Info

It was lemonade day at Project Hollywood. At least, that's what Courtney Love had decided. Mystery was recovering, Katya was in New Orleans for six weeks, and there were good vibes to be spread.

Cigarette hanging from her mouth, dropping ash onto her Betsey Johnson T-shirt, Courtney grabbed a giant mixing bowl from the cabinet. She opened the refrigerator and scanned for liquids, snatching two halfgallon cartons of lemonade and a quart of orange juice. She emptied them into the mixing bowl and, when that overflowed, several pots. Then she grabbed a handful of ice cubes from the freezer and dropped them into her brew. Finally, she plunged her black-charred fingers into each vessel and stirred. Juice sloshed onto the counter as ashes from the cigarette in her mouth fluttered into the mixing bowl.

Stubbing her cigarette out on the yellow tile countertop, she looked around frantically until she noticed an overhead cabinet. She swung the doors open and thrust her hands inside, sticking her fingers into four glasses and squeezing them together to pull them out. One by one, she dipped the glasses into the bowl and filled them. Then she grabbed the rest of the glasses, any clean coffee mugs she could find, and a Pyrex measuring cup, and sloshed lemonade into all of them.

In the living room, Mystery sat cross-legged on a couch, leading his first pickup seminar since returning from the mental-health center three weeks earlier. He wore a T-shirt and denim overalls. His feet were bare. Patches of unshaven hair dappled his chin, and his eyelids drooped lazily over unfocused eyes. He'd been taking the Seroquel regularly and sleeping out his depression. He was beginning to break through to the other side.

"There are three phases to a relationship," he told his students, speaking in a torpor. "There's a beginning, a middle, and an end. And I'm going through the end right now. I'm not going to lie to you. I've cried three times in the last week."

His six students glanced at each other, confused. They were there to learn to get laid. But for Mystery this wasn'tjust a seminar; it was therapy. He'd been telling them about Katya for two hours now.

"This is what you're building up to, and it can be difficult," he went on. "My plan for the next girl is to have a fake marriage again. The mistake I made last time was letting Katya and her mother know it was a joke. Next time, I'll have the wedding in the backyard. I'll have an actor be the preacher, and everyone except her and her parents will know we're not really getting married."

One of the students, a good-looking man in his thirties with a crewcut and a jaw like a block of cement, raised his hand. "But didn't you just get through telling us how the fake marriage was a disaster last time?"

"I was just field-testing it," Mystery said. "It's a great routine."

Whenever Mystery returned from his depressions, his mental bearings shifted a little. This time there was an anger lurking beneath the surface, along with a new bitterness toward women.

Suddenly, Courtney came careening out of the kitchen. "Who wants lemonade?"

The students looked at her dumbstruck. "Here you go," she said, forcing a glass on Mystery and another on Cementjaw. "What are you doing here?" she asked. "You're cute."

"I'm a self-defense instructor," he said. "Mystery is letting me sit in on the workshop in exchange for lessons in Krav Maga."

Courtney shot off to the kitchen and came back with two more glasses of lemonade, then two more, and two more, until there were more glasses than people in the room.

"I think we're set on lemonade," Mystery said as she returned with two coffee mugs in her hands.

"Where's Herbal?" she asked.

"I think he's showering."

Courtney dashed to the bathroom and kicked the door. "Herbal? Are you there?" She kicked the door again, harder.

"I'm showering," he yelled back.

"It's important. I'm coming in."

She pushed through the door, ran inside, and ripped the shower curtain open.

"What's going on?" Herbal asked, panicked. He stood there naked, his hair streaked white with shampoo. "Is the house on fire?"

"I made this for you," Courtney said. She thrust a mug of lemonade in each of Herbal's wet hands and dashed away. Herbal stood there silently. Ever since he'd promised to stop talking to Katya, he'd been drifting through the house in a forlorn cloud of silence. Though he was too proud to admit it, his heart ached. He loved her.

As Mystery's students broke for lunch, Courtney dashed past them and up the stairs to Papa's room, leaving a trail of lemonade drops on the carpet. She burst through the door. Inside, Papa, Sickboy, Tyler Durden, Playboy, Xaneus, and the mini-Papas were working on individual computers. Extramask was laying on Papa's unmade bed, reading the Bhagavad Gita. While staying at the house, Extramask had gotten bored and started reading Playboy's books on eastern religion, which had unexpectedly led him down a path of spiritual self-discovery.

"Courtney," Tyler Durden asked as she distributed drinks, "can you get us on the guest list for Joseph's on Monday?"

