Personal Renewal and Empire State of Mind


By Wayne Elise

Version en español de este articulo.

Erika and I attended a Jay-Z concert last week. Empire State of Mind brings tears to my eyes. I love that song.

I remember saying years ago I would never live in New York City. "It's too loud, too crowded, too in love with itself. I hate Jay-Z. Why can't he wear his hat the right way?"

Funny, how time can erode our opinions. These days, I'm New York's bitch.

How did that happened?…

Well, one day I had my life plotted ahead. It belonged to me like a credit card with my name on it. I walked around feeling smug about it. Then the next day I was standing in line at the coffee shop, I reached into my back pocket and it was gone! I dropped to my knees.

That was three years ago. I experienced a major plot turn. Bang! My wife was gone. House gone. Money gone. The Formica dining-room set I was so proud of was being carried out the door by a short Bruce Willis.

"Need help?" I asked.

"Yippee ki-yah mother fucker," was all he said.

My future was wiped out in a nuclear blast. The movie screen burst into over-exposure as the shockwave engulfed the camera. A few minutes later the scene came back. I walked around confused. What are these ashes floating in the air, coating the trees and the cars? Oh right, those are the incinerated details of my life.

I only had myself to blame.

"You should listen to that Beyonce song," Marie said. "It's called 'If I Were A Boy'."

I found it on iTunes. The message was clear. I was an asshole - prick, uncaring, self-serving, self-involved, not fit for husbandly duty.

"But…" I said.

She cut me off. "No."

"The thing is…"


"Wait. I'm Wayne Elise, I understand things most people don't. I can fix this. Just listen."

She listened as I talked. Then she said, "Okay. But no. I'm leaving."



I tapped the microphone. "Is this thing on? Oh, I guess it is." *sigh*

Imagine rolling around on the floor with the wind taken out of you.

But don't feel sorry for me. I'm just setting the scene. This isn't that kind of story.

An unusual thing happens to us when we lose everything. Sometimes, at the bottom of the well, we talk to the bugs down there, "So this is as bad as it gets, eh Shelob?" We take a deep breath. "I can handle this." Then we begin to laugh. And laugh and laugh.

I laughed for a month. I weened myself into single life with the help of a skinny girl named Amanda. And then I unrolled a world map on the floor. I could go anywhere. But the destination was obvious. New York. A beacon hung over the city. It's the creative people capital of the world. And the single people capital of the world. And the hot girl capital of the world. Men, do you want to meet a famous Brazilian fashion model? Don't bother flying to Rio. She lives in Manhattan.

Selling my house in Ann Arbor, I would take a loss. I wouldn't see my friends or family. But I didn't have to think twice - I signed the papers, loaded my futon into a Uhaul and drove East.

New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of There's nothin' you can't do Now you're in New York These streets will make you feel brand new Big lights will inspire you Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York…

Sometimes places are just places, and things are just things. But sometimes they can become more. Way more. They can become symbols of commitment.

Look up the street and into the distance. See that person walking up there, ahead of you? That's future-you. That person is important - not someone to just be thrown a thumbs-up, but someone who deserves to be ran after. "Hey Future-Me. Wait. I want you to have this gift. I think you can use it."

"Thanks. Just set it on the ground and I'll pick it up. I'm pretty sure the Universe will explode if we touch each other."

"Oh yeah, right. We should probably be careful about that. Here you go. See you later. By the way, you look great. Have you been working out?"

So what do you give yourself? Think big. Something like a new city or new career or new skill, maybe a tattoo, maybe honest words with your boss, maybe you should write a love note to that hottie you've been pinning over.

People's brains have been conditioned by video games. In real life we don't have second, third and fourth lives. This is it. Miss your opportunity to 'go for it' and you won't get another. Take a jog through a graveyard if you need a reminder. Nothing like hanging with the dead to appreciate the opportunities given the living.

Your present conditions might not be conducive to making a change. I understand. Make it anyway. Be willing to take losses. Every chapter in every good book starts with the fucked-up ending of the one before. Be willing to burn a bridge. Throw stuff out. You don't need to carry all that around. Be nimble on your feet - able to cut left, dive right, move ahead.

I became a new person in Manhattan. My work suffered as my focus shifted to my personal life. I no longer felt inspired to teach guys to pick up girls. Instead I spent my time picking up girls… asian girls, black girls, fashion girls, actor girls, NYU girls, threesomes with French girls. I was in love with the abundance of the city.

'City of sin, it's a pity on the wind Good girls gone bad, the city's filled with them.'

Manhattan is the only place where you'll hear a guy say he's taking a break from women. Neil Strauss stayed in my apartment for a few days. One night we got into a heated discussion at the Meatball Shop.

"Are you still performing routines to pick up chicks?" I asked.

He set his fork down, "Maybe these things I do aren't necessary for you. But from where I sit, I don't see them being something I can leave behind."

How could he not see? Women in NYC want to experience adventure. That's why they move there. Twenty four step methods for managing women into bed can only be counter-productive. New York is too fast-paced, too direct for that.

I did some dumb things in New York. I chose to fall for this girl who was in an open-relationship with her husband. They would have me over for dinner to their apartment in Brooklyn. She'd cook dinner, we'd play Rock Band on the Xbox, then he'd go to bed while she and I would hook up on the couch. I stabbed those two in the back, there's no easy way to say it. I see her now on You Tube being the hot girl in music videos.

