Monday, July 15, 2013

Vacant, Nevermore

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The apartment sat vacant. Two months. The landlord was quick to cash our rent check this month. He had lost two months of potential income in the empty unit above us. Every day he failed to find someone new to move in, that was money out of his pocket. Two months flew by.

There were better places but for much less.... both here in the Slums of Beverly Hills and elsewhere.

The Slums of Beverly Hills is an eccentric neighborhood mixed with octogenarian cat ladies waiting to die, devout Orthodox familes (roving tribes of "Men in Black"), a smattering of Persian Jews, and more hipsters you can shake a stick at. This hood is a rather un-hip transient section of L.A. for 20-somethings waiting to move to some place nicer, once their financial situation improves or they can move in with their significant other who lives in a much cooler part of town. Shit for this price, you'd might as well have a much nice pad in the Valley, where you could live like a king.

If it was truly cool and trendy, then we couldn't afford to live there. Hence, one of the main reasons I don't live in San Francisco anymore. Maybe I can afford to return if I strike it rich in a new poker/sportsbetting boom, but until then, I'm stuck in the Slums of BeHo1.

The former tenants abruptly left. Those fucking hipsters never said goodbye. One day, violin girl and her husband (who Nicky was convinced was full-blown candelabra) were here and putting me on tilt by giving violin lessons in the space right above my office. Next thing... she was gone. Packed up and left the Slums of Beverly Hills. She came to Hollyweird on the aspiring musician trip. Instead she humped a couple of shitty jobs and gave hourly lessons to snooty kids from Hancock Park and Beverly Hills and Brentwood. They never practiced which is why it sounded like shit. Maybe that drove her crazy and she snapped?

Within the same month, violin girl and struggling actress across the alley both moved out. This is a tough town that is stained and rusted by decades of failure. The pressure got to them and they often snapped. It was better than watching reality TV. I should have set up a webcam and made a couple million. How am I going to be entertained now? How are you going to be entertained without me writing about their exploits? Both 20-something girls were full of nonstop drama. The new neighbors have big shoes to fill.

The actress had a volatile relationship with an alkie out-of-work actor and they had frequent screaming bouts that were something out of a Tennessee Williams play meets a cat-fight episode of the Real World. The violin girl and her hubby fought every few weeks, but most of the time, it was her screaming at him and saying things like "Why can't you be normal?" Yeah, deep down she knew she married a gay guy. Man, she must have been miserable and living above me was not helping anything. I'm a good neighbor because I leave you the fuck alone. I won't butt into anyone's business and I expect my neighbors to do the same. That's the thing about LA... most people are so self-involved that they don't give a shit about you. Of course, the down side to that is you can get a self-absorbed neighbor that won't stop talking about themselves. Luckily we haven't had that interaction. Mostly everyone we encountered just wants to be left alone.

The apartment sat vacant for two months. It felt good not to hear anything in the last few weeks. I was able to get a ton of reading and writing done without any interruptions (save for the fucking gardeners and landscapers with their leafblowers and hedge trimmers)  The former tenants were loud, especially the fucking cat.

For the same price, you can get something smaller (one bedroom versus two) in a hipper neighborhood on the other side of town where all the hipsters congregated. If you wanted more space, you could find a cheaper neighborhoods a few miles away in Koreatown. The vacant apartment was overpriced and without a parking space. At least a dozen other  dingbats on the adjacent streets in my neighborhood had vacancies. Every morning on my walk, I'd see new signs. Tons of places available.  Similar shitty building, similar layouts. The best units with a parking space(s) went quick, while the places that stayed on the market a little longer had some sort of problem with it (like lack of parking, or no windows, or next to a cat hoarder so it smelled like you lived in the backyard of an ammonia factory.
I heard the comings and goings of people looking at the place. The landlord failed to find someone for several weeks until one morning I noticed the FOR RENT sign was removed. He found a new tenant. Who would it be?

New neighbors is like gambling. You never know if you're going to get a neighbor from hell that plays Taylor Swift songs on repeat, or one of those silent but deadly psychopaths... you know... the "he seemed like a quiet guy... never expected him to go on a rampage like that" type.

Someone moved in. Finally. But who? I don't really know much. What I do know (20-somthing female with a cat) is not enough to fill in a post, so I'll save that discussion for another time

I haven't written much about my neighbors recently because there's nothing to report. BMW douche's mom still comes over once a week to clean his apartment, and the other neighbors are pretty quiet. The artist lady is still painting, yet I still can't remember her name. The Indian students from UCLA often cook some delicious dishes. They contribute curry and other spicy aromas to the alley, while I contribute that ole-down-and-dirty bacon smell.

Maybe the new neighbor will do something blogworthy? I hope so. I'm sure you're fucking sick of me writing about the Eagles.

1. I know it should be BeHi for Beverly Hills, but BeHo sounds much... hipper... and more hip-hop.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sharknado, WTF?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Approximately 33% of all tweets in America on Thursday night mentioned: "Sharknado WTF?"

Sharknado almost broke Twitter. I had no idea about it until I saw a lot of people discussing it. Well, fuck... if it's clogging up my timeline it must be important and significant, right?

Sharknado.... a tornado of sharks. A horrible B-horror film starring Steve Sanders from the original 90210 and Tara Reid. With the title, you know what you're getting. This is not some sort of naval gazing exercises with random shots of the ocean (I'm looking at you PTA)

Sharks invading L.A. I love this type of high concept movie.

Low budget. Most of the money went to hiring Ian Zering and Tara Reid, and all of that money was sent directly to Reid's plastic Surgeon in Beverly Hills and Zering's coke dealer in Silver Lake.

Mean Gene mentioned that Sharknado was a more popular topic on Twitter, more so than the night Bin Laden was killed. Welcome to... Zero Dark Sharknado.

Sharkndao was an event made for Twitter. The stream was going so fast that you couldn't keep up. Thousands of tweets a second. The tweets were 10,000% funnier than the movie itself.

Movie was so bad... it's must-see TV. Like a car accident on the freeway. You know it's gonna suck is Tara Reid is in it (sure, she did two good flicks and wasn't a factor in either -- American Pie and the Big Lebowski). We didn't tune in to see her. We wanted a campy shark apocalypse.

Sharknado? It delivered. Absolutely 100% pure Americana trash. I can't wait to see it again.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Giant Fucking Robots

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Pacific Rim is going to make a billion dollars.

"It's hot outside. I think I'm gonna smoke some dope or pop some pills and watch GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS!"

That's America talking. Not me. Every pothead from Maine to Oregon to Florida to Arizona will eventually get so fucking bored out of their minds (the result over over-stimulation and 35,000 cable channels, multiple movie streaming services, torrents, and YouTube) that they'll finally give in to temptation and go see Pacific Rim.

Giant fucking robots.

This film by Guillermo Del Torro is why drugs were made. Enhancing the theatre experience. Get fried to the tits and watch San Francisco get destroyed while giant robots fight giant monsters. It will be a battle for the ages. It will be brash, abhorrent, cheesy, and over-indulgent violence with tons of shit blowing up. Pacific Rim is the prefect representation of America in 2013.

I can't wait to fucking see it.

I have a fetish for bad films. I love Michael Bay for this specific reason. For every Woody Allen film I adore, there's a cheesed-out flick with tons of shit blowing up. I'm a bookworm and don't normally watch a lot of TV, so every once in a while, I want to see a bunch of shit exploding. It's pop culture junk food. Mindless entertainment so I can space out for 90 minutes without worrying about dialogue, structure, and third act denouements.

But giant fucking robots? This is what America has been waiting for. This summer has been a fucking wake-up sign to major studios in Hollywood. Three big films with three huge stars tanked. If those actors can't pull in audience, what will?

Fast cars and giant fucking robots.

The Evil Rat took a bath on The Lone Ranger. Anyone younger than me doesn't know who the fuck the Lone Ranger is. That's why no one went to see the flick. Who the fuck cares? Why the hell would The Evil Rat wanted to re-boot a franchise that saw its glory days in the 50s? They should have done a modern adaptation and incorporate the drug war and Mexican cartels. But Johnny Depp made a deal with the devil which is why he never ages, but his kitsch has hit the wall. His depiction of Tonto isn't exactly flattering, but he hasn't been able to shake Hunter Thompson after playing him in Fear and Loathing. Seems like every character since then from Jack Sparrow to Tonto has had shades of Hunter with a sprinkling of Keith Richards. It was funny and clever the first time in Pirates of the Caribbean, but after a while it gets old. The Evil Rat must have printed a trillion dollars with that franchise, but they couldn't get The Lone Ranger off the ground. At least they didn't bother trying to tell a sci-fi story that's thinly veiled about Tom Cruise's cult, or try to pull off "Die Hard at the White House."

But, giant fucking robots? That's genius. Robots fighting monsters. This is something that a four year old would make up in a stick figure drawing. Hollywood fucking loves high concept films that are derived from the innocence and imagination and simplicity of a child.

Giant fucking robots fighting giant fucking monster. Shit, let's make 3 films and print $3 billion! The suits at Warner Brothers are walking around with erections so stiff they have to consult a physician.

At some point in the next week, I am going to get baked to the gourd and see giant fucking robots. It will be loud, obnoxious, cheesy, and cliche-ridden... and represent everything I loathe about the motion picture industry... but sometimes, you gotta go with the flow.

If you can't beat them, join them. Here you go, Mr. Warner brothers... take my $13 bucks.

Giant. Fucking. Robots.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Rock-N-Roll Hood

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I saw Laurel Canyon: Inside Story of Rock-n-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood in numerous bookstores and airports over the years. It was hard not to miss the cover. I must've picked it up dozens of times and thumbed through it. I never bought the book. I didn't love the bands and musicians mentioned (I dug Neil Young and was curious about Zappa, but not so much the Byrds, Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Crosy Stills and Nash), so I always passed on it. But that was then. Over the last few months, I immersed myself in early 70s rock and roll. I blame the Eagles documentary for luring me into the scene. Once you do down the rabbit hole... you get sucked all the way through the vortex. I quickly realized that I was neglecting an integral part of rock and roll history. Even if I didn't like those musicians from that time/place, many of the musicians I do like were deeply affected by what was going on in Laurel Canyon in the late 60s and early 70s.

NYC, Detroit and Nashville were the music hubs for most of the 50s and 60s. Los Angeles was sort of an afterthought. It was so far away geographically and culturally from the music scene that it became its own scene. Nestled up in the hills of Hollywood, Laurel Canyon was nearly hidden to the rest of the city. It's its own wilderness.

By the early 60s, Laurel Canyon was a super shitty place to live. Most of the wealthier residents lived in different parts of the hills (like Benedict Canyon), so Laurel Canyon is where most of the kids ended up when they arrived in Los Angeles, paying cheap rents in dilapidated homes that many Hollywood stars and industry types lived in during the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Hippies flocked to the hills in the later part of the 60s and for a short time, Laurel Canyon became a utopia for music, peace, love harmony, and the epicenter for counterculture in Southern California.

Hardcored hippies lived in San Francisco. The kids who wanted to hit it big in the music industry gravitated to Los Angeles, the crossroads between art and commerce. Record companies were looking to capitalize on counterculture and if you were somewhat competent in the late 60s and early 70s then you had a shot at a potential recording contract. Back then, there was enough money floating around that any company will give you one shot... but that's what you got... one shot. Heck, even Charles Manson was vying for a record contract. When it fell apart, he went on his rampage.

In a short period of time, the denizen of Laurel Canyon became superstars. The first wave of fame hit the Byrds. The original line-up was short lived and David Crosby got kicked out of the band. They were the first batch of musicians to really strike it big and drive around in fancy cars. It seemed to be the antithesis of hippie counterculture... you didn't make art for money so it could be exploited by the man. But eventually the ethos of the 60s gave way to the indulgences of the 70s. Kiss acid, weed, and shrooms goodbye and hello cocaine Quaaludes, and heroin.

The book seemed like a long rambling commentary on the music scene, especially its favorite meeting place -- The Troubadour. The author purposely wanted his sentences to seem long and windy like the Hollywood hills. Along the way, some myths are debunked (like Mama Cass dying after choking on a ham sandwich) while others are glossed over (all the secret caves and tunnels that led to different mansions where supposedly occult rituals took place 20-30-40 years earlier). But the book is broken into two parts with the second part focusing on the darkside of cocaine. the guys in the hills were the cocaine cowboys. The musicians, like the Eagles, were raking in big bucks and blowing it all on... blow. Some of the best tracks from your favorite classic rock songs were cut while crocked to the tits on cocaine, but most of the band broke up because of problems associated with cocaine abuse.