Courtney picked up the phone, walked into the bathroom with Tyler, and dialed Brent Bolthouse, the promoter who threw the Monday night parties at Joseph's, famed for their tight guest lists and crowds of gorgeous wanna-bes. "Brent," she said. "My friend Tyler Durden is a professional pickup artist." Tyler waved his hands frantically in a futile attempt to signal Courtney not to talk about it. "He picks up women for a living. It's really cool." Tyler dropped his head into his hands. "Can you put him on the guest list so he can come with some of his pickup artist friends and pick up chicks?"

Courtney picked a strip of six wrapped condoms off the edge of the sink and wrapped it around her wrist like a bracelet, then began exploring the bathroom. She poked her head inside the two closets—Papa's infamous guest bedrooms—that were on either side of the toilet.

"Let me ask you something," she said as she withdrew from Tyler Dur-den's closet, which contained a suitcase, a pile of dirty clothes, and a mattress on the floor. "Do you like women?"

On the other side of the bathroom's slotted windows, Cementjaw dragged a sandbag along the brickwork of the patio.

"I wasn't a misogynist when I started this," Tyler replied. "But you get good and you start sleeping with all these women who have boyfriends, and you stop trusting women."

A side effect of sarging is that it can lowers one's opinion of the oppo site sex. You see too much betrayal, lying, and infidelity. If a woman has been married three years or more, you come to learn that she's usually easier to sleep with than a single woman. If a woman has a boyfriend, you learn that you have a better chance of fucking her the night you meet her than getting her to return a phone call later. Women, you eventually realize, are just as bad as men—they're just better at hiding it.

"I got hurt a lot when I first started picking up," he continued. "I'd meet an amazing girl I really liked, and we'd talk all night. She'd say she loved me and was so lucky to have met me. But then I'd fail one shit test, and she'd walk away and wouldn't even talk to me anymore. Everything we'd built up over the last eight hours would just go down the drain. So it hardened me."

There are men in this world who hate women, who do not respect them, who call them bitches and cunts. These are not PUAs. PUAs do not hate women; they fear them. Simply by defining oneself as a PUA—a title earned solely by the responses of women—one becomes doomed to derive his entire self-esteem and identity from the attention of the opposite sex, not unlike a comedian's relationship to audience members. If they don't laugh, you're not funny. So, as self-esteem defense mechanisms, some PUAs developed misogynist tendencies in the process of learning.

Sarging could be hazardous to the soul.

Outside the window, Cementjaw held the sandbag as Mystery flailed at it with long, limp punches.

"Harder," he yelled at Mystery. "I want to see more aggression!"

ChapbiA /e\

Beyond Project Hollywood, the whole community appeared to have taken on a dangerous, unstable edge. Fieldreports became not just about meeting girls but about getting into fights and being kicked out of clubs. Community members began living vicariously through the drama taking place in Project Hollywood, as well as through the distinct writings ofJlaix, a shotgun-toting karaoke-singing, Elvis-looking PUA whom Tyler Durden and Papa had discovered in San Francisco.

MSN GROUP Mystery's Lounge

SUBJECT: FR—Jlaixs First Stripper (Drugs Sold Separately) AUTHOR: Jlaix

I just flew back from Vegas, and I'm fucking exhausted. I was thrown out of a karaoke bar last night for rolling on the floor and crying during the bridge of Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)."

But this post is not about karaoke. It is about fucking a stripper. So lets get right to it, shall we?

I got into town on Wednesday afternoon and began drinking. Some guys from work and I were staying at the Hard Rock, just like the characters on The OC did in this week's episode. We got ejected from the Hard Rock Cafe for making meat cocktails and daring each other to drink them. A typical meat cocktail contained beef, bacon, beer, mashed potatoes, more beer, ribs, ice, onions, mustard, A-l Sauce, salt, pepper, Nutrasweet, and perhaps a little vodka. After one of my co-workers puked on the table, we all went to the strip club Olympic Gardens.

I was pissed because I wanted to sarge, not get some lame-ass lap dance. I'm always saying what a great pickup artist I am to the guys from work, and I needed to show them I wasn't just talking out of my ass. I'd been training for this thing hard and was frankly a little nervous that I'd look like a tool if I didn't pull on this trip. Furthermore, I don't like strip clubs because I refuse to pay for sex of any kind. But I went along for the ride and sat there with a beer while the guys had their fun.

So this girl sat down across the booth from me. It turned out she worked there, but decided to take the day off because there weren't enough customers and there were too many chicks in the place. I started running routines on her and busting her balls. My friends were looking at me like I was insane because I kept calling her a dork.

