Friday, December 27, 2013

Around the Horn: 2013 Review

By Pauly
New York City

Dickens summed up 2013 best: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Me? Weird year but glad it's over. The last twelve months were more like an extensive pre-season or a prelude to something else. Which sucks because I hate waiting. The rough stretches were inevitable and something I had to go through considering 2013 was a transitional year. I needed to fight a few rigorous battles (which all took place in innerspace the few inches inside my head) before I moved into the next phase. Planning and uncertainty are stressful. I'm more of a man of action and want to jump into the fire.

I took off 2012. Literally. A respite from the craziness. But, I got damn too comfortable "doing nothing" in 2012 and partied a little too much. I was eager to move on. On the positive side, 2012 was a year of reflection, healing, self-discovery and moderate political activism. I welcomed the time away from the pressure to constantly create things because everything I created felt stale and had becoming less organic and more akin to an assembly-line. That's an efficient way to pay the bills, but I had hit the wall.

I needed to replenish the so-called artistic batteries. Everything that I churned out from 2004-2011 was a byproduct of a decade or more of hard living from the roaring 90s to that peculiar era of paranoia in the years right after 9/11. My brain was a mental sponge that mopped up a decade worth of experiences, travel, indulgence, gambling, and (pop) culture. Eventually, I wrang it all out in blog form. Fine line between sculpting art and taking a shit. I got lucky for a few years because I was taking brain dumps... and got paid for it.

The creative juices are like your laptop battery after a couple of years. It doesn't power up as quickly and as long as it used to, like when you first got it. Remember when you first got your iPhone? Seemed like you could use it a day or two on a full charge. Now? It goes half-empty after an hour.

I got stuck in that rut. I realized instead of constantly recharging, I needed to start again from scratch.

"I'm gonna get me a new Bob Dylan and see how long he lasts," lamented a road-weary Dylan in No Direction Home, while pacing in his dressing room in London, as he fretted over a terrible singing voice.

Ah, if only it were that easy. Go to the store and buy a new me. Maybe Amazon drone will fly me a new me? That way I can get three or four of me to work on different projects and websites while the real me watches four NBA games at once.

Clones are just around the corner, but so are barcodes, Robocops, and galactic credits.

I went from skinny Elvis to bloated Elvis overnight. And you know how the King died? Face down, ass up in his bathroom. The horse tranquilizers and peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches did him in. Time to hop in the time machine and kidnap skinny Elvis.

I needed more time than expected to return to full writing speed. I usually have two speeds: off and balls to the wall. That's why 2013 was frustrating. It was like being in football practice without pads. I wanted to go full speed and crack some skulls, but I wasn't ready yet and still rusty. That's why I forced myself to write something daily here.

At the beginning of 2012, I knew I was shutting down everything. In 2013, I started some things back up, but in a consolidated fashion. I wanted to write 500 words a day here. Baby steps. Easy daily goal to get myself disciplined for a return to web assembly-line content production. Churn 'em and burn 'em.

I got into a routine here for about six months until I went on the road for the summer and then again for a month in the fall and again for several weeks at the end of the year. I only had about 10 weeks of non-travel in the second half of the year, which is reflected in the sparse postings here. Overall, I got the best of both worlds in 2013... some quiet time at home to get back into game shape and recharging the creative juices, plus some time on the road to soak up more experiences that I'd eventually wring out onto the pages in 2014 and ensuing years.

Here are some of the highlights from the last twelve months, the majority of it from the first half of last year...

January 2013
Writing Between the Lines - An argument why I should get drunk before I visit the post office.

14 Alaskan Crab Legs , Tax Exempt Hustlers, and Stardust - I went to Las Vegas only one time in 2013. Seriously. Only once. Here are three quick bits on my last trip.

Emo Pandas, Jesus Fence, and Jack's Obituary - A nifty lil post about Kerouac.

Orphans in San Francisco - Several unfinished, unconnected, unpublished things from San Francisco in early 2012.

The Mad Shitter, Mad Pisser, and Fat Naked Guy - Defecation and urination humor at its finest. Three stories (one each from high school, college, and post-grunge Seattle) in which I encountered someone who was dubbed the Mad Shitter or the Mad Pisser

Monday Morning Lurid Gaze - My neighbor, a struggling actress (with an emphasis on struggling) got into a huge fight with her boyfriend. Another typical Monday morning in Hollyweird.

Road Trips, David Foster Wallace, and Really Good Cocaine - Strong candidate for post of the year. This is an essay of sorts about one of my favorite authors, DFW.

Freeze Time (Fiction) - This is a fiction piece set on the fringe of the jazz world in the 1950s. Or the 1960s. I forget. Time gets fuzzy like that.

Illusion of Sanity in an Insane World of Snooki and Cage Matches - Another tirade about the Snookification of the World. Plus, there's a mentioning of a cage match against bears.

Transportation and Fucked-Up People - Potential future novel excerpt about living in NYC in the mid-90s... that is, if I ever get off my ass and finish that unfinished novel. For now, it's a flashback about a conversation I had with a friend before we started work one morning.

Sugar Plum-Stealing Cannibals and Swaying Palm Trees - A rare windstorm and a spooky moon hovered over Los Angeles. Insanity ensued.

Time, Shades of Pink, and Modern Consumption - Another rant about rampant consumerism and the coddling culture of self-indulgence which is destroying culture.

February 2013
Undesirables, Hell on Earth, and the Tao of Ned Ryerson - Amateur philosophizing on Ground Hog's Day.

Disorder at the Border (Fiction) -  Dexter Gordon's album Disorder at the Border had inspired some of Kerouac's passages during the typing of On the Road. This piece was inspired by both Kerouac and Gordon.

Binge Entertainment - I watched the entire season of the new Netflix series: House of Cards.

Russian Day Care, Fleet of Taxis, Chain Smokers, Dog Walkers, and the Old Couple in Matching Track Suits  - Who are the people in your neighborhood? A rundown of the folks in the Slums of Beverly Hills.

Freddy Bones (Fiction) - The weekly fiction series continues. This installment took place in 1953.

Year of the Snake, Lizard Queen and Hillary Clinton Reptilian Shapeshifter - Chinese New Year ushered in the Year of the Snake. What does the Queen of England, Hillary Clinton, and Land of the Lost have to do with the new year? Everything.

Neighborly Turbulence, Squabbles, and  Brouhahas- My neighbors fought all weekend. The actress was an emotional trainwreck and ripped through her boyfriend like a vicious hurricane.

The Trumpet Under Aunt Mary Mae's Bed (Fiction) - The weekly short fiction series continues. This one is set in 1958 and features more junkie musicians than you can shake a stick at.

Permanent Records, Credit Scores, and Chocolate Conspiracy Theories - Nicky and I celebrated our anniversary. Shocker.... seven years with my girlfriend. Plus, banksters prey on the lazy ones looking to buy a shortcut to the American Dream.

Bad Bands - Nothing is worse than seeing a bad band.

The Slums' Swing - There's a huge difference between my neighbors in San Francisco and Los Angeles. More musings from the Slums of Beverly Hills.

Red Plastic Bag - Ever have to take a shit on an airplane? Disclaimer... this is a very disgusting post.

The Music Remains the Same: Vinyl, Cassette, CD, and MP3 - My music collection has expanded and contracted over the years and taken on many different forms as technology has improved.

Surly Sully and Crotch-Grabbing Remo (Fiction) - Another junkie-themed short story set in the jazz era.

March 2013
Tao of Angela Chase and Jalen Rose - Middle-age malaise and nostalgia. I'm almost the same age as the dad from My So-Called Life. Plus, some wisdom from Jalen Rose.

Girls: OCD, It's Back - I wrote the first of several lewd recaps of Girls from the standpoint of a dirty, old man. Yes, I get wasted, then hate-watch Girls with my girlfriend, and then write about it.

Doctor THC - The differences between medicinal marijuana doctors in West Hollywood versus San Francisco.

Pay the Fucking Writer - It's a bitch working as a freelancer and often impossible to get paid. Plus, a video of a classic rant by Harlan Ellison.

