Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Failure of the Day: What It's Not About

There are 2 ways to look at what happened yesterday.
  • I got $20K cash, a 2-week vacation, and a 30% pay increase.
  • I got laid off.
Both are true. Well, one of them is true for sure, and the other one is what I think is the jist of the situation. I am pretty sure of it, actually, but there is what I think, and what people are allowed to tell me, and there's no overlap between the two at all. There was a lot of "You know that thing we talked about last month? Well, we're not allowed to mention that right now." during my Big Meeting yesterday. So things are expressly not about what they are about right now, and that puts my brain in a bit of an awkward position, because it likes things to be about what they are about.

I've never been laid off before. I've been fired, but I've never just had my position eliminated. It's like the waiter clearing your plate while you're still eating. You're sort of stuck there, all ready with the fork but the food just vanishes. Except that's not entirely right either; the cooks are still back there making more food, and someone has to eat it, but if it's going to be me, I'm going have to eat it in a different way going forward. And to get back to what it's not about, the different way pays more. Presumably.

It's also a lot like going to your own funeral in that people spend the whole day talking about how awesome you are. Four and a half years there and no one ever told me I was awesome, even though I certainly do exceptionally good work. It's just not an atta boy kind of place. But yesterday, around a dozen people were on the verge of full-blown panic at the thought of having to trudge through the workflow without me. Even though we all on some level assume that I will be back in fairly short order, in some capacity or other. And so again, we all spent the day reacting to a situation that we all more or less believed was not actually going to turn out to be the situation. I mean, jesus, is it any wonder I'm a little bit nutso today?

For now, I am treating with liberal amounts of frozen yogurt and cable movies. Who knows what tomorrow will be about... or not about.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Failure of the Day: Escrow: The 30-Day Christmas Eve—Welcome to Day 35

The appraisal guy, hereafter known as the Fucking Fuckity Fucker, just sat on the appraisal for a full seven calendar days, making it impossible to get everything done even for a June 30 closing. So, so much for moving on July 2. We re-booked the movers, and rescheduled the furniture delivery and the HOA move-in appointment for a week later. Which worked out fine for all those people; they all had the spots available in their schedules, but we still didn’t even know if the Fucking Fuckity Fucker would hold us up even longer to make even THAT moving date unworkable. Oh, and did I mention we were also waiting for biopsy results? So yeah, a nice stress-free week.

But finally, the Fucking Fuckity Fucker delivered the report, and the Best Mortgage Broker in the World hauled ass and got the loan approved and finalized the very same day. And she got a mobile notary to come to our house last night at 8 PM, and we signed every piece of paper in the universe, essentially sealing the deal, if not closing escrow quite yet. Which yes, means all this happened on the exact same day we got the biopsy result. So you think YOU had a big day? Ha Ha. It is to laugh.

We wired the money for closing this morning and now we wait for the process to play itself out. We should be owners on Tuesday. And NOW it feels close. And NOW it feels real.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Failure of the Day: Not Even About Escrow

The surgery went well and easy: no pain and less memory—I recall maybe a total of four minutes of all of Friday. That Ativan is serious business.

The doctor was good to his word and showed me the mass he removed—that part I remember. It was the size and shape of a button on a very fancy little girl’s winter coat. More importantly, it is not malignant; the doc called the following Wednesday to tell me about PASH (pseudoangiomatous stromal hyperplasia), which is a lot of syllables to say fibrous lump that grows for reason we don’t understand. So yay! Another weird and rare disease that is NOT cancer, and 2 more inches of surgical scar to add to my collection. That’s 31 inches total on my torso, for those of you playing at home.

It was an interesting intellectual exercise for me, though. I would not have been sad to see my breasts ectomied clean off, and that’s a complicated thought process: is wishing for breastlessness the same as wishing for a cancer diagnosis? It took me several long days to sift out my serious desire to NOT have cancer from how tired I am of having boobs. But once I had found the distinction, I was surprised by how strong my desire for it not to be cancer was, and then I was surprised by my surprise. So I suppose we’re right back where we started: a weird girl, a weird body, and way too much thinking about both. But a happy ending, at least.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Failure of the Day: Escrow: The 30-Day Christmas Eve—Week 4

There came to be some doubt over the closing date—our lender suddenly demanded a THIRD appraisal, and after some doing, it wound up happening on the 23rd, too late to make it for a closing on the 26th. We’ll now close on the 30th if all goes well. A woman I work with started her escrow a week before us and she’s now a week past her original closing date with no papers to sign yet, because her lender is making additional appraisal demands as well—it seems to be in lending zeitgeist.

But there’s a bit of lucky planning: we allowed almost a full week between the original scheduled closing date and moving day, so we can absorb some delay. Not a lot, but some. Chris did an astonishing job packing this weekend—we’re more than half packed a full 9 days until the movers are scheduled to arrive. Honestly, the amount of work he’s capable of is a little staggering.

The upcoming surgery has given me a nice bit of perspective—I don’t feel particularly nervous about the condo at all any more. We’ve received approval for literally every single other aspect of our application, and we have every single other form and piece of paperwork filed and approved and ready. It seems, I think, knock wood, that we can be delayed—but I don’t think we can be stopped from actually purchasing this condo. I think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Failure of the Day: Escrow, Interrupted

Because if you’re going to one huge life thing, you might as well do EVERY huge life thing at the exact same time. Welcome back to the tit monster, scourge of the xray, enemy to the needle. The 6-month follow-up mammogram was suspicious: Shifty eyes, bulging pockets, loitering outside of 7-11.

So even though the Christmas biopsy was negative, the mass in my left breast is larger and more defined now, and the doctors are not happy. So next up is a surgical biopsy, a minor procedure in which they will remove most if not all of the mass. They are doing the procedure on the day that escrow is scheduled to close. Because why not? It’s not like we have to plan a whole move and the largest financial transaction of our life right then or anything.

But the tit monster waits for no mortgage. So I am back to practicing my flat chest cancer routines, settling on a suitably disrespectful demeanor, and absently looking at wigs online. Never mind that no one seems particularly convinced that it’s cancer, only concerned that they don’t know what it is at all, and so, abundance of caution, etc.

Chris is a brave little toaster, glued to my side at the surgical consult and creating for us a charming visual narrative of the stalwart and extravagantly devoted husband with his caustic and loudmouth wife, all the better to win over the surgeon, who will hopefully now be less inclined to come to work drunk or suddenly dyslexic on operation day. I liked the surgeon, oddly; he winced when he crossed his legs and it reminded me of Dr House. Also he spent an HOUR with us—can you imagine? Just going over our general and local anesthesia options.

I suppose I’m as comfortable with the whole thing as possible—I’m not thrilled with the idea of the surgery, sure, but that didn’t stop me from choosing the local anesthesia because the doctor promised to show me the mass after he digs it out. And with some luck, that will be the last we hear of the tit monster.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Failure of the Day: Escrow: The 30-Day Christmas Eve—Week 3

We’ve booked the movers and given notice to our now very sad landlord. We’re good, tidy tenants and no doubt in this economy he’s not going to get the rent we were paying. He’s a great landlord and it’s a great place; email me if you’re apartment hunting. I watch the Home and Garden network obsessively now because the Blooomberg channel gives me a really bad stomachache. But an otherwise very quiet week.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Failure of the Day: Escrow: The 30-Day Christmas Eve—Week 2

This is the week we learned that we had missed out on the low, low interest rates that we had heard so much about. Six days before Erin submitted all our info to the lender, mortgage rates jumped by one-half to one full percentage point in a single day. Erin advised us not to lock in a rate and float a rate, betting that the markets would correct in the next several weeks.

And would you listen to me spouting off about the rates market like Michael freaking Bloomberg! And that’s because I’ve been watching the Bloomberg financial channel obsessively. I’ve never watched financial news shows before (duh) and I barely understand half of the vocabulary, but even I can tell that not a soul on the TV has any idea what’s happening or what any of us should do. They should all totally be wearing silk scarves around their heads, and we should have to slip a quarter in a slot to get them to print out their advice on little cards they spit out.

My problem is there’s nothing to DO anymore. When we got 35 emails a day keeping us appraised of our various in-progress documents, I felt busy and engaged and actively participating. Now it’s all out of hands and we can only wait. And there are a LOT of shows on the Bloomberg channel. Our condo-to-be passed both appraisals, and the loan application was submitted and we should get our approval in 7 days knock wood.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Failure of the Day: Escrow: The 30-Day Christmas Eve—Week 1

So, we found a place. It’s spectacular and affordable and in the exact neighborhood where we want to be. We made an offer on Sunday and it was accepted on Monday and we opened escrow on Tuesday. That brief transaction involved more paperwork that you can possibly imagine. And it was but a small fraction of what was to come.

We spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday getting and sending emails about all manner of legal and financial minutia, and then we met with our realtor on Thursday night to sign even more documents. Later that night, we got the good faith estimate of our closing costs. Which prompted an immediate sobbing, teeth-gnashing freakout. Did you know that the line on the estimate that is called “Cash the Buyer MUST Have to Close” has absolutely nothing to do with the actual amount of cash the buyer must have to close? Yeah, me neither. Luckily, Erin, the world’s nicest mortgage broker, called us back at 9 PM (!) to talk us (me) down. All better now.

On Saturday we had a more-detailed visual inspection of the property with our realtor and the seller’s realtor. That’s when I noticed the window treatments. They are moiré silk taffeta in a dark olive green with a thin stripe of iridescent burgundy along one edge. Hanging in both the bedroom and the living room, they are exquisite. The seller’s agent told us they were custom made in Italy, and the contract we signed specified that they are included with the condo. And that’s when all the enthusiasm I’d been tempering with caution just burst right through. It’s essentially over for me. I can hold myself back quite a bit, I really can, but at this point I’m done. I am a helpless puddle in this condo’s palm. I am a gape of my own want.

