The Aaron Goldfarb Blog

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30Apr/110

“The Cheat Sheet” – FREE STORY #6

If you've already read and enjoyed "The Cheat Sheet," would you PLEASE give me a quick Amazon review here?

Romantic comedies are so predictable.  Or are they...?

COMEDIC ROMANCE

The beautiful brunette in the flowing dress walked with a purpose down a busy West Village street, though the street looked hyper-real. The sidewalks too perfect, even in how they were cracked and gum-speckled. The newspaper boxes too shiny and clean, like they were actually still installing new boxes for the dying media. The other walkers on the street a little too pretty, even for a very pretty area like the West Village.

Coming from the other direction down this hyper-real West Village street, a street you could somewhat recognize but not exactly pinpoint, came a handsome man in a tight t-shirt. Rugged and scruffy, chomping on some gum as if trying to get rid of its sugary flavor as quickly as possible.

As this handsome man neared a street corner garbage can—again, far spiffier than any Manhattan garbage can you've ever seen—he cavalierly spat the gum wad from his mouth, shooting it at the can, but missing just barely, the wad resting on the sidewalk. Moments later, the beautiful woman accidentally stepped in it.

The woman tried to lift her expensive shoe but it adhered strongly, creating an elastic affect which snapped her foot back to earth every time she tried to lift it in a tiny bit of physical comedy, though she was hardly laughing. She was rather furious, yelling “Hey!” at the handsome and unwitting man.

The man turned and asked if “Something's the matter?”

“You spit your gum on the ground and I stepped in it. Now I can’t get my foot up!” she cried.

“That wasn’t my gum,” the rake replied with a smirk on his face.

“But I saw you!” she countered.

“If you saw me, then why did you go ahead and step in it?” he volleyed back, a wiseass grin plastered on his face.

“Ugh! Could you just help me!”

The man casually bent down and grabbed the woman’s bare leg, looking up and cockily smiling at her as if he was touching her leg in a most romantic manner. The man finally removed her foot from the gum and, using a free newspaper from a bin, wiped her shoe clean.

“You’re lucky I don’t have you arrested!”

“For what?”

“For...for...for spitting gum onto the sidewalk!”

The woman stormed off in a huff and...the director called cut because this was just the opening scene in a soon-to-be blockbuster romantic comedy (working title: The One) directed by an intentionally eccentric director of some ambiguous Nordic origin who simply went by the name of Super-Sven (real name: Sven Erickson Johannes) and which was slated to be released by my company in the early summer of 2011.

The opening scene was what is called in my business—that business being the movie business—a “meet cute.” People in the business don't really use that term any more because it's been around since at least the 1930s and movie people have no regard nor knowledge for history—either movie or just historical history (why so many historical epics are historically devoid of accuracy)—but meet cutes still exist. Perhaps now more than ever. Hollywood's hacky like that. They are always the opening scene to a romantic comedy, a contrived encounter of two people under unusual circumstances, a purportedly comic situation created entirely to bring these two seemingly opposite people together. Back in the 50s and 60s, these opposites might be black and white or rich and poor or Jewish and Christian or even pretty and ugly. But nowadays, with all the PC bullshit and the desire to not offend any one less we potentially lose even a hair of box office share, we usually just make the “opposites” opposites in demeanor. Usually a cool, laid back stallion of a guy and some snooty cunt of a woman. I don't know about you, but I've never fallen in love after first hating someone's guts, but this must happen to other people a lot as audiences keep eating it up.

After Super-Sven called cut, Welsh actor Alexander Hugh Davies exhaled and smiled at his fellow actor and scene partner Shelly Clarke. It was weird to go from being contentious in a scene with someone to quickly being nice to them on the drop of a dime. The drop of a clapperboard.

Hugh was immediately apologetic to Shelly.

“So sorry I literally arrived a second before today's scene. My red-eye was delayed a few hours.”

“Don’t worry about it. I know you had that project in, where was it...?”

“Easter Island.”

Super-Sven approached. He sported a silver fox head of bushy hair, a full beard, and wore glasses and a denim shirt tucked into jeans with white sneakers. For inspiration, he had noted during pre-production that he would be spending each day on set channeling a legendary director both on the inside and out. Today he was channeling George Lucas for some reason, perhaps due to the action content of the day's work. Super-Sven wrapped Hugh and Shelly for the day, asked them if they needed car service (both declined), and told them he'd see them for their 6:00 AM call the next day. Then, Hugh and Shelly were again alone as underpaid PAs cleared stuff from set.

“Um...what time is it, Hugh?”

Hugh looked at his watch, surprised at what he saw. “2:15?!” He laughed, quickly understanding, and tapped the Timex. “Fuckin' prop watch.”

Shelly laughed, too, and Hugh got an idea.

“Hey, if you got a few minutes, that kiss-up second AD gave me a decent bottle of wine. Would you like to share a glass with me? We should probably build some rapport or something being that this is the first day we've ever been around each other.”

Soon, both Hugh and Shelly knelt side by side in his trailer, looking closely into a mirror as they removed their make-up.

“What exactly do I call you, Mr. Alexander Hugh Davies?” Shelly wondered.

“Hugh is fine. Hugh is my name. I had to take that unwieldy name because of SAG. Some washed-up asshole who was on some sitcom in the 60’s gets to be the real Hugh Davies. So annoying.”

“Well I’m the first asshole to be Shelly Clark, so other Shelly Clarks can be mad at me for the rest of time.”

Their conversations continued after a few glasses of wine.

“Have you worked with Sven before?” Shelly wondered.

“Once. On a commercial. He’s a good bloke, bit of an eccentric, bit of a hack, but his movies do quite well.”

“My manager wanted me to do this project. I’ve never really done a romantic comedy before but he says I need a hit since I haven’t had one in a few years.”

Hugh was shocked. “What about G-Spotting? I fuckin' loved that picture.”

“You saw G-Spotting?!” Shelly was even more shocked as it was a small indie film that only played four theaters in New York and LA and wasn't even available on Netflix as of yet.

“Of course I saw it. I specifically asked my agent for a screener. It was terrific. You were terrific.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Shelly lamented. “But it made about fifteen dollars at the box office.”

“Hey, fifteen bucks ain’t so bad. Wait...was that domestic or international?”

Shelly laughed hard. Hugh had a great sense of humor, she thought. Most actors were real stiffs. Perhaps he was different since he was...she couldn't exactly tell but she thought Australian maybe.

“If it was something you wanted to do, Shelly, then you made the right decision to do it regardless of box office. You should always only do what you want to do.”

Shelly smiled. He was funny and sweet. A rare combo. You typically had to be an asshole to also be funny. She suddenly felt a little tipsy. She wasn't one of those actresses that never ate so that even if the camera added those ten pounds they'd still look skinny as sin, she'd just been too busy on this day to eat, having only been able to snag some fruit from the craft services table during a brief camera set-up break.

“What time is it, Hugh?”

Hugh lifted his wrist toward Shelly.

“Remember? Prop watch.”

Shelly glanced at the small twin-sized trailer bed behind Hugh.

“You ever slept in one of those things before?”

“I AM a movie star,” Hugh half-jokingly boasted.

“Oh, so what, you take all your co-stars back to your trailer?”

Hugh feigned shock, putting his hand to his chest.

“You got a dirty mind, Ms. Clark. What I meant was, I AM a movie star so I usually sleep in a giant bed in my giant mansion. Not in a twin-sized bed in a trailer.”

They were soon having sex.

The next day on set, Hugh (as character “Gary McBride”) strolled into the Cock of the Walk past several clothed strippers gabbing. He briefly chatted with a busty blond named Erica about her lack of tips the previous evening. He took his place in the DJ booth and introed “Destiny” before she went on stage to dance for the lunchtime hour's few customers. Gary's boss, Guy Clemens (an overage frat boy archetype portrayed by popular TV star Mick Ritter), entered the booth to razz Gary for being late. Gary told Guy about his encounter with the pretty woman in the Village. Guy was intrigued, you could tell his character was always intrigued when it came to women, and wondered if the women had “big fakies, long blond extensions, a slutty look on her face?”

“Quite the opposite actually,” noted Gary.

“Disgusting. So tiny mosquito bites, pale skin, and...” and here Mick (as Guy) shuddered, “dark hair?”

That afternoon Shelly (as character “Lizzy Olney”) acted frazzled as she arrived late to a college lecture hall packed with students. She walked to the front of the room where she was greeted by her flamingly gay T.A., Ricky (no last name mentioned in the script, portrayed by straight comedian Andy Stevens), before launching into a discussion with her all-female class on Third Wave Feminism, noting that just because society is patriarchal, it doesn't mean women have to be stripped of their self-sufficiency.

After Sven called “cut” and “that's a wrap,” Shelly was surprised to find Hugh still lingering by the playback monitors, being that he had wrapped several hours earlier. He claimed he liked watching his co-stars perform in order to aid in his own “craft,” but quickly and embarrassingly amended it into an admission that he really just wanted to ask Shelly out to dinner.

