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28Feb/113

Poking the Box and Failing Promiscuously

Seth Godin's new book "Poke the Box" could be a companion manifesto to "How to Fail."  Forgive my arrogance in saying a thirteen-time bestseller's highly-anticipated new book could be a companion to my own, but Seth essentially says in "Poke the Box" that egomania can be good.  Especially when it turns you into an initiator.

"Poke the Box" is Seth's call for initiative.  We live in a world predominantly without initiative, where people would rather maintain the status quo than shake things up.  And, you're not going to succeed that way.  "You can't get blander than bland" as Seth says.  Because you know what often happens when you try to shake up the status quo, when you try to not be bland?

FAILURE.

You have the nerve to approach the attractive woman at the bar?  FAILURE.

You try to start an innovative new company?  FAILURE.

You produce art and put it out into the world?  FAILURE.

"The more you do, the more you fail."  And, Seth says that's great:  "Be promiscuous in your failures" he adds.  Poke lots of boxes, I think to myself and snicker.  (Seth is smarter than me, but I'm much crasser than him, so I think we're even.)

Don't react, initiate.  Don't be a pussy, SHIP.  Find some balls and go after your dreams.  Don't be the wallflower in the corner waiting to get picked.  You never will.

Quit waiting to be chosen.  Quit blaming others for not picking you.  Pick yourself.

I meet countless people every day that tell me, "You're lucky.  You're lucky you got published.  I wish someone would publish me."  And, yes, perhaps I was a little lucky for getting picked once.  But all being picked taught me is that the picking part is the most irrelevant part.  Now I know you don't need to be picked, you can create your own destiny all by yourself.  In fact, you have to.  "Draw your own map" as Seth says.  Self publish.  Start a blog.  Throw that short story collection that's gathering dust in your desk drawer up onto Kindle.  Do you want to be the author who whines for the rest of his life that no one has "discovered" him?  Or, the one that throws her book up on Kindle just to see what happens?  That latter option is much scarier.  That latter option could produce a work that never sells, that could be hated by everyone who reads it, that could truly fail.  And, the onus would be 100% on you.  Whining and blaming others is just cowardly.

"Somehow, we've fooled ourselves into believing that the project has to have a name, a blog, and a stock ticker symbol to matter."

It doesn't.  Certainly not in the year 2011.  All that matters is putting it out there and affecting people.  As I said, no one cares who published it.  Not any more.

I know, risk is scary, right?  Failure is scary too.  But, in today's world, being non-risky and never failing is an even bigger risk.  And, obscurity is the worst thing in the world.

"The person who fails the most, usually wins," says Seth.  He's right.  "Poke the Box" will hopefully be the kick in the ass that makes you go, go, go.

28Feb/110

The “How to Fail” Enhanced Ebook That Never Was

Just a half-year ago, I thought "enhanced" ebooks were soon to be the future of reading.  Wrong.  I now realize they aren't much more than a curio, no different than an audio book.  Sure, I'd bet some people prefer to use them over the normal words-on-page (or -screen) books, but not most of us.

Even worse, there still aren't any enhanced ebooks out there that are actually good.  (As far as I can tell--please tip me off to some good ones in the comments if you know of any).  It's sad when the most advanced ones currently out there are Nick Cave's "The Death of Bunny Munro" and Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" (which was truthfully just an app built to promote and supplement the Starz mini-series of the same name).

Which is why I thought I had a chance to make a real splash with a HOW TO FAIL enhanced ebook for the iPad.  Alas, after talks with countless designers across the globe, the time-frame, economics, and pure art (or lack thereof) drove me away from pursuing it any further.  Nevertheless, I still have some "wireframe" sketches I made back when I thought a HOW TO FAIL enhanced ebook was soon to be a reality, and me its auteur.

Warnings: SPOILER ALERT and NSFW (poorly-sketched nudity)

PHOTO ONE is from Chapter Two:  "How to Fail to Not Get Mistaken for a Bum."  From L to R it shows a well-dressed "successful" businessman quickly morphing into a failure, drunk and passed out in garbage.  (As a book viewer you'd use a slider to view this transition.)

PHOTOS TWO AND THREE are from Chapter 5:  "How to Fail to Live in a Healthy Environment" where HOW TO FAIL protagonist Stu Fish laments the fact that his successful friends live in much nicer places than him.  This would be an overlap whereas PHOTO TWO shows a typical ritzy Manhattan highrise with all the fixins.  You'd touch the screen in certain places to see PHOTO THREE underneath which would reveal the comparable things in Stu's crappy Hell's Kitchen walk-up (i.e. you'd touch the doorman in photo two and see a passed out wino underneath in photo three).

PHOTO FOUR is from Footchapter Five-B:  "How to Have Fucked Up Neighbors."  It shows a blueprint of the same Hell's Kitchen walk-up and the crazy neighbors that live in Stu's building.

PHOTO FIVE is from Chapter Six:  "How to Fail in Love" and focuses on the series of Kama Sutra sex position cards (some that worked, some that decidely didn't) that Stu and his girlfriend Ash once used to try and spice up their failing sex life.

PHOTOS SIX AND SEVEN are from Footchapter Six-B "How to Have a Sordid Past."  In this footchapter, Stu discusses how when he was a virgin loser in high school he spent time "studying" all the breasts in the world and soon became an expert.  Thus, this would be a "make your own breast" machine whereas the user could select the preferred breast type (mosquito bite, naturally firm, etc), areola type and color, and nipple type (photo seven) to create their own perfect breast (photo six).

PHOTO EIGHT is from Footchapter Eight:  "How to Avoid Your Ex in a Small Town."  It shows a map of Manhattan (and a little of Brooklyn) just like you'd see on the subway.  You could toggle this map between "normal," "rush hour" and "weekends/holidays" to see the various places Stu is "allowed" and "not allowed" to roam so as to not run into ex-girlfriend Ash.

PHOTO NINE would be at the end of the book.  A simple SUCCESS/FAILURE generator whereas the user would check off some boxes and fill in some info about their childhood and the machine would predict their chances of adult success.

After revisiting these sketches, it's probably wise I never pursued the enhanced ebook any further.  I would have surely put an end to the genre with my shit.  Maybe that would have been a good thing...

For more of my crummy drunken sketches, check out Genesis of a Book Cover.

20Feb/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY #5

For new fans that discovered me this week because of my appearance on the "Meet the Author" podcast on BookLending.com, here's a free story from my collection THE CHEAT SHEET. (NOW ONLY 99 cents on Kindle!)

THE FEMINIST

Kelly Meyers was the most popular professor at Betsy Williams College. When Kelly traversed the quad each day he would get smiles and nods of affection from nearly every student. He was more popular than Linda Roberts who taught a much-beloved course on the importance of Wonder Woman in Post-War America. Than Suzanne Wendell who often held her classes outside on sunny days under the big Hall of Languages oak. Even than Imogene Carr who gave every student an A so long as they tried hard. He was also, despite his unisex name, the only male professor at this all-girls school.

Just five years earlier, Kelly had been making love to another in a long line of skanks in his messy apartment in upper Manhattan when his phone rang. The girl bobbing on top of him had been shocked he still had a landline in the year 2005. “I don't like to be easily reached,” he noted, as they kept pounding away. His answering machine picked up. “You have an answering machine?!” She was even more shocked by this development. Modern women just didn't understand the irrelevance of state of the art technology, thought Kelly. “I like to see the awkward look on someone's face when they hear a message they shouldn't. Reminds me of a bygone era.”

That particular answering machine message had been from one Dean Lady Bird Graham, named after the popular Second and then First Lady, but nicknamed by most The Graham Cracker behind her ample back due to her tragically unhip whiteness. But Kelly didn't know any of these things just yet. All he did know was that Dean Graham was calling to urgently ask Kelly in for a job interview at Betsy Williams College that afternoon. Kelly had gotten his Masters at Columbia just four months earlier, but had, as of yet, been unable to get a professorial job, as shocking as that may sound, due to his mediocre grades at Columbia. “That's an all-girls college, you know...” noted the skank as she quivered in orgasm.