On Monday we emailed and faxed one thousand financial documents to Erin, who now knows more about me than any person to whom I am related by blood. I understand that there are plenty of things that can still trip us up—the FHA is stern mistress—but everything that we can do, we have done. It’s out of our hands. It’s June 1; we are scheduled to close on June 26.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Failure of the Day: Too Much Brain on My Hands

Thank god for benadryl—I’m finally getting something like enough sleep, chemically induced though it may be. And it occurs to me: I don’t handle stress well. I mean, I handle it—I don’t fall apart or go on a tri-state killing spree or eat four whole chickens at every meal. I get my work done and I continue to groom myself properly, but my emotions are not gentle really under any circumstances, any of them, and stress is a bit of an accelerant to my already emphatic predisposition.

And you know how people really need to take a vacation from their same old thoughts because distraction is the cure for obsession and depression and worry and kind of everything? Yeah, that’s not going so well for me. For example, I might actually, oddly, be on the David Letterman show at some point in the coming months. (It’s a long story; I’ll explain more if it pans out.) Ordinarily, that would be a world-class distraction, wouldn’t you think? What will I wear? How will I keep from making more of a buffoon of myself than is strictly necessary? How will I keep Chris from weeping with joy the whole time, etc. Just worrying about how fat I’ll look on TV should be enough to distract me clear through July.

But it’s not. Instead I spend all my time worried that the economic downturn isn’t affecting SOMA real estate prices as much as we need it to, and they won’t accept our lowball offers. We don’t have the answer to any of our questions yet, mostly because we haven’t found just the right realtor yet, so instead of fixating on how to make sure my hair is perfect for Dave, I obsess over new home sales data by zip code. And it’s just me, asking the same question over and over into the sacred space between my face and the monitor screen, and I don’t have any new information since the last time I asked. There’s no new answer. There’s no answer at all yet, because I have to wait. I. Have. To. Wait.

This is the second week.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Failure of the Day: Enter Sandman

I have seriously never had this many people interested in discussing my needs in my entire life. People are appearing out of thin air and asking if we can discuss my needs. I get emails and phone calls daily now from people who want only to know what my needs are. I have a neurologist, a dermatologist, a gynecologist, a dentist, and an internist, and not a single one of them is 1% as interested in my needs as any given real estate agent in San Francisco.

Let me tell you what I need: Sleep.

I haven’t slept through the night since last Saturday. I thought I saw a big black bird swooping through my office two times yesterday. This is the condition in which I am supposed to make a decision that will affect the next 30 years of my life.

Thing is, I don’t feel stressed. I’m exhausted and I have what I’m pretty sure is hysterical diarrhea, but I don’t feel scared or on edge or tense. I feel like I’m thinking clearly, making fine decisions, and performing perfectly fine acts of deductive reasoning. So yeah, real estate agents, I would like to discuss my needs in more detail with the whole lot of you. But I’m not hiring any of you yet, not until I know I have to, and not until one of you strikes me in just the right way.

But seriously, did no one else see that bird? It’s gone now but it was just there.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Failure of the Day: High-Stakes Education

I learned what a mortgage broker was when the lady on the phone identified herself as one. Which was just before she pre-approved us for a sum roughly 50% more than our budget. It was a science fiction sum. Isaac Asimov wrote that sum.

That was when my stomach stopped hurting for the first time in 2 days. Approval is nice. We had the stamp of productive and responsible adulthood on our foreheads. Our income and credit scores are acceptable. Now we get to shop for real.

Now I need to learn what a realtor is, and if we need one. And if it’s different than a buyer’s agent. And what short sales are and why people seem wary of TICs. On the plus side, I know what a TIC is.

I’m also having my own personal episode of Spock’s Brain—all of a sudden I forget everything the Money Grown-Up explained to us and I can’t figure out how we can afford this. My understanding just wears off and I need to get re-hooked up to the Teacher helmet. It’s something about taxes I know, but after that? Pfffft.

It wasn’t long before my stomach started hurting again. That’s the second day.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Failure of the Day: We’re Sorry, My Nerves Are Experiencing Unexpectedly High Call Volume; Please Hold

After putting it off for literally years, Chris and I saw a financial advisor on Saturday. We call him the Money Grown-Up. He told us that in fact we could afford to buy a condo, pretty much now. He explained all the various details and tax implications and mortgage options and millions of other details about numbers that hopefully Chris paid attention to because really, I was mostly spending all my energy trying to keep a reasonable expression on my face. Owning our own place is kind of a big deal to me, is the thing. On Sunday we started shopping.

The first thing you learn is that you are unforgivable wealthy. A half million dollars! That’s what these things cost, and you just bat the concept around like a kitten with a yarn ball. A half million dollars. To start.

The second thing you learn is that you are a deadbeat. You look at places that are priced higher than you can afford and know that you’re going to haggle them down to what you want. But in the early stages, the whole time you’re talking to the agents, you’re keeping the terrible secret that you can’t pay the asking price. Because you’re a deadbeat. Your shoes cost $11 from a store that was going out of business, and they can totally tell.

Meanwhile you’re a lost little lamb. The nice Money Grown-Up says you don’t need a realtor to buy a condo, any moron can negotiate a good deal in this market, so you walk into the places alone with your pants around your ankles and your wallet open, and the people showing the properties start talking REALLY FAST.

On Sunday night I sit straight up in bed covered in sweat just like they do in movies. “We have to get rid of all our books!” I shout to Chris, who is happily killing digital zombies. “We’ll never get enough square footage for all our bookcases!” Chris lets the zombies run free for a while and comes to soothe my frantic head. “It’s just shopping,” he says. “It’s fun. It exciting. And we like our books.”

I take a fistful of benadryl and manage to get to sleep. That’s the first day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Failure of the Day: The Unbearable Light(ness) of Tanning

My skin? Still hates me. The psoriasis is throwing the mother of all tantrums (which really should be the toddler of all tantrums but whatever) and let’s call it flaring. And I’ve had it. I’ve been rubbing goop on it for 25 years and none of it works for shit. What works is UV radiation, particularly UVB, but I don’t have the time to go all the way to Kaiser to use their light boxes three times a week. But I do have time to go to the tanning salon on 4th and King on my way home from work.

Tanning beds mostly deliver UVA light, so it doesn’t work quite as well, but I have it on good authority that it does work some, and that’s more than I can say for the goop. That’s the plus side. On the minus side, I’ve spent my entire adult life scrupulously avoiding ever getting even a hint of a tan. There’s a reason I don’t have any wrinkles into my 40s.

Tonight, in the tanning salon, I had what in truth was a very pleasant conversation with the 20-year-old receptionist’s hard candy shell. I had to stop myself from knocking on it—the gloss was so high I could almost see myself in it. But I found it oddly endearing, too, the effort he put into the show of being so nice and helpful. When I was a 20 year old receptionist, you couldn’t have gotten me to fake 10% of that friendliness with a gun to my head. What is it with kids today? No irony, no disdain, and not a loner in the whole fucking generation. I tell you, it’s eerie.

But in the end, what do I care that he started every sentence with an enthusiastic “Absolutely!”? Because, really, a simulation of friendliness and helpfulness is still friendly and helpful, and I needed someone to tell me how to get in the weird machine without setting myself on fire. I toasted for a brief 5 minutes (my whole face swaddled in towels) and none of my marshmallow bits seem to be burnt, so you can bet I’ll be back to continue the great Fuck the Goop experiment of 09. But first I need to moisturize. Seriously.

Friday, January 02, 2009

NON-Failure of the Day: Black Sabbath's Master of Reality by John Darnielle

I absolutely cop to being heavily biased in favor of Darnielle long before starting this book, and I further acknowledge that my opinions tend to the extreme and dramatic. However, even given all that, I have to say that to my eyes, this book marks the invention of a new kind of music journalism.

Instead of the studied music expert deconstructing the minutiae of the songsmithing and performance from a lofty and removed perspective, what Darnielle gives us is the idealized audience for the material at hand, expertly rendered with autobiographical precision. Who else but a 16-year-old kid thrown into a lockdown psych ward to explain the greatness of Black Sabbath? And who else but arguably the finest songwriter working in America today, not coincidentally also an RN who worked in a psychiatric lockdown facility for adolescent boys, to merge the story of the record with the story of the boy?

This new journalistic genre—criticism literature, let’s call it—provides not just an opinion of the music, but context, an experiential framework in which to hear it as it was intended by the audience it was intended for. It does what you want literature to do, that is, transport you into another person’s existence, and once you’re there, it plays the songs for you such that you hear them through the character’s ears, and through his or her lifetime of experience.

I don’t know; maybe other people are doing this and it is old news but this is the first I’ve seen of it, and I found it to be exhilarating and wrenching and ultimately transformative way of communicating in the single-dimensional world of words what it feels like to hear the multi-dimensional world of music. I’m awestruck by the achievement.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Failure of the Day: The Most Time-Consuming Clock

Time passes however it damn well chooses. There are weeks that are over before you can finish your Coke, and weeks that you don’t notice and that don’t notice you—time is a stranger; not even eye contact as you pass each other on the sidewalk.

Then there are weeks like this, Wednesday to Wednesday, Chris working long hours, and no on else knows what I’m waiting for. You don’t invite other people into this kind of time—at least I don’t. Maybe that’s a social misunderstanding on my part but it seems discourteous at best to drag people into your drama before you even know for sure if it exists. I limit the causalities.

One thing I’ve decided: if it’s cancer, I have to re-write my book as a memoir—the story wouldn’t be believable as fiction anymore. It’s too much. And I find myself getting comfortable with cancer—I’m warming right up to it. In a way it’s relaxing; to return to being the sick girl is just so easy, so familiar. It’s alluring. I still haven’t quite figured out who I am if I’m not the sick girl, so being her again would solve that problem at least.