Shelly reluctantly accepted but told Hugh they couldn't go to a restaurant in L.A. lest the paparazzi catch them and immediately start some buzz. Instead, she entered her address into Hugh's iPhone and told him to come over for a home cooked meal at 9:00.

That night, as Shelly chopped veggies and prepared dinner, Hugh sat at a barstool next to to the massive island in her massive kitchen and sipped on a beer. They made small talk.

“It’s nice to be home for once. My manager makes me occasionally go to all these awful celebrity restaurants just so people will take pictures of me. I didn’t want that to happen today. Not yet at least.”

“The paps don't bother me in Hollywood.”

“But you’re really famous, Hugh.”

“Yeah, in Europe.”

“No one recognizes you here?”

“Oh, people recognize me. As Gerard Butler, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackman. Never myself.”

“Well, do you get bothered when you’re back home?”

“Nah. They let me be. They’re proud of me: local boy done good.”

Shelly smiled.

“I’m embarrassed to ask this but us Americans just hear 'sexy foreign accent.' We don’t know whether it’s Irish, Scottish, Australian...”

Hugh smiled. “I’m Welsh.”

Shelly nodded. "Oh. Wales."

Hugh was impressed. That dope, Mick Ritter, had thought he was from some country called Well.

While Shelly's back was turned as she sauteed some garlic, Hugh flapped open the laptop on her counter and started surfing. He read something and smirked. Not an asshole smirk like the way he smirked when he was portraying Gary McBride in The One, but a more pleasant smirk. Shelly turned over her shoulder, curious.

“What are you smiling at?” she wondered.

“You know how the first date is all about questions? Like a job interview. Just like you asked. Where ya from? Where’d you grow up? How are you parents? Where’d you go to school?”

“Right.” Shelly wondered whether this was technically their second date being that they'd already been drunk together, slept together, and, well, actually slept together.

“I hate that part of dating. So boring.”

“I’m sorry.” Hugh disarmed her, but she liked the feeling. Maybe it was the Welsh accent.

“No big deal. But it’s nice to go on a first date with a celebrity. I don’t have to waste time asking you those questions. I can just pull up your Wikipedia page and...”

Shelly dropped her spatula and sprinted over to the island to find Hugh actually on her Wikipedia page.

“...see you were born in Durham, North Carolina. Grew up in Charlotte. You made your screen debut at age twenty-one, you like to golf...hmmm...interesting. And it looks like Autograph magazine named you the second rudest female celebrity autograph signer of 2009.”

Dismayed, Shelly leaned in to read her own Wikipedia bio, quickly scanning the screen.

“Hey! It doesn’t say that!”

She snapped the laptop close. She found Hugh incredibly charming. Soon, their home-cooked meal was a home-burned one and they were having sex for the second time, in her enormous bedroom on her enormous canopy bed.

Afterward, they discussed what was happening between them. Hugh claimed he had never hooked up with a costar, heck, a fellow actor before. Shelly felt like she shouldn't believe him, but for some reason she did. She had to wonder why, though. He noted that he took his work very seriously and, until meeting her he'd never wanted to lose focus just to dip his pen in the company inkwell.

“I'll thank you not to call my vagina an inkwell,” cracked Shelly.

That was the line that made Hugh fall in love with her. Shelly had already fallen for Hugh. They'd barely known each other twenty-four hours.

Principal photography progressed with eccentric Sven shooting in sequence despite the $2.5M in additional costs to the studio. On the day Sven wore a bald cap with a pasted on ginger beard, Gary and Lizzie bumped into each other again, this time at a neighborhood coffee shop where she was a little taken aback to see him studying a text on Marcus Aurelius. “You're into the Stoics?” she asked, clearly shocked that this man she had thought nothing more than a Neanderthal was into something so cerebral. “I wrote my thesis on Stoicism at Princeton,” she added. She walked out of the coffee shop and couldn't help but catch herself grinning.

On the day Sven wore an E.T. ball cap, glasses, and a salt and pepper beard (he was beginning to realize there must be something about directors and their beards), Lizzie and Ricky attended a Yankees/Red Sox game. Ricky complained about always having to attend “boring” baseball games with her. Lizzie told him to enjoy the night air and eat his hot dog. Ricky made a mild sexual entendre about hot dogs. On the other side of the stadium, in the bleachers, Gary and Guy slugged beers and Guy taunted the Red Sox right fielder. Gary mentioned to Guy the amazing fact that he yet again ran into that pretty brunette and he, yet again, didn't have a chance to get her name or number. Just then, on the Jumbotron, the “Kiss Cam” was turned on, a popular segment between half-innings during which the camera quickly scans the ballpark, looking for couples, and encourages them to smooch each other for the entire 50,000-plus in attendance to see.

“It's her!” yelled Gary when the "Kiss Cam" parked itself on a shocked Lizzie and Ricky. Lizzie was even more shocked when Ricky planted a big kiss on her kisser. “Why did you just do that?” she screamed, after the cameras were off them. “Just givin' the fans what they want,” noted Ricky. “I guess she has a boyfriend,” lamented Gary. “Go track her down any way, that guy looked like a real fruit,” added Guy, a line we at the studio hoped wouldn't be flagged as discriminatory by GLAAD.

Hugh and Shelly's second date took place at Hugh's Santa Monica rental home and, smartly, he ordered some sushi in. They fed each other hand rolls while playing a little game Hugh had just invented on the fly: all they were allowed to discuss that night, he said, were terrible things about themselves. Hugh figured that, since they were celebrities, and since so many terrible things were always said about them, they might as well lay their honesty cards on the table before going any further. Shelly agreed.

Hugh revealed that he had been married, but for just a week, to some girl he'd met on a vacation in Thailand who may or may not have been a prostitute.

Shelly revealed that she'd had her breasts augmented.

Hugh revealed that he had briefly dabbled in cocaine in his early twenties.

Shelly revealed that she'd had a year-long affair with a very famous man who was still married to his very famous wife who still didn't know.

Hugh revealed that, despite what her agent told her, he was actually making double her salary for The One.

Shelly revealed that she really had a thick North Carolina accent but that she worked really hard to lose it so that she'd be more castable. Hugh thought that was cute and made her show him what she really sounded like. When she did, he laughed and mimicked her the best he could. “I don't think you'll be getting cast as a gal from the Carolinas in any upcoming films,” she giggled. They ended that night in Hugh's California King, yet again having passionate sex.

From there, their romance progressed like most normal romances progress, even despite the fact they were A list celebrities (well, Hugh was actually B list in America, but who's counting?).

The movie proceeded according to the Aristotelian Drama Pyramid as run through an American rom-com Mad Libs fill-in-the-blank, despite Sven insisting he was making something “sui generis,” a word he'd just learned after having skimmed through a biography of Stanley Kubrick (another be-bearded director) on his iPad during his last cross-country flight.

Hugh and Shelly started boosting the national sex averages of fifty times per person per year at four minutes per time by having sex ten times per week (over the next two weeks) at an average of seventeen minutes per time if a "time" was defined as starting at Hugh's entry and ending at Hugh's orgasm, which was a totally archaic and patriarchal way to measure these things, but even your prototypical left-leaning pro-women Hollywooder, like myself, probably couldn't have come up with any better way of measurement.

Gary and Lizzie continued to run into each other, pretend to hate each other despite the obvious sexual attraction and tension, think about each other, then head back home to masturbate to those thoughts (the latter, of course, never filmed nor shown nor mentioned on screen because us producers were hoping for a more viably lucrative PG-13 rating.)

Eventually, their relationship reached a certain point of seriousness, even though Hugh joked that nothing in his life was “serious.” It's why he'd become an actor in the first place and not some boring CPA like his father. “I've never understood why when you decide to commit to someone monogamously you have to tell people you've gotten 'serious.' Because we haven't,” he told Shelly. “Haven't we decided to commit to each other because all we've done is laugh the last three weeks? There's been nothing serious about it at all. Just fun. Instead, can't we tell people we've finally decided to get 'comical' with each other?” Shelly laughed.

Gary and Lizzie were seriously getting sick of randomly running into each other at the bodega and the grocery store and the bar, especially in such a large city like New York, when the forces of nature, the parameters of simplistic scripts, insisted that something occur at the end of what was called Act One, in order to catapult the action to a new level, to “up the odds,” and make you wonder “What next?” In good scripts this was handled effortlessly, subtly, realistically. In Pierce Underwood's (author of previous rom-com smashes Status Update, Plus-One, and Groomzilla) script, this was handled by Gary amazingly being the only person to sign up for a $550 eight-week summer course on Corporate Feminism that Lizzie was teaching for the Learning Annex, a dramatic stroke only more farcical than their meet cute.

There are no second acts in life, they say, but since Hugh and Shelly were now in the second act of The One, they were spending everyday acting across from each other, which was great, despite the contentiousness of these scenes dramatically. They were likewise spending two to three nights of every week with each other, and all forty-eight hours of the weekend, mostly indoors.

