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!

There’s No Doubt in My Mind

Wednesday and Pay-the-Bills Day again. It seems like it’s been about a million years since the last time I got paid, but at the same time I am also very well aware of how weird the flow of time can be after a disruption–and let’s face it, I wasn’t the best with the passing of time before the disruption. August was indeed a bizarre month for one Gregalicious; one in which I turned sixty right before a New Orleans was hit by a Category 4 hurricane…and life, for that brief period between the birthday and the hurricane, really seemed to speed up ridiculously. A lot happened in that eight day or so span, which is part of the reason why I am still feeling a bit discombobulated and really need to focus to get my shit back together–and get it together in a fucking hurry at that.

I did find the old to-do list; the last one I made before Ida, and ironically…not a thing was scratched off from it, and yes, everything on it remains things I need to do and get done. It was weird, in a way; glad I was able to put my hands directly onto it, of course, but at the same time, it was still a little odd to come across something I did before and see that nothing really changed in the course of the two or three weeks that have passed since. I literally forgot yesterday that Labor Day had been last week, for example; and had to remind myself that oh yeah I was on vacation when Ida hit, wasn’t I?

Seems like it was all so long ago that sometimes it’s hard to believe it hasn’t even been a month yet since I turned sixty.

I am still a little disoriented, and trying to get a hold on things, regain my grip on things as it were, but I do think going into the office (being able to) was an enormous help, and getting up ridiculously early today and being back on my usual work-at-the-office time schedule should help even more, methinks.

The weather looks weird outside the windows this morning, and probably has something to do with Nicholas. We are in a flash flood watch for most of today through tomorrow morning, so yay? According to the weather, it’s apparently going to rain every day for ten days…again, yay? It could be worse, of course–it can always be worse, never forget that lovely part of it–but hopefully in spite of everything the grocery store supply chain can get back into place and the stores here can get stocked again. But since everyone had to empty their refrigerators, everyone needs to restock and so it can be a Sisyphean task to get the grocery stores back to pre-Ida stock levels. Of course, comparatively speaking, our grocery stores probably always look like an overabundance to foreigners.

I really didn’t want to get up early this morning, but I eventually did. It’s going to take some getting used to for me getting up early three days a week again, but much as I loathe having to go to bed early and even more so loathe getting up before dawn, it’s also a part of the routine I need to get back into. I’ve not written hardly a word since Ida’s bands starting coming ashore several weeks ago (now); other than “Parlor Tricks”, which I wrote in my journal and have since transcribed…I need to go through my calls for submissions folder and pick out stories to submit; I can start revising and reworking stories and novellas, which is an entirely different thing than writing from scratch…but I am hoping to get back to Chlorine at some point this weekend. I am not going to get the draft finished before the end of the month and having to start writing my newly contracted cozy mystery–more on that later, of course; we finally have settled on a title which I really like and have always wanted to use, even if its not the one I wanted to use–and so I think I should use the rest of the month to try to wrap up some other loose ends–like that novellas and some of these short stories.

It was raining pretty hard when I came home from work yesterday afternoon, and as such I had little to no desire to walk to the gym and back in what threatened to be a steadily drenching downpour at any moment, so instead I stayed home and didn’t really do a whole hell of a lot of anything. I started reading Velvet Was the Night again, but unfortunately my focus and attention were not having any of it, alas. I am endlessly hopeful that my focus will come back together soon. I suspect this is a transitional week and next will feel more normal–seeing clients the first three days of the week will help me feel like my life is back on track again; and am hoping that seeing clients today will help in that regard as well.

We did get caught up on Only Murders in the Building, which I am really enjoying–although I don’t see how there can be another season, unless the building in question is going to turn into a Cabot’s Cove of sorts, where someone gets murdered every season.

