Thursday, October 30, 2008

Showcase, Sarah Palin, and the Crazy McCain Man

As many of you may have read in the news, there was quite the controversy this week in West Hollywood when a local man put up an elaborate Halloween display in his front yard, which included a John McCain dummy popping up from his chimney and a Sarah Palin dummy hanging from a noose off the front porch. Naturally, it attracted media attention, but apparently it was serious enough that the Secret Service started an investigation.

Well, guess who now lives across the street from the house in question? Why, our own Showcase!

Showcase was getting ready to go out last night when he heard the sounds of a protest coming from the end of the street where the Palin dummy was still hanging. He texted me and I told him to grab his video camera and go shoot the scene.

Here's his footage, complete with his interview with a crazy old man in a McCain shirt who professes his love for Sarah Palin.

The display, however finally came down this morning when the homeowner gave in under pressure from the Mayor of West Hollywood and the Sheriff's office. Apparently, Sarah has been cut down, but McCain remains in the chimney.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sick Girl

I vividly remember my first migraine. I was in my old green Saturn fighting traffic on Riverside Drive on my way back to the studio. I was still an intern, and had been running errands for my cokehead producer boss all afternoon. I remember staring at a traffic light across the street from a dilapidated strip mall when the dark spots first started to appear. Blinding pain shot behind my eyes. The light changed and I drove a few blocks but I couldn't shake the spots. I was sufficiently freaked out enough that I pulled over onto a side street near Ribs U.S.A. and parked under a tree. I sat with my eyes closed while I tried not to freak out about how I was going to drive back to the lot.

That still goes on record as the worst headache I've ever had, but the one that hit me 48 hours ago takes the silver medal. No amount of Motrin or Advil could relieve it and I could hardly keep my eyes open for more than a few minutes before having to close them to somewhat abate the excruciating pain. Add to that having a sore throat, no appetite whatsoever, and probably significant dehydration based on the color of my piss this morning and you have a very sick girl on your hands.

My mother stopped by yesterday to bring me some soup and a Barack Obama bumper sticker and was completely horrified by her sweaty, fevered, extremely disheveled daughter. Ever since, she's been imploring me to go get a flu shot.

"Especially with all those damn airplanes you sit on!" she reasoned. "Even your father got one and he won't take an aspirin!"

So, this Wednesday, I'll be humoring her and getting a goddamn flu shot.

I woke up this morning and the headache was gone along with the fever. The dull throat pain remains so I won't be indulging in any unpressed trichromes in the near future. Still, I'm grateful to even be running at 70% capacity. If I still felt like shit tomorrow my uninsured ass was going to have to go sit for five hours at the free clinic with all the illegal Mexicans.

And I'm really not a very good sick person.

Pauly is flying to Budapest tonight to cover the EPT Hungarian Open. Hungary is one of those "what the fuck" places one never thinks they'll wind up, and yet there he'll be. I researched some of the local cuisine and told him he'd better get ready for a lot of chicken paprika and ghoulash. Another thing I never knew about Budapest? It's actually two cities-- Buda and Pest divided by the Danube. When I told this to Mandy yesterday, she had the same "WTF?" look on her face that I had when Pauly told me.

Safe travels, my love. Viva la paprika.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sixteen Bars

The previous record was twelve and we intended to shatter it. That was on my second trip here, the first with my beloved, and at the meet-cute stages of my relationship with fine California medicinal marijuana. This was now my fifth trip to Amsterdam, my fourth with my beloved, and a fitting end to a month spent on European soil. I'd been sick my entire last week in London and what ended up being a 22-hour final table at the WSOP-Europe Main Event hadn't done anything to help my recovery along. Orange juice and a steady flow of speed-laden British cold medicines had been keeping me afloat and finally, by my second morning in Amsterdam, I began to feel human again.

Pauly had rented us an apartment for the week from some Lithuanian woman. The place was decorated in bright orange paint and matching orange IKEA textiles and had a small kitchen and a loft area for sleeping. We hit up a Dutch grocery store and braved the ham aisle and the dairy section, emerging with supplies to make bacon, egg, and kaas croissants. They turned out pretty tasty and gave us fuel to start our totally exhausting days of riding the tram, visiting coffeeshops, smoking pure joints of fine Dutch cannabis, wandering the streets, patronizing local restaurants and museums, and, of course checking out the hookers. Most of them looked bored as they passed the hours sitting in their windows-- chatting on their cell phones, text messaging, leafing through magazines, or nibbling on croissants.

After sleeping in until the early afternoon on the first few days, I was ready to leave the apartment on Thursday morning by 11 a.m. Our mission: sixteen hash bars in one day. I excitedly piled on some of my purchases from H&M including a bright peacock-blue wooly Euroscarf. Yeah, it's totally useless in Los Angeles, but I'm finding myself in Northern European cities more and more these days. Not to mention it was totally cute and only 9 Euros.

Bar #1: Barney's. Along with Grey Area, Barneys has the most consistently excellent product in Amsterdam and has the Cannabis Cups to prove it displayed in a large case behind the counter. We started off the day with a gram of Willie Nelson (€13)-- a sweet, fruity strain with such a lovely taste it's best smoked out of a bong or bowl. Sufficiently baked, we headed across the street for mushroom and cheese omelets at their sister location, Barney's Uptown. Though they don't sell weed there, you're welcome to smoke it while waiting for your food.

Bar #2: Dampkring Harlemmerstraat. The coffeeshop formerly known as Pink Floyd's was bought up by the Dampkring franchise last year and while it had retained its decor despite the name change upon our last visit, not a shred of the original remained this time. The tattered "Dark Side of the Moon" poster and acrylic rainbow-colored bongs had been replaced with plasma TVs scrolling video images of anything from flowers to a wet dog shaking itself off. The windows were backlit with neon green lighting and suede-upholstered banquettes paired with angular tables lined the walls . The product was as good as ever (we rolled a joint out of our €8.50 gram of NYC Diesel) but the old atmosphere was sorely missed.

Bar #3: Pablow Picasso. We stopped in to Pablow Picasso just for some drinks and Chinese poker in their homey loft area. I picked up 4 points on Pauly to take my score up to +15 overall while we indulged in a bowl of Grey Area's famed Grey Haze, dusted with my new favorite thing in the whole wide world-- unpressed trichromes. Blast. Off.

Bar #4: Siberie. We took a bit of a walk to sober up a bit and ended up at an old favorite, Siberie. A locals' place situated canal-side near Pauly's old place on the Singel, Siberie boasts great batches of an indica strain called Lavender. We picked up a gram for €9 and commenced another round of Chinese Poker where I gave back 3 points.

Bar #5: Amnesia. This is another locals' place that recently went under a major renovation. Again, I'm not a fan. The old Amnesia had a homey, hippie, neighborhood vibe-- red walls, lumpy pillows along the window seat, an open back door that gave it an airy, welcoming feel. Now it's dark and clubby, its eggplant walls lined with banquettes covered in chocolate mock-croc leather. Gold buddhas adorn nearly every surface and the back door is no more, blocked off by a sleek ebony bar with track lighting. The product, though? Still consistently good, if a little pricey. A gram of G13-Haze, one of my favorite strains to pick up in the 'Dam ran us €14.

Bar #6: Grey Area. Gram for gram, trichrome for trichrome, the best weed in Amsterdam. Covered in stickers, run by Americans and big enough only for three tables, Grey Area is home to the Grey Haze, otherwise known as "the best weed change100 has ever smoked." And I have smoked a lot of weed. I mean... a LOT of weed. Like I astound myself sometimes a lot of weed. We'd picked up an eighth of it the day before and still had plenty left over, so we decided to mix it up and go for a gram of the Recon, a strong, sweet L.A. Confidential hybrid that retailed for €11.50/gram. We enjoyed one bowl of it straight up in the house glass to get a taste, then added some unpressed trichromes to the second bowl. We rolled out of there and onto a tram bound for the Leidseplein and another half dozen bars.

Bar #7: The Rookies. Our first stop in the Leidseplein was Rookies, a large, homey coffeeshop that has amazing fresh mint tea. We sat outdoors in the brisk fall air and smoked a joint of Northern Lights (€7). At one point, a group of about ten cops walked past us without batting an eye. God bless the Netherlands.

Bar #8: Bulldog Leidseplein.
As 4:20 approached, we picked up an headed for the Bulldog. The Bulldog chain of coffeeshops is pretty cheesy and there is far better product to be found, but I like this one for its awesome enclosed porch that looks right out onto the square for some excellent people-watching. An increasingly ailing and sneezing Pauly indulged in a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and we celebrated the high holy hour with a bowl of Willie Nelson.

Bar #9: Rokerij Leidseplein. Lately I'm a nut for any derivative of the U.K. Cheese strain. My local dispensary had something called Swiss Cheese a few months back and it was to die for, so it's no surprise that I snapped up a gram of Big Bouddah Cheese (€12) when I saw it on the menu at Rokerij. Dark, clubby, candlelit and prone to blasting the untz untz music, we stayed long enough to smoke a joint of the Cheese and down another cup of fresh mint tea before moving on.

Bar #10: Dolphins. This coffeeshop was new to me, but Pauly had been here a few times before with Senor. I got a €10 gram of the house special, White Dolphin, which was light and uplifiting. The interior was done in an under-sea vibe with patches of coral and starfish adorning the walls along with painted murals of the ocean floor. Some reggae might have been a perfect accompaniment, but unfortunately, their loudspeakers spat out Top 40 hits like Brandy and Monica's "The Boy is Mine" and Usher's "Yeah." And the fact that I'm pulling those song titles out of my ass amazes me.

Bar #11: Dampkring. Yep, the original, which famously graced the big screen in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Twelve. It was packed as usual and we grabbed a couple of drinks at the trippy, mushroom-like bar while sucking down a bowl of some of that lovely Grey Haze.

Bar #12: Abraxas. On our last stop before breaking for dinner, we walked into Abraxas, a hip, multi-level place near Dam Square. I scored a €13 gram of Cream Cheese and it turned out to be the best strain we'd tried all day. The unpressed trichromes were practically unnecessary with this stuff and we settled into one of the upstairs couches for a relaxing, pre-dinner smoke.

Bar #13: The Jolly Joker. Our bellies full, we crossed the Damrak into the red light district. After checking out the hookers, we arrived at Nieuwmarkt Square, a little oasis of bars and sidewalk cafes amidst a tawdry area best known for places like "Sexy Land." We hit up the Jolly Joker and enjoyed a pre-rolled joint of their surprisingly strong house weed before adjoining to our next stop.

Bar #14: Hill Street Coffeeshop. All lavender and white and floral, Hill Street was pretty girly for a hash bar. It looked like it should be serving organic teas and sandwiches with the crusts cut off rather than bags of hash and weed. Again we went for a pre-rolled joint of the house weed and by the end of this stick, I was pretty well blotto. But now was not the time to quit. It was time to rally!

Bar #15: 420 Cafe. An oldie but a goodie. The place you always end up at at the end of a good bender. Where everybody knows your name and there's always a bag of NY Diesel waiting for you. We were still one away from being done, but 420 Cafe was on the way to our last stop, and a visit was practically compulsory. 420 used to be one of the few fabulous places in the 'Dam that served up tall frosty glasses of Amstel along with an excellent selection of cannabis, but those pesky Dutch laws ended that fun a little over a year ago. We went for broke-- rolling our entire gram of Diesel into a single joint, dusted with unpressed trichromes. If that won't fuck you up, I really don't know what will.

Bar #16: Abraxas Spuistraat. Our last stop for the evening was the new Abraxas branch situated right around the corner from the orange apartment. Hardly able to sit up straight anymore, I sat at an outside table, my wooly scarf wrapped thrice around my neck as we smoked our final stick of the night. It hadn't even taken twelve hours, but we'd made it to sixteen bars.

"I could do twenty. Easily" boasted Pauly as he sucked down a hit. I weaved around in my seat, my eyelids growing heavy despite the cool night air.

Perhaps on the next trip. But for tonight, the sweet sixteen was all right with me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Win, and the Aftermath

I tend to play better after being on the road. One of the many by-products of covering tournament poker is having the opportunity to watch the world's best players at work. Their fearlessness rubs off on me. I recognize spots where I could be playing more aggressively, inducing bluffs, check-raising lighter than I normally might. I not only see where I might play too tight, but I better understand when that style is not only necessary, but optimal. I also tend to play better right after a win. And during this stint on the road, I finally notched a long-awaited win.

I stare at chips all day when I'm on the road. Not money, just chips. Most of the time I forget that actual money bought them and isn't that really what we're is supposed to do? Playing online, watching that cash balance rise and fall with every hand, every buy-in, every tournament finished out of the money, contemplating all the hoops that require jumping through to replace that balance should it dwindle to zero-- it's that much harder to blur the line. But adding the win to that equation, the soft, inviting cushion of a healthy online balance mixed with the injection of confidence that the win supplies... optimal conditions are created.

Going east to west on a nine-hour time change is far more taxing than its reverse. I've been up before five the last four mornings and have spent many of those darkened hours playing online while I wait for some sort of breakfast-serving facility to open. I haven't had a long stretch of hours to play in quite a while. So I played tournaments, an area I haven't concentrated on in some time. I wondered if I even had a prayer in adapting to the mega-field low-buyin MTT of 2008, seemingly stacked with 17-year old Scandis who three-bet every other hand.

But wait a minute... rewind. What was this "win" anyway?

God bless the motherfuckin' Run Good Challenge. I miraculously took down the Grand Final and the $1,235 first place prize. Ship. It. Holla. It was an excellent way to spend my night off during the WSOP-E Main Event. Pauly also made the final and finished fifth. Poker Listings put on an excellent and entertaining event-- thanks to Matt and Dan and I look forward to defending my crown in the next series.

But seriously. I hadn't won a decent sum like that in poker in a lonnnnng time. I didn't play another hand after that while I was in Europe, leaving Pauly to grind it out at limit hold'em in the morning hours. But in the pale morning light of Los Angeles with a steaming cup of tea next to my laptop, I thought, "why the hell not."

I entered a $22 Turbo MTT on Full Tilt and finished five off the money. Then a $12x180 turbo on Poker Stars where I ended up busting two off the money. Next was the Stars $11 rebuy where I was 169th of 2,774, and would have had a top 10 stack had the internet not chosen the moment someone pushed at my A-A all in pre-flop to crap out. The next day I hit up the 11R again but only outlasted 2/3 of the field, but finished 69/881 in a KO tourney on Full Tilt for another small cash. I played the FTP $2K guaranteed Razz tourney that Otis has won several times and finished seven off the money while simultaneously going deep in the $32K Guaranteed, ending up 110/1539. And then this morning, I played the $30K Guaranteed on Stars and notched my deepest finish yet of the week, 47/3411.

Eight tournaments, four cashes, three near-bubbles, one mid-tourney bust.

I sound like every second-tier live pro bitching to anyone who will listen about how their WSOP is going.

But unlike them, I'm kind of happy with these results. I'm super-rusty. I didn't lose money And I still have some game. And watching 20-year old German kids in hoodies check-raise each other apparently still helps me find my mojo.

* * * * *

As the British Airways 747 flew past Downtown L.A. at 3,000 feet, I actually smiled. The streetlights were coming on. The sun, dipping into the Pacific. The cars, idling on the freeway. My father's, one of them.

However temporary, it was good to be home.