Lizzie was furious and embarrassed. Embarrassed only one person had signed up for a class she was teaching to supplement her income so she could afford to take a sabbatical semester to help abused women in Vermont at the start of fall; furious her one student was this “frat boy” who was clearly only taking the class to annoy her. Despite his ever present smirk, Gary insisted his reasons for taking the class were honorable, he was truly interested in learning the subject matter, something us as audience members skeptically believed despite what we knew about his character.

Staying in each other's mansions having sex marathons was great, but Hugh and Shelly began desiring the ability to leave the house together, grab a drink, dinner, see a rock show, shop on La Brea, simply hold hands on set and let it be known they were together. Shelly's manager publicly “outed” their relationship by “anonymously” tipping off one of his Hollywood blogger friends that the new couple would be dining al fresco that evening at Beep-za (a hip neo-pizzeria that made brick oven pizza that tasted like it just came from the microwave) where they shared a medium Veggie Addicts pie.

As the film progressed, the two-dimensional supporting characters in Gary and Lizzie's life became even less dimensional, now simply used as occasionally appearing sounding boards for our main characters to work out problems without the script having to resort to clunky, “on-the-nose” narration.

All the tabloids and blogs were excited about the new romance between Alexander Hugh Davies and Shelly Clarke. I was even more excited as it was giving our film tons of free buzz well before principal photography had even wrapped.

On the morning Sven wore a suit over top a fat suit and kept saying in a jowly drawl, “Goooood evening,” Gary and Lizzie accidentally kissed each other during a late night study session. They quickly retracted their heads and acted like they were disgusted with each other.

Hugh started getting annoyed that just going out to grab a bite or a pint, even if he was alone now, had become a media circus. Shelly thought he should be thankful that the simple act of dating her had made him into a much bigger celebrity on these shores. Hugh reminded her that he may have been less famous than her, but he was still getting a larger salary than her. “Plus points,” he added, a fact she hadn't known and which he hadn't shared with her until then.

Gary wondered aloud to Guy why Lizzie retracted so quickly from kissing him, even when she clearly wanted it just as much him. “Must be because she's still dating that fruit,” insisted Guy, the second time Guy had called Ricky a “fruit,” something that would surely be noted by GLAAD.

With only ten days left in shooting, and only six weeks into their relationship, Hugh told Shelly that he thought they should quit seeing each other. He was still attracted to her, but perhaps that's all their relationship ever was: a sexual relationship. “Love at first sight is easy in a business where all your co-workers are a sight to behold,” he noted, which Shelly thought sounded both like a complement and a slam and, perhaps, a confirmation that he had actually done this kind of thing before despite what he'd initially said.

As Act Three drew to a close, on the last day of their class together, Gary told Lizzie his feelings for her. Lizzie was torn, trying to fight her own clear feelings for Gary. Yet, all she could do was tell him he'd gotten an “A” in her class. Gary left the building distraught, confused as to why Lizzie wouldn't fall for him the way he'd fallen for her. That night, he went to his job at the strip club where we learned that he wasn't working at the strip club for some sleazy reason. He wasn't even working there just to earn a little extra loot, no, he'd been working there as a secret way to observe strippers and strip club owners in their environment for a massive academic book he was writing about the feminism of strippers. Unfortunately, only us in the audience learned this and not Lizzie, who had decided, on her own, that she really was in love with Gary and wanted to go tell him. Using the address he'd used in enrolling for the class—a class he was taking in order to help him with his book—she excitedly marched over to “West 45th and 7th Ave” looking for Gary's apartment but instead finding Cock of the Walk...and Gary inside introducing “Heartlights” to the stage for a dance. Lizzie was disgusted and dismayed and fled the scene. Gary never saw her.

Luckily, both Hugh and Shelly were professionals and were able to finish out their shooting schedule with no problems arising on set.

On the last day of shooting, our set designers had turned soundstage G into a replica of Grand Central Terminal for what I was certain would become an iconic scene in the genre, despite its real-life inaccuracies. Like in any good rom-com, Pierce Underwood had used this final scene to recall something from the opening scene, the meet cute. When Lizzie had fled the Cock of the Walk dismayed, Guy, outside smoking a cig, had curiously noticed her, mentioning to Gary that he thought he saw “that chick you wanna pork” come into the Cock. Now Gary was the one dismayed, telling Guy he had to jet. He sprinted to Lizzie's apartment, but she wasn't there. Taxied over to her classroom where he found Ricky, who informed Gary that she had decided to leave early for Vermont and, in fact, was probably about to board her train right about now.

Gary hauled ass to Grand Central where he amazingly saw Lizzie hauling ass, too. He tried to catch her but she was fast, allowing us to recall when she had mentioned she was a college sprinter at Vassar in what we thought was an off-the-cuff manner in the Second Act. Our shooting day began with Shelly (as Lizzie) bursting through the revolving doors into Grand Central and Hugh (as Gary) following suit some fifty feet behind. Here, Gary realizes, and so do we, as locked-in audience members, that if he is unable to stop Lizzie from boarding the 8:25 to Vermont then they will never be together. Which we want them to be.

Gary calls after her. “Lizzie! Lizzie! Lizzie! I love you!!!” But she either can't hear him, or doesn't want to. Soon, she is sprinting toward track 124, her track, where the train to Vermont is calling “All Aboard,” about to leave, yet Gary still can't catch her. Down the track she goes. “Lizzie! Lizzie! Lizzie! I love you!” he calls.

Finally, Gary has an idea. An idea? Heck, he has no choice. He pulls a piece of gum from his pocket and begins chewing. Once it's a sticky wet wad he hurls it ahead of him toward Lizzie, but his throw is too short. He tries again. Again, too short. And again, one last throw before she will be on the train, about to leave the station. This wad of gum lands just inches in front of her and Lizzie doesn't notice and she accidentally steps in the gum—in the same shoes she was wearing in the opening scene—and she can't get her foot unstuck and her train pulls away and Gary pulls up and they look at each other and both are panting hard and Lizzie kind of looks mad.

And he says: “Lizzie, I love you. I can explain.”

And she says, “How about you unstick me?” but she's finally smiling. And then they hug and kiss.

It was the little things like this that made the audience feel smart and as if they had been along for the entire ride of a couples' romance from meeting cute to finally falling in love.

Privately, during that shooting day, Hugh had told me he was furious at how Shelly kept missing her mark. Later that same day, Shelly told me she was pissed they'd cast such a “rag-armed Welshman” in the role as his weak throws of the chewing gum kept messing up the blocking.

A few months later, at the public premiere at the ArcLight, it was no surprise to me that all the “normal” people in attendance went crazy for The One, it was clearly going to be a hit with the female demographic and make me a bundle. I heard a group of twentysomething girls beside me even say, as the lights went up, “I want that. I want a Gary.”

Walking out of the theater, I caught up with Hugh and Shelly begrudgingly holding hands so the paparazzi could get it on camera as they exited, still forced to pretend they were dating and in love for the sake of the picture and to counteract the internet buzz that they'd broken up. I stood behind them and between them, my arms resting on their shoulders, as they graciously fielded a few questions from entertainment reporters.

“Hugh, Shelly, great picture! Are you guys planning on making a sequel?”

Hugh and Shelly looked at each other and smiled big, as if they were two people still madly in love, pondering their next move, their next movie. They were truly great actors, great stars. They both turned back to the reporters and spoke the same words at the same time.

“We'll have to see how things go...”

© 2010 Goldfarb

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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.

"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.

"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 99 CENTS here:

28Mar/112

Self(ish)-Publishing

With the current online hullabaloo over self-publishing (Amanda Hocking going traditional for big bucks; Barry Eisler ditching traditional and big bucks), people have started asking me my thoughts on it all.

Since I'm lazy, I wrote this so I can just start linking to myself any time someone emails me.  If I write enough blog posts, soon I'll never have to have real conversations, I can just have dialogues totally in link.  It's a great age we live in.

No matter what they say, the pro-traditional publishing camp (both writers and the people that actually work in it) seem to mostly have their visceral hatred of self-publishing shrouding their unexpressed fears of:

1.  Self-published authors infringing on their territory via their own control of low, low, low prices.

2.  Self-published authors not having been properly "vetted" like they were or like they do.

The first point is lame and usually shows how little the typical English major know about economics.  The second point is the more interesting one to me.*  You see, what the pro-traditional publishing camp seems to think is that any one that self-published HAD to self-publish because they were vetted--either by an agent or publisher--and turned down.  That couldn't be further from the truth.

For most of the 2000s I would have loved to have been vetted.  By anybody.  I wasn't getting turned down by the people at the top (whether film producers or agents or publishers), I couldn't even get them to read my stuff!

Even to have had someone say, "You know, I really enjoyed your book/script, but I just didn't feel it was quite good enough for us to pursue," would have felt amazing.  Instead I got nothing.  Phone calls unreturned, emails unanswered, scripts and manuscripts unread.

