This is another HOW TO FAIL deleted scene that was actually an entire chapter. It was originally Footchapter Twelve-B but in later edits it got shortened into just a small passage (pgs. 289-290) in Footchapter Eleven-A "How to be Aimless & Uninspired."
I thought it would be nice to run now, four years after lots of children picked bad college majors which they're now finding absolutely no use for in the "real" world. Shudder.
You don't need to go to college to aquire most skills. You can learn them on your own. College should only be used as a trade school for white collar piece of shit jobs.
I didn't need classes to know how to write. I either had it or I didn't. And, you're already on pg X of this book so I must have it; or you randomly opened to this page; or you were assigned this for a class (seriously?! Stuart Fish is taught in schools now? How flattering!)
I majored in both film and English. Perhaps the two most useless majors in America after general studies.
You see, the problem is, one can't major in the stuff you really want to major in:
*Picking up hot chicks
Meanwhile, there are countless worthless and useless things people can major in:
*________ Studies (Women's, African-American, Rock 'n' roll)--These aren't "studies." You're essentially paying money to goof around. These colleges are tricking your parents into letting you party for four years under the guise of study. Watch a documentary or two on said _______ or read a couple of books and you'll know more than enough on the subject. And if you're a woman or an African-American, your life is your study. If you're a man or white, you don't need to study those minorities "studies." You're already a majority of fortune on planet Earth. Even if these things interest you, you certainly don't need to spend 80 hours on it.
*Hotel/restaurant management--Seriously? If this necessitates a major then why are so many restaurants running just fine under the helm of a nineteen-year-old college drop-out? And hotels? What's there to know? Mexican women need to clean up the room and makes the bed. Black men need to mop the floor and unclog the toilets. White girls need to run the front desk?! You don't need any ethnic studies classes to know those things.
*History--The major for lazy people that think they're intellecutal and like owning lots of books.
*Physical education--You must be kidding.
*Latin--Studying a dead language is always savvy.
*Teaching--Why would you need to major in this? Can't you pretty much teach something the second you learn it? A 2nd Grader could teach a 1st Grader how to be a 1st Grader, right? And a 9th grader could teach an 8th grader. A 12th grader could probably even teach like a 10th grade "honors" class. Done and done. Katie confirms as much.
My major in film was particularly useless considering my school was using equipment that DW Griffith would have laughed at, and that was a man that thought racism was hilarious so you know he's got a bang-up sense of humor. So, perhaps, maybe I didn't even major in film but actually majored in something like Antiquated Filmmaking.
Wow, my major was even more useless than I thought.
As for obtaining a second major, I sure picked a great one: English. When English is your first language--and you don't even have a second one--you really don't need to major in it. English in college is essentially just like being in a book club that costs $40,000 a year, has only annoying people you hate in it, offers no refreshments at any of the meetings, and a book club where people actually read the books.
No, to not have a useless college major, one needs to major either in a select trade (welding, nursing, massage) or a highly select set of knowledge (biology, rocket science, astrology).
Of course, very few people major in those fields, many major in as equally of worthless majors as I did. Yet all of these people with all these terrible fucking majors, just like me, have managed to find work, to eke out a legitimate living, have a decent paycheck, some savings, be normal.
Why can't I?
What have I done wrong?
I think I went wrong in going to college in the first place.
I should have just skipped it. Sure, I would ultimately have gotten laid less, probably, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, I would have played far less beer pong, known none of the intricacies of keg stands and that thing where you stick your key into the side of a beer can and chug, but I would have...oh, I don't know, had four more years of failure on my permanent record. But at least I wouldn't have had a degree.
No one besmirches a NON-college grad that's a failure.
I'm glad I shortened this chapter, it wasn't very good. Having said that, Stu was prescient: I AM taught in schools now!
Check out other "How to Fail" DELETED SCENES here.
For a brief while, earlier drafts of "How to Fail" presented a Stu Fish character who absolutely, and almost inexplicably, detested Nora Ephron. He both thought her most responsible for the downfall of quality Hollywood entertainment and perhaps even society, all due to her chick flick troika of "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "You've Got Mail."
Things finally come to a head when Stu and his screenwriting friend Wesley run into Nora on a studio lot in Hollywood. Afterward, Stu explains to Wesley (who greatly admires her contributions to the film industry) why he detests her so:
Things I hate about Nora Ephron:
- I hate her fucking name. It just sounds repugnant. Both her first and her last name. I hate that she has a sister named Delia too. Delia?! Give me a fucking break.
- I hate that she was one of the few people that knew who Deep Throat was and held it over everyone like she was awesome. No, you aren't awesome, you were fucking Bob Woodward.
- speaking of that, I hate that she is now married to Nicolas Pilleggi. How can the brilliant writer of "Goodfellas" and "Casino" be married to such a shrill, undertalented wench? Even worse, how can she have more career Oscar nominations than him?
- I hate how she thinks she is so awesome. A feminist par excellence. A master observer of the the human condition. Of female/male dynamics. The relationship scribe of the century.
- But most of all, and the only thing that truly matters--I detest her fucking movies. We're talking about her trifecta of pussiness specifically. I'm not referring to stuff like "Silkwood" or "Michael," though those are awful movies in their own right. I'm talking about "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," and, yes, your beloved "You've Got Mail. "You've Got Mail" is just a rip-off of "Sleepless in Seattle," with a twist of "Shop Around the Corner," which was just a rip-off of "An Affair to Remember" which isn't particularly a great movie to begin with.
Ultimately, I dropped the Nora hatred from the entire book and, aside from a few stray mentions of "You've Got Mail," you won't find anything about Nora in "How to Fail." Nevertheless, I imagine Stu still hates her and, I suppose, I kinda do too, but it just felt weird to include in the book. And, ultimately, it really wasn't all that funny.
I (as in Aaron) still think about Nora Ephron far too much though. She's hard to avoid. She always has a new movie or book or fucking Huffington Post commentary. She's always quoted in stories and on TV and anywhere you look. I sometimes even accidentally walk by the UWS coffee shop where "You've Got Mail" had some of its major scenes. I just don't get it. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps I'm just insanely jealous of her insane success. At least her last few movies have really, really sucked.
Check out these other Director's Commentary and Deleted Scenes:
#1 -- "FUCK YOUS" (dedication page)
#2 -- "QUOTING BIGGIE SMALLS" (including famous quotes)
#3 -- "BLURBS" (cover blurbs)
#4 -- "CHAPTER ONE" (genesis of HTF idea)
#5 -- "THE FAILURE INTERVENTION" (deleted scene)
#6 -- "I'VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER" (deleted scene)
#7 -- "HOW TO FAIL ON A DATE" (deleted chapter)
#8 -- "HOW TO MAKE GOD HATE YOU" (deleted chapter)
#9 -- "BENDERS" -- (deleted scene)
I got an email the other day from someone who proudly told me he had just purchased Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations" per my frequent recommendations. This happens all the time.
