Live Sex, Chess, and Horrible Shame

chess-lady-sexy

Ylon called me, “You have to come to this party. It’s right around the corner from your apartment! There’s live sex performances in one room and a chess tournament with all the top grandmasters in another room.” I thought he was lying to me. I had been asleep. I got some clothes on and went downstairs.

The party was being thrown by pseudo.com. The party was running 24 hours a day from December, 1999 through January 2000.  They filed for bankruptcy 9 months later in September, 2000. Sometime in January the investors of the company came and shut down the party.  But that was a million years later. I  met Ylon outside around midnight and we went into the party. There was crazy in the air. I wanted to drink it up. I was thirsty in a desert. I ran into Josh Harris, the CEO of pseudo in the middle of the party and I said hi but he had no idea who I was. We had met several times before. He was distracted by the fifty girls around him.

Ylon said, “I’m trying to get Josh to do a show about me playing chess around the world and the adventures I get into.” That’s a great idea, I said. Anything was possible. Chess, sex, shows, money, whatever.  Whatever you want, man, as I pushed through the people to figure it all out.

(replaced the original image with this image.)

 

The live sex performance room was having an issue. Any couple could get into a “pod” and just start having sex. There were video cameras in the room streaming it live onto the Internet. There were no doors on the pods so people could stand there and watch. The problem was that, as it was then explained to me, if you’re a guy and not a professional porn actor, it’s not that easy to function in front of a live crowd. So while there were many valiant efforts, the only thing happening were crowds of people watching men publicly humiliate themselves with bored girls trying to soothe the egos of their guys.

I was way too familiar with that sort of soothing. So we went into the chess room.  I recognized all the players. They were famous chess players, all former US champions, grandmasters, etc. My mind was going to explode. Live sex in one room, grandmasters in another. I was standing on the periphery of my ideal surreal fantasy world where I couldn’t quite enter and enjoy myself for some reason. You want to touch the single breast in a strip club, the gold buried underneath Ft. Knox, the fringe of light from an eclipse but all just too far for me to reach.

I went into another room (the whole party was a maze of rooms) and I was surprised to see a good friend of mine there. He was about 55 years old and used to run the most popular cable music TV station. We were working together on a deal so I had just seen him earlier that day. This was turning into a midnight of coincidence and I was Cinderella at the ball.

He was kissing the neck of a girl that he’d been dating for a few weeks. She was about twenty five years old and very beautiful. Long curly brown hair, big eyes, big breasts. He had just been telling me the other day that she told him she loved him more than she ever loved anyone before. He was very proud to tell me this. He was thirty years older than her. He wanted me to react but I had no idea what to say. That’s great, I told him.

She wanted him to hook her up with a translation job in Saudia Arabia since we were in the process of pitching some Middle Eastern investors on a project we were working on. Apparently there were some languages she could translate but I never learned what they were.

(Josh Harris apparently retired to grow apples upstate)

 

He didn’t see me when I walked into the room. He was too busy kissing her neck and breasts. He was fervent, anxious, groping.  She was looking straight up at the ceiling while his mouth was all over her. I watched her big eyes blink. I thought to myself, she really is beautiful.

She was looking the way you look when blood is being taken from you and you look the other way. Then she saw me staring at them and she quickly started kissing my friend back. Quick pecks all over his face. She had thick red lipstick. Her kisses left red bruises all over his face. I left the room before he could see me. I was embarrassed at the whole thing. Embarrassed that I had been caught staring. Embarrassed for him. For her. Embarrassed for everyone.

I wanted something fun to happen to me at the party.  I saw a girl I had long had a crush on but she was surrounded by about ten guys. How many coincidences could happen at one party with me unable to do anything about it? I was like in a dream. I couldn’t talk to anyone even though everything around me was a combination of fake and fun. The live sex, the chess in the next room, my 55 year old friend kissing his lipstick girl, chess girl I had a crush on. Ylon had disappeared into the mess of people and I couldn’t find him again. I didn’t see him for over a year after that. Next time I saw him he was divorced. I barely even knew he was married.

