Miserabilism

Sunday morning. I slept really well again last night, but my stomach is still quirky this morning; I am not enjoying this in the least and it really needs to stop sometime soon, thank you very much. I do appreciate the deep sleep I’ve been getting these last few nights, but there’s still fatigue in my muscles and joints and it might be dehydration still; I am going to have to drink more fluids today than I have been before and see if that improves things at all. I still haven’t gotten my test results back yet–then again, my phone expired last night and I forgot to charge it, so there may be a missed call or something there. I’ll check when I finish writing this, I suppose.

I also started writing up my detailed critique of 13 Reasons Why last night and it’s failures; which were made all the more evident when Paul and I moved on to yet another show from Netflix Spain called Elite, which is precisely what 13 Reasons Why could have been. Elite is more soapy, but they actually lean into it unashamedly, and it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining and better written. The cast is also spectacularly good in their roles, and we are unashamedly addicted to it–and there are three glorious seasons to indulge in thus far. That should get us through until next weekend, right? And I am looking forward to it! We truly enjoyed Toy Boy, and even White Lines, uneven as it was. Shows from Spanish Netflix are truly amazing; and I’m also really glad I got over my aversion to subtitles, which opens up a whole new world of film and television for us.

I took it easy yesterday, reading my emails and reorganizing the books while i could and straightening up a bit around the Lost Apartment. I also took a folder of partial stories to my easy chair and started reading through them. A lot of them of course are story fragments, just the opening paragraphs, and while they were sketchy and not particularly in depth; I could see the potential in them. I am very pleased with how “Closing Time” starts and rereading those paragraphs tipped me off on how to continue with the story; the same goes with “One Night at Brandi’s Lounge” and “Please Die Soon.” Today I am going to–once I finish some things here on-line that I need to get done today–close my Internet browser and focus on writing; the things I had planned to get done this weekend I haven’t, and that’s in part due to this disorientation feeling that comes from not being at 100% physically, which I rather dislike.

Then again, I don’t know anyone who enjoys being sick, other than those with Munchhausen’s Syndrome.

I also was thinking about the Kansas book yesterday and making notes; both shows were making me think more about it, and I do think it’s a great idea and has the potential to be a terrific book, if I can ever get back to work on it. But I’m never going to get back to either it or Bury Me in Shadows until I get this other stuff finished…so I really need to try to focus today and get to work on it.

I also was reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Proud Tower yesterday when I didn’t have the energy to do anything else–the energy drains is the worst part of this whole thing, quite frankly–and I really do love Tuchman. I’ve never read The Guns of August, which I really should, and would love to eventually would like to work my way through her entire catalogue. Oh, how I wish I’d majored in History and Creative Writing in college! I generally don’t waste my time with regrets about anything, and as I am extremely happy with my life right now any change to my past would have altered my life completely and I wouldn’t be where I am today. But oh, to have learned how to comb through research and find the proper materials to write about history intelligently and responsibly! I think I could have written history the way Tuchman did–compellingly, by being entertaining as well as educating at the same time. As I have mentioned many times before, I’d love to do the sixteenth century much the same as Tuchman did the fourteenth in A Different Mirror; but focusing on the rise of women to power. I do think that century had more women in power than any other century before or since (perhaps the eighteenth might compare); Isabella f Castile; England had three regnant queens (Jane Grey, Mary I, Elizabeth I); Scotland had Mary Queen of Scots and her mother, the regent Marie de Guise; France of course had Catherine de Medici pulling the strings of power; and there were any number of Habsburg women who ruled as regents in the vast array of their Imperial lands. Women in that century also were responsible for shifts of power–Juana of Castile brought the Spanish empire into the Habsburg realms; the struggle between Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn changed England forever; Margaret Tudor brought the Scots royal family eventually to power in England through her descendants; and there were powerful women lurking everywhere, from Jeanne d’Albret to Margaret of Austria to Marie of Hungary to Marguerite de Valois–and of course, the great mistress of Henri II–Diane de Poitiers. These women influenced the shape of the history that came after them, and changed the world.

All right, on that note I am going to close this and head back into the spice mines for the day. Wish me luck with my work and my stomach, Constant Reader! Have a lovely Sunday.

Jealousy

Jealousy is an interesting emotion, or feeling, or whatever the hell it actually is; certainly one of the deadly sins. I’ve been accused of being jealous of other people plenty of times in my life, which is kind of funny. Maybe when I was a kid I experienced jealousy of other people and their accomplishments, but not so much the older I got. I’ve never been jealous of other writers; I’ve never envied them their successes or big contracts or movie rights sales. I may want those things, but I certainly am not jealous of those who have them or are getting them or will get them in the future. I’m usually happy to see writers succeed, or win awards, or get nominated for awards, or get selected to best of lists, and so forth.

It’s not for me to decide who deserves what, nor is it for me to question anyone’s success. It’s counterproductive, and I’d rather not spend my time seething because someone else got a bigger piece of cake than I did. I just write what I write and hope people think it’s interesting or intriguing enough to read, and that those who do, enjoy themselves.

SIDEBAR: I do, however, reserve the right to say what the actual living fuck when I see things like I saw yesterday on Twitter; tweets and links to articles about how straight white male debut authors got ridiculous amounts of money upfront, after which the book proceeded to tank, and the writer disappeared into some sort of oblivion afterward. I have seen that happen quite a bit during my years in this business, and it’s almost always, inevitably, some straight white dude with a few short story sales to prestigious literary magazines and the right educational pedigree, inevitably writing something not particularly new. I’m not jealous; I just don’t understand the mentality behind those business decisions. I also feel sorry for the writer; I cannot imagine how horrible it would feel to have all these expectations placed on you (soothed, undoubtedly, by that insane amount of filthy lucre) only to have your career come to a screeching halt suddenly. Oh, I’m sure they’ll publish another book sometime for a more modest advance, or write reviews for important newspapers and magazines, the occasional short story; but for me, it would have been hellish to write one book and then never publish another.

So, sometimes there are times when I think oh you should push to get an agent much harder–keep trying or I would really like to land a nice two-book deal with one of the Big 5–and then I think, I don’t like like stress and pressure; writing and publishing the books I do, on the smaller end of the publishing scale causes me enough stress and the pressure is horrific and I cannot imagine being able to handle it on a much grander scale.

I mean, I’m already crazy; do I need to add things to make me crazier?

I purchased these two lovely little portable desktop air conditioners of a sort; they’re from Arctic Air and you put water in them and turn them on and they somehow blow very cold air on you. They are small, of course; one is currently sitting on my desk and keeping me very cool (my office/kitchen is probably the most miserably hot place in the Lost Apartment; the upstairs bathroom running a close second), and I have the other on the counter next to the stove, and the two are creating a lovely cool area at my desk, with the ceiling fan turning overhead that is actually rather delightful; I haven’t really felt comfortable at my desk in quite some time–and that hasn’t helped me with either focus or dedication to stay with the writing. Hopefully this will help me, going forward.

Now I want to get one of the floor units.

We continue to watch 13 Reasons Why, but I am not quite sure why. This season is all over the map, story-wise; and show anchor Clay, who has to basically carry the show, has become very uninteresting to watch. I can’t decide if it’s because the young actor (Dylan Minnette, whom I’ve enjoyed the previous three seasons) is so very good at playing the out of control teenager whose mind and life has spun so wildly off course, and whose mental stability is crumbling. The others young actors are performing quite well, despite the awkwardness and forced story sometimes; I think that’s why we continue to watch–the cast is quite good, and we do end up caring about them and their massively fucked-up lives. If you would call the show a soap, I’d say it’s more in the Edge of Night vein, because it’s about crime and trauma.

It also makes me think of the two manuscripts I have sitting in limbo, waiting for me to finish the Secret Project so I can get back to them.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this is June; that less than six months ago on a snowy night I had a lovely dinner at a restaurant much too nice for the likes of me (and there was lots of wine) with a lot of mystery writers and much fun was had. I didn’t know that was the last time I would participate in such a gathering for I don’t know how long. I assumed there would be the Williams Festival and the Edgars and Malice Domestic as there always was in the months to come after January. I remember walking across the street with Meg Gardiner as the snow fell, and everyone being amazed that I wasn’t freaking out about the snow; it’s really not the snow, as I sometimes forget to point out, that I mind so much as the weather conditions–the cold and damp–that create it that I actually mind. And that night wasn’t cold but it was damp; and the flakes were big and fat and wet and beautiful and hadn’t turned yet into slush on the sidewalks and the gutters. The city lights were lit, some Christmas decorations were still up, and there were cars and taxis crowding in the streets and lots of people in their winter clothes going about their business on a snowy January Saturday night in Manhattan. I miss those nights, and the company I sometimes am lucky enough to get to keep; connecting and spending time with other writers, in the company of other writers, always inspires me when I listen to them talk. I’m never bored around other writers, and sometimes, when I get the nerve up to actually talk and interact, they don’t look at me like I’ve a third eye or I am quite literally the stupidest person they’ve ever met. I miss that. I miss the company of other writers, because other writers remind me how much I love doing this, remind me that it’s central to who I am, and that I am never happy if I’m not writing.

Sometimes you need to be reminded of the things you love, and how much you love them.

It’s not a bad thing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

The Man Who Has Everything

Tuesday morning and it looks like the rain has finally passed us; we actually got more rain all day yesterday than we did from Cristobal on Sunday. I know other places got slammed much harder than we did, but at least it was relatively minor and damage from the storm wasn’t nearly as bad as it was from previous storms.

The Anthony Award nominations were released yesterday, and sure, I was a little disappointed for a brief moment that I wasn’t among their number; but the nominations are chock full of diversity; lots of women, lots of people of color, and a wide variety of nominations. This is one year that is going to be incredibly difficult for me to pick winners because there are so many good books and stories nominated that I’ve actually read and loved. I’m still surprised that I’ve actually won an Anthony and been nominated another time, to be completely honest.

Awards are lovely, and everyone wants to win one–even if they don’t want to admit it; I do admit it. I like being nominated and I like winning even more. I tend to lose more than I win, which is actually kind of nice–I always figure I’m going to lose again, so it’s always a pleasant surprise on those rare occasions when I actually do win.

We’re still watching 13 Reasons Why, but I’m not really sure why. As we get deeper into the season it’s getting more and more off the rails–what the fuck with that camping trip episode, seriously–and while the story kind of makes sense, so much of it doesn’t. If they had simply chosen to explore the mental trauma the kids experience from everything they’ve been through–including violent sexual assaults and murder, which would definitely create mental issues, breakdowns, and behavioral problems–I think I would be enjoying this more; the concept of another kid who knows the truth trying to get them all to confess by playing torturous games with them is basically ripping off Pretty Little Liars and really speaks to a lack of creativity and originality; I could be wrong, and we’re vested enough in the show to keep watching, since we know it’s the final season.

I’m kind of looking forward to the new Perry Mason, too.

Oh, I’m so tired, too, this morning. I’ve not really had a good restful night’s sleep in a while now, and exhaustion is wearing me down. My kitchen is a mess yet again, and I still haven’t done the floors; but I just don’t have the energy to get any of this stuff taken care of–let alone the writing I need to get done.

Heavy sigh.

And now back to the spice mines.

In Denial

And now we enter that eerie period of waiting and anticipation; as a storm hovers over the overly warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and decides which way north to follow. It appears that the eye of Cristobal is going to pass over Houma on it’s way ashore; Houma is about an hour drive from here, but southeastern Louisiana geography and direction is confusing. You do, for example, have to drive west out of New Orleans, out past the airport, to get there; and you cross the river on the way (I have a horrible story about coming back from doing an HIV testing event out there, but I’ll save that for another time). It’s more due west and south of New Orleans, and it’s levee backs up to what used to be wetlands, but because of coastal erosion the Gulf is on the other side. There’s a native reservation out there as well–Houma is named after the Houma tribe–and it’s one of those places we will undoubtedly lose to the encroaching Gulf at some point. Nicholls State University is also there. Some day when I have time I would love to go out there and explore the town more; when we used to test at Nicholls State I used to think about writing a story set there a lot. There’s a lot of sugar cane fields in the surrounding area as well.

It’s gray outside my windows this morning, which is to be expected; it’s going to be periodically raining and of course, there is the potential for flash flooding as always. I stopped to make groceries on my way home from work last night so I wouldn’t have to go out in it this weekend at all; I am going to go to the gym (I’ve not gone once this week, which is terribly disgraceful, but I was exhausted on every level all week) in a little bit, after which I am going to come home and write and clean the kitchen. My kitchen is absolutely a disaster area–I cleaned up in here on Thursday night, and it’s shocking how quickly it can again look like a bomb went off in here.

We’re still watching London Kills, which I do recommend, and we’ll probably finish it off this evening. We tend to watch movies a lot on the weekends as well–last weekend we watched Dolemite Is My Name, and I have to say, Eddie Murphy should have at least been nominated for an Oscar for that; the fact he’s only gotten one nomination over his lengthy film career is a disgrace–and there’s some good stuff on HBO MAX, which, along with Disney Plus, is a treasure trove. I also keep forgetting we have CBS All Access, which means I have all those new Star Trek series to watch as well as Jordan Peele’s reboot of The Twilight Zone, and we also have Apple Plus. THERE ARE SO MANY STREAMING SERVICES NOW.

And it’s been so long since I’ve had the energy to pick up a book I had to stop for a minute to remember what I am actually reading, which is Cornell Woolrich’s Night Has a Thousand Eyes. I do think it’s appropriate reading for Pride Month, and then when I finish that I am going to go back and reread Larry Kramer’s Book Whose Title Got Me a Facebook Ban. I am also thinking I might revisit one of my favorite Three Investigators stories this weekend as well.

I got an idea for two stories yesterday–because when don’t I get ideas for new stories, right? One is “Dance of the Burning Fools”, which is something that actually happened in history, as described by Barbara Tuchman in her seminal work A Distant Mirror; a party at the court of Charles VI of France, which descended into madness when some of the costumed revelers, dressed as animals in fur and pitch, caught fire and some of them burned to death; the King was one of the men in costume but was rescued. I’m not sure how the story will take shape, but I just thought that perhaps an investigation into the tragedy after the fact? I don’t know, it’s very amorphous right now.

The other is called “Happy Hour at the Hangover Bar,” which was inspired by my noticing on my way to work yesterday that there is a bar on Claiborne Avenue with that very name: the Hangover Bar, and yesterday they had a Happy Hour sign out on the sidewalk in front, and the title popped into my head, with a vague idea about a story told from the point of view of the bartender, watching something unfold in his bar during Happy Hour.

Many years ago, maybe in the late 1990’s, I had an idea for a series of short stories about gay men that were all interconnected through a central character of a nameless bartender at Cafe Lafitte in Exile; one of my best (in my opinion) short stories was one I wrote with that idea in mind; it eventually evolved and the bartender himself became the main character. The story was called “Unsent”, and in one of my proudest moments as a writer, a friend who’d arranged for a collection of my erotic stories to be published in Spanish (thanks again, Lawrence Schimel!) forwarded an email to me from the copy editor, who’d emailed him to tell him that the story had made her cry. I think about that collection–that I’d intended to call The Bartender–every now and again; but so many ideas, so little time, and so much laziness will leave it on the backburner probably forever.

And now, I have to depart for the gym. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and keep the people of Houma, Louisiana in your thoughts this weekend.

I Want a Lover

Sunday morning and I’m sipping away at my first cappuccino (the cappuccinos went so well yesterday morning that I decided to treat myself to them again this morning) and I feel pretty good. It’s absolutely lovely outside this morning–the temperature is in the low eighties–and bright, sunshine glowing everywhere. New Orleans has the most beautiful sky when the sun is shining, and the light here is exceptionally gorgeous.

It also occurs to me that cappuccinos are probably the most cost effective way for me to get my morning caffeine as well. If I used the Keurig, I can go through as many as four K-cups each day, and even the cheaper ones from off-brands aren’t exactly cheap. But cappuccinos require me to grind beans, and bags of beans are certainly cheaper than boxes of K-cups (I also have the reusable ones, but they don’t work that great; I always wind up with grounds in my coffee, grounds in my coffee and you’re so vain…oops, sorry for the musical interlude) and they also go further. I also only need two of these every morning, and they are kind of delicious.

Yesterday was kind of a nice day, really. I slept really well on Friday night, and so was rested, and of course, the cappuccinos gave me an awesome joly of caffeine that gave me the energy to power through some work I had to do yesterday. I finished that around two, and then went to the gym. I worked out very hard, which felt amazing, and then I came home to do the dishes and laundry. I also intended to do the floors, but my muscles were worn out and tired, and instead I repaired to my easy chair, where I watched the last two episodes of The Movies, and, being kind of mentally exhausted, just curled up with Barbara Tuchman’s essay collection, Practicing History. I do love Tuchman, and I also love that she didn’t really have any background in studying history, yet became a major historian.

I went to bed relatively early last night as well, and again, had yet another lovely night’s sleep. And here I am this morning, with a cup of cappuccino, preparing to answer some emails and try to get my inbox cleared out (for now, at any rate) and then I am going to try to work on the Secret Project for a while. My goal was to get it done and out of the way today, so I can send it off into the wilds tomorrow; wish me luck. Most of this is revising and rewriting, with very little new writing needing to be done. I actually enjoy revising and rewriting, surprisingly enough; it always seems easier to me than writing the first draft, which inevitably is a disastrously written horrible mess. I love making order out of chaos; which also explains why I let messes build in the house and the filing to pile up. I simply love making order out of a mess. I’m not sure what that says about me and who I am, but it’s true.

However, I’m also kind of hoping today that I’ll be able to dive into Night Has a Thousand Eyes. I do want to reread Faggots for the Reread Project, but it can wait, and the Woolrich has been waiting far too long for me to get to. Besides, it’s also been a hot minute since I’ve read something new to me, and I really want to start reading more of the Woolrich canon. I’ve got one of his short story collections on my Kindle, and between reading one of his novels and adding him into the Short Story Collection (which reminds me, I need to read W. Somerset Maugham’s “Rain”, which I started reading a while back), I think I can start developing an appreciation for him, as well as an understanding for his work. I want to enjoy reading them for what they are, but I will also, of course, be looking for that elusive “gay sensibility” in his writing that is most likely there and has been ignored by critics for decades.

It was definitely there in “It Had to Be Murder.”

And on that note, I’m going to head back into the spice mines. The sooner I get the work finished, the sooner I can get back to my easy chair with a book, and is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than with a book?

I think not!

Lies

And here we are, Friday morning at last!

And what a week it was, was it not? I made some progress on the Secret Project–not enough, of course–and got some things done around the Lost Apartment; I have some more things to get done today so I can coast into the weekend feeling good about being able to get some things done this weekend. I will, of course, need to resist the lure of HBO MAX and all its wonderful movies (I could easily go the rest of my life never watching another episode of Friends; I’m not sure why they thought that would be a selling point–I don’t even care about watching the reunion show they filmed). I do, however, recommend the CNN docuseries The Movies, which is on HBO MAX. If you’re a fan of film and film history, it’s an interesting overview of the rise and development of American cinema. If you’re an aficionado, you probably won’t enjoy it nearly as much as it doesn’t get into a lot of depth.

It’s been a draining week, one that has left me very tired in its wake and unable to get nearly as much done as I would have liked over its last few days. Obviously, the world doesn’t stop turning and things don’t stop being due; for me it’s not so much about wanting everything to return to normal (I don’t think anyone understands or grasps the fact that regardless of what happens, the world isn’t going to return to its pre-pandemic state; New York and New Orleans never returned to their pre-9/11 or pre-Katrina states, after all) as it about me wanting to get a routine established so that I can know what to expect from week to week and when I can do this and when I have time to do that and so on and so forth. I am looking forward to a highly productive weekend–there’s not much choice there, really; I either have to get it all done over the course of this weekend or I am really going to be up the creek…I perform well under pressure, but the pressure and how I react to it is so bad that I really don’t want to ever have to perform under pressure, if that makes any sense.

I doubt seriously that I’ll have time to read anything this weekend, alas, and I am really looking forward to digging back into Larry Kramer’s Faggots.

But as the coffee kicks into gear this morning, I am starting to feel a little more confident about myself and what I can do and what I can get done in the meantime, which is always a better mindset to be in, anyway.

One of the weirdest things about me–really, there are so many–is how easily I can get overwhelmed and descend into depression; the depression also makes me snappy, and I’ve learned that when I am in that kind of state the best thing to do is not interact with anyone outside of Paul, Scooter, and my co-workers at the office, and generally I try to do that as little as possible. Yesterday, after working in the garage all afternoon screening–and as our temperatures continue to rise here in New Orleans, you can imagine how lovely that is–when I came home last night I was despairing of being able to squeeze everything in that I need to for the next three days; this morning, after a good night’s rest and some coffee this morning, I feel like, well, I can do this and then I can do that and then I’ll do this in the morning and then I’ll have the rest of the day free to do this and of course you can get everything done, why do you always have to doubt yourself?

And I’m sure the despair/depression thing has come from not having the energy to write the last two days.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Later Tonight

So here we are, on Memorial Day Monday, the final day of the three day holiday weekend, and I’m wondering–without checking social media (I do not intend to go on social media at all today)–how many people are wishing others have a Happy Memorial Day? Memorial Day isn’t a happy day–even though the majority of people don’t have to work today–it’s supposed to be a day of quiet reflection in honor (or memory) of those who have died serving the country in the military. It’s a day when you should visit the graves of the military dead and clean them, bring flowers, and reflect on their service. While I have no one in my family, on either side, who was lost to a battlefield, it’s still a somber day, and wishing others well or to have a happy day is in extremely poor taste.

But then, Americans generally have a tendency to go through their lives blithely, completely unaware of their own history and the meanings behind national symbology, holidays, memoriams, etc.

Yesterday was a blissful day. I quite happily finished reading The Red Carnelian, and then reread a kid’s mystery I remembered fondly, The Secret of Skeleton Island, book one of the Ken Holt series–one of my childhood favorites, and was very pleased to see that it still held up. I wrote for a little while, did some cleaning and organizing (not nearly enough of either, quite frankly), and then we finished watching Outer Banks, which is really quite something. It’s kind of a hodgepodge of story, really; at first, it didn’t seem like it was sure what it wanted to be, but once it decided to kick it up a gear after a few dull episodes of set-up, it really took off. A lost treasure, betrayals and murder, class struggles, the heartbreak of teen romance–it was a non-stop thrill ride, culminating in our hero, John B., and his star-crossed lover, Sarah, taking off to sea while being hunted by the cops and driving their boat directly into the path of a tropical storm. Cheesy, completely ridiculous, and over-the-top, Outer Banks turned to be much more fun than I would have ever guessed, particularly given the first few episodes, which were just tedious. We then moved on to another Netflix series, a joint British/Spanish production of a crime thriller called White Lines, set on Ibiza and focusing on the discovery of the body of Axel Collins, missing for over twenty years–and his younger sister’s determination to get to the bottom of who killed her brother. It’s trash, but ever so entertaining.

I also spent some time with Harlan Ellison’s collection of television columns from the Los Angeles Free Press from the late 1960’s, The Glass Teat. Harlan Ellison was a writing hero of mine, yet at the same time he was one of those people I never wanted to meet. He wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time (“Paladin of the Lost Hour”) and is probably my favorite short story writer of all time; he also wrote the best episode of the original Star Trek series, “The City on the Edge of Tomorrow”; and also wrote the original story that became the film A Boy and His Dog, which was a bit of a cult classic in the 1970’s and 1980’s. All of his stories are really exceptional, and he was very opinionated–if he thought you were a garbage writer and you wrote garbage, he would let you know–but his television writings, while undoubtedly accurate, are really dated. It also got me thinking about the time period, and the struggles that were going on in the country–the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, the Civil Rights battle–and how much of that period is not only not remembered today, but the specific language of the time has been forgotten: people using words like groovy and squares and the establishment, etc.; I also remember how false those words seemed when filtered through the lens of television producers and writers trying to seem hip and modern and cool….which, naturally, killed the popular usage of the words; after all, after you’ve heard Greg Brady enthuse about something being “groovy” on The Brady Bunch, it’s kind of hard to use the word in any other way than ironic from that point on. But a lot of what he was complaining about, what he was eviscerating, is still true today–that the television networks are all too terrified to put something that actually mirrors people’s realities on; that the whole point of television is to sell products to consumers; and as such, the commercial concerns inevitably will outweigh the artistry and truth of the show.

I’d love to know what he thought of All in the Family, in all honesty.

Today I want to get to some serious work on the multiple projects lying around; I also have two short stories queued up on the Kindle to read–“Rain” by Somerset Maugham, and Cornell Woolrich’s “It Had to Be Murder,” which was adapted into Hitchcock’s film Rear Window. I’ve been aware of Woolrich for quite some time now, but I have yet to read his work. He is considered a noir master, not perhaps as well known today as he should be, considering how many of his stories and novels became famous films, and he was also gay in a time period where being gay was exceptionally difficult–so naturally, I have a growing fascination for him. I started reading his The Night Has a Thousand Eyes a few years ago, but had to put it aside to read something else (prep work for a panel I was moderating) and somehow never got back to it….maybe instead of proceeding with another book in the Reread Project–I’ve yet to select one–I can go back and finish reading that? I looked at the opening of “It Had to Be Murder” last night as I queued it up and was most pleased with how it opened…so am looking forward to reading the story today.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines.

It’s A Sin

Ah, SIN.

The human concept of sin is something that has alays fascinated me; as does the societal distinction that sin isn’t necessarily a crime. Adultery, after all, made the Top Ten in the Bible; but adultery isn’t a crime, at least in our country. Maybe I’ve been reading too much medieval plague history, but as a result the entire concept of sin v. crime has been running through my head a lot. We also always tend to speak and think of historical as being more religious and superstitious than our modern, “rational” time; which is why when the religious superstitions start finding their way out of the woodwork, people are always surprised. I’ve seen that a lot, actually, since 2008; the surprise of people who were just now noticing that much of organized religion is steeped in bigotry propped up by skillful, selective usage of their “holy” book while ignoring the parts that do not prove their bigotry and ignorance as holy. I’ve been toying, since the start of this current pandemic and the beginning of my own plague readings, with a story called “The Flagellants,” based on an idea obtained from rereading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and it’s plague chapter–about a movement of religious fanatics who believed God had sent the plague as a punishment for mankind’s sin (as fanatics have always believed in divine punishment as long as they have believed there are gods in the sky), and marched through the streets praying and repenting loudly while flogging themselves; their theory (if one can call it that) was that they were representing mankind’s penitence to God and therefore their behavior was intended to get God to take the scourge away. This set me to thinking about that Christian group that loves to show up here in the Quarter during Southern Decadence and Carnival to loudly tell us all, through megaphones and over amplifiers, that we are all sinners that need to repent and find our way back to the Lord, and wondering why they weren’t parading through the streets of the Quarter, doing something similar. (Their faith isn’t as strong as they would have us believe, apparently.) And so I started writing said story, but wasn’t really sure where to take it…I have some ideas; hopefully this weekend will help me sketch some of those ideas out.