That's cool, it's my favorite book and I'm always trying to spread the gospel of it.
The weird thing is, though, many of these people that write to tell me they've ordered "Meditations," or started reading "Meditations," or have finished and loved "Meditations," have yet to read my book.
Which is strange to me.
I can understand if someone loved my books and then grew to love my writing and then grew to respect my thinking AND THEN bought "Meditations." But, why would someone buy a book recommended by a guy they don't admire enough to have even read his book yet?
Let me state right from the get-go, THE book I most recommend you read in this entire world is:
Also known as: my book.
I know it doesn't matter. There's something about recommending another person's book that people truly respect as opposed to just shilling for your own book. It's not just "Meditations." Checking out my Amazon Associates account, I see I sell quite a few copies of The Philadelphia Lawyer's book "Happy Hour is For Amateurs" every month. Again, that's great. That's an amazing book. Probably better than mine, quite frankly. You should read it.
But, aren't you just the least bit curious about the book written by the guy that's recommending all these books you actually want to read?!
I suppose I'm just mad because I'll never get to meet Marcus Aurelius and have him thank me for all the added sales.
I guess I just assumed everyone already got it.
But, apparently, you have to be of a certain age--typically over 30--and have not repressed all scary imagery from your childhood brain to recall these:
I remember these Scientology commercials appearing during day-time TV back in the 1980s while I was on summer break. Man, they freaked me the fuck out!
But, they were a perfect style to use for my own Fail-anetics commercials:
It just never occurred to me until yesterday that there were people that didn't get the spoof.
Great, now I'm going to be sued by Tom Cruise.
Just because I wrote a curse-filled book headed up by a "failure" of a protagonist that likes promiscuous sex and alcohol, doesn't mean "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide" doesn't follow a classic structure like the "The Lord of the Rings," "The Odyssey," or "Star Wars." In fact, I'd dare say it perfectly follows the "Monomyth," the prototypical hero's seventeen-step journey detailed by Joseph Campbell in his seminal work "The Hero With a Thousand Faces."
[SPOILERS A PLENTY]
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE
[BECOMING A "SUCCESS"]
In a monomyth, the hero begins in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unknown world of strange powers and events.
In Stu Fish's case, the call comes from looking at all his successful friends and thinking he might be happier if he was just like them ("Chapter 2: How to Fail to Not Get Mistaken For a Bum"). Thus, he decides to enter their "unknown world." That being the world of sobriety, dress clothes, and "success." The complete opposite of adventure, quite frankly.
REFUSAL OF THE CALL
[SHITTING WHERE YOU EAT]
Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his current circumstances.
In Stu's case, he can't help but squander opportunities for normal success, explaining in "Chapter 1: How to Fail to Write a Cohesive Introduction":
"I shit where I eat. I dip my pen in the company inkwell. I bite the hand that feeds me and I never take my vitamins..."
[HOW TO FAIL ALE]
Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid them later in their quest.
Stu's magical helper is procured at the Wee Pub where drinks pints and pints of How to Fail Ale, a supernatural force that gives him the ability to ignore the pain and attempt to conquer the mundane life of success.
THE CROSSING OF THE FIRST THRESHOLD
[LEAVING HELL'S KITCHEN]
This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
Stu has no choice but to cross the first threshold after he loses his worthless dead-end job, gets dumped by his miserable girlfriend, and watches his hovel of a walk-up apartment cave in around him ("Chapter 4: How to Fail to Do Something Productive All Day," "Chapter 5: How to Fail to Live in a Healthy Environment," & "Chapter 6: How to Fail in Love").
BELLY OF THE WHALE
[ENTERING THE UPPER WEST SIDE]
The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. By entering this stage, the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.
Stu enters the belly of the whale when he is forced to leave the raucous failuredom of Hell's Kitchen and enter into the boring belly of potential success on the Upper West Side, moving in with his best friend Bonnie and her girlfriend Brandi (Part Two: UWS).
THE ROAD OF TRIALS
[AVOIDING JERKING OFF, GETTING LOADED, AND HIS EX]
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
1. Out of money with none coming in, Stu tries to carve out a life living on Bonnie and Brandi's couch ("Chapter 8: How to Live on a Couch").
2. Stu tries to do something productive during the day and not just masturbate ("Footchapter Four-B: How to Masturbate at Work"), likewise trying to ignore his addictions in favor of loftier and healthier pursuits ("Footchapter Four-A: How to Develop an Addiction").
3. Stu tries to avoid running into his ex-girlfriend, forced to sneak around the Upper West Side ("Footchapter 8: How to Avoid Your Ex in a Small Town").
THE MEETING WITH THE GODDESS
[THE DRUNKEN SCHOOL TEACHER]
This is the point when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely.
It's not love, perhaps only lustful boredom, but when Stu's meets drunkard teacher Katie who lives in a tiny studio and sleeps on a Murphy bed, he quickly gets new insights into a comfortable world that could be his ("Chapter 10: How to Get Laid on a Couch").
WOMAN AS TEMPTRESS
This step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his quest, which does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
Though nice and fun, the loopy Katie believes in hokum, specifically "dick readings," using a psychic reading of Stu's genitalia to insist he venture to Los Angeles on a quick trip to pursue his long-time Hollywood screenwriting dreams, derailing his attempts at pursuing a normal corporate life of success ("Chapter 11: How to Be Haunted by Demons").
ATONEMENT WITH THE FATHER
In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power.
After a humiliating dinner blow-up with his boring but successful parents ("Chapter 3: How to Fail to Make Your Parents Proud of You"), Stu realizes they were perhaps right all along, and decides to try "their way" for awhile, making amends with his shameless networker of a father and joining him at one of his events, hoping to mimic his life ("Footchapter 12: How to Network").
[PUTTING ON A SUIT]
When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.
Stu finds himself swimming in an ill-fitting, cheap suit and attending this networking event completely sober, signaling to him that he has finally killed the failure in his life and ascended to a higher, successful level.
THE ULTIMATE BOON
[THE JOB INTERVIEW]
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
Stu's ultimate boon is when he finally lands a job interview with a major company's boss, "Big Richard," who he met at the previous networking event. He throws on his dress clothes and goes to the midtown office for the stereotypical interview, though he quickly learns the "normal" life of success he's sabotaged and rejected all along may not actually be the life for him ("Chapter 13: How to Fail to Be Normal").
