Thursday, October 31, 2013

NYC Art Pic Dump

By Pauly
New York City

I hopped off the tour and spent a couple days in NYC with family. Wandered over to the Met museum to chat with old friends including  Chuck, one of the most talented painters in America. He works at the Met and I got to talk shop with the acrylic-slinging genius.

Here are some pics I snapped....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Another Pic Dump

By Pauly
New York City

Here are a few images from a blurry week  on the road in NYC and New England...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Cocktail of Optimism for Taylor Hicks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The mornings, well the pre-mornings, when everything is still foggy and its still a little dark out and there's the first hint of daybreak tearing down the edges of the sky. The stillness of the early mornings present the most promising moment of the day. It's when you're full of hope and optimism. Overflowing and overjoyed about the possibilities. It's because you forgot about all of the stuff that weighs you down and all of the bad shit that was bugging you out was momentarily erased from your memory banks. Eventually reality sinks in and you quickly remember everything you wanted to forget, and that optimism is shredded into little frayed pieces of pessimism until you make the conscious decision to ignore it.

Some mornings I'm staring at a picture, a signed picture, of Taylor Hicks playing the blues harp. For a two or three week period, he was one of the most famous people in America. But fame is fleeting. The southern guy with salt-n-pepper hair had a shot at winning American Idol many moon ago when the show was the most talked-about program in the land of the free. Hicks used up the majority of his fifteen minutes of fame with Idol. It was more like fifteen days of fame. I had seen him once before at the same coffeeshop while his star was rising and rising and rising. I guess he was staying in the general vicinity and liked the food. I know I do. Greasy spoon diners are getting harder and harder to find. Maybe the comfort food helped him feel a little more at home while he was basking in the ubiquitous sunshine and helping fabricate reality by being a main ingredient for the entertainment biz machine. I wonder if he knew that that moment in the photo was "as good as it gets" before he woke up one day in some generic, sterile motel room in the middle of nowhere, wondering where his entire career went off the rails.

I looked up at the picture of Taylor Hicks and got an unhealthy dose of reality. I was filled with optimism and promise until I saw the picture and remembered how brutal this town is for creative people. It swallows up more people every day and they disappear into obscurity while a fresh new batch of dreamers step off the tarmac at LAX, or exit the freeway. The minute they arrive is the minute their dreams start dying.

The mornings are always the most ambitious before I remember all of the bad, crusty shit that can drive you nuts... if you let it. I shrug it off. Most of the time, I'm teflon and just gut it out. Yes, the world is a dark, chaotic, and meaningless place but that doesn't mean I can't have a good time. There's a certain amount of safety in know all of this means jack shit. But every once in a while, I wake up with a glimmer of hope that's quickly shot down out of the sky like a paper airplane trying to win a dogfight against an F-15.

I woke up this morning and wandered over to the coffeeshop. Along the way, I saw an old Russian lady smoke a cigarette while scooping up a pile of shit with a plastic bag from Ralph's. Around the corner in the alley behind Jack in the Box, a homeless man bundled up in a blanket was trying to catch the last bit of shut eye before he was kicked out of the alley by the morning sounds of commerce, whirling leaf blowers and grinding garbage machines. At the coffeeshop, I could not stop looking at Taylor Hicks while I ate my pancakes. Sure, there were other pictures of actors on the wall. Some much more famous than Hicks will ever be. But they're not out on the road somewhere with a bunch of other burned out musicians completely weary and wondering how long they can stay awake before remembering about how miserable life can be trying to scrape together a paltry paycheck on the road and thousands of miles away from home.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alley Puke, Grasshoppers, and Passed-Out Suits

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A circle of puke. Dark orange. Oatmeal texture. I couldn't tell. Human puke? Or cat puke?

I had not seen alley cats in weeks, maybe months. Something happened to them. My mind wandered. Maybe it was a deranged homeless person living in the alley behind Jack in the Box who cooked up the cats one night. There's a couple of restaurants in the area and times are tough. Hate to think that the soup special is really boiled alley cat.

Crickets invade our apartment every autumn. The cycle of nature. Very vexing. A few sneak through and I have an minor internal crisis because I'm convinced that killing crickets is bad luck and it's 100% my fault that the teams I bet on miss field goals because I mutilated a cricket while running to the defense of my hysterical girlfriend.

