I've posted eight deleted scenes from "How to Fail" which have ranged from as large as an entire chapter (or footchapter) to a "scene" that was some several thousand words. But, not everything that is cut from a book is a giant chapter or scene that can be read and enjoyed separately from the work. Sometimes, more often than not, deletions are of a few lines or paragraphs. Doesn't mean they aren't still entertaining. Here's such a deletion, on benders, that originally appeared in "Chapter 7: How to Fail All the Way To Rock Bottom."
I heard lots of frat boy types in college, when asked on Mondays, "What'd you do this weekend?" reply with a, "Whoa, bro, just came off a total bender."
I wanted to shake those motherfuckers by their Polo collars! You didn't go on a "bender" you moron! What? Cause you drank thirty or forty cans of Natty Light, did a kegstand or two, threw up once or twice, got blown by a slut twice or thrice, did nothing productive, you think that's a "bender?"
No. Naw. Uhn uh. That's not a bender. A bender is done by a man or woman with no hope. It is usually done alone, not because solo drinking is ipso facto part of a bender, but because for two (or more) people to be on a bender and it still qualify as a bender, they would have to have their miseries synchronized, like sorority girls and their menstrual cycles, and the likelihood of two (and especially more) people having the exact same need to bend, that's just highly unlikely. Binge-drinking is obviously a part of the bender, the only part inexperienced braggadocious youngsters seem to notice, but it's not the only part.
Now if you're asking, by my rules, if I had been on a bender since losing my girl, and then my job, my dreams, my mind, ain't life unkind...
I was just bored.
This was a new kind of bender. One simply existing to fill the ennui in my life.
We all need a certain amount of pleasure in our lives. We develop certain addictions because we do not have well-rounded enough lives. That's at least what I believe, but it's not like I'm a scientist.
If we were getting a fair amount of everything we should, we wouldn't have voids that would need to be filled by addictions. If we got the full pleasure of love, we wouldn't have a void to be filled with tons of sleazy, near-anonymous sex. If we got a correct amount of love made to us, we wouldn't have a void that would need to be filled with alcohol and nicotine, drugs and chicken fingers, caffeine, reality television, sports, violence, and masturbation. I needed to get my levels back in check.
What are your thoughts on benders? What defines one?
I've always loved novels where characters drink their way around a town from page 1 to "THE END"--a few favorites: "The Pint Man," "A Fan's Notes," and "The Thin Man"--and I wanted to write a drinking-at-bars novel of my own.
Stu Fish does a ton of drinking in my book, the majority of it in New York City, and many of those places are real, or at least based on places that are, or were, real.
Thus, a literary drinking tour of all the places Stu tipples at in "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide":
Le Enfants Magnifique (pg 11) -- The un-hip French restaurant where Stu's successful friends fete him on his 30th birthday and where he has no choice but to drink expensive "Wine Spectator"-recommended wine ordered for him. Based on the bland Cafe un duex trois on West 44th Street.
McManumus's (pg 14) -- A "plastic Paddy pub" Stu is frequently forced to drink at when no other options are available. Based on any number of cookie cutter ersatz Irish bars in Midtown which serve $8 Guinness pints and have bored Irish bartenders who look like they would have never come to America if they knew they'd have to waste their days working at inauthentic pubs that Manhattan's after-work crowd loves for some damn reason.
Marriott Marquis's Bar (pg 44) -- Where Stu and girlfriend Ash have a quick drink before meeting up with Stu's visiting Midwestern parents. Based on the Atrium Lounge which, surprisingly, for a tourist trap hotel bar in the middle of Times Square, is not half bad. Yeah, it's filled with rubes wearing XXL t-shirts of their hometown college team ("Roll Tide!") and sparkling white Reeboks, but if you're in a pinch for a drink before meeting some unadventurous visitors, it's not awful.
FonDo's and Don'ts (pg 49) -- The "14 out of 30" Zagat-reviewed restaurant where Stu, Ash, and Stu's parents dine and Stu drinks a "Staten Island Iced Tea." Completely non-existent in Manhattan (shockingly), it's based on the Melting Pot which is an overpriced chain fondue place located in shopping malls in other cities and, actually, isn't half bad. It's hard to fuck up a hot vat of cheese though.
The Wee Pub (first introduced on page 87) -- The main drinking spot in "How to Fail" with its gimmicky over-sized bar, stools, drinks, and even bartender (the 6'7" Irishman Lynn). Where Stu immediately heads after he gets laid off, where he goes for months straight in a drunken malaise after getting dumped by Ash, where he met his best friend (the "Lesbian Wingman" Bonnie), where he picks up numerous girls (notably, his brief girlfriend Katie), hangs with the guys, gets loaded, and watches his beloved Knicks on TV. Based on a place formally called The Wee Pub on 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen (since remodeled, un-Wee'd, and renamed The Snug).
Ruby Tuesday's (pg 123) -- Where Stu has a most unfortunate lunch with Ash's family after she competes in a marathon in New Jersey and is forced to drink giant 32 oz frozen mugs of macro beer. Like any chain restaurant in the middle of the 'burbs it's not awful, just boring, but this author still prefers Chili's personally (delicious margaritas and queso).
J. Monroe's (pg 126) -- The beloved local haunt of Stu and Ash back when the going was good and happy hours always ended up leading to the bedroom. Based on an UWS joint called McAleer's which does indeed have great wings and terrific pitcher deals.
Harry's Conundrum (pg 133) -- Where Ash celebrates her birthday with a party that goes tragically wrong for Stu. Based on an UWS dump called Jake's Dilemma that is always filled with youngish twentysomething bozos bumping into you.
Boffo Bar (pg 158) -- The UWS bar Stu heads to after Ash dumps him and where he picks up an annoying one-night stand. Based on the very cool Dive Bar on W. 75th Street.
"Real" dives (pg 175) -- Stu always finds himself trying to tell people that they don't drink at dive bars, but that they drink at "faux"-dives, places set up to be crappy yet still safe for yuppies wanting to a verisimilitude of "slumming it." The real dives in "How to Fail," though, are based on numerous spots between 10th and 12th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen (most notably J. Mac's Lounge) which you've never been to because you're a pussy.
Times Square Applebee's (pg 213) -- A favorite "bar" of Ash's that Stu was always forced to drink at to appease her. One of the things he most revels in after being dumped is never having to drink at a boring chain restaurant again.
Rudy's (pg 230) -- The site of the bulk of Footchapter 9 ("How to Fail in Bed"), where Stu takes a first date to enjoy cheap pitchers and free hot dogs. The iconic Hell's Kitchen dive (pictured above) is a longtime favorite of this author and is, quite frankly, probably now more of a "faux"-dive itself. Especially considering the bar has a beautifully designed website featuring its own theme song (!).
Different kinds of bars -- From page 245 to 249 Stu lists the countless kinds of bars in this world (from dive to hotel to lesbian to airport bar, etc) and the various kinds of women one will meet there.
Hollywood nightclub (pg 274) -- When Stu visits his successful screenwriting buddy Wesley in Los Angeles, he is taken to a cheesy Hollywood Boulevard nightclub infested with quasi-celebrity douchebags. Based on idiotic places I've only seen on reality shows.
Size 2 Lounge (pg 295) -- An upscale spot "ironically full with a bunch of size 22s." Based on every single lame Meatpacking District bar in Manhattan.
I just hope "How to Fail" is famous enough one day that plaques hang in all the above-mentioned bars and people actually set up their own pub crawls and a giant statue of Stu Fish is erected in front of the site of the Wee, just like the Ignatius T. Reilly statue in New Orleans.
As it got closer and closer to the book tour, I started panicking about all the things I would have to live without for a month.
I wish I could say I was talking about living without delicious home-cooking or a warm bed or an early bedtime or my girlfriend, but I was more worried about living without the minor. I'm not proud of what I was scared to live without, but I am proud about how I quit worrying and learned to not need these things:
1. Television -- For my whole life I've been a guy that hated to miss anything and everything on television. I don't just mean the quality--everyone hates to miss a new "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men"--but I had become a completest for every show, even lame reality ones. 30 Days on the road, and a DVR filled to the brim when I returned home, and all of the sudden I could give two shits about what Michael Scott or The Situation had been up to. Nowadays, I only follow shows I absolutely adore, which are luckily for me, and sadly for the TV industry, few and far between. ["The Killing," "Fringe," and "Friday Night Lights" are my only *musts* right now, with a few others in "watch-if-there's-absolutely-nothing-else-in-the-world-to-do" territory]
2. Movies -- My movie addiction was even worse. I used to literally watch every single thing that came out out, spending countless hours alone in a dark theater, bored by Hollywood, annoyed by the young punks in front of me texting and gabbing. Why? Because I told myself I was a movie "expert." After missing 30 days of movies, 5 whole weekends worth, during "prestige" movie season no less, I learned to live without. I still love movies, they're still one of my biggest passions, but I can now take a step back, wait to see what films are affecting the zeitgeist or changing the game, and then only watch those. It's better that way. Plus, I never have to see Paul Walker ever again.
3. Sports -- The thought of missing a Syracuse basketball or football game used to give me the shakes. I used to tell people, "If you're my friend you'd never get married on a Syracuse game day and you probably wouldn't die then either." And, admittedly, I structured my book tour to thrice be in cities while Syracuse had big games--oh God and was it worth it!--but I still missed quite a few games. Minor ones sure. I recall being bored out of my wits having my ear bent by a fan of mine while Syracuse was playing William & Mary on a Sunday afternoon. At first, I was stressed out--"How can I be missing this!?!"--but I soon relaxed and realized, "Big deal. So you miss a minor sporting event. Win or lose, you had no control over it. This is your life, this guy talking to you about your book is your life. Live in that." One bad after-effect is that though I can now handle missing sporting events, I also don't derive as much pleasure when I actually watch them.
And I could list countless other little things I used to be unable to stomach the thought of missing: rare beer releases in NYC, goofing around on the internet and reading every single thing there is to read, social networking, my daily jog, and the list goes on and on and on. I lived a Walden-like life existence during the book tour, pretty much removed from normal society, and I surprisingly learned to like it.
Then again, as the main character Stu discusses in "How to Fail," Henry David Thoreau was such a fucking phony:
Thoreau was such a phony. Praising the simple life, panning the American dream, yet going into Concord most days to hang at the local tavern, though the pussy refused to drink. I bet he was sure the life of the watering hole. Unshowered and stinky, ranting about this and that, a man obsessed with teetotalism (he considered “intoxicants” such as alcohol, tobacco, and even tea and coffee to be “demonic”), vegetarianism (he thought vegetarians had evolved and were superior to meat-eaters), chastity (I'm guessing the smelly guy just couldn't get laid and had some serious sour grapes), and not paying his taxes. I'm sure the other barflies loved him.
It occurred to me that perhaps Thoreau was a failure all along. Just cause you wrote a book, even one taught in every high school in America, doesn't mean you weren't a failure.
--from "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide" (Footchapter 2)
This is another deleted scene that was actually an entire chapter. It was originally Footchapter Nine-B in "How to Fail" but in late edits it got completely 86ed. I didn't need to bring God into the mix. Unedited and unadulterated from when it got nixed, this scene is particularly ribald and transgressive. Caveat fucking emptor.
"God will not forgive us if we fail." --Leonid Brezhnev
On the Lord's Day?! No, surely not on the Lord's Day.
God created the heavens and the earth in six days. On the seventh he rested.
Humans created a lot of paper work and junk mail, unread inbox messages, memos, billable hours, and invoices in five days. On the sixth day they watched college football, gorged themselves on highly-caloric fried, salted, and battered foods, drunk cheap American macro beer, and maybe got "lucky" with their own wives.
On the seventh day they put on business casual clothes and "rested" by going to listen to some virgin tell them why they should be so thankful for the previous six days.
(Despite the amount of accountants in their general population, Jews apparently can't count because they spend day six glorifying God. This deficiency in counting might also explain why Jews typically prefer pro football to the college game.)
I've already extensively cataloged what I do on my first five days of the week up here on the UWS. The sixth day, Saturday, is always an interesting day for me because I no longer feel...special. Hey, there's not supposed to be so many people out and about! Why is it taking me so long to get a sandwich at the deli?! Why is this coffee shop packed?! Get back to work people! Return the UWS to me and me only!
I hate the sixth day. Detest it. Mainly because it makes me feel bad. Everyone trying to show me up.
Have you seen how successful people spend their Saturdays?
How they get "everything out of" them? These motherfuckers even seize the so-called day on the weekend.
When you don't have to!
Up early, as early as they get up for work because, of course, the single unfinished glass of Malbec they had last night doesn't make them too hungover too function.
They actually shower!
Who showers on the weekend?!
(Again) you don't have to!
And they have so many plans!
Danny and ME have a couples' shower to go to.
(Yeah, that's not what I thought it was either. I envisioned some steamy wifeswapping key-party orgy, all taking place is some giant showerroom like professional sports teams have, but apparently a couples shower is just a boring and dry party to fete a expectant mother and give her a lot of tiny clothes.)
Jack and Kirsten need to go car shopping, finally making the upgrade to a van.
And Keith and Erin are at the cutesy quaint Sarabeth's for brunch with other successful couples (and their children) that also aren't hungover (and are waaa-waaaing).
Greasy bacon and eggs to sop up the excess stomach booze from Friday night? A Bloody Mary hair of the dog? 'course not. Unnecessary. Fresh fruit, a popover, and perhaps a single Bellini. Can't get too tuckered out this early.
From there, who knows...
I'm still asleep at this hour, unless I'm on a walk of great shame...
Window shopping in Soho, picnic on the Great Lawn, bike rentals on the Hudson piers, maybe hit the new Inca exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, the special miniatures at the Guggenheim, rush home for a(nother) shower, put on evening gowns, a snazzy sports coat that makes you look ten years older than you should...
The night you actually tell people, brag to people, that you're going on a date with your own wife, and an expensive dinner, another glass of wine, he'll try a Scotch cause he's trying to get into that kinda thing to impress the muckety-mucks at his office, car service home to pay the sitter and prepare for the least sexy sex ever.
He walks to his closet, she walks to hers, they slowly, but not sensually mind you, remove their clothes, neatly folding up this, carefully hanging up that, delicately placing that delicate there, and the shoes in a tree, and they're recounting their day, and now he's in his boxer shorts with the lobsters on them, and she's in her best Victoria's Secret bra (and she even wore the panties that match) and he said, "You really want to do this?" like he's about to remove a splinter from her thumb, and she says, "Yes, but first I want to remove my makeup," and while she's taking forever in their giant two-sink bathroom, he's catching up on the highlights from the day's earlier SEC matchups that he wasn't allowed to watch live, and he's yawning, and she returns, and turns off the lights, and he hears her remove her clothes, the thick underwire of her bra clanking on the hardwood as she calculatedly casually tosses it to the ground, and she gets into bed and, "Oh your breath stinks, I brushed my teeth, honey, can you brush yours?" and he grumbles but gets up any ways ("Oh and gargle too!") because he wants sex and doesn't want a fight and also he needs to piss because even though he's only 30 he's been seeing those Flomax commercials and wondering if his body is betraying him too.
He brushes, he flosses, he gargles, real thorough. When he returns, the TV is showing highlights of Miami romping the Jesuits from BC, and the glow of the screen is showing his wife asleep.
He shakes her. "Honey, honey. I thought you wanted to have sex...?"
She's not budging. Did he use the wrong key word?
"Aren't we gonna make love? We always do that on date night."
Shake, shake. He's getting frustrated.
"It's very important that we fuck!"
He shakes her and she angrily moans, sleeptalking. "Tomorrow. Too...tired now."
But he knows it won't happen tomorrow. They got church at 9.
So he goes to the bathroom and jerks off using her fancy goat's milk lotion. Failures aren't the only ones that have to pull their pud.
Eight hours later, Keith and Erin sit in the elegant Church of Notre Dame on West 114th Street. Keith noticed that his dick seemed to still smell like fragrant goat's milk, despite his morning shower. Their newborn Bree, apparently not named after the cheese, Keith and Erin were more of smoked gouda or aged mimolette people, sat in a basinet on the pew beside them clad in her tiny white christening gown.
I sat one row back staring at a stained glass window of, I reckon it was Jesus, though all those old time Christian folks seem to look alike. Similar fashion sense. There must have been a lot of embarrassment at award ceremonies. Who wore it better?
In the same row sat Danny & ME, and Jack & Kirsten and little Anna. It was the first I'd seen them in at least a month.
"After the baptism, I want to show you the van we got. Pretty sweet."
"You're saying a van is pretty sweet?"
"Does your car have a TV screen it in?"
"I don't have a car. I ride the subway."
"You see those protestors outside?
"Yeah, what was that about?"
"Apparently the priest had no problem with homosexual parishioners, tsk tsk."
I was already zoning out. In fact, I think I was still drunk. I'd savvily decided to wear my church clothes out drinking the night before, just in case, and, wouldn't you know it, it was a great idea for reasons two fold:
1. Dressed more high-brow than other drinkers at the Wee, I caught the eye of a drunk gal who had a fetish for CPAs (she thought I was one and wanted to be sexually audited.)
2. I woke up late and would have had no time to rush home to My Lesbian Wingman's pad to chance into my church clothes.
Priest Raines came out and took the...stage.
"Baptism is the beginning of the story of Jesus. Baptism is the context of the life of Jesus as the rest of his days on earth are the working out of his baptism..."
I recalled around the time of Keith and Erin's wedding at this very same church when Keith told me about the procedure he and Erin had to go through.
"Yeah, every couple has to go to ten sessions of marriage counseling with Father Raines before they're allowed to get married at Notre Dame."
"Let me get this straight. A sixty-one-year-old virgin is giving you advice on how to please a woman?"
"Uh...yeah. I guess. Technically. But it's not so bad."
"'Not so bad?!' I can only imagine:
"'Hello, Keith and Erin, I like to open my first session with newly engaged couples by allowing them to ask me questions. So if you have one, please feel free to shoot. Uh, yes, Keith?'
'You've never been married, correct?'
'By the law of clerical celibacy I, of course, can't be married, with rare exception. I've been a clergyman my entire adult life.'
'And you've never had sex?'
'Nope, can't say I have. Entered an all-boys youth seminary at the age of ten. Well before my hormones had kicked in, though men of God likes yours truly certainly do not have the same puerile urges as most youngsters.'
'So never married, never dated any one, never had sex...uh, have you ever even kissed a girl? Hugged one? Watched a Nora Ephron movie?!'
'No, no, and an emphatic "yes!" I found "Sleepless in Seattle" absolutely delightful. Though a tad ribald at times for my tastes.'
'Yeah, I'm still disturbed by those scenes depicting Rosie O'Donnell as a straight women.'
'We don't discriminate here.'
'Maybe you should.'
'Very well. Good. Any more question? Questions more about your guys' relationship?'
'Yes, Father, I do have one. It's something we're always fighting over lately. You see, I just don't feel like Erin gives me enough...ahem...blow jobs. Nearly every time we...make love, within seconds I'm between her legs. But, she never returns the favor.'
'You know I find the idea of a dick in my mouth disgusting!'
'But it's the dick connected to me! The man you love!'
'Marriage is all about compromise, Keith and Erin. As Exodus 12:4 says: "If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor."'
'Yeah, we're talking about oral sex, not ewes.'
'Believe me, Father, you might feel different if you'd ever had a dick in your mouth. And though I love all of my future husband, I do not love his dick. In my mouth. At the moment. You see, I have the decency to go to a professional and get my lady parts waxed. A nice Ukrainian on E. 31st Street named Svetna or something does it for me. But Keith is a huge mess down there.'
'I'm not going to a waxer, no way.'
'Then do it yourself. Use that beard trimmer I got you as a stocking stuffer. I thought you'd catch the drift considering you've never had a beard in your life.'
'I did catch the drift and it stunk.'
'Then that drift must have been coming from your sweaty, hairy balls.'
'And another thing, I hate swallowing your load. It's just gross. Texturally. Worse than clams.'
'It's just part of the act. Father, I think it's ridiculous that she won't swallow. She either jerks me off onto my stomach or sprints to the bathroom to spit it into the toilet. Talk about killing the romance. How do you think I feel, honey, to see you so disgusted by my spunk? The spunk that is going to one day produce our children?'
'And swallowing a thick gob of salty hot fluid is romantic? Huh? You agree with that, Father?'
'It's not about romance completely, it's also about good old fashioned cleanliness. Which is next to Godliness, you know.'
'Not "officially," guys. Nothing in the bible technically.'
'Don't you love this, Father? All of the sudden my messy hubby is all OCD about messes and cleanliness.'
'Uh, as Leviticus 10:10 says: "You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean."'
'Well, jizz is simply not clean in this fiancee's opinion.'
'Whoa! Looks like we have only got time for one final question for today's session. Something from you, Erin?'
'Yes, I do have something. OK, you see, it's like this. Keith can only...finish..when I'm lying flat on my stomach. It's insulting to not have your future husband looking at you in the eyes when he ejaculates. Like I'm some common whore. Why do you think it is, Father, that he only wants to come in this manner?'
'I'll have to interrupt, Father, and tell you why that is. It's because she still makes me use condoms.'
'I told you I won't switch to birth control until we're married. Just how I was raised.'
'You can't tell the Father we use birth control! It's against the church's teachings!'
'He's not dumb, Keith. He obviously knows we fuck.'