REFUSAL OF THE RETURN
[HOW TO FAIL TO BE NORMAL]
Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.
Though he's a little uncertain, a well-paid job with a big company and benefits galore seems as good as it can get for Stu, and, as Chapter 13 ends and the book nears its conclusion, it appears that Stu has finally achieved the success he was pursuing and will never look back.
THE MAGIC FLIGHT
[THE HOLLYWOOD DREAM]
Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
At Brandi and Bonnie's wedding, all of Stu's old friends fete him for the "success" he has become, just like them. Until, Stu is forced to admit to the reader that it was all just a Hollywood-ized dream, revealing that he actually finally achieved success on a road less-traveled.
RESCUE FROM WITHOUT
Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, oftentimes he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience.
Little does Stu realize, that he too has always been a successful networker, just like his father. A different kind of networker though, one who unwittingly builds a real network in life, acquiring countless friends and acquaintances along his unplanned journey. One such connection he meets at his father's networking event. Not Big Richard, but rather Arnie Galloway, another disillusioned "failure" dragged to the event by his disapproving father.
THE CROSSING OF THE RETURN THRESHOLD
[THE HAPPINESS OF FAILURE]
The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
Arnie helps convince Stu that success in life is merely happiness, as simple as that sounds. Not living a life any one else wants you to live, but, rather, living the life that makes you happy. Whether that makes you a "success" in other people's eyes or not.
MASTER OF THE TWO WORLDS
[THE SUCCESSFUL FAILURE]
This step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
Stu learns that he can take the best parts of being a failure [having fun, drinking, meeting plenty of women] and still work hard at becoming a "success" under his own terms. He and Arnie move to a tiny apartment in Queens where they make a little pocket change during the day, and pursue their writing dreams at night, Stu happier than he's been in years.
FREEDOM TO LIVE
[FAILING TO FAIL]
Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.
Stu has no idea whether he'll achieve his now-focused writing dreams, but that no longer matters, he's happy and will remain happy for the rest of time.
Ah, fuck it.
Let's be honest, "How to Fail: The Self-Help Guide" is just a subversive comedy with chapters called "How to Get the STD that's Right for You" and "How to Have a Negative Net- and Self-Worth."
Nothing more and nothing less.
"A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man."
What job more exemplifies success (and perhaps ultimate failure too) than the U.S. Presidency?
Filmmakers sometimes like to have a little fun and add "easter eggs" for their most astute fans to discover. I, likewise, decided it would be cool to subtly sneak a reference to all 44 presidents within HOW TO FAIL's 372 pages and see if any one caught on. Unfortunately, edits led to a few references ultimately being nixed and only 35 presidents ended up being represented in the final work (36 if we count Grover Cleveland's non-consecutive terms).
(Bolded presidents actually appear in the book. Other presidents are mentioned how they appeared in previous drafts.)
George Washington - In Chapter 2 while arguing with Keith about dentistry being "overrated," Stu notes that when he becomes a Hollywood success: “They'll cap my teeth. Fill my facehole with a bunch of big, fake chompers. Like Ben Affleck or Hilary Duff. Gorgeous and pricey mouth Chiclets that’ll make Gary Busey, Mr. Ed, and George Washington’s teeth look subtle by comparison.”
John Adams -- Stu dreams of his "How to Fail" life becoming the stuff of legend, with a Hollywood producer one day telling him: "We'll do How to Fail: The Major Motion Picture and a How to Fail HBO miniseries which will be bigger than that suckfest John Adams one..." (Chapter 13)
Thomas Jefferson -- "People love to overrate those that fail in childhood...like the class president who dies in a car wreck who was certain to be the next Thomas Jefferson." (Footchapter 6-B)
James Madison -- Both Madison Avenue and Madison Square Garden are mentioned in the book in a fairly cheap reference to Presidente Numero Tres.
James Monroe -- The happy hour bar Stu and his ex-girlfriend Ash loved to drink at is called J. Monroe's. (Chapter 6)
John Quincy Adams -- In the "I've Never Been Happier" deleted scene, Stu speculates on how his life could have turned out if he'd taken the road of most successes. He wonders if he'd have become more conservative John Quincy Adams, the kind of prude that doesn't even appreciate a woman's shorn pubic hair.
Andrew Jackson -- Though both Michael and Phil Jackson are mentioned in "How to Fail," Andrew Jackson does not appear in the book. In earlier drafts, Stu occasionally referred to $20 bills as "Andrew Jacksons" until I realized that made him appear very douchey.
Martin Van Buren -- Ash's best friend, struggling actress Patricia, works at Times Square novelty restaurant First Ladies where she serves food while dressed like Martin's wife Hannah Van Buren. (Chapter 6)
William Henry Harrison -- (see below)
John Tyler -- Stu reflects on all the useless shit he learned in high school: "We read The Great Gatsby and learned about derivatives and the Doppler effect and 'Tippecanoe and Tyler too...'" "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" being an influential Whig Party campaign song praising the William Henry Harrison/Tyler presidential ticket, while denigrating opponent Van Buren. (Footchapter 6-B)
James K. Polk -- When Stu visits his highly successful screenwriting pal Wesley out in Los Angeles, they go to a cheesy Hollywood Boulevard nightclub. Stu hates it, but Wesley digs the quasi-celebrity scene: “Jesse Owens' great-grandkids party here. And that chick over there is related to James K. Polk.” (Chapter 11)
Zachary Taylor -- At Stu's job interview in Chapter 13, his potential future boss notes that he needs to talk to his company's "big wigs" though not, he joke, "the big Whigs like Zachary Taylor."
Millard Fillmore -- In earlier drafts, Chapter 13's job interview took place at the Millard Fillmore office building, a made-up building in midtown Manhattan.
Franklin Pierce -- Stu's successful friend Danny does banking work for the Franklin Pierce firm. Also a nod to "American Psycho"'s Patrick Bateman who does similar mergers and acquisitions for Pierce & Pierce.
