Various Magic Tricks

For bending forks, making cigarettes vanish, and levitating beer bottles.

Yes, I was bringing out the big guns. It was an important night—my first workshop as a wing—and I needed to prove myself

I had neglected to tell Mystery that his standard workshop fee was half the annual salary of the average Serbian, so most of our students were from out of the country. They met us at Ben Akiba, a lounge just off the central square in Belgrade. Exoticoption was an American who had taken a train from Florence, Italy, where he was going to school; Jerry was a ski instructor from Munich, Germany; and Sasha was a local who had been studying in Austria.

Strangers size each other up in seconds: a hundred tiny details, from dress to body language, combine to create a first impression. Mystery's task—and now mine—was to fine-tune the details and make PUAs out of these three.

Exoticoption was cool; in fact, he was trying so hard to be cool that it was going to work against him. Jerry had a great sense of humor but came off on first impression as boring. And Sasha—well, he was badly in need of repair. Just socializing was going to be a challenge for him: He looked like a big baby goose with acne.

This time, it was my turn to go around the table and ask, "What's your score?" and "What are your sticking points?" and "How many girls would you like to sleep with?"

Exoticoption, who was twenty, had been with two women. "I have the balls to approach, and I did pull some hons in the past," he began, draping his left arm casually over a neighboring seat. "But my sticking point is the attract phase. Even when I get vibes that I attract them, I still don't close."

Jerry, who was thirty-three, had been with three women. "I can work coffee shops and most other low-noise environments, but I'm uncomfortable in clubs."

And Sasha, who was twenty-two, said he had been with one woman, though we suspected he was exaggerating by one. "I'm into the game because it's like Dungeons and Dragons. When I learn a neg or a routine, it's like getting a new spell or a staff that I can't wait to use."

One by one, they placed their fears, and their voice recorders, on the table. My job was to get them into the game. I needed to get what was in my head into theirs.

The teaching portion of the workshop was easy. All I had to do was keep Mystery on track—he loved the sound of his own voice—and give them material. The challenge was going to be the demonstration part.

As we spoke, we sent the boys on missions to various tables. We had them open sets,4 watched their body language and the responses of the women, then gave them feedback:

"You were leaning into the set, which showed neediness. Stand up straight and rock on your back foot as if you might walk away at any moment."

"You were making them uncomfortable by hovering over them for so long. You should have sat down and given yourself a time constraint. Say, 1 can only stay for a couple minutes because I have to rejoin my friends soon.' This way they won't worry that you 're going to sit there all night."

A set is a group of people in a public place. A two-set is a group of two people; a three-set is three people, and so on.

Sasha did the worst. He fumbled through his openers, stared at his shoes, and lacked even a modicum of confidence. Girls listened to him only out of politeness.

At the bar, I noticed a delicate black-haired girl and a tall blonde with a perfect fake tan, deep dimples, and hair in Bo Derek braids. They radiated err' ergy and confidence. This was not going to be an easy set. So I gave it to Sasha.

"Go into the two-set over there," I instructed him. It didn't take any game to send guys into sets. "Tell them you're showing some friends from America around and want suggestions for good clubs to take them to."

It was a crash-and-burn mission. Sasha meekly approached them from behind and tried several times to get them to notice him. Once he had their attention, it was a struggle for him to keep it. Like many guys, he didn't communicate with energy. All those years of insecurity and social ostracism had chased his spirit and joy of life deep within his body. Whenever he opened his mouth, there was no need for anyone to strain to make out his faint mumblings. The message was clear: "I was built to be ignored."

"Go in," Mystery said to me as he watched Sasha flounder with the Bo Derek blonde.

"What?"

"Go in. Help him out. Show the boys how it's done."

Fear seizes hold in your chest first. It clamps gently to the top of the heart, like a vice made of rubber. Then you really feel it. Your stomach churns. Your throat closes. And you swallow, desperately trying to avoid the dryness and hoping that when you open your mouth, a confident, clear voice will emerge. Even after all my training, I was terrified.

Women, by and large, are much more perceptive than men. They can instantly spot insincerity and bullshit. So a great pickup artist must either be congruent with his material—and really believe it—or be a great actor. Anyone talking to a woman while simultaneously worrying about what she thinks of him is going to fail. Anyone caught thinking about getting into a woman's pants before she starts thinking about what's in his pants is going to fail. And most men fall into this category. Sasha does. I do. We can't help it: It's our nature.

Mystery calls it dynamic social homeostasis. We are constantly buffeted about by, on one hand, our overwhelming desire to have sex with a girl and, on the other, the need to protect ourselves when approaching. The reason this fear exists, he says, is because we are wired evolutionarily for a tribal existence, where everyone in the community knows when a man is rejected by a woman. He is then ostracized and his genes, as Mystery puts it, are un-apologetically weeded out of existence.

As I approached, I tried to push the fear out of my chest and rationally assess the situation. Sasha's problem was his body position. Both women were facing the bar, and he had approached from behind. So they had to turn around to respond.

But if they wanted to get rid of him, all they had to do was to turn back toward the bar, and he'd be shut out.

I looked back. Mystery and the other two students were watching me as I approached. I had to work the angles right. So I came in from the left side of the bar, next to the black-haired girl—the obstacle, as Mystery would say.