I met an Asian girl while she was on a date with another guy. This girl aced MIT and worked for Google in the City. We slept together and then I pimped her out to my friends. She broke down on me during a trip to London. She sobbed lying next to me in the hotel room in the dark.

"I thought this was what you wanted," I said. "New York women love adventures."

"You don't know anything about women," she said. "I really want to be in a relationship. I want a guy who's young, skinny, good-looking and white. He also needs to be successful. I'm afraid I'll never find that." She broke out in more sobbing.

"I'm not any of those things," I said. "Why did you hook up with me?"

"I don't know."

We're all children making our way through life. Your renewal might be messy. You might get wet, splash other people, get water up your nose. That's okay. Collateral damage is a consequence of living an ambitious life.

One night it rained more than I had ever seen in New York. The storm sewers overflowed. The street corners became lakes. Taxis slowed to a crawl. I found my umbrella and boots. I love walking in the rain. There's something isolating and thoughtful about it. Some of my best ideas come while walking in the rain.

As I walked, I thought about the foundation of what makes a man attractive to women. It's akin to being a good tango dancer. Women avoid dancing with the guy who's shaking his hips, gesticulating and spinning. They want to dance with the guy who effortlessly makes his partners look good. He supports women and guides them, but never forces them. A woman can pour herself into the dance with him and it feels easy. She can be her sexy-best. Few men understand that. It's not about you. It's about her.

Looking up, I found I had walked to Ludlow street. I stopped in front of an Italian restaurant called Trē. My stomach growled. A bowl of pasta sounded good. The restaurant looked appealing - intimate. But I hesitated. I couldn't see any customers through the window but only a couple of women standing behind the bar.

"Why don't you go in?" said a rat perched atop a trash can lid floating by in the water. "Try something new. That's what you came to the city for right?"

"Yeah, but if I go in there, being the only customer, I'll have to talk to those women for sure. If they're boring, if I'm boring, I'll be trapped."

"Geez, what sort of conversational expert do you call yourself? I'm sure you can handle it." He snatched a passing, floating stick out of the water and used it to punt his boat away. He sang a verse from 'Carmen' as he disappeared down the street.

I decided to forget the restaurant and go home. I walked away. But then I walked back. This is stupid. What was I afraid of? I crossed the street, opened the door and stepped in. I tried to collapse my umbrella but got it hung up on the door. I fought with it a bit, got it closed, and turned to the two women who were there looking at me - one smiling, the other looking aloof.

"You can put your umbrella in the can over there." the smiling one said.

I dropped the umbrella and found a seat at the bar.

"What would you like to drink?"

"I'd actually like some food if that's possible please."

"Sure. You're brave coming out in this weather. But glad you did."

I smiled. "Gracious."

"That's funny, " she said. "I'm learning Spanish. I just got Rosetta Stone."

"I want to get that again," I said. "I started to learn Spanish with it but then Bruce Willis took my computer."


"Never mind."

The other woman said nothing to me. But I thought she was beautiful and exotic - white skin, green eyes, black hair. She spoke to the smiling woman with an accent I couldn't place. My guess was she was Czechoslovakian. The two of them laughed at some inside joke. 'Oh,' I realized, 'she could smile after all.'

"How about you?" I said to her. "How's your Spanish?"

She just looked at me as if I was stupid. 'Perfect of course. I'm Mexican."

And then she offered me a piece of her food that she had bought next door.

I took it. "I'm Wayne by the way."

"Erika," she said.

It took me three more visits over the next month before I got her to go out with me.

On the second visit I asked about her relationship situation.

"Hopeless," she said. "I date crazy people." Then she walked away. I wondered at that. Did she mean she did or didn't like dating crazy people? Was I crazy?

On the third visit I told her she looked beautiful in the dress she was wearing. But somehow, through a comedy of errors, she thought I was hitting on her male co-worker.

On the fourth visit I unleashed the most devastating weapon in my pickup arsenal - Pity Game.

Erika and a friend were talking about a roof-top party they were attending to watch the Independence Day fireworks.

"How about you? What are you going to be doing?" She asked - mostly, I believe, out of politeness.

"Nothing," I said. "I have no plans. I'm literally going to be staring at the walls in my apartment. And when I'm done with that I'm going to stare at the ceiling."

"You should stare at the window at least," she said. "But uh… do you want to go to this party?"

"Sure, I'd love to. That's so nice. I thought you'd never ask. But only if we can call it a date."

"Well, we'll see about that."

We had our first kiss on a bench in Washington Square Park on a walk after the fireworks. Whenever I take clients there to meet women I smile thinking about it.

A couple months into dating, Erika said she thought of me when she heard 'Underneath Your Clothes' by Shakira. I listened to the song as I ran along the Hudson River pedestrian path. The message was clear: She was proud of me and I made her happy.

Flash forward to the concert last week in the Staples Center here in Los Angeles. We bought the tickets last minute - sat in the rafters. But that was okay, I just wanted to hear Empire State of Mind.

New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of There's nothin' you can't do Now you're in New York These streets will make you feel brand new Big lights will inspire you Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York…

I don't live in New York anymore. Erika and I are big-pimping it out in LA but I'm happy I gave myself the gift of New York. It made me feel brand new. Now, what will make you feel that way? Please put your thoughts in the comments below.