Kelly was nevertheless quite excited as he desperately needed a job and some money. He tossed the skank off him and burst out of his room to find his chubby and hirsute roommate, Gary, listening to the in flagrante delictoness Kelly had been previously participating in. Gary wasn't as embarrassed as most people would have been at having gotten caught listening to a friend's love-making and Kelly was neither as mad nor embarrassed as most people would have been at catching someone listening to their lovemaking. The skank was appropriately as mad and as embarrassed as most people would have been if they had caught someone listening to their lovemaking but “I just fucked her, so fuck her,” thought Kelly and “You just fucked her, so fuck her,” thought Gary. “Fuck you both,” said the skank.

Gary, too, was unemployed, if not unemployable, so he accompanied his friend on the longish drive out to Long Island toward Lopersville and Betsy Williams, talking about his idea for audio-only pornography for the first leg of the trip. On the second leg of the trip, Kelly wondered if it was true that Betsy Williams was an all-girls college.

“It most certainly is,” Gary assured him. “My cousin went there.”

“Is it 'all-girls' or 'all-women?' You have to be politically correct nowadays or they'll fire your ass before they even hire your ass. You'll get picketed. Colleges today are fucked up, man. Highly sensitive places. I wonder if they'll even hire a male teacher.”

“Just pretend to be gay. That's almost like being a lady.”

“That's insensitive, Gary, and cliched, too. And the plot of several terrible high concept movies.”

“All academics are 50% gay.”

“You're saying that half of all professors in America are gay?!”

“No, I'm saying that 100% of all professors are at least 50% gay.”

Gary had a lot of weird ideas.

Kelly and Gary arrived at Betsy Williams around 3;00 PM. Kelly found the town of Lopersville to be charming, the campus to be stunning. True, it was in the middle of nowhere, but it stood as a tiny collegiate Eden unruined by fast food chains, strip malls, or frat houses.

“The chicks here are fucking smoking, too,” noted Gary, who was likewise correct.

*

Lady Bird Graham was quite surprised when the Kelly Meyers she went out to greet in her waiting room was a man. Men never applied for jobs at Betsy Williams—annually voted as U.S. News & World Report's “most” feminist campus in America—so unisex names such as Stacy or Dana never gave Lady Bird any pause. Not that there was anything wrong with men applying for the jobs, in fact, Lady Bird often wondered if she should actively try to get a male professor or two. “Know thine enemy” she often joked to herself, and only to herself, for she would never let her colleagues know she had actually read Sun Tzu, that awful patriarchal strategist, though admittedly, not as bad nor as macho as Machiavelli, she often thought.

She was respectful in her interview of Kelly, going through the same modus operandi, status quo, you know, that she would have gone through with a normal candidate, a female job applicant. She explained that they were rushing to fill a much needed empty slot for the fall semester, set to start in just five days, after the former professor in the position had gotten knocked up—not the word Lady Bird said out loud, she actually said “expecting,” the exact same word the CBS censors made Lucille Ball say as opposed to “pregnant” or what have you when she got knocked up on I Love Lucy during the 1953-1954 season—by God knows whom and been forced to take a leave.

Lady Bird explained that the school was 100% female. Female students, female faculty and staff, even the janitors were female, a recent addition in the last few years as Lady Bird thought women should be cleaning up each others' messes, not relying on men to always bail them out, even if that "bailing out" was simply to mop up a Diet Coke spilled in the dining hall, to empty a trash bin full of discarded tampon applicators. She intentionally tried to be somewhat crass and undesirable in this part of the interview, hoping Kelly would turn the job down. Lady Bird figured she could teach in a pinch if worse came to worse and she was unable to find someone. She had been a professor so many years ago back at Yale and thought it might be fun to have another shot.

Lady Bird also explained that they were pretty much screwed—she didn't say “screwed” though, she would never say screwed. If she was talking about intercourse she eliminated all words that made it sound as if intercourse was something a man did to a woman. Thus, she never said “screwed” or “fucked” or certainly “boned,” “banged,” “bagged,” or even “made love to.” She simply said “intercourse,” “had sex,” or “made love,” lopping the “to” off the end. Likewise, she never even used these terms to refer to a situation being messed up. She simply said “things were messed up” or “FUBAR” if she was being a little saucy. Most people didn't know what the “FU” in “FUBAR” meant any how, just like most didn't know what the “FU” in “SNAFU” meant—now that they had called Kelly in for an official interview. They were screwed, it was messed up, this was a serious SNAFU and totally FUBAR because, now that Kelly had been called in for an official job interview, now that Lady Bird had met Kelly face to face, pursuant to New York State's recently passed Fair Hiring Practices, the mere fact that Kelly was the first and only male applicant they had had that year meant that, so long as he met all necessary criteria, specially lowered criteria of course, the criteria were always lowered to make things “fair”—and Kelly met them all, barely—she was literally forced to hire him.

The one class Kelly would be responsible for teaching would be Feminism 101, the first class that any and all freshman at Betsy Williams were required to take. She thought the fact that he would be teaching a low-level feminist class for rock-bottom pay would be the straw that dissuaded this camel's back.

“May I have an hour to take a walk and think about it?”

“Of course, Mr. Meyers.”

At least he's gay, thought Lady Bird, though she immediately chastised herself for stereotyping.

*

Gary hadn't wanted to go into the Laissez Faire bar because he thought it sounded “French and snooty,” but Kelly thought it looked like a nice hole in the wall and, besides, there didn't seem to be any other bars around town where they could have a pint and discuss the job offer for fifty-five minutes.

“Holy shit, Kelly, what's the opposite of a 'sausage fest?'” whispered Gary as they entered Laissez Faire to find it, not unexpectedly, completely full of women.

It was obviously a dyke bar but Kelly liked watching Gary hold onto misconceptions about things, like him continuing to think LOL stood for “lots of love,” making his e-mail sign-offs to his mother, “LOL your son,” sound like he was mocking himself and rightly so.

They each ordered a can of Genny Cream with a Jack back from the bartendress and got to talking.

“That dean seemed like a real stick in the mud.”

“She just doesn't want you to work here.”

“You think?”

“Oh, sure.”

“Well, maybe I shouldn't work here.”

“Are you fucking crazy, Kelly?” Gary nearly grabbed his friend by his tie. “You're getting a free ticket to work in Elysian Fields, man!”

“What does that even mean?”

“I have no clue, but a lot of bars are named it so I assume it must be, like, paradise or something.”

“I know what Elysian Fields means, I mean, why do you think it's a paradise?”

Gary just shook his head at Kelly, thinking he was the dumb part of their real-life buddy movie pairing.

“Because, you moron, you will be getting all these hot, young, nubile chicks just a few months graduated from high school and the age of consent, yet before they know shit about the world. You'll be able to mold them into...why, into your personal sex slaves!”

Most all of Gary's ideas were ideas that were stolen from high concept movies. Not necessarily high concept movies that already existed, but surely ones that would one day. Trite, easy, borderline misogynistic ideas about how the world worked, how men and women (and gays, don't forget gays) related to each other, as if conceived by a perverted fourteen-year-old mind.

Then again, Kelly did need a job. Kelly looked around the bar, at the no-eds playing pool, darts, watching afternoon baseball, drinking pitchers of beers.

“Look at this miserable town, Gary. All they have is a single lesbian bar.”

Gary looked around, finally realizing what he should have realized all along.

“Us men have been right all along. Women do only go to the bar to try to meet men. In a town without men, what's the point?”

“Great, then you'll take the job and we'll move to Lopersville,” Gary insisted.

“'We'll?'”

“I got nothing to do, and I need a job.”

“And...?”