James Buchanan -- Stu doesn't care a lick about his own sordid past, noting that it hardly matters: "You didn't have to be good at anything to be a politician. You only had to be good at getting elected. Taft was obese, Buchanan was a closeted friend of Dorothy, JFK was a philanderer, Nixon cursed heavily, Bush drank, Obama did coke." (Footchapter 6-B)
Abraham Lincoln -- Mentioned as "Honest Abe" in an anecdote about Ulysses S. Grant (see below)
Andrew Johnson -- Stu notes that Ash's former and future boyfriend Trevor enjoys some hipster activities as "playing kickball in Park Slope, drinking kombucha at neo-beatnik coffee houses, showing off his dilettante harmonica skills at The Hole in the Wall Tavern in Harlem, and ranting in Union Square about there not having been a truly small-D democratic president since Andrew Johnson." (Chapter 6)
Ulysses S. Grant -- Stu notes that he'd always dreamed of being a legendary drinker like "Your Humphrey Bogarts, Babe Ruths, Jackie Gleasons, and your U.S. Grant who, legend claims, was once accused by President Lincoln's advisers of being a drunkard, to which Honest Abe replied, 'I wish you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel to my other generals.'" (Footchapter 6-B)
Rutherford B. Hayes -- A strong advocate of not shaving himself, Stu considers Hayes to be in the top 1% of beard growers alongside Kenny Rogers, Ice Cube, and Sean Connery. (Chapter 2)
James A. Garfield -- Keith's beloved cat is named James A. Garfield.
Chester Arthur -- "E-commerce came about so we'd never have to go into a bookstore and talk to the bookish nerds to acquire that well-regarded biography on Chester A. Arthur." (Footchapter 12)
Grover Cleveland -- Stu is obsessed with knowledge, garnering most of it by relentlessly reading Wikipedia entries: "I was so well-versed on so many topics. I read books and watched important films. If I didn't know about something, I read the Wikipedia entry on the subject. I hadn't known what subprime loans were. So I read the entry. Or, why Grover Cleveland was our 22nd and 24th president. So I read the entry. (He got screwed in the 1888 election.)" (Chapter 2)
Benjamin Harrison -- In earlier drafts, Stu goes on a rant about how he eschews paper money (in favor of a debit card) and absolutely detests coinage, especially those of a low denomination: "The penny's so worthless it doesn't deserve to have a great president on it. Naw, it should have some presidential clown like Benji Harrison or Johnny Tyler."
William McKinley -- When Stu moves into the Ola Dubh building on the Upper West Side he finds himself living amongst people old enough "to answer 'where they were' when Czolgosz shot McKinley" referencing the 1901 assassination of the president. (Chapter 8 )
Theodore Roosevelt -- In Part II when Stu works on improving his health by becoming a jogger, noting he's even thinking about running a half-marathon, his friend Keith wonders which: "The Yonkers Fun Run? The Battery Park Classic? I've thought about doing the Teddy Roosevelt Road Race myself.” (Footchapter 13-B)
William Howard Taft -- Stu's thoughts on perspective and how even being a president would have sucked back in the day: "I mean, if you or I was forced to live the exact same life that, say, President William Howard Taft lived back during his term, we would probably kill ourselves. He was the most famous man in America, probably one of the richest, most successful, and most coddled of his time, yet we would find his life utterly repugnant. No indoor plumbing, no cable television, no fast food, no porn. We would rather be a bum in the 2000s than Taft. Than probably every single president up to, oh, I don't know, JFK? Carter?! The internet wasn't even high-speed as recent as Clinton's second term." (Chapter 3)
Woodrow Wilson -- In Footchapter 5-B "How to Live With Fucked Up Neighbors," Stu notes that his next-door neighbor looks just like a Dominican Woodrow Wilson, dubbing him "Maderow Wilson."
Warren G. Harding -- In earlier drafts of Chapter 2, after Stu discusses his theory of the "Catch 23," worrying that the Joseph Heller estate might sue him, he notes: "I don't need any more lawsuits pending against me after that little kerfuffle I got into with the Warren G. Harding estate regarding the Teapot Dome Scandal." Not funny. Lame. Nixed.
*Calvin Coolidge -- While a long ago drugged obsessed roommate of Stu's is named Calvin, old "Silent Cal" never actually appeared in ANY draft of "How to Fail." That was to be my joke and he was to be the only president that didn't appear. I was going to even give a prize to the first nerd who discovered this and emailed me. Alas.
Herbert Hoover -- In earlier drafts of Chapter 11, Hollywood producer Mark Gordon notes that the "DON'T BE AN ARTIST" sign on his desk is his version of "The Buck Stop Here." Though he makes an egregious error in claiming that buck sign was on Herbert Hoover's desk when it was, actually, of course, on Truman's.
Franklin D. Roosevelt -- Stu notes that The Great Depression look bearable: "Those Depression-era movies never looked too bad to me. A lot of waiting on soup lines and drinking potato vodka while leaning against a building. I could handle that. Except for all of FDR's radio chats interrupting my favorite shows." (Chapter 4)
Harry S Truman -- In earlier drafts, Stu constantly mocks politicians that roll up the sleeves of their dress shirts when they're out and about with blue collar folks trying to be "of the people." Stu notes: "Do you really think Truman was doing that shit [rolling up his shirt sleeves] during his whistlestops?!"
Dwight D. Eisenhower -- Ash's best friend, struggling actress Patricia, works at Times Square novelty restaurant First Ladies where one time bartender Mamie Eisenhower makes Stu a terrific cocktail. (Chapter 6)
John F. Kennedy -- JFK is mentioned three times in the book, both as a notable philanderer and airport. His brother Robert Kennedy is mentioned in the second line of the entire book:
They say some men see things that are and say, “Why?” Robert Kennedy dreamed things that never were and said, “Why not?” Well, I see my life unfolding and I just say, “Why me?”
Lyndon B. Johnson -- Stu notes that the famous quote “Those that don't recall history are doomed to repeat it" has been incorrectly attributed to LBJ among others. (Footchapter 6-B)
Richard Nixon -- Stu figures it was harder for Adam to not prematurely ejaculate with Eve being that he couldn't turn his mind to things like "baseball and walking the dog and Richard Nixon naked." (Footchapter 6-B)
Gerald Ford -- Stu wonders if books will one day be written completely in emoticons, figuring :O 😀 😛 :X 🙁 could eventually be an entire chapter from some new Gerald Ford biography, Swell Guy. (Epilogue)
Jimmy Carter -- (see Taft)
Ronald Reagan -- Stu dreams of one day meeting his mysterious nemesis, film producer Mark Gordon, figuring him to have "a luscious head of Ronald Reagan hair even though he must be fifty-eight or so." (Chapter 11)
George Bush --To appease his father, Stu makes the most over-the-top resume ever which includes "undergrad degrees from Princeton and Oxford, law school at Harvard, medical school at Columbia, business school at NYU, drama school at Yale. Personal recommendations from Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush, Coach K, and Ringo Starr." (Chapter 12)
Bill Clinton -- In Chapter 6, Stu chastises himself for having such marriage-phobia issues when people such as Dennis Rodman, Kurt Cobain, and Bill Clinton were able to handle the institution. Hillary Clinton is also mentioned in "How to Fail," most notably when Stu and his Lesbian Wingman go searching for chicks at Hill's presidential announcement party, meeting Brandi there.
