with dishes she had made for the first time. I'm fortunate for the opportunity to delve into college hoops with reckless abandon and my girlfriend being totally cool with it, and even designing a special menu of culinary delights (like miso-glazed cod) which gave me delicious fuel during several 14-16 hour day during the opening week of March Madness. Anyway, on Wednesday, I took a break from sports (and I didn't even watch the one NBA game I had bet on) and relaxed.

The greatest progress I had was in the head shrinking department. Sometimes you get stuck in a mental rut and it takes a couple of hours of going into your head and cleaning out the cobwebs. Spring cleaning. It was long overdue. Luckily I had Nicky to help me sort things out. She's great like that -- as a listener -- because I just need to let all those thoughts rattling around inside my head get shat out in a word dump. It's like turning on a tap. I usually do that sort of brain dump using written words and I never let anyone see those words. Too scary. Too crazy. Too dark. Too cruel. Too much self-loathing. In real life I'm a quiet person and don't say much when it comes to how I'm doing. At the most, I might say I'm having a bad back day (which at this point is like every day) so I'm gutting through the pain, but I know even a little inflammation is peanuts compared to some of the emotional pain that many others have to haul around. It's rare that I verbally regurgitate the inner workings of my brain, which is weird, disjointed, angry, embittered (e.g. Howard Beale's "mad as hell" rant on Network), morose, depressing, or I come off sounding like a pompous buffoon (e.g. any Jeff Bebe rant from Almost Famous), which is why I don't do it very often. Alas, it's vital to your mental health to get it all out every once in a while, and it's even more important that you have someone special that won't freak out when you take that mental dump in front of them. Sometimes it's your significant other or family member or best friend that gets to see you become emotionally naked. Sometimes we get too embarrassed to reveal ourselves with people we love (for fear that they'll drown if we turn on the tap and let everything rush out), which is why sometimes it's more cathartic to unload on strangers (when I as a bartender I encountered these types of people all the time; after one drink they poured out their hearts and told you their life story and insecurities and fears and crushed dreams). Of course, the worst thing you can do is hold it in. All of those toxic thoughts become an internal microwave and they cook your insides before one day you snap and start freaking out in the middle of Ralphs while trying to buy orange juice and you have a panic attack instead and everything gets dizzy and blurry and you can't breathe and it feels like Chris Farley is sitting on your chest and screaming in your face.

I wish I wrote more, but overall Wednesday was a fun day, which made it a good day.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

There's real life reality and then there's your film version of life playing on the big screen in the few inches of space inside your head. Sometimes that film is distorted and dark or gloomy instead of resembling a much brighter reality, or sometimes the film is too picture perfect, or an absurd fantasy world that it lacks any resemblance of reality. 

Big Pharma rakes in billions trying to correct that defective film version running inside your head. If it's too dark, then there's a pill to brighten it up. If you're batshit crazy, there's a pill to make you a little less crazy. If you can't sleep, there's a pill to knock you out. If you're far out of touch, there's a pill to get you a little close to reality and closer to Earth's orbit. If your penis won't perk up, there's a pill for that. If your penis drips, there's a pill for that. If your penis won't pee right, there's a pill for that.

Every once in a while, there's a BBC wildlife documentary playing in my head narrated by David Attenborough. Sometimes it's like a really really bad SNL sketch put on at the 12:55 slot. About once a month, I have Marv Albert narrating my life. Most of the time it's one of those bleak black and white Bergman existential visual exhibitions like Winter Light or Glass Darkly.

I read a story once about a dozen women from the Junior League in some Midwestern city who got bilked out of almost a million dollars by a psychic. They thought she was a Haitian priestess who could talk to their dead relatives and peek into their futures. In reality the woman was a con artist from Chicago who was a washed-up Motown back-up singer who went to jail briefly in Florida for writing bad checks. She reinvented herself as a clairvoyant, spoke with an outrageous accent and used voodoo trinkets to create an air of mysticism. Over 18 months, the psychic extracted approximately $400,000 from one woman who had weekly seances with her deceased husband and dog.

I always wondered what went on in the heads of those well-kept women who got conned. They wanted something to be true so badly that they created an entire white-washed version of reality inside their heads. They were vulnerable and perfect marks. The psychic's only problem was greed. She could have made a big score then bailed, but the more popular she got, the more and more referrals came her way. She was getting too greedy. She should have walked away months earlier but kept pushing her luck. Sometimes when a hustler finds an easy mark, they get sloppy and lose their mental edge and think that the mark is an endless source of money. Or they think their con is so foolproof that they can't caught, but eventually every hustler meets their demise. In this case, one of the husbands discovered his wife was donking thousands of dollars to some fake seer named Lady Ursula.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Distracting Red Blinking Lights

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Painting by Ewoud Bakker

Sometimes I wake up and look at Twitter on my CrackBerry while laying in bed. It's a bad habit I developed... looking at my CrackBerry within minutes of waking. I went through different routines over the years and one of them involved not sleeping near my phone and keeping it in my office, so I'd have to physically get up to get it. The reasoning behind this was that I'd get more rest because if I woke up and started reading texts, emails, or Twitter, then I'd be up for good and never have a shot at falling back asleep. For a while, I tried to not look at Twitter or email or even the newspaper for at least a few hours after I woke. The reasoning was that those activities killed my productivity. Instead, I tried to make those time killers more like rewards to do after I accomplished a certain amount of work.

