Hello, Failure

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

Monday, April 07, 2003

Failure of the Day: 1974

We had nothing to do yesterday. Nothing! No work, no chores, no errands…for the first time in ages. Of course, we were mightily discombobulated because of Daylight Savings Time; we barely managed to be out of bed by 3PM.

What we chose to do might take some explaining. Although my main complaint about Seattle was Chinese food, Chris's main complaint was the total, state-wide lack of Wienershnitzel restaurants. You remember Wienershnitzel…hot dog fast food chain that used to be called "Der Wienershnitzel?" He loves that place. They do a thing with a pickle and rye bread…anyway, he can't get enough of it.

So in my capacity of Good and Loving Wife, I found a Wienershnitzel restaurant in Alameda. We had to download a map off the Internet of how to get there because despite having been born and raised in the county named for the town of Alameda, neither of us had ever actually been there. Alameda? Turns out it's an island. Who knew?

But it's easy enough to get there. We get out of the car and step into…1974. Not the Robyn Hitchcock song "1974" that is populated with pale hippies working in organic food markets in London, but our 1974, in which we are 6 years old and the whole world is centered around the little strip of Grimmer Blvd where there was a Taco Bell and a bowling alley. This strip of Grimmer is roughly equidistant between the two houses where we were busy being raised in vastly different homes. Chris may have focused more on the Taco Bell, but I focused more on the bowling alley, which was owned by one of Fremont's few other Jewish families, which is to say, friends of my parents. Anyway, there is feeling that I associate with that time and that place, a certain look to the cars and the people and the buildings. In my novel, I call it my Dead Planet Town: painted brick structures, dirty gravel parking lots, unpaved sidewalk next to the creek, and dented cars. I know now that it's just your run-of-the-mill, lower middle-class suburbia, but having never been anywhere else at the time, it sticks in my head as old-timeyville.

That's what Alameda is, Old Timeyville. But the fact is, the whole East Bay is like that to me. By now everyone knows the "pig latin for beast" joke, but seriously, I've got such issues with that side of the water. Maybe it's just that I grew up there and that part of my life sucked, but the east bay still looks like 1974 to me, which means I look like an egg shaped girl with a head full of puffy brown fuzz. And really, who needs that?

Maybe I'll sum up with a quip since I just thought one up:

1974…it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.


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