Ah, sin.

A three day weekend is always a delight; I’m of the mind that every weekend should be three days rather than two. It generally takes me one day to rest and recover from the weekend, which is when I do my errands and clean and so forth, and then I am centered enough and rested enough (after two good night’s sleep) to get some work done on Sunday. With a three day weekend, that gives me an extra day to simply focus on writing. Naturally, of course, if every weekend was a three day weekend it would eventually prove also to not be enough time for me, I suppose, and so probably best to leave things as they are and simply enjoy those weekends when they come around. I have some plans for today; primarily a grocery run and perhaps a trip to the gym, along with some cleaning and organizing and perhaps some writing/brainstorming.

We continue to enjoy The Great on Hulu; I do recommend it, it’s very entertaining if not always the most historically accurate–and as I have stated many times, when it comes to television or film adaptations of actual historical events, accuracy inevitably goes out the window (the most egregious example of this being The Tudors. By combining Henry VIII’s sisters Margaret and Mary into one person, and then having her die without children, they essentially erased not only the Brandon/Grey line–no Nine Days’ Queen Jane Grey–but also the Scottish Stewarts; so no Mary Queen of Scots or any of the royalty since the death of Elizabeth I); and complaining about historical inaccuracies in fictional representations of actual history is low-hanging fruit, as it were.

I also want to finish reading Phyllis A. Whitney’s The Red Carnelian, and I’ve also started rereading a book from one of my favorite kids’ series, the Ken Holt mysteries by Bruce Campbell. The Ken Holt series is always neck and neck with The Three Investigators as my favorite kids’ series; they are very well written, action-packed, and well plotted as well; with a kind of hard-boiled edge to them. The first book in the series, The Secret of Skeleton Island, (a title also used in The Three Investigators series) introduces us not only to our young hero but to the people at Global News (Ken’s father is a globe trotting reporter; his mother is dead, and since his father is gone a lot Ken is at a boarding school somewhere outside of New York; I always assumed it was up the Hudson valley but it may have actually been Long Island), and how Ken meets up with, and basically is adopted into, the Allen family. I’m actually enjoying the book–and considering it was written for 9-12 year olds in the late 1940’s/early 1950’s, and it still holds up, is saying quite a bit. The fact these books never caught on or were as popular as, say the Hardy Boys, and have been out of print for decades, is disgraceful.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I look forward to speaking to you again this weekend.

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I Want a Dog

I don’t actually want a dog. I love dogs–always have–but our apartment just isn’t big enough to add a dog, and we don’t have a yard, either. Plus our work schedules are so all over the map and erratic we could never get on a proper “walk the dog” schedule for one, which isn’t fair to the dog. (However, I do love other people’s dogs. Dogs and cats always seem to gravitate toward me as well.) We never intended to even have a cat; we had a mouse when we lived in the carriage house and the advice we got from everyone was, simply, “get a cat and the problem is solved.” That’s how we acquired Skittle; and of course, after his early and untimely passing we barely went two weeks before adopting Scooter…and of course, over the years we’ve fed and befriended any number of outside strays. Currently, Tiger has been around the longest; Simba is more recent, and there’s also a tuxedo hanging around out there that’s still too timid to come close. (He did let me pet him the other day, but then bolted when I put some food out for him.) But Paul and I are the cat whisperers, and soon the tuxedo will be named and part of the herd out there.

And you got to love a tuxedo cat. Especially when their white paws look like they are wearing little white gloves!

Friday, and it’s really Memorial Day weekend eve. I am looking forward to three lovely days off, during which I have a shit ton of things to get done. This week hasn’t been a good one for me regarding energy and focus; I’m never quite sure why that is, or why some weeks I am completely useless and another week I’m highly functional and productive–here’s hoping this weekend is one of those highly productive times, because I need to catch up from this past week’s uselessness. Paul wasn’t home last evening; he was out visiting (and maintaining social distancing) a couple of friends, so I finished watching The Story of Soaps, moved on the catch up on Real Housewives (both Beverly Hills and New York), watched another episode of The Dark Side of the Ring (this one detailing the sad and tragic death of Owen Hart), and then finally went to bed early. I had a very good night’s sleep; I feel very rested and awake this morning, which is a very good thing, obviously. Today is syringe access Friday, which means standing in the parking lot in the horrible heat and humidity for five hours, and I am also getting fitted for PPE this morning–our STI clinic appears to be reopening now on June 1, so I have to wear PPE in order to see my clients. I had to fill out a bizarre questionnaire preparatory to being fitted this morning–some of the questions I simply couldn’t answer; I assumed it was a generic questionnaire used for both PPE and HAZMAT gear, based on some of the questions–and I have a bit of trepidation about this now I didn’t have before; but that’s entirely because of the questionnaire. I’ll definitely let you know how the fitting goes, because it’s going to be a completely new and different experience for me.