George W. Bush -- From Chapter 3: "Being middle class is the worst for a failure. If you're an upper class failure, your parents' wealth, connections, and pure unadulterated nepotism can still allow you to end up on top (see: Bush, George W.) or, at least, enjoying the good life of promiscuous sex and substance abuse (see: any of the twenty-first century reality show retards whose fathers worked their asses off at legit professions [attorney, hotelier, gold medalist, etc] so that their children could go to Hollywood clubs every night to do coke and fuck each other [see: Kardashian, Kim; Hilton, Paris; Jenner, Brody; et al])."
Barack Obama -- Mentioned countless times throughout the book (Stu notes of Ash's once and future boyfriend Trevor that he's "the kind of guy who still wears an Obama pin even though the election has been over for nearly a year, still so proud that he voted for the man."), the book was supposed to actually finish with this quote from our esteemed current president:
“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.”
Help make me some unfulfilled, unambitious bucks by buying "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide."
MORE EASTER EGGS:
MORE DELETED SCENES:
This week saw the release of Steven Pressfield's road map for productivity, "Do the Work." Friday, I reviewed the book. Yesterday, I discussed my ways for battling The Resistance. And, today, I offer a free excerpt from HOW TO FAIL which shows how protagonist Stu Fish fails at conquering The Resistance, at doing a single productive thing all day...
EH EH EH EH! My alarm clock buzzes strong at eight AM.
I'm not one of those people that hits snooze three times in a row, which I suppose makes me a success of the lowest regard, but it will be my only victory for the day so I have to brag a little.
I rise from bed like a zombie, hungover, perhaps still drunk, and enter my squalid bathroom. I should probably clean it this weekend during my hour or two of sobriety.
I flip two switches, the hot/cold knob on my shower, and the power button on the Bose wave radio I won at some charity raffle I should have never been at in the first place. The fates wish to musically mock me and the song that plays is Top of the World by The Carpenters.
I lean over the sink, staring at myself in the toothpaste-speckled mirror. Look at you, loser. My self-loathing turns to hatred for my job. I'm not the loser. I just have a shitty fucking job. Another fucking day at the shitty fucking job.
I reconsider the running water and turn the shower off. Cleanliness is not in the cards this morning. My first failure of the day, quite minor or quite huge depending on who you ask. You’ve heard of an Irish shower—washing your pits and crotch with a washcloth? Or, maybe, the Puerto Rican shower—dousing your body in cologne? I’ll take my own special Stuart Fish shower today. That’s simply doing nothing. I won’t shower, I won’t wash, I won’t splash on cologne or apply deodorant, I won’t even comb my bedhead or put on clean undies. I don’t care about the exterior I present to this world. I've been nothing but an empty vessel since Ash broke up with me.
Soon, I am on a packed subway, running late to work, disheveled in rumpled business casual attire. I have to wear anything-but-jeans to work, so I do, a single pair of shoddy fifteen dollar slacks with big pleats and bigger cuffs. At the end of each day I take these pants off, spritz them with Febreze, and drape them across my desk chair. I haven't had them dry-cleaned since I was dumped a few weeks ago. My dress shirts are three alternating button-ups I purchased my senior year of college for a variety of nicer functions I needed to attend. These shirts are old, worn out, perma-stained. My shoes are a stinky filthy pair of black Doc Martens I've been wearing for a decade.
I stare with admiration at the successes packed into the subway car around me. Them in their Hugo Boss suits, crisply pressed Thomas Pink oxfords, their Ferragamo lace-ups, a Wall Street Journal snapped and folded so they can read it, they soon to have their own woodcut visage on the front page no doubt, if newspapers even exist by then. The women in their sexy work attire, listening to music on their fancy iPhones which I can only dream of affording.
On my commute, I do nothing productive. I don’t read the paper, or a magazine, or a book. I don’t do a crossword or play Sudoku. I don’t even listen to an iPod or play BrickBreaker on my cell phone. I might ogle a businesswoman's pumped-up calves, thinking about them straddling my waist, being thrown over my shoulders. Thinking about her being my next girlfriend. But, usually, I just stare in a daze at the advertisements for chiropractors and ESL courses.
By 9:18 I've arrived to drop my shit at my desk, to check in and let my inferior superiors know I am in the building.
It doesn’t matter what I do for a living because I don’t really do anything for a living. I am essentially paid $39,000 a year to show up at an office building approximately 230 times a year for about eight hours a day. I never arrive at nine, not even close, but like Fred Flintstone I sprint out of the office the second the bird’s tail is pulled and he squawks five o’clock.
I am no hypocrite, just as I mentioned in Chapter Two how I don't give a shit what others do for a living, I am just the same when it comes to my own job. I frequently get the “So what do you do?” question, just like anybody does, but I rarely answer it by revealing what I “do.”
People ask “So what do you do?” to get a grasp on who you are as a person.
You're an investment banker = you work long hours, make a butt-load of money, are nerdy.
You're a lawyer = you had no explicit dreams in life so you went to law school, now you push paper all day waiting to be made partner in a decade or two.
You're a doctor = you like exploiting people's ailments for your own financial gain.
I tell people I'm a writer. Cause that's what I want to be. It's the only thing I could possibly enjoy. Screenwriter is the only job that's interested me since I realized at age fifteen I would never be a Major League third baseman.
“Wow, a screenwriter, that's awesome!” is what you probably think people would respond, opening me up to a series of uncomfortable follow-up questions proving I'm not really one. But, no. No one cares. People are just waiting for you to finish talking so they can start talking again. Follow-up questions only come if they think it will allow them to brag a little bit more about themselves.
After I've dropped my shit at my desk, I head off to get coffee, caffeination being of crucial importance for getting me through the wretched day. I need coffee like zombies need brains. I don't head to the standard break room, though. Instead, I walk down two floors and visit the janitorial lounge.
Not only does the lounge have superior coffee, but the janitors, repairmen, and handymen that congregate in this uncarpeted room are the best. All so funny, so interesting, so kind. All clad in jump suits or Dickeys, shirts with patches on them and their names sewn onto the breast, though these are people whose names I actually care to know. J.J. the electrician and Kenny the janitor, Oswaldo the plumber and Carl the superintendent. All with jobs that sounded a helluva lot better than mine. Getting to clean toilets, fix electrical cords, vacuum. Much better than being chained to a desk. You think I'm joking, but I'm not.