“I could bartend here," noted Gary. "If I just shaved off my beard I'd look like a lot of these chicks.”

“Don't call them 'chicks.' That's insensitive,” replied Kelly, but he realized that Gary was right. He did look like a lot of these chicks.

*

“Welcome class of 2009 to your first class of 2005, your first class of your college careers, Feminism 101.”

*

A dejected Kelly lumbered into Laissez Faire, bellying up to the bar where Gary washed a pint glass.

“You look like you had a rough first day.”

“They all just stared at me. Like who the fuck is this dude teaching us? Who the fuck is this dude teaching us about feminism?”

“Like you were some circus freak.”

“That's an insensitive term. How was your first day?”

“Incredible. You know, I haven't been beardless in five years? It feels so liberating to have shaved it off. I feel like I had been living a lie, hiding behind a hairy curtain, but now I'm free. I've even been hit on twice today. Everyone wonders who the new...”

“Guy.”

“Well, they think I'm the new butch dyke in town. Until they talk to me. But still, from afar I was getting hit on!”

“By lesbians. Thus, from afar, you look like a certain kind of lesbian with your Brillo pad of hair and man boobs.”

“But still...!”

*

“Welcome class of 2010 to your first class of 2006, your first class of your college careers, Feminism 101. I'm professor Meyers and I thought it might be nice to start things off by having each of us discuss what feminism means...”

*

“You're officially a seasoned professor now, buddy. One year closer to tenure. Then you can say whatever crazy shit you want with no repercussions. No more worries about fucking 'sensitivity.'”

Kelly smirked.

“And you're officially a bartender that people whisper about. 'He was here last year too. Is he going to work here the rest of his life?!'”

“Oh, they love me. They don't say that.”

“I'll just have a beer.”

“How did it go today?”

“Better. The incoming freshman have heard of me already so they aren't as scared. They aren't as curious about the one weirdo male.”

“But are you getting through to them?”

“I don't think so.”

“This is a long project, man, but it will be well worth the wait.”

“I didn't get laid all of last year.”

“Neither did I.”

“You never get laid.”

“If we both stick with our plans, this place will be our oysters.”

*

“Welcome class of 2011 to your first class of 2007, your first class of your college careers, Feminism 101. I'm Kelly and, as you can see, I am not feminine. I am not a woman. But that's OK...”

*

“So how are this year's batch of chicks looking?”

“Don't call them chicks.”

“Insensitive, right?”

“For the first time, I noticed that they were better looking. Why is that?”

“You know what Coco Chanel said...”

You know what Coco Chanel said?!”

“The dykes and I talk.”

“But they certainly don't wear Chanel. Look more like Dickies enthusiasts.”

“Now who's being insensitive?”

“Noted.”

“Well Coco Chanel said, 'There are no ugly women, just lazy ones.' These girls have become better looking because they've heard about you. They want to impress you. Obviously. Word is getting around, man. For sure. We need to work on what you're saying in class a little more I would think. That's the real way to a woman's heart. Words. Audio pornography.”

“I think I'm going to really enjoy teaching this year.”

*

“Welcome class of 2012 to your first class of 2008, your first class of your college careers, Feminism 101. I'm your professor, Kelly. As in, Kelly's my first name, like it could be any of your first names, although it could also be any of your last names, Kitty Kelly for example. But it's not my last name. My last name is Meyers. Just call me Kelly, though. It's great to see so many smiling faces out there and I think we're going to have a great time this year. This is my fourth year teaching this particular class and I'm really starting to, well, if I can kiss my own ass, get pretty good at it. I know I'm going to have fun this year, and I hope you all do too. So, feminism, what do we think about feminism...?”

*

Kelly walked into Laissez Faire to find Gary sidled up to his new girlfriend, Rocky. They had started dating during the summer when Rocky had begun bartending there, herself. Everyone had heard of pet owners that were said to look like their pets, but until Gary and Rocky had started dating, I'm not sure many people had heard of straight men that looked like their lesbian girlfriends. And, they did. Gary had morphed in the last four years into essentially a dyke with a dick. Rocky loved dating someone she could throw back pitchers of beer with, eat hot wings with, wrestle behind the bar with. You'd have thought the other lesbians would have been mad at Gary for stealing one from their “team,” but they all loved the jovial Gary so much that they totally endorsed this bizarre union. In fact, they even let Gary play on their softball team, though out in right field since he had such a rag arm.

*

“Welcome class of 2013 to your first class of 2009, your first class of your college careers, Feminism 101.”

Kelly looked around the room. For the first time in his teaching career all eyes were on him. None of the students played with their phones or surfed the internet on their laptops or worked the crossword in the student paper (The Queen Bee) or even looked through the latest issues of US Weekly or CityGirl, magazines Kelly found totally despicable now more than ever.

“I am your professor, Kelly Meyers, but you can just call me Kelly or even K.”

The students were quite attractive. That his-bian Gary was right. His plan had actually worked. These incoming students all knew about Kelly and specifically wanted to be in his class. They nervously tittered with each and every word he spoke.

“As you can see, I am not feminine. I am not a woman.”

He loved having their attention, loved commanding the room, and wanted to be sure he delivered, got through to them. He was their matinee idol and it was a big responsibility.

“However, I am a feminist.”

Girly laughs.

“I see a lot of looks around the room. 'A feminist?! How can that be? How can this man with his five o'clock shadow and rugged features and, uh, manly parts...”

Laughs.

“...be a feminist?”

Kelly proudly paced around the room, making brief eye contact with as many students as possible.

“Well, I would say to you, my new students, isn't a feminist just someone who thinks that woman should be 100% equal to men?”

After a moment, an increasing amount of “yes” nods.

“Yes? So, in that case, how can we respect any man who isn't a feminist?!”

Fifty-nine minutes later, Kelly exited the lecture hall, feeling like he had finally taught that perfect class he'd been striving to teach for the last five years.

Once he was out of earshot, a few student whispers fluttered around.

“He's so hot.”

“When are his office hours?”

“Is it really true he's gay?”

*

It was working. It was finally working. That day Kelly proudly walked the quad, totally feeling at ease, proud to be a part of the Betsy Williams community. And they were proud to have him. Not just the students, but the staff and faculty too. Most all of whom smiled, nodded, or even back-slapped and “atta boyed” Kelly as he walked by them.

Even the Graham Cracker nodded in approval, real approval, when she saw Kelly. Something about him still felt a little off, but she had to begrudgingly admit that what she had thought would be a disaster of an accidental hire had actually been the best move, the best mistake she had ever made. Kelly was beloved by all, she couldn't deny that, and was doing a bang-up—she didn't say “bang-up,” even in her head, it just sounded sexually patriarchal—with his Feminism 101 classes. He was an amazing professor, spot-on with his lectures. In fact, Lady Bird couldn't deny that Kelly was seemingly responsible for bringing Betsy Williams into the twenty-first century finally, making it a more modern, more progressive all-girls school. With such happy, excited, and pretty students ready to conquer the world in four years! Before Kelly, the typical enroller at Betsy Williams had been a bitter, angry, and lonely girl who was usually ugly, too. Lady Bird chastised herself for thinking such terrible thoughts. Lady Bird wondered if Kelly was single. She hadn't had a date in a decade.

*

“Let's see...the date is...May 3, 2010...I am, of course, the Dean of Betsy Williams College...Lady Bird Graham and this is a...uh, hearing...to examine several claims of sexual impropriety by professor Kelly Meyers...”

*

After the hearing, after Kelly had been found guilty of breaking rules 10.11a and 10.11b in the faculty handbook, after he had been summarily fired from Betsy Williams and surely had his collegiate teaching career come to an unceremonious end, Lady Bird Johnson chased him down and caught up with him in the parking lot, wanting to speak with him some more.

She hadn't been in Laissez Faire since she was a twentysomething associate dean, but it seemed like the right place for the two of them to talk. She told Kelly that he had been a brilliant professor, a great professor at Betsy Williams, and she was so sorry that, by the book, she had to let him go.