Lee Morgan the Sidewinder - I wrote a bit about my affinity for Lee Morgan, the tragic trumpet player.

Writers, Booze, and Drugs - Another candidate for post of the year. If I had a chance to hang out with 16 of my literary heroes, what kind of drugs or booze would I do with them?

Beck's 'Loser' Turns 20 - Us Gen X'ers are getting old. Beck's Loser is now 20 years old. Zoinks!

Girls: Jizz - Another recap of Girls, this one about the highly controversial money shot.

Jack 91 - Jack Kerouac's 91st birthday. Plus, reading On the Road for the first time in high school and then re-reading it as an adult several times while living in different cities.

The Actress Took Down the Curtains - My hysterical actress neighbor finally kicked out her boyfriend and then moved out two weeks later.

St. Puke's Day - The evolution of St. Patrick's Day, as told by me at three different times in my life -- Catholic school kid watching the parade on Fifth Avenue, to party-hound beer-guzzling frat boy in Savannah, to a struggling-writer-cum-bartender in NYC.

Girls: Together Finally - Another dirty-old-man recap of the season finale of Girls.

Think Pieces, No Hats on the Bed, and Utah Get Me Two Whenever I see three certain films on cable TV -- Almost Famous, Drugstore Cowboy, and Point Break -- I'm compelled to sit down and watch it.

The Holes - If you dig Art Bell and other paranormal things, then you want to figure out what the hell is happening at Mel's Hole outside Yakima, WA.

Such a Lovely Place - I was surprised by how much I enjoyed watching the documentary on the Eagles, because I never really liked the band. This would spark a summer-long obsession with the documentary that inspired several more posts.

April 2013
Distracting Red Blinking Lights - The 21st Century will end with a war between man vs. the machines. I'm trying to figure out a balance between staying on the cutting edge without becoming a slave to the machine.

Weird Tales - Music in the form of 'mix tapes' jog the memory when things get hazy.

Binge Reading - Reading books in one sitting... is a good thing.

The Puke Secret - The key to writing is to write... a lot... an regurgitate everything inside your head.

Wind Chimes, Wind Choices - The real living occurs when you stray away from the path of comfort and normalcy.

Bill Clinton and the Battle of Wounded Knee - Did  you hear about the time shitfaced Bill Clinton blew out his knee after tumbling down a flight of stairs at Greg Norman's house?

Twitter Birthdays and Media Obituaries - Wow, five years on Twitter? Waste of time? Or worthy effort? Plus, some thoughts on the future of postmodern journalism and our insatiable appetite for new content every few minutes.

Shadows (Fiction) - The shadow people are real.

Bad Films: Bagger Vance -- I love sports films, but Bagger Vance was one of the worst I've ever seen.

German Speed and Early Beatles - After I watched a documentary on the Beatles documentary, I got fascinated with the early days when they were gigging in German clubs while fried on speed.

Giant Fucking Robots (Fiction) - It had been a while since I published some blog fiction. Here is a conversation that may or may not have taken place on a Los Angeles street corner in the near distant future.

30 Really Really Really Really Bad Story Ideas: Blind Jupiter, Ghost Cats, and the Return of the Shadow People - I wrote down a really bad story idea... one every day in the month of April. Here's the master list of 30 half-baked ideas and I hope I can turn one of them into a long-form project.

May 2013
Rattle and Hum: 25 Years Later - I watched U2's documentary Rattle and Hum again as an adult and have a few things to say about the film, my 15-year old self, Bono's ego, and the state of U2.

Those Superfluous Wankers (Fiction) - Inspired by the documentary film Dig! and the rivalry between Courtney from The Dandy Warhols and Anton from Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Hunter Thompson's Depraved and Decadent Kentucky Derby - On the eve of the Derby, I paid my respects to Hunter S. Thompson's groundbreaking piece of gonzo journalism.

Shut Up and Play the Hits or How I Killed a Purple Cow - I saw the documentary about the break up of LCD Soundsystem and their final show at MSG, which really hit home because I also made a difficult decision to pull the plug on Tao of Poker.

Three Empty Apartments - A struggling actress with anger issues and violin player moved onto the next phase of their lives as a part of the transient nature in the Slums of Beverly Hills.

Scar Tissue and Funky Monks - A review of Anthony Keidis' memoir Scar Tissue, which provided instant flashbacks about seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time in high school.

Starbucks Hell, 90210 - The customers at my local Starbucks fall into four annoying categories.

No Soap Radio - As a child of the 1970s, radio shaped my entire life and became a solid foundation for my passion about music.

Whiskey and Ice Cream - I dig Noah Baumbach films, particularly Greenberg, because the main character is a grumpy New Yorker who lives in L.A., but doesn't drive a car.

Speed Men - The latest episode of Mad Men was jacked up on speed. And other things. Plus, I revealed what it was like having a prescription to Adderall and why I don't take it anymore.

Bad Backs, Bad Manners, and I Know Why You Hate Baseball - I figured out why some people hate baseball... it stems from a bad childhood.

2023: Pro Soccer, Green Zones, Internet Speakeasy, and Cat TV -  A glimpse into the future. It's not pretty with rampant crime and limited internet access, but soccer is king and the most popular channel is 24/7 Cats. All cats, all the time.

Get Paid to Be Dick on Facebook - I envy people with jobs that allow them to squat on social media sites all day... every day... all the fucking time. Plus, more ranting about the rise of the internet troll.

Happy 11 - The Tao of Pauly turned 11. Wait, 11? Yes. Derp.

Shaking Up the Establishment, Sitting in Limbo, and Fading the Valley of Death - Thrilled that I don't have to willingly commit myself to a seven-week stint to an insane asylum in Vegas.

Morphine Drip of Binge TV - I binge-watched the new season of Arrested Development on Netflix. Welcome to the future of scripted entertainment.

The Cult of Social Media - Social media... a self-destructive tool of vanity, vapidness, and over-identity issues. It's the new opiate of the mass. Plus, Facebook is a cult. Admit it. You'd like to leave, but you can't. because you loved the flowing robes and hive mind. 

June 2013
Lines on the Mirror, Lines on Her Face - Song lyrics capture the essence of something so specific that you can't really explain why. Plus, I explain why I keep writing about the Eagles even though I don't like them?

Pete Campbell's Magical Mystery Tour - It finally happened. Pete Campbell finally decided to get baked. And yes, I only write about the "drug episodes" of Mad Men.

Foxygen: Subversive Anti-Hipsters or Full-Blown Plasticine PoMo Trash?: I can't decide if I like the band Foxygen or not. I listen to their debut album nonstop. Does that make me a hipster? Or a hipster hater? Or a hipster that hates hipsters? Or a hipster that hates hipster haters?

The Repair Shop: Cougar Spies, Suicidal Screenwriters and Porn Viruses - My laptop broke and I met a crew of interesting folks at a computer repair shop in the Slums of Beverly Hills... cougars, porn addicts, and distraught writers.

Full Moon Fever and Dirty Blvds. - Three albums dominated the crazy summer in NYC when I was 16: Tom Petty. The Pixies. Lou Reed.

Southern Fried Radio and Rise of the Machines - Radio is dead. I had mixed emotions about radio stations in different cities where I lived. |FYI... the future of music (distribution) is in the hands of tech geeks.

Police Helicopters, Justin Beiber's Monkey, Alley Possums - A helicopter woke my ass up. What the hell was going on in the slums of Beverly Hills?

On Green Dolphin Shit (Fiction) - It's about... photographs. I think.

Tony Soprano Trapped in Time - James Gandolfini passed away in Italy. The actor who played Tony Soprano did a tremendous job but it was impossible for anyone to imagine him as anything else.

The Ghosts of Stella D'oro - The death of Tony Soprano got me thinking about one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the neighborhood where I grew up.

Naismith Highway: The Long Run - The NBA season finally ended. It was a long 7.5 months because I was betting on basketball every day. Broke even. Barely.

Off the Wall - Working from home has its advantages... and tons of disadvantages.

Super Moon, Alley Wankers, and Keep the Loonies on the Path - What happens when you have a super moon? Freaks in our alley. That's what.

Joe Fucking Walsh and Free Crack on YouTube - YouTube is like a crack dealer. During my recent crack binge, I cam across a couple of gems from the Howard Stern show including a great interview with Joe Walsh. Yes, I also wrote a little bit about the Eagles again.

July 2013
Linklater's Sappy 'Before' Movies - When I was in college, I wanted to be the next Richard Linklater (at the time he had done Slackers and Dazed and Confused).

RIP Google Reader - I already miss my all-time favorite RSS reader.

Couch Tour, Webcasts, and Live Streams - I've embraced the ability to attended concerts without leaving my home. The technology is here to beam live streams of my favorite bands and music festivals, so now I don't even have to get off the couch.

Rock-N-Roll Hood - I finished a book about the music scene from Laurel Canyon in the late 60s and early 70s. Lots of marijuana, acid, and blow. Lots of blow. Did I say lots of blow?

Giant Fucking Robots - Warner Brothers is printing money with their high-concept film Pacific Rim. Yes, Giant Fucking Robots will make at least $1 billion and spawn two more sequels.

Vacant, Nevermore - After sitting empty for a couple of months, we finally have new neighbors.

Rabbit Holes, Prune Hands, and Losing Time - On the road.

August 2013
The Circus of Light; First Wave of Flashbacks - I tried to explain the strangest aspects of Phish tour to non-phans.

A Few More Lingering Flashbacks from the Circus - A few things, thoughts, and wispy memories of the last few weeks on the road following Phish.

Swapping Addictions: The Eagles for LCD Soundsystem; My Odd Obsession with Music Documentaries - No longer addicted to watching the documentary about the Eagles! I swapped that band for a new-found addiction to the LCD Soundsystem documentary, Shut Up and Play the Hits.

The (Melodious) Voice That Silenced the Machines - I miss the actress who lived across the alley. Rather, I missed her voice and the random times she'd sing.

Jump Into the Fire and Drinking Cognac With Harry Nilsson - A walk down memory lane with my initial introduction to Harry Nilsson, (drinking buddies with John Lennon, whenever Lennon visited LA).

Sneeze Drizzle and Beating Dead Horses - If you can't beat them.... join them. Time to recycle some old shit and make a bunch of moolah.

Feed All the Kangaroos - My girlfriend hates Steely Dan with a passion, but I love the band. They came through LA for a couple of shows and I went solo and got to sit in the fourth row.

Real World LA Flashbacks: Cowboy Guy, Drunk Irish Dude, and the Chick Who Got Knocked Up By Kenny Anderson - Flashback to the first time I watched the Real World (season 2 in LA).

When Flying Monkeys Marched Through the Flood Streets Like Saints - You can always win EVERYTHING with flying monkeys.

September 2013
Revolutions? Not During Football Season - America will never have a revolution or civil war during football season because we're brainwashed and would rather glorify extreme violence instead of protesting the scumbags running the government.

2 A.M. Thoughts: Michael J. Fox and Fake Plastic Friends  - Late night brain dump featuring Michael J. Fox's horrible portrayal as a cokehead in Bright Lights Big City.

Silky Back Roads - More unfiltered late night ramblings featuring Miles Davis, Jerry Garcia, and watered-down lemonade.

The Seinfeld Sci-Fi Tangent and Futuristic Grey Overalls - I wondered about something Seinfeld joked about -- would we all be wearing the same uniform in the future like so many dystopian films suggested?

Salinger - I saw new documentary on J.D. Salinger and had mixed feelings. But hey, it took nine years to make the film, so it was worth the wait.

Obey. Cosume. Watch TV. - I read Jonathan Lethem's book about the John Carpenter's cult classic film They Live! Freaky stuff.

Lefsetz's Slanket (Fiction) - I overheard conversation about the state of the entertainment industry and the music biz versus Hollywood. It inspired some new fiction.

2AM: No Expectations - More experimental writing.

Wall Crickets - I have crickets living in my walls. They never see daylight and chirp at all hours.

Everything I Know About Politics I Learned from Watching the TV Sitcom 'Benson' - Hollywood taught me everything I need to know about how the political realm works.

Writing to Live and Feeding F. Scott's Vampire Monkey - F. Scott Fitzgerald ended up in Hollywood cranking out bad scripts for MGM. How did one of America's greatest novelists end up broke, feeding an addiction, and chasing a quick buck?

October, November and December 2013
Bad Films: After Earth - I sat through Will Smith's film that was a subversive ad for Scientology.

Big Air - Mat Hoffman is a BMX legend and daredevil chronicled in a 30 for 30 documentary.

Furthur, No More? - I caught the last Furthur show before the band goes on hiatus next year.

Worm Buffet (Fiction) - Something about getting stuck.

iFuture - Apple owns our future. We're just a bunch of addicts and Apple is the super-rich dealer.

A Cocktail of Optimism for Taylor Hicks - Los Angeles is a brutal town, especially when it chews up and spits out creative types.

157 Days and 3 Magic Bullets - When I was a kid, inside of 157 days lone assassins took shots at President Reagan, Pope John Paul 2 and John Lennon. How does a kid process that information? I realized you don't want too much power because that will attract the crazies.

10,000 Monkey Hours - If you do anything for 10,000 hours, will you really become proficient in it?

The Return to the Big Easy - I visited New Orleans for the first time since Katrina.

Dive Bar Sanctuary - Hanging out in dive bars in New Orleans reminded me why I love dive bars so much.

That's all I got for now. As you can tell, I put more time into Tao of Pauly over the first six months of 2013. I seriously slacked the second half, especially the last three months. On a positive note, in November I swapped out time here to pen a first draft of a new novel. Let's see if I can finish a re-write in January.

Thanks for following along. Let's see if I can keep it going in 2014. I'll resume the "500 words a day" limit in order to instill some discipline at the start of the new year before I get busy with other work or have to hit the road.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Kindle or iPad? Buy One of My Books

By Pauly
New York City

Congrats. You survived. Merry Day-After Christmas.

Did you get a new iPad, or how about a Kindle? If so, then here's your chance to buy digital copies of my books.

The e-book version of Lost Vegas is only a few clicks away. It's a memoir (of sorts) spanning four years as a poker reporter in Las Vegas.

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for Kindle and iPads.

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for the Nook

Click here to buy a print copy of Lost Vegas on

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Do you like fiction? Many moons ago, I penned a trashy novel. Feel free to indulge yourself with an e-book Kindle version of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog.

This young lady had some kind words to say about JTSMD...

I recorded a podcast with Nicky over 30 months ago! She asked me questions about the origins of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Listen below via SoundCloud...

JTSMD - Episode 1: The 10-Day Novel by taopauly 
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Thanks for the support. Hopefully, I'll have a new novel to pimp sometime in 2014.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 and Auggie Wren's Christmas Story

By Pauly
New York City

I'm a sucker for tradition. Go read "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story." I re-read it every Christmas.

If you're too lazy to read, part of this story was included in the film Smoke...

And before I go, here's a message from Disco Santa and some familiar faces...

Monday, December 23, 2013

Vodka Breath Disappearing into the Night

By Pauly
New York City

It's very early and I'm already buzzed. I blame the holidays.

Like any functioning addict, the environment is an easy scapegoat. If everything was all peaches and honey, I wouldn't have a need to imbibe so early in the day. Roughly 9AM. I used to adhere to the "don't drink until noon otherwise you're an alcoholic." My old man was a life-long alkie and if he didn't have at least one beer by noon, his hands started shaking. Talk about "taking off the edge."

I'm in New York City and in order to deal with the surroundings and the overwhelming stress of "being home for the holidays," I opted for the easy way out.

Coping measures. I'm officially home for the holidaze.

I'm a wake-n-baker. Help clears the mind. It's usually the opposite effect for most people. If they get baked first thing in the morning, they'll want to sink into the couch and watch sixteen episodes of The Simpsons. But a couple of drags actually gets me motivated.

I once worked at the museum with a marathon runner. Just missed the 1992 Jamaican Olympic team by two spots. He told me he rolled a blunt every morning. He smoked half of it then ran 10 miles. He came home, showered, ate breakfast, then smoked the rest of the blunt before he hopped on the train to go to work. He said marijuana opened up his lungs and allowed him to breathe more oxygen.

"Okay, I get the first half of the blunt. But what about the second half?" I asked.

"You have to be stoned to ride the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan during rush hour. No other way," the almost-Olympian said.

I cannot exactly wake-n-bake in NYC while staying with my mother, so I either have to take a walk around the block to blaze up, or go for plan B... drink rum/orange juice and eat painkillers.

It doesn't sound as depressing as it looks. It doesn't sound as fun as it looks. It just is. I'm a functioning addict, just trying to maintain a specific level of insobriety so I can get through the day.

Writing is a wonder drug. Cures everything. Immensely. It's better than therapy. A really positive writing session and brain dump is like talking to your neighborhood bartender for an hour followed up by thirty minutes on the heavy punching bag. Therapeutic. But if I can't start every day with a writing session and a drag of California's finest herbs, then I'm all out of whack and it's going to be a long, miserable day, especially if I'm in harsh surroundings.

I miss NYC, but I always have mixed emotions about coming home. Too many ghosts. Too many bad memories. I try to focus on the positive things and fun, fuzzy memories. But too many things around to trigger the bad shit. An old sign. An old face. You never know when you're going to be ambushed with your past. You just hope you can hold your own in a mental street brawl.

I haven't been able to write much volume since I returned to NYC, which is why I got blotto this morning. The only quiet time I get is between 1am and 6am, so I had to re-adjust my schedule because I got accustomed to writing between 6-9am the last few months in California.

It was rainy, but unseasonably warm. Yesterday was a record high in NYC. Blame global warming. Blame Karl Rove's weather machine. Mother Nature is so out of whack, I'm worried that she's been eating too much LSD.

I walked over to the local Greek diner. Drizzle and grey. Felt like Seattle weather the last couple of days. The guy who owned the diner is named Spiro. No bullshit. He used to play ball with my brother. He knows I'm sort of a sports-gambling writer and wanted to know my thoughts on a few Bowl games. It was a funny conversation because he hung on my every word. Made me wonder if he was going to bet any of the games, or if his uncle (one of the local Bronx bookies) was going to rake in a ton of dough this Bowl season.

I was the youngest person in the diner at 7am. I was the only one reading a book. Everyone else had a newspaper. A real newspaper. Dinosaurs enjoying a virtually extinct product. I never see people reading newspapers in Los Angeles. I'll see actors thumbing through a script  at the coffeeshop, but never a newspaper. They say the LA Times has a circulation of 1 million plus, but I assume those people read the paper at home, or they live on the East Coast.

The diner was filled with regulars. Old regulars. Like really old old people. Retired Irish cops in newsboy caps. Retired Italian mob guys in Fila sweat suits. Retired Jewish shopkeepers in tweed jackets. The buzz was about New York's head coaches. Who was getting fired? Rex Ryan or Tom Coughlin? Or both.

I went home and I tried to write, but kept getting interrupted. Nicky knows never to bother me if the door to my office is closed. She knows that if the door is closed, then I'm seriously working. If it's open then it's cool to come in. But, my mother has not once respected the entire closed door rule in 40 years. I'd get more work done at Starbucks at this point, which is where I'm headed now so I can finish this post and write some football stuff, while hoping not to run into old classmates with their rambunctious kids in tow.

Anyway, this keyboard is fucking me up. I'm writing on a British-bought laptop that I acquired on the road many years ago when my laptop died in London while on an assignment. I had to scramble to find a new laptop on short notice. My client offered to go 50/50 on a new laptop. One of the few (if not only) times that they made a generous offer. When I got back stateside, I bought a different laptop, but I left the British laptop with family in New York City so I always had a spare laptop to use when I visited. I have a problem with the slightly different keyboard. It's so close to normal, but a few characters scrambled about. So it becomes problematic when I'm buzzed, especially early in the morning, when I'm used to just taking a brain dump and unloading a few pages of unfiltered thoughts onto the page. It's like trying to type on LSD. All the keys are there in theory, but the stuff on the keys is every-so slightly out of sync.

Where's the fucking 'quotation' button? And why is it above the number 2? Why is the Queen trying to fuck with my head like that?

I missed New York City, but I dread the holidays. It took me many years to figure out I was fighting a losing battle against seasonal depression. I guess shrinks never really came up with that term until a decade ago. Maybe more. I think part of what they say is utter bullshit... and just a ploy to shill pills for Big Pharma. I have a theory that there's really only a handful of true diseases and afflictions out there and that 90% of the rest is just bullshit fugazzi ailments that Big Pharma concocted so they can move new pills.

But it's hard to argue against seasonal depression. If you have a crazy family like mine, it's definitely enough to cause severe melancholy, especially when you're forced to interact with them at family meals and gatherings. I never do things that I don't want to do. That's been the key to happiness in life... trying to minimize things you don't like doing. But family shit is something you can never get out of, so it's often one of the few things I hate doing that I actually do. Then again, I decided to cut my losses by skipping Turkey Day and staying in California for that holiday, so I only have to endure a very long week during Christmas.

But when I was a teenager, I dreaded Thanksgiving up through Valentine's Day. Roughly 11-12 weeks. Three month long malaise. Most of it had to do with forced interaction with relatives who hate my guts. The rest of it had to do with enduring January (truly a shitty month weatherwise) and then two weeks of inadequacy leading up to Valentine's Day. If I didn't have a girlfriend at the time, I was made to feel inferior because I didn't have someone special. And if I did have someone, I was freaking out because I was going to come up short in the gift department.

I have a nagging hang up that I give people terrible presents. So I overcompensate and I give something totally outrageous (which sets me up to fail in the future because I have to outdo myself), or I try to get overly creative and get something quirky that ends up failing. On the flip side, I'm easy to buy gifts for. Get me a book. I'll read it at least once. Maybe twice. Every word. And if it's a boring book, I'll feel compelled to finish reading it if I give up initially. Regardless, any book given to me is an automatic homerun because I devour books at an alarming clip. I wish more people read books because it would be easier to give those as gifts.

That's why for a while I only gave people lottery tickets. Which is weird, because I feel that the lottery is totally rigged and one of the most degenerate behaviors (besides over-consumption) that citizens engage in with the blessing of the government. But it's the point that counts. A dollar and a dream. That's the motto. I'm gifting people dreams.

To combat this so-called seasonal depression, I devised ways to break out of it. Mostly trips to warmer climates in December and/or January. That's why my brother and I flew out to Las Vegas the second weekend of December. We wanted to gamble on football, but I always wanted to get out of the City for a long weekend after a stressful Turkey Day. I also tried to schedule a trip somewhere in January. For a while I was flying down to Florida to visit my bud Jerry. When I got a job in the poker biz, I welcomed assignments in January that took me elsewhere like the Caribbean or Australia, where it was in the middle of summer.

These days if I'm not traveling in January, I set aside a few weeks to work on a new project. That seems to keep my mind focused on positive things. But the bottom line is that I figured out how to handle seasonal depression. But I still have to deal with a couple rough patches.

I moved to Los Angeles several years ago because I hated living in Las Vegas and I didn't want to end up a cokehead degen gambler. I pretty much hate the concept LA, but I fucking love fading seasonal depression because its amazing weather in January. If I'm not traveling, I'm relishing the fact that the rest of the country is miserable and it's sunny outside. My college friend Chicago Bob fled Illinois and moved to SoCal a few years ago. He used to be thrilled to death to wear shorts in January and not have to shovel snow, which he'd be doing had he still lived in Chicago.

Yes, the weather in LA is amazing. But that's about all I dig about the city. Heck, I was wearing shorts the day before I flew to NYC because it was 80+ degrees. Felt weird to be sitting in my living room and staring at a Christmas tree while I was in shorts. I'll never get over that weird feeling of Christmas in LA. In a town that fabricates everything, they still have yet to figure out how to concoct a fake Christmas.

It was warm in NYC over the weekend, but that was just a nice little bonus gift from Mother Nature before the frigid temperatures return. I missed being super cold and having that harsh air hit my face the moment I exit a bar. It's a weird sensation, but it's something that I associate the holidays in NYC with... drinking in bars with high school or college buddies, then walking outside and getting smacked with a dose of frigid air. You could see the dense vapors from your whiskey or vodka breath before it disappears into the darkness of night.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Late Lament

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be freelancers.

I sent that as a text to my pal Shamus, an English professor and fellow freelancer. He understands the vexatious financial ebbs and flows of being a writer for hire. It's important to love what you do, but no one likes it when you don't get paid on time. It's ironic that writers are anchored to deadlines, yet the mega-media corporations they write for often have zero regard for paying their creatives in a timely manner. If they're late, there's zero recourse.

Hypothetically, in Norman Rockwell's Americana, the average citizen supposedly works for 11 months with 1 month off. Using that formula, I tried to game the system. I figured out how to squeeze 11 months of (freelance) work inside 8 months so I can get four months off to travel and write on my own projects. I'm struggling to maintain that balance, but I'm seeking a life of enjoyment without being a slave to it. My rough sketch is this: 5 months on (Feb-March-April-May-June), 2 months off (July-Aug), 3 months on (Sept-Oct-Nov), 2 months off (Dec-Jan). But those 8 months "on" are hectic, but it's worth the sacrifice. I'm fortunate that Nicky works on a TV show and she has time off when it's not in production, so some of our time off coincides with each other.

The key to freelancing is to do enough of it and spread out evenly so a steady flow of income is coming in. Steady gigs are essential, even if they're small because any consistent checks are a godsend during the lean months. I have a few stretches every year when there's limited funds coming in, so things get ugly whenever there's any delayed payments from other clients, especially with bigger projects.

I'm used to getting paid several months after I finish something. Heck, I went a decade writing without getting paid. That was miserable and I had to hump shitty jobs to keep a roof over my head and the Man off my back. But it often defies logic to do work (instantly published) with a deferred payment, but that's the system that's in place originally created in the print media paradigm.

Delayed payments are good because it forces you to stay within your budget because you constantly have a strained cash flow. You have "promises" of money coming in, but you cannot 100% guarantee to get paid, so you really have to live with what you got. If you get stiffed, then you have to hire a thug (aka lawyer) to get it back.

Most of the time you gamble as a freelancer, which you can afford to do with reliable and established clients. I know XYZ will pay me eventually, so I can spend this money now.

Sometimes it's a coinflip on whether you get paid on time. Chasing down outstanding clients is almost a full-time job. You have to be firm, but most of the time I feel less like a creative person and more like a bill collector. If you let them string you along, then you set precedent and you'll never be paid on time. If you bitch and moan too much, they won't hire you back. I had a few instances when I was threatened and essentially blackmailed for wanting to be paid. I don't write for those fuckers anymore.

In an era when it's getting harder and harder to get compensation for content creation, it's increasingly more difficult to get paid on time. It's easy to write, compared to the painful process trying to get paid. I rarely stress out about what I'm going to write, but I can't sleep when I'm wondering when the hell the money is coming in. I would never blow a deadline by 90 or 120 days, but you'd be surprised how long it takes to get paid in some instances.

Corporations and bill collectors don't give a rat's ass about what's owed to you. All they care about is what you owe them.

Most freelancers my age are paycheck-to-paycheck kind of people with car loans, credit card bills, and alimony/child support. I'm lucky because I don't own a car or have ex-wives/kids to support. But my friends with that burden have a hellacious life. No wonder writers are often heavy drinkers. Sweet liquor eases the pain of not getting paid.

Sure, I could use a credit card as a temporary loanshark until I get paid, but I'm already using credit to cover business related travel and expenses. If I don't pay that at the end of the month, then I incur interest. It might take several months to get paid, so many freelancers get screwed by credit card companies charging them juice. Good luck convincing any media outlet (especially if they are on the verge of extinction, or struggling to stay relevant in an over-saturated market) to pay for all your incured expenses, let alone credit card interest. So if you're like me and don't want the big banks to get free cash due to the bizarre "work now, get paid later" freelancer payment system, then you have to pay expenses out of pocket. In full. I want to stick it to the banks, but that kills my cash flow. Of course if I got paid on time, this would not be a problem.

One of the worst experience I had encountered happened while covering an event in London. I paid for the trip out of pocket with the intentions of acquiring several stories and selling them to multiple outlets. But that trip was a disaster and I had lost money on that gig due to ridiculous escalating expenses (hotels and shitty exchange rate of the British Pound at the peak of the financial crisis). It didn't help that I got paid significantly less from one client (they wanted more work for less pay), another client sold their site overnight (and the new corporate overlord didn't want to retain services), and another magazine rejected my work because I got undercut by a sleazy cut-throat hack who stole my column because she said she'd do it for 1/3 of my rate. Shit happens. That's the risk you take working for yourself. At least I got to take a side trip to Amsterdam with my girlfriend, which salvaged the journey.

Most of the time, expenses come out of the freelancer's pocket, so it's sort of an investment or necessary cost of doing business. It takes money to make money, right? If you must travel to get the story, you better earn back enough to cover expenses and make it worth your time. That's the biggest problem facing journalists today... there's not enough outlets willing to pay expenses for them to get a detailed story, whether it's the front lines of a civil war in Western Africa or an extensive investigation into the financial crisis.

I dunno about you, but I lose all ambition to sit down and crank out new freelance work when I'm not paid on time. It's difficult to motivate yourself when you haven't been paid. As a freelancer, you can never have a bad day at work because you have to be "on" all the time. In the 9-5 world,you can slack off and still get paid. You can never get away with that in the freelance realm. Then again, in the 9-5 world, it would be absurd to work more than a pay cycle or two without getting paid. I've had some clients in which I worked for free for almost a year before finally getting compensated. Either I had blind faith, or I was a fucking moron for doing that. That's why prompt payment is the supreme motivator.

It's not worth the aggravation to deal with perpetually late clients, yet I still lose sleep over it. Given the choice of writing for pay, or writing for myself, I've been consistently picking myself the last two years. So I better finish off Fried Peaches and get that new novel out to generate another revenue stream because it's been a pain in the ass relying on multiple corporations to pay me on time.

I burned out on poker and Vegas several years ago, because I was sick of the rampant unprofessionalism and tired of chasing down delinquent clients. The scumbag, lying asstards at Higher Roller Magazine still owe me several grand for content I generated in 2006-07! I'll never see that money. If you count of all the money that immoral "clients" like High Roller and other deplorable stiffed me on, that number would be somewhere between a WSOP Main Event buy-in and a new Toyota Corolla. Closer to the Corolla.

Imagine the frustration and anger seething through my veins knowing that I generated enough original content to buy a car... but there's no fucking car.

Tough shit. That's life. Lawless and ruthless. Re-read the opening line: Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be freelancers.

Don't get me started about how much bookies owe me. Of course, I gotta keep my yapper shut about that bad beat because I don't want to piss off the wiseguys and wake up next to a severed horse's head.

So, it's the end of the year and I've been banging my head against the wall trying to get paid from multiple clients. They will all pay eventually (with the exception of one outfit which I have no fucking clue is up with those shady mofos), but it would have been nice to get paid before Christmas.We'll see. Eight days away.

I'm not going to be exploited today. Fuck that. I'm gonna go work on Fried Peaches edits and write about how horrible it is to be a Jets fan.

Support independent writers and buy a book today.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bill Hicks: Gone, But Not Forgotten

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Bill Hicks is not Alex Jones. I love a good conspiracy theory but the one about Hicks faking his death, getting plastic surgery, and re-inventing himself as fear mongering Alex Jones is absurd. It's a funny one, but totally not anything close to reality. Now if you told me Hicks faked his death and re-invited himself as Mitt Romey or Rob Ford, then I'd be willing to buy that tin foil hat theory.

Bill Hicks would have been 52 today. Yeah, it's his birthday, so do yourself a favor and watch this great rant on The War on Drugs...

Love the line, "Oh, I'm sorry. I was taking life too seriously."

And check out that entire show Sane Man here...

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dive Bar Sanctuary

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Sanctuary. That's the best way to describe a comforting dive bar.

I'm not talking about a local neighborhood bar, like Cheers, in which everyone knows your name. I like the kind of dive bar in which no one knows my name and I can walk in off the street and disappear for a few hours, as the bar provides a sanctuary for me and my thoughts.

Then again, I walked into a New Orleans dive bar with AlCantHang, and the barkeep shrieked, "Al!" as soon as she saw him.

I spent my fair share of time in dive bars all across America. Dive bars are my favorite kind of bars. I never liked those cool, hip bars. In college, everyone went to the same fucking meat-market bar on Thursday nights, but I opted for a quieter and more laid back dive. That was twenty years ago, when I was in peak drinking shape and could polish off a 24-pack of Schaefer in a few hours. Nowadays, it would take me a week to drink that much beer.

I'm a dive bar guy. I'm now in my 40s and I don't wait in lines with velvet ropes in order to get a drink. Worst thing I hated about Las Vegas. The fucking club scene. It might have been more my speed in my early 20s if I was jacked up on ecstasy, but I don't imbibe much these days, so when I do choose to get liquored up the last thing I'm going to do is wait in line to get in the bar, then wait another fifteen minutes at the bar to get a drink. Or worse, they fall prey to the biggest sucker bet in Vegas outside of blackjack insurance... bottle service... in which schmucks pay an redonkulously overcharged price for a bottle of vodka, just so they can feel like they're somebody. Yeah, you're somebody all right... a fucking moronic mook who is pathetically trying to buy coolness, so they're willing to dish out mega bucks on inflated liquor prices. Hey, but that's why club owners in Vegas are rolling in dough. There's no shortage of brainwashed, desperate wannabes in search of "cool." Unfortunately the only validation they get is a fat SUCKER label stamped on their forehead and a juicy credit card bill.

I hate clubs because of all the anxiety involved. The guy with the clipboard is a judgmental asswipe. The waitresses are snooty. The bouncers are itching to pound someone's head in. Clubs and hip bars are crowded with annoying vapid wankers and chicks more interested in posting selfies than carrying on a semi-legitimate conversation. Plus the DJ is too cool for your tastes and thinks he's Skillrex.

But let's face it... I'm at the right age in which it is socially acceptable to be drinking in old man's bars. It's a little pathetic if I'm hopelessly trying to get into swanky clubs with ropes, or worse, being that middle-aged guy trying to bribe a thick-necked bouncer in hopes he'll let me cut the line for a Benjamin.

I had a bartending stint at an old man's bar. Didn't work there very long. Tips were terrible. Stories were better than average. But these were grizzled alkies with perpetually bloodshot eyes that waited outside for the bar to open every morning. The atmosphere in old man bars was sullen and pathetic. Petty arguments about sports and politics that went no where. But that's what those guys wanted. They were drowning in their own melancholy and afflicted with the disease. They were all waiting to die, so all they wanted was to nurse their drinks and be shielded from the slings and arrows of the outside world. The same world that was happy to keep those sad fuckers hidden away from productive members of society.

Don't get an old man's bar confused with a dive bar. Sometimes they are one in the same. In most urban settings, the old guys drink there during the day and then stagger off when happy hour ends, when the bar becomes a haven for average working folks looking for a low key place to drink. But the problem with some dive bars is that they often get filled hipsters looking to be hip, or party people purposefully slumming. Old guys have a very low tolerance for hipsters. Then again, so does everyone.

A good dive bar attracts the wide spectrum of people, so on any given night you'll have that silent old drunk slumped in the corner, and a couple of sorority chicks doing shots, a poet trying to read a book, banksters in pinstripes (rushing off to the john to do rails), a potential Rhodes scholar or the junkie with the leather jacket that played in that so-called legendary punk band.

A good dive bar is the kind of place you can do blow in the bathroom and its totally cool. An awesome dive bar will let you do it on the bar. My favorite dives are the places where you can fire up a joint in the alley, so long as you invite the bartender.

The bartender at a good dive bar is sort of a cross between a rock star and a prison guard. They are grossly outnumbers by the inmates, but they hold the extreme authority so you never want to fuck with a bartender otherwise you'll never get a drink. The most power I ever felt as an adult happened when I was tending bar and I got to shun a potential customer by making them wait forever before I took their order. It's even a bigger fuck you if there's three people in the bar.

We spent the majority of last weekend in the same dive bar on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter. AlCantHang picked it out. It was in his DNA. It was nestled next to something called The Dungeon, which is exactly what you think it is. Cross between an S&M club and the type of bar that blasts heavy metal so loud that your ears will bleed after five minutes.

At the dive, we befriended one of the locals that we dubbed Will the Thrill. I couldn't tell if he was a pool hustler who was having an off night, or just an average player who thought he was a hustler. One thing is for certain, you never want to play pool against a guy who brought his own stick. A serious hustler doesn't want anyone to know they're good so they play with house sticks, which Will the Thrill was doing.

At one point he tapped me as his partner to play a match against two locals. One kid looked like a meth dealer and the other looked like he lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They all knew each other, which made me a little leery. I spotted myself as the sucker. But Will the Thrill wanted to use me as bait. I was clearly off my game. I haven't played bar pool in a very long time. For one, I never hang out in bars anymore, and haven't been inside a pool hall in years. In our 20s, Senor and I used to go out and shoot pool all the time in NYC. We'd hit up the dive bar circuit in the East Village, and when he wanted to cruise for hot Korean girls, we'd migrate to midtown. NYC pool halls gave non-drinkers a chance to socialize without having to be inside a bar.

In New Orleans, I played the roll as the bad pool player perfectly. It was a performance worthy of an Oscar nod. I didn't even have to try to be bad. I was bad. I think they call that method acting, right?

The dive bar had a pool table with two crooked sticks and a piece of chalk on its last licks. The worn table only cost 50 cents which was a throw back to my college days. Shit there was one hipster bar in San Francisco where pool cost $2 a game, so you better win your games otherwise it was going to be an expensive night out.

But I wasn't that bad all weekend. At one point Iggy and I held the table for over ninety minutes before we lost to Otis and his brother in a rematch game. Then again, we weren't really paying attention much so the games dragged on and on. It was one of those types of games when no one was shooting for a few minutes and you had to walk across the bar and say, "I think you're up.... but I forget if we're low or high."

No wonder Will the Thrill wanted to use one of us as bait to hustle the other locals.

Besides a pool table, the most important element to any bar is the jukebox. The pool table lures in the degenerate gamblers, but the jukebox is how you woo women. Well, that and some roofies and tequila.

At one point, an incredulous Iggy lectured the tandem of AlCantHang and Bad Blood on their affinity for heavy metal. I had a heavy metal phase when I was a kid, but these days it's nowhere close to my favorite genre. I could tolerate a few songs, especially because I dug the one Tool song that they played, but the bartender turned it down a few notches. You could also sense the few other customers in the bar weren't keen on the thrashing. Iggy lost his cool after one song.

"What up with this crap?" snarled Iggy. "If you want to listen to death metal, go next door!"

The Dungeon next door had a jukebox filled with heavy metal. When I walked in the previous night with Al and Dave, I was bombarded with Iron Maiden. It felt like 7th grade all over again. The Dungeon's jukebox also had Steel Panther, a heavy metal cover band that played weekly gigs in Vegas and LA. They had an original tune called Asian Hooker. Al and Dave put it on, but we had to wait an hour before their songs came up in the queue. By then I was nearly deaf. After seeing almost a thousand loud concerts since I was a teenager, my hearing is not the best anymore. After the Dungeon, I felt like I had blown out my ear drums.

Back at the dive bar, while Iggy was lecturing Al and Bad Blood, I jokingly rallied the troops and told everyone to throw a few bucks into the Jukebox to make sure we didn't have to suffer another wave of heavy metal from the headbangers in the bar. But I offered up my own expertise on selecting the proper Jukebox songs.

"You're essentially taking on the roll as DJ for a few minutes, which means you have a responsibility to entertain the bar, keep the ladies swaying, but most importantly, you have to keep the bartender happy. You can't shove your music down people's throats. In most bars, the bartender has the volume controls. In some bars, the bartender has supreme veto power. Nothing sucks more than dumping a few bucks into a jukebox and then getting cockblocked because the bartender has an issue with whatever song you picked."

If you pay for three songs (it was three songs for a buck), the rule I adhere to is this: one for the bar, one for you, and one deep cut to make the bar go "Wow! Haven't heard this in a while!" The softball pick is the easiest. The one for you is touchy because you want to pick something that you love, but you also want something that you think everyone else will dig. And the deep cut is problematic if the jukebox has a limited selection. But if you can find the right combination, then there's nothing like  jubilant bar patrons singing along to something you put on. I even put on some Sublime to keep my brother interested.

The dive bar's jukebox was filled with standard classic rock, lots of grunge, and more heavy metal than the average bar should have. They also had some bizarre and weird stuff like industrial music from Germany and the Hinterlands. But it lacked contemporary music (I don't think I saw anything older than Pearl Jam) and didn't have anything that the ladies would love like Motown, disco, and other dance-inducing songs.

Old man bars are rarely happy, but dive bars are different. Depends on the ebbs and flows of the clientele and what gets played on the jukebox. A cozy dive might emit good vibes, but it's really a place to hide out for a few hours.

Most bars are depressing because of its clientele or what they are trying to achieve.You can drink at home and its much cheaper. You can drink on the street if you do not have a home, which is also cheaper than a bar. But you go to a bar to be social, but if you go to an old man's bar or a dive bar, you are passive-aggressively looking to be social. We're all lonely. Some of us life-long addicts would rather succumb to addiction in the privacy of your own home, which is why there's millions of Americans every night hopped up on pills and getting sloshed on their couches. For the adventurous lonely souls, dive bars gives them a chance to potentially interact with other lonely souls, who want to hide out but not banish themselves into complete seclusion.

Some bars are technicolor. Most dive bars are black and white. Like stepping back into an old photograph leaping back into the past. Bending time. Sometimes its sepia. Sometimes its blue. Or green-tinged. A proper dive bar has no proper distinction. Perspective is "as is" while living precisely in the moment.

Dive bars are supposed to be a place where kindred spirits gather. Sort of the opposite of a family gathering. Because family holidays have a certain amount of animosity and hatred involved. You usually do not go to places where you're not wanted. You tend to avoid people who hate your guts. Which is why high school is so painful and why holiday gatherings are so stressful because you're forced to interact with people who hate your guts and they do a bad job trying to shine it on for the holidays.

Balance is the key. If a dive becomes too popular then it gets gentrified with hipsters and then it loses its laid back appeal. If it gets too dismal and dark, then it becomes an utter shit hole of misery. The entire point of a dive bar is to find momentary solace from the rigors of life and escape the other shit holes you're stuck in whether its home, work, or school. You don't trade one shit hole for another. You just want a place where you can be yourself and truly relax.

As I started drinking less and less (and more and more at home), I discovered that I missed out on dive bars, which were an oasis from the barren grind of everyday life. Amsterdam had a heady alternative with hash bars and coffeeshops, which certainly appealed to me much more than a regular bar. San Francisco had a few dives in my hood in LoPac, but it was always crowded with hipsters slumming it.

But in New Orleans, Al found the right dive. Which is why we spend more time there than any other place. It was centrally located. A few blocks from where we were all staying. It had a pizza join half a block away and a Lucky Dog cart in front. It was right off Bourbon Street so we could see the lewd behavior of shitfaced tourists like the one 20-something guy who was fingering a cougar right in front of the bar, or the barbacks from a popular bar across the street who wandered over to roll joints in front of the dive bar.

The dive even had bathrooms behind hidden bookcases, so if you went in for the first time, you'd have no idea where you should do your business. Even those secret doors did not have locks, which provided some sense of security of you were dropping a deuce or trying to do a few lines.
The only thing the dive did not have was its own breathalyzer. Luckily one was located across the street inside the Tropical Isle. I somehow got the task of setting the lines of our friends BAC. It was not an exact science. I'd quiz them on what they had drank that day, but more importantly, what did they consume in the previous hour. It was a simple over/under. You'd be shocked to see what some of the crew blew. AlCantHang's BAC was so high one time I had no idea how he was standing, let alone breathing. Then again, that's why he's AlCantHang.

A perfect dive bar never changes. It's a sanctuary for your battered soul.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Soultrane (Writing Music)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I probably listen to this album from start to finish at least twice a week. Depending on my mood, I can listen to this on a loop five or six times before I get bored with it. Soultrane by John Coltrane is the quintessential writing music and perfect background music. If this was the only album I had, I wouldn't be too bummed out.

I created a jazzy writing playlist over at YouTube. Check it out here before the YT Police yanks them down.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Return to the Big Easy

By Pauly
New Orleans, LA

Feels weird to be back. But a good weird.

I had not been back to New Orleans since Katrina. Has it really been 10 years since I last roamed the streets of NOLA? I think Jazzfest 2003 was the last time I partied here.

For most of my 20s, New Orleans was my favorite city in America before it was overtaken by Las Vegas. But I've been burnt out on Vegas for a few years now, and San Francisco or Denver have been vying for my favorite city. But walking through New Orleans brought back a flood of memories.

I got hooked on New Orleans during my first visit in college, back when the drinking age was actually 18 and I didn't need a fake ID to get sloshed in bars for Mardi Gras. New Orleans was a quick 6-hour trip from Atlanta. Actually it is seven hours, but you get an extra hour due to the time change. I don't know how many times we made the sojourn.

When you're a young aspiring writer, you think about what will be your first attempt at writing the Great American Novel. For a few years, I thought I was going to write a manuscript about heading to New Orleans for Mardi Gras during my senior year in college. Seven of my friends chipped in and we rented an RV. Drove it from Atlanta to New Orleans, and then back to Atlanta with a sidetrip to Biloxi, MS for a little blackjack and poker. Much like the characters in Easy Rider, we were headed to New Orleans but really searching for a short cut to the American Dream.

The ride down was a little hectic. We had dropped liquid sunshine and a friend of a friend invited himself along at the last second. We only let him tag along because he offered to drive half of the way to NOLA. He drove fast, very fast, especially for an RV. My bud Dutch, who was in the middle of his Jim Morrison phase, was concerned about our lead-foot driver.

A RV blazing down an interstate in the deep south, filled with frat boys, weed, acid, and who knows what, was definite probable cause.

Dutch was concerned and rightfully so. We had a few extra doses on us and we made a pact that if we happened to get pulled over, then we'd take one for the team and eat the remainder of the doses, which were on sugarcubes.

At one point somewhere in Southern Alabama, we noticed flashing red and blue lights. Then the RV abruptly pulled over to the side of the road. Dutch freaked out. He thought we were about to get pinched. "We gotta do it," he said with his hands shaking as he pulled out the last of the sugarcubes. I ate two, which brought my intake to three since we had left Atlanta a few hours earlier.

It turned out that our driver had to take a leak, so he pulled over the side of the road to relieve himself. The flashing lights? Not for us. We ate the extra cubes for no reason other than sheer paranoia. We were tripping balls the rest of the ride to New Orleans. We must;e got in around 2am or 3am. I wandered around the French Quarter until sunrise before I was finally somewhat right. We ended up parking the RV in front of a church for the duration of Mardi Gras. I barely slept. Drank my weight in booze. And somehow won enough money in Biloxi to pay for the trip.

But that was almost 20 years ago. Memories run deep.

I always wanted to visit New Orleans with AlCantHang. For some reason, we've known each other for almost a decade but we never pulled off a trip.... until now. Life and work had gotten into the way and we could never find the proper time. Luckily, Otis gave us a great excuse to fulfill one of those bucket list items (17. Go to New Orleans with AlCantHang.).

Al found us a quaint local's house to rent. It's in the heart of the Quarter and hidden so much so that it's easy to miss. Feel kind of cool not being in a hotel. No intrusive maids. No industrial soap smell. We can pretend to be locals. There's a corner bar on the corner, a few steps away. One of the oldest in New Orleans, one of the oldest in America. I have not drank much the last few months, but I have a feeling I'll make up for all that missed time over the next few days. At least rum is in my wheelhouse. I'm ready for a hurricane of Hurricanes.

But more importantly, I have all those memories and all those ghosts to keep me company. Anything that can jog and jilt my memory is a good thing. Especially considering how fried my brain was during previous trips. I wish I could write more, but it's time to lose time.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

10,000 Monkey Hours

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I don't buy the 10,000 Hours theory.

Malcom Gladwell came up with that number to quantify how long it will take someone to achieve mastery level of a specific activity, like playing the violin. I've watched 20,000 hours of pro football and I'll never figure it out. Just when I think I have a grasp on it... something happens.

Insert "moving goal posts" cliche here ____.

But the spirit of 10,000 Hours is something I can get behind. It's all about dedicating yourself to something and having the fortitude to follow through. Even if it's a monkey banging away at a laptop.

I'm that monkey.

I banged on a half a dozen laptops in the last decade and even persuaded enough people who would pay me to do something I was doing for free anyway. It's been a great hustle... content creation... while it lasted.

I doubt I can get paid as a writer twenty years from now, let alone two years from now, so I need a new racket. I'm developing a bot that can mimic my writing style and I'll just let that bot run amok in the upcoming years when I finally re-boot Tao of Poker. But in the meantime, it's time to lock myself in my office and rededicate myself to another pursuit. What can I accomplish by blocking out 10,000 hours?

Everyone has ideas but very few actually follow through. Hence, why New Year's Resolutions are bullshit. It's part of that quote attributed to Woody Allen about "90% of success is showing up." It's easy to talk shit and say you're going to do something. But you really can separate the movers and shakers from the shit talkers by seeing who actually follows through on their game plan.

Stephen King once said that if you write one page a day, you will have a novel by the end of the year. It was that simple. One page a day. One page fits into schedules for everyone. Students. Suits. Moms. Dads. Prisoners. Spinsters. Whatever. One page a day is not difficult, but it's the discipline and inability to follow through is what prevents more people from writing more novels.

I'm like Stephen King though because I could never spread out a novel over 365 days. It would drive me insane. That's why NaNoWriMo is more my speed. Only takes a month. Oh and for the record, I did not do any cocaine or Adderall during the completion of Fried Peaches. I was kicking it old school. Just toking a little medicinal weed. Since I wrote most of it early in the morning, I actually smoked very little. Just a quick wake-n-bake and I was off running.

There was a huge period of time in King's career when he was hopelessly addicted to cocaine and he'd write furiously while jacked up to the tits on blow and he'd only stop typing to do another line, or to shove cotton into his nose to stop the bleeding so his typewriter wouldn't get flooded by a bloody nasal drip, due to the horrendous damage he had done to his destroyed nasal cavities.

King even claimed that he had no memory of writing complete novels, like Cujo, because he was so high and fried to the tits.

Anyway, sorry for that tangent.... but if you listen to King and write one page every day, then by Halloween you will have a 300-page novel. You can spend the last two months of the year re-writing and editing, and within a full calendar year you will have produced a legit 300-word novel. And not one of those rushed, over-wordy NaNoWriMo novellas. Sure, I wrote a bunch of those 50K adjective-heavy manuscripts, but I have a short-attention span and don't think I could have enough discipline to write one page every day. Once I get an idea, I want to run with it as fast as possible before self-doubt catches up to me. It's a sprint to the finish line. Luckily, I was almost done with Fried Peaches when I finally got bum-rushed by doubt.

There's several major industries of the "self-help" variety that profit off of laziness. Just take a peek at the billion dollar weight loss industry, yet everyone is drastically overweight in America.

Everyone might have sincere intentions on shedding a few pounds, but how many people own gym memberships and actually go? It's a great hustle. Even one of the most popular TV shows is about people competing on a game show to see who loses the most weight. That's something that 1950s sci-fi writers could only dream up as the most absurd bit of entertainment, yet  a half a century later, The Biggest Loser is one of the top TV shows in America.

Weight loss is a coin flip. You're either going to do it, or not. Simple as that. Any diet will work if you stick to it. So any of those diets can actually claim they work... because it will, so long as you follow through. All of these fancy work out routines and diets are ways for slick hustlers to rake in millions of lazy people looking for shortcuts.

Same goes for religion and spiritual direction. Most of our consumer-crazed society has abandoned organized religion, which has left a huge gap in the spirituality department. People are left to find that out for themselves, but that makes them prey to a vast industry of self-help gurus. There's thousands and thousands of videos and books, yet everyone is still fucked up.

I just look around and think... sweet Jesus... we're totally fucked. Western civilization is being held together by duct tape and credit cards.

If you're someone on a true spiritual mission, you'll eventually find something... you'll find the right road, or the right path to what you think is your spiritual calling. In order to reach that destination, you really have to find our who you really are. It's that "know thyself" mantra.

The ones that can confront the truth, are the truly enlightened ones. But everyone who gets lost in the shuffle constantly trying to "find themselves" yet come up short? Well, they're full of shit because they fail to confront their true reality, so it's no wonder they'll never find what they're looking for because they refuse to acknowledge their own truth.

If you're blind to your own reflection, you're totally fucked and you'll live the rest of your life spiritually bankrupt.

I keep going back and forth deciding if I want to be one of those snake oil salesmen who profits off of the failures of others. It's good money to crank out one of those self-help books for wanna-be writers  that recycles basic (and so blatantly obvious) writing tips and fluffed up by witty quotes from philosophers. I'd feel guilty trying to sell a book that is the equivalent of feeding someone a cold buffet of fluff and tripe, but don't forget the yummy omelet station!

But it's all bullshit.

Because nothing I can tell people will help them if they are not going to put in the time. I also thought about writing a self-help book for wanna-be writers that was 20 chapters, but the title of each chapter is "WRITE EVERY DAY."
Etc, etc, etc. And if someone follows my advice and finally breaks through as a writer, then viola! It works. Who would have thought that I came up with a revolutionary method! So simple that any monkey with a laptop can do it.

I should release Pauly's Half-Baked 420 Writing Tips next October, just before NaNoWriMo so I can take advantage of all of those ambitious novelists. The number of participants is staggering. And then put it on sale around New Years, so people will buy it as a part of a resolution to write a book. Stephen King said it wasn't hard. Just write one page a day.

Seriously, if you put in time and write every day, then you won't need any self-help book. Sure, read On Writing by Stephen King, but that's all you really need and it's not really a self-help book as much as a guide.

The basic winning formula is just putting in the time, following through, traveling, and trying to life as much life as you can.

Success-driven people will forge on ahead no matter what obstacles are in their way. Doesn't matter if it's an Olympic bobsledder or a musician or an aspiring screenwriter. But there's tons of money out there by people with disposable income who are seeking shortcuts.

"Brain dead and made of money, no future at all" is a lyric from one of my favorite songs. Reminds me of all of the sheep who buy self-help books. But I have serious reservations about fleecing angleshooters and lazy fuckers who never saw a shortcut they didn't like. I dunno how all of these so-called religious leaders can live with themselves. I guess when you spend every day trying to brainwash people, it's pretty easy to get brainwashed yourself?

It's easier to con greedy people because their judgement is blinded by their own greed. It's why politicians easily manipulate the populous because there's no shortage of angry citizens who find comfort in blaming someone else for their problems. Today's politicians don't offer up solutions, they help point fingers.

If there's one thing I learned the most from working in the gambling industry for almost a decade, it's that I see so many people, year after year, who think they're hustlers yet they get into something only to find out that they got hustled. Best example are people who read HOW TO BEAT BLACKJACK books, then they go to Vegas and get cleaned out.

Hustle the hustlers.

That's how Tommy Vu made millions with his real estate infomercials in the 1980s. You saw this eclectic Asian guy on a yacht surrounded by beautiful women and thought "I can attain the same success and all I have to do is call this toll-free number and find out how!"

Don't get hustled. Just put your head down and get the job done.