When I was deep into the poker industry, I couldn't sleep for more than an hour or two before seeing that red blinking light on my CrackBerry indicating messages. Most of the time it was something bad. I got into the biz because I wanted to write about a cool topic, but as the years quickly passed, I spent less time writing and more time putting out fires. After the government shut down online poker in America, it had become such a cutthroat business that it didn't take more than a few minutes before I become enraged or pissed off about something... moderating childish comments, blown off by delinquent clients, or getting notifications that the same inbred doughboys are stealing my content or friends' content. Seems like every time I picked up my CrackBerry, something bad was going down. Even if I was having a positive day and everything was going swell, one of my friends or colleagues would be stuck shoveling around shit that day and I somehow got involved by default. You know the saying... shit rolls down hill.

Of course, if I had better discipline, I wouldn't need to do Draconian things like hide my phone before I went to bed or ignore any external connections for three or fours hours after waking to ensure I got at least two hours of uninterrupted writing time before being tainted by the outside world with current events, gossip, or other work stuff. Instead what happens is that I wake up rather groggy and foggy with the first beams of light shooting through the blinds in our bedroom. Nicky is still in a deep sleep on her side of the bed and I can hear how far away the homeless people are based on the strength of the echo of cats and bottles rattling around as they dive through dumpsters. I even haven't rubbed all the boogers out of my eyes before I reach for my phone because of that red blinking light on the top that indicates "messages" and I'm addicted to data retrieval like everyone else from my generation. Besides, I'd hate to blow off that text message about a sick or dying relative. I'm still in bed when I read any overnight text messages (more like early morning messages from east coaster like my brother) and then it's sifting through the multiple accounts I have synced up to my phone. 90% of the email is pure junk and the rest is semi-important. This is precise moment when I immediately get behind... and I'm not even out of bed to start my day and I'm in the hole... because I'll read a bunch of emails and not respond right away and instead I'll say I'll do it later when I get to my office, but most of the time I forget or it gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Or, I get caught up in writing an email and I end up spending way too much time on something that only required a single sentence. In the end, I try to adhere to a very simple, yet stern policy... respond to emails as soon as I read them. If I don't have time to respond, then I shouldn't be reading them. If I wait until later, then I'm wasting time because I have to re-read everything, or I'm setting myself up to forget to do something... and I'm not getting any younger and compound that fact that I've been a pothead for two decades and it's a bad formula for becoming absentminded.

I read Tim Ferriss book about the 4-Hour Work Week. He suggested email reconciliation only once a day and then to set a specific time period to do it. I'm inconsistent and try to check email no more than twice a day instead of constantly checking my CrackBerry to see if I got anything new. When I limit that need to constantly check for messages, I all of a sudden become insanely more productive.

When I lived in San Francisco, I spent days without looking at my phone. I had not done that since I got a mobile phone. It was liberating and I felt as though I had no longer become a slave to the machines. Some of the best times I had on Phish tour last summer were when my phone battery died or I had terrible reception, so I was able to live in the moment and not worry about covering the show for @CoventryMusic's twitter feed.

It's been about a decade now since I finally got rid of a home phone (land line) and had regular mobile phone service. For several years I had one of those pay as you go phones. I purchased a smart phone in 2008 -- my first CrackBerry -- and it's been a blessing and curse, mostly a curse. Back when I lived in NYC and used to write, I would hide my phone in a drawer to avoid distractions. These days I toss my CrackBerry into a laundry pile and let it get buried underneath dirty t-shirts while I write. It's not until I have to send someone a message before I fish my phone out of the laundry. Or, I just turn it off. No links to the outside world equals no distractions.

No links, no distractions.

Anyway, once I get sucked into the CrackBerry moments after waking up, my day has officially begun and I already start to triage the shit I have to do. Everything I forgot to do or procrastinated from the day before gets the top priority. These days, I've been betting on the NBA regularly, so I have to check the lines and keep an eye on any sportsbetting positions or potential injury updates. This is just like investing or when I was trying to day trade or play the silver future market a couple of years ago... and I'd jump out of bed to see if I have any edges to exploit. After I survived the first waves of text messages and emails and checking the lines, then it's time to write... free write, blogging, or catching up on work. As you can tell, it's easy to get sidetracked and expend energy before I even sit down to do what I love best... writing.

Even when I'm writing, I still get caught up in the bullshit. Then comes the internal drama and there's a huge fight and it's always about time. The hardest part is setting aside the right amount of time, or trying to pull myself away from one topic to finish up another topic.  It seems like I'm always spending too much time on the wrong things and don't spend enough time on the things that need extra work. How much time am I willing to devote to each piece? At that point it's not even mid-morning and I've had already expended energy on that internal battle figuring out time allotment. Something is going to get neglected... that's the toughest part.... picking what gets the least amount of attention. Sometimes, no matter what sacrifices I make, it's never the right decision. I want to do too many things... and to my own detriment, I have too many diverse interests that something I'm spread waaaaaay too thin. That's why I needed time off last year to seriously re-think what I wanted to do... and what projects I wanted to explore... and how much time I would devote to freelance and how little time I would set aside for poker in 2013. In the end, I get a little bummed out about how little time I have instead of trying to focus on making the best of each moment.

Then again, I wouldn't have it any other way. Being spread too thin means I'm not settling on the status quo, and that I'm being active instead of sitting on my ass doing the same old shit.

I might get bored with a specific task, but I can live seven or eight more lifetimes and never be bored. If anything, I lose interest in things very quickly but I'm eager to move onto the next thing especially when I have a long list of other things I want to do, or see, or read. There's too much stuff I want to do, and sometimes I get paralyzed with fear when I do the math on how long it will take me to do a specific thing versus how much time I think I have left. Most days, I'm overwhelmed with too many commitments and afraid I cut off too much than I can chew. Alas, we never have enough time and it can all be taken away from you in an instance, so I'm driven by this overbearing knowledge that life is completely fragile which is why I push myself so hard to live in the moment, but try to do something different and new each day.