Hello, Failure

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

Monday, February 27, 2006

Failure of the Day: Time

I spend a lot of my workday rushing. I have things to do and places to be, and there is almost always a deadline. This is a fairly new phenomenon in my life; for most of the last 40 years, I’ve had more time than things to do, or at least that’s how it seemed. Now that I have a fancy job and commute, though, my Monday – Friday is more like everyone else’s, and I am actually quite happy about that. It turns out that I like being busy and productive. Who knew?

As a result of this realization, I am finding myself less and less interested in frittering away the weekends not doing anything. I still want some frittering of course, but I don’t want to fritter them away completely. It was with this in mind that I said to Chris on Sunday morning, “Do you know what we need?” He looked at me, petrified, and rightly so—who knows what kind of shit I’ll throw at him at any given moment?

We spend most weekends in bed until well after noon, and then we do a little shopping or go to a movie, and this is a perfectly lovely time. But sometimes, there aren’t any movies we want to see, and we’re in the south bay after all, so how much time can a person really spend in a mall watching people coo over gaspingly tacky moving-waterfall pictures? It seemed to me that we need a thing that we do on weekends besides those things, a standard fall-back activity. “We need a hobby,” I said.

I began pitching ideas. Do we ski? Do we square dance? Do we make pottery? Do we go to classic car shows? Do we make amateur porn? Do we travel from city to city solving crimes? What exactly do we do?

After some discussion we decided that seeing as how we have a brand new car and everything, what we do is explore. We drive to things we’ve heard about and we look at them. The Mystery Spot. The Charles Shultz Museum. The Jelly Belly factory. All are within a few hours of here and all are kind of interesting. Nothing too nature-y—I’m sure the ancient redwoods are awesome and everything, but standing in dirt and looking at trees is not really my kind of thing. But if you know of other kinds of interesting Bay Area things—roadside attractions, weird people building things in their yards, what have you—leave a comment or send me an e-mail. And I'll report back on our exploits at a later date.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Failure of the Day: My So-Called Silicon Valley

The first thing you notice is how suburban it is. Having grown up within 10 miles of just about any spot where one can now find a tech company’s corporate “campus,” I can say without hesitation that then, as now, the manicured lawns aren’t fooling anybody. No one here thinks they work in a pastoral paradise. Sprawl is sprawl, whether it’s an enormous parking lot or lump that someone unrolled some sod over.

Then there are the geese. You never really see it discussed anywhere, but there are geese everywhere. I first saw them when I worked in Redmond, and being so far north, the fact that they were Canada Geese made sense. (That they were not “Canadian” geese made less sense, but I’m willing to let that go.) There weren’t any in Seattle, though—only in Redmond. Now I’m in Redwood Shores, and again, Canada Geese sheet the sidewalks. There aren’t any in San Jose or San Francisco. They are huge brown birds, and I have it on good authority that they make an interesting noise when you hit them accidentally with a golf ball. However, I no longer believe they came from Canada. I now believe that geese are somehow a byproduct of the software industry. I think geese are the natural result of the love between socially stunted men and high-paying math jobs.

Fountains are very popular. On my shuttle route from Caltrain to my building, we make stops at Macromedia, Electronic Arts, and several other big firms. All the buildings have fountains and ponds in front of their main entrances. Most of the ponds are about 10 feet in diameter and have several 18-inch-tall bubbling fountains in the middle of them. They are all pretty, in that makes-you-have-to-pee kind of way. And then you curve around to the end of the street and see Lake Larry and it’s 20-foot geyser. I don’t know if it’s the same body of water where Shamu used to hurl himself at the pool’s surface and drench all the squealing, sticky children, but I get the very same sense of bigness from looking at it—a slightly frightened and hyper anticipation.

The San Mateo County airport is across the street from here. It’s a rinky-dink couple of landing strips and a sort of parking lot for airplanes that are slightly smaller than most of the neighborhood SUVs, but the approaches and the descents to it come to within about a foot and half of our roof. Which adds a fair bit of, y’know, spice to the day.

In a personal and specific way, I relate to Silicon Valley. Although I pass for reasonably responsible and together professional woman, very often, I’m actually a nutbag with barely the wherewithal to navigate the murky waters of my own emotional weather. But the point, as near as I can figure, of adulthood is to effectively hide your own fuckwittedness from the other grups as much and as well as possible. And it turns out that I am pretty damn good at it.

Likewise, the South Bay and Peninsula is an acne of bad restaurants, hidden poverty, and an almost pathological sense of entitlement lightly dusted by a sheen of money to be made and innovation. The suburban Bay Area is a pretty fucked up place, and I should know—I was born here. But I don’t hate it here anymore, which surprises no one more than me. And I think it’s because "Silicon Valley" is the show people put on here to hide their fuckwittedness. Like me, Silicon Valley passes for something much more together than it is.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Failure of the Day: Love’s Labors

The Überbowl is still several hours away, so of course I have no idea who will win. Most of the pundits say the Seahawks don’t have a chance, but they’ve been saying that for damn near every game in their 13 and 3 season. And still nobody thinks they have a chance. But as Mr. Lloyd Dobbler says: That’s the beginning of every great success story.

Let us now turn our attention to the web log of one randomly selected Seahawks fan, found here. Note the five long and detailed and meticulously linked entries. Those of you who use blogger know how long it takes to embed links, let alone links with additional text formatting. This plucky young fellow embedded about 100 of them. And I happen to know that he embedded them during the hours of 2 and 4 AM, and that he was drunk at the time. Yes. His face was very pink, he often chuckled secretly to himself, and he adorably stuck the wee tip of his tongue out when he concentrated particularly hard.

One can’t help but be impressed by this—one has tried, and found that one truly cannot help but. It is my belief that true love is not measured in passion alone, but also in enduring devotion. This hard-working and earnest fan, like the nervous fliers who believe that they will arrive safely only if they keep a clear picture of the airborne plane in their minds for the duration of the flight, as though holding it up by the power of their will alone, has certainly done his part.

Again; I don’t know if the beloved ’Hawks will win, but if they don’t, I do know that it won’t be for lack of will.