But a week is a long time to spend on an identity cusp. I don’t actually expect it to be cancer; the odds as I understand them are in my favor. In my 20s of course, no matter how the odds were split, it was inevitable that I would find myself in the smaller wedge of pie. I was pretty unlikely. But a decade of outright healthfulness like the one I’ve just had makes one feel a good bit more insulated. “Anything can happen—but it probably won’t” sums up the uneasy peace I made with my catastrophic history and what it means for my remarkably still not catastrophic present.

Still, though, a long week. And a long day; they are supposed to call today but it’s 3 PM and so far, nothing.

6 PM UPDATE: *AH-OOOO-GAH* Doctor just called and sounded the all-clear. Looks like I'm still more likely than not.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Failure of the Day: Meet the New Boss

I had to have my left breast biopsied today. The doctor emphasized that the dense area of tissue they see on my mammogram and ultrasound is not the kind of thing that usually turns out to be cancer, which I appreciated and am forcing myself to stay focused on.

I watched them do the biopsy on the monitor; I saw the needle clip off each of the six tissue samples they took from the sort of white-ish blobby thing on the digital screen, which of course was not on the digital screen at all but very near my left armpit. And I thought: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I know about white blobby things on high-tech x-ray; I first saw the one in my brain coming up on 18 years ago--now it's almost old enough to vote. And it sure as shit was the boss of me for most of those 18 years, though much less so lately.

It was an emotional day; I was more worked up than I thought was warranted but there wasn't anything I could do about that. I called in sick to work and waited to call Chris until I could say the word "biopsy" out loud without choking up. And it's frustrating because I'm not frightened and I wasn't frightened for a moment during the procedure or after it, but I was behaving as though I were, and I don't really know why. I recognized the feeling of dread in the fist of my stomach, it came and went as I wandered around downtown for five straight hours, trying to make myself exhausted and distracted. But I never did get around to feeling afraid.

It was also a bit liberating; I'm pretty responsible these days what with the big corporate job, husband, nice apartment, low cholesterol counts, and such. Today I didn't have to do anything at all; my only task was to keep myself entertained. That really was the best and right thing for me to do, so I dawdled in Macy's, bought tights at Forever 21, looked in vain for a palatable movie to see, and ate a very salty and wonderful soft pretzel. Not a bad day, considering.

I'm 42; 10 years younger than my grandmother was when she got breast cancer. I'm still not scared, or really even worried right now. I have a big white blob in the middle of my field of vision though, and it might turn out to be a long road of bullshit medical ordeals, or it might just be pretzel dough. I know what to do with both. I get the results in 7 days.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Failure of the Day: Futbal? I Hardly Know Her!

Once upon a time I considered everyone who watched football a cretin. I was young and judgmental and as annoying as we all are at 23. And 33. Mostly I just didn’t know anything about it and hadn’t watched even a single game, so I had no idea how it was played, or what the rules are, or anything. That changed when Chris got sucked into fantasy football league during our last year in Seattle, and suddenly the living room TV was all booked up on Sundays with that strange white noise of crowd sounds and instantly orgasmic announcers.

I like sitting on the couch with Chris (he’s toasty!), so eventually, I picked up on the basics and could watch a game with something approaching appreciation, if not pleasure. It’s something to see 300-pound men hurl themselves at the ground with no regard for their own physical well-being. Bodily fearlessness is as anti-Nancy as it gets, and anti-Nancy is my favorite, of course, so the next thing you know, I have my own fantasy team and am having perfectly reasonable conversations about Peyton Manning.

Yesterday we watched in person as Chris’s beloved Seahawks eviscerated the poor, defenseless (no, really) 49ers. I was again impressed by how easy and convenient MUNI makes it to get to the ballpark. I was likewise impressed by how many Italian sausages and ice cream bars I can eat in a single afternoon. But what really struck me was how many of the fans were absolute cretins. Rude, sunflower seed–spitting, homophobic epithet–shouting, drunk morons.

But it’s not football’s fault. Any crowd will bring out the worst in those with a predisposition to assholery. There was no shortage of drunk morons at the various Litquake events we went to earlier this month, too. And really, I’ll take a drunk football fan over a drunk poet any day—the drunk football fan won’t get all sad at the end and make you read some godawful thing they wrote. So, you know, go Hawks.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Failure of the Day: High

Having now successfully completed about 30 percent of my year end dental extravaganza, I am now chin deep in love with nitrous oxide. Even though I just heard from a friend who managed to use so much of it that she permanently damaged her liver (and really, how do people get ahold of black market gasses? And in large enough doses to cause irreparable organ damage? Jesus, I need to get out more.) and now requires monthly B-12 shots.

But in the happy and controlled doses offered by the dental girls, I am free to meditate on the nature of whatever it is that got stuck in my head that afternoon without fear of Hep C or any of the other low-impulse-control crowd’s bugaboos. For this week’s appointment, I was focused on the word pulp. The crisis on tooth 15 involved removing some old fillings that were, I was told, perilously close to the tooth’s pulp, whatever fucking horrifying thing that is, and if they got too close, I would need a full-blown root canal.

So pulp it was as they strapped the nosegear on me. But as my arm and legs dissolved into that fantastic electric throb, it seemed to me that books get turned to pulp too, and that I was writing a book about pulp: the soft, vulnerable mush that acts as the stuffing for our bodies, and before too long it was all really cosmic and profound. I was sure I had uncovered a Larger Theme in my novel that I need to remember and incorporate into my writing.

It wasn’t, and I hadn’t, and I didn’t, of course; I was just high. But it was nice way to pass an afternoon, which is pretty impressive considering how many fingers and pointed sticks were in my mouth. I ended up not needing the root canal, and can go back and get another regular old crown in couple of weeks. I’ll get the nitrous for that appointment too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Failure of the Day: Mouth

You know the 22 Fillmore? That crazy people mobility machine, that homeless guy motel, that bad smell factory?

On the 22 Fillmore this afternoon, it was all I could do to manage my straight-up euphoria. It spouted in plumes from my head; the Okkervil River songs on my new birthday iPod that I have heard a million times sounded so triumphant I nearly wept. On the 22 Fillmore.

What I know for sure is that whatever medical, physical doom is still flying around out there for me is headed right for my mouth. In my jaw are planted the seeds of my ultimate destruction. I can feel it. I feel airplanes crashing into it; I feel exploding shards of bone every time the train takes a fast corner. Death is a missile aimed at the base of my tongue.

So when the dentist told me that I needed two crowns and not the NINE plus a root canal that my last dentist tried to sell me, and also that I had no new cavities and that my gums are healthy, and that yes, she understands completely that I have an obligation to act as my own pain management advocate and that I am not drug-seeking but on the day after she’s been rooting around in my mouth with pointed sticks I get to have a vicodin or two, I thought yes. Yes, this is how we run a perfectly serviceable adulthood.

I am keeping my distance from doom. My mouth is closed to it and I feel invincible.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Failure of the Day: Easy. Ass.

And it’s just that easy. I remember now why I blogged… for those times when it’s slow during the day and both my novel and my current poem smell like ass, it’s nice to do something EASY.

Some of my thoughts for the day:

The free maxi-thins at work are neither maxi nor thin, but they are free, and as such, totally sufficient.

Kaiser are persistent buggers: After establishing care with the new internist and getting my annual check-up taken care of last week (during which the Doctor congratulated me on my weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol—that’s how healthy I am) the dermatology, neurology, and mammography people have been calling me more than daily to get me in for my referrals.

Now, except for the mammogram, which I submit to begrudgingly because I recognize the necessity of that uncomfortable glass and boob sandwich, I have no use for these specialists. Neurologists have never been more than the notetakers of my disease, dutifully marking up my chart and then sending me home empty handed 100% of the time for oh, the last 17 years.

Dermatologists, on the other hand, are another class of villain entirely. Over the years, they’ve cured my psoriasis a few times now, albeit temporarily, either with anonymous drugs in clinical trials that I’ve never been able to get ahold of again, with delivery systems of common drugs that have “fallen out of favor” and so are not available any longer, or with UV light treatments that they wont prescribe anymore because some dumbass once burned themselves with the home light wand and sued over it.

Oh, but they call. Wont I please make an appointment? Sure. You bet. At my earliest convenience. I’m thinking early 2009.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Failure of the Day: Four Hours

Sweet and slender tendrils of vacation smell are wafting up from… you know I don’t know if that's what that smell actually is, but let’s just for the sake of argument say it’s sweet and vacation-y and of somewhat mysterious origin, and O, I want it.

The last day of work before 12 uninterrupted days off. Chris is running around like a crazy person tying up loose ends and making sure everything at his job is taken care of, whereas I am watching time just full-on cease to advance at all, at all. Time hates me. Time is the little old lady I will eventually be trying to cross the street and giving me the finger for honking at her to speed it the fuck up already, granny!

Not. Even. Lunch. Time. Yet.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Failure of the Day: Week, Interrupted

I’m in full vacation mode. Our trip isn’t until later this month but it’s a holiday week and most everyone at work took the whole week off, so it’s slow and hot no one is in the mood to do much of anything. I’m also just completely relieved to be done with the DeLillo novel. I don’t mean to dismiss it as heavy, but I literally weighed more while I was reading it. I’ve lost 2 pounds since I finished it, no lie. And OK, it’s very good and it reads like what trauma actually feels like, the sense of disconnectedness, the repetition, the deadening boredom of feeling the same terrible thing every minute of the day for weeks on end, and that’s no small accomplishment of literature. But holy shit is it a drag to read.