Kelly explained that he loved the job, truly loved the job. It was the first time he had ever felt like he was doing good in the world and he, too, was sorry he had to be let go. But he understood. He had broken the rules. Many times over, in fact.

Lady Bird was mad these silly little students had tempted him. She knew he was a man, it was hard for men to turn down such temptation. She almost didn't blame Kelly. She almost blamed the students for forcing out such a great professor, a great professor they loved just a little too much.

She slid her barstool closer to Kelly, her knees touching his.

“It's just so fucked up, Kelly. It's just so fucked up beyond recognition.”

© 2010 Goldfarb

*

You'll love the rest of the collection too, 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.

"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.

"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?

"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 99 CENTS here:


Or, if you'd rather read a beautifully-designed PDF edition, Paypal $5 here:


SPECIAL OFFER: First three people to buy THE CHEAT SHEET and e-mail me proof (aaron@aarongoldfarb.com) I'll send a free Kindle edition of HOW TO FAIL!

18Feb/110

Interview with Book Lending

I did one of the best interviews I've ever done, and surely the longest, with Catherine MacDonald for the first ever Meet the Author Podcast at BookLending.com.

Aaron Goldfarb on Meet the Author Podcast

Here's a time breakdown of key points we touch on:

0:00 -- Intro

1:30 -- "How to Fail:  The Self-Hurt Guide" (now only $2.99 on Kindle!) and why I wrote it

2:45 -- my invention of "footchapters" and David Foster Wallace & Junot Diaz

4:20 -- screenwriting and why I put that aside for awhile to write books

7:00 -- themes of success and failure in "How to Fail"

11:00 -- how I was forced to format "How to Fail" for the Kindle myself

12:30 -- falling in love with reading on the Kindle

13:30 -- thoughts on lending/sharing my books

14:50 -- Paulo Coelho pirating his own books

15:30 -- my 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour and why I don't like doing bookstore signings

17:30 -- "picking up" customers at the bar

18:45 -- Seth Godin and The Domino Project

20:00 -- the state of publishing today and where I think things are going

22:00 -- the lack of bias on Amazon

22:50 -- self-published authors such as Amanda Hocking selling better than published authors

24:30 -- "The Cheat Sheet" (now only 99 cents on Kindle!)

26:00 -- the future, Aaron?  The future...

27:00 -- my appearance at West Point and meeting people on my bar tour

30:00 -- the importance of having a great sample on Kindle

30:30 -- "The Cheat Sheet" film festival

It didn't make the cut, but I also talked about the book I'm currently working on, "Failing to Fail," which is a non-fiction novel detailing all the sordid details behind the publishing and selling of "How to Fail" and featuring guide-like elements on how to get a book made.

16Feb/110

“BLURBS” – Director’s Commentary and Deleted Scenes #3

This Director's Commentary touches on fucking blurbs:

Man, I'm starting to feel like Andy Rooney with these things ("What's the deal with blurbs?!")

And here are the Deleted Scenes, my two alternatives I considered putting on the "How to Fail" back cover instead of blurbs.

First, I thought it would be a great idea to take my Fail-anetics videos and add the quotes from those to the book to encourage browsers to check out what's inside, something like:

When I wake up in a pile of garbage, can I use my morning wood as a sundial to tell what time it is?  Page 7

Is there any more noble dream than hoping you get laid off with a juicy severance package?  Page 83

Would I be a more successful adult if my parents  had been assholes?  Page 43

But something about that just seemed a tad amateurish.

My second idea was to spoof things, make the book seem edgy:

ONLY ONE PUBLISHER HAD THE BALLS TO PUBLISH "HOW TO FAIL"
(excerpts from other publisher's rejection letters)

"I'm going to pass."  --Katherine, [Redacted] House

"I did not fall in love with ["How to Fail"] in the ways that I need to...as I’m sure you’re aware it’s a very difficult time in publishing right now, and I feel that I need a strong connection with a book in order to publish it."  --Emily, [Redacted] Publishing

"Dear Authors: Thanks so much for letting us take a look at your materials and please forgive us for responding with a form letter...Unfortunately, your project does not suit our list at this time." --Michael, [Redacted] & [Redacted]

My publisher said this idea actually made me look pathetic, not edgy, like no one had any interest in my book.  And, you know, he was right.  Besides that, satirizing the concept of blurbs with jokey ones has been done to death, and is probably lamer than just having blurbs (or not having blurbs).

But, all things considered, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I'm glad I had blurbs.  And they DID actually help me sell at least one book.

If you enjoyed this, check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:

#1 -- "FUCK YOUS" (dedication page)
#2 -- "QUOTING BIGGIE SMALLS" (including famous quotes)

Also, if you’ve read "How to Fail" and haven’t yet left an Amazon review, please take 30 seconds to do so here. Thanks for your feedback!

15Feb/112

Unsoliciting Me

Since I have somewhat of a name online, I'm frequently contacted by random people wanting to give me free shit, presumably so I'll write about it.  Mostly beer and books.  Cool with me.  It's not spam if you're offering me free stuff (unless the free stuff is Spam).  I accept all the beer with no prejudice because even a bad beer will still get me drunk, and I accept any books that sound interesting to me.  I never guarantee that I'll read the books (I always guarantee I'll drink the beer), I certainly never guarantee I'll write about the beer or books, and I absolutely don't guarantee I'll write about them in a positive manner...but the breweries and publishers and the like never have issue with this and keep sending me shit.

Well, lately, ever since my book came out, and now that I have an even bigger name, and am getting sent even more shit, I decided to start flipping things on the publishers and publicists that write me.  Just to see what would happen.  I now say something along the lines of:

"Sure, I'd love a copy of your book.  And, here, have a copy of my book too!" and attach a HOW TO FAIL ebook.

At best this gets a mild thanks from these corporate robots, though often not even a response, but yesterday I got the best response ever:

"We don't accept unsolicited material."

Oh, but you do accept your employees unsoliciting little ol' me using form e-mails?

I couldn't let this one go, especially because the book this major publisher was trying to get me to read and review on my blog, was a book I happened to know had sold quite worse than my own book over an even longer amount of release time.  (And mind you, this book comes from a major publisher/mine from an indie minor; this book had a solid marketing budget/mine, squat; this book had a publisher with enough employees to dedicate one to spending all week sending out unsolicited e-mails/mine, I'm not sure even has an e-mail account).

"My book isn't any more unsolicited than your book.  And it's not like I'm sending you a manuscript.  I'm sending you a free copy of my published book.  You note in your form letter that 'based on my blog I seem to be the target audience for [redacted book]' and I'd have to say based on me being the target for your book, then you must be the target for my book.  Right?"

Didn't matter, he didn't want a copy and advised me to "consult a local library" to find books on pitching publishers and landing publishing agents if I'd like to pitch projects to him in the future.  You'd think this publishing person would have at least sucked it up and tolerated me, hoping it would lead to a good review of his author's book, but no, he just wanted to use me as easily as possibly.  He didn't want no lip.  More importantly, he didn't want to exist in a world where a no-name like me with an indie book could try to turn his own Big Six publisher tactics on him, to ram my book down his face.

This is what the Domino Project is going to help address.  The Domino Project isn't going to just find a massive list of names, of random people that have blogs somewhat related to the material, and then throw them all on a massive BCC'ed e-mail form letter hoping on a wing and a prayer that someone will bite, accept a free book, and then quid-pro-quo praise it.  The Domino Project is going to actually figure out and find the people that want the books before they are even marketed and ultimately sold to.  Seth Godin's latest idea for doing this is a real beauty, lowering the pre-release price of "Poke the Box" based purely on the number of opted-in fans.  What a revelation!