Luckily, I had confidence in my work, and knew that when people read my stuff, they would like if not love my stuff, and I guarantee you said stuff hasn't gotten that much better in the last few years.

Finally, I caught a few breaks, actually did get some publishers to read HOW TO FAIL, got a few offers, and chose a small indie publisher.  I didn't self-publish, but I could have.  I was only "vetted" by 2 or 3 more people than any self-published author.**

Now that HOW TO FAIL has been a success--a major success I would say considering the handicap of indie publishing and its oftentimes inability to get shelf space and cheap attention--traditional publishing is finally willing to vet my stuff.  And, they like it.  Again, though, it's no better nor worse than it was when they refused to read it just a half-decade ago.  Sometimes, it's the exact same stuff.

Even still, most of these people in traditional publishing are too damn slow, or too damn busy, to give me the time of day.  Or, the time of the day at the speed of life I so desire.  I had one woman at a Big Six publisher contact me on the heels of the HOW TO FAIL tour, asking if I'd be interested in having my next book potentially be with her company.  Sure, I was willing to talk.  Two months later, we still haven't talked.  I don't have time for that shit, and neither should you.

Don't let overly busy--or lazy--men and women be the arbiters of your success.  Don't sit around hoping and praying that someone will vet you and then choose you to be published.  Believe me, it's not an accomplishment.  Writing a good book, and selling copies, is an accomplishment (so is getting people to like your book), but just having a publisher say:  "Yes, we will publish that!" is not an accomplishment.  It's a phony validation at worst, and, at best, it's just a step.  A step you now have the power to cut out of your life.

So, if you're not pleased that traditional publishing is ignoring you.  If you're not pleased that traditional publishing won't even give you the time of day to reject you.  If you're tired of sitting around in limbo for months, or years:  self-publish.  Don't continue being the girl that met the guy at the bar, really "hit it off," gave him her number, and now has sat by the phone for the last week awaiting his call.

I was so exhausted with the "real" publishing of HOW TO FAIL, I wasn't in the mood to go through it again with THE CHEAT SHEET.  So I self-published.  Cost me hardly any time and barely any money.  People love it.  And no one gives a damn who published it.

Read HOW TO FAIL to see what my published work is like.

Read THE CHEAT SHEET to see what my self-published work is like.

*And, I won't even discuss the point that quite a few "vetted" books suck hardcore.  Nor will I be fair and discuss the people in the traditional world that "get it," though there are plenty.

**In fact, if you throw in all the friends and family and writing buddies and creative types that all of us writers let read our stuff before it gets sent out into the world, then you could actually say that most all writers--published or self-published--have been equally vetted.

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/111

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.

12Feb/112

“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!

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

*

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]

*

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!

1Feb/110

THE CHEAT SHEET in the Classroom

Yesterday, I was invited up to Syracuse University as THE CHEAT SHEET was on the syllabus of a class.  But this wasn't just one of those boring classes devoted to contextual studies of some literary work.  You know, read the work, then discuss what it could all possibly mean, relate it to feminist theory, queer theory, Marxism.  For one, my book says what it's about right there in the subtitle:  the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York.  No, this was going to be a much more interesting assignment:

Select a story from The Cheat Sheet and adapt it into a short film.

With only twelve students in the class, I figured my participation would be minimal and it would be a quick little engagement.  Speak, let them ask questions, snicker in my head at the dumbest questions, bolt after thirty minutes and hit the bar (good practice for when I do eventually become an honorary and lazy adjunct professor).  Instead, this class ended up being super intense!

Before I arrived, the students had already read the entire collection and my manager/producer Craig and I (plus professor Tula Goenka) spent a good two hours with the twelve students discussing their two favorites stories from the collection and what resonated with them most.  They each pitched Craig and me as to how they would go about adapting the stories, and we offered critiques.

The students were sharp!  I can't lie.  A lot sharper than I was when I was their age.  And, based on how acutely they grasped the materials, they seem a lot more knowledgeable about "the sexes, sex, and sexiness" than I did when I was in college.  Bully for them.  (These kids are born in the 1990s if you want to be freaked out.)  Honestly, the students had such great ideas, such amazing insight, that there really wasn't much for us to say.  I was impressed.  They even did some minor "contextual studies" of the material that made me seem a lot smarter than I really was.  ("I just loved how you included that symbolism of the picnic basket...as if their life isn't always a picnic like they'd want it to be."  Smile.  Nod.  Enjoy the undeserved ego stroke.)

When all was said and done, "The Ambiguous Woman" and "Gross Humans" were far and away the winners, with 9 of the 12 picking the former, and 5 the latter.  "The References" and "The Boyfriend Trials" were also much beloved.  All eight stories were selected at least once though, which made me proud.  After that it was on the students to turn from a group of twelve individuals into four production teams focused on each making one of the films.  The students were surprisingly wed to certain stories and refused to back down.  It took a good twenty minutes of intense negotiation and putting-foots-down before the groups were finally formed.

Now it's time for them to make the films.  They'll adapt the stories into scripts, rewrite them to perfection, then produce, direct, edit, and make complete 10-12 minute films by the end of the semester.  I'll be Skypeing in with them on most Mondays to go over the work like some futuristic overlord.  I'll return at the end of the semester for a big Cheat Sheet film festival.

It was an exhilarating experience to say the least and I'm starting to like academia.  I'll keep you posted as the films start to develop.

 

An unexpected highlight of the day was at the end of the class as I was gathering my things.  A polite young woman approached me with a somewhat nervous "Aaron, I just had to..."

I assumed that sentence would be completed with some great praise:

  • "...tell you that How to Fail" changed my life."
  • "...inform you that you are perhaps America's most celebrated satirist."
  • "...alert you that the entire campus is buzzing about your appearance here today."

No.  Instead she completed that sentence:

"Aaron, I just had to ask...why do characters eat Thai food in all of your stories?  Do you really like it or something?"

I'd honestly never noticed I did that.  Curious.  (And, embarrassingly enough true after I investigated.)

Craig and I left to grab some chicken satay and curry before we headed back to New York.

*

Find the right accredited online colleges today!

30Jan/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY #2

I'm returning to my beloved alma mater of Syracuse tomorrow because a class at the prestigious Newhouse school actually has THE CHEAT SHEET on its syllabus.  Do you believe that shit?  Yeah, I don't either.  You actually have to read my curse-filled short stories in order to get a diploma.  What a world.

In honor of that, I thought I'd give out another story from the collection.  I mean, if students have to study it, you normal folks might as well get it for free.  It's called...

THE REFERENCES

Larry Clarence sat across the table from Shannon Doe. Doe wasn't really her last name, but Larry dealt with a lot of women whose last names he never learned, so, just like an autopsist at the morgue, when he didn't know a last name he'd throw a tag with "Doe" on their toe until he learned otherwise. Then again, Clarence, the surname he'd given Shannon Doe, wasn't his last name either.

Clarence and Doe sat in a dark romantic restaurant on the Upper West Side surrounded by other couples of a similar age. Larry was fifty-two, distinguished and classy looking, Shannon assumed he was a businessman with a closet full of nice suits in a nearby Columbus Avenue high-rise. He had inferred as much. Shannon was a forty-five-year-old divorcee who lived across town on the Upper East Side. They'd first met in the middle at Central Park's Boathouse, where Larry stood waiting for his grown daughter while Shannon read on a nearby bench. Larry mentioned that day that he had a father/daughter outing at least once a month.

“You really think you're done having kids?”

Older people on first dates are typically more forward than younger people, asking questions more probing than those asked by a generation still trying to find their way in the world.

Larry closed his eyes and smiled.

“Look at me, Shannon.”

“Look at you what? I'm sure you're still...virile.”

Around them the rest of the pairings in the quiet restaurant were clearly long-time wedded couples out on a date night. Shoveling food into their mouths and not really speaking to each other, just excited to be away from the kids for a few hours.

“You're doing pretty well on this first date here, Shannon,” Larry joked, “maybe you'll get to find out about my...virility.”

Shannon giggled. It felt good to flirt. Men her age never flirted any more, they just expected a crass economic exchange. They ask out, I accept, they pay for food, I eat the food, I tell them about my life, they listen and act interested, if I wanted another meal I may have sex with them. But this felt good. Different.

“Perhaps. But not on a first date. Never on a first date.”

Shannon always said that line but who was she kidding, she would definitely sleep with Larry if he continued acting normal enough and didn't turn into some psychopath like a lot of hot shot Manhattan businessmen out there.

“Fair enough.”

She admired his placid restraint. All men acted like they didn't care when she mentioned she wouldn't have sex with them any time soon, but she could always see the seething hiding behind their eyes. The number crunching in their head. "I paid $500 for this prix fixe? I could have had a hooker threesome for a lot less and still watched the Knicks game."

“So...you got any pics of your kids? Mike and Jessie was it?”