She kept saying, 'You are so cocky!" and started really getting into me. My friends watched this happen with their jaws dropped open. I told her we were going back to our hotel and she should come and call some of her "hot ho friends." She got pissed that I called her a ho, so I instantly changed the subject. "Oh my God, my friend is so weird. She eats lemons whole, just like an orange blah blah." And this made her forget. More routines—boom, boom, boom. This went on for a while. We all left together.

Outside, the manager was trying to get her to go back in and work. But I pulled her away, and we got into a cab. She said, "I'm a stripper with a brain!" I ran Mystery's "we're too similar" on her, then Style's Cs versus Us.

When we got back to the hotel, I told her we should drop her shit off in my room. Up there, I did the cube on her. Then I told her, "When I did this on Paris Hilton at the taco shop, she said her cube was as big as a hotel. What an egomaniac!" So now she thought I was hanging with celebrities and models all the time, even though it actually happened to Papa.

I also did Tyler Durden's new stuff about having standards and said, "I'm so sick of dating these chicks who do drugs all the time and have plastic surgery. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to blow rails off a shitty dive bar toilet tank as much as the next guy, but only once in while! I mean, you're not like that, are you?" She qualified herself. Then I asked her if she was a good kisser, and we kissed for a while. I stopped it and suggested we go downstairs for a drink.

In the casino. I started running comfort routines, filling in the empty canvas of my life. I ran Supercuts, Summer of Ripped Abs, Balloons in the Park, Stripper Babysitter, and My Cat Got Laid. They're all stories from my life and, trust me, the titles are more interesting than the actual content.

We walked around the casino looking for my friends for a while. Then I told her I was tired and needed to go to sleep, and she should come up and tell me a bedtime story and tuck me in. She asked, "What are we going to do? Bad things? I've only known you thirty minutes!"

I said, "Sheesh! I hope not! I have to wake up early so you better not keep me up! Besides, I have whiskey dick." This shit is classic; you guys have to use it.

We got to the room and three bozo co-workers were in there, wasted. I hurriedly pushed them out of the room, suggesting they go gamble. The chick looked at the desk and said, "Someone's been doing coke here. I can tell. I'm a stripper."

I serenaded the stripper. I sang "On the Wings of Love" by Jeffrey

Osborne to her. I told her I wanted to cuddle, and we did and just talked for a while. I then told her I wanted to show her a trick. I got on her and initiated tonguedown. I told her, "I wanna lick it," and took off her pants. No panties. I

inspected her for sores, then began the licking. She had a clit piercing, which

I'd never encountered before. It clicked on my teeth weirdly. I put the fingers in after five minutes and licked her into submission. Then I said, "Too bad I have whiskey dick!"

She said, "It looks okay to me," and I fucked the shit out of her.

I had never seen real tits this big on a chick that skinny. Oh my fucking God, this was the hottest chick I've ever fucked: my first stripper and my first 9. I cuddled and snuggled with her afterward. She expressed shock at my many injuries and scars. I kissed this little-ass, adorable-ass stripper mothafucka tenderly and said, "I'm not an insane maniac. Im a poser insane maniac. Im just dealing with the absurdity of existence by shoving absurdity down existence's throat."

She gave me her number and fold me to call her.

I used the My Little Pony opener the next night. ("Hey. Do you guys remember that shit My Little Pony? Yeah, well I was frying to remember, did they have powers? Blah blah.") By the end of the night, after I got thrown out of the karaoke club, I was just going up to chicks and drunkenly bellowing, "Maaaah liI poneee." I ended up getting thrown out of another strip club.

The last thing I remember is sitting up in my bed watching the TV, confused and screaming at nobody, "What the fuck am I watching? Is this The OC? What the fuck is this?" until I realized that it was just an episode of Punk'd where they were pranking The OC cast. Then I passed out.

Ckaptsh

The first time I saw her, she was taking a shit.

I opened my bathroom door and she was sitting on the toilet.

Gabby was friends with Maverick, one of the many junior PUAs who orbited our house and appeared in our living room every weekend uninvited. She had the attitude of a beauty queen but the body of a sack of tomatoes. I took a step back and started to close the door behind me.

"Hey," she said, flushing. "This is a nice house. What do you do for work?"

Those words were an instant dealbreaker. Sarging in Los Angeles, one develops a radar for women who are users. The less tactful among them will ask, within the first few minutes of a conversation, what kind of car you drive or what you do for work or what celebrities in the room you're friends with in order to determine your social ranking and how useful you might be to them. The more tactful ones don't have to ask questions: They look at your watch; they see how people respond to you when you talk, they listen for indicators of insecurity in your speech. These are the signals that PUAs call subcommunication.

Gabby belonged to the less tactful of the species.

