Hello, Failure

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

Friday, November 21, 2003

Failure of the Day: Medical Karma

You know what sucks? Itchiness. Itchiness sucks. My rash reached a fever pitch this morning and I began calling my internist at about 8am. At 9:10, they had finally arrived in the office and I shouted something about acute symptoms into the phone until the receptionist said the nurse practitioner could see me at 10:30.

I don’t go to UCSF anymore; I go to California Pacific because it’s 21 blocks in a straight line from my house. This business of not having the government tell me who my doctor is is a brave new world, even still.

The nurse practitioner was sufficiently perplexed to give me several different prescriptions, a lab slip for a blood draw, and instructions to see my dermatologist. My dermatologist, it turns out is in the same building as my internist but I hadn’t seen him since April and I certainly didn’t have an appointment. But what the hell, right? I went to his office and learned that he didn’t have office hours on Fridays. But he just happened to be in the office doing paper work and agreed to see me on the spot. How often does that happen?

But of course, this is only a fraction of what Medicine owes me, so I thanked him and showed him my rash, which you’ll be happy to know is not Bacterial Meningitis or anything else freaky, but merely a viral reaction to some low-grade flu that I apparently have and that is causing my swollen glands and stiff neck. He told me what I really needed in addition to the mass of new allergy medicines prescriptions that I would fill that morning, was an anti-itch lotion called Sarna, which I curse the universe for not introducing me to sooner. Kicks major ass, it does. I am slathered in it and perfectly comfortable for the first time in days.

I am also in what can only be called a terrific mood because when my stiff neck got pretty bad this afternoon, I took a Vicodin, a gift from Patrick (bless you) that I secreted away for just such an occasion. So, once again, I dodge medical catastrophe to no one’s surprise more than my own. Happy Friday, y’all.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Failure of the Day: And I say again: I am not afraid to die

You’ll all be happy to know that for the last 2 days I have had an itchy rash over about 80% of my body. I spent most of yesterday pretty well convinced that I was faking it for attention, which is what my mother said every time I got sick as as child (I still sometimes believe I faked my MS). When I don’t think I’m faking it, I assume I am having some sort of allergic reaction to a new vitamin I am taking or some other thing, but I haven’t really introduced much that is new in the last couple days.

I also am a little flu-y—swollen glands and a stiff neck. I was gratified to learn during my internet research tonight that a rash and a stiff neck are symptoms of West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease, and Bacterial Meningitis. I myself am leaning toward Lyme Disease because when I first got MS, that’s what all the secretaries in the office where I was temping thought I had, and that would hit the precise level of Irony that I have grown accustomed to in my life.

I imagine I’ll be calling the doctor tomorrow though.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Failure of the Day: The Luxury!

It takes a little while for the effect to build up but once it has, you realize that intellect can make a person taller. And that’s quite a lucky break because he is, inexplicably, even shorter than last time. As he slipped passed me in the bookstore last night, his expanding bald spot towered nearly an inch over my head, making him roughly on par with the stature achieved by my 90 year old grandma. He could be a dwarf were he not so beguilingly well proportioned. He looks like a version of himself but not quite to scale. It’s a little disconcerting. There is no dodging it: Martin Amis is itty bitty.

He is also one of the last of a dying a breed, I think. There are novelists and there are intellectuals but there seem to be fewer and fewer intellectual novelists, and the subset of those last remaining few who are masters of the sentence, whose sense of the way the words go to together can curl your toes, I think can be counted on one’s fingers these days. I can only hope that Phillip Roth has children, and that he was a bit of a prick as a dad because as near as I can figure, that is one hell of a good recipe for a novelist.

I suppose we have to consider that the breed of people with the education and inclination to read intellectual novels is shrinking as well. I’m barely in it myself, truth be told. I’ll muddle my way through some of them, but a lot of them leave me cold. I tried really hard to get into Infinite Jest but around 150 pages in I had to face that fact that I just don’t care that much about tennis, a fact that may in and of itself be the proof that my intellect was left wanting. I can, however, think up snippy and defensive things to say like “Perhaps Mr. Wallace has confused virtuosity with mere verbosity” but really, it’s just that it was boring.

Martin Amis is occasionally boring (almost half of The War Against Cliché) and occasionally very bad (all of Night Train), but he is usually devastatingly on the mark. Last night he was a good deal less orange than he was in Seattle in 2000 (but still oompa loompaesque) and possibly as much as 2 inches shorter, but he was reading from a much better book, and there was a point at which I realized that I was basking in the absurdly great luxury of being in the presence of one of the people whose art inspires me more than almost anyone else in the world. And in my frame of mind, he looked at least 5’7” I thought.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Failure of the Day: The Trauma of Wheat

I was minding my own business, clicking my way through my morning Internet routine, and when it became time to get my free day pass to Salon, I was perfectly content to ignore another 30 second commercial selling something I can’t quite figure out (The ACLU? What do they want me to buy? The Bill of Rights? Um, ok…sold! Can I read the Fix now?)

