I Would Have Loved You Anyway

And suddenly, it’s Friday again: WEEKEND EVE!!!!

Late September is a gift Mother Nature gives to New Orleans; one that’s kind of owed to us after the brutality of a normal New Orleans summer. I greatly enjoyed my walk Wednesday afternoon, and walking to the gym after work yesterday was equally marvelous. The gym workout felt incredible; my muscles had clearly been aching to be worked and stretched, and they feel absolutely wonderful this morning. My creativity is slowly coming back–the walk on Wednesday kind of kick-started it all; and I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about this upcoming new series book I have to write, that I am looking forward to writing. First and foremost, as with all my books set in New Orleans, it needs to be more about New Orleans than what I’ve already written on it; I think I am going to spend some time over the next few days revising and rewriting those first four or five chapters to get more of a “New Orleans” feel to them; I think that’s what is missing and why I feel so dissatisfied with them.

I definitely need to reread them, at any rate.

I also need to reread and edit the first three chapters of Chlorine; I’d like to get chapter four written this weekend as well as–if not an actual outline for the rest of the book, than at least– a working synopsis of how it all is going to come together in the end. I am very behind and i need to start getting caught up, even if that means no more lazing around in my easy chair watching documentaries from the BBC/Odyssey about ancient Egypt with a bizarre British Egyptologist/historian with raspberry colored hair as the star–but the woman clearly loves not only history but all things Egypt, so it is very difficult to not get caught up in her enthusiasm about her subject. Each documentary is about an hour, and I’ve not been watching them in order; I’ve watched the one about Amenhotep III and the Armana revolution, as well as the one about the foreign conquerers, leading eventually to the final recognized dynasty of pharaohs, the Ptolemies–who fascinate me; there’s so much more there than the story of the final and most famous Cleopatra (yes, she’s fascinating, but I’ve long been more interested in her sisters/rivals, Berenice and Arsinoë).

I also watched, for the very first time, the original film of The Postman Always Rings Twice, which, surprisingly enough, I’d never seen. I’ve never really been much of a Lana Turner fan (I’ve never had a lot of respect for her as an actress–certainly in Peyton Place and Imitation of Life she never seemed to inhabit her characters and simply followed her director’s orders) and I’ve never really thought she was all that pretty; there was always something artificial about her to me–though the body was definitely stunning. The costume designer was incredibly smart in putting her always into white ensembles, that went with the stiff white hair, and John Garfield was pretty good as the homicidal, lovesick drifter; he had the right “beaten around by life” lived-in look that was perfect for the character. Cecil Kellaway as Cora’s husband was the best performance in the film, really; he stole every scene he was in, but was the movie progressed Turner seemed less stiff and mannered, and Garfield’s performance of a man so driven mad by lust and love that he would cold-bloodedly murder Cora’s husband to be with her (Body Heat was often compared to Double Indemnity, but I think it’s more like Postman, in all honesty). I also felt the changes to the script and to the ending actually worked better than in the book (same with Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce, even though I love Cain as a writer). I also couldn’t help thinking, as I watched, what Marlon Brando or Montgomery Clift could have done with the role of the drifter, and Marilyn Monroe could have done with Cora. (Dream casting: filmed in 1954 with Brando and Monroe; with Karl Malden as the husband–what a film that would have made!) But it’s a very good movie, very well done, and I greatly enjoyed it; it’s definitely a classic. I’ve never seen the remake with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, but what a terrific version could be made today, starring someone like Robert Pattinson along with Margot Robbie or Rosamund Pike.

It also got me thinking about noir again, and what fun it is to write, plot, and think about; as well as got me thinking about Laura Lippman’s marvelous Sunburn and everything by Megan Abbott.

I’ve also been, since my walk the other day, thinking about my noir story about the condos built recently on my street, “Condos for Sale or Rent” and so maybe I can squeeze in the time to work on it a bit this weekend…

Big dreams, as always, but at least I am thinking in terms of getting things written again, which is a big step in the right direction.

We also finished watching season two of The Other Two, which is fantastic and has one of the best, most honest and realistic gay characters–struggling actor Cary Dubek–that I’ve ever seen on television. The premise of the season finale–Cary takes a photo of his butthole to send to a potential Grindr hook-up, only he has his camera on LIVE rather than PHOTO, and the little LIVE feature means you can not only see his face at the beginning but you can also hear the flight announcements (he does it in the First Class bathroom on a flight from New York to LA)…and it kind of goes viral. It’s hilarious, and the fact that this is the primary STORY for the gay character in a TV show (granted, it’s HBO MAX) had me impressed for the writers’ willingness to go there, but how fucking funny it all turned out to be.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines, and a happy Friday to all.

Summer Days

So summer is officially over for the year, and now it’s fall, with the onset of bipolar weather here in New Orleans. It’s still hurricane season–and we’ve had late season ones before, never forget–but we sort of are able to breathe a little bit easier now than through the horrors of July and August. Doesn’t mean we are out of the woods yet–Rita and Zeta and others, oh my!–but there’s something about getting past Labor Day that makes it seem slightly less worrisome. (Almost all the bad hits New Orleans has taken since we’ve lived here are around Labor Day…I can’t remember the names of them all, but Katrina, Ike, Isaac and now Ida?) The city is still kind of a mess; they picked up our trash but not the bags of debris from the yard and the sidewalk (those fucking crepe myrtles!), and of course there are still branches and browning leaves piled up everywhere throughout the city.