“What do I look like? Some proud papa so in awe of his two amazing kids' abilities, achievements, and successes that I carry around five-hundred photos of them in my wallet?”

“I just...”

Larry laughed as he pulled out his phone.

“I keep those five-hundred pictures on my phone!”

Shannon laughed. She really liked Larry. He was smooth and cool, not sleazy in the least. How could a guy so in love with his children possibly be?

He started shuffling through the pictures.

“There's Mike and Jessie when we went ice skating in Central Park last year, and there's Mike winning an award at his job, Jessie with her sorority sisters...”

*

Jessie sat on a stool across from Keith in a Soho wine bar.

“Is your brother looking forward to meeting me?”

“You know how it is. I'm sure Mike will feel a little awkward.”

“Mike's not one of those big brothers who's gonna want to kick my ass since I touch his sister?”

Jessie playfully punched Keith in the shoulder.

“I'll kick your ass if you ever stop touching his sister.”

Keith smiled.

“Any how, baby, does my brother look like much of a tough guy?”

Jessie held up her phone and showed a picture of her and Mike in matching Christmas sweaters.

“No, I guess he doesn't, babe.”

*

Mike sat at a table with Katie, both sipping on margaritas.

“I must admit, Mike, I'm kinda nervous.”

“Don't be, honey. My dad's a big softy. Yeah, he'll make a lame joke or two, but nothing worse than that. And, I bet you'll be best friends with Jessie before the meal is through. All women love Jessie.”

Just then the waiter escorted Larry and Jessie to the table. Mike excitedly stood, shaking Larry's hand and kissing Jessie on the cheek.

“Glad you could come, sis.”

Katie was elated to see Mike had such a nice-looking family. It's hard being a single girl in such a tough city and stumbling upon a guy with a close-knit family made her feel at ease.

“It's great to meet you two. Mike's told me so much about the both of you, even though we've only been dating a few weeks.”

Larry smiled mischievously at Mike.

“Oh, he has, has he?”

“He has, sir.”

“I'm sure, Katie, he's neglected to mention I tell the funniest jokes this side of Jackie Mason. You ever hear the one about the bullfighter in the china shop?”

Katie instinctively reached down and squeezed Mike's hand. She could definitely see herself being part of this nice family one day.

*

Mike was the first to arrive at the Russian Vodka Room in Midtown where they held their meetings on the first Saturday of every month. He took his preferred seat in the back corner of the dark bar and pulled a blank check from his wallet. He couldn't believe he was still having to write checks in the year 2010. When would everyday people be able to swipe their credit cards amongst each other? Writing checks was such a pain and this check was a real pain—some $245 paid personally to Larry Darrow.

“Vodka neat, Sergei. I got some economic pain to numb.”

Just then Larry Clarence Darrow entered the bar.

“First one here, eh Mikey? Give me a vodka neat, too, Sergei, and a plate of gravlax.”

Larry sat down across from Mike just as he signed Mike Euclid to his check and slid it across the table to Larry.

“Nice work, Lar'. I appreciate it and you nailed it. But ordering two apps was kinda sleazy, you can't deny that.”

“I was hungry!”

“Fair enough. But I'll get you back on Thursday night.”

“Be my guest.”

Just then several more entered the back room, pretty much all men in the 25-40 age range, but also Jessica "Jessie" Jones who sat down next to Mike, pounding fists with him in a mocking way.

“'We are family, talkin' bout my brotha and me...'”

“What are you so happy about, Sister Sledge? You're smiling like you just lost your virginity.”

“Yup, for about the 1000th time, Mikey. I'm just so absent-minded with it!”

Larry snorted and Mike smiled wryly.

Then, Terry Jordan, the founder and head of their little networking organization entered the back room, closing the door behind him.

“OK, hello, welcome everyone to this month's meeting. Of course, I don't need to check today's minutes to know our first order of business is finishing up last month's still-open topics.”

Mike grumbled under his breath, whispering to Jessie.

“Do you believe this tool? Has to follow Robert's Rules of fucking Order for every meeting? I didn't join this club to sit in student council meetings on Saturdays. I could be watching the Knicks.”

“Shhh...”

Jessie glared at Mike as Terry read from a legal pad.

“I wanted to start out with salutes for some particularly good work. Let's give it up for Carney Davis who played his first son last week.”

Everyone politely applauded as Carney cockily waved.

“I also want to give it up for Mark Raines and Shelly Stein who convinced their dates that they weren't just twins, but identical twins. Very impressive.”

Heartier applause as both Mark and Shelly nodded, neither looking like the other in the least.

“And lastly, I have to salute our elder statesman Larry Darrow, who later tonight will be handling his first ever role as grandpa.”

Even louder applause. Larry threw his hands up at everyone: “Oh, stop it.”

*

An hour later the meeting was over, their assignments for the week distributed, and some final orders of extracurricular business now being handled. In one corner of the room, Carney took pictures of Mark and Shelly with their arms around an older man, Dave Wendt. Tony Mulligan and Jeff Dunvy sat in a booth toasting beers as numerous pictures were snapped. And Terry patted some talcum powder into Larry's hair, making it look grayer and him older.

*

Larry Darrow had been a white collar con man and had spent two decades bilking naive venture capitalists—oh, those exist—out of their money based on various made-up entrepreneurial ideas. That was why Larry could never give out his last name. If you Googled him, you would quickly and easily find a laundry list of charges which had found him in minimum security prison from the ages of 45-49. Honestly, Larry wasn't a bad guy. He was smart and ambitious but grew up in circumstances that never allowed him to take a normal path to career success. Oddly enough, "con man" is not a job for the lazy and for his entire adult life until he got busted, Larry was working non-stop. If he'd had the childhood and connections to have gone to college and gotten a legitimate job at age twenty-two, he would have worked far less hours and made far more money. He had always been a smooth talker and two decades of his career made him even smoother, but he'd never had the time or know-how to meet any women and thus hadn't had much sex in his life and had never had a relationship. Leaving jail, he decided that was the most important thing in the world to him. But no classy New York lady was going to date an unemployed former felon with no career or family or friends. Luckily, Larry met Terry one day at the Central Park softball fields and Terry told him about the club.

*

Jessie Jones had a tough childhood in Iowa after her parents died in a fluky car accident when she was four. She was the only one to survive the accident but was now forced to live in foster home after foster home for the rest of her childhood. She had no real family, her foster families only liked her because she made them around $1500 extra a month in stipends, and she obviously had no friends and was frequently bullied in school because of her shoddy clothes and learning disabilities. By twelfth grade though she had become the classic movie stereotype and the poor, gawky girl had become a real beauty. She moved to New York on her eighteenth birthday to pursue a modeling career but her hips were a little too wide, her face a little too asymmetrical, and she hated the lifestyle—she had gone eighteen years without much food on her plate and wanted to finally change that. She earned money waitressing at a cruddy little bar on Chambers Street, had no friends, only drunken Wall Streeters trying to hit on her, and she was very lonely. Terry flirted with her one day as she walked through the South Street Seaport, thinking her a tourist, and, in a later conversation, though he'd claimed his club was purely male, he encouraged her to join.

*

Mike Euclid had been raised by highly religious parents who shipped him off to an all-boys seminary boarding school at age eight because they thought he had become a bad child (he was caught chewing gum in his second grade class). It was at the Ozarks Divinity School where Mike learned to talk and listen to people so well, good skills for a would-be priest to have. But as Mike got older, he became more self-aware and curious. He wasn't sure if religion was or was not for him, but just like the Amish rumspringa, he wanted to know what else was going on in the world. He wanted to actually have an interaction with someone he didn't have to call Sister. At age seventeen, he snuck off the school compound and with part of the mere $500 he had saved from odd jobs got a Greyhound to New York City, the only American city he had really ever heard of and only in novels. There, he spent his next $200 on Hell's Kitchen prostitutes. He didn't have sex with them, he didn't even really know what sex was yet, or how to have it, he was just so excited to talk to girls. Quite rapidly, Mike integrated into society and, within a year, no longer felt like a boy raised by Catholic wolves. Always fresh-faced and handsome, Mike was even able to start attracting women by his early twenties, tourists usually who were very interested in taking a “real New Yorker” back to their Times Square hotel room for a romp. But Mike was really a sweet, moral kid at heart, and what he really wanted, now that he was nearing thirty, was his first girlfriend. Girlfriends were hard to attract, though, when you had no family and friends. He was the first one to reply when Terry posted an intriguing ad on Craigslist back in 2007.

*

When applying for a new job, the final few lines of one's resume are usually devoted to references—those certain people in your life who can tell a would-be employer that you're the right man for the job. The references in your actual life are a little different. A person can say things like that they are smart or funny or caring or loyal, but why would any one take another person's word at face value? That's why we all use shortcuts and get personal information from a person's references—their parents, siblings, friends. You know, that whole “company you keep” thing? These references carry a ton of weight. It's much more believable when one's sister says he's a nice guy than when the guy says it himself. That's how Terry's little group got started.