San Jose is doing a thing for the holiday—who knows how they pulled it off but They Might Be Giants and Fountains of Wayne are playing in Discovery Meadows on Tuesday night. Which, in true sort-of-crap-town spirit, is technically the third and not the fourth, but I’m not complaining because it’s walking distance from our apartment and tickets are a whopping $10. It couldn’t be easier for us to see this concert if the drum kit were on my lap.

To rev up I’ve been re-listening to the new Fountains of Wayne CD, which sort of rubbed me the wrong way the first couple of times through. I’m warming up to it though. The music is at times nakedly exuberant even as the words bop along in their self-conscious pop cultural name dropping. I read a review that called them the best bet for impeccably produced, beach-ready power-pop, and you know, I’m so in the mood!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Failure of the Day: Sold!

If I had to pick a word to describe the concert the Police put on last night, it would be “enterprise-class.” (That’s what comes from a year and a half in software marketing.) The show was sleek and big and impersonal, and to my blunt ears, musically flawless. If the guitar was out of tune for two bars during Walking on the Moon or whatever; Chris would have noticed, but me, I’m all ohh, shiny!

Now, the 60-something suburban divorcées who sat in front of us rocking out and toking up were a whole other matter. It was disturbing on a very deep level—sort of like being at the stoner park across the street from school and having your teachers show up with the bong. On the other hand, it left me feeling nicely optimistic about the future of marijuana laws.

I am also currently in the thick of planning our summer vacation trip to Chicago. It’ll be the biggest trip Chris and I have taken together, and I’m having a superfun time navigating through and developing some expertise with the various online travel sites. I’ve always been good at getting good prices on our trips, but I lately I’ve been deep into the arcane rules and strategies of using Priceline and Hotwire and have, I think, seriously outdone myself.

So by now the trip is almost completely booked! and I am moving on to the activities research. I discovered that Milwaukee is a mere 90-minute drive from Chicago, and I thought: SOLD! Milwaukee! I can’t imagine there will be anything there to see but I don’t care. In my mind, Milwaukee is as different as a thing can be from a Jewish poet who hates both beer and nature. It’s the geographic equivalent of the polar opposite of me! I love it already. Chris is always up for weird "roadside America" adventure, but even if he weren't, he's putty in my hands since I told him about the Bob Newhart statue on Navy pier.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Failure of the Day: Rung

In his new book (which is just supernaturally good), Michael Chabon says doom is a thick ribbon that marbles all Jewish life. Which goes a fair distance toward explaining why, when I finished the third draft of my own novel week before last, adding more than 30,000 much-needed words and 70 fleshed-out pages to the second draft, I was overcome with one of the most profound feelings of disappointment I’ve ever felt in my life.

It’s not just that it’s not very good—hell, it’s never been very good; it’s a first novel by a confessional poet for chrissakes—it’s that it’s poorly written. Of all things to be wrong with it, that really was the last thing I expected. I spent the whole week in pitiful mourning; weeping for the thing as though I had buried rather than written it.

When I land on my ass in a big stinky pile of doom, it usually only takes me a minute to look up and find the Home Sweet Home sign I nailed there round about 1992. Doom is my natural habitat—all this dreadful suburban luxury and emotional comfort and financial well-offedness that surround me 15 years later is a temporary ruse, a tablecloth that will be yanked out from under the placesettings not by a skilled magician but by a dog who gets startled and makes a run for it with a corner of the linen caught in his teeth.

I have been presented with a fair number of Last Place certificates in my life—they are all from the children’s bowling league I was marched off to on Saturday mornings, and all have a picture of a ladder and the slogan Watch Us Climb Up Next Year going up the rungs on them. I think a lot of my life has been based on those certificates, that cheerful spin on bottoming out. Truth is, I don’t mind it here. There’s safety in doom, and a sense of perspective. Two weeks in, for example, I figured out that the work that remains on my novel is actually the fun part, the making beautiful now that the mundane and grueling storytelling part is so much more defined. I also figured out that the lump in the center of my thoughts a big glut of neglected poetry that needs badly to be let out. So this homey doom, it is not so bad. There's plenty to muck around with down here, and as ever, nowhere to go but up.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Failure of the Day: There and Back

We spent a good chunk of last week in Seattle. It was my first actual business trip: Big Software Co. sent me to an all-day copyediting workshop. Chris came up with me and when I wasn’t happily discussing the finer points of punctuating adverbial clauses, we visited our old neighborhood and saw friends and enjoyed the city. It was a really great trip. Chris took a lot of photos, but most of them are of the R2D2 mailboxes.





And then we came back. To San Jose. Which we really have made our peace with; it’s not a bad little city, it just needs a little love, as Linus says. But comparison does it no favors, and a two hour flight is nowhere near enough time to recalibrate my sufficiency meters. It was a difficult re-entry.

As a result, I spent much of this week looking at SF condo listings on Craigslist. And I couldn’t help it, I got sucked in. For a brief period, $550,000 actually started seeming like a reasonable price for 900 square feet, and I even convinced myself that we could swing it on our income. I was able to do that because I don’t know a single thing about mortgages or down payments or closing costs or homeowners insurance or property taxes or HOA dues or really, anything.

Suffice to say, after some fairly simple long division, it’s clear we’ll have to make due with the ridiculous level of luxury in our rented south bay townhouse. I don’t guess we’re going anywhere any time soon. It’s an interesting excursion, though, into that most grown-up of financial leaps. Like every thing else, I’m ten years late, but I’ve finally internalized the idea that it’s time to keep one eye on interest rates and housing stats and our down payment savings. For now, we’re content to just line our toes up against the edge of the ravine that must be spanned and wait a spell before we’re ready to cross it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Failure of the Day: Putting Things in Cans

Thanks to Chris’s Great Big Brain, we spent the weekend in Monterey. Our hotel was swank—we could lie in bed and watch the ocean lap the shore, and so we did, we did. The Nature, she is nice, especially when confined to the other side of the glass. And especially especially when the hotel people bring bagels and hard-boiled eggs and tea right to your bed. Thanks big brain!

We went to the aquarium and saw the otters and the fish and a bunch of totally dud penguins that just stood there with their backs to us. I may have convinced two 8-year-old boys that one of the most spectacularly odd-looking fish, which was the approximate size and shape of a twin mattress, was actually made of paper-maché. I would have believed me at 8.

I also fully embraced the cliché, thanks to our friend Katrina who, the night before we left, read the first paragraph of Cannery Row into our answering machine. Being the Western canon imbecile that I am, I had no idea how good that first paragraph is. And how embarrassing, considering that it is everywhere in Monterey. That paragraph is inescapable—it is quoted on cocktail napkins and big street sign flags and on the sides of buildings, and yet I had, up till now, escaped it.

Chris brought along his copy for me to read in the hotel, and I’ll tell you what, it’s a damn sight better than The Raw Shark Texts, which is terrible but I was sticking with it because I thought it would be a good thematic match for the weekend. But then I went and got all literal, and why not? Really, why not?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Failure of the Day: No Damn Cat. No Damn Cradle.


In The World According to Garp, Garp says of his mother’s death, “I’ll be mourning her privately for the rest of my life. But right now I want to be surrounded by as many people as possible who miss her as much as I do.”
Me, too. Me, too.

*

LA Times
NY Times
AP
CNN
MetaFilter
SF Gate
Huffington Post
Google
Aint It Cool News
Salon

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Failure of the Day: May’s Might

As though all that new music weren’t enough, this spring is also blooming with new books that are just quivering with promise.

The latest Sherman Alexie book, Flight, is a young adult novel that is, in part, an homage to Slaughterhouse 5, as if I needed more reasons to love Sherman Alexie. It’s terrifically moving and should be required reading for every 15-year-old boy in America, only it won’t be because Alexie for some reason chose to sprinkle the text liberally with fucks and motherfuckers, so it can’t be taught in schools. I get that that’s how the character would actually speak, but it's a terrible shame nevertheless, I think, that it is relegated to being the book your cool uncle gives you rather than something more readily available.

I didn’t keep up with Michael Chabon’s foray into genre fiction, so he hasn’t put out anything new for me since Summerland, which was good, but no Kavalier & Clay. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (out May 1) seems to be skating on the genre fiction/literature divide, but I’m willing to chance it.

And god bless America, shockingly soon after Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, which already was right on the heels of the wonderful Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami’s latest, After Dark, comes out May 8. So! Excited! Of the May releases, this is totally the one I’ll read first. No idea what it’s about, except that there will be a missing woman and probably, some sheep.

And finally, the new Don DeLillo novel, Falling Man, is due May 15. DeLillo intimidates me, big genius and all that, and I haven’t read his back catalogue except for White Noise and The Body Artist, both of which I liked very much and probably didn’t really understand. But it’s not like we have such a surplus of contemporary American literary genius that I can afford to ignore more than the ones I am already ignoring, to my great and lasting shame.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Failure of the Day: Art + Change = ??

YAY! Time for new music!

I am the latest of late birds on the Modest Mouse bandwagon, I realize. When Good News for People Who Like Bad News came out some years ago, I heard bits of it and hated it—it was too deliberate and angular and it just rubbed me all kinds of the wrong way. Which was weird, because everything about it, except how it actually sounded, seemed like it would be right up my alley. But then a few months ago something switched over in my head, and I thought: Modest Mouse! And I downloaded the songs and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t right up my alley. So deliberate! So angular! I loved it!

Their latest, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, is very, very good, even if it sounds quite a lot like the last two records they put out. I myself think growth can be overrated, especially when you are doing something that is already really interesting and cool and good.