"Hi," I rasped. I cleared my throat. "I'm the friend Sasha was telling you about. So what clubs did you recommend?"

I could sense a silent sigh of relief from all parties that someone had come in to make things less awkward.

"Well, Reka is a fun place for dinner," the black-haired girl said. "And along the waterfront there are some great boats, like Lukas, Kruz, and Exil. Underground and Ra are fun too, though they're not the kinds of places I go to."

"Hey, as long as we're talking, I want to get your opinion on something." I was on familiar ground now. "Do you think spells work?"

By now, I was getting used to telling the spells opener—a story about a friend who fell in love with a woman after she surreptitiously cast an attraction spell on him. So while my mouth moved, my brain thought strategy. I needed to reposition myself next to the Bo Derek blonde. Yes, I was going to steal my student's girl. It's not like he had a chance with her anyway.

When I finished, I said, "I'm asking because I never believed in that stuff before, but I had an amazing experience recently. Here"—I addressed the blonde—"let me show you something."

I maneuvered myself around to the other side of their stools, so that I was next to my target.

Now that I was one-on-one with her, I still needed to sit down; otherwise she'd eventually get uncomfortable with me lurking over her. However, there weren't any open stools, so I'd have to improvise.

"Give me your hands," I told her, "and stand up for a moment."

As soon as she stood, I wheeled around behind her and slid into her seat. Now I was finally in the set, and she was lurking awkwardly on the outside. This was the science of approaching perfectly executed, like a good game of chess.

"I just stole your chair," I laughed.

She smiled and punched me teasingly in the arm. The game had begun. "I'm just kidding," I continued. "Stay close. We'll try an ESP experiment. But I can only stay for a moment. Then you can have your chair back."

Even though I guessed her number wrong (it was ten), she still enjoyed the process. As we talked afterward, Mystery walked up to Sasha and told him to keep the black-haired woman occupied so she wouldn't pull my target away.

Marko was right: The girls were gorgeous here. They were also extremely bright and, much to my relief, spoke better English than I did. I truly enjoyed listening to this girl; she was captivating, well-read, and had an MBA.

When it came time to leave, I told her it would be great to see her again before I left. She pulled a pen from her purse and gave me her phone number. I could feel Mystery's approval—and the students' acceptance. Style was the real deal.

Sasha was still talking to the black-haired girl, so I whispered in his ear, "Tell her we have to go, and ask for her e-mail." He did and, lo and behold, she gave it to him.

We rejoined the group and left the cafe. Sasha was a new man. Flushed with excitement, he skipped down the street like a little boy, singing in Serbian. He was being, in his own awkward way, himself. He'd never gotten a girl's e-mail address before.

"I'm so happy," Sasha raved. "This is probably the best day of my life."

As anyone who regularly reads newspapers or true-crime books knows, a significant percentage of violent crime, from kidnappings to shooting sprees, is the result of the frustrated sexual impulses and desires of males. By socializing guys like Sasha, Mystery and I were making the world a safer place.

Mystery threw his arm around my neck and pulled my face into his wizard's overcoat. "You've done me proud," he said. "It's not just about getting the girl. It's about the students seeing it happen and believing it can be done."

It was then that I realized the downside to this whole venture. A gulf was opening between men and women in my mind. I was beginning to see women solely as measuring instruments to give me feedback on how I was progressing as a pickup artist. They were my crash-test dummies, identifiable only by hair colors and numbers—a blonde 7, a brunette 10. Even when I was having a deep conversation, learning about a woman's dreams and point of view, in my mind I was just ticking off a box in my routine marked rapport. In bonding with men, I was developing an unhealthy attitude toward the opposite sex. And the most troubling thing about this new mindset was that it seemed to be making me more successful with women.

Marko drove us to Ra, an Egyptian-themed nightclub guarded by two concrete statues of Anubis. Inside, it was nearly empty. There were just se curity guards, bartenders, and a group of nine noisy Serbians clustered on barstools around a small circular table.

We were about to leave when Mystery spied, among the group of Serbians, a lone girl. She was young and slender with long black hair and a red dress that showed off a set of perfectly tapered legs. It was an impossible set: She was surrounded by stocky guys with crewcuts. These were men who had clearly been in the military during the war, men who had probably killed before, maybe even with their bare hands. And Mystery was going in.

The pickup artist is the exception to the rule.

"Here," he told me. "Clasp your hands together. And when I say so, act as if you can't open them."

He pretended, through the art of illusion, to seal my hands together. I pretended to be amazed.

The commotion attracted the attention of the bouncers in the club, who asked him to try the feat with their hammy fists. Instead, Mystery performed his watch-stopping illusion for them. Soon, the club manager was giving him free drinks and the table of Serbians had halted their conversation and were gawking at him, including his target.

"If you can make a girl envy you," Mystery told the students, "you can make a girl sleep with you."

Two principles were at work. First, he was generating social proof by earning the attention and approval of the club staff. And, second, he was pawning—in other words, he was using one group to work his way into another, less approachable group nearby.

For his coup de grace, Mystery told the club manager he would levitate a beer bottle. He approached the table of Serbians, asked to borrow an empty bottle, and made it float in the air in front of him for a few seconds. Now he was in his target's group. He performed a few illusions for the guys and ignored the girl for the requisite five minutes. Then he relented, started talking to her, and isolated her to a couch nearby. He had pawned the entire club just to meet her.

