Failure As A Viable Option

Stands for so much more than Failure.

Stands for so much more than Failure.

God bless those crazy door-kickers, men for whom failure is not an option.  They’re fighting a war.  They can’t afford to fail.  Not me.  Failure is not only an option, but quite often, a much easier one.  It’s certainly easier than trying not to fail.

So yeah, you probably don’t want me on your night HALO drop team.  I’m the guy who’s so pissed-off about the snack machine taking my change that I forget to pack my chute.

Thank God there’s a difference between hostage rescue and putting out a weekly blog.  Smart of me to seek the latter gig.  Found myself a niche with a lot of slack.  Failure is not going to ruin my week.  Maybe the week-end.  And Monday.  But that’s it.

It was three-thirty Saturday morning and I had finished my little piece.  I read it over and decided I hated it.  “I hate it,” I said out loud.  Like it was a big awaited announcement to wake up my cats with.  They didn’t seem to give a flying fur ball.

Anyway, I didn’t push publish, and went up to bed.  Yes, I had failed, but somehow corn will still genetically mutate in the fields and cyclops children will continue to be born in the Ukraine.

The show will go on.

However, to be very honest,  I was a little pissed.  Pissed at myself mostly, but with a sprinkling of pissed-at-the-world-in-general.  No specific gripe, just a blanket resentment.  Just the sort of blanket you want to snuggle up to as you slide into your dream state.  For a good night of sleep.  After you read a little bit about Mexican prison gangs.

As I drifted off that night, I repeated a little affirmation, “I failed, because that’s what failures do best, and I am the best.”

Nighty-night.

I had a dream I was playing chess with my old film professor, Fred Karetski.  We were on stage in front of an auditorium audience.  When I looked down at the game I noticed my pieces were checkers while old Fred had a combination of chess pieces and what looked like over-sized Monopoly markers.  What the fuck?  I didn’t understand exactly how, but it appeared he had an advantage.  His big pewter shoe probably had more killing power than a red checker.

How exactly do you play this game?  I had no clue.  I didn’t even know if it was my turn.  And was too embarrassed to ask.

The place is pin-drop quiet.

I’m freaking out, but Karetski is just hanging loose, absentmindedly applying and re-applying Chapstick like he always did.  This little display of oral fixation would bug the shit out of me back then and did now. Partly to take the opportunity to vent my spleen, and partly to distract the audience from my obvious ineptitude, I decided to call him out on it.  I’ll save this situation with an inspired diversionary rant.

“You and that bullshit Chapstick, Karetski. Maybe you should give it a rest.  Personally I don’t believe in Chapstick.  I don’t even believe in chapped lips.  I mean I believe they exist, but not that they’re a problem big enough to go to the store and buy a cherry-flavored wax tube to rub around on them.  If chapped lips are such a big problem for you, then you don’t have enough problems.  You need your cities bombed while you feed on vermin.  You want a good way to deal with chapped lips?  Ignore them, and after a while they will un-chap.  They fucking always do, Freddy Boy. So maybe it’s time for you to scrape the protective and soothing emollient from your fat greasy lips…and man up.”

He reaches into his pocket.  Pulls out the stick, pops off the cap, and starts smearing.  He puts the cap back on and smacks his lips.

“Your move,” he says, grinning.

I woke up the next morning more tired than when I went to bed.  Lori was still sleeping.  I tried to walk downstairs while the two cats figure-eighted between my legs in a pre-feeding frenzy of affection.  We looked like a Balinese circus act.

“That’s very cute, you little fuckers.  You’re going to make me break my neck.”

I made it to the kitchen and started the coffee.  Then I opened a can of cat food.  For the cats.

I watched them eat while I waited for the coffee.  I tried to look for the positive.  Let’s see.  I said “I hate it,” instead of “This sucks.”  That means I wasn’t saying the article was bad, just that I thought it was.  That shows a little discernment.

Just speeding your way up the rungs of your spiritual ladder, aren’t you?  I poured myself a large cup.

What else?  Anything else positive I can take away from this experience?

Nope.  All tapped out.  I went outside to water the garden.  I’ve been lax about watering this winter and some of the plants died.  Sorry everybody.  Sorry I neglected you to the point of killing you.  And shit.

All form is transitive.  Without this fact there could be no sorrow.  Well, at least not without fixating on that fact.

I pointed the hose at the two rose bushes for a while.   Then I stood over the gardenias and let it soak.  Watering my Garden of Sorrow.

It’s only a blog, for crissake’s.  Why do you make a big deal about missing a self-imposed deadline?  It’s not like some big sweaty city editor is shouting his scotch breath into your eyeballs for missing it.  So why are you?

Because I’m insane.  We’ve gone over this.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I can’t write, I can’t be.  And I don’t want to fail at being.  It’s airtight.