As she washed her hands, she opened the medicine cabinet and inspected the contents. Then she stepped into my room and continued her exploration. "Are you a writer?" she asked. "You should write about me. I have a really interesting story. I want to be an actress. And you know how some people are just born to be famous." She snatched a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses from the top of my dresser and put them on. "Well, that's me. Not that I'm special or anything. It's just something you know from a very young age because people treat you differently."

A rich man doesn't have to tell you he's rich.

As she chattered away, she grabbed a muffin from a plate on my desk. Today had been muffin day. Courtney had run around the house giving everyone plates full of more muffins than they could eat.

Gabby took a bite, then dropped the muffin back onto the plate. I couldn't figure out who had invited her into the house. Maverick wasn't around, and she wasn't friends with anyone else here.

"I have to do some work," I told her. "But nice meeting you."

I figured she could find her own way out of the house. But she must have taken a wrong turn. Mystery later discovered her sitting on his toilet.

Both were such narcissists, I thought they'd repel each other like two positive ends of a magnet. Instead, they ended up having sex.

She spent the next week at the house, sleeping with Mystery and cat-fighting with Courtney after borrowing her clothing without permission. Like Mystery, Cabby's biggest fear in life was having no one around to hear her talk, so she was constantly running around the house, gossiping, complaining, and getting on Courtney's nerves.

One afternoon, as Courtney stood in the kitchen digging into a jar of peanut butter with two spoons, she asked Gabby, "Aren't you ever going home?"

"Home?" Gabby looked at her funny. "I live here."

It was news to Courtney, to me, to Mystery. The house attracted people like that. Eventually, it would expel them all.

Twyla was the next victim of Project Hollywood. She first apperared at the house when a stripper Mystery made out with several years ago was going through a major depression. Having some experience in the matter, Mystery offered to give her advice one night while Gabby was out clubbing. However, the stripper came over drunk and with Twyla in tow.

Twyla was no prize. She was a tattooed thirty-four-year-old Hollywood rock-and-roller with weathered skin, a body as hard as her face, black hair in a bird's nest of dreadlocks, and a heart of gold. She reminded me of a Pon-tiac Fiero, an old sporty model liable to break down at any moment.

When Mystery and Twyla started flirting, their drunk, depressed friend burst into tears. She cried in the pillow pit for a half hour, until Twyla and Mystery finally scampered off to his room. Gabby returned home that night and, without a word of objection, crawled into bed with the two of them and promptly fell asleep. Gabby and Mystery weren't in love; they just wanted each other's shelter.

That morning and the morning after, Twyla cooked pancakes for everyone in the house. Since she didn't appear to be leaving anytime soon, Mystery hired her as his personal assistant for four hundred dollars a week.

The more Mystery neglected Twyla, the more she began to believe she loved him. He hurt her over and over by chasing different women, and she kept coming back for more. Mystery seemed to enjoy the tears; they made him feel like he mattered to somebody. If Twyla wasn't crying in the house, it was Gabby. If it wasn't Gabby, it was someone else. From the chrysalis of Mystery's latest depression, a monster was emerging.

Project Hollywood was supposed to be a way to surround ourselves with healthy, helpful influences to better ourselves, our career, and our sex lives. Instead, the house had turned into a vacuum for needy males and neurotic females. It sucked in anyone with mental problems and scared away anyone of quality. Between permanent guests like Courtney, Mystery's women, and Papa's revolving door of new trainers, employees, and students, it was impossible to tell how many people were actually living in the house.

However, at least the way I rationalized it, I was continuing my learning and growing process. I've lived and worked alone most of my life. I've never had a strong social circle or a tight network of friends. I've never joined clubs, played team sports, or been part of any real group prior to the community. Project Hollywood was bringing me out of my solipsistic shell. It was giving me the resources I needed to be a leader; it was teaching me how to walk the tightrope of group dynamics; it was helping me learn to let go of petty things like personal property, solitude, cleanliness, sanity, and sleep. It was making me, for the first time in my life, a responsible adult.

I had to be: I was surrounded by children. Every day, someone ran up to me with a new crisis to be managed:

DABEY: Mystery's being a dick. He says this isn't my house, and I'm not wanted here.

MYSTERY: Courtney took eight hundred dollars from my room. She made it up to me by paying my rent, but her check bounced.

COURTNEY: That guy with his pants pulled up too high is bothering me. Can you tell him to leave me alone?

PLAYBOY: Courtney has her urine in our refrigerator. And Twyla's crying in my bathroom and won't come out.

TWYLA Mystery's trying to mack on some chick in his room, and he told me to fuck off. And Papa won't let me sleep in his room.

PAPA Cliff from Montreal has been staying in my room, and Courtney came up and took four of his books and three pairs of his underwear.

Every problem had a solution; every dispute had a compromise; every ego had a way to be stroked. I hardly had time to sarge anymore. The only new women I was meeting were the ones who came into the house. Keeping Project Hollywood from imploding was becoming a full-time job.

I left the house for an hour to get some groceries. Only an hour. And when I returned there was a red Porsche spewing smoke in the driveway, a thirteen-year-old girl in the living room, and two pissed-off bleached blondes smoking on the patio.

" What the hell is going on?" I asked as I kicked the door shut behind me.

"This is Mari," Mystery said.

"The cleaning lady's daughter?" We were never able to hold onto a maid. The task of cleaning a week's accumulation of dishes, overflowing trash cans, fast-food debris, spilt alcohol, and cigarette butts from a dozen guys and countless party girls was more than most could handle. Consequently, Project Hollywood tended to stew in its own filth for a month or more between maids. The latest had set a record: two consecutive weeks.

" The cleaning lady left the house for supplies, so I'm watching her." He took a few strides closer to me. "She reminds me of my nieces."

It was nice to see Mystery acting somewhat normal again. An adolescent in the house was a calming influence on him. As for the Porsche, Courtney had it brought to the house so that Mystery could drive her to rehearsal. But Mystery had taken the car for a test run and found out the hard way that he couldn't rely on his magical intuition to teach him how to drive a stick shift.

"And who are they?" I asked, pointing at the blondes.

"They're in Courtney's band."

I went out to the patio and introduced myself.

"I'm Sam," said a slightly tomboyish girl with a Queens accent. "I play drums with Courtney."

"We've met before," I told her.

"We've met before too," sneered the other girl. Her Long Island accent was so sharp that it startled me. She was two inches taller than me, her hair was pushed straight back over her head like a horse's mane, and her large brown eyes were framed with thick black mascara that re minded me of masturbating as a teenager to Susanna Hoffs in the Bangles video for "Walk Like an Egyptian." This girl was the epitome of rock and roll.

"Yeah," I stammered. "I saw you briefly at The Tonight Show?"

"Before that. At that party at the Argyle Hotel where you were talking to those twins the whole night."

"Oh, the Porcelain TwinZ." I couldn't imagine having forgotten her. She was so charismatic. Good posture is one of the things I find most attractive about a woman, and this girl's posture screamed confidence. It also screamed, "Don't fuck with me."

I went back inside and asked Mystery about her. "That's Lisa, Courtney's guitarist," he said. "She's a total bitch."

The girls were visiting because Courtney had planned to tape an acoustic performance at our house for a British television program. But Courtney was nowhere to be found, and Sam and Lisa were fuming. I sat down to pacify her bandmates. I felt so small next to them.

I picked up a CD case that belonged to Lisa and thumbed through the discs. I was impressed. She had music by Cesaria Evora, a diva from the Cape Verde islands. Her mournful songs, backed by a lilting Latin rhythm, are perhaps the best make-out music on the planet. As soon as I saw that CD, I knew I'd met someone I wanted to get to know better.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I dimly recalled what enabled me to meet and interact with women before I'd discovered the seduction industry: commonalities. Simply finding out that you have a passion for something another person also likes and respects is enough to fire that strange emotion we like to call chemistry. Scientists studying pheromones claim that when two people discover they have things in common, pheromones are released and attraction begins.

Moments later, Mystery joined us. He dropped into a chair and sat there for a moment, a vortex of neediness sucking up any stray pheromones Lisa and I had managed to release. "I called Katya today," he said. "And we talked for a while. I still love that girl."

He looked at Sam and Lisa, as if trying to select a target. "Do they know about the drama with Katya?" he asked.

The girls rolled their eyes. They had their own drama to deal with.

"Well," I excused myself. "I'm going to grab a burrito at Poquito Mas. Nice meeting you—again."

I had to get away from there. I didn't want to be associated with the madness—even if l was part of it.

I walked down the hill to Poquito Mas, where I found Extramask sitting at a table outside, reading a book as thick as his skull. He was wearing shorts, a headband, and a torn white T-shirt with a fresh sweat stain from the gym.

It was the first time I'd seen him out of the house alone in months. Ever since meeting him at Mystery's first workshop, I'd felt like he was my younger brother in this whole endeavor—though, since joining the Real Social Dynamics crew, he'd been more like an estranged sibling. I decided to make an effort to reconnect with him.

"What are you reading?" I asked.

"IAm That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj," he said. "I like him better than Sri Ramana Maharshi. His teachings are more modern and easier to read."

"Wow—impressive." I didn't know what else to say; I wasn't particularly familiar with Indian Vedanta writing.

"Yeah, I'm starting to realize there's more to life than just girls. All of this stuff"—he gestured up the hill to Project Hollywood—"means nothing. Everything means nothing."

I half-expected him to burst out in laughter at any moment and start talking about his penis, like the old days. "So you're over sarging then?" I asked.

"Yeah, I was obsessed with it, but when I read your post about social robots, I realized I was becoming one. So I'm moving out."

"Are you heading back to your parents' house or getting your own place?"

"Neither," he said. "I'm going to India."

"That's amazing. For what?" When Extramask had come into the community, he was one of the most sheltered people I'd ever met. He'd never even been on a plane before.

"I want to figure out who I am. There's an ashram near Chennai called Sri Ramanasramam, and I want to stay there."

"For how long?"

"Six months or a year, or possibly forever. I really don't know. I'm just kind of rolling with it."

I was surprised but not shocked. Extramask's sudden transformation from pickup artist to spiritual seeker reminded me of Dustin. Some people spend their lives trying to fill a hole in their soul. When women don't absorb that emptiness, they look to something bigger: God. I wondered where Dustin and Extramask would turn afterward, when they discovered that even God wasn't big enough to plug the hole inside.

"Well, man, good luck on your journey. I wish I could say that I was going to miss you, but we've hardly even talked to each other for half a year now. It's been a little strange."

"Yeah," he said. "That's my fault." He paused, and his lips forced themselves into a curvy smile. For a moment, the old Extramask was back. "I used to be an insecure bitch," he said.

By the time I got back to the house, the TV producers from Britain had arrived, along with a prospective manager for Courtney and a stylist.

"I can't work with her anymore," the stylist said when it became clear that Courtney wouldn't be showing up in time for the shoot. "Ever since she's been doing drugs, she's become a nightmare to deal with."

We hadn't seen any evidence of drugs in the house, but considering Courtney's erratic behavior, perhaps Project Hollywood hadn't kept her away from them as she had hoped. I felt bad for her. She was allowing the problems of the house to distract her from the real-life issues she should have been dealing with. Perhaps we all were.

I awoke that night to see Courtney standing at the foot of my bed with a Prada shoe in her hand.

"Let's redecorate the house," she said excitedly. "This will be our hammer."

"Do you have any nails or tacks?" she asked. Without waiting for an answer, she ran downstairs and returned with a box of nails, a framed painting for my wall, a throw pillow for my bed, and a smashed pink box that looked like an old Valentine's Day present.

"This is the heart-shaped box," she said. "I want you to have it."

She picked up my guitar, sat on the edge of my bed, and played my favorite country song, "Long Black Veil."

"I'm going to a friend's birthday party tomorrow night at Forbidden City," she said, dropping the guitar to the floor. "I want you to come too. It'll be good for us to get out of the house together."

"I'll tell you what. I'll meet you there." I knew how long she could take to get ready.

"Speaking of Lisa," I said. "There were a bunch of people waiting for you here today and you were nowhere to be found. I think they're pretty upset."

Her face clouded, her lips puckered, and tears dripped from her eyes. "I'm going to get help," she said. "I promise."

C^tfiisA

I wore a white blazer over a black shirt emblazoned with a scrolling bank of LCD lights that could be programmed with a message. I input the words "Kill me." I hadn't been out sarging in at least a month and wanted the attention. My expectations for Courtney showing up to Forbidden City were low, so I brought Herbal along as a wing.

We had recently flown to Houston together to pick up the Project Hollywood limousine, a 1998 ten-passenger stretch Cadillac Herbal had found on eBay. Flush with the success of that scheme, Herbal had, against our better judgment, put down a deposit to buy a wallaby at an exotic pets website. On the way to the party, we argued about the practicality and humanity of having a baby marsupial in the house.

"They make the best pets," he insisted. "They're like house-trained kangaroos. They sleep with you, they bathe with you, and you can take them for walks by holding their tail."

The last thing we needed was a wallaby in the mix at Project Hollywood. The only bright side to the fiasco was that it made for a great opener. We ran around the party asking everyone for their opinion on having wallabies as pets. Between the opener and my shirt, within a half hour we were surrounded by women. It felt good to flex our skills again. We'd been so absorbed by the drama of the house that we had forgotten the reason we'd moved there in the first place.

As a tall, stoop-shouldered girl who claimed to be a model pawed at my shirt, I saw a mane of bleached-blonde hair sticking up out of the crowd. I looked closer. Though she was on the other side of the room, she seemed to glow. Her jaw was set, her face was chiseled, her eyes smoldered beneath a half-shell of heavy blue eye shadow. It was Courtney's guitarist, Lisa. Next to her, all the wanna-be models and actresses I had been talking to seemed insignificant. She dwarfed them with her style and poise. I excused myself and ran up to her. "Where's Courtney?" I asked.

