Hello, Failure

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Failure of the Day: The Nature, As Usual

For the long weekend, we got a little inspired to go into it, my nemesis, the Great Not Indoors. Not far into it, mind you, and not for very long, but into it nevertheless. Mountain Lake park is about 10 blocks from our apartment, near 12th Avenue. I’ve been there a few times, but Chris had never seen it and it is pretty cool after all that there’s a secret lake right there, and it was a nice day and we were going to that area anyways to get Star Wars slurpees, so we figured we might as well go look at the Nature.

And it’s pretty, there’s no arguing with that. It’s not very convenient though. We found a nice bench overlooking the lake and settled in. Chris was a little put off that our bench didn’t have cup holders and I would have preferred that it was entirely encased in a nice sterile glass booth, but we made do.

We immediately spotted a very big orange carp, which I named Pete, and group of little brown ducks. Chris said that it is a well-known fact that carp eat ducks and so we were about to witness a bloodbath. But then a family of tourists came up and started staring at Pete and that warned the ducks away. That was disappointing—nothing spices up the Nature like some good ole survival-of-the-fittest action—and Chris got very annoyed that all those people were looking at OUR carp.

Then pigeons became an issue because a lady at the next bench broke out a bag of breadcrumbs, so we took our cue to move along. We walked along the shoreline—all 20 feet of it—but then some insane girl actually rolled her pants up and waded into the lake and we had to flee in revulsion. It’s one thing to get the Nature on your shoes…but to get it on your actual feet? Horrible! We scurried up to Clement Street and ate some pizza that was pretty lousy (I miss the Front Room!) but at least was not full of dirt and leaves and itty bitty gnats like the Nature was. Viva Civilization!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Failure of the Day: A Lot of Things but Mostly Croutons

I am pretty pleased these days with my teeny little corner of life on the Earth. At great personal risk of the JINX, which I believe in utterly and reflexively, I can say that I am spending a fair amount of time just hanging out in the company of my pleasure, and anticipating my own ghastly doom is more of a hobby than an emotional necessity anymore.

Partly it’s because my novel, while still being far from done, is congealing and becoming a solid, actual thing to me. There’s a little bead of something I can feel, somewhere in proximity of my sternum, that I have recently realized is pride, a new and lovely feeling. I’m not sure I’ve ever been proud of anything I’ve done before—I thought it was swell to have graduated college, to have quit smoking, and to have done so spectacularly well at choosing a partner, but those things struck me more as acts that one, rightly or wrongly, gets a sideways glance for NOT doing rather than something one is proud of having done. Writing a novel is different than that; no one thinks it’s odd if you haven’t written one.

Partly it’s because I have finally quit the fucking low-carb diet and am now all about high fiber. This is a silly thing but the realization that I could make my own croutons out of low-fat whole grain English muffins was a revelation to me. I am almost giddy about that, no lie. They’re delicious, by the way.

Partly it’s because my cool co-worker turned me on to The Mountain Goats by loaning me their new CD, The Sunset Tree. Holy moley, this is an outstanding record. It made me cry on the 22 Fillmore, where I am usually a cauldron of impatient, boiling rage at the screaming teenagers on their way to school.

Partly it’s because I’m enjoying my job. (Hellmouth has been on vacation or otherwise out of the office for most of the last 2 weeks.) I am shuffling between two departments, one of which gives me work that I love but that is frantic and must be done immediately, and the other of which gives me work that is mindless and so laid back as to be nearly non-existent, and each is the perfect complement to the other.

Partly it’s because between my novel, the new Eli book, and this crazy anthology with a bunch of my poems in it (that just came out despite that I sent the editor my poems 12 years ago), there are lots of things going on that help me get off my arse and out into the world of people and social interactions.

There’s more, too, but you get the picture. And have I mentioned the croutons?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Failure of the Day: 30/30

There you have it. In the evenings now I wander in the small circle I can make around the tiny lime green table in my room, my writing office, the one condition I laid out on which cohabitation was predicated. AKA our second bedroom, AKA Greenhaven. I walk there, in that small circle, in the evenings because what I usually spend that time doing is now done. Done.

The first draft took 30 days. The second draft took 30 months. I will ignore the exponential implications of how long the third draft will take. The manuscript is now before the eyes of a triumvirate of readers whose opinions I hold in the highest esteem but whom, when they call out the truckload of rookie mistakes I undoubtedly made, will not necessitate my instant death by mortification.

I’m not quite sure what to do with myself in the evenings just now. On Monday, my first evening without a novel to worry into pulp, I took a quiz (“What Country are You?”). In a mere 6 questions, I got a result that described me exactly and succinctly.

You're South Africa!

After almost endless suffering, you've finally freed yourself from the oppression that somehow held you back. Now your diamond in the rough is shining through, and the world can accept you for who you really are.
You were trying to show who you were to the world, but they weren't interested
in helping you become that until it was almost too late. Suddenly you're a very hopeful person, even if you still have some troubles.

Take the Country
at the Blue Pyramid

Friday, May 13, 2005

Failure of the Day: Book

This week at Modern Times Bookstore

Some Angels Wear Black: Selected Poems
An Eli Coppola Tribute Reading
Tuesday, May 17
7:30 PM

Readers include Michelle Tea, David West, Jandy Nelson, Mark Routhier, Silke Vom Bauer, Stephen Pelton, Skye Alexander, and me.

Eli was one of the finest poets I've ever known and I can only implore you to come to the reading and to buy the book. In the strongest possible terms. You may well kick yourself for missing it, but I will almost certainly kick you for not showing up.*

*Please note threat of violence is strictly metaphorical.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Failure of the Day: Trouble Breathing

Just got the new Weezer …what do I call it? It’s not a record anymore, and it’s not even a CD because I downloaded it as a group of files to my iPod. Things are suddenly very intangible. Anyway, I was very much looking forward to the new songs because I am all with the loving of Weezer, and I was well-pleased with the single, and so, YAY! it came out today.

I am an understanding person. I understood that the Green Album, that collection of catchy tunes with no emotional content whatsoever, was Rivers’ way of hiding from the disappointment he felt when Pinkerton was not hailed as brilliant , as it damn well should have been. I further understood that Maladroit was a baby step back toward emotional expressiveness hidden behind kick ass rock tunes. So I am not surprised that Make Believe is an unabashed return to Pinkerton levels of longing and insecurity. But I am very surprised that it is expressed in a language that just barely succeeds at reaching junior high levels of emotional complexity. To misappropriate a better line, it’s as though Hello Kitty puked, and that puke wrote these lyrics.

I will certainly listen to it several dozen more times and check my first impression because I am after all very often too quick to judge. And maybe I am losing my ability to discern subtler shades of popular culture. Is there a level of irony that I’m missing? Or is it just that this baby talk drek is what passes for heartfelt these days? I mean, of course it is, but from Weezer? Weezer, late of songs about tranny hookers and angsty lesbian crushes?

I’ll withhold final judgment until I’ve listened to the whole thing more than just once during rush hour on the 22 Fillmore. But unless my cultural dip stick is seriously out of whack—which I don’t deny is entirely possible—I think we’ll all just have to wait till the next album for Rivers to finish up with this foray into trite sentimentalism and get back to the yummy songs about being a psychosexual fuckwit.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Failure of the Day: Horsey!

Despite myself, and despite certain associations that I’d prefer not to have, I love horse races. We used to go to the races on Chris’s birthday when we lived in Washington, but in California we go on my birthday to avoid having to go to county fairs.

Years ago I used to go to the races with my pal, Deborah, who loved the races as much as I did but with a great deal more guilt—she was a vegetarian and although these were the days before PETA, she certainly would have been a member. (These were also the days before she got cancer and I got MS and so could afford to have opinions about things that only had a negative impact on “other people.” But I digress.)

I love the races without the tiniest bit of guilt, which should be a surprise to no one since I don’t have the tiniest bit of guilt about much of anything, because, really, what’s the point of that? I love the races because it’s all the good parts of nature (pretty!) without any of the bad parts (everything else!). Plus there are hot dogs.

This morning, Chris "explained" to me that a trifecta is when you pick three horses. “Any three horses?” I asked. “Yep.” he said. As an example, he said his three horses are Silver, Seattle Slew, and Miss Tilly from Gunsmoke. “What happens after you pick your three horses?” I asked. “Sometimes the man gives you money,” he said.

In case you're wondering, I say $5 on Bandini to win.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Failure of the Day: Mad Skills

As I think is plain to everyone by now, my social skills are what might kindly be described as “sub-par.” I am not an outgoing person. I’m a loud mouth and I have no sense of personal privacy so I’ve yet to find a subject too embarrassing to discuss with complete strangers, but that’s not quite the same as being able to relate to other people and think up things to say outside the scope of my own gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrinal goings-on.

There’s a guy in my general work area—the manager of a nearby department—who I could not have less in common with if he were a moon rock. His main interest as near as I can figure is hockey, and he is the purveyor of some of the finest malapropisms I have ever encountered (“preaching to the wrong choir,” “breathing down my throat”). I have never, in the nine months I’ve worked here, had a conversation with him in which he didn’t use air quotes.

I watch this co-worker in undisguised awe every day. He is so unabashedly warm and friendly, and the effort he makes to ensure that every single person who enters his field of vision is welcomed is so genuine and enthusiastic that I am dumbstruck every day by the simple skill of it, and by what he does on other people’s behalf. Not least of all, mine.

Over the months, he’s sent little trial balloons my way, trying to draw me out of my asocial focused silence. He tried getting me to join the It’s Friday, lets all wear Hawaiian shirts club (not bloody likely), he offers me candy and cookies almost hourly despite knowing that I have eschewed sugar for lo, these six months now, to ensure that I don’t feel left out, and he even solicited my opinion about the Heartbreak of the Cancelled Hockey Season, in case I happened to be sitting on some enlightening opinion.

Finally, about 2 months ago, he greeted my arrival with a boisterous “Nance! What’s the word?” I replied with a stoic, “Specificity. Specificity is the word today.” And we were off to the races. I became the vocabulary girl, delivering crepuscular and sophistry and defenestration to the other early morning arrivers on a daily basis. Before long, people from departments clear on the other side of the building were stopping by to find out what the day’s word was.

It’s just so clever! To have taken something that usually makes people perceive me as snooty and use it to make people think I am friendly! I can’t even conceive of social genius on that level. Today’s word, by the way, is adumbrate.