You have to approach women. This is the very first step. They arent likely to approach you. You have to do something. When you look at a woman in the eyes, and she smiles, she thinks her job is done. If you dont approach her, she thinks you are rejecting her. You need to approach her. You have 0% chance of dating the girl you like if you dont approach and infinitely times better if you do.
Date the Women of Your Dreams, Chapter 19: The Approach.
Its Saturday night, the best night for picking up women. Matt Buschbacher has invited his protegs to meet him at the Front Porch near Larimer Square, an area he frequents when on the prowl. Matts dressed comfortably in a fitted T-shirt, slacks and his conversation-starter necklace. When a woman asks about the silver loop on the necklace part of a parachute rig it creates an opening so Matt can not only mention that he jumps out of airplanes, but also teasingly ask his questioner if shes never heard of a close pin. Sure, its a gimmick, but it works. And a pick-up artist will use anything that does.
Now Matt darts around the small bar, warming up. When he sees a girl he wants to talk to, he doesnt stare or hesitate. He approaches her directly with an opening question, one that often leads into a story hes memorized. If he can engage her friends while ignoring his target, the girl will start to fight for his attention.
Sam Melville shows up wearing a slick black jacket and a confident smile. After he moved here from Alaska, Sam read The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, last years best-selling book by Neil Strauss. Actually, he read it twice. And it led him right to Matt and his Denver Pick Up Artists Lair. Groups of men trading seduction secrets existed long before The Game, of course, but Strausss provocative stories about pick-up lairs inspired a boom in these underground clubs across the country. And in the four months since he joined Denvers lair, Sam swears his life has changed.
After quickly saying hi to Matt, he starts working the room. At 21, Sam looks young younger even than Matt, his 24-year-old mentor. He has bleached-blond hair, fair skin and full, pink lips. Sometimes his low voice sounds forced, like that of a bad radio personality. He introduces Heather, a girl hes been talking to at the bar. Shes nice, even though she doesnt come off that way at first, Sam says.
Heathers face shows mock outrage and she shoves Sam lightly. That was rude, she says dramatically. You just said I was a bitch.
I never used the word bitch, Sam corrects. Heathers smiling as the banter continues, but then a friend calls her away before Sam gets the chance to walk off. Disinterest can be a pick-up artists greatest weapon.
Across the room, Matt approaches two pretty women at a long table. My friend and I have been debating something, he says. Do you think Bill Gates could get any woman he wanted?
Back in high school in Cincinnati, Matt was the computer geek who had two friends and showed up for school every day in hand-me-down jeans, a white T-shirt and a big black jacket. He had no social life and spent most of his time on computer graphics and programming.
At seventeen he got his first girlfriend, but soon discovered she was cheating on him with his friends. At eighteen he decided that instead of pursuing a career in computer science, hed join the Navy and was accepted as a SEAL. It was horrendous, he says of the rigorous training. I was the worst runner in my class. They have this thing called the goon squad, where they pick all the slowest runners and make them do extra running. I was always in the goon squad. In fact, when there was only one person in the goon squad, it was me. He was in the Navy for five years, based first in San Diego, then Virginia Beach, and sent around the world to Germany, Guam, Colombia and Iraq. It was a life of constant travel and testosterone, and Matt decided it was high time he learn how to talk to girls. So he and Greg Mular, his best friend and a fellow SEAL, turned their evenings out into social experiments.
At first Matt would sit at the bar for hours, afraid to talk to anyone, and just watch other people interact. Then one night Greg always more of a natural with women walked up to a girl and said, Be bop boo, my name is Greg, how do you do? She smiled and introduced herself, and they started talking.
Matt realized that saying anything to a girl, no matter how stupid, was better than gawking in the corner. And three years ago, at a cheesy Arkansas bar called the Electric Cowboy, the then-21-year-old put this theory to the ultimate test. In the middle of the floor, he started dancing like the goofy white boy he is in a style that spectators described as barnyard. Before he knew it, there was a circle of girls grinding on him.
After that, Matt never sat back in a bar. He kept approaching women, sorting out what worked and what didnt. And when he wasnt on the town, he studied social interaction and read books about dating. But none of them included the strategies he found most successful, so last year he started writing a book of his own. He and Greg were both leaving the Navy, and they planned to go into commercial real estate in Texas. Greg headed off for Dallas first, but didnt like the city. He and Matt regrouped and decided instead to build a business based on teaching guys how to attract the women they wanted. And because Greg was a rock climber and Matt a snowboarder, they chose to do it in Denver.