This morning though, I was assaulted by Hugh Jackman in gingham and now he is my Personal Enemy.

It was an ad of course for the production of Oklahoma! that’s airing on PBS. I fucking HATE Oklahoma!. Hate it. It was the Spring musical my junior year in high school. I was in the chorus because I cannot sing, dance, or act, but I didn’t know that yet so I kept trying out for bigger parts and being crushed when I didn’t get them.

The director of our drama department was a cruel and bitter woman. She had never recovered from the discovery that she was never going to be Debbie Allen and so was determined to be the best lower middle class suburban high school musical theatre director ever. To this end, she worked us so hard and for such long hours that by the last two weeks of rehearsals, most of the girls had stopped menstruating. But that’s not the traumatic part—I myself was thrilled to spend 18 hours a day, six days a week away from my parents’ house.

Ms Jackson was a fanatic for choreography. There wasn’t a single second when a single person on the stage wasn’t moving. We gesticulated enormously. We kicked. We marched. And in the finale of Oklahoma!, when Curly sang something or other about a meadow, we got on our knees and swayed like stalks of wheat as he strode through the field of us. “Be the wheat!” Ms J shouted. “Feel the wheat!”

So Hugh Jackman, I’m sorry, but I hate you forever now. Aside from the fact that you’ve totally emasculated Wolverine (seriously, Peter Allen is a butcher role than Curly), I just spent an hour remembering what it was like to be wheat, and there’s just no way I can accept an apology for that.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Failure of the Day: Weekend

Really, I don’t know. Had a great batch of insomnia over the weekend, the main product of which was a dream about Matt Gonzalez and an idea for a t-shirt slogan:


But I’m pretty sick of my impotent political rage, and nobody is interested in what I have to say about SF politics anyway because as a non-Mission resident, I’m not really a San Franciscan, right?

NaNo is a total wash I’m afraid. I got to just under 15,000 words but then seriously rebelled against any activity that I had to force myself to get through. After editing so many hundreds and hundreds of pages for work, I really couldn't bear any more pages of bad prose, including my own. It’s not that I didn’t have the will, it that I didn’t have the strength to spend the time even trying to summon the will. It’s possible that I will start up again even knowing that I won’t hit 50K. I couldn’t complain with 35K by December 1 since I’m just making a nice source for bits to put into the other novel.

I am expecting a slow week at work though, and maybe Martin Amis will light a fire under my butt.

The other failure of the weekend is somewhat more startling—a failure of my faithlessness in my legs. That’s a dopey way of saying I bought a pair of intolerably beautiful Kenneth Cole high-heeled pumps. They were expensive as all hell and I have nothing to wear them with or to, but that somehow doesn’t bother me at all. I love them. I love them and I wanted them and I don’t get to smoke anymore and so I get to have the damn shoes. But it worries me that I continue to move further and further away from the idea that saved me: the floor you cannot fall lower than is the safest place on earth.

It was kind of a slow week for buying green things for my room, too. Chris got me a cute green mouse pad but I struck out repeatedly in my quest to pick up a few of the $10 lime green beanbag chairs we saw at Target last week. Turns out when Target says a product is “seasonal” they’re not kidding around. There were dozens of them in the store last weekend; this weekend we went to three different Target stores and found not one single lime green beanbag chair. Fuckers.

Finally, I got new eyeglasses; my first since 1993. They are fantastic, and are at this moment en route especially for me from France because I am, in fact, just that fancy. Lime! Green! Cat-eyes! When I wear them, everyone will just bow down in recognition of my unique and unimpeachable taste.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Failure of the Day: The ambient grief of his wound

At around 11 PM last night I asked Chris if he could explain to me what the word “ambient” means. I thought I knew, but the context in which I had just read it made me confused. Chris—who would have done this even if he weren’t in the last stages of Must-Make-Anniversary-Perfect Mode—ran to the kitchen, came back with a flashlight, picked up Amputee Bunny, our stuffed pal from the bed and gave me a demonstration of ambient light and explained it until I could apply it to what I had just read.

What I had just read was a line from the new Martin Amis book, Yellow Dog, which so far, is frankly wonderful. I plan to stake out the Booksmith on Tuesday evening and relive much of my Michael Stipe shame by ogling Amis without blinking for nearly 7 months. Martin Amis, as you may know, is menacingly attractive in an Oompa Loompa sort of way. (Chris wondered if he shouldn't be doing the reading in Ghiradelli Square, where he would feel more at home.) My plan is to use up my portion of the Question and Answer period to ask him to give me a cigarette because A) That is still pretty much the only thing I want to ask anybody, and B) if he were to give me a cigarette I would likely be so star struck by the thing itself that I would be in no danger of smoking it—I almost certainly would laminate it or bronze it or something.