'Not as much as I'd like, that's for sure. But fair enough. I have to put you on your stomach when we fuck because wearing a condom is like having a protective bubble suit around your dick. You can't feel any sensation. It's like wearing an airbag. Why, you could probably have an enormous car wreck and if your whole body was wrapped in the rubbers I wear, it'd feel like nothing more than a fender bender. Thus, I need you on your stomach and me on top of you to make your vagina a tighter fit around my protected shaft.'
'You're seriously going to tell the Father that your soon-to-be-new-wife has a loose pussy?'
'If I may, Keith and Erin...I think Keith, you might just be masturbating far too much and desensitizing your penis...'"
Keith mockingly laughed at me.
"You really envision our meetings with a priest going like that? You really think Erin talks in that manner? Like some frat boy sailor?! You know that even I don't talk in that manner!"
"It's just my fantasy."
It was just my fantasy.
It smelled like goat's milk or cheese...or maybe even lotion in the church. Hmmm...would there be appetizers afterwards? I sure hoped so, I hadn't had time to grab breakfast and the remnant booze was starting to hit my empty stomach hard.
Keith now stood near the front of the church with Erin holding Bree aside Father Raines who spoke.
Keith's mind drifted as he tried to count the number of times he had masturbated since he last had sex. He had thought that Erin would want sex around the clock after giving birth, but that wasn't the case at all. Her vaginal walls were still strained and healing, her hormones were wacky, and she "Just [didn't] feel sexy right now." Her words.
They had last had sex one night off the cuff back late in Erin's second trimester. Keith had been surprised by his wife's friskiness because, believe you me, it's hard to get pregnant chicks to fuck since they're never wasted.
They'd had it doggy style that night with Bree inside of Erin resting on a specially made pregnant love-making pillow they had purchased. He liked how her contracted vagina felt on his dick that night. That night some 110 days ago. Keith figured he'd masturbated some seventy-five times since that night, nearly around the clock for the few days Erin was in the hospital and he had their pad to himself.
He worried now that his dick would be desensitized to vaginal touch. Stretched-out vaginal touch. He worried most of all that it didn't matter because his days of having sex were over.
Father Raines continued sermonizing: "God sees our darkness and says, 'Let there be light.' This is his poem about baptism, about the God who baptizes us, who makes new life possible in the midst of darkness and hopelessness. That is our God: a God who baptizes, always making new beginnings, new chances for life."
I thought about Bree's life, the chances she would have in life. Would her life be good? Would she be a success? Hopefully not a failure. Would her life be interesting? I hoped it would be interesting. Certainly more interesting than her parents'.
Father Raines took Bree from Keith and Erin and held her above a tiny tub of water.
And so was about to begin her interesting or non-interesting life. It was beginning, though, in a most uninteresting way.
Church was so boring. So uninteresting.
There had to be a better way to do this. A more fun, interesting one:
The priest stood focused. Concentrating. His bible in one hand. He wound up with a high leg kick ala Bob Gibson and hurled his copy of "The Word" toward a circular red and white ring target.
King James smacked the bullseye right in the bullseye which connected to a dunk tank in which baby Bree sat on a hanging platform which swung open and dropped her into the bottom pool of holy water.
Now that would be more way more interesting.
People would love that shit!
You could even sell tickets to watch which could be used as you tithing for the week.
And wouldn't an interesting beginning to your life lead to an interesting life all around?
Yes, most certainly. But the church seemed to hate interesting people. The church wanted to suppress interesting people for the most part. Gays and drinkers and promiscuous heterosexuals and Jews and profligates and people like me.
I mean, wasn't that who the protesters were protesting? Interesting people?
I looked toward the Heavens and spoke to God. I'd never done this before. I didn't know how to do this. But I would try my damnedest.
Later, as we excited the church, baby Bree now a Catholic, ready to get on with her life, I bypassed speaking with my friends and walked over to the protesters.
"Don't punch me!"
"Oh, I thought you were going to punch one of us. Usually when someone comes over to us, they punch us."
"No, I'm not going to punch you, I'm going to commiserate with you."
"About what?" said a tiny geek in a "Jesus Freak" t-shirt.
"About the conversation I just had with God."
"You did not!"
"I most certainly did."
"You stink like booze."
"I took communion today."
"Communion with...*sniff sniff*...vodka?"
"Gin. Can't you smell the juniper?"
"This guy doesn't know what he's talking about."
"What? You guys have never talked with the G-O-D before?"
"I saw the Virgin Mary in a bowl of matzo ball soup once."
"It looked more like Cher."
"Did not! And that's blasphemy."
"So tell us, wiseguy, what did God say to you?"
"I was intrigued by your plight and I wanted to ask God about it. So I asked God. 'God, why do you hate gay people and preach to your followers to hate them too? Why do you hate all these other people too? Drinkers and drug users and Jews and the profane people in society. People that like to dance dirty and have lots of sex. People that like to use the words 'fuck,' 'piss,' and 'shit.' These people you created no less! That you let live on the same planet with your Christian followers.
"Why do you have such issues with the quote-unquote interesting people of society?
"And you know what he said...?"
The protesters now hung on my every word.
"He said, 'I don't. I have no problem with any of these people. I love them all.' 'Even me?!' I asked. 'Even me? A Jew, an atheist, a fuck-up, a fuck-around, a curser, an alcoholic, a masturbator, a promiscuous man-slut, a layabout, and a non-believer.'
"And he said, 'Yes, even you. I love you all. Even the protestors down below totally perverting my message for their own agenda.'"
I turned about face and left the protesters shocked and torn. Arguing with themselves. One yelled after me, "You made that up!"
Well of course I did. Why would God talk to me? There's no story in the Bible about God to success a loser like me.
Three days later, while out on a jog, finally burning off some of that gin weight, I ran by the church and not only were those same three protesters there but the group had ballooned to a baker's dozen.
I was sad. I guess my little made-up tale of a pow-wow with Chief Sitting God had not fooled them.
I glanced at their handmade posterboard signs, many of them with egregrious spelling errors.
"CHRISTIANS AGENST GOD"
"QUIT PRAYING TO A FONY!"
"GOD LIKES FAGS WHICH MEANS I HATE HIM"
I stopped my jog to talk to them again.
"What's going on, guys? I thought I had convinced you to quit what you're doing."
"We have quit what we were doing. We've just re-shifted our focus. We need something to protest. So we're protesting God now."
Oh man, protesting God? God was going to be pissed at me big time.
So what did you think? Should it have stayed in the book?
Check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:
#1 -- "FUCK YOUS" (dedication page)
#2 -- "QUOTING BIGGIE SMALLS" (including famous quotes)
#3 -- "BLURBS" (cover blurbs)
#4 -- "CHAPTER ONE" (genesis of HTF idea)
#5 -- "THE FAILURE INTERVENTION" (deleted scene)
#6 -- "I'VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER" (deleted scene)
#7 -- "HOW TO FAIL ON A DATE" (deleted chapter)
I've received about 200 emails, Tweets, and Facebook messages alerting me to Seth Godin's daily blog post for today, April 11, 2011 which just so happens to be titled:
Egads! He must have stolen this idea from me!
No. Of course he didn't.
I'm not the first to write about failure nor will I be the last.
Yeah, maybe I'm the first to title something "How to Fail" but, again, many not since those are three very simple words arranged very simply. (I follow the hashtag "howtofail" on Twitter and all sorts of random people from all over the globe Tweet it when they fail. Many of them have no idea who I am.)
For the record, Seth does know who I am. And, I know who he is. I'm a big fan. If you read my blog more frequently than you apparently do, you'd see I write about him, his books, and his publishing venture The Domino Project all the time. Seth even owns a copy of "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide" though I have no clue if he's actually read it. I assume he's at least read the title. It hardly matters.
Idea are "stolen" all the time. Actually, ideas are rarely stolen since few things are truly original. Seth himself even had a great post about this a few weeks ago. It's funny, when I came up with the idea for "How to Fail," with the idea for the world's first "self-hurt guide," the opposite of a self-help guide, I thought I was being completely original. Completely sui generis. And, thus, during the years I was writing the book, I was scared to death someone would steal my idea.
But they didn't. (I was googling "self-hurt guide" every few months just to make sure.) I often wondered during that time: How is no one else thinking of this simple idea? I felt like Darwin must have felt during that decade he was formulating the theory of natural selection, not realizing that there was an Alfred Russel Wallace over on the island of Ternate formulating the very same ideas. I thought, lucky for me, that there weren't any Wallaces in my life. But now I realize there are plenty of Wallaces. Plenty of people as interested in writing about the topic of failure as I am. Seth is one of those people.
I wrote "How to Fail" because I was sick of pathetic self-help gurus overly-optimistically telling us how to live our lives when they had never accomplished anything in their lives besides getting schnooks to buy their self-help books. I wanted to talk about something people weren't talking about: failure. Everyone talks about success, it's easy to encourage success, but no one seems to talk about failure. Failure in all aspects of life. The importance of failure being necessary in ultimately achieving success. In living a happy life. I talk about that in "How to Fail." I just happen to surround my message in sex scenes, drinking, and profanity. Seth doesn't, which makes his books better or worse depending on how you look at things (probably better).
The ironic thing is that Seth probably has 1000 times the number of fans I have (his "How to Fail" has already been LIKED 652 times and retweeted 948 times as of this second) so presumably, some time in the future, one such fan will discover my book and shoot Seth an email:
"hey d00d this guy goldfarb totally stole your idea!!!"
Actually that's how my fans write, I'm sure Seth's fans capitalize and don't use numbers in place of letters.
But I didn't steal his idea, and he certainly didn't steal mine. There's enough of this failure stuff to go around. So, feel free to keep sending me email and Tweets, but not about people stealing my ideas.
And buy a copy of my book if you want to know "How to Fail."
In honor of my appearance on Andy Traub's great Linchpin podcast, where he mentioned he particularly loved this passage in HOW TO FAIL, I thought I'd give it away for free online. It's from Chapter 13 "HOW TO FAIL TO BE NORMAL."
He led me toward his office where we took seats on our respective sides of his desk.
“Your resume just had us laughing our butts off and we knew we had to call you in.”
“Now let's get serious. Tell me why you want this position, Stuart.”
“Stop. Let me tell you why you want this position. Job interviews are as much about us wooing you as they are about you impressing us. And hey, we're already impressed or else we wouldn't have called you in. From the second I met you at the Clinton, I thought: now that kid's special. Not 'special' like retarded, that would be an insult, but special like special.” He leaned in, “But speaking of retards, we do follow the Americans With Disabilities Act here so even if you were retarded 'special,' we'd have to grant you an interview.”
“I'm not retarded.”
“No, you're not! Check in the positive column! But you're still different from the other slack-jawed kiss-ups I've already dealt with, swimming in their cheap suits.”
Yes, I was different. Special. There was nothing wrong with not being normal.
“You ever read those How To Interview For a Job books, Stuart? Heck, you might have read one on your ride over here.” Big Richard pulled a stack of books from the floor and fanned them out on his desk like a blackjack dealer.
301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions, Sell Yourself!: Master the Job Interview Process, The 250 Job Interview Questions You'll Most Likely Be Asked, Winning Job Interviews, Job Interview Secrets, Becoming Mr. Job Interview, How to Turn an Interview Into a Job, and, of course, Job Interviewing for Dipshits.
“Ever read any of these? No, not you. Bet you think these books are jokes. Written by folks with made-up titles used to dupe the public:
Dr. Paul Powers, Interview Psychologist
Bucky Davis, President and CEO Bucky Davis Career Placement Firm
Joanne McAller, Professor Emeritus Occupational Motivation, Washington & Lee University.”
Big Richard flipped the books over to the back covers, again like a dealer. Had he worked in A.C. or something?
“Look how ugly they are. How can we trust them to give us advice when they can't even stay fit enough to not disgust us by their author photos? These losers have never interviewed for a job in their lives. And you're supposed to take their advice?!”
I smiled nervously.
“You read these books, Stuart? They'd have you think a job interview goes something like this:
1. Why are you looking to leave your previous job?
“I'm not an idiot. It's obviously boring or your coworkers are ugly or, most likely, the pay is garbage. But you're not 'allowed' to say these things. You're supposed to say: 'I'm eager to conquer a new challenge.' Ha! Like you're Sir Ed Hillary.”
“Even better. So you desperately need money? Although I know New York state unemployment is quite sweet.”
I nodded in confirmation.
2. What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
“I'd be happy for someone to say, 'I'll arrive every day, usually not hungover, I won't give 110% because, why would I? Not like I own the company. But I will give around 85% and only surf the internet for about five minutes every hour.'”
I wiped the sweat from my brow.
“As for weaknesses, what a dumb question. It could be reworded as: 'What is an awesome strength of yours you can make sound like a debilitating weakness even though you know very well it isn't?' 'Oh, I'm so embarrassed to admit this, but I'm a perfectionist. I always have to make sure to do everything to the best of my ability even if it takes a little longer.'”
He pointed at me.
“Other 'weaknesses' could include: caring too much about a job well done, devoting yourself fully to the company, and working long hours to the detriment of your social life. So I ask, Stu, give me a real weakness of yours.”
I could only think of one thing.
“I have to masturbate in the office bathroom at least once a day.”
“So do I. Which is awesome because I have my own private bathroom, as you can see. People wrongly assume the rich guys with nice offices don't whack off in them.”
3. Quick! Name the color spectrum from most to least refractive.
“Uh, Roy G. Biv. Red orange yellow...uh, gre-green blue, I for...indigo! Violet!”
“Nine seconds. I was testing how you handle stress. I figure that's better than asking you to relate some anecdote about the time you pulled an all-nighter to finish a project. I gotta say, we've had some decent candidates pass through these doors, but raconteurs they are not.”
4. What do you think the most rewarding aspects of this job will be?
“Don't say something about responsibility, initiative, or motivation, Stu.”
“Very good. I would have also accepted, and I'll say these in bullet points:
- getting to work in this state-of-the-art facility. Have you seen my desk chair? All three wheels rotate at once. You know how fast you can zip through the halls late at night?
- free lunches every day at the office cafeteria. Good stuff too! On Thursdays we have a make-your-own fajita bar. Pollo or carne asada.
- getting a corporate card you will use to buy drinks at least once a month for your buddies. That's not allowed but our accounting department is full of idiots so they'll never catch on. Heck, after a few months here, press your luck and start doing it twice a month!
- the chicks here are hot.”
5. Ooh, this is an important job interview question: Why do you want to enter this field?
“The books say you're supposed to spew out pablum about the industry being in line with your passions, your calling in life. Let's be honest, you don't really want to enter this field, you just need a job. Like a kid applying to work at Burger King or Best Buy. Maybe you'll be excited for the first few days, weeks, even months, but you'll eventually hate this job like you've hated every other job you've ever had. Yeah, me too. I hate this job. But I like being rich. I like laughing all the way to the bank.”
“Lately, I've been meeting a lot of people with that same hobby.”
6. What are your goals?
“'Facilitate' is a word you should say no matter how you answer this question: 'To facilitate the growth of the mergers & acquisitions department.' 'To use my position to facilitate a relationship with overseas markets.' 'To facilitate intercourse with the hot girl at the front desk.' Let's get real, your only goal should be to not lose your job, maybe occasionally get a raise. Aside from that, fuck facilitating goals at this place.”
7. What kind of salary are you looking for?
“We hope you're an idiot and want something lower than we're gonna offer. You want something too audacious, we don't want you. You'll be too hard to control and we'll assume you're always looking for something better.
“Here's a pen and Post-it note. Write the salary you're looking for, fold it in half, then slowly slide it across the desk. The books say I shouldn't embarrass you by making you say anything aloud.”
I wrote an audacious number down, 300% larger than my previous salary and 500% larger than my unemployment “salary.” Big Richard held the Post-it just under his eyeline.
“I'm going to look at this but I'm not going to offer any comment, good or bad. Instead, I will make a series of histrionic facial expressions which you will try to decipher in order to figure out what I think of your request.”
Big Richard looked at the Post-it. His expressions over the next ten seconds went, in order: curiosity, slight shock, concern, thoughtfulness, confusion, anger, sadness, happiness, elation, post-coital sleepiness.
“Good. We'll fly that up the HR flagpole and see if anyone salutes it. Now one final question:
8. Do you have any questions for me?
“Long as you ask a question you pass. A normal person would say, 'No. Think you covered everything' because, indeed, I did cover all the bases and only a moron would still need to know any thing. But job interviews are about finding the smartest moron. So ask any question you can so I can tell the big wigs—not the big Whigs like Zachary Taylor—that you asked a question in the 'Do you have any questions?' portion of this interview. Ask about accrued vacation days, our profit sharing program, health care benefits (please see Footchapter 13-A: How to Be a Hypochondriac Without Health Care)...”
“Where did you get your tie, Big Richard?”
“That's a question! Had a question mark at the end of it. If we were Spanish it would have an upside down question mark. It would be acceptable on Jeopardy! You pass. It's from Lord & Taylor. The Pat Sajak Collection. I like your tie too. Macy's? Phil Jackson Collection?”
“Century 21. Annie Lennox Collection.”
Big Richard reached his hand across the table to shake mine.
“We really thank you for coming in.”
With each handshake pump, Big Richard brought me to my feet like I was a car jack lifting up a flat. When I was fully erect, he walked me to the door.
“You did a great job today.”
I had barely spoken.
“Don't forget, the second you get home, write me a thank you note. Classy stationary, never e-mail. I won't read the card and will just throw it in the trash, but it's a must you send it. It'll do nothing to facilitate you getting the job, but don't send me a note and these books tell me your chances of getting hired will be irrevocably scarred.”
“Note. Noted.” I nodded.
“You'll hear from us by Monday.”
“I'm lying, of course. You'll hear nothing from us by Monday. Tuesday or Wednesday either. You'll get nervous, start second guessing yourself. 'I guess I screwed the pooch. Guess they didn't like me.' You'll start consulting your job interview books, asking your friends, 'Should I contact them? See what's up?' 'What could it hurt?' your friends will say. 'If you don't have the job, no big deal. If they're still on the fence, you'll have shown initiative and they'll admire that.' These clowns never consider a third option: we do want to hire you, we've just been too lazy to go through with it. Bugging us on the phone just makes you look needy. We hate needy and I hate answering the phone. Please don't bug me, I assure you, you will be contacted. Or not.”
Big Richard opened his office door.
“Now hurry outside to call your mommy to dissect everything I said.”
If you enjoyed that I think you'll love the rest of "HOW TO FAIL" too.
You spend the early years of your life trying to experience shit, man. Doing anything and everything, drinking, drugging, talking to any one that will listen and listening to any one that will talk. All so your brain will be stuffed with enough interesting stuff so you can...
Spend the rest of your life home alone writing.
And, should you be successful enough to achieve that lifestyle, you'll soon be unfit for society.
I haven't regularly had to deal with a rush hour in forever. Gosh, I forgot how stressful it is. I'm used to riding trains in the middle of the day, late at night, perhaps on weekends. But those rare times I have an early meeting, or decide to head to happy hour during evening rush hour, I'm blown away by the crowd. I'm used to riding trains when the cars are empty, when I can sit, but now I'm sardined in, getting pinballed around. It's fucking miserable. I'm no longer tough enough to handle it. I'm sweating, grumpy businessmen are yelling at me, shoving me out of the way, cursing my name. No wonder everyone is already bushed by the time they arrive at work. It's almost enough to make me become--gasp!--an old fart bus rider. Life moves a little slower on the city bus and, sadly, a slower pace is all I can handle at the moment.
Nowadays, when I emerge from a subway in midtown during the middle of the day, I feel like fucking Fievel Mousekowitz, looking around and up in awe if not shock. Where did these giant buildings come from?! Why are these people walking so fast? Why is that taxi cab honking at me?! I shrink to the corner of a building, trying to hide, scared to death. Just a few years ago, I was an asshole, fit and able to deal with the daily onslaught of midtown New York. But now, after being away from it for so long, I've become a fucking rube. The only person in midtown not wearing a suit, not rushing around, not stressed. Oh wait, I am stressed, but not by the daily grind of work, but by that scary guy selling pashminas. Why did he yell at me??? Where do you want me to be walking?!?!
He yelled at me cause I look like a goddamn tourist. I'm wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, carrying a shoulder bag. My hair is shaggy and unkempt. I clearly don't have a job in midtown. It's hard to believe I even live in this city. I'm looking around confused, trying to figure out east from west. I'm dressed so poorly I must be a tourist. I need to ask directions. I'm so out of it I actually ask a tourist for directions myself. Luckily, he's been vacationing long enough to help me. Pathetic. Soon enough I'll be shopping at the M&M store.
I met a friend for lunch in midtown and as we were walking along 47th looking for a place to grab a bite, I kept turning his choices down: "Too busy...no, too busy...oh, I don't want to wait in that line." I had totally forgotten--EVERY lunch place in New York is jam-packed between 11:30 and 2. Of course you have to wait in a snaking line or else starve. How did I used to deal with this?! Now I just make a sandwich at home or, sadly, snack all day. But, back out in the real world, I was looking up at the sandwich menu like a rube, trying to figure out what I wanted, asking unnecessary questions (is the bread freshly baked?), every busy businessman behind me grumbling, yelling at my back, blowing by me to bark their usual orders ("#2, Sun Chips, Diet Coke!"), while I'm still trying to figure out who to order from, the only bozo in the entire deli with no desk to hurry back to.
BAD WEATHER AVOIDANCE
"Ya say it thunder-snow-icaned today? Wow, totally missed that."
"HOW?! Did you even leave the house today???"
This conversation happens far more often than I'd like. When you write, when you're self-employed, home-officed, you can avoid the bad weather. Unless I have a meeting, or I feel like jogging outside, there's not much reason to leave the house during the daylight hours. And, if I dare hear any precipitation plinking off the AC window unit, there's not a chance I'm gonna venture outside. Probably not a chance I'll even put on shoes for the day. I only know if bad weather happened if it was bad enough to become a trending topic on Twitter. (follow me on Twitter) And friends no doubt hate me for that. I hate myself for that. Dealing with bad weather and having the stories to tell about it is part of being a New Yorker.
Speaking of news, I too only know of it if it gets mentioned on Twitter or Facebook (though the only "news" on there is which one of my former high school classmates' little children took a big-girl shit this morning). I'm not really talking to people during the day, so there's no water cooler to gossip at, no place to "Did you hear about?!" current events, no location to discuss the zeitgeist. I really have no idea what people are watching on TV any more, what current events they care about, what's even going on in the world, if not my own city any more.
I'm not even sure why I live in New York nowadays.
I'm not even sure why I'm allowed to write about "society."
I'm now barely a part of it.
And you hate me for that.
I hate myself for that.
What's going on in the world?
This deleted scene is actually an entire chapter. It was originally Chapter 11 in "How to Fail" but in late edits it got completely 86ed. It was just too similar to "How to Fail in Bed" and "How to Get Laid on a Couch" and it didn't really progress Stu's story in any way.
"My success has allowed me to strike out with a higher class of women." --Woody Allen
I flipped open my cell, scrolled to her number in my Contacts, put my thumb on the “Send” button, and…paused. I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Shit, I hadn’t done something like this in years.
Despite being a failure in pretty much all aspects of my life, I've always thought I had pretty decent “game.” Now I’m no Giacomo Casanova or anything, but I’ve always been a deep studier, a student, an autodidact, and a tinkerer and after a decade-plus of noticing my many failures in the world of women, my many failures just in the year since my girlfriend had dumped me, I thought I had developed some pretty decent skills. In fact, I’d felt for the past few years leading up to meeting my last girlfriend, that I’d made these skills, these dos and don’ts, such an ingrained part of my persona that I could just successfully exist around women on autopilot, which is a great thing when you’re often loaded. I’d gotten pretty damn good at soliciting reciprocal intrigue from strange women that I was attracted to, at culling contact info from them, landing dates and outings, which typically lead to in flagranteness. Each of those steps a chance to flounder, to have the process aborted on me, yet I was still putting up both great contact and power numbers. We’re talking a .350 AVG, maybe a .450 OBP, and a slugging percentage that would make Jimmie Foxx blush.
That is until I met Miriam.
My god was she gorgeous. Just silly attractive. About as good-looking as a girl could be without you thinking she must surely be an actress or a model, though, then again, when you actually meet actresses and/or models you’re often like, “That’s it?!” But I digress. I was in a piece-of-shit Murray Hill sportsbar killing some time one night before joining Dan and ME for an overpriced Thai dinner when I heard violent shouting to my right:
“Goddammit Ilgauskas, could you defend the fucking pick-and-roll?! Big Baby is torching you!”
“Would a little hustle be too much to ask, Delonte?!”
“Yep, me too, Lebron, I’d be shaking my head in dismay too if I was playing with these failures.”
The shouting was female. I turned and saw her. 5′2″, 110 pounds, flowing golden locks, emerald green doe eyes, high cheek bones beset on a flawlessly symmetrical face, the flattest stomach I’ve ever seen peekabooing from just under the bottom of her tank top as she pumped her fist in the air after Anderson Varejao took a charge. Who was this divine creature?
I wanted her to be my girlfriend. It was finally time to move on and get a new one. Another one. Someone to support me, mentally and physically. Yes! A new girlfriend would be the key to pulling me out of my failure doldrums and on the road back to success.
“Big Cavs fan, huh? You don't see a lot of those in New Yorks. Knicks fans sure, that's what I am. Nets or 76ers maybe too. But Nets? Is it a Lebron bandwagon thing?”
She didn’t even respond to me, as if she was ignoring me completely. But she wasn’t, because the second the game went to TV timeout, she turned to me with the sweetest smile on her face, and the softest, kindest voice.
"No, I'm not a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, not in the least. I'm just an NBA fan. I'm just an overall sports fan. An addict! I don't have any favorite teams or even players. They are all my favorites!"
"You are my dream girl."
But I was also intimated. Good lord. Both by her attractiveness and sports acumen. Now, I’m no chump in the sports knowledge department, not in the least, but when a 10-out-of-10 beauty turns to you and matter of factly says, “Am I crazy or is Mo Williams overplaying Rondo to the left?,” there’s not much you can do besides go, “Uh… so would you like a drink or sumpin’?”
Not that I usually ever buy drinks for girls because I am insensitive, not to mention unemployed, and I’m not a sap and I am a guy that always usually knows what to say and offering to buy a drink is the last refuge of the sap and guy with no clue and, shit, now I was a sap with no clue what to do.
"Thanks for the offer, that's very sweet, but I don't drink."
"You don't drink?! Who doesn’t drink? Uh...if you mind me asking?"
"I mean, I drink liquid, water and Gatorade and ginger ale, I'm in no danger of dehydrating don’t fret, I simply don’t drink al-kee-hawl."
"Are you religious? Or maybe a recovering alcoholic?"
"Nope. I'm just very much into fitness and energy and health and I don't find that alcohol fits anywhere into that lifestyle."
"But alcohol makes sure your blood is thin and pumping! It's like pretty much health liquid!"
Miriam laughed hard. She thought I was joking.
I awkwardly sat there trying to flirt with this teetotaling, gorgeous, sports savant, no clue what to do…but get loaded myself. I drank so quickly and nervously that I don’t really recall much of how that night ended, but I guess she liked me somewhat because before I left she coolly handed me her card and said, “Call me.”
"Yes, call me."
Shit, I hadn’t called a girl in years. My modus operandi for the longest time, even dating back to my last girlfriend, had been to get girl’s e-mail addresses. A lot of people make fun of me for that, ME and Erin and Kirsten especially, but it’s so much simpler. Besides the fact that I hate talking on the phone, I also don’t like dealing with things in a time sensitive manner. Nothing better than shooting off an e-mail in the morning and giving the gal all the time she wants to respond for the rest of the day.
I first realized I had a power with words back in 11th grade. I knew I was a good writer, even then, but I didn’t quite know the effect my words could have. That was until the last day of class that year when during a yearbook signing period I quickly scratched out a message to a girl I had an unrequited crush on. Now, I hadn’t written anything romantic or perhaps even creepy, if that’s what you’re wondering, I had just slopped down a nice, brief “good to know you” message. The kind of message I would slop down for any one, guy or girl, that I honestly felt it was good to know.
I thought nothing of that message until later that night when the girl called me–she never called me!–to tell me that her and her mother had been rereading over my message all night, it had moved them so much, to tears even, and she just wanted to thank me for my beautiful note. From that point on, I realized how I could affect people with my writing, and I began wielding my pen like an epee.
Fuck! That stupid yearbook message and that stupid girl who was so touched by it had gotten me into this huge mess. I'd probably have never even pursued, unsuccessfully so far, a writing career if not for that girl. That girl who I could barely even remember.
But even if I was a good writer, just like that longaway girl thought, now I was being handicapped, one of my greatest skills taken away from me! I hadn’t called a girl to ask her on a date since like 1999. How did one even go about doing such a thing?! I was actually getting nervous! I don’t get nervous for anything any more. It's hard to when you're a failure, I mean, what's the worst that could happen? Just another failing to add to the pile.
Shit, what to do? I went to Facebook to look at Miriam's page. Maybe she wasn’t as good looking as I recall. Perhaps she was not truly that interesting. Maybe she listed her religious affiliation as Wiccan. But she didn’t even have a page! The hell? What twentysomething chick doesn’t have a Facebook profile? Well, at least I knew she didn’t have any children, cause no new mother nowadays can possibly avoid posting zillion of pictures and inane status updates about their miserable rugrats.
Should I just text her? Naw, that would be cowardly. And, I later found out, impossible. Miriam didn’t even have a cell phone. So I called the number she gave me, a landline, and fought through the nerves to arrange a date. She had only one rule: we had to go to a bar with plenty of TVs, and good ones, she wasn’t going to miss that night’s Nuggets/Lakers game.
Meeting up with her that evening, she was just as gorgeous as I recall. I pounded How to Fail Ales while she drank cranberry juice. I wondered if she had a bladder infection. I quizzed her on her seeming lack of technology, her Luddite values. She didn’t have a Facebook page because she thought it was childish, a time suck. I couldn’t disagree with that. She didn’t have a cell phone because she didn’t like to be reached at any time, any place. She also thought it was rude to have your ears and eyes glued to a device while out with other people. Again, couldn’t disagree with that. As for e-mail, she only checked it once a week, so sending her messages was borderline pointless.
I soon realized, I had no fucking clue what to do. Just like with all these other aspects of my life. I’d followed a very simple pattern with the previous zillion women I’d dated: get e-mail address, send pithy and humorous message the next day or so, meet at bar around happy hour, get loaded going drink-for-drink with a girl I outweighed by fifty pounds at least, be funny, be interesting, and by midnight or later I was usually in bed with said female. I had a system, a damn good system, an innately New York City system, but now I was just flummoxed. Especially, when at 9 PM, Miriam told me she had to get to bed. As in, go to bed alone. Seems she wakes up every morning at 4 AM to work out in order to be at her job by 7 AM.
Who was I dealing with?!
This girl was one of the most committed, focused, good, pure, and successful human beings in this entire miserable city.
Miriam quickly kissed me on the lips and sprinted from the place, leaving me there to reassess what went wrong. Our chemistry had been solid enough, sure, but I never felt like we were making a full connection, she seemingly more interested in Carmelo Anthony’s shooting that night than in my hilarious anecdotes of a life of failure.
I typically wouldn’t even continue going after a girl like Miriam after such a modest failure of a first date, but she was too goddamn hot, and I was still certain we were destined to someday soon have the same last name. Maybe she was just shy, nervous herself. And did I always have to take the easy way out?
The easy sluts to sack or the tough nut to crack? I'd always taken the former but now it was time to pursue the latter.
I needed to try to pick up my game, swim in the deep end without any floaties on my doughy biceps. You can only get better at things if you challenge yourself, right?
Forced to call her again for a second date, I would have to show up and be as charismatic as I’ve ever been, and be aggressive and sexy and manly too. I’d have to work quick, cause I’d only have til her witching hour of 9, but I could make it work. I’d barely drink as well, flip the tables on her. Yes! Maybe she was only so intimidating, so cocksure, because she was a sober beauty dealing with drunken buffoons like me, each pint we drank knocking five points off our IQs until Miriam was dealing with a borderline retard. My Lesbian Wingman and Brandi thought it was a great plan and even offered me a few tips of their own. Boy they musta wanted me out of their hair.
But I would flounder again this time, too self-conscious at my behavior, my lack of drinking, her placid and sober demeanor. Nothing had changed. After we again chastely kissed goodbye at 9:00 on the dot, I knew it was over.
Walking home up Ninth Avenue, I came to the realization that I must have no game. Sure, I’m good at meeting women, good at getting them to meet me out, and good at–I guess–taking semi-advantage of them while we’re both equally drunk. And, once a women’s slept with you once, the hard part is over. Even if she doesn’t like you once you’re already one of her “numbers,” a tally on her sexual abacus, she figures you guys might as well forge some sort of relationship out of this fact, whether you become as much as boyfriend and girlfriend or just sometime besotted bedmates.
In fact, it could be said that chemically, once you’ve slept with a woman that first drunken night, the bond has been formed for the immediate future as Oxytocin is released into the women’s nervous system during distension of the cervix and hopefully for her sake orgasm, causing her to have a mysteriously uncontrollable and intense need to bond with you. Even for a night.
I was at the Wee Pub talking about my struggles with Lynn.
"My dealings with Miriam made me realize I have no game. I'm not good with women. Great, yet another thing I find I'm a failure at. One of the few things I had thought I was good at!"
"Yes, y'are a failure with the birds. Young guys like you got'it t'easy. Back in m'day we act'lly had to woo the woman. Y'know wut wooing is?"
"Yer whole life you've been using some fookin' thousand dolla' titanium driver that corrects all yer mishits. Ha, ever notice how mishits sounds like 'my shits?' I grew up using piece of fookin' shit wood clubs and hittin' rocks. That's why my game's so tight now. Better than your weak generation. When I grew up in Cork, rather than relying on textin', Face-fookin'-booking, e-mell, I had to learn my craft by doin' t'ings like making plans in advance, callin' birds on the kitchen phone with my fookin' parents in the next room. Try that!"
Lynn left to tend to a customer and I thought about what he had to say.
Yes, I would start wooing women. Courting them. Like all men had done from Adam til circa 1995 or so. Before cellphones, Facebook, Twitter, texting, and the brilliant drunken social mores of the 21st century.
Wooing and courting. When was the last time a man had done that? When was the last time a man had used those words?
Technology and the mores of the 21st century has made dating so impersonal. You meet a girl at a bar, you hit it off, but forget to exchange info. You look her up on Facebook, find her, friend her, e-mail back and forth a time or two. Ask her if she wants to grab a drink. She agrees. Gives you her phone number. Tells you to text--don't call--the day of to confirm.
You meet at a loud bar, you both can barely hear each other over the music and chit-chat of others. That doesn't really matter because you've both memorized everything there is to kow about each other. Or, at least everything facile there is to know (her favorite movie: "The Princess Bride"; your favorite book: "American Psycho.")
You get drunk, go to her place and fuck, soon you've doing this 2-3 times a week for the last 2-3 months yet you barely know each other.
I wanted to change that. Really get to know a girl. That would net me happiness. I was certain of it.
Besides the now-dated Lebron references, I kinda like that passage. But it killed the flow of the book, I was right to cut it. Oh well, at least I got to share it here.
Check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:
#1 -- "FUCK YOUS" (dedication page)
#2 -- "QUOTING BIGGIE SMALLS" (including famous quotes)
#3 -- "BLURBS" (cover blurbs)
#4 -- "CHAPTER ONE" (genesis of HTF idea)
#5 -- "THE FAILURE INTERVENTION" (deleted scene)
#6 -- "I'VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER" (deleted scene)