Soon after moving to Colorado, in July 2005 the pair founded Relationships Inc. Date the Women of Your Dreams was released as an e-book in August, and a few months later they started selling another e-book, How to Date Women Successfully Online, since online dating involves a completely different set of skills, Matt says. The e-books didnt do well, and Matt self-published a print version of Date the Women of Your Dreams in February, which so far has sold about eighty copies.
But Relationships Inc. isnt all about books. Matt and Greg also offer weekend-long seminars and workshops, where for $900 theyll teach a guy how to pick up women in the field. Three men, none of them from Denver, attended Relationships Inc.s first workshop in April after finding Matt on the Internet. Similar dating boot camps have been offered for years around the world some run by pick-up artists mentioned in The Game, others by people inspired by the exploits of the books characters (see story, below).
So far, though, the pairs most successful project has been the Denver Pick Up Artists Lair. Realizing that this city didnt have its own seducers club, Matt decided to create one. In January, www.denverpua.com went online. Local pick-up artists and would-be PUAs alike quickly found the site and joined the lair.
Do you think Oprah could get any man she wanted?
The blonde smiles, pleased with herself for flipping Matts opening gambit right back at him. Her friend, a tall, thin brunette, starts to laugh as she recounts a Chappelles Show skit where the comic learned that Oprah was pregnant with his baby. The girls tell Matt that right before he approached with his Bill Gates line, they were talking about how they only meet people at clubs when they go out with groups of women. Men never approach when theyre with male friends.
Matt says that a lot of guys would feel intimidated approaching a big group. Then he asks if they snowboard, and where theyre from.
How old are you? the brunette asks.
How old do I look?
After a few more minutes of small talk, he walks away. He made a mistake with these girls, he says. Because they were so friendly, he easily built rapport but he didnt create attraction. He should have done more when he first approached to raise his value, to be the alpha male.
Matts cell phone rings. A guy whod e-mailed about wanting to join the lair is outside. Although membership is free, Matt wont let anyone in until hes come out with the group. The prospective PUA walks up. Hey, are you Matt? Im Dan, he says, timidly. His curly blond hair is thinning on top and hangs in a long, limp fro on the sides; the sleeves of his polo drape loosely around his thin arms, and his eyes are red and watery. Matt tells Dan he needs to see him approach some women. This is the standard lair initiation; Matts not going to work with a guy unless he proves hes motivated. So far, about thirty guys have passed the initial screening.
Matt motions toward three women a few feet away: Them.
Dan makes his move, his face a mix of resolve and fear. By the time Matt walks over seconds later, Dan has already lapsed into silence and he inches back, relieved to let the pro take over. But as the two walk away from this first group, Matt points out two women sitting at a table.
Can you give me an opener? Dan asks, taking a deep breath.
Ask them who lies more, men or women.
Dan approaches, tells the women he needs their opinion, asks the question. The women enthusiastically offer up their thoughts on the topic, but then the small talk dies. Dan walks away, and Matt points to a third group: five girls and one guy standing in a circle. Dan approaches the guy first, tells him he likes his shirt, then asks his question.
Matts seen enough. Dan had the balls to approach three groups, so hes in. But Matt makes a note to talk to him about eyedrops, a haircut and some new clothes.
The Denver PUAs have exhausted the possibilities at the Front Porch. The girls who got Matts Bill Gates line say theyre going to Spill. Maybe well see you guys later, says the blonde.
For computer geeks and others who never got the girl in high school, The Game is their bible, to be read, reread and internalized. Its actually designed to look like a Bible, with a leather cover, gold-rimmed pages and a red ribbon for marking favorite passages. In the beginning, author Strauss relates, the pick-up artist movement started with Eric Weber, whose 1970 book How to Pick Up Girls! inspired The Pick-Up Artist, a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Molly Ringwald. Like most pick-up artists, Weber was a shy guy who carried his adolescent feelings of inadequacy into adulthood. Learning to pick up beautiful women became an obsession: He wanted to be the confident man that women lusted after, even if the persona was a front.
The pick-up movement picked up in the mid-90s with Ross Jeffries, who claims to be the real-life inspiration for Tom Cruises woman-loathing character in Magnolia. After writing the book How to Get the Women You Desire Into Bed: A Down and Dirty Guide to Dating and Seduction for the Man Whos Fed Up With Being Mr. Nice Guy, Jeffries started leading pick-up seminars specializing in a tactic he called speed seduction, which was based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming. When one of Jeffriess students created the newsgroup alt.seduction.fast, the Internet PUA community was born. Jeffries became a D-list celebrity, with his gangly frame appearing on The Daily Show and Jerry Springer-caliber talk shows, and his story told in such magazines as Playboy and Rolling Stone. In The Game, Strauss describes Jeffries as an angry, unattractive geek leading a cult of greasy-haired creeps.
Though not too proud to learn Jeffriess tricks for hypnotizing a woman into sleeping with him, Strauss chooses another pick-up leader as his mentor: Erik von Markovik, a magician desperate for attention who calls himself Mystery. The Game really begins when Strauss pays Mystery one of the most admired men in the world of seduction $500 for a basic-training workshop on how to approach women. Mystery is known for spitting out long, detailed posts that read like algorithms of how to engineer social situations to meet and attract women, Strauss writes. In detailing his social life online, he has single-handedly invented much of the jargon and tactics that men around the world are using to meet women.
Although Matt says hes never read The Game, he was instructed by Mystery himself at an $1,800 workshop in Washington, D.C., last spring. Like Mystery, Matt goes by a pseudonym on the lair site and in the PUA world: Thuwacker, a play on his last name that became his nickname in the Navy. And many of Matts strategies are strikingly similar to those that Mystery shows Strauss, aka Style, in The Game. For example, right before Mystery offers his soliloquy on the alpha male, he tells Strauss that he should approach a group with a scripted opener and ignore the girl hes most interested in.
Earlier this week, Matt made the rounds of clubs that charge cover on weekends, befriending the staff and picking up VIP passes. Now the PUAs quickly go in and out of 5 Degrees (too loud) and Martini Ranch (Matt sings along with Livin on a Prayer and high-fives a group of girls) before heading to Spill.
Hey, are you following us? the brunette asks, laughing.
Matt wants to talk to them but since he also doesnt want to seem to be following them, he takes his time. He still doesnt know their names. He likes to wait for a girl to ask for his name, an indication that shes interested. But after waiting a few minutes, he approaches the pair with a question about fear, then launches into a story hes memorized: I used to be scared crazy of heights. I mean, I couldnt go up ladders or stand near cliffs without being completely terrified. I was reading in this book one day that said if you want to get rid of your fears, you have to face them head-on
So you went sky diving? they cut him off.
He drops the story and moves into another one of his routines, challenging the brunette to a thumb war. Matt calls it kino, short for kinesthetic progression a way to initiate touching a girl while increasing her comfort level. Then he turns to the blonde and starts talking just to her. The brunette scopes out the guys passing by, complaining there arent enough tall ones. Matt is shorter than she is.
Matt tells the blonde hes into swing dancing and takes her hands more kino to show her some steps. The brunette lifts up her hand and bends it at the wrist to signal that she thinks Matts gay. This doesnt bother him; he says it happens a lot because he dresses so well. Besides, girls are often intrigued by a guy they cant quite figure out.
Just before the PUAs move on, Matt tells the blonde she should meet him at the Mercury Cafe for swing dancing on Sunday night. Matt prefers using this second meeting strategy to asking for a phone number, and he advises his protegs to do the same. In an average weekend, he might meet eight girls he likes enough to invite dancing. Hell know that the ones who show up maybe two are interested, and having to compete for his attention will make him seem even more attractive.
Maybe Ill see you Sunday, the blonde says as Matt heads for the door.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, Matt is sitting inside the Starbucks at the downtown Barnes & Noble, explaining what he does and why it works. This bookstore, and the Denver Pavilions in general, is one of his favorite spots for PUAs to get serious. The nights spent in clubs are just training, he says. If a guy can master how to pick up a woman in a loud, crowded bar where the competitions fierce, then he should have no problem approaching a woman in the daytime. By most accounts, Matt is an average-looking guy. Hes fit, but small. His light brown hair is cut neatly, his skin is clear. For a man who claims to be able to carry a conversation into eternity, hes oddly succinct when asked about high school, old girlfriends, details about his time in the military, starting a business; he generally recites anecdotes from the introduction to his book. But he can talk for hours about his theories on social interaction.
Attraction is based on value, he explains. Your value to another person is built around behavior patterns, what you look like, everything you do, things that you say. If I walk into a group and I dont have enough value, I calibrate to have enough value. I might tease a girl, say something funny.
Theres also social proof, a principle coined by psychologist Robert Cialdini. People look at other people to see what to do, Matt elaborates. If a whole bunch of people like one person, youre more inclined to like that person. So if I go to a club and I want to pick up a really good-looking girl, I wont necessarily just go up and start talking to her, because I wont have enough value. So Ill find another girl and Ill get her on my arm. I might make out with her and then bring her over to the other group, and I look really friendly because Im this guy with a girl. Ill talk to the guys first and make friends with all her friends, and then start talking to her afterwards.
Matt doesnt think much of Jeffriess speed-seduction techniques. Guys into Neuro-Linguistic Programming are the most dorky and awkward of all the wannabe PUAs he meets and all those wannabes need help. Most of these guys, they arent very good, Matt says. He not only gives them openers and his own stories to memorize, but he also teaches them how to behave like a normal person to stop twitching and fidgeting, for example.
Matt himself sits completely still, his posture rigid and his hands on his legs. The problem a lot of guys have when they get into this is they dislike women, he explains. Theyll say, I bought this girl flowers and she threw them on the ground. I did all this stuff for her and she doesnt like me. After a while, guys just develop a love for women. Instead of looking at them as evil beings, they see women as people that are different and have to be communicated with in a certain way in order for them to respond well.
Stay Away from the Dance Floor Most guys circle the dance floor like a hungry animal looking for prey. Do not be one of those guys. Stay away from the dance floor and do not stare at it. Only take a girl to the dance floor if you know how to dance and you are working on Kino progression. Date the Women of Your Dreams, Chapter 12: Places to Go to Meet Women
A thin brunette touches Matts arm between sips of her drink. The crowd in this upstairs level is sparse except for the big guys in tight Wranglers and cowboy hats leaning over the balcony to get a glimpse of the dance floor. Its Wednesday night at the Stampede Mesquite Grill & Dance Emporium in Aurora, and Matt has purposely dressed to not fit the theme. Hes wearing a fitted, baby-blue, long-sleeved T-shirt. The Stampede is far from his favorite club, but its weekly ladies night with free cover and free drinks attracts hundreds of women on Wednesdays.
The girl hes talking to is someone hes met before; he made out with her on another ladies night. Hes not interested in dating her, but her attentiveness will help him look attractive to any girl he might want to pick up later. She doesnt know hes a pick-up artist.
Matt heads downstairs to meet some friends including Sabina, who does. She thinks its fun to take his arm and accompany him on approaches. Particularly since she feels Matt is performing a useful service. I know so many great guys who are just too shy to talk to women, she says. Other girls walk by with a Hi, Matt and tap him on the back. This is one of the reasons Matt has regular stops: He wants people to recognize him.
At the next table, Sam Melville is talking to two women. The top buttons of his collared shirt are undone, showing off the silver chain dangling above his hairless chest. Usually, Matt will join a conversation to see how a fellow lair member is doing but not when Sams involved. Matt has a tendency to steal whatever attraction Sam has built with a girl. In fact, Matts current girlfriend, Alyson, was a girl who gave Sam her number a few weeks ago. And then she met Matt.
Sam hadnt had any horrible experiences with women before he joined the lair, but he wasnt particularly successful with them, either. Hed get a girlfriend, buy her stuff, call her all the time, tell her how he really felt and shed walk all over him. Now I understand a lot more of how that works, he admits. It was me screwing it up. He says hes not looking for a long-term relationship, but hes not just looking to sleep with a lot of women, either. Since finding the lair, hes built the confidence and conversation skills to be able to meet people and get phone numbers. Ive got options, he says. Im looking for people who will impact my life.
Matt doesnt want men in the lair who are just out to play women and add to their list of one-night stands. Honestly, my whole goal with this is I want to teach people to better communicate with each other, he explains. I think it should be taught in high school how to socially interact.
Unlike much of the online PUA community, his strategies extend beyond getting a woman in the sack and date is the operative word of his books title. Most men want a long-term relationship, Matt says. I think that helps a lot of guys out. You learn so much being in a relationship. Thats why Matts instruction focuses not just on getting a girls number, but on building a connection so that shell remember the guy when he calls and will want to go out with him. He teaches guys to screen a girl to see if shes someone theyd be interested in dating before he puts a lot of effort into arranging a second meeting.
Matt has his own rules for how far hell go when he meets a woman. If hes not interested in dating her, he wont go further than making out with her. Theres too many emotions wrapped up in that, he says. And while hell still make out with other women, he wont do more than that while hes involved with Alyson, whos turned out to be a great PUA asset. My girlfriend walked over and started making out with me while I was talking to a group of girls, he says. She walked away, and then the girl I was talking to put her leg on top of my leg, gave me her number and told me we should hang out again. I think building your social circle makes life easier.
Alyson thinks Matt must be doing something right. He picked me up, she points out. Having a pick-up artist for a boyfriend doesnt bother her. I trust him, she says. Hes training guys to actually end up with women that they want to be with. I think in a lot of ways, hes doing women a favor. Theyll have an opportunity to meet guys they wouldnt have otherwise met because theyre too afraid to talk to them. They might be totally cool.
Matts business partner, Greg, walks into the bar with a cocky smile. With his stocky build, dark features and handsome face, he comes across as the most masculine of the group. He stops a girl walking by. My friend and I are debating something, he says. Who do you think lies more, guys or girls?
What kind of lies? she asks. I think the reasons men and women lie are different.
Thats not the question. Who do you think lies more?
Rather than wait for her answer, he changes the subject. Hey, did you wear pants so you could ride the bull? he asks, gesturing toward the mechanical bovine.
No, she laughs. But my friend already rode the bull. Its her birthday.
She calls over to her friend, a tan brunette with a gorgeous face.
You should ride the bull, Greg tells her.
Oh, I already did, she says.
You should ride it again.
No, it costs five bucks.
Im sure if you talk to that guy over there for a couple of minutes, hell pay for you to ride the bull.
As Greg walks away, Matt stops to talk to two girls sitting by the DJ booth. Can I get your opinion on something? he asks. What do you think about guys buying drinks for girls? He barely waits for their answer before offering one of his shorter stories about a girl who bought him a drink at a club and then proceeded to put her hand on his thigh. I was like, `Whoa, hands off the merchandise. Just because you bought me a drink doesnt mean you can fondle me. You havent even bought me dinner yet. The girls laugh, then introduce themselves: Michelle and Jessica. Theyve just graduated from Metro, they tell him, and theyre out celebrating.
Let me get your opinion on something else, Matt says. On a first date, do you expect, like, rose petals and mood lighting?
Uhh, no, Michelle says. Jessica has turned her attention to another friend.
Well, I met this girl in a club a couple weeks ago, and we had a pretty good conversation, Matt starts, backing away slightly so he can move around and gesture with his hands. We talked for like an hour or something like that. I ended up getting her phone number, and I gave her a call a couple of days later. On the phone she was like, Why dont you just come over to my place for dinner? Right? So, I was like, All right, cool. So I go over there, and she lived in one of those dorm houses down on University, you know? And I get up to her door, and I knock on her door and she opens it up, and its like pitch black inside, right? And I walk in there, and I knew she had three roommates, but theyre like nowhere to be found, right? I get in there, and theres like candlelight all over the place. Shes playing romantic music. I get up to the dinner table, and shes got rose petals laid out all over the dinner table, you know? And this is the kicker. Guess what she made for dinner? He pauses for emphasis here, just as he always does when he tells this same story.
She cooked a turkey not like turkey slices, but like an entire turkey. Im thinking this girls out of her mind, total psycho-stalker material. But I was there, and I didnt want to be rude, so I thought I might as well eat. We end up eating, and it was good. We had like stuffing and mashed potatoes. It was like having Thanksgiving dinner all over again. I get done eating and I go sit on her couch, and she comes over and sits down next to me, scoots up close to me and gives me these really innocent eyes, and I get up and Im like, Im sorry. Im sorry. Ive got to go. Dinner was awesome. Everything was really great, but I have to go. Im sorry.