If one, and only one, person believes something, they're either an iconoclast or crazy. Two people and you've got an idea worth listening too. Three and some traction is forming and soon, even if the original idea is a lie, if enough people respect it and believe it, then it might as well be true. How could Mike not be a nice guy if all these people from his life claimed he was?

Terry realized this. Terry was that weird breed that neither wanted a girlfriend nor a one-night stand. Oh, don't get me wrong, he had no problem with one-night stands, but they were a lot of work to consistently acquire. He'd much rather acquire committed companions and sexual partners for brief three, four, six month periods. This wasn't easy if you were a guy like Terry without any family or friends. After a few dates the girls would always get curious, if not downright creeped out—“There's no one else in your life? You have no friends?!”—and this would send up a massive red flag and soon the relationship would be over.

Keeping a girl in his life was easy for a few weeks when he was flying solo and lying up a storm, but at some point Terry would have to let the girl delve deeper into things. That's how Terry's little group, unofficially known as “The References,” got started. A group of like-minded people who, for whatever reason, didn't have genuine references in their lives, and who needed these phony ones to help them in whatever they were trying to accomplish. Terry and Larry and Jessie and Mike were essentially players in a repertory company, playing whatever parts were needed that week.

*

Every Saturday after their meetings, Mike and Jessie would go to some plastic paddy pub around the corner to drink beers, watch sports, and try to pick up tourists. They never discussed anything of consequence. Knew really nothing about each other other than surface stuff. They were pretty much only warm body company. Neither Mike nor Jessie had a single friend in this world and one couldn't even really tack on “aside from each other” because they weren't really friends either. They simply didn't know how to be a friend to another person. If a conversation ever occurred between them, it was usually to discuss strategies of their lied lives.

“Abraham Lincoln said, 'No man has a good enough memory to be an effective liar,'” Mike noted.

“Tell me about it.”

“That's why I started keeping track of all mine in this.”

Mike removed a tiny Moleskine notebook from his jacket pocket and Jessie eagerly snatched it, quickly thumbing through. While Jessie snickered at some of the entries, Mike eyed a tourist en route to the ladies room.

“Lemme guess: Albuquerque?”

The tourist turned, confused.

“Are you from Albuquerque?”

“Flagstaff.”

“Close enough. One state over.”

“You sure know your geography.” She curiously glanced at Jessie still thumbing through the Moleskine.

“Oh, don't worry about her—that's my sister.”

The girl slightly nodded and tried to hide a grin as she broke off and got back on task toward the ladies room. She would inevitably return to speak to Mike. Tourists were always impressed by Mike's ability to guess where they were from. It wasn't that hard. Every state was close to countless other states so if you just picked a semi-obscure city in the region you'd be “close enough.” And, figuring out the region was just a matter of knowing accents and styles of that region. Like this tourist, who had a solid (real) tan, washed out blond hair, and wore the kind of pastels only assholes from the Four Corners region wear.

Jessie handed the Moleskine back to Mike.

“Not for me. I never worry about getting caught. I can wing it for four or five months before any man gets suspicious. By then, I'm over the relationship any way and onto something new. Though, I will admit I've been considering taking improv classes at UCB to help get me quicker on my feet.”

“Typically, I'd agree with you but I think I'm actually starting to like Katie. I don't want it to end.”

“It has to end. When you're attracting people to your life through lies, once the lies come to the surface, the relationship has to end.”

Mike looked seriously at Jessie, in almost a pathetic way.

“What would be the harm in pretending we're siblings for the rest of time?”

*

Mike and Katie arrived first to the East Village Thai place, then Jessie and Keith.

Katie had liked Jessie so much that she thought it would be fun to double-date with her.

If Mike and/or Jessie were normal people they would have probably thought it a tad weird to go on a romantic double-date with a sibling—even though they weren't really siblings—but instead, Mike was simply pissed that Jessie had played her part so well that Katie had wanted to actually be friends with her. Jessie hadn't tried to play her part any better than competently, but now she was kind of touched that Katie had specifically asked to see her again. Jessie had never had a friend, especially a female friend, and the possibility of Katie being her first excited her.

But she didn't tell Mike that.

Mike was still fuming that he would have to continue his lie and surely make it even more complex, just to continue dating the first girl he had ever thought he might truly love.

The initial dinner conversation actually focused more on the dynamic between Keith and Mike, who were finally meeting for the first time. Keith had joked that he had been nervous to meet Mike but now he seemed like a real cool guy—“Do you like college football?”—and Keith had loved that picture of the two siblings wearing geeky turtlenecks with snowmen and reindeer on them. Mike only marginally recalled posing for that particular picture with Jessie even though it had occurred just a month ago on a sweltering June day totally inappropriate for turtleneck sweaters.

While Keith yakked Mike's ear off about his thoughts on the wishbone making a comeback in the Big Ten—Mike actually didn't like college football—Katie and Jessie used their side of the table for girl talk which Mike struggled to monitor. He didn't like that. He especially didn't like how Katie and Jessie were instantly acting like the best of friends. And Mike'd had enough when, after one too many bottles of Singha, Katie had tried to make a funny joke after Jessie ordered a Happy Family platter, noting: “Just think, Jessie, we could all be a happy family one day!”

Keith chuckled and Jessie smiled and Mike exploded.

“No we couldn't, Katie! You know why? Because Jessie and I aren't even family! I barely know her! She's nothing more than a fucking actor in my life!”

*

After Mike had calmed down and carefully explained to a stunned Katie and Keith what was actually going on—Mike thinking this honesty would finally free him to have a happy life with Katie—and after Katie had stormed out, throwing the remaining Singha in Mike's face, and Keith had called Jessie a “lying bitch” and left, too, and after the dust had settled and the kindly manager had formally asked Mike and Jessie to leave The Holy Elephant, and after Jessie had apologized to Mike, but not specifically, and Mike had apologized to Jessie, but not specifically, the two references went down the street to d.b.a. to have a pint and lick their wounds.

“I'm sorry for torpedoing your relationship with Keith.”

“You torpedoed your own, too. Any how, men are kind of pathetic, Keith will soon realize he's lost out on a lot of future sex and come crawling back to me, regardless of the fucked up person he just found out I am.”

“You're probably right.”

“I'm sorry for trying to make Katie my friend. I've never had a friend before.”

“I'm your friend, Jessie.”

“No, you're not. You just admitted as much in the restaurant. You were right. You're nothing more than my reference.”

“No, I'm your friend.”

“Then what's my middle name? What part of town do I live in? Where was I born?”

Mike grimaced.

“What's your middle name? What part of town do you live in? Where were you born, Jessie?”

Jessie smiled softly.

“Janice. Murray Hill. Iowa City.”

“Jack. Hell's Kitchen. Memphis. Do you think we can be real friends? No longer brother and sister? No longer office mates? No longer cousins or whatever else we've been? No longer references?”

Jessie thought about it then kissed Mike on the cheek.

“Tell me, Mike, are your parents still alive? Do you have any brothers or sisters? What do you do for a living? Who are you, Mike? Tell me who you are.”

© 2010 Goldfarb

*

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 Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.

"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.

"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.

"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.

"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.

"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.

"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 (except Diner's Club) accepted as well here:


Cheers and enjoy!  And, if you're a professor, hey, why don't you teach my shit at your college too?

11Jan/110

“The Cheat Sheet” — FREE STORY


I’m excited to offer a free story from THE CHEAT SHEET, reprinted in its entirety below.  It's called...

HEALTH

It was both the best and worst annual day at his job.  He always found himself trying to stifle laughter as the salesman showed him the latest.  This year's hot item was an erect penis that actually simulated ejaculation.  It came with seminal fluid refill kits which, when you ran dry, you'd load into the bottom of the unit, which was actually where the pubis bone would be on a normal human, not just a sturdy rubber cock pointed upward toward the room's fluorescent lights as if they were a nursery's blue spectrum metal halides and the unit was actually a tulip.

It simulated ejaculation when stimulated, har har, by the rather bland act of pushing a button on a tiny LED remote.  You didn't have to, say, go hide in a corner, or behind a lab table, or under a tarp like you were at a Gallagher show—not that the kids knew who Gallagher was any more—because you didn't have to worry about the faux seminal fluid hitting you—unless you were into getting peppered by a nine second rapid fire enfilade of one-half cup sifted, unbleached flour mixed with one cup of distilled water and a dash of Elmer's paper mache art paste brought together via light simmering—because the unit was only supposed to be simulated, stimulated, after a prophylactic was already firmly in place.

This year's catalog also included new items such as highly sophisticated intercourse puppets Ana-Tommy and Anna-tomy; educational board games Contraception (based on Concentration) and a Battleship knock-off meant to show how random and easily STDs could be passed on (“B-2?” “Ugh, you sank my...I mean, you gave me gonorrhea.”); and countless new Blu-Ray releases; but product #97B, the ejaculation simulation, was the only one that had made Arthur Lampkin almost lose it and begin laughing.  Which was something that salesman Thomas Jude would have surely made mention of to assistant school superintendent Deborah Henke, who also happened to be Arthur's fiancee, not that any one in the school district knew of this fact.

