On Halloween, even if they don't actually venture out amidst the throngs, Castro residents are part of the hullaballoo, if only because it's impossible not to be. People pack the streets. The noise and crowds spread for blocks. Things don't truly calm down until some point well past midnight.

But that's not really a complaint. Although the group of boys dressed as Jem and the Holograms last year did get the Jem theme song stuck in my head (yes, that is as painful as it sounds), I was amused by their antics outside my bedroom window late last Halloween, and couldn't even think of holding a grudge. More than anything else, the revelry in the Castro just seemed invigorating.

On November 1 last year, I dragged my tired self into the office and wrote this in an email:

'Unable to fall asleep last night because of the parade of cars and people past my window, I lay in bed and thought about what this year has brought, and what's still ahead in the next few months. And I know I say this in some form or other every other week, but when I finally did drift into sleep, I was left with a feeling of utter contentment and quiet promise.'

Reading that (not to mention everything else from last November) now sort of breaks my heart all over again. What I wouldn't give for the ability to fall asleep late tonight with even a fraction of that contentment, or a hint of that promise.


A Literary Analysis-Filled Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

I am plodding my way through the September 30th issue of The New Yorker, and have grown increasingly dismayed at how muddled it's left me. Although Larissa MacFarquhar's portrait of Harold Bloom had me straining to understand from paragraph 2--normally a sign that it's time to move on to the next article--I forced my way through it, rereading over and over whatever passages I didn't get straightaway, like this one:

'A poem, Bloom wrote, was not an "overcoming of anxiety" but "an achieved anxiety." The struggle for meaning was the only meaning to be had. What's more, there was nothing sexual, or even psychological, about Bloom's theory. Bloom placed enormous emphasis on the difference between the poet-as-poet--what he called the "aboriginal poetic self"--and the human being who wrote poetry. "Anxiety" was not a psychological term. It was purely literary, having only to do with the relationship between one poem and another.'

I've finally moved on to Jonathan Franzen's piece in praise of difficult prose, and while it feels like slightly easier going, I still find myself grasping at his words, needing to work them over in my head again and again until they fall clear.

All of which has left me a bit depressed. Have I strayed so far from my academic past that I can no longer read even the lightest of literary theory without wanting to tear out my hair? Has my brain deteriorated so much from those days when I could sit in Mr. Chang's postcolonial postmodernism class and not only understand the concepts being bandied about but also throw thoughts of my own into the mix? Have years of writing basic instructional text completely ruined me for any sort of higher intellectual pursuit?

This terrifies me. I don't want my mind to go (sometimes it seems like it's all I have). I don't want to have to battle my way through The New Yorker (Harper's is one thing, but TNY?). I don't want to find myself capable of only discourse on page layouts and information flow, button naming conventions and standardized terminology. I want back what I was so sure I once had, and prized.



Two of several notable things about the memorial services for Paul Wellstone and those who died with him last Friday:

1.) At the request of Wellstone's sons, Dick Cheney did not attend. The official version of events says that the veep was asked to stay away because of logistical challenges, the need for added security (and Cheney always requires a level of security that seems excessive, even for someone in his position), and the whither-he-goest protestors that are his shadow.

The less official version, however, notes that Cheney, who helped get Wellstone's opponent into the race in the first place, would doubtless benefit from the publicity around his attendance at the memorial. To my mind, there is no politician in the U.S. today (with the possible exception of Ashcroft, and perhaps Dubya himself) who is less deserving of any sort of attention stemming from his attendance at such an event. Cheney is everything Wellstone was not--jaded, corrupt, power hungry, insensitive to everyone who is not cast of the same dye. If he's truly mourning the Senator's death (and I really can't imagine he is), let him do it in private, away from any camera that might catch him with a sympathetic expression on his face or any reporter who might extract from him some soundbite about how much he admired Wellstone's passion.

2.) The Times reports that the memorial included a video montage of a recent campaign commercial in which Wellstone said, 'Politics is not about power, politics is not about winning. [...] Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives.'

And all I can think, in the wake of this death and in the face of another dismal election, is 'Would that it were. Would that it truly were.'


Uncle E

One of the people I admire most in this world is my uncle Eric, not least because he has, by some combination of determination and sheer force of will, lived through doses of heartache and disappointment so large as to seem unbearable. And not just lived through them but thrived, which both amazes and impresses me. I find him a remarkable man.

Over the past few days, we've had the following correspondence, a reminder both of our persistence (I can't go on. You can.) and of the strength of the net beneath me that has stopped short my fall.

From: Eric Wilska
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2002 6:33 AM
To: Emily Wilska
Subject: package/Em

Hi Em, Question. If a certain uncle heard through the family grape vine that life had given a bit of a kick in the ass to a certain niece and the uncle wanted to send a fairly good sized package to the certain niece to help assuage the ass (and heart) pain would the certain uncle send the package to the Sanchez address per usual and be assured that said package would arrive accordingly or to a different address? Just wondering.....

From: Emily Wilska
Sent: Sunday, October 27, 2002 10:54 AM
To: Eric Wilska
Subject: RE: package/Em

Uncle E,

Answer: yes, the Sanchez address you have on file is indeed my latest and greatest, so anything sent to it will, sooner or later and given the vagaries of the USPS, reach me.

A certain niece got a bit teary reading an email from a certain uncle, so touched was she. Back in college, I read J.M. Coetzee's "Foe", and for some reason one simple line from it stuck in my head: "They say when trouble comes, close ranks." I've been thinking of that line over the past few weeks, marveling at how fully and completely my family and friends have rushed to surround and support me as things have fallen apart (and then fallen apart again). Now more than ever, I'm sad for what I've lost but immensely grateful for and in awe of all I still have.

Love you,

From: Eric Wilska
Sent: Sunday, October 27, 2002 2:02 PM
To: Emily Wilska
Subject: Re: package/Em

So, ok, package to follow. And I think often of a line from Woody Allen. No J.M. Coetze, is he, but then again, he's no dummy (to quote Poppa) when he said, "the heart wants what the heart wants." It's always been a mystery to me how (and why) the heart lags so far behind our rational sense. We can figure it all out, apply all sorts of logic to matters of the heart, yet still, we look over our shoulder and there's our heart panting furiously to keep even step with our brain. It's pathetic, really. But while I don't have an explanation for the phenomenon, I can tell you, in my experience, at least, it always does catch up. And I mean always. Remember the Robert Frost quote from Cathy's eulogy? "The best way out is always through." I have no doubt that you'll emerge from this heartache a superior human being. In the meantime, take hot baths, watch the Marx brothers and eat chocolate. And if you'll permit me to close ranks around you closely enough to whisper in your ear, I say to you softly and confidently, "everything...will... be...all...right..." Love you, love you, love you, Uncle E