Monday, October 08, 2007

Eat a Peach

By Pauly
New York City

I missed playing online poker. Not just the physical act of playing, but also the entire ritual behind my sessions. It had been almost a full year since I would be blessed with two straight weeks in New York City without having to hit the road and go somewhere. One year. That's how long it's been since I had regular chunks of unstructured time where I could lurk around the fish-infested waters for several straight hours of online poker.

I prefer to write early in the mornings (4am to 11am), which leaves the rest of the day free for other activities including poker. During those halcyon obsessive-compulsive poker days, I played during three different times of day. Late afternoon/early evening (4pm to 7pm). Prime Time (8pm to 11pm). And late nights (1am to 4am). Sometimes I played all three; hitting and running during two spots and grinding out a lengthy session into the wee hours of the morning.

It is essential to have a clear and peaceful mind before you do anything in life. Driving a car. Attending a sales meeting. Having a family dinner. Playing poker. Especially poker, where there's your money is on the line and your opponents make a living from your mistakes and your lack of mental well being. I always look for the tilty guys at the table to pick on. Tilt implies that they are not making accurate decisions. There's my edge. Fleece the weak.

If you sit down and play poker after getting into a fight with your girlfriend or if you're on life tilt for some other reason (family, work, society), you're not playing optimally. Obviously, you should not be playing. But the availability of online poker makes it so easy for anyone to play, which means that more often than not, your opponents are playing distracted.

That's why I would have a routine to ease myself into playing and to make sure I was in the right frame of mind. Whether it's poker or writing, before I can do either, I make sure I have a nice smoke. Then I seek out a comfortable place to sit for a lengthy amount of time. It sounds pretty obvious, but I know friends with laptops that like to sit in different places (like in their kitchen, sitting on the couch, lying in bed, or even at Starbucks). That's fine for an hour or so, but for a serious grind out of a session, you need to be sitting in one area where you'll comfortable. If you are playing a tournament with a five minute break every hour, you have to maximize your break time and be close to a bathroom or kitchen. In a NYC apartment/studio everything is close by.

Next, I make sure there's no distractions. The door is closed. The cell phone ringer is off. The AIM and Skype is off. Heck, sometimes I shut down the entire player chat on the site where I'm playing. No distractions. 100% focus.

That's been my problem. I'm a multitasker. I can watch TV, play online poker, text back and forth with friends, and answer emails. I play my best poker when I limit the distractions, block out the external world, and focus on the task at hand.

Music is the next step and the most vital in my book. Music is the soundtrack to life and I always have music playing around me as much as possible. When I write. When I play poker. When I'm on a plane or waiting for one in an airport terminal. Music is an essential when I'm driving or even riding shotgun in Change100's car as she speeds through the hills of Hollyweird. Sometimes, I watch sports with the sound off and music blasting. I like my commentary far better than those nimrods on TV. I can't sit in a bar with a jukebox that is not playing songs. I immediately go over and feed the machine a few bucks to hear something. I think I've watched to many Martin Scorsese films.

The right kind of music is important. There's music that's great for playing in the background during dinner parties. There's dancing music. There's make out music. There's driving music. There's workout music. There's smoking weed music. There's poker music. There's writing music. And there's sitting in the dark totally depressed and wanting to die music.

When selecting the right genre of music, I want something that I don't have to think about. Sometimes I simply hit shuffle. But then you get a song or two that just doesn't fit and then you start skipping those, thereby messing with the entire philosophy of the shuffle. Making playlists is the key. I have a few specifically for writing, driving, running, and poker.

For poker, I usually want to hear something where I could join in and start singing during down points, but it also has great groove which keeps me focused on the task at hand. I seek out full albums to listen to. That's an hour or so. I set aside three or four and have them ready.

The tough part is finding an entire album where you can listen to everything without having to get up and skip to the next track. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis comes to mind. That gets a ton of play time when I write or when I play poker. Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan is another favorite of mine along with American Beauty from the Grateful Dead. Over the summer in Las Vegas, I found myself writing a lot to Note Bleu: The Best of the Blue Note Years 1998-2005 by Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Since my return to New York City, I have been religiously listening to Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers Band. I had not picked up that amazing piece of music in several years and forgot what I was missing. I could write a book about the significance of that epic album from 1972.

Eat a Peach was recorded in the year before my birth and released just five months before I was born. Lead guitarist Duane Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on October 29, 1971, several months before it's release. Eat a Peach was a mixture of left-over tracks (such as One Way Out and Mountain Jam) from their previous double album Live at the Fillmore East. Duane Allman's electrifying guitar work appears on several of the new tracks, which they managed to get down in the studio before his fatal accident. The rest of the album was finished after his death.

For many years, music fans believed that the reason the album was called Eat a Peach was because Duane Allman was run over by a peach truck in Macon, Georgia. Although Duane Allman died three hours later in surgery due to internal injuries, he didn't collide with a peach truck, rather it was a construction truck. The "eat a peach" reference originated from a comment he made in an 1970 interview with Ellen Mandel from Good Times Magazine. She asked him, "How are you helping the revolution?" The always slick Duane replied, "Every time I'm in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace."

A bizarre and ironic tragedy hit the band 13 months after Duane Allman's death. Bass player Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia, just a few blocks away from the spot where Duane crashed. For decades, rumors circulated around that Oakley died when he collided with a watermelon truck. Much like the rumors about Duane's accident involving a peach truck, Oakley's fatal crash was not caused by a runaway watermelon truck, rather he was run over by a city bus. Fruit trucks did not kill two members of the Allman Brothers Band, even though it's a great myth.

Eat a Peach has a strong historical significance for me. It many ways it could be used at different times as a soundtrack in my life. Although Eat a Peach was not the first ABB record I ever bought, it was the one I listened to the most in college. I borrowed the CD from my friend Wilkins, who lived at the end of the hall on my freshman dorm during my college days in Atlanta. Wilkins was a good ol' boy from G-Vegas and was one of the best guitar players I had ever met. He played in several bands and taught me how to play electric guitar. He was also responsible for turning me onto bands such as Widespread Panic and Phish.

Anyway, I borrowed Eat a Peach and made a copy on a cassette tape. I couldn't fit the entire thing on one side and ended up taping Mountain Jam on Side B. Mountain Jam was an epic 33:43 song. If I could pick one song to get a lap dance to... it would be Mountain Jam... almost thirty-four minutes in length. If there's one song I want played at my funeral, it's Mountain Jam.

Mountain Jam is not just a really long song without any lyrics or an improvisational jam. It's a journey and an original masterpiece of music where you realize the amazing abilities Duane Allman was blessed with as a guitar player. He was a visionary and we were robbed when he died at a young age. Only 23. This is the same hippie redneck kid who outplayed Eric Clapton on Layla by Derek and the Dominoes.

Duane Allman had a unique sound then and still does today. Allman was heavily influenced by Miles Davis and John Coltrane and often tried to imitate Coltrane's saxophone with his guitar. He played slide guitar using an old Coricidin bottle, originally used to hold cough syrup. The tiny Coricidin bottles fit perfectly around his finger. The slide enhanced his already one of a kind sound.

I listened to Eat a Peach on a constant loop when I first moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn in the mid-1990s after college. Filled with 20s angst, I was an extremely angry and confused individual. I wanted to be a writer and felt the creative energies pulling me in that direction, but I had the beginnings of a successful on Wall Street as a bond trader. Money, comfort, and stability did not appeal to me then and I made the difficult decision to sacrifice those things and wander on the road less traveled. The transition didn't come without heartache and the bittersweet melodies of Eat of Peach kept me sane in an insane world.

When I moved to Seattle, Eat of Peach followed me. Sadly, it would not leave Seattle. I sold my copy at a used bookstore a year later when I ran into financial difficulties. Before I got rid of it, I recall many fond memories writing a screenplay with Eat of Peach blasting at top volume in my tiny room. Eat of Peach also played in the background on my porch during sessions of supercool banality as I watched the rain fall with my slacker housemates, while we drank cheap beer, smoked cigarettes, and complained how we were all broke and uninspired artisans of one type or another.

I endured a dark and dismal summer of 2003 and sunk into the depths of despair. I managed to write my way through it and penned parts of my novel The Blind Kangaroo while listening to a copy of Eat of Peach that a friend was kind enough to burn for me.

Although some individual selections from the album made it into my musical rotation, I had pretty much put the entire album aside. I rediscovered it upon my return to NYC and it's been playing nonstop... from beginning to end... since that moment of reconnection.

As soon as I played the first few notes of Ain't Wasting Time No More, I dove head-first into a psychedelic pool of flashbacks. So many memories of my teen-aged years. My 20s. My early 30s. And my recent travels.

Last Sunday morning, the sunshine felt like rain.... are the lyrics from Ain't Wasting Time No More, the first song on the album. From the very beginning, the boys are setting the mood. Sure it's sunny out there, but I'm fuckin' miserable so it might as well be raining. The opening song has so many influential lyrics that I could go on and on all day writing about them.

Even the title of the opening track on Eat a Peach gets me all fired up. Ain't Wasting Time No More. Whether it's writing, poker, or life... that's a perfect a mantra. Duane Allman died when he was 23. Just another spiritual nugget to remind you that life is short. Too short to be bummed out or depressed or making excuses. Whenever I hear a bit of that song, I'm instantly reminded that it's time to step up and do something meaningful with my life.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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