Hello, Failure

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

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Failure of the Day: Politics

I took the 33 bus yesterday and noted the John Kerry volunteers on the corner of 18th and Castro. I thought to myself, Gee, that seems largely unnecessary.

On the north corner of Haight and Ashbury, there was another Kerry ironing board brigade. On the south corner, there was a little group of Dennis Kucinich supporters holding up signs and marching in a little circle around their ironing board (OK, not really, but metaphorically, it’s an apt description). They were generally making a ruckus and trying to draw attention away from the Kerry people.

Now look, I am totally behind the whole, “it’s an election, not a coronation” thing. But you know who gets to say that? Edwards. Does Dennis Kucinich really think that if the media stopped hyping Kerry, he (Kucinich) would actually win something? Here is a great lose/lose: If he answers Yes to that question, he is delusional, and if he answers No, he is willfully wasting my time.

But really, here’s the thing: 18th and Castro? Haight and Ashbury? Are there any two street corners on the Earth less in need of political persuasion to vote for the guy on the left? Was the lobby of the DNC already covered then? Are there no other street corners they could have gone to where they might have done more good, perhaps one in Concord or Benicia? Was there no better way to spend that political energy than preaching to the goddamn converted? Man!

Friday, February 27, 2004

Failure of the Day: It’s another potpourri day!

This makes me sad I do not live in New York, and there’s really not very much that can do that.

I am a shark. Chocolate is blood. I can go weeks and weeks without any but then the damn See’s Jewballs were sitting right there since chanukkah and pretty soon I’ve had candy of some sort every day for like the past 6 weeks or something equally horrifying, and I’m probably sounding all compulsive but really it’s just that everything is so much better when something that good is in my mouth, and really haven’t I made my point already that I can go a really long time without a cigarette?

I haven’t read a novel in over a month. It’s close to a personal record. It’s a stress thing I think; I just am not interested in books at the moment. It’s weird and it makes my head feel all empty so maybe I’ll find something that looks good to me soon.

I recently made the switch from the exercise bike to the treadmill. This is quite a big deal. I walk all superfast for 30 minutes each day, but today I walked for 28 minutes and ran for the last 2. Today, I ran for 2 minutes. That’s the first time I’ve been able to actually run in 13 years. And I’m having an MS attack right now, while I was running, so really, fuck you and fuck everyone; I rule, am invincible, etc.

Advanced warning: Chris has to go to Florida the week of March 15, Monday – Friday. I will need company. I will need a LOT of company. If you visit me, I will make you some nice cookies.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Failure of the Day: The L.D.V.

Quite a flaky weekend for the likes of us. We made it to Patrick’s birthday party on Saturday but left early and never even got out of bed on Sunday until almost 3 PM, so I remain 0/100 in attendance at the Alternative Press Expo. As my ole buddy the I Ching likes to say, No Blame. Such a lovely phrase. And so rarely true! In fact, the blame is squarely ours; we slipped into the cozyness vortex of the bed and found no compelling reason to leave for 15 solid hours.

Are you curious yet what L.D.V. stands for? I’ll give you a hint: in came in the mail on Saturday and made Chris very, very happy.

It was a lovely weekend and an extended one for Chris, who spent his day off like he spends them all: cleaning the apartment. Yesterday, when we finally got out of the house, we went to Fort Point, which has been sitting there, one mile away, for as long as I have lived in this neighborhood, and that’s give or take since 1988, but it never occurred to me to go look at it. Truth be told, I didn’t have the slightest idea even what it is; as far as I know a fort is something you build out of old refrigerator boxes when you are a kid. Turns out it’s a pretty cool old building, and made of bricks, not cardboard.

The house is impeccable now so for the rest of the afternoon, there he’ll be, sprawled out on the living room floor, putting it together. God help me: Lego Darth Vader. 400 pieces.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Failure of the Day: Homo Celebritus

See, it’s really just that I can’t leave an entry like that hanging out there. It’s not right. Even though I am a stuttering wreck a lot of the time, what I am even more is totally bonkers happy in love with a man who even now, this week and this month, comes home every night knowing that I am moody and as often as not totally deflating, that I stink of garlic and am sloppy in lime green sweatpants and fuzzy hair, that I am growling with hormonal I Feel Not So Freshness, and he comes home to my room and sits with me and tells me how he as been looking forward to this, to me, since he left this morning.

So here’s what I’m writing about instead of my own putrefaction: About a month ago, we started watching The OC. I don’t know why we started watching it. I didn’t know anything about it. There was just some sort of subsonic hypnotic ray pointed at my head by The Media and it told me to watch it and so I watched it.

