Neil Strauss is a great writer. I’ve now read two of his books and both of them, along with being fiercely entertaining, were life-changingly mind-opening. The first was of course the classic, The Game which I read about 5 years ago. That book opened my eyes to the idea of consciously bettering my social skills by learning basic psychology, body language and the like. At first the point was to get more and better girls but I subsequently learned that those skills are useful in all human interaction – in business, love and friendship. Reading The Game was the catalyst that really got me working on improving my social skills. Now in Emergency, tackles a completely different subject but with the same thoroughness that is Strauss’ trademark.
What makes him such a great nonfiction writer is that when Strauss covers something he comes in, unpacks his suitcases, hangs up pictures, has a housewarming party, and really inhabits the subject. When he wrote The Game he originally planned on just doing a documentary on the pickup artist industry, but he got swept up in it and next thing he knew, he had a pickup artist name (“Style”) and was living in a house in Hollywood with a bunch of these guys (and Courtney Love). He became one of them, and not just one of them but one of the best.
The subject of Emergency could not be more different, but Strauss brings his trademark all in treatment in just the same way. Like me and an increasing number of others, Strauss slowly came to realize that humanity is not nearly as safe as most people assume. We are always just one major earthquake or war or dirty bomb or financial catastrophe or totalitarian government away from losing all that we consider normal and finding ourselves in a situation where survival on a daily basis is no longer something that can be taken for granted.
Strauss left no stone unturned in his search for preparation for some unforeseeable emergency. He applied for a second passport, in St Kitts. He went to some lawyers to protect his assets under a bunch of LLCs. He took classes from local emergency management people, got his Red Cross CPR certification, paramedic training, and took instruction from the best people in everything he could think of to improve his survival. He learned tracking, wilderness survival, urban survival, hand-to-hand combat, knife technique, gun technique, lock picking, motorcycle skills, and sustainable agriculture. He stockpiled water, food, gas, medical supplies, and portable toilets. He turned his LA backyard to a practice area to further develop these skills. He turned off all utilities for five days as a simulation to find out what he needed to add to his survival kit. And the whole time he was making contacts and creating a network of smart, tough, dangerous allies to band together with in case the shit hits the fan. If the Apocalypse comes, Neil Strauss will be as ready as anyone.
As I read his story of becoming increasingly aware of the danger potentially lurking around the corner for all of us and the complete lack or preparation that the average person has made, I realized that I too, am completely unprepared for the unexpected. It wouldn’t take much, but if a major urban area found itself without basic services of water, police, or food, it would only take a couple of days for things to get really ugly. We take it for granted that water out of the tap will always be there and drinkable. But what if something happens and it isn’t? First you can drink the water out of your water heater, and the toilet tank (not the bowl). Then, you could boil water to kill microbes. But, the gas is off, so you better have a little propane stove or generator, and plenty of fuel. And how much food do you have in case you can’t just go to Safeway and pick up some Ramen noodles? Might want to stock up on that too. But now since you’re prepared and 99% of your neighbors aren’t, they will be hungry and may try to take from you. So you need a gun, and the skill to use it. And what if you need to get out of Dodge? The highways will be totally jammed, so a offroad capable motorcycle with saddlebags might be necessary to get out to a more rural area. Then what? Maybe you might need to live off the land for a while. Agriculture. Hunting. Can you do those?
So that’s how it goes; once you start preparing for “just in case” you realize that you can always be more ready. Next thing you know, you’re sleeping under a pile of leaves in your backyard “just for practice”. Preparedness will matter if TSHTF.
I’ve been slowly, for the last year, heading in the direction Strauss went and trying to make preparations for possible major changes in the status quo. My preparations have been largely financial so far. I’ve turned a lot of my net worth into physical gold and silver and am looking into a second passport. I also recently bought a Springfield XDM 9mm pistol and Mossberg 500 shotgun and have been to the range a couple of times. After reading Strauss’ book, I realized I should be more prepared. So, next time I’m trapped at home in the USA for work for a couple of months, I’ve decided to take the following steps:
1: Stockpile a couple weeks’ worth of water, food, a generator, some extra gas, and a good first aid kit.
2: Turn my backyard into a vegetable garden and learn the basics of agriculture.
3. Take hand-to-hand combat classes.
4. Learn basic first aid and medical treatment skills.
5. Learn some basic engineering, mechanics, auto repair, etc in case I need to be able to build or fix something mechanical.
6. Take a local emergency management class, to make connections with police and other emergency personnel.
7. Make friends with some local rural gun nuts.
Then we’ll see. I bet that after I do that I’ll realize that I should know more. Next thing you know I’ll probably be in the woods somewhere hunting squirrels with a knife for practice, “just in case”.
Hopefully I won’t need any of this in real life. But the thing about real life is it’s real. What happens cannot be redone. You can’t push a button and say, “Ok, I wasn’t ready this time, let’s go back and start over.” So maybe I’ll only need to know how to hot-wire a car once, but when I do I really will need to know how. That’s why you prepare, “just in case”.
Thanks, Neil Strauss. One of your books has helped me get laid. Now another of your books may one day save my life.