Since the girl spoke only a little English, Mystery used Marko as a translator. It was a longer set than usual, because Mystery needed to convince her that he wasn't practicing any form of witchcraft or black magic. "Everything you've seen tonight is fake," Mystery finally told her, via Marko. "I created all this to meet you. It's a social illusion."

The two finally exchanged numbers—"I can't promise you anything other than good conversation," Mystery instructed Marko to tell her—and we collected the students to leave the club. However, on our way out, an AMOG from the table blocked Mystery's path. He wore a tight black T-shirt, exposing a physique that made Mystery's doughy body look feminine in comparison.

"So you like Natalija, magic man?" he asked.

"Natalija? We're going to be seeing each other. Is that okay with you?"

"She's my girlfriend," the AMOG said. "I want you to stay away from her."

"That's up to her," Mystery replied, taking a step closer to the AMOG. Mystery wasn't backing down. He was an idiot.

I looked at the AMOG's hands and wondered how many Croatian necks he had snapped in his day.

The AMOG lifted his waistband, exposing the black handle of a pistol. "So, magic man, can you bend this?" This was no invitation; it was a threat.

Marko turned to me, panicked. "He's going to get us killed," he said. "Most of the guys at these clubs are ex-soldiers and mobsters. Killing someone over a girl is nothing for them."

Mystery waved his hand over the AMOG's forehead. 'You saw me move that beer bottle without touching it," he said. "It weighs eight hundred grams. Now imagine what I could do to one tiny brain cell in your head." He snapped his fingers to indicate the pop of a brain cell.

The AMOG looked Mystery in the eyes to see if he was bluffing. Mystery held his eye contact. One second passed. Two seconds. Three. Four. Five. It was killing me. Eight. Nine. Ten. The AMOG lowered his shirt back over the gun.

Mystery had the advantage here: No one in Belgrade had ever seen a magician perform live before. They'd only been exposed to magic on television. So when Mystery disproved in an instant the belief that magic was just camera tricks, an older belief replaced it: the superstition that just maybe magic is real.

The AMOG stood there, silent, as Mystery walked out unscathed.

Ckapt&h

Some girls are different.

That's what Marko thought. After everything he'd seen during Mystery's workshop, he was in no way a convert. Goca wasn't like those other girls, he insisted. She came from a good family, she was well-educated, and she had morals, unlike that materialistic club trash.

I'd heard it all before from dozens of guys. And I'd heard just as many intelligent women say, "That wouldn't work on me," when I told them about the community. Yet minutes or hours later, I'd see them exchanging phone numbers—or saliva—with one of the boys. The smarter a girl is, the better it works. Party girls with attention deficit disorder generally don't stick around to hear the routines. A more perceptive, worldly, or educated girl will listen and think, and soon find herself ensnared.

And so it was that Mystery and I found ourselves out on New Year's Eve with Marko and his one-itis, Goca. Marko put on a gray suit, picked her up at 8:00 P.M., ran around and opened the car door for her, and handed her a dozen roses. She seemed like a bright, successful, well-bred girl. She was short with long chestnut hair, gentle eyes, and a smile that arced just a little wider on one side. Marko was right: She did look like the marrying kind.

The restaurant was traditional Serbian fare, heavy on the red peppers and red meat. And the music was pure anarchy: Four brass bands wandered the rooms, blaring a cacophony of overlapping parade marches. I watched Marko and Goca carefully all night, curious to see if this whole dating thing worked.

They sat next to each other awkwardly. Their interaction consisted only of the necessary formalities of the evening: the menu, the service, the atmosphere. "Ha ha, wasn't that funny when the waiter gave you my steak?" The tension was killing me.

It wasn't as if Marko was a natural. In grade school he'd never been that popular, largely on account of being foreign, having the nickname Pump-kinhead, and joining the Young Republican Club. By the time he had graduated, he was probably worse off than I was: At least I'd kissed a girl.

In college, he began taking steps toward relations with the opposite sex He purchased a leather jacket, invented an aristocratic background for himself, put Terence Trent D'Arby braids in his hair, and bought his first Mercedes-Benz. The effort earned him some attention, even a few female friends. But it wasn't until junior year that he was finally comfortable enough around women to start removing clothes with them, thanks largely to a younger student he befriended: Dustin. The taste of those first small victories was so sweet that Marko stayed in college for three more years, basking in his hard-won popularity.

One of Marko's more peculiar habits is that he takes hour-long showers every night. No one has ever come up with a plausible explanation of what he does in there, because nothing makes sense—masturbating, for example, doesn't take that long. If you have any theories, please send them to: [email protected]

After watching Marko sit uselessly next to Goca for an hour, I cracked. I grabbed my camera and ran Mystery's digital photo routine on the pair. I asked them to take a picture smiling, then one looking serious, and finally a passionate picture—kissing, for example. Marko stuck his neck out toward her, chicken-like, and pecked.

"No, a real kiss," I insisted, concluding the routine as the two would-be betrothed's lips bumped in what was the clumsiest first kiss I had ever witnessed.

After dinner, Mystery and I terrorized the two-room restaurant, dancing with the old men, performing magic tricks for the waiters, and flirting indiscriminately with the married women. When we returned to the table glowing, Goca's eyes met mine; for a moment they seemed to sparkle, as if searching for something in my gaze. I could swear it was an IOI.

That night, I was awoken by a warm body climbing under the covers. It was my turn to share the bed with Marko, but this wasn't Marko. It was a woman's body. I felt a pair of warm hands caress my newly shaven skull.

"Shh," she said, and sucked my upper lip into her mouth.

I pulled loose. "But what about Marko?"

"He's in the shower," she said.

"No," she said with a contempt that surprised me.

Goca and I had hit it off that night; so had Goca and Mystery. She had made a pass at Mystery earlier, and he'd pretended not to notice. But it was harder not to notice her when she was in my bed, in my nostrils, in my mouth. Sure, she'd had a few drinks, but alcohol has never caused anyone to do something they didn't want to. It only enables them to do what they've always wanted but repressed. And right now it looked like Goca wanted to be with a man who possessed all six of the five characteristics of an alpha male.

Logically, it's easy to say that it's wrong to sleep with a girl your friend is pursuing. But when her body is pressed against yours so submissively, and you can smell the conditioner in her hair (strawberry), and that storm cloud of passion created by her desire has begun gathering around the two of you, try saying no. It's just too ... right there.

I ran my hands beneath her hair and slowly dragged my fingernails upward along her scalp. A shiver of pleasure ran through her body. Our lips met, our tongues met, our chests met.

"Because of Marko."

"Marko?" she asked, as if she'd never heard the name before. "He's sweet, but he's just a friend."

"Listen," I said. "You should go. Marko will probably be out of the shower soon."

Fifty minutes later, Marko was out of the shower. I heard him and Goca arguing in Serbian in the hallway. A door slammed.

Marko walked wearily into the room and collapsed onto his half of the bed.

"Well?" I asked. He was never one to show much emotion.

"Well, I want to take Mystery's next workshop."

Ckapi&A

I couldn't bridge the fucking gap. There she was, my Bo Derek blonde with an MBA, sitting next to me on a couch at a cafe. Her thigh was grazing mine. She was playing with her hair. And I was wussing out.

The great Style, the apprentice PUA whose magnetism was so strong that it made Marko look like an AFC to his own true love, was still too scared to kiss a girl.

I had great opening game, but no follow through. I should have taken care of the problem before Belgrade. But it was too late. I was blowing it. I was scared of rejection, and of feeling uncomfortable afterward.

Mystery, in the meantime, was getting along just fine with Natalija, who was thirteen years his junior. They had nothing in common, not even a language. But there they were, sitting together. His legs were crossed and he was leaning back, letting her work to get his attention. She was leaning into him, with her hand on his knee.

I walked my date back to her house after coffee. Her parents weren't even home. All I had to say was, "Can I use the bathroom?," and I could have been upstairs. But my mouth wouldn't speak the words. Countless successful approaches had helped reduce my fear of social rejection and made me seem like a promising pickup artist to others, but inside I knew I was just an approach artist. To become a PUA, there was a far-more-devastating mental obstacle I still needed to overcome: my fear of sexual rejection.

In the course of my seduction research, I'd read Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. And I remembered how much work and persistence it had taken the aristocratic dandy Rodolphe Boulanger de la Huchette to get just a kiss from the unhappily married Madame Bovary. But once he persuaded her to submit the first time, it was all over. She was obsessed.

One of the tragedies of modern life is that women as a whole do not hold a lot of power in society, despite all the advances made in the last cerr tury. Sexual choice, however, is one of the only areas where women are indisputably in control. It's not until they've made a choice, and submitted to it, that the relationship is inverted—and the man is generally back in a posi tion of power over her. Perhaps that is why women, to the frustration of men everywhere, are so cautious about saying yes.

In order to excel at anything, there are always hurdles, obstacles, or challenges one must get past. It's what bodybuilders call the pain period. Those who push themselves, and are willing to face pain, exhaustion, humiliation, rejection, or worse, are the ones who become champions. The rest are left on the sidelines. To seduce a woman successfully, to inspire her to take the risk of saying yes, I would have to grow some balls and be willing to leave my comfort zone. And it was by watching Mystery win over Natalija that I learned this lesson.

"I just got a haircut," he told her as they left the cafe. "I have itchy hairs on my neck. I want to take a bath. Come wash me."

Natalija, predictably, said that seemed like a bad idea. "Oh, okay," he told her. "I gotta get going, because I need to take a bath. Bye."

As he walked away, her face fell. The thought that she might never see him again seemed to flash through her mind. This is what Mystery calls a false takeaway. He wasn't really leaving; he was just letting her think he was.

Mystery took five steps—counting as he went—then turned around and said, "I've been living in a shitty apartment for the past week. I'm going to get a hotel room right there and take a bath." He pointed to the Hotel Moskva down the street. "You can come with me or just get an e-mail from me in two weeks when I return to Canada."

Natalija hesitated for a moment, then followed him.

And that's when I realized the mistake I'd been making my whole life: to get a woman, you have to be willing to risk losing her.

When I returned to the house, Marko was packing.

"I'm in shock," Marko said. "I tried to do everything right. Goca was my last hope for all women."

"So what are you doing? Moving to a monastery?"

"No, I'm driving to Moldova."

"Moldova?"

"Yeah, all the most beautiful girls in Eastern Europe come from Moldova."

"Where's that?"

"It's a tiny country that used to be part of Russia. Everything there is dirt-cheap. Just being American is enough to get you laid."

My philosophy is, if someone wants to go to a country I've never heard of and there's not a bloody revolution in progress there, I'm game. Life is short and the world is large.

Between us, we didn't know a single person who'd ever been to Moldova or could even pronounce the name of its capital, Chisinau. So I couldn't think of a better reason to drive there. I like the idea of filling in a colored shape on a map with real fact, feeling, and experience. And traveling with Mystery would be a perk. We would have adventures everywhere, the kind I'd always dreamed about.

QhaphiA

There are few moments in life as shot through with potential as that of having a car, a full tank of gas, a map of an entire continent spread out in front of you, and the best pickup artist in the world in your back seat. You feel like you can go anywhere you want. What are borders, after all, but checkpoints letting you know that you've reached a new stage in your adventure?

Well, all this may be true most of the time, but let's say you're working at Rand McNally, finishing the latest edition of your map of Eastern Europe. And let's say there's a tiny country bordering Moldova—perhaps a renegade Communist state—but no other government recognizes this country diplomatically, or in pretty much any other way. What do you do? Do you include the country on your map or not?

A magician, a faux aristocrat, and I were driving across Eastern Europe when we quite accidentally discovered the answer to this question. It had been a fruitless drive so far. Mystery was slumped in the back seat underneath a blanket, unable to conjure his way out of a fever. Oblivious to the dramatic snowy Romanian landscape that passed by each day, he covered his eyes with his hat and complained. Every so often, he'd leap to alertness and disgorge the contents of his mind. And every time the contents of his mind were another map of sorts.

"My plan is to tour North America and promote my shows in strip clubs," he said. "I just need to come up with a good illusion for strippers. You can be my assistant, Style. Imagine that: You and I touring strip clubs and taking all the girls to the show the next day."

After a couple of uneventful days in Chisinau—where the only beautiful women we saw were on magazine covers and billboards—we figured, "Why stop there?" Odessa was so close. Maybe the adventure we were seeking lay further ahead.

So we left Chisinau on a cold, snowy Friday and drove northeast to the Ukrainian border. The snow-blanketed roads out of the city were recognizable only by icy tire tracks stretching into the horizon. The vista looked like a scene from an epic Russian romance, with tree branches coated with crys tallized ice and frozen wine groves running along the hilly landscape. The car reeked of Marlboro smoke and McDonald's grease; every time it stalled, it became trickier to restart.

But soon, all of that was the least of our problems. What looked on the map like a forty-five-minute trip to Odessa ended up taking nearly ten hours.

The first sign that something unusual was afoot came when we reached a bridge over the Dniester River and found a military checkpoint complete with several army and police vehicles, camouflaged bunkers on either side of the road, and an immense tank with its barrel pointing in the direction of oncoming traffic. We stopped in a line of ten cars, but a military officer directed us around the queue and waved us through the checkpoint. Why? We will never know.

Mystery wrapped himself tighter in his blanket in the back seat. "I have a version of the knife-through-body illusion I want to do. Style, do you think you can dress up as a clown and heckle me from the audience? Then I'm going to bring you onstage and push you into a chair. I'll play 'Stuck In the Middle With You' from Reservoir Dogs while I put my fist straight through your stomach. I'll wiggle my fingers when they reach the other side. Then I'm going to lift you straight up, out of the chair, impaled on my arm. I need you to do that with me."

The second sign that something was not quite right came when we stopped by a gas station to stock up on snack food. When we offered them Moldovan lei, they told us they didn't accept that currency. We paid in American dollars, and they gave us change in what they said were rubles. When we examined the coins, we noticed that each had a large hammer-and-sickle on the back. Even stranger, they had been minted in 2000: nine years after the Soviet Union had supposedly collapsed.

Mystery pulled his hat down to just above his mouth, which was moving with the grandiosity of a carnival barker. "Ladies and gentlemen," he announced from the back seat as Marko worked to start the car, "he levitated over the Niagara Falls, he jumped off the Space Needle and survived... presenting superstar daredevil illusionist, Mystery!"

I guess his fever was breaking.

As we drove on, Marko and I began to see Lenin statues and communist posters through the car window. One billboard depicted a tiny sliver of land with a Russian flag on its left and, on its right, a red and green flag with a slogan beneath. Marko, who spoke some Russian, translated it as a call for a Soviet Re-union. Where were we?

"Imagine this: Mystery the superhero." Mystery wiped his nose with a shredded tissue. "There could be a Saturday morning cartoon, a comic book, an action figure, and a feature film."

Suddenly, a police officer (or at least someone dressed as one) stepped into the road in front of the car with a radar detector in his hand. We'd been driving ninety kilometers an hour, he told us—ten over the speed limit. After twenty minutes and a two-dollar bribe, he let us go. We slowed down to seventy-five, but a few minutes later we were pulled over again. This officer also told us we were speeding. Though there were no signs, he claimed that the speed limit had changed half a kilometer back.

Ten minutes and two dollars later, we were on our way again, crawling at fifty-five just to be safe. In short order, we were pulled over and told we were driving below the minimum speed. Wherever we were, it was the most corrupt country on earth.

"I need to figure out my ninety-minute show. It will begin with a raven flying into the audience and landing on the stage. Then—boom—it will turn into me."

When we finally reached the border, two armed soldiers asked for our papers. We showed our Moldovan visas, and that was when we were told that we were no longer in Moldova. They showed us the local passport—an old Soviet document—and yelled something in Russian. Marko translated: They wanted us to drive back to the military checkpoint on the bridge we had crossed three police bribes ago and obtain the proper documents.

"I will dress as Mystery, with platform boots and the works. I won't wear suits anymore. I will be goth and club cool. I will tell the audience how as a child I'd play with my brother in the attic and dream about being a magician. Then I'll go back in time and turn into a child."

When Marko told a border guard there was no way we were going back to the bridge, he pulled out his gun and pointed it at Marko. Then he asked for cigarettes.

"Where are we?" Marko asked.

With pride, the guard answered back, "Pridnestrovskaia."

If you've never have heard of Pridnestrovskaia (or Trans-Dniester, in English), don't worry: neither had we. Trans-Dniester is neither recognized diplomatically nor mentioned in any of the guide books or maps we carried.

But when there's a border guard pressing a pistol into your waist, well, suddenly Pridnestrovskaia seems very real.

"I'll do a science experiment where I transport a lab technician over the Internet. Then the finale will be a bank heist and cage vanish. So I need a male kid, a raven, you, someone to play the lab technician, and a couple people to be bank guards."

Marko gave the guard his entire pack of Marlboros and started arguing with him. The guard didn't lower his gun once. After a long exchange, Marko yelled something and thrust out his hands as if asking to be handcuffed. Instead, the guard turned and disappeared into an office. When Marko returned to the car, I asked him what he had said.

"I said, 'Listen, just arrest me. I'm not going back.'"

This was getting ugly.

Mystery thrust his head over the seat partition. "Imagine this. A poster of just my hands, with black nails, and the word Mystery at the bottom. How amazing would that be?"

For the first time, I lost it with him. "Dude, this is not the fucking time. Open your eyes."

"Don't tell me what to do," he snapped.

"We're about to get thrown in jail. No one wants to hear your shit right now. Does nothing exist except for you and your fucking magic show?"

"Listen, if you want to go at it, I'll go at it," he thundered. "I'll take you down right now. Just step out of the fucking car, and I'll deal with you."

The guy was a foot taller than me, and the border crossing was full of armed soldiers. There was no way I was going to tangle with him. But I was angry enough to consider it. Mystery had been dead weight this entire trip. Maybe Marko was right: Mystery wasn't one of us. He hadn't gone to the Latin School of Chicago.

I took a deep breath and stared straight ahead, trying to contain my rage. The guy was a narcissist. He was a flower that bloomed with attention— be it positive or negative—and wilted when ignored. Peacock theory wasn't just to attract girls. It existed first and foremost to attract attention. Even picking a fight with me was just another plea for attention, because I'd been ignoring him for the past hundred miles.

When I glanced at the rearview mirror and saw him pouting in the back seat with his hat pulled over his eyes, however, I actually began to feel bad for him. "I didn't mean to snap at you," I told him.

"I don't like it when someone tells me what to do. My dad used to tell me what to do. And I hate him."

"Thank God for that. He ruined my life and my mom's life." He pulled his hat up. Tears lay over his eyes like contact lenses, unable to escape on their own. "I used to lie in bed at night, thinking of ways to kill my dad. When I got really depressed, I'd imagine going to his bedroom with a shovel, smashing his head in, and then killing myself."

He paused and wiped his eyes with the back of his gloved hand. "When I think of my father, I think of violence," he continued. "I remember seeing him punch people in the face when I was really young. When we had to kill our dog, he took a gun out and blew its head off right in front of me."

The border guard emerged from an office and motioned for Marko to step out of the car. They spoke for several minutes; then Marko handed him several bills. While we waited to see if our bribe of forty dollars—the equivalent of one month's salary in Trans-Dniester—was effective, Mystery opened up to me.

His father, he said, was an alcoholic German immigrant who verbally and physically abused him. His brother, who was fourteen years older than him, was gay. And his mother blamed herself for smothering his brother with love to make up for her husband's abuse. So, to compensate, she was emotionally distant from Mystery. When he was still a virgin at age twenty-one, he began to worry that maybe he was gay. So, in a bout of depression, he began formulating what would become the Mystery Method, dedicating his life to pursuing the love he never received from his parents.

It took two more bribes of equivalent sum, spread between two other officials, to grease our way across the border. It was never enough for them just to accept the money. Each separate bribe took an hour and a half of discussion. Maybe they were just trying to give Mystery and I more time to get to know each other.

When we finally reached Odessa, we asked our hotel clerk about TransDniester. She explained that the country was the result of a civil war in Moldova, triggered largely by former communist apparatchiks, military elite, and black berets who wanted to return to the glory days of the Soviet Union. It was a place with no rules—the Wild West of the Eastern bloc and a country few foreigners dared to visit.

When Marko told her about our experience at the border, she said, "You shouldn't have asked them to arrest you."

"Because they don't have jails there."

"Then what would they have done with us?"

She shaped her fingers into a gun, pointed them at Marko, and said, "Pow."

When we returned to Belgrade, driving some five hundred miles out of our way to avoid Trans-Dniester, Marko's voice mail was full. Mystery's seventeen-year-old, Natalija, had left a dozen messages. Mystery phoned her back, but the call was intercepted by her mother, who cussed him out for hijacking her daughter's mind.

Natalija continued to call Marko after Mystery and I flew home, asking when he was going to come back for her. Finally, Marko put her out of her misery. "He was a wizard," he told her. "He put a spell on you. Get some help and stop calling me."

Marko e-mailed me constantly in the months that followed, asking for a password to Mystery's Lounge. He had tasted the forbidden fruit and wanted more. But I never let him in. At the time, I thought it was because I wanted to keep my new identity separate from my past. But the truth was that, despite all my rationalizations, I still felt embarrassed by what I was doing and the degree to which I was letting it consume my life.

Ckapbh

MSN GROUP: Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Sticking Point AUTHOR: Style

I'm hitting a sticking point, which I hope you all can help me get past.

Mystery and I just returned from Belgrade, where I met a beautiful, intelligent girl who probably would have been my Serbian girlfriend if it weren't for my sticking point I'm having huge trouble kiss-closing.

For some reason, transitioning to the kiss is a big hurdle for me. I'll feel the window open, and then instantly I start thinking all the "what-ifs"—"what if she rejects me," "what if I ruin the rapport we have," "what about that thing she said about her ex-boyfriend." Then either I build up too much anxiety and go for it tentatively (and fuck up), or the window closes and I miss if and get pissed at myself.

So what's my problem? I'm so damn close to that golden ring of PUA-dom, but this little sticking point is holding me back.

MSN GROUP: Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Re: Sticking Point AUTHOR: Nightlight9

What if she reacts me? Yeah, and what if a meteor hits your house.

You asked how to tell if she's ready. The way to tell is the other three-second rule. It works 100 percent of the time. While sitting close, just let the conversation trail off Look her in the eye while you pause the conversation. If she looks back for a count of three seconds, she wants to kiss. The uncomfort-ableness you may experience is my favorite thing in the whole world—sexual tension.

—Nightlight9

MSN GROUP: Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Re: Sticking Point AUTHOR: Maddash

I've never had a woman over to my place in a one-on-one situation who I didn't at least kiss-close. Here is my routine.

1. I have her come over to pick me up and only let her stay a couple minutes.This is because it's a lot easier to get a woman back to your house at the end of the night if you've already had her over and nothing has happened.

2. At the end of the date, I invite her back to my place and pour drinks.

3. If she notices my guitar (it is prominently placed], I pick it up and play her a song.

4. We play with my puppy.

5. I show her the rooftop.

6. I bring her back to the apartment and show her the Winamp music program on my computer while I sit her down on my lap. While she's playing with the visualizations in Winamp, I kiss her on the cheek.

7. She either turns and kisses me on the lips, or she continues playing with Winamp. If she hesitates, I just show her more things on the computer and then kiss her on the cheek again. She wants to be directed and ordered about. That is what almost all women want.

8. You can figure out the rest. —Maddash

MSN GROUP Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Re: Sticking Point AUTHOR: Grimble

One of my favorite closing routines is massage. When we're back at my place, I tell her I'm sore from playing basketball and need a back massage. But during the massage, I constantly tell her she's doing it all wrong. Finally, I pretend to be exasperated and insist on showing her how its done. While massaging her back, I tell her she carries a lot of tension in her legs and that I give amazing leg massages to my friends. I start to massage her through her pants, but then tell her to remove them because they're getting in the way. If you act as if you are the authority, she will not question you.

At first, I stick to the legs. But, slowly, I work my way up to her buttocks. When she begins to get turned on, I begin rubbing her through her panties until she's dripping wet. At this point, I usually just unbutton my pants, put on a condom, and start fucking her without kissing or actual foreplay. This technique is not for the timid.

—Grimble

MSN GROUP Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Re: Sticking Point AUTHOR: Mystery

Want to know how I solve this problem? I don't just say, "I don't care what she thinks." I actually don't care what she thinks. When I was younger, this was such a big deal for me. But now, whether I get it or not, I am still the guy who goes for it.

It helps to just think of the girl as practice. If the fear is still there inside, just say, "Phase-shift! Im now a caveman! Im no longer Style. Lets see if she hates me. If so, fuck it. I don't give a shit."

Look back to girls you didn't caveman, and they aren't in your life. So fucking what? Do you care that she has a fond memory of some guy she met six months ago while a caveman is now fucking her? You gotta actually hit on her sometime. Say, "Stick your tongue out." Then suck on it. If she slaps you, good! That story would rock.

Maddash talked about how using well-chosen props are a great way to focus a girl's attention on something else so she doesn't resist overt sexual moves. I agree. Say, "Look at the puppet show over there," while you play with her tits. If she hesitates about the tit-play, simply point to the puppets and laugh, "Look at the puppets. Look, they are funny puppets." Then play with the tits again.

—Mystery

MSN GROUP Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Sticking Point Solved AUTHOR: Style

Thanks for all your help. I think I finally figured out a solution. The answer came to me out of the blue a week ago, and I've field-tested it successfully nearly every night since.

It struck me when I was sitting at the Standard with an Irish girl who told me she married young, recently divorced, and now craves adventure. When I started to get IOIs, I thought about your posts. I realized that if I lunged for her, she'd be startled and reject me. So I decided to take baby steps in the direction of kissing while doing something like Mystery's puppet show and talking logically the whole time. Lo and behold, it worked, as it has ever since. Problem solved.