The only job I've ever enjoyed was a blue collar one. Back in the summer between sophomore and junior year of college, Keith convinced me that instead of interning at some stuffy office, waitering, bagging groceries, we should get a house in South Carolina and golf every day.
Our first day in North Myrtle Beach, we saw a rich local loading some day-laborers into a pickup truck and asked him about work, needing some coin to facilitate our golfing lifestyle. Mr. Showalter was having his gigantic guest house painted and was thrilled to have two English-speaking boys up for the low-paying job. Low-paying for a true adult, sure, but for us, ten dollars an hour was phenomenal.
Every morning, Keith and I would wake before sunrise, throw on some filthy coveralls, slam a thirty-two ounce Mountain Dew to shake off the cobwebs, and walk over to Mr. Showalter's house where we'd take our place among a few kindly Mexicans. There wasn't much talking between us painters—language barrier and lack of interest in each other's favorite sports—so it was very peaceful. Just standing on a ladder, you and the brush. Brush into bucket, up, down, up, down, up, down, dip, repeat. Seven straight hours of this. I figured out so many things during those days. I tackled my problems, had great explosions of creativity, planned the next fifty years of my life. Most satisfying, at the end of every day, I'd get off the ladder, walk back from the house about twenty yards and go, “Look what I've accomplished today!” You just can't do that in an office environment.
After our day of painting, Keith and I would rip off our coveralls and head over to cheap public courses where we'd get the twilight rate and rush through eighteen holes, our hands and fingernails still caked in paint flecks. After a quick clubhouse shower, we'd hit the bars for cheap beers and to try and hook up with tourists on the beach. By the end of the summer, I was breaking eight-five regularly and had upped my sexual number eleven-fold, but the painting ended up being what I remember most about that time.
The beginning of my day is actually the only part of my current work day I enjoy as I check the previous twelve hours of unread e-mails, though most are of the SPAM or “Please finish this report ASAP!” variety. The random personal e-mail excites me, however. I don't know why e-mail is still such an exciting form of communication. Did worker bees back in the 1970s sit at their desks staring at their rotary phone, hoping it would ring? That's how I treat e-mail. I always have it up in one of the windows on my computer and most of the time I just stare at the inbox with zero new messages in it, hoping a new one arrives. Story of my life, just sitting around waiting for others to take action. When the box refreshes and a new message comes in, I jump to, quickly opening it, elated when it's from an actual friend. A simple message, a funny link passed along, some sage wisdom forwarded.
Sometimes, on those days I'm not getting any messages, I'm forced to create them myself by initiating contact with someone in my address book, though never Keith or Danny or Jack because they tell me they're something called...“busy.” Do you know that word? They also fear repercussions from their companies for using work e-mail for personal purposes. And don't get me started about cursing. When we do actually e-mail, they make me write stuff like “sh*t” and “*ss” and “f*ck” and “c*cks*cker” so their systems won't be alerted to profanities usage. P*ssies.
Even without them, if I can get e-mailing threads started with five or so people, that gives me enough fodder to blow through a whole workless day.
When I've exhausted all my e-mailing, I start hitting up websites, anything to waste time. Sports, entertainment, politics. Shit that doesn't even interest me, though that's one reason I'm so smart. I'd much rather read a long, boring Wikipedia entry about Noam Chomsky than actually do work.
Before I know it, I've done not a lick for the entire morning though I have learned a reasonable amount about generative grammar. It's remarkable how quickly noon comes. Noon, on the dot, is when I go to lunch, a fact that makes my coworkers laugh at me. Not that I talk to those losers. I don't even know most their names. There's the one guy I call Flanders in my head because he dresses like Flanders from The Simpsons and is the most phony nice person I've ever met. There's Creepy Pants who I always run into by the copier. He has a perpetual look of pedophiliac leering on his face. There's Skank who is this jappy chick with the exact same job as me. She spends all day yakking on the phone to her friends. I call her Skank because every time she bends over to reach into her bottom drawer, her Filene's Basement blazer lifts up a little revealing a mermaid tattoo on the tramp stamp portion of her lower back. I have no idea if she is literally a skank, or a tramp, but that's what I call her because I don't know her real name.
Flanders, Creepy Pants, Skank, The Koala, Stinkbreath, Gayman, Fartface, Perv, and Ze Zit (an acne-scarred German fella), they work within a thirty foot radius of me, have for years, some of them, and I've never taken the time to know their names. I guess that's just the kind of person I am.
I would never pick these people as my friends. Why should I befriend them just because we're forced into the same situation due to every human being's need to earn an income? Having work friends I see outside the office would just remind me of my shitty job. I'm not one of those people that likes to bitch about things he dislikes, one of the major reasons a lot of people have coworker friends.
While the diligent Flanders orders in some Chinese, Skank goes out to grab a salad to bring back to her desk, and Creepy Pants nukes a Lean Cuisine, I luxuriate for the full hour I'm entitled. I stretch my lunch to about ninety minutes as I walk around midtown Manhattan, as far north as 59th and Central Park, as far south as 42nd and Bryant Park, as far east as Madison Ave., and as far west as Eighth, chowing down on styrofoam trays of Halal street meat, gawking at tourists, window shopping, reading magazines at newsstands, working on my tan.
Back from lunch and it's more goofing off. By now, I'm on cup five of coffee. Its lackadaisical laxative quality begins to rear its ugly head and soon some fecal matter will be rearing its ugly head out my back end. This is a terrific development as I can kill a good half-hour in the bathroom. I don't do anything special, I just treat the work bathroom like I'd treat my at-home bathroom. Sitting on the can, reading internet printouts about string theory, The Prisoner's Dilemma, Mel Ott, Pliny the Elder, texting people on my phone, working crosswords, daydreaming. I may even stick around for a few extra minutes to peel one off (please see Footchapter Four-B: How to Masturbate at Work).
By now it's three and you can't get any work done the last hour or two before it's time to leave. I've already begun packing it in for the day.
People say to me, “Surely at some point you've exhausted every single time-waster and literally have no choice but to work?!”
Amazingly not and I'm sorry if you lack the time-wasting skills I have. At the art of time-wasting I am, in fact, a wild success. I do have to work a little, just to assure I keep my plush job, but I've found that “little” can be fifteen to thirty minutes a day. To my credit, I'm actually pretty good at my worthless job when I do it, and a focused half-hour flurry can produce an output that rivals most of my dumb coworkers' whole afternoon.
On those days or weeks that my boss, Dough (pronounced Doug), feels particularly chippy, I'll focus a little harder, and produce so much work it'll make his life exponentially tougher as he has to process it all. I usually don't hear much for him after that and am again free and back to my own devices.
Remember, this is a time of recession. At least that's what we're told. No one really knows. Rich people know they are poorer. Poor people know that rich people won't shut the fuck up about it. No bonuses this year? Shit, I've never gotten a bonus in my life. A person like me loves this recession because it has made so many successes into failures. I know how to cope with failure. I've been dealing with it for years. But some dude who has been pulling six figs and taking black Towncars and bottle servicing it since the days of Clinton, that fuck has no idea how to cope.
In fact, it's possible, as we near a second Great Depression, I will soon be one of the leaders in this new world. As brokers and bankers and traders leap to their deaths from my building, I will slowly rise to the top of the heap of corpses. Why, I might just be the recession's white collar Mad Max.
If some cataclysmic event caused the world's modern technologies to go down, who would be the new leaders on this planet? It wouldn't be the well-heeled Ivy League educated poofs. It would be the high school dropouts that knew how to live on the land and deftly use a knife. As this cataclysmic economic event has brought the money world to its knees (and not for some fellatio), it's not the well-heeled Ivy Leaguer who knows how to cope. It's me. I thrive on failure. I watch CNN and read The New York Times to get a good laugh. The Dow Jones drops, and my place in the world rises. Those Depression-era movies never looked too bad to me. A lot of waiting on soup lines and drinking potato vodka while leaning against a building. I could handle that. Except for all of FDR's radio chats interrupting my favorite shows. Being an Okie and heading West? Well, at least we seem to have solved the major dust problems of the last century.
By 5:28 I am back home, sitting on my couch in a t-shirt and mesh shorts, watching Pardon the Interruption in a catatonic state, slowly coming out of that work-induced coma. Missing my ex-girlfriend. Trying to snap out of my malaise.
A box of pizza appears in front of me. I will eat it.
A six-pack of beer appears in front of me. I will drink it.
A reality show on MTV about tween semi-prostitutes appears in front of me. I will watch it.
By midnight, I go to sleep. Not because I’m tired but because I’m bored.
479 minutes later my alarm clock will read 7:59 AM as sunlight creeps through the window...
And then one more minute will turn over...
And then EH EH EH EH....
And I will shut it off...
And march to the shower...
And work another eight hours like a zombie.
If you enjoyed that I think you'll love the rest of "HOW TO FAIL" too.
A lot of people seem to think that if they aren’t failing then they are succeeding. Like they’re one in the same. They aren’t.
The opposite of success is actually not failing because if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
“There is no failure except in no longer trying.” --Henry Ford
Failure is the “close, but no cigar” of the success industry. The silver medal of success. Come back next Olympiad and you’ll be the favorite for the gold. Luckily, in the real world, you don’t have to wait every four years between attempts at success.
Someone who failed to make a jumpshot was a lot closer to being successful than someone who never took the shot (unless you’re Shaq). Someone who never took a shot never had a chance at succeeding.
Sure, he can haughtily say: “I didn’t fail at making the shot. Like you did.” But so what? That’s nothing to be proud of.
The thing is, we actually admire the sports stars that fail. Why don’t we adapt that thinking to our own lives? We admire Carmelo Anthony when he misses a game-winning shot because we know he’s the only guy on the court with the balls to attempt it.
To be so audacious!
No balls, no babies.
Who we don’t admire is the player who slinked to the corner and avoided any chance at taking the final shot. And potentially failing. (see: Jared Jeffries)
“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” --Michael Jordan
I too, like most every one, have serious problems at even attempting to fail. At battling the Resistance that Steven Pressfield talks about in "The War of Art" and "Do the Work." Problems which are, sadly, all too similar to Stu Fish's struggles in HOW TO FAIL Chapter Four: "How to Fail to Do Something Productive All Day."
HOW I FAIL AT CONQUERING THE RESISTANCE
*By being lazy -- Lounging around, watching TV, "getting to it later," is so much simpler than doing the work.
*By being stubborn -- Claiming I'm not quite ready to work, it's not the perfect time to work, I'll start soon enough.
*By being insulting -- Making fun of other people's work and claiming, "If I chose to do that work it would surely be so much better," is so much easier than doing my own work. You should never make fun of people that have actually finished something, even if it's hacky garbage. Try to write your own hacky novel. It's ain't that easy.
*By sabotaging myself and my projects -- Starting a project is a piece of cake. Writing a first line, an opening scene, the first act is a simple. Writing the third act, the ending chapter, the final line, "THE END" seems impossible. Easier to sabotage my project halfway through and just bail out.
*By letting my mind wander --I wonder what's happening on Twitter, what new beers are on tap at Rattle 'n' Hum, whether the Yankees have a home game today, what's playing at the Angelika, etc, etc, etc...
*By indulging in other's arts -- So much easier to read a great book, enjoy a wonderful movie, become entranced by a great TV series than actually create my own. I make the excuse I'm getting "inspired" for my own work by indulging in these things. Bullshit.
*By choosing lizard brain hedonism over hard work --I mentioned yesterday how a few drinks can help me release the tension and conquer The Resistance, oil the pistons to actually start the work, but too many drinks just leads to hedonism, primitive goofing around, and waking up the next morning feeling too lazy to work.
*By lacking balls -- Writing a witty Tweet, dashing off a quick blog post, creating an outline for my new book takes no courage. Any one can do those things. Millions of people do every day. But closing the door, turning off my phone, setting the computer to offline and writing for the next five hours, and then for the next two years til I finish another book...that takes real balls, baby.
I've posted eight deleted scenes from "How to Fail" which have ranged from as large as an entire chapter (or footchapter) to a "scene" that was some several thousand words. But, not everything that is cut from a book is a giant chapter or scene that can be read and enjoyed separately from the work. Sometimes, more often than not, deletions are of a few lines or paragraphs. Doesn't mean they aren't still entertaining. Here's such a deletion, on benders, that originally appeared in "Chapter 7: How to Fail All the Way To Rock Bottom."
I heard lots of frat boy types in college, when asked on Mondays, "What'd you do this weekend?" reply with a, "Whoa, bro, just came off a total bender."
I wanted to shake those motherfuckers by their Polo collars! You didn't go on a "bender" you moron! What? Cause you drank thirty or forty cans of Natty Light, did a kegstand or two, threw up once or twice, got blown by a slut twice or thrice, did nothing productive, you think that's a "bender?"