So, today should be an interesting one at the office, I’m not sure how many of our clients will show up; some may not even be back in town as of yet–one never knows, even though it seems as though most of Orleans Parish has power, I don’t think it’s all back in Jefferson Parish yet and of course, the outlying areas suffered even more from that skanky bitch Ida than the city itself did. I don’t think Nicholas is going to be nasty enough to require evacuation again, but there’s also the possibility of the power going out again, which would absolutely be beyond suckage, but at least it’s cooled off; there’s always a slight, barely perceptible break in the heat and humidity after Labor Day, but it does happen–even if the big change to autumn doesn’t come until later in the month/early next month.

It’s weird, but the summer–the brutal dog days, at any rate–are pretty much over at this point.

Something to be grateful for, at any rate.

And now for the spice mines. Have a lovely middle of the week Wednesday, Constant Reader.

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!

Brown Eyes

Well, there’s something forming in the Bay of Campeche that doesn’t bode well for the Gulf Coast; yay for hurricane season? Heavy heaving sigh. So far, the path of this potential storm seems to have western Louisiana in its sights; a part of the state that still hasn’t completely recovered from the hits it took last year. Ah, well, it’s certainly never dull around here these days.

I am up early for the first time in a while because I am actually heading into the office today! Huzzah for some sense of normality, such as it is…of course, there’s no telling what I am walking into when I go there today–but I think some people have been into the office in the meantime, so it most likely won’t be a complete and total disaster area…or so we shall see at any rate.

I took this weekend to recalibrate and rest and try to get my head back together; I’ve been in a weird state since the power went out and am hoping to get my sense of normal–either what is or isn’t–back. I also know from experience from these sorts of things that there will be good days and there will be bad days, and that to remember, keep remembering, that while I and everyone else have been through a traumatic experience again, it could have been much much worse than it actually was, even for those who lost everything–the recovery won’t take as long as the post-Katrina one because the levees didn’t actually fail this time. Sure, many of us are going to be dealing with some frustrations and irritations–the last I checked the trash still hadn’t been picked up, and the debris out on our street is still there–but normality of a sort is beginning to return, but the last thing we needed is for Nicholas to form and come to part of Louisiana. I think it’s supposed to come ashore around the state line with Texas, or so it was the last time I checked yesterday, sometime tomorrow.

I should go check, shouldn’t I?

So, yes, the threat from this storm is currently Houston and the Texas gulf coast; and of course Lake Charles and the state line. We’ll undoubtedly get some weather effects from it–it’s only 78 degrees outside this morning, and weirdly gray and grim looking–but we shall be spared the brunt of it. While this is a relief, I cannot say it pleases me–again, wishing a storm away inevitably means wishing destruction and disaster on other people, so it never feels right or good or appropriate.

And the season doesn’t end until December 1.

The Saints won yesterday, rather easily at that, which was both a pleasant surprise and a lovely one. It’s going to take me a good long while to get used to the Saints playing without Drew Brees; the man had become an institution around here, and it was so fucking weird not even seeing him on the sideline. It really sunk in yesterday that the Brees era–undoubtedly the best era of the franchises’s history, without question–is officially over, and it made me more than a little sad. I was of course absolutely delighted to see the new phase of the team win convincingly over Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, but at the same time it was a little bittersweet. The shadow of Drew Brees loomed large over the city since he was signed after the disastrous 2005 Katrina season, and how strange the new era begins right after the city took a direct or almost-direct hit from a category 4 hurricane.

We also watched the pressure of winning a Grand Slam and becoming the player with the most Slam wins of all time overtake and overwhelm Novak Djokovic, who lost all of his chances at history decisively, in three straight sets, to Daniil Medvedev, who won his first major tournament, and good for him. After the US Open and the Saints game, we moved on to get caught up on Animal Kingdom, which just isn’t the same without Ellen Barkin–whom they killed off at the end of the fourth season (SPOILER), and then watched the first episode of Only Murders in the Building, which we greatly enjoyed…although I couldn’t help but wonder what those apartments in present day New York would be valued at. I also like the premise–one that has interested me for a while since we moved to New Orleans–how well do you know your neighbors after all? I’ve addressed this, with New Orleans, in some of my short fiction–the novels tend towards how well do we know anyone, really?–but this was the premise of “The Carriage House,” just off the top of my head, and I am sure I’ve explored it in other stories but my frail, fragile mind cannot summon up the titles of any others that do this as well. At any rate, I am looking forward to watching more of it, and to be honest, it’s nice to see Steve Martin working again. I also like Martin Short, who rarely gets the credit he deserves for acting (he was stunningly brilliant in his season of Damages), and while Selena Gomez hasn’t really impressed me much on the show, I am sure she will get a chance to shine before it’s over.