When I got home from work yesterday it was quite a beautiful day, and I decided you know, it’s a beautiful day and the doctor’s office is at Touro, which isn’t really a huge walk, so why not? If you get tired or can’t face walking home, go up to the corner at St. Charles and take the streetcar home, and so, I walked. It was an absolutely beautiful day, so I walked up Prytania to get there and walked home down St. Charles, taking pictures for Instagram all the way there and all the way home. I didn’t get tired, really, until I got to my own corner on St. Charles; going to the gym was definitely out of the cards–but now that the weather has changed/turned/ whatever you want to call it, I should probably go take long walks more often. It’s good for my legs, it’s good for my overall health, and it’s another step to getting myself back into physical condition. The good news is none of my leg joints are achy or sore this morning, which I am taking as a very good sign, and whether I will actually go take a walk anywhere besides the gym after work today remains to be seen…but I really enjoyed the walk yesterday. It was an absolutely stellar day; in the mid-seventies and no humidity; the sun shining but not terribly hot (I never broke a sweat the entire time, thanks to the coolness of the day), and it enabled me to feel a bit more….connected to the city again. I was having all kinds of creative thoughts and ideas were flashing through my head the entire time I was walking–about this new series, about other stories I am working on or want to work on, for the next Scotty, for another stand alone mystery–so I am going to say it was a definitely smart thing to do, something I should do fairly regularly, and I am kind of excited about this new phase of exercise being added to the program. What’s really amazing to me is my ankles and feet do not hurt today at all–which was always the issue when I had to take long walks, like to the office on Frenchmen Street or the St. Ann/Bourbon Street corner for outreach during Carnival–so I am taking that as a win.

And I also got all my steps in for the first time since I started tracking them again.

The readjustment to normal again this week seems to be going well. I’m not getting as much done as I would like (and yes, am aware that not worrying about that and laying it at the door of “return to normal” may be a cop out or an excuse–I think there’s probably still some depression going on, but I am not feeling overwhelmed for once, which is a very lovely change, frankly) but this is the first “normal” week I’ve had Since The Power Went Out (I really like that), which has been almost an entire month now, and so I refuse to punish myself for still feeling a bit disoriented and off-balance still. Things are getting done, if slowly; and part of the goal for this year was to not be so hard on myself about everything, wasn’t it? Not being hard on myself certainly doesn’t mean I am not going to get anything done going forward; it just means I need to be more gentle with myself and stop beating myself up over shit.

It looks like it’s another gorgeous day outside; seriously, I always forget how fucking beautiful it is here in the fall and spring–which is why we live here and put up with the summers, which aren’t that bad (as I always say, “hey, I don’t have to scrape humidity off my windshield nor do I have to shovel it off my sidewalk”) and of course, the new book series I am writing–hopefully, a series and not a one-off–takes place in the fall; late September/early October–so I can also riff on the beautiful sunny days and cooler evenings/nights; the shortening of the days and how it gets so dark around five every day; you know, all the stuff I love to write about because I get to talk, really, about how much I love it here.

And I really, really, REALLY need to get back to writing (and reading). That’s what it is going to take to make me feel centered and recovered from all of this from the past month; nothing else works like writing–and I am always unsettled and unhappy when I am not writing. So, after work tonight and after i get home from the gym, I am going to write. And then I am going to read for a while.

That should firmly hit the reset Gregalicious button, methinks.

We finished watching Sex Education last night, which is really quite good and charming, and we also got caught up on The Other Two, which also has some excellent queer characters and representation on it and isn’t nearly getting the press other, lesser shows are; it’s very good, well acted and written, and clever as all hell–although the character of the younger brother, whose Youtube singing stardom is what triggered the opening of the show to begin with, isn’t being utilized nearly enough, I think; there is still a lot of hay and humor to be mined in social media/influencer stardom. We also probably have some other episodes of shows we are watching to get caught up on–Titans, Nine Perfect Strangers–and certainly others to begin and watch; there really are an insane amount of options now. We also want to watch that movie about the young kid who wants to grow up to be a drag queen (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) which looks absolutely charming, and there are other things. I think I may finally watch The Postman Always Rings Twice (the Lana Turner version) today while I am doing my work from home, because I have never actually seen it, much as it shames me to admit. (As I have always said, my education in both reading novel classics as well as watching cinema classics is sadly lacking.)

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will let you know how today turned out.

That’ll Be The Day

And just like that, it’s Friday again.

The thing I always get wrong about depression is I never can identify it until it’s passed–or is in the process of passing–through my mind. I’m not sure why i have so much difficulty in recognizing it when I am experiencing it; I guess because I am sort of able to function (“sort of” being the key words there), and I always tend to think of depression as being so overwhelming that you cannot function when you are going through it–to the point of being almost even suicidal. I almost always, once I am no longer in its grasp, recognize it afterwards–oh yes you were in a heavy depression–but for some reason I never can understand that is what is wrong while it is wrong. I suffer from it periodically–I think everyone does, to some degree–and while mine never goes as deep anymore as it used to (thank GOD for medication and health insurance), I’ve been lost in its throes probably ever since the power went out on the morning of August 29th. The true, tell-tale sign is that once I was in an environment with power again–the flight into Alabama–I wasn’t able to write and I haven’t been even able to do much reading. The loss of my ability to focus on something is always a telltale sign that something is wrong in my brain; and when I spend hours at the computer (like I did last night) going through hundreds and hundreds of picture files to file, name or delete them, because it is rather soothing to me…yeah, that’s really a sign. Today I feel better about things in general–even though it’s kind of an icky day outside–and have been able to get some things finished today. I still haven’t been able to get through my emails, but I am going to try to work on that once I am finished with work today.

And hopefully, this weekend I can start writing again.

My choice for the movie to watch yesterday while working from home was Coma, starring a very young Micharl Douglas, Genevieve Bujold, and Richard Widmark, with Rip Torn and Elizabeth Ashley in supporting roles (also in brief cameos were pre-fame Tom Selleck and pre-bald/pre-fame Ed Harris). This was an excellent choice for the Cynical 70’s Film Festival; Coma was yet another film of the time that took a cynical, jaundiced eye at one of the pillars of modern society/civilization: medicine. The book was a phenomenon at the time. It was Robin Cook’s debut thriller, and caught fire, like lightning in a bottle. EVERYONE was reading and talked about Coma; it was an “event book”, like Jaws had been a few years earlier. I read the book when it was released in paperback. I didn’t love it, but it was interesting; my primary problem with reading it was that Cook–a physician in real life–put too much medical detail into the book for the lay reader; paragraphs upon paragraphs about medical information which really wasn’t necessary to follow or understand the story…if anything, these medical moments pulled me out of the story completely. It’s actually ripe for a remake, honestly; I bet it could be done and made much more suspenseful and scary than the original film was. The film was a hit–it’s weird looking at young Michael Douglas, in the process of trying to transition from television star to movie star and not quite there yet–but as a thriller, it left a lot to be desired.