I felt like I was surrounded by people LIVING LIFE but I was dead inside. I left the party around two in the morning and started to walk home. I was scared that thirty years later I could be living a fake life kiss-groping some fake girl, oblivious to her just staring bored at the ceiling. Doesn’t matter if you ran MTV for ten minutes. She’s still going to stare at the ceiling until she’s caught.

Sometimes age only makes your bad habits worse. The false wisdom we supposedly get is just bad habit after bad habit, impacted together, a thick sedimentary rock. A diamond-tipped drill can’t break it.

I wanted to just get back to my apartment that I was destined to lose but that loss was still in the future. My apartment was as fake as the rest but I didn’t know it until the science fiction future. I would find some comfort there. A book to read before going back to sleep. Quiet.

At one point, two in the morning, walking up Leonard Street on the way home from the party,  I thought I heard someone walking quickly behind me. As if trying to catch up to me. I turned around expecting to see someone but nobody was there.

I was all alone.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    Great details.  Especially the part of the kissing girl – said so much.  You could’ve cut your embarrassed reaction out and the effect would still have been powerful.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/r0ckwell Farhod ‘Rockwell’ Shahrezay

    Almost every time I read one of your articles I think, “There’s no way he can top this story!”. And yet, you manage to do it time and time again. Life is crazy. Thanks for capturing it :)

  • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

    That’s just surreal.

    • ppearlman

      test

      • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

        Test passed?

      • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

        Test passed?

      • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

        Test passed?

      • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

        Test passed?

      • http://www.awkwardengineer.com AwkwardEngineer

        Test passed?

  • http://kiddynamitesworld.com Kid Dynamite

    I believe that the maneuver pictured above with the peg leg is called the Queen’s Gambit.  and the woman, of course, is employing the Sicilian Defense.

    James – chess grandmasters in one room, live sex show in the next – you must choose… is this heaven? or hell?

  • http://twitter.com/J_Biddy_Trader Jay Biddy Trader

    Horrible picture. Not necessary. My kid was sitting here next to me while I was reading. You are a good writer, but you sometimes obsess on the shock value. You are in essence an adrenaline rush and now you have to top your last “high.” What’s next, pictures of decapitations? You are better than this. Not every man is a sex-crazed dog. Some of us are not addicted to porn, etc. and don’t appreciate these types of images.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I tried to google for images of the party and that was the only one that came up that I was sure was from the party. Wasn’t trying to shock. The problem I have with these articles is someone always says “there’s no way that was true”. Every article is true. So i always try to prove it. I do apologize if it was offensive in any way to your kid. 

      • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

        As you’ve pointed out before, let the naysayers be naysayers.  Trying to appease them never helps you.  My $0.02: The shock level of the photo distracted from the real prize, the story.  

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Ok. Changed photo. Agree that it wasn’t necessary. 

        • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

          Ok. Changed photo. Agree that it wasn’t necessary. 

          • SpecosaurusRex

            But happily, the original pic still exists in my RSS feed!  Loved the photo, and the story.  Nice work!

          • Guest

            Damn, pissed I missed the original.  I don’t have any kids that need sheltering from the excesses of (in)humanity.

          • Guest

            Damn, pissed I missed the original.  I don’t have any kids that need sheltering from the excesses of (in)humanity.

          • http://twitter.com/J_Biddy_Trader Jay Biddy Trader

            Keep up the excellent writing!

    • Anonymous

      I wish I would have gotten here sooner to see this controversial photo.

      • MikeNYC

        But you can’t. Because everything in the fucking world needs to be blandified, homognized, boring-ified. You know – “For the children!!!!! The CHILDREN!!!!!”

        Puke.

      • C. Martin

        Any idea on where I can find this infamous photo!? All this talk has made me curious. Yeah, I’m at work but that’s where iPhones come in handy.

        • TripleB

          If you google search for images ‘chess sex party’ you’ll find it.  But then you’ll probably wish you hadn’t.

        • TripleB

          If you google search for images ‘chess sex party’ you’ll find it.  But then you’ll probably wish you hadn’t.

        • TripleB

          If you google search for images ‘chess sex party’ you’ll find it.  But then you’ll probably wish you hadn’t.