Arthur didn't even know why he bothered looking through the catalog every year.  His school district's budget only allotted him $250 per annum and that wasn't nearly enough to buy the more high end stuff.  Item #97B, the ejaculation simulator, cost $685 itself.  That was an item more for private school budgets.  Every year, Arthur was only able to authorize purchase of the same antiquated slide presentations that were in use when he was a student, a few lame brochures the kids would never read, and of course 10,000 condoms (an avg. of 6.4 per student) of a brand name he'd never heard of (Diplomats) and one whose integrity he certainly didn't trust.  Certainly for his own personal usage.  Then again, his fiancee, upon the two of them getting engaged, had immediately gone on the NuvaRing (for a monthly co-pay of $50) so he didn't need condoms at all any more, whether Diplomats or the finest KlingTite brand lambskins.  Though, of course, Arthur knew that lambskin was totally porous and unsafe in protecting against STDs despite the high cost.

Arthur was, had somehow become, the sex ed teacher for the Horatio Alger Schools, a small group of five middle and high schools ranging from middle lower class to lower middle class socioeconomically and scattered throughout Staten Island.  Most days he was transitory, hoofing it around on foot like a vacuum or carpet salesman trying to hawk his wares.  Though, instead of trying to sell wet-dry uprights with fourteen accessories or 9,000 feet of cream heavy-duty, Arthur wheeled around a beat-up Samsonite carefully filled with all the sex ed tools he had acquired over the past seven years.

Most nights, assuming neither of them had meetings, Arthur would wheel his suitcase to the Staten Island Ferry where he'd meet up with Deborah to ride back to Manhattan together.  Arthur never understood why Deborah so insisted he wait for her every day, because she would spend all twenty-five minutes of the ride talking on her Blackberry, recapping significant events of the day with each of her five schools' principals.  Today, as Arthur watched Deborah yak away, he began wishing he was a cigarette smoker so he'd have some activity to keep him occupied.  Unfortunately, he'd never even tried a cigarette once.  His mother had scared him away from all illicit substances from a very early age.  Arthur had an iPod but he wasn't much into music so he never listened to it, and, though he was a voracious reader, the bouncing of the ferry made focusing on a book quite difficult.  So Arthur typically stood on the top of the ferry, held firmly onto the rail, and felt the gusts blow through his hair, the little speckles of the Upper New York Bay splash occasionally onto his face as he dreamed.  As he fantasized.

Children at lower income schools are notorious public masturbators.  They aren't necessarily trying to be crude, and though they might even know better, they just can't help themselves.  You see, and there was no truly PC way to say this, but since lower income school children were a little less intelligent—of course, through no fault of their own—they were also less imaginative.  Higher income schools like, say, the East Medowick School District which Arthur had attended K through 12, rigorously encouraged kids to use their brains, their imaginations, to put on their “thinking caps” from an early age.  And, thus, in the whole nature/nurture debate, these schools happened to form smarter and more imaginative children.  Both in the classroom and elsewhere.

What this meant was that Horatio Alger children, unlike Arthur as a child, were unable to sit in their bedrooms privately and imagine nude men and women, think of the kinds of images that would titillate them and lead to them masturbating.  It was only when they were out and about, when they saw an actual man or woman that they got excited and thus began playing with themselves.  Arthur thought they could easily curb this rampant public masturbation in their schools by just slyly distributing pornography to the children for them to take home—surely they could find tons of old Playboys and Penthouses on the cheap at a local flea market—but Deborah, always by the book and worried about how things would look to outsiders, quickly nixed that idea.  So, instead, Arthur simply had to try and teach the children that masturbation should only be done behind closed doors, especially as a much safer alternative to sex. 

“How would you like if every time you wanted food, you needed someone else to cook the meal for you?” was an analogy he started his masturbation lesson with. 

“Pretty good, yo!” was a typical response he got.

Back at Whitehall Street on the other side of the bay, Arthur and Deborah would take the 1 Train back to their tiny studio high on the Upper West Side where they would immediately jump into bed.  Not for sex, no way, but rather because the apartment was so tiny they had no other place to sit.  So, they'd sit side by side in bed for the rest of their night, eating take out food, while Deborah would do school work on her laptop and Arthur would quietly watch reality television which Deborah would silently judge.

Above the head board of their bed hung their two undergrad diplomas from Harvard and MIT respectively.  If lambskins didn't do a great job of preventing pregnancy, then a sheepskin from MIT sure did.  A joke Arthur and his friends at MIT had often made during their years at the college, which Arthur had entered as a virgin.  A biology major, he had met Deborah, a management school major at Harvard, at a spring blue-grass festival along the Charles.  It had been on the first night he had ever drank a beer, and that magical beer had somehow given him the ability to talk to this beautiful nerd.  They were quickly in love, quickly each other's first love, each other's only love, and you could have even put scare quotes around “love” there to mean sexual partners, too, and after both graduated, they enrolled in Teachers Without Borders, expecting just to do the program for a year before enrolling in grad school.  They both fell in love with teaching, though and, when the year was up, they decided to go back to school not for business and advanced molecular biology masters, but for education.

Their diplomas would have been right at Arthur's eyeline during missionary position sex, one of the only three positions Deborah would have sex in, if they still had sex.  Arthur used to jokingly call his and Deborah's sex life pretty “vanilla,” but at least it was an all-you-could-eat vanilla, like those buffets in Las Vegas with soft serve ice cream machines at the end of them.  Now, however, the vanilla had melted away to nothing.  Thus, Arthur masturbated a lot.  Luckily, he had a remarkable imagination.  Living in such close proximity to his domestic partner, he really couldn't watch any televised pornography, and he was too scared to ever visit adult websites on the school-issued Dell laptop he lugged around all day, even though he probably could have called it job research, so he really had no choice but to use his mind.  He'd put on his thinking cap and dream about sex with the slinky midtown businesswoman he'd seen on the subway, fantasize about finally getting to try doggy style with that new civics teacher, imagine actually getting a blow job to completion including swallowing.  Then, he'd sprint to the bathroom, pump two pumps of Deborah's fancy vanilla bean moisturizer into his left hand, and peel one off in a non-suspicious amount of time.  Returning to their bed, he always prayed Deborah didn't smell the vanilla wafting up from his crotch region.

Arthur was always humiliated, if not downright jealous when, during private consultations with schoolchildren, they'd explicitly and intricately discuss their sex lives with him and inadvertently reveal that theirs were more advanced than his.  It sounded like they were bragging!  Tenth grader Tony Luogo was well into double-digit notches on his bed post, despite sharing a bunk bed with his younger brother Tito.  Eleventh grader N'ichelle Jardine discussed strange positions with such breezy familiarity that Arthur would wait until after their meetings to look up online just exactly what these positions entailed.  And Twelfth grader Gilbert Cruz had already had several threesomes!

It certainly didn't help that in Arthur's rolling luggage he lugged around a large vulva made of soft velvet and satin which he would often use to show both the boys and girls the specific parts of their bodies or their partner's bodies that they might not be aware of.  Which confused him.  Why was he helping encourage kids to have good sex?  If they wanted the kids to slow down on the fucking, should he have really been teaching them where the clitoris and G-spot was located?  What did that have to do with good health?!  As a sex ed professional, wouldn't he have been better served trying to trick the kids into utilizing bad techniques?  Or, better yet, having a non-sex life as boring as his and Deborah's which would eventually leave them disinterested in the whole shebang?  Whatever the case, Arthur always felt funny giving advice to someone who could be called “mommy” or “daddy,” even if said mother or father was eighteen years younger than his age thirty-two.

Arthur had once read in some magazine that you're officially in a relationship with someone the first time you sleep with them but don't “sleep” with them.  That sounded pretty spot on, he thought, and especially incisive for some stupid women's magazine (meaning the magazine was stupid, not that it was a magazine for stupid women, although he imagined plenty of stupid women read the stupid magazine).  There were some caveats, of course, to the sleeping and not “sleeping” thing.  Maybe one or both of you had gotten too drunk earlier in the evening to perform.  Or maybe you'd opted to merely engage in oral or anal sex for the night and didn't officially consider those to be sex, even though they had "sex" in the name of them.  Or it could have simply just been that time of the month for the female.  But, assuming those things played no part, if you were sleeping with someone and not "sleeping" with someone, you were in a relationship with them claimed the CityGirl magazine he'd been forced to read while waiting for Deborah's mani-pedi to be completed.

Arthur thought about that quote a lot and always wondered how it applied to religious people.  Because, even though many of them might have “saved themselves” until marriage in the sexual sense, surely they didn't wait until their actual marriage nights to first sleep side-by-side in bed together.  That would be downright bizarre.  It was a big enough dice roll to assume the man or woman you were about to marry would be sexually compatible with you, but to wonder whether he or she would be sleep compatible was a whole 'nother ball of wax.  You didn't have to “sleep” with your spouse every night for the rest of your life but you almost certainly had to sleep with him or her.  What if you didn't find out until a few hours after “I do” that your new spouse was a snorer, or a tosser and turner, or a restless leg syndromer?  It was simply too risky.