The story is focused on a female resident at “Boston General Hospital,” Dr. Susan Wheeler. While this book and movie was set not that long ago–within my lifetime, certainly, and around forty years ago–the rampant sexism and misogyny of that period is sometimes hard to take. Susan was dealing with it on a regular basis; she was a strong, accomplished, hardworking doctor–but she was still a woman trying to make it in what was still primarily a man’s world/profession. The way the men–especially the older ones–condescend to her and talk down to her like she’s a child is almost infuriating to watch…but that misogyny and sexism are integral to the story: no one will believe her and she is dismissed as a hysterical woman. Susan’s best friend comes into Boston General for a routine D&C–a medically necessary abortion–but never regains consciousness; slipping into an unexplained coma. While all the men agree with Susan that what happened was a tragedy, they are all too willing to write it off as a medical anomaly and drop the subject. Susan won’t, however, and keeps looking into it–Boston General has had, over the past year, a remarkably high amount of patients who went into comas after a routine procedure (eight in total–up to ten by the middle of the book, including her friend and another patient shortly thereafter; and yes, given the amount of surgeries performed in the hospital annually, eight isn’t much…but as Susan retorts when her mentor and the hospital’s chief of staff says that to her, “Isn’t one too many?” Susan keeps digging, and the further she goes it soon becomes apparent that she isn’t just risking her career–she’s onto something that could put her life at risk. The book had an ambiguous ending which, even though it’s been forty years, I won’t spoil here–but they changed the ending for the movie, which I felt cheated the story and the audience–but the book’s ending was vastly better than the film’s. I wouldn’t seek the movie out unless you have a high tolerance for misogyny; and now that I think about, the misogyny was so important to the plot that I don’t think it could be remade today–Susan would have gone straight to HR and/or gotten a lawyer and sued the fuck out of that hospital in today’s world.

Robin Cook went on to have quite the career writing medical thrillers–although my favorite of his novels was Sphinx, his second, which was set in Egypt and was an archaeological thriller–and I kept reading him for a while. I think I read his first four books, but I cannot think of the name of one of them, but I am pretty sure the last one I read was Fever, and then I just kind of stopped reading him. Not because I wasn’t enjoying them still, I think I just kind of forgot about him…but I still love Sphinx, which I would love to reread sometime.

Heavy sigh. So much to read and reread, so little time.

I’ll Leave Myself a Little Time

Thursday and Gregalicious is working from home today. Huzzah? Huzzah!

It rained all day yesterday–there’s still a flash flood watch until this morning sometime, thanks to Nicholas–and according to weather.com we’re not getting another sunny day for at least a week, if not more. It has indeed been the Year of Rain in New Orleans. But…it could have been worse. That’s the thing, you know? It always could be worse. And the sun did eventually come out in the later afternoon yesterday, and so far today’s rain forecast isn’t happening–at least not yet–and so that’s a good thing. I want to go to the gym again today after work, so here’s hoping it won’t happen in a torrential downpour.

Again, it could be worse–which has too frequently become my mantra in troubling times.

I’m still not in a great place, frankly; I still feel a little off-balance, like my equilibrium isn’t centered. Last night when I got home from the office, I started going through, and organizing, picture files….while made me realize how badly disorganized my e-filing system is–and continues to get worse by the day. It all started because I was looking for a picture of a co-worker yesterday in the Cloud to show another co-worker–and I started stumbling over all kinds of memories and things as I looked; and as I opened unnamed files (alas, so many of my pictures files aren’t named; they are simply DSC-something (if taken by digital camera) or IMG_something (taken by phone or iPad) or simply whatever it was called by the website I stumbled across and grabbed; and so I started looking at pictures and moving them around. I was primarily working on my “Pics to Sort” file, where things inevitably always get dumped when there are too many of them to upload or I don’t have the time to sort and rename them–or am too lazy to sort and rename them. I started this between clients yesterday, and when I got home from work, I decided to make some more progress. This sort of organizing–insane as it may sound–is actually soothing for me. I find this sort of thing soothing, for some reason–getting order from chaos; like doing the dishes, cooking a complicated meal, folding clothes…all things that calm and soothe me, help me get to a centered place. Going back to work this week also was a huge help in getting me settled and back into the groove of my life after a catastrophic disruption.

It could have been worse.

The unrest in the city over the lack of sanitation workers–no one has picked up our garbage since before Ida; all that food from everyone in our house–five different households–has been sitting in our cans on the curb since shortly after the storm passed by; this weekend I guess will be the third weekend without pick-up? It’s kind of nasty out there on the curb, and of course this is happening all over the city, and people are starting to get angry–there was talk of a “trash protest” being organized for City Hall. Yesterday the city opened a drop sight in the Gentilly/7th ward area–not far from our office, in fact–so people can drop off their trash themselves. It’s not a bad idea–I am prone to be a little more forgiving of elected officers in these situations; it’s kind of a snowball effect that begins with the question, okay, where do the city’s sanitation workers live, and do THEY have power? I don’t have a pick-up truck, so there’s no way in hell any of that trash is going into my car for a ride over there–literally not a fucking option–but I appreciate the effort to attempt to solve a problem that could turn into something much worse–how good is it for the community health to have rotting garbage on the sidewalks in front of everyone’s house? The city is also trying to pick up all the storm debris–still hasn’t completely happened; I see a lot of it every time I get in my car to go anywhere–but…

It could be worse.

I will probably spend some time this evening working on organizing the computer files; it really did make me feel calmer and more centered last night while I was doing it. It’s also why I like doing the data entry for work–it’s a sort of mindless task where you just get into a groove without really having to think about anything too much, which frees your mind to wander and think about other things. I’ve not been thinking about writing at all since Ida; I have a promotional piece to write to coincide with the release of Bury Me in Shadows, and I also realize I should probably be using this time to more effectively promote the book…or at least be a little more aggressive. It’s coming out in less than a month! YIKES!!!

I am also hoping that the writing bug will strike again, as will the reading bug. I am probably going to watch some movies today while I do my day job stuff, but haven’t really decided what. After the (expected) disappointment of From Here to Eternity the other day I am thinking I may need to indulge myself in either some Cynical 70’s films, possibly some teen movies from the 80’s, or perhaps some horror–although I really do think I should wait until October to get back into the horror movie film festival, as well as doing some serious reading of horror in that month; that would actually be a good time to get back into the horror stuff, actually. So who knows? Oh, yes, some episodes of the Real Housewives franchises I watch have dropped this week, so I can probably torture myself by watching them–I have a long entry about my growing dissatisfaction with these shows brewing–and I also, like I said, need to get that promotional piece written.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and may your day be filled with all the joy you deserve!

Morning Rider on the Road

So, going back to the office wasn’t a terrible experience. We didn’t see any clients yesterday–we’re hoping to get the supplies we need delivered today, so we can get started again tomorrow–but I was able to go into the office and get some things done before coming home and doing some more work at home as well. I am going in again today–good to get the routine back on track again–and am hopeful that tomorrow will be another step forward in returning to normality.

It looks like we’re going to feel something from Hurricane Nicholas, which looks to be following a particularly strange path for a tropical disturbance, but the majority of whatever it may be won’t be until Thursday. It’s gray outside my windows this morning, but I think overall the weather should be fairly decent today? I suppose I should check.

Yes, it’s supposed to rain all day today, with the heaviest fall around eleven this morning. Yay. But I kind of like gloomy, rainy days, to be perfectly honest. My preference for them is to be at home under a blanket with a book, but you can’t always get what you want.

When I visited my parents a while back, one of the books I took with me was James Jones’ unabridged From Here to Eternity, which apparently included the scenes referencing gay bars and gay activity amongst the soldiers–and how some weren’t averse to making some extra money getting paid for sex. It’s always been one of my father’s favorite books (and movies), but I had never read it. I started it a few times when I was a teenager (I always enjoyed World War II stories) but with these scenes restored (they were cut from the original publication, for obvious reasons) I thought it might prove of interest–particularly since I have an idea (don’t I always?) for a book set on Oahu that opens on December 8, 1941. I got maybe three hundred pages into the book, and literally reading it was torture. I finally gave up and moved on to something else; I don’t remember what it was, but I certainly enjoyed it much much more than I was enjoying From Here to Eternity–and the primary reason I was hating the Jones novel was because all of the characters were, basically, assholes with few if any redeeming qualities. Last night as I sorted things for work at home, I decided to watch the film again–the original, from 1953–and…yeah, I’m not really certain it holds up after all this time either. My primary takeaway from the film was how ridiculously lean and fit the actors (Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra) playing the main leads were. It’s funny, because the book’s frank look at sexuality (Clift’s character falls in love with a prostitute; Lancaster has an affair with his superior officer’s wife, played by Deborah Kerr) is so ridiculously tame by our modern standards; crime series currently airing on network television are more risqué than this film–let alone soaps. (Kind of like Peyton Place–there’s more lurid content in an episode of The Young and the Restless than in the entire book!) I wasn’t overly impressed with the film, to be honest–and it was hardly a glowing depiction of the military. But it was interesting…and made me think about that book I mentioned earlier than I want to write someday.

But the gym is back to its normal hours, and so I’ll be able to get back there to workout after work today. Yay! I’ve actually missed going to the gym in these turbulent times; I did make it over there last week for a quick workout one day, and I am really looking forward to things going back to routine again. I like my routines, I like my patterns, I like my ruts, frankly; and again trying to remember what all was going on and what all I was working on before this disruption began has been challenging. Head down, nose to grindstone; get it all together, man!

We also watched a few more episodes of Only Murders in the Building, which we are really enjoying. I’m not really sure if this is a murder mystery, or about three true crime aficionados who’ve become convinced they are not only investigating a murder but making a podcast about it at the same time. I am really enjoying the show; the Martin Short character gets on my nerves periodically, but I really like the Steve Martin character, and those apartments! I can only imagine what those apartments are actually worth in today’s Manhattan rental climate.

I am also hoping to get back into Velvet was the Night soon. I read a chapter last night (or was it the night before?) and am really enjoying it thus far, and we haven’t really gotten into the story itself yet; Moreno-Garcia is letting us get to know our two main characters first; she really is a gifted talent, and am looking forward into delving more into her work in the future–perhaps either Mexican Gothic or Gods of Jade and Shadow will be up next. I love that she doesn’t limit herself to genre, which used to be a no-no in this business; you were supposed to pick a genre and if you wrote in another one, you used another name (Michael Koryta has written both crime and horror under his own name; lately he’s started publishing the horror as Scott Carson). God, how this business has changed in the years since I took my first tentative steps into it so long ago. Some of those changes are for the better–prime example being Moreno-Garcia slipping between genres effortlessly under the same name–and some not so much; I miss writing gay erotica from time to time…although I love that my erotica fell out of favor with “current” readers of gay male pornography because when I write it, it’s about lust and sweat and masculinity and control–as opposed to roses and music and love and fading to black and cuddling when fading back in.

And I need to get back to writing, which I am assuming will happen once I feel more settled, with the ground more stable beneath my feet again. Today is the 14th, which means I only have 16 days left in which to finish the first draft of Chlorine like I had wanted; I think I am going to continue working on it, while prepping for writing the next book and revising some of the other things I have on hand that aren’t finished or in early draft form; I need to make a list, don’t I?