The new Arcade Fire is a little bit tougher for me because it drifts into that Springsteenish sound and aesthetic that I find one-dimensional and dull. Other parts of it are rousing and lovely though. It’s hard to tell whether this is one of those times when a band changed in a way that I didn’t care for, or if they just made one brilliant record in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting career. I didn’t like their first EP, but Funeral is so good it makes my teeth hurt. Neon Bible is pretty good despite the over-earnest, gruff-voiced obviousness, but for a record that closes with a track called “My Body Is a Cage,” it seems to me that they had to work really hard to make me not swoon for it.

There is also the new Fountains of Wayne CD, Traffic and Weather, which we will pick up tomorrow. I think they are top-of-the-line pop songwriters despite what the meanest of the ugly kids from high school over at Pitchfork Media have to say about it. Plus, nothing is ever nearly as bad as they say it is.

I have just not been able to get into the new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record Some Loud Thunder. I loved loved loved their debut, but the new record actually made me MAD. They added a layer of fuzz and distortion over the opening track that struck me as a giant “We’re Artists, so fuck you, listener” statement, and another track consists of the same three words repeated over and over again for what seemed like seven minutes. Even if some other tracks are good, I don’t really care.

Finally, in the course of composing this, I discovered that Nick Cave, who I have long since washed my hands of, grew a moustache and put out something that sounds interesting to me for the first time since Murder Ballads. Reviews of Grinderman describe punk dirges with fuzzy guitars and a song called “No Pussy Blues,” so I'm sticking a cautious toe back in those murky waters. Expectations aren’t high, exactly, but I’ll buy it, which is more than I can say for his last several.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Failure of the Day: Digestion, Money, Sociopath: Discuss

We saw Zodiac this weekend and enjoyed every minute of it. It occurs to me that watching a sociopath do some fine, fine work maybe should not be so much fun, but serial killers are the pet rocks of our generation: we love them so long as they entail no actual interaction other than passive appreciation. The movie is also a fantastic re-creation of my bay area childhood, omitting none of commercial jingles, old-timey vending machines, and sense of hovering doom that I recall so well.

When we got home, I read an interview with the Zodiac book author, and he said he still meets with the lead detective on the case all the time at the Copper Penny, a stunningly terrible diner in my old neighborhood. Chris used to badger me to go there—he likes Old Man bars and restaurants—but I ate there once, and seriously, life’s too short. But there’ll be no getting out of it now: The chance to see the world’s foremost authorities on the Zodiac reminiscing about old times over runny key lime pie is too tantalizing, for him or me.

We also did our taxes this weekend and discovered that we are a good bit stupider than we had ever even dreamed. I’m telling you, this whole “being an adult” thing is exhausting. Honestly, sometimes it is a full-time job just keeping my own digestive system on track and more or less reliable—and I am also supposed to somehow intuit that being married doesn’t entail having my deductions taken out at the Married level? And if the Married level of deduction always screws you over, why is that little box there on the W4, just begging you to check it?

So, we’ll pay. We have no property or children to deduct and an AGI at the 28% bracket—and we’re democrats. Which is not to say that Chris’s flash of brilliance that if we put money in our 401ks, it is like having it deducted except we still get to keep it will go unacted-upon. But my god, why doesn’t anyone just tell you these things? Does it have to be a secret? It’s almost as bad as how hard it is to figure out that fiber doesn’t work without proper hydration.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Failure of the Day: Asswipe, Texas

The stars at night might well be big and bright, but I wouldn’t know. Here in San Antonio, at night the sky is too full of screeching bats to see much of anything. Christ, everyplace other than what I’m used to is weird.

We’re here in glorious Someplace Or Other, Texas for a tradeshow that Chris is being forced to attend and that I was allowed to accompany him to. I’m telecommuting during the day and then spending the evenings trying to figure out when things are on TV in fucking Central Time. No big deal… it’s only the last episode ever of The O.C. tonight. GAH!

I tried some sightseeing last night and walked along a bit of the RiverWalk—it’s sort of a cross between the It’s a Small World ride and a really nice open sewer. They say there are bars and restaurants on the RiverWalk, but that could turn out to be one of those urban legends like the one about how birds don’t fly at night. On my way back I was swarmed by some kind of flying creatures that make a squawking sound. The bartender said they were birds but Chris says they had to have been bats.

My goals for this trip are to eat a lot of quesadillas and not see the Alamo. I am doing very well on both so far. My theory is that if I am to wander about Texas being as conspicuously Semitic as I am, I might as well bloat myself well into next week and mutter “Davy Crockett? FUCK Davy Crockett!” to all passersby.

Later tonight while Chris is enduring more salespeople telling him that the “secret” is to sell the thing for more than you bought it for, I will take a boat to San Antonio’s B-list mall and try to pass some time. Yes, we take boats to malls here. They call it the river taxi, which sounds more like a euphemism than a nickname, but I’m feeling bored and generous, so river taxi it is.

Wish me luck; we have 2 more days to go.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Failure of the Day: The Annual Running of the Millionaires

I love TV. People at work are always surprised by that because I am all literary and arty and junk, but I get all PoMo on their asses and tell them that a distinction between high culture and low culture is bullshit, man, and I’m not down with it. Really though, it’s that I like crap as much as I like art, and I like watching America’s Next Top Model as much as I like watching Sports Night. It’s not that I don’t know that one is objectively better, it’s that I don’t care.

Anyhoo, consuming the culture as I do, it strikes me that February as the month when we all pass the time by racing our rich people. We start the month with The Running of the Big Millionaires, and we end it with The Running of the Little Millionaires.

I like the Running of the Big Millionaires because watching enormous men hurl themselves with complete abandon at the earth and each other pleases me. And I have a taste for spectacle anyway—communal nonreligious events of a certain magnitude draw my attention and actually manage to hold it, even when I don’t give a shit about the event or the outcome. Plus I totally dominated my post-season fantasy league, which consisted of Chris and me. But still, I TOTALLY DOMINATED it.

The Running of the Little Millionaires is more entertaining to me because they all wear itty bitty outfits that really show off how little they are, and everyone is all excited about the outfits. And even though you can’t really shake the feeling that everyone has just vomited, the whole thing is still very shiny and diaphanous. Watching it reminds me of the old Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland, when you go past the mirrors that show ghosts sitting right next to you. There’s not anything right next to you, but it really really looks like there is, and if you can see it, it has to be at least a little bit true. And I don’t care who wins these races either, but I’ll watch them run because it’s cold outside and February for christ sake, and what the hell else is there to do?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Failure of the Day: 107

In case you missed it a few entries back, “the year’s Monday” is how I think of January, and this January didn’t much disappoint. Work was stressful and demanding, I was consistently hungrier than I have been in the year since I changed my eating habits, which made me a little grumpy, and there was plenty of insomnia for good measure. The first 3 weeks of 2007 were no picnic.

The clouds parted on the 20th, though, the day after the first of what will be another long string of major and majorly expensive dental procedures. Apparently nitrous oxide is out of fashion among dentists, and in its stead they offer—they insist on really—valium. 10mg a half hour before the appointment, followed by a day and a half on vicodin. Now don’t get carried away; they gave me an Rx for 10 tablets of each in July and I’m not through them all yet, so I’m not exactly headed for Betty Ford, but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy them mightily when my fucked up mouth requires that I take them.

And on the 20th, my fucked up mouth required that I take one just before going to see David Lynch read from his very pretty and terrifically trite book on, of all things, transcendental meditation at some random San Jose mall’s Barnes and Noble. DL didn’t have anything remotely interesting to say but it was nice watching him say it. He’s completely mild and yet the air of weirdness around him is almost visible. Maybe it was just that he is a chain smoker and those 45 smoke-free minutes in the store were clearly unpleasant for him. Chris got a book and I stood with him while he got it signed, and so spent an enjoyable five seconds doing a poor job of imagining the little white-haired man having sex with Isabella Rossellini.

And a mere five days later I was listening to a distressingly pink Martin Amis read to me without moving his lips even a millimeter. During the Q&A I asked him whether he writes his prose and his plot in separate passes, and he said he did, which pleased me, because I sort of do too. I also noted again that he is an optical illusion: he actually looks larger the farther away from him you are. He brushed past me once after a reading and I had no trouble seeing the bald spot on the top of his head, and I am 5’3”. Behind a podium though, he is at least 5’7”.

January’s about done now. During my last bout of insomnia I solved the final narrative problem of draft 3 of my novel and I’ll likely finish it this spring. How about that. We built a bridge to Tuesday.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Failure of the Day: Doompa De Do

I finished The Road on Monday morning, and the thing just absolutely disassembled me. The ending surprised me but it was not unwelcome, and the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. McCarthy is too good a writer to make the post-apocalypse into a contest of terribleness one-upsmanship. You got the pain you signed up for and no more, which to me felt like a gesture of respect toward the reader.

Still though, after finishing it, I was fucked-up the whole rest of the day. Chris, wiping my tears from his drenched collarbone, suggests that my next book be a romp. As it happens, my next book is a post-apocalyptic story set in a children’s hospital, but it’s from McSweeneys, so I don’t expect much beyond cleverness and good packaging.

My real treat though is that next week my beloved Martin Amis will read to me from his new book, finally out in the U.S., at what is as near as I can figure the only decent bookstore on the entire peninsula. Conveniently located one block from a Caltrain station, bless their hearts. Lucky Menlo Park, one of only five cities on MA’s wee book tour.

I liked House of Meetings just fine; for a book set in an Arctic Circle gulag it was surprisingly easy going, though that might be because I only read the sentences and not so much the story. Or it might be because the book is kind of not-so-good, at least according pretty much every single review. Whatever. Sentences = pretty!

I will be very fancy getting my U.K. first edition besignatured in my precious moment with the wee Orange, Cube-Headed One, but all I really want to know from him is whether he managed to finally quit smoking. My money’s on Yes—why else would a guy who writes the bitterest, most elegant and acidic prose in the world suddenly turn to describing a life of extreme deprivation and misery? When I quit, spending a few hundred pages in Stalin’s frozen pigpen might have seemed about right to me, too.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Failure of the Day: The Three Stigmata of Eldridge Plush

Just before new years, we made our trifecta of old stuff replacement.