I'm sure I'll still get that major publisher's free book sent to me.  And, I might or might not read it and review it in this space.  But, whatever the case, it doesn't matter, I just went on Amazon and saw my book is still selling much better than his author's, and I've never once solicited some random person using a form letter to make that happen.

12Feb/111

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY #4

Most of the stories in THE CHEAT SHEET are quick reads, a few thousand words at most.  But, one story is bordering on novella length at some 13,000 words.  I thought I'd include the first part of that story, called...

THE BOYFRIEND TRIALS

It seems the older I get, the pickier I get about my boyfriends.

Back when I was seventeen, I'd date a guy if he simply had a car to drive me around in. It didn't even matter if he was a pothead burnout with no greater ambition than getting to see Phish perform at Bonnaroo.

When I was twenty-one, I'd date a guy if he could simply make me laugh til I nearly peed my pants. It didn't even matter if he had dropped out of college to pursue a career in burrito construction.

When I was twenty-five, I'd date a guy if he simply had the ability to make me have an orgasm so powerful I nearly passed out. It didn't even matter if he was currently getting his law degree after having already gotten his MBA after having already gone to med school, now entering his second decade of perpetual higher education.

But now I'm thirty. And I've become incredibly picky. Look, I know that's atypical. I know most girls become less picky as they age. Take my friend Stacy for example. She is easily my most attractive friend. I would kill to look like her! Long, flowing blond hair she doesn't color. She doesn't even rubber band it into a ponytail when she works out like all of us other girls have to do to keep it out of our faces. Her hair, like, just knows to become windswept and sexily flow behind her, out of her way when she does yoga and Pilates and spinning. She looks better after a two-hour workout than the rest of us do before it's begun. She's got these great eyes, too. They seem to change colors to suit whatever outfit she's wearing for the day. A fashion chameleon, you might say. She makes me so jealous! Or, at least she used to. Til she married Danny.

You oughta see this guy. Stacy totally broke all her rules to date him.

She'd always said she could never date a guy who went by a name that ended in -ie or -y. Joey, Bobby, Robbie, Ricky, Mickey, Danny. She just thought it sounded too childish. She wanted to date a man, not a little boy. Me? I kinda like guys with names that end in -ie or -y. Makes them seem hip and playful but, hey, I totally understand Stacy's point. I refuse to date any man whose name begins with a K. Kyle, Kevin, Keith, Kirby. I just hate that hard ka K sound and refuse to spend the next thirty to seventy years of my life saying, “I love you ka-____.” Yuck.

If I meet a nice man when I'm out, at a party or the bar or something, and he says, “Hi, I'm Kit,” I ask him if that's a nickname or maybe he goes by another name and if he says, “No, it's just Kit,” I have no choice but to say, “Sorry, Kit, you seem nice and all, but I just can't possibly date you. My ears are already bleeding from having heard your name pronounced just twice.”

Stacy used to be the same way. That's why I was so stunned that day back in 2007 when I arrived late to happy hour to find her canoodling with some guy in a suit with his tie loosened after a kinda hard day's work. Stacy was so excited to introduce this new suited suitor to me.

“Bex, I want you to meet this charming gentleman who has been keeping me company while I waited for your lolly-gagging ass.”

Stacy playfully elbowed the “charming gentleman” in the ribs as he extended his sweaty palm to me.

“Nice to meet you, Bex. I'm Danny.”

I looked at Stacy confused. She smiled at me, then at Danny. I looked at Danny. I looked at his hand.

“Danny? Don't you mean 'Dan?' Your name is Dan?”

“No. It's Danny.”

“Daniel?”

“Well, Daniel is what it says on my license but I prefer to go by Danny. Makes me feel like a big kid.”

Two years later, just this July, they were married. Now my beautiful friend Stacy is married to a balding CPA with a most unfortunate soul patch and a closet full of Dockers who goes by the childish and totally unhip name of Danny.

I so can't believe Stacy sold out her own convictions!

It's like, I mean, what are they gonna name the son they're gonna have in six months? “Danny-y?” Danny is already a child's name, how can you make your child have a more childish name than that? Man, she frustrates me.

Or, what about our mutual friend Sarabeth? You should have seen her back when she was a sorority sister of ours at Miami. Back then she had a very strict “one strike and you're out” policy with her beaus. Go a full twenty-four hour period without calling her? She'd dump you. Forget to say “I love you” before bidding her adieu? She'd lose your phone number. Get so drunk at a frat mixer that you couldn't get a boner that night? You'd wake up from your stupor on the front porch with your Superman boxers stuffed into your mouth. She was one cold-blooded boyfriend assassin, I tell ya.

Back in the good ol' days of course. Since 2005, she's been with this guy Jake that is such a loser! He's this graphic designer or something and he has a big scraggly beard that oozes all over his face and down his neck and pretty much into the collar of his shirt. It's disgusting. I have no clue what Sarabeth sees in him!

“I mean, I can't cite a specific rule of hers that he's breaking, and I know all her rules, but he surely must be breaking some, right? I know for a fact she hates flannel.”

“Love is a powerful thing that transcends rationalities.”

“No, it's not, Kris!”

My best friend Kris—he's a he, not a she—and I were on the train headed north to Poughkeepsie for our friend Allie's wedding to Jonathan.

“Only stupid people think love is irrational. Love is very rational, in fact. You desire things in a partner, you locate a partner with those things, you fall in love.”

“You callin' me stupid, Bex?”

“Of course not. You're the smartest best friend I could ever imagine having. You're always helping me out. Who I am calling stupid are all our friends for pretending they've fallen in love with men that totally don't have what they're looking for.”

“Maybe they didn't know what they were looking for?”

“Of course they did! They just decided to give up on looking. How desperate!”

Take Allie for example. A Southern girl from Oxford, Mississippi, Allie had always desired a quote-unquote perfect gentleman. The kind of guy that said “sir” and “ma'am,” who held open doors for her, even revolving ones, stood up at the dinner table when she returned from the ladies' room, who wanted to support his wife financially and turn her into a homemaker to raise their many, many well-behaved children.

To me, at best, the kind of man Allie wanted sounded like a real Leave it to Beaver-type with all the sir-ing and ma'am-ing. At worst, like a disgusting misogynist. I would have never allowed a man to stifle me so much.

“That's how we do it down South,” Allie would tell us. “Specific gender roles. It's chivalrous.”

You aren't down South any more, we'd tell her. This is Manhattan. Where could you possibly meet that kind of man up here? But Allie insisted she one day would and, you know, she was totally...wrong. She never met her dream man but instead met Jonathan, the complete antithesis of her desires. Jonathan was from a well-to-do Upper West Side family of theatrical producers and he himself was an experimental artist. He would have been a starving artist as his “showings” were nothing more than an excuse to gather his friends together to get loaded on hipster ironic boxed wine—maybe one friend would get so smashed they'd make an impetuous purchase of one of Jonathan's beer cap dioramas—but Jonathan's wealthy parents subsidized his lifestyle. Bought him art supplies, paid his rent in Soho, allowed him to take Allie to nice dinners at restaurants owned by celebrity chefs.

At these dinners, Jonathan never held open the doors, he never elegantly slid Allie's chair into the table after she sat, he never waited for Allie to receive her entree before he dug into his, and he called the servers “hey!” and “yo!” as opposed to “sir” and “ma'am.”

He even encouraged Allie to continue working at her marketing agency as opposed to quitting to be his wife and the mother of their children. It just made no sense to me what Allie saw in Jonathan or why she had so subverted her romantic dreams to be with him.

“Has it ever occurred to you that sometimes we as humans don't know what we want?”

“Don't give me that, Kris. I always know what I want.”

“I wouldn't be so certain of that.”

“I am. What do I feel like eating tonight? Hmmm...something spicy yet creamy would be nice. How about some massaman curry in coconut milk from Charm Thai? What do I want to watch on TV? Something mindless and despicable would be divine. Hmmm...how about that new reality show The Oedipus Complex? In what position do I feel like getting...?”

