Sunday, June 30, 2013

Around the Horn: Crazy Maids, Alley Moons, and Walsh Crack

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Here is a link dump of this week's tripe. Freshly fried for your pleasure...
Off the Wall - Working from home has its advantages, but it also has some other disadvantages like being unable to separate mental boundaries between the workplace and home.

When the Maids Thing We're Crazy - The O.J. mural always freaks out the maids.

Super Moon, Alley Wankers, and Keep the Loonies on the Path - The freaks come out at night, especially during a full moon. What happens when you have a super moon? Freaks in the alley. That's what.

Joe Fucking Walsh and Free Crack on YouTube - YouTube is like a crack dealer. During my recent crack binge, I cam across a couple of gems from the Howard Stern show including interviews with Jerry Seinfeld and Joe Walsh.

Bomb It (Documentary Film) - This an inspiring film about Street artists from around the world and the risks they take to make their art.

Twit Links: June - Everything I thought was link-worthy that I shared on Twitter in the month of June.

And a couple of things I wrote elsewhere...
Bronx Bums Report [Ocelot Sports]

Flashback: 2012 Phish Summer Tour, Part 1 [Coventry Music]

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Twit Links: June 2013

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

This is pretty much everything (non-pimpage) that I linked up on Twitter over the last four weeks....
TV, Film, Lit, Pop Culture, etc.
David Simon's Original Pitch for The Wire [Kottke]
Profile on Author Tao Lin [Vulture]
Podcast: David Simon on Here's the Thing... [WNYC]
Podcast: Bobcat Goldthwait Interview on Joe Rogan Show [YouTube]
The Tetris Effect [The Awl]
Mitch Hedberg Kinetic Typography: Link 1 and Link 2 [YouTube]
The Sopranos: Definitive Explanation of "The END" [Master of Sopranos]
Review of Star Trek Into Darkness [Wil Wheaton]
Speedy Version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [Tao Pauly Tumblr]
Don't Go to Art School [Noah Bradley]

Grateful Dead Film: Sunshine Daydream Finally Released After 41 Years [JamBase]
Is Phish a Great Band? [Grantland]
Hard-Partying, L.A. Studio Musicians from the 1970s [Rolling Stone]
One Hit Wonder from the 90s: Whoooomp (There It Was)! [5280]
Podcast: Thom Yorke on Here's the Thing... [WNYC]
Podcast: Iggy Pop on WTF Podcast []
Cameron Crowe's 1978 Rolling Stone Article on Irving Azzoff [The Uncool]

Sports, Sportsbetting and Poker
Opinion: Before the Bubble [Otis - PokerStars Blog]
Trailer: Runner Runner [Yahoo]
Why Sportsbettor Targets Tennis Players on Twitter [Slate]
Pain Pills and NBA Betting Strategy [Chad Millman - ESPN]
The Weed That Came To Chris Perez's House Was Addressed To His Dog [Deadspin]
Does Joey Crawford Really Hate Tim Duncan? A Scientific Investigation [Grantland]
What Happened When I Tried to Interview Incarcerated Bob? [David Purdum Sports]
The Legend of Buster Smith: The Greatest American Checkers Player [Chicago Reader]
Chasing Cave Dog [SB Nation]
Mike Cervenak Played 15 Years in the Minor Leagues [Grantland]
Surface Tension: Technology in Tennis' Golden Age [Grantland]

News and Misc.
The Rise of Poor Man's Cocaine in Greece [Slate]
Wiretapping: We are shocked, shocked... []
Laptop Nomads [NY Mag]
I Was Paid $12.50 An Hour to Write This Story [The Awl]
Me and My Monkey: Confessions of a White-Collar Dope Fiend [Washington City Paper]

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bomb It (Documentary Film)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Ah, this documentary gives me flashbacks of my youth and seeing bombed-out graffiti-strewn subway cars. You also get to see some amazing street art from youths in Amsterdam, Paris, Philly, Capetown, Sao Paulo, Hamburg, and Los Angeles.

Check out Bomb It:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Joe Fucking Walsh and Free Crack on YouTube

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm writing about the Eagles again (i.e. Such a Lovely Place and Lines On the Mirror, Lines On Her Face). Sort of. It's actually not really about the Eagles and more about Joe Walsh. Irving Azoff paid me off. I have to write about his clients once every 30 days and he'll hook me up with Don Henley's bookie.

YouTube is the crack cocaine of the internet. I would have finished two screenplays and four novels by now if YouTube was never birthed into existence. It's been a huge time suckage. I'm addicted to being mildly entertained by mediocre content. It's a cheap, quick high that leaves me thirsting for more. More. More. YouTube's sidebar is like a sinister crack dealer offering you free crack, but not just one crack rock... we're taking the motherload. Nonstop crack. Nonstop entertainment. There's a hidden price to pay. You sell your soul and you give up valuable hours of your day zoning out to mindless post-modern crap or nostalgic nuggets of pop culture of yesteryear. I can't stop. I want more.

During last night's You-Crack-Tube binge, I stumbled upon an interview Joe Walsh did with Howard Stern. I had not listened to Howard Stern in years. Maybe even a decade? I was a religious listener at different times in my life. I originally got sucked into the crackhouse with Jerry Seinfeld's interview on Stern. On the sidebar, I saw an interview that Joe Walsh did last year. I dove in. Another hit of crack.

Joe Walsh is a member of the Eagles, but he had a promising career in the early 70s. One nugget that came out of the Stern was his relationship with Stevie Nicks. Never knew that they used to hook up. Happened one summer in the 80s when their bands were touring together. Crazy shit. Two raging cokeheads falling in love! How come Cameron Crowe has not haven't made a movie about that?

Here is Joe Walsh on Stern (audio only):

Walsh is sober now, but he used to be the life of the party when Howard Stern invited Walsh and his entourage to functions back in the 80s and early 90s. Man, for all of the 70s-80s Walsh was out of control and gacked out and drunk as a skunk. The 90s were just awful. Those bloated, washed-up.. coked out, burned-out, pathetic rocker days. If Walsh didn't go to rehab in 1994... who knows if he would have lived to see the millennium.

The Eagles needed a sober Joe Walsh to strengthen the now aging band during their Hell Freezes Over reunion tour. Without Walsh, the greatest hits would not have been the same. Frey and Henley were the strongest vocalists, yet they were always the weakest musicians in the band, while the guitar players -- Don Felder and Joe Walsh -- were the strongest. They could have done the tour with one of them, but they wouldn't be halfway decent without both of them.

Eventually, Glen Frey butted heads with Don Felder around the millennium. Felder joined the band as the fifth member of the Eagles, when they wanted to become more of a rock band. Felder wrote the music to Hotel California, which is one of the most recognizable pieces of music of all time. In the late 90s, Felder noticed how much the Eagles tours were making and he wanted a bigger cut of the pie. Frey told him to fuck off and he kicked him out. Frey knew he still had Joe Walsh to carry the workload, plus he could replace Felder with a cheap sideman... which he did.

Joe Walsh originally joined the Eagles as a replacement guitar player. Bernie Leadon was one of the original four members of the Eagles, but he was more of a country guy (an accomplished acoustic guitar and banjo player). The Eagles were formed as a country-rock band when they first started out in the 70s as a "super group" of sorts. David Geffen had signed them to Asylum Records, but he didn't think they'd become huge mega-stars. Well, the Eagles honed their skills and had a couple of surprising hit songs. After Desperado bombed (it was a bad cowboy record), they eventually migrated away from the country and embraced more rock. They flipped and became a rock-country band. Glen Frey wanted more emphasis on rock and he wanted to ditch most of the country and take the Eagles to the next level of full-blown rock-and-roll. Leadon wanted the Eagles to stay true to their country roots. He left the band and Joe Walsh stepped in.

Walsh's manager at the time happened to be Irving Azoff, who happened to be the manager of the Eagles. Great coincidence! Joe Walsh's solo band had opened for the Eagles on different tours, and he often joined them onstage for encores. Plus, Walsh was a fucking maniac on the road. He loved to trash hotel rooms. Fucking destroy them. He was buddies with Keith Moon, who took a liking to Walsh and the two ran around together creating mayhem where ever they went. Walsh studied under Moon as an apprentice room destroyer. Whenever Walsh went on the road, he got as fucked up as he could on coke and booze before launching a campaign of apocalyptic destruction on their hotel. For his birthday, the Eagles gave Walsh a chainsaw and he took it on tour and sawed the legs off tables, chairs, and even try to cut through dry wall.

Walsh's partying and destructive behavior helped give the Eagles a darker and grittier edge. That's why Glen Frey and Don Henley put up with his antics. Besides, they took out all the damage charges out of his paycheck anyway. They didn't have to pay the fines for the destruction, but it gave their band a tougher image with the press and fans. With the addition of Joe Walsh, they had finally shed their country-golly-shucks attitude and were finally projecting the image of badass rockers.

You might wonder... why did Walsh join the Eagles? I think about it all the time. Originally, Walsh left the James Gang (Phish covers their hit Walk Away), a successful power trio at the time, in order to pursue a solo career. Then after he finally got his solo career launched and cooking, he decided to put that on hold while he joined a more successful band. I guess the Eagles were so big that the money was good and 1/5 of the Eagles was probably better than his full cut as a solo artist. Plus, it took a ton of pressure off him as a solo artist. Joe Walsh joining the Eagles was like one of those very good ball players who has never won a title, but he joins a playoff contender and becomes a roll player in order to help make a good team become great.

Without the full responsibility of leading the band, Walsh had plenty of time to focus on room destruction and partying. He probably snorted more cocaine in a week that most bands snort in a lifetime. Hey, it was the mid-70s. Blow was big in rock-and-roll. And by the time the 80s rolled around, blow was everywhere. The Eagles broke up in 1980 and Walsh resumed his solo career, but the 80s were more like an intoxicated blur. The shows were rowdy and inconsistent. Any new material never had the same punch as his earliest shredding with the James Gang or his pre-Eagles solo days. Walsh turned to more booze and more blow to ease the pain of a cheesed-career and life post-Eagles.

Sure, Glen Frey and Irving Azoff had greedy reasons to reunite the Eagles, but in the process they probably saved Joe Walsh's life. They gave him a second chance. Walsh had the option to get his shit together and join the band, or continue to get obliterated every night until he dies of liver disease and becomes a ghost story.

Walsh chose sobriety. It wasn't easy. It didn't happen over night. He fell back into old habits a couple of times.

"Women are a great reason to drink," Walsh joked in a half-truth.

These days he's sober. Too bad he lost some of the best years of his life to a cocaine fog and drunken blur. Oh well. That was the price to pay for a hard-living rock-and-roll lifestyle in the 70s and indulging in the gross excess of the 80s.

Walsh is older now and not as sharp on the guitar, but he still has flashes of brilliance like you could see during his episode of Live from Daryl's House.

Here is Walsh and Daryl Hall performing Life's Been Good...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Super Moon, Alley Wankers, and Keep the Loonies on the Path

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Super moon. Super freaky moon. The freaks were out in numbers. Roaming. Being freaks. Driven mad by the lunar cycle. Losing their minds. Zombies. Prowling. Swimming in insanity.

Mentally imbalanced people are often called lunatics and loonies for a reason. The moon's gravitational pull drives some people crazy. The moon alters your perception. The moon affects your mind. The moon alters your senses. The moon drives "normal" people completely unstable. And if you're already unhinged, you're totally fucked.

Like that Pink Floyd song. Got to keep the loonies on the path.

This moon business isn't hype or recycled urban legends or old wives tales. Cops and ER nurses can attest to the fact that shit always goes extra crazy during a full moon. My friends who work in casinos tell me that the crowds are extra insane during full moons. Gamblers slid deeper into the abyss more than normal. Some people howl at the moon. Some people lose their shirts shooting dice. Some people eat bath salts and stumble into my alley.

People are deranged. The Super Moon sets them off.

The Super Moon is just like a regular moon yet it appear slightly bigger, Maybe it's an optical illusion? Maybe the aliens are fucking with us? But you can't deny the fact that the levels of insanity are cranked up to its highest levels on the night of full moon. It's like those amps got waaaay past "11". The freaks come out at night.

The super freaks copulate during Super Moons, which is how super-super-freaks are birthed. Beware of Super-Super Moon babies. You can easily spot them. They're the ones who bought Lindsay Lohan's record. They're the ones who by Kardashian perfume.

After Midnight is the demarcation line. The sane souls have to lock their doors and hide from the batshit crazy undead while they roam the streets and alleys until sunrise.

I closed the window in my office. Normally I appreciate the late night breeze, especially when I'm tired but still writing because it keeps me awake. One of my neighbors was snoring. Loudly. He had his window wide open and his snoring echoed through the alley. Holy shit it was loud, and he wasn't even next door. I shut the window and I could still hear his thunderous snoring.

I have a baseball bat. I haven't played baseball since college. I have it for other reasons. I almost put it away in a closet because I was pre-cleaning for the maid. But I left it out. Just in case. Hate to need one and not have it, ya know?

I heard ruckus in the alley. It happens especially in the hour before sunrise. Times are tough and dumpster divers have been showing up earlier and earlier in order to get first crack at empty bottles, cans, and other recyclables. But this was not your typical homeless person quickly going through the bins. This person was screaming at the top of his lungs. Didn't even sound like English or any language. Lots of guttural sounds. Grunts. Then I heard a name. Sounded like "Shelia" but I wasn't sure. After the fortieth time he shouted it, it was pretty obvious. He was looking for someone named Shelia and he thought she lived in our building. He was screaming and running around in circles in the alley. Nicky woke up totally scared. I had been clutching the bat for a few minutes and sized up the lunatic.

"Should we call the cops?"

"Not yet," I said.

Nicky saw me with the baseball bat in my hand. She knew that if he tried to break in by going through a window, I was ready to fucking crack his skull.

He looked fucked up. Like really fucked up. Seventy miles passed drunk. More like tweaking hard on Meth, or probably bath salts. Sheesh. No way I was going to try to fight a psycho on bath salts. It was best to remain quiet and wait it out. Calling the cops was useless, unless he broke a window and tried to break in (more so to get proof someone else did it, otherwise our cheap landlord would make us pay for it). Besides, by the time a squad car rolled up, the lunatic would be long gone and then we look like morons calling the cops for no reason. Then again, perhaps my neighbors were annoyed or freaked out and they had already called the cops?

If we lived one block north, we'd be in Beverly Hills and the cops would have already tasered this motherfucker and he'd shit and piss himself and be withering in pain after getting a gajillion volts pumped through his body. But we don't live in Beverly Hills. We're still in Los Angeles.

Good luck getting the understaffed LAPD to come out and wrangle a drunk. We were on our own.

It's like a bad scene from a Larry David episode or something Johnny Drama would bitch about in Entourage.

The lunatic in the alley was lucky I was not a trigger happy gunfreak who couldn't wait to unload my Mossberg. As one gun enthusiast friend explained about the benefits of a shotgun in an urban environment, "You don't have to be a good shot. You see the flash of light and know you've sprayed the target."

The guy ran around in circles for a few minutes. Screaming. At one point he went into the corner and pulled out his lizard and started wanking it... unsuccessfully. With his limp lizard flapping around he screamed "Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllliaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

He picked a small pile of leaves and threw it against his face, like he thought it was a puddle of water and he was freshening up. When that didn't work, he finally left the alley, but he tried to access our building. He walked up stairs and got halfway before he rushed back down. They attempted to open my neighbor's door. The douchenozzle with the BMW who has his mom clean his apartment every Friday. After fiddling around for a couple of seconds, he left. For good.

I heard him yelling "Sheeeeeeeliaaaaaaaa!" But the cries grew faint, so I knew he was getting farther and father away. I told Nicky it was over. We could go back to sleep. Now she doesn't think I'm weird for buying a bat.

As long as he walked East and West and South, he's be safe. But if he ventured a couple of blocks north, then you bet your ass one of the residents of Beverly Hills would call 911. I follow @LAScanner on Twitter and the stream is filled with Beverly Hills PD responding to disturbances of the peace, especially from loud wasted lunatics, walking around trying to jerk off in alleys, while screaming "Shelia!"

That's the sort of strange shit that was the norm in San Francisco. We never had a dull night in our neighborhood. Some wasted fucker was screaming at the top of their lungs while walking down Divisidero.

Our neighbors in the Slums of Beverly Hills are loud, inconsiderate self--absorbed assholes, but we live in a somewhat quiet neighborhood all things considered. That's why that strange incident -- the only one in over seven years -- came at a surprise.

Zombies? Derivatives traders on a bender? Bad batch of meth? Bath salts? Who the fuck knows. Glad there's no more Super Moon for a while.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

When the Maids Think We're Crazy

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"So, do I tip the maids?"

Nicky was still laughing from my previous question ("I don't have to feed them right?"). I have very little experience with domestic maids, yet, I have tons of terrible run-ins with hotel maids, especially the ones who cannot read a DO NOT DISTURB sign and barge right in. I lived in hotels for long period of times during different assignments before I finally figured out renting an apartment for trips lasting longer than 4 or 5 days was the way to go. It turned out to be cheaper in many instances. As a result, Nicky and I were fortunate to stay in cool little apartments in Barcelona and London, not to mention Las Vegas. One of the worst aspects of hotels is dealing with maids early in the morning.

Domestic maids are something completely foreign to me. I grew up in the Bronx. We did not have a maid and my family always did a piss poor job cleaning up, which we usually put off until the night before we had company over for events like Christmas dinner, which my Mom cooked for the extended family. Most of the time, it was messy. I'm not saying she's a hoarder, but she's kind of a hoarder. Not one of those garbage and shit hoarders you see on TV, rather one of those materialistic hoarders that buys a lot of stupid and useless shit and boxes and boxes are piled up everywhere.

When I first started dating Nicky, she and Showcase had a maid that came by their apartment in the Slums of Beverly Hills every two or three months. They were lazy potheads and working a lot so they needed a little help. She was a sweet woman from Ecuador. When Showcase moved out and I officially moved in, we called her to come over and help clean up Showcase's old room which would become my office and guest bedroom. She did an awesome job. We tried to get her to come by at the end of that summer, but her phone was disconnected. We assumed the worst that she got deported.

I did not want to hire a new maid. I don't want anyone inside my home that I do not know or don't trust. For the most part we didn't really have a maid for a couple of years. When we moved to San Francisco, we had to get someone to help clean up for us so Nicky found a reputable agency. They sent two people to do the job, but it was pricey. They were very good, but we never hired them again until this week.

Nicky was at work when they arrived early in the morning, so I had to man the fort while they clean up our disastrous kitchen. I did not realize that I had to give them the tour of the apartment, but in doing so, we had to pass through the foyer which has a gigantic mural of O.J. Simpson's mug shot from after the infamous Bronco chase. One of Nicky and Showcase's friends gave it to them. I totally forget it's there until guests come over. They all say something about it. It's just so massive. I know, it's weird, but in such an out of the way spot that I don't see it too often. Even when I see it, I don't see it, you know? Anyway, we had previous discussions about making O.J. leave or letting him stay. In the end, he always gets to stay.

O.J. sorta freaks the maids out. Every single time. They mutter something in Spanish under their breaths, like a prayer to the Virgin Mary or something deeply religious. I hate to think that they think I'm a crazy lunatic or a potential serial killer for having a five-foot by four-foot mural of O.J.'s mugshot. I can only imagine what kind of stories the maids are telling other maids at their post-job hangout joint (do Beverly Hills maids have a dive bar they hang out at before going home?) about their day. What are they saying about the encounter at our apartment?

"Smells like marijuana and they worship O.J.!"

I noticed that we were pre-cleaning for the maids on Sunday night. Very strange behavior. I used to make fun of friends who said that they did that, yet that's what we were doing. I kept wondering, why are doing something that we're about to pay someone else to do? It's like going to a restaurant and doing prep work for the sous chef. Or like going to get surgery done, but you apply the anesthesia yourself.

The maids were here for three hours in the morning. I had crushed a Big-Assed Iced Tea. Ninety minutes in, I had to piss. Badly. I felt bad asking them to vacate the bathroom so I could take a leak, so I left them alone and did what any normal person would have done... I relieved myself in the alley.

Yes, I pissed in the alley.

I actually like peeing outdoors. It gets me in touch with nature. It helps me regain contact with my animal spirit, which has to be a dog, because I like peeing outside so damn much. I whizzed all over my neighbor's fence. You know, the hipster with the annoying purse dog? Fuck that bitch.

I had to pee a second time and could have held it, but I liked peeing in the alley so much, that I didn't think twice about walking outside and peeing in the alley.

When the maids were done, the apartment was spotless. It sparkled. It didn't even resemble or smell like our apartment, that's how nice it looked.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Off the Wall

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Almost a decade ago, my brother was about to bring his lady friend back up to his apartment. He gave her a warning before they went upstairs, "Just a heads-up... my brother is there. He's probably writing, which means he's sitting in his boxers, smoking weed, and watching baseball."

Accurate depiction.

Ten years later... it's almost the same thing. Except I'm on the Left Coast and I wear pants. Shorts actually. It's Southern California dammit. Besides, I don't want to be that underwear guy.

The tough part about working from home is that there's zero buffer between work and home, so you have manipulate the environment and make it more porfessional so you don't slack off and end up on the couch in your underwear.

When you work in an office, you have a transition period between home and work, which is essentially your commute if you're driving to work or taking public transportation or you're lucky enough to be able to walk to your office building. The point is, you have some sort of time period to mentally prepare yourself before your work day begins.

If you work at home, there's no transition period, which is why you need to set aside a few minutes to prep yourself. I try to go for a walk -- at the minimum to walk around the block -- in order to mentally prepare myself for work. It's better if I actually think about what I need to do... or what I'm going to write.

At the same time, I had lots of bad days when I snatched up my CrackBerry and started reading/responding to work emails before I even got out of bed. That's never wise because your mind is not 100% sharp and then you lose any prep time to ease into the day instead of stumbling out of the gates. I like the no email until noon policy that I've seen a lot of business guru types try to push forth as a way to maximize production. Their theory is that email is just time suckage and a huge distraction and it takes away from getting shit down.

Anyway, if you work from home, you should not jump into the fray right away and take some time to mentally prepare yourself either with breakfast or a workout or walking your dog or dropping the kids off at school. I actually like to take that time for a free write, a little jazz music and a blank word document. I prefer that type of warm up before I connect to the world. I don't want to be influenced by the external world... just yet. As soon as I'm done, it's breakfast and quickly triaging the day's work before taking a walk. It's sort of like I'm tricking my mind into thinking that I'm walking to the office. Because I go outside, I actually have to get dressed and not look like I rolled out of bed. It sounds weird, or corny, or hokey, but the clothes and walk are just a couple of ways to switch things up and make you conscious of the fact that you're leaving home and putting that behind you while you attend to business affairs at the office.

Once in a while, if it's a big assignment, I'll wear a really nice shirt when I sit down to write. During college, one of my fraternity brothers used to wear a suit and a tie when he took exams in  order to remind himself that its a big fucking deal. That guy went on to be a successful doctor, so it worked... for him. I'm the kind of person who thinks you should be comfortable when taking a test, but then again, I went to Catholic School and had to wear an uncomfortable uniform while I took exams.

Going to work in an office is like playing a role in a movie with costumes and everything. You're wearing clothes you normally don't wear (especially if its a suit) and act differently. You act more mature and professional at work... more PC and more vanilla and slightly more like the person you project on your resume.

We're all actors. Like that Shakespeare line about the world is a stage and whatnot. With the rise of the Surveillance State, we're on camera 24/7, so you better start getting your chops down quickly and pretend to look like a noble citizen, otherwise you'll get locked up in Gitmo with Jihadists, or worse... a drone will drop a precision guided missile onto your house while you're taking a dump.

So, I don't sit around in my underwear... but sometimes it's tough being at home because there's too many distractions. When I'm in a groove, then I lose time while writing. Those are magical times when you're channeling stuff. I wished it were that easy all the time... just turn on the tap and let the inspiration flow. But most of the time it's like desperately digging wells in search of water. The majority of the time, when I try to write it's like a barren wasteland with all those empty holes. Digging nowhere.

On days when I can't get anything going, I feel like Jack Nicholson from The Shinning. Like those scenes when he's throwing the rubber ball everywhere. On the bad days, I feel like that all the time. Which is almost all the time.

Most of the time Nicky comes home from work and I'm sitting on the couch, toking weed, and watching sports (happens to be baseball now). At least I'm not in my underwear.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Around the Horn: Goodfellas, Bad Backs, Punk Art, and Hipsters Pissing Me Off Before Sunrise

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Welcome back to the weekly dump of excrement. Consider this steaming pile a shit as a short cut to see how I wasted the last few days aside from your usual existential angst, navel gazing, and other matters of self-indulgent wankery.

This is an index of some of the thing I wrote here and a few pieces that I wrote elsewhere...
On Green Dolphin Shit [Fiction] - Yeah, I've been slacking in the fiction department. This is something inspired by a photograph someone tweet'd. It's about... photographs. I think.

Swimming in Books, Donnie Back Pain, and Foggy Benders - I threw out my back and it's been a long month trying to adjust to new writing routines and lots of bed rest, something I don't enjoy but have made the best of it by reading books and more books and more books.

Apple TV: More Cult Hype Or the Future of Home Entertainment? - My girlfriend bough Apple TV. How will the addition affect our household? I've been using it nonstop to watch baseball games. But is it useful?

Tony Soprano Trapped in Time - James Gandolfini passed away in Italy. The actor who played Tony Soprano was in a tough spot. He did such a tremendous job bringing life to one character that it was impossible for anyone to imagine him as anything else.

The Ghosts of Stella D'oro - The death of Tony Soprano got me thinking about one of my favorite Italian restaurants that I ate at a lot when I was a kid.

Effective Communication at 5:55AM - I hate my fucking hipster neighbors when they let their down roam the alley at 6am and bark and piss and bark some more.

Naismith Highway: The Long Run - I tried to write about the relief of the end of the NBA season. It was a long 7.5 months. I explain why...

I posted a few things around the web...

- I contributed a guest post to Lawn Memo, a Phish-centric blog. They had a new creative project and I was able to help contribute a piece to their latest 33 for 33 project. I wrote about a Phish concert from San Francisco last summer.

- We created a new installment on Coventry Music titled Friday Night UNTZ if you're looking for something to play late nights around 2 or 3am at an after-party.

- After you've been partying and raging all weekend and you go into work on Monday morning all hagged out and dragging ass, then you should check out Monday Morning Key Bumps, which is some music that will get you'e booty shaking and help get your ass in gear. It's a musical version of a line of cocaine. Just a little something loud and or funky to help jump start your week. I hate Mondays and need all the extra help I can get.

- If you're into punk and know who Black Flag, then check out this mini-documentary about the Art of Punk and Black Flag's contributions to the L.A. punk scene in the late 70s and early 80s.

- For all you fear mongers, I posted a video of a recent episode of the Joe Rogan podcast featuring David Seaman discussing the latest NSA scandal.

- And don't forget about my weekly rants about the Yankees in the Bronx Bums Report for Ocelot Sports.

That's it. You know the drill. NGTFOOMO!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Naismith Highway: The Long Run

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

7.5 months. It's over. What a long fucking run. The NBA season kicked off around Halloween and ended on Thursday night. I tried to wager nightly on the NBA season and I'm damn lucky that I barely got out of the season above even. I was consumed with point spreads and injury reports and line moves and wiseguy rumors and bookies getting pinched and trade rumors and more injury reports and referee assignments and more line moves and NBA conspiracy theories (e.g. Joey Crawford) and more line moves and wiseguy steam report and blech blah blah blah blah

Long run. 7.5 months.Under siege since Halloween. I can finally sleep at night without waking up in the middle of the night wondering if the lines moved at the Caribbean sports books and if there's a better number in the Bobkittens game.

I'm lucky my girlfriend didn't break up with me or kick me out of the apartment. On the plus side, she finally learned what a "pick and roll" meant. But I was pushing it. I'm sure after long day of work a hellacious commute that the last thing she wanted to come home to is not one but four NBA games on while I'm screaming at the TV. I'm convinced that our former upstairs neighbors moved out because they were sick of me shouting, "Hit your fucking free throws!"

It was a long-ass 7.5 months. I got in trouble from the get-go. I was in over my head. I knew what I was doing when it came to college basketball and I developed into an average NFL handicapper, but nothing prepared me for the onslaught of the NBA season. Holy shit. The swings. The swings. The swings.  I started out in the hole and battled back the rest of the year to make up for early mistakes I made in November and December. Whenever I got hot... I'd go on a losing streak and lose back everything I had built up. It was a frustrating few months. I finally stopped the bleeding and slowly chipped away at the losses. By the time the season ended, I was barely above water but I had finally got the hang of it.

What did I learn? I bet too many games (less is more). But more importantly, I don't have what it takes to be a winning professional NBA bettor because I do not want to put in the time and more importantly, I do not want to move back to Vegas. It's a hard way to make an easy living. Too much of an investment time-wise and emotionally. Drowning in of self-doubt (more than usual). Perpetually trying to stay calm while in the middle of a hurricane. I'd rather stick to focusing on short-term sporting events like the playoffs instead... which I had done in previous years. I know my strengths are college hoops, so I'll concentrate on that because it has much shorter season. I can really get away with three-intense months of grunt work --January through March -- and probably a month of prep work in December. Less time devoted to number crunching and more time devoted to writing.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun watching a ton of NBA games. I bought NBA Season Pass and I made at least enough money to pay for that. After covering expenses, I sort of worked for free for seven months. Ah, such is life. At least I didn't lose my bankroll. And, I don't have to worry about chasing down bookies to pay me (like a nightmare situation I encountered after the NFL season, but that's a story for a different time).

It was a fun NBA season. The Knicks played great and I loved watching OKC games. Living in LA provides me access to both Clippers and Lakers games. Nicky occasionally watched the Lakers (she's been a fan since birth), while I watched about 75% of the Clippers games. Through the almighty NBA Season Pass, I viewed four games at once and never missed a Knicks, OKC, or Golden State game. The Knicks were my hometown team and they played sensational season (up until they got their asses handed to them against Indiana in the playoffs). Melo was fun to watch... when he was on and didn't fuck stuff up.

I had an overall bet on OKC to win the entire championship, plus they had two of the best young players in the game, so it was a pleasure to watch those games. Sadly, I often got into trouble a lot with losing bets early in the night and I often turned to Golden State to bail me out of trouble. The GS games were always the last to tip off, and I was somewhat familiar with the team from watching GS games when I lived in San Francisco (I never watched Sacramento Kings games, but found myself watching GS along with every Niners game and the occasional SF Giants game).

The Miami Heat essentially went wire-to-wire to defend their championship. They were the team to beat from the tipoff of the preseason all the way until Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I picked Oklahoma City to go all the way and told everyone I knew to bet them. Sure, the Heat were the team to beat, but OKC gave you the most bang for the buck. They were ready to make another run and return to the NBA Finals... until.... tragedy struck. Russell Westbrook blew out his knee in the opening round of the playoffs and OKC failed to make it out of the West Semis.

Before the season began, if you asked most pundits and pro bettors, they'd tell you the title was going to come down to the team with the best Big 3. Miami? LeBron D-Wade, and Bosh. OKC? Durant, Westbrook and Harden. Lakers? Kobe, Dwight Howard, and Nash.

Well, OKC made the first move before the season began and traded away Harden. Wow. It was a money thing and their lost their spark plug off the bench. OKC still played well behind with their Dynamic Duo of Westbrook and Durant. Later in the season, Kevin Martin (the key competent in the Harden trade to Houston) finally developed into his own and when the playoffs rolled around, OKC had a formidable Big 2.5.

The Lakers? Well, the entire season was a shit show. Revered owner Jerry Buss died. His kids are running the franchise into the ground. Kobe shot daggers out of his eye when he butted heads with head coach Mike Brown, who failed miserably to install a Princeton-type of offense because Kobe is a ball hog and wanted to keep it all ISOs, all the time. Brown got fired. The Lakers re-hired Phil Jackson, but then they didn't and went with the clown D'Antoni that Melo ran out of NYC. D'Antoni is an offensive "genius" and many of today's winning teams employed that type of spread-stretch offensive and similar schemes to take advantage of teams weak perimeter defenses. But it took forever for the Lakers to figure out another new system. Steve Nash is old and perpetually reeks of Ben Gay. His age caught up to him and he spent most of the season rehabbing his numerous ailments. And Dwight Howard? He just came off back surgery and is nowhere close to 100%, but he's a gamer and wanted to play through the pain instead of pulling a D-Rose and waiting and waiting and waiting. I have a bad back and I feel Dwight's pain. How the fuck he can run up and down the court every night? And keep Tim Duncan and Kenneth Faried off the boards? The fact he's standing up is a simple wonderment. He's going to be a beast for the Lakers next year, which they'll need because who knows how effective Kobe will be after blowing out his Achilles.

Yeah, the Lakers' Big 3 was a morbid shitshow and they were luck to sneak into the backdoor into the playoffs. OKC's Big 2.5 lost Westbrook to a knee injury, so it was a one horse race to the finish for Miami's Big 3. Even with a wounded Wade, they still managed to win the title. Again.

Miami earned the championship this year. It took 21 games to beat Chicago, Indiana, and San Antonio. Three consecutive max-game series. Inferior teams put Miami on the brink of elimination three times in a row. Yes, the better team one all three times... but the fact that those series were so close makes me feel better about my original pick of OKC to win it all. If Westbrook was healthy, then OKC would have beat Miami in 5 games. Shit, Chicago was J. Noah and a bunch of no-names and Da Bulls still forced a Game 7. Either Tom Thibodeau is the greatest coach of all time since Naismith invented the game, or Miami was a lot more overrated that we think (my theory is LBJ was drained from playing in the Olympics last summer when he should have been resting and shooting bad mobile phone commercials).

My view every fucking night during NBA season

Watching the NBA for 7+ months I've come to the conclusion that the NBA needs to eliminate teams if they want to be able to put the best product on the court and compete in the future against other more accessible forms of sports entertainment. The NBA should expand to Europe or Asia or South America, but those should become farm leagues, like the equivalent of AA baseball. Every team could own a foreign club team, plus they'd have a "AAA-type" team in North America as a part of the NBA development league. 24 NBA teams. 24 D-League teams. 24 overseas clubs (8 each in Europe, Asia, and South America). More teams with "Big 3" opportunities. Better global rev share to help pay for all of the redonkuloulsy high salaries.

The NBA should ditch all the franchises in cities where they have shitty attendance or have owners that don't give a fuck (I'm looking at you MJ!). That means Charlotte, New Orleans, Charlotte, Sacramento and Phoenix are dunzo. Shit, Atlanta is such a fair-weather city, they should lose all their pro franchises except the Braves.

I think all the pro leagues should reduce their teams by 1/4 to 1/3 in order to put better products on the field (or court, or ice). That would strengthen a minor league system. Perhaps install relegation with a secondary league like Euro soccer. But there's too many teams. Too many pro sports. Fewer teams would mean better competition across the board.

I want the NHL season to be reduced to 60 games and 24 teams with two divisions of a dozen teams each: U.S. vs. Canada. That way, Canada gets a team to represent the new "Canadian Division" in Stanley Cup Finals. But more importantly Canada gets 12 pro franchises and we can ditch hockey in a lot of the Sunbelt states. Let only the best of the best American cities become one of the 12 teams to represent us in the "American Division." Then all of those other cities that lost NHL franchises can get a rough and tumble "Federal League" with lots of fighting. Non-stop fighting. It'll become a bastion for washed up pros and other thugs. It's the the MMA of ice hockey. It's the perfect forum to glorify violence (it's the American way). So have a bush league to give the rednecks what they want, while still maintaining the integrity of the NHL and preserving Canada's historical importance to the game of hockey.

The NFL is a war of attrition. Those guys take such a beating that the elimination of only 4 teams would add extra troops to the pool of much-needed skill players. How about trimming it by 6 or 8? And while you're at it, why not trim the season to 14 games with two byes in order to truly promote player safety. Jacksonville can't even get their stadium half-full. Tampa and St. Louis both struggle with lousy attendance. Arizona is so fucking embarrassing that they should dump them. You know how I feel about Atlanta fans. And put the goddamned Jets out of their misery. Eliminate the Jets outright. Cities like NYC have too many teams. Make them give up a couple of pro teams. Fewer NFL teams means better starting QBs across the board, better running backs, deeper rosters with healthier players and more competitive games.

And pro baseball? Don't get me started. Too many games. Too many teams. Not enough decent pitching. If you reduced the league by 33%, think about how stacked the teams would be? But the purists and geeks running baseball would never allow it.

Everyone knows that's what they should do... reduce schedules (I'm all for expanded playoffs and more postseason games that fucking count), reduce teams, trim the fat.

None of this will happen. It's like trying to tell mafia dons that they can't run a racket in their cities. But I'd love to see Canada vs. USA in the Cup Finals every year.

In the meantime, my short stint as a "pro" NBA bettor has come to an end. Next season, I'll stick to cherry picking playoff games. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a couple of months off from the grind and I can finally get some sleep and not have to worry about point spreads, and line moves, and injury updates, and zebra assignments, and other NBA conspiracy theories.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Effective Communication at 5:55 AM

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

5:55am. It's always 5:55am. My neighbor, a 20-something hipster with a purse dog, opens up her back door to a small enclosed backyard (walled off from the alley) and lets out her tiny yapping mutt to take a leak in the corner. The dog barks like crazy and she tries to shush the dog (unsuccessfully) before closing the door. She goes back to sleep and the dog remains outside. Sometimes thirty minutes. Sometimes an hour. When she wakes back up, she lets the dog back inside. Meanwhile, her dog paces back and forth barking twice every three seconds. The dog does this within the vicinity of our bedroom.

5:55am. Every fucking morning. What a fucking cunt. The Slums of Beverly Hills has no shortage of inconsiderate neighbors. Does she set an alarm or something? Or does her dog wake up at the same time every morning and pesters her until she lets him out? Dogs are gonna be dogs. They pee. They shit. They bark. Sometimes they bark when they pee. Dogs need constant attention. I hate people who are like dogs. Everyone has those types of incessantly needy people in their lives. Nicky and I both get along very well because we both have cat-like personalities. We're nocturnal and want to be left alone. Dogs are gonna be dogs. Instead of dealing with her dog, she makes her neighbors suffer.

5:55am. Nonstop barking. The tinier the dog, the louder the bark. Three straight minutes. It was so loud that she went back outside to tell her dog to be quiet. Why not bring the fucking dog inside? I had not slept well. Rampant insomnia. I feel asleep around 5am. That's why I lost it. Grumpy. Cranky. Sleep deprived. Sore back. Deadlines looming. The brain finally powered down. In a rare calm head space. I drifted off to sleep. Finally getting some ZZZs.... until... I was awoken in the middle of a dream.... about a fucking dog! In my dream, I walked down a street (it looked like Vancouver... like a lot of TV shows, my dreams are shot on location in Vancouver and they try to pass those streets off as a non-specific American city). I came upon a car with a barking dog in the back seat. Going berserk. It was trying to tell me to change the radio station. The dog hated country music or talk radio or whatever was on. It wanted something else. Anything else. Classic rock. Top 40. Anything but country. The dream dog kept barking and barking.  I opened the car door and.... woke up from the dream. The barking was real. Penetrating through the thin walls of our dingbat.

5:55am. I tried to go back to sleep. That fucking dog would not shut the fuck up. I put on my iPod and even Coltrane could not drown it out. I lost it. I crawled out of bed, achy back and all. I walked into the bathroom and opened up the window.

"Shut the fuck up!"

Those four words echoed throughout the alley. I startled the dog. It stopped barking. I'm surprised I didn't wake up Nicky. About 10-15 seconds after I screamed, the door opened and the dog resumed barking. My neighbor scolded her dog and took it back inside. Of course, she did not think she did anything wrong. She passive-aggressively blamed her dog. However, I got my point across. Effective communication. So blunt that even a fucking vapid skank with a purse dog could figure it out.

"Thank you!" I screamed.

Those two words of gratitude echoed down the alley. Silence ensued. Back to sleep.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Ghosts of Stella D'oro

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

You might have heard about Stella D'oro products like their breadsticks and Swiss Fudge cookies. My brother used to live a few blocks away from their factory-sized bakery before they shut it down. Every morning, the pungent aroma of freshly baked Italian cookies wafted throughout his neighborhood.

Stella D'oro was owned by the same Italian family for over 70 years before they sold it to Nabisco in the early 90s. Stella D'oro got lost in the shuffle when it was acquired by the mega-food conglomerate Kraft.  Kraft later sold the company, and those suits ran the company into the ground. Instead of paying loyal bakers who had been with the company for decades, they slashed wages. They wanted to pay roughly the same wages as McDonalds. The bakers were all union guys and they went on strike. In previous generations, bakers were able to support their families on their salaries. Good luck today trying to do that today with a min-wage slave job.

The suits hired scabs, which drew a ton of bad press. The suits eventually broke the backs of the union and moved the factory to rural Ohio, where they hired non-union bakers for pretty much minimum wage, or half of what the bakers used to make. Sucks for local jobs in the Bronx, but at least they didn't move the bakery overseas to China or Mexico.

When the original family owned the Stella D'oro, they hired from the surrounding neighborhoods that included Kingsbridge and Riverdale. Everyone in the community shared in the success of the company. They made delicious products and the neighborhood was proud to be a part of Stella D'oro. Whenever you saw a TV commercial or spotted the products in supermarkets or saw one of their delivery trucks, you always felt good knowing that your neighbors were a part of that product. It was that part of the Bronx's small contribution to commerce. Nowadays, Stella D'oro products are looked upon with disdain and disappointment. Those jobs vanished in thin air.

The Stella D'oro family also owned an Italian Restaurant across the street from the gigantic bakery. The restaurant, named Stella D'oro, was an affordable family-type restaurant, yet they served fine Italian cuisine. The waiters were dressed up and wore snazzy dinner jackets. They were all old Italian guys with thick accents. We went to Stella D'oro for big celebrations like birthdays and Mother's Day and graduation, but my family ate there on random nights of the week too. We even ordered take out from there once or twice a week. Best meat ravioli I ever had. The desserts were insanely delicious like spumoni and homemade chocolate ice cream. They brought out a plate of free cookies... super fresh and baked earlier in the day. Sometimes the dessert and coffee and after-dinner cocktail portion of the meal ran longer than the actual dinner portion. You could have a lengthy family meal without getting rushed out the door. The restaurant was massive with several different rooms and separate banquet halls. You never had to wait long for a table, but on weekends the joint was always packed.

The restaurant was closed in the early 90s when they sold the bakery to Nabisco, which sucked because it was my favorite Italian joint. All time. By the mid-90s, two of my favorite Italian restaurants in the Bronx closed its doors. That left one decent place for over a decade, but that place eventually shut down a few years ago. The adjacent neighbors had changed over the last few decades and there was not longer a demand for Italian family style cooking. Irish and Italian immigrant families that flocked to that part of the Bronx post WW2 were replaced by Eastern Europeans (Russians and Ukrainians), not to mention an influx of immigrants from the Caribbean -- Dominicans, Haitians, and Puerto Ricans.

In the 1960s and 70s, Stella D'oro was a huge mob hangout. Just picture scenes from Goodfellas. I'm surprised no one ever got whacked in the parking lot. Sometimes my old man had to make suspicious trips to Stella D'oro which lasted a minute and he'd double park the car and run inside. He said he had to take a piss, but I suspected he was either getting paid by his bookie or dropping off a payment to the local shylock.

The old gigantic bakery-factory is getting torn down. A big box chain store is moving in. Sad to see that crap replace all those old memories. I miss those long meals at Stella D'oro. Merriment, fantastic food, and good times. I also miss the smell of fresh-baked cookies that would invade my senses when I walked to my brother's apartment.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tony Soprano Trapped In Time

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I thought it was a hoax.

Anytime I see a "RIP" tweet on Twitter, I assume it's a hoax until told otherwise. But I kept seeing it. From reputable sources. I contacted a trustworthy sources -- I know a guy affiliated with the obituary section of a major newspaper. When he mentioned that James Gandolfini's agent confirmed the news... I knew it was legit.

In college, we watched True Romance two or three times day. That was the first thing I ever saw Gandolfini act in and although it was a small role, he was in one of the craziest scenes in the film. And it's a violent fucking movie too. That hit-man character is what I imagine a young Tony Soprano was like.

When I was working in Monte Carlo for the first time covering a poker tournament, I met a French reporter, who told me he enjoyed my poker blog. We got around to talking and I found out he loved The Sopranos. His English was great, especially the slang, and I quickly found out he would translate episodes of The Sopranos and his friend would re-upload them for French fans. Unreal, I thought.

Now you know how I met Benjo the first time. We originally bonded over The Sopranos. I told him I was born in New Jersey and even showed him my passport which lists my origin of birth. A coupe of years later, he translated one of my books.

The Sopranos ended and a lot of people were pissed off. Similar outrage to the ending of Seinfeld or Lost. Some fans want their art spoon fed to them. Others want a nice, neat, clean happy ending wrapped up in a bow. While others will never like a popular show's ending because it's an ending and finally over. It's like breaking up.

I loved the ending of The Sopranos because it's how David Chase wanted to end it. Plus, I got it right away. I'm lucky in that I didn't have to struggle for years figuring out what the fuck happened. I'm completely open to different interpretations of what other people think happened, but nothing can ever top the moment the show actually ended. Fade to black. No music. Nothing. Nothingness.

If you're lost on the ending of The Sopranos, this dude went into in depth detail about it. Check out The Sopranos: Definitive Explanation of The End, and you'll learn the importance of the guy in the Members Only jacket.

The actor who played Tony Soprano was filled with anger and fear and insecurity just like the rest of it. He landed a role of a lifetime, a role that you could not imagine anyone else playing. He was in the right place at the right time.

There's a tiny tragedy involving his success as Tony Soprano. Gandolfini was chasing a ghost the rest of his career. No matter how much he tried to change the way he looked in a role, or the way he acted, it was nearly impossible to get Tony Soprano out of your head. It's not easy to get famous for something knowing that no matter how hard you work the rest of your life, you will never be able to top that performance. Plus, you have to overcome a tremendous obstacle because the public pigeon-holed you in that specific role and they will never allow you to evolve and soak up something else. You're stuck.

Gandolfini was trapped in time. It's like try to swim up a waterfall, and in Gandolfini's case, it was Niagara Falls. It's devastating to be an artist and creative person trapped in someone else's (the public and casting directors) rigid expectations.

I re-watched this episode of Inside the Actors studio. Pay closer attention to Gandolfini's body expressions, which abruptly change depending on the subject matter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Apple TV: More Cult Hype or the Future of Home Entertainment?

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

So the big deal with Apple TV is that you're able to watch Netflix on your TV instead of your laptop? Am I missing anything else? I guess that's worth something, especially if we rotate the small device between the living room and bedroom. Watching Netflix in bed is a lot easier with the TV instead of a searing-hot laptop sitting awkwardly in the middle of your bed.

Nicky dropped $99 for Apple TV, which is not a TV, but a tiny little black box. It's a state of the art gizmo that I'm convinced Dick Cheney and his cohorts at the NSA uses to spy on everyone. She'll probably use 99% of it to stream Netflix and Hulu. I will probably use the other features more than her, such as access to MLB.TV and NBA Season Pass. I have subscriptions to both services, so I have an added bonus of streaming games on our TV without hooking up my laptop. I previous watched baseball games on my laptop and once in a while I'd hook up my laptop to the TV during NBA season, usually if I had two or more games I wanted to sweat. The quad box (displays four simultaneous games) should be renamed the "sweat box." It is a fucking amazing invention and it's one of those advancements in technology that gamblers adore.

We finally embraced Apple TV after Nicky used some birthday money to buy it. That's the future right there. Netflix and Hulu (or a new streaming site like those) will eventually dominate the entertainment market and become bigger than TV companies and film studios combined. That's a scary prospect, but it's theirs to dominate so long as they don't fuck it up.

Like radio, conventional TV is dying off. In a decade, we'll be watching all our TV shows on demand via the internet. Only old people will still be watching the TV to get their news. With the exception of sports or any sort of national tragedy, there's no reason to watch TV in real time unless you want to be bombarded with commercials. Of course, if you live in LA, then you get every car chase broadcast on local TV. Some day there will be a special station dedicated to live police chases from around the world. There's a Twitter feed devoted to live car chases and they send out a tweet whenever there's one on TV somewhere in America. In the last few months I watched chases from Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, and somewhere in Kansas.

Movie theatres will never die off because there's something exciting about the big screen experience. More indie films are being made and big studios are making fewer films, but those few films are raking in most of the dough.  In the next decade or so, we'll have ginormous thousand seat mini-coliseums to see Fast and Furious 16, or they'll be tiny little theatres for low-budget indie flicks that cater to the artsy fartsy crowd.

Today, you have the plenty of options to see a big budget blockbuster (think 3-D flicks or sequels), whereas unless you live in a hip city, you have limited options to view indie flicks. Theatres are either a multiplex a part of a corporate chain, or its super tiny indie theatres that are relics of the past. When we lived in San Francisco, our apartment was around the corner from the Vogue, tiny neighborhood theatre that opened in 1910. Holy shitballs, it was a small one screen theatre and the seats were stiff and uncomfortable, but they changed films every week and it was awesome to walk around the corner to see a flick. I caught over a dozen movies in the short time I lived nearby. A couple of times I was one of three or four people in the theatre.

I wish I had a similar theatre here in LA, but instead I have to go to a fucking mall to see a flick (either Century City or The Grove). When I was a kid growing up in NYC, I had access to two different theatres -- The Dale and Riverdale Twin -- neither of which are around. One was turned into a porn theatre for a brief stint in the 1980s before it became a bingo parlor. I saw Rocky IV at that theatre. I also smelled weed for the first time in that theatre. The local hoods would sit in the balcony and blaze up. The Twin was shutdown due to lack of customers. I hung out there a lot and saw Ferris Bueller and Wargames like a dozen times at that particular theatre.