"She was taking too long to get ready. So I came alone."

"I respect a person who isn't afraid to show up at a party alone."

"I am the party," she said, without blinking or smiling. I think she was serious.

For the entire night, Lisa and I sat side-by-side in a chair, the most peacocked couple in the room. The party seemed to come to us, as if we exerted some sort of gravitational pull together. The couches around us soon filled with models, comedians, reality TV has-beens, and Dennis Rodman. When the various women I had talked to during the night came by to flirt, Lisa and I drew on their arms with pens or fed them shots of Hypnotiq or gave them intelligence tests that they usually failed. This is what the PUAs call creating an "our world" conspiracy. We were in our own little bubble, where we were king and queen, and everyone else was our plaything for the night.

When a phalanx of paparazzi started taking pictures of Dennis Rodman, who was standing nearby, I looked at Lisa's face, illuminated by the flashbulbs. And out of nowhere, my heart awoke from its torpor and body-checked my chest.

When the party broke up, Lisa put her arm around me and asked, "Will you take me home? I'm too drunk to drive." My heart slammed again, and then settled into a fast, arrhythmic throb. She may have been too drunk to drive, but I was too nervous to drive.

Without waiting for a response, she dropped the keys to her Mercedes into my hand. I called to Herbal and asked him to drive my car home. "I can't believe it," I told him. "It's on!"

But it wasn't on.

I drove Lisa back to her place. I recognized the building: It was directly across the street from the Hollywood Mental Health Center where I had taken Mystery. When we arrived, she went to the bathroom. I lay down on her bed and tried to look relaxed.

Lisa padded out of the bathroom, looked at me, and then said, with a withering look, "Don't think anything's going to happen between us."

Damnit, I'm Style. You have to love me. I'm an mPUA.

She changed, and we drove to my house to look for Courtney. All we found there, however, was Tyler Durden leading ten men in the living room through some sort of exercise that involved running around the couches, yelling loudly, and giving each other high fives. Tyler had been experimenting lately with a technique of physically pumping up his students' mood for a night out meeting women. He believed that whether or not they actually performed better, the shot of adrenaline and camaraderie would make them think they had fun, and thus give Real Social Dynamics good reviews in the seduction newsgroups. It was becoming a competitive industry.

Courtney seemed to have disappeared again. Maybe she'd been serious the other night and really was getting help, or maybe she was off getting into more trouble.

I took Lisa up to my room, lit some candles, put Cesaria Evora in the CD player, and went to my closet.

"Let's have some fun," I told her.

I pulled out a garbage bag full of old Halloween costumes: masks, wigs, hats. We tried them all on, taking photos with my digital camera. I was going to attempt the digital photo routine.

We took a photo smiling, then serious. For the third photo, the romantic pose, we gazed at each other. Her eyes seemed so happy. Behind that tough exterior was vulnerability and tenderness.

I held her eye contact and moved toward her for the kiss, holding the camera in front of us to capture it. "I'm not kissing you," she barked.

The words scalded my face like hot coffee. There was no girl I couldn't kiss within half an hour of meeting her. What was her problem? I froze her out and tried again. Nothing.

It is in these moments that, as a PUA, you start to question the work you've done on yourself You begin to worry that maybe she sees the real you, the one who existed before the silly nickname, the one who wrote poems about this exact situation in high school.

I delivered a moving, impassioned performance of the evolution phase-shift routine. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a thousand PUAs applauding.

"I'm not biting you," she said.

I wasn't through. I told her the most beautiful love story ever written: "On Seeing the 100 Percent Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" by Haruki Murakami. It is about a man and a woman who are soul mates. But when they doubt their connection for a moment and decide not to act on it, they lose each other forever. She was ice cold.

I tried a hardcore freeze-out: I blew out the candles, stopped the music, turned on the lights, and checked my e-mail.

She climbed into my bed, curled up under the covers, and went to sleep.

Finally I joined her, and we slept on opposite sides of the bed.

I still had one trick left: going caveman. In the morning, without a word, I started massaging her leg, working my hand slowly up her thigh. If I could just turn her on physically, her logic would disengage and she would no doubt submit.

My intention wasn't to use Lisa for sex. I knew I wanted to see her again, no matter what happened. I just wanted to get the whole sex thing over with so we could be normal together. She wouldn't be trying to keep anything from me; I wouldn't be trying to get something from her. I always hated the idea that sex is something a woman gives and a man takes. It is something that should be shared.

But Lisa wasn't sharing. As I began to rub the warm crease where her thigh meets her pelvis, her voice rang shrill in the air like an alarm clock. "What are you doing?" She smacked my hand away.