“—all right, all right. I gotcha. Don't need to hear any more. But has it ever occurred to you, dear Bex, that maybe all your other friends aren't quite as decisive as you? Are more open-minded?”

“I think they are. But, I also think they are very scared.”

“Scared?”

“Let's be honest, it's a numbers game and the older we get the less chance we have of finding love. That's purely statistical. At age seventeen, everyone we know is still unmarried. At age twenty-one, that might still be at 95%. By twenty-five, that might be down to 75%. And the percentage unmarried precipitously drops from then on.”

“I'm in the same boat as you and I'm not scared.”

“But you're not. You're nowhere close to my boat. A thirty-year-old unmarried lady is in a canoe that just sprung a leak. A thirty-year-old unmarried man is on a gorgeous yacht with a vaguely double entendre name like...”

“Deep Float?”

“Exactly. It doesn't matter how awesome I am. The only men that would consider dating me are essentially those in my age range. Meanwhile, men can date anyone from their age range on down to girls merely one day older than the age of consent. Please consult your locality's statutes for the legalities.”

We arrived at the Poughkeepsie train station and hailed what must have been the only cab in town, a late model sedan. We were running late—Kris claimed my indecisiveness as to what shoes to wear had caused us to miss a necessary, earlier train—and we were unable to make it to First Congregational to see the actual ceremony. Kris was a little peeved, but I was fine with that because organ music always makes me gag. About as much as it does to see my beautiful friends marry such losers. Any how, I always like to be the first to the reception so I can get properly lubricated up before all the other dressed-up dullards start clogging the bar area.

“This Kris, that Kris, is why our friends snapped these men up. They were scared. No woman wants to be thirty and single. A man who is thirty and single still has a life full of opportunity. Decades full. Make some money, get some power, some dashing salt 'n' pepper flecked hair, and all the little pop tarts still desire him. But me, the older I get, just makes me closer to being a part of some young buck's sexual checklist. 'Bro, I totally banged a chick last night who was born in the Seventies!'”

Kris couldn't help himself and started laughing. Eventually I joined him.

“I think I'm gonna need to get one of those sexual checklists myself. Eh 'bro?'”

“Yeah? What 'to-dos' would you put on it, champ?”

“Oh, I don't know,” he cocked his right eyebrow at me. “Your best platonic friend of over a decade?”

“Stop it, Kris. That's gross. Then again, we are all that's left. With Allie wed to Jonathan, we now have no single friends left. None whatsoever.”

“You sound sad.”

I shrugged.

“I think you're scared too, Bex.”

“Maybe I am. How can I not be? But even scared, I refuse to break my rules in finding my man.”

“I suppose that's admirable. But what are these rules you hold so steadfastly to?”

“No...”

“After twelve years of friendship, I think it's time for you to finally share the specifics with me.”

“Oh, I couldn't! You'd think me petty.”

“I dig your pettiness almost as much as your prettiness.”

I scanned the room. A 175 person wedding divided by 2 equals 87.5. Since there was at least two singles in Kris and I, there had to be one more single to make the numbers match. I wondered who that single could be. A man? A woman? Some bratty little child who would ruin the toast? I kept scanning. Couple after couple after couple after couple. Where was that single? And was he my destiny? It had to be my turn for happiness.

*CONTINUES ON "THE CHEAT SHEET"...*

© 2010 Goldfarb

*

I think you'll love the rest of the collection too, 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.

"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.

"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?

"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 $2.99 here:

Or, if you'd rather read a beautifully-designed PDF edition, Paypal $5 to aarongoldfarb@gmail.com and you will receive a copy. All majors credit/debit cards accepted as well here:


SPECIAL OFFER: First three people to buy THE CHEAT SHEET and e-mail me proof (aaron@aarongoldfarb.com) I'll send a free Kindle edition of HOW TO FAIL!

8Feb/112

“Quoting Biggie Smalls” — Director’s Commentary and Deleted Scenes #2

This Director's Commentary touches on whether or not an author, such as myself, can include quotes from famous people in his book:

And here are the Deleted Scenes, the famous quotes I was too much of a pussy to include in "How to Fail." So, now you can print this out, and paste the quotes into your copy of the book, right at the start of each listed chapter, if you're a real Goldfarb completest, if you truly want the director's cut of the book.

Chapter 1
“Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event.  You don’t fail overnight.  Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every single day.”  --Jim Rohn, motivational speaker

Chapter 2
“The look of success, when it is worn a certain way, would infuriate a jackass.” --Camus

Footchapter 2
“Lose your dreams and you might lose your mind.  Ain’t life unkind?”  --Mick, “Ruby Tuesday”

Chapter 3
“Born sinner, the opposite of a winner.”  --Notorious B.I.G., "Juicy"

Footchapter 3
“There is no way to success in our art but to take off your coat, grind paint, and work like a digger on the railroad, all day and every day.” --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Chapter 4
“Trying is the first step toward failure” --Homer Simpson

Footchapter 4-A
“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.” --Dale Carnegie

Footchapter 4-B
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” --George Bernard Shaw

Chapter 5
“Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter.  Try again.  Fail again.  Fail better.” --Samuel Beckett

Footchapter 5-A
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
--Winston Churchill

Footchapter 5-B
“There are men in the world who derive an exaltation from the proximity of disaster and ruin, as others from success.” --Winston Churchill

Chapter 6
“Women will never be as successful as men because they have no wives to advise them.”
--Dick Van Dyke

Footchapter 6-A
“On the pinnacle of success man does not stand firm long.” --Goethe

Footchapter 6-B
“Success doesn't come to you…you go to it.”  --Marva Collins

Chapter 7
“My reputation grows with every failure.”  --George Bernard Shaw

Chapter 8
“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”  --Bob Dylan

Footchapter 8
“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” --Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 9
“If you have a good name, if you are more often right than you are wrong, if your children respect you, if your grandchildren are glad to see you...then you are a success.”  --Ann Landers

Chapter 10
“Yesterday's failures are today's seeds that must be diligently planted to be able to abundantly harvest tomorrow's success.” --Anonymous

Chapter 11
“The penalty for success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.” --Lady Astor

Footchapter 11-A
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”  --Vince Lombardi

Footchapter 11-B
“Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little inside.”  --Gore Vidal

Chapter 12
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” --Truman Capote

Footchapter 12
“Success is not a destination, it's a journey.” --Zig Ziglar

Chapter 13
“Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction.” --Al Bernstein

Footchapter Thirteen-B
“No man is a failure who has friends.”  --from “It's a Wonderful Life”

Chapter 14
“Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.”  --Woody Allen

Epilogue
“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition.  It asks too little of yourself.  And it will leave you unfulfilled.”  --Barack Obama

Of course, one quote did legally get in the book, the one from Jim Rohn above. What I neglected to mention in the video is all the legalese I had to include on the copyright page. Jesus, imagine if I'd had to do that for twenty more quotes?! The book would have been fifteen pages longer.

*This post in no way constitutes legal advice to fellow lazy authors.

If you enjoyed this, check out Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes #1 -- "
FUCK YOUS"

Also, if you’ve read "How to Fail" and haven’t yet left an Amazon review, please take 30 seconds to do so here. Thanks for your feedback!

6Feb/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY #3

As previously mentioned, a film class at Syracuse University is adapting stories from THE CHEAT SHEET into short films this semester.

In honor of that, I thought I'd give out another story from the collection.  The story that was far and away the story most selected for adaptation by the students.

THE AMBIGUOUS WOMAN

She had given him her business card (Molly Stone/Weber Shandwick/Acct. Mgr.) and not just scrawled her number on a cocktail napkin, which seems less formal, tackier, less personal, but which he would have much preferred. He would have thought she really liked him if she had snatched his Blackberry from his hand and manually entered her number into his phone like he'd seen other girls do before, maybe added a personalized contact entry for herself, “Molly the cute girl at Gingerman,” which would have actually filed itself under T as “The cute girl at Gingerman [comma] Molly,” like the descriptor was her full surname, but still he would have liked that a lot better. He would have definitely called her if she'd done that. But, no, she had just said, “Well, gotta go meet my friends for dinner. Here's my card, shoot me an e-mail.” Shoot her an e-mail? It was her business e-mail. Shoot? Shit.