And on that note, I need to get in the shower and get ready to return to the office since before–well, since around August 24th, which was my last day before my vacation started…talk to you later, Constant Reader.

She’d Rather Have the Rain

Sunday morning and the Gregalicious slept late once again. I easily could have stayed in bed longer than I did this morning, but I decided to go ahead and get up; Scooter needed his insulin shot, coffee was sounding pretty incredible, and I already felt fairly well rested; so what was the point in staying in bed? I’m kind of taking this weekend off from everything, trying to recharge batteries that were down so low from running on accessory for so long…I do feel somewhat better this morning, but I also know these times after major cataclysmic paradigm shifts can be deceptive, and often are no more than day to day; one day or so can be great, and then the next you’re spiraling downward into the depths again–or you can be fine one moment and then some minor type setback will send you off spiraling. I’m glad I’ve been through this sort of thing before, to be honest–I know sort of what to expect mentally and emotionally and physically, moving forward–so hopefully nothing will catch me off guard or unprepared.

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day watching college football and relaxing. The LSU game last night wasn’t great–LSU should beat teams like McNeese State by a greater margin than 34-7; and the offensive line problems from the opener against UCLA seem to be on-going, which isn’t giving the fan base a lot of confidence about the season going on from here–but it was fun watching Oregon surprise Ohio State at home, and Arkansas put a beat-down on Texas that couldn’t have been foreseen; I figured the Horns would make hay out of the Hogs, but instead…and Texas A&M was very lucky to escape Boulder with a win over Colorado. Alabama continues to Alabama; but this looks to be a season of surprises everywhere, which means it will be interesting and fun to watch. The Saints are playing the Packers in the Super Dome today, and of course, Novak Djokovic looks to be the first male player to win a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver back in the 1960’s, and a win will also push him past Federer and Nadal to have the most Slams of any male player in history at 21–I was incorrect yesterday; when I looked up the Slam leaders yesterday the list I saw was from earlier this year, before the French Open, and of course, Djokovic has won two more slams since that list was made. And how cool was it watching young Emma Radacanu become the first qualifier to win a major tournament? And she was cold as ice as she eliminated tournament favorite Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3. What a terrific story; I am looking forward to watching both of these young women continue to play and exhibit greatness on the tennis courts.

I did run an errand or two–getting the mail, picking up a prescription, a quick grocery run (the stores still aren’t fully stocked yet, but I did manage to get some things I needed, even as I forgot to buy bleach yet again)–but really have decided to stick with my original plan of checking out this weekend and trying to get rested, with the plan to be rested and relaxed and fully operational going into this coming week. I am going into the office tomorrow in an attempt to get back on track and back to normal–whatever that may be, who knows at this point–but as always, after a paradigm shift and reminder than everything is a delicate balance that can be upset at any moment by factors beyond my control, it’s going to take no little time for me to get my act back together and my feet firmly planted on the ground.

I did manage to spend a little time with Velvet Was the Night, which I think I am going to spend some more time with today as well. There’s a very short window for the gym today, only open from 10-2, so am not sure if I will have the time to make it over there to get in a quick workout. I think my body rather needs one, to be honest, but it’s all going to depend on time and energy and how I feel…and I am not entirely sure it’s the best idea to go, frankly. Another rest day where I conserve energy and let my batteries kind of recharge themselves might be the best way to go–even as that little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering you’re getting older and you’re running out of time, every day you don’t write or get back in shape is a wasted day you’ll never get back–but seriously, that little voice can also go fuck itself, seriously.

But tomorrow–tomorrow is another story, tomorrow is the first day of the return to some semblance of normality around here, and I honestly don’t think spending another day resting and getting my head together is a wasted one. I need to listen to myself, listen to my body, listen to my brain, and besides, there’s plenty of mindless tasks around here that can be done–the sink is full of dishes again, after all, and there are other things I can do as well, besides watch the Saints and the US Open and read.

And really, a day of rest never did anyone any harm, right?

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.

To Be Lovers

Tuesday morning and still no Internet. The phone hotspot still seems to be working fine–I’m actually surprised at how quick the Internet connection is; I am so glad I upgraded my phone back in July to a 5G, praise be. I have to work from home today–but am probably going to swing by the office tomorrow to get some more work to be done from either here or there; it all depends, I suppose. My office still doesn’t have power; our other office does (I also need to swing by there as well–there’s a prescription for me waiting there) but my office is running on generators. I am assuming that means there’s no Internet there; but I will go by there to pick up things to work on from home tomorrow anyway and see how things are going there at any rate. Yesterday I was exhausted; the tired went all the way to the bone yesterday. I managed to get some things done around here in the morning, continued to do laundry and organize and clean out cabinets and so forth, but by around four in the afternoon I was so exhausted I could hardly move; so I just put on Spotify and collapsed into my easy chair and started rereading things I’ve been working on–the first three chapters of Chlorine, the novellas, some short stories–and while I am not as pleased with that work as I would like to be this morning, there are some good parts in those works and the skeleton/baseline of them are all very good, very well done, and have the potential to be really good, which is indeed something. Before I get started on my data entry I am going to try to get caught up on my work emails and messages and so forth; while I swill coffee and before I take a shower to face the day. I am going to run some errands at lunch time, and hopefully will be able to go to the gym and at least get some work done on my muscles–I think a lot of the stiffness and so forth is my body protesting the lack of exercise, which does happen; your body gets used to being worked out and when you stop, your muscles are not happy about it in the least. I also have some book review posts to get scheduled for today; I wrote them all yesterday in my exhausted state, but didn’t want to bombard you, Constant Reader, with a slew of book entries…they will be forthcoming, to be sure.

It’s very weird this morning to be readjusting back to some semblance of normality. Remember, Hurricane Ida came ashore during my vacation (sobs softly to self); I had taken a vacation for Bouchercon and kept the time off–only to have a hurricane hit on the final Sunday of the vacation and throw everyone in New Orleans off course for quite some time. At least I don’t have to go into the office today; I have plenty of things to keep me busy around here for the day, and I am curious at some point to go drive around the city and see what’s up everywhere else around here. I know the things that are open are only open for limited hours–staffing AND supplies, I would imagine–so am more than a little curious to see what exactly the grocery stores have in stock and so forth, or if deliveries are coming into the city. I also have no idea whether or not we have mail service, either–so will have to be looking into that. I had packages coming, and Paul’s medications come through the mail (or UPS, we aren’t sure which; but they do come to our postal service). I’m also curious as to whether my CVS is open–going to need to refill that Xanax soon, and believe you me, no one wants me to not have the stuff that takes the edge off and smooths out my corners.

It’s also weird not having television–I guess I didn’t realize how much time I waste sitting in my easy chair with the television on, at the very least for background noise. My wonderful new computer actually has better picture and sound than the television, but the problem is my desk chair isn’t as comfortable as my easy chair (natch) and my muscles again were all tense and knotted from stress and aggravation yesterday–they are still tight this morning, actually–and not only do I need to stretch them, I need a deep tissue massage. (Good luck with that right now, right? Sheesh. It’s too bad we couldn’t have evacuated to a spa hotel somewhere…sauna, steam room, and massage sounds mighty marvelous about right now, quite frankly) I was also a little too tired and loopy to focus on reading, so I didn’t pick up SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s marvelous Velvet was the Night yesterday; I could reread my own works in progress without a great degree of difficulty or requiring a high level of focus or concentration, but not something new…interesting how I powered through all that reading when there was no power or anything to distract me, but as soon as I had television and Internet in the hotel, my reading came to a sharp halt.

Curious, indeed.

I am also exhausted this morning but not nearly as bad as yesterday. I think it all kind of came crashing in on me yesterday–all those nerves, stress, and tension of the last eight to ten days, and I was literally drained. I hate having lost the time–I’d hoped to be to at least to Chapter Ten of Chlorine by now, so I am behind. I am behind on everything, and now get to play catch up while tired and worn down. Ah, well, I know the drill–make a list, start crossing things off while adding more as you go–and so, I should probably get started on my work day.

Have a lovely post Labor 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.

Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted

Labor Day, and Lord, did it ever feel fantastic to sleep in my own bed again.

God, how well did I sleep last night? I didn’t want to get out of the bed this morning–not unusual, but I was awake and felt like getting up as there are all kinds of things to do today. It’s Labor Day; what would have been Southern Decadence weekend were there no pandemic nor Hurricane Ida, so I am not going to be overly concerned about some things; it can all wait until tomorrow. Today is about figuring out where I am and where I was at before the power went down; Paul and I were both commiserating about this very thing last night. We both were in really good places before the power outage; I was on a roll with my work and getting ahead and on top of everything as well as my working out (which I was also starting to see the results of, finally), and he was much the same with work and the gym and everything else. I still feel a little unmoored from my life and reality; like I have somehow become untethered and need to start feeling for the ground again with my toes so I can grab hold of it and anchor myself again.

It’s also lovely to be sitting here at my computer this morning, drinking my own coffee and looking out my own windows, clouded with condensation; Scooter is also very happy to be back at home. I washed all the dirty dishes last night, laundered all the dirty clothes and bed linens, and put things away. I was exhausted, bone tired; the release of all the mental stress built up into my joints and muscles being released the moment we pulled up in front of the house and started unpacking the car. I am still rather physically tired this morning, but that’s okay. I am going to putter around today, trying to get some sense of where I am and what I need to be getting to work on. The disruption has really messed me up; it seems like last weekend was months ago, and I have some vague recollections of things I need to be doing…I do have the last to-do list I made (which needed to be updated before the disruption) which will work as a starting point. I also kind of need to stay motivated while I go–but the being tired/exhausted/drained thing will undoubtedly prove to be a problem for me today. I think I am going to do some kitchen cabinet purging as well as book purging; and I do want to spend some time with SIlvia Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet Was the Night. Oddly, once we were in the hotel and I had access to the Internet and a television to watch, I didn’t do very much reading…so with Cox still down here at the Lost Apartment, I don’t have television to distract me…although I can probably stream things to my computer or iPad.

Another thing I need to do is figure out what all I ordered and was expecting in the mail before the disruption; I know Rachel Howzell Hall’s book was coming, and I had ordered ink for my printer (which won’t connect via my hotspot to the computer, so I can’t print or scan, which is frustrating–but I will try again later). I also am not sure what the mail situation is here, either–so I will undoubtedly spend some time today trying to figure that out. Paul’s medications also come in the mail, so there’s that pressing need as well (and yet another reason I refuse to have my prescriptions mailed to me. I can stop at CVS and pick them up in person, thank you very much). I also want to do blog posts about all the great books I read when we were without power; I’ve already done Megan’s today, and it would be great to get the rest done as well, but I also want to do them justice. I am still rather in awe of all the good reading I did during the power outage, frankly, and really need to dedicate some time every day to doing some kind of reading.

It looks like our office is still without power. Our gym emailed us last night with their temporary post-storm hours; which is also kind of cool. (I may go over there today; my body has really been missing the stretching and exercising, and, as I said, I had kind of gotten into a groove I’d like to get going again, especially since I am starting to see results from the regular visits; also, since I had to throw away so much food from the refrigerator/freezer, temptations have been removed and I can restock healthier food options…) I do have work I can do at home while we wait for the office to reopen, but I am going to allow my supervisor to have today free before I start pestering him about my work at home assignments; there are any number of things I can do in the meantime, of course, but I do wonder how long it will be before we are able to start seeing clients and testing them again. When will we get supplies? is the question.

And on that note, I am going to head into the spice mines for a while. Have a lovely Labor Day, Constant Reader, and will probably be back later with another book post.

Do You Wanna Dance?

One of the (very very very very very) few benefits of losing power and all connection to the outside world is it gives you plenty of time to read. Our power went out, thanks to the outer bands of Hurricane Ida (in case you weren’t paying attention) at approximately eleven am in Sunday, August 29th–which also happened to be the sixteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. (Another benefit of not having power and not being connected to the outside world–I didn’t have to see all the doom-and-gloom coverage, plus the constant Katrina references; I lived through it already, and have seen enough news documentaries about it; no thanks–especially with the added DISASTER glee of a NEW HURRICANE!!! EVEN BIGGER AND MORE POWERFUL THAN KATRINA!!!)

At any rate, in those days before we finally said no mas to the lack of power and fled for the wilds of Alabama, I managed to read a fucking lot.

The book I was reading before and during the storm–I finished with a flashlight as the winds and rains of Ida battered my house–was Megan Abbott’s The Turnout, which I couldn’t put down.

You see, I love ballet.

It’s something that I’ve rarely had the chance to see in my life until the advent of Youtube; I’ve while away many an hour down a ballet wormhole on Youtube, marveling at the insane way the dancers can twist, contort, and launch their bodies in ways bodies weren’t meant to twist or contort or launch; and yet not only can they do it–it’s breathtakingly beautiful to watch. It’s part of what drew me to gymnastics and figure skating, too–the amazingly difficult things these athletes (and don’t ever for a moment believe that ballet dancers are not athletes) can do with their bodies, and how easy and beautiful they make it look. When I was a kid, we watched The Nutcracker on television; I hated it (still do) but was nevertheless amazed at the dancers, how disciplined and beautiful their movements were, how they used every muscle in their body and somehow made it all look as easy as breathing, as blinking, as smiling.

I remember thinking, I want to do that.

Ballet wasn’t an option, needless to say–and I probably wouldn’t have been good at it; I was incredibly clumsy (still am, really, just have a better sense of my body and better spatial awareness) and uncoordinated…on the other hand, it might have been the perfect thing for me, may have made me disciplined, changed my perception of self and worth by working hard at something I would love…but what can you do now? I’ve always wanted to write a ballet noir about a gay ballet dancer–I had the idea back in the early 1990’s, wrote it all out, including characters and a plot synopsis (and yes, of course I have the title). The folder is in my file cabinet in the “maybe get to soon” drawer; I often pause on it when I go through the drawer looking for something else. Occasionally, as I watch the videos on Youtube (and they have stuff from Nureyev, who fascinated me and kind of still does, as well as Baryshnikov and many many many others), I think about it. I was watching a documentary about the acid attack on the enfánt terrible director of the Bolshoi when Paul came home one night, and he was startled to see me watching it. He had no idea about my affinity for the ballet; I told him about my book idea and how I’d always loved ballet–and he got me tickets to see the Royal Ballet Company of Monaco when they came to New Orleans for Christmas, as well as several autobiographies of dancers.

And as always, it’s such a joy to read a new novel from someone who will be considered one of the greats of our time–even though she has now set the bar so high for crime novels about ballet I may never dare to even think about writing one myself.

They were dancers. Their whole lives, nearly. They were dancers who taught dance and taught it well, as their mother had.

“Every girl wants to be a ballerina…”

That’s what their brochure said, their posters, their website, the sentence scrolling across the screen in stately cursive.

THE DURANT SCHOOL OF DANCE, EST. 1986 by their mother, a former soloist with the Alberta Ballet, took up the top twofloors of a squat, rusty brick office building downtown. It had become theirs after their parents died on a black-ice night more than a dozen years ago, their car caroming across the highway median. When an enterprising local learned it had been their twentieth wedding anniversary, he wrote a story about them, noting their hands were interlocked even in death.