No. Naw. Uhn uh. That's not a bender. A bender is done by a man or woman with no hope. It is usually done alone, not because solo drinking is ipso facto part of a bender, but because for two (or more) people to be on a bender and it still qualify as a bender, they would have to have their miseries synchronized, like sorority girls and their menstrual cycles, and the likelihood of two (and especially more) people having the exact same need to bend, that's just highly unlikely. Binge-drinking is obviously a part of the bender, the only part inexperienced braggadocious youngsters seem to notice, but it's not the only part.
Now if you're asking, by my rules, if I had been on a bender since losing my girl, and then my job, my dreams, my mind, ain't life unkind...
I was just bored.
This was a new kind of bender. One simply existing to fill the ennui in my life.
We all need a certain amount of pleasure in our lives. We develop certain addictions because we do not have well-rounded enough lives. That's at least what I believe, but it's not like I'm a scientist.
If we were getting a fair amount of everything we should, we wouldn't have voids that would need to be filled by addictions. If we got the full pleasure of love, we wouldn't have a void to be filled with tons of sleazy, near-anonymous sex. If we got a correct amount of love made to us, we wouldn't have a void that would need to be filled with alcohol and nicotine, drugs and chicken fingers, caffeine, reality television, sports, violence, and masturbation. I needed to get my levels back in check.
What are your thoughts on benders? What defines one?
I've always loved novels where characters drink their way around a town from page 1 to "THE END"--a few favorites: "The Pint Man," "A Fan's Notes," and "The Thin Man"--and I wanted to write a drinking-at-bars novel of my own.
Stu Fish does a ton of drinking in my book, the majority of it in New York City, and many of those places are real, or at least based on places that are, or were, real.
Thus, a literary drinking tour of all the places Stu tipples at in "How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide":
Le Enfants Magnifique (pg 11) -- The un-hip French restaurant where Stu's successful friends fete him on his 30th birthday and where he has no choice but to drink expensive "Wine Spectator"-recommended wine ordered for him. Based on the bland Cafe un duex trois on West 44th Street.
McManumus's (pg 14) -- A "plastic Paddy pub" Stu is frequently forced to drink at when no other options are available. Based on any number of cookie cutter ersatz Irish bars in Midtown which serve $8 Guinness pints and have bored Irish bartenders who look like they would have never come to America if they knew they'd have to waste their days working at inauthentic pubs that Manhattan's after-work crowd loves for some damn reason.
Marriott Marquis's Bar (pg 44) -- Where Stu and girlfriend Ash have a quick drink before meeting up with Stu's visiting Midwestern parents. Based on the Atrium Lounge which, surprisingly, for a tourist trap hotel bar in the middle of Times Square, is not half bad. Yeah, it's filled with rubes wearing XXL t-shirts of their hometown college team ("Roll Tide!") and sparkling white Reeboks, but if you're in a pinch for a drink before meeting some unadventurous visitors, it's not awful.
FonDo's and Don'ts (pg 49) -- The "14 out of 30" Zagat-reviewed restaurant where Stu, Ash, and Stu's parents dine and Stu drinks a "Staten Island Iced Tea." Completely non-existent in Manhattan (shockingly), it's based on the Melting Pot which is an overpriced chain fondue place located in shopping malls in other cities and, actually, isn't half bad. It's hard to fuck up a hot vat of cheese though.
The Wee Pub (first introduced on page 87) -- The main drinking spot in "How to Fail" with its gimmicky over-sized bar, stools, drinks, and even bartender (the 6'7" Irishman Lynn). Where Stu immediately heads after he gets laid off, where he goes for months straight in a drunken malaise after getting dumped by Ash, where he met his best friend (the "Lesbian Wingman" Bonnie), where he picks up numerous girls (notably, his brief girlfriend Katie), hangs with the guys, gets loaded, and watches his beloved Knicks on TV. Based on a place formally called The Wee Pub on 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen (since remodeled, un-Wee'd, and renamed The Snug).
Ruby Tuesday's (pg 123) -- Where Stu has a most unfortunate lunch with Ash's family after she competes in a marathon in New Jersey and is forced to drink giant 32 oz frozen mugs of macro beer. Like any chain restaurant in the middle of the 'burbs it's not awful, just boring, but this author still prefers Chili's personally (delicious margaritas and queso).
J. Monroe's (pg 126) -- The beloved local haunt of Stu and Ash back when the going was good and happy hours always ended up leading to the bedroom. Based on an UWS joint called McAleer's which does indeed have great wings and terrific pitcher deals.
Harry's Conundrum (pg 133) -- Where Ash celebrates her birthday with a party that goes tragically wrong for Stu. Based on an UWS dump called Jake's Dilemma that is always filled with youngish twentysomething bozos bumping into you.
Boffo Bar (pg 158) -- The UWS bar Stu heads to after Ash dumps him and where he picks up an annoying one-night stand. Based on the very cool Dive Bar on W. 75th Street.
"Real" dives (pg 175) -- Stu always finds himself trying to tell people that they don't drink at dive bars, but that they drink at "faux"-dives, places set up to be crappy yet still safe for yuppies wanting to a verisimilitude of "slumming it." The real dives in "How to Fail," though, are based on numerous spots between 10th and 12th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen (most notably J. Mac's Lounge) which you've never been to because you're a pussy.
Times Square Applebee's (pg 213) -- A favorite "bar" of Ash's that Stu was always forced to drink at to appease her. One of the things he most revels in after being dumped is never having to drink at a boring chain restaurant again.
Rudy's (pg 230) -- The site of the bulk of Footchapter 9 ("How to Fail in Bed"), where Stu takes a first date to enjoy cheap pitchers and free hot dogs. The iconic Hell's Kitchen dive (pictured above) is a longtime favorite of this author and is, quite frankly, probably now more of a "faux"-dive itself. Especially considering the bar has a beautifully designed website featuring its own theme song (!).
Different kinds of bars -- From page 245 to 249 Stu lists the countless kinds of bars in this world (from dive to hotel to lesbian to airport bar, etc) and the various kinds of women one will meet there.
Hollywood nightclub (pg 274) -- When Stu visits his successful screenwriting buddy Wesley in Los Angeles, he is taken to a cheesy Hollywood Boulevard nightclub infested with quasi-celebrity douchebags. Based on idiotic places I've only seen on reality shows.
Size 2 Lounge (pg 295) -- An upscale spot "ironically full with a bunch of size 22s." Based on every single lame Meatpacking District bar in Manhattan.
I just hope "How to Fail" is famous enough one day that plaques hang in all the above-mentioned bars and people actually set up their own pub crawls and a giant statue of Stu Fish is erected in front of the site of the Wee, just like the Ignatius T. Reilly statue in New Orleans.