Sunday, December 28, 2014

Magic Mountains and Tangerine Bubbles

New York City

The ornate bubbles glowed. The incandescent bowl illuminated the darkness. Dream-like, yet somber. Sultry and wispy, yet sullen.

Hypnotic dripping pipes pierced the night time sounds and drowned out a low-fi Latin rumba from down the hall, hissing radiators in the stairwell, clanging gears of ancient elevators, rumbling subways, early morning sanitation trucks, and the screeching halt of gypsy cabs on Broadway.

Eerie church organ echoed in the near distance. Maybe the church doors were open. Maybe it was one of those open-air tourist buses driving through the neighborhood and cranking the organ sounds. I imagined a flatbed truck and old widow from Birmingham with flea bites on her ankles whaling away on a church organ in the back of the truck, while chain smoking like Tom Waits on a Tuesday afternoon.

You never know which relic of the past thirty years will present itself at any given moment. Chance encounters are fickle affairs. You can never prepare yourself for a casual stroll through the mental ward inside the hallways of your mind. Awkward "bump intos" in the middle of a crosswalk. Or in line at the deli. Or waiting for the elevator. Or being flagged down by the mousey woman with the glass eye. Unsuccessfully navigated a conversation with the uneasiness of a wayward stripper who was forced to give up the pole in exchange for a so-called pious life as a born-again.

Addiction swapping is a dangerous enterprise, but no one had OD'd on Jesus... yet.

That's the most dreadful part about wandering the streets of the old neighborhood. Bad enough you're ambushed by ghosts and shrapnel bursts of memories. Blasted by fragmented clips of the past. Black and white. And technicolor. None of them have any chronological order. They just appear and disappear. Jolts of light and tsunami of memories.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

End of the Ebbs to the Philosophical Flow

New York City

Ebbs and flows. More ebbs than flows.

This space used to resemble a raging flow with the occasional ebb tossed in out of sure exhaustion. At its peak, the flow was insurmountable. Like the metamorphosis of a stream in the mountains during the spring thaw that's transformed into a raging river as the winter season's snow and ice finally wilts under the baking sun and the water runs everywhere... wherever it wants.

But over the last few years, the water has been dammed up. Plenty of reasons. Mostly excuses. But I built lots of dams. Some of them were not even mine. Yet as they say, the water used to run through my property. Some shysters dammed it up and made sure I didn't get any more run off. I'm starting to sound like Jake in Chinatown.

I know what it's like to be an addict that is jonesin' for a hit. Any hit. If you're reading this, then you're the last of the Mohicans. A true junkie's junkie. The dope here? Shit. Cut so many dimes it's like snorting baby powder. It has been barely a trickle... at best. It's like scraping the inside of your bong and hoping to get stoned off the gunk. It's hopeless and sad, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The word river nearly evaporated. Like the so-called Los Angeles river that's invisible. You've seen the viaduct in movies (most notably Terminator 2) but SoCal is in the middle of its worst drought in decades, so there's not even a tiny trickle of water down there. Sure, it gets wet when it rains, but it rarely ever rains. And when it does rain, the droplets are vacant. Dry drops. Like a shell of a drop without any actual H20 in it.

It's parched. Empty. The cracks are showing.

But it only takes one swift kick in the dam to punch a hole in one side. Then the laws of physics take over. The pressure is immense. The whole fucker is ready to blow. But we have to be careful, otherwise we drown everything below. It's a parched valley. Desperate for any semblance of wetness.

I'm ready. And I got the hose. I lost it. Can't figure out if it lost itself, or I forgot where it was located, or if I purposely lost it. Combination of all of those self-loathing excuses marinating in self-pity. It is what it is.

I hope someday to say, it was what it was.

Big difference between is and was. Present vs. Past. The past almost always wins. Or it's the anxiety of the future. That's the root of all depression. Anger/resentment of the past + anxiety/fear of the future. It paralyzes the now. You can only live in the present. The future doesn't actually exist. All that exists is the now. Even the past is not a tangible thing. If anything, it's a series of jagged memories, many of which have been tweaked. Revisionist history. Besides, our feelings and emotions hinder the filter from which we see reality. That's why some people are a pain in the ass and will never change.

A complete immersion of love/hate and hate/love is dangerous. All you have to do is blink and you can see millions of hate mongers. Consumed by hate, paranoid by fear. One of my friends said the other night that "Hate is taught." He's a wise man and 110% correct. So as those dope-smoking hippies once sung in a three-piece harmony... "Teach your children well."

On the flip side, deep, penetrating love of thyself is just as infuriating. Just take a peek on Facebook and you'll see hundreds of people in love with... themselves.... but we all know it's bullshit, because it's not even the real them. Nope. It's millions of acquaintances pretending to be perfect and out-perfect their fake-friends. It's the vapid, PR-glossy version of their resume. Doesn't having a FB account go against one of the Ten Commandments? The one about carving idols and worshiping that instead of God?

Or it's the opposite and it's a self-pity party when everyone is invited. It's the best day of your life, or the worst day. Nothing in between. The extremes. Social media has been hijacked by the extremes, which is why it's difficult to find meaningful and inspiring notions. It's there...but it's buried underneath thousands and thousands of miles of rubbish.

Native Americans had it right. They refused to be photographed. A photographed image supposedly steals their soul. It's ironic, yet truthful. Some of the most soulless people I know take the most selfies.

The same applies to the written word when it's fulfills a role other than providing necessary information. Yet, even all those self-indulgent words don't add up to a portrait. Nope. It's deeper. Refined. Complex. Rooted. Like a chiseled sculpture. It might not steal your soul, but it's an idol nonetheless.

Idol worship. The most disturbed ones need an omnipotent being to explain unexplained answers. Or a foil to fight against. Hitchens said it best... philosophy begins where religion ends.

Friday, December 26, 2014

New Kindle or iPad or SmartPhone? Buy My E-Books!

New York City

Congrats on surviving the holidays, whether it was Christmas or Chanukah or both

Did you acquire an iPad, Kindle, iPhone, tablet, or smartphone? If so, then here's your chance to buy digital copies of my books. Even if you don't have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle app for your smart device.

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 (2005-2008) during the height of the online poker boom.

Click here to buy Lost Vegas for Kindle and iPads.

Click here to buy a print copy of Lost Vegas on

* * * *

Do you like raunchy fiction? Indulge yourself with 100% pure Americana trash with an e-book Kindle version of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog.

Thanks for the support. Hopefully, I'll have a new novel to pimp sometime in Spring/Summer 2015.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Jack Tripper Flashbacks: Trailer, Book Review, and Podcast

Los Angeles, CA

Help support indie writers and buy one of my books this holiday season. Either will make a great stocking stuffer. Or if you happen to acquire a Kindle for Christmas, then pick up one of my e-books as well.
Buy... Jack Tripper Stole My Dog
Buy... Lost Vegas

In addition, here are a few things for Jack Tripper Stole My Dog (aka JTSMD) that you probably saw before, but I'm posting it again for new readers.

The "trailer" for JTSMD...

This is a podcast that I recorded with Nicky in 2011. She sort of interviewed me and inquired about the origins of JTSMD...

And here is the infamous review that someone randomly uploaded to YouTube....

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Being Born Day, Bob Dylan

Los Angeles, CA

It's Bob Dylan's birthday. Here's a nifty remix of a classic Dylan song with a lil modern rhythm section.

The older I get, the deeper I dive into Dylan's archives. It's been a fun last few months exploring early 80s Dylan when the entire music world had pretty much written him off. It was a rough transition, yet Dylan someone survived the tumultuous 80s and one again re-invented himself just in time for the rocking 90s.

In 2011, I nearly died in a car accident. A couple of days later, I sat tenth row of a Dylan concert in Las Vegas. My pal Jesse May is a huge Dylan disciple and scored us the sweet tickets. Amazing sound at Pearl (at Palms). Dylan was perfect in the mix, so he didn't have a typical voice like "sand and glue" or like he was singing with marbles in his mouth. Most of the (older) crowd sat... except Jesse who rocked out the entire show in a pink suit and headband and doublefisting two cocktails... but I was in so much physical pain and jacked up on painkillers that I sat down too. Rocking out in my chair.

I was as close as I'll ever be to the man and I had one of those moments in life -- and they don't have very often, which is what makes them so monumental -- but I had one of those moments that I was so damn happy to be alive.... period. Want to talk about fully being in the moment? Well that 75 minutes with Dylan was just that. I was reborn in many ways that are indescribable and Dylan was a tremendous part of that transformation. I knew it was time for me to move on with my life. The Vegas and poker chapters were done, and it was time to start with something new. Inspired by Dylan's clear message, the emotions he stirred up inside me became a chain reaction, which in turn became the necessary fuel I needed to begin a new journey.

Man, I got to see Bob Dylan play for what could be the last time for me (my girlfriend and I actually saw Dylan last year at the Hollywood Bowl, but it was a meh show compared to blistering Vegas performance)... you never know when he'll hang it up and stop touring... so that evening was sheer bonus. Gravy. Lots of gravy. Every morning I thank God (or the Creator, or the Universe) for a second chance at life. But more importantly, I frequently go back to that Dylan show in Vegas with Jesse May.

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Conversational Gridlock in the Land of Sunshine, Freeways and Botox

Los Angeles, CA

In high school, our homeroom (called "advisement") lasted 15 minutes. NBC late night programming dominated our morning conversations.  

I started watching Late Night with David Letterman to keep up with the inside jokes and "Top 10 List" by taping the show at 12:30am, an hour after my bedtime. I usually fell asleep watching Cheers reruns at 11pm, then woke up a half hour early to watch the highlights on my VCR and fast-forwarding through the commercials.

On Monday mornings, homeroom/advisement was devoted to recapping Saturday Night Live, which ranged from sharing our favorite bits to outright attempting to act out a sketch. By definitions, all Monday mornings suck but the devotion of my classmates to SNL made Monday mornings palatable.

Flash forward to this morning. I wandered over to the local diner and made sure I let the quartet of LA cops exit first before I found a seat near the front, which had the best (natural) lighting, something I preferred because I life to read a book, a real-life book with pages and everything, instead of ogling my phone like every other schmuck in the joint.

A trio sat in the front booth: middle-aged guy dressed like he was a 16-year old skater kid, plus two younger women, one of whom wore psychedelic yoga pants that had the same color scheme as Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love album. Actually upon closer inspection, one of them was obviously from Botox City, a sure-fire clue she was at least in their 40s, yet she dressed also like a teenager. It reminded me of that line from Greenberg: "In L.A., all of the kids dress like superheros and all of the adults dress like kids."

I didn't notice the front booth when I walked in, but I immediately overheard their raucous conversation the moment I slid into my seat. They were semi-arguing about freeways and the quickest way to get from Culver City to Silver Lake. Trying to fade traffic is common chatter among native Angelenos, but this animated booth prattled on with exaggerated SoCal-accents.

I had a instant flashback to my high school homeroom... OMG... that booth was re-enacting a sketch from SNL, specifically The Californians.

If you don't watch SNL anymore, there's a really bad recurring sketch (so bad, it's fucking rad) called the Californians. It viciously mocks two things: 1) trashy afternoon soap operas with atrocious acting, and 2) how people in LA smugly speak to each other... never in complete sentences but peppered with driving slang. Every installment of Californians eventually includes multiple discussions on the fastest way to get to a specific destination, and which shortcuts (side streets and tertiary routes) will be the best way to avoid traffic.

It's funny because it's true.

A lot of viewers don't like Californians because they just don't get it. And a few locals don't dig it because they can't take a fucking joke. The rub is simple... traffic is ubiquitous in LA and almost all of SoCal... yet that's all anyone every talks about that does not include themselves.

My typical conversations in Los Angeles usually fall into three categories:
Q: "What did you think of the new Wes Anderson flick?"
A: "Jesus... traffic was awful."

Q: "What did you do this weekend?"
A: "Jesus... traffic was fucking brutal."

Q: "How's the latest draft of the screenplay?"
A: "Jesus, that traffic. Took me forever. And then I couldn't find parking."
I forgot to comment about the "parking situation" in the LA universe. Besides bitching about traffic, the second biggest complaint is parking... the lack of street parking, or how the valet guys steal everything.

Technology alleviated the traffic headaches for like a week before everyone else downloaded the same fucking app. Even when I look at different traffic websites or an app, the results are always the same... big fucking red streaks to indicate gridlock. Red streaks everywhere.

In a bastion of self-absorbed vapidness, the pinnacle of braggadocio is eschewing technology and relying on knowledge of the quickest routes and locals' shortcuts in a city paralyzed by gridlock. But, here's the rub... It ain't going anywhere. Yet, everyone likes to 1) complain about their former shortcut not working anymore, or 2) brag about knowing the best alternative routes. Dirty secret? In reality, #2 is not the case because the best-kept shortcuts are never truly revealed because if you gave up your sweet alt route, then everyone else will eventually take it thereby causing yet another traffic jam. Instead, they give you the "second-best" route.

For fuck's sake, I can't believe I'm writing about this. See, I've been corrupted and co-opted and I don't even drive a fucking car.

So the front booth...

I tried to convince myself that they were acting out the most recent Californians sketch from SNL. But after a couple seconds I realized my assessment was totally off base. One of two of them might have been actors, but they were not performing or doing a bit. Nope. This was real fucking life. And that was how they really fucking talked. The three loudly argued over the best routes. One of the women talked so fast I wondered if she was railing lines of Adderall at the table. Holy shit. I assumed her prescription speed kicked in? How is anyone that chatty at 8am, unless they've been up all night hoovering foam.

They were loud and annoying and I hated them instantly. I usually give someone five minutes to prove to me that they are a moron, yet in this instance it took all about 15 seconds to decide I would like to take three, dirty, rolled-up socks and stuff them into their yappers.

I chastised myself for being so judgmental. Buddha wouldn't have done that. Right? I should be more patient and tolerant, even in the land of the Californians.

Then again, Buddha wouldn't be sitting in a greasy diner trying to read a Joan Didion book while a bunch of highly-vexing hipsters and Botox queen argued about who had the best routes to Silver Lake.

"Like, when in doubt, take Fountain..."

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Unfunded (Fiction)

Los Angeles, CA

"Get it together man."

It's weird to see a grown man sob. It's even weirder to see it happen in the middle of morning rush hour. Crowded street. Downtown. Sure, it's by far not the weirdest thing I've seen in San Francisco. I mean, it was only 8:30am and I had saw enough freaky shit in the previous hour that could inspire a Todd Solondz screenplay and fill an entire book of Bukowski poems. Just five minutes in the Tenderloin is enough to give squares a serious bout of PTSD. The human grenades... step in one pile of human fecal matter and you're dunzo. Oh the horror, the horror. Human grenades... it's the hipster version of a IED.

"Hey man, I know this is tough, but you need to pull it together."

No one noticed him. The invisible sobbing geek. Waves and waves of pedestrians were rushing of to their jobs, whizzing past him while clutching Starbucks cups in their left hands and their phones in their right. Not paying attention, yet somehow not hitting him. They missed the guy losing his marbles.

"This self-pity schtick isn't getting you anywhere."

Self-awareness is essential to success, but when you venture into self-pitty-dom, it's really a shortcut to self-indulgent navel gazing, which is the worst form of passive-agro narcissism. Life is suffering. Buddha said that. It's something you have to accept, and once you do, everything else is cheesecake.

"Seriously bro. Pull it together. Otherwise, some SF cop is going to haul you off for whatever reason."

They don't treat the crazies with kid gloves anymore. Everyone is a potential terrorist. Even middle-aged tech pioneers. I sort of felt bad. Yeah, in one way he incurred a bad beat without any warning. But crying like a spoiled teenager isn't the type of behavior you want to see in a so-called industry leader.

"You want me to find you a cab to go home? Contact Uber?"

Tough finding a cab at that hour and Uber would be 3x surge. He was in no condition to drive. He couldn't walk a few steps without losing it. Sort of half-hyper ventilating and half silent-crying. Every couple of minutes he'd unleash a spastic jolt and his entire body shivered. Quickly and violently for a few seconds.

"Just go home. Sleep it off. You've been up for a couple days tweaking the new system and worrying about the presentation."

I was really worried he'd truly snap. Like really snap. Run back to HQ in full Rambo-gear and pull out an Uzi or something and spray the lobby. Do distraught non-government worker bees and non-HS students crocked on happy pills go on a rampage and unleash mass shootings? Does that still happen anymore? Or did we become so desensitized to the violence that it all blends into one long blurry news clip. There was a time in this country when "going postal" meant someone was on the verge of shooting up the work place. U.S. Postal workers were losing their minds and going nuts in the 80s. Too much mail in Reagan America. It never stopped coming and they got paid peanuts. They didn't realize that the entire system would become obsolete in a few decades with the rise of email and text messaging and dick picks via SnapChat. In the 90s, school shootings happened every few months that it became too common and matter of fact. In the 10s, violent outbursts and gun incidents occur with such frequency that each incident loses its paralyzing impact with 24 hours of the event. But postal workers and high school kids shared common ground... they both had a momentarily psychotic break with reality. Pressure cookers. The four walls around us can be immense pressure cookers. Something happens to people when they get wound up real tight and stuck in an undesirable setting and surrounded by bullies and egomaniacs on power trips and morons failing upward and the pressure to seem normal in an abnormal system. Add more stress with the inability to let shit roll right off you because it all digs in deep and finds a way into your soul through every crack on the outside of your broken shell of armor. Unable to see anything pleasant when confronted with the suffocating reality that the future offers up no hope, not even a ray of sunshine. The winter of discontent. It's everywhere. Drowning in freezing rain even though it's sunny and 80 degrees outside and majestic, azure skies with fluffy clouds that look like cotton balls on steroids.

"Look man. I've been there. It's like worst than your dog dying. But you can't take it personal. It's numbers and cents. Ones and zeros. It's not you... it's them. Forget about those fucking vampire squids. Just take the day off and come back tomorrow and we'll find funding elsewhere. Even if we have to Kickstarter the fucker. I won't let this idea disappear into the void. It's too good, too valuable to let go."

People take shit every day. Every. Single Day. And they suck it up. Take it like a man. Pros don't complain... they get the job done. Amateurs bitch and moan. But the pros rise to the occasion and act like a gracious loser and pretend to be a humble winner on the outside. It's just tactful and polite and professional. But sometimes people can suck it up and shine it on and pretend all the shit days don't add up. But it's a cumulative effect. One day, the weight of the world is going to buckle beneath you and you just hope no one gets hurt. But one day... they go over the edge. We also go over the edge eventually. It's how you return from the edge that matters. Losing it? It's not something that you see coming. It's just like in the movies. One day... everything seems normal until they just snap and lose it. Like that movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas. We used to joke that Falling Down was about a college classmate's future... how he'd hump a crappy job in the tech industry for a decade, get constantly passed over for promotions, exploited for low pay, until one day... WHAM... something clicks on the inside, or he's consumed by the darkness and the GO APESHIT CRAZY button gets flipped on.

"Whatever you do... don't drink. You never had much tolerance. Just go home. Pop a couple of Ambien and sleep it off. When you wake up, book a week-long vacation somewhere you can't get internet access. Then just relax. Read a book. A real book. None of the Kindle shit. Read a couple of books and take some more Ambien and sleep and reed as much as you can in that week. Then you come back, refreshed and focus, and ready to find new backers, otherwise, we'll go work on the next project. That's the plan. That's always been the plan. Take a shot and see what happens. If we fail, we go back to square one and try again. Same shit that has been happening for the last decade. Same routine. You stumble upon an idea then develop it. You figure out how to execute it as smoothly as possible and clean up as many bugs as possible. Then you shop it around to the pimps and bean counters and shysters and skull fuckers. If someone digs it, they'll cut you a check. If they don't... well, then fuck them. This is your life. You cultivate your ideas. You generate solutions for people with problems. You actually do something valid. You truly enrich people's lives. That means something. And you do it from nothing. You close your eyes and become one with the void. It's in the darkness where the message appears and then you run with it. Sometimes it's a hit. Most of the time it's not. Most of the time the shit everyone hates is the one thing that breaks through. Sometimes it's the stupid or silly or most basic thing you created that stand out the most. That's the way it goes. You can come up with the gnarliest ideas and execute them perfectly, but you can't control the marketplace. You can fill the void and offer up something that's in high demand. Or you can sit around and try to over-saturate the market with a watered-down version of the app du jour. You can add to the static, or you can fire off shots into the dark and hope you hit a bear straight in the testicular region."

He didn't want to hear what I had to say. My words went right through him. He didn't even laugh when I talked about the bear getting shot in the nuts. Oh well. If I can't pull him out of the muck, then it's up to him.

"Let's get off the street. Find a cafe, or donut shop. Sit down. Talk this out."

He started to walk away, but then he stopped and started emptying his pockets. Wallet. Keys. Phone. Random pieces of paper. Altoids tin. Small pill bottle.

"What the fuck, man?!"

I rushed over and picked up his wallet and phone... his two most expensive valuables... before a street person swooped in and helped himself. When I wasn't looking, he stepped off the curb and into the street. He wasn't there for more than a second before I heard a short horn burst, screeching brakes, and then a squishy thud. He disappeared... underneath the bus. Crushed. Annihilated. The driver of the Muni had about two seconds to react. The smell of burning rubber. The brakes. Hard to forget that odor. I heard the second wave of screams. One of the Starbucks cup clutching ladies looked up from her iPhone long enough to see the Muni collision. I missed the initial wave. Shock. Utter shock. Sound disappears during those moments and time slows down.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Emperor Has No Yes-Men

Los Angeles, CA

Chuck Klosterman once joked that he's terrified he'd become one of those people who loses all touch with reality mainly because the people around him will be too afraid to tell him the truth (or to stop his outrageous behavior). This is how the Justin Beiber's of the world get exotic pet monkeys or Donald Sterling became a delusional hate monger that has to pay skanky women luxury cars in exchange for sucking his wrinkly balls while listening to him mouth off pathetic racist rhetoric.

Hey, a Lexus is a Lexus.  
Thank goodness I'm not surrounded by YES-MEN. My friend's often tell me NO a lot. Actually it's more like, "That's not the best idea. I mean, I don't think anyone will want to buy bacon-grilled cheese ice cream."

Surround yourself with sycophants and faux-friends then you'll find yourself in numerous "the emperor wears no clothes" scenarios. Buck naked. I see it happen all the time. LA is filled with those types. Anytime you see someone with an entourage, it's a ripe situation to have an emperor has no clothes moment. The bigger the entourage, the more frequent you'll see him naked.

Everyone needs to hear the straight dope. We've become an overly sensitive society. You can't speak the truth because it might offend someone or make them upset. When did we start taking everything so seriously?

The straight dope is what keeps everything in line. I see so many people embarrass themselves on social media on a daily basis (me included... especially me). The lack of filters and common sense astonishes me. That last minute chat is often the last line of defense before you walk out into the world buck naked, instead of trusting the people around you to step in and keep you from doing or saying something completely stupid.

That's why those tyrants (you're "either with me or against me" types) end up as pro-coaches and working in Hollywood or in some ultra-douchey corporate situation. In those orbits, there's a system in place in which YES-MEN and YES-WOMEN are promoted because they don't ever cross the boss and they keep their mouths shut. Careerism is one of most egregious forms of censorship. I've seen intelligent people bury their heads in the sand and remain silent in a situation where they know an injustice has occurred, but their too chicken-shit to lose their jobs so they don't call out the powers that be.

But life as a YES-type is a one-way (er, one word) world. The moment you utter NO.... it's all over. It only has to happen once and then you're out. Dunzo.

Sounds silly, foolish, and absurd. Yet, that's how total shitheads rise to the top. Serve the King or die. Say yes, never speak the truth, and you get to stick around to kiss the ring. Say NO and you're mince meat.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Talking DFW On Thinking Poker Podcast

Los Angeles, CA

It's been a while since I've appeared on a poker podcast. Maybe late 2011? Wow, time flies. I'm semi-retired from the poker scene and declined a few opportunities to appear on various poker pods over the last couple of years. Honestly, whenever I was asked to speak about the hot button topic of the day, I politely declined because I really didn't care (about said topic) and/or lacked anything intelligent to say (that I had not already said or written about on Tao of Poker).

Enter the Thinking Poker Podcast.

The hosts (Andrew Brokos and Nate Meyvis) are a little different. It's not your typical poker podcast. I mean, it is in the true sense of the word because the podcast is strategy-based and Andrew 'foucault' Brokos is a well-known online player. But I knew Andrew and Nate were cool about discussing other things aside from poker, like the dark side of Vegas, which was right up my alley.

Shane was actually the first-ever guest on Thinking Poker. He's been on a couple of times actually and told me it would be a fun experience. And he was right. So glad I did it.

I had not met either host of Thinking Poker in real life (although I watched Andrew play online sessions a few times), but despite the fact we never really knew each other, the conversation flowed smoothly. Nate and Andrew are two smart dudes and it's not everyday that I get a chance to discuss David Foster Wallace. So cool that I got to chat a little bit about one of our favorite authors.

Shane mentioned that he thought it was great I got to talk about Vegas a "drug" and the darkside of Vegas. It really fit into the theme of Lost Vegas, which is all about the search for purity in one of the most impure places on Earth.

Listen to my stint on the Thinking Poker Podcast - Episode 76 - Doctor Pauly McGuire. My segment starts around the 32-minute mark.

Or you can download it here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Rothko Moments [Mad Men]

Los Angeles, CA

During an early episode of Mad Men (middle of Season 2), Bert Cooper purchased a Rothko. He only paid $10,000 for it! In 2014 dollars, that's closer to $75,000, maybe $80,000. Of course, a Rothko of that sort is worth substantially more. A Rothko would fetch a several million today. At least 8 figures. Heck, one Rothko went for $75M at a Sotherby's auction in 2012.

Here's the infamous Rothko scene when a few of the copywriters sneak into their boss's office to take a look at his new painting...

I wrote a couple of things about Mad Men including their drug-related episodes from speed to weed to LSD. Check out...
Speed Men
Pete Campbell's Magical Mystery Tour
Roger in the Sky With Diamonds

Friday, April 04, 2014

Aliens, Y'all

Los Angeles, CA


Bill Clinton eats his breakfast while glimpsing at porn tumblrs via an iPad. Obama drops a file onto Clinton's breakfast plate.

What the hell, Barry?

Why didn't you fucking tell me?

You never asked.

For fuck's sake Bill. Is that... a double dong?

(Biting down on his knuckles)
Heavenly? Twins too.

Speaking of the heavens, when the fuck were you going to tell me?

(Resumes eating breakfast and smirking while balancing iPad)
It's not my job. Cheney shoulda filled you in.

You know that smamry fucker Dick. 

What a jagoff.

Dick doesn't give up anything unless I bring him those cupcakes. 

I love them cupcakes too. The ones from Beverly Hills.

Sprinkles? That chic joint charges $45 for a cupcake.

Next time you go, pick up a six-pack for Old Bill.

There's not going to be a next time if this intel is correct.

(Slowly puts down ipad and sighs)
Barry... you gotta stop listening to those DOOM-tards. 

We're paying Halliburton big bucks to keep tabs on the Greys.

You're paying them to tell you spooky ghost stories. 

Look at the projections.

Don't listen to analysts. It's like little kids sitting around a campfire. Trying to out-do each other by telling the scariest story.

So it's not true?

Well... it's not as extreme as you think.

The Greys are breeding us for food, Bill. How could you not tell fucking me?

Hey, what they do is their own business, right? 

Kidnapping American citizens is not part of the deal. That's what New Foundland is for.

They don't bitch when we use their technology to profit selling phones and flat screens.

Don't you see something morally wr-

Barry, you're going above your pay grade.

Why do we sit by and let them do whatever they want?

We all gotta eat.

The Greys are eating humans. We have a moral obligation to the people.

Barry, enough with the people already. No press here. Just us. 

We have to stop this. It violates the terms of the treaty. The people...

Fuck the people. I got shit to watch. I got one more day before Ice Queen gets home. I have to finish Game of Thrones. 

How far are you?

Start of season 3. But I already know about the Red Wedding.

So, Bill... have you ever... ummmm, seen a dragon? 

Like a real dragon? 

Yeah. Not, one of those albino clones that Putin had.

Cheney showed me his. Once. Just once.

No fucking way.

Yeah. Little surly that day. Wasn't pretty sight.

What went down?

Godzilla blew up a secret service agent. Two staffers too. 

(In Clay Davis voice)

WHOOOOOOOOSH. Gone in a flash.

Jesus Christ. Their families... what did we end up telling them?

Oh, Barry, stop being so damn sensitive. You're supposed to coast through your second term, not worrying about fantasy tales like dragons and little grey men. 

I'm so out of the loop. Last guy to know. Frustrating.

Don't worry about it. Relax. You need to smoke more.

Man, you know... I'd like to. But, I got a mountain of shit on my plate. 

More the reason to get lit.

And you know the fucking press. 

Fucking jerkoffs.

They had a bug up my ass the last time I let you aboard Air Force One and you hotboxed the bathroom with two interns.

(Big smile)
Awesome night. Sweet Willy big milestone. Mile High Club numero 1,000.
(Fumbles in jacket, pulls out a joint and lights it)

I'd like to, but you know my old lady. She gets on my case when I smoke. 

(Makes whipping sound)

She thinks I get lazy and just want to sit around and watch basketball.

What's the line in the Kentucky game? 

1 and a half. At least it was.

I love those Kentucky cheerleaders. My. Kind. Of. Honey. You know the saying, "I get older but they stay the same age."

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Head Shit

Los Angeles, CA

My uncle was a plumber. He said it was dirty work, hard manual labor, but decent pay in an industry that will never disappear because "people's shit always gets backed up."

You know what type of work you're getting yourself into if you chose the plumbing profession. I spent a summer as a plumber's assistant and I learned first hand that it wasn't pretty. I also learned that pothead plumbers were very resourceful and could turn many parts into smoking devices... pipes, bongs, whatever.

I tried to learn basic plumbing a couple of years ago. I figured I needed a trade to fall back on. The future was grim. If survived a post-apocalypse scenario, then I needed a skill that was necessary to help rebuild. And if the world never blew up, then I still needed to fade technology because the creators of the written word are dinosaurs.

I'm waiting for the day of reckoning when writers are replaced by the machines. Or if the dumbification of American continues (we're in the middle of a controlled demolition of intellect and common fucking sense), then our society will become so fucking illiterate and incapable of original thought that they'll seek out non-cerebral forms of entertainment. Or if the wealth distribution gap continues to grow, that even the few who can read will be so broke that they rather spend what little money they have on something else like food.


Think about a lavish meal in one of those snooty eight star eateries or think about your favorite high-end steak joint. So many of us covet that meal, yet a tiny percentage are willing to put in the work or have the necessary skill to make that happen. Everyone wants to take the shortcut, which is why we're now a nation of entitled angleshooters and self-absorbed trolls.

You can't just show up at the restaurant, sit down and have the meal waiting for you. It's not as simple as going to the grocery store or Whole Foods and buying everything there. It doesn't work like that. It takes time. Time to cultivate the ingredients.

And I'm not talking about prepping the meal and cooking it. I'm talking about starting from square one... going out to the slaughterhouse and killing the fucking cow yourself, then butchering it down to find the exact cut of beef you're looking for. Or how about getting on a boat and hauling a fresh catch out of the ocean? Same thing goes every ingredient in the recipe. Grow the damn veggies, harvest them, and bring them into the kitchen. Acquire every spice from the farthest corners of the globe. Milk the cows. Crush the grapes. Wring the chicken's neck with your own hands.

That magnificent meal you dream about? It took years to come together. Do you know how long it takes to fatten up calf? Ever grow your own veggies? Did they last? Or did the critters and bugs destroy your veggies or local wildlife gobble them up for breakfast?

That fancy meal took years to make... and then it's gone in a matter of minutes, and eventually shat out a few hours later.

We've lost sight of how that process really works. Everyone wants the meal, but very few do their own dirty work. But in the end, your culinary pleasure was really the work of hundreds of invisible people who get up at sunrise every day and get their jobs done. Patient toil. Under appreciated. Never thanked.

Enjoy your scallops.


I once asked a neuroscientist if he would let his kids play tackle football. He said a quick no, followed up by "I don't even let them ride rollercoasters."

That statement solidified my assertion that being a writer is like riding a rollercoaster. The arduous daily grind seems like harmless fun, yet it is akin to getting knocked in the noggin' one too many times.

Rollercoasters are the core of theme parks and rooted in childhood nostalgia. Fear and adrenaline. A perfect rollercoaster ride is an exhilarating thrill that begins with an anxiety-ridden, creaky, slow ride up to the top before the first terrifying drop, followed by a blur of ups and downs and upside-down swirls. Eventually all that head banging comes at a cost, according to the men and women of science.

Staying on the ride too long will lead to brain damage. I keep telling myself that Bill Hicks mantra about life is really just an amusement park ride, but even something fun can be detrimental to your health if you keep banging on your own coconuts.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Pond

Los Angeles, CA

A room.

Two entrances.

No doors.

Her ashen face resembled a pock-marked sky from one of the Corot painting in the adjacent gallery.

Precise steps. Miserly eyes.

Kind of tightwad who treated her dogs better than her own offspring. Pure chow-chow. The most cherished possessions. The center of her universe.

No dogs allowed.

She reminded the Director that her late-great husband gifted him a new wing, a Chagall, and two De Koonings.

The Director wouldn't budge on his stance. Shakedown time. Unless she provided funding for another new wing and a couple of early Picassos and a late period Matisse.

The director suspiciously passed away. In his sleep. Choked. His own vomit.

The new director met her halfway. She and her dogs was allowed a private viewing twice a week. Once before hours and once after hours. Tuesday morning and Thursday evening.

She arrived every morning. 90 minutes before the front doors opened.  Herself, her attendant, and her chow-chows.

She slowly made her way through each room. The same route. The dogs were well behaved and never soiled the floors.

Well fed canines. Meals fit for a king. Supper each night cost more than the chef made in a week. Six days of wages fed a his three kids, wife, and mother-in-law out in Queens.

Feed two dogs for a night, or feed six people for a week.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Brain. Athlete. Basket Case. Princess. Criminal.

Los Angeles, CA

I saw the tweet from Molly Ringwald. It was the screencap above. The film The Breakfast Club took place 30 years ago. To the day. March 24th was a Saturday in 1984 and five suburban kids were sentenced to a day-long Saturday detention. Along the way, they realized they're more similar than the stereotypes that plagued the corridors of their school. They also realized they had a shared disdain for authority figures (like the detention warden and prick of a teacher), but they also had a special hatred for their parents.

The Breakfast Club focused on five archetypes... and did what they could to shatter those types.

Brain. Athlete. Basket Case. Princess. Criminal.

In my grammar school, the bad kids referred to detention as The Breakfast Club even though it was held after school. I think there was one actual incident of Saturday detention and I'm pretty sure the film inspired that teacher to evoke that shitty form of discipline.

After I saw Molly Ringwald's tweet, I popped onto Netflix and discovered they had The Breakfast Club. The theatrical version, too. God knows how many times I watched the edited for TV version on TBS or some other sights when they poorly dubbed curses into circus-like replacements. I still say "Flip you!" from time to time as a tribute to the edited version of The Breakfast Club.

I think the film came out sometime in 1985. I was in between sixth and seventh grades. That was back at a time when it was rare to see a teen flick that did not have tons of tits and ass. Sure, it was a little too "talky" but not as absurd as the adult-like dialogue on Dawson's Creek. I picked up on a lot of things through The Breakfast Club. Most of what I learned about socialization skills, sex, drugs, and rock and roll came from TV and movies. So it was natural that I'd watch The Breakfast Club at least a hundred times before I even entered high school. When I came across other friends who liked to "quote movie lines", then we all realized that The Breakfast Club was up there with Fletch, Animal House, and National Lampoon's Vacation.

I learned the intro to "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", a song by Iron Butterfly, that the Bender character hums at the start of detention. I also learned clever catchphrases like "hot beef injection" and "neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie", both terms spawned from the sophomoric mind of John Hughes.

Judd Nelson played the Bender character. You know that guy. We all grew up with a Bender. The rebel, troublemaker, victim of child abuse, who took his misplaced anger out on the richer, more well-adjusted kids. Today he'd be a huge internet troll.

Judd Nelson never recovered from that role of Bender. He peaked way too early. He's been chasing his own ghost ever since.

In college, I explored the film stoned to the tits. Took on a whole new meaning. I probably saw it a few times since then... but I often turned it off and got irked when I discovered I was watching an edited for TV version. In high school it was almost comical to see how badly they tried to edit all the dirty parts, but as an adult I wanted the real thing.

So I finally watched The Breakfast Club as a middle-aged balding man. Holy shit. In some ways, it still holds up. In other ways it's severely dated. I also found myself trying to identify with the older people in the film like the jaded asshole teacher and the looked-down-upon janitor. But I couldn't. I still feel like an awkward teenager 95% of the time. I thought that would end when I hit my 20s... then thought it would end when I hit my 30s... and thought it would finally end when I hit my 40s. But... nope.

"Kids haven't changed... you have."

It's funny that the teacher was proud that he made "$31,000." In today's dollars adjusted for inflation, that would be like $70K. Shit, teachers would be lucky to make that much!

Today? We're awash in nostalgia for previous decades, whether it's 60s nostalgia and Mad Men or 80s nostalgia with The Breakfast Club. The five characters were all different archetypes from my youth. Because we all went to high school, it was an experience we could all identify with.

Of course, there's the elusive "girl in black", who is the utter freak in high school, but she's the type of character that got me into deep trouble in college and my early 20s. There's a modern derivative of that girl in black today and I can only imagine how depressing her Tumblr page would be. I could write an entire novel about what happened to the sad girl in black and how she spawned two or three more sad girls in black.

The weed scene was also interesting then as it is now. The preppy girl got blitzed and realized popularity was foolish. The nerd loosened up. But jock boy went apeshit after hotboxing one of the rooms. Hey, a half of joint would never create that much smoke. Now, if all five of them blazed doobies at the same time, maybe they could create that milky white atmosphere. But not just one dude after a few puffs. So jock boy, who presumably is high for the first time, would not run around like a maniac. In reality, nothing would happen because you rarely get high the first time you smoke. So let's say jock boy did try it once or twice and was way past the first stage of Weed 101... it's hard to imagine anyone wanting to be that physically active. Then at the end of it, he screams so loud that the glass door shatters. Weed gives you incredible strength, speed, agility and the ability to break glass with your voice. Weed is like vocal steroids times a million. Wish it were really like that.

The weed scene was also cheap yet covert nature of product placement in films. The scene ended in with the jock taking off his sweat shirt to expose a tank top with a NIKE logo while he ran around the library. He could had a Chicago Cubs or Blackhawks shirt (like most jocks from the Chicago burbs might sport), or some sort of t-shirt with his school's wrestling logo on it. But nope... it was Nike.

The end scene was an emotional highpoint complimented by the perfect song. Simple Minds are still raking in dough for Don't You Forget About Me. It's what we played at my 8th grade dance.

The Breakfast Club is not the first time a song was inserted into a teen movie to sell a gajillion records. It almost makes you wonder if John Hughes was using the music industry or if the music industry was using John Hughes. Probably a little of both.

The synth-heavy We Are Not Alone by Karla Devito plays as montage of the cast dancing around in the library. That's the scene everyone remembers and that was in all the trailers. You're supposed to look at that weirdness and melt for the 80s.

In the end... after an intense group therapy scene that reminded me more like an AA meeting... the message is clear... all of us are bizarre, but some of us doing a better job about hiding it. And that everyone has a streak of anti-establishment sentiment pulsating through their veins. We're all united by the simple fact that we all hate our parents. But then again, isn't that ironically mainstream since everyone has that same issue with authority and clashing against their parental units?

The Breakfast Club took place thirty years ago today... and some things are still the same.

Friday, March 14, 2014

TED: Jen Shahade and Decision Trees

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Jen Shahade is a chess champion, author of Chess Bitch, and a poker player. I met her the first time in the Bahamas a couple of years ago, the same trip that Nicky won a tournament. Fun weekend.

Jen gave a TED talk called Understanding Chess Mastery and discusses the concept of "decision trees." I mentioned this particular TED talk and decision trees in a recent episode of Dope Stories. Check it out...

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Machu Picchu: The Steps (Video)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In April 2011, I flew down to Lima, Peru to cover a poker tournament. Nicky was covering a different tournament in Connecticut, but I got the lucky assignment. Once in a lifetime opportunity.

I spent three straight days working inside a Lima casino with my pal Shamus, plus a Argentinian fisherman turned photographer. In that short stint, I became a VIP at the sportsbook because I was their "highroller" for betting a couple hundred a night on the NBA. When the trip was over, I couldn't wait to get out of Lima and explore the ruins of Peru with my travel companions Shirley and Sos. We planned to climb Machu Picchu, which was on my bucket list of must-visit places.

Words cannot describe the significance of my trip to Machu Picchu. The visit coincided with one of the worst days in the online poker industry (Black Friday when the DOJ shut down the two biggest online poker rooms). My future was in jeopardy, but none of that mattered because I was in the middle of the most spiritual experience of my life.

I never really posted much climbing Machu Picchu. I wrote about it numerous times but the material was too personal and I never published it. I hope I can write something a little less personal in the near future, but like a lot of non-essential things, it's on a long list of things I'd like to write if/when I have the time.

I published two Truckin' pieces inspired by my trip to Machu Picchu and Cusco with friends Shirley and Sos. Check out: Cusco and Ollantaytambo to Augas Caliente.

I also uploaded an entire photo gallery. Four actually: Machu Picchu, Cusco, Aguas Caliente, and Lima.

However, I dropped the ball in the video department. I shot a ton of video, but never got around to uploading anything to YouTube. I kept postponing and procrastinating. I envisioned an hour-long video that covered my entire trip to Peru, but that seemed too daunting, so I wanted to break it up into much smaller individual videos. Yet, I never did that either. The raw files are scattered over two laptops and somewhere on an external hard drive. It was one of those projects that got left out of the mix. I had to move to Vegas right after the trip and had very little time to do anything except cover WSOP and thought I'd do it at the end of the summer when Phish tour ended. But I got into a car accident and moved to San Francisco. While in SF, I was stuck in my own fog, and never got around to splicing anything together. When I moved back to LA, the Machu Picchu videos was always on my TO DO list of creative projects... although it was never near the top. It was in that secondary column of personal endeavors that I'd find sometime to do if I had a wretched batch of insomnia. Alas, Machu Picchu got lost in shuffle between work, other projects, and... life.

While cleaning up my office this weekend, I came across one of the videos from Machu Picchu. I'm in a highly-ambitious, manic phase right now, so I did not hesitate to fire up YouTube and upload it. As is, too. Totally raw. I didn't want to postpone these Machu Picchu and Peru videos for another three years. In a weird, cool way... stumbling upon this video is enough serendipitous inspiration to finally get me off my ass and finish something I've been wanting to do for three years. One video a month is not too much to ask, right?

Here's the first video from Machu Picchu in a new ongoing series. It's not even a half of a minute, but I climb a stone stairway to a ceremonial area of Machu Picchu. Waiting for me at the top are my friends Shirley and Sos...

If you're fascinated by Peru, check out my photo galleries: Machu Picchu, Cusco, Aguas Caliente, and Lima.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Matter Involving a Personal Business Matter

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"Can I speak to _____?"

"Who wants to know?"

"It's a personal business matter."

"Who is this?"

"I want to speak to _____."

"I know WHAT you want. I just want to know WHO wants it."

Long pause before she took a deep breath.

"Are you _____?"

"Depends. Who is this?"

"I am trying to reach _____ about a personal business matter."

"If you actually knew ____, then you wouldn't have to call this number to reach him."

"Can you give me that number, so I can reach _____."

"Only if you tell me who this is. Who are you? This is the fourth time I'm asking and I've been very polite."

"I can't tell you. It's a personal bus-"

"ness matter, right," I said, cutting her off and finishing her sentence.

"So you're going to play that game right? It's a losing strategy. Is this your first day on the job or something? You're not very good at this."

"Can you tell me how I can reach _____?"

"Yes, I can."


"Well what?"

"Can you tell me how to reach ____?"

"Only if you say the magic word."

"What's that?"

"Come on now. Really? First day on the job?"

"The magic word? Ummm.... Please?"

"Please what?"

"Can I please have the number to reach _____?"

"That's not the magic word."

"What's your problem?"

"My problem? I got lots. But I apparently have something you want and you will not cooperate, so I'm not going to give it up."


"Fine what?"

"Fine. My name is Martha."

"See? Was that so hard, Margie."

"Martha. Not Margie."

"Okay Margie, now you're finally figuring out how to properly make a phone call. You identify yourself to start out. I should not have to ask for your name six or seven times. That's just plain rude."

"Rude? Like you're being right now?"

"Where you about to call me an asshole?"



"Gaaaah. It's Martha."

"I don't believe you. What's your real name?"

"What? Real what?"

"Real name. What is it?"


"Jesus, you're not stripping here. No fake names. Do I have to fucking spell this out for you? Tell me your goddamned real name and state your business or I'm gonna hang up."

"Sandy. it's Sandy. My name is Sandy."

"Finally! See was that so hard? Sandy?"

"We're not supposed to..."

"Yeah, I know. It's your first day."

"Third day actually."

"I could tell. You're not very good at your job. Where exactly do you work?"

"I can't say. It's a personal business matter."

"You're terrible, Sandy. I know you're from a collection agency. It says so on my caller ID?"

"That's not supposed to happen."


"Our number showing up. It's supposed to be private."

"Don't believe everything that idiot manager tells you. He's full of shit. Am I right? Middle-aged goofball? Fifty pounds overweight? Bad breath? Balding. Drinks too many energy drinks. Thinks he's smarter than God, but he'd talking down to all of you?"


"Umm, what?"

"I mean... how did you know that? I mean, actually he's 100 pounds but yeah, that's my boss."

"What's his name?"

"Oh, my manger? I can't tell you."

"Come on, Sandy. We're friends right? Right, Sandy?"

"Well... I'm sorry. Can we get back to the purpose of this call?"

"Yes, let's do that. You called me in the middle of Jeopardy and I'm missing everything. What is Bismark!"

"Excuse me?"

"Sorry, I was playing along. What is Topeka?"

"Sir, I'm trying to reach ______. Can you tell me how I can do that?"

"What is Missoula?"

"You said you would give me the number."

"I never said that."

"Umm.... yes, yeah... yes, yes you did."

"Tell me your bosses name and the exact name of your company?"

"What? I can't do that?"

"Jesus, I know the name of your company. I can see it on my caller ID. I just want to hear you say it?"

"MIP Solutions."

"Come again?"

"MIP Solutions."

"More like MIP Collections, right? No solutions here. If you had solutions, then you wouldn't have to chase down all these deadbeats who owe you money."

"Can you please give me the number? I don't have a lot of time."

"Oh, am I delaying you? Am I bothering you? Because you're bothering me."

"I'm sorry."

"You should be, dammit!"

"Well if you provide me with a number to reach ____ then you can get back to your Jeopardy."

"Sandy, that was the brightest thing you said all night. There's hope for you yet. But you know what? I still don't like the fact that you want to use me. Not only do you want to use me, but you ruined my only down time. I was having a lovely evening at home, relaxing on my couch, sipping a beer and testing my knowledge of U.S. history when you decided to call me... even though I am on a do not call registry. Do you realize you can go to prison for violating my privacy like that?"

"Um, no I am not aware of that. But technically I'm not a telemarketer. I'm a collection agent."

"Do you know that also applies to collections too, Sandy? Of course you do, that's why you wouldn't tell me your real name. Look I don't want to pull rank on you, but you're way in over your head here. Why don't you give me your number at work and I can call you back when final Jeopardy is over?"

"Ummm... I cannot do that."

"Just give me your 1-800 number and your extension and I'll call you back."

"It's not our policy to give that info out."

"I get it... so here's the deal, give me your home number and I'll call you there."

"I cannot do that."


"Excuse me?"

"Ah, you don't want to give up your number right? Your home number."

"No. It's private."

"Yeah... right, you don't want me to bother you at home, you want your privacy."

"Yes, correct. That's exactly it."

"But it's a personal business matter."


"Seriously Sandy. It's personal business matter. If you want info, I will provide it, so long as you play the game. Give me your home number. I will call it when you're busy watching your favorite show, then I'll give you the information you seek, so you can get a lead on _____."

"I can't give you my home phone. I don't have a land line. Only a cell."

"How about your cell?"

"Is there any other way we can do this?"

"Sure... I know another way?"

"Which is?"

I hung up.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

City of Wet Angels

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Cats and dogs.

That's one of the first cliches I heard as a little kid. My mom used it to describe really bad, hard, fast rain that we'd get from time to time in the NYC area.

Cats and dogs.

Dogs and cats.

It never rains like cats-n-dogs in LA, but it's pouring right now in an torrential manner that would be considered cats-n-dogs territory.

Raining on and off last couple of days. Sunny SoCal is getting dumped on by Mama Nature. More like getting pissed on. Crazy shit, only crazy because it's rare to hear one of those emergency messages pop up on the TV suggesting we move to higher ground because of the rain. I live in the slums of Beverly Hills... so the higher ground is implied. It's the flash flooding and landslides you have to cope with. Heck, our alley had poor drainage and flooded a few inches in a manner of minutes.

California needed the rain. The state suffered from a terrible drought. Worst in decades. It's the first bad one since I moved out West.

Hollywood is a magical place where dreams are manufactured. Winters are non existent in paradise. The amazing (near-perfect) ubiquitous weather spoils so many denizens of Los Angeles, so anytime there's a hint of precipitation falling out of the sky, everyone FREAKS THE FUCK OUT for no reason whatsoever. All because little droplets of the water fall from the sky.

Sweet Jesus, Los Angeles freaks are fucking freaks for freaking the fuck out about fucking water, man. What the fuck?

Those Hollywood Freaks cancel plans when it rains. Seriously. They stay home and grind social media and whine incessantly about how it is raining, meanwhile everyone else in the country mocks them for being a bunch of wussies for getting all bent out of shape because of a little water coming from the sky.

LA Freaks stay home from work and they don't go out and watch local TV news delivered by spray-tanned, botox talking heads spewing fear and paranoia about the dangerous water falling from the sky.

The collective anxiety about the dangerous rain forces people inside and they order in take out food, so if you try to order food it will take three to five hours for your delivery to arrive. Sure, the roads are somewhat empty except tourists, drug couriers, rent-a-hookers, and other delivery drivers. But even the empty roads cannot overcome the redonk backlog of take out orders. Drivers are swamped with deliveries. To complicate matters, half of the delivery force is also freaked out and called in sick, because they're afraid of driving in the rai.

The city of wet angels grinds to a halt.

Those Real-Plastic-Franken-House-Wives of Beverly Hills are morbidly afraid of the rain. Those vapid ditzes cancel everything. Nuking their social schedule: cocktail-drenched lunches, purse-dog grooming, shrink tune-ups, spinning classes, spa day or mani/pedi day. Everything. Cancelled.

Those Hollyweird douchenozzles and sleazebuckets? They cancelled all their meetings and screenings and rub-n-tugs in Koreatown. All because of a little water. Maybe their souls are so marinated in evil that those greedy fuck-stains will shrivel up and die from those tears from heaven?

Rain days. Yes, that's what LA freaks do. They take rain days. Similar to taking a day off back east or in the Midwest when it's snowing (moderately). There is some legitimate concern and public safety issue when it rains for the first time in months with slick, slick freeways. So many accidents in the first few hours after a storm. Truly dangerous with oil and gunk accumulation.

Winter in LA is a joke according to my East Coast standards. There's really two seasons... the "winter" and the rest of the year. Nicky gets bundled up anytime the temps dips under 60. The winters in SoCal are super mild.

At worst, it's in the mid-50s and rains a bit in January and February. LA gets roughly 50% of it's rain (14.2 inches per year) in the first two months of the year. The actual rainy season is four months (Dec thru March) and LA gets 85% of its rainfall in the four month span.

Shit, it's been dry the last few months. That's bad news for farmers in the central valley. It's dangerous for potential brush fires up and down all those hills scattered about... all that prime real estate can go up in a flash. The reservoirs were low. SoCal's water problems have been well documented in Hollywood. Just watch Chinatown with Jack Nicholson.

Nicky gazes out her office window and sees the LA River (actually more like the viaduct you see in so many movies like Terminator 2). The good-old LA River was barely a trickle the last few months... until now.

The rain arrived. The freaks got more and more nervous and paranoid with each droplet. Hard. Rain. Hard. Buckets. Cats-n-dogs. Stream in my alley. It never rains that hard in SoCal. Yet... it happened.

Karl Rove's weather machine has been working overtime in 2014. I got fucked during the polar vortex at the start of the year and stuck in NYC for 10 days until I could finally get back to balmy LA. But no complaints right now. That rain freaks out my neighbors, but I love it. We needed it.

I crank out some of my best work when it rains. That's why I missed living in Seattle. It was always the absolute perfect writing weather in the 206. Something about the sounds of the keys on the keyboard meshing with the rain sounds. Fleeting moments of harmony. Rhythms of nature and that kind of stuff.

Noah Baumbach made a movie about me with his film Greenberg. Seriously. I'm fucking Greenberg... a moody New Yorker who is a fish out of water in LA, oh plus he doesn't drive. In Greenberg, the main character "Greenberg" plays a song for his brother's assistant Florence. He mentioned that LA-area DJs only played that song when it was raining. But at the time, the weather was its usual sunny self, yet Greenberg played the rain song anyway. Pretty obvious what's going on inside his twisted noggin. Although pleasant and sunny in real life, in Greenberg's universe, it's raining, which is why he's playing the certain rain song that ONLY gets played by well-adjusted disc jockeys when it's raining outside.

Sunny outside. Sunny inside. That's the ultimate goal (pursuit of happiness).

Rainy outside. Sunny inside. That's the type of people I like to be around.

Sunny outside. Rainy inside. Well, that's Greenberg. I am Greenberg. I am rain.

Rainy outside. Rainy inside. Rainy all the time. I like to make my own rain. Makes me appreciate the sunny days... whenever they return.

Here is that little number by Albert Hammond... It Never Rains In Southern California....

Monday, February 24, 2014

Lost Sutro Souls

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Late 2011. San Francisco.

I was told a few months earlier by a Reiki healer that indeed, I had lost my soul during a near-fatal car accident. Missing soul? I knew it. Nothing shocking. I had a huge hole. My cross to bear. I just didn't know how to find it. Or where to find it. Or if I would ever find it. And if I did find it, what would I do with it?

Weird times. Foggy times. As foggy as those nippy afternoons when the fog enveloped my neighborhood in Lower Pacific Heights.

I lived in a late-waking house.

Late meaning that everyone had late-night personalities. Nicky and Halli slept in. Every day. Rarely did they ever wake up before noon. They both stayed up late. Very late. Nocturnal house. Like cats. We were all like cats. Up all night. It's just what we were all doing. It wasn't like we were those Vegas vampires or crack-crazed zombies. Nah. It was much tamer. Our vices kept us up at odd hours.

I could never sleep. Especially in San Francisco. The Vistorian was drafty, which is why Halli dubbed it The Ice Palace. I often slept in a zero-degree sleeping bag. I wanted to move to Colorado, so if Nicky could handle the frigid temps of San Francisco, then I knew she could gut out a Colorado winter.

I was often awake very early. Once the buses started rumbling down our street, it was impossible for a light sleeper like me to stay asleep. Our house shook like a mini-quake. Took me a couple of weeks before I could distinguish a bus rolling down the hill and an actual tremor.

I loved those early mornings when I could not sleep because it felt like I had the entire house to myself. The neighborhood was covered in a medium-shade of grey. Foggy. Cloudy. Fit my mood. I wrote a bunch (rarely hit the PUBLISH button), read books, listened to pods, watched crazy conspiracy docs, and played music at a decent volume in the back of the apartment, which was so long that I could be active in the back and it would be totally cool and not wake up Nicky or Halli.

Some mornings, I just needed to get out of the house. I'd hop on the Metro, zone out to LCD Soundsystem or Coltrane, and take the bus from Lower Pacific Heights to the edge of Chinatown where it rubbed up against the Tenderloin. The bus itself always carried an eclectic mix of passengers. Melting pot. A few suits. Some office types. A slew of hipsters. Few ancient hippies. Lots of elderly Chinese ladies. And of course... myself... the lone junkie.

The bus rides were uncomfortable. I'd be stoned and dope sick. I was thrilled NOT to be going to work. It felt liberating to not have a specific boss or someone to answer to. I was in the middle of the first legit break I had in years and I stopped cranking out non-stop content for the interwebs -- for both my own sites and for clients. But I was still recovering for a car accident. Still taking pills. Still in main. Still walking around with a gaping hole.

I rode the bus stoned and dope sick. Always dope sick. Everyone morning. Until I grabbed some food and had something in my stomach so I could take my medicine. If I took the meds on an empty stomach, I'd be pretty queasy, which was never fun.

I preferred breakfast at a hipster joint in the Tenderloin staffed by waitresses and each could have been the stereotypical 20-something in San Francisco... Emo, nu-punk, Occupy-activist, Geek-chic, art school drop out, neo-hippie, retro-hipster, lipstick lesbians, po-mo-hipster, Burner, angry rich girl drowning in white guilt, and Mipsters (who were denizens of the Mission).

Nicky teased me because the super-hippie-dippy girl always hit on me. She was really in love with Halli's brother. She was being friendly with me because 1) I tipped well, and 2) She fancied Halli's brother and knew we were friends.

She actually dropped the line, "Didn't I see you at Occupy general assembly the other night?" In October 2011, that was a killer pick-up line in the Bay Area.

After I crushed an omelet and drank a pitcher of iced tea, then I could finally take my medicine. Normal... for a short period of time. But normal. Finally.

I wandered down the street to a hole-in-the-wall donut joint that had gigantic apple fritters. I picked one go. The old Chinese lady behind the counter put it in a white paper bag. It about six minutes, it would soak through with grease. I saved the donut for later. Always for later.

Some days, I got back on the bus and rode it up and down the hills of Chinatown before it dumped me off at the tip of the business district and the Embarcadero. I'd kill some time people watching (almost all tourists) before I walked over to the first stop.

Some other days after omelets at the diner, I walked around the Tenderloin to check out all the sketchy shit. Humanity. Rearing its ugly head. You'll never get that stench of urine out of your memory. You know the folks who slip though the cracks of society? They end up in the Tenderloin. Sad, yet disgusting pastiche of rejects from a Diane Arbus photo shoot and something out of your worst dystopian nightmare.

After a dose of reality and as soon as the pharmies kicked in, I hopped back on the bus. Typically, the bus driver gave you a transfer slip when you paid your fare. You had to complete your trip in a set time indicated on the slip of paper, but that was a formality. It really didn't matter if it expired. I never once saw a bus driver actually look at a transfer slip.

So long as you... 1) were not going to slash him/her in the face, and 2) had clothes on, and 3) was not completely bat shit crazy... then the driver let you on the bus.

Dope sick and faded and freaky looking, I was by far the least disheveled individual riding the Metro in SF. In a world of freaks, I blended in and became somewhat invisible.

I listened to more music. Some sad. Some ironic. Some of lifted my spirits. I gazed out the windows of the bus. Somewhat somber. Somewhat bittersweet. Sort of dreamlike. Sometimes it felt like I was caught in my own dream. In a dream loop. Line a 37-second vine that went on for infinity. Stuck in the loop until I finally woke up from my dream.

Until that wakening happened, I had no choice but to sit and look out the window. Life whizzing by. Seeking anything resembling a wispy appearance of my vanished soul.

The people. Those wandering the streets. Billions of steps in the city. Every day. They all had their own baggage. Emotional turmoil. They all had their own sordid and sorry tales to tell. I was just one of a couple million.

The rides back post-morning rush hour were usually one-sided. Mostly empty, except myself and a mix of weary old Chinese ladies with plastic bags filled with veggies and fruits and fish and other items they purchased in Chinatown that morning.

Most of the time I took the bus from the TL to the last stop. Way past Richmond and Outer Richmond. Near Sea Cliff. I wandered down Geary to Sutro Heights Park. I hung out there for as long as I felt it was necessary to gaze out at the Pacific Ocean.

Majestic view.

Sometimes I ate the apple fritter. Sometimes I let the waves mesmerize me. I controlled the music. The soundtrack to my life.

I stayed until the fog started to roll in, or until the dreaded melancholy subsided into palatable sadness. Then I walked back down Geary to the bus stop. Hopped back on the bus, gazed out the window at all the pedestrians, sneering at the hipsters, feeling compassion for the street people, wondering if any of those anonymous faces knew where I could find someone who could help me retrieve my soul.

I got off somewhere close to home, but never at the same spot.

I'd walk the last few blocks home. Hip aching. Mostly exhausted. But glad the hazy bus dream was momentarily over.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Oral History of Grunge

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I never read a 555 page book faster.

I could not put down Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge by Mark Yarm.

The locals and musicians involved in the Pacific Northwest's music scene hated the word "grunge" but that's what stuck. Two decades later, survivors sat down to talk to Mark Yarm to deliver the oral history of the raging scene from the Pacific Northwest 80s and 90s, which blended punk and heavy metal into something bong-shattering and loud as fuck.

The suits (e.g. record execs, MTV, and radio big-wig) overused the buzz word "grunge" to describe the fuzzy, distorted hard rock scene that seemed to have its epicenter in Seattle (specifically around the Sub Pop label). When the money people from Hollyweird and NYC got wind of Seattle, they invaded the town, threw a ton of cash around, gobbled up bands, and got the fuck outta dodge. In a flash, that malestrom was all over.

Yarm compiled thousands of hours of interviews talking to musicians, rock journalists and photographers, road managers, recording engineers, PR people, A & R reps, agents, biz managers, drug dealers, producers, and record label owners to get the straight dope. The author even talked to Cameron Crowe and Courtney Love.

Members from the biggest bands (Pearl Jam, Nirvana) were quoted, but they do not get as much coverage, which is cool because there's plenty of material out there about both bands. The major emphasis is on the scene as a whole... not the bands who "made it big."

A significant amount of the book was dedicated toward the second-tiered bands like Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, TAD, and L7. Those were some of the most compelling stories because those bands were constantly struggling with addiction, creative issues with their labels, and the rigors of constant touring.

There was a fair amount of discussion about Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, but it had more to do with the formation/breakup of Soundgarden and Layne Staley's addiction issues.

The book also went deep into the Seattle scene and talked about Green River, Mother Love Bone, The Melvins, U-Men, and Skinyard. The tragic story of Andy Wood, the Mother Love Bone singer who OD'd, is one of the main storylines in the first half of book. Other bands getting some love... The Gits, Supersuckers, and Cat Butt.

Hundreds of little nuggets spread throughout the book. Random things I learned from Everybody Loves Our Town...

- The Melvins lead singer Buzz used to date Shirley Temple's daughter. He claimed Temple's husband was a CIA spook.

- Duff McKagan from Guns N Roses left Seattle for LA because he wanted to be in a heavy metal band, but he was also scared because heroin had engulfed the music scene and he didn't want to become a junkie.

- Kurt Cobain never really a homeless kid who lived underneath a bridge in Aberdeen. Surprisingly, he actually played little league baseball.

- There's the unfortunate tale of Candlebox, who drew the brunt of the backlash against "corporatized grunge rock."

- The Screaming Trees got jumped outside a bar in Asbury Park, NJ the night before their first-ever spot on Letterman. Even with make-up, their lead singer has visible and obvious black eye.


Everybody Loves Our Town is a perfect companion piece to the HYPE! documentary.