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.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Morning Pollution

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Shower running.
Wake up.
Snort the coffee.

Eardrum piercing screeching baby.
Listless daddy, exhausted mommy.
Pebbles of poo.

Cavalcade of homeless dumpster divers.
Mexican Santa Claus and Fred Sanford doppelganger.
Aluminum cans crunching; plastic bottles smushing.

Empty green craft beer bottles.
Passive-aggro donation fund.
Trickle down hipster-economics.

Green-cardless gardeners.
Blowers strapped to their backs.
Spraying power-vacuum-sized packets of earaches.

Another illegal raking the scraps.
Metal scraping against concrete.
Another ear-jolting mess; bad vibrations.

The fat Berbers refurbishing the slum.
Power saws whirling and swirling.
Annoying buckets of noise.

Another cherry stargazer arrives.
While another dream withered up and dies.
Millions of shattered dreams for sale at the 99 cent store.

Dejections, rejections, no more callbacks.
Jilted dreamers.
Pilot title is: Dunzo.

A hairdryer moaning.
If they all go on at the same time, will it cause a black out?
Perfect hair is God's work.

A honking horn.
From a pissed-off mom whose turn it is to carpool.
Those two jewish kids are always late.

Helicopters circling above.
Aerial cacophony.
Ghetto birds, paparazzi, and traffic copters.

Garbage truck coughing.
Garbage man in greasy overalls casually rolling the dumpster bin.
Smashing over potholes.

A hungry cat meowing for food.
A dog barking for attention.
A Facebook addict frowning about the low number of "likes".

A mechanical juicer liquifying fruit.
Bacon sizzling.
Ivory Coast blend percolating.

Alarm clock buzzing and buzzing.
Lost in slumber.
Deaf in real life, but attentive in the slumber world.

Car door slamming.
Engines starting.
iPod cranking.

Shower running.
Wake up.
Snort the coffee.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Central Park: Danger at Dusk

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In high school, if I didn't have basketball practice, sometimes I would walk through Central Park and grab the subway to go home. But only if it was light out.

I could have taken the 4 train, a couple of blocks from school, which would have transported me from the Upper East Side past Yankee Stadium and into the middle of the Bronx, but then I'd have to hop on a bus to go across the Bronx to get back to Riverdale. The Bronx had several subway lines but all of them fed into Manhattan (north to south) and none of them went across the borough (east and west).

On the days I walked across Central Park, I hopped on the 1 train, which was the West Side local that took twenty-five minutes (sometimes as many as thirty-five on bad days, and sometimes as fast as twenty if it skipped stops) to transport me from the Upper West Side to the Bronx. Once I got off the subway, I had a quick 15 minutes walk from Broadway through Kingsbridge and up the big hill to Riverdale.

As an adult living on the West Coast, whenever I visit NYC I always make time to walk through Central Park (usually to get to the museum). In high school, we used Central Park as a location for gym glass. We also used it for cross country and track practice. I can't recall how many times I ran around the Reservoir. Several hundred. At least. But that was always during the day. Never at night. Never.

My after-school walks through Central Park were always interesting. Usually I'd find groups of teeangers looking for a place to get stoned. I'd ogle at female joggers during their 3pm runs. If they didn't have to work, chances are they were models or married to very wealthy men. Then you had the nannies... usually women of color... who pushed around white babies... the future 1-percenters of America.

Central Park in the afternoons buzzed with activity. Sporting things. Cyclists. Joggers. Speed walkers. Dog walkers. Pick-up hoops. Soccer. Softball. Plus the burgeoning rollerblading craze. In the winter, you could go ice skating. And let's not forget about those freaks with binoculars - bird watchers who visited NYC from all over the world just so they could go bird watching in the middle of the concrete jungle.

But since its creation 250+ year ago, Central Park was also the location for crazy shit. Craaaaaazy shit. Murders. Assaults. Rapes. Robberies. Drug deals gone bad. Everything.

Although NYC cleaned up significantly since its broke-dick days in the 70s, crack was prevalent in the late 80s which meant there was always potential concern for petty theft. I had to be careful about walking around with my walkman (and puffy earphones).

Today, I don't worry as much but I'm still cautious and make sure I listen to music at a low volume so I can hear someone running up from behind me. Just in case.

In high school, I wanted to enjoy music while wandering through the park, but I had to be careful. You never knew when a group of rogue kids decided to surround me and demand my walkman (or tapes). It's a numbers game. They'd outnumber me and easily rob me.

Or maybe worse... what if I never saw them coming and they jumped me? That was always my main concern... get jumped from behind but not hearing anyone because I had INXS cranked up to full blast.

Alas, I devised a plan to be safe yet enjoy music. I tried to stick to paths with lots of people, then I could use the walkman. If it was getting closer to dark, or I was off the beaten path, then I'd put everything away so I could be fully alert.

So long as you did not go into the park at night (just like that Rolling Stones song Miss You), you were generally okay. I never felt unsafe cutting through the park during daylight. Then again, Central Park was the locale of bizarre sex crimes from the Central Park jogger to the Preppy Killer (Robert Chambers) choking Jennifer Levine to death behind a huge oak tree after what he claimed was "rough sex."

Although it happened in 1997, or several years after I graduated, a 15-year old rich girl (spoiled daughter of a Central Park West banskter) killed a homeless man in the park and dumped him in the lake. She was one of those bad girls who hung out in the park and partied with the local whinos. She and her boyfriend set up one of the drunks who lived in the park. She got him blotto drunk then stabbed him 50+ times, then dumped him in the Central Park Lake. Just like an episode of Law and Order, an early morning jogger noticed something floating in the lake. NYPD discovered the corpse. The baby-faced killer said she thought she'd get away with murder because she assumed the corpse would sink because the whino was "a fatty."

Central Park is fairly large (800+ acres) with lots of nooks and crannies. It's always been a gruesome place when the lights went out. You never wanted to be caught wandering around late at night when the freaks came out in numbers. And that does not include all the ghosts... all the souls who never passed over because they met their fate in the park at the hands of a knife, or a rock, or a gun. During the Great Depression, poor folks took up refuge in the park in makeshift Hooverville. Who knows how many people died of starvation in there? Those were among the original wave of ghosts.

When I worked at the Met Museum, sometimes I'd pop outside at lunchtime and burn a doobie with co-workers before going back inside and zoning out in the Degas room. But before I went inside, I wondered how many ghosts roamed the 800+ acres. Central Park was 250+ years old. You figured at least 10 people died per year... so that's something like 2,500 or so ghosts. Or roughly 3 per every acre.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Binge Watching: House of Cards 2.0

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"Mr. Vice-President... that is just shy of treason."

"Just shy. That's politics."


I've written extensively about the newest phenomena. Binge watching. In the 90s, we called it being a "stoner film/tv geek." Get a whole bunch of weed, a stack of VCR tapes (rentals from Blockbuster... remember those?) or DVDs, and sink into the couch for an extended viewing session that lasted until the weed ran out, or until you passed out.

Binge watching. Americans have voracious appetites for everything. Beer. Cigarettes. Hate. Fast food. Sports. Celebrity worship. Anything Kardashian. And kittens. Let's not forget about fucking kittens. Sometimes when I think the world is about to implode with a financial meltdown or the start of WW3, I look at a kitten and all those bad thoughts vanish and I think... awww how cute, wonder if little kitty knows how much we're fucked?

Ignorance is bliss.

Binge watching. Something sinister out of the minds of Orwell/Huxley (see Amusing Ourselves to Death). Humans addicted to consuming entertainment in copious amounts. But that's what we want, or at least, we think it is what we want. An escape. A cheap escape. Without having to acquire/pay for drugs/booze, but more importantly, a quick/easy escape without paying the high price of addiction. Life is harsh, so we want to just numb our senses. Losing yourself for a dozen hours into something else. You now have a legit excuse to go a little crazy and embrace your couch and the warm, loving glow of the TV/laptop screen.

Binge watching. It's fun. Trust me, I'm an addict. If you're gonna do something, go balls to the wall. Don't dabble. Fuck this one episode at a time bullshit. Go full-blown muthafucker insane over something. Like fist through a wall, or a Pookie-crack binge. Whether it's binging on kitten memes or playing pocket pool... bring it. Bring your A-game. If you're gonna do something, really fucking do it.

That's why binge watching is becoming a national obsession. It gives us an excuse to be gluttons. I love it. Binge watching is the combination of sloth and gluttony. It's the complete opposite of jogging or fitness fads like Jane Fonda aerobic VCR tapes, Chrissy from Three's Company pitching Thighmaster, that long-haired fitness freak Tony Little, Tae Bo, and the poor fucker who invented stationary bicycles. I'm sure there's a few serious A-type personalities that incorporated Netflix viewing to their workout routine, but for the most part Americans (and some Canadians too) buried their asses into a couch this weekend and watched 13 episodes of the new season of House of Cards.

Perfect timing. Three-day weekend (Presidents Day is a federal holiday on Monday) plus it's Valentine's Day. If you don't have someone special, then you had a date with Netflix. Then again, I was a rare lucky soul who had a significant other who also hated Valentine's Day and she wanted to avoid over-crowded restaurants in favor of getting blitzed on Bubba hash and binge-watching HOC.

HOC episodes are roughly 45 minutes (minus closing credits and FWD through the opening credits). Actual viewing time of all 13 episodes could be accomplished in approximately 10 hours. I think the average American watches around 33 hours of TV per week, or 4-5 hours per day. If the average person devotes their average daily viewing to HOC, then it will take about two full days to watch it all.

But some folks want to watch it all in one sitting. 13 at once. That's the point of these Netflix releases, right? I did it thrice. With both seasons of HOC and the last season of Arrested Development. (FYI... I slowly watched OITNB, but excited to see a second season coming.)

13 in a row? Really not that tough to accomplish considering someone like me from the "TV" generation (Donald Fagen refers to Gen Xers as "TV babies" because we were raised by television). I did not do it all at once. Rather, I probably banged it out over a 36 hour period. I watched the first episode within the first hour it was release, caught 10 more on Friday, and finished off the last 2 episodes on Saturday morning.

I was in bed and couldn't sleep the other night. I had gone to bed early to wake up and write. Nicky was sound asleep, but I couldn't pass out. I picked up my phone and realized that HOC season 2 was released at Midnight PT. All 13 episodes. It was almost 12:30am. I fired up the first episode and watched it via phone... in bed. When the first OMG moment happened, I click off and looked on Twitter and noticed that thousands of others had a similar reaction to a shocking reveal in the first episode.

It was funny, yet curious, to see how others reacted to the "OMG now fucking way!"moments in real time via Twitter. I felt there were two OMG moments... in the first episode and a later episode toward the end... and I could tell how far friends (and strangers) were based on similar reactions.

When Nicky woke up to go to work Friday, I encouraged her to watch the first episode over breakfast and coffee.

"Trust me. You don't want it to be ruined with spoilers by the time you get to work. Someone in your office might have stayed up to watch the first episode, or you'll find out about it via Twitter or those show biz sites you frequent."

Nicky reluctantly said yes. I felt she was humoring me more than anything. But after it was over, she was glad I told her to watch it. By the time she got home from work ten hours later, the word was out. She would have been spoiled.

Binge watchers. I'm one of those poor fucktards. Binge watchers devouring HOC in the first 16 hours were in a unique situation because they had free time and the ability to consume it all on a weekday (Friday). That group included students, unemployed, sick people, retirees, artist-types like myself, or folks who worked from home but decided to watch HOC instead.

For working class 9-5 folks, their first chunk of free time happened on Friday night when they got home (save for a few west coasters who watched an episode or three when it debuted at Midnight PT). Maybe those 9-5ers got as far as halfway on Friday night, but most likely they knocked out three or four episodes and finally polished it off on Saturday. I assume the majority of HOC consumers watched the bulk of the new season Saturday and completed it on Sunday. I'm sure Netflix has specific metrics. Would love to see those.

But I saw a shocking number.... 15% of ALL Netflix users watched the first episode of HOC within 24 hours of its release. Yes, so sick.

I also assume there were a bunch of people who simply didn't have the time (work, kids, Valentine's Day, holiday weekend, bad weather) to engage in binge watching, or in two/three batches. I'm sure they'll slowly watch it over this week and maybe spread it out over a month. But that's tough to do with the material for HOC.

Optimal viewing? Watch three at a time and then spend an hour going back over the previous episodes to watch anything you missed.

Of course, I had a rare chance to watch it twice in the first 48 hours. Nicky was on a much different schedule because of work. So I watched most of the episodes a second time on Friday night and again on Saturday when Nicky binge-watched. I tailed her binge! But for something like HOC, it was necessary so I could fill in the blanks and figure out shit I overlooked or missed.

HOC is broken up into chapters... not episodes... so it feels more like a novel. Sometimes chapters seem boring in books, but you can speed read, skim, or move on. Tough to do with a TV series if they are releasing them the old-fashioned way at one at a time at set intervals. As a novelist, I want to write short chapters to keep stuff moving along. But it's not easy with TV. Sometimes there are a few episodes in a series that seem like nothing is happening. Those are enough to alienate casual (or new) viewers. However, in a binge series like HOC, that snoozer of an episode represents a small portion of your viewing time that day, so it doesn't irk you as much.

With so much fucking entertainment available in the internet age coupled with reduction in attention spans in our ADHD culture, you better create something compelling otherwise you'll lose out to the alternative. You have to fight serious psychological disorders such as FOMO1 and the fact there's something else more exciting out there that is just a click away on the dial or via a rabbit hole search on YouTube.

Binge watching is not a brand-new 21st century invention. I can count days and weeks I lost watching college basketball since I was a wee one. March Madness is catered to hoops enthusiasts and it is a gambling junkie's wet dream.

In college, all we needed was a VCR and tapes to engage in binge-watching marathons. Usually it would be a bunch of Seinfeld eps or The Simpsons jammed onto a 6-hour VHS tape. I remember the time a couple friends of mine had some liquid sunshine and we were blotto forever it seemed, but still not completely sober so we rode out the buzz and watched Linklater's Dazed and Confused three times in a row before we felt like we could properly re-enter Earth's atmosphere. In between the second and third viewing, we went to McDonalds to get biscuits just after it opened at 6am. We then housed the biscuits and watched Wooderson and company for a third time.

When DVD technology came along, you could have binge on your favorite directors or blow through your entire library. Then entire TV shows were released via DVD, so you could catch up with an entire season in one sitting. DVD collections became an arbiter of taste and pop culture coolness. As my pal Shaniac said, "You used to be judged on what DVDs were on your shelf."

But those were the origins of binge watching. Technology and the internet aged ushered in opportunities to binge watch anything. Kitten videos. Hockey fights. Every episode of Cheers.


House of Cards is sort of like a postmodern version of Shakespeare blended with Machiavelli yet set in the treacherous hallways of DC. The original show appeared in the U.K. and was based on politics in the 80s. I still have yet to see that but I will try to binge watch that someday.

I adore the Claire character (Robin Wright). She's like Lady Macbeth meets Hilary Clinton on steroids. The true Ice Queen. And the Frank character (Kevin Spacey)? Sleazier than sleaze and corrupted as fuck all. He's the type of shifty guy who would fuck you in the ass and make you pay for the Vaseline. I love how the Frank character talks directly to the camera. Sometimes it feels like Ferris Bueller grew up to become a smarmy southern politician.

HOC almost made me miss the politics game. Almost. I studied southern politics under one of the greatest minds in the political science realm (Dr. Merle Black, who has a twin brother named Earl who is also a well-known poli sci professor at North Carolina). I never missed a Dr. Black lecture, which says something because I skipped class all the time in college to follow the Grateful Dead or bong out on the couch watching ski flicks like Aspen Extreme and Ski School. Seriously. I never went to class and found the littlest excuse to avoid a classroom. But Dr. Black's lectures were something I would never miss. Such a captivating speaker and he really explained how backroom politics really worked... and not how we thought politics worked after being brainwashed by the MSM. I learned more about politics through Dr. Black (his courses and reading his books) and reading Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail '72 book2 than anything else combined.

I was thisclose to pursuing a career in politics. Not as a politician, but using my poli sci degre as a minion. I had worked on two congressional campaigns in college. I guess I'm a mush. Both my candidates lost, including Ben Jones, otherwise known as Cooter from Dukes of Hazzard. Jones was the incumbent (he served two terms as a congressman from Georgia), but he got stomped (only winning 33%) by his opponent, a fellow named... Newt Gingrich.... who was more crooked and twisty than Lombard Street (in San Francisco). I had hoped Jones would win his re-election bid, because I would have hit him up for a job after college, but I backed the wrong pony in that race. Instead of sticking around Atlanta and working tirelessly on different elections, I put aside politics and migrated north. I returned to my hometown of NYC to pursue a career on Wall Street (with a pitstop at an art museum while I was procrastinating the inevitable recruitment as a bankster). In college, I figured I'd be a pollster or grunt in the trenches. I could only imagine a potential career trajectory if I stuck around Atlanta and became one of those congressional staffers... I'd be 41, wearing cheap suits, gobbling pills and writing speeches for low-hanging fruit in DC.

It's funny that House of Cards is a show about politics. Sure, it's fictional and waaaaaay out there, but it's funny how we're being constantly distracted. Sleight of hand. Divisive politics. The powers that be don't want you to pay attention to their affairs. They want to keep you occupied and busy. They don't want you to have free time to think, because if you actually think about things... you start to realize what's really going on and how bad they've been fucking you and lying to your faces.Then there are some people, a small group of folks who figured shit out and know exactly what's up, but they know better than to rock the boat. It's like some Sun Tzu shit about not fighting battles you can't win, but focusing on winning the war. Well, it's better to just load up the bong and binge watch a show about crooked politicians than to actually try to oust those slithery used-car salesmen in DC.


1. Huxley is laughing right now at that big bar in the sky where other writers hang out, drink forever without getting hungover, and troll on hacks like Ayn Rand.

2.  Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 was actually the first time I read anything by Hunter S. Thompson, but it was not on Dr. Black's syllabus. I read it for a different poli sci class.

Friday, February 07, 2014

RIP The Fat Guy

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Fat Guy put up a good fight to the end. He's a tough mofo. That's Texas for ya. You haven't lived until you survived a night in Vegas with the Fat Guy and AlCantHang.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Smooth Grooves and Melted Clocks

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA


Took me a couple of weeks but I found my groove. And it's a smooth one.

Groove. Highly underrated. Better to be in a good groove then a choppy one.

Groove rhymes with smooth. Sort of.

Smooth groove. Groove smooth.

But a groove is he epitome of smooth. Relaxing. Chill. Smooth sailing. May you're cup be full and may you always find your groove.

I started the year out of sync. Unable to find a groove. I could not connect with myself. I picked the wrong day to leave NYC. I got caught up in two weather delays on two different dates and incurred two nasty bad beats from a budget airline posing as a big airline. The week long delay set me back 11 days. Yeah, that really set me back a couple of weeks.

The moment I returned to LA, I jumped into a freelance project and the final stretch of a start up I had to put the novel edits on the back burner. Had no choice. I was burning daylight and so far behind with stuff that every other minute I was being reminded of something I forgot to do... or something I had postponed before I left LA for Christmas. A two week holiday turned into a month long excursion.

But my groove is back. Smooth groove. I finally got back into the swing of... life. The holidays always throw me for a loop. I don't like them. Depression lurks behind every corner. Every fucking corporation puts the screws to you and tries to bilk you for every possible cent like airlines jacking up rates to big box stories bombarding you with nonstop ads to buy shit you don't need while reminding you how much you hate the holidays. You pretty much want to skip November and December. 

January could not come fast enough.

 I sort of become highly unmotivated in December and become a nonfunctional zombie. The holidays scramble my brain. Seasonal depression. Winter wonderland blues. But as soon as the calender changes, I become invigorated. Recharged. New Year's Eve is like a reboot. It's just another day... in theory... but the psychological aspect of celebrating a new year often lifts crushed spirits.
I tend to front load the year with new projects because I have a frenetic batch of energy and feel hopeful about humanity. That bliss eventually fades as the year progresses. But until that raging flame dulls to a flicker, I embrace the tidal wave of positive emotion. The first couple of months of the year are often the most productive for me. I sort of have no choice but to relish the first 10 weeks of the year before I lose my steam.

My enthusiasm dips in mid-March when all hell break loose and I spend 16-18 hours a day watching college basketball and crunching numbers. I typically gamble on March Madness to fund summer excursions. So the better I did... the more stuff I got to do. If I lost... then I didn't do much and had a bleh summer. I paid for Phish tour in the late 90s using March Madness winnings. In the early 00s, I paid for a trip to Jazz Fest with a March Madness windfall. This year? I have no clue what's going on. Complete 180 from last year, when I was consuming ten hours of pro and college hoops a night and gambling on the NBA in a nightly fashion. But this season? I watched the least amount of college hoops in several years. Maybe I'll actually do better? In the end, March Madness almost a crap shoot. Throwing darts in the dark against a moving target. But I'm supposed to be a wiser bettor now. Although the older I get, the more I realize I know absolutely nothing.

Funny how time totally fucks with you. A couple of years ago, I was unmotivated and drowning in my own self-loathing, I desperately wanted time to fly by faster because the days were dreadful and I was looking forward to getting out of gloomy rut. It was like being caught in a rainstorm that never ended. Too bad... I had all the time in the world and no energy to do anything about it. Now, I got all the motivation, but no time.

I wish I could freeze time for three months so I can catch up. On work, life, play...

So much stuff to do. So little time. Gotta go. I'm burning daylight.

Monday, February 03, 2014


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

A man consumed with demons.

He lost a battle he could never win.

I didn't want to believe the news. Initially, I dismissed it. Any time I hear about a celebrity death on Twitter, I assume it's a hoax until I get my three legit sources. But the source was the Wall Street Journal. Not exactly TMZ or a site looking to juke their numbers. At that point, the notion of a hoax fades away and the reality of the situation sunk in.

I'm fond of Almost Famous for so many reasons, but Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal of rock critic Lester Bangs was something that struck me as a budding writer. This scene is something that I always remembered when I started out as a poker writer. It was weird... when I first got into the biz, I saw myself as the naive, eager youngester looking to make his mark. Seven years later, I was the jaded vet trying to discourage youngesters for getting into a shady racket.