We had breakfast together, and lunch, and dinner. We talked about Courtney and the PUAs and my writing and her music and our lives, and all kinds of other things that I can't remember but must have been fascinating because hours passed in the blink of an eye. She was my age; she liked all the same bands I did; she said something intelligent every time she opened her mouth; she laughed at my jokes that were funny and made fun of the ones that weren't.

She spent another night with me. Nothing happened. I had met my match.

After breakfast, I stood on the front stoop and watched Lisa leave. She walked uphill, climbed into her Mercedes, lowered the convertible top, and pulled away. I turned around to climb the stairs. I didn't want to glance back. I wanted to look cool, and not give her any more IOIs.

"Hey, come here," she yelled from her car.

I shook my head no. She was ruining my exit.

"No, seriously, come here. It's important."

I sighed and walked back down to her car. "I'm really sorry, don't be upset," she said. "But I think I might have accidentally dented your limo when I was pulling out."

My body went cold. It was our newest and most expensive possession.

"Just kidding," she said, stepping on the accelerator and leaving me in the dust with a wave. I saw her blonde hair streaming over the side of the car as she turned down Sunset, blasting the Clash.

I had been played by her—again.

I told Mystery about my frustration with Lisa as we sat in the hot tub one night. I'd turned to him so often in the past for advice on women, and he'd rarely steered me wrong. Though relationship management was clearly not his forte, he was flawless when it came to blasting through lastminute resistance.

"Start stroking yourself," he said.

"No, next time you're in bed together, just take your cock out and start stroking it."

"Then what?"

"Then you take her hand and put it on your balls. And she'll start giving you a hand job."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. Then you put your finger on your dick and put a little precum on it, and put your finger in her mouth."

"No way. This is like that bad joke advice you see in movies, where the friend does it and the girl freaks out and the guy who gave the advice goes, 'I thought you knew I was kidding.'"

"I'm totally serious. You've practically had sex after that."

Three days later, after the bars closed at 2:00 AM, Lisa dropped by my house with Sam, Courtney's drummer. She was wasted.

We climbed into bed and babbled to each other for hours. "I don't know what my problem is," she slurred. "I never want to leave your room. I could just listen to you talk forever."

She rolled toward me. "Forget I said that," she snapped. "I didn't mean it. Alcohol is like a truth serum."

Now was my chance. Mystery's words ran through my head, and I considered the pros and cons of stroking myself and placing her hand on me.

I couldn't do it. Not because I was scared, but because there was no way it was going to work. Lisa would have laughed in my face and said something cutting like, "You might as well touch yourself, because I'm certainly not about to." Then she would have told all her friends about the cheesy guy who started rubbing his dick in front of her.

Mystery wasn't always right.

So we spent another platonic night together. It was driving me crazy. I knew she liked me. Yet she wouldn't get intimate. I was teetering on the border of being LJBF'ed.

Maybe I just wasn't her type. I imagined her with tattooed, muscle-bound, leather-jacketed Danzig types, not scrawny metrosexual guys who had to take pickup workshops. She was killing me.

For the first time since I'd learned the word one-itis, I had it. And I knew that I was doomed. No one ever gets his one-itis. He gets too clingy and needy and blows it. And, sure enough, I blew it.

The next night, Lisa left town to play a festival in Atlanta with Courtney. She called three times while she was gone.

"Are you free for dinner when I get back?" she asked.

"I don't know," I told her. "It depends on whether you can behave yourself or not."

"Fine, then," she said. "If you're going to be like that, I don't need to go."

I was just trying to tease her and bust her balls, like David DeAngelo had taught me. And in doing so, I had destroyed the moment. I sounded like an asshole.

"Don't be a troublemaker," I said. It was time to be straightforward. "I want to see you when you're back. I'm leaving town for two weeks, so it will be our last chance to hang out."

In the background, I could hear Sam speaking. "You're talking to him like he's your boyfriend," she told Lisa.

"Maybe I want him to be my boyfriend," Lisa said to her.

So I hadn't been LJBF'ed. I couldn't wait for her to come back. I wanted her to be my girlfriend too.

I spent the entire day of Lisa's return plotting the perfect seduction. I would pick her up from the airport in the limo. Herbal would drive, and I would wait for her in the backseat. Then I'd take her to the Whiskey Bar at the Sunset Marquis Hotel—walking distance from Project Hollywood.

Because women don't respect guys who pay for them but at the same time are turned off by guys who are cheap, I went to the Whiskey Bar ahead of time, gave the manager $100, and told him to make sure whatever we ordered was on the house. Afterward, I planned to take her home. On my

Continue reading here: E9

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