The entire concept of insects freak out Nicky and she screams like a little girl and it's during those moments I'm reminded that she used to be trained in the theatrical arts and she can belt it out.  And those grasshoppers are jumping ones too. The bigger they leap, the louder the scream.

The insect-induced screams are almost blood curdling. I jump up and fall right into assassin mode. I'm a cold-blooded insect killer. Doesn't matter if it's a spider or roach or silverfish. I'm the iceman and dispose of the critter and that's that. However, I freeze up whenever I see a cricket. It's bad luck in most Asian cultures to kill crickets. Disney brainwashed us as kids and made our generation think of crickets as these sage-like creatures that guide us out of peril. All I want is to cover the point spread man, and if scooping up crickets and taking them outside is going to help the cause, then dammit, that's what I have to do.

Crickets turned me into a compassionate bug squasher. So am I getting karmic retribution for all those killed spiders? Do all of those missed free throws have anything to do with all the cockroaches I stomped on in my day?

Protecting crickets is bad superstition. Once you give into a superstition, then you become a slave to obsessive-compulsive behavior. If I had a cat, then I wouldn't have to worry about this. If the alley cats were still around... the crickets wouldn't be an issue.

The alley is infested with crickets and more are getting through the cracks than ever before. I suspect it's because of the lack of alley cats. The cats fed and feasted off the crickets. Those crickets only flourish because their main predator, a group of feral cats, was living in the crawlspace underneath the apartment building next door. But those cats have disappeared. We have no idea where they went.

I saw one cat scurrying across the street late one night but aside from that, no cats. Where the hell did they go? I assume they found a better spot to live, maybe a block or two over where a crazy cat lady goes out and feeds them regularly. Or maybe someone found the cat(s) and adopted them and gave them a great home. Or maybe they were picked up and fixed? I doubt that scenario because something of that nature costs money and the City of Angels is too broke to send out people trapping feral cats. In all probability, they were picked up and euthanized.

The orange puke was not a cat. It was human puke. Someone booted. It was Friday night. Totally probable. But who did it belong to?

I went out to sushi in Beverly Hills. Something I never do. But Showcase was in town and he wanted to take Nicky and myself to a relaxing dinner. It was fun to catch up and hear stories and tell some more. But the last thing I wanted to see when I got home was the circle of puke.

I totally forgot about it until I woke up early the next morning and went for a walk. On my way back home, I noticed the orange circle, which was sort of dried out. That's when my neighbor (BMW douche) opened his front door and out stumbled a "bro" in a disheveled suit (minus the tie). I can only suspect those wanna-be execs drank heavily after a shitty week of work and the bro puked in the alley and then passed out on my neighbor's couch, only to get kicked out at day break. Well either that, or my neighbor is secretly gay and was sending someone home a booty call and I totally busted him.

But where the fuck did the cats go? My alley smells like puke and grasshoppers are everywhere.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Worm Buffet (Fiction)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

He played one of those cops from Barney Miller.

After sustaining a diet of coma-inducing, watered-down happy meals, life hit the skids. The ubiquitous greyness rained down. Sometimes it violently pelted the ground, causing divots the size of swimming pools.

Long days bled into endless nights, that bled into week-long blurs of sepia-tinged benders. Three and four day periods of vacant self-indulgence led to month-long gaps in time. Lost in a warp, a wormhole where ambition was strangled by the stillness of melancholy.

He was out on the street, or the street reached out and grabbed him. Hard to tell.

From the generous gestures of the kind-hearted, he'd collect sacks of old bread and could be found down at the pier feeding seagulls while sipping a can of warm Budweiser out of a torn paper bag.

Sullen groupings of sour notes played on a loop inside his head. Ghosts hovered like a polluted cloud of torment.

He knew he could never sustain the numerous trips to the hole. If you know where it is, then you're a rare survivor. The hole rarely releases anyone from its grip. Anguished visitors were lured in by an endless hunger, yet snared themselves in industrial fishing nets.

Shit sinks to the bottom. Dead weight.

But like the rapper said, when your soul hits the bottom, it doesn't stop and keeps going and seeping through the cracks in the ground with the rest of all of the rotting waste. Your soul doesn't whisk itself away up into the heavens, it's a buffet for the worms while the rest of it leaks into the upper echelons of hell.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Big Air

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I caught The Birth of Big Air over the weekend. Yet another remarkable ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary about a remarkable story in the 1970s or 1980s that flew under the radar before the internet's explosion a few decades later, and way before the 24/7 sports news cycle took control of the airwaves.

The Birth of Big Air chronicled BMX legend Mat Hoffman. I grew up during the BMX craze but never really got into it as much as some other kids in the neighborhood. But it was short lived because most of the kids I knew jumped over to skateboarding after Back to the Future hit the theatres.

One of my friends, Scott, had a bunch of BMX magazines and I thumbed through them when I hung out at his house. Mat Hoffman was always pictured in the magazine doing a crazy stunt. I totally forgot about the BMX craze until I caught the documentary just as it was starting, and then got lost in nostalgia for an hour.

The Birth of Big Air brought back a flood of flashbacks about growing up in the BMX era. It reminded me of those halcyon days pre-Nanny State when kids could be kids and ride bikes without helmets. This was a time before all these shyster lawyers and rising medical costs kicked in and the government decided to intercede in day-to-day parenting, which took all the fun out of childhood.

Then again, I grew up in the Bronx during the crack invasion. I almost had my bike stolen twice as a kid and the second time was by a crackhead looking to make a few extra bucks by stealing my Mongoose knockoff. I think it's crazy to think that my parents would allow me and my brother to roam the neighborhood on bikes in the 80s... but that was the culture. All the neighborhood kids had to find someway to entertain themselves (pre-cable, pre-internet, and at the beginning of the video game era), which is why playgrounds and parks were filled with kids. Yep, kid being kids. My brother and I pedaled our bikes to Seton Park, where our Little League games were played. Behind the baseball diamonds was a hidden and makeshift area where kids rode their bikes and did jumps and different stuff. We spent hours and hours doing stupid shit back there and I rode all over my neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods and learned every nook and cranny and street in my area of the Bronx. All of this was without a helmet. The older I get, the more I cherish those idle afternoons riding around without a care in the world and without Big Brother telling me how to protect myself.

The Birth of Big Air told the story of BMX pioneer Mat Hoffman. He flourished in obscurity of Oklahoma, whereas his contemporaries were mostly from Southern California, which was always a hotbed for extreme outdoor sports like skating and biking (and of course surfing). Hoffman had a "secret" practice space inside of a warehouse where he whipped up new tricks. All trial and error. Hoffman was the sports first mega-star before the scene fizzled out. By the time ESPN 2 created the X-Games, Hoffman was a dinosaur and could never really compete with kids half his age. Besides, his body was all banged up after all the hideous damage he put himself through over the years.

Early on in his career, event before he turned pro, Hoffman won over the respect of his peers, especially the pros from SoCal. Hoffman paid a huge price by putting his body on the line. He broke more bones than he could count and supposedly suffered over100 concussions. He busted his spleen and almost bled to death. Personal safety is something that he shrugged off because he was searching for the next big moment -- whatever that might be.

Hoffman got as close to flying that a human could get while only using a bicycle. Once he caught that "rush", he was hooked in for life. The hardest part about being an adrenaline junkie is that you're constantly seeking a new fix, but one that is bigger and more dangerous than the last. In the end, all it leaves you to do is jump off of cliffs and out of airplanes -- both activities that Hoffman accomplished later on in his life after he retired from BMX racing.

Underneath all the daredevil stuff, you got to hear the story about a guy who never gave up when he was told he couldn't do something. Hoffman persisted and pushed on despite the overwhelming odds and detriment to his health. Maybe he's reckless and a little bit crazy, but all you have to do is watch a few minutes of this documentary to realize that Mat Hoffman is the epitome of the human spirit. He lived a dangerous life but followed his dreams even though it almost killed him... numerous times, but we need people like Hoffman to test the boundaries of humanity and push the edge as far as he could take it.

Watch the trailer here:

What the entire doc here before the YouTube police yanks it down: