By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Survivalists believe the worst about human nature,” he says as the photographer snaps his picture on a shrubby hill behind the garage. He baked a chicken in a pit here with hot rocks for one of his weekly survivalist dinner parties. It smelled delicious but took too long, so his guests called out for pizza while they waited. “It seems like there are two types of people, and your view of human nature determines your path. There are the misanthropic survivalist guys and the permaculture-movement guys who create self-sustaining communities. I’m the permaculture guy who’s got his guns hidden in the cellar. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. Like my dad said. I have the guns, and I don’t know how I feel about them.”
“Less tense,” the photographer instructs.
“Sorry,” says Strauss, rearranging his face. “Like this?”
“Anything but wimpy nerdy. Give me tough, rugged.”
In the garage, there are piles of Crystal Geyser, Tupperware bins filled with military MREs, cans of kerosene, a Kevlar vest, empty ammo canisters, a pruning saw, a spade, Thermo-Gel to spray on his roof in case of wildfires, and a Rokon motorcycle with wheels that are hollow so you can store gas in it.
“Dude,” said his survivalist friends, “if you’re gonna escape on your motorcycle, people are gonna try to jack it.” Which led to Strauss learning Krav Maga. There are endless techniques to learn because the litany of things that can go wrong is limited only by your imagination.
“The demon is known by the name of Just in Case,” he writes in the book. “It has many heads. And the more fear you have, the more heads you see.”
He surveys the largess and scratches his head. “My original plan was just to get a second country,” he says.
You mean purchase a country?
“No, no, get a second citizenship.”
Things he was naturally good at include lock-picking and disappearing into a crowd. Things he was naturally terrible at include camping and being cold.
“The things I’m worst at, I study the most.” Strauss would, for instance, like to keep studying pain resistance. As a final test, the instructor throws you into a pit with an angry wild boar. (“I probably won’t do that.”) He also throws darts at you. (“I kind of want to do that.”)
After a while, he drives to a pet store in Granada Hills to buy the goats some hay. He is allergic to the hay he already bought. Plus, the goats are munching on the corner of his shirt. On the way there, Strauss’ cell phone rings with the tune from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. There’s a message from a guy who read The Game and wants to know a good pickup line to meet girls at the airport.
“I get hundreds of these a day,” Strauss says. “I can’t answer them all, but every now and then one will break my heart and I’ll relent.”
“Do you guys have heat lamps?” he asks the sales clerk at the pet store. Strauss is planning to raise chickens for eggs.
“Do you know where they would be?”
“Somewhere. In the back.”
Strauss sighs and walks to the back. “Remind me to show you my license to carry a concealed weapon when we go to pay,” he mutters to me.
By evening, outfitted in a blue search-and-rescue volunteer uniform that makes him look like a cop, he drives out to a California Emergency Mobile Patrol meeting. Strauss is an EMT and has enough supplies in his car to keep him alive for a week, which, given the state of Los Angeles freeways, will come in handy even if the world does not end. At the meeting in the Devonshire police station, he isn’t Neil Strauss, best-selling author who can seduce any woman on the planet. He’s just Neil Strauss, guy who finally passed the CEMP probationary period, guy who can jump-start your heart if you happen to fibrillate. “I really do like this stuff. If I wasn’t a writer,” he says, grinning, “I’d probably be a paramedic.”