Had one of them reached out to the other in those final moments, the reporter wondered to readers, or had they been holding hands all along?

All these years later, the story of their parents’ end, passed down like lore, still seemed unbearably romantic to their students–less so to Marie, who, after sobbing violently next to her sister, Dara, through the funeral, insisted, I never saw them holds hands once.

Megan Abbott is one of my favorite writers, and is, in my humble opinion, probably one of the best publishing in our time. Her books just blow me away, every time–and I never know what I am in for when I start reading one, either, as far as character and subtext and story and the complex, layered, complicated relationships between her fully realized characters, who all live and breathe and have interior lives–including those who appear in just a scene or two. I don’t know how she does it–Abbott can do more with a sentence (as far as character definition, mood, setting–any aspect of good writing, really) than most can do with several paragraphs.

The Turnout focuses on the two sisters, and Dara’s husband, a male ballet prodigy whose career was tragically cut short by a vicious spinal injury. The three grew up together under their mother’s tyrannical rule, and there is an odd, group dynamic at play there, where Dara and Charles are almost, sort of like surrogate parents to Marie–who has an oddly childlike quality to her. The story of the novel plays out during their preparation for their annual production of The Nutcracker (because of course it had to be the one ballet I loathe, LOL–but let’s be honest, it IS the ballet the school would put on at Christmas every year), and while the three of them split up the work of producing the ballet and running the school, our primary point of view character is Dara. Her relationship with her husband has an odd touch of brother-sister to it; they grew up together, of course, and her relationship with her sister has many layers and undercurrents. Marie has often tried to escape the town they live in and the school–but has always wound up coming back home, more fragile than before she left. The sisterly relationship is as equally complex as the marriage, and the weird dynamic of the two sisters having a deeply close relationship to the same man, who grew up as basically a brother to them, raised all kinds of flags for me as I read. Marie has broken free from the complex menage a tróis; she has moved into the attic of the school to try to break free of the claustrophobic family ties. But a fire in one of the studios results in damage and the hiring of a shady contractor; who soon infiltrates the tight little family and all of the traumas, public and private, within the family begin to resurface when Marie falls for the man, whom Dara hates pretty much on sight. As the needs of the production begin to multiply the closer the show’s run comes, with the one studio under repair and seemingly more and more money falling into the contractor’s hands while the school inches ever closer to bankruptcy–and the fragile little family unit also begins to feel the pressure begin building to the breaking point as well, when Marie becomes sexually involved with the contractor and Dara begins to fear what else her sister is sharing with him other than her body…because the Durants have some deep, dark secrets Dara does not want anyone to know about.

Abbott’s writing style is not only cinematic–you can visualize easily everything she writes about, whether it’s a ballerina breaking in a new pair of pointe shoes; the smell of ointments to ease the ache of sore muscles and enflamed joints; the bitter rivalries and cruelties of young girls competing for the lead; the demanding entitlements of ballet parents; the awkwardness of a young man who dances ballet despite his father’s objections; or the experience of trying to work while construction is going on around you. Dara, the more confident of the two sisters, the alpha of the three in the little family group, finds herself lost, losing her stability, the solid foundation her life is build upon, and cannot really handle the shift in her little world, left unsure and unable to explain or understand her sister’s behavior–or the distance growing between her and Charles, which she is ill equipped to do anything about. That sense of things spiraling out of control, the inability to stop the out-of-control train plunging forward, contrasts beautifully with the art of ballet–where control is so important.

Abbott does a magnificent job of building tension, keeping the reader enrapt and turning the pages as everything starts to not only boil, but boil over–and her gift for language, for putting the right words together in a sentence that appears to be quite simple but actually conveys a multi-layered complexity, is extraordinary. Her keen insights into the incredibly complicated relationships between the two sisters and Charles, the tragedy of Marie’s loneliness and inability to break free of her past and her family because of her own fragility, are sharp as a syringe.

I loved this book, but hated to see it end…because now I have to wait for the next Abbott novel–and however long it will take to get a new one is far, far too long.