        • TripleB

          If you google search for images ‘chess sex party’ you’ll find it.  But then you’ll probably wish you hadn’t.

        • TripleB

          If you google search for images ‘chess sex party’ you’ll find it.  But then you’ll probably wish you hadn’t.

  • http://www.stocksage.net Robert Sinn

    Not enough details about the chess aspect of the story James, who were the GMs and why were they playing chess there? Who sponsored the tournament and how much were the prizes?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      pseudo.com was sponsoring it. I forget the prize pool. I remember seeing Joel Benjamin and Fed there. Jen Shahade also just tweeted she was in the tournament. I was 2207 at the time and was slightly insulted I wasn’t in the tournament but there you go. 

  • http://www.bluechipsdividend.nl/ Aandelenbeurs

    How did chess become cool enough to be played at a party?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Its always been cool! 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q5WQNSAEQBTN3VNY7UQF6V6LXU Trader Kevin

        When I worked on Wall Street in the 1980s, my roommate and I would venture to Washington Square Park on nice weekends. He’d score some weed and smoke it with the locals, while I’d go marvel at the blitz players.

        Sometimes there would be a Wall Street type blowing hundreds of dollars on the 64 squares. Everyone got what they wanted out of the deal. The Wall Streeter got to brag about playing chess against hustlers; the hustlers got to eat well.

        Sometimes there would be a little kid who gave the hustlers all they could handle. I don’t recall his name, but years later I realized it might have been Josh Waitzkin of “Searching for Bobby Fischer” fame.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q5WQNSAEQBTN3VNY7UQF6V6LXU Trader Kevin

        When I worked on Wall Street in the 1980s, my roommate and I would venture to Washington Square Park on nice weekends. He’d score some weed and smoke it with the locals, while I’d go marvel at the blitz players.

        Sometimes there would be a Wall Street type blowing hundreds of dollars on the 64 squares. Everyone got what they wanted out of the deal. The Wall Streeter got to brag about playing chess against hustlers; the hustlers got to eat well.

        Sometimes there would be a little kid who gave the hustlers all they could handle. I don’t recall his name, but years later I realized it might have been Josh Waitzkin of “Searching for Bobby Fischer” fame.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q5WQNSAEQBTN3VNY7UQF6V6LXU Trader Kevin

        When I worked on Wall Street in the 1980s, my roommate and I would venture to Washington Square Park on nice weekends. He’d score some weed and smoke it with the locals, while I’d go marvel at the blitz players.

        Sometimes there would be a Wall Street type blowing hundreds of dollars on the 64 squares. Everyone got what they wanted out of the deal. The Wall Streeter got to brag about playing chess against hustlers; the hustlers got to eat well.

        Sometimes there would be a little kid who gave the hustlers all they could handle. I don’t recall his name, but years later I realized it might have been Josh Waitzkin of “Searching for Bobby Fischer” fame.

        • http://profiles.google.com/jayzalowitz Jay Zalowitz

          I met Josh when I was around his age at that time (I was a much better chess player when I was younger, I was in fact captain of a team at qualifiers that went on to win states, but my brother’s bar mitzvah was more important). ANYWAY, he is absolutely the nicest guy, and raises money in Memphis (my hometown) every year for Muscular Dystrophy. 

      • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

        I wish I was better at chess. There’s something sexy about it I think. I would need a tutor though. I’ve mostly only played with my father and my son. 

  • http://www.bluechipsdividend.nl/ Aandelenbeurs

    How did chess become cool enough to be played at a party?

  • http://economicdisconnect.blogspot.com/ GYSC

    Was Yasser Sierwan there?  Crazy stuff James, wow.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks GY. I don’t remember seeing him there. He’s based in Seattle and I think it was mostly NYC guys. 

      • http://economicdisconnect.blogspot.com/ GYSC

        I was just kidding anyway, I respect his play very much and learned a ton from his book set.

  • chris robinson

    C’mon, James. Can you not put up any more pornographic pictures? Could you have at least marked it NSFW?  I’ll never open your blog around anyone else again.  It’s difficult enough for me to explain to people why I am such a big fan of your posts. But the picture? I’d never get the chance to explain it at all.  Ever heard of a link? 

    (Great post, as usual.)

    Also, remind me not to tell you anything. Like if I ever see you on the street and say, “James, one time I was on a business trip just after my my wife (Tamika) and I had been arguing and I saw an old girlfriend through a wine bar window reading a book about the civil war that I’d just finished reading. So I went in to say hello and the next thing you know…”

    Just punch me in the mouth! LOL!

    Ylon doesn’t talk to you anymore, right?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Ha, a couple of things funny in that comment but just to set the record straight, Ylon and I spoke today even. No issues. 

  • Guest

    autobiographical pulp.  keep it comin

  • http://www.empressr.com bryanthatcher

    Great post, I went to that party, multiple times during the month, each was crazier than the next. I have long forgotten about them thanks for the reminder….

  • http://www.toddandelin.com Todd_Andelin

    “I hear the ancient footsteps…like the motion of the sea,
    sometimes I look there’s someone there,
    other times its only me.
    I’m hangin in the balance,
    of a perfect finished plan
    like every sparrow fallin’
    like every grain of sand. ”

    every grain of sand

  • Matt

    Wow @ your 2207.

    What chess books do you recommend?

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

       Polgar’s book (the father) with like 10,,000 problems in it. Also, I enjoyed Jen Shahade’s book “Chess is for girls” . I have 2 daughters I’m trying to get into chess.

  • Distanceman

    I was there too. It was truly that crazy. But only Betty knows — might have seemed bored to you. I think she was truly into the guy. Good guy. You forgot the radio station…
    And Josh wound up in Fortune or Forbes (?) sitting on the porch of his upstate NY farmhouse, destitute, accompanied by shotgun and dog. Like a country song that ends well….

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/derekdodds Derek Dodds

    “Sometimes age only makes bad habits worse.” <<< love that James!

  • Anonymous

    I really must move to NY…

  • vv

    at least the original post should be linked

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    The concept of being all alone is freakishly terrifying to me. 

    At the point you noticed you were all alone, what did you think? (if you remember)

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

      I felt like everyone else knew how to connect with people except for me. Somehow, in a world where I should’ve been having a blast, I had a miserable time. I went back a few times during the month and had the same experience each time.

      • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

        I feel like this a lot. 

        My brother once called me from the bathroom of a swanky NYC rooftop party to say “While I may speak fondly of this night, I don’t think I’m having any fun.” That sums up a lot of nights for me and, I suspect, for you. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Francisco/1404254816 Joe Francisco

    Disturbing and sad, but a good story (aren’t the best stories, songs, films, etc. always the sad, disturbing ones?) Left me pretty speechless–then I found the original photo and was REALLY speechless.

    • Joelquiles

      Where is the original photo? I missed it haha…

  • http://twitter.com/HaroldVerh Harold Verhagen

    Dear James! I think the new image is more fitting for the internet although much much less appealing :) Good read as always

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

       In its own way, more appealing though. I’d rather meet that girl than the first.

  • Zenman

    There’s a documentary called “we live in public” about Josh Harris.  He’s living in another country now hiding from creditors.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

       I’ve heard good things about that documentary. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Anonymous

    I was at that party. It was just as weird as you describe — with exactly the “performance” problems as well, heh. I think “I was surrounded by people LIVING LIFE but I was dead inside” was probably a more common sentiment at that party — and at that time — than a lot of people realize.

  • http://twitter.com/hezman66 John Hezel

    ” She was looking the way you look when blood is being taken from you and you look the other way. ”  What a fantastic metaphor !!!  Wish I had come up with something like that.  But James,  after all you’ve written about the Discipline and not lying to yourself, do you look back with any regret ????   “I was all alone”, is the perfect metaphor for shameless regret .

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       I definitely have regrets. But I’m conflicted because I think it all worked out for the best.

  • nysepete

    “I was all alone”
    I hear ya James.  I really do.
    And in truth – you don’t have to be at one of those parties to feel that way, especially in NYC.
    The local bar on a Thursday night, passing an outdoor cafe’ on a warm Summer night, walking through any park on a holiday weekend…. and so many other examples or people living their lives that do not include you.

