Monday, March 23, 2009

In Transit

"You've probably flown more in the last eight or nine months than I have in my entire life" said my father as we careened down the wide part of La Cienega Boulevard that takes one out of Baldwin Hills and deposits them in the L.A. basin at 55 MPH (depending on traffic, of course). He had retrieved me from LAX after a rather pleasant direct flight home from Santiago, Chile.

I looked at the odometer on the dashboard of his eight-year old Infiniti G20. 108,000 miles in just under seven years. He'd logged enough miles on the L.A. freeway system to earn himself Executive Platinum status on American Airlines. I tried to multiply that into hours as I stared at the lines on his face.

Yesterday afternoon I landed at LAX again, after nearly 24 straight hours of travel from Punta del Este, Uruguay. It's roughly a 6,700 mile journey from Punta, to Montevideo, to Miami International Airport, to my door in the slums of Beverly Hills. Uruguay is one of those places like Hungary or Bangladesh or Guam that one never believes they'll visit. Now it sits on my list along with Chile and Poland and Denmark. Even Pauly cheekily refered to Otis and I covering the "LAPT Uganda" when in fact we were at a tournament in a picturesque South American beach town with Monte Carlo prices.

The frequent filer miles I earned on this journey pushed me over the mark for Gold Elite status on American. Between the miles logged on this journey, the one to Chile, and a couple of trips back and forth from the east coast, I can finally get myself an upgrade at least one way the next time I have to spend 14 1/2 hours in the air. Surprisingly enough, despite all the traveling for tournaments, I've never been an elite anything on any airline.

On this journey, we endured delay after delay. We didn't take off from Miami to Montevideo until 1:20 in the morning, and our return flight was over six hours late, finally departing at 2:45 a.m. Thankfully, Joe Giron, our talented photographer for the PokerStars blog, is like Mega-Platinum Diamond Mine Status and was cool enough to get Otis and I into the Admirals Club both times we were stuck in the airport. That place is like the antidote for travel tilt. Free wi-fi, nice leather seats, a beer or glass of wine before boarding, low lighting, no screaming children, and Greg Raymer playing $40-$80 Badugi in the next seat while I bubble a $27 SNG.

Then, you get on the plane. Back in steerage with the rest of the world.

An infant wailed for eight of the nine hours it took to fly from Montevideo to Miami. I'd sleep for maybe 15 or 20 minutes before being woken up. The Xanax flowing through my system was all that kept me from locking it in the lavatory. I landed in Miami at 10:30 a.m., having blown my connection to LAX hours before. I was re-booked on a 3:30 flight home but was desperate to make one that would take off at 1:20. After clearing customs at MIA, I booked it to the ticketing desk. At the entrance to the queue, I was met by a woman in a bad mood.

"I'm trying to get on standby for an earlier flight, can I do it here?"
"The manager says no standby today."
"Really. My friend just did it."
"Well, there's no standby today."
"You know what? I'm going to talk to someone else."

Good thing I did. After I explained the flight debacle from Uruguay as well as my newly acquired Gold Elite Status I was not only put on standby, but bumped up to #4 on the list of 21. All by finding someone in a better mood.

I was the last person to get on that plane. I had perhaps the worst seat, a freezing, narrow middle one in an exit row that didn't recline all the way, but at least I wasn't spending another two hours in an airport. Next to me was a girl who played on the Australian Womens' Netball team. She was only six hours into a 36-hour trek from St. Maarten to Miami, Miami to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Canberra. I didn't feel quite as bad after hearing that, though my back didn't quite agree.

And when I walked through my door, he had flowers waiting for me. As always.

It's time to sink back into routine after the better part of 16 days on the road. Waking up at normal hours in my own bed and cooking dinners for two in the evenings. Shopping for fresh food instead of ordering off a plastic menu. Unfreezing that gym membership again and feeling the rubber-on-rubber pound of the treadmill. Hitting the keys at regular intervals. Pounding out articles, the clock ticking toward the WSOP and another summer in Las Vegas.

AND getting back to American Idol, if I can stomach it. (I have a lot of catching up to do on the episodes, but knowing that Alexis Grace bit the dust last week I have to tell you, my enthusiasm is down and my tin foit hat on.)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Phish: Reunited

Liftoff inside the Mothership

The intertubes in our hotel aren't quite what they were yesterday, as every hung-over Phan in the building is currently downloading last night's epic Phish reunion show, which is available for FREE on right now, Pauly included.

Pauly and the joker are blogging their ass off on Coventry and there are already all sorts of goodies up from last night. Check 'em out:

Phish 3/6/09 Hampton Live Blog

Friday Hampton Pics
Phish Setlist - 3-6-09 Hampton, VA Reunion Show
Phish Videos - Bouncin' and Harry Hood 3-6-09

You can also follow all three of us on Twitter for live updates throughout the weekend.

Follow Pauly

Follow Me
Follow the joker

Pauly was tweeting the setlist so fast last night he was actually beating Phish's official Twitter feed!

Another two shows await us. It'll be another long afternoon in line, but it's an absolutlely gorgeous day outside, which greatly pleases this Californian.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

American Idol Wednesdays: A Blind Guy, a Puerto Rican and a Gay Meat Loaf Fan Walk Into a Bar...

Your final 12 victims took the stage last night

This week we’re treated to a triple cocktail of Idol—last night’s performances by the Top 36’s final group of 12, tonight’s results show, and Thursday’s one-hour wild card show, where the judges will bring back their favorite performers who missed the cut when it came to America’s vote. I thought this group graced us with more quality performances than the first two combined. Sure, there were a couple of hot messes but I found myself pleasantly surprised by performers like Ju'not Joyner, Jorge Nunez, and Lil Rounds. So how’d they do?

Von Smith - "You're All I Need to Get By" Von had the unenviable task of opening the show and I thought this was actually an inspired song choice. . It was rangy, it let him belt a little and have some quieter, more emotional moments as well. There was hardly any sign of the crazy gay musical theatre guy that blasted away the straight-tone tenor notes at the first audition. Though I’m really not buying his whole “ZOMG I HAS NO IDEA I WUZ CLAY KLONE” routine.

Taylor Vaifanua - "If I Ain't Got You" Yeah, Taylor rocked the vocals on the chorus but there was something so vanilla and cabaret about the whole thing. She may have a standout voice somewhere in there, but didn’t give a standout performance. Paula actually pointed out something interesting in her pharmaceutical haze - Taylor actually sang this song during Hollywood Week. Now tell me something-- why on earth would you trot that one out again when you have the opportunity to pick any song out there? And wow is she tall… she dwarfs Seacrest like Jordin Sparks did two years ago.

Alex Wagner-Trugman - "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" Dude… the dorky dancing, the faux-growl in his voice… I didn't remember this guy from Hollywood Week and I tuned him out after about 30 seconds of his schtick. I thought his whole neo-Joe Cocker thing was affected and stagey. That performance might be OK if it was given by Michael Cera in the second act of a Judd Apatow movie, but not on American Idol.

Arianna Afsar - "The Winner Takes it All" This poor girl was so far behind the band and never was able to get back on the beat. She obviously has a great voice judging by the few money notes she did get in there (though she cracked at the end), but this was a disaster of a song choice. I mean…when they cut to your parents in the audience and even they look like they know you fucked up, well… that’s bad. The judges were right on target, criticizing her dated song choice. It's a shame her performance was so dreadful because it's easy to see she has a really good instrument.

Ju'not Joyner - "Hey There Delilah" I kinda dug this one, dawg. There were some moments in this song when he was really moving and effective. Ju’not did quite well done. The guy whose cute kid got him the sympathy vote to Hollywood actually turned out to have some decent pipes. He could be a dark horse in this competition if he makes it through to the Top 12.

Kristen McNamara - "Give Me One Reason" Kristen is a karaoke host and after this we can really see why. Everything was wrong about this, from the song choice, to the little orphan Annie dress, to the affected performance elements. This is not a difficult song. I can get through it on key and almost remember all the lyrics even after five cosmopolitans. Memo to Kristen: If you have the voice to take on a big-ass song, why not do it? It's now or never baby! Unfortunately, I don’t think this performance will stand out enough to let her advance.

Nathaniel Marshall - "I Would Do Anything for Love" Crazy pierced emo kid hit the stage dressed like it was Saturday night at Limelight in 1987. It was all very weird and gay and retro-disco and odd. Kara did declare that he was "the guy I want to go to karaoke with!" Well yeah, everyone wants to go to karaoke with the weird gay kid, especially if he has good drugs. Don’t think we’ll be hearing from Boy George Jr. again anytime soon.

Felicia Barton - "No One" You’ve gotta love how there's no mention of exactly WHY Felicia ended up back in the top 36 after being cut in the final round of Hollywood Week (thanks Joanna Pacitti!) but lemme tell you, this girl has a VOICE. I'm down with the styling, I'm down with the vocals, I still don't really know what kind of artist she'll be, but it's a vast improvement over the last time we saw her. I don’t think she’ll bet the votes, but she could be a wild card candidate.

Scott MacIntyre "Mandolin Rain" I was sort of over Scott when he did Daughtry's "Home" at the piano during Hollywood Week. Yeah, he's blind and everything but his vocals just can’t compete with this crop of singers. I do think Simon is dead-on when he says Scott will sail through to the Top 12—the sympathy vote from kids and old people alone will get him there, but it won’t benpurely on the strength of this performance. Yeah, I’m picking on the blind guy, but c’mon, you’re all thinking it too, right?

Kendall Beard "This One's For the Girls" Kendall looked like a little yellow ray of sunshine in that dress didn't she? Too bad she ended up delivering a tight, scared vocal and a stiff performance. This was actually a good song choice for an aspiring Carrie Underwood like Kendall, but she just doesn’t have the vocal chops to execute it properly. Kudos for defining yourself as an artist, babe, but sorry, you don't have the talent.

Jorge Nunez - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" Tonight's Randy Jackson "Blow it Out the Box" award goes to Puerto Rico's Jorge Nunez, who exploded said box with a thrilling vocal and a commanding performance of the Elton John classic that has become an Idol standard for guys with big voices. If Jorge doesn't go through after this performance, I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you people. PLEASE put him through instead of the blind guy! Viva la Jorge!

Lil Rounds - "Be Without You" After being compared to Mary J. Blige by Randy Jackson, why not sing Mary? Lil delivered a solid vocal and defintiely threw down, saying “here's what you're gonna get if you record an album with me.” What a way to close the show. Great dress, great styling, superstar performance. It's gonna be a horse race tonight, folks.

My predictions – I think Lil and Blind Guy are shoo-ins. The third slot could go to either Ju’not or Jorge.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pink Uniforms

In this photo:

* One is a Harvard Ph.D
* One went to rehab
* One is a Catholic school teacher
* One speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese
* One is a high school principal
* One is an attorney
* One worked for NASA
* One is an ex-D-Girl now scratching out a living as a writer

Consider it my first-ever authorized internet photo.