The heat and humidity are coming back, and of course, there’s already been a named storm, prior to the official opening of hurricane season on June 1. I am trying not to be overly concerned about this year’s hurricane season, quite frankly–how do you have an evacuation under these incredibly trying circumstances–and so that’s going to be some more added stress to the already hot and humid climes we will be dealing with.

I also don’t have a lot of confidence on how a major storm coming in this year will be handled, from prep and evacuations to the aftermath.

Well, there’s a cheery thought for the morning..

And on that note, back to the spice mines. Hope you all have the Friday you deserve! (PS The tuxedo cat just came through the fence!)

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The Ghost of Myself

So, here it is Wednesday already, and I am worn down already. I was exhausted all day yesterday–physically, not mentally–and both days I had to force myself to get out of bed; I could have easily stayed asleep for hours more. I’m not sure what that is all about–it is most likely tied to the return of the warm weather, including some brutal humidity–but I am also hopeful that it’s a temporary aberration and will go away–but tomorrow morning I have to get up early again, and so we shall see how tired I feel yesterday. When I got home yesterday I was so tired I couldn’t focus–with the end result that my kitchen, an unholy mess from making dinner on Monday–remains an unholy mess still this morning. I did manage to fold some laundry, and then started watching Youtube videos while trying to focus enough to continue reading my Whitney novel (to no avail). I did see some very interesting videos on the Medici family, with a particular emphasis on Catherine de Medici (whom I find one of the most fascinating characters in history; she was also part of that sixteenth century legion of women who held power, and would definitely be a part of  The Monstrous Regiment of Women, should I ever have the time or energy to do the research and to write it), as well as another fascinating (to me) historical personage: Cardinal Richelieu. Richelieu videos led me to some more about the Thirty Years’ War, the decline of the Hapsburg family’s power, and how Louis XIV came to solidify and center the power of the crown…so it wasn’t an entirely wasted evening.

I may not have been able to focus enough to write anything new, or watch a television program, but those ten to fifteen minutes videos are quite educational, and they do spur me on to think of other ideas and thoughts and so forth (I especially love the Weird History ones).

I don’t have to work a full eight hour day today, and I am working from home; which means all kinds of things. Later on today–when I am finished with work for the day–I will run my errands–groceries and mail–and then come home to hopefully an evening where I can get some more writing done. I still feel very tired, even though the coffee is now kicking into gear, and hopefully the tired will eventually go away–at least long enough for me to do the dishes.

I did manage to do a load of laundry last night.

The only thing I’ve noticed that’s significantly different about New Orleans thus far with the Phase I reopening is that there’s more traffic. All the businesses still seem to be empty, and no one is walking around much; but there are more cars. One of the nice things about the Shutdown was being able to easily make use of I-10 for me to get around, to and from work–usually the I-10/I-90 exchange I have to use, getting off from I-10 West and getting on I-90 towards the bridge across the river, during normal times is so backed-up that it’s faster and easier for me to drive through the CBD and deal with rush hour traffic that way rather than sitting on the highway, not moving. Yesterday when I got on the highway I could see that further ahead, just past the Orleans on/off ramps, traffic was sitting still; so I got off at Orleans Avenue and cut through the CBD. Traffic is one of the reasons I always preferred to work later; so I wouldn’t have to deal with that irritation….and it looks like that irritation is finally back. Yay? I guess I should appreciate it as a sign of normalcy returning, but it’s frankly one I could have done without.

I imagine this exhaustion is somehow pandemic related in some way; much the same way I have credited the pandemic-concurrent shift and alteration of our reality with why I tire so easily these days. It’s obviously psychological; and while it was nearly fifteen years ago I do remember the post-Katrina time as being remarkably similar to these times physically and psychologically. There are differences between the two situations, obviously; Katrina’s impact truly wasn’t felt world-wide. The world wasn’t left in ruins after Katrina’s floods, and so there was also that weird sensibility of being in New Orleans, irrevocably altered and changed, and then traveling somewhere and having things be perfectly normal there–and then having to return from normalcy to the abnormality of life in New Orleans at the time. That was always jarring….like flying out of the deserted airport to one that was bustling, filled with people and airplanes parked at every gate; or leaving from one that was packed to landing in one that was basically a ghost town, with tumbleweeds blowing down the empty concourses. Now every airport is empty, streets are empty, businesses are deserted–and not just here but everywhere.

And on that cheery note, I am diving back down into the spice mines, and won’t be coming up for air any time soon–so have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader!

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