By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The man whose own press materials call him “the world’s most legendary pickup artist” was having trouble getting to second base.
“The damn goat wouldn’t let me get to the udders,” Neil Strauss is saying. “You’d think I’d have at least gotten to the udders, considering.”
Considering that he’s America’s most famous writer dweeb turned seduction specialist, considering that he’s the author of the New York Times best-seller The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, considering that he runs Stylelife.com, which he calls “the world’s first online academy for attraction ...”
But the object of his attentions, an actual goat, wasn’t buying Strauss’ openers. Granted, he wasn’t interested in the goat romantically, he just wanted her milk. His cleaning lady, who showed not the least bit of surprise that he had a goat running around his house, finally came to the rescue and taught him some moves. Now he is an expert at milking a goat.
There are, by Strauss’ own estimate, 100,000 pickup artists waiting to see what he’ll do next. How they’ll react to him milking a goat or, for that matter, drinking fish spinal fluid to combat dehydration is anyone’s guess. But Strauss doesn’t have time to worry about that — his new game is all about learning to survive not dating disasters but actual life-threatening, end-days disasters, an obsession that brings plenty of its own worries.
Four years ago, what with Bush’s reelection, and Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina — with its images of bodies floating down rivers — Strauss started to worry about his country. Psychic trauma in response to global crisis, of course, is a standard writerly rite of passage — most end up with a novel. Strauss, on the other hand, stocked up on firearms and canned food and began preparing in earnest for the Apocalypse. As he puts it, “I started doing stuff, then thought, crap, I better write a book about this, I’m spending so much time on it.” His misadventures in catastrophe training are chronicled in the memoir Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, which he recently finished editing.
Having learned how to survive earthquakes, biochemical attacks, nuclear winter and being stranded at sea, Strauss is now trying to navigate his way through one of the most trying aspects of book publishing, the part that makes many authors want to lie down and die: that is to say, promoting the book.
“The thing about survival is that it’s really selfish. So I’m going to hoard all my supplies and sit on them with my shotgun,” he says as he waits for a newspaper photographer at his home in Laurel Canyon. “You have to do extreme things.”
Extreme like eat another human being? “You know, I’ll probably be asked that. I’ll have to get used to it.”
The cannibal question reminds him of when he was out in the forest, learning advanced knife skills with a survivalist named Mad Dog. His girlfriend, Katie, refused to join them.
“She’s a survival liability,” Strauss remembers apologizing to Mad Dog.
“Not necessarily,” said Mad Dog. “She’s an excellent source of protein.”
In the kitchen, standing next to jars of strawberry preserves he preserved himself, Strauss chews on a piece of beef jerky he jerked himself. Surviving keeps you busy, whether you’re setting up false identities, burying supplies of fuel along your escape route to Malibu Lake, desalinating seawater off Catalina Island, or milking goats for your morning coffee. Three goats, a mama and two kids he delivered himself, now wander around his house.
“Hey, Christine,” he hollers to his assistant upstairs, “do you know where my schedule is?”
“You mean what to do in what order? When you were doing nature walks and eating dandelion soup?”
“Wine,” he says, feeding one of the baby goats pieces of Brussels sprouts, “it was dandelion wine.”
As his schedule is procured, one goat clambers over his ivory bouclé sofa and Noguchi coffee table and puts her cloven hooves up on the kitchen counter, as if she’s about to order a cocktail. “I know, I know,” he says, looking at her, “it’s surreal, right?”
He is sensitive about the goats. He will not have his photo taken with them. He feels guilty. Mostly because he slit a goat’s throat as part of his survival training.
On the whole, Strauss is much more the lover than executioner. Out in the wilderness, when it came down to it, there were some raccoons he could have hunted, but they were too cute to eat. “There were acorns I was going to survive on, but the squirrels beat me to it.” He was going to make a blowgun out of the stem of a plant he found, which turned out to be hemlock.
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