Six Months of One, Half a Year of Another

It's a real, live, exact, calendariacly significant day. I officially began my trip on July 31st last year, I even blogged about it. That's the "when" of the story. Back then I imagined I would be extending my undomiciled existence for "five months or longer", well as of an hour ago I am back in the Bay Area (Oakland to be exact) and since this is where I will be staying for some unforeseeable time into the future, I guess it is time to declare the wandering aspect of this journey to be complete. There is still more to write, both here and in one of several stories I am working on. But for now the "Where Am I?" updates can abate. In the next couple of weeks I will be settling into an apartment in Berkeley and perhaps even clearing out my storage closet, perhaps.

A recap and acknowledgement of the trip will follow later this week. A full six months on the road has provided me with lots of writing juice and has made me much more aware of who and where I am in this newbie of a decade. For now --- I am as home as I can geographically imagine at this point on my personal segment of the time-space continuum.

Looking forward to who & what's next and reflecting on where I have just been. and, of course, there is . . . why?

Not My Fault

For all of you flat-landers that is a picture of the San Andreas Fault, upon which I am resting tonight and which I have crossed and will recross several more times in the next 24 hours. I am putting all of that L.A. nonsense behind me as I have passed through the maws of the City of Angles and am now firmly pointed towards the City by the Bay.

I will say as my final word on L.A. 2010 - - - I was right. I spent many happy and productive years in the South Bay of Los Angeles but of all the places I have lived, this is clearly the one I cannot go home to. I felt out of touch and out of spirit both anticipating and actualizing the L.A. experience. I now remember feeling the same the several previous times I have been back since my move from Hermosa Beach to San Francisco in 1991.

Ah well, what's the loss of one megalopolis when there are so many. Besides we will be making the movie in Las Vegas not on a back lot in Burbank. So what's one little monster from L.A. amidst all the splendor that has been this journey so far. A few more days and I can unpack somewhere with a view of the Bay. And... I will turn my attention to posts with a bit more heft as some have requested; enough of this wallowing in the muck and mire of decades past.

You know... now that I ponder the lay of the land, maybe it is My fault.

Welcome to L.A.

I have written before about the strange, quirky and upsetting film "Welcome to L.A.". My review and recommendation remains the same:

The most profoundly affecting movie I have ever experienced. This is not a recommendation, as most people who have seen it, really hate it. But I had a unique experience with this film and it has stayed with me for thirty years. Cast includes: Sissy Spacek, Keith Carradine, Sally Kellerman, Geraldine Chaplin, Harvey Keitel, Lauren Hutton, Richard Baskin and Denver Pyle. Robert Altman produced the film.

I am, however, seeing some connections to my current push/pull around visiting the City of Angels. I have delayed twice now and have finally decided to skip into the souther suburbs tomorrow for a lunch with old friends and a dinner with Audrey. Whether I last a full 24 hours or not remains to be seen.

There are a couple of story threads I really want to brush by to get the particulars smoothed out. But I would not be surprised if my next blog posts from somewhere north of the San Fernando Valley.

My left hand says get out of there,
My right says it doesn't matter anymore.

Can't Go Home Again. Yes you can! No you can't!!

"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time — back home to the escapes of Time and Memory." - Thomas Wolfe

I find myself in a strange, even uncomfortable place as I near the end of my journey. I have been "home" to Michigan (1948-1975 & 2000-2006) with no discomfort. I have seen family in new and old places and many friends in towns and cities throughout the country, all with relative ease and comfort. But as I approach Los Angeles my home for many years (1975-1991), I find it unwelcoming.

It's like a new pair of wool suit pants. Nothing feels right, movement is irritating and you really don't want to sit down. In fact, all you want to do is get away from the discomfort and move on. That, of course, was not my feel of L.A. when I lived there or I never would have stayed so long. The last several times I was in Hermosa, Redondo and Manhattan beaches I was just as uneasy. Maybe there is some truth to this "you can't go home again" stuff. Some places are best left in the past to hold memories but not to be revisited, resurrected or unearthed. Methinks the great L.A. basin is one of those places for me.

So I am going to make a quick pass through, grab a meal or two with old friends and get out of town and back up north where the temperatures are cooler and the earth for me, much warmer.

All Work and No Omaha

To those loyal readers who have been starved for a poker story--today I accommodate you. Everyone else--move along, there is nothing to see here. (For the non-poker players, who read on, simultaneous translation is available on the Jargon Channel)

I have made it as far as Arizona on the final quarter of my trip and I am hunkered down for a couple of days in Scottsdale near Casino Arizona. So, yes there is some poker playin' goin' on Lucy. It's been nearly three weeks since the Boyz were in Mississippi. Amy, Randy & I sorely missed an Omaha fix in Biloxi, but I was determined to play some four card poker before the trip was over.

This is not a bad beat story, although there was one terrible decision on my part. Early saturday afternoon the poker room had over 30 tables in action with two Omaha8's going. But the list was long, so long that I was sure they would open a third table. I hopped on the O8 list and, just in case, the even longer 4/8 hold'em as well.

Sure enough, they called the Omaha interest list but couldn't get nine takers, shortly they did open a new hold'em table and I took a seat. This was a typical no-fold'em table with 3 to 7 players seeing the flop. The elderly gentleman two to my left saw the first nine flops and all nine rivers as well; then he rebought for his second $100. This had all the signs of a juicy table with a monster fish and several dull toothed carp chasing him.

For a full hour I played only one hand, my un-raised big blind in the first round. I won nothing but was only down the $12 for the blinds. Our fish was bleeding chips and had just taking out his 4th c-note, when they called my Omaha table. I was torn, he was down three hundred in an hour, but he said as he pulled out his cash: "This is my last chance today." So I moved to the O8 table, which was immediately behind the 4/8 table and I happened to take a seat where I could see the generous gentleman who immediately runner-runnered a big pot, which meant he would be around longer. Hmm, maybe I should have stayed. Remember, I got exactly none of his first $300 and was card dead and just not having any fun.

The Omaha table was lively, way more fun than getting rotten cards in the hold'em game. Over on my abandoned first table, the "last chance today" gentleman proceeded to lose all chips he had won in that one suck-out pot and then went on to pull a grand total of $1200 out of his wallet in a little under four and a half hours. The player who took my seat, bought in for a single rack of whites and was up nearly five hundred bucks when Old Faithful finally left the table.

Oh, I had a lot of fun at the Omaha table and managed just over a one big blind an hour profit. Sometimes it's not about how you play your cards or how you play your opponents but simply where you sit down and when you stand up.

I would just like to say: Doh!

promotional photo of me and Mikey at '09 WSOP
photo credit to MeanGene

Whence Westerly Weather

I have run before the weather several times on my current journey. I ducked ahead of a Rockies early fall storm in October, hunkered down during a three day inundation in Indiana, raced south before DC was hit with a pre-holiday snow storm. But this morning I faced a due westerly course into the massive east-moving storm that is drenching the entire southwest U.S.

My early morning start from Fort Stockton, Texas found a deceptive 50 degree sunny day blossoming. But the weather channel had warned and re-warned me of what lay ahead. After only an hour on the road, 40 mile-an-hour winds were huffing and gusting to 60 and were pushing hard at a perfect right angle to I-10. The big rigs were actually slowing down and I am not one to ignore road veterans, even when the posted speed limit is a tantalizing 80 mph. Out there in west Texas the tumbleweed gets a real workout in such weather, for about an hour the interstate resembled Tim Burton directed game of Frogger.

Road hour three began with a lite grey horizon and the steady advance of the moisture. Whether it was my 70ish mph western progress or the 30+ mph crawl of the storm, a confrontation was coming. I pondered just how my personal the "two trains leave the station" thought problem was effected by the 800+ mile an hour rotation of the earth in these latitudes. Physics wizs may weigh in with comments below.

When the rain finally hit around Sierra Blanca; there was no need for intermediate speed wipers. For the next four hours it rained, drizzled, poured, sprinkled and then as I crossed the continental divide and the temperature lowered to 35°, it nearly sleeted. The raindrops got viscous and nearly lumpy on the windshield but the downward altitude slide into western New Mexico brought only more liquid and no white stuff.

Tonight I rest in Willcox, Arizona before heading into Phoenix for the weekend. Here's hoping the predicted snow stays above 4,000 feet for one more night.

Movie Review: Avatar

There are simply some movies that should be seen on a big screen. Then there are a few films that must be seen on IMAX. I mean is there a single Woody Allen movie that doesn't play just fine at 31 inches diagonally? But Avatar is at the other end of the spectrum, so the consensus review from down here in Austin is:

-we are glad we saw it;
-very happy we stood in the sold out line at the IMAX;
-agree that the special effects and cgi were at the current limits of movie-making production;
-story? Oh right. Redemption plot #6, good vs. evil version #4, and man versus nature #2;
-it would have made a much better two hour movie;

Then there is the matter of direct rip-offs of other movies:
-Alien, of course; but didn't Sigourney look good in blue-green!
-Dances With Wolves; only the really anthropologically corny parts.
-The Mission; the entire story is there and told with a much less heavy hand;
-32 animated dragon fantasy films, none of us have seen.
-Gorillas in the Mist or did you miss the shots of her with the little blue kids.
-Lord of the Rings, if only for how to put tens of thousands too many bullets, arrows, spears and explosions in an otherwise entertaining movie.
-Emerald Forest, well because they did it first.

The floating mountains reminded me of several Yes albums and the glowing forests, that's what windowpane is for.

Here's hoping James Cameron sticks to one movie every decade, in the meantime he can learn the meaning of the word - edit. However, and this is a big however, I am sure the concept of 3-D films in the future will owe a lot of thanks to what Cameron did with Avatar.


There is a huge difference between writing a book and writing a screenplay. I am not sure if the difficulties are decreased or increased if one is attempting to create the script from a book they have already written. What I can say for sure is that the "play" in screenplay is a lot more fun than the book was at any point.

Spending a week plus here in Austin with Amy and Eric has meant that Aimlessly and I have had a lot of time to think through and talk through the status of our joint effort to turn Check Raising the Devil into a movie. I am strongly of the opinion that we have a solid 120 page draft. Amy firmly believes the first 40 pages she was edited are indeed worthy and the rest is "shrink drafty." She may have a point.

As to the process, if you have read the book, you know it is completely in the first person of Mike "The Mouth". That format was both defining and limiting. I admit to being opposed to it but every other person involved in the decision making process was for it, soest. In the screenplay, on the other hand, being able to add a character/observer/commentator at any juncture is remarkably freeing. I particularly enjoyed adding "The Shady Character" as our meth dealer on the rail at Binion's. Plus we have the freedom of having any random player at any poker table say what you and I and every 2+2 forum weenie wants to say to Mike. Very freeing.

In the end, this may or may not make it to the big silver screen. All I can promise is that if we get this film made, poker players will walk out of the theatre saying: "Finally a poker movie that got the game right!"

Oh and about that academy award. We have exactly a 0.003% better chance of being nominated than you do; unless you have an unfinished screenplay in bottom desk drawer, in that case it's a dead heat.


dol-drums [dohl-druh-mz]
-noun (used with a plural verb)
1. a state of inactivity or stagnation, as in business or art.
2. the doldrums,
a. a belt of calms and light baffling winds north of the equator between the northern and southern trade winds in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
b. the weather prevailing in this area.
3. a dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits.

I can't actually say that I am in the doldrums, but I am feeling a bit becalmed. After months of travel and interaction with many people and many germ carrying poker chips, toll tickets, books, menus and the other paraphernalia of life; I have finally caught a small cold. Nothing serious and several rainy days in Austin have allowed me to take to a swaddled state supplemented with over-the-counter poultices and unguents.

I have also made two hospital visits to an old and dear friend, who had surgery this week. She of thirty-five years friendship with too long gaps in the last decade or so. Some of my feelings of becalming clearly have arisen from this reconnection.

Additionally, the final leg or legs of my circumnavigation are not falling into place as has the previous five or so months of my travels, so I guess I am just a half-a-bubble off these days. But this too shall pass.

Amy and I are taking advantage of some face-to-face time to tussle with the intricacies of the Matusow screenplay. Tis always good to share a large sectional with Amy and send email attachments back and forth with comma splices and tense corrections. Seems like olde times.

Planning on an IMAX experience this weekend (Avatar, of course) followed by some original Salt Lick Barbeque.

Next week, heading on down the western biways.

Lest We Forget

Before I forget, on our recent Poker Boyz excursion to the cardrooms of Biloxi some of us were able to reconnect with a long lost member of the group. Zipman had not been seen in over four years. Zippy lives in Slidell, Louisiana and we have been ragging on him pretty good about missing the last half-a-dozen outings. Because he lives so close to Biloxi, he drove up for several tournaments and lots of laughs. At one point, the question was raised as to why we had seen so little of him since '05. His answer reminded me and I would like to remind you.

He said simply: "We had a city to rebuild."

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of southern Mississippi and Louisiana. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded and huge sections of the lower 9th ward remain as they were on that fateful day.

The Bush administration handled Katrina and her aftermath about as well as if Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle were in charge. We all remember the thousands stranded at the SuperDome while our FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) did nothing. The federal government has remained oblivious to the disaster that was New Orleans. Not something that would have been tolerated after the L.A. quake or if a natural disaster had hit Chicago or Boston. I guess the Civil War isn't really over yet.

But. . . I have heard that a democrat is now in the White House and I believe he made some promised on the campaign trail to the citizens of New Orleans. How is that working out for you folks still in plywood and duct tape trailers nearly five years later. I know, you didn't get the trailers for over a year, so you really can't say you have been stuck in them all that long. I mean wasn't Iowa nice that first year?

Bottom line, we did more for the victims of the SouthEast Asia tsunami than we have done for the American citizens who lost their homes, jobs and families in greater New Orleans. Remember this April when you pay your taxes, you need to live someplace where they speak English without an accent or at least have a powerful Senator or two.

Thanks for reminding us Bob: "We had a city to rebuild."

Psychoanalysis by DVD-R

Being a transient means that you can fall behind on technological advances that require one to have some form of geographic stability. Or, to put it more bluntly, you don't purchase big honking tech equipment when you live out of a car. I haven't owned a television or the up-to-date accoutrements of the visual/video medium for about five years. This doesn't mean that I don't watch the boob tube, I am not that evolved. However, when I indulge, I watch what is currently playing on any of the 200+ channels my current host's system might have available.

I know, my teenage nephew thinks I will walk into a Blockbuster and try to rent a VHS tape of Caddyshack II.

On my extended visitations over the last six months, I have noticed that nearly everyone, who is anyone, has gotten on the DVD-R bandwagon. No one but us Luddites remains a slave to the mundane scheduling of the network or cable advertising execs. At least one person in each DVD-R household as semi-mastered the intricacies of the new technology, so that now anyone can sit down day or night and view from their own pre-selected favorites list.

But beware of the technological backlash. On one of my stopovers I found weeks and weeks of The Biggest Loser and Bridezillas, not to mention enough Apprentice and American Idol to make you want to shove Donald Trump's hairpiece down Simon Cowell's throat. So here are my thoughts on committing your tv addictions to semi-public format.

First, I merely felt it might be embarrassing should your television viewing preferences become widely known, but that has been semi-true for years. Now, however, there is evidence to impeach your "only PBS and Discovery" channel lies. On deeper reflection I came up with even more potential uses for this tekkie evidence trail.

When someone comes into therapy, we need some basics about their life situation. Age, gender (if not obvious), martial status, educational level and, of course, the alleged presenting issues. I would also like some insight into a client's head, which I would like to get fast and dirty without their intervening avoidance behavior and obfuscation. And now I have it!

Bring me your DVD-R list. This will tell me more than fourteen sessions about your mother and why your spouse doesn't understand you. Your boss may be a jerk but you watch The Office. Your weight issues could have something to do with unending episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. And you seem to be getting relationship advice from the Kardashians.

This new information could revolutionize the counseling and therapy industry but for now my advice to all of you DVD-R addicts out there: Learn to erase and do it now!

Sorry but your time is up. Please pay the hermaphrodite out front. See you next week.

Arctic Austin

I have now traveled three-quarters of the way around the country passing thru nearly half the states and yet it took coming to Texas to experience truly cold weather. The Arctic Blast that is keeping the Weather Channel in viewers this last week brought official temperatures into the high teens last night on our arrival here in Austin. My unofficial blog thermometer registered 12° this morning. No matter, typical January temps here in the heart of you know are 60°-40° or thereabouts, so the environs will be warming soon or so I am told.

Biloxi was a great stop. The five members of the Poker Boyz who made it had stories to tell and laughter to more than compensate for our dwindling card skills. Congrats to all who made final tables and to Randy for the one big win of the week. We also ran into a surprising number of old poker road friends and our favorite poker management team: Johnny Grooms and Ken Lambert. The Beau Rivage Hotel & Casino is now highly recommended by all.

As for the continuing trip, I expect to linger in Texas for a week or so and then begin the slow progression west. Further stopovers are still in the state of potentiality, I am considering a L.A. sidetrip to visit friends and gather some more fodder for the writing mill.

This next week, Amy and I will be heads down on the Matusow screenplay, with hopes of progress and insight into the vicissitudes of the Hollywood movie mindset. I am going to accompany her to the Austin screenplay group and perhaps to her home game as well. And there will some catch-up blog posts for the lost time in the bowels of the Biloxi poker rooms. Until then...
Texas Wall Art by raganart.com

The Western Turn

After many months traveling to points north, than east and further east and recently to the south... our wanderings have now taken a final directional change, my head has turned back to the west. The return has begun but not without several more interesting stops along the way.

A quorum of the PokerBoyz have assembled at the Beau Rivage here in Biloxi, Mississippi for several days of camaraderie, story telling and yes, even some poker. Amy is in from Austin, Mike is down from Minneapolis; Randy and I made the drive from Satellite Beach yesterday. For absent members of the gang, we as a group want to wish you well and to announce that last evening we did share a meal and a far amount of ridicule with Zippy. Yes, he lives and breaths and was here in all his flesh. He has not been playing much of the game, but will be joining us for several evening events this week.

Apparently, despite the check-in line last night, occupancy at the Beau is down; so we have all been upgraded to the Gulf view rooms. A pleasant site this morning to watch a sunrise over the water. Temperatures will be a bit nippy while we are here, however, except to drive to another casino for a tournament, there was not a lot of outside activity planned for the week. On today's agenda -- poker. Those seeking meaningful insight into the universe should stop back next week.

Who ordered the fried cat fish?

A Handy House Guest

Consider this an advertising resume for my next cross-country visitation trek. I am not what anyone would call a handyman. My solution to nearly all household repairs involves the use of the yellow pages. Recently, however, upon solving a niggling fix-it problem with some outside-of-the-box logic; I was humorously nominated as a superior hands-off household consultant. Which struck me as interesting because as a visiting house guest of some duration, I do become involved in what can only be described as a --- Travelin' Honey-Do List, including over the past several months:

-winterizing and wrapping a hot tub;
-rearranging a living room (and putting it all back);
-liquor and wine shopping for a holiday party of sixty;
-emptying a dozen or more litter boxes;
-assistant cat claw clipping;
-watering two vegetable patches;
-drip irrigation repair (failed attempt at)
-picking up or delivering assorted personages to train, bus & air transport hubs;
-clean-up after bladder control challenged dog;
-installation of tv satellite dish;
-leaf raking;
-chimney sweeping;
-recliner foot rest repair (consultation only)
-bird feeder relocation;
-big screen tv relocation, re-relocation, re-re-relocation;
-six bag Goodwill closet clearance (w/ psychiatric support at no additional charge);
-re-tracing route home from bank and finding lost $124;
-re-caning patio furniture (abject failure);
-re-covering escaped cat (twice);
-changing many light bulbs (it's a height thing);
-lots and lots of slicing, dicing and cooking;
-tree trimming (security & safety support only);
-toilet tank repair with coat hanger and Bic lighter;
-mattress flipping (no really);
-digital television system reset;
-saltwater fish tank servicing (kibbitz only)
-bi-annual throw rug laundry marathon (3 day event);
-trimming night blooming jasmine vines;
-finding lost objects based on vague description;
-finding lost objects based on reverse OCD affliction;
-relocation of oversized slate King Arthur round table;
-swimming pool servicing;
-neighbor servicing (oh wait, that's a different post)
-the infamous crawl in the attic, air-conditioning duct fiasco;

I are a good houseguest, invitations now being accepted for 2011.

ID this photo Joe, I did change the tag

Where Did You Begin?

Being the first morning of a new calendar year and a 'full of promises' decade; I was pondering where I had geographically begun previous years and prior decades. How about you?

2010 begins in Satellite Beach, Florida

2009/2007 - Las Vegas, Nevada

2006/2001 - Ann Arbor, Michigan

2000 - Forestville, California

1999/1994 - San Francisco, California

1993 - Weed, California

1990 - Hollywood, California

1987 - Redondo Beach, California

1986 - Hermosa Beach, California

1984 - F.F.F.F.

1982 - airplane over Bolivia

1980 - Kona, Hawaii

1974 - Hell, Michigan

1972 - Boston, Massachusetts

1970 - Kalamazoo, Michigan

1965 - Dexter, Michigan

1949 - Detroit, Michigan

2011 - ? ? ?

2020 - ? ? ?
a plug nickel if you can identify the map at the top