Hello, Failure

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Failure of the Day: pick one

I remember when the first Gulf war started, at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon. I was out of work, having recently been fired from my job as the receptionist at the radio station KMEL, the worst job I ever had. I was sitting on the floor of my teeny studio apartment listening to KUSF on my little white plastic stereo. I don’t remember who was DJing at the time but it was a woman. We all knew that on the day the war started, everyone was meeting at Powell and Market streets at 5 PM. The woman on the radio announced it. She said “We are at war” and I think I started to cry because I had never heard that phrase before.

Today, I am sitting in my apartment, listening to KUSF, and everyone is meeting at the corner of Powell and Market streets at 5 PM. I have Cable this time, so I don’t imagine I’ll get the news so late as to hear it first on the radio. I also don’t imagine I will cry at all: no more shock of the new…also, I’m not that moist and idealistic (and healthy! God, so healthy!) 24 year old anymore.

And the thing is, I don’t actually want to write about the war. I’m saturated enough with it. I want to write about my continuing extreme flip flops about someday having a damn baby. Some days, my desire for it lives like an independent entity in my chest, and other days, I find the idea nothing short of loathsome. I’d love to write about that. But every time I sit down, the only thing that dribbles out is useless politics. It drives me nuts, the rhetoric garden that grows in my head. I used to be acquainted with a guy who got his degree in Rhetoric from UCB, and he seemed nice enough at the time, but looking back on it now, I think “Jeez…that guy must have been AWFUL.”

And another thing: it goes without saying that I’m incapable of experiencing the world without filtering it through the vastly discoloring lens of myself. I am, like everyone, a slave to subjectivity. So I am wistful about the day Gulf War 1 started because it was a full four months before I had to look up multiple sclerosis in the library. (The out-dated definition scared the shit out of me: “Life expectancy: 20 years” that might be an optimistic prognosis when you’re 64; it’s NOT when you’re 24.) Generally speaking, the first half of 1991 was a pretty terrific time for me. I was thin. I was dating a really adorable if illiterate drummer.

By the same token, 2003 is a pretty damn terrific time for me. I can't complain. I love my husband. I love my work. I'm not going to Powell and Market this afternoon. I think I will just sit in my room and enjoy these last 4 or so hours of relative peace.


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