Chris bought our former bed early in the 90s. It was a good bed but its time had come. I began doing research into the arcane world of mattresses and discovered that it is nothing less than a scam on par with scientology. Identical mattresses are sold under different names in different stores to make direct price comparison impossible. They tell you that firm mattresses are better for you and then charge you more for “pillow toppers” to make your firm mattress feel softer. They tell you that mattresses are “engineered” to work with box springs but can’t explain exactly how or what that means. It’s absurd.

We also wanted a headboard because they’re pretty (me) and they keep the wall from becoming discolored from the pillows (Chris). After earning my mattress studies degree, I concluded that our best bet was a platform bed because they cost less than a box spring but serve the same mattress support function and include the nice looking headboard and footboard.

The best advice I read online about mattress shopping was to ignore everything the salesperson tells you and buy the one in your price range that feels the best. We went to three stores, and true to mattress logic, the store with “Discounter” in the name was the most expensive—by a lot. In the end, the moment I lay down on the Simmons BeautyRest Eldridge Plush, I knew it was the mattress for me. A platform bed from Ikea completed the picture, and both were delivered last Saturday.

Chris assembled everything lickety split and by Saturday night we were tucked in and happy, which was lucky because I’d just begun reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and it truly is as grim and compelling as all the reviews say. The main characters spend every moment of the book being vividly uncomfortable and terrified and just shy of freezing to actual death, which I was and am only too pleased to respond to by scooting down deeper under the covers, surrounded on all sides by relentless softness and warmth and comfort. So that's my 2007 so far: the coziest post apocalypse ever!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Failure of the Day: Fnord

RAW RIP.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Failure of the Day: Eschatology Taxonomy

I've seen many many Web pages. This is the best one. Don't miss the comments, either, especially the one from Your Obedient Serpent.

See also this, and this. Via.

I celebrated the new year by buying a 2 person, 3-day disaster emergency survival kit. But there's already two of us so when the world ends don't come asking to borrow our solar flashlight radio or dust masks, 'cause we need them!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Failure of the Day: The Year’s Monday

Sorry… whose idea was it to begin this whole long ordeal we call “a new year” by drinking vodka tonic after vodka tonic* and wandering the streets of North Beach, and then waking up with Holiday Inn sheets plastered somehow to the roof of my mouth? Oh, right. Mine.

The Patton Oswalt/Dana Gould NYE midnight show did not disappoint.** Aside from his being one of the sharpest writers around, what I like best about Dana Gould is that he has followed a personal trajectory that I deeply relate to, going from seriously damaged emotional fuckwit to someone who has at last begun to get his psychological shit together. His closing bit about what would have happened if he had spent his life giving angry anonymous blowjobs just to spite a homophobic comment his father once made about his decision to move to San Francisco was both hilarious, and, I thought, very powerful.***

And then commenced all the aforementioned wandering, notable only for our complete failure to find a bar to go into—in North Beach, on New Years Eve—and for the fact that literally every person we passed on the sidewalk was stumbling drunk. Chris, who drank more than I’d ever seen him drink and yet appeared suspiciously sober, very sweetly announced each and every curb we approached. I told him that even in the worst of times, I never tripped over a curb—it was really the flat sidewalk that gave me the most trouble.****

We were tucked neatly in bed by 2, and other than a brief, unfortunate incident involving a motherfucking asshole cocksucker who pulled the fire alarm and the entire hotel being evacuated at 4am, it was a spectacular NYE.

*That’s no exaggeration: I had two entire cocktails on NYE, tying a personal best.
**Not counting the horrible host, who didn’t so much tell jokes as describe them, and the opening act, who more or less just reprised my old phone sex operator script, but without the friendliness.
***Have I even begun to do this bit justice? Not even close.
**** In the end, he declined to announce every square of sidewalk, but I believe he considered it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Failure of the Day: It

Chris was a little slow to come to boil this year, but he’s rapidly bubbling now. We zip from place to place in our Vince Guaraldi-mobile and I’m 100% certain that he would be wearing one of those ties with blinking lights on it if he ever had occasion to wear a tie.

We went with his parents to see the Nutcracker earlier in the month, which I must have seen at some point before in my life, but I’ll be damned if I remembered even a single thing about it. I seriously did not even recall that it is a ballet… about a girl who gets a gift so dull that she immediately falls asleep and then is attacked by mice. Which seems like something I would have remembered, but who can say? I did enjoy that the lone adult male dancer in the company wore a pair of tights so utterly transparent that there could be no doubt that wasn’t Jewish. (Get it? A foreskin joke! God bless us, every one!) But I suppose that’s been my complaint about xmas all along... it’s so darn gentile!

There’s also been a parade of holiday events at work, which, while not quite parties, all included free food and booze, and I for the life of me can’t find anything to complain about there. In addition, at large companies, the holidays mean lots and lots of gift baskets from clients and partners and such, so I am up to my eyeballs in mini cheese wheels and a whole array of oddly flavored bread loaves.

And so, our shopping is done and our pressies are wrapped and our cards are mailed and our family-sized turkey is ordered—in 6 days we will turn our oven on for the first time since—no lie—last xmas. This weekend Chris will read me Holidays on Ice as per our tradition, and I will yet again try to explain the funny bits in The Hebrew Hammer and then we’ll cook and eat and roll around on the floor rubbing our bellies, and that will be that: 2006 in more or less a nutshell. Happy it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Failure of the Day: Vacationlandia

The miracle of Las Vegas is that it very nearly pulls off the most sought after vacation of all—the vacation from yourself. It’s a sort of electricity hypnosis: Your senses are overwhelmed by the onslaught of the dazzle, and everything you see and feel and hear tells you that you are not in your usual matte world of responsibility. And all of a sudden, spending $50 for a giant cocktail exploding with plumes of dry ice smoke seems like a great idea. And the amazing thing is that it actually is a great idea.

Chris, god love him, loves him some pirates. We stayed at Treasure Island and our room overlooked their Buccaneer Bay pirate show (four times a night—5:30, 7, 8:30, and 10—ask me why I still know that by heart; go ahead, ask me), which had been tarted up considerably since we last visited, and it now includes a whole ship full of pole dancers. Thus, the Thanksgiving tone was set: it was one of those old-fashioned strippers and blowing shit up holidays.

Which is not to say there were no moments of pure loveliness; Chris and I renewed our wedding vows the day after Thanksgiving. Did I mention that the ceremony was on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise at the Star Trek Experience? It was. Are we the coolest people you know? We are.





When Lindsay asked the borg "Can I take your picture?" the borg replied, "That will depend on your abilities." Yes! The borg are grammar nazis!




James and Rachel wore Spock ears for our ceremony, Alex had "gentleman" races with Chris to see who could get to the doors first to open them for us, and Lindsay ran to the gift shop and bought me a pair of sequined gold slippers when my Bandolinos with the 4-inch heels ceased being any kind of good idea. I won $94.75 on a quarter machine that I was only sitting at because it was 7:05 and I was waiting for Chris, who was… well, see the second paragraph above and take a guess where Chris was.

Pirates, boobies, love, all the shrimp you can eat and all the borg you can flee... I'm not sure there's any more one can ask of a vacation.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Failure of the Day: Consumption

It’s been a very good year for books. New releases from Martin Amis, Haruki Murakami, and David Mitchell were the highlights, but I’ve only just dug into the next three of Canongate’s myth-retelling series, so it’s still a wide-open field.

Mitchell’s Black Swan Green was the book of the year for me. I also really enjoyed Amis’s House of Meetings (which won’t even be released in the U.S. until January; my subtle and nuanced hints to Chris—and product links to Amazon.UK—as my birthday approached were not in vain) although it made me realize that, to my surprise, I am not very good reader. You’d think I’d be a good reader, I do it for a living, but it turns out that I kind of suck at it.

My problem, and it is especially severe with Martin Amis, is that when the writing is that good on a sentence level, I simply stop paying attention to everything else about the book. Amis is my second-favorite novelist of all time, and I realized last month that I don’t know what most of his books are about. I read them, I enjoyed them, some of them I savored, but I don’t know—or at least I certainly didn’t retain any information about—what actually happens in them.

I have the same problem with Aaron Sorkin. I am given to understand that Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is not a very good show—that’s what most everyone on Television Without Pity says, anyway. Yet every time I read a critique of the show I am just dumbstruck. What do they mean, a storyline was ridiculous or a plot hole was big enough to drive a truck through? Didn’t they hear the sentences? Didn’t they hear the economy of language, the precision and concision? Who the fuck cares about the story? Just shut up and listen to the people walk down hallways and talk!

The new Joanna Newsom CD came out this week to frankly the best reviews I’ve ever seen a record get, topping off quite a good music year as well. I’ve not yet picked it up because I’m a moron and I've only just now remembered that I can get it on iTunes and I don’t need to wait until the weekend trip to Streetlight.

The new Mountain Goats record still doesn’t quite pinch me in the spot, but it gets the Gold for Best Couplet:
And then I think I hear angels in my ears
Like marbles being thrown against a mirror

Which is even more remarkable when you hear it sung and realize that it’s a perfectly legitimate end-rhyme.

I have to give the Silver to the very good new Robyn Hitchcock CD, his best since Jewels for Sophia. Ole Tarantula features a psychedelic little number that includes the pair:
Fuck me, baby
I’m a trolleybus

Which tickles me for reasons I can’t quite enunciate.

Finally, this is also the very first year in which Chris and I will take two, count ’em, two! vacations. We’re off to Las Vegas with several friends for Thanksgiving and to cap off anniversary season. Wish us well, we'll be back just in time for my mood to sour at the prospect of a whole month of christmas music.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Failure of the Day: I am 40, Hear Me

Y'know, like, roar. or something.
















overall place: 222 out of 421
division place: 10 out of 29
gender place: 129 out of 271
guntime: 39:27

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Failure of the Day: Conspiracy

I clicked on this story last week on whim, and the name of the guy it is about kind of jumped out at me. I did a little digging it turns out that he is the guy I used to date around 1990 (he was cuter then, and less dogmatic); in fact, one of the best poems I ever wrote is about him.

Apparently he’s a fairly well-known 9/11 conspiracy theorist these days, which I guess is not all that surprising—he’s the guy who introduced me to Philip K. Dick after all, and he was writing his thesis on the VALIS trilogy when I knew him. I also recall that he pursued me aggressively and was terrifically charming, but I was never all that into him, despite the breathlessness of my poem.

Back then I was seriously into conspiracy theory myself, but I’m not at all interested in it any more. I have no earthly idea if it was actually a missile that hit the pentagon or if the WTC was actually a controlled demolition. Maybe it was. But I don’t think the idea that the official story is mostly true is laughably naive, either. I don’t know, and I don’t know if it is possible to know. The only thing I do know is that I don’t ever want to believe something just because it makes me feel better than believing some other thing.

That’s pretty much the reason I could never be in any way religious, too. I think being devoutly and relentlessly and unforgivingly rational is about the only appropriate response to a culture that thinks Because I Said So constitutes incontrovertible proof. And even if that entails abandoning some of the theories that make me the happiest, I’ll do it. The world is slightly duller for it, but I choose a matte reality over a dazzling lie any day. I’ll say it: Maybe Metallica didn’t cause my remission. Maybe there wasn’t some terrible mix up and I am not really Mrs. Dr. Buckaroo Banzai.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Failure of the Day: End Times

And so I find myself in these, the last days of my 30s, not feeling particularly jarred by the specter of 40, but not entirely untouched by occasional visions of an alternate present, born of choices I might have made differently. At the very, very top of that list—no lie—is the ghost of how I might have looked if I had not self-medicated with a peanut M&Ms binge of staggering proportions during the first year of my illness. My body, recovered almost completely now from the years of paralysis, has never recovered from the year of candy.

I also have the odd vision of what might have happened had I not so badly botched that 1998 job interview with Launch.com—I might now have a career in writing marketing copy instead of editing it—but I’m not sure that would be any sort of step up. Overall, I am happy with my choices; there’s very little I’d revise. Really, it’s just the damn M&Ms.

This fall, no fewer than 3 of my co-workers have turned or will turn 40, and I’ve enjoyed seeing how each reacted to it. One woman began competing in triathlons. Another guy threw a massive party for himself complete with, no kidding, synchronized swimmers and baton twirlers. I’m not a big party thrower—even when I lived in the city my neighborhood was too geographically unappealing to attract many guests—but Chris got us tickets to see a band we like at the Warfield on Friday. And a couple of weeks after that, I’ll run the 5k portion of the Silicon Valley Marathon.

October is also the 10-year anniversary of my remission, which I suspect has more to do with how many miles I find myself running each week than my brave new decade. I find myself the proud owner of a truly great jogging bra and a pair of high-tech wonder shoes that look for all the world like puffy robot bumblebees, so now, with the four barriers to my running career, if not removed then at least strapped down and braced for impact, I run. I don’t exactly enjoy it, but I like it much more than I ever thought I would, and I love how much of a badass it makes me feel like.

As a compulsive autobiographer, it occurs to me that my 20s were spent surviving what was happening, and my 30s were spent coming to terms with what happened, so my 40s, I hope, will be spent getting on with it already. I’m getting up and going into work on my birthday, because I’m big on really obvious metaphors. I’m ready to go. I just wish someone would tell me what terrible thing is about to happen to my neck, because seriously, it’s freaking me out.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Failure of the Day: Effort

I've spent the last four years writing the first 30 years of my life as a story. Thanks to this tool, I just summed it up in three panels.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Failure of the Day: Big Ass TV

Our year of replacing 10-year-old stuff continues. Chris has been very patient; an eagle-eyed A/V club nerd, he’s been witnessing the slow decline of our TV for years. Me, I couldn’t tell you if it were black and white or color, but Chris, if one pixel dies, he knows about it and, oh yes, he mourns. It was getting to the point where we were having pixel funerals every week. And also? Those LCD flat screens? They’re really cool. (I have it on good authority that plasma screens are for suckers.) I thought it would be nice if this year for xmas, we just got ourselves a new TV instead of a million smaller things. A lovely idea if I do say so myself.

Chris, bless him, is all about doing the research. He spent weeks on the internet, looking at close-up photographs of the backs of TVs. It’s electronics porn, really—full gynecological detail of all those shiny ports and input jacks. Turns out the back of the TV is the business end; who knew? In our living room there’s not a single visible chord or wire—Chris is meticulous—but don’t be fooled. Between the speakers and subwoofer and receiver and DVD player and DVR/cable box and stereo connections, there’s about 75 miles of cleverly hidden wires. Oh, it’s all about the ports.

After he was all learned up on the current state of the TV art, we began our negotiations. In these, I am the bad guy. I am the Ruiner. I don’t want a 50-inch TV. I don’t even want a 42-inch TV. Our living room is not a vast expanse, and our couch is a little too close to the TV for a screen that large. We reached a compromise.

Now, Chris has many, many good qualities. In every important way, he is a prince among men, no lie. But he is not very good at waiting any period of time at all to get something that he wants really badly. And we are both just coming off of a few very busy and stressful work weeks (school just started at SJSU, and I worked two 11-hour days over Labor Day weekend in advance of the Big Event). We had made a few preliminary trips to various stores to compare prices and see how the things looked in person. A fat coupon from Circuit City landed miraculously, serendipitously in our mailbox a few days ago. We were in the mood to reward ourselves.

Let me be the first to say that ambilight is not as goofy as I thought it would be. Although it must be the worst imaginable idea if one is epileptic. It’s a quite an impressive machine, though, and at some point I might even find out what things other than Star Wars look like on it. Merry xmas to all, and to all a good night.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Failure of the Day: Poison

Remember Friday morning? Those were the days, eh? The whole weekend looming before you like an expanse of pure pleasure, the promise of sleeping in, of catching up on the DVR backlog, of eating solid food…

On the plus side, I’ve lost two and a half pounds since Friday morning. On the minus side, I can’t even think the word “chicken.”

There was what we call an all-day “marketing all-hands” meeting on Friday. It was probably very interesting and informative for people whose job it is to do things like “craft messaging” and “differentiate by pain points,” but since my job is about telling people that the first word in a sentence needs to capitalized, it was long, long day. Oh, but they gave us breakfast and lunch!

It was an innocent-enough looking chicken breast in ginger sauce over steamed rice. Inviting, even. But that little chicken was the devil. I’d never had food poisoning before, so all I can say is: I had no idea. I was terrifically ill all Friday night, still dehydrated and sore and exhausted on Saturday, and I didn’t eat a thing until late Saturday night when I braved a slice of bread. Today I’ve managed a cereal bar and a diet coke, and I’m optimistic about there being a sandwich in my not-too-distant future. But oh me, oh my, some weekend.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Failure of the Day: Señor las Cabras

Seeing a performer in person for the first time is really risky. When the first Harvey Danger record came out in ’98, I was in a full-blown swoon. And I still consider it to be one the finest records of the 90s, but when we went to see them play at Slim’s, they were beyond dreadful—they were insulting. They came across as smug and aloof and so utterly phoney that I was inexorably put off by them. Their next couple of records were OK, they were fine, but the passion I had initially felt for them was dead.

I was a little worried about seeing John Darnielle (aka The Mountain Goats) play live, because he looks just like someone—and maddeningly, I can’t recall exactly who—but he looks just like a person I used to know. The feeling is so strong it’s practically déjà vu. The person he reminds me of was someone who I tolerated to be courteous, but disrespected intensely. I might have actually hated him. And I still feel this way when I see his face, whoever's face it is I see when I look at John Darnielle. All of which is to say, I was worried that his face would ruin his songs. I am as shallow as a saucer.

In fact, seeing The Mountain Goats in person is like traveling to the molten core of just how much he Means It. You think you know how much he means it, listening to his records, but you don’t. You don’t have any idea how much. From my vantage point, I saw his face become deformed by passion. His mouth buckled violently to pass his songs through it. I needn’t have worried. His face is not his face when he sings. His face is the barrier through which the songs strain, and eventually, finally, break.

He didn’t do a single one of my favorite songs (The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton, Going to Georgia, or the sublime Orange Ball of Hate), and I felt overly employed and awkwardly carnivorous in the hipster crowd, but I didn’t care, didn’t care, didn’t care. It was awesome.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Failure of the Day: Mr. The Goats

We are dizzy with love! We cannot breathe! The Mountain Goats new CD, Get Lonely, will be released this Tuesday, 8/22. He/They are playing a free show that day at Amoeba, apparently as the inaugural session of YouTube’s “Sessions at Amoeba,” which I have never heard of but that sounds pretty cool.

The 6 PM show means that I will have to leave work by 4, take the train up to the city, take a bus across town, watch the show, take a bus back across town, and take a slooooooooooooooow train back home, getting in just after 10. That’s six hours of work for one hour of music. Why do it? Because I heard one song off the new record, and in it, he describes angels’ voices as sounding like marbles being thrown at a mirror. That’s why.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Failure of the Day: Power

Hey, you know what’s nice? Coming home from vacation and having electricity. At least that’s what I hear. I myself wouldn’t know.