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I will check in with you again tomorrow, Constant Reader, never fear!

Umbrella Man

And just like that, it’s once again Friday. I think over the course of this weekend, things will start to readjust to some semblance of normality again; I will probably, most likely, go into the office on Monday in an effort to readjust and reestablish some sense of being normal–or whatever passes for that–again. I am going to swing over there this morning to drop some things off that I’ve been working on, and just check things out in general. I also have to swing by and get the mail today as well, and I am going to go to the gym for a resurrection of Leg Day after I am finished doing my work today. Yay?

There still has been no trash pick-up in my neighborhood since before Ida, and our cans, with all that ruined food rotting in the early September heat, are beginning to smell quite ripe. There’s still a lot of debris on our sidewalks and along the gutters. Over all, not really much to complain about, and given so many people have lost everything, or have nowhere to live, or are still suffering without power in the heat…it seems like parsing and pinching things in order to find something to complain about. I’d forgotten that aspect of hurricane recovery–that sense of you can’t complain because other people have it far worse than you do rings in your ears every time you start to even slightly feel bad for yourself about your situation, or start the downward spiral of stress and aggravation and frustration. It makes adjusting and mental health integrity that much harder; one of the lessons from Katrina, really–knowing that it’s okay to complain and be frustrated and aggravated at the situation, while still recognizing your own good fortune (even if it seems like it’s a backhanded gift of a sort).

Last night, Paul and I got caught up on The Other Two, Archer, and Titans. I’m still enjoying the shows–even if the latter two aren’t quite as good as they were earlier in their run–and I think The Other Two is probably one of the better, most undervalued comedies airing on streaming right now. It’s certainly fun watching the gay brother–and the show is touching on comedic aspects of being gay I’ve really not seen covered anywhere else. As I was stripping condoms out of condom packs and doing other, various, “busy work” (it still needs to be done–these things would need to be done if the clinic was open and I was seeing clients three days a week, like pre-Ida) yesterday and watching television (I did watch this week’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills–I am going to have to devote an entire entry to my reality shows at some point, particularly about how they are slowly starting to lose their appeal to me); although I cannot really remember what else I watched yesterday? Oh yes, some documentaries from the Smithsonian Channel, even if I cannot remember which particular ones, and I also rewatched the Brendan Fraser The Mummy–the original, which I realized I’d never actually seen; I’ve seen the sequel, but never all the way through from start to finish, which I may rectify today.

I am hearing noises from the street that sound like a garbage truck–the only inconvenience we are really experiencing at the moment is the stench of the cans when I walk out to the car–so the return of garbage pick-up would certainly serve as another indication that New Orleans is slowly coming back to what passes for normal around here.

I’m also finding it difficult to want to read again, which is weird. I’ve not written anything since Ida, and I’ve not read anything since we left town to find relief from the heat in Greenville, Alabama. I’m hoping this will change over the course of this weekend, but then…you never know. Maybe I read too much while we didn’t have power and I sprained the reading muscle in my brain. Stranger things have happened, after all. I don’t want to give the impression that I wasn’t enjoying Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s book, because I most definitely was; there’s just something off with the creative side of my brain–reading and writing both have been struck down by whatever this malaise is; but it’s more along the lines of being unsettled and not feeling like I have a strong foundation under my feet–this weird not knowing the day/date thing was very disorienting; and of course, there was all that tightness and tension built up in the muscles of neck, shoulder and back (which, oddly, going to the gym cleared up completely; obviously I am hoping going over there today after work will also be a great experience physically for me). I also still have two blog entries to write about books I read during the outage (Dead Dead Girls, A Letter of Mary) which I hope to get around to this weekend, and maybe–just maybe– I may do some writing. I know, I know, stranger things have happened, but I really need to figure out where I am with things and how much time is left in this year and when the deadlines for things are.

And on that note, tis time for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you soon.

Lay It On The Line

I woke up this morning and knew immediately it was Thursday, which is progress of a sort, isn’t it? I may not know the actual DATE, but I know the day of the week, which is a step in the right direction.

I made it to the gym yesterday after work for a very brief, one 15 rep set of everything upper body related–it had been well over a week since my last workout, so I was worried about overdoing it and straining the muscles too much, but it felt so amazing, and I felt so good afterwards–I woke up this morning feeling good, too–that I think a lot of the stress, tension and tightness I was feeling in my neck, shoulders and back could have been from not working out in addition to being stressed on top of everything else. I also slept incredibly well last night without taking anything chemical–I was sleepy when I went to bed, and decided to see if I was tired enough to sleep without medical assistance, and apparently I was. I may try to sleep without assistance tonight again myself, just to see–I do worry about becoming chemically dependent; the last thing I need at my age is rehab–so we will see how it all goes this evening.

I feel normal this morning for the first time since the power went out. I can’t really say why–I honestly don’t know–unless going to the gym yesterday kicked my brain back into some sort of normality or present reality or something. It’s nice to feel normal again, though–the trouble with these paradigm shifting disruptions is you’re never sure what normal feels like in the new reality, but this morning I kind of feel normal, which is really lovely. I have more work at home duties to get through today–more on the horizon tomorrow–and am curious to see what is in store for work for next week. Will we be seeing clients again? Will the building be open? There’s an all-staff call on Tuesday again–which makes me tend to think the office may or may not be open by then, but then again, I used to always miss these calls because they were during the time I was seeing clients, so I don’t really remember if this was a weekly thing or not. I am hopeful–always–that somehow, getting through this as another off-week and through the weekend will continue with this feeling of normality. We shall see–I guess the next test is to see whether I can write or not.

I spent some time yesterday evening watching documentaries on Youtube–there was a particularly good one on Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of my all time favorite historical women. I’ve also discovered a channel on Youtube that focuses primarily on biographies, short for the most part, no longer than fifteen minutes at the longest, that focuses on the French House of Bourbon. I love seventeenth century France (always have, hence my obsession with The Three Musketeers), have always wanted to write about it, and maybe someday I will. (To be fair, I am also obsessed with the sixteenth century history of all Europe, not just France…and perhaps someday I will write my history about the powerful women of the sixteenth century. Catherine de Medici and her life remain absolutely fascinating to me; I’ve always wanted to write about that turbulent period of French history–the Religious Wars of the latter part of the century–and de Medici’s Flying Squadron–women trained in the art of seduction in order to spy on potential enemies of the throne. Maybe someday, when I’ve retired.)

And since we returned, I find myself unable to read. I am probably going to get caught up on my Real Housewives watching while stripping condom packs today–yes, it’s a big and exciting day of work-at-home duties for Gregalicious today, but I don’t know if I can face the tedium of the data entry; maybe I can get my shows watched and perhaps a movie, and then move back into the data entry, I don’t know; I will play it all by ear today methinks. And I need to make a new to-do list….

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

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Ah, Venice.

I’ve always loved Venice: the idea of a city that exists in a place where no city really should but does anyway (like New Orleans); a city with a long and remarkable history that at one time was one of the major powers of the world, despite not really having much population yet somehow carving out an empire; and always dreamed of visiting there. When Paul and I lucked into our marvelous trip to Italy back in 2014 (I think it was 2014? I could be wrong, it may have been 2015 but it really doesn’t matter) I definitely wanted to include Venice in our itinerary. We wound up only being there for twenty-four hours, but I was enchanted (I was enchanted by all of Italy, really), and have always wanted to go back and spend more time there. We were incredibly lucky when we were there; it was the week before Labor Day weekend, and there were no real crowds there (I have since seen horrible pictures of crowds so thick you can barely move), and we just wandered around looking at beautiful buildings and crossing canals and going into churches and eating gelato–lots and lots of gelato (which was every day, everywhere, while we were in Italy–we even got some at the airport when we flew back out).

Venice is also the setting for my all-time favorite novella and movie based on it (Daphne du Maurier’s “Don’t Look Now”). I love the Katharine Hepburn film Summertime, in which a lonely unmarried teacher comes to Venice and is also enchanted by how gorgeous the city is, and also finds a bittersweet romance with a handsome Italian man. One of my favorite parts of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is set there. I finally read Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” as part of my “plague days” reading last year when COVID-19 shut down the country; as well as Daphne du Maurier’s take on the tale, “Ganymede.” John Berendt’s City of Falling Angels, about the La Fenice fire and the insanity in rebuilding the fabled opera house, was a remarkably insightful look at how things work in Venice, as well as the restoration works on the city and its gnarled bureaucracy, as well as the blasé attitudes of the locals about how corrupt and insane everything is there.

It goes without saying that the similarities between Venice and New Orleans are striking, and run much deeper than the constant threat of water and Carnival.

I started writing a novella this year set in Venice–which I’ve wanted to write about ever since I visited–and at some point I will revise it to get it ready for publication; it’s on my to-do list–and so naturally, Christopher Bollen’s A Beautiful Crime was added to my TBR pile as soon as I knew of it.

And what a delight it turned out to be.

Down below the cry of gulls, below floors of tourists undressing and dressing for dinner, below even the shrinking figure of his killer. a man lies crumpled and bleeding. He’s been dead for only a few seconds. He’s sprawled on his stomach, his body twisted at the hips, his left arm hooked in a U above his head. From a distance, from high above, he looks almost as if he were sleeping. It’s the blood leaking through his pink shirt that gives the crime away.

Outside, the sun is setting on what is unarguably the most beautiful city on the planet. There are a lot of dead bodies in this town. Upstairs in the man’s room, an English guidebook recommends taking a boat out to San Michele to visit an entire island of them. Among the legions buried there are the composer Igor Stravinsky, the ballet director Sergei Diaghilev, and the poet Ezra Pound.

The city is sinking and has been for centuries. Enjoy it while you can. The blood is pooling around the body. Screams are blaring from all directions. The killer is making a run for the exit.

But none of this has happened yet.

I don’t think I’d heard of Christopher Bollen before I heard about this book; I may have read some of his work (he writes for both Vanity Fair and Interview magazines), but I was not prepared for how good this book would be.

And the really good news is its his fourth; he has three more books for me to read and cherish and enjoy. Huzzah! (It’s always delightful to discover a new-to-you writer you love, isn’t it?)

The premise behind this book is pretty genius: a young gay couple who have fallen quickly and madly in love with each other, come up with a “foolproof” plan to con a wealthy douchebag out of enough money for the two to ride off into the sunset together after paying off their unsurmountable debt…and Venice is where the action happens. Bollen spent time in Venice interning at the Peggy Guggenheim museum, which pays off in this complex and riveting noirish thriller. Bollen brings Venice to life in a way that few other writers have; you can smell the canals, taste the food, enjoy the bite of the liquor and savor the wine and the spellbinding beauty of the city through the eyes of his characters.

Our young, intrepid gay couple are Nick Brink and Clay Guillory. Nick came to New York to escape his sterile and stale childhood home in the Midwest, and soon has a very well-to-do older man in love with him; Ari, who is an expert in antique silver and runs one of the few silver businesses left in the country. Nick loves Ari, but it’s not a deep passionate love; it seems more like gratitude and appreciation more than anything else. Ari does love Nick, but his plans for their future (he also employs Nick at the silver shop, which is pivotal to the plot of the book) are making Nick claustrophobic and feeling trapped. Nick looks at the years ahead with Ari (and possibly a child) and is terrified of what his life will become; while this is stable and nice and everything he could have possibly wanted…now that he has it, he’s not sure it is what he wanted after all.

Clay is the surviving companion of an older gay man, Freddy van der Haar, last scion of one of the first families of New York (going back to the days of New Amsterdam and the Dutch settlement); Freddy was one of the last surviving colorful characters of the wild and crazy Bohemian artist scene in New York, and had the wealth to really pursue the kind of life and lifestyle that no longer seems possible or to exist anymore. Everyone, of course, believes Clay is a gold digging conniver who may have even murdered Freddy for the inheritance. But the truth is not how it appears on the surface; there was no money left, and Clay has even gone deeply into debt taking care of Freddy as he declines slowly into death. Clay owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to student loans and medical bills, and doesn’t see any way out of his situation.

The two meet by chance at Freddy’s memorial service; Ari knew Freddy, of course, and Nick doesn’t want to be there. He slips out for air and meets Clay on the steps–Clay isn’t attending (he knows very well what Freddy’s friends think of him) but just wants to make sure that the flowers he ordered arrived. They encounter each other again shortly thereafter, when Clay brings in the last of the van der Haar silver collection for appraisal and possible sale; unfortunately it’s all worthless junk. But the mutual attraction is there, and soon Nick is slipping away from work and his shared apartment with Ari for afternoon trysts at Clay’s inherited brownstone in Brooklyn, which he is selling to help pay down the debts of Freddy’s estate as well as his own.

And the two lovers come up with a plan: part of Clay’s inheritance is a small piece of a palazzo in Venice which the van der Haars once owned completely. The rest of the palazzo is now owned by a wealthy investor named Richard West (whom Freddy despised), who has an obsession with the van der Haar family and wants to possess some of their silver. Why not have Clay try to sell the junk to West, and have Nick–who works for an antique silver firm, after all–falsely authenticate it so they can pay off all that debt and live happily ever after? West is a major scumbag, after all, who fucked Clay over once already; and is it really a crime to fuck over someone who is so awful? Not only will their debts be paid but Clay will finally have vengeance against the man who cheated him out of his dream job…and so begins the game of cat-and-mouse.

And what a delight it is. Bollen is a terrific writer–his gift for sentences and paragraph construction is amazing–and his characters all seem quite real. He peoples the book with a terrific supporting cast, all of whom are actualized; from Daniela the transwoman (who is old school; refuses the term “trans”) with whom Nick stays in Venice, to Freddy himself to West and his entourage. As the deception goes deeper, the pacing also begins to pick up, as well as the sense of dread as they change and adapt their plan and decide to go for even more money…and like the best Hitchcock films and all great noirs, the deeper they get into the deception, the more dangerous the game becomes.

Venice itself is a character; Bollen writes about the city with such love and affection that it becomes impossible to imagine the book being set anywhere else–and he also addresses the primary issue in Venice: the crowds of tourists and the outsiders buying apartments to rent out as Air BnB’s, thus driving up the cost of real estate and living in the city that is forcing the locals out (just like New Orleans! Something else the two have in common!)–and this also plays an integral part in the story.

I loved this book, and even though for a while it was making me think I need to scrap my Venice novella…I soon realized I don’t have to. My novella is in the perspective of a tourist falling in love with the city, whereas Bollen’s is written from the POV of someone with intimate, personal knowledge of the city that comes from living there and truly experiencing what it is to be a Venetian.

Highly recommended; it’s a great read.

I’ll Meet You Halfway

At least we still have power this morning so I can have coffee to get the day started…although whether I want to be alert today or not is something that remains to be seen or determined.

It’s already starting to look nasty outside. The eye is still going to pass to our west, but we are going to experience hurricane force winds later today, as well as the heavy rains and storm surge into the lakes. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll have power–the strong winds will probably take care of that in a few hours–and it will be coming ashore around noon. Was staying the smartest thing we’ve ever done? Probably not, but all we can do at this point–once the evacuation window had closed yesterday–is hope for the best. I had a lot of mental back-and-forths yesterday about this very thing: was staying a really bad idea? We’re going to regret this, aren’t we? but around two or three in the afternoon I stopped thinking in those terms because self-recrimination at that point was far too late and pointless other than making me feel bad or come close to having a panic attack or freaking out.

And none of those things were productive, or a constructive use of my time and energy. I am really not a big fan over freaking out over something beyond my control.

Yesterday was a weird day, really. I stayed away from social media for the most part, and I also stayed off the weather reports; there were official updates from the national weather service and national hurricane center every three hours, so I just would check those updates when they came rather than the old school methodology of watching every second of every breathless, wide-eyed doom broadcast–not having cable television and using streaming services was a help, of course. I did see that Jim Cantore was in town–never a good sign, under any circumstances–and I follow Margaret Orr, the most experienced meteorologist in the city since Nash Roberts retired, on Twitter, so I just periodically checked in with Aunt Margaret to make sure I wasn’t missing anything I needed to know about.

And seriously, all there is to do now is wait.

It’s eerie and gray outside, with occasional gusts of wind making the crepe myrtles dance and sway. It isn’t raining, but I can tell the wind has been intense as it gusts because the sidewalk is covered in crepe myrtle blossom debris. It’s not raining now; but I am sure that will change relatively soon. I want to get the kitchen cleaned up this morning and take one last shower while we still have power–and then I’ll probably do busy work–straightening things up, putting things away, sorting. I started doing cleaning yesterday but as Paul pointed out, “So, you want the house to be clean in case we lose the roof again?”

Fair point, but I might do some this morning just to keep me occupied.

I watched Nightmare Alley yesterday on the TCM app; it’s one of my all-time favorite novels (Megan Abbott recommended I read it; and it’s haunted me ever since I did) and I’ve always wanted to see the movie. The movie, surprisingly enough, follows the book much more closely than movies usually did during that time period, and Tyrone Power (I’ve never seen one of his films before, if you can believe that) gave a stirring performance in the lead role–and you can also never go wrong with Joan Blondell, who has never gotten the appreciation she truly deserved. The movie is not quite as dark as the book–production code and all–but it also gave me a very strong desire to reread the book again. I also spent some time with Megan Abbott’s The Turnout, which is incredible; but then I put it aside, figuring once the power goes out there will be nothing to do but read, so save it for then. I might go ahead and read it some today–the mind distraction will be lovely–but I don’t know how good my attention span will be for reading until after it’s all over. There’s always that little knot in your stomach and that little alert going off in a corner of the brain–worry worry worry you should be worrying more–so who knows? We also watched everything we are watching–Archer, Titans, Nine Perfect Strangers–before I drank a cup of Sleepytime Tea and heavily medicated myself for a good night’s sleep (which I did, in fact) have.