    I’ve lived some great years in NYC – and sometimes the grass is always greener…
    Ever wonder if those you are looking at aren’t looking right back at and wondering what kind of exciting swashbuckling might be revealed by you?  
    My guess is that happens more often than you think – but not enough to change the Loneliness itself.

  • Carl in San FranDisco

    I live and lived in San Francisco around the same time. Went to alot of those “paid well to be hip” parties as well. They were never as good as real parties. Cos they were pseudo parties. 90% of dot com parties were a buncha people who made money trying to think of some hip angle for a party. The attendies were often mishmashes of random segments related to the industry. PR, advertising, marketing, sales, friends and other business associates. During the same time I also went to alcohol and drug fueled parties where there was no business connections.They were real, often great energy and passion, occasionally trainwrecks, but rarely soul-less events. I look back on 1998-2000 in SF well, mostly cos I partied my eyeballs out at the latter parties, but went to alot of the former as preparties.  I felt the way you did a bit at those parties as well,  but then I went to crazy all night parties. But they were not for everyone. I am a party slut. I sacrificied some career goals in the name of all night ecstacy orgies. Fortunately, I worked to have some real goals in life as well, so I am pretty happy.

  • Carl in San FranDisco

    I live and lived in San Francisco around the same time. Went to alot of those “paid well to be hip” parties as well. They were never as good as real parties. Cos they were pseudo parties. 90% of dot com parties were a buncha people who made money trying to think of some hip angle for a party. The attendies were often mishmashes of random segments related to the industry. PR, advertising, marketing, sales, friends and other business associates. During the same time I also went to alcohol and drug fueled parties where there was no business connections.They were real, often great energy and passion, occasionally trainwrecks, but rarely soul-less events. I look back on 1998-2000 in SF well, mostly cos I partied my eyeballs out at the latter parties, but went to alot of the former as preparties.  I felt the way you did a bit at those parties as well,  but then I went to crazy all night parties. But they were not for everyone. I am a party slut. I sacrificied some career goals in the name of all night ecstacy orgies. Fortunately, I worked to have some real goals in life as well, so I am pretty happy.

  • Trent Pitts

    I love the way you end this.  Your writing makes me think of the play “Six Degrees of Separation”.  There is a line in which an art dealer is describing the paintings in his kids’ second grade class as all being of Matisse quality.  The teacher tells him, “I don’t have any secret. I just know when to take their drawings away from them.”  Most writers need someone to do that for them and too many do not.  I don’t know if Claudia helps you with this or not, but you definitely know when to walk away from a post. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks Trent. Its just like in relationships. Lots of practice helps you to know when to walk away.

  • Tendrel

    James,

    Would love to see you write about the major lessons you learned from being a chess geek, both in your heyday and also years later. I imagine it’s been a useful foundation for investing. What are your five “most influential” chess books. Thanks for the fab writing. I look fwd to new posts

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Thanks Tendrel. Maybe when I was younger the most influential books:

       – Opening Repertoire for White by Raymond Keene
       – The Modern Defence by (I think) Keene
       – Reuben Fine’s endgame book
       – Geller’s King’s Indian book
       – The informant’s book of chess combinations.

      Now maybe Polgar’s (the father) book on tactics.
      The guy I’m taking lessons from just sent me a book to check out so that might become one.

  • http://opally.blogspot.com Opal

    James, I think you write the most spiritual blog on the Web.

  • http://twitter.com/mattperez83 Matt Perez

    James,
    Club Vinyl on Hubert Street? Congratulations on living and embracing the unbearable weirdness. There were many times I had the same walk, from the same (or similar) place, with the same result. The void you felt was you living life, but on your own terms. 

    If you haven;t watched Taxi Driver in a while, I recommend you do so – Travis knows what it’s like to be gods lonely man.

  • Anonymous

    New to your blog posts James. This is relentlessly raw writing. It’s like if J.D. Salinger was running around NYC in the bubble. Can’t stop reading.