Nicky and I dropped our movies package on cable. We had everything, but barely watched those channels. Like we had a hundred versions of HBO, Cinemaz, SHO, Starz, etc. We trimmed our cable bill by 1/3. I love being able to stick it to major corporations, especially ones that profit off of other people's boredom. Let's face it... fucking Time Warner is not going to miss my $50 a month.

But shedding those extra movie channels comes down to not giving into the fear that you'll miss something (FOMO) and reducing the amount of time you waste watching cable. It's hard not to find something to watch on those superfluous channels (like I have a theory that one of the Matrix movies or a Robert DeNiro movie is playing at any given time on cable). But sometimes you get sucked in and its a dangerous drug and you cannot turn away and the next thing you know it... you wasted six hours getting blazed while watching Pineapple Express and one of the Bourne Identity flicks for the 237th time.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Swimming in Books, Donnie Back Pain, and Foggy Benders

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Four weeks. Excruciating pain.

I threw out my back a month ago. One of my childhood heroes -- Don "Donnie Baseball" Mattingly -- was plagued with back problems. His career ended prematurely. Long before Mattingly became head skipper of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was one of the best first basemen in all of baseball during the 80s, but he was plagued with a bum back. With modern sports-medicine technology, he might have squeezed out a couple of more seasons and posted enough statistics that would warrant a nod to the Hall of Fame. Alas, Mattingly currently holds the dubious distinction of being the best player in pinstipes to never make the Hall of Fame. Then again, if fucking Scooter Rizzuto is in Cooperstown, then maybe in a couple of decades Mattingly's peers will vote him in?

Long month dealing with Mattingly-esque back woes. The shortcut is eating a jar of pain pills, but I am gutting it out with the long-term plan of bed rest. That non-narcotic gameplan put a damper on freelance work. I don't have a 9-to-5 office gig that I can hide out in, nor do I have paid sick days. If I don't write, then I don't get paid. Instead of doubling up (or tripling up) with freelance work which I originally intended so I could take off 4-week vacation to travel and follow Phish, I was forced to strip down my schedule down and focus on essential work. The rest of my down time was spent in bed reading books and resting my back. The extra money is not flowing in, but I can't complain because I enjoy reading. I always secretly wanted to be inflicted by a strange disease (non-deadly) that requires a lengthy period of bed rest so I could finally be able to make a dent in the massive pile of books I started to read, yet never finished. Plus, I binge-watched the new season of Arrested Development and have a long, winding queue of 20-30 different documentaries, plus hundreds of hours of unlistened podcasts.

I'm addicted to writing, the one solitary activity that causes me the most pleasure, but at the present moment, it also causes me the most physical pain. Every morning I have to strategically figure out when I'll be in the best shape to write and then I have to dedicate that time to any freelance work, which take priority. But sometimes that's like trying to hit a moving target. I have a small window of time to write every day. I actually have two windows -- one large and one tiny. The first window is as soon as I get up and before my back starts to stiffen up. At that point I wait until I'm nearly crying from pain before I end the session and crawl back into bed and take whatever I need to ease the pain mostly anti-inflammatory meds which is not very strong. I save the harder stuff for nighttime so I can sleep. I spend a few hours resting up and then I take a short walk around the block to see if I can gut out another writing session. But those late-afternoon sessions are shorter and I never know how long I can last.

When I don't get to finish what I wanted to do (I'm waaaaay behind in multiple projects), it puts me in a foul mood. If I don't create something, then I feel utterly worthless and then the day is wasted. I tried to fill in some of that idle time with painting (I'm on a minimalist kick), but I can only really paint standing up which doesn't  put a lot of strain on my back. Sometimes during the afternoon writing sessions, I work while standing up at a makeshift desk. If you spend a lot of time at major poker tournaments, you'll see pros with habitual back problems getting massages for hours at a time. It's almost got to a point when I need someone to give me massages while I write.

Maybe it's time to pull a Kramer and get an "intern" like he did for Kramerica? I'm sure there has to be an over-achiever at UCLA who wants to get credit working for a writer and part-time sportsbettor. I can dictate stuff and get that kid to write it up for me. Or better yet, I'd probably be sending him out to In & Out Burger or the local weed store everyday.

Sometimes I feel better later in the evening after dinner and a very small dose of pain pills. If I can squeeze in a rare third writing session, I'm all for it because it puts me in a good mood. Several downsides to the Midnight sessions: 1) those opportunities are rare (like once or twice a week), 2) the window is incredibly small, and 3) I'm heavily inebriated so I can't do work-related things, so I'm usually dicking around here or on other blogs that I have neglected.

Based on the current circumstances, I gladly take what I can get. Three smaller writing sessions are better than none. Pre-back woes, I completed the same amount of work in a single day that is currently taking me a week to do. Yikes. Productivity reduced by 85%. Yeah, I try not to think about that math side of having a bad back, because the lack of productivity is very depressing. One project is way past due and I have three looming deadlines screaming and haunting at me right now.

Oh, well. This is what my 40s is going to look like. It's only going to get worse. Even surgery isn't a guarantee. I'm trying to figure out ways around this. "Adapt and overcome when faced with adversity", is something my old man drilled into my head. I know my back troubles will eventually alleviate but I'm getting a glimpse of what my writing sessions will be like a decade or two decades from now if I can make it that long.

I got a second chance at life, so this is all gravy. That's why you can't sweat the small stuff and have to find quick solutions to problems and keep moving forward instead of bitching about a bad beat. "Injury is opportunity," Pat Riley once said when he was coach of the Lakers. Injuries gave scrubs a chance to get playing time. My attitude is simple -- it sucks about the back, but I need to look at the positives like the opportunity to read for several hours every day, listen to podcasts, and even finish a few paintings. I got lucky and found some really fucking great (non-gambling) podcasts that I never had the time to listen to before.

Time allocation can be a bitch. I lost a ton of valuable work time, but I'm filling in the rest time with another favorite pastime -- books. Thank God we don't have a cable box in the bedroom, otherwise I'd be zoning out to the boob tube.

Of course, this problem could all be solved if I ate painkillers and blazed my way through this rough patch. That's what I would have done in the past, but I'm trying to be less of a junkie and trying a more natural route (rest, exercise, Tai Chi, medicinal marijuana alternatives etc.). The problem with Big Pharma's pain pills is you instantly build up a tolerance and have to take more and more. When you quit, it's a bitch to withdraw. That's why I'm taking very little at present moment and relying more on medicinal marijuana (strong pot brownies mimic the overall body sensation as opiates). Yeah, the last thing I want is to be hooked hard on pills again. It was a bitch to kick.

After four weeks my back is still out-of-whack. I made big strides last week, but this past weekend was incredibly tough especially after sitting through a 3.5 hour baseball game. By Saturday night I was a wreck. Sunday was tough. I was jacked up on pain pills on Sunday evening. It took a strong dose and flirted with Requiem for a Dream territory of schwastedness, but finally felt painless for the first time in a month.

It's been a year since I was that faded.

On Sunday night, I cleaned some dirty paint brushes and caught up on emails. I have a huge backlog and had like 20+ emails from one assclown who keeps sending me passive-aggressive emails about removing links from sites that I don't even own (they were actually owned by friends but I have no clue why he kept sending threatening emails). I fired off a few snippy emails calling him out for being a shady fucker for buying links in the first place and then called him for being lazy fuckatrd because he didn't even bother taking the time to see if the email addy matched up with the site he supposedly sold a link to. I should post his angry responses. I then offered to solve his problems for a nominal fee. He has yet to respond to that. See... these are the stupid things I do when crocked to the tits.

Reminded me of some of those foggy days that stretched into week-long benders when I lived in San Francisco. The partying commenced on Friday evening after meeting a deadlines for work (usually handicapping football games) and things went insta-fuzzy during the next two days and then all of a sudden it's Sunday morning and time for football! I should be sleeping it off like mostly everyone else, but since NFL games start at 10am on the West Coast, I extended the party a little longer. I had a routine that began around 6am (mostly monitoring injury reports and line moves). Around 8am, I grabbed breakfast and big-ass iced tea while avoiding some of the most annoying people on the planet -- yuppies from Pacific Heights who went slumming in my neighborhood Lower Pacific Heights to run their errands. I'd be faded to the tits and looked like a vampire with Oxy-juiced glassy eyes. Then again, totally shitfaced is the only way to deal with self-absorbed chipper yuppie couples in Lululemon yoga pants and vintage Dead Kennedys t-shirt ($150 retail) pushing a state-of-the art baby stroller that cost the equivalent of a half-a-year salary for a sportswriter at the Chronicle.

Sundays in San Francisco were a whirlwind of betting and high-stakes fantasy football. I hung out in the back of the apartment until the girls woke up by the start of the afternoon game (1pm). Then, I had two different viewing stations at opposite ends of the Victorian with the big screen in the living room and an ad hoc mini-sportsbook in the backroom with at least two laptops. It's fun to think about now, but some of those afternoons were super stressful (the afternoon games gave me an opportunity to get unstuck) which is why I would pace up and down Halli's long hallways while occasionally peeking at the scores.

This past NFL season (in L.A.), I was zapped and drained by the time the Sunday Night Football game ended. I was working anywhere from 80-100 hours depending on the week. Sometimes I'd pass out before the 4Q was over. I learned a ton of stuff the last two seasons, but it this past one was too psychically demanding. The adage is true -- it's a hard way to make an easy living.

In San Francisco, if I had a profitable weekend, then I wanted to celebrate. If it was a bad weekend and lost money, then I wanted to drown my sorrows. Didn't matter... win or lose, I kept the party going on Sunday nights. I forced myself to take a break and get some rest on Monday because we always played poker on Monday nights and those games always went late late late. Halli and Skye hosted the Ice Palace game, which ran at least until 4am, but we regularly played short-handed until sunrise. A few instances we played until noon the next day. We'd jokingly tell friends to stop over the next morning and bring us meatball sandwiches and an 8-ball. I didn't care about the blow. I was just fucking starving. Besides, that's what Adderall is for -- much cheaper and it lasts longer.

The record for longest game was a 28-hour session that began at 9pm on Monday and ended around 1am on Wednesday. I crashed around 6am and re-joined the game at 10am, while a couple of friends left the game at 3am, crashed and went to work, then returned to the game after work on Tuesday.

If you're doing the math... I was partying hard Friday night through Tuesday morning with a short rest. I'd finally crash on Tuesday morning (or sometimes afternoon). I was back to "work" for an intense three-day writing session. After a somewhat sober Wednesday-Thursday-Friday  handicapping games and tweaking lineups, I was ready to resume a weekend bender on Friday night.  Foggy, hazy rage-fests. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.Every fucking week for a few months.

It was an unhealthy lifestyle, but tons of fun. No regrets. Wish I could still do that! It's hard to imagine a sustained buzz for long stretches of time, which is why sometimes I look back at SF and my memories are as fuzzy and murky like the fog that rolled in every morning and flew over our house.

Anyway, flashbacks to late 2011 were over. For a couple of hours late Sunday, I remembered what it was like to be riding the crest of an intoxicating tidal wave. It's that supreme "high" that junkies chase every single day. I felt better both physically and mentally. The physical pain subdued for a few hours, but more importantly, I forgot that "down in the dumps" feeling I got when going through creative withdrawal. When I can't achieve that buzz, I get moody and grumpy and I feel lost and aimless. Just ask Nicky. She has to endure those hurricanes. I'm surprised I haven't blown the roof off our apartment.

I get my rocks off by writing. Cheaper than a therapist. My favorite drug. It's inexpensive too (free) and I can actually make money off of it (not much, mind you but almost enough to get by). In the meantime, the doctor(s) said only time and rest can heal me. In the meantime, I'm swimming in books.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

On Green Dolphin Shit (Fiction)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

EXT. BEVERLY HILLS - DAY                                         
Lazy Sunday morning. Empty street in Beverly Hills. 
Three twenty-something post-bohemian hipster (PBH) 
types slowly pedal their bicycles. MAISY, 25, 
Female PBH #2 on the far left is silent and heavily 
medicated. The other two  -- DAKOTA, 27, female 
PBH #1 with Tina Fey glasses and DYLAN, 28, 
unshaven male PBH -- were pontificating about nothing 
for several blocks.                                              
                    I don’t know how many times I’ve                       
                    taken the same photo.                                  
                    Imagine how many people took the                       
                    same photo before you?                                 
                    My mom said she used to work in a                      
                    Fotomat when she was in college.                       
                    What the hell is that?                                 
                    It was like a drive thru photo                         
                    store. But very tiny. Like the size                    
                    of a food truck. This was before                       
                    digital cameras. People dropped off                    
                    film things. I dunno what are they                     
                    Umm... Film cartridges?                                
                    Film reels? You know the film film?                    
                    Old school film, like tape. You see                    
                    that shit in old movies.                               
                    Yeah. Film tape.                                       
                    So people drove up to Fotomat and                      
                    dropped off their film tape. When                      
                    pictures were developed, they                          
                    picked them up                                         
                    Where did they develop it?                             
                    Dunno. Some darkroom somewhere.                        
                    Doesn’t matter. The thing is that                      
                    my mom said she looked at a lot of                     
                    the photos. She said when people                       
                    came back from their summer                            
                    vacations, if they went to Europe,                     
                    they always took pictures of the                       
                    same things. Like the Eiffel Tower.                    
                    Or Notre Dame.                                         
                    Right were the Hunchback lives.                        
                    Same photo. Different people. Same                     
                    Imagine how many people take the                       
                    same photo of the same Eiffel                          
                    Day after day. Thousands every day.                    
                    Tens of thousands. Over one hundred                    
                    thousand a week                                        
                    No way. I saw more. Like a half a                      
                    million a week                                         
                    That’s like 26 million people a                        
                    Same picture. Same tower. Different                    
                    people. So what’s the point of                         
                    taking pictures?                                       
                    That’s what I’m wondering. I guess                     
                    as a personal memento                                  
                    But you can just Google that shit.                     
                    You’d find a better one. No doubt.                     
                    By a real photographer. Or someone                     
                    who took a shot with better light.                     
                    I went to film school. It’s all                        
                    about light.                                                                                   
                    I thought you dropped out?                             
                    Whatevs. Just Google pics. You                         
                    don’t need to take ’em.                                
                    Selfies in front of the Eiffel                         
                    Tower is the new postcard. Except                      
                    you don’t actually have to go                          
                    through the trouble of sending an                      
                    actual overpriced card that will                       
                    take a month to get to where its                       
                    supposed to go, and by then you’re                     
                    already home and told everyone                         
                    about your trip                                        
                    What’s the point of even going? You                    
                    can just Photoshop yourself into a                     
                    picture of you with the Hunchback                      
                    of Notre Dame, or hanging with                         
                    Beibs in Rome with 2 Chainz’s                          
                    Food is temporary. It’s unique and                     
                    something worth preserving                             
                    Now you see it. Then it’s gone                         
                    Disappears. Digested. Shat out.                        
                    Flushed away. Into the bowels of                       
                    the city’s sewers                                      
                    Then flushed out to the ocean, so                      
                    whales and dolphins will eventually                    
                    eat it. You shit out dolphin food.                     
                    That’s pretty rad. You can’t do                        
                    that with the Eiffel Tower... eat                      
                    it bit by bit and shit it out for                      
                    Euro-trash dolphins as dessert.                        
                    You ever think that when you take a                    
                    picture of food, that you’re                           
                    capturing it’s last breath of life                     
                    before it gets consumed                                
                    And then turned into dolphin shit.                     
                    Yeah. You capture the food at the                      
                    height of its essence. Someone                         
                    prepares that dish pulling in                          
                    different ingredients and it went                      
                    from nothing to something in a                         
                    short time. But once you get                           
                    served, that’s the beginning of the                    
                    end. The dish reaches its pinnacle                     
                    of existence as its being set down                     
                    in front of you. Once you start                        
                    eating, it’s over. Death. When you                     
                    take a photo of food, you capture                      
                    the moment before it dies.                             
                    That’s some really serious deep                        
                    thinking. Like Nobel Prize winning                     
                    philosophy and shit                                    
                    Thanks. And I didn’t have to get                       
                    thrown out of NYU film school to                       
                    learn that.                                            
                    So how did you learn that? You                         
                    know, the essence of food and dying                    
                    and shit?                                              
                    Xanax. I take one but before I                         
                    drift off to dreamland, I look at                      
                    food photos on Instagram. It’s easy                    
                    to think about death when all you                      
                    think about all day is hiding from                     
                    real life. So I look at a couple                       
                    hundred of food pics every night.                      
                    Relaxes me. Meals by friends and                       
                    strangers alike                                        
                    That’s a lot of dolphin Shit.