I also started writing a short story last night in my journal, in long hand; “Parlor Tricks.” I’d had the idea before, of course–I think I may have even briefly started writing it around the time I had the idea for it–and was having a lot of fun with it. The main character I am writing about it in this story–as always with me and my creative ADHD–is someone I find interesting; and I actually had another idea around the same time centering a similar type character (“The Oracle of Orange Street,” to be exact)–and while I was working on this yesterday I realized that my still unnamed main character could easily be in both stories; and really, “Parlor Tricks” would be a great way to introduce the character and then possibly bring her back for a novel, The Oracle of Orange Street….because precisely what I need right now is another book to write.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee, take that shower, and do the dishes (no need for dirty dishes to stay dirty during a loss of power, after all).

Will check in when I can!

Only a Moment Ago

And just like that, it’s Friday again.

Of course, the emergence of a potentially major storm heading for the Gulf and our coastline–and how quickly it has happened–has certainly sucked a lot of the energy out of the room. The fact it will come ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina (Sunday) hasn’t triggered a lot of PTSD for me, strangely; although I was remembering it all last night as I sat in my easy chair watching Margaret Orr on local television (and checking her Twitter feed). The weather outside my condensation-covered windows this morning doesn’t look that great, to be honest–we’ve had rain all day yesterday off and on–but I don’t know if we are going to need to leave yet or not. It’s not looking good for us right now; at the very least we’re going to probably be without power for a few days (yay). But at least if we do end up leaving (probably tomorrow morning, if we go) at least I have a relatively new car, and I believe I already have a tank of gas. I have some errands to run today–I am getting my teeth cleaned later this morning, and I need to get the mail. I had planned on doing some grocery shopping today but am not sure if it’s wise to get anything perishable, so am probably just going to let that sit until afterwards.

I’m also having dinner with a friend tonight–scheduled to come in for Bouchercon, she decided to keep her trip since her daughter goes to school here anyway–which should be a good time; social contact outside of my office has remained low, so it will be sort of nice to get out of the house and spend the evening with someone whose company I enjoy…especially with a hurricane looming. If it stays on center track, it’ll pass us to the west–putting New Orleans on the bad side of the storm. I’m kind of surprised I am not having flashbacks triggered by any or all of this, to be honest. I only remember the anniversary now when I am reminded–I’d not even given it a thought until the other day when this system developed below Cuba–although I am also now remembering there have been issues with I storms in the past–Ike and Isaac, for example; one of them sat on the city for like three days and we were without power for nearly a week. The other was our last evacuation and it, too, was around this same time. Late August, after my birthday and before Labor Day–never a good combination for an I-named storm in the Gulf, apparently.

I rewatched an old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie last night while I was waiting for Paul to come home (working late because of grant deadlines and potential hurricane; potential loss of power means everyone has to get things done earlier than they’d thought). I had wanted to rewatch Pillow Talk, which was the best of the their three films together, but couldn’t find it streaming anywhere, so settled for the follow-up, Lover Come Back, which, while not as good as the first, was still quite entertaining–if problematic. The message of the Day/Hudson movies–at least the first three; they played a married couple in their third pairing–was always that Day was an uptight and repressed career woman with no interest in men or marriage–who really just needed a good fuck. The irony that the good fuck she needed was being delivered on-screen by a gay man escaped audiences of the time, who made the films huge hits and made Doris Day the biggest money-making star in the country. It’s great, though, that she was shown as a highly successful, talented, and driven career woman; unfortunate that the screenwriters seemed to think that went along with an empty life without love or a man. Given how beautiful and sexy Day was, it’s kind of hard to believe that she wouldn’t have men hanging off her–but she’s kind of portrayed as an ice princess, who needs a man to thaw her out. The games Hudson plays with Day–mimicked in both films–where he pretends to be a shy, inexperienced (read: almost gay) man whose sweetness she falls for doesn’t really play today for a sex comedy; such a movie would never be made today.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday. I worked on the manuscript, and have maybe a third of it left to go. I’ve already edited out almost ten thousand words, making it leaner and cleaner, but it’s still such a horrible mess I cannot believe I turned it in to my long-suffering editor. But it’s getting better, and the primary issue is that there were so many different versions over the years of working on it that I missed things when merging all the versions together to get a final one–the great irony being the problem with the manuscript not ever being what I thought it was, so all those different drafts were relatively pointless; it’s terrible when you are writing a book and you aren’t really completely sure what it’s about consciously. I’ve always said this book was about rape culture, but it’s actually not–although that’s a part of it; what it’s actually about is toxic masculinity from the point of view of someone trapped inside of it who desperately wants out and doesn’t know how to get out. I didn’t completely understand that–and something else–until this final editing run; glad I figured this out before it went to press, right?

So I am going to try to get some things done around here this morning before leaving for the dentist, then I am coming home to work on the manuscript. I’d like to get this pass finished today–not an easy task, since its taking me hours to get through small sections, longer than I’d thought it would, honestly–so it can sit for a day or two; if we lose power and I have to stop working on it, I am hoping I’ll be able to at least get it sent off somehow–if I need t make my phone a hotspot and send it from my laptop or something, I should be able to get it done and in on time. I was going to try to make it to the gym today, but think I’ll just push that off until tomorrow and focus on getting the manuscript finished today. Once I finish and post this, I am going to clean out my inbox (or try to) before having to get ready for the teeth cleaning expedition (not looking forward to this either, I might add). I had wanted to spend some time getting organized–but the need to get this manuscript out of the way in case of power loss, at least getting this pass finished, at any rate, has overcome any desire to work on the other things that need to be worked on around here; I can go to the gym tomorrow and clean/organize then (if we aren’t in the car, that is).

And on that note, tis time to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.