I gave the poinsettias a little splash.  They grew too crazy last year.  The leaves were freakishly large.  Land of the Lost large.  They gave Lori the creeps.  Me too, kind of.  Paper plate-sized leaves you picture a Stegosaurus snacking on.   Yeah, that’s enough water for you guys.  I walked the hose over to the other planter.

Everything but the bush with purple leaves was dead.  You couldn’t kill that thing.  Cut it down to the stump twice and it always grew back bushier than before.   I watered it.  A little reward for perseverance.

“Good boy.  Fuck those pansy annuals.  Drink up.”

I put the hose away and went inside.  Lori had come downstairs.

“Hey, how are you?  Did you publish?”

“Nah.  I didn’t like it.”

“Oh.  How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright.  It’ll take more than that to kill me.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee and sat down at the computer.  I re-read the piece.  It was okay.  It needed some smoothing out, but was salvageable.  I might have been a little too hard on it.  It wasn’t a complete failure.

I guess nothing ever is.

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12 responses to “Failure As A Viable Option

  1. Rather demure teacher, but with cleavage Hannibal would need to cross with Elephants, leans over Marius, clutching his homework.

    Teacher
    A* on this report. See me after class.

    Young Marius clenches fist beneath his desk and intones triumphantly under his breath.

    Young Marius
    Yes!
    CUT TO:
    An empty classroom, bar Teacher and Young Marius, who stands before her desk, quivering.

    Teacher
    I’m wondering if you can look after the class hamster
    during spring break?

    Marius nods, his eyes flicking guiltily between the hamster and her tits.

    Teacher (cont…)
    You can! That’s fantastic… with a capital F.

    Teacher moves around her desk and perches on the front of it. As her tweed skirt rides up, brown stocking is revealed, sharing one half of her pair of nut-cracking thighs.

    Young Marius’ face reddens. His mouth dries. His pupils dilate.

    Teacher gently strokes his flopping mohawk. Then tilts his head by placing one slender finger under his chin. Their eyes meet. A fuse is lit somewhere in his pants. It’s one minute to midnight on the third of July.

    Teacher (cont…)
    Marius, promise me, no letting him out to the local fisting circle.
    Like you did last spring.

    Young Marius’ eyes begin to water. He knows he’s gonna blow it.

    Young Marius
    I’d rather come to spring break, with you miss… and watch
    you get laid.

    Teacher turns her back on Young Marius and leans over her desk. Her perfect rear presented like an oscar.

    Young Marius’ well-prepared acceptance speech goes out the window as he reaches forward with both trembling hands… to claim what he’s known for so long belongs to him.

    Teacher spins suddenly, saving him from committing sexual assault, and shoves his re-graded homework paper into his grubby mitts.

    Young Marius, perplexed, shrugs ‘what-the-fuck!’

    Teacher
    It’s an F. You know what that stands for Master G?

    Young Marius
    F… for Fuck me?

    I’ll let you end the story in your own way.

    • I’ll finish the story right now:

      Teacher
      You know I can have you arrested for that little comment, don’t you?
      Young Marius
      It wouldn’t be the first time a young man was incarcerated for following his dreams. What gives with the F? Did I leave a participle dangling?
      Teacher
      It’s for your habit of using incomplete sentences.
      Young Marius
      I got nasty habits. I take tea at three. C’mon teach, loosen up! It’s arty. Edgy. Like me.
      Teacher
      It’s not proper English.
      Young Marius
      I’m neither. Look, the choice is yours. You can sleep with me, or continue to be visited nightly by my astral body in the form of an incubus.
      Teacher
      Which one reeks less of Old Spice and low-grade marijuana?
      Young Marius
      Uh, probably the incubus. But-
      Teacher
      I’ll keep burning the sage. Have a nice vacation.

      Young Marius takes his paper, a collection of anecdotes from the Battle of Stalingrad, and drops it into the wastebasket.
      Young Marius
      Sage isn’t going to cut it. You’re going to need a shaman.
      Teacher
      Don’t let the hamster die.
      Young Marius
      Everything does.

      Fin.

  2. “For the cats.” Oh yeah. God, I love Saturdays.

    I hold my own self hostage, Marius…you may not always love what you write, but you sure do know how to kick down the door.

    • Thanks Lee Ann. Unfortunately, I haven’t had too much success rescuing hostages. Stunned by my flash-bang, teary from the gas, they always beg to be returned to their original captors. I don’t know if it’s Stockholm Syndrome or a lack of appreciation for iconoclastic thinkers, but…
      Anyway, happy you got the “For the cats.” I knew someone would. Glad it was you.
      Oh, be sure to soak those limbs in Epson salt tonight. Mountain climbing always leaves me a little sore the next morning. And kiss Justin for me.

      • I’m actually feeling pretty good this morning. Ready to hit the woods again. I’m trying to ride the wave and stomp up hills on a daily basis so that WHEN the doc says on Thursday that I can finally run and lift after eight weeks of wimpy walks around the park, I won’t be a shuddering mess after two miles.

        Kissed Justin for you. He says you’ve become a better kisser since he last saw you.

      • Lee Ann, I’m ashamed to say it’s been quite a while since my goat hooves have tapped up a mountain. Ever since I left New Mexico and came to So. Cal that drive was lost. I’m going to blame the city of Los Angeles. Seems like the spiritually inspired thing to do. I don’t know, it’s just not the same around here. Plus I don’t have friends like Tony the T-Bone to drag me by the nose through wilderness hell. So I’m going to blame him too. For not being around.
        That should cover my ass.
        Say hello to the Cabbage Patch Kane. This time, instead of a kiss, give him a swift judo chop on the back of the neck. When he’s totally not expecting it, like when he’s shaving. Cause that’s how I show my love for the bros.
        Then kiss him.
        Because that’s an important way, too.
        Congrats on your speedy recovery. Just don’t push yourself too fast, Ms.Dalton. Bah. You know me, mother hen, always worrying. Clucking and…clucking.
        My best! (which I hear sometimes isn’t good enough)
        Marius

  3. F is also for fabulous, which this is, kind sir. We get the double whammy of being writers and alcoholics, so the beat down we do on ourselves can be rather balmy and bone-cracking. Let up – them’s gold in there mountains. I now fear the dreams I will be having when I go to sleep tonight. Dreams of Mexican prison cats watering chapstick in the prison yard.

    I sound like a broken record, but you have a real gift as a wordsmith. Nix that – many of us can craft words, but you have a *voice* and that is something they don’t teach at the community college writing classes. It’s a real pleasure to read – on so many levels.

    The idea of a blanket resentment had me laughing. Sometimes I just don’t know what it is that is eating my lunch, and I am too lazy to figure it out, so I allow the day to filter through a grey pall.

    Funny, poignant and hard edged – it’s all you and awesome. Thanks again – I truly am glad to have found ya!

    Paul

    • By God, that’s it, Pauly Pal. I’m too lazy to investigate it. That was a bell-ringer for me. You know when you get those. I’m not going to call it an Oprah Aha Moment, because that will remain my dirty little secret. I’ll call it something like Cosmic Confirmation. Sounds more clinical. And shit.
      I will not doggedly pursue the source of some unease, and like you mentioned, will instead let it sort of seep into the general feel of the day. Then I get to observe what kinds of thoughts that mental environment creates. In other words, what kind of demon children it will spawn.
      Thank you, by the way, for the very kind words. I tried to accept them.
      And speaking of alcoholism and writing…who knew? I’ve never even heard of such a thing as an alcoholic writer. Until me. And now you. Apparently, we’re not alone. Really? Alcohol and writing?
      Oh, I can tell you the two work beautifully together. For a time. But when that time is up, you better get some other kind of groove on. It was a long, long, long time (G.I.)after I stopped drinking before I could write again. Let’s rephrase that, until I thought I could. In the meantime, there seemed to be plenty of other things to work on. (I know, you don’t know) Things a little more…immediate, than writing.
      I had to learn to stop beating myself up first. At least enough to let a few sentences remain on the screen. With booze I could leave the words up, usually because I was too fucked up to find the delete button. In the morning, I always had something. Sure lots of shit, but a few scattered nuggets of ok. Talk about gold in them thar hills, Pappy Pablo.
      Well, I can’t do that now, eh? So I guess I have to work on not beating myself up. So I can leave some words on the screen.
      Glad you’re doing the same. Much love.

      Click on his icon, anybody in recovery. You’ll get a kick out of his blog. http://messageinabottleblog.wordpress.com/ And if you’re not in recovery, you will be soon, for something. Go ahead and click on it anyway.

  4. hey mr. g.— i have read your last 3 posts and i haven’t commented, sorry! you’re hitting this new fantastic stride that demands a different kind of response that almost feels sycophantic. it really is so good, you know? you are taking your “story-telling” to a totally new level & i love it! i hope you are happy & feeling good about life and things in general. keep up the good work.
    xoxo-candice

    • Thanks Candice. First off, let me encourage any sycophantic inclinations, to all my readers. My insecurities demand obvious displays of appreciation. I simply can’t be sycophanted too much.
      Looks like I will be up in Portland this July. I would love to squish your noggin while I’m up there. Going to see Mr. Garth. To pull on his grey beard and listen to him sing a song or two. And hopefully watch him dance “The Hurry” in lumberjack boots. Have you seen his band Old Light yet, Candice? You really, really, really should. Fucking amazing. C’mon now, support your local band, girl. Big kiss. Marius

  5. Bro, whatever got you to this place of writing again is, well, fucking fabulous. I don’t got a lot of words these days but please trust and believe that you continue to impress, inspire, intimidate(?), induce, alliterate, whatevah. Thank you.

  6. Pingback: I Have a Friend Who… | ProjectEtheldore

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