Anyway... I finally found this book for next to nothing at a used store and picked it up. I finished reading it in a couple of days. The reading went quick, but I spent endless hours listening to different sounds and bands mentioned in the book. It's a nice walk down nostalgia lane, especially if you're someone who is a baby boomer and grew up listening to many of those artists.

If anything, the book made me realize that I'm living in L.A. in the wrong decade. Plus, I wish I could afford the rent in Laurel Canyon. I always thought it would be cool to live up in the Hills for a year or so and write a book. At this point, that's a pipe dream. If I had 4K to blow on rent, I'd sure as hell be moving to back to San Francisco, or could afford to live in Amsterdam.

The gang that did the Eagles documentary should do a 10-hour long docu-series (like Ken Burns' Jazz) on the Laurel Canyon music scene and then do another docu-series on the Bay Area music scene from the same era. I'd definitely watch that shit.

Check out the BBC documentary on the Laurel Canyon music scene.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Linklater's Sappy 'Before' Movies

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

When I was in college, I saw two films that convinced me I wanted to become a director and make movies -- Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused and Quentin Tarrantino's Reservoir Dogs. Both were young filmmakers who are still around making movies twenty years later. One went full-blown Hollywood, while the other retained his indie street cred.

After Dazed, Linklater made a sappy film about love called Before Sunrise. Typical American male fantasy -- boy (Ethan Hawke) meets a French girl (Julie Delpy) on a train in Europe and then bangs her in a park. The entire film took place in less than a day. Lots of walking and talking amidst breathtaking shots of Vienna. If anything Linklater captured the quintessential Gen X angst that washed over many of us in the bleak early 90s.

Nine years later in 2004, Linklater revisited those same two characters in Before Sunset. Yeah, he made a second film that takes place in a single day, but a decade has passed between the two original characters, who are walking and talking and walking through the streets of a majestic European city. That time it was Paris.

Flash forward nine years later. In 2013, Linklater released Before Midnight, which is a third film featuring the same two characters. Walking and talking. This time in the Greek Isles. As Nicky sad, "That movie should be called This Is 45."

Three movies. Three days in the life of two characters. When they're 23, 32, and 41. Quite clever. 

I loved the first film. I was indifferent with the second one. But the third one hit home. I couldn't tell if I loved or hated it. If I wanted to see two adults having an argument about their relationship, then I would just videotape me and Nicky fighting about stupid stuff. Most people go to the movies to escape. But in that instance, Linklater sort of held up a mirror on the audience. Sure, it was hard for me to relate with the characters because they had kids and I don't. But since we're all roughly the same age, the other stuff about sacrifice, careers, and relationships really hit home. Hard.

We're not married in conventional terms, but Nicky and I have been together for over seven years now. Man, has it been that long? It certainly feels like a marriage. Anyone who's been in a successful marriage will tell you... it takes a lot of work and sweat on both sides to flourish and maintain a consistent level of happiness.... and even then there's no guarantee. With regard to 'friends', you can slack off for weeks, months, or even years... and not really tend to those relationships, yet you can still have a strong and unflappable bond. That doesn't quite work in long-term relationships, especially if cohabitation is involved. Sometimes it's easy to just switch on the auto-pilot and sleepwalk through life. But if you do that with your spouse or significant other, then you're setting yourself up for a disaster. Just because you're on autopilot doesn't mean you can't crash.

Anyone can get married. It really takes two dedicated, patient, and understanding people to truly make it work.

I expect Linklater to make another film in 2022 and by then the same characters will be 50 or so. And maybe a fifth film again in 2031... if they're all still competent actors and Ethan Hawke hasn't become a heroin addict and Julie Delpy is a pill-popping alkie lush.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Watch the Bet Raise Fold Documentary

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Bet Raise Fold is official available. Learn about the history of online poker in America. Watch this documentary film online for only $9.99.

I make a cameo in his documentary. I'm listed as one of the "interview" subjects. I got interviewed twice -- once in Las Vegas in 2011 and in Los Angeles in 2012 -- but they did not use any footage from the first interview. They recorded the second interview in my dining room, which is why you see some liquor bottles in the background in a couple of scenes.

You can also buy a DVD version of Bet Raise Fold. More details here.

Here is the official trailer: