I'm an egomaniac so I have a Google Alert set-up for "Aaron Goldfarb." Sometimes I try to convince myself that it's not because I'm an egomaniac, that I actually need to monitor online discussions about me just to make sure my brand is well-liked, but that's bullshit. I just like to see what people are saying about me. That's why, it's the worst when I get a Google Alert about some Aaron Goldfarb who isn't me. Like I got this morning.
Back in the late-1990s, before there was Google and Facebook and Twitter, and before even your grandma had an online presence, there was something called the Online White Pages, essentially a massive online phone book. I entered "Aaron Goldfarb" into it one day while sitting in my sophomore dorm room and got back six entries for six different Aaron Goldfarbs across America. Being that I wasn't even one of those, I assumed there were others not listed and there might be, say, 12-20 Aaron Goldfarbs in all of America.
I figured I should at least try to be the best, most famous Aaron Goldfarb of those few dozen.
In the early 2000s I bought the domain aarongoldfarb.com because I'm so arrogant that I assumed I would need it one day.
With nothing significant going on in my life, though, a functioning aarongoldfarb.com was not necessary for the first few years I owned it. So, yes, I was squatting on my own name. I needed money at the time too so if another Aaron Goldfarb quickly got famous I would have probably sold him the domain for the right price.
The first Aaron Goldfarb to become famous, or infamous, actually happened in 1999. Some Maryland fifteen-year-old named, unfortunately, Aaron Goldfarb murdered some fellow teens. He instantly became the #1 Google listed "Aaron Goldfarb" from that point forward. That was really a blow to my name brand and I fretted for weeks that this story would develop some legs. It never did, only once did a person even bring him up to me, though that Aaron Goldfarb did stay at #1 on a Google search of my name for the next decade.*
For the rest of the 2000s, there were other Aaron Goldfarbs online doing cooler stuff than me and appearing higher in Google searches than me:
*An emergency medicine doctor from California.
*Another doctor, this one a pathologist from Michigan. (You're probably not surprised that Aaron Goldfarb is a doctor-y name.)
*A guy who fronts a rock band out of Austin, Aaron and the Polynomials. (It was he who appeared in my Google alert this morning--he seems pretty cool.)
But, since late last year, ever since "How to Fail" came out, I've dominated the Google front page for my...our...name.
I wonder if these other Aaron Goldfarbs ever Google me? I wonder if they've read my book? I wonder if they're angry about me stealing their search engine thunder? I wonder if they've turned off their Google Alerts for "Aaron Goldfarb"?
I wonder if they'd send me an e-mail if I ask them too?
(Speaking of, since I own aarongoldfarb.com, if any other Aaron Goldfarbs e-mail me, I'll gladly issue you a [name]@aarongoldfarb.com e-mail address. Of course, you can't be aaron or aarongoldfarb @aarongoldfarb.com, so I guess you probably wouldn't want one. But, I could probably hook you up with email@example.com or something, which is really lame come to think of it.)
In December of 2010 I finally jumped ahead of the child murderer to hit #1, where I remain on top at the present.
Hopefully another Aaron Goldfarb doesn't ever again do something famous or infamous. Hopefully one of these other Aaron Goldfarbs doesn't try to murder me.
That would surely light up the Aaron Goldfarb search returns.
How about you? Does any one "have" your name?
*UPDATE!: Ha, I shot myself in the foot. By linking to the Aaron Goldfarb murderer, I shot him back to #1 in the Google search. Thus, like a little bitch, I removed the link. How to Fail. Truly.
A friend of mine in college used to refer to his father's "drinking buddies." This blew my mind. What adult had drinking buddies? College kids, sure. But adults? Not in my 18-year-old mind. Not my dad. My dad had friends and co-workers and tennis partners and networking associates, but drinking buddies?!
I quickly learned, once I became an adult (kinda), there's nothing weird about having drinking buddies. In fact, a drinking buddy is often the one constant in your life. A friend, a wingman, a therapist, a co-philosopher, a partner in crime.
I've drank with hundreds of people over the years, but these are the notable rocks I consistently held up the bar with until last call.
Karl (2000) -- Karl was one of three roommates my junior and senior year of college. As oddball Midwesterners (him from Eden Prairie, Minnesota; me, Oklahoma City) attending Syracuse, we both turned 21 well before any of our east coast friends. By the early 2000s, Syracuse had started cracking down on fake IDs, so few people even chanced it any more and Karl and I were the only two from our group legally able to hit the bar scene junior year. It was so exotic. Illicit! The excitement of drinks being poured. Cozying up to college girls in their stupid "going out" clothes. Getting educated on bar rules. The thrill of the unexpected. In real life, in the day time, Karl and I were friendly but we weren't the world's best friends. But, at night, at the bar, we had no one else to rely on and we were the best of friends. It was a magical time to be young, to be lucky enough to be born in the first few months of 1979.
Tim (2001-2002) -- I was friends with Tim in college but we truly became FRIENDS after college when we decided to forge a screenwriting partnership. We lived in a $500 a month four-bedroom shithole deep in the recesses of Hoboken where we were underemployed, wrote "American Pie" knock-offs (one called "The Good Life" was our never-produced "masterpiece"), and always found the best drink deals. Our first day in town, someone handed us a flier for a bar called Rogo's. $5 cover charge, then $1 beer and booze from 7:00 PM til midnight. We'd belly up to the bar at 6:59 and start Herculean drinking, singles littering the immediate area in front of us like a strip club stage. By, 12:01 we'd go from drinking buddies to: getting 86ed buddies, throwing-up buddies, falling-asleep-in-trash buddies, committing petty misdemeanor buddies. Now, that was the good life. (Amazingly, a decade later, the deals at Rogo's appear fairly similar.)
Kevin (2003-2004) -- When Tim moved to L.A., Kevin took his place both as roommate and drinking buddy. A well-raised kid from Cincinnati via Duke University, he dressed like a golf pro and knew about the finer things in life. He introduced me to high-end booze, Belgian beers, and flirting with women using as few of words as possible. 150 pounds soaking wet, he could still drink like a fish. He met his future wife one Memorial Day weekend we'd headed out to the late great Village Idiot as drinking buddies. I was so drunk that night I didn't even recall him having met her. That would be the last time we'd ever truly be close-the-bar-down drinking buddies.
Joel (2004) -- For the bulk of late-2004, every Friday and Saturday in the late afternoon I'd get a call from Joel. Formalities were ignored and we both quickly got to the point at hand: "Where are we drinking tonight?" It was my final few months in Hoboken, while Joel lived in Hell's Kitchen, so I'd PATH it into the city and we'd hit the bars hard. At the time, we both liked vodka tonic doubles and stupid women and a raucous bar called No Idea was our stomping grounds. Eventually, Joel started increasingly mentioning some girl whenever we were buddying up and, though I should have easily predicted it, that was soon the end of that. Every few months, the married suburban man still appears back on the scene and we tie one on like old times. He's the rare drinking buddy whose legend still haunts every night out without him, him now a mental drinking buddy.
alone (2005) -- With Tim in L.A., Kevin, Joel, (John and others) in the start of new relationships with their soon-to-be wives, and Jonn getting deployed to the Middle East, I found myself as a guy who had gone from tons of drinking buddies to none. Literally none. Bored out of my wits most weekend nights, I realized I had little choice but to go out drinking alone. That's not easy but I quickly devised a strategy for not looking pathetic, not getting bored, and not losing my barstool when I had to sprint to the loo to take a piss. I actually gained a lot mentally and socially from this time. Thankfully it only lasted a few months or I might have jumped into the Hudson. I had gained a new appreciation for drinking buddies.
Jonn (2005) -- In 2005 Jonn returned from his tour of duty and we voraciously made up for lost time. He'd been overseas for only a few years, but he returned to a social scene that had completely changed. One that had gone from a massive group of merry drinking men to now just me and him. He was stunned. He was also very skinny after several years of hard desert-living and a total lack of alcohol in his diet. He wanted to go out most nights of the week to make up for missed time with both beer and women. That was fine with me. We'd hit every happy hour in town, sometimes staying til close. We'd load up on the cheapest pitcher deals and flirt with every woman that would let us. For shits and giggles, we even adapted phony personas we liked to pull out when the mood tickled us and the booze pickled us. He now lives in Queens and we don't get to drink together as much as we used to but he will clearly be a drinking buddy for a lifetime. He's not gonna stop drinking any time soon. Nor will I.
Graig (2007-present) -- As I age, as we all do, you start needing "reasons" to go out. Getting drunk is a pretty solid one, and hitting on women is another, but meeting to root on your favorite sports team is an even better excuse for a decrepit 30-year-old who can't drink as good as he used to and has a girlfriend to boot. I didn't know Graig at Syracuse, but the first time we met (after a painful loss to Notre Dame which we watched at the late Town Tavern) I knew we'd be instant friends. Twenty plus times a year, we find ourselves just having "one more" to celebrate a Syracuse win or lament a Syracuse loss and next thing you know, our other game-watching buddies (Sal, Eric, et al) have called it a night and it's just us, beer, booze, philosophy, and a sober bartender trying to bilk a massive tip out of Graig. Graig has picked up my tab more than is reasonable--he's very generous when Syracuse wins, very drunk when we lose--and I probably owe him a back-tab larger than Norm owes Cheers.
Derek (ongoing) -- Derek is another friend from Syracuse who I didn't actually know at Syracuse. We quickly become drinking buddies over our shared love of the finer drinks in life and the drunker fines in life. Derek doesn't live in New York but he's in town for business (or, "business") so often he might as well be. Once a month, or so it seems, I'll meet him at his hotel and we'll polish off a few craft beer rarities before heading to Rattle n Hum or Blind Tiger to sample the wares. For his wedding, we put together one of the finest craft beer lineups either of us has ever sampled. That's a good drinking buddy, one who will let you be his drinking buddy even on his wedding day.
Craig (2010) -- Less a drinking buddy than a drinking teammate, from November 9 to December 10, 2010, during the 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour, my manager Craig and I literally spent every single day and night drinking together. We only got stronger as the days progressed, like Jordan and Pippen in NBA Finals.
Betsy (2010-present) -- I doubt she'd like to be called a drinking buddy, but one's final (and ultimate) drinking buddy in life is always going to be a girlfriend, wife, life partner. I met her at a bar, I first-dated her at a bar, and our increasingly decreasing "going out" lives still revolve around the bar. We're both beer connoisseurs, we both detest sitting at tables in restaurants, and we both consider a fromage and charcuterie plate to be an acceptable and well-balanced dinner. A perfect pairing. You say, "Your girlfriend can't be your drinking buddy." I say: if your girlfriend, wife, life partner isn't fit to belly up to the bar with you, then I feel sorry for you.
I'd be remiss to not mention John, Kyle, Brian, Mike, Michael, Tony, Jeff, Kingsley, Sal, Eric, Dave, David, Todd, Steven, and (surely the world's best ever teetotaling drinking buddy) Chris.
Who are some of your best drinking buddies over the years?
"...for he who does not postpone his life, but lives already."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"
And if you wait until your older
A sad resentment will smolder one day
And Then that summer feeling is gonna haunt you
And that summer feeling's gonna taunt you
And then that summer feeling is gonna hurt you
One day in your life.
-Jonathan Richman, "That Summer Feeling"
I'm tired of people talking about things they want to do before they die.
It's almost become de rigeuer for any one with a website or blog or Tumblr or Facebook page--so, like everyone you know--to one day post their master bucket list (typically written when they're bored at the office and have a spare 5 minutes).
Such trite selections, always the same as everyone else's, quickly jotted off in haphazard fashion.
Does everyone in America really want to climb a mountain in every continent, or do they just think they should want to?!
Does everyone really have that aching of need to dip a toe in every ocean on planet earth or does that just sound like...way vagabond-y, man?
Do you really have any reason for visiting Antarctica or does that just sound cool to you?
Why would you possibly dream of sharing a tea with Kate Middleton or a coffee with Michelle Obama or a beer with George Clooney? Who gives a shit?
If everyone actually accomplished their bucket lists then it would seem by 2050 we'd have a world where everyone had: run a marathon, learned to speak Italian, swam with the dolphins, and fucked Brooklyn Decker.
I really don't want to do any of that shit.
How about, instead of rotely going about life checking off an arbitrary bucket list...
How about figuring out the shit you need to get out of the way before you're finally able to live?
Do you need to quit that shitty job?
Do you need to move to a more productive city?
Do you need to dump that bitch girlfriend?
Do you need to simply start writing that novel???
Time is the only commodity you can't create more of.
Why are you so concerned with trying to accomplish these insignificant things? Just to say you did?
Why are you more concerned with figuring out what you'd like to check off in the next 40, 50, or 60 years, when you "get around to it," before you die?
Why not figure out what you need to do in the next minute, hour, week, or month before you can start living the life you want to live?
Even if that is swimming with stupid dolphins...
The first time I read "Self-Reliance," I didn't. It was assigned summer reading before my senior year AP English class and I was too busy golfing and playing pick-up basketball to waste my summer on a book written by a dead guy with weird sideburns. At age 23, I read it the second time, printing out a public domain edition using a temp job's laser printer then plowing through it on my lunch break. This week was my third time to read it and by far the most valuable thanks to the Domino Project's beautiful new special edition.
Stunning design by my friend Alex Miles Younger places all of Emerson's original text on the right side of the page in this slim 73 page volume, with notable pull-quotes from the book as well as complementary and supplementary quotes from famous people on the left side (pictured above). OK, fine, it's a bit ironic that a book that preaches you needing to think for yourself highlights the lines that you SHOULD think are the most important. Except for the fact, those ARE the most important lines. They were to me at least.
I somewhat always dismissed and ignored Emerson because I thought he was like his friend Thoreau, who I kind of hate. But, whether it was because of my age or this special edition, "Self-Reliance"--finally!--resonated with me on this third read like few books have ever before. (It could be a fitting companion to my beloved "Meditations" even.)
"Self-Reliance" is truly a book about artistic confidence and belief in one's own genius: "To believe your own thoughts, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius." It's a book about not sitting around waiting for someone else, someone anointed, to say the things you want to say: "Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly sense what we have thought and felt all time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another." Devastating, and often so sadly true.
"Self-Reliance"--just like my more curse-filled book--preaches that one force himself to reject the conformity around him if he truly wants to live: "...for he who does not postpone his life, but lives already." It wonders why we're scared to bring our deepest, most private thoughts out into the real world: "These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world."
You're betraying yourself when you're not letting your voice be heard and I'm reminded of both poet Alexander Pope and pimp Iceberg Slim.
Alexander Pope who said: "Whatever is, is right."
Iceberg Slim who said: "Chumps prefer a beautiful lie to an ugly truth."
Don't be a chump. Quit lying to yourself. We all lie to ourselves and to the public far too often. We need to stop doing that. We need to believe in ourselves, worship at our own altar, be our own philosopher. No one can do a better job of teaching you to be you...than YOU.
"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles."
This book could have been written yesterday.
Today and tomorrow, May 25 and 26, 2011, the Kindle edition of "Self-Reliance" is FREE thanks to sponsorship from Ibex.
You've probably noticed these people. They don't write blog posts that are particularly interesting yet each one gets 50 comments. They don't Tweet anything particularly witty yet they get 25 Retweets. They don't post particularly worthwhile status updates yet get 65 "LIKES." They have 10,000 or 20,000 or sometimes even 100,000 "followers" but they aren't famous in any sense of the word. How can that be?
Then, you start to notice that these people have the exact same people commenting on all their posts and Retweeting all their crap and LIKING all their shit. So you check those people out: they too have boring blogs, they too don't Tweet anything particularly witty yet get 25 Retweets, they too don't post particularly worthwhile status updates yet get 65 "LIKES," they too have 10,000 or 20,000 or sometimes even 100,000 followers but aren't famous at all.
And so on and so on and so on. Non-famous, non-interesting, non-relevant people forming an online circle jerk continually regurgitating each other's content and letting it bounce around like a racquetball trapped inside the court.
You get enough people in the circle, enough participants, and it makes it seem like all of the participants are actually creating something worthwhile.
I mean, they have to be, right? If that many people are interested?
Yet, they never create anything that actually escapes from the circle, that any one on planet earth outside of the circle cares about. They don't seem to offer much to the world.
This isn't Tribe-building, this is a tacit gaming of the system.
I'm almost surprised there isn't a web 2.0 company called Circle Jerk (though it would probably be called Crcl Jrk--vowels just aren't sexy on the web) to help place people into certain sized groups with others. They would all make each other seem like they all had something going on.
Maybe there already is this service.
Just please don't Google "circle jerk" to find out.
I was talking to a good friend yesterday. We're real friends but we're also Facebook friends, and she "LIKES" my celebrity (or whatever you're supposed to humbly call it) Facebook page, and I think she might even follow me on Twitter, and she's certainly on my Mail Chimp mailing list and perhaps even subscribes to my blog's RSS feed. Oh, she also happens to date my manager.
Any way, we were e-mailing--I told you we're friends--and she asked when the winning film from The Cheat Sheet Film Festival would be posted online for her to see.
I was stupefied.
Why? Let's see:
*I'd twice written blog posts about it.
*I'd posted a link to the Vimeo upload of it on my Facebook page and posted additional links every time I'd written further blog posts about it.
*I'd done likewise on my celebrity Facebook page.
*And, I'd Tweeted about it ad nauseum.
I don't bring this up to slam her. She did nothing wrong. I did. I am apparently doing something quite wrong.
How does an artist make the unaware aware?
This isn't an isolated incident. It happens quite a bit. People that want to hear about me, desire to hear from me, are curious to hear what I'm doing, have given permission to me to market to them, oh, and are actively looking for and anxiously waiting for my newest shit...MISS IT. People that spend a lot of their lives online as well.
What am I doing wrong?
Why is my stuff getting lost in the online ether?
What can I do to fix it?
It's scary that I'm not even batting 1.000 with the people that crave my content.
When you're a writer, even when you're "giving it your all," sometimes you fail.
"Born. Again" was a story based on an idea I really liked--essentially: What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?--but I just couldn't execute the story as well as I would have liked. That happens sometimes as a writer. You're unable to write something as good as you envision it in your head. Should I have NOT included it in "The Cheat Sheet" being that I know it's not A+ material? Perhaps. Hard to say. That's one of the questions I think artists of all types often have to face. Do I include something I rate as my B (or even C) material, just to see how it resonates with an audience? Just to fill out a collection? Or, do I only include the stuff I judge to be my absolute best work?
Whatever the case, this is my least favorite story from "The Cheat Sheet," though I promise tried the best I could...
Before grabbing a cab to JFK, David stopped into Duane Reade for one more thing. He juked through the over-stuffed labyrinthine aisles toward the back of the store and the prophylactics section. He always hated buying condoms. Not because he was embarrassed, the reason most people hated buying condoms, but for two others reasons. Firstly, condoms were expensive. Overly expensive, he thought. Though, can you put a price on not getting disease-riddled and kid-addled? He supposed you couldn't. But, David mainly hated having to sort through all the choices. Trojan, Durex, KlingTite. Reservoir tipped, ribbed, lubricated. He always opted for spermicidal, liking how violent it sounded toward sperm, like it was a homicidal killer of his little swimmers. It was so much better to order condoms online, where you not only got a huge price break for buying in bulk, but where you had time to carefully peruse the rubbers' specs without old Murray Hill shoppers gawking at you.
Meanwhile, Jessica was gassing up her Four Runner at a Texaco station just off I-70 in Independence, Missouri. At the last second, she too remembered one more thing and headed into the gas station's tiny mart hoping they had some in stock.
Both David and Jessica were headed to St. Louis where she was to pick him up at Lambert International Airport, at the Delta terminal, after his 11:48 AM flight arrived. They had initially fought about what city to meet in. He, of course, wanted her to come to Manhattan for the weekend, even though he was embarrassed by his squalid little studio. She wanted him to come to Kansas City where she assured him she had so many rooms in the suburban house she owned that she could give him three guest rooms if he needed the space. She refused to come to New York because she was both a little scared of the city and a little scared of him. He refused to go to Kansas City because he thought it boring and there were no direct flights there. After some haggling, they decided to spend their first weekend together in a city halfway between them. In David's mind, halfway between the ~1200 miles separating Manhattan and Kansas City would put them in either Chicago or Louisville, either city of which he would have gladly accepted. Chicago was a great town, the second best in America he figured and he thought he could probably squeeze in a game at Wrigley and some good carnivorous dining. Louisville would have also worked for him as he'd always wanted to go on the Bourbon Trail and drink his way around the state.
Jessica nixed both his ideas, insisting that, though the mileage to either Chicago or Louisville was somewhat halfway, it truly wasn't since she would be driving and he would be flying. Jessica was scared of airplanes and flew as rarely as possible. She insisted that they should judge “halfway” via travel time as opposed to mileage. His flight was a little over two hours so Jessica said they should meet within two hours of Kansas City. David found that farcical. Mainly because a two hour radius of Kansas City would have put them in such hotspots as Columbia, MO; Joplin, MO; or Manhattan, KS. No, thank you. Also, though, New York to St. Louis via air travel wasn't merely a two hour trip for David as a cab to the airport would take him a good thirty minutes, plus he'd have to wait at JFK for at least an hour or two. Ultimately, Jessica afforded him a four and a half hour trip and that was how they picked St. Louis. David wasn't thrilled that he would be paying $450 for his traveling leg of the trip while Jessica only paid an estimated $30 in gas, but she quickly allayed his unexpressed but transparently growing concerns by footing the bill for the two night's stay at the Marriott.
They had met at their high school's ten year reunion earlier that summer in Tulsa. Or, rather, re-met. There was no way they hadn't interacted at least once during their four years at Half Hallowed Hills High, though neither David or Jessica could remember specifically being around each other a decade previous, especially since she took honors classes and he didn't, though both admitted that each other's names rang a definite bell. David wouldn't have typically attended his reunion and he rarely returned "home" to Tulsa even though his parents still lived there, but he was incredibly horny. He was embarrassed to admit it, even to himself, but the only reason he had attended the reunion was to try to get laid. His girlfriend Jenn had dumped him just four months previous and he hadn't had any sex since then, when, coupled with the sexless final three months of their relationship, meant that he was in the midst of a long cold streak. And, true, shelling out some $500 to fly home seemed like a high price to pay, David had been certain some former classmate would have sex with him at the reunion. You see, him simply living in New York gave him an amazing amount of cache in Midwestern society. Most of his classmates still lived in Tulsa, or, at best, Oklahoma City or Kansas City. Then again, most of his classmates also were happily married, happily parents, happily fatter than shit.
That's why he had been so pleased to re-meet Jessica. Glowing hazel eyes, long flowing auburn hair, the cutest freckles across the bridge of her nose, freckles you could tell she was still a tad embarrassed about by the way she tried to mute them with a slightly heavy brush of concealer. She had a great body too, tall and thin. And thin by, like, New York standards, not Midwestern standards which were far more lax.
Jessica thought David was a cutie the second she saw him, alone and preparing a plate of food at the buffet. He didn't look like any of the other 235 men at the reunion, most of whom she knew, or at least knew their wives, her former classmates. David wore a suit that actually fit, not a fabric-laden suit he was swimming in like the other tacky men in attendance. “Who's that?” Jessica had asked Annamarie who was busy texting with her five-year-old back home.
Annamarie looked up for a second. “I don't know. Maybe someone's husband?”
“I don't think so. He seems to be alone.”
“Do you think he's gay? He must be gay. Or divorced. Not worth your trouble.”
“I want to talk to him.”
Thirty-five days later, David walked through terminal one toward the parking garage where Jessica had told him she would be waiting. She was a little worry wart so she always overestimated how long it would take her to get someplace and thus was always early. For a drive from Kansas City to St. Louis she allotted herself a healthy six hours considering Friday traffic but apparently no one was clogging I-70 in kicking off an early three-day weekend so she breezed to St. Louis and was in the dark parking garage paying two dollars per half hour to read from her Bible as she waited for David's arrival. At 1:45, the time David's plane was slated to land, she was quivering with nerves and shoved her Bible into the glove box, fixed her lip gloss, and got out of the car.
David wasn't much for phone conversation and Jessica wasn't much for e-mail and texting, so they'd both compromised over the last month in order to communicate with each other and start forging a long distance, modern pen pal relationship which had led to them now having their first date in St. Louis. David was the first person Jessica had ever texted with and she actually kind of enjoyed it, though her fingers were slow and clunky whenever she tried to punch something into her bare bones flip phone.
“garage 3, level 2, black Altima, white girl with brown hair” is the text David received the second his plane landed and he was allowed to turn on his Blackberry. Jessica seemed fairly humorless when he dealt directly with her, like in person, or in phone conversations, but then she'd fire off a somewhat playful little text and make him completely reconsider her personality.
It wasn't that hard to find Jessica once he'd gotten into the parking garage. There were hardly any cars there and there was only one girl leaning against her trunk. David immediately felt underdressed and foolish. He was never the nattiest dresser, but when he flew he dressed even more minimalist, you might say. On this day, he was merely wearing cargo shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip flops. Meanwhile, Jessica was all dolled up in a flowing sun dress and high heels. She had more freckles than he had recalled. Perhaps she had just worn more makeup at the reunion.
David didn't know whether he was supposed to run toward her with his arms wide, perhaps throw his bags to the ground for a big hug and a kiss—and maybe if he got lucky, some immediate making out in Jessica's backseat—so instead he just did an ironic half trot toward her, hugging her briefly and planting a smooch on her cheek. She retracted and looked down. She was clearly very shy.
“OK, get in and we'll go to the Marriott.”
Despite Annamarie's pleas, Jessica had approached David—she never approached men! –at the reunion. It couldn't be that hard she figured, people her age did stuff like this every day. People her age had already begun doing stuff like this for years if not decades—that's how they were all married and she was still single. Jessica was so inexperienced, though, that she didn't even know what she didn't know. Mainly, that people typically have a “line” when they approach a would-be romantic partner. Jessica, on the other hand, didn't know that people typically had a line, but she did know that she had no idea what to say to David to kick off the conversation. For her whole life she had only talked to people when she had a reason to. To ask them questions and what not. So she asked David a question:
“Is there meat in that salad?”
David looked up and their eyes met. He smiled. She blushed, he was so cute.
“Uh...no, I don't think so. Are you a vegetarian?”
“Sometimes,” she had said, being serious, she rarely did eat meat, but David thought she was being witty and laughed hard. He had a nice laugh.
Jessica finished fourth in their class's final GPA standings and landed a nice scholarship to KU in Lawrence. There, she had got caught up...well, caught up in “fun.” She had drank and done drugs, but she hadn't drank harder than most girls her age and she hadn't done any “badder” drugs than marijuana or mushrooms or the occasional pills like Ritalin. She started going out every night using the fake ID of a sorority sister who was had just turned twenty-one and thus could use her real ID finally. Mondays were Ladies Night at Charlie's, Tuesdays Flip Night at the Hungry Hippo, Wednesday coin pitchers at LuLu's, Thursdays were for barhopping downtown, Fridays were Happy Hour at Fat Stan's, Saturdays were for frat parties, and Sundays were Drown Night at the Hawg where for five buckaroos you got to drink draught beer until all the week's kegs were killed and, thus, fresh ones could be put on for Monday. Jessica ended most Sunday nights in the bed of some frat boy. She wasn't a “slut,” per se, she really wasn't much different than any of her friends, any of the girls at her college.
Sunday nights back in Tulsa, back when she was in high school, had been her Bible study night. Jessica wasn't super religious or anything back in those days, she just went to Bible study on Sunday night because that's what you did. Just like you went to church on Wednesday night and Sunday mornings. It was only after all that fun had led Jessica to flunk out of college that she began to “re-evaluate” her relationship with God. She moved back home, got a job as a hostess at a nearby Tex-Mex joint and, with no underage bars, or men (er, boys), she had no choice but to no longer have any drinks or sex or fun. But that was fine. She grew disgusted with the girl she had been in her year away at college. She wanted to get back on track. And, she did, eventually enrolling at Oral Roberts and getting a B.S. in accounting.
“And the last time you had sex, if you don't mind me asking?”
On the Monday after the reunion, Jessica had returned to Kansas City and immediately sought out her preacher Mr. Charles. She had told him about her little problem and he had recommended she visit his friend Kyle Loucks, not a preacher, but rather a “spiritual relationship and sex adviser.” It even said that on his business cards, which were die-cut to look like crosses.
“And the last time you had sex, if you don't mind me asking?”
“I heard you, Mr. Loucks. I was just thinking. It was sometime during that year at KU. I haven't had sex since then. I've been a good Christian. I'm saving myself for marriage. I wish I still had my virginity to give my future husband but this is the best I can do.”
“Some people would even call you a 'born again virgin.'” He smiled at her. “And why exactly did you feel a need to see me?”
“Because I met a guy on Saturday night. I never meet guys.”
“No, it's awful.”
“Did you have sex with him?” Mr. Loucks leaned in close and put his hand on Jessica's knee, seeming quite curious with her answer.
He leaned back.
“But I kind of wanted to.”
“That's normal, Jessica. You're a healthy, young, beautiful woman.”
Over the next month, Jessica had begun visiting Mr. Loucks more and more often as her long distance relationship with David continued developing more deeply. He sounded dismayed when she told him she was going to St. Louis to have her first date with David.
“Do you trust yourself to spend an entire weekend alone with him in a hotel room?”
“No. Not exactly. That's why I booked us a deluxe room. It's not quite a suite, but there's two queens and a small couch in the room.”
David was a little surprised when Jessica opened the door to their hotel room and he saw how big it was. This must have cost her a fortune, he thought. They, of course, weren't in Manhattan, but St. Louis was a fairly legit city and this probably cost quite a bit. I guess with a whole weekend together she figured they might need their space. Fair enough.
The hotel room he'd rented for his return to Tulsa had not been nearly as nice. He'd just found the closest hotel to the dinner club that was hosting the reunion and had booked that, sight unseen. He cared more about proximity than luxury, for his goal had been to pick up a girl at his reunion and escort her across the street to this hotel. One of those, “Wanna come back and see my (hotel) room?” kinda things. He hadn't use that exact line verbatim with Jessica but he had used a similar one that had worked. Worked in that she had returned to his hotel room. Once there, he had moved in for a kiss which she had briefly requited but then she had pushed him away.
“Do you believe in God?”
What a weird question to ask, but he was pretty toasted from all the wine he'd drunk so he didn't realize at the time how weird it was.
“Not at all. I'm an atheist.”
That had spooked her and she had, all of the sudden, needed to leave, despite the fact her ride, Annamarie, had already headed back to Kansas City.
“How will you get home?” he wondered.
“I'll take a cab.”
“All the way back to Kansas City?!”
He'd ended that night alone masturbating to a $15.99 hotel pay-per-view, Godless Cum Guzzlers funnily enough, the complete opposite of what Jessica had apparently been.
Jessica hadn't drunk at the reunion because she didn't drink any more. I mean, she did drink sometimes, she wasn't a teetotaler, but she didn't drink frequently and didn't need to drink in social situations. Though she was actually starting to reevaluate things. She had quit drinking socially since her “glory days” in college because she didn't like how it had made her lose control. She liked being in control. Though she had begun to think that maybe micromanaging her own life was a very non-religious thing to do. She'd asked Mr. Loucks about this.
“Aren't I, like, going against God by trying to be so in control of myself? Wouldn't it be more religious, more Christian, more Godly, to turn myself over to him?”
She hadn't further inquired whether drinking a few glasses of wine to turn herself over to him was also legitimate.
“Would you like a drink, David?”
She sat on the edge of the bed and he sat on the couch in the hotel room.
“I'd love one.”
Jessica had sat quietly for the first thirty minutes they'd been inside the Marriott room. David liked to talk, considered himself a great conversationalist, but he was no monologist. He flashed back to the night of the reunion and realized he had done most of the talking then too. He'd been loaded, of course, though, so it had been much easier. Since Jessica had done no talking, he really hadn't learned anything about her. Other than that she was hot. That's all he needed to know as he just wanted to have a one-night stand with her. No one ever says, “Oh, baby, you should have seen this chick I picked up and banged last night...”
“Oh, yeah? Hot?”
But then, after Jessica hadn't hooked up with him that night and left him all alone in his eighty-nine dollar hotel room, thwarting his overall reunion strategy, he'd returned to Manhattan somewhat vexed. Somewhat intrigued by this Jessica. She didn't do Facebook or stuff like that, and he had no e-mail information for her, so he was forced to call her up at work, as she'd given him a business card earlier in the evening.
When she picked up the phone at 1:00 PM that next Monday, David too hadn't thought of what he was going to say.
“Blaylock Accounting, this is Jessica.”
“It's, uh, your former classmate. David.”
“Yes, I recall.”
“Why are you calling?”
“I was just, uh, curious how much your cab ride back to Kansas City cost.”
“Why? So you can make fun of me?”
“No, it's not that. I was just...”
“$225. Without tip.”
David started cracking up before composing himself.
“Dinner's on me next time!”
