Monday, April 14, 2008

Nothing to Do and Nowhere to Go

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

One of my all time favorite flicks is Office Space. For the majority of my adult life, I did everything possible to avoid working in an office. Sure, I had two stints on Wall Street and we worked in a bullpen which we all called the trenches, where we sat behind multiple screens in a long row with other suits. But that hardly qualifies as a typical office environment.

During the majority of the last two decades on Earth, I held a variety of jobs for the sole purpose of paying my rent. I was content with living paycheck to paycheck and just getting by. For most of my angst-ridden 20s, I struggled to find my voice as a writer and could not support myself with the written word. I never allowed my occupation to define my existence. Rather, my party-fueled 1990s was peppered by a cornucopia of meaningless jobs. Heck, I never thought that I'd live to see 30 years old, so I never bothered to pursue a position where I couldn't walk out on the spot if the job sucked or if my boss was acting like a pea-brained twerp on a power trip.

The majority of those jobs didn't have a 401k or health insurance. I was mostly paid in cash and they were simple jobs which I often performed under some sort of inebriation either herbal or pharmaceutical. One of my college friends, Dutch, had a system where he arrived at every job interview stoned to the gourd. That way, if the off chance he was hired, he could get high before work everyday and his employers would think that he was... normal.

Some of the jobs I've had included being a bicycle messenger, runner on the floor of the Commodities Exchange, grave digger, ice cream man, museum security guard, process server, plumber's assistant, adult video store manager, adult film cameraman, telemarketer, art handler, janitor, bookie, bartender, barback, dish washer, roadie, receptionist, ticket scalper, used book seller, house painter, office temp, proofreader, sales clerk, and museum tour guide.

I even worked with the Census Bureau in 2000. I was hired because I lied on the application and said that I was fluent in Spanish. The result? I was assigned to count residents in Spanish speaking neighborhoods. No one answered their doors. They didn't want to speak to me because they all thought I was from the INS.

Most of those occupations are absent from my resume for obvious reasons. Although I'd really like to update my resume and somehow include "slinging pharmies on Phish tour." I could come up with something clever like "Pharmaceutical Saleperson and duties included distribution of Pfizer products throughout North America."

I also had a 72-hour stint where I managed an all-female punk rock band when I lived in Brooklyn. My career was over as quickly as it started when the drummer and bass player threw down during a huge cat fight an hour before a gig at CBGB's, because one of them slept with the other's boyfriend. The band broke up and all I got out of it was a lousy hand job from the perky diet pill-popping pixie of a lead singer with red-orange hair. A mutual friend told me that she's now a SUV-driving soccer mom in Connecticut with a morose addiction to Valium and Pinot, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. To this very day, I still think about her whenever I hear The Ramones song I Wanna Be Sedated.

Fortunate for me, I never worked in a gut-wrenching place like in The Office or Office Space. My brother has/does and he often recants weird and bizarre stories about mundane office life such as having to fill out TPS reports and being forced to sing Happy Birthday to his co-workers.

Anyway, in Office Space one of my favorite parts was the "What would you do if you had a million dollars?" scene.
Peter: What would you do if you had a million dollars?

Lawrence: I'll tell you what I'd do, man: two chicks at the same time, man.

Peter: That's it? If you had a million dollars, you'd do two chicks at the same time?

Lawrence: Damn straight. I always wanted to do that, man. And I think if I were a millionaire I could hook that up, too; 'cause chicks dig dudes with money.

Peter: Well, not all chicks.

Lawrence: Well, the type of chicks that'd double up on a dude like me do.

Peter: Good point.

Lawrence: Well, what about you now? What would you do?

Peter: Besides two chicks at the same time?

Lawrence: Well, yeah.

Peter: Nothing.

Lawrence: Nothing, huh?

Peter: I would relax... I would sit on my ass all day... I would do nothing.
Let me tell you, I've done two chicks at once and you don't need a million dollars... just some really good ecstasy. Anyway, I can definitely relate to the "I would relax and sit on my ass all day" quote.

Since 2003, I created something out of nothing since the inception of Tao of Poker. In the last five years, I carved out a successful writing career and branched off into several lucrative business ventures. Needless to say, the intense grind and blitzkrieg travel schedule over last few years both mentally drained and physically exhausted me. Burnt out is a fitting description.

The positive side of living out of a backpack was that all my possessions where with me. I had simplified my life and shed unnecessary material items. Without having to pay rent or other bills, I pulled myself out of debt, paid off my credit cards and school loan, and invested wisely. Then one day when I got a call from my broker and realized how much I was worth. The number blew me away. What was I doing fetching chip counts when I should have been relaxing on an exotic beach sipping rum-based cocktails with miniature bamboo umbrellas?

Around that time I read a book called The 4-Hour Workweek and the author suggested that the 'work for forty years then retire' model was outdated. He suggested mini-retirements where you take off a couple of months and then jump back into work for a a couple of years and repeat the process.

So instead of waiting until I turn 60 or 65 to see the world, I decided why the hell am I working my ass off now? Life is incredibly short and since the world is going to end on December 21, 2012 (the exact date that the Mayan calendar ends and the same year that the I-Ching ends), so what's the point of accumulating wealth and more stuff?

I eliminated tons of stress by shedding excess work from my daily consumption. I fired my annoying clients... such as the ones who paid me late or bitched and moaned about the littlest things or treated me with the least amount of respect. Then I figured out a formula how I could work as little as possible, but still generate enough income to be comfortable. It took me several months, but I finally arrived at the point where I could walk away from being a slave in poker and enjoy my life without having to immerse myself into the darkness of the scene and drive myself crazy.

The last ninety days have been a blur. A happy blur. Thank God I took pictures and notes, otherwise I'd totally forget them all. Time indeed flies when you're having fun. My last official assignment was covering the final table of the Aussie Millions... in January. I tried to relax, but I didn't exactly do nothing. I started working out again and shed 15 pounds. I visited four other countries including New Zealand, a place I always wanted to visit and never thought I'd get to see with my two eyes. The more I think about it, I only worked one assignment in the last six months.

One side trip that stood out was an excursion to Qeenstown on the south island of New Zealand with Change100. Jules' hubby, Graham, is a Kiwi and he told us about scenic flights to Milford Sound, which was supposedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Most of the Aussies we knew also insisted that we take a tour of Milford Sound. It was not a cheap flight, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I booked a flight and told Change100 that it was an early Valentine's Day present. Our initial flight was canceled due to bad weather but we caught a break and made it out a few hours later. Change100 couldn't handle the shakiness of the seven-seater Cessna and lost her cookies not once, but twice. And that's why we started calling her Puke Girl.

Here's some of the footage I took as I got to ride shotgun...

Anyway, we waited for our weather delayed flight with two other couples. They were all British retirees in their 60s. They asked what I did. I shrugged my shoulders and looked at the gentlemen who were almost twice my age and said, "I'm also retired."

So what have I been doing the last 180 days? A hell of a lot of partying. I'm shocked that I haven't been arrested or tossed into a rehab center. At least I had an excuse. Instead of self-medicating or escaping reality but numbing the senses to deal with the pressures of every day life... I was celebrating the good luck in my life because I know all to well, as Buddha has noted, that life is suffering. For a brief moment in time, my life is a peaceful oasis and wanted to enjoy it now instead of waiting another 25-30 years to see those misty mountain tops of New Zealand or to wander the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen or stand in a soggy field for four straight days while hearing the most succulent music my ears have devoured in a very long time.

My original intent over the last six months was to take time off and write. But, I was burned out on writing. I had soured on the poker scene and writing about poker was the last thing I wanted to do. I lost touch with the passionate side to both writing and poker and needed time away to rediscover both. I knew that when I eventually got excited to write again and found a way to enjoy poker again... it would be a matter of time before I started writing about poker again. And not just churning out words to make a buck... but to really write about poker.

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm closer than I was a year ago when I was working my ass off.

I guess you can say that my time away was productive because I discovered a healthy balance as a well-rounded person. I spent a lot of my time with music and bringing the music blog up to speed. Instead of becoming a slave to poker and trying to fit my life around poker... I flipped it. Now I'm trying to squeeze poker into my life. I like it much better that way. Poker is back to being where it started... one of my many passions instead of the all-encompassing monster that ruled every second of my world.

Lucky for me, I have some amazing friends, a great brother, and a cool girlfriend. They all made sacrifices and gave up a lot of their time with me in order to allow me to flourish as a writer. Or as Change100 explained, "We all put up with your whole 'dark knight of the soul thing' and perpetual moodiness in exchange for free meals and being characters on the Tao of Poker."

I wanted to pay some of that back. Instead of spending the last three months in solitary confinement writing... I made a wiser choice and decided that my friends were more vital to me. It's hard because everyone is scattered all over the country. Change100 lives in Los Angeles. My brother is in NYC. Jerry is in Miami. The Joker is in Colorado. Senor is in Rhode Island and not to mention my other friends in Las Vegas and New York City and everywhere else.

I got to see some of the most influential people in my life over the last twenty years. We had a blast and joked about old times and made plans for future trips. They reminded me of where I came from and to never forget that. Sometimes that's hard to do when you live in luxury hotels, visit nine countries (and one principality) in eleven months, and get to haphazardly shower strippers with $20 bills.

I guess the whole point to this post is to say... I'm back. Today is like the first day of Spring Training. I'm gearing up to cover my fourth WSOP, which starts at the end of May.

Now all I have to do is figure out who to write for...?

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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