Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hot in Herre

"The valley, what are you crazy? It's supposed to hit 100 degrees in the city. You know my policy. Except for work I only go to the valley November through March. And even then... only the sushi row." -Johnny Drama

My sister just signed a lease on a place in the valley. Why, in the name of everything holy would she want to live there? I don't know. It does have a pool. And central air. And it finally gets her, at 26 years of age, out of my parents' house. Arrested development perhaps, but if you knew the amount of money she's been able to save up and throw into the stock market while living at home, well, it makes my head spin every time I think about it. My father's too.

It's 10 degrees cooler here than in the valley and I'm still in a pool of sweat. No A/C in one's car will do that. Driving today was like being strapped into a mobile oven. I understand now why dogs ride around with their heads out the window. I did it myself today on more than one occasion. I said "fuck it" around 5:30 this afternoon and made an appointment to get it fixed tomorrow morning before I go down to Long Beach to pick up Pauly, who is taking a short break from his WSOP coverage to catch a couple of Widespread Panic shows with me this weekend at the Wiltern Theatre. If you haven't been following the WSOP on the Tao of Poker, well, what the fuck is wrong with you? Card Player may have the chip counts, but if you're looking for the real story of the WSOP, go no further than the Doctor.

And I don't say that just because he sent me pretty sunflowers.

The Doc is also appearing on Bluff Radio every afternoon with another one of poker's brightest journalistic stars, Jason Spaceman. Someone at Bluff clearly had too many cocktails when they agreed to give those two degenerates their own hour of airtime. But at least it's satellite so they won't get fined for swearing. This makes me so sad I don't have Sirius Satellite, but if you're lucky enough to have it, they'll be on Channel 125 at 4 PM PST every day for the remainder of the WSOP.

G-Vegas' own Otis is also busting his ass out there in Las Vegas so we can all live vicariously through him. Check out the Poker Stars Blog for updates on all the Stars qualifiers and pros. You'll also get the added bonus of putting a face to many a familiar screen name (e.g. THAT'S the donk who busted me from the Sunday Million?!")

Poker's a bit of a grind for me right now, ever since coming back from Tennessee. Lotta tournament finishes within one table of the money. I'll spare the bad beats because I've just gotta believe it'll turn around again. I can say for sure, though that playing an event in the WSOP is off the table for me this year. It's just not the right time for me to be buying into something that big and my efforts in the Full Tilt Bracelet Races have come up short. In a way, it's a relief, so I can spend more of my time in Vegas socializing and meeting people rather than stressing about a huge tournament.

Look at me, rationalizing. ;)

I'll be back shortly with the final two parts of Bonnaroo.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Pace Yourself: Bonnaroo Part III

Friday at Bonnaroo began with a ritual we'd continue for the rest of the weekend-- a pre-concert stop for Bacon, Egg and Cheese Texas Toaster sandwiches at the Manchester, TN Sonic. Though I believe Sonic establishments do exist in California, (I've seen plenty of TV spots touting it as "your morning drink stop" though I'm not sure that any the food items in an ever-widening nutritional range that I've at one time or another called "breakfast" ever included a 44-ounce flourescent soda) I'd never had the opportunity to eat there. Yet another first for me on this trip. Now I love those toaster things. I'd totally misunderestimated their flavor power and I plan on actively seeking one out when I go to Vegas in 2 weeks. God help my arteries.

The lineup to get in was once again, mercifully short. The Joker brought the heads out in full force as we rolled toward the entrance. The young black man who checked our wristbands at the entrance to day parking got in a hilarious heckling match with the George W. Bush head.

"We will smoke them out of their caves!" Bush drawled.
"Yeah? Well you'd better bring my boys home soon, you motherfucker!"

It was then that I noticed the silver dog tags around his neck. The guy was probably just home from that desert shithole himself. I was glad that our silly clowning at least gave him a good laugh.

Our first show of the day was Ben Folds, now a fully functioning solo artist after the disbanding of his former grouping, Ben Folds Five in 2000. I've been a fan of his since spending many a rainy late-nineties afternoon in my dorm room listening to "Brick" on repeat. He played that one, of course, along with several cuts off his new album Songs for Silverman including "Jesusland," and "Landed" along with a song he wrote in a Waffle House and a piece he collaborated on with Dr. Dre. I thought he played a fantastic, energetic set and wondered why I hadn't seen him live before now. Guess it was all those years I spent as a slave to Hollyweird.

Next on the day's agenda was a set from Mike Gordon's new project, Ramble Dove. Pauly warned me that they were a little bit country. I'm open to just about all kinds of music, but when it comes to the reaaally twangy country stuff, I can't go there. Give me Johnny Cash, but please no Toby Keith.

As Ramble Dove's bluesy country-jam set reached its first cresendo, I recalled the Entertainment Weekly piece on Phish from a few years back. The writer declared that "Phish could urinate in their listeners' ears" and their fans would still show up and buy tickets. While far from aural urine, Ramble Dove was all about bassist Gordon, with disenfranchised Phisheads going apeshit for every solo, though it was far from their usual cup of tea. One redheaded dude likely peaking on his third roll of the afternoon, danced wildly for almost ninety minutes straight. Pauly passed our bowl to a fortysomething guy in jean shorts and he returned from his next beer one with a tall cold one for the Doctor. It's true. People really do just give him things.

We moved camp to the main stage for Oysterhead and Tom Petty. The Joker is not only a master of concert props and costumes, but of crowd navigation. He took us around to the far side of the field where we snagged a prime, easy-to-defend spot about halfway between the stage and the soundboard. We took our first dips into the molly as 5:00 rolled around and the sun's punishing heat began to abate.

Oysterhead is a supergroup consisting of Trey Anastasio on guitar, Primus' Les Claypool on bass and the Police's Stuart Copeland on drums. The three collaborated for the 2001 album The Grand Pecking Order and a subsequent tour but haven't been heard from much since. I'd seen Primus several times waaayyyyy back in my mid-90's alterna-rock phase (complete with combat boots and brown lipstick) and was, of course a Phish fan (though not quite as "gay for Trey" as some of my traveling companions). However, I'd never heard much of Oysterhead beyond their title track, "Mr. Oysterhead." So I went into the set fairly cold. The molly kicked in about halfway through and I faded in and out of a mini-trip as they played. Their sound was a bit heavy for me but I was too high to care. Claypool went through a couple of costume changes, at times wearing a pig mask or an Elvis wig while Vermont boy Trey sweltered in a longsleeve denim shirt. At the end of the set he had a huge sweat stain where his guitar strap used to be.

After a dinner of sketchy chicken pita and losing $5 to BTreotch at gin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers took the stage for a wicked set. Petty busted out with a ton of crowd favorites including "You Don't Know How It Feels," "Mary Jane's Last Dance," "Free Fallin'," "Won't Back Down," and the Traveling Wilburys hit "Handle Me With Care." My mom loved the Wilburys and that's her favorite tune of theirs. In a moment of drug-induced goodwill, I called her cell phone and left a minute or so of the performance on her voicemail. The second half of the set brought a special guest to the stage. Stevie Nicks emerged from the wings in a flowy black number and joined in for four songs.

Stevie Nicks! Stevie Fuckin' Nicks! When I was 14 I wanted to BE Stevie Nicks. Half a lifetime later, I think part of me still does.

Tom Petty certainly drew an interesting crowd. More and more random rednecks started showing up as the set went on. A beer-gutted, trucker-capped man chain smoked with one hand and held the waist of his scrawny, methed-out wife with the other while a rowdy, shirtless drunk behind us intermittently shouted toward the stage, "You're still good, you old fuck!"

After a smokin' encore of "American Girl," we packed up our camp and made our way through the crowd toward This Tent (or was it That Tent?) for the final set of the day-- a late-night performance from My Morning Jacket. Ten hours of music already and we were still thristy for more. Joker's expert navigation landed us perhaps 20 feet from the stage. Sweet. Pauly had never seen MMJ before and babbled about how excited he was for the set as we took a smoke break on the grass before the boys took the stage.

I've been a fan of My Morning Jacket for a couple of years now, ever since picking up their 2003 disc It Still Moves. But I had never seen them live (a running theme to this weekend). Their sound runs the gamut from southern roots-rock tunes like "Golden" and "Dancefloors" to their lush, trippy arrangements of "Wordless Chorus" and "Gideon." This set certainly sent their stock up in my book. I danced like an idiot and jammed out with the crowd for over 2 1/2 hours in a perfect closer to our first day. A sick cover of the Velvet Underground's "Head Held High" was the cherry on top. Pauly was a blithering fanboy as we exited the tent. He had a new favorite band.

We chilled out on the grass and smoked behind the tent where the Disco Bicuits were still playing. Passed-out hippies dotted the grassy landscape. I felt like a million bucks compared to the way they looked. And I'd get to sleep in air conditioning tonight instead of having the sun rise on my muggy tent in only four hours time.

Two days down. Two big ones to go.

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's my last birthday of my 20s and thank God I'm not in a conference room with a cake

BG, let's hope our horoscope is right.

Today's birthday (June 26). The world longs to be discovered this year, and you're the one to do it. Adventures through August are not far from home, but as wild as any faraway quest. In September, business brings romance into your life. January starts a career transition. Money in October makes you so happy you were tenacious. A Leo or a Pisces appreciates your passionate soul. Your lucky numbers are: 10, 5, 43, 28 and 19.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Smells Good in There: Bonnaroo Part II

I saw the Trey head before the face of the man holding it aloft. Trey was Phish's Trey Anastasio, of course and our own power trio of The Joker, BTreotch, and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot had just touched down at the Nashville airport. As we loaded all the luggage into the back of our rented Saturn SUV, Pauly and I finally discovered what the mystery spray adhesive was for.

The Joker is a master when it comes to creating props and costumes for concerts. Pauly told me about his UPS man routine at last year's Vegoose and mentioned The Joker had also run a recent 10K race in a Santa suit. To entertain the wasted hippies at Bonnaroo, The Joker had blown up magazine photos of a dozen celebrities and glued them to foam posterboard. Attaching the heads to wooden rulers was the final step, hence, the spray. Once our little parking lot crafts party was complete Trey, Mike Gordon (Phish), Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, George W. Bush, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Entourage's Turtle and Johnny Drama were all ready to scope out some dirty hippies and party.

The drive from Nashville to Manchester only took about an hour. Given my experiences at the Coachella Festival in years past, I'd been predicting a clusterfuck at the entrance to the grounds, but it was surprisingly smooth. Since day parking wasn't open yet, we found a spot on some guy's lawn maybe a mile from the entrance for $20. He had an adorable dog with a lousy disposition named Vicious.

Within five minutes of entering the festival, we spotted a completlely wasted shirtless boy of about 18 stumbling around with a plastic gallon jug of cheap vodka in one hand. Not one set of music and the kid was already totally wasted.

"Pace yourself!" warned The Joker as he waved Dr. Phil's head at him.

Our first order of business at Bonnaroo was locating the Shakedown. It's that long row of vendors you'll find in any festival parking lot where you can pick up veggie pitas, glass bowls, beaded necklaces, and a smorgasbord of mind-altering substances. (As a primer, you might want to check out Pauly's Glossary of Terms and Slang) Navigating Shakedown can be a daunting prospect, but I was lucky. I was traveling with professionals.

Pauly and The Joker can sniff out a quality narcotics salesperson from over 50 yards. It took them maybe 10 minutes to find a 16 year old kid with a messenger bag containing enormous stalks of freshly harvested Tennessee homegrown. Pauly followed him to his campsite to negotiate, while the rest of us waited in anticipation. He walked back to our cluster five minutes later with a shit eating grin on his face.

"There's good news and bad news," he said.
"The good news is we have weed. The bad news is we have nothing to put it in."

Pauly reached into the pocket on the right leg of his cargo pants and produced a stalk of weed at least eight inches long.

"We'll have to wrap it in something." He tore a page out of the Bonnaroo guidebook we'd received at the entrance and wrapped it around the thick green stalk.

"They're gonna pat me down at the entrance. Better put it in your purse." He handed the poorly wrapped pacakge to me and I buried it in the bottom of my hobo bag, beneath the blanket and my hooded jacket. After fetching a few more supplies, we headed for the entrance.

Security was a joke. The guy who checked my bag was obviously more interested in busting people for bottles of vodka than the pot farm in my purse.

"Smells good in there," he said with a smile as he waved me in.

The festival grounds were enormous. At around 80,000 concert-goers, Bonnaroo was almost twice the size of the Coachella festivals I'd attended in 2002 and 2004. Each stage or tent had a flaky hippie monkier. The Which Stage and the What Stage were the two larger venues while This Tent, That Tent and The Other Tent housed the smaller and midsize audiences. In the middle of all of it was an enormous mushroom fountain with a red cap. It seemed like a great way to cool off from the heat until the Joker warned me that all the water was recycled back out. By Sunday it would be a foul gutter brown.

I-Nine was playing as we walked around the grounds. We checked out the arcade, which was full of old-school games like Qbert and Ms. Pac-Man. Along the side wall we noticed a guy playing a poker videogame. It was STACKED.

"Dude, what are you calling with there?" Pauly chuckled as the kid turned over J8o for no pair no draw.

Pauly's phone rang and it was Molly. We headed back to the mushroom to meet up with her. Pauly hadn't seen her since their adventures in Coventry, VT at the last Phish concert two summers ago. They had a very sweet reunion. Molly is indeed very little, very brown, and thoroughly adorable. We planned to meet up at her campsite after seeing a few bands.

While the rest of our party temporarily departed in search of a World Cup score, Pauly and I checked out the Wood Brothers, who were playing in one of the three tents. I had only heard a couple of songs from them before this show, though I'm quite familiar with Chris Wood's "other" project, Medeski, Martin & Wood. Later on, we caught a performance of the Hunab Kru Breakdancers on one of the smaller stages while we chilled out on the grass. They were lily white, but a few of them could really move. I hoped that one of them would spin on his head and I got my wish. After discovering that there was a quarter-mile line for Patton Oswalt and Upright Citizens Brigade at the Comedy Tent we decided to head back to Molly's campsite to hang out.

That's when we came upon the sonic forest.

Imagine a grid of thick steel poles, jutting up from the ground like trees, adorned in blinking white lights. Dozens of tripped-out kids walked between them in a stoned daze as creepy plucking sounds emanated from surround sound speakers. Experience it for yourself on video. The clip arrives somewhere in the middle.

We capped off the evening chilling at Molly's campsite. I was impressed, as pitching a tent is not exactly part of my skill set, nor does it look easy. While Pauly, BTreotch and I toked away, the Joker disappeared into the muggy darkness, returning with three cans of Natural Light.

"I found a cooler on the side of the road. At least I didn't take the Heinekens."

Surrounded by a motley band of professional partiers, I sat back, scratching the reddening mosquito bite on my left shoulder and listened to the sound of distant music as I blew smoke rings into the night sky.

We weren't only going to survive this. We were going to shred it up.

To be continued...

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I got two strange phone calls this morning. The first was from one of the assistants at my former company calling to tip me off that her boss (a senior executive I essentially slaved my ass off for two years) was pitching me for some new available D-gig. It was nice to hear that she still held me in good regard and my name wasn't totally trampled to smithereens back at the Big Man's. I wanted more specifics and my tipster promised she'd sniff it out. I'm not holding my breath. The thought of going back to D-life still sours my stomach, but if it were an interesting or lucrative enough opportunity, I'd at least take a meeting. Because like most of my generation, I'm just a broke kid collapsing under debt.

The second call was from Frankie, an adorable bisexual Queens-to-L.A. transplant whom I've known since our first week of college. We'd climbed the D-ladder together over the last half a decade and she was one of those very few people I knew in the business who remained true blue and honest with me the whole way. I'd picked up a message from her on my way home from Bonnaroo and our phone tag ended this morning. She needed my advice.

Frankie wanted to know whether or not she should accept my old job at twice the money I used to make. My stomach fell to the floor as the figure rolled off her tongue.

The fact that she was offered my job doesn't bother me in the least. She's an intelligent woman with great taste in material that I'd also go out and party with any night of the week. I'd hire her in a minute. I tried to give her as honest an assessment of life with the Big Man as I could and concluded that it would probably be a great career move for her to take the gig. After all it is a prestigious company. The name carries a lot of weight.

It's the second half of that sentence that makes me want to turn on some Death Cab for Cutie and slit my wrists in a warm bath.

Just another one of those days I've been having as of late when my jealousy of all the money my peers seem to be making at their various endeavors rears its ugly head before I can talk myself down off the ledge by remembering that my poverty, my debt, my instabilty are all choices I make for myself on a daily basis and that if I really wanted to I could just suck it up and find some bankroll-padding job that could make me breathe easier in the short term but only crush my soul in the end and prolong me once again from doing what I believe more and more with every passing day that I was born to do.


It's a choice. A sacrifice. A gamble. A choice. A sacrifice. A gamble...

The one thing I can say about hearing things like the Big Man offering Frankie my old gig is that it kicks my ass into a whole other gear. Because, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm an insanely competitive person. And no one puts more pressure on me than me.

So I need to write faster and sell this screenplay. Winning another tournament along the way would help too ;)

(Stay tuned for more tales of southern-fried hippie madness from Bonnaroo... Part II will appear later today.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Down in the Holler: A Bonnaroo Prologue

"Oh fuck."
"I remember sunscreen, aspirin, and an eyeglass repair kit, but you know what I left on my desk?"
"My Bonnaroo ticket."
"FedEx it to me at Spaceman's?"
"Now I have to fly without Xanax AND worry about this."

I'd run out of Xannies the last time I flew, but as I write this, I can't even recall when that was. So I got high with Showcase on the way to LAX instead, ensuring that I would sleep well on my four-hour nonstop flight to Nashville. I hate flying. I hate the way the pressurized air smells, the way my neck feels after being tortured by the seatback, and the well-meaning people that try to talk to you when all you want to do is go to sleep so you can temporarily forget that you are indeed inside a 155,000 ton flying death tube seven miles above the Earth's surface. I'll drive four hours through the desert in my horrible car to Vegas every time rather than take the 45-minute hop on Southwest if only to avoid the stomach-churning, ear-popping, far-too-rapid manual landing at McCarran. It's practically the only thing that'll make me break out in prayer.

After running myself through the self-serve check-in and clearing security, I called Pauly from the gate to get Spaceman's address to give to Showcase. I could hear his eyes roll from two thousand miles west and worry seeped from his voice as I confessed my dilemma. Back when I first broached the idea of joining him for this year's Bonnaroo, he wasn't convinced that this Hollywood blonde could hack it.

"You'll never survive," he scoffed.

Of course, this was when we were thinking of camping, the accomodations of choice for perhaps 90% of the festival-goers. And in that case, he was probably right. I've never camped before in my life, and a four-day music festival/bender in the middle of the sticky Tennessee summer was probably not the place to start. Thank God the Joker stepped in and hooked us up with a motel room. A bed, a shower, and air conditioning go a helluva long way toward preventing burnout at one of these things. That sealed the deal for me. I was on my way to the South.

I scribbled Spaceman's address onto the back of my boarding pass and left it on Showcase's voicemail. It was only then that I decided I should ransack my luggage just to make sure I really forgot it.

I found the damn thing in about two minutes and called Pauly back. Total false alarm.

* * * * *

The first thing I noticed about Tennessee was the green. Wild, velvet canopies over rolling hills. Sparkling rivers cutting through hillisdes and farmland. The most intense, alive shades of green I'd ever seen. I spent four years in the midwest almost a decade ago but the patchwork praries of Illinois that I'd gazed down upon from airplane windows on approach to O'Hare had nothing on the lush postcard Americana that unfolded beneath our 737 as we descended into Nashville.

I was seated next to an couple my parents' age who were on their way back home from a vacation in Hawaii. They'd changed planes in Los Angeles. He wore a cheesy Hawaiian shirt and she was decked out in a Waikiki Beach T-Shirt and pink cotton shorts from Wal-Mart's spring line. The man must have seen the way I was looking out the window.

"Not from here are you?"
"No. I've never been to the South."
"Make sure you go to Cracker Barrel. You can get a fine meal for 'bout ten dollars. Chicken. Mashed potatoes. Vegetables. Dinner roll."
"I'll make sure to try that."

It wasn't Cracker Barrel I was after in Tennessee, however. It was Waffle House. After hearing about several of my friends' tawdry adventures in this establishment, I'd put it at the top of my must-see list.

Spaceman, Mrs. Spaceman, and Pauly picked me up at the airport. We drove into the city and had a lovely Italian dinner. I got angel hair pasta with sausage and smoked duck. The sauce was deliciously spicy. I also had my first glass of authentic sweet tea and these amazing fried cheese balls as an appetizer. Shit like that is practically illegal in L.A.

After dinner we cruised around Nashville, stopping for a walk in Centennial Park. I even saw a guy in a cowboy hat with a guitar slung over his shoulder crossing the street. Tennessee native Mrs. Spaceman was an excellent tour guide. We checked out the Parthenon, Music Row, and took a loop near Vanderbilt University. The city is new and old smashed right up against each other. Next door to a church dating back to the 18th century, one might find an aluminum-sided warehouse-turned-strip club. There's also a huge art museum named after Bill Frist. Back when he was a doctor, I hear he was kind of a shitty one.

The Spacemen live about 40 minutes outside of Nashville in a small town called Ashland City. There aren't really many streets, just twisting state highways that intersect with each other. The hilly terrain is blanketed in lush green vegetation and broken up by small valleys called "hollers." On the way to Spaceman's house we passed a swath of land owned by one of the Mandrell Sisters. I think it was Louise. Her land is marked by a huge glowing white cross easily visible from the highway. Mrs. Spaceman told us that her husband put it up so she could feel Christ's love or something as she came home from her stints on the road. This was only a small preview of the Jesus Freakiness that swarms the state of Tennessee like fireflies. Even in the remotest of areas there always seemed to be plenty of churches.

"We get a whole lot of Jesus mail too," Mrs. Spaceman said.

Their adorable wooden cabin-style house sits right next to a river on a huge patch of land. I totally understand why Spaceman misses it so much when he's on the road. When we weren't playing team Trivial Pursuit (Spaceman and I defeated Mrs. Spaceman and Pauly) or a 4-handed winner-take all-SNG (I won tough heads-up battles with both Spacemen to win twice), we sat out on that porch, mosquitos and all and drank and talked and I just took it all in as their two dogs chased each other and licked my ankles. One of the pups took quite a liking to Pauly, even walking in on him while he was showering.

On the second night, I finally got to experience Waffle House. Spaceman was a little disappointed because the clientele at this particular branch was fairly inoffensive. Mrs. Spaceman's friend Lydia joined us for the meal and indulged in her favorite food (and Daddy's), bacon! I had a pecan waffle and my hasbrowns scattered, smothered and covered. I couldn't believe I could get an entire delicious, satisfying meal for less than $5. A waffle is $2.40 and the hashbrowns, even with all the stuff on them are under 2 bucks.

After another late night with the Spacemen on Wednesday, Pauly and I got up fairly early on Thursday to drive back to Nashville and pick up the rest of our crew at the airport: BTreotch, The Joker, and Professional Keno Player Neil Fontenot. As the Joker was boarding his flight in Denver, he phoned up Pauly. He knew we were hitting Wal-Mart for supplies and wanted us to pick him up some 3M spray adhesive.

But for what, I had no earthly idea.

To be continued...

Monday, June 12, 2006


Showcase and I totally dorked out and watched the Tony Awards together last night, a tradition we've adhered to for more or less the last decade. We set the Tivo, loaded the bong, and I whipped up some bacon-wrapped turkey mignons with a spinach-mushroom saute on the side after I was bounced from a Full Tilt Bracelet race in 30th place of 242. Pauly and Hoyazo got to see me double up with The Hammer vs. AJo after a frisky pre-flop all in reraise. The 7 on the flop saved my ass and left my entire table scratching their heads and muttering to themselves. God bless implied tilt odds.

Our first Tonys together was all the way back in 1996, the year Rent came to Broadway. We were both theatre students at a prestigious midwestern private university at the time and I must have had over 300 Original Cast Albums in my collection. It helped me make friends quickly with the other theatre dorks in my dorm because I'd always have great, obscure audtition song suggestions for my peers as well as the corresponding disc to loan them. At least once a week, Showcase would come to my room and we'd have a full-blown musical theatre night, singing along with our favorite showtunes at full volume. We really were that ghey. And we are even gheyer ten years later.

I was disappointed that Patti LuPone didn't win her long-deserved second Tony for her performance in Sweeney Todd. Showcase was very happy for LaChanze (The Color Purple), however. She's one of those actors that has been around Broadway forever, as a swing, an understudy, a featured performer, but never really the star. Thank God she remembered to thank Oprah at the end of her speech. Had she forgotten, I'm sure she would have been struck by lightning on her way out of Radio City Music Hall.

I had an "eh" week at poker. One finish at the final three tables at the Full Tilt $9K Guaranteed, a crushing near-bubble finish in the Full Tilt $40K when QQ got floooshed by AJh, and my first limit hold'em final table in an $11 multi on Poker Stars where I finished 5th of 180. I also got deep in the Full Tilt 17K twice but no cash.

So as I said yesterday, as of tomorrow morning, I'll be unplugged until I return to Los Angeles from Tennessee on the 20th. I'd take my laptop along, but unfortunatley, the LCD is crapping out and I've been working with only 2/3 of a screen for the last couple of weeks. So it's a perfect time to send the thing back to Dell and get it fixed, seeing as I'll probably do little or no writing while I'm away. Those stories will have to wait until I get back to be told. If you're hungry for updates, check the Tao of Pauly and Coventry (Pauly's music blog).

Until next week, just pray this Hollywood blonde survives the South.

Slippery When Wet

If only I hadn't gone back for sunscreen and the trial-sized bottle of Purell Hand Sanitzier, none of this might of happened.

Showcase and I were in line at the local Sav-on around 9:30 on Wednesday night. We'd stopped to pick up Diet Coke and some snacks. As we approached the checkout counter, it dawned on me that there were a couple of things I could use for my trip to Bonnaroo next week and I could save myself a trip back here in a couple of days if I just went back and grabbed my items now. I told Showcase to hang on and that I'd be right back.

"Caution" signs were up in every single aisle of the store. The janitorial crew had already begun washing the floors, even though it was almost 30 minutes before closing. The bottoms of my black rubber flip flops slid a little as I carefully navigated my way down the skin care aisle, and I caught my balance on one of the shelves. I selected a bottle of spray-on SPF 50 specially formulated for baby's sensitive skin before grabbing a tiny bottle of Purell. It was the best thing I thought to bring to Coachella two years ago. There aren't exactly tons of places to wash your hands from the filthy ground before shoving food into your mouth at these big music festivals and the Purell was soon envied and borrowed by most of my friends.

Turning around to head back to the register, I looked for an aisle that wasn't being mopped down. Every single one had a "caution" sign up. There was literally nowhere to go. So I gingerly tread up the one in front of me toward Showcase, who was now waiting for me by the door. Just as I thought I'd made it to safety, my legs slid from under me, and I made a perfect Hollywood pratfall onto the slick linoleum. Everything I was holding went flying as I landed hard, my right elbow absorbing most of the impact. I'm certain it was hilarious to watch. I know Showcase was cackling until he realized the severity of the situation.

The first thing I saw as I looked up from my prone position on the floor was the older Mexican security guard offering me a hand back up. I took his leathery palm and got on my feet. I thought I was OK, until I felt the searing pain in my elbow maybe fifteen seconds later. I grabbed it with my left hand and hissed through clenched teeth at the approaching store manager.

"What the hell is wrong with you people? Washing every inch of floor while people are still walking around in here? You couldn't wait?!"

Showcase rushed over to see if I was OK. I took my hand off my elbow and it was covered in blood. The shock was wearing off and the pain began to register. I wasn't OK. I wasn't just going to shake it off and be home in fifteen minutes. Pain shot up my arm and I broke down in heavy sobs as the manager, the security guard, and two now-petrified janitors gave me frozen stares while I bled all over my own hand.

That's when Showcase took charge. No one was even moving to help me out. The fear of all four of them losing their dead-end $9/hr jobs was painted plainly across their slack-jawed faces.

"Can one of you do something and get her a towel? Come on, she's bleeding all over the place! Which one of you is the manager? Is there a SINGLE ONE OF THESE AISLES we can walk down toward the restroom without this happening again!"

I threw off my shoes and trudged barefoot and teary toward the back of the store, hanging on to Showcase's shoulder with my good arm. Once inside the restroom, we took a look at the gash on my elbow. It was over an inch long and maybe a half inch deep. I tried to clean it off a little, but yelped in pain as soon as the cool water hit the wound.

"You're gonna have to go to the ER. It's pretty bad."
"I can't"
"You have to. It's way too deep."
"But I don't have health insurance anymore!"
"You don't?"
"It expired 8 days ago. I can't afford a hospital bill."
"Doesn't matter. They're paying for this."

Showcase got me into a chair at the back of the store and managed to find the only calm, English-speaking employee in the entire place-- a fortysomething Asian pharmacist. He looked at my gash, told Showcase to take me to Cedars-Sinai for stitches, and gave me 800 mg of Motrin to ease the pain and swelling. I sat there, heaving in pain for what seemed like half an hour while Showcase filled out an incident report with the store manager. All the while, the two janitors just stood there, staring at me while I sobbed and bled.

On our way out, one of the janitors started speaking to the security guard in Spanish. I took enough Espanol in high school and college to understand what she was saying. She was blaming my fall on my shoes. The black rubber flip flops.

"How dare you? This is your fault and nothing to do with my zapatos!" I seethed as Showcase led me to the car.

As we drove to Cedars, I started to calm down a little as the shock wore off and my inner degenerate gambler re-emerged.

"What do you think's the over-under on when I actually get stitched up?
"I'll take the over."

Fifteen minutes later, we were in the Emergency Room. Showcase filled out my paperwork since I'm not a lefty.

"Date of birth 6-26, right?"
"Have you ever been treated at Cedars before?"
"Were you born at Cedars?"
"And... your treating physician may be a part of a cable reality show on hospitals. Do you wish to sign a release allowing your likeness to be used?"
"Kidding. But keep your eyes out for Suri Cruise. Perfect time of night for a clandestine celebrity well-baby visit."

Kelly, the tall, blonde candy-striper who helped admit me was hot. Showcase doesn't normally go for blondes, but his mouth hung open as she iced my elbow and asked me questions about what happened. There was something familiar about her to me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Showcase later discovered that she was in a recent credit card commercial. An actress/candy striper. Only in L.A.

I was taken back pretty quickly (bleeding and crying a lot helped that along). A sandy haired ex-fratboy type doc came and examined my arm. He was hot too (were there any ugly people in this hospital?) and I could only imagine how shitty I looked with puffy red eyes, a gaping wound, and no makeup. Dr. McDreamy got me a bed with a TV and once he stepped away, I instantly started channel surfing. I was looking for the Travel Channel, since the WPT was on, but had to settle for SportsCenter and a rerun of the National Spelling Bee.

One curtain over from me was an enormous black man with an equally enormous boil near his right eyebrow. The doctor was scolding him for having waited so long to get it looked at. He grunted in such terrible pain as the nurse drained it that they had to give him two shots of morphine. I saw her walk away with an entire jar of pus.

Kelly came in and checked on me a couple of times, reporting back to a nervous Showcase. You know, I'll just let him tell this part:

So the hot blonde girl comes back out of the ER with a strange look on her face. She says "I have some bad news, your friend threw a tantrum and we had to sedate her." I put my hands on my hips, gazed at the floor and muttered "oh, Jesus" as I imagined her hurling insults and four letter words at the doctors.

The idea that she was kidding didn't even cross my mind.

For me, the worst part of the entire ordeal was the actual numbing and stitching of the wound. I hate blood, I'm a wuss in terms of pain and I avoid doctors whenever I can. I nearly fainted as the enormous needle was pressed into my gaping, bleeding flesh despite the numbing powers the anesthesia promised. I'd heard the boil guy scream and he got morphine. Once the sewing of the flesh began, I got so nauseous I had to turn the other way.

I got discharged with a thick gauze bandage around my wound and no good drugs. It was a good thing Showcase had a few spare Vicodins lying around from when he got his wisdom teeth pulled last month. Otherwise I would have never fallen asleep.

So now I possibly have to sue Sav-on. Showcase went back there the next day to speak to the manager and he wouldn't even give him a claim form, let alone a copy of the incident report. The stonewalling has already begun. And it's at times like this that I'm incredibly grateful I'm a lawyer's daughter.

When I was in grade school, my best friend's mom had a thing for suing people. I swear to God, Linda James must have redone her Cheviot Hills home four or five times over the years with her lawsuit money. Love tap rear-ender on Wilshire Blvd? Out comes the neck brace. Nine months later, there's a pair of $4000 Italian silk couches in her living room. Allergic reaction to the rugs in the Disneyland Hotel? How about a pool and some new landscaping? My family got a kick out of Linda, though I know my father was always a little jealous of the money. Unfortunately, he may be the only lawyer in L.A. County with a moral compass. It also explains why he never got rich.

So Dad helped me write a firm yet polite legal letter to the fuckwads at Savon. I'm not looking to soak anyone here. I just don't want to get stuck with a ER bill in the thousands because a couple of minimum wage monkeys wanted to go home early. And an extra grand for that lip from the bitch that caused me to fall in the first place wouldn't hurt. I guess I'm destined to go one more round with bureaucracy.

I'm feeling much better now. I couldn't drive for a couple of days, but now I can move it around and I'll be fine for Bonnaroo, though I have to be extra careful to not bump it into anything. I leave in 24 hours and I'll be completely unplugged for the six days I'll be in Tennessee. No email. No poker. Nada. Just friends, music, air, sky, and hopefully good drugs.

A few stitches can't wreck that.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A ticket, a final table, and... a celebratory altar?

At long last, I got my Bonnaroo tickets today via Fedex. When I first saw the uniformed man through the peep-hole in my front door, I momentarily panicked, fearing the police, a summons, or even some bureaucrat coming to take my $1800 away. Nope. Just my passport to four days of music and debauchery in Manchester, TN. I've never been to the South. My sole experiences below the Mason-Dixon line are confined to changing planes in Dallas and Atlanta. Luckily I'll have Mr. and . Mrs. Spaceman to guide me through the land of Waffle Houses, Sweet Tea, and cicadas.

Should I pack bug spray? We don't get enough out here to worry about such things.

It was a good poker day. Ryan and I made twin sixth place finishes in MTTs this afternoon, he in the Poker Stars $50+5, me in the Full Tilt $6K Guaranteed. I had a nice-sized stack at the final table and felt I was headed for a top three finish had my KK not been cracked by 33. Speaking of Ryan, please do your poker game a favor and check out his recent posts The Suicide Pact, Part I and Part II as well as No Good Deed. I've played a lot with Ryan and I've been sweated by him even more. He's wicked smart, a helluva player and I can't say enough about the good things he's done for my game.

Angelina got called back for Rent. The casting directors also wanted to see her on Thursday for Wicked. She stopped by our place for a celebratory smoke with Showcase and I before heading to Burbank for an audition for a tampon commercial. Showcase is hopelessly smitten with her. She's hot and her boyfriend's sort of a loser. I don't blame him.

* * * * *

Mercifully, I have avoided having to attend a wedding for a whole 16 months. Almost all of my high school girlfriends have married off in the last four years, at an average cost to me of about $1000/wedding including transportation, hotel stays, awful dresses I'll never wear again, and gift after gift after gift. Bridal shower gifts. Bachelorette spa crap and limos and dinners. Shit off the Williams-Sonoma registry for the actual wedding present. And, of course, my own drug and bar tab for getting through the weekend in a relatively festive mood.

Let's put aside for the moment my own personal disgust with the fact that these girls get rewarded with fancy shit simply for making a loose legal promise that she'll only fuck this one guy for the rest of her life. Finding a guy who will make an attractive, educated girl of upper-middle class West Los Angeles breeding that loose legal promise is really not that difficult. And yet our society rewards such a milestone with $399 Kitchen Aid mixers and Krups cappucino makers. But here's the thing. I probably wouldn't be thinking about all this shit if I was even good friends with these girls anymore! Because generosity and celebration of life's great milestones with people I truly care about shouldn't even require a second thought.

Somehow, even though I speak to this group of girls I spent age 5-17 with perhaps twice a year these days, I'm still on all the wedding lists. So of course I got invited to Claudia's wedding since I went to the last five or so. And of course it's in fucking BRAZIL during the WSOP. Why on earth should they make it easy on the guests? So clearly, I'm not going. I believe there's no shame or stigma, really in turning down an invitation that requires international travel unless you're exceptionally close to the bride or groom. That, and if I'm gonna spend all that coin go to Brazil, it's not going to be with a bunch of West L.A. country club girls that are slowly turning into their mothers.

But there's still the matter of the bachelorette party, which thankfully does not require roundtrip air travel and a Saturday night stay. It also does not include drinking, drugging, gambling, strip clubbing, or anything else fun. I'll let the invitation speak for itself.

To make this event as memorable and personal as possible, we are asking everyone to:

--bring one special flower to make Claudia a flower crown or a favorite bead to make her a necklace
--a special photo, object or poem that reminds you of Claudia to make a celebratory altar to share during our circle...Your memories and sweet self are more than enough too!
--and your favorite dish or drink to share (when you RSVP, let us know!)

We can't wait to see you there!

And of course, we will open presents too!

Flowers? Beads? A goddamn celebratory altar? Oh, and don't forget a tastefully wrapped belgian waffle maker! There really aren't enough pills on this earth to sedate me enough to get through this thing with a straight face. I can't even imagine what story I could tell in the "circle" that doesn't involve Claudia and I being eleven years old and at recess and so innocent we couldn't find trouble if it slapped us upside our goody-goody heads.

That was a long time ago. More than half a lifetime. They're all schoolteachers and lawyers and mothers and are almost all coupled off. I just can't relate anymore. But no matter how much I try to cut the cord from my past, we still end up hanging on to each other a little. They see my life and get a window into a path of uncertainty they could never choose for themselves but perhaps wanted, or even still long for. And I get a window to my past. The sprawling Holmby Hills properties I played on as a child. The brunches and lunches and country club birthday parties. The Sunday masses where our parents fake-smiled at each other while gossiping out of the sides of their mouths.

There's a certain nostalgia to it. But given the choice? I'll still pick my life every single time. It's a small victory over the Kitchen Aid mixers.

But a victory nonetheless.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Burnt to a Crisp

My ass is so sunburnt right now it hurts to sit, and my back so fried to a rosy crisp that the slightest movement feels like a slap. I slept on my side all night it stung so bad. I got up this morning around 8 since that's when Angelina decided to start rehearsing for her Rent audition later this afternoon.

"It sounds like our freshman year dorm around here" Showcase remarked as she launched into her fourth straight rendition of Take Me or Leave Me.

Bean, my best girlfriend from college, was in town this weekend. Everyone's favorite Pittsburgh fashionista had met Kevin at a wedding a few months ago and the two of them launched into a phone relationship after they finished pawing each other in a dark conference room in a Western Pennsylvania Mariott. She decided to fly out here so they could spend some time together and sort of evaluate where things were going. They had a great date Friday night and she laid it out right at the beginning that she wouldn't be spending the night at his place. And after a lovely dinner and a drink back at his house in Brentwood, he suddenly turned into a big whiny baby when she asked him to drive her the four miles back to my place.

The next day they made plans to spend the day together, but when the spending the night question came back up, Kevin needed his rattle and pacifier back when he started whining yet again about making a ten minute drive at the end of the night. She flew across the country but he can't drive from Brentwood to Beverly Hills?

Bean had had enough by that point, and was pretty upset that he couldn't respect the boundaries she set. So we spend the remainder of the weekend together. After indulging her passion for fashion at Fred Segal, Lisa Kline, and a score of trendy boutiques that clothe L.A.'s most stylish and starving, we hit Venice Beach for a bit of sun and relaxation.

I slathered myself in SPF 30 before even leaving my apartment, but it mustn't have been enough. Then again, merely stepping outside is a sunburn risk for someone with my sensitive alabaster skin. I have one of those spray bottles of aloe vera cooling in my fridge and I've been applying it hourly. At least in a few days the red should be gone and I'll have a bit of that base tan Pauly was telling me to work on before hitting the Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2 weeks time.

On the poker front, I had a good week, even making a sizable cashout last night. Money is always a good thing for me, especially since I'll have to play a lot less this week. I have to really focus on writing before this trip, where I'll be totally unplugged for 6 days. Charlie and I are talking pretty much daily and I want to give him some pages to look at before I leave.

I can't believe the WSOP is almost here! Though I'd really like to play an event or two this year, it's going to have to happen for me via satellite. I got pretty close in one of the $26 Full Tilt Bracelet Races this week, finishing 12th of 243, but so far, no dice. I'm thinking of trying to parlay a few peeps into the $75 satellites for a better shot at a seat. Trying to hit top two of 200+ is just too big a crapshoot. There are also $216 satellites for a $2K prize package running three times a week at 9 PM PDT, but though there are $26 satellites into every other $216 tournament on Full Tilt, there aren't for this one. What's up with that?

Meanwhile, check out the 2006 WSOP Preview and whet your own appetite for the Big Dance.

My ass hurts. I need to stand up.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I just got the result of my appeal hearing in the mail. That was quick. I lost, just like I thought I would. The judge's letter didn't ask for the $1800 back right then and there, but it's just a matter of time before I have to fork it back over to the government, since "the claimant failed to comply with department requirements and has failed to show any good cause for her failure to comply."

I also had to read through six pages of legalese to arrive at that statement. God help the 99% of the population that is stupider and less educated than I am as they try to decipher theirs.

Additionally, while reading through the five pages of laws I apparently broke by misunderstanding a form, I noticed that somewhere in this process that I "was identified pursuant to an automated profiling system as likely to exhaust regular unemployment benefits." I was trying to think of what could get me profiled in such a way. Until a few months ago I was steadily employed for 12+ years, paid my taxes, had never been arrested, was a college-educated native citizen of this country, and even boasted a moderately good credit rating.

Then I figured it out. It had to be a Hollywood thing. Hollywood's a pyramid. All the 22 year old assistants and mailroom kids are on the bottom. Maybe 50% of them quit after the first year and maybe 10% of that 50% make it to the next level. They become d-girls and d-boys. And of the 10% of the 50% that earn their own offices and assistants, maybe 5% of that 10% make VP and grab the brass ring of a six-figure salary and an unlimited expense account. Everyone below that level in Hollywood works a 70-80 hour week for which they are vastly underpaid.

So when the 95% of us that don't make VP hit the streets, totally lost after a bomb movie or a falling corporate stock price or a mega-producer's midlife crisis takes away our comfy middle-management jobs, I guess we end up milking the State of California for so much money that as a demographic, we've earned ourselves "risk" status. The Los Angeles EDD must see droves of overeducated kids with Paramount or Warner Brothers as their last job and no other marketable skills except to declare scripts as "derivative," "episodic" or "low-concept" and set off their version of a nuclear fallout warning system as soon as the filing notices arrive in their inboxes. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. I don't think I know a single D-boy or girl that has rebounded into a quality gig without spending at least 6 months twisting in the wind. Most take longer. After Charlie lost his first D-gig, he was out of work for 8 1/2 months. I even knew I a guy that, before he ended up as a New Line exec., had defaulted on over a year's worth of payments on his NYU loans, had two collection agencies after him, and was living on Campbell's soup and hotdogs toward the end of his 16-month stretch of unemployment. Now he's driving an Audi and sleeps with his BlackBerry on his pillow.

I'm glad I have poker in my life to make me a few extra bucks here and there as I navigate these waters "outside the system." My tourney score couldn't have come at a better time, and I've posted a win every day since making that cash. Making a nice cashout and operating with a full bankroll for the levels I'm playing helps tremendously in the confidence department for me. Any remaining fears I might have at the table evaporate. But the thing about having gone broke a couple of times and coming close a couple more times is that I know that the state I am in right now is temporary. I will lose again. The laws of numbers tell me that it is very unlikely I make another major MTT score this month. Which is not to say that I couldn't make one tonight.

Simply put, when I play short, I suck. When I play flush, I play goot. I make better decisions. I am not operating out of fear. I do not play to save bets. I play to earn entire pots. Why? Because like most people, money unfortunately still means something to me.

Making the score, making observations in my own play following the score across a number of games and situations, and looking back at my play while I was losing a lot in cash games back in March has taught me a tremendous amount about my own poker game (where I make mostly good decisions, at least in NLHE), my bankroll management (where I make some questionable decisions) to my own emotional management (where I probably make the worst decisions of all). All this navel-gazing has helped me begin to identify the Five Biggest Mistakes I've Made Playing Poker. Definitely something I'll expand on in the coming weeks in this space.

It's 30 minutes to the 17K, so I'd better get some food in my belly. I'm also watching the Yankees play Detroit and can only imagine how ballistic Derek and Pauly will go if the Yanks do end up giving up their six run lead. Stacee is also supposed to come over sometime tonight to get "her stuff"-- you know, the collection of CDs and thongs that girlfriends leave behind at guys' places to fuck with their heads. I offered to flee the apartment so they could talk, but Showcase wants me here.

"Are you kidding? The second she walks through the front door I want you on that couch with four tables open on Poker Stars exhaling a monster bong hit and yelling SHIP IT!"