And their long distance relationship had begun. David enjoyed talking with Jessica on a daily basis. She wasn't like the girls he dealt with in New York, on the east coast. She was so earnest and honest and kind. She didn't worry about being cool, she didn't gossip, she wasn't materialistic, she wasn't slutty; she was just a nice, smart girl.
Jessica, too, enjoyed talking to David. Sure, he didn't believe in God, or “The Word,” but he was so full of life. All the men she met in Kansas City always seemed down in the dumps, beaten down by life, fattened up on BBQ. While David had such grandiose dreams. Dreams of becoming a big entrepreneur and conquering New York City. Like some movie character! She got vicarious thrills hearing about his life there. She knew she could have never handled being a New Yorker, but she liked hearing about his life. She wanted to know more about him and after a few weeks she knew they had to meet. Again.
David didn't know whether they had to meet. Again. But he did know that his month back in New York since the reunion had remained sexless and that now he was well over the eight month mark in sexlessness. After having had literally hundreds of partners for most of the early 2000s, right before he'd committed monogamously to Jenn. It was time to end his longest slump ever. Even if it cost him a plane flight and a summer weekend he could have been at the shore. He, of course, told none of his New York friends where he was going that weekend, nor what he was doing.
Jessica bent down and unzipped her suitcase. David admired her ass. She was in incredible shape. Not just incredible shape for a woman her age. Not just incredible shape for a Midwestern gal. Or compared to the rest of the women from his hometown. But, flat out, incredible shape. Most girls that are, say, a “7 out of 10” in Tulsa would be no better than a 4 or a 5 in New York, but Jessica was a “10” in Tulsa and would probable be the same in New York, though her over-reliance on make-up, bright colors, and high heels would have distinguished her from New York women.
The Texaco hadn't had much of a selection to choose from. One usually goes to a highway gas station to grab some Cheetos or a Slim Jim, the kind of shit one would never eat in their normal life. The kind of shit one only thinks a good idea to gnaw on when they're in the midst of a road trip. White trash trucker food, you know. They'd had several coolers of canned beer, of course, nothing fancy, Natty Light, Beast Ice, Steel Reserve. And, behind the checkout gal's head were tiny airplane size bottles of vodka, gin, and Jack. Jessica knew she really shouldn't drink booze. She didn't want to lose herself that much, and beer, of course, made her too gassy and bloated. Plus, what would David have thought of her if she'd arrived to pick him up with a cardboard case of Coors tallboys? Luckily, the mart did have a few bottles of Yellowtail wine. 2010. A strong year for mass produced wine, Jessica thought to herself. She grabbed a bottle of chardonnay and merlot.
She felt so nervous. She went to the bathroom and grabbed the two glasses. Not exactly classy but she hadn't felt classy ever since she'd met David. She'd read once that hotel rooms were festering with germs. Everyone knew the comforters were covered with...well, Jessica didn't even want to think about it! No one used the comforters. But, apparently, the second dirtiest things in hotel rooms were the glassware. She used scalding hot water to rinse them.
“Red or white?”
David looked up as Jessica emerged from the bathroom carrying the two glasses and two bottles of wine. He didn't particularly like wine and he hated Yellowtail. It was a general rule of thumb that all wine with animals on the bottle sucked. One of his snobbier foodie friends had once told him that. He hated the acidity of red wine, but didn't want to look like a sissy for ordering white.
“Whichever bottle you want to open I'm cool with.”
Oh, great, he's just a lush, thought Jessica.
He stood and walked over as she tried to uncork the chardonnay. He put his hand on her back and she jump startled. She moved a few feet away.
“Please don't touch me yet.”
She smiled softly at him.
They clinked glasses.
“I'm in your hands now,” Jessica said as she looked upward.
They begun drinking and watching television. There was nothing on so they just left the channel on the Game Show Network. Jessica noted that she didn't really watch TV.
After the first glass of wine, David tried to sit on the bed next to Jessica. She jumped up and moved to the sofa. She cracked her knuckles hard. When she was sexually frustrated she always cracked her knuckles, she couldn't help it. And, considering she was frequently sexually frustrated, her knuckles got quite the workout.
After the second glass, David was starting to feel good and he grabbed her as she walked to the bathroom, trying to pull her in for a hug.
After the third glass, Jessica spoke for the first time in a half hour.
“I'm not saying I do, but it's possible I might like you.”
After the fourth glass, David tried to kiss her. She looked at him deeply in the eyes, almost staring through him.
“Believe me, you would greatly regret having sex with me. I would become too emotionally attached.”
Jessica's memory went to shit once she started drinking and she kept repeating herself.
“I'm not saying I do, but it's possible I might like you.”
“I know,” he amusingly responded.
She really kinda liked David and wanted a life with him. If only he weren't an atheist. After the fifth glass, she finally felt that click.
“Can I have a hug?” David looked at Jessica with puppy dog eyes. He'd long ago developed a strategy where, if a girl didn't want to have sex with him, he just asked for something so pathetically meager comparatively. A lot of guys, a lot of his friends, were like: “Want to have sex? No? OK, then how 'bout a blow job? No? OK, then how 'bout you jerk me off? No? OK, then how 'bout...” But David immediately went to the ground floor. Who would deny him a hug? No one. And he'd start building from there.
Jessica looked at him. "Is a hug all you want?"
“Then come over to me.”
He walked over and she opened her arms. He fell into them. She grabbed his face and begun aggressively kissing him. She kissed like she hadn't ever kissed any one before. Licking his teeth and jamming her tongue into his face. But he kind of enjoyed it. It had been so unexpected.
Unexpected to Jessica, too. Not that it had happened, just how it had happened. She was almost able to exist outside her body, looking down at her kissing David, thinking to herself, “Wait...how did I find myself in this mess?”
Wait, how did I get naked?
Wait, how did he get naked?
Wait, how did I get on top of him?
She quit kissing him for a second and looked him in the eyes, seriously.
“Will you go to church with me on Sunday? There's one next door to this hotel.”
She was loaded and somewhat slurring.
“Sure. I'd love to.”
She smiled and pulled David's boxer briefs down. He reached into his luggage and grabbed a condom, putting it on.
She climbed on top of him and just before she impaled herself, again looked David in the eye.
“DO NOT discuss this with anyone. Not even ME tomorrow.”
© 2010 Goldfarb
I promise the rest of the collection is MUCH BETTER. All stories about the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York, which features these ten other tales:
"The References" -- The final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references that can tell a would-be employer you're the right person for the job. One's life references are a little different, but even more important.
"The Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.
"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.
"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.
"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.
"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.
"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.
"Gross Humans" -- If you knew what most couples did behind closed doors, you'd be repulsed.
"Ain't Nothing Like a New York Romance" -- There can't possibly be a better place to fall in love than New York City. Can there?
"The Cheat Sheet" - [plot redacted]
You can purchase THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon Kindle for a paltry $2.51 here:
There's no way to quickly determine who is an expert.
But, there is a quick way to determine everyone who isn't one.
Just identify people that identify themselves as "experts."
It's absolutely impossible to be an expert in any emerging or rapidly changing field like social media or blogging or even the publishing industry. (It's particularly amusing to me that all these social media "experts" only have 900 or so Twitter followers. Wow, start taking your own expert advice, buddy.)
Thus, any one who says they are an expert is full of shit.
You can be an expert in Latin or the Civil War or Negro League baseball, sure. That shit isn't changing.
But, anything modern, anything that's still forming and developing and fluid...no experts exist in the entire world.
So, come to think of it, I actually am an expert in one thing:
Noticing all the experts that have no expertise.
I can't monitor my second-by-second paperback sales, but because of Amazon's great Kindle Direct Publishing system, I can--if I'm crazy enough (I am)--monitor my second-by-second Kindle sales. They intrigue me.
It makes a ton sense that when I'm interviewed on the radio or TV, or appear on a podcast, or do a guest post for some popular blog, or even just get a mention on a website or a well-followed Twitter feed, that I'd sell a few books for the day.
It makes even more sense to me that I'd sell zero books for any given day.
But, what always leaves me curious is when I sell just one book for the day.
Who bought that one book? Why did they buy it? Why now?
Why would any one buy my book?
I think of all the times I've bought semi-obscure books. (Yes, sadly, HOW TO FAIL is still semi-obscure. So are most books. Then again, it's much less obscure than 99% of books so that's not bad.) Why did I buy them? Did the author know? Was the author curious? Do I have a fan somewhere who has been saving up to buy it? Was it just his or her payday (the Kindle edition IS only $2.99)? Or, perhaps I finally had a blog post that touched them so much they thought, "OK, time to finally pony up for this joker's costly content."
Or, maybe this mysterious buyer is like me and every time he or she hears about a book that might interest them, they throw it onto their Amazon wish list, thinking, "One day I'll read them all."
Yeah, one day.
I currently have 337 books on my wish list, some added as far back as 2004. When exactly am I gonna get to those?
It even gets crazier being that I can monitor Amazon UK and Amazon DE (Germany) sales. Who exactly is buying my book in England? I don't know any one there. And, Germany? How in the world did an English-language-speaking German hear about my book and then decide he had to have it?!
Whatever the case, I'd like to figure out how to make a few hundred thousand more Germans decide that.
Other than that, you're fucked. You're going to feel like an idiot on a photo shoot.
I now actually admire models. To completely lack self-consciousness and not feel like a bozo while thousands of pictures are snapped of you? Remarkable.
I've always hated posed photography. Not because I think it steals my soul or anything, just because I hate wasting time. I like to enjoy the actual moment I'm in, not pause in the proceedings to capture a phony moment.
My first career photo shoot was to get author pics for HOW TO FAIL. My publisher is lazy and incompetent so I was, of course, tasked with doing the job myself. So, after careful deliberation, I hired my sister for free. She's not a professional photographer but she's pretty good and has a decent camera. I figured if we took a few hundred photos, the odds were in my favor that one would be "professional" enough.
It took about a thousand attempts to get a usable one.
Man, you should see the blooper reel. I hope you never do. I hope my sister destroyed it. She could certainly use the outtakes against me.
Posing for pictures is humiliating. Especially in front of your sister. Especially stone cold sober.
Even then, we still had to turn the one usable photograph black & white to almost make me look normal.
I would have to be drunk to drop the self-consciousness. Check that, I would have to be buzzed.
You don't want to be too drunk. There's a fine line between:
A. being loose
B. smiling goofy with your eyes glazed over.
[Pictured above with Lagunitas Hop Stoopid--an outstanding value IPA]
Even still, even with a cozy "set" and well-placed lighting and pricey camera equipment and a true professional (the great Matthew Murphy) doing all the work, it still felt...peculiar.
Why is he making me pose like Eminem? Why am I sitting on the floor of a bar? Is it really natural to have my arm bending that way? Is he shooting from a high enough angle to hide my double-chin? Should I be smiling or trying to look serious? Should I be showing my teeth or no? Hey, no full body shots!
When it comes down to it, truly the only way to not feel like an idiot while on a photo shoot is to not worry how the pictures come out. To tell yourself you're not going to spend a whole day looking at them going, "Man, I'm ugly." Well, at least there's no double chin. That's something.