He spent the whole weekend wondering whether he should do it. He spent far too much time wondering whether he should do it. He knew he was spending far too much time wondering whether he should do it. But he couldn't help himself. Why couldn't he just be cool and relaxed? Big deal, a girl gave you her card. That's only step 1 of 100 with step, like, 5 being you winning her over and making her like you and maybe step 10 the first time you kiss, 22 the first time you have sex, “I love you” at 50, engagement 75, marriage at 100.

Yeah, it may have been step 1 but she was gorgeous. Tall, leggy, conservatively dressed yet still sexy. Just my type he thought. He also thought, every girl is my type until she's not.

Late Sunday night he decided to start drafting an e-mail to her. He wasn't sure he'd send it, but he wanted to be ready just in case. A part of him realized he wasn't merely writing for her. Oh no. She probably gave her business card out to a half a dozen douchebags every time she went drinking and thus probably received four or five e-mails every Monday morning. Like a job applicant, he'd have to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Yet he couldn't be too over the top. If he said anything too stupid she'd surely show it to her girlfriends and they'd all have a good laugh at his expense. “Another pathetic douchebag, another pathetic e-mail,” one would say. They'd laugh. If he wrote something stupid enough, why, she'd probably even mass CC it around the office. He didn't know anyone at Weber but he had some friends in advertising and PR. At Edelman, Ogilvy, the like.

He didn't want to be a laughingstock. A viral office send-around joke up and down Madison Avenue. So he wrote a very bland, aloof, too-cool-for-school e-mail. He thought it would now stand out from the crowd of four or five other douchebag e-courtiers by how very bland it was. He made it so bland he wasn't even scared to hit SEND at 10:11 AM EST on Monday. He wanted it to fail. He totally forgot he had sent it by 10:12 AM EST. But by 1:34 PM EST he started thinking: Wait a sec...why hasn't she responded yet? I guess she truly did have no interest in me. Was just placating my awkward flirtations until she had to leave. Typical validation seeking girl. Loves to let guys shower her with flirts—make her feel good—when she has no interest in letting things advance any further. And if she has to embarrass herself by asking the Weber office supplies guy to order her new business cards every few weeks, a much faster pace to blow through business cards than your typical acct. mgr., well, small price to pay.

At 2:24 PM EST she e-mailed him back. His heart skipped a beat, but not because he had an arrhythmia or something. He set the mood perfectly to read her reply. Closed all his other windows, took the earbuds out of his ears, swigged a big gulp of coffee to sharpen his senses so he could fully digest her e-mail. He hit OPEN MESSAGE.

Her reply was brief, briefer than his initial e-mail even. No apology for her slow response time, how inconsiderate, she had no respect for him. She said it was great to meet him but she had punctuated that particular sentence with a period, not an exclamation point. He thought: How great had she truly thought it was to meet me if she couldn't even feign exclamatory delight? He had thought it was great to meet her! But now he wished he hadn't. Period. He wasn't asking for, like, three exclamations: Great to meet you!!! That would have made her seem like a used car salesman, a late night ambulance chaser, a telemarketer, a phony. No one was that great to meet. I mean, maybe Shaq or George Clooney or Jay-Z, but not him. Not most people. But was he not even great (!) to meet?

Oh well. He decided he might as well go on the date anyway. She had proposed drinks for that Thursday and his Thursday was free. She was probably saving her weekend, Friday and/or Saturday night, for the guy she truly liked. The guy she truly thought she had a future with.

He arrived at 8:00 and 35 seconds. She had suggested 8:00 and in those situations it's no-win. Arrive early and she thinks you anxious; late and she thinks you a jerk. At least arriving on time guaranteed he'd be there before her. Would guarantee she'd have to find him, have to initiate the greeting. He saw her enter the bar out of the corner of his eye but faked like he hadn't, stared straight ahead, imagined her pace in locating him. If she shook his hand he knew they had no future. A warm hug, perhaps they had one. He hoped she would present a cheek for him to kiss. That would really buoy his spirits.

He felt an arm on his shoulder. He turned. She smiled. No, more like a tiny perfunctory grin. “Hey!!! (!!!) Sorry I'm a little late. Would you mind watchin' this for a sec? Need to go to the ladies room.” She swung her purse onto the barstool beside him. “No problem...” he muttered as she power walked to the restroom. He thought, she's going there to no doubt text a friend: “shorter than i recall. uglier too. oh well...free drinks!!!” “lol--ill call you in an hour to give u an out,” her friend probably texted back, he figured.

Eventually she returned from the bathroom, threw her iPhone into her purse. “Whatcha' drinkin'?”

“A...uh...beer,” he stammered out. Shit. Why had he ordered a beer? He felt like a buffoon now. Wasn't that the drink of buffoons? She probably thought him some buffoonish frat boy. Some cheap buffoonish frat boy what with the “$3 Yuenglings” sign prominently displayed near the bar. How to assure her that he wasn't drinking Yuengling. His Sam Adams cost five bucks actually.

“Gin and tonic,” she ordered, “Hendricks if ya' got it.” She was so sophisticated, he thought. She didn't just order well liquor, didn't just say, “G & T, whatever ya' got, whatever shit's cheap.” She actually knew a brand of gin. Nice gin, he bet. He wanted to try that gin, see what nice gin actually tasted like. But he didn't want to look like a copycat, some supplicating copycat if he ordered it his next round. Well, better the supplicating copycat than the cheap frat boy buffoon, he figured.

And, you know how things go from there. He'd ask her a question, she'd answer. She'd ask him a question, he'd answer. Like ping pong. A ping pong match he was clearly losing. He could never think of anything interesting to say, anything smart or funny or unique, so he just answered as best he could. “As best he could.” Exactly what teachers told you to do on essay tests in college in those little blue books. “If you don't know the answer completely, just answer as best you can.” He always got bad scores on those kinds of tests.

He was certain he was boring her. Why else would she keep ordering drinks, fidgeting, keep changing the subject to sports and movies and restaurants? She seemed to like many of the same things and ones he did, which made him like her all the more. Too bad she didn't like him. Too bad he was boring her, forcing her to do anything to make the date more interesting.

She suggested they play pool. He liked pool. She probably liked that he would be bent over a table for several seconds every minute, thus unable to talk to her, to bore her some more. There were already some quarters on the table signifying that someone had “next.” She found “next,” some guy who had placed the quarters, some Wall Street dude much more handsome and confident than him, and suggested they play some two-on-two.

“Only if I can be your partner,” the Wall Street dude flirted back. So cool. She looked back to him. “No. Not this time.” This time. “This time he's my partner,” she said as she pointed to him.

She was so sweet and nice. But she also probably thought she simply had a better chance of winning with him as her partner. She must have realized he was a bit of a yuppie hustler on the walk from bar to felt as he nervously tried to relate a story about being “pretty good” in college. He didn't want to sound too braggy, but she feigned being impressed. She was so sweet. He should have never mentioned he was in a frat. At least he also mentioned that he thought five dollars was a very reasonable price for the Sam Adams he was drinking.

He'd felt like such a drip, such a worthless, unaccomplished drip for the majority of the date, but he thought this was his chance to redeem himself. Were women impressed by men who were good at pool? Women were impressed by men that were good at anything, right? But pool? Might she just think him a drunk who spent every night in bars? Yeah, probably. Thus, he decided to play at about 68% the best of his abilities. Not surprisingly, they still won.

After he sunk the eight ball, she jumped into his arms and gave him a big hug. It lasted a second longer than he expected, probably because he had grasped her too hard, not because she wanted to linger that second longer. She was so happy they had won. She was probably just drunk on that fancy gin. He asked her if she'd like to pay their tab and take a walk. He thought the brisk air might sober her up a bit. He didn't want her mad at him for getting her drunk. That would guarantee he'd never get a second date, though he was sure that was already inevitable.

So they walked and talked. She grabbed his hand. He was momentarily excited until she mentioned she was cold and started dramatically shivering. She was such a skinny thing. He was so fat. He put his arm around her to try and warm her up. It felt clinical to him but maybe if he was, like, a super-gentleman, then he could finally win her over. He would make his warming-up hug clinical so she thought him a super-gentleman and not some schmo just trying to cop a feel of her smooth back, her taut stomach.

They walked for a half-hour at least, in a seemingly random, chaotic pattern through streets and avenues until...

“Ha, look at that. We're on my street.”

He then realized that pattern hadn't been random and chaotic at all. It had been engineered by her. She must have just wanted a man, any man would have done, to walk her back home safely. It was late at night and she did live on Avenue B. Whatever, he didn't mind being used a little bit, he was a gentleman at heart and he would have just felt terrible if she had had to walk home alone.

At her front door he said, “Well...” pronouncing the ellipses.

She said, “Well...” pronouncing her ellipses, too, then laughing. Surely laughing at the thought of how she would get rid of him now.

He laughed so she wouldn't think him a creep.

“Want to come upstairs for a nightcap?”

A “nightcap?” That's what his grandma called the one tiny glass of brandy she had before bedtime. She might as well have asked him if he wanted to come upstairs for a “lil' sleeping medicine”—also what his grandma called her brandy. It was now clear to him that she just wanted to be his platonic friend. His buddy. Oh well. That was fine. He'd allow it. Nothing wrong with having another pretty girl as your friend. Maybe she would even set him up with one of her friends that would actually like him in a romantic way. That would be nice.

Since it was now evident to him that she just wanted to be friends, he told his new pal what he'd have told any old pal. “Sure, I need to pee anyways.”

In her bathroom he stared at himself in the mirror, trying to figure out what went wrong. Did he use too much hair gel? Should he have used none at all? That Wall Street hunk she had liked so much had floppy, tussled, un-gelled hair. Oh well, fuck her, she was clearly superficial. He'd just go back out, quickly suck down that so-called nightcap, leave, hail a cab, go home, masturbate to internet porn.

He exited the bathroom to find her standing there in shorts and a shear t-shirt (Kappa Beta Rush '00.) Boy, she's already dressed for bed, he thought. OK, I get it, she wants me to leave. I'm sticking around too long. She could have just asked, she didn't need to be passive aggressive, didn't need to embarrass him, he thought.

She leaned in and kissed him.

“Does that feel good?” he was soon saying. “Do you like that?” he was soon asking. The kissing had led to nudity which had led to bed which had led to sex. She was probably just drunk and horny, he figured. Any dick woulda done.

She was moaning—a bit—but she wasn't even looking him in the eyes, wasn't even kissing him, was probably thinking about the Wall Street dude, bemoaning the fact she never got his e-mail address. Maybe she did when he wasn't looking? He tried to impress her with his sexual prowess, tried to make her come, tried to make her finally like him, but he failed. He came within three minutes, his pathetic penis wilting slowly into the condom she was surely glad was protecting her from him, vile him.

What a disaster of a date. He felt sick.

*

After two days the elation began to fade away and after four days she began to get concerned and after a week she had given up. She'd had such an amazing first date with Ken. She'd thought she'd had such an amazing first date with Ken. Yet he never called her.

Why were men so hard to understand?

© 2010 Goldfarb

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If you enjoyed that, please feel free to link to it, Tweet it, post it on Facebook, and e-mail it to your friends.

I think you'll love the rest of the collection too, 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 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.

"Born. Again" -- What happens when a sexually promiscuous New York atheist spends a weekend with a chaste Midwestern Christian?

"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]

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You can purchase THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon Kindle for a paltry $2.99 here:

Or, if you'd rather read a beautifully-designed PDF edition, Paypal $5 to aarongoldfarb@gmail.com and you will receive a copy.  All majors credit/debit cards (except Diner's Club) accepted as well here:


SPECIAL OFFER: First three people to buy THE CHEAT SHEET and e-mail me proof (aaron@aarongoldfarb.com) I'll send a free Kindle edition of HOW TO FAIL!

3Feb/1113

Who Cares Who Published It? The Domino Project

In Manhattan, when people find out I've written a book, the first question they always ask is:  "Who's your publisher?"

Which is weird because, aside from maybe McSweeney's in its earlier days, and surely some supermarket harlequin novel publishing house, no one buys books because of who published them.  You'll never hear this conversation:

"What books do you like to read?"

"Books published by Random House."

You see, people in Manhattan are still stuck on the "prestige" of publishing.  As if every book the Big Six publishers release is great and anything not released by them is either occasionally decent but always poorly selling (if it's from an indie publisher) or abject garbage (if it's self-published).  This thinking simply is not accurate any more.  It's certainly not prevalent in the rest of America which is great for us authors.  When I was on How to Fail's 30 Bars in 30 Days book tour, I learned this first hand.

In the "rest" of America, when people find out you have a book, the first question they ask is:

"What's it about?"

Which should be the first question.  Because isn't that all that truly matters?

What is the book about?
How well is it written?
And, I suppose, what's it gonna cost me?

After people found out what "How to Fail" was about, some people showed no interest, but, luckily, many more people did.  But the most interesting thing would happen, and this happened too many times to count, after the purchase when the purchaser would offhandedly remark, "You know, I think it's really great you self-published your own book and figured out a way to sell it."

I'd have to tell them, actually, NO, I didn't self-publish it.  It's just published by an indie you've never heard of and I prefer to sell it in bars rather than bookstores (where you can buy it too if you truly want to).

The thing is, NO ONE cared.  Whether I was published by Random House or an indie they've never heard of or even simply by me, people didn't care.  Whether my book was on the front table of Borders or on a corner table at the Felie pub or Bukowski's Tavern.  They only cared that the book sounded interesting and had ideas they wanted to read.

Major publishers seem to have lost track of this, focused only on sell sell selling books, any books, to the uninformed masses.  Admittedly, they're still winning at that game because they have the money and contacts to control the most important thing of the moment, good table placement at Barnes & Noble and an ability to manipulate bestseller lists, but these things won't matter much longer.

Enter Seth Godin's The Domino Project.

Working directly with Amazon, Godin's goal is to reinvent what it means to be a publisher while finding better ways to spread ideas.  He's going to do this by ignoring what the annoying and increasingly obsolete middle men (bookstores most notably) want, by finding ways to sell directly to the kinds of readers that want to read certain things.  Whether a zillion people want to hear about a certain book, or only a few thousand, The Domino Project plans to find them and deliver them the materials the way they want them delivered (paperback, audiobook, ebook, who gives a damn? Bookstore, online, at the bar, likewise).

I have no shame in unabashedly admitting that Seth Godin is my idol and his words of wisdom have been mentoring me for the last decade.  Within the past few months I've gotten to know Seth a little, who has even paid me one of the greatest compliments of my life when he told me he admired my marketing of "How to Fail."

Now, I'm pleased to announce I'll be doing some "street team" work for The Domino Project.  These are ideas I believe in and ideas that I've discovered actually work through my own struggles and successes with "How to Fail."  Of course, Seth is much smarter than me so I'm happy to be a follower.  I've been evangelizing Seth's ideas for years and would have been evangelizing The Domino Project too, even if I wasn't working with them.

The ironic thing is that one day soon when people ask me what books I read, I could actually see my reply being:

"All the books published by The Domino Project."

The Domino Project's first book is by Seth Godin and will be released next month:

A few of my other favorite Godin books: