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....