Arthur had known many religious people from his childhood growing up in Manhattan, Kansas, but he'd never really explored their relationships to sex back in the day.  He simply knew that next to no one was having any, himself included.  And, ever since he'd become known as the one weirdo who not only left the state to go to college, but who also was majoring in some Darwinian shit, well, let's just say he had become the prodigal son around the Little Apple, not that he exactly knew what a prodigal son was since that was a story from the Bible which he still had never read.  It was further strange to him that many of the New York City students he taught were just as super religious as his childhood classmates.  But, while his friends at East Medowick High let their religiousness manifest into them being chaste, the students at Horatio Alger only brought up their convictions after they became pregnant.  The rare religious student at East Medowick that actually had sex and then accidentally got pregnant would always secretly have an abortion—there'd been plenty of murmurs—but all the kids at Horatio Alger had sex and it was only when they got pregnant that they'd invoke their religious beliefs to explain and justify why they wouldn't have an abortion, no way, no how, even though their lives would probably be much better off if they did (not that Arthur was allowed to say that).

Arthur realized that many of these kids probably just wanted to bring a new friend into the world since many of them came from broken and unloving homes.  Their new baby would possibly be the first person who had ever loved them unconditionally.  Thus, Arthur always tried to be a loving friend to his students, to show them that there was someone out there that cared for them despite what they might think.

Late Friday afternoon brought Arthur a typical meeting with a student.  Kendra Broyles, a pretty girl who actually behaved herself and did well in school.  Mr. Keller had even recently mentioned to Arthur that she was getting college scholarship offers, a huge rarity for Horatio Alger students.  He'd hate to see her throw away a promising future just for some meaningless sex with the losers she went to school with so Arthur focused extra hard on letting her know he cared and wasn't there to judge.

Arthur had a policy to allow students to take as many condoms as they wanted, as often as they wanted, no questions asked, which lead to questions never being asked at all.  That was why it was such a welcome surprise when Kendra starting grilling Arthur on birth control methods.

“Now, Kendra, there are several types of birth control...excuse me...'protection.'”

It had become mandated that condoms no longer fall under the semantic umbrella of “birth control” any more as that could be perceived as offensive to homosexual students who, of course, were practicing “birth control” simply by being homosexuals.

“There are lambskin, made of sheep intestines, which date back to the Roman Empire, the days of Julius Caesar who I believe you will be reading about in Mr. Keller's literature class later this year...”

A bit of a pedant, Arthur always liked to stress the education part of sex ed, as much as the sex part, especially to a rare sharp cookie like Kendra.  Which didn't mean he also didn't try and act like a cool, hip, gettin' laid, knows the ropes kinda guy the kids could confide in about pregnancies and threesomes and orgies and sex positions he only had learned about recently via urbandictionary.com.

“However, we don't endorse lambskin in this school district because they are simply not safe enough in our opinion.”

“Gross.  Why would I want my man to put some lamb guts on his dick any way?” is what most of his students would have said when Arthur gave this little sexual history lesson, but Kendra coolly replied, “Yeah, I've read the same things online.”

Arthur next explained about latex condoms and polyurethane and the new polyisoprene.  He discussed spermicide Nonoxynol-9 which he explained coats the condom in too slight of amount of spermicide to actually prevent pregnancy and which he noted had even been found to possibly increase the chances of HIV acquisition due to its propensity for causing micro-lesions in the tender mucous membranes of the vagina.  He explained about the pill, The Pill (always capitalized in the same way The Bible usually is), and about all the other ways to prevent pregnancy and the spread of STDs as Kendra just sat their nodding.  It was truly a bravura performance by himself, thought Arthur, the rare time he actually felt like he was making a difference in a child's life.

When he was finished, after he took a breath and sipped from his coffee mug filled with water fountain water, Kendra scrunched up her face in that look children get when they are embarrassed and struggling to get something off their chests.  It was a face Arthur saw less and less as kids became less and less embarrassed by their behavior, less and less aware that things like filming each other having sex with a Flip Cam, or having a contest to see who could win an unofficial senior class superlative for Biggest Slut, or arranging an orgy via a Facebook group were outside the norm of typical teenage behavior.

“Mr. Lampkin, I'm really embarrassed to come to you...”

“Please, don't be, there's nothing to be embarrassed about, Kendra.  Our bodies compel us to do weird things sometimes...”

“...but I feel like I need to.”

“Go ahead, please.”

“You see, it's my mom...”

Arthur got a lot of student visitors who wanted to discuss sexually inappropriate touching acts perpetrated by family members and by now he felt at home handling it, getting to the root of the issue, calling children's services, even visiting the household to play a tough guy, saving these children, his children, from the awful lives they'd been dealt.

“She's a prostitute.  Over on Richmond Terrace.”

“Prostitute?  Richmond...?”

“Terrace.  Yeah.  And Broadway.  Anyway, Mr. Lampkin, I'm worried about her.  She's not cut out for this life.  She's smart.  She used to be a paralegal at Wessen & Lang before she got laid off last year.  She couldn't find anything else and she got desperate.  She didn't know where else to turn and one of her disgusting cousins showed her this easy way to make a buck.  Now, I'm afraid she's obsessed with it.  She's gone all night, every night.  I'm worried she's not being safe.  She didn't have teachers like you when she went to school.  She doesn't know these things.  She had me when she was only fifteen herself.  My dad, well, the idiot who fathered me, split town and headed to the Bronx before I was born.  I've never even met him.  And, my mom hasn't been with another man since.  She's put all her time and effort into raising me.  She did a great job.  I guess now that I'm almost an adult and almost self-sufficient she thinks she can go back out there on her own.  But she can't!  I'm scared for my mom!  I'm scared!”

Kendra fell into Arthur's arms, sobbing all over his Century 21 dress shirt.  You weren't technically, legally allowed to hug children and, of course, Arthur never instigated hugs, but there was no way he was ever going to turn away a desperate child who needed a hug, rules be damned.

“You have to talk to her, Mr. Lampkin.  Tell her this lifestyle is dangerous.”

Arthur knew more about female bodies than 99.9% of most females and he never even got to put that knowledge to good use.  Of course, being one of only six non-janitorial males working in the entire school district amongst hundreds of female faculty and administration, scads of women hit on him thinking him single, not knowing that Arthur was with Deborah, especially since she never wore her engagement ring during school hours.  But, of course, Arthur had to rebuff them all.  Even if he'd wanted to cheat on Deborah, she would have easily found out.

There's no real great public transit system on Staten Island and the walk to Richmond Terrace took Arthur nearly twenty-five minutes.  Luckily, it was a nice cool fall night as the sun started setting over New Jersey.  On the first Thursday night of each month, Deborah met for dinner with several school administrator cronies from various school districts throughout the five boroughs.  Arthur always cherished those first Thursdays as nights he could be his own man.  Eat out on a burger or some buffalo wings, maybe grab a beer or two, watch some NBA games and the sleaziest reality TV possible, loudly masturbate (in bed!) til his heart's content.

Ms. Broyles wasn't that hard to locate being the only African-American amidst a group of Latinos.  In real life, prostitutes don't look like they do in the movies, Arthur thought.  He didn't mean he expected them to look like Pretty Woman prostitutes.  Of course not.  He expected them to look like prostitutes on the other end of the spectrum:  beat-up and spit-out drug addict types.  But these girls, these women, looked fairly normal if not just a little less clothed, a little more dolled up.  Ms. Broyles appeared shy, too, less brash and confident that her brethren, almost embarrassed to look Arthur in the eye when he asked:  “Ms. Broyles?”

She turned toward Arthur and he felt the sudden urge to explain further.

“I'm your daughter's, I'm one of Kendra's teachers.  Mr. Lampkin.  Arthur is my name and I...”

“Mr. Lampkin.  Arthur.”

“Yes.”

Ms. Broyles moved closer to Arthur as the other women scattered.

“What you want me to do for you tonight, Arthur?  Suck your dick?  Fuck you?  Doggy style?  Reverse cowgirl?  I can get another girl and we can have a threesome.  I can get all those girls and we can have an orgy.  Or it can just be you and me.  Any position you can dream of, any way you like it.  I will make you come.”

Arthur tried to stifle his laughter but he couldn't.  He couldn't stop.  He couldn't stop laughing.

© 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 Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.

"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.

"Health" -- Arthur Lampkin is the sex-ed teacher at a Staten Island high school whose life is a living hell of comical sex-ed tools, oversexed teenagers, and an undersexed home life.

"The Feminist" -- Kelly Meyers is the only male professor at an all-girls college.

"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.

"He Proposed" -- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.

"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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Cheers and enjoy!