Here's what I did—the evolution phase-shift routine:

1. I leaned in and told her she smelled good. I asked her what perfume she was wearing, and then discussed how animals always sniff each other before they mate and how we're evolutionary wired to feel aroused when someone smells us.

2. Then I discussed how lions bite each other's mane during sex, and how pulling the back of the hair is another evolutionary trigger. As I spoke, I ran my hand up the back of her neck, grabbed a fistful of hair at the roots, and pulled it firmly downward.

3. She didn't seem upset, so I pushed further. I told her how the most sensitive parts of the body are usually hidden from contact with the air—for example, where the arm bends on the other side of the elbow. Then I took her arm, bent

MSN GROUP Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Re: Sticking Point AUTHOR: Grimble

One of my favorite closing routines is massage. When we're back at my place, I tell her I'm sore from playing basketball and need a back massage. But during the massage, I constantly tell her she's doing it all wrong. Finally, I pretend to be exasperated and insist on showing her how its done. While massaging her back, I tell her she carries a lot of tension in her legs and that I give amazing leg massages to my friends. I start to massage her through her pants, but then tell her to remove them because they're getting in the way. If you act as if you are the authority, she will not question you.

At first, I stick to the legs. But, slowly, I work my way up to her buttocks. When she begins to get turned on, I begin rubbing her through her panties until she's dripping wet. At this point, I usually just unbutton my pants, put on a condom, and start fucking her without kissing or actual foreplay. This technique is not for the timid.

—Grimble

MSN GROUP: Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Re: Sticking Point AUTHOR Mystery

Want to know how I solve this problem? | don't just say, "I don't care what she thinks." I actually don't care what she thinks. When I was younger, this was such a big deal for me. But now, whether I get it or not, I am still the guy who goes for it.

It helps to just think of the girl as practice. If the fear is still there inside, just say, "Phase-shift! Im now a caveman! Tm no longer Style. Lets see if she hates me. If so, fuck it. I don't give a shit."

Look back to girls you didn't caveman, and they aren't in your life. So fucking what? Do you care that she has a fond memory of some guy she met six months ago while a caveman is now fucking her? You gotta actually hit on her sometime. Say, "Stick your tongue out." Then suck on it. If she slaps you, good! That story would rock.

Maddash talked about how using well-chosen props are a great way to focus a girl's attention on something else so she doesn't resist overt sexual moves. I agree. Say, "Look at the puppet show over there," while you play with her tits. If she hesitates about the tit-play, simply point to the puppets and laugh, "Look at the puppets. Look, they are funny puppets." Then play with the tits again.

—Mystery

MSN GROUP Mystery's Lounge SUBJECT: Sticking Point Solved AUTHOR: Style

Thanks for all your help. I think I finally figured out a solution. The answer came to me out of the blue a week ago, and I've field-tested it successfully nearly every night since.

It struck me when I was sitting at the Standard with an Irish girl who told me she married young, recently divorced, and now craves adventure. When I started to get IOIs, I thought about your posts. I realized that if I lunged for her, she'd be startled and reject me. So I decided to take baby steps in the direction of kissing while doing something like Mystery's puppet show and talking logically the whole time. Lo and behold, it worked, as it has ever since. Problem solved.

Here's what I did—the evolution phase-shift routine:

1. I leaned in and told her she smelled good. I asked her what perfume she was wearing, and then discussed how animals always sniff each other before they mate and how we're evolutionary wired to feel aroused when someone smells us.

2. Then I discussed how lions bite each other's mane during sex, and how pulling the back of the hair is another evolutionary trigger. As I spoke, I ran my hand up the back of her neck, grabbed a fistful of hair at the roots, and pulled it firmly downward.

3. She didn't seem upset, so I pushed further. I told her how the most sensitive parts of the body are usually hidden from contact with the air—for example, where the arm bends on the other side of the elbow. Then I took her arm, bent if a little, and erotically bit the crease on the opposite side of the elbow. She said it gave her the chills.

4. Afterward, 1 said, "But do you know what the best thing in the world is? A bite . . . right. . . here." I pointed to the side of my neck. Then I said, "Bite my neck," as if I expected her to do it. She refused to at first, so I turned away calmly to punish her. I waited a few seconds, then turned back and repeated, "Bite me right here." This time, she did. It was cat-string theory in action.

5. However, her bite was lame. So I told her, "That's not how you bite. Come here." Then I swept her hair aside, gave her a good bite on the neck, and instructed her to try again. This time, she did a great job.

6. I smiled approvingly and said, very slowly, "Not bad." Then we finally kissed.

We had a few more drinks, then I took her to my place. After a brief tour, I did a Maddash move and had her sit on my lap while showing her a video on the computer. I massaged and kissed the back of her neck until she turned around and started making out with me. Then she asked if she could lie on the floor for a second. I laid down next to her and—guess what happened—she passed out. Cold!

I took off her shoes, threw a blanket over her, put a pillow under her head, and climbed into my own warm bed.

So the joke was on me, but at least I get it now. All it took was one night, really, to get to the other side of this.

I am ready, finally, for the next step.

Continue reading here: 1

Was this article helpful?

0 0