Imagine what would happen if I would have done something with this girl? She would have shown up at my place the next day and picked my lock and been in my apartment with lingerie on, or she would have thrown a grappling hook up onto my balcony and shimmied her way up to my balcony. Total stalker material. Isnt that weird?
At this point, Matt is looking for Michelle to tell him how weird it is, how the girl must have been crazy. His stalker story has three purposes: to let girls know that women find him attractive, to convince them that hes not a stalker, and to weed out potential stalkers. He saves the story for the beautiful women, because theyve all had stalkers in their past.
But Michelle doesnt follow the script. She laughs as Matt finishes his recitation. I dont see what the problem is, she says. Youre a pimp. You should just accept that youre a pimp and learn to deal with these situations, because Im sure that, as a pimp, youll have to deal with many more.
After 26-year-old web developer Greg Cerveny read The Game last year, he went straight to www.fastseduction.com and started posting, looking for other PUAs in Denver. He posted under a pseudonym, Tadpole, and soon hooked up with another Denverite whod nicknamed himself SIFU. By the time Matt started the Denver Pick Up Artists Lair, there was this explosion of people getting together, Tadpole says.
The lairs website provided Denver PUAs with a place where they could swap stories, as well as a group of people they could go out with to try approaches. Tadpole started a blog to share his experiences, which read like a daily log of his conquests. That is, until the March 7 entry, titled She Found My Blog:
I got a text message this week
I had been found out.
I called her to explain. I listened with compassion as I could only assume the level of betrayal she must have felt. I endured cutting remarks and questions of my character. After I listened and sought to understand, I tried to explain. I told her what I think being a PUA is about. I defended my values. It fell on deaf ears. I dont blame her
I cant explain to her that the person she was getting to know was the real me. Just because I intentionally smile when I talk or place my hand on the small of her back doesnt make me a liar. Pickup artists arent bad people, but its hard to tell that to someone who just read one of our conversations on my blog.
Tadpole went back through his previous postings and removed all personal conversations. He no longer uses the term pick-up artist because of its negative connotations, which trigger thoughts of con artists and manipulation. Hurt girlfriend aside, that doesnt fit with how he sees his activities. His five-man clique within the lair focuses on male improvement. They go dancing and host book clubs. Heres a group of guys trying to learn how to communicate better with women, to make a woman feel good when theyre around her, he says.
Greg Mular works as a personal trainer, but hopes that Relationships Inc. will someday be a full-time gig. I want to wake up every day and learn about being a better, stronger man, and teach other guys to improve their lives, thereby improving the lives of women that theyre with, he explains.
This emphasis on self-improvement rather than notches on the bedpost suggests that some Denver PUAs have made it to the sobering, 436th page of The Game. By the books end, Strauss has become Mysterys equal, a pick-up master. But as much as he loves being a confident ladies man, hes also disillusioned. We were all searching outside ourselves for our missing pieces, and we were all looking in the wrong direction, he writes. Instead of finding ourselves, wed lost our sense of self. Mystery didnt have the answers. A blonde 10 in a two-set at the Standard didnt have the answers. The answers were to be found within.
To win the game was to leave it.
Matt circles the Stampedes pulsating dance floor at least a half-dozen times. The girls hes interested in arent biting. He approaches one group, holding out his hand for a high-five and his arm hangs in the air for what seems like an eternity until one of the girls rolls her eyes and lifts hers.
He heads over to talk with Sabina. He saved my life, she says. They met a few months ago at a birthday pub crawl for a mutual friend. Sabina had a few drinks on board when she saw some kids skateboarding and decided she wanted to learn, heels be damned. When Matt saw her heading toward the skaters, he sensed trouble and followed. Sabina stepped onto the board, pushed off and immediately went flying into the air. Matt caught her just before her head would have slammed against the pavement. It was those Navy SEAL instincts, she says.
Shes telling Matt that now hes responsible for her and must be her constant rescuer, when the thin brunette from the beginning of the night joins them. She grabs Matt by the shoulders and hops on his back for an impromptu piggyback ride. Sure, its a gimmick but it works.
Maybe the night isnt such a bust after all.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.