Vacation was swell—although I was seasick for a good bit of it. I somehow managed to forget my one miserable night as a Sea Scout: After about three hours of my first boat trip (a godforsaken overnighter to boot), my body informed me in no uncertain terms that I was in no way seaworthy and there would be no cessation of the vomiting until my legs were back on dry land. Thus endeth my scouting career. Cruise ships are very big boats though, presumably ensuring a much smoother ride. Right? WRONG. Being the delicate orchid I am, I still had to gobble chewable Dramamine in shaky fistfuls.

Much of the trip is a blur of scorching heat and steaks with béarnaise sauce, with a generous sprinkling of slot machines, pedicures, and chocolate cake for good measure. Our night in LA was much the same: Canter’s Deli chopped liver never disappoints, and the Craigslister we met up with came through on the tickets to opening night of Clerks 2 with a Q&A with Kevin Smith afterward. All forms of transportation and connections—buses, trains, ships, taxis, and shuttles—were effortless and almost 100% on time.

And then we got home.

It was 106 in San Jose when we returned, so we cranked up the A/C as soon as we got in, late Saturday afternoon. It lasted for 15 minutes and then was gone, and it would not be fully restored until Tuesday night. We spent the next several days and nights as modern nomads, driving in an air-conditioned car to various restaurants, malls, movie theatres, and hotels—anyplace, really, where it was cool. It was an odd sort of limbo; we wanted only to be home but could barely stand to be there for the few minutes each day it took to throw out all our perishable (perished, really) food and pick up a new pair of underwear.

Whatever went wrong at PG&E also fried our air conditioning system, which had to be replaced completely on Tuesday, and oddly, our telephone/ answering machine thingie. The other two phones in the house still work fine; but the one in the bedroom is dead dead dead.

Have I mentioned that Tuesday was my beloved Chris’s one and only 40th birthday? T’was, and quite a doozy, eh? We made the best of it with a spectacular meal and a remote control Superman that, I'm told (quite frequently in fact), can "soar up to 300 feet."

My legs, for those wondering, are still smooth from the all-but-painless waxing a full 12 days ago. I will almost certainly begin waxing everything under the sun from now on, so pleased am I with Tiffany at La Dolce Vita Day Spa.

We're back home now and most of our junk works again. We bask in the normalcy. We relish the routine. How are we? Happy as motherfucking clams, you betcha.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Failure of the Day: Summer Literature Round-Up

In case anyone is interested, Jpod might be the worst novel ever written. Coupland has never been a great writer; he was mostly only cloyingly clever and had a finger/pulse thing going on a with a specific area of culture, but even that’s completed obliterated with this terrible book. He should have called it The Book of Failed Gambits. He should have called it Culture Has Passed Me By and I’m Pretending. He should have called it Look! Microserfs Again! Or Let’s All Stay in 1995!

Everyman was OK. Roth distilled himself nicely into a 6 ounce glass of everclear—too intense to actually drink, and so strong and flammable you can die from it in a myriad of ways. Not pleasant but gets the job done. Should have been called Death of a Penis.

Black Swan Green, to no one’s surprise, left me breathless and starry. Mitchell rockets up to number three on my all-time favorite authors list, behind only Vonnegut and Amis.

I never got more than a couple of pages into King Dork. I may try again—I read those couple pages at 3 AM in the midst of severe insomnia and had to switch to another book because it was annoying me.

On the other hand, I am very much looking forward to Winkie, which I just ordered and which should arrive in time for the vacation. If it’s half as good as its Publishers Weekly review, it’ll be the book of the summer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Failure of the Day: High Summer

Ahh, that rarest of all things, the paid day off. I lounge. I recreate. I shop for things I need for the cruise.

Yes, the cruise. That other rarest of all things, the paid vacation. Employment is grand. We’re taking the week of the 17th off and going on a 4-night cruise to Mexico (although I doubt very seriously whether we will leave the boat even once) and then spending 21–22 in LA. So I am in a frenzy of preparation that began two weeks ago when I realized that neither of us owns so much as a single suitcase. Luckily, I found these on my very first “lime green luggage” google search.

Preparations continued with a marathon dental appointment on Friday (it sucked, but dude kicked down some nice pain meds), and this weekend, I colored my hair and bought a little black dress (don’t even think I spent that much—it was half-off at the AK outlet store) for the fancy night I’m told they always have on the floating geriatric boogaloo.

Most of what I have left to do is in the realm of, well, personal grooming. To put too fine a point on it, I have hair on my legs, and I want it to go away and stay away the whole time I am on vacation. That doesn't seem like so much to ask, does it? I began exploring my options, and I have to say I am not happy with any of them. After some research, here’s what I discovered:

shaving = time-consuming + frequent
waxing = time-consuming + expensive + painful
epilating = time-consuming + not effective + painful
electrolysis = time-consuming + expensive + painful + kind of freaky

So I am at a bit of an impasse. I had my eyebrows waxed once, during Girlification Weekend ’98, but otherwise, I’ve never waxed anything. The epilator gave me a rash. Electrolysis seemed like a good idea until I read a description of it, and then… nope. Not gonna happen. The math alone shows that shaving is the lesser of the evils, but I’m not sure a slick, wet bathtub is the best place to be playing with knives.

So I think waxing is emerging as the winner by merit of the fact that I’ve never tried it anywhere big before, and I don’t really know what I’m in for. If anyone out there has any waxing horror stories, please let me know by the 15th. I've made my decision based on not knowing better, so keep a kind thought for my legs.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Failure of the Day: Going Perm

I’ve kept mum about this until the paperwork was signed and delivered. What you’ve got here is one full-time permanent employee of Big Ass Software, Inc. That’s salary and benefits, baby. No more hourly wage, no more contracting. In corporate parlance, I’ve been “Converted to Employee”; saved, as it were, from the heathen freelance life.

I am feeling about what you’d expect—equal parts triumphant and suspicious. The news is so unabashedly, spectacularly, and exceptionlessly good that something equally horrific must be just on the horizon. I am fairly certain that I will suffer traumatic amputation at any moment now.

The weekend after I heard I had been approved for hire but before receiving and signing the offer letter, I had three dreams in a row that involved workplaces and celebrities. In the first dream, Henry Rollins and I were working the closing shift at BestBuy. In my waking life, I feel a huge desire to find Henry Rollins appealing, equaled only by how utterly repellant I actually find him. In my dream, I felt the exact same way.

In the second dream, I was working at a sandwich shop, I think a Quizno’s, that was located below a large glass balcony. Bill O’Reilly and his wife were standing on the balcony. He shouted his order down to me but had a great deal of trouble settling on the right bread/sauce combination. I was exceedingly polite and patient with him, and once he had made his decision and I set to work putting his sandwich together, he turned to his wife and said softly something like “This little girl thinks she can…” and I couldn’t hear the rest of it. I was furious with him and yelled up to the balcony how rude he was.

In the final dream, Chris and I were at a café where Peter Dinklage worked. I ordered tea and when he brought it to my table he pressed his hand on the top of my thigh, which frankly thrilled me—I totally crush on Peter Dinklage. Nothing else happened; it was just a quick, private moment. (Except now Chris wants to beat up Peter Dinklage.)

Such are the images that populate my professional subconscious. They seem largely positive to me, and in an odd way, realistic. I feel more myself at work these days than I ever have. Working life is a balance of what you will put up with and what kinds of satisfaction you require for putting up with it. The pleasures of one’s work are largely private and unsharable. And I think about celebrities a lot.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Failure of the Day: Looking ‘Till You Find It

Those of you who visit certain other blogs may have noticed the steady and steadily increasing drumbeat of Chris whipping himself into a full-blown frenzy, which somehow he will sustain for another full month, and that will increase until I am genuinely worried about his blood pressure. (I am familiar with this process; I remember the month before Episode I. And Episode II. And, you know, Episode III.)

So, I like Superman just fine, OK? Even the version drawn by that one guy who makes his head is just WAY to small for his massive body and it sort of looks like his neck is blowing a little bubble. (A bubble of pure goodness, though!) I found a toehold into him thanks to Michael Chabon, and I’ve been gripping like a champ ever since. But I’ll admit that the Big Blue Boy Scout is not so much a natural fit for me.

I am even less comfortable with Neil Gaimen, although I’ve never read anything he’s written—I base my discomfort purely on his fans, nearly all of whom badly need haircuts and new shoes, because dude? Uggs are for girls. And you should never, never tuck your jeans into them. Dear god, is this your first time out of the group home?

Anyhoo, so imagine my surprise when I found this article, with this choice graph:

"What’s important, though, is how Superman uses these powers. Compared to most A-list comic characters, he has almost no memorable villains. Think of Batman, locked in eternal combat with nocturnal freaks like the Joker—or Spider-Man, battling megalomaniacal weirdos like Dr. Octopus. For Superman, there’s pretty much only bitter, bald Lex Luthor, forever being reinvented by writers and artists in an effort to make him a worthy foe. Superman’s true enemies are disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, jet planes tumbling from the sky, enormous meteors that would crush cities. Superman stands between humanity and a capricious universe."

Ah, see now we’re talking. This is what I have always needed—A hero who fights nature. Fuck those morons with deathray guns and world domination plots; none of them have ever lost me a moment’s sleep. But stuff that just happens, acts of god, no-fault disasters, and c’mon now, disease? Fate, shitty luck, bad parents, lousy coordination? For this, I need a man in tights. Oh yeah. Tights. And preferably wrapped around Brandon Routh’s thighs, too.

For reals, though I’m on board. I wasn’t ever really resisting, but my last bit of “But I like books without pictures” snobbyness is smashed to smithereens. Nature is really big, and it can fuck you up; I know it as well as anyone. And I'll tell you what, I didn't do that great fighting it on my own, so I'll take all the help I can get. Superman, I'm yours.