Oh. My God. I love that show. Love it! The only thing better than Seth Cohen is Sandy Cohen, his dad. I can’t help myself. I have no justifications. It’s rich white people, yes, I grant you that. I grant that the cast are all members of that proto species Homo Celebritus and as such are unrecognizable as any kind of human anyone has ever seen in person.

Don’t care. Nope. Love that show.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Failure of the Day: Anxiety a Go Go

Here’s the thing: I’m a wreck. I haven’t worked in a week because the last chapter of the last book that I was supposed to edit was such a mess that it had to go back for extensive re-writes. This is a whole new way to be in employment limbo. It’s not nice.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Failure of the Day: It’s Valentine’s Day, the Perfect Time For an Entry on Facial Disfigurement

I recently saw Vanilla Sky, which I liked a great deal more than I expected to. There were a couple of real clunker moments but by and large if it hadn’t had Tom Cruise in it, it probably would have been a real hit among phildickophiles like myself. Of course it did have Tom Cruise in it, so none of us even bothered to see it in the theaters.

I don’t think it’s giving anything away to mention that TC spends a good portion of the movie sporting a very well done facial disfigurement from a car crash. And you know that moment when Jordan Catalano parrots Brian Kracow to Angela and it’s like, the first coherent thing he’s ever said to her? Angela exhales for the first time in the entire season and says OK. Now we can talk! That’s how I felt seeing TC with his face all fucked up. You wanna be taken seriously as an actor? OK. Now we can talk.

Did you know that facial disfigurement is specifically included in the Americans with Disabilities Act? There’s a provision in the law that protects those with what is termed “perceived disabilities.” So even though having a fucked up face doesn’t itself prevent you from accomplishing a major life activity, other people’s reactions to your fucked up face will.

In the movie, TC’s life is ruined when his face is ruined. I myself thought he could have tried a little harder; he was still rich after all, and that girl he lost he never really had, and it’s hard for me to believe that life just isn’t worth shit for people who have to be ugly in their high rise New York penthouses. Seems like plenty of ugly people make do with loads less but whatever. If you’ve always been ugly, it’s different, maybe.

In the end, the movie turned out to be science fiction instead of a psychological thriller, so the really unfortunate message about living with a disability got a little bit buried in the WHOOSH! of shifting realities and the promise of second chances. I could holler about that, but considering that I just admitted to liking TC better with a face of my choosing instead of the one he was born with, and that I was willing to grant him various amounts of slack depending on what his face looked like, it turns out that I don’t have a leg to stand on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Failure of the Day: Politics

I’m seriously enjoying the primary season so far. John Kerry is 100% O.K. as far as I’m concerned, even if he does look like the bastard son of old Joe Kennedy and a basset hound. And anyway, he had me at the nicely timed f-word in Rolling Stone. But I’m easy, I know. I’m a democratic candidate slut. I put out for them, I do. I would have given it away to any one of them, even god-forbid-Joe-Lieberman.

I like Kerry’s wife too, even though she sometimes seems so other worldly ethereal I want to poke my finger in her chest to see if she’s, like, solid matter. I can even look beyond the fact that she’s a gazillionaire because of my archenemies, condiments. Hell, I can even look beyond the fact that she’s a gazillionaire. I like how she still calls her dead first husband “my husband,” and I like how he shut up about the whole W was AWOL thing and just calmly stood there surrounded by the guys whose lives he saved on the battlefield.

Of course, the fact of the matter is that I can look past one whole hell of a lot these days; I am what you might call goal oriented. Still though, I think if you have to be old and rich and full of that weird patriotic fervor that I swear if I live to be 100 I will never understand, they kind of seem like an OK way to be that.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Failure of the Day: Nice Neighborhood

I spent most of Saturday in the Castro. I never really hung out there much even before I moved to Seattle because it seemed a little…I don’t know…upscale for me. All of the shoes for sale on Castro Street cost more than $13 and that was my absolute ceiling for shoes during the entire 90’s, so pretty much everything seemed upscale then, but still.

What’s funny about the Castro is how seamlessly the family friendliness of it melds with the plainly displayed gay porn. You can walk down the street and take stock of the stores’ offerings: cookies, hardware, cock, fancy soap. And for some reason--maybe because I am so dang old--I was looking at the porn with a little more distance than usual, and it seemed a little abstract. The fellas look so young, for starters, but that’s not the main thing. It’s really that they’re all bulgy and muscley, and they all have giant hardons under their tightie whities—the general visual impression I got from them was Gee, gay men these days are really lumpy!

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t think I’ve ever felt as at home in a neighborhood where I didn’t know a single soul before. In addition to it being chock full of largely childless urban couples around my age, it is also a whole community of people who are managing a chronic disease in plain sight and unembarrassed tones of voice. It was sort of thrilling. I could tell people, and nobody was unduly worried looking or sad-eyed sympathetic or weird in one of the other ways that people almost always are.

As a function of my personality, I don’t have the teensiest bit of hesitation about talking about MS, or any of my other diseases, to anyone or even just mentioning it casually whenever. But I have to remember that I can’t do that—not because I’m admitting something that is supposedly too personal about myself (although it was a whole lot less personal when I was parading it all over town for 6 years; no hiding then, huh?), but because people seriously cannot deal with a casual take on mortality. So it was just, I don’t know, nice to have all that math that you have to do when you’re figuring out how to talk to people you’ve just met solved already. It’s just cool, is all I’m saying. Refreshing.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Failure of the Day: Opinions and Facts

This is weird to me: by and large, people, even intelligent and well-educated people, cannot tell the difference between their opinions and facts.

I don’t mean things like “green beans taste bad,” or “REM used to be great but now I am kind of embarrassed for them,” which are opinions that serve as facts to the person holding the opinion. I mean things like whether there is a god and when life begins. You know—the stuff that’s totally pointless to talk about at all. But I’m blogging about it because my author is late with his chapter again and I have time to kill.

I understand why people like to have opinions about these things, and they are entitled, after all, but it still surprises me that people believe they can know the truth about them just by forming opinions. And the idea that they can legislate their opinions so it is in effect illegal to disagree with something that has no proof either way strikes me as downright silly. Faith (which of course is what we are really discussing here) is by definition irrational, and the law must at least attempt to be rational…Is that not the ballgame for any arguments against the absolute separation of church and state?

Of course, I have opinions about these things too, just like everybody. But because I am not omnipotent, I don’t assume that my believing a thing is true makes it so. And that’s the step that almost nobody else takes, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why, especially given the propensity of people to cultivate opinions about things despite having not one single shred of actual information about it. So now everyone thinks Scott Peterson “is” guilty even though no one has seen any evidence either way. Because he, y’know, seems guilty. And because the TV people keep telling us that he is, especially that awful Nancy Grace, but that’s a whole other issue.

Some people have the perfectly fine opinion that life begins at conception, and other people have different but also perfectly fine opinions about when life begins. The two groups have a lot in common—for instance, neither can prove their opinions in any way. They have just one weensie difference between them: the former are trying to make it illegal for the latter to disagree with them.

In the end, even if I weren’t inclined to disagree with the notion that it is okey dokey to force women to be human incubators for children they do not want, I would like to think that I would side with choice if for no other reason than that position does not seek to make acting on one’s beliefs illegal.

This was a totally useless post, but I feel better now.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Failure of the Day: What It Feels Like

There is a way that it is ominous, this demonstration of the active disease process in my body. It likes to remind you, in case it’s slipped your mind.

There is a way that it is fascinating, the numbness and tingling in my legs is not in my legs at all…it is caused by some weird neurological misfiring—it is more or less a hallucination of sorts. But it’s odd to feel something and feel it as plainly as you feel the chair under your own ass at this moment, and know that it is not really there. You can’t convince yourself of that, you just can’t. It’s like a kind of mental illness in the body. It’s like a dream that my legs are having.

Mostly though, it’s fucking annoying. The tingling is intense, especially on the bottoms of my feet when I walk. It’s like when your foot falls asleep, that pins and needles sensation, but it doesn’t hurt, the way that sort of does. And it’s a pointillist kind of numbness. I wish I could describe it better than that; but really, that’s just what it feels like. Imagine the surface of your skin made up of tiny points and every other one is numb. It’s not like I can’t feel anything when I press my hand to my leg, but still, half of the area is numb so my hand feels far away. It’s peculiar.

I want to describe these things because I do it a lot in my novel and I’m not sure it’s getting across. Certain of my more common sensations correspond to very specific metaphors in my head, and the metaphors came to me the moment I first felt the sensations so there is no other way for me to describe them, but I don’t know if they make sense to anybody else. I’ve had to tell dozens of neurologists that I can tell the difference between a regular headache and a migraine when it’s starting because a migraine feels like a capsule of pain being split open in my brain whereas a regular headache sweeps across the skin of my forehead in the same way that a flame laps a flat sheet of paper. They always look like they’re writing down my descriptions but I imagine they get together in underground neurologist bars and laugh: “Capsule of pain? Oh, that’s a good one. Last week I had a guy who said ‘free-floating island of alternating cold and heat.’”

It’s like that with MS; it makes poets of us all. We have to find a way to explain it—not to the doctors, they are merely the clinical historians of this disease—but to the witnesses, the family members and friends who can see only the reaction to something that is invisible and strange even to us.