It won’t top what I got to ask him at the Q&A the last time I saw him read, but really nothing is ever going to top quoting Deborah Garrison’s otherwise mediocre poem to him (“I will never be beautiful enough/ To sleep with Martin Amis/ Or anyone else famous”). I probably should have saved that for this Q&A but I didn’t know last time that I would have another chance and I certainly didn’t know that he would write a book prominently featuring a closed skull brain injury that positively luxuriates in gorgeous prose about hospitals and neurology. See, if only I had known, I would have had something witty and charming to say before I chloroformed him and dragged him back to my apartment to re-write most of my novel. As it is, now all I can do is bum a smoke.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Failure of the Day: Cotton, Ceramics

Hey, so does anybody know who’s in charge of deciding what the traditional and modern wedding anniversary symbols are? Because they’re really kind of random, and meant, I think, almost entirely to make people feel like unimaginative shoppers.

I did a miserable job on our anniversary last year trying to figure out what on earth to get Chris. We limit it to one gift because it was just my birthday and it’s about to be xmas and Chris has a wee tendency to go hog wild when buying me stuff. But still, it didn’t even occur to me to find out what the wedding anniversary symbols were for the first year (because I am what you a “romance dud”) whereas Chris had it all worked out. The symbols for the first anniversary are paper and clocks. (Why? Why? Does anybody know?) In addition to a really sweet bride and groom handmade mobile (that I’m doing a crappy job of describing but that is one of the coolest things in our house), he got me a sparkly writing book and the coolest itty bitty robot with a clock in its belly. What happened to the “only one gift” rule, you may ask? Join the club.

Me, I had nothing. I had no idea what to get and so while Chris was showering me with tokens of affection, I literally had nothing to give him. (Tokens, that is. Affection I’ve got.) I wound up buying his comics for the week, shamefacedly pointing out that it was at least paper, so it fit the symbol.

This year I’m prepared, though. I know that the second wedding anniversary symbols are cotton and ceramics, neither of which make any kind of metaphorical sense but it’s all we’ve got and I’m pretty sure we’ve got no choice but to abide by them. And I have a supercool thing for him. (One supercool thing. Why? Because I follow the rules.)

I’m not even complaining that the symbols are dictated by authorities who have reached the cultural heights of, say, Ann Landers. Frankly, I appreciate the help because I usually suck at this kind of thing. I just want to know who decided what the symbols should be. Because they did a terrible job. Plus they only did years 1-15 and then skip to every five years. And then, the symbol for the 60th anniversary is he same as it is for the 75th! Although this is not without its logic (if you are old enough to be celebrating your 75th wedding anniversary, chances are you won’t remember that you got a diamond 15 years ago, too), it smacks of laziness. Also, the 14th anniversary is gold jewelry, whereas the 50th is just gold, which makes me wonder if we shouldn’t be exchanging bullion at 50 since we’ve already specified jewelry was for 14.

Next year, the symbols are leather, crystal, and glass. Pray for me. And that Chris will really need a new belt.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Failure of the Day: I don’t care what anybody says, food DOES equal love

One of my favorite long-standing traditions is “Nancy Gets Everything She Wants Day,” which I have allowed myself periodically over the last decade or so. I haven’t done it in a while because considering the state of my lifestyle, it seemed a little redundant. But after last week, which was so off the charts stressful and exhausting, I think I was just due for one real good, old fashioned NGESWD. So I had one. Actually one and a half: the second half of Saturday and all of Sunday.

As a result, I feel a whole lot better and seriously, you should see my new green shoes. And the three lime green paper lanterns in my room and a VERY odd green plastic elephant watering can, three sweaters (one of them green), one pair of pants, and a little green tumbler. It won’t be long now before every single thing in my room is green and then won’t life be grand!

I also finally fucked off the 1200 calorie a day thing because I lost 8 pounds in 8 weeks and then gained 3 pounds back last week for no reason whatsoever, and really, fuck that. So I had french fries for lunch yesterday and pizza for dinner, and I am frankly a better person for it.

I did not, however, have anything like a cigarette and that is still a source of some sadness for me but as long as I keep sucking nicotine through my pores, I am more or less OK with it.
Pores! They’re the New Mouth!

I also did not hit my NaNo word count yesterday, for the first time this month. I’m not sure if I will have the wherewithal to make up for the shortfall and the knowledge that I Will Never Catch Up will wear away at me until I finally can’t take it anymore and I quit on Wednesday or I will have a fit of inspiration and my character will do something besides complain about not smoking for 2300 words tonight and I’ll be back on track. Really, though, I’ll be OK with it either way as long as I still get to go to the “thank god it’s over” party.

And that’s the beauty of NGESWD: afterward, my life feels much more manageable. It’s like conditioner for the other side of my scalp.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Failure of the Day: I am Shel “the Machine” Levine

Oh Yeah? Well, YOU try editing 600 pages of hideous computer programmer prose AND writing 12,000 